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 orkneycommunities.co.uk and allaboutorkney.com 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 www.kw15.co.uk."

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 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. Over the last couple of years I've developed my own local news project, AllAboutOrkney.com.

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!