Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Download the future

I'm conscious that my posting has been, well, absent for the last month. Let me be honest and say that after putting in the time at the council, looking after Orkneycommunities, and working till late in the evening/night to keep my business alive so that my life doesn't depend on being a OIC councillor I feel more like opening a bottle of home brew and/or heading out for a game of snooker than sailing into the blogosphere. But I'm not looking for sympathy- I'm unrepentant!

But like any good agnostic I suffer from both Catholic guilt and a Protestant work ethic, so here goes...

I'd like to pass on all the juicy stuff that will come out in due course, but can't, because until it gets the nod at a General Meeting nothing is confirmed. And don't assume that everything will get the nod, as that meeting can (and does) change recommendations and sends things back to the other committees for further rumination.

However, anyone who wants to know what's coming up can look at the committee papers up to a week in advance on the council website, as this council has been big on communication and the papers are posted assiduously. This is an important source of information- the local press and Radio Orkney get a lot of their stories from here, and if you are a councillor this is where you find what is happening on the committees that you are not on- it's a primary source, in research parlance.

But as it is not easy to find let me show you the way: http://tinyurl.com/25tk6r (the tinyurl thing is a handy way of condensing long web addresses to stop them being broken by line breaks- this free advice sponsored by Steven Heddle Consultancy of Kirkwall).

That link takes you to the page for the General Meetings, with papers for all other committees accessible through the links down the left.

In the next post I'll summarise some of the work of the last month, and give the schedule for the next round of meetings- but I feel the home brew calling now :-)

Surgery report

The surgery passed quietly, with only a few people showing up, but all with good and valid points to make, e.g. if the polling station is to move, why not have one in the Papdale area, such as at Lambaness or the BB Hall; why are buses still going up Palace Road when the Broad Street stops were meant to be phased out (although that doesn't seem to be the case in practice); can more be done to protect the shore at Weyland; and what are the rights of way between the Work Road and the shore?

All these are being acted upon, but the ways of the Council can be slow, or dependent on a waiting game being played to allow a funding stream to be opportunistically accessed. The key point for me is that it is important for the points to be raised at all, for if you don't ask, you don't get...

Thanks to all who came along. The numbers were such that doing the surgery any other way would have been overkill, so I can see us doing this again. Anybody in two minds about coming along should not be put off, as there was no element of public speaking, and very candid discussion.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Surgery! Tonight!

Tonight, Wednesday 10th October, in the Community Room at Lambaness (off Muir Drive) a complete set of Kirkwall East councillors in near mint condition (some marking to edges and general discolouration) will be available for inspection and cross examination from 7pm.

Mike Drever, Bobby Leslie, Janice Annal and myself will be present to answer questions collectively or individually to the best of our abilities. Small prize to the person who manages to get four different answers.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Grey Sky Thinking

No, I don't just fart about going to music festivals (if only). Though the absence of updates could indeed signify laziness, busyness or death. In this case it is busyness- the twin demands of The Cooncil and my beloved Orkneycommunities would tax the time management of J Arthur Filofax himself.

Since the last post half a cycle of Council meetings has taken place, as detailed below. At Education, one of the main topics was the Service Level Agreement for Picky Centre, which will (finally) enshrine a contractual arrangement and definition of responsibilities between the Council and Pickaquoy Centre Trust. This was in draft, and the version for approval will be presented at a seminar on October 1. Note that as this is a seminar no decision can be made, as this would be beyond its powers (or ultra vires, for my readers from Latin America, as George W Bush might say).

Seminars have been the order of the day, almost every day recently: Housing and Homelessness on Tuesday 11th; Investment Policy for Oil Reserves on Wednesday 12th; and all day Monday and Tuesday morning this week was dedicated to determining the Council's political and/or Strategic priorities.

The latter aspired to Blue Sky Thinking, but the harsh financial realities looming over the OIC restricted this to more pragmatic issues to be addressed, and bigger problems or ambitions to be borne in mind at the same time. Essentially it will end up as wish lists from the various committees organised into a smaller number of themes or aspirations that the Council will seek to live up to. As communication is a hot topic for a lot of the current councillors, getting the message across and spelling out how we are getting on will be an ongoing task.

And there's more: a special meeting of the Council last Friday to approve the STAG submission for our transport aspirations; presentation from Fairwind Statkraft tomorrow; and a Design Awareness Training session on Friday related to Planning - sounds interesting. The week after is similarly packed, with a P&R meeting in the middle.

Constituency representations have focussed on e.g. speeding on Berstane Road, progress with Traffic Orders, Main Street and Victoria Street flooding and blocked sewers, Weyland Terrace one-way system, and more, much more. Within Kirkwall East the 4 councillors are getting better at working together as a group, so I'm looking forward to seeing how this develops.

There will be divisive issues, and the school location is potentially one- I think it is fair to say that not all my Kirkwall East colleagues favour Papdale as much as I do (and all the people who have approached me to agree, and the Kirkwall Community Council, and most of the staff...). The results of the consultation will be presented at a seminar on 10th October, along with other information of a more technical nature, and responses to questions from councillors, which I believe have just come from myself and Jack Moodie. The Department hopes that a consensus on a site will be achieved, so that the detailed business case for that site can be then be developed. I will as ever make the Papdale case strongly, but have misgivings that this seminar may result in a de facto decison of the council which is beyond its powers, and also in camera. I'll be seeking reassurance on this before it takes place.

I did enjoy my music festival by the way- it was great, and raised £3546 for the project in Nepal and also donated £500 to local Moray Firth charities. Next year's dates are 12th and 13th September- it's better than T in the Park: see http://tinyurl.com/3xlc2o

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Bootstock 2007


Not strictly relevant, but worthwhile nonetheless. Through my good friend Hugh Mackay, the creator of and driving force behind Bootstock, I am a founder member of the Bootstock Association, a charity which puts disadvantaged children in the Humla province of Nepal through school. The money raised by previous Bootstocks has provided education for more than 100 children per year, so let me plug this years event taking place NEXT WEEKEND (see above).
Visit http://www.bootstock.org/ to find out about 'the North East's friendliest music festival' and how it has grown from a party in Hugh's garage in a little over five years.
A location map for the venue is here: http://www.kelvaris.co.uk/eastgrange/our_location.htm

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Back in the saddle

Long time between updates, and this is because a) there has been a recess from Council meetings for the bulk of the school holidays, b) I've been doing a lot of Orkneycommunities stuff, general catching up, and house maintenance while I've had the chance, and c) I've had problems with the parts of this site hosted elsewhere due to an ongoing dispute with my erstwhile webhost which has crushed my spirit a bit.

But I can't complain, and it's back to business in earnest from tomorrow. Representations from constituents have continued, and have included access in Meadowbank, the road closure of Inganess Road, and issues related to the Schools Estate project, amongst other things. With regard to the latter, I agree with Jim Rousay and the others who have made the same point to me, that the project will affect everybody in Orkney, so everybody should have a chance to have a say. One way to achieve this is to contact your councillor(s) and make your opinions clear, and I encourage everyone to do this.

Of the many people who have spoken to me about the Schools Estate project all but one have shared my views stated below, with the sole contrary opinion from someone in the adjacent area who suffers from the school banishing smokers from its grounds. This is a serious problem, and should be addressed now, by preventing cigarettes from getting into the wrong hands (that's any, in my opinion), rather than having to wait till 2010 for a change of site for the school.

Meetings coming up in the next fortnight:
  • Kirkwall and St Ola Community Council- 7.30pm, 27th August
  • Social Services and Housing- 10.30am, 28th August
  • Env. Planning and PS- 10.30am, 29th August
  • Development- 10.30am, 30th August
  • Land and Property sub cttee- 10.30am, 31st August
  • Kirkwall East councillors meeting- 10am, 3rd Sept
  • T&I- 10.30am, 4th Sept
  • Ed, Rec and CS- 10.30am, 5th Sept
  • Personnel s/c- 10.30, 7th Sept

These will report where appropriate to P&R on Tuesday 25th Sept, and all committees will report to the General Meeting on the 4th October.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Where should Kirkwall Grammar School go?

I believe that if a new KGS is to be built, it should be on the sports fields adjacent to the existing school, and that there is plenty of room to accommodate a spacious modern building demonstrating best practice, without significant disruption during building. Building a community school in this location will enhance the amenity of the area and the town, and retaining the KGS sports centre will maintain rather than diminish the provision of facilities to the wider community, and offer best value to the Schools Estate project.

The Orkney Today allowed me to argue this case in their 12/7/07 edition, and the full version of the piece I submitted can be viewed here (pdf, 287 kB).

The version reproduced in the paper omitted my carefully researched references for reasons of space, but they are listed below:

References

[1] Falkirk Council Community Schools 2008 Design Workshop- click here

[2] More than just a place to learn- design guidance for new schools- click here

[3] Balfron High School PFI Project Full Business Case - click here

[4] The Orkney Local Plan, p118- Policy LP/S3 re. retaining and improving existing recreational facilities

[5] The Orkney Local Plan p122- Policy LP/S5 re. educational facilities designed and located for maximum convenience, and incorporation of community facilities.

Add your comments to the debate
by clicking on the Comments link below this post.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Active, schools

Another lull in the posting, but this is because the Council activity has cranked up over the last two weeks.

Getting back from south my diary looked clear with only P&R on the 26th and the General Meeting tomorrow, 5th July. Not the case- checking my pigeon hole and email when I got back, all available space filled up. Week commencing 25th June started with Media Training and Personnel seminars and an evening meeting of the Last Monday Group, a business networking thing. P&R on Tuesday, a meeting of the Legalised Police Cells Visiting Committee and cell visit on Thursday followed by the Best Value Working Group pre meeting, with a meeting at HIE Orkney sandwiched between them (literally, as I choked back my rolls throughout it), and on Friday the Heritage and Museums Study Day followed by farewell presentations for Education staff.

So in between all that I tried to keep up with my business commitments, and constituency business- tricky, but I'm getting better at it. I need to! This week has followed the same pattern.

At the weekend I wrote up my thoughts on the siting of the school(s), and I'll post that next week. The consultation that is going on now does not really widen it out to the whole community- and this is probably the biggest public building project since the Cathedral (I'm not counting WW2 as a public building project). It's also a bit backside foremost, as a public debate has not taken place. I'll be doing my best to start the debate and contribute to it, but let me come off the fence right now and say that it would be CRAZY MAD to put the Kirkwall Grammar School anywhere other than Papdale, and I've got 2000 words and counting that backs this up.

Anyone who wants to see what the Schools Estate Consulation questionnaire says and asks can find a scan of it here. It's about 2MB.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Meeting frenzy

It was great weather coming back from my wet and windy bike run (typical...) and Hoy looked spectacular on Monday night. This panorama was taken between spells of reading the Monitoring and Audit Committee (M&A) handbook and papers for the meeting the next day.

I was initially complacent about this week, thinking that the M&A meeting was the only meeting, allowing me to do some work for my business, and also to sort things out for constituents. The creepie was kicked out from under me on that by finding notifications of four more meetings in my pigeon hole on Tuesday morning.

M&A proved interesting, with the £10,000/year overtime for some Tech Services employees revelation occurring. The report lacked any detail as to what was going on there, or why someone was working 20 hours a week overtime on average, so this looks like something that the committee should be investigating in the future.

Monitoring and Audit is a fairly low-flying committee generally, but with an important oversight role, as well as approving the Council's internal audit and best value review schedule, and receiving the reports. I was elected vice-chair to Alistair Gordon's chair, but it is not the first time we've met, as Alistair was one of my teachers at KGS. If you think something is rotten in the state of Orkney (Islands Council) bring it to M&A.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Halfway through the first cycle


The cycle of committee meetings continued last week, with Transport and Infrastructure (T&I) on Tuesday, Education, Recreation and Cultural Services (ERCS) on Wednesday, and Environment, Planning and Protective Services (EPPS) on Thursday.

I'm not on the first and last of these, so my focus was on ERCS on Wednesday, where I stood for vice-chair against John Eccles, and lost. I'm not distressed by this as I think John will do well, and he later made an impressive case in favour of building a nursery at the North Walls School. This was one of a number of contentious issues at the committee, and was subject to a lengthy debate, and the decision in the end was a difficult one. The recommendation to build was passed, and I was one of the supporters, swayed in part by the fact that it should have started long ago, and the fact that the compromise amendment to place the build on hold but reserve the funding for the use of the school at some future date could not be guaranteed at all.

Another contentious issue was that of the linked headship of the Evie and Firth Schools. Peace seemed to have broken out from the School Boards' perspective, but the teaching union rep on the ERCS committee was unhappy about this. Now the fact that a representative from an interest group is present on the committee at all is an issue that my colleague Jack Moodie has raised, and it is a good one- why should this committee have teaching staff and religious representatives taking part in the debate as of right, while for example parents and pupils are not represented, even by the school board? In the case of the religious representatives the anomaly is worse, as there are three, and all can vote- on a committee where the majority is 8 this can potentially make a mockery of democracy.

Anyway the committee recommended to link the headships, unanimously- the teaching representatives do not get a vote. About this time the meeting paused for lunch, after 2 1/2 hours of deliberation, returning to conclude the private business at the end of the agenda in the afternoon. A long meeting.
The recommendations from this and all other meetings now go to full council for ratification, passing through Policy and Resources first, if there are implications of resource or policy.

After that I was ready for a break (not had one since last summer, honestly) so on Saturday I headed south for my charity bike run (from Edinburgh to St Andrews), which took place in Orkney weather- constant light rain, and a force 4/5 NE'ly wind in my face for the last 45 of the 68 miles... Completed it in good time considering the wind (people were pushing their bikes on the DOWNHILL part of the Forth Road Bridge). The picture shows me at Freuchie, having enjoyed two cups of tea and a fancy at the church hall. I'm not dour, merely sardonic.

A fine relaxing way to spend a few days, when you add in the day of car breakdowns on Friday, spraining my ankle going down stairs on Saturday evening, and driving back on Monday having to hit the starter motor with a Mole wrench every time I needed to start the car.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Cycling

The first cycle of meetings is well under way now, although as yet only half way through. This means that only half the vice chair positions on the main committees have been determined, with Russ Madge vice chair of Social Services and Housing (hereafter SSH), and Rob Crichton vice chair of Development (Dev), in a nail-biting vote-off with Sam Harcus, new boys both.

(You'll note the novelty of writing long committee names has waned already. I'll add a glossary somewhere!)

This starts to address some of the Orkney Today fears as to where the new councillors have gone, after the main committee chairmanships went to veterans. Education, Recreation and Cultural Services (ERCS) is likely to see a 3 way battle of the new councillors, one of whom will be myself. This will be decided on Wednesday 13th, but first there is Transport and Infrastructure (T&I) on the 12th, and Environment, Planning and Protective Services (EPPS) is on Friday 14th. Who is standing for VC on them- I couldn't possibly comment, but it'll no be me, as I'm not on these committees.

The meeting cycle started last week with SSH, and I took part as a spectator in the viewing gallery, which has just enough space for small baying mob. I resolved then always to sit at the sides so I could see who is there, and equally make it hard for my acerbic notes to be read.

First meeting where I was an active partipant took place the next day (Wed 6th), the Information Services sub-committee, where I am now vice chair to Ian Johnstone, proving people from Kirkwall and Stromness can work together. Well at least in theory, it hasn't been tested yet. Interesting meeting, and the developments discussed should see the council providing much more information through the website, more quickly, and with greater assurance it is definitive.

Development followed on Thursday, and included a container hub update. No controversial content in this meeting, but a few recommendations were overturned. Anything that happens here will still have to be ratified by the full council, but it was encouraging to see that a number of us were applying a reasonable amount of scrutiny to all the topics that were being discussed.

On Friday, it was the Land & Property sub committee, and wow, the council have their fingers in a lot of pies. Headline recommendation was not to take on the Kirkwall reservoir, on the basis that it is pure liability as it has to be maintained as a reservoir under the Reservoirs Act, rather than presenting an interesting development opportunity.

It's not just the Council meetings that have been cycling, I've been out on my bike myself, managing a couple of 20 mile runs through the week, and a 36 mile one on Saturday. This is my ridiculously compressed training regime for the annual Edinburgh to St Andrews Bike Ride on Saturday 16th, in which I am participating for the 10th time. I'll buy a tee shirt this time to celebrate.

If you want to sponsor me, send me an email!

Thursday, May 31, 2007

What's been happening

The inactivity on this blog might suggest that nothing has been happening, but that is not the case. What is the case however is that the processes of the Council are very formalised, and that for anything to happen in terms of a decision of the Council being made the process may easily take 6 months.

A typical timeline might be (I think- let me get through the process myself) that a councillor calls for a report on something at a committee meeting, the officials go away and prepare the report as requested, the report gets presented at the next committee meeting and approved with recommendations for the full council, it goes past P&R and is approved as being within policy and with resources, it goes to the full council. At this stage it will be proposed, and each member has one chance to say something for or against it, having seen the agenda and had the opportunity to post an amendment which should be done in advance of the meeting. The proposer can reply to the amendments. Then there is the vote, and it can be approved, rejected or more likely referred back to committee for further consideration. Then the loop recommences.

So if all goes according to plan, 4-6 months will have elapsed, if it goes back to committee, an year may come and go.

So for us new councillors the challenge is to see what is lurking in the pipeline that we may not necessarily agree with, and see what can be done to influence things for the better, and in line with what we said we would do and what people have asked us to do.

You can be sure that the Kirkwall Traffic Plans and KGS redevelopment have been high on the agenda, and meetings with the relevant directors have taken place, and representations made. On the latter point, Kirkwall councillors have had a tour of KGS that I arranged with Mr Ballantine, and I've pushed to have a Papdale site considered for any rebuilding option (rather than just Picky!). I hope this is now on the agenda, but if you feel strongly about this, please tell me all about it.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

First meeting, and committees

Bit to catch up on here, but there has been a bit to catch up on everywhere, which is why it has gone quiet.

The first meeting on Tuesday was preceded by a mock meeting on Monday, and a run through the standing orders, which are the rules of engagement for the full meetings. The mock meeting featured a debate on whether the Roses sweetie tin that is used to collect all the ballots for votes should be retired and replaced by an electronic system. The tin lived to fight another day, following a recorded vote demanded by the anti-tin faction, the heretics that they are.

Down to real business on Tuesday, and the sorting out of committees and chairmanships. My own ambitions for this were modest, and I was pleased to be elected to the Policy and Resources committee in one of the four places for ordinary councillors (i.e. not chairmen, convener or vice-convener), and also Monitoring and Audit, both of which should get me up to speed with the machinations of the Cooncil fairly quickly. As everbody serves on 4 committees, this left two more to be allocated by the mysterious program, and after some swapping, I am also on the Education, Recreation and Cultural Services and Development committees. And the Orkney and Shetland Joint Valuation Board, but not Licensing, as I don't want to be thrown out of a pub for the wrong reasons. Even for the right reasons isn't good.

Being on P&R also carries an extra workload though, and this was apparent in the first additional meeting in the afternoon of the same day to determine membership of the P&R sub-committees. There are a lot.

After a blur of voting I believe I am on the following sub-committees: Personnel; Land and Property; Information Services; Legalised Police Cells (my concentration slipped for moment there); and Oil Development. I've sussed Jimmy Moar as a smooth operator here, as he shrewdly nominated others throughout this process! This may be sour grapes on my part, having lost out to him on the vote for Sustainable Energy, following the drawing of lots after a 6-6 tie...

So that's 10 committees, boards or sub-committees, each generating a three inch pile of double-sided paper to be read before each meeting. The Hercule Poirot books might be getting a rest for some time...

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Induction

The induction has gone on for two days now, and we've all learnt a lot about the structure and mechanisms of the council, and how all the committees relate to the services that the council provides.

There are five main committees:
  • Social Services and Housing
  • Environment, Planning and Protective Services
  • Development
  • Transporation and Infrastructure, and
  • Education, Recreation and Cultural Services

of which each councillor is on four. We've expressed our preferences and some obscure undocumented system allocates us in a way that keeps the most people happy. I get the impression there is no right of appeal.

These committees (and their sub-committees) have powers of their own, but the most important decisions should come back to the full council at a general meeting, at the end of each council cycle.

But what about Policy and Resources, Monitoring and Audit, Licensing and Orkney Ferries? I'll come back to those later, once I've filled in my Disclosure Scotland form, election expenses forms, Declaration of Interests, and information systems acceptable use form...

Monday, May 07, 2007

What happens next

I've signed on the dotted line, and pledged allegiance to the community flag (metaphorically speaking), so I am indeed a councillor for Kirkwall East along with Janice, Bobby and Mike. We'll be discussing how best to work together and represent the area from Tuesday, but of course any constituent can contact any (or every) councillor.

The next week will be filled by an induction course for new councillors, and this will be followed up by a Statutory General Meeting on Tuesday 15th, and Special Policy and Resources to elect sub-committees. Thereafter we are into the first cycle of meetings and their preambles.

The meeting dates for this first cycle are:
  • Tue 5th June, Social Services and Housing
  • Wed 6th June, Environment, Planning and Protective Services
  • Thu 7th June, Development
  • Fri 8th June, Land and Property sub-committee
  • Tue 12th June, Transporation and Infrastructure
  • Wed 13th June, Education, Recreation and Cultural Services
  • Thu 14th June, Information Services sub-committee
  • Tue 26th June, Policy and Resources
  • Wed 27th June, Monitoring and Audit
  • Wed 4th July, Environment etc. dealing with planning applications only
  • Thu 5th July, General meeting

The next cycle of meetings will follow a similar pattern commencing on 28th August, which is a larger gap than all the other cycles due to the school holidays. Agenda items must be requested at least two weeks in advance of a meeting, but as yet we do not have the agendas and papers for the first meetings. I'll be supporting Jack Moodie in pressing for as much of these as possible to be posted on the Council website in advance of the meetings, as a matter of course.

Friday, May 04, 2007

I've been voted in!


I'm very pleased, and very grateful to the people who voted for me yesterday. I view this as being the first part of a bargain that I now have to live up to, and I fully intend to do this.

Having insisted communication is a key priority, my first act on being elected was to gabble incoherently to Dave Gray of Radio Orkney, when he interviewed me. This was largely due to being stunned at getting in on the first round of the voting system by passing the quota on first preference votes, and due to extreme tiredness as it was 4.30am by this time. I'm not sure what I said, but it should have reiterated that I will be inquisitive and open-minded in approach, and approachable, diligent and do a good job. I don't think it did though- lets hope they edit me kindly!

For all the complexities of the STV system, the result just mirrored the figures for first preferences, viz.

Janice Annal 460
Steven Heddle 359
Bobby Leslie 280
Mike Drever 218

I genuinely feel sorry for the candidates who didn't get elected, with Alastair MacLeod and David Murdoch both fighting particularly good and positive campaigns, and they would have made good councillors I am sure. I'm also very sorry that Ian MacDonald didn't get back in Kirkwall West, while being pleased that Jack Moodie and David Tullock both were elected there, as I've spoken to them a lot throughout the campaign.

The count finished very late, but the fact that it finished at all on this night of count suspensions is a credit to the Returning Officer's team.

Now it's time for bed, then first Council business tomorrow. An immediate action will be to set up a meeting with Janice, Bobby and Mike to pool the issues reported, and make sure they are acted upon.

I'll keep you posted as to what's happening here, and work this into a better site for information and reports.

Thanks again, and special thanks to my dad (Barry Heddle) and Ray Norris who gave me invaluable help in distributing leaflets.

Steven

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Hello and thanks for visiting

Here I hope you will be able to find out more about me and what I stand for, and see that I would make the best job of representing you in the Council. See 'In summary' for the short story and follow the links to the 'My pitch' articles for the long one! You can comment on any of the posts by clicking on the 'comments' link at the bottom right, and as long as the comments aren't too profane I will respond.

New posts will appear immediately below this one.

As there are 1844 households in the ward it won't be possible to speak to everybody before polling day (even if I am, at 42, clearly the youth candidate!), but I'll be putting out leaflets to every door and would encourage anyone that wishes to speak to me to give me a shout in passing, or by phoning 877119 and I can come and visit you.

As the campaign progresses I'll keep you posted here as to what's happening, and what people are saying.

If I have the opportunity to represent you I will apply the same diligence and thought to this as I have to all my work, and anybody who knows me can reassure you that I will not sit on my hands as a councillor. I hope you can vote for me on May 3rd, preferably number 1. Treat yourself!

Cheers
Steven

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Orcadian banner ad on day before poll


The campaign draws to a close

It's been a hectic few weeks of campaigning, and I think all the candidates have had a fair chance to put their case to the voters, through leaflets (lovingly hand-crafted on the trusty printer pictured), canvassing, hustings and news and radio articles, and hopefully this has been useful in helping everybody to form an opinion on who they are going to vote for. The coverage of the election in The Orcadian has been scanty however, with all candidates scratching their heads as to why we were sent a questionnaire and why it hasn't been used (at least yet).

Personally, I've been everywhere in Kirkwall East over the last few weeks and spoken to many people, but not as many as I would have liked to. The sheer vastness of the ward (1844 households, 3327 electors) meant that it was only ever going to be possible to knock on a fraction of the doors, and this is how it has turned out. However, I'd like once more to extend an invitation to anyone who'd like to talk about the council and the issues of this campaign to give me a shout on 877119, and I can come round and speak to them. If I'm elected of course this will become an open invitation.

But will I be elected? I hope so, because I am sure I could do a good job.

Who gets in? You decide! Like my amigo Jack Moodie says on his blog, "Vote for whoever you want!"

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

More word from more streets

I must confess I took a break on Sunday to reacquaint myself with my family and my lawnmower. Having now apparently killed the lawn but thankfully done less damage to the family,I was back out canvassing on Monday.

It has to be said that my fellow Kirkwallians are a very pleasant group of people, who take a keen interest in local issues, while recognising that by and large life here is not bad at all. Nonetheless there are issues that crop up again and again, and these are parking, speeding, and the Kirkwall traffic plans.

I've mentioned parking earlier, and there is certainly a consensus that the huge number of cars associated with School Place should be reduced by some means and the Guide Hut car park freed for short stay and/or metered parking. The current lack of parking near here is a big problem for anyone attending funerals from the kirks in the vicinity (including the cathedral). In fact increased levels of free short stay car parking like that at the back of Boots would be most welcome. Let me also make a personal plea for increased bike parking facilities in the form of Sheffield Racks , the railing like things that you can lean and chain your bike against.

Speeding is a hot topic, especially in the vicinity of the Papdale School, Willow Road and Thom Street. The long awaited 20mph zone should help, but we need to get the area it covers right. Ideally it could take in the bit of Thom Street between Meadowbank and White Street as well to calm the traffic there. More yellow lines on Willow Road? Traffic calming around Papdale Primary to slow down the boy racers picking up their girlfriends from KGS at lunchtime? All ideas gratefully received!

Kirkwall traffic proposals- don't get me started (again). Pleasingly my own opinions reflect those of everybody I have spoken to viz. NO Broad Street pedestrianisation, NO unnecessary one-way systems, and hey, let's keep it in perspective...

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Fishing

Candidates were sent a message from the Orkney Fisheries Association:

What is your policy towards fishermen and the important issue of harbours and facilities?

Hi Christine

The only reference that I've made on my manifesto is having "investing in agriculture and fishing to develop premium Orkney brands and organics to safeguard industry against globalisation" as a longer term strategic issue.

Having said that I am aware that there has been a big loss of slipping and boat storage facilities in Kirkwall, and also of areas where gear can be left to dry, as a result of the sailing club taking over Smith Foubister's yard, and because of the lifeboat berth. I would be keen to press for such facilities to be restored in some form, at the very least ensuring that water and power were available at the Hatston slip, and that the slip area was kept clear enough to enable short periods of working without having to go elsewhere.

However I am not an expert in this field and would welcome guidance and advice about what facilities are desired and could make a difference.

Cheers,
Steven

Saturday, April 28, 2007

The word on the streets

Yesterday I completed my leaflet coverage of Kirkwall East, finishing up in the Carness and Craigiefield areas, once more enjoying the good weather. While I have been speaking to everyone I've seen, I'd like to speak to a lot more people in the ward, and I intend to do this in the remaining days before the election.

Today I've been out and about in George Street, St Rognvalds Street and Meadowbank.

The burning issue in St Rognvalds Street (and I assume in Thom Street, White Street and Willow Road) is the use of the street for long stay parking for council workers, leading to difficulties getting deliveries or getting the car out of the garage. This ties in with complaints about the Guide Hut car park being a de facto council car park, preventing people from parking to visit the street and the OIC. It would seem sensible to zone off more of this car park for short stay parking, or metered parking, but this will serve to make the problem in the adjacent streets worse unless something else is done. An option that has been discussed is to have one or more Park and Ride areas e.g. at Hatston or off the Deerness Road, and this would seem worth considering. It would need to be available for everyone, not just council workers, and could give the much maligned airport bus a good name if it was used at the necessary peak times.

This leads onto other issues, such as abandoned cars at Papdale East and occupation of parking spaces by cars for sale. This should be clamped down on by towing away unlicensed vehicles. Another option that would help St Rognvalds Street would be to have one side of the road yellow lined.

In Meadowbank a big issue is the fact that there are steps everywhere but next to no path lights. The steps to the houses are probably too much to tackle, but paths should be ramped or have level access at least at one end. This seems fairly easily possible, and could often be achieved by cutting gates in the walls of the car parks. Similarly providing adequate lighting should not be impossible.

It's been very encouraging to see how concerned most people are for their areas and for the well being of the County in general. I also appreciate the phone calls and emails of support I have had and would like to thank the people who have offered me this support, very much. If I get elected I will do my best to live up to your expectations, and my own.

Friday, April 27, 2007

The Orcadian questionnaire

The Orcadian sent out a questionnaire to all the candidates, but do not seem to have used the responses. These were mine anyway.





Why do you want to stand for council?

Firstly I think it’ll be an interesting and challenging job, and very satisfying when I help somebody, or help in some development to the ward's or Orkney's advantage. Equally importantly I think it's a job I could do well, and want to get stuck into.

What policies and issues do you see as being of primary importance in Orkney?

Funding of services will remain the big issue and real savings and efficiencies must continue to be identified, as opposed to inventing new charges for services and passing them on to others. The OIC must serve its community and earn its support to fight against centralisation and loss of local control, and develop joint working with other agencies within Orkney. Lower funding than other island groups is the same issue as 4 years ago, and we should review our position towards COSLA, and how best to make our oil reserves benefit the community. Care of the elderly, including personal and respite care, will remain an issue until funded adequately. Economic development must be funded to grow our economy, but we shouldn't bet heavily on a container hub.

How will you represent your constituents?

By any means possible! I'll encourage people to get in touch with me at any time, run regular surgeries, and maintain the kw15.co.uk website for two-way communication and to gauge opinion. At the OIC end I'll seek out the officials or committee best placed to sort out any issues, and represent the opinions of my constituents fairly and firmly. At all times I'll keep people informed as to what is happening.

Why should people vote for you?

Because I'll be easy to find, show up when I'm asked, work hard, and make sure their voices are heard. I can approach the OIC with an open mind, and all my career I've been paid to think as well as do, so I'm quick on the uptake. I'm committed to the community, the area, and its people and I can demonstrate this.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

I must protest

The report of last week's hustings in the Orkney Today contained some inaccuracies which I have been moved to write to John (Ross Scott) about to put the record straight, viz.

Dear Sir

I must offer some corrections to your hustings report. Firstly, we all did not agree that a new school was required, as my stance was that I didn't know for we require far more information before we could state that, or otherwise, but that any developments should see KGS become a community school providing amenities in the south of Kirkwall. Secondly it was Alistair MacDonald (and not Alastair MacLeod) who responded to a question from Angus Fraser (and not Angus Campbell) about traffic plans, making the 'Kirkwall is not Milton Keynes' point. Thirdly I think that putting services out to the public sector should be investigated rather than being completely against it, but have grave misgivings due to the service you get being inflexible and limited to the contract that is put out.

Yours faithfully

Steven Heddle
Candidate for Kirkwall East

The Road Warrior

Road, Close, Lane, Drive, Park, Place and Crescent warrior actually. In the last 4 days I have walked 500 miles to beat a path right to YOUR door (if you live in Kirkwall East), and have broken the back of the leafletting in the same way that the leafletting has broken the back of me. I'm sunburnt!

The views from the doorsteps or herbaceaous borders (come on, you don't get prose like this from the other candidates, vote for someone with a sense of humour) are myriad and diverse, but here comes a sample:

  • The council tax is far too high, and is driving pensioners and the poorly paid into poverty. Recall too that Orkney is (on average) one of the most poorly paid areas in the country.
  • Those who default on their council tax would benefit from coming to an arrangement for payment with the OIC rather than having Scott & Co set on them- and when this happens they are told not to speak to the nice people at the council, now you belong to us...

This a big deal actually- 171 tenants were in arrears to the council (rent or otherwise) when there were only 790 council houses left, according to last year's Council accounts. That's 22% of tenants (down from last year), and I don't accept that this is through their choice. If they are all being hounded by the bailliffs as the first step (and I haven't had the chance to verify this yet) it seems another case of not looking after our people, like the care situation. We should be able to do better than this.

Also

  • The crows at the Willows are driving the people mad with the mess, as the nests are no longer poked from the trees.

Would this not be an ideal Community Service project?

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

More Points of View

More questions and replies...

Anonymous said...

Hi Steven, I would like to hear your views on 2 issues. (for a start anyway)..;-)

Firstly you in your literature that, as an issue of immediate concern, "young people should have more facilities". Does this mean that the play areas in your prospective ward would get more equipment and better maintenence?

The second question is what is your opinion of a prospective tunnel under the Pentland Firth?. Could a project like this not rid us of an inefficent and costly ferry service, provide an ideal export conduit for energy generated from the huge potential of alternative energy. Provide cheaper transportation for local produce thereby opening opening up a far wider range of markets.

Or.....

Would something like that "spoil" Orkney by connecting us to the mainland, thereby deminishing our island status. Perhaps reduce the subsidies given out by central goverment because of our remote status, (although seemingly not as remote as the Western isle, or Shetland, and finally leave us open to hordes of illegal immigrants?...(yes, I do mean Wickers)....;-).




Steven Heddle said...

The 'more facilities for young people' statement is based on the lack of facilities for play or activity. This is even compared to when I was younger, with the demise of Costies, now Powerbowl, and removal of play equipment from the Bignold Park, King Haakon Street, Manse Road, and the Willows, imposition of 'No Ball Games' rules at places like Broadsands Road, and impossibility of playing on the road (not that it was ever a good idea). Also I've seen what is in place in Westray for the young people (The Hofn) and it seems an excellent facility.

More play equipment would be a part of this certainly, and as it is mainly a capital cost with little revenue implications, and as it ticks lots of activity agendas I don't see why this should not happen. Another aspect would be to see what can be done for teenagers- Walter Gorman is doing good stuff with the bands nights, and, in an ideal world where KGS was a community school in the current location, I would like to see its hall and stage etc available for use.

A further aspect of this is that the new housing developments are high on density but low on amenity and I would hope that equipped play areas could be incorporated as a condition of planning consent.

Regarding the idea of a tunnel under the Firth, I suppose it would enable easier, cheaper access (if it was free), but I think it would be a disaster for Orkney. We would lose our local authority and Health Board, and create a lot of unemployment or relocation South. The outer isles would suffer as a consequence of control shifting south. The whole ethos would change with a more transient population, and crime would increase because there would the chance to get away with it, rather than having the 'border control' of limited ferry crossings.

The renewable energy export benefit doesn't come close to making up for any of this, and would the cable not need to be buried in the tunnel anyway, making it more costly than just laying one on the seabed?

So I say no to any Pentland Firth tunnel idea!

How the voting system works

The voting system is fantastically complex, and while the lower preferences (2nd, 3rd etc.) can be significant, it is definitely the first preferences that count the most. So if you really want me to be elected, put a 1 next to my name!

The whole complexity of the system, including Droop Quotas and the Weighted Inclusive Gregory Method, is laid bare here.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Sunshine and showers

Today's relentless leafletting and canvassing saw me sunburnt by the forenoon, and soaked by the grimlings. The wide open spaces of Lynn Park led to a lot of walking in the heat of the day, and later I noticed with some horror that the razor sharp letterboxes of Lynn Crescent all have edges smeared with the blood of the local posties and hapless canvassers. It's true!

I'm starting to develop an unhealthy knowledge of letterbox types now, and the difficulty of forcing thin leaflets through draught excluders. I won't bore you with the details, but leave that to my new website, www.letterboxesanddraughtexcluders.co.uk . I'm kidding.

More seriously, some good issues raised today that deserve to be raised in the Council chamber. Despite being in a residential area, good business questions were raised, regarding the unfairness of charges to businesses on top of business rates. It would seem reasonable that business rates would cover refuse collection, but businesses have to pay extra for a special 'green bag' collection, with (I believe) no opt out. Similarly businesses premises with not plumbing still have to pay water rates, ostensibly because of the rain run off from roofs. This seems to suggest that the roof is attracting additional water from somewhere, rather than just returning the same amount to the ground!

I'm tired from the walking around- goodnight!

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Canvassing, not dourly



Canvassing closer to home tonight, on the Holm Road and the roads off of it, and most enjoyable too, as I had some fine yarns with good folk. Issues discussed included the overstretched community care service, and the lack of affordable housing.
The picture above is not of the Holm Road, the more geographically aware of you will have spotted that already. It is at Kirbuster on the jovial occasion of the launch of 'Stumpy' my home-made boat. Reason for this later.

The council hopefuls were out in force tonight, as I met Jack Moodie at my gate when I headed out, and as we discussed the finer points of shoving things through letterboxes David Tulloch passed by the Bignold Park. Later I bumped into ward rival David Murdoch as we covered the same area in opposite directions, so I managed to give him the leaflet I couldn't put through his letterbox as he doesn't have one. David, I know you read this (I'm an IT consultant, I have my ways)- see this post for why you should have a letterbox!

However, my confidence in my public image was dented when Jack revealed that Bryan Taylor thought I was coming across as 'too dour', reinforcing what my wife had recounted from a conversation with a taxi driver - "Oh, is he the dour-looking boy"? That was the last time anyone in this house phoned Craigie's Taxis. I'm not dour! I like a laugh! I invented the Ba' Humbug idea, for goodness sake!

I soon got over it. But the picture above at least shows that I do crack my face on occasion.

Tomorrow I plan to continue leafletting through the day, and canvassing by evening. If you want me to call past, please give me a shout on 877119.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Points of View

(The comments that are made and their replies are often missed due to the need to navigate to the comments for a post. I've cut and pasted the comments so far here.)

Anonymous said...

Steven- I'd be interested in your views on the recent aquisition of Garden House by the council. Is it a decision you would have supported ?-DustJunkie

Steven said...

Good question DustJunkie.

I accept the argument that Garden House is a good investment that will give a better return than how the money was invested already, is a secure asset that will apreciate in value, and is an asset that is now secured in local control.

I don't agree with how NHS Orkney seem to be balancing their books with a fire sale before the end of the financial year, and that it was rushed through without the scrutiny of the full council, or without apparent evidence that the Council secured the best possible price for the buildings.

I think there is a misconception that money has been spent on these buildings, where it could have been spent on a care home. The money has not been spent so much as invested in a way that will provide a return that could help with the ongoing revenue costs of a care home (with the initial investment secured in the value of the buildings, which can be realised in the future if need be), rather than depleting the reserves by a capital investment on a care home that will incur revenue costs. And such revenue costs will be harder to afford if the reserves are depleted and no improved settlement from the Scottish Executive is forthcoming. As the capital for such projects seems to be available from other sources it seems sensible to use the reserves in a way that will provide an ongoing return.

However this latter argument must be explored by the council with no preconceptions. We should question whether the rainy days that our reserves were set by for are here now, and perhaps spend on quality projects or investments that will benefit future generations.

Community owned renewables are clearly things that could be considered.




Anonymous said...

Hello Steven - I'm looking at the "About me" section of your site and I was having a look at the photo of youself. There was an option of "see full size" but the result of clicking on this would suggest that you are only around 14 inches high. Do you think it will be difficult for a man of your small stature to effectively represent the ward ? - Cinnamon Girl

Steven said...

Hi Cinnamon Girl

You have picked up on another side of my Action Man persona




Russell said...

Best wishes on your campaigning and election. I am sure your IT experience will come in useful!Great idea to have a blog.Do you have a RSS feed or have I missed it?

Steven said...

Hi RussellThanks for the comments and good point about the RSS feed. There is an Atom feed, but it isn't obvious when using IE6 as your browser.

The URL of this feed is http://kirkwalleast.blogspot.com/atom.xml




Anonymous said...

Steven, you were vocal about the Kirkwall traffic plans last year- what do you think of the latest version of the plans?

Steven said...

Anonymous, good to see you posting again!

Re. the plans, I'd love to see them and be able to offer to comment. It still looks as though Kirkwall is moving towards being built around an ugly bus station rather than a magnificent cathedral. Changes that had been promised to the community council and Town Centre Traders that would have allowed buses to leave the stances in both directions have been ignored and we can expect to see this used as a means of driving a one way system that we neither need nor want.

In this we have been badly let down by the existing councillors, as the consultation was meant to mean something after the shabby way the proposals emerged in the first place.

When we discussed this on Radio Orkney, Bob Sclater conceded that the 'Travel Centre' location consultation favoured the existing site but then shrugged and said 'But you know about consulation'! Well the same is happening again, but literally being set in concrete now before we can do something about it. Another aspect is the new taxi rank on West Castle Street, which has come as something of a surprise to the unconsulted residents of the street.

I recommend that you vote for me and I will fight to make sure that such things stop happening.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Kirkwall East hustings and care homes

It was the Kirkwall East hustings last night, and all 7 candidates showed up to face about 50 people who definitely had questions to ask over the two and a quarter hours it lasted for.

At the start the candidates each had three minutes to make a pitch, and I took the reasonable approach of introducing myself and what I believe I could bring to the job. It's a daunting task as bragging yourself up to a crowd is not a comfortable thing for an Orcadian to do, but I started to relax into it. This was not necessarily a good thing, as my tightly plotted spiel was embellished for what seemed like seconds, but left me 30 seconds to do the last minute's worth. Some hasty mental editing at least let me finish on time.

I'm still uncomfortable with the approach I took, but figured it would be more informative and honest than making empty promises about getting in and being able to sort out that shower at School Place. I have reasonable amount of respect for the Council, but do think it would be much better with me on it!

Into the questions, and it becomes apparent that in a situation like this the existing councillors hold all the cards, being privy to the entire back story of an issue, and inside information from committee meetings that have not made it into public. New candidates such as myself working with the information that they can dig up can often only surmise what the council is up to, and are left open to put downs from the existing councillors, with more facts at their disposal.

At one point I innocently asked why the council, with all its support infrastructure in place and access to cheap finance, cannot run care homes more cheaply than the profitable private sector, and was patronised by a comment from a councillor implying that I was naive beyond belief if I thought this was possible. Well, the council charges approximately twice as much per week (£710/week I believe, reduced to £590/week after the 'free personal care' element is taken off) as Highland Park House, which I don't think can be all be put down to better terms and conditions for Council staff, or providing a 'gold plated' service- especially when St Rognvald's House was recently closed to new admissions from the Care Commission.

So yes, I do think it is possible to provide better care more cost effectively than present, and would strive to get to the bottom of this, rather than accepting it as fact.

Among other issues raised were the Kirkwall traffic proposals, an issue that I've worked hard on already, and I was pleased to see that most of my views on this (viz. no Broad Street pedestrianisation, enforcement of existing traffic orders on Albert Street, no unnecessary one way systems, REAL CONSULTATION) are now also shared by the bulk of the candidates. Similarly, two way communication through all media including websites such as this was widely endorsed, and I must point out that kw15.co.uk was here first too!

Use of the reserve funds was discussed, and this is a complex issue that needs a lot of study and debate, as opposed to trading opinions as last night. Having said that, you have to have opinions to start with, and mine include that using them simply to reduce the Council Tax by a small amount each year will leave asking us 'Was that it?' when the reserves do run out. Saving them to benefit OIC council tax payers in 30 years time might seem long sighted, but is in fact short-sighted if it does not recognise that if we don't get our act together the OIC might be gone by then, with our rainy-day money being spent outside Orkney by a Highlands and Islands Council instead. Better to consider right now what lasting institutions can be created in Orkney to benefit future generations, such as facilities and a culture of providing for our people, through education and care.

Of course there is more to it than that, as the capital versus revenue funding arguments must be considered, and also how the existence and use of the reserve funds equate to the funding we get from the Scottish Executive- but we should be having this debate now.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Orkney Today article

Last week Orkney Today asked all candidates to submit 200 words on why they should be voted for. I wrote:

When we are all campaigning on similar issues it can be hard to differentiate between the candidates- this is particularly true in Kirkwall East where almost all the candidates are retired council officials or public sector employees. However, being 42 and having broader experience of business and industry, I feel I can bring a more inquisitive and open-minded approach to the work of the Council, and different, relevant, skills honed in R&D and project management.

Additionally I can demonstrate a commitment to the community by membership of Kirkwall Community Council and the Papdale School board, and by having publicly voiced concern about the lack of consultation and unnecessary scale of the Kirkwall traffic plans, and seeming desire to replace KGS with a PPP initiative at Picky.

My commitment to the area is obvious from having come home with my family in 1999, but being Kirkwall born and bred it was always my intention to do so.

However a councillor's main commitment must be to the people of the ward, and if elected I will always be available to discuss and represent your concerns, from first day to last. If you want to start now please get in touch through 877119 or http://www.kw15.co.uk/. I would be proud to be able to represent Kirkwall East.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Barked knuckles and holey pavements

It's brutal work this campaigning and I have the barked knuckles to prove it. I hasten to add that this is from getting my hand caught pushing fliers through letter boxes, rather than any 'old fashioned' electioneering.

I've had a taste of the door to door delivery doing the Scout Post in years gone by, but this is a different scale altogether. If I get in I'll be moving that people without letterboxes should be disbarred from voting, on the basis of humanity!

Hitting the streets is invaluable, as I've had the chance to speak to people, found houses that I didn't know existed, and discovered that our telephone exchange now is full of big empty rooms where huge frames of wire and moving parts stood when it opened 30-odd years ago.

The other things you notice are the holes in the pavement, that I believe have to be reported before they get fixed, rather than an enterprising road team looking for things to fix just coming along and doing it. I realise that this leads to spending money, but surely in the long term it is cheaper to fix things before they get too bad, or lead to an accident? I understand that the guys who work on the roads are going up the wall because they have so little to do, and because if they are sent to fix a hole, they can't fix others nearby until someone has been sent to draw round them in yellow!

Now you may ask yourself why the council has made up a charge for men to work on the fireworks or St Magnus Fair when they are not being kept from doing something else, and why there is a reactive approach to repairs rather a proactive one towards maintenance. Me too, and I would be happy to ask that question on your behalf.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Flier still, and KGS viewpoint

I've added the flier inside pages here, and changed the links so that clicking on the thumbnails now opens up the full definition pdf versions of the pages (the files are quite small).

Campaigning hiatus last night as I was in Eday to do IT training for the Fire Service, and enjoyed the hospitality of Malcolm and Moira Scott. Actually very informative as well, as the isles transport present and future got a full discussion. Good shop on the island too.

Heading back to Kirkwall this morning I got a summons to Radio Orkney on my mobile, for a short interview to go alongside ones from the other candidates. I suppose it went OK, but the questions kept changing just as I was about to hit my stride, so I will appear to insist that KGS stay where it is without justifying why.

But for the record, I think that

  • it is in the ideal location, both for Kirkwall as it expands south, and for the buses from the country
  • it is the only leisure facility on the South and East of Kirkwall, through the pool and the sports centre
  • incidentally, new housing developments should enhance community facilities and put something back
  • if it moves to Picky, hundreds of pupils will have to trek across the Back Road and Picky Road twice a day, with Picky Road destined to be an Inner Ring Road in the original Kirkwall traffic proposals
  • though it is claimed to be not fit for purpose, I'm young enough to actually have attended it myself, and it was OK then- though I'll take Iain Ballantine up on his offer to look around and reserve the right to change my mind!
  • new facilities will be needed, but they could be developed adjacent to the school with minimal disruption
  • flagship PPPs show that they end up costing more, and are not necessarily fit for purpose themselves (e.g. the too-small Edinburgh Royal Infirmary)
  • PPPs do not generally offer community access
  • a redeveloped KGS should be more of a community school, with greater access to its facilities.

And yes, it should stay in Papdale!

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Flier

The flier, ready to go, as long as my printer doesn't melt in the process. Note the arms crossed, slightly leaning back, direct look at the camera stance, or 'Helen Gardiner pose' as I believe it is known.

We will fight on the beaches


Orkney Today required a head and shoulders picture, so Donna was pressed into action as campaign photographer as we took the fight to the beaches.

In the end the picture that we came up with was taken down the pier, and that can be seen as the new profile picture on this blog. The beach picture has been pressed into action for my flier, which has been designed and is being mass produced on the printer to my right as I type.
Anyone looking for hidden meaning in this picture will notice that Work is looming over my shoulder...

Hopefully I'll get out on the streets with it tomorrow or Tuesday, and some real feedback from the people I speak to when I'm out and about can be posted here. Only two and a half weeks to go, and a lot of work to put in yet. I'll post links to the flier once I've started distributing them.

Next task, responding to The Orcadian's questionnaire...

Friday, April 13, 2007

Out of the blocks

No door to door visits yet as pamphlet design and production dominates my life. The writing involved in campaigning has been surprisingly time-consuming, and The Orcadian and Orkney Today are both wanting statements from all candidates. "300 words in total, or 300 words for each of last four sections?" I queried, before realising the mindnumbing effect that would be created by 44 candidates contributing a total of 53,000 words in the latter case.

It's interesting to consider how to differentiate yourself from other candidates- obviously I'm quite sure I'm the man for the job, but conveying that to you is more difficult when all the candidates are campaigning on a limited number of issues. I think I can manage it though, but let's see if my pamphlets and personal charm live up to my expectations!

I had a very interesting meeting today with Rose Guthrie and Ernie Donaldson of the Care Pressure Group which opened my eyes further to the plight of those needing care, and which also emphasised that there is much more to the care of the elderly debate than just care homes. This, quite rightly, will be a key issue in the campaign.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

In summary

I'm Steven Heddle, born and brought up in Kirkwall. After KGS I graduated from Aberdeen and Edinburgh Universities and worked in R&D and engineering. Since coming home in 1999 I have taken an active part in community life through the Community Council and School Board, and run a business and technical consultancy, and have advised hundreds of local businesses. I'm responsible for a number of websites, including Orkneycommunities.co.uk, and through this have worked with dozens of community groups. I'm married with one son. (More detail...)

I'm standing because I want the Council to be active, forward looking, and representative of the people of Orkney, and thus it would benefit from younger economically active Councillors. I believe I have the drive, determination and sense to make a significant contribution towards representing the people of Kirkwall and securing the future of the County, and am motivated by the great satisfaction I would derive from being able to do so. I would be proud to represent the people of Orkney - I'm not looking for a hobby or a supplement to my income. (More detail...)

You should vote for me as I would take the responsibilities of being a councillor for the ward and for the county very seriously. If elected I will always be contactable and approachable and will keep you informed and seek your views through this website and regular surgeries. I will represent your concerns and opinions firmly and with clarity. I will not make promises I can't keep, and will be well prepared for all meetings. I believe my experience and background means that I should prove to be an excellent councillor, and if there is anything else I can do, ask me and I will try my best. I have already campaigned as an individual on a number of the issues below so my commitment to the community should be clear. (More detail... )

Issues of immediate concern to me are: that the council has to communicate much better and engage in genuine consultation; housing and planning needs to be carefully managed and understandable, and new developments enhance community facilities; care of the elderly must be comprehensive, fair and affordable; young people should have more facilities; Kirkwall's traffic management should be sensitive, and ensure access; KGS should remain where it is and be redeveloped to the necessary standard, but with prudent financing and community access to facilities; Scottish Executive led initiatives should be adapted imaginatively to suit Orkney's context; the owners of the Shore Street oil tanks must be pressured to relocate. (More detail in responses to comments.)

Strategic issues include: improving efficiency and promoting joint working within Orkney to guard against centralisation; using this and the support of the electorate to achieve a fairer funding settlement; all options for use of oil reserves should be considered; sensible investment in development; consideration of North Sea decommissioning at Lyness; investment in agriculture and fishing to develop premium Orkney brands and organics to safeguard industry against globalisation; community owned renewables; supporting rural and isles shops e.g. by providing access to council facilities through them. (More detail in responses to comments.)

Monday, April 09, 2007

Why you should vote for me

You should vote for me as I will take the responsibilities of being a councillor for the ward very seriously.

If elected, I will make it easy for you to contact me with any concerns that you wish brought to the council, and do my utmost to assist in their resolution, and keep you informed as to what actions are taken and what are the results. I will make it easy for you to contact me, and arrange regular clinics for informal discussion of any issues. I will represent any concerns or opinions fairly, even if they might be at odds with my own. I will endeavour to always act in the best interests of the people in the ward. Additionally I will maintain this website whereby my contact details are clearly stated, and which I will use to help pass on information and seek opinion.

You should vote for me as I will also take the responsibilities of being a councillor for the county very seriously.

I will take an active part in all meetings and debates, and be well prepared for them. I will encourage the council to take a proactive yet prudent approach to development, and discourage unnecessary regulation. I will support imaginative use of ring-fenced funding and posts to derive maximum benefit for Orkney. I will also encourage the council to pursue best practice and joint working with other agencies within Orkney to safeguard local control. I will maintain an open mind to all issues and judge them on their facts. Again I will strive to communicate clearly and effectively.

You should vote for me as I have the experience and track record to do this well

My experience gained in research and project management as demonstrated in my CV shows I am adept at clear thinking and problem solving. My knowledge of Kirkwall in particular and Orkney in general, and work with community groups, means that I know the area and people and what the issues and expectations are. My work with businesses, public sector agencies and on international projects means that I understand how to work effectively in this wide range of situations. My experience in representation means that I will take my opportunity to get my point across, which might well be your point as well.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Why I'm standing

I'm standing because I believe that Orkney needs a dynamic forward-thinking council to tackle current and future issues, and to fight for a fairer deal for Orkney and against loss of control of more of our services through centralisation.

As my entire career has focussed on problem solving and project management I feel I can offer new and well reasoned thinking, and a wide breadth of relevant experience particularly with regard to economic development.

Equally, as a public-spirited resident of Kirkwall I am concerned about the local issues such as schools, traffic, facilities for young people, personal care, and the Shore Street oil tanks,and keen to vigorously represent the interests and opinions of all the people who live here.

My long term willingness to get involved is demonstrated by my participation on the Papdale School Board over the last 6 years, and the Kirkwall Community Council and Orkney College Management Council for the last 4 years.

The change in payments for councillors now makes it possible for younger economically active people (such as myself!) to participate in the council, and make it more genuinely representative of the electorate. Whilst this enables me to stand it is unlikely to cover the reduction in income from scaling back my business involvement if I am elected. But that's OK, I'm not motivated by thinking this might be a nice hobby or might supplement my income. I am motivated by wanting to do a good job for the people of Kirkwall and Orkney,and for that job to be interesting- in a good way!

I’m grateful to live here, and I want to do all I can to make sure it’s a great place for my son to grow up in, and for me and mine to grow old and retire in.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Let me introduce myself

I'm Steven Heddle, aged 42, 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 founded 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 has 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've advised hundreds of Orkney businesses and OE/HIE Orkney itself, on IT, e-commerce and telecoms issues, and developed projects such as Orkneycommunities.co.uk and the Orkney Business Directory and Access Guide. I'm also the webmaster of Orkneycommunities.co.uk, and look after the highly popular Orkney Image Library.

Interests include music, cycling, football, snooker, photography and sailing. I'm married with one son.