STV, Provosts, and Mayors

On 4 May, we could have people being in key positions in our main cities as a result of behind-the-scenes bargaining and exchange between parties – that’s a worry:

Here in Scotland, if you asked your average punter who the leading lights were in any of the parties standing in Edinburgh or Glasgow, they’d be struggling. Voters are being asked to choose the parties they want to lead their local councils; we are not to be trusted with actually electing the people to lead our cities. That is a matter to be carved up behind closed doors, either as a choice from that group’s members, or possibly as a result of negotiations to form a coalition administration. On 4 May, we could have people being in key positions in our main cities as a result of horse-trading – people few will have heard of, have had the chance to scrutinise, or would have chosen if they had been given a direct vote.

In Edinburgh, the civic head is the Lord Provost (convenor of the council, also Lord-Lieutenant of Edinburgh and Admiral of the Firth of Forth). In the City Chambers you can see lists of names in gold paint of men (and two women) who have held that office since the 13th century. None were directly elected by the people of Edinburgh.

Click here for an online vote at Kate Higgins’s BurdzEyeView: Should Scotland have elected mayors?

Now about the Single Transferable Vote.

There is understandable confusion about the mathematical mechanics of this new voting system. It is intended to allow voters to give their preferences on as many candidates as they wish. A matter of consideration and choice for voters – also a judgement on past performance. If their first preference last time round has had a little calamity or two, then the system allows that candidate to become a 2nd or 3rd choice rather than no choice at all.

Apparently the parties are nervous enough of their track record to be demanding that their party members only vote for the party candidate and forsake giving any other candidate a 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th choice. Oh, the playground nature of party politics! This election is about representing the people of Edinburgh, not party points scoring – I don’t forget that.

As the excellent Liberal Sellout blog advises:

We also already know there will be no majority administration. So why, therefore should you slavishly vote for a donkey with the ‘correct’ rosette? You the voter have been shorn of that duty to take the dullard in order to deliver a party majority for the ‘greater good’. So please don’t do it.

And with the Single Transferable Vote it is possible to be particularly sophisticated with that vote.

But one word of warning. Make sure that this candidate really does back your cause, this is a heart felt commitment, not a platitude on the back of a leaflet. Ask yourself this: will they commit to this policy beyond May 3rd, when it really matters?

I welcome your questions. My professional focus has been on the statutory repairs scandal for some time now – but I’m no one-trick pony.

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Right first time? Pothole.

Gina Davidson, Edinburgh Evening News, 17th February:

The trick which Jenny Dawe and Steve Cardownie have performed in the last week is certainly worthy of membership of the Edinburgh Magic Circle. Unfortunately for them, it looks likely that the public will see what their miraculous £26 million spending spree just weeks before the council elections really is – a fiscal illusion.

A straw poll of friends and relatives gave one reaction to the news that, as if from nowhere, the council had discovered millions to spend on services – it’s an election bribe.

Gina Davidson presents a strong case with the observation that this is all being funded by an unexpected £22m windfall from the Scottish Government.

In the paper itself, on the facing page, we were reminded by the transport leader, Gordon “Full Tram Route” Mackenzie, that the present Council’s “initiative” of getting road repairs “Right First Time” (yes, really) has won an award.  Seems it’s the sort of award you actually have to take time out to apply for and invariably pay a submission fee – it’s not exactly being singled out for a well deserved yet unexpected prize!

Before we all start dancing around road cones and temporary traffic lights in unbridled celebration it might be useful to dig below the surface.

At an awards dinner over in Derry/Londonderry way back in September 2010, the City of Edinburgh Council does appear to have won an award for filling potholes. The Association for Public Service Excellence did actually hold such an event. It was hosted by an Irish TV personality and sponsored by the Local Authorities Caterers Association.

No less than 300 submissions were received for a mere 22 awards and the hopefully fun packed evening was no doubt thoroughly enjoyed by the 400 people attending from Councils all over the UK – what a worthwhile night out.

You may be interested to know that Cornwall Council won the award for “Best service team – Highways, winter maintenance and street lighting” – so well done them.

Our Council got a prize for fixing potholes and presumably 278 Councils spent time filling in application forms and not getting an award at all!

I am really only half interested to know if anyone from our Council actually flew over to the Emerald Isle to collect the award and if their hotel was nice. Maybe there are some photos of the event which we could all share?

Ryanair’s booking desk awaits reservations to fly off to collect the “Most disappointing, expensive and unnecessary tram project in the world” and “most outstanding mismanagement of Statutory Repairs ever” awards.

Anyway, 8,000 extra pothole repairs it is from the Scottish Government’s £22m – all filled in under the “initiative” of Right First Time too. Surely, Edinburgh deserves more.

I wonder if any airline pilots or surgeons have taken time out to send money and fill in a form for an “award” for doing exactly what we hope and expect they should do?? Right First Time indeed.

Vote for Gordon Murdie

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It’s not just the trams

Alan Cochrane (Telegraph, 16th April) calls it “the policy that dare not speak its name”, “the shambolic farce” – the trams. He asks

And so, with local elections looming who is to blame for this fiasco and who should be punished in the polling booth?

and his answer is:

If I know my local politicians they’ll all say, in relation to The Trams fiasco: “It wasnae me.” But it was them – all of them, who’ve served on that council in recent years. So let’s get rid of the lot.

Least culpable, I suppose, are the SNP representatives. That party has always been against the project and, to be fair to them, Alex Salmond and John Swinney, his finance minister, tried to axe it when they first came to power in 2007. However, in those days they were outvoted by Labour, Tories and Liberal Democrats.

Those three parties, in both Holyrood and the City Chambers, are most to blame and while they all now try to heap all the ordure on each other, the voters are entitled to apportion responsibility for the foul-up fairly evenly.

That said, 2007 also saw SNP councillors going into partnership to run Edinburgh – voluntarily, it must be said – with the Lib Dems and they must surely accept a share of the blame, therefore, for the appalling descent into even greater chaos.

Astonishingly, Labour, Tory, Lib Dem and SNP have all published Edinburgh council election “manifestoes” and none have even mentioned The Trams. Incredible. To me that is proof positive of their collective and individual guilt.

National politics played out in Edinburgh have brought national shame upon our City.  As far as the trams are concerned, a laughing stock rather than a rolling stock.  We are also lagging behind in delivery of basic, fundamental services  – take home care for the elderly as one example.  Edinburgh is in 7th place out of 10 Councils. Too much time spent by the present incumbents on vanity projects, embroidering party rosettes and climbing the greasy party political pole and not enough time representing the people of Edinburgh – time for a new broom to sweep health care for the elderly into perfect shape and sweep incompetent, scandalous waste into history.
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Delivery of Basic Services – Edinburgh compared

Forget, for a moment, about the national and local scandals which have brought shame and embarrassment upon Edinburgh. Ignore meantime the eyewatering amount of your money which is squandered. Surely this administration at least delivers basic services well?

Well no, actually. You probably won’t see this in any party political electioneering pamphlet but these are the sad facts on how we compare within 10 Scottish urban councils.

  • 6th for home care clients receiving personal care
  • 7th for home care hours for over 60s
  • 7th for cost of refuse collection
  • 7th for administration costs per benefit case
  • 8th for percentage of municipal waste recycled
  • 8th for over 65s evening/overnight home care service
  • 8th for cost of collecting council tax
  • 9th for response to domestic noise complaints
  • 9th for attendance levels at leisure facilities
  • 10th for the cleanliness of our streets

Delivery of Basic Services - Edinburgh compared to other urban councils

Are you thinking what I’m thinking — not good enough?

Vote for Gordon Murdie

Statutory Performance Indicators on Basic Services Source: Annual Performance Report 2010/11 published by City of Edinburgh Council. Graph independently prepared (10 points for 1st place reducing to 1 point for last (10th) place)

Gordon Murdie for Southside/Newington

Dear fellow local resident,

I am privileged to have been asked to stand as your local independent candidate.

People died for the right to vote yet local elections bring out in many of us a torpid state of abject boredom with underlying symptoms of resigned apathy.

A periodic plethora of party politicians pressing the flesh, peppering us with their pamphlets and promising anything that they perceive may prove popular. Pretending things are perfect and blaming one (or all) of the other parties for anything that went slightly or even catastrophically wrong.

All this for a few years of “power” during which a number forget that they were actually elected to represent the people of Edinburgh, to ensure the best value delivery of a variety of important services to our community and to have a quality of vision commensurate with the local, national and international standing and aspirations of our wonderful Capital City.

As your elected Councillor, I promise to represent and serve the best interests of Southside/Newington, to listen to your local concerns, to share a vision for this great City of ours and to be your voice in the Council.

To do this, I need your help. Please take a look at this blog and if it ticks the boxes for you then please put a 1 in my box on 3rd May.

Thank you & kind regards

Gordon Murdie

Gordon Murdie - Independent

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Why I’m standing as an independent

Alastair Tibbett asks Gordon Murdie why he’s standing for Southside/Newington ward as an independent:

“Of course, just because I’m an independent doesn’t mean I don’t have political views. But when you see where the five parties and their 58 representatives have got us I think it’s time for independents.

“Power is not my meat and drink. Whatever role I would play would be a role driven by common sense and honesty and representing the people who hopefully will be kind enough to vote for me.

“I think being a councillor is a very personal relationship and I’ll be serving the people who elect me. I won’t be serving a political party.

“Once you think along common sense lines, the needs of the people are not what a party tells me to think.

“I’ve not been a great one ever for being told what to do, and doing it without question.”

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