Tag Archives: City of Edinburgh Council

More tram works, yet the end is in sight

Yet more traffic disruption: Edinburgh trams. Image: geograph.org.uk / cc.

The next set of tram works are due to begin this weekend.

The existing tram works at Shandwick Place and Haymarket are now being extended to cover West Maitland Street.

The works are set to take place from 5’oclock tomorrow morning with other traffic divisions being put in place.

Edinburgh Council has thanked the local businesses, people and commuters for their patience with the ongoing works and all their disruptions.

The City of Edinburgh Council warns of traffic disruptions and journey delays as a result of the ongoing tram works.

The works, which many feel are taking over the city centre, are feared to be a danger to businesses in the area. Apart from the general traffic disruptions the works are feared to bring a negative image to commuters and tourists coming from the nearby Haymarket train station.

The council offers an ‘Open for Business’ budget, in which £175,000 will be invested. The programme was created to encourage visitors to Edinburgh and sustain footfall in the city centre.

Yet many criticise the council for their lack of help with diverted walk ways and in particular, pointing pathways though the maze of road works for customers. The tram works stretch from Haymarket to the West End and Princess Street t oWaverley Bridge but they are due to be completed in June this year.

Cameron: Passion versus duty over “The Big Society”

Speech analysis by David Walsh

Podcast by Katy Docherty and Emily Glass

‘The Big Society’ could be compared to ‘The Big Bang Theory’ in many ways. It may make a loud noise with the promise of creating something, but is the new rhetoric for old fodder merely just smoke and mirrors to save face in a time of economic difficulty?

PM David Cameron is answering questions over his "The Big Society" (Image: BBC)

Prime Minister David Cameron has stressed the need for social as well as economic recovery. In his address to assembled London social entrepreneurs this morning, the Premier outlined just what his vision of “The Big Society” was. ”It is actually social recovery as well as economic recovery, and I think we need social recovery because as I’ve said lots of times in the past, there are too many parts of our society that are broken,” he explained.

Perhaps the speech was wasted on an audience who would be potentially considered core Conservative voters and those less directly affected by Cameron’s latest crusade in social politics. Preaching to the converted, and all that. Critically, Cameron needs to assert his faith in the concept on the lower sorts on the economic rungs; to Mr and Mrs Everyday whose lives will be hardest hit by a compacting economy and spending cuts, not the section of society most financially cushioned from a fall.

Stating that it was his ‘passion’, he went on to describe that reducing the budget deficit was only his ‘duty.’ Such a conflict of interest has been noted by critics of the government who have panned the concept as being “too vague”. Mr Cameron did acknowledge this in the speech this morning, saying that he agreed it was vague in the sense that there was no single initiative being rolled out nationwide but “a stream of things that need to be done.”

What exactly is “The Big Society”? In a nutshell, it is taking emphasis off central government action and empowering local communities to organise their lives more effectively and harmoniously. The bitter irony in this rhetoric is that it will be handing power to the people who are in the firing line of his double-barrel tirade in calling for people ‘act more responsibly’.

”Whether it’s broken families or whether it’s some communities breaking down or whether it’s the level of crime, the level of gang membership, whether it’s problems of people stuck on welfare unable to work, whether it’s the sense that some of our public services don’t work for us, we do need a social recovery to mend the broken society and to me that is what the Big Society is all about,” he said. If it is the handing down of power from the government to the people, would one want to be giving control to broken and lawless communities?

So, is “The Big Society” merely being ground out the the ConDem coalition policy mill to paper over the cracks in public spending? It would seem that in having to reduce the country’s budget deficit and therefore withdrawing key public services, the government believes that the public should also do it’s duty in meeting the government halfway. As he stated, government action can only ever be half of the answer and wanted to make it easier for people to volunteer in society.

What of the voluntary sector we have? Although much funding of charitable and local government-funded schemes will dry up in the current financial drought, Mr Cameron has unveiled a £100m transition fund, christened as the Big Society Bank,  to aid voluntary organisations. Critics say this is not nearly enough to help finance the number of volunteer groups in operation in the UK, many of whom have benefited from government coffers in the past.

And what will “The Big Society” mean for communities in Scotland? Well, in Edinburgh for example, £90m will be axed by the City of Edinburgh council in its budget over the next three years. Glasgow city council will need to find £101m over the next two years. In real terms, this will mean a lull in public service provision and is leaving local councils across Scotland searching for an alternative. Is David Cameron’s “Big Society” the answer?

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Backing for higher council tax

By Michael Fern

Seven out of ten Edinburgh residents have told the council that they are prepared to pay more council tax to soften public service cuts.

Council Tax

The results follow a number of summits in which locals gave their opinions, ahead of council talks with the Scottish Government on ending the current freeze on council tax.

Labour Councillor Ricky Henderson has criticised the findings, saying that the council had “not explain[ed] what mechanism they would use” to safeguard frontline services with the extra money generated. We asked Edinburgh residents’ opinions on the findings.

John McIntosh, 58, said: “I know that they have been freezing council tax, and no, I don’t think they should continue to. Local consumers should pay for the services they receive, and if those services are going up in price, I see no problem with the tax rising.”

Anna Tomlinson, a 22 year old student living in Marchmont, said: “I know I don’t pay council tax myself so maybe I shouldn’t judge, but before I moved here I lived in a very expensive area of London, and they think they can charge what they want because of where it is.

“It depends on the area, but I wouldn’t want to see it go up at all, it feels so expensive in some places already.”

Keith Brame, 43, said that it was a delicate balancing act. “I would prefer for it not to go up,” he said. “But it is a choice between protecting people during a recession and protecting services, and I think if council tax has to go up to protect services people will be able to handle it.”

GRRRR-IT! Anger as grit only now hits the streets

By Rahsian Parris

Photo courtesy of Markgorman

After several weeks of extreme weather conditions and heavy snowfall, the city of Edinburgh is slowly beginning its recovery from the the worst winter in decades. Temperatures as low as -18C had been recorded in Kinbrace, Sutherland, however, also on Saturday, the buzzing Capital of Scotland and its neighbour, Glasgow, saw temperatures rise to a slightly warmer 4C and 0C respectively. These warmer temperatures should come as great news to the hundreds of people left in the deep freeze without working boilers; however, the snow is gradually starting to melt and yet another crisis is pending, sending shock-waves through the city. With slippery roads and slush ridden pavements the city is desperately in need of grit and though the city center and areas surrounding it seem mildly affected, higher up in the hills residents are suffering.

Ms King of South West Edinburgh area, Colinton, expressed her dismay at the current state of the residential area due to excessive snowfall and the slow progress of gritting in her area saying “throughout the whole of the Christmas period I’ve pretty much been stuck in my house, unable to move my car and in fear of even walking down the street to the supermarket because the streets are so snowy and icy and there hadn’t been any grit laid down. I came out this morning and was pleasantly surprised to see that the roads had been somewhat cleared and that grit had finally been put down, but it’s taken far too long; it’s been what? Three weeks now? It’s ridiculous”.

An unhappy elderly resident stated “the pavements have been cleared near the school in time for the start of the new term, but the kids are young, strong and stable, I have almost slipped many a time on these streets since it started snowing, what about those of us that cannot just pick ourselves back up?”

Grit, the deicing salt responsible for making icey roads safer to drive and walk on has been in huge demand as the wider United Kingdom, including Wales and many cities in England were panicked after it was announced that there may have been a shortage in supplies of grit throughout. However, over the past couple of days saviour lorry deliveries, of which the first supplies were loaded with 12,000 tonnes of grit, are aiding in the fight against the freeze, just as the country received further warning to be aware that the snowfall may not be over.

In a recent press release about The City of Edinburgh Council‘s work during the current weather conditions, Leader of the City of Edinburgh Council, Cllr Jenny Dawe supported the council’s efforts stating: “The last few weeks have seen a massive amount of increased pressure on Council services. I am confident that our staff have been putting in maximum effort, working around the clock in the face of the difficult weather conditions, to reduce the impact for those living and working in the city. […] We have seen some treacherous conditions on the roads and our priority must remain [with] the main routes into the city, access routes for emergency services and routes to hospitals. We are acutely aware of the impact on local areas because of the priority system. Residents should utilise the 1,600 on street grit bins across the city, which are replenished as quickly as possible. […] I am sure that people are thinking of those less able than themselves and are remaining vigilant and lending a helping hand where possible.”

New Appeal for Missing Teen

by Matthew Nelson

Edinburgh police have released an appeal for new information on the whereabouts of missing teenager Jason Black. Black was last sighted on the 8th of October as he traveled to Panmuir School. It was a journey that Black did not complete and he has not been seen since.

A police spokesperson said: “It is now almost two weeks since Jason was last seen, and we are at the stage in our enquiries where there are significant concerns over his safety and well-being.”

Black’s family are understandably distressed and it was added that they “are desperate for any information about his whereabouts.”

Black is described as being 6 feet tall, having short brown hair and blue eyes. The last time he was sighted he was wearing a dark colored jumper, blue jeans and Nike trainers with a golden swoosh symbol.

lothian-and-bordersMembers of the public with any information are being urged to contact Lothian and Borders Police on 0131 311 3131.

The world’s most expensive bridge

By Lauren Gelling

The Scottish Parliament is set to investigate the proposed £2 billion cost of the new Forth Road Bridge.

The transport and  finance committees will both look into why Transport Scotland have estimated such high amount for the structure, which is officially named the ‘Forth Replacement Crossing’.

 The average cost of major road bridges around the world is less than £200,000 per metre, according to a recent survey.  The cost of the new bridge, which will link Edinburgh to Fife, is valued at £750,ooo a metre, making it one of the world’s most expensive bridges.

A spokesman for Transport Scotland said: “The main contract to build the bridge and the associated motorway connecting roads will be issued to tender next month. We expect the cost of that contract to be between £900m and £1.2bn when it is returned in 2010.  Of that construction cost, we expect the cost of building the bridge to account for around 70 per cent. The estimated cost of the new bridge has been benchmarked against international comparisons and compares favourably with other similar structures around the world.”

Because the bridge is not set to be delivered until 2016, Transport Scotland say that they have taken a variety of factors such as VAT and inflation into account.
The spokesman continued:  “The requirements of the bridge mean it will feature large spans – significantly larger than other comparable structures – which have to be constructed in a marine environment across important shipping lanes. These and other important factors – such as inflation, land costs, the amount of new connecting roads – all contribute to the cost, making superficial comparisons with other bridges misleading.”

Edinburgh’s Transport Convener, Gordon Mackenzie, said:  “The fact that these committees want to look at the Forth Replacement Crossing is unsurprising given the recent history of difficulties experienced by high profile public construction projects e.g. Scottish Parliament and Edinburgh Trams.  Equally, there has to be proper scrutiny of such a major spending commitment. We have to examine the assumptions behind the existing figures. I’m no expert but there are major differences between the costs of construction in Hong Kong and Scotland. Whether these justify the level of costs estimates is something for industry experts to comment on.

“However, leaving aside the cost issue, I believe there are significant flaws in the current proposals. As proposed, the new bridge will largely replicate the traffic problems we experience with the current bridge.  Edinburgh, Fife, West Lothian and Midlothian Councils + SESTrans will shortly be issuing a joint press statement calling for the package to include funding for key elements of the public transport alternatives to be funded and will lobby for those to be included in the Bill as it goes through parliament.”

Edinburgh switches off for Earth Hour

Earth Hour in Edinburgh

By Annabel Cooper

Major city landmarks and municipal buildings were plunged into darkness for an hour on Saturday night as Edinburgh joined 830 cities around the world for the World Wildlife Federation‘s (WWF) Earth Hour.

Edinburgh Castle, the Forth Rail Bridge, the Scott Monument and the National Galleries were among the public buildings taking part in the mass switch off. The synchronised, world wide blackout aimed to publicise the effects of climate change ahead of this week’s G20 summit. Earth Hour began in Sydney in 2007 but this was a first for Edinburgh. Council leader, Jenny Dawe, was instrumental in bringing the symbolic protest to her city. She said:

‘A colleague in the council had told me about Sydney 2007 and I thought it was such a great idea that I really wanted Edinburgh to take part this year. It’s a way of making people think about the environment and their part in making the world a better place to live.’

Standard Life and Lloyds Banking Group were among the Edinburgh based commercial companies who lent their support to the protest. They joined the thousands of homeowners across the city who chose to sit it out in the dark alongside one billion others worldwide. The protest comes at a good time for campaigners who hope climate change will not be knocked off the international agenda by financial woes and at a time when the Scottish Government is looking to pass its Climate Change Bill, and Edinburgh Council implements its Carbon Reduction Plan. Council Leader Jenny Dawe is adamant everyone can do their bit. She said:

‘We take the issue of Climate Change very seriously. As part of the carbon reduction plan , the council is working with developers to ensure that all new buildings aim to be carbon neutral. Edinburgh Council alone cannot save the world but if we can get as many other people as possible to buy into this agenda, then it will be all the better for the future.’

Click below to hear full interview with Council Leader Jenny Dawe

Edinburgh World Heritage Trust receives £780,000 extra funding for historic landmarks

Edinburgh's historic Calton Hill
Edinburgh’s historic Calton Hill

By Domenica Goduto

The Edinburgh World Heritage Trust has received a funding boost of £780,000 which will allow it to refurbish a number of Edinburgh’s historic landmarks.

The Tron Kirk, St. Bernard’s Well and the buildings on Calton Hill are among the sites likely to benefit from the extra money provided by the City of Edinburgh Council.

The funding, which is to be distributed over the next three years, will also help in the promotion of Edinburgh as a world heritage site and allow schoolchildren to learn about the capital’s history.

The council received the money as part of a £3.5 billion award from the Scottish Government to shore up Edinburgh’s status as a capital city and a world heritage site.

A council spokesperson said, “This funding will allow Edinburgh World Heritage to continue to maintain the city’s heritage status which helps to promote the city and attracts people to live, study, visit and invest here.

Last year the local authority was warned that cutting funding to the Trust would significantly harm the city’s world heritage status.  The Trust normally receives £500,000 annually from the council and Historic Scotland to support its conservation activities.

The council has also been faced with a UNESCO probe following its approval of proposed developments in Edinburgh’s Old and New Towns.

An Edinburgh World Heritage spokesperson said that the supplementary backing constitutes “a clear commitment to investing in Edinburgh’s unique built heritage. We will be working closely with the council in planning for the future of Calton Hill, and helping find sustainable uses for historic buildings such as Riddles Court and the Tron Kirk.

Statues of poet Allan Ramsay and explorer David Livingstone on Princes Street and of William Pitt and George IV on George Street are also on the list for refurbishment.

The Edinburgh Heritage Trust has already completed work on the Black Watch Monument at The Mound, the Bow Well in the Grassmarket and the Melville Monument, in St. Andrew Square Garden.  It has also started work on several monuments on Calton Hill, and is now expected to be given responsibility for developing a long-term management plan for the site.