The SNP/Labour Coalition lost five votes at the June meeting of Full Council. The attack was led by the Tories, supported by the Greens, the Lib-Dems and independents. Three of these were on main agenda items and two were on motions.
On the main agenda votes were lost on:
The point of contention was that the Coalition Convenor and Vice Convenors should not serve on the Governance, Risk and Best Value committee. This committee is opposition led, chaired by a Tory, and scrutinises performance of all aspects of Council activity. The Coalition sought a report to look at how this could be achieved as this will cause problems for the Coalition due to outside commitments for Coalition councillors.
A legitimate point was made by one of the independent councillors who said that as there are now four independents on the Council (three SNP and one Tory councillor have left the party platform on which they were elected) there should be a space for independents on committee. A fair point but one that will not be pursued which is a mistake for a minority Coalition.
Annual Performance Report 2018/19
The attack here was that the report narrative did not describe actual performance, was ‘unbalanced’ and did not ‘reflect performance’ over time. In addition, the KPI’s did not reflect views expressed in the Edinburgh People’s Survey commissioned by the Council to ascertain citizen views. It was clear from losing this vote that the next agenda item would be contested too.
Coalition Progress Update
The narrative developed in the previous agenda item was continued. This was not just an attack on the Coalition but also a heavy criticism of officers.
The vote was lost and Council voted for ‘a more accurate report’ to be represented to Council. This will have serious implications for the administration and proves outreach work by the Council Leader and Deputy Leader with all groups including independents will be necessary in future to avoid a repetition of these defeats.
The first defeat here was on a Tory motion on the further report detailing the 1.55% of cuts unspecified in the Coalition budget passed in February for 2019/20. The main point here was that these were still to be presented to Council and it would be at least six months into the year before these were to hand raising the potential of deeper cuts.
The second defeat was on an emergency motion by the Coalition. This was on ‘European cities and short term lets’ and sought to make a contribution that would be submitted to the Scottish Government consultation on short term lets and write to MSP’s and MP’s supporting an initiative by Amsterdam. An amendment from the Tories that the UK Government were also informed of this post Brexit was not acceptable to the Coalition.
I continued to press the Council Leader to meet the Finance Secretary, Derek Mackay, accompanied by the Deputy Leader to urge the case for full and fair funding for Edinburgh. Again this was dodged but I will continue to pursue this as current funding for Edinburgh is such that we have the lowest per capita block grant per citizen in Scotland. The capital needs more for housing, schools, social care, infrastructure and services.
One bright spot was unanimous support for my motion congratulating Leith Victoria Boxing Club, Scotland’s oldest club, on their centenary. The club have a great history and like other amateur sport in the city continue due to the hard work of volunteers.
Leith Gala Day
Our stall on the Links was popular with an interactive survey asking views on local hot topics such as housing, Seafield, Transport and the environment. I did a meet and greet as part of this and was pleased to be personally thanked by quite a few people for my work for Leith. Thanks to members who helped set up the stall with our raffle proving popular despite the heavy rain.
Banksy in Leith?
Two pieces of graffiti mysteriously appeared in a close in Bernard Street next to the Kings Wark. However I have been reliably informed by a graffiti art activist that these are copies not originals. Look out for the wee rat which will lead you to the flower throwing EU activist. They’re still good by the way.
I was asked to speak at the Scottish Conference on how Councils could lead on the Co-operative agenda. I pointed to the work done by the Solar Energy Co-op and Harlow Hydro as two examples of how locally we can help fight climate change. Small changes making a difference.
Rather than speak I chose to revamp ‘Nelly the Elephant’ to become ‘Donald the President’ complete with interactive ‘Dump Donald Trump’ chorus. Despite my singing voice it went down well.
549: Scots in the Spanish Civil War
I helped the Wonder Fools theatre company with their interactive exhibition supporting their show on Scots of the Spanish Civil War at the Traverse Theatre.
The play tells the story of 4 young men from Tranent with the exhibition building on the play and telling stories of other brigaders including Leith man George Drever a former dux of Leith Academy who was blacklisted for volunteering to fight for Spain.