Friday, May 04, 2012

I think you should consider voting for me...

I'm Steven Heddle and I'm standing for re-election to the Kirkwall East ward, where I was elected as a first time councillor 5 years ago.

In front of the new KGS, the first battleground of the previous council

I'll be using this blog to elaborate on who I am, my values, what I've done, what I think some of the issues are, and why you should vote for me. I'll also be using this to tell my story of the 2012 council election campaign. It won't be as good as this though, sorry.

I'll keep this post at the top and it will act as an index to links below that I will fill in over the next week or so.

They are:
The last six links have been essentially absorbed into my election leaflet, the delivery of which has prevented me from updating here as much as I hoped. But you can read the leaflet here.

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Radio Orkney hustings for Kirkwall East

If you want to listen to all the candidates on the Radio Orkney hustings shows, you can do this here.

I was on the first show with Bill Stout, John Mowat and Gerry McGuinness. See if you can tell which two were using prepared notes :-)

The following night saw questions being posed to Janice Annal, Alistair MacLeod, Paul Dawson and Gwenda Shearer.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Q&A part 1

Here are the answers I have given to a couple of questions posed on the Orkney Forum.

What do you think about pedestrianisation of the Town Centre?

As an individual and as a member of the Kirkwall and St Ola community council back in 2005/2006 I lobbied hard (successfully) against the wild plans that would have seen Broad Street pedestrianised, Junction Road and Great Western Road (and West Castle Street, W. Tankerness Lane and Burnmouth Road) made narrower and one-way.

My attitude hasn't changed. Those proposals would have been a disaster, with the Broad Street through traffic having to fight its way through St Catherines Place and the foot of the Clay Loan, already Kirkwall's worst bottlenecks.

With regard to Broad Street, the situation we have now is fine - it can be closed for special occasions, and the occasions are more special because of the novelty.

I wouldn't change how Victoria Street operates, i.e. cars can access the shops there, and the on street parking functions as free short stay parking. Victoria Street is doing okay these days, as a result.

But Albert Street isn't. I'm coming round to the idea that it should be opened up if anything, and perhaps go back to the way it was (and Victoria Street is).
Doesn't solve the 'Boy and Girl Racer' problem though - but enforcement of the existing 'For access' criteria, and a loooow speed limit might. Or (as was proposed) having greater restrictions outwith shopping hours.

The residents would probably be happier if the rattly sires were replaced with ones that didn't clatter when anything went over it.

So I'm not in favour of pedestrianisation of the town centre. As I suggested in 2005, we'd probably end up with a desolate gum-spattered skatepark.

Procurement- should the OIC keep it local?

Short answer- yes, where possible.

But the 'where possible' is the envelope that needs to be pushed.

The background is that there are a number of schemes that the Council has been pressured to participate in: Scotland Excel, Procurement Scotland, the 'Hubco' for big construction projects.

The attraction is that you can buy things at a price that at least seems good, and also avoid having to go through costly EU procurement exercises for everything. Bundled groups of types of items (e.g. stationery, vehicles...) are offered by the contract winner, and councils can buy from a list under Framework Agreements.

The downside is that it is a bitch for local companies to participate, a long contract means the price may not always good, and while reference items on the pricelist offered may be good, things not listed in the tender document can be dear. Hence the MOD and their £35 light bulbs.

Also there can be an element of compulsion- the Hubco might mean that the new hospital has to go through it, which would mean Miller will build it. The question would be whether the Care Facilities that will be attached to it, funded by the OIC, can be kept separate.

I've opposed joining all three of the procurement arrangements listed, with little support generally as it is viewed as inevitable that the OIC has to join. The OIC has at least been the last to join, generally.

But I do think that the opinions are changing on the council. I worked with officers to get a purchasing model of a Local Framework Agreement used to tender for contracts recently, which let local businesses participate, although the outcome was mixed. Still it showed it can be done - we need to get quality and local economic benefit dialled in as tender criteria in the future. This has helped the council realise that centralised procurement may not be inevitable.

Also last year Jack Moodie and Davie Tullock led a successful move whereby contracts up to a certain level need only be advertised locally.

The council needs to keep it legal too. Big contracts have to be advertised in the European Journal, and our wriggle room is in how they are worded and scored. Value for money needs to be demonstrated, or the council could be providing illegal State Aids.

Ending on a positive note, a good number of contracts do go local. The councillors are called in to witness the opening of tenders, and the ones I've done have seen local firms do OK. A big recent contract was the Lyness Phase 1 (or was it 2) that Curries did. I think Clouston's did the Finstown council houses. etc.

This is off the top of my head, so I don't claim 100% accuracy with scheme names and the more involved bits, but the thrust of my argument is there, i.e. I think the council should bend over backwards to give local firms the chance to compete on a level playing field, taking account of wider benefits to the community.

My week

I now have a surfeit of sore feet due to pounding the streets of Kirkwall, in a fine selection of weathers. Still about a third of the doors to visit, but I'll need to up the pace as it is a busy week next week.

Contrary to popular opinion the old council still exists and is active. I have two meetings on Monday, am chairing an interview panel on Tuesday then the Radio Orkney hustings in the evening, Wednesday is an overnight in Thurso because of the Dounreay Stakeholders Group, and I'm sure the rest of the week will throw up some surprises too.

At some point I'll need to sweep along the Inganess Road, Berstane Loan. Berstane Road and East Road Area, St Catherines Place, School Place, The Street and others. I'll take my bike.

Other main event this week was the Kirkwall Community Council hustings on Wednesday. I thought it went OK, but that is not for me to decide!

There are some questions being posed to prospective councillors on the Orkney Forum, so I'll post the answers that I give there here as well.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

My election leaflet

Coming to a letterbox near you, if you live in Kirkwall East...

[Click on the picture to open the leaflet as a 450KB pdf]

Thursday, April 12, 2012

The Orcadian 300

The Orcadian asked all 46 candidates for the 6 multi-member wards to contribute 300 words for the 12th April paper. This is what I had to say:

"I’m from Kirkwall, 47, and married with a son aged 15. I returned in 1999 after 16 years away during which I did a PhD in Physics and worked in R&D, latterly at the Royal Observatory Edinburgh. Since returning I’ve been self-employed as an IT and business consultant, and an employee of Orkney Enterprise. A community councillor from 2003-2007, I’ve been a councillor for Kirkwall East since then. I also run the and websites.

I’m standing as I think I’ve done a good job, and have built up momentum to do more. I hate unfairness and like to get results for constituents. I’ve taken on work since day 1, first as vice-chair of the Monitoring and Audit Committee, and more recently as vice-chair then chair of Education and Leisure, serving on more than 10 other sub-committees and working groups. In the committees I’ve done my homework and relentlessly challenged the recommendations presented whenever I feel they are wrong.

Through diligent campaigning I have seen the new KGS being built at the heart of the community in a schools campus with a new Arts Theatre, and prevented the Christmas Bonus being stopped entirely, eventually persuading my colleagues to save it for the most needy when initially I didn’t even get a seconder.

Not all campaigns succeed (e.g. Northlink Photo ID), and there is work to see through: attainment in schools; next steps to address flooding in Kirkwall; the new care facilities and hospital. Housing is being addressed but youth unemployment needs work (literally). Procurement – an ongoing battle.

Looking forward we need to regenerate our town centre, get real gains from renewables for everybody, and keep Orkney as the great place to live and work that I always wanted to come back to.

I’ll be fighting for all this, and I’ll say a lot more about it on my blog at"

Let me introduce myself...

I'm Steven Heddle, aged 47, born and brought up in Kirkwall and a former pupil of Papdale Primary and Kirkwall Grammar Schools. I left Orkney to go to University in 1983 and graduated from Aberdeen University in 1987 with a BSc Hons (First Class) in Physics, and Edinburgh University in 1993 with a PhD in Physics for research done as part of the Applied Optics Group.

After longer than I expected, the opportunity arose to return to Orkney with my family in 1999 and I started my own business, Steven Heddle Consultancy, initially carrying out contract research for the UK Astronomy Technology Centre and later diversifying into IT support and advice. This latter role was of great benefit whilst employed by Orkney Enterprise (OE) as e-business adviser, and I still carry out work for OE's successor, HIE Orkney, and other development agencies on a regular basis as a SFEDI accredited business adviser, as well as a diverse range of consultancy activities for private businesses.

Since returning I have been a member of the Kirkwall Community Council and Orkney College Management Council for four years, and spent almost 6 years on the Papdale School Board which included helping lead a successful campaign to attract £3.5 million to refurbish and extend the school.

As an e-business adviser for Orkney Enterprise/HIE Orkney (as both an employee and consultant) I advised hundreds of Orkney businesses and OE/HIE Orkney itself, on IT, e-commerce and telecoms issues, and developed projects such as and the Orkney Business Directory and Access Guide. I'm also the webmaster of, and look after the highly popular Orkney Image Library. Over the last couple of years I've developed my own local news project,

Interests include music, cycling, football, snooker, photography and sailing. I'm married with one son, who is just about to sit his Standard Grades.

For the last 5 years I've been one of the four councillors for the Kirkwall East ward. I think I've achieved more than most over that time, and will hopefully say enough to let you make up your own mind in posts to come!

Monday, April 02, 2012

Sleeves being rolled up

Well, in a metaphorical sense - I generally exercise my Second Amendment right to bare arms, rendering sleeve-uprolling redundant. The election campaign is now underway for all the candidates, but it is the backroom work that is going on. 300 words are being written for The Orcadian. Websites and Facebook pages are being set up. Belief systems are being formulated and ideals glimpsed at. Leaflets are being drafted and redrafted, and printed and reprinted.

It's a different story for me this time though - or is it?

5 years ago I made clear what I was aiming for, a best guess in the absence of knowing exactly how things worked. Necessarily idealistic, but hopefully realistic as I'd researched things as best I could. I boldly wrote things down and asked the electorate to hold me to account if I didn't deliver. It's all on here as it always has been - have a look back at 2007. There's nothing to hide, as I'll be posting my own lengthy report on it over the next week or so!

By and large my way of working and what I want to see happen is the same, I'm pleased to say. I'm looking for things to be fair, for Kirkwall East and Orkney to get the best crack of the whip that they can, and for us to be clever with the resources at our disposal to secure our long term future, and that includes anticipating threats from places way beyond Orkney. Although I  didn't envisage the Global Financial Crisis or the Icelandic volcano back then, optimist that I am.

What is different this time is where the story that I'm going to tell starts.

Last time I effectively asked people to trust me, to take a shot in the dark that I could get somewhere with the things that I said, and that you said, were important. This time I'll also be telling you how I got on - and I think I've done pretty well from a standing start.

Hopefully less of a shot in the dark this time!

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Beuy beuy beuy

Fancy a sociological discourse on the rise of social media and the decline of conventional blogging?

Might be appropriate given the absence of posting here, which is attributable to me starting up , which I could have used as a mouthpiece but instead try to keep impartial (as that's the kind of guy I am), and me becoming a user of Facebook.

In the coming election Facebook looks like being where it is at, like it or not. Radio Orkney's Facebook page is the source of breaking news and occasional debate, and I try to contribute to the debates there already when I can, concentrating on being factual and honest rather than sparring. In 20+ years of academic and commercial computing I've seen too many trolls and flame wars to let my blood pressure rise at things people say and would probably regret if they thought about it.

I enjoy keeping up with my pals through Facebook, so have realised that bringing the council side of things into that would be inappropriate. With that in mind I've recently restricted access to my posts for non-friends (in a Facebook sense) and set up a Facebook page entitled Steven Heddle Kirkwall East for council matters and the forthcoming election campaign. I hope you will have a look at this and keep in touch with what is posted there.

I'll see if I can get a Facebook widget from that page here.

Update: It's here now, on the right

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Let's get back up to speed

You know how it is, post County Show the nights draw in and everything becomes more of a slog (except when I was kid in Kirkwall in the 70s and the dark meant playing hide and seek in the schemes and lighting bonfires i.e. great fun), so creative writing has hit the back burner.

There have been a number of hot topics hitting the news since August, such as the Stromness Lorry Park furore, and the recent Sheltered Housing Warden controversy, and they are worth a post on their own, and I'll get onto this later- it'll be called 'Communication...'

Here I'd just like to update on things happening in the ward.

First thing to note is that the Black Building has gone, more quickly and finally than any of us expected. I was torn over the decision to demolish, as it was clearly A Unique Thing, but equally clearly had been destroyed internally (as can be seen in the Orkneycommunities Image Library pics of it). Magnus Tullock is compiling an archive related to it, and I hope that can help out, and bring the information to a wider audience as well. I believe that the cost of demolition was significantly lower than early estimates, but I am waiting to get this clarified.

The Schools Investment Programme (now known as Orkney Hostels and Classrooms- no, I just made that up) is well under way, with construction hoped to start in one year, with the new KGS expected to take 2 years to build. The hostel, new pool, and Stromness Primary will take less time, maybe 18 months. Assurances have been given that the new pool construction/old pool demolition will be phased so that Kirkwall will not be left without a pool for any significant period of time. Much more about the SIP here. I am on the advisory working group for this project, and am impressed with the huge amount of work that has been put into it already. There is no question that the Council made the right decision to keep the programme on track, when the debate took place about whether to prevaricate about the Stromness Primary site. As I said at the time, what is the worst that is going to happen to Stromness? Assurances had been given re. a lorry park, there is a commitment to look at developing the harbour for renewables, and the town is getting a brand new school in the site that still seems to be the most popular amongst all the options from the last survey. Meanwhile megabucks are being spent on the Townscape Heritage Initiative, and the town is positioning itself as a centre for creative industries and renewables. Any more mass there and it'll turn into a black hole that will suck all of Orkney into it... Personally I'd sooner see all of this in Kirkwall anyway, and see no reason why the Stromness Lorry Park can't be at Hatston ;-)

Festive lighting- now there is something that splits the Kirkwall councillors. I'm in favour of the festoons, and am delighted that they are back, and coloured. More of them, and with warmer colours for next year please. On a related topic, cathedral lighting is being looked at, with a view to more economical but better (i.e. switched on) illumination of the Red Building. Nice planters for the Kirk Green have also been promised for 2010.

And 2010 is just around the corner. Will I get my posts addressing flooding, Dounreay, the Year of Islands Culture 2011, the H&I Film Commission, the Kirkwall Town Centre Partnership and Communication... in before then? Hope so. 

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year just in case.