Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Shock at Sciennes

Sciennes Primary School teacher Mark Hewitt was found dead at an address in the Southside & Newington ward.  Aged 25, he was a teacher at Sciennes, involved in the South Morningside Explorer Scout Unit and due to perform in the Southern Light Opera Company performance of Titanic at the King's.

Sad news.  A cause of death has not yet been established.

More details here.

Monday, 20 February 2017

Clerk Street roadworks

Emergency drainage works are the cause of the road works in Clark Street (between nos 27 and 37 there).

I note there is now a temporary parking suspension order in force until Friday or when the work is finished, whichever is sooner.

Pavement repairs

There are many pavements needing repairs and I have frequently asked for work to be progressed (on roads as well).

There is now a programme of 'Footpath Slurry Sealant' works about to take place in the Southside/Newington ward.  Some work scheduled for March with some follow up work done in the following weeks.

Here are the streets being programmed currently:

  • Lussielaw Road
  • MacDowell Road
  • Priestfield Crescent
  • Priestfield Road
  • Langton Road
Here is what is intended:
Slurry sealing is used to repair imperfections and to seal footway surfaces from the ingress of water to the underlying foundations.  This is a preventative treatment used to extend the useful life of a footway, delaying more significant and costly treatments.  It is a semi self-levelling system and is spread by hand using squeegees on top of the existing. 
It should be a quicker fix as well.

Saturday, 18 February 2017

Summerhall Roadworks

Ducting work may cause delays in Summerhall next week (Monday 20th to Friday 24) for fibre cabling.  The works will be in Summerhall Square and Summerhall Place, the east side of the main road

Thursday, 16 February 2017

The trials of winning Euromillions

Jane Park comes from the Prestonfield area and won £1m when she was 17 - around five years ago.

There has been a bit of media coverage of her after her appearance on television yesterday morning and her appearance in court on a drink driving charge last week.

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Sick Kids update

Last week was the closing date for initial offers to NHS Lothian.  Now, there has been a flurry of publicity from some of the participants.

Here is an update.

First, there is an article in today's Times, (£ paywall but you can see the first few paragraph) which is about the bid which has been made by local arts entrepreneur Robert McDowell.  He is the owner of Summerhall. He has made a bid to obtain the site for a combination of museums, art galleries and arts related activities.

Then there is the proposal to exercise powers under community buy-out legislation which was extended to urban areas last year.  The Marchmont and Sciennes Development Trust is being formed and you can find more details of their vision here.

But there has also been consultation meetings locally to draw up plans to liaise with and influence any future developers.  They have produced a summary of collective views which is intended to be a working document with which to engage with bidders.

There will doubtless be many other bidders which will be reduced to a shortlist in the coming weeks.

Monday, 13 February 2017

Council Tax: 107,625 Edinburgh homes will pay increases of 11% - 26%

I list below the Council tax amounts to be paid from the beginning of April.

But first, a couple of reminders.  The increases can be found in my post on Saturday here.  Secondly if you are not sure of the Band of the house you live in you can find it at the Scottish Assessors Association website here.   The Scottish Government increases are to Bands E to H and are between 7.5% and 22.5%. Edinburgh Council has added a 3% increase to all eight bands.

First, the total amounts payable including water and sewerage charges and the amount of the increase. Note this includes the Water and Sewerage increase of 1.6% which is the rate of inflation (CPI) for 2016.

Band A:   £1089.75  (plus £27.90)
Band B:   £1271.38  (plus £32.56)
Band C:   £1453.00  (plus £36.20)
Band D:   £1634.63  (plus £41.85)
Band E:   £2108.25   (plus £160.19)
Band F:   £2578.53   (plus £276.86)
Band G:  £3075.57   (plus £420.94)
Band H:  £3810.09   (plus £625.53)

Now Council Tax on its own without water and sewerage charges:

Band 16-17 17-18 Increase (%age increase)
A £779.33         £802.71         £23.38 (3.0%)
B £909.22         £936.50         £27.28 (3.0% )
C £1,039.11     £1,070.28 £31.17 (3.0%)
D £1,169.00 £1,204.07 £35.07 (3.0%)
E £1,428.78 £1,582.01 £153.23 (10.7%)
F £1,688.56 £1,956.61 £268.05 (15.9%)
G £1,948.33 £2,357.97 £409.64 (21.0%)
H £2,338.00 £2,949.97       £611.97 (26.2%)

In the next few days I will follow up with the post number three in this series giving the political background. If you are not familiar with the discussions there will be a couple of surprises for you.

Refugee/asylum seeker update

I am often asked about progress in Edinburgh of the programme to receive asylum seekers and refugees, particularly in relation to the Syrian war.  In fact there are several programmes.  The first is the Syrian Resettlement programme which I will give up to date details of in this post.  Then there is the programme for Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children which arose out of the circumstances of the Calais refugee camp. Then there are other proposals/programmes in relation to Refugees/Asylum Seekers and I will deal with these last two in future posts.

Syrian Resettlement Programme
  1. Scotland has resettled more than 1,300 Syrian refugees since November 2015.  This represents over a quarter of the 4,400 refugees settled in the UK under the Syrian Resettlement Programme (SRP) so far.
  2. The SRP was set up in September 2015 to resettle 20,000 Syrian refugees over the life of this Parliament.  It is a partnership between the Home Office, the UNHCR and local authorities and is focused on refugee camps in countries around Syria (not refugees in Syria or in Europe).  The UNCR identifies refugees potentially eligible for resettlement and the Home Office makes the final decision regarding identities and numbers.
  3. Edinburgh has committed to resettling one hundred refugees for each of the five years of the programme.  To date the Council has resettled one hundred and thirty refugees (twenty-six households) with a further arrival scheduled for early spring.  The city is on track to realise the overall commitment.
  4. Refugees resettled under this scheme arrive with Humanitarian Protection Status conferring on them leave to remain in the UK for five years and the entitlement to work or apply for benefits from the point of arrival.  They also arrive with a package of funding from the UK Government which extends, on a tapering basis over the five year period.
  5. Homes for refugees - who mostly arrive in family groups - have been provided thus far through the Council's Private Sector Leasing Scheme (PSL).  Whilst PSL is technically a temporary housing solution, commitment has been sought from landlords that leases will be given for at least three years. 
  6. English language and cultural integration support is delivered through a partnership of Council and third sector organisations and Edinburgh College facilities.
  7. There is still a need for partnership to welcome refugees in this programme.  Two of the groups providing support are Edinburgh City of Sanctuary and Edinburgh Churches for Sanctuary.
Earlier post from me on this subject can be found here and here.  I see an interesting post here giving another perspective of the overall situation in the light of public discussion in the last week.

Saturday, 11 February 2017

Edinburgh council tax to rise between 3% and 26% from April plus further rises in Water and Sewerage

The SNP Government has imposed rises of between 7.5% and 22.5% on Council tax from April. These increases apply to the top four of the 8 bands.

The Labour/SNP coalition in Edinburgh has added a further 3 per cent increase - the maximum allowed - which applies across all 8 bands.  Three things need to be remembered.
  • ALL council tax payers will have to pay significant increases
  • For the top four bands the SNP government increase is added before the Edinburgh Council 3% is applied.  That means the additional discretionary increase of 3% represents an increase over last year's council tax of more than 3%.  The additional increase is therefore between 3.25% and 3.675% for these bands.
  • In addition the Water and Sewerage charges also increase but by a more modest 1.6%. That is the rate of inflation (CPI) in the year to December 2016.
So everyone will be paying more.

In the next day or two I will post the actual figures.  If you are not sure which band the house you own, rent or live in, attracts you can check for your band at this website.

Then I will report who voted for what - and why these increases need not be so severe.  If you have not been following the issues closely there will be a couple of surprises for you.

Amended 11.2.17 to make minor improvements to the wording.

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Proposal to reduce opening hours of Newington Library

The Labour/SNP administration have decided to reduce library opening hours from 51 to 39 hours.

That means the following:

Day          New                 Current

Sun          Closed              Closed
Mon         1pm - 8pm        10am - 8pm
Tues         10am - 5pm      10am - 5pm
Wed         1pm - 8pm        10am - 8pm
Thu          10am - 5pm      10am - 5pm
Fri            10am - 5pm      10am - 5pm
Sat           10am - 2pm      10am - 5pm

I'm on the case trying to reverse these.   It is to be decided at the budget meeting of the Council on Thursday this week.

Update 11.2.17:  In the event a last minute additional £10m in the Scottish Government grant has enabled Edinburgh Council to indicate it will allocate some additional money to limiting the impact of these service reductions

Monday, 6 February 2017

Whitehouse Loan repairs completed

In September last year - after lengthy pressure from residents and myself - East Preston Street was resurfaced.  I then reported local feedback which noted how quickly and considerately the work had been done when the company came on site.  The company was TARMAC.

Candidate for the worst street in Edinburgh, Whitehouse Loan, has now, at long last, been resurfaced. Following similar positive feedback from local people (at least for the last phase - it was delayed because of Scotiish Gas Network renewing mains pipes), this morning I made a call to check which company had been contracted in to do the work.

TARMAC again.  Take a bow.

Jawbone replacement update

Some of you may read an article in the Evening News today highlighting the delay in the renewal of the Jawbone Arch at the Melville Drive end of Middle Meadow Walk.  You can see the report here.

There is little additional in the article beyond the detailed information I circulated last November (which see here).

The current estimated time for the erection of the repaired Jawbone is late Spring.

See here and here for further information about the remarkable Meadows Great Exhibition of 1886, of which the Jawbone arch is one of four physical commemorations still visible locally.

Thanks are due to the many local people and organisations who have supported the renovation project.

Closure of Buccleuch Street next weekend

There is a closing order for Buccleuch Street between Buccleuch Place and Meadow Lane over the weekend of Saturday 11th February (from 7:00am) through to Monday 13th February at 7:00am.

Pedestrian access will be maintained.  The closure is for sewer connection work - which I assume is in connection with the University expansion and rebuilding work which is under way in the area.

Friday, 3 February 2017

New Edinburgh Uni Principal appointed

Peter Mathieson is to be the new Principal of Edinburgh University from January next year when he leaves his post at Hong Kong University.

Details here and here.

Filming in Buccleuch Place is a BBC drama

Filming is due to take place for a drama film called Trust Me in Buccleuch Place on Wednesday this coming week (8th).

The four-part drama series set in Edinburgh tells the story of Cathy, a hard working and skilled nurse, who, having lost her job for whistleblowing, is forced to take drastic measures to provide for her daughter.

More details here.