20mph Zone is Coming to Colinton\Fairmilehead (Ward 8).

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Below is a briefing on this issue from Council Officers. I shall place updates on my Facebook page when I get them.

Background
Councillors approved a citywide 20mph speed limit network for Edinburgh at the Transport and Environment Committee on 13 January 2015 following extensive consultation and research showing a high level of public support for its introduction.  The roll out of the Scheme is planned in 4 phases between June 2016 and March 2018.

The City of Edinburgh Council is introducing (with the exception of strategic routes) a citywide 20mph speed limit, the first city in Scotland to do so.  The project aims to:

  • reduce the risk and severity of accidents by reducing speed, increasing the safety and well being of all road users. This is in line with the Council’s Vision Zero philosophy, working towards the provision of a modern road network where all are safe from the risk of death or seriously injury
  • create more favourable conditions for pedestrians and cyclists in the city. The extensive network of 20mph streets will help embed the QuietRoutes and the Cycle Friendly City Programme in a context that is safe and comfortable for cyclists
  • create streets that are attractive, social and people friendly
  • implement Policy Safe4 set out in Edinburgh’s Local Transport Strategy 2014-2019

Prior to commencement of the project, over 50% of Edinburgh’s residential streets were already in 20mph zones. The project extends the 20mph speed limit to the city centre, main shopping streets and residential areas while retaining a strategic network of roads at 30mph and 40mph.  A map of the 20mph network and implementation timetable is available at www.edinburgh.gov.uk/20mph.

Progress to Date
Three Construction Phases are complete and live.  Phase One (City Centre and Rural West Edinburgh) became effective on 31 July 2016, Phase Two (North, East and South Central Edinburgh) followed on 28 February 2017 and Phase Three (North West and West) on 16 August  2017. 

Phase Four
Phase four of the network covers South Edinburgh, much of which is already within 20mph zones.   Areas where new 20mph signage will be installed include Woodhall, Colinton, Oxgangs, Swanston, Fairmilehead and Greenbank. Phase four completes the programme.

Signage
Installation of signs and lines is due to start week beginning 22 January 2018.  Work is scheduled to take around 6 weeks, with minimal disruption expected. The new speed limit for this phase is planned to become effective on 5 March 2018.

The introduction of the new 20mph limit relies on signage alone, although existing speed humps or other traffic calming will remain unchanged.  20mph signs will mark the entrance and exit of a 20mph area where the speed limit changes. These signs will be supplemented by smaller repeater signs or road markings with speed limit roundels.

Further information regarding the legislation and signage design guidance for 20mph speed limits is included as an appendix to this briefing note.

Enforcement
Police Scotland supports lower speeds across the city and is working with the Council to achieve this.  The Police will continue to prioritise enforcement of the limit in streets with significant numbers of casualties and areas near schools. 

As well as police enforcement such as warnings and issuing of speeding tickets, we are working to change driver behaviour through a citywide programme of awareness raising and education.   Police Scotland have carried out a number of road safety education and enforcement exercises at local primary schools involving the 20mph ‘Reducer’ mascot and are helping to raise awareness and encourage compliance of 20mph through social media and other community events.

Since April 2017 we have been trialling the installation of temporary vehicle activated speed signs for short periods at locations across the city to encourage compliance and reinforce the 20mph message.

Monitoring
The Council is monitoring the outcomes of the 20mph programme and is carrying out a variety of ‘before and after’ surveys. Monitoring to assess traffic speeds, road casualties and public perceptions are all included in this programme which will continue throughout all phases.  Monitoring results will be reported to Committee one year after completion of the network to allow evaluation of the full programme.  Committee will then be able to consider whether any further action is necessary.

The University of Edinburgh and the Scottish Collaboration for Public Health Research and Policy has secured funding for and commenced an independent evaluation of the public health impact of 20mph speed limits in Edinburgh and Belfast.  The study which is funded by the National Institute for Health Research involves partnership with other UK universities, NHS Scotland and the charity Sustrans.  It is the largest study of its kind in the UK and will run until 2020.

Communication and Engagement
A detailed communication and engagement strategy supports scheme implementation.  Partners including Police Scotland, Sustrans, NHS Lothian, Living Streets and Spokes are working with the Council to deliver the strategy.  Each phase is accompanied by a local awareness campaign to familiarise different road users with the new scheme, promote road safety, active travel, better places and compliance with the new legal speed limits.  The awareness campaign for phase four includes posters, leaflets, social media, lamp post wraps, bus shelter advertising and an advert in the South Edinburgh Directory.

In addition to local publicity, we are planning the following engagement initiatives to mark the final phase going live.

  • 20mph video competition for primary pupils around the theme of ‘life is better at 20mph’.  The three winning videos will be used on the Council’s Facebook, Twitter and YouTube channels as part of the 20mph education and awareness programme
  • Glow in the dark bike ride around the city centre in the run up to the final phase going live
  • Light Projection of 20mph image on iconic building in Edinburgh
  • 20mph toolkit to encourage compliance and support communities to promote 20mph in their own neighbourhoods.

Information is disseminated via the Council’s website, and social media. A Facebook page with photos, video clips and posts has been set up to act as the focal online ‘community’ for the project.  The page links through to the programme website where more details can be obtained.

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A briefing on active transport plans for the upgraded Sheriffhall Roundabout.

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Below is a briefing on how City of Edinburgh Council is working with Midlothian Council and Transport Scotland to ensure active transport is supported and promoted as part of the proposed upgrade of  Sheriffhall Roundabout via the Edinburgh City Region Deal.

The consultants who are developing the design for the Sheriffhall junction upgrade on behalf of Transport Scotland have held a series of design workshops with representatives of both Edinburgh and Midlothian Councils. This process is ongoing and our Active Travel team is providing input on the proposed facilities for walking and cycling. Transport Scotland’s consultants tell us that their client intends that the new junction should be an exemplar active travel scheme.

Much of the A7 south of the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary (ERI) is within Midlothian, however the section north of ‘The Wisp’ is within this Council’s area.

This Council is supportive of the suggestion that the junction upgrade should include works to improve conditions for walking and particularly cycling on the entire road corridor from appropriate points in Midlothian south of the junction, north-westwards to the ERI.

The above was part of the verbal comments given to Transport Scotland’s consultants recently, at our last meeting. The essence of our response was that, whilst high quality segregated provision through the junction was essential, it would be most productive for the project to deliver a good standard of walking/cycling provision from origin to destination, rather than an excellent standard through the new junction coupled to no enhancement of the remainder of the route. The latter approach would leave a number of cycling-related issues on the route between Sheriffhall and the ERI, particularly for less confident cyclists – the key group when seeking to increase mode share for travel to work.  

This Council is focussing its active travel investment in the locations where there is potential for the greatest impact. Its significant Active Travel budget is already essentially committed for several years to come and does not cover the work discussed above on the sections of route within Edinburgh (though the Council is participating in work considering an upgrade to cycling connections to the Bioquarter from the Cameron Toll/Kings Buildings areas). However, the Council would welcome any decision from Transport Scotland to include the links discussed above as part of the Sheriffhall junction upgrade scheme. As roads authority, the Council would be happy to collaborate with development, design and delivery work.

 

The Future of Currie Community High School

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It is a recognised fact that education in Scotland is facing huge problems. If the decline we have witnessed nationally is to be reversed, we must all take seriously our responsibility to ensure all children can reach their full potential.

Within that context, we must remember that the best schools are partnerships between inspirational teachers, motivated children, engaged parents and a supportive community. The building simply facilitates learning, it is the other elements that make it happen.

This is why the crisis facing Currie Community High School is so concerning. This school is one of the best in our Capital because of its place at the heart of the community it serves. People are right to be concerned about moving the school and dividing the community.

We must take the news that the school building has structural problems seriously, but we must also be careful that they are addressed without harming the life chances of current and future pupils. Personally, I remain to be convinced that the entire building needs to be demolished and replaced elsewhere.

I also share the concerns of my constituents about the unexpected nature and complexity of the proposals launched by the Council’s Education department. As a local Councillor, I was only told about the consultation after the school’s Parent Council.

I’m also concerned that no educational impact study has yet been undertaken and that my constituents without children at the school were not directly notified. Indeed, I have constituents living next to one of the potential sites who found out about the proposals via the Evening News.

Despite these problems, the current consultation is really just the first step in the process and I have been assured no decisions have been made yet. I would strongly urge all interested residents to take time to read the proposals and submit their comments before the 9th of February: www.edinburgh.gov.uk/schoolsreview

Some thoughts on the SNP’s 2018/19 budget allocation for Edinburgh.

 

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Context
In the build-up to the SNP Government’s 2018/19 budget statement Daniel Johnson MSP published an article in the Evening News which explained how since 2013 the SNP Government had taken over £400m out of local government finances despite having received a broadly flat settlement from the UK Government over the same period.

Indeed, we know that between 2013-14 and 2017-18, the local government Revenue Budget fell by 6.9%, whereas the Scottish Government Revenue Budget fell by only 1.6%.

This is why our roads are potholed, why bins go uncollected and why Edinburgh has a huge building maintenance backlog. Indeed, the situation in Edinburgh is worse than elsewhere. Our Capital now has the most poorly-funded budget, £1443 per person, 25% less than other Scottish cities. It represents a cut double that of the Scottish average since 2013.

Past Cuts
We must remember that the Council has for the last few years already reduced staff (by about 1600), pared back on many services and restrained costs by contracting with companies who have poorer wages and conditions than the Council. In addition to this, a substantial amount of Council owned property has been sold.  With each passing year demand for services is rising and it is getting harder to accommodate the cuts.

Scottish Government Settlement
The UK Government’s budget had three key impacts for the SNP Government. Firstly the Tories, after lobbying from Scottish Labour, agreed to end the anomaly created by the SNP whereby the emergency services in Scotland had to pay VAT – this is a £40m benefit.

The budget saw marginal increases in revenue allocations over the next three years of £347m, but once inflation is accounted for this is a real-terms cut. This is the money we use to run existing services.

The capital spending allocation, the money we use for building things, is more complex. A welcome £2.1b extra was allocated over the next 3 years. The SNP Government points out that £1.1b comes with restrictions – it is Barnett money that rises from the UK Government’s “Help to Buy” scheme, and in the past the SNP has tended use it to support similar schemes or commercial property development.

Edinburgh’s Preparation
In the build up to the SNP Government’s budget, the Council had been briefed to expect a cut of £30m (even if we increased Council Tax by 3%) and planned on that basis. There were essentially two parts to this. Approximately £10m cuts from 2017/18 which had previously been consulted on (but were paused for a year), plus £20m of new proposals. Reducing library hours (a 2017/18 proposal) was discussed alongside plans ranging from charging for garden waste collection to cutting home to school transport (2018/19 proposals).

Edinburgh’s Settlement
When Derek McKay’s budget was published, however, the cut was less than we had been warned – but is still a huge £12.2m. He did, however maintain the trend of cutting Edinburgh more than the national average – 5% more to be precise (1.7% compared to 1.6%). Nonetheless, COSLA say Councils need a 5.7% rise just to maintain the status quo (3% for inflation and 2.7% for rising demand).

Edinburgh has the highest levels of homelessness and  housing need in Scotland. This settlement does not recognise our city’s needs, nor does it assist the Council to address these serious issues at scale and with urgency.

However, it is not as simple as selecting £12.2 of services on the list of £30m that went out to consultation. The budget came with a big catch – unfunded pay rises (£2.2m). We will essentially have to make cuts to fully fund this.

In addition to this, we need to consider setting aside money to start dealing with the huge building maintenance backlog (£9m), inflationary pressures on rent (£1m) and we need more funding to meet rising demand for social care (£2m has been suggested, but this won’t solve the problems we currently face). This means that even with reluctantly increasing Council Tax by 3% and  without accounting for rising demand in services, the budget blackhole could be even higher if we choose to accommodate these demands.

In addition to this, we’ll have to anticipate the results of the consultations on South West Schools, support for Gaelic Medium Education and the pressures on funding support for children with additional support needs.

Next Steps
Council Officers and Labour Councillors now have to think about how we can deliver our manifesto commitments whilst also making these cuts. Finding services and activities to cut will not be easy, but we will soon have the consultation reports from the 2018/19 proposals to offer some context.

Of course, this is just a draft budget and the SNP is a minority government. The days of the SNP doing deals with the Tories have passed, so we can now expect the nationalists to seek support from the Lib-Dems, Greens or perhaps even Labour if they are to set a budget.

Tribalism in the SNP ranks means that they are unlikely to do a deal with Labour. In any event, Richard Leonard is unlikely to  accept SNP tax policy without significant change. We can’t cut Council budgets to fund tax cuts for people earning £50k.

The Greens and Lib-Dems, however, may be willing to tinker and seek more funding to help protect local services. This won’t deliver the real change for the many that we need, but it may be enough to the reduce the impact of the SNP’s attack on our Capital.

Next Year’s budget.
The Scottish Government have only given Edinburgh a budget for one year, so it is difficult for the City to draw up a longer-term plan. However, we can expect the cuts to continue and demands for services to rise (the population is increasing and living longer!).  Increasingly, services which are not mandatory will come under huge pressure but these services are hardly a luxury. They include school uniform grants, holiday support for children with special needs, breakfast clubs and community centres. Nonetheless, the Tories had a motion passed which asked the Council to “make clear what the Council is spending on non-statutory services”.

Is Brian Souter the reason the SNP haven’t regulated buses?

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Sir Brian Souter – the bus tycoon and SNP supporter.

The Chicago Tribune recently published a truly humbling account of Edinburgh and its people penned by a tourist. What caught my eye is the description of Lothian Buses:

Edinburgh has a cheap (about a buck-fifty a ride in town) and efficient bus system with frequent service to everywhere a visitor might want to visit. The drivers and fellow passengers alike are extremely friendly and more than willing to explain the system and point you to the correct stop, as well as discuss their recent doctor’s appointments, the town council’s foolishness and, of course, the weather.

We should never forget that Edinburgh has one of the UK’s best bus services. What makes it so special is that it is owned by the Council and operates to benefit Edinburgh, not maximise profits.

Those that doubt the benefits of Lothian Buses only have to look west to see how lucky we are. In Glasgow there is no municipal bus company, services are operated by First Bus and Stagecoach. Whereas in Edinburgh we can travel the length of our Capital for £1.60, a relatively short journey in central Glasgow can cost £2 even when the  tickets are bought in advance. Making matters worse for Glaswegians, this week it was announced that fares will increase by 15% for adults and an eyewatering 40% for children. What’s more, unaccompanied children will have to pay the adult fare. Adding insult to injury, the view out of the window is nowhere near as good as we get in Edinburgh.

Glasgow City Council is powerless to intervene as for 11 years the SNP have refused to regulate bus companies or give other Councils the power to establish the equivalent of Lothian Buses. They have let private bus companies run riot.

That has now changed. At last, after pressure from Labour and Unite, the SNP have said they “aim” to bring forward legislation in the coming years. Don’t hold your breath though, similar commitments were made in the past.

Of course cynics will say the SNP have not acted to date because the party has received millions  from Sir Brian Souter. As well as been known for spending a million pounds opposing gender equality  legislation in Scotland and being caught in a £11m tax avoidance dodge, this super rich SNP backer is Chairman of the Stagecoach Group. Anyone who doubts the influence Souter has over the SNP should ask why they had him knighted and why Nicola Sturgeon refused to ask to that reward be removed when he was caught avoiding paying tax.

So let’s be grateful for Lothian Buses, but not expect anything similar to be started up elsewhere in Scotland anytime soon.

 

It is not too late to seek improvements to the Edinburgh Region City Deal.

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Top nationalist Keith Brown signs the deal that meant the already planned  Sheriffhall Roundabout upgrade could be used to artificially inflate the Edinburgh City Region Deal.

The Edinburgh City Region Deal is hugely positive and we should welcome it. Equally, I welcome the offer Keith Brown MSP, the SNP’s Economy Secretary, has made to the Capital to suggest improvements (report, 10/01/18).

When considering this offer, it is important to think about what Edinburgh needs in terms of infrastructure. It needs housing and we need to support the wellbeing of all our Capital’s residents.

It was hoped that the City Region Deal would be focussed on housing and be worth over £1.5b (Glasgow got £1.13b), instead the SNP and Tory Governments each gave our Capital City £300m with the biggest single item being a £120m roundabout.

Whilst £600m over 15 years is very welcome, it has to be placed within the context of the year-on-year cuts inflicted on Edinburgh and its people by the SNP and Tory Governments.

Furthermore, back in May we heard, without a whimper of opposition from Edinburgh SNP, that the Scottish Government had decided that the City Deal would not fund the tram extension.  It did, however, apparently find £120m to upgrade the Sheriffhall Roundabout on the City Bypass. This neither falls within the remit of the region’s councils nor, I understand, was it part of the City Region Deal bid. Indeed, the SNP Government is arguably short-changing Edinburgh by making the already planned upgrade of Sheriffhall Roundabout  part of the deal simply to inflate its finances.

There is a conspiracy of silence about this outrage amongst Edinburgh’s Tories and Nationalists as both parties are architects of the deal.  However, Keith Brown’s offer is a chance to correct this brazen attempt to short-change our Capital.

We should let Transport Scotland continue with its long established plan to upgrade Sheriffhall if it wishes, but we should end the illusion that this is part of the City Region Deal. Instead, we should seek funding to transform Edinburgh and the life chances of its residents.

Firstly, this should be done by industrialising the construction of high quality, sustainable and  truly affordable housing for rent in Edinburgh.  What’s more, these homes should be built by apprentices trained in Edinburgh. Secondly, we need to provide a step change in support for active and public transport so people can lead more active lives and so, in the longer term, take some of the pressure of our NHS.

Surely that would be a better legacy for this generation to leave the next than a £120m roundabout?

People that disrespect Parkrun, park users or the local community are simply not welcome at Parkrun.

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Me volunteering at the 2016 Christmas Day Cramond Parkrun

I’m really disappointed to read that an absolute minority of runners at Portobello Parkrun have engaged in anti-social behaviour. It’s easy to joke about people peeing in public, but it is disgusting and  rightly an offence.

For those that don’t know, Parkrun is a completely free 5km (3.2 miles) run held in parks across the UK every Saturday, and often also Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.  These are inclusive events which welcome elite runners alongside couch potatoes, children and people with disabilities. Recent weeks saw everything at Parkrun from an octogenarian completing her 250th run to the total distance now covered by all runners exceeding 149,597,870 kilometres.

Edinburgh is blessed with two Parkruns (Portobello and Cramond), plus a third nearby at Vogrie Country Park.   On a typical Saturday morning well over 1,000 people will complete these courses. That’s 1,000 children and adults taking part in a community organised event where all that’s needed to take part is a pair of trainers.

I have now completed 152 runs, 141 of them at Cramond where I also try to volunteer once per month.  Parkrun has helped me hugely – after I had my cardiac pacemaker fitted in December 2015 it was a key part of how I recovered my health and confidence. Others use it to lose weight, spend time with friends or simply build up their fitness.

The people taking part in Portobello Parkrun are no different. Each of the 5 times I have completed that Parkrun with my son I have been amazed by the range of people taking part. Alongside grannies there are elite runners. Alongside people running with their dogs there are mums running with the babies in buggies. This diversity is what makes Parkrun so special.

The pride I have in being a Parkrunner is why I am so angry with those that undermine what it stands for with their behaviour. Before every single Parkrun we are reminded that we must respect other park users and the local community. Portobello Parkrun specifically tells runners to “use the toilet before you leave home in the morning” and makes them aware that public toilets are nearby.

I don’t speak for Parkrun, but I’m sure I speak for all Parkrunners when I say that people that disrespect Parkrun, park users or the local community are simply not welcome at Parkrun.