Shelter are holding a Social Housing Brainstorming and Mapping session on Monday 26th April – here’s a link.
Ask your local candidates to support the ‘Another Scotland is Possible’ pledge
Members of Another Edinburgh is Possible worked with Another Glasgow is Possible and activists around Scotland to produce this statement aimed at individuals standing in the 2021 Scottish Parliament Elections. Email the pledge to your local candidates, raise the questions at hustings events and ask candidates to sign up to the pledge.
If I am elected on May 6th to become a Member of the Scottish Parliament, I pledge to support or if necessary initiate: (please answer YES or NO)
Policies to introduce a fairer funding system for local authorities recognising the need to replace the expense-driven G.E.D funding model adopted by COSLA with a needs-based model that reflects the actual needs of the rural and urban authorities, especially those dealing with significant levels of deprivation.
An anti-austerity investment programme in the public sector to kick-start the post Covid/ Brexit economy, using the relevant economies of scale to create municipally / regionally / locally managed infrastructure which incorporates training, education and employment, to deliver a green recovery in response to the climate emergency.
Awarding Scotland’s 920,000 Key Workers an immediate £2-an-hour pay rise, underpinned by a £12 minimum wage, through existing collective bargaining structures.
Removing food insecurity and fuel poverty by scrapping Universal Credit and replacing it with a benefits system which safeguards against destitution, discrimination and reinforced inequality.
Nationalising our Care Home and Home Care systems, making them accountable and profiteer-proof, and improving conditions for our elderly population and the workforce which deliver services to them.
Deliver the changes needed in de-carbonising transport and energy demands by investing in renewable energy.
Planning and enabling a free, integrated and publicly owned public transport system across Scotland.
Planning and enabling a mass programme of retrofitting all buildings to make them more heat-efficient.
Signing immediately, whether or not I am elected, the Zero Covid Scotland campaign Pledge to eliminate the virus and end the epidemic in Scotland.
Please email firstname.lastname@example.org with your reply.
Marlyn Tweedie shares some thoughts on the Feeley report into the provision of Care in Scotland. The report was published on 3rd Feb 2021 – compiled by Derek Feeley, a former director general for health and Social care within the Scottish Government.
The enquiry raised a degree of hope that perhaps a Care Service – adequately funded and resourced – would be a possibility. Unfortunately, despite the report ‘s remit as being “to recommend improvements to adult social services” and good, researched evidence that highlights the lack of services and the suffering caused to service users, it’s recommendations won’t, in my opinion, deliver.
Firstly, the call is for a national care service not a nationalised one. It rules out a nationalised service because it would be too expensive. It usess the example of the case of the care home for the elderly in Skye – Home Farm – where 10 residents died of Covid, saying it would cost £900,000 to nationalise. And that is unaffordable. They argue it would be more productive to try to get the service providers to improve.
There is no acknowledgement that the priority of the Private sector is to their shareholders not to meeting the needs of the residents.
Also, the report recommends centralising responsibility for the care service within the Scottish Government and appointing a Minister for Social Care. This would take it away from the control and accountability of Local Authorities. Not a move in the right direction, in my view.
Throughout, there is as a “given” the idea that integrating the Social Care Service with the Health Service is logical and would lead to efficiency and improvement. But it doesn’t say how this would automatically happen. I think we should be wary. When it was first mooted – 10? Years ago, saving money was an explicit goal. And “bed blocking” was seen as an expensive cost. There is nothing to say that staff or service users will benefit. We love our NHS – especially now – but many staff are underpaid. And, in any case, the report talks of procuring services; continuing commission which means the staff employed will be employed by the outsourced companies rather than the NHS.
By contrast, the care staff employed by the Local Authority have secure conditions – sick pay, holiday pay etc and a wage £18,000 – £21,000 annually and they have overtime rates for unsocial hours. It’s not great but much, much better than the Private Sector.
The report is full of talk of Human Rights; allowing everyone to develop their potential etc. It acknowledges that this can’t happen when care is restricted and when it’s paid for as opposed to being free at the point of need. It does, to its credit, recommend that all care is free. At the moment it’s only free for over 65’s.
But it doesn’t commit to a set sum per hour. Campaigning groups argue for £15.00 an hour. Nick Kempe argues for parity with Local Authority wages. The report talks of a national job evaluation. There is no guarantee that this would give a reasonable wage to Care / Support workers.
In line with ruling out nationalisation, the report talks of “ethical procurement”. We have that at the moment. Bidders promise the earth to get the contracts – then, as we know, it unravels.
All in all, the report has good evidence and could make a great case for nationalisation delivered by a workforce which has decent pay and conditions.
It, at least, acknowledges the problem – but falls far short of providing a solution.
Nick Kempe has written very astute articles on this issue (see below). I’d highly urge reading his views on it.
Marlyn Tweedie 18th March ‘21
Nick Kempe talking about Social Care at a meeting of the Edinburgh TUC Covid subcommittee
An article by Nick Kempe on Care and the Pandemic
and an article on the case for a national care service
‘Our City’ – the full report of ‘Another Edinburgh is Possible’s’ survey of the views of Edinburgh residents is published today. You can read the report online or download it via this link.
Here’s the report forward written by Mary Alexander
I am delighted to have been asked to write the foreword to this excellent report reflecting the views of Edinburgh residents on council services both current and future.
The report highlights significant public concerns over the state of local services and the focus and priorities of the City of Edinburgh Council which are ‘out of kilter’ with residents’ views. The findings show residents have some sympathy with the council over the financial restrictions imposed by the Scottish and UK Governments and praises council workers who strive to do their best against the odds. It also makes some notable points and recommendations over how and what local services should be delivered.
We believe this report should be a ‘wake up’ call to Edinburgh’s politicians and service delivery leaders committed to tackling poverty and inequality and delivering a decent public service to all in the community. The strategic recommendations over Housing, Transport, Tourism and the In-Housing of Edinburgh’s Public Services are sensible ones that cannot be ignored in any serious attempt to end poverty in this wealthy city. Alongside the recommendations of the Edinburgh Poverty Commission to promote “A Just Capital” and End Poverty in Edinburgh by 2030, we lay down a serious challenge to the Council to listen to its residents and communities and respond by using the budget process to reverse the decline in services; build more social housing and tackle the increasing inequality and poverty made worse by the pandemic. More secure and better paid jobs are key, particularly in the utilisation of public funds through commissioning and procuring services which too often do not reflect the ‘Fair Work’ principles
Another Edinburgh is Possible is an amalgamation of various community activist groups across Edinburgh who have come together to express their concerns and campaign for better local services. They are committed to shifting the paradigm of community activism and local democracy and this report is a promising start. The collective has commissioned, designed and delivered a credible research project which provides a valuable insight for local decision makers. Edinburgh’s political leaders must pay heed to this report, those who produced it and, importantly, the voices of residents contained within it.
Depute Regional Secretary for Scotland, Unite the Union.
Edinburgh Poverty Commission member
Fair Work Convention member
Leslie Cunningham writes
I got to know Rob, a homeless man, about a year ago. On 15th February 2021, he kindly allowed me to interview him. This article attempts to convey what he most eloquently expressed in no more than about fifteen minutes. (!)
Rob just wants a roof over his head – a hostel is better than nothing – but a bedsit or, ideally, a one-bedroom flat is what he dreams of. He thinks that a monthly rent of about £350 for a one-bedroom flat is reasonable, but we both agreed that £350 would probably pay for a month’s rent of a room in a shared flat in our part of Edinburgh.
He then made the very good point that not nearly enough affordable housing is available in Edinburgh, and that the Council hands over responsibility for building new houses to private developers, who are primarily interested in making as big a profit as possible.
Rob expressed particular concern about younger people, who are likely to be in precarious, low paid employment. If they are made redundant – as many are during Covid-19 – they may well be unable to pay their rent, and, after the temporary ban on evictions comes to an end, end up out on the streets like Rob.
We discussed what the Council does to support homeless people and agreed that there was a great deal of room for improvement.
Contacting the Council can only be done online or on the phone. Phone calls receive an automated response, which means a lot of time and money is used trying to leave a message. Worryingly, in many cases the Council does not phone back. (2)
When the Niddrie Mains Housing Office reopened temporarily last year, the queues were long, and it was not guaranteed that a client would see their own Housing Officer, as their shifts were randomly allocated.
People in crisis who arrived at the Housing Office without an appointment often queued all day, only to be turned away at closing time. (3)
So, what did they do? Rob didn’t know.
On one occasion, the Council got Rob one night’s emergency accommodation at the Old Waverley Hotel, where he claims he was robbed.
If he can raise £15, Rob can pay for one night’s accommodation in Bobby’s Bunkhouse, sleeping in a dorm with eight beds (and no screens). The washing and toilet facilities are not clean, and there are no laundry or cooking facilities. And, as Rob remarked, “You don’t know who you’re sharing with.”
It is well known that homeless people, for a number of reasons, are particularly at risk of contracting Covid-19. However, conditions such as those at Bobby’s Bunkhouse are an ideal breeding ground for the virus and its spread, making not only homeless people but also the wider population more vulnerable to its effects. So, there is an epidemiological as well as an ethical reason for taking homeless people off the streets and finding them decent, affordable, safe housing. What about making use of the thousands of unoccupied Air BnBs in Edinburgh?
It was heartening that, during our short conversation, nearly a dozen people gave Rob money or food. However, we agreed that this article should end like this:
RIGHTS, NOT CHARITY! END HOMELESSNESS IN EDINBURGH NOW!
(1) Rob gave permission for his name to be used, and for this article to be published on the Another Edinburgh Is Possible website and elsewhere. He was paid the standard amount of money paid by a researcher for an interview of up to an hour (£20).
Reference (2) is taken from the Interim Report on the AEIP Survey of City of Edinburgh Council services.
(2) The relationship between the council and service users
The largest number of negative comments (around 21% of the total) related to the council’s attitude towards Edinburgh citizens, difficulties in making contact with relevant services and inadequate or uncompleted responses to requests. In some of the responses there was an explicit reference to feeling forgotten by a council that is perceived to be focused on the needs of students and tourists. Communication very difficult expected [you are] expected to have internet access. …inaccessibility and difficulty in speaking to a “real” person. I find it irritating to have the phone answered (thereby incur a charge) and then be left listening to a pre-recorded message for quite a few minutes. Others may find it more than irritating as it eats up phone credit etc.
Very difficult to get through to anyone in the council who seems to know how to get anything appropriately dealt with.
(3) Council homeless KPI for public 2020 2021 to Nov 2020 (PDF). An update has been requested.
On 18th February Edinburgh City Council met to discuss its budget for 2021/22. It’s not a normal year because neither Westminster nor Holyrood have yet set their budgets and these budgets set the parameters for the Council’s decision.
The budget motion set before councillors seemed to have been written in a parallel universe. It acknowledged the challenge of Covid but made no reference to the cuts in services agreed at previous meetings that are built into its planning assumptions. There was no consideration of the impact of cuts over the last decade, nor any assessment of the harsh reality of life for tens of thousands of Edinburgh residents – unemployment, increasing child poverty, illness and mental health issues, public transport and homelessness. It simply asserted that the council is on track to meet 2030 targets for reducing poverty and carbon emissions.
Six organisations, including Another Edinburgh is Possible submitted deputations to the council in an attempt to shift the focus towards the real world. Pre-Covid there would have been an opportunity for those who made the submissions to speak to councillors about their deputations. This year the written submissions occupied less than a minute of the council’s time. Councillors were encouraged to read them!
The video shows that section of the meeting.
There is a huge democratic deficit when the voice of council workers and Edinburgh residents is stifled. Get in touch with your councillor and ask them if they have read the Another Edinburgh is Possible report, why the council’s picture of life in the city is so at odds with reality and why there was such an absence of critical examination of the budget motion.
Another Edinburgh is Possible – Interim report on the results of a survey of how Edinburgh residents experience council services
Since 2012/13, Edinburgh City Council budget cuts have amounted to £320 million. Year on year of so-called ‘savings’ have resulted in a hollowing out of jobs and services to Edinburgh residents.
Over the last 12 months, Covid-19 has been devastating communities across Scotland. It has also shone a light on the destruction to public services brought about by a decade of austerity.
Many people agree that things cannot simply go back to the way they were before. However, Another Edinburgh is Possible believes that if we don’t fight for them to be better, it is more than possible they will be worse. We are concerned that the UK and Scottish governments will attempt to use Covid-19 as a pretext for cutting back local government budgets yet further. Edinburgh Council has already identified over £80m of savings and funding in 2020/21 but has to find at least £5.1m more because of the extra costs and lower income resulting from the pandemic. Over the next three years, the Council has already identified £40m of ‘savings’ but needs to find at least a further £47.5m.
Another Edinburgh is Possible not only believes this is unnecessary; it is unsustainable. Year after year of cuts has pushed services to the edge and the people of Edinburgh are paying the price. We also believe more cuts will further weaken local democracy and accelerate the centralisation of power over local issues in the Westminster and Holyrood parliaments.
We believe that the citizens of Edinburgh deserve far better than this. It is in this light that Another Edinburgh is Possible decided to carry out a survey amongst Edinburgh residents and service users to ask them directly about their experiences of current Council service provision and the services they would like to see in the future.
This preliminary report summarises the main findings from the first 483 responses and outlines recommendations we are asking the Council to consider. The survey closes on the 21st February. We will then produce a more detailed and comprehensive report based on all the responses that have then been received.
Read the report here: https://tinyurl.com/1rain9ts
Edinburgh residents think services are deteriorating.
Only four per cent of respondents think that council services are better than three years ago fifty five percent think they are worse.
- There are high levels of dissatisfaction with many council services.
Of all the services provided by the council public toilets attracted the most adverse comments. Housing, homelessness services, social work, social care, community centres and community education were also considered to be poor. Many respondents backed up their ratings with detailed open comments. Roads and pavements are considered to be poorly maintained and dangerous to users.
- Some services received high levels of satisfaction.
Museums and galleries, transport and parks rated highly.
- The council has a serious problem with communication.
Many people reported difficulties in making contact, lack of response and failure to deliver on commitments made.
- Bins and litter provoked a large number of angry written responses
Thirty six percent ranked refuse services as good, twenty six percent poor. Yet at the same time large numbers provided eloquent and angry testimony to failures in the service. There is a perception that different areas of the city are not served equally.
- Respondents dissent from the council’s policy priorities
Spaces for people attracted a lot of negative comments. On the other hand, cycling is a priority for many. Written comments expressed the view that the council’s priorities are tourism, business and the city centre with Edinburgh residents and the periphery of the city coming a poor second.
- Edinburgh residents think that local services should be publicly provided and democratically controlled.
- Edinburgh residents believe that public transport should be integrated, publicly owned and free.
On the basis of an analysis of responses to date we make the following recommendations.
- The in-housing of Edinburgh’s public services: our survey confirmed a widespread frustration at a perceived lack of accountability from service-providers. One conclusion is that services be delivered in-house. That would immediately clarify lines of responsibility, leaving residents clear on who is accountable for quality of delivery. As things stand, a mosaic of providers means service users are often unsure of who to contact should they have questions or queries regarding any one service. Councilors would also be in a stronger position to make a case for additional funding if they are directly responsible for services that they are democratically accountable for. The incentive to improve would be re-directed towards elected politicians as opposed to distant corporations with little connection to the city or its people.
- Improved Council communications with Edinburgh residents: Residents expect direct and unmediated contact with Council officials. Internet access should not be a prerequisite for residents looking to speak to those responsible for delivering key amenities. Dedicated phone-lines employing trained advisors familiar with Edinburgh services would make a significant contribution to Council/resident relationships. Mobile advice centres, Council officer as well as Councilors’ surgeries and improved public access to Council Chambers might also build confidence in a Council which to many feels remote and unaccountable.
- A re-ordering of Council priorities: the commodification of public space is not referred to in our report. However, this is an issue many residents have repeatedly raised over the years, and it is reasonable to infer that many of the frustrations expressed by respondents imply an expectation that a city as beautiful as Edinburgh should be accessible to all, and not only tourists and the cultures industries which too often price people out of their own streets. For instance, cultural facilities which are accessible – galleries, museums and parks – score highly in satisfaction ratings. In contrast, 36% of respondents are unhappy with the quality of their community centres, and only 20% are content with housing, a perennial and growing concern amplified by Uber and student accommodation which reflect Edinburgh’s globally recognized social capital. Consequently, a delegating downwards of cultural centres and activity and the resourcing of local creative initiatives could contribute to a year-long re-imagining of how art and culture can take root outside of the City centre.
- Edinburgh transport should be integrated, publicly owned and resourced: Comments on transport were limited, perhaps reflecting a general contentment with the quality of service provided by Lothian buses. However even here, the survey recorded complaints regarding how busy buses can become, their cost and the quality of Edinburgh’s roads. An integrated transport service could knit together the varied concerns that an otherwise popular service still attracts. A joined-up, publicly owned matrix of services would be better equipped to incorporate a sustainable network in one of the busiest cities in Europe, particularly during the Festival.
In response to the council proposal for a dispersed festival in August 2021, Graham Checkley defends our green spaces – they are not for profit.
“Urban green spaces, such as parks, playgrounds, and residential greenery, can promote mental and physical health”, The World Health Organisation, 2016 .
Two months is a long time in Edinburgh politics. In November 2020, there finally seemed to be an acknowledgement from Edinburgh Council that using parks for commercial events was a bad idea . This was after the Underbelly Hogmanay event in East Princes Street Gardens resulted in a mud bath, a £150,000 repair bill , and the mooted destruction of soil structure, damage to tree roots and a long-term negative effect on drainage.
Then, in January of this year Edinburgh Council appear to have done a U-turn. They are now proposing that the Edinburgh Festival be held as a series of dispersed events. Guess where? in our parks .
They then go on tell us that the Covid-19 pandemic was “a good time to pause and consider what and to what extent our parks and green spaces should be used for.”.
Well, I think we already know the answer to that question. The fact of the matter is that, for so many of us, these Edinburgh parks and green spaces are the only place where we can take exercise and enjoy nature during these terrible times. I for one live in a tenement stair, sharing a small back green with 10 neighbours. Where are we supposed to go when we to be barred from our green havens by commercial events?
“A quality parks system worthy of international comparison; accessible, diverse and environmentally rich; which fulfils the cultural, social and recreational needs of the people.”, Edinburgh Council, 2006 .
We also see a similar ethos in the council open space plan for 2016-2021 , no sign in either document of the rampant commercialism to come. Whatever happened to that vision for our parks and green spaces?
The answer is the money; they keep on telling us there is not enough, so commercial is the only way to go. Have a look at the open letter in the AEIP website blog to COSLA and the Scottish Government, the money exists but we will need to push to get it .
For now, why not send a polite letter to your local councillors? Particularly if they happen to be on the planning committee. Here is a link to a possible format, please let us know how you get on!
- Urban green spaces and health – a review of evidence, World Health Organization, 2016.
- Princes Street Gardens will not host Christmas markets next year after Underbelly controversy, Edinburgh Live, November 2020.
- £150,000 bill to repair East Princes Street Gardens after Christmas Market, Evening News, July 2020.
- New outdoor venues away from city centre considered to help reboot Edinburgh Festival this summer, Evening News, January 2021.
- City of Edinburgh Public Parks and Gardens Strategy, Edinburgh Council, 2006.
- Open Space 2021, Edinburgh Council, 2016.
- Open Letter to COSLA and the Scottish Government, Another Edinburgh is Possible & Another Glasgow is Possible, 2021.
Draft Agenda for meeting on Thursday 4th February
Meeting starts at 6.30pm and finishes by 8pm at the latest
Sort out chairing and note taking
- Updates on the council budget process
[Key date – Council Meeting Thursday 18th February]
2. Update on the survey
3. Planning our opposition
How do we show our protest – social distance? – online?
Deputation to the council
Using the feedback from the survey
4. Content for the website
5. Public space
6. Thinking ahead
Working with Another Glasgow Is Possible on May elections
3rd March Scottish Government budget setting
Idea of an Another Edinburgh is Possible rally in March
7. Date of next meeting
On 26th January the Herald published an article warning that Scottish councils are facing a £767 million bill to tackle the Covid-19 crisis amid a warning the Government has only covered up to two thirds of the pressure.
This letter was sent to the Herald in reply from Another Edinburgh is Possible and Another Glasgow is Possible.
Dear Alison Evison and Nicola Sturgeon,Lett
Time to take the fight to the UK Government, the true source of the “unprecedented strain”  on finances.
In recent months we have seen £170m wasted with PestFix on PPE that did not work , a jewellery designer receiving a £250m contract to provide health equipment, and the £550,000 consulting deal with Public First, a company with close ties to Whitehall 
£17bn of contracts issued with a lack of transparency and riddled with potential conflict of interest ; this is the true cause of “increases in the inequalities” .
If this is not enough, consider the £205bn earmarked for the Trident missile replacement project , a weapons system now made illegal by UN treaty , the curious contribution to carbon neutrality of £61bn for a 3rdrunway at Heathrow , and the £138bn  planned for the ecological disaster called HS2 .
There is enough money, it is simply being spent on the wrong things and going into the wrong hands.
With the disaster of Brexit and their incompetence over Covid the UK government are deeply unpopular , and their constant U-turns are adding to that day by day.
They could go at a push and we are pushing, why not stand up and join us?
- Scottish councils ‘on their knees’ amid £767m pandemic bill, Herald, 2021.
- Pest control firm forced to recall faulty face masks after netting £170 million PPE contract, The London Economic, 2020.
- Watchdog criticises government over awarding of £17bn Covid contracts, Financial Times, 2020.
- £205 billion: the cost of Trident, CND, 2021.
- Treaty on the prohibition of nuclear weapons, UN, 2021.
- Heathrow urged to ‘come clean’ on third runway costs, Travel Weekly, 2019.
- Cost of UK’s HS2 rail project soars…again, KHL, 2020.
- High Speed Rail (HS2) – stop and rethink!, The Wildlife Trusts, 2021.
- Boris Johnson would lose majority and seat in election tomorrow, The Guardian, 2021.