Edinburgh Council Becomes ‘Living Wage’ Employer

Over 2000 Edinburgh Council Employees will receive a ‘living wage’ of £7.50 per hour after a decision to allocate an extra £2.06 million to employee pay. The decision was voted for this afternoon and means that the lowest paid council workers will receive a boost of £1.04 per hour to their wage packets  from January.

It is estimated that mainly low paid women will benefit from the decision. A cook or cleaner, for example, with an entry level wage of £6.46 per hour working full time with a pension will see an increase in their pay by around £105 per month, or £1270 per annum.

A spokesman from Unison Edinburgh – the trade union body for Edinburgh City Council – said today: “this is a fundamentally important decision. It is a recognition that there needs to be a commitment from employers to move away from paying poverty wages. Hopefully this trend will continue across Scotland.”

Unison added that: “The next step is to campaign for the Edinburgh Living Wage to apply to a ll contractors and to convince businesses across the city of the benefits of paying their staff a living wage.”

Councillor Bill Cook, Vice Convener of the Finance and Budget Committee, said: “It is simply a matter of fairness. People should get a decent wage for working.

“It’s a strange logic that claims that it’s essential to give the rich more and the poor less in order for the economy to work. Where in fact, as is widely recognised, a fair wage strategy will undoubtedly stimulate the economy and have a positive effect socially.

“Our workforce is the most important asset we’ve got. It’s absolutely vital that we recognise the contribution that they make through their hard work to the welfare of Edinburgh’s people.”

The Living Wage is set by the Centre for Research in Social Policy each November and is currently £7.45 per hour for workers outside London.

A Labour and SNP ‘Capital Coalition’ committed to introducing the wage for Edinburgh Council staff following the Local Government elections in May 2012.

The estimated cost to the council of providing the living wage for a full financial year is £1.6m for staff employed directly by the Council and £0.46m for agency staff, bringing the total to £2.06m. The Capital Coalition claims that provision has been made for this amount.

Local business owners have expressed anxiety about the living wage being rolled out across Edinburgh. Grant McNeil, owner of Edinburgh pub chain McNeil/Greenan said : ‘I hope this is not the start of the council trying to put in a living wage for everyone. From a business point of view in times of austerity this would not be very easy for me.

“Although I am sympathetic for people on a low wage I would say the council should be paying the same as what the minimum wage is so that we are all on a level playing field. At the end of the day it is a customer facing job just like working in a bar.”

Listen HERE to what people in Edinburgh think about the Living wage


Council Plans to Help the Elderly

Edinburgh council are today renewing calls for the public to get involved in shaping the care of elderly as recent figures suggest Edinburgh’s population of over  65 ’is set to increase by 21% by 2016.

MP's assisting elderly

MP’s assisting elderly

A total of almost £217 million will be spent between 2012 and 2013 on services for the elderly as part of the Council’s Joint Commissioning plan for older people.

Members of the public are invited to make their views known by completing a questionnaire.

The council say their vision is “to make older people feel safe and feel equal” and to ensure that they can be as independent as possible for as long as possible.

The Council intend to build on support for unpaid carers, to focus on preventative care, support self-management and work with communities to reduce social isolation.

The largest part of the council’s proposed budget – roughly £119 million – will be spent on people receiving intensive care and support in hospitals or care homes. Another £54 million will be spent on helping aged people who need home assistance.

The plan, once approved, will be monitored by the Checkpoint Group and a multi-agency Older People’s Management Group, which include representatives from the NHS, the council and various voluntary and private sector institutions.

Edinburgh first to back global Occupy movement

Edinburgh Council has become the first political body to officially back to worldwide Occupy movement.

The council this afternoon voted in an overwhelming majority to redirect economic decisions to be more focussed on the needs of the 99% in an attempt to reduce the “inequitable gap” between the rich and poor.

The SNP, Liberal Democrats, Labour and the Greens, all voted in favour of the motion, with the Conservatives the only party to reject it.

During the debate, Councillor Chapman of the Scottish Green Group said: “Next week workers will go on strike to protect pensions whilst the 1% continue their parasitic feasting on the commonwealth.”

Labour Councillor Gordon Munro, who is an advocate of the Robin Hood Tax, added: “Occupy Edinburgh is a civilised response to the irresponsible actions of global bankers.”

Conservatives voiced concern over the safety of the Edinburgh camp based at St Andrew’s Square, citing anti-social behaviour and a risk to public safety. They also felt that a vote to back the movement would suggest that Edinburgh was closed to the needs of businesses.

Councillor Chapman responded: “This is not about saying Edinburgh is closed to business. It’s about representing the interests of the people.”

Background to the Occupy Movement

St Andrew’s Square has seen an influx of approximately 300 protestors since October 15 calling themselves Occupy Edinburgh. The demonstration, inspired by the Occupy Wall Street protests in America, has seen campaigners rally against the influence of the ‘one per cent’ of wealthy individuals and companies over the ’99 per cent’ of the general public. Their mantra, ‘We are people over profit’, reflects their protests against cuts to education, disability benefits and the NHS. Dozens of students, working mothers, trade unionists and other campaigning groups have set up camp and made a call for social equality and corporate responsibility.

The non-violent protests in Edinburgh are among a small minority of the demonstrations which have gone smoothly with little disruption.

Leith-Factor to decide funding for local groups

by Robert McTighe

The people of Leith are being given the chance to choose where local government money ends up under an exciting new plan. The scheme called “£eith Decides” will give people in the community the power to decide exactly where their money is going. Run by the Leith Neighbourhood Partnership, the scheme has around £16,000 available for local groups.

[Read more...]

One Week, One Cause, All The Difference

By Ahmed Asif

An annual charity event which witnesses university students uniting together to raise funds for needy children and orphans throughout the globe is due to kick off within the next couple of weeks in the UK.

This event allows Islamic Societies in universities up and down the Britain to work together for one week by organising various events and fundraisers in order to raise money for orphans and needy children in various troubled regions throughout the world. The UK wide event is backed by Islamic Relief, a world renown charity which has undertaken crucial charity projects in countries such as Iraq, Palestine, Kenya and Chechnya and which also respond swiftly to any humanitarian or natural disasters which occur.

Ahmed Shaikh, head of Charity Week in Scotland stated that “Charity Week is a week dedicated to raising funds and awareness for needy orphans around the world. It started a few years ago in London by an Islamic Society, the project is designed to get societies to get together and work together and since then it has spread throughout the UK and even internationally. Scotland took part for the very first time last year and hopefully for many years to come”.

Charity Week has been a hit throughout the universities in the UK and has been highly successful, previous years have seen funds being raised in it’s hundreds of thousands. Students have taken time out of their hectic timetables and exam revision period to raise money for those who are less fortunate. Shaikh mentioned “Charity Week is growing exponentially, at first we raised a few thousand then £30,000 then £120,000 and then £200,000. Last year in Scotland alone we raised £50,000″.

However Charity Week is not exclusively open to Islamic Societies and students who follow the Islamic faith, Shaikh stressed that “Charity Week is open to anyone and everyone, it’s open to people of all faiths and people of no faith”,  he continued “Last year we organised an inter faith dialogue and the topic was charity as a duty for all mankind. We invited a priest, a rabbi and a sheikh and the aim was to highlight the common ground we share”.

When asked where the money raised from previous Charity Week fundraisers had been spent Shaikh replied “Our previous funds have been spent on a wide range of projects we have previously sponsored 100 orphans in Gaza for 3 years, we have refurbished an orphanage in Chechnya, we sponsored 100 orphans in Pakistan after the earthquake and we donated money for equipment to an orphanage in Kenya for handicapped children”, he continued “last year’s money was spent on building a vocational training centre for orphans in Niger. It’s a centre where orphans are given essential skills such as carpentry and sewing in order to equip them for the future”.

Charity Week helper. Picture courtesy of UCLU Islamic Society

Charity Week helper. Picture courtesy of UCLU Islamic Society

Charity Week is due to begin within the next couple of days and events have already been well publicised in universities campuses. A sponsored cycle around Millport, a sky dive, a girls night out and a football tournament are just a few of the proposed events.

Brave students have also volunteered to brace the harsh Scottish weather in order to bucket in Glasgow and Edinburgh city centre’s. Asked about the feedback from the public Shaikh stated “the response from the general public has been very good and the majority of people are happy to give money, you get the odd eyebrow being raised when the see the Islamic Relief logo on the back of the t-shirts, however, the council and police have all been very cooperative and helpful”.

Edinburgh Council were not available for comment.

Save Leith Campaign close to victory

It’s the final showdown between the Save Leith Campaign and Forth Ports today as the property developer waited for a conclusive decision on planning permission from City Chambers. Edinburgh Council and Forth Ports met for the last time this morning to discuss the property developer’s planned multi-million pound development at Leith Docks. Plans to brand an area of the development as Edinburgh Harbour have come up against strong local opposition and protestors are hoping this latest round of talks will result in a compromise on the name.

Council leader Jenny Dawe said last week: “I think there is a way compromise can be reached on the Leith name being incorporated. Forth Ports had made their position clear but perhaps they weren’t aware of the strength of local feeling on the matter.

Last week folk singer Allan Johnson became the latest Leith resident to add his weight to the campaign by penning the battle song ‘Siege of Leith’. He is one of thousands of residents who have pledged their opposition to the proposed renaming of the historic docks and has performed the song for local and national news. He said: “I think it is the greatest of insults to the people of Leith and their traditions to suddenly come along and rename Leith docks for no other reason than a corporate one.

Last Wednesday the Save Leith campaigners delivered a 4000-strong petition collected in local shops and bars to the council. Councillor Gordon Munro, who received the petition, was confident the protest would make a difference to Forth Ports plans. He said: “Forth Ports will find this very difficult to ignore. The level of support for the campaign is fantastic and I will make sure the message is delivered loud and clear to the council leader so she can pass this on to Forth Ports.

The campaign also continues to receive strong support online, as almost 1700 users have joined the “Save Leith Petition Group 2009.” Messages and support have come from far and wide and online campaign co-ordinator Iain McGill has promised that the campaigners are confident the decison will go in their favour. He said: “We are all very much looking forward to the decision from the Council but Forth Ports can rest assured if the decision goes against us, we won’t just give up. Our level of support just keeps growing and growing. And with interest from national newspapers and television news we are hoping to get even more support.

Forth Ports and Edinburgh Council will make an announcement on the decision later today.

Christmas Eco-Grinch

jessica james with geoff anderson By Claire Charras

Edinburgh City Council is collecting residents’ Christmas trees throughout January to beat the ‘Eco-Grinch’.

Recycled Christmas trees will provide compost for Edinburgh’s gardens and parks.

Councillor Robert Aldridge, Environment Leader, said: “Whether they [residents[ cut it up and put it in their brown bin, take it to a Community Recycling Centre or leave it out for collection on the designated day, people can ensure that their Christmas tree is recycled once the festive season is over. It’s vital that we make it as easy as possible for people to Reduce, Reuse and Recycle.”

Pick-up days can be found on the council website.

Emma Hill recorded your views on Christmas tree recycling.christmas-tree-story1

Picture: Recycling collector, Geoffrey Anderson, with the ‘Grinch’, aka
Jessica James of Australian cabaret group Drags Aloud

Two more tram lines travelling our way?

By Sarah Hunter-Argyle

A second Edinburgh tram line may be saved after city transport leaders delayed making a final decision on the scheme. They now have four months to find £50 million in funding.

The Haymarket-Granton line could go ahead if the Scottish Government says the council can borrow against tax revenues expected to be made on the waterfront.

Councillors will argue next week that the new route could help the rejuvenation of waterfront.

Jenny Dawe, the leader of Edinburgh Council, said: “We will keep pressing for the line from Haymarket to Granton, which would be a catalyst for further regeneration, and the much-wanted tram serving the south-east of the city.”

The council also want to install a third tram line which would run from the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, and some Edinburgh University sites, to the city centre.

The current work on the first tram line has led to huge amounts of road works and criticism from some parts of the city. Leith Walk has suffered major disruptions and many local businesses there still carry signs saying: “Tramworks Edinburgh: Ripping the Heart out of Local Business”.

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