Councillor Paul Edie, Health, Social Care and Housing Leader for the City of Edinburgh Council, gives his opinion on privatisation, the new Drumbrae Library Hub and racism in football - featured in the Evening News today...
Tomorrow the council decides whether to enter into partnership with the private sector to deliver better environmental services.
The council's officers have negotiated a deal with the contractor, Enterprise, which promises much better standards of cleanliness in this city and makes significant financial savings compared to the best we can manage with our current in-house service.
It is a distinct probability, though, that councillors will reject this deal in spite of officers - employed for their impartial professional advice - giving it the clear thumbs up. I think that is a gross misjudgment and a missed opportunity for residents of this city.
All political groups at the council in the past have supported contracting out of some services. More than 50 per cent of social care services are already bought from private and voluntary sectors, even before the current administration came to power.
The then ruling Labour group pushed through the BT Contract for IT and PPP schools, which involved the private sector building and running schools facilities. Even the Greens have agreed the use of private contractors on a number of occasions.
When political groups on the council claim they oppose the ABM privatisation programme on principle there is more than a whiff of hypocrisy about them. This council is not a profit-making organisation and, as such, any saving we can make in one area means we don't have to cut back crucial services elsewhere.
The proposal from Enterprise offers much better standards and significantly better value for money. To put this into context, the £27 million additional savings they are offering would allow the council to pay for the equivalent of two million hours of care for frail and vulnerable people.
Redundancies are mooted but it is clear that, if we do not take this deal, then there will need to be more job losses in other areas of the council.
Not agreeing to go for ABM and rolling over for vested interests would show a complete failure of nerve on the part of the council. It would prove, just as we did when the council initially rejected the trams arbitration deal in August, that this council never misses an opportunity to miss an opportunity!
Keeping the beat
I WAS delighted to host a visit by Chief Constable David Strang to the new Drumbrae Library Hub. This new building will open to the public early next year and comprise a new library, much sought-after in the area, a new office for the council's west area team and a new day centre for older people. The council office will also house local beat police. The chief seemed impressed with what he saw.
No stranger to senior police officers, one of my neighbours when I was a toddler was Chief Constable Willie Merrilees, the most celebrated police officer of his day. Being his neighbour had its advantages for two of my brothers. When two concert tickets were handed in to a local police station and went unclaimed they found themselves at the ABC cinema watching the Beatles performing live at their peak.
Blatter must lead way
The furore surrounding the remarks made by Sepp Blatter, UEFA president, regarding racism on the football pitch has received widespread and justified criticism.
The idea that racist abuse from other players can be settled by a handshake at the end of the game is a joke.
Are we in Britain as clean as we should be? Not so long ago I recall bananas being thrown at matches when Mark Walters played for Rangers.
That practice was rightly stamped on, but attitudes take much longer to turn around. In spite of the excellent Show Racism the Red Card campaign, hardly a week goes by without a story of racist abuse from fans and players alike.
England captain John Terry has been embroiled in one scandal, and Liverpool's Luis Suarez, the best buy in English football for many years, also finds himself in hot water after he allegedly used an offensive term to a Manchester United star. Avid Chelsea fan David Baddiel has campaigned to stop people referring to Spurs using the Y word, exploiting Tottenham's strong ties to London's Jewish community, and singing offensive songs about the Holocaust.
Cricket was always more advanced in race relations. Curiously, the game so closely associated with Empire has always been much more multicultural. In the 60s, it was cricket that started the isolation of apartheid South Africa. The man whose exclusion from the 1968 tour prompted this, Basil D'Oliveira, sadly passed away this week.
The move to isolate South Africa was led by two of the giants of the game, the future Bishop Richard Sheppard, a test batsman, and future England captain Mike Brearly. Football needs such leadership now.
Football is a beautiful game but too often the tribal baggage that comes with it is distinctly ugly. We can blame the fans and the players, who as role models should know better, but we must have leadership from the top on this and Sepp Blatter is failing to provide that.