EIS Scotland on the proposed Cuts to Nursery and Early Years in Edinburgh

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A letter to me from EIS Scotland on the proposal to save money by removing teachers from Edinburgh’s nurseries. I would strongly suggest Ward 8 residents who oppose this cut to take part in the consultation and write to Gordon MacDoland MSP asking him not to back cuts to Edinburgh’s budget.

The EIS has read with real concern the proposals around removing nursery teachers and headteachers from nursery classes.  Whilst we appreciate the huge budgetary pressures Edinburgh Council is under due to the provisional Local Government Finance Settlement for 2019/20, we are strongly of the view that this is a short-sighted cut that is likely, over the long term, to actually cost the council more money.  We refute the idea that having nursery teachers working in an individual class has no impact on the quality of the educational provision.  Nursery teachers have expert level insight into the cognitive and pedagogical development of children, and how best to help children to become “school-ready”.  This expertise is most effective when it can be linked to the specific needs of a child and the context in which the child is living (including developing relationships with, and knowledge of, the family/home circumstances).  This is something that can only happen when a nursery teacher works closely with a class of children, and the associated early years practitioners, over extended periods of time.  The idea that nursery teachers acting as “consultants” to a range of different classes in different settings would support children to anything like the same extent is clearly not credible.  The result will be many children, especially the most vulnerable, being less ready and able to make the transition to school, and the long-terms financial and social costs of this are, I hope, obvious.  It certainly undermines the drive to close the attainment gap, and to promote equity of educational outcomes.

Over the next days and weeks, the EIS in Edinburgh will be gathering more evidence in support of our view that this proposal should be dropped from the Change Strategy, and we will be making our case to you, and to Edinburgh residents and parents.  In the meantime, though, you may want to look at this document, which summaries some research into the impact qualified teachers have on early years education https://www.eis.org.uk/Policy-And-Publications/Sustain-The-Ambition

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Is it time to cut police funding in Edinburgh?

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The Community Cops in my Ward do a fantastic job – most recently dealing with a huge spike in house break-ins. However, it is the Scottish Government that should be funding them not the City of Edinburgh Council (report, 19/01/19).

The £2.6m the Council gives Police Scotland should be being spent on schools, social care, footpaths etc. Let’s face it, the scale of the cuts Edinburgh is facing right now at the hands of the SNP Government means that every penny counts.

Indeed, although some have been critical of Edinburgh’s SNP Councillors for failing to oppose the cuts to our capitals’s budget, the proposal to slash £500,000 from the £2.6m top-up given to Police Scotland will result in the nationalists breaking their own 2017 Manifesto pledge:

“We will provide £2.6m per year to Police Scotland to keep our communities safe. We will tackle crime and anti-social behaviour at its root by funding community police and school liaison officers to continue working hard to make our streets safe and secure”.

But why stop there, when all of the £2.6m could be used to protect our schools and and vulnerable people from these cuts? This is the decision Edinburgh is now faced with.

Many other Councils stopped topping up Police Scotland’s funding some time ago, and it is perhaps time for Edinburgh to follow them and demand the Government lives up to its pledge to fully fund policing.

Indeed, the Police Scotland spokesperson quoted in the Evening News recently  was clear that Edinburgh’s Community Cops undertake “essential” work and “these officers are utilised to investigate a range of crimes that occur within our communities”. I am sure most people would agree that this is work that should be funded by the Scottish Government.

The reality is that despite the extra £2.6m the Council provides Police Scotland, Edinburgh is not exactly a crime free city. Indeed, the Evening News recently reported (11/01/19) that the EH4 postcode area was ranked fourth in a UK wide analysis of “housebreaking hotspots“, and EH15 was ninth.

So despite the concerns I have about the money Edinburgh gives Police Scotland, I am reluctant to see all of it cut overnight without assurances from Police Scotland and the Justice Minister that our capital will get the resources it needs. That must include an allowance for the extra police work that comes with being a capital city with many consulates and civic events.

Saved – Colinton’s Public Toilets.

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Today the City of Edinburgh Council published for consultation a list of “savings” it is considering after the Scottish Government proposed a substantial cut to  its core funding. These proposals have been long awaited in Colinton after the Evening News published a “secret” plan to close the public toilets in the village.

Behind the scenes and in public, I have made sure the views of local residents, Colinton Community Council and Colinton Amenity Association were heard on the issue. I am happy to report that I have been at least partly successful.

The plan is now as follows:

  1. To achieve a saving in 2019/20, it is proposed to reorganise staffing arrangements. This would move away from the 16 full time employees that maintain public toilets citywide  and create a larger number of part-time contracts to deliver the service locally (the same model is used in schools).
  2. To develop an enhanced Community Toilet Scheme for the city.
  3. To investigate the options to improve public convenience provision as the current service  is not consistent across the city. This will include reviewing all of the current facilities, understanding the issues/challenges with each facility (building fabric, maintenance, antisocial behaviour, and speaking to the people working at the facilities).
  4. In addition, alternative locations and options for providing public conveniences will be investigated. Following this, a feasibility assessment will be carried out on each facility alongside the options available to improve accessibility and quality.
  5. I have asked that groups representing vulnerable people and those with certain health conditions are consulted.
  6. The proposal to enhance the Community Toilet Scheme and the outcome of these investigations will be reported to Elected Members in autumn 2019, alongside recommendations for next steps.

As Colinton’s public toilets are well used (not least by bus drivers), in a good state of repair (confirmed to me by the Council), have no crimes associated with them (confirmed to me by Police Scotland) and fully accessible, I fully expect their future will be secured in the review.

Nonetheless, I would strongly suggest Ward 8 residents take part in the consultation and write to Gordon MacDoland MSP asking him not to back cuts to Edinburgh’s budget.

 

 

 

FOI: Cllr Adam McVey, Derek MacKay MSP and the meetings that did not happen.

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An image of Cllr Adam McVey & Derek MacKay MSP not meeting.

Since the day he became Council Leader Adam McVey has been assuring the city that he’s been holding regular meetings with Derek MacKay to demand fair funding for our Capital (quotes below).

Now, based on the FOI detailed below, we find that Edinburgh is facing the worst financial settlement in living memory and that these meetings appear to have been a figment of his imagination. There was only one formal meeting between McVey and MacKay in the whole of 2018.

I feel let down, but I expect many people in Edinburgh will find these revelations simply incredible.

 

Adam McVey’s Comments in Full Council

22nd Nov 18 – “I can assure any Labour Councillors who think that standing outside the Scottish Parliament with a sandwich board is better than being in the room meeting the Minister, in my experience that is not the case.”

22 Nov 18 (at 1:14:30) – “I did meet the Cabinet for Secretary for Finance about two weeks ago”

25th Oct 18 (at 2:27:00) – “I stand behind Gail Macgregor [COSLA] in her negotiations with Derek MacKay and I echo them as much as I can in my meetings with Ministers”.

20th Sept 18 (at 1:00:18) – “I have had numerous conversions with the Cabinet for Secretary for Finance throughout my time as leader. I met him as recently as last week, I think I actually met him twice in one day”

14th Dec 17 (at 1:27:15) – “I think I have engagements with Derek MacKay and other Scottish Government Ministers every few days on various topics. I have very robust dialogue with the Scottish Government. ”

23 Nov 17 (at 1:08:00) –  “I make regular representations to the Scottish Government either by meeting Derek MacKay, by phone or occasional text hounding him about something. In terms of the representations I have made already, I don’t think I have had an engagement with Derek MacKay where I have not mentioned the Transient Visitor Levy.”

26th Oct 17 (at 0:54:00) – “I have made a number of representations [to the Scottish Government]”

 

FOI Request

Please provide details of the following:

  1. Meetings  (if any) between the Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Economy and Fair Work and Councillor Adam McVey (City of Edinburgh Council) between May 2017 and December 2018: Dates, Agenda, Venue and Attendance.
  2. Meetings  (if any) between the Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Economy and Fair Work and Councillor Alasdair Rankin (City of Edinburgh Council) between May 2017 and December 2018: Dates, Agenda, Venue and Attendance.
  3. Meetings  (if any) between the Minister for Local Government, Housing and Planning and Councillor Adam McVey (City of Edinburgh Council) between May 2017 and December 2018: Dates, Agenda, Venue and Attendance.
  4. Meetings  (if any) between the Minister for Local Government, Housing and Planning and Councillor Alasdair Rankin (City of Edinburgh Council) between May 2017 and December 2018: Dates, Agenda, Venue and Attendance.
  5. Meetings  (if any) between the Cabinet Secretary for Communities and Local Government and Councillor Adam McVey (City of Edinburgh Council) between May 2017 and December 2018: Dates, Agenda, Venue and Attendance.
  6. Meetings  (if any) between the Cabinet Secretary for Communities and Local Government and Councillor Alasdair Rankin(City of Edinburgh Council) between May 2017 and December 2018: Dates, Agenda, Venue and Attendance

 

FOI Response:

We hold information for two meetings for Q1.

A meeting took place on 29th August 2017 in St Andrews House. There was no formal agenda for this meeting and no record of attendees other than Cabinet Secretary and Councillor Adam McVey. The meeting was part of a series of stakeholder engagements that the Cabinet Secretary undertakes where he meets with councils to discuss a range of finance issues facing local government

A meeting took place on 11 September 2018. There was no formal agenda for this meeting. The meeting took place in Parliament and the attendees were the Cabinet Secretary, Councillor Adam McVey, and Andrew Kerr CEO Edinburgh Council. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss economic development issues relevant to Edinburgh.

We hold information for one meeting for Q3.

A meeting on the 22 August 2018. With the Annex A reflecting this agenda. The agenda, venue and attendees for that meeting is attached as Annex A.

 

Annex A

  1. Business plan and priorities for the new administration
  • The council recently published (15 August) their new corporate plan setting out the Council’s priorities for 2017-2022.
  1. National Review of Planning and Local Development Plan
  • The Planning Review is clear that housing delivery and stronger planning for infrastructure are key priorities for this Government.
  • Outstanding planning issues related to the Local Development Plan
  1. Housing and homelessness
  • The council has identified significant pressures related to welfare reform
  1. New working practices, innovation and collaboration
  • Discuss what opportunities exist for introducing new ways of working and how we can introduce more innovation into designing and delivering services.
  • Explore what barriers may exist and how they can be overcome.
  1. Locality Improvement Plans
  • Explore council’s plans to set up locality committees
  • Work on community empowerment

 

Councillor Nick Cook misses the point on bins!

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Councillor Nick Cook pushing a bin around a garden.

Councillor Nick Cook makes a number of interesting points about Edinburgh’s waste collection crisis. However, he manages to overlook the key cause.

The waste collection crisis facing our capital is a direct result of cuts imposed on Edinburgh by the SNP Government. With fewer staff and no spare capacity in the vehicle fleet, is it any wonder bins lie uncollected? We can’t do more with less, and the most vulnerable in Edinburgh feel the impact most.

Indeed, in November COSLA reported that the Scottish Government had cut Council funding 10 times more than Tory austerity over the past five years. This highlighted the fact that SNP cuts to council funding were politically driven.

The budget Edinburgh is facing for 2019/20 will mean it has to make around £40m of “savings”. Councillor Nick Cook could have chosen to join Labour  in opposing these cuts, or perhaps he could have joined Edinburgh’s nationalists in ever so quietly accepting them. Instead, he chose to suggest essential public services delivered by the Council should be privatised.

Given that he completely failed to explain why this would help, I can only assume this is the Tory equivalent of a comfort blanket. I’d respectfully suggest that if he thinks privatisation solves everything he looks at the performance of Scotrail or commercial waste collection in Edinburgh.

The truth is that rather than proposing ill-thought measures to deal with the cuts,  Councillor Nick Cook should join Labour in opposing the damage Scotland’s nationalist government is imposing on our Capital.

09-01-19 – Food Waste Collection Update

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Below is the latest update on Waste Collection from Council Officers

With specific reference to foodwaste collections, I can advise that we remain behind on this week`s schedule and that Wednesday collections will be delayed. This is simply due to us trying to catch up on outstanding collections due to the holiday period delays.

In addition, we have decided to delay the Wednesday collections to ensure that our Thursday & Friday collections run as per schedule to avoid delays to those customers.

We are deploying additional resource to this waste stream which will allow us to commence on the Wednesday collections as soon as possible and these outstanding collections will be complete by close of play Saturday.

Jan 4th 2018 Edinburgh Bin Briefing – They hope to catch up next week.

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Below is the latest update from Council Officers on the ongoing waste/recycling collection problems. The aim is to get things back to “normal” by Tuesday. 

Best wishes to all for the new year. A brief note to advise that our collections will be continuing throughout the weekend across all waste streams in order for us to return to a normal collection schedule at the start of next week (Tuesday). The message remains the same – leave your bins out for collection.

We have now come to the end of the holiday period and as I stated earlier this week, our plan was to remain at `one day behind schedule`, and we have managed to maintain that on the main landfill and DMR (dry mixed recycling) collections, unfortunately we are behind with food waste and glass collections, but our aim is to be clean for Tuesday also in these areas.

I do have a concern with our communal glass collections and have spoken with our external contractor to ensure the communal glass hot spots are taken care of over the weekend, so hopefully we will see a difference here, on checking today, we have major volumes to collect here and our contractor was, and always has been aware of this at this time of year.

Christmas trees are starting to appear in larger numbers and we have several teams out this weekend and in the coming days from both waste and cleansing to assist with this clearance.

Finally, I understand everyone’s frustration with our collections and I am sure you can all understand our frustrations as well, we are however, using every possible resource we can lay our hands on to return to schedule in the second week of the year.