Friday, 8 August 2014

Woody Guthrie - Hard Travelin'

"This Machine Kills Facists"
The Edinburgh Festivals are in full flow and the city is bursting at the seams. Great atmosphere though and as usual I'm trying to squeeze in some shows between work commitments. Not ideal, but at least I'm lucky to have the opportunity. Best highlight so far was "Hard Travelin' with Woody", a one man show describing the life and times of Woody Guthrie and featuring a number of his songs. Woody walks us through the hard times of the depression and the harsh reality for working men travelling the country looking for jobs and not always being welcomed by local communities or the Police. He also describes his realisation that workers need to be organised to have any chance of justice or decent conditions. That message is as valid today as it ever was. The show is on at CC Blooms every day at 1.45pm for an hour. It's part of the Free Festival but a fiver in the bucket at the end is the least that this show deserves with a fantastic performance by Randy Noojin as Woody. More details on the Fringe website on this link.

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Integration Edges Closer

The Integration of Health and Social Care took a significant step forward this week. The Council's Policy and Strategy Committee and the board of NHS Lothian both agreed, after a brief review, to continue to develop the joint board partnership model that we've been developing in shadow form for the past 18 months or so. The P&S report can be accessed on this link. I was pleased that both organisations reached the same conclusion and while it was right to take a look at what other options were available in light of the Scottish Government draft regulations, it did create a bit of uncertainty and concern that the lead agency model could have been selected. I don't think that would have been right for Edinburgh and wouldn't have been effective in helping to deliver on the wider Health and Social Care agenda. So, we move on, in partnership, the Council and NHS Lothian working jointly with the trade unions, the voluntary sector, service users and carers and health and social care professionals, all of whom are represented on the shadow Edinburgh Health and Social Care Partnership. Incidentally, after a development session a few weeks ago we agreed to move away from the more formal business meetings that we had scheduled and concentrate on further development work to ensure the partnership gains a better understanding of the issues that we will be responsible for and the skills that will be required once the partnership goes "live" sometime next year.

Friday, 23 May 2014

I have seen the future....

Was privileged to be asked along to the launch event for a new service today at Drummond Place in the new town. A Georgian town house on 3 floors, the Drummond Service now provides a home with intensive skilled support for seven people with complex needs, which has allowed them to leave the care of the Royal Edinburgh Hospital. Combining many of the best principles of health and social care service delivery - supporting individuals to live as independently as possible, working in partnership with other organisations and involving service users and carers in decision making, this type of service has to be the way forward in allowing people to live within communities as independently as possible, using support as and when necessary and preventing lengthy, counter productive periods in hospital. In this case Viewpoint Housing Association own the property, Edinburgh Council commissions the care service and Faye and her excellent team from Carr Gomm provide the support on site on a 24/7 basis. The improvement to the physical and mental health of the seven guys who live here has been significant I was told and in chatting to a couple of them they seem very settled and extremely pleased with their new home. Oh, the cake was fantastic by the way....

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Scott vs Zombies & WAAD

Me, Scott & the Zombie Auctioneer
Yesterday was one of the most interesting and unusual days for me as Convenor of Health and Social Care. It began with a pre meeting at Waverley Gate, followed by a lengthy NHS Lothian Board meeting and then a visit to Craigmillar to meet one of the city's Pioneer Groups which provide support for dementia sufferers and their families. It was a relatively small gathering, supported by a couple of NHS colleagues, and we had a good chat about what services are needed for people and also what businesses and other public services can do to encourage a wider understanding of dementia and what they can do to help people if they become disorientated or confused. Our work to help Edinburgh become a Dementia Friendly City was welcomed and I look forward to developing this further.

We then made our way to the Gallery on the Corner, in town, for the opening of an exhibition of art work produced by people with Autism. Timed to coincide with World Autism Awareness Day (WAAD), the gallery, an Autism Initiatives social enterprise, provides gallery and studio space as well as the experience of producing work in a business environment. More details on this link to the Autism Initiatives website.

Then a short walk to Stockbridge Library for "Scott vs Zombies". Scott Davidson, who has autism, inspired the project and through the excellent Artlink Edinburgh worked with writer Alan Grant and artist Robin Smith to produce a heroes style comic to tell Scott and his mum Liz's story. Last night's event was to auction 18 of Robin's original sketches used for the artwork in the comic. Quite a specialised interest area and a large crowd gathered to raise money that would be donated to support people with autism. The Zombie Auctioneer, ably assisted by Scott, expertly worked the room and bidding was brisk and generous. An excellent event and congratulations due to all involved.

Then after Scott vs Zombies it was off to Tynecastle for Hearts vs Aberdeen. Following our derby victory on Sunday, a creditable draw means relegation has been evaded again, at least for now...

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Committee Business, POSH success and Autism Awareness

Thankfully no April Fools pranks at this morning's Health, Social Care and Housing Committee and not the biggest agenda we've had but still a useful session, in particular hearing from the POSH (Protect Our Sheltered Housing) deputation. Almost 1000 tenants live in Council sheltered housing complexes throughout the city and most receive support from a visiting warden service. The remainder have on site wardens who live in tied accommodation and residents were concerned at proposals to move from this to the visiting wardens. After further in depth consultation via a checkpoint group we've agreed to retain the existing service but not replace the onsite wardens when they move on, retire etc. The deputation made some excellent points about future working and asked for the establishment of a liaison group to monitor the service in future. Given that almost 1000 people live in these complexes and we are acutely aware of the need to ensure more community support for older people this seemed and eminently sensible suggestion and we were happy to agree it. Full papers for the committee on this link, by the way.


Tomorrow is World Autism Awareness Day and I'm looking forward to a couple of events to mark the occasion. Will post details later in the week.

Saturday, 1 March 2014

Pentlands Labour supporting Womankind

Next Saturday, 8th March, Edinburgh Pentlands Labour are staging an event to celebrate International Women's Day and raise finds for women's rights organisation Womankind. Its at St Columba's by the Castle (14 Johnston Terrace) and should be a great event.

Sunday, 23 February 2014

Saving Hearts

On Thursday I took part in a Scottish Patient Safety Programme (SPSP) ward walkround at the Royal Infirmary. There's a planned schedule of visits each month and non Exec NHS Board members are expected to participate as often as possible. It's designed to allow staff and patients to provide feedback on patient safety matters or any other issues. It's also invaluable to me as it provides a fantastic insight into the daily lives of health workers at the front line delivering a vital service. There's also a wide range of services and facilities that are visited and this time it was the Cardiology unit at the Royal (wards 103 and 114, I think). Unfortunately, my other two colleagues had to cancel at short notice which left me as the sole Board representative, however that meant I had some quality time with several members of the staff team and we had a really good chat about numerous issues and the challenges that they face. I was then given a tour of the unit, extremely impressive, professional and bristling with all types of technology that are used to support people who have suffered heart attacks and other cardiac conditions. They are world leaders at early diagnosis and medical interventions (they have a 90 minute target time from the first call from the ambulance) and bags of experience in dealing with high numbers of patients and a steady turnover of admissions and discharges. My thanks to Ann, Pat, Simon and their teams for being so helpful. We often see negative headlines in the media in relation to health care so it was great to see such an important unit providing excellent service with dedicated staff, operating at optimum level.

Yesterday I was at the Edinburgh Labour conference on Local Government Finance. More interesting than you might think... Then off to catch the second half at Tynecastle and while we slumped to another disappointing defeat, this week did at least see the emergence of Ann Budge as the potential saviour of Hearts, until a fans buyout can be delivered. There is light at the end of the tunnel, although to be honest, it's a very long tunnel !

Saturday, 15 February 2014

Pure Poetry, by the way

One of the book sculptures
Another busy week, culminated in us setting the Council budget 2014/15. The usual set piece political blows were duly exchanged in the Chamber before the Capital Coalition proposals were approved. The full papers and all the political motions are available on this link.

Yesterday, saw the latest meeting of our shadow Health and Social Care Partnership and we had a good session discussing a variety of issues from ICT improvements to Unscheduled Care, the NHS Lothian Strategic Plan and the progress of the integration bill through the Scottish Parliament.

I then had a meeting with the good folk at the Scottish Poetry Library in Crichton's Close. They have a number of projects running across Scotland where artists / story tellers / poets do regular sessions in care homes. By engaging with the residents it helps to break down isolation and improves mood and confidence. We don't currently have a relationship with them in Edinburgh but I'm keen to see that change. We also had a look at some of the Edinburgh Book Sculptures, donated by a mystery benefactor, and they are absolutely beautiful. 

I Heart Scotland
I also managed to attend the launch of the latest Travelling Gallery exhibition last night, I Heart Scotland by Rachel Maclean which is "exploring Scottish national identity and its founding mythologies. Presenting a body of film and print work Rachel examines the nation's romantic histories through the lens of contemporary political debate, creating a complex and surreal vision of modern Scotland." Its quite bold and I liked it but I expect it may divide opinion. 

Tonight we're off to the Counting House to see Panic Attack, The Snipes, Big Fat Panda and Root System, who are launching their new CD. Could be messy....

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Great Chieftan o' the Puddin' Race

The Central / Pentlands Burns Supper was excellent. Main speakers Caroline Flint MP (Immortal Memory), Anas Sarwar MP (Toast to the Lassies) and Jenny Marra MSP (reply from the Lassies) were all superb and ably supported by Tim Pogson and Alistair Darling. My flawless Selkirk Grace (only 4 lines of course !) was delivered with a sigh of relief and the knowledge that I could relax and enjoy the rest of the evening. A good night was had by all and we raised a few quid for both CLPs.

Sunday didn't exactly go according to plan. I've seen Hearts get beat under some unusual circumstances over years but I haven't witnessed that before ! At least there was more promising news yesterday about the long process towards taking the club out of Administration and into the ownership of the fans.

Busy start to the week again with the usual array of Monday morning meetings followed by a trip to Heriot Watt Uni for a meeting of the South West Community Sports Hub. Lot of good work being carried out and some momentum now building. Surgeries at Clovie and Currie not too busy.

Labour Group meeting last night, and we're getting very close to putting the finishing touches to the budget and our draft Coalition motion. More info will be released publicly later this week.

This morning saw a very busy NHS Lothian Board meeting with a particularly heavy agenda, but we got through it, eventually.

Full Council tomorrow, all the reports are on this link.

Saturday, 1 February 2014

Hello 2014

A belated Happy New Year. As expected, after the Christmas and New Year break it's been really busy. At least that's my excuse for neglecting my blog duties. So today's post is more of a summary of some activities and events throughout January.

It began badly with a derby defeat at Easter Road, but a couple of wins on the bounce and we can at least look forward to tomorrow's League Cup semi final with a modicum of optimism.

Council business has been dominated by preparations for the 2014/15 budget which will be set on 13th February and numerous workstreams on the Health, Social Care and Housing front, including the Committee meeting last Tuesday (28th). You can access all the reports on this link.

Locally, the normal routine of surgeries and community meetings has resumed with much focus on the numerous planning applications that have been submitted in all corners of the ward.

In addition, at Wester Hailes CC on 8th January I learned that a Food Bank is to be established within the shopping centre at Westside Plaza, with support from the CC, a local church and the centre managers. A sad sign of the times.

A couple of events with a positive feel are worth a mention from the last week. The Canny wi' Cash project , run by EVOC, provided small grants to local groups working with older people and the successful application were subject to a democratic vote by older people around the city. We hosted a wee reception for them and it was good to chat about the various brilliant activities being delivered. Click on EVOC's Canny wi' Cash page for more details.

Also attended the launch of the Dementia Awareness Campaign at Drumbrae Library and although this is a serious and growing problem, the event itself was upbeat and positive. Working with Alzheimer Scotland, the NHS and the voluntary sector we are hoping to raise awareness of dementia and encourage people to seek help if they think they may have symptoms. Early diagnosis and support can make a big difference to sufferers and their families.

Tonight is the annual Edinburgh Central and Pentlands Labour Burns night. Should be fun.

Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Scorescotland's Commonwealth event and Sir Geoff Palmer

Prof (now sir) Palmer (right)
Had a thoroughly enjoyable evening at the Scorescotland Multicultural Commonwealth event on Saturday at the Corn Exchange. Primarily aimed at children and young people from different cultural and ethnic groups across Edinburgh it was an evening packed full of fun for children, music, singing, dancing and wonderful food. Great atmosphere and good to catch up with friends old and new, including Professor Geoff Palmer, renowned human rights activist (and brewing expert) who unbeknown to us at the time had been recognised in the New Year's Honours.

MC Fred & Cllrs Dixon & Henderson


Professor Palmer, who became Scotland’s first black professor in 1989, has been awarded a knighthood for services to human rights, science and charity. He was named one of Britain’s 100 “great black Britons” in a poll six years ago and is an interesting and thoughtful speaker. He made a brief contribution at the event but graciously accepted defeat to the exuberance of youth who weren't perhaps in the right frame for serious thoughts while busy enjoying themselves.

Sunday, 22 December 2013

The Soggy Santa Run

video
Made my annual outing with the Currie and Balerno Round Table  Santa Run in Baberton Mains this week. Each year C&BRT, Santa and Rudolph head out around the local community on 15 separate runs, raising money for local good causes and charities. Of course Santa needs a bit of help from his elves. That's where I come in. Myself and a dozen or so other willing volunteers knock doors and shake collecting cans while Santa and Rudulph blare out the Christmas songs from the sleigh and hand out sweets to the young and not so young and get a few photos taken along the way. It was wet and cold for this run but that wasn't going to put us off so we soldiered on for a good three and half hours and raised just over £1100. A great joint effort and it made the venture very worthwhile. Right, I'm off to roast my chestnuts over an open fire....

Friday, 20 December 2013

New Balerno Pitch Funding Welcomed

Was delighted to attend a media event earlier this week at Currie Rugby Club, Malleny Park, Balerno for the formal announcement that the Government's Cash Back scheme, which recycles money retrieved from convicted criminals, is providing £300k towards the costs of a new all weather pitch at Malleny Park. The existing pitches and land here are shared between Currie Rugby Club and Balerno High School and frankly there just isn't enough space to cope with the demand. The rugby club have a very successful youth development scheme as well as their other fixtures and the school of course needs access to decent surfaces for delivery of the curriculum. It would be fair to say that these competing demands have created a little tension over the years....

I remember lodging a Council motion on this a few years ago and the subsequent report confirmed that facilities did need to be upgraded but there wasn't any funding to do so. It's brilliant news that at long last a funding package has been secured for the new pitch which can be used for matches and training. One of the conditions of the funding is that the new pitch must be shared between Balerno High School, Currie Rugby Club and Currie Star FC. Hence the event was attended by reps from all the above plus the Council, the Scottish Government, the SRU, the SFA and the local community who all welcomed this much needed investment.

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Christmas is coming, Ho Ho Ho...

Balerno Christmas Trees
After a mega busy week which included the "Meet the Politicians" public event in Currie, a meeting of the Welfare Reform Working Group, opening a new housing development for Port of Leith Housing Association in Magdalene Drive, Full Council, a budget consultation briefing with homelessness prevention service providers and interviews for BVT, yesterday saw some light relief at the Balerno Christmas Farmers Market. Serious business had to be conducted though as myself and Alistair Darling were asked to judge the annual Balerno Christmas Tree Festival. We carefully inspected more than 40 beautifully decorated trees in the Scout Hall and the Church Hall then retired to deliberate. After much soul searching and heated debate we reached a verdict. Much to my surprise I was thrust forward with a microphone in hand to make the official announcement to the packed St Joseph's cafe that ; Jigsaw Nursery had won the second prize and the winner was - *drum roll*...... Dean Park Primary ! By pure coincidence Dean Park Primary's choir had just been entertaining the audience with a medley of their Christmas hits so our decision was greeted with broad approval. 

Santa is at home
Also managed to drop by Wester Hailes Shopping Centre where Santa has taken up residence and doing a brisk trade in " don't be naughty and you might get something nice for Christmas". Then managed to meet some mates in the Tynie Arms to watch the Man City v Arsenal game which was quite outstanding. Then on to the Hearts game where the Christmas spirit was well and truly blown away in the gail and rain and another disappointing defeat.

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Harlaw Monday Group

Was delighted to accept an invite to visit the Harlaw Monday Group yesterday, who are based at the old Dean Park clinic, next to the primary school in Balerno. They support 8 older people who have Dementia or Cognitive Impairment from the local area. Providing lunch and social activities for a few hours each Monday this group gives some vulnerable people much needed social interaction and stimulation while at the same time giving carers a well deserved break which they can enjoy knowing that their loved ones are safe, secure, and going from what I witnessed, having great fun with each other. A very valuable and well run service and all delivered on a very modest Council grant which funds one member of staff with other support coming from volunteers. There are dozens of similar groups performing similar minor miracles throughout the city and they do a fantastic job.

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Black Dog Campaign Launch

Angus looks out over Edinburgh
Was delighted to accept an invite today from national mental health charity SANE and Ryden Property Consultants to the launch in Edinburgh of SANE’s initiative to combat the stigma surrounding mental ill-health, and to encourage people to seek help. The Black Dog Campaign is a pioneering programme to raise awareness of depression, anxiety, stress and other mental health conditions.
 
Having confessed my ignorance to the origins it was explained to me that Winston Churchill suffered from depression and referred to it as his "Black Dog", hence the campaign which has been supported by many celebs including Stephen Fry and Joanna Lumley. There are currently 10 other Black Dogs in England but Angus, above, is the first to visit Scotland and can be seen at different locations around Edinburgh in the next few months. It was also a pleasure to meet Marjorie Wallace CBE, SANE’s Founder and Chief Executive and David Fraser partner at Ryden and his colleagues who have done a fantastic job of fundraising to make Angus's arrival a reality. I wish the campaign every success and hope we can do as much as possible to promote it.

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Balerno Fairtrade Recognition

Donald Wilson at yesterday's event
Edinburgh's Lord Provost, Donald Wilson paid a very welcome visit to Balerno yesterday. After a wander round the monthly Farmers Market, in which he showed a great deal of interest, we dropped into Balerno church's Mill Cafe for a coffee and couple of photos then on to the main event, which was the presentation by the Lord Provost of the certificate from the Fairtrade Foundation confirming Balerno's newly acquired status as a Fairtrade Village. Its taken a long time and a great deal of work from the local Fairtrade groups in the community to achieve this recognition and congratulations are due to everyone involved. The local schools too are Fairtrade conscious with Dean Park Primary having also achieved success as a Fairtrade School as well as supporting the wider community project.

Saturday, 9 November 2013

Super Ska Sunday

Had a brilliant time last Sunday at the Citrus Club in Grindlay Street. The first Sunday of each month Edinburgh Ska giants Big Fat Panda invite other Ska chums to support them in a tea time stomp (from 5pm, entry only £5) and last week was a bumper treat of 3 bands, Edinburgh's Sea Bass Kid, followed by Esperanza from Glasgow and rounded off by Andy and the boys. A fantastic 4 hour Ska-fest to satisfy the needs of Ska addicts anywhere. This weekend Big Fat Panda and Esperanza have made the long trek to Dorset to participate in the latest "Specialized" project which supports the Teenage Cancer Trust. Various Ska artists perform live and have also recorded a couple of albums of classic Ska cover versions. You can buy the downloads on the Specialized website on this link. A worthy cause and pretty good value for the equivalent of 2 or 3 cd's worth of music.

Thursday, 31 October 2013

Neighbourhood Watch & Derby Success

....talking of Police, I attended the AGM of Currie East Neighbourhood Watch the other night at the Gibson Craig Hall. A seriously impressive turn out of around 30 people duly ratified the accounts, constitutional changes and then elected their office bearers for the year ahead. It's good to see such interest in community activity (I suspect the glass of wine at the end may have boosted the attendance!) and this particular group, although Neighbourhood Watch and community safety are their primary purpose and concern, they also take an interest in the wider community and this is to be welcomed. Thankfully Currie East is not a high crime area but this can partly be attributable to the work of these volunteers maintaining the vital communication links locally to ensure that people take all the relevant measures to keep themselves safe. I look forward to working with them and providing whatever support may be required.

Meanwhile....., last night I headed for Easter Road more out of a sense of duty than any optimism or expectation. After 20 minutes we could have been 4-0 down and thoughts were turning to a possible return to the pub to dull the pain. However, Hearts didn't concede, held on, and clawed their way back in to the game. Ryan Stevenson scored and Hibs never looked like the same side after that. A famous 1-0 victory takes us to the semi finals and, more importantly, a confidence boost for the league games ahead.

Sunday, 27 October 2013

'ello, 'ello, 'ello...

A sign of things to come ?
The consultation on Police station public counter closures finishes later this week. Balerno, currently open 9-5, Monday - Friday, is one of those proposed for closure. I've picked up some concern from the local community who, although they agree they may not pop in to the local cop shop on a regular basis, believe its closure will add to the feeling of public services being reduced or withdrawn. Since the creation of Police Scotland there's been a bit of debate about how local priorities are set and delivered under the new force. There is a perception in some quarters that the centralisation has seen a diminution in community Policing and an imposition of Scottish wide Police policies. We've received reassurances that this isn't the case and that local priorities will prevail. I've also received reassurances that there are (currently) no plans to completely close Balerno Police Station. I await the outcome of the consultation and further developments with interest.