July is a quiet month for Council Committees with only Licensing and Planning meeting. However, for me this meant more opportunity to get out in the community and combine work and fun.
In terms of work there was some collaboration with local groups to clear up the flood detritus at the basin of the Water of Leith. This took some persuading to happen with both councillors and officers in your Council taking a lead role. In the end a joint action funded 50/50 by your Council and Forth Ports saw the detritus cleared. There is a need to revive the all party agreement here to ensure that action is taken whenever this occurs again.
“Leithers don’t Litter” were in action again in July with a huge amount of rubbish cleared from beside the Graffiti Wall including items dumped by irresponsible businesses. If you have work done on your home, do ask about how the waste material will be disposed of. Make sure it isn’t being dumped!
The fun was had as the Fringe came to Citadel Youth Centre. The Fringe have to be congratulated on this work as they set up a ticket booth for easy access to tickets for shows. Folks got to choose and were even supported with bus fares to make sure that some of those furthest away from the Festival got to take part on their terms.
The Fringe also brought some entertainment to Leith too and I hope this is repeated next year.
Council was back in full swing and I took an active part in three different meetings.
In Governance Risk and Best Value I made an intervention on an Internal Audit Report on Homelessness Services. This made the news as I pointed out that with a caseload of 130-190 cases per officer not only were those that are homeless not getting the service they need but also the workers themselves were under real stress. There is a duty of care to staff as well as service users.
The Housing, Homelessness and Fair Work Committee meeting considered 2 important reports. The report on Powderhall gave authority to move to Stage 2 of design for the former waste site and attached bowling green site. These plans will look at 250/260 homes with 35% being affordable and also an options appraisal of the potential use for the former stables block here – artist space being one possibility.
Just as important was the report on the Private Rented Sector in Edinburgh.
The report made real to the Committee what some know from experience. Since 2000 the Private Rented Sector (PRS) has doubled to 60,000 households which is a quarter of all homes and more than the Scottish average of 15%.
The average PRS rent is £1,100 per month (Glasgow is £790) with the move to Air B’nB of 2,700 homes each year from 2014-17 leading to rent inflation and in some cases eviction as profit is put before people. There is no simple solution to this but we do need to build more Council homes.
Once again I pressed the Council Leader to request a meeting with the Finance Minister, Derek Mackay, at Holyrood to make the case of full and fair funding for Edinburgh. His reply this time was that a letter had been sent.
This is a real chance to make the case for the Capital which needs to be taken.
Lastly I was delighted to be asked to speak at the Hindu Mandir as they held a service in August to celebrate their contribution to the Armed Forces.
This year they also celebrated people of their faith’s contribution to the Police and Fire Service and this was part of a UK wide initiative by the Hindu community. It was a great example of the diverse citizenry of Leith coming together to show itself at its best.