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


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.


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!


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...