More effort needed to engage and enable voters in local authority elections
Lack of engagement at party political, local and Scottish Government level is leading to local authority elections becoming the ‘third tier’ of democracy according to a report published today by the Scottish Parliament’s Local Government and Regeneration Committee.
The report examines the 2012 local authority elections – which attracted a voter turnout of just 39.8 per cent – with a view to making recommendations about how to engage the public and make it easier for them to vote in the next elections due to take place in 2017.
Key to increasing voting is modernising the way people vote with the increased use of postal and proxy votes and widening the voting options. The Committee notes that whilst technology is moving rapidly, voting methods have not changed. It also notes that the use of technology would be key to engaging with younger voters.
Deputy Committee Convener John Wilson MSP said:-
“Our Committee is only too aware of the importance of local democracy on the day to day lives of people across the country. That is why it is so important we looked at local authority elections and what more needs to be done to ensure that everyone can have their say. Given its importance, we are disappointed that none of the political parties took the opportunity to respond to our requests for evidence.”
“Voter engagement is not the responsibility of just one organisation. The Scottish Government, the Electoral Commission, local authorities and political parties all have a role to play in giving people the power to affect and change local issues. If we don’t all work together, there is a real danger that local authority elections will continue to be seen as the third tier of democracy.
“With four years to go until the next local authority elections, now is the time to learn the lessons of the past and modernise the voting system to engage with as many people as possible and to make the voting system as accessible as possible.”
The Committee’s report also reached the following conclusions:
• Consideration should be given to take all opportunities to pilot new voting methods such as on-line and phone voting.
The Scottish Government should seek to extend the use of proxy or postal votes given the high return of postal votes experienced.
Election awareness initiatives
• That local authorities (working with the Electoral Management Board for Scotland and Election Registration Officers) do more to engage with young people in secondary and further education on a regular basis to highlight the importance of local democracy and raise awareness of the voting process.
Voter registration and how this can be increased
• Consideration should be given to a year round continual canvass to ensure that all eligible voters are registered. Alternative ways of registering to vote should also be considered.
Breakfast Bike Ride 2013
In 2012 the first Bike Breakfast was launched. Edinburgh residents accompanied their political representatives along their cycling commuting routes to central Edinburgh meeting at the City Chambers for the annual Spokes Bike breakfast.
Once again on Wednesday 19 June 2013, people will be meeting their MPs, MSPs and councillors across Edinburgh to cycle together to SPOKES’ bicycle breakfast.
This year’s organisers hope to double the number of councillors attending the rides and breakfast. “After a record turn out of more than 4,000 people at POP2 this year it is clear our representatives have an obligation to engage with us, we are providing the perfect opportunity to have a meaningful conversation about cycling”.
Organisers hope to get at a greater number of City Edinburgh Council Councillors on the ride or at the Breakfast this year.
For details about rides and times please check our website and Facebook groups.
A major river restoration project was officially launched today, paving the way for future housing and other development in the Edinburgh BioQuarter.
The £11m Niddrie Burn Restoration Project saw 1.8km of the Niddrie Burn realigned to form a river corridor, with landscaping, footbridges and a flood storage area within parkland.
This complex engineering project, delivered on budget and jointly funded by the City of Edinburgh Council and Scottish Enterprise (£5.77m of the total budget), also required a number of public utilities to be diverted, including 1km of Scottish Water trunk sewer, 700metres of water trunk main and 240 metres of Scottish Power cables.
A new public transport link road has also been created and came into use earlier this week. This £2.75m road consists of 1km of carriageway connecting Little France Drive with Greendykes Road, with a 200m section that forms a bus lane for public transport, taxis and emergency vehicles only, enforced by a bus lane camera.
Councillor Lesley Hinds, Transport and Environment Convener, said: “Today is an important milestone for this fast-growing part of Edinburgh; the effects of this work will be enormously beneficial to the whole area. This complex engineering project, delivered on budget, has created a wealth of opportunities for new homes and new development in the BioQuarter. The new Link Road will also make it much easier for hospital staff, patients and visitors to travel to and from the Royal Infirmary and we’re looking forward to seeing a new bus service start operating on this road in the near future.”
Scottish Enterprise Life, Chemical Sciences and Company Growth Director, Rhona Allison, added: “Scottish Enterprise has jointly managed the Niddrie Burn restoration works and the extension to Little France Drive as part of the BioQuarter programme. Our focus is to help grow the Scottish economy by investing in projects that will create employment and enhance Scotland’s reputation as an attractive place to live, work and visit. The BioQuarter is being transformed by its partners into a top global destination for life science R&D, and effective transport provision is key to its success.
“We hope to double the working population at Little France by 2029 which will attract considerable private investment at the BioQuarter: today’s announcement builds on the continuing delivery of world class facilities that will maintain Scotland’s high profile in this critical industry sector.”
Hugh Rutherford, Chair of the Edinburgh Business Forum, said: “Development and regeneration is one of the key elements of the Economic Strategy that the City of Edinburgh Council and the Edinburgh Business Forum are committed to delivering over the next four years. This is a great example of partnership working that is going to have a massive impact on this area of Edinburgh.”
The link road project also incorporates a 2m footpath and a 4m combined footpath / cycleway and street lighting.
Archaeological surveys were carried out as part of the project and the remains of an 18th century ice house were discovered among other finds from the former Niddrie Marischal Estate.
Design of the RIE Link Road was by City of Edinburgh Council, while Jacobs Engineering were responsible for design and site supervision of the Niddrie Burn Restoration Project. The main contractor on the project was Carillion.
A competition was run by the Portobello and Craigmillar Neighbourhood Partnership to choose a new piece of public art for the area; details of this project will be unveiled soon.
BIDDERS INVITED TO SUBMIT RESIDUAL WASTE PROPOSALS
Proposals to secure a dedicated facility for processing household rubbish through the Zero Waste: Edinburgh and Midlothian project have taken a step forward.
The development follows the recent news that a long-term solution for treating food waste from homes in each of these local authorities has been secured.Procuring these facilities will add to the efforts of both Councils to increase recycling, with a dramatic reduction in the amount of waste sent to landfill and the generation of low-carbon, renewable heat and electricity.
Each bidder must provide detailed information about its proposed pre-treatment facility, which must be located at the project site near Millerhill, in Midlothian. This facility will separate out any remaining marketable recyclables and produce a fuel for an Energy from Waste facility, which can be either onsite at Millerhill or offsite at a location of the bidders’ choosing. An Energy from Waste facility would produce heat and electricity from the non-recyclable waste.
Councillor Jim Orr, Environment Vice-Convener at the City of Edinburgh Council, said: “The City of Edinburgh Council is committed to pursuing more environmentally-friendly and sustainable ways of dealing with our waste, and I welcome this development.
“We are making great strides in increasing our recycling, but we recognise that a lot more work is needed to reduce the amount of waste that we send to landfill. This project, along with our ongoing efforts at the kerbside, is aimed at eventually reducing the amount of waste which ends up buried in a landfill site from more than 50% to less than 5%.”
Councillor Jim Bryant, Cabinet Member for Economic Development at Midlothian Council, said: “On top of redeveloping derelict land at former rail marshalling yards in Midlothian, this major project has the potential to deliver substantial economic benefits to the area by creating new jobs and new business opportunities. It also represents the final piece of Midlothian Council’s waste and recycling strategy, and I am delighted to see progress being made.”
After evaluation of the proposals, the successful bidders will enter into final competitive dialogue with the Zero Waste Project Team. They will then be invited to submit final bids and a Preferred Bidder will be chosen. It is expected that the residual waste treatment contract will be awarded in 2014, with the facilities operational in 2017.
The Transport & Environment Committee meeting this morning will discuss all things from Woztek the Bear to the need for a pedestrianised crossing at the junction of Ferry Road and Granton Road. On a packed agenda, some of which appears to have been ditched ahead of the meeting for fear of opposition from local businesses, the committee deals with some of the matters which affect us most.
The Scotsman reported only last night that the plans to trial a one-way scheme on Princes Street and George Street are being shelved until the August Transport Committee meeting as a result of the opposition from traders who fear it would affect footfall. Council Leader Andrew Burns said on Twitter that he agrees change is needed to the road system.
This will deal with some of the deputations who will probably delay their appearances till then. The plans to make the city centre a more pleasant place for pedestrians and cyclists attracted 2000 responses according to the council, 200 of which resulted from a drop in event over two days at the Assembly Rooms.
The Edinburgh Reporter will be at the meeting and will be live reporting proceedings from the Dean of Guild Room here:-
No fewer than seven deputations are scheduled to speak at tomorrow morning’s meeting so it may turn out to be a longish affair.
Most of the deputations are connected to the council’s stated plans ‘Building a Vision for the City Centre’. Many of the deputations object to the steam roller approach which they think the council has adopted in announcing it will trial the one-way arrangements in the city centre. This, they believe, contravenes the views expressed during the consultation phase.
A further deputation (which might be a little easier for the committee to deal with) will be made by the Wojtek Memorial Trust. The group want to show the kind of memorial that they wish to be put up in Princes Street Gardens to commemorate the wartime bear.
The story runs that the bear cub was adopted by the Polish Army who found it alone after its mother had been shot. The bear was brought up by the soldiers and taught to salute on command. He sailed with the Polish Army for Italy and was then brought to Berwickshire in 1945. Following his arrival here he was given to Edinburgh Zoo where he lived until the age of 22. This seems a pale uninteresting life in comparison with his wartime exploits (when admittedly he was a lot smaller than his eventual 500 lbs) such as drinking beer and smoking or eating cigarettes.
The deputation made the following request:-
“I would like to request that Raymond Muszynski (Morris & Steedman Associates) and I be allowed to attend the meeting of the Transport and Environment Committee on June 4th to speak briefly to the item on the proposal for a statue of Wojtek the Bear to be placed in Princes Street Gardens.
I will be able to make a small bronze available for display to supplement the report prepared by David Jamieson.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Krystyna Szumelukowa Trustee
Wojtek Memorial Trust”
Another deputation will be made by the Trinity Community Council who wish to have a green man installed at the junction of Ferry Road and Granton Road which they believe would be safer for pedestrians. And the final deputation will be about item 7.10 which deals with additional capital investment in roads and footpath. This one is from City Cycling Edinburgh.
So this promises to be a wide ranging and possibly contentious meeting and we will be in the Dean of Guild room to observe what happens. Our live blog will appear on our TERLive! section here.
Councillor Richard Lewis convened a meeting of the committee this week with many diverse topics up for discussion, but a couple around cycling, including the approval of the second Sky Ride later this summer.
The committee discussed the sports facilities at Meadowbank with Cllr Booth of the Green Party requesting information about the formation of a Member officer Working Group. Officers reassured him it would be set up over the next few weeks and then begin community engagement to have decisions made on the facility’s future by September.
The Committee then discussed the Summer Exhibition at the City Art Centre ‘Coming Into Fashion’ – a selection of rare fashion photographs and original magazines from the Conde Nast archives in New York, Paris, Milan and London. Councillor Munro questioned the entrance fee for the event in a public space, which Museums Manager Frank Little explained would be cheaper than London and other major cities. He also expressed the view that exhibitions would not be possible without entrance fees while Convener Richard Lewis added that “there’s always that fine balance between access and bringing major shows”.
The Forth Bridge Festival which will celebrate the iconic structure’s 50th birthday next year, have asked for £50,000 from the council to stage a parade and pageant which was duly approved. South Queensferry Councillor Lindsay Paterson expressed concern that the event would push the limits of the local area’s facilities and reminded the committee that coordination is needed with the local community council.
Sports investment ‘Activcity’ was the third item and raised questions on how a sport is defined, whether activities outside the mainstream such as yoga and dance were encouraged to apply for funding, and whether sustainable practice was promoted. The committee were told that their list of activities include Roller Hockey, Martial Arts, fencing and that the Council were looking to work with DanceBase to promote dance. Councillor Munro suggested international cricket matches by amateur players alongside the Mela Fesival at Leith Links, and the council added that these could take place at the time of the Commonwealth Games next year.
Museum Manager Frank Little explained the Collections Development Policy 2013-2017 as “the fundamental basis of what we do…the heart of our service”, adding that the Policy adheres to the National Accreditation Scheme applying standards to the service and an emphasis on “quality rather than quantity”.
During discussion about the 2013/2014 investment in cycling facilities, Cllr Booth took the focus back to Meadowbank questioning whether there were any plans to make the facilities indoor, rather than outdoor as it is as present, to reduce maintenance. Cllr Booth also wanted to know if there could be ways of reducing such problems at the proposed cycling hub at Hunter’s Hall Park in the future. The council officer replied that Meadowbank had received funding, but the infrastructure was of an age. The building will have to compete with other facilities for maintenance as the council is simply unable to ”maintain all the buildings all the time”. Hunter’s Hall Park unlike Meadowbank, would use concrete instead wood so should be easier to maintain.
Councillor Henderson questioned the accessibility to the local community of the proposed 3G pitch at Balerno High School. Cllr Lewis replied that the “Focus is on accessibility…we do ourselves no favours if we have facilities sitting empty on weekends and evening”. The council will also look to move sports from easily damaged grass parkland onto synthetic surfaces to reduce damage on poorly drained land, only made worse by bad weather.
A pilot scheme to extend opening hours for museums and galleries was duly approved. Frank Little said that public research proved a desire for Sunday and later opening hours. The pilot scheme will involve the City Art Centre and the Museum of Childhood over the summer. Cllr Lewis added that visitor numbers were healthy and that he was personally excited about more people visiting.
The meeting concluded with approval for a second Sky Ride, the mass city centre cycling event, at the Meadows which Councilor Lewis described as “good news all round” for the city’s cycling aspirations and economic investment.
City of Edinburgh Culture and Sport Committee members are:
Councillors Lewis (Convener), Austin Hart (Vice-Convener), Balfour, Booth, Cairns, Doran, Fullerton, Gardner, Bill Henderson, Milligan, Munro, Paterson, Shields, Burns (ex officio) and Cardownie (ex officio).
The 1st Battalion Scots Guards paraded down the Royal Mile today (Friday, 31 May 2013) after receiving the Freedom of the City of Edinburgh to celebrate their return from a tour of duty in Afghanistan.
The Battalion formed up on Johnston Terrace, where the Colours joined the Parade. The Parade then stepped off at 1100 hrs, marching down The Royal Mile, where the Lord Provost and Regimental Lieutenant Colonel took the salute.
They then marched to The City Chambers, where the Lord Provost presented the Battalion with the Privilege of Edinburgh (Freedom), which was accepted by the Regimental Lieutenant Colonel.
Following the Presentation, the Battalion then continued to march down the Royal Mile with the pipes and drums playing towards the Palace of Holyroodhouse with bayonets fixed as the privilege allows.
Commanding Officer Lieutenant Colonel Rob Howieson said:
“It is a great honour to be marching through Edinburgh today. We are truly humbled by the Council’s and the people of Edinburgh’s decision to bestow the Privilege of Edinburgh on us.
“The battalion has had a challenging six months in Afghanistan and today’s parade recognises their achievements, giving friends, families, and the people of Edinburgh an opportunity to celebrate their safe return.
“We are extremely grateful for the support we received from the local community all through the tour. Each week we would receive a helicopter-load of letters and parcels from well-wishers across Scotland.
“We were sent everything from woolly hats to chocolate and board games. It was very touching that we were being thought about at a time we were so far from our homes.”
Receiving the ancient honour of the Privilege of the City of Edinburgh now allows 1st Battalion Scots Guards to march in the city with ‘drums beating, Colours flying, and bayonets fixed’.
Drylaw resident Alex Dale was tonight presented with the Tam Tierney award for good citizenship. Alex has been an active community member in the Drylaw and Telford area for the last nine years.
Alex first got involved with the Drylaw and Telford Community Council in 2005 when he joined the community campaign to oppose the building of more houses in the Drylaw area.
After that Alex was hooked on community activism, and probably puts in more hours now as a community activist as he did when he worked full time.
After the successful campaign to oppose development in the Drylaw area Alex was involved in the steering group that developed the Drylaw & Telford community gardens project, he is an active member of the Inverleith Neighbourhood Partnership and sits on a variety of action groups including the city wide Transport group.
Alex is also heavily involved in the Skatepark steering group and he hopes to see the Skatepark built for the young people of North Edinburgh.
After the presentation Alex said:- “I am very honoured and privileged to received the Thomas Tierney award and to join the list previous recipients who have dedicated their time to help the community of Drylaw & Telford. I enjoy the work in do in my community to make the area a better place, I have enjoyed every minute of it and look forward to many years being involved with my community.”
The Tam Tierney award was set up the Community Council after longstanding community activist died suddenly in 1998. The Award was first awarded in 2000 and has been awarded every year since.
The council have decided this morning to sell Leith Waterworld to A & G who will develop the building as a soft play area.
The community group Splashback who wanted to reopen and run the pool have expressed their disappointment:-
We are infuriated and dismayed that City of Edinburgh Councillors today pulled the plug on Leith Waterworld for good. We have spent 15 months campaigning to save the pool, and four months working intensively with Council officers and elected members to develop the business plan for a revived pool. Yet they have abandoned their commitment to work with us and today put a price on public trust – sold for £1 million.
In the January amendment, Councillors agreed to support a feasibility stage until December 2013 and committed £125,000 towards this, with a further £225,000 over two years if the plan was successful. This decision was against officers’ recommendations and seemed to indicate that Councillors had a genuine desire to work cooperatively with the city’s residents. This could have been a flagship project for community engagement. In chambers on 31 January, Richard Lewis said: “We owe it to the people of Edinburgh to do everything to preserve this valuable community asset”. The trust we placed in the council that day has been brutally betrayed.
Significant progress had been made through the working group: we applied for charitable status; tenders for engineering, design and consultancy services had been issued and positive contact made with potential funders, who were excited about the project. Despite this progress, our work has been prematurely cut short. There has been no chance for a fair comparison between the commercial property deal agreed today, and our case for a community-led, revitalised Waterworld.
The bid accepted today is a poor result for Leith, for families, children, the disabled or the local community. Losing this unique and much loved fun pool is an utter tragedy for the city – such infrastructure is unlikely ever to be replaced. Soft play delivers none of the health and wellbeing benefits of swimming. What’s more, the bid accepted today will bring none of the additional positive social impacts of the renewed Waterworld we proposed, such as a sense of community cohesion, volunteer and training opportunities, and precious family time together in the water.
The capital sorely lacks adequate provision of affordable, accessible family swimming. In the last 48 hours, we have pressed Councillors to address this problem by ring-fencing the £125,000 they had promised us in January. We believe this funding should be used to secure free swimming for the city’s under 11s, as a minimum. Though the programme proposed in today’s motion in no way compensates for the loss of Waterworld, it will hopefully help encourage more families to swim.
We are heartbroken that we have not been able to save the pool, despite our best efforts. We know this will be deeply felt by many across the city. We would like to thank everyone for your overwhelming support for the campaign. Tragically, our collective clamour has fallen on deaf ears and the will of the people has been ignored. But we urge our supporters to continue holding your elected members to account.
Thank you also to our partners and spouses, and especially our children, who have put up with all our hours of absence when we could have been swimming with them.
Johnny, Fiona, Jacqueline, Ida, Richard, Simon and Chris on behalf of Splashback