Labour launch consultation document ahead of council elections

Edinburgh Labour today launched its Moving Edinburgh Forward consultation document ahead of the 2012 local council elections.

The document, which was unveiled along with the group’s full list of candidates for next May’s poll, endorses a move towards a co-operative method of local government in the city. The party promise to engage with local communities and to involve all political parties in decision-making under their plans.

Speaking at the launch Labour group leader, Andrew Burns, stressed the benefits of a co-operative council and dismissed any similarities to David Cameron’s ‘Big Society’. Burns said:- “ A co-operative council is in essence a council that does things with its communities, as opposed to doing things to its communities. Ed Milliband signed up to the co-operative model long before Cameron’s big society was launched. It’s more John Lewis than Easy Jet.”

 The document highlights a number of areas which could be implemented in a co-operative manner. These include setting up a ‘childcare co-op’, the re-introduction of community newspapers and giving local sports clubs a role in running the pitches and pavilions they use.

Burns feels that the party is showing commitment to the city by launching a consultative document six months ahead of the elections, and by being the first group from any party in Scotland to select all its candidates.  Burns said: –  “It is an absolute statement of our intent to move Edinburgh forward at next May’s local elections.

 ”We are taking a really bold step today. We are opening up a public dialogue about our ideas and our visions a full six months before the election. I think it is a completely unprecedented move.”

As well as consulting local residents, the party pledges to involve councillors from across the political spectrum in any decisions under a Labour-led administration. On the prospect of working with the Lib Dems under Jenny Dawe or Steve Cardownie’s SNP Burns said:- “I rule out nothing. It is down to the members of the public to make the decision. We will do what is right for Edinburgh.”

Original here – http://www.theedinburghreporter.co.uk/2011/11/labour-launch-consultation-document-ahead-of-council-elections/

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Sketch – The strange case of the Gray hard man

By Andy Mackie

14/03/2011

Celebrity dancer Anne Widdecombe once said that there was ‘something of the night’ about Michael Howard. That being the case then many would say there is something of wet afternoon in Saltcoats about Scottish Labour leader Iain Gray.  With a Scottish election coming up that could be a serious problem for the Labour party’s hopes of forming the next administration.

As recently as last month a poll in the Scotsman found that fewer than 20% of the public could identify Gray’s picture. Set against the high profile of the SNP’s slick Eck – first minister Alex Salmond – Grays facelessness must be a major worry to party strategists. History tells us that, other than John Major, boring leaders do not win elections.

Gray is obviously trying to improve his image in the run up to May 5th. Unfortunately his performance in last weeks’ first minister’s questions suggests that his new image is of a faux hard man. Quizzing Eck over the NHS, always a fruitful subject for an opposition party, he started well enough pinning Eck down over waiting lists and operation cancellations. Things went awry when he offered to ‘take the first minister on any time’ over SNP and Labour’s respective records. Nothing wrong with a bit of confrontational politics it was just that Gray didn’t sound particularly convincing or threatening when he said it. Eck laughed, Nicola Sturgeon laughed and when Eck delivered his put down comparing Gray to Mr Angry even Conservative headteacher Annabel Goldie seemed to allow herself a small chuckle.

The Labour party of course still hold a sizeable lead in most polls, however, as we head into the nitty gritty of the election campaign Gray may yet find the road from Saltcoats to Bute House a rocky one.

Tartan tax

Alex Salmond and the late Donald Dewar in 1997

By Andy Mackie

John Swinney and the SNP government are set to come under attack today for letting Holyroods’ tax raising powers lapse.

The furore surrounding this has been intense and the SNP’s political adversaries have siezed upon the subject. However, getting past political bluster the decision in principle of refusing to pay £7m to maintain the ability to us e the tax raising powers is a sound one. Not least because none of the 4 major parties in Scotland have shown any inclination to use the powers.

Indeed 2 weeks ago when I wrote an article about the Scottish Green Partys’ proposal to use parliaments tax varying powers the responses I received from the major parties ranged from un enthusiastic to downright hostile. indeed the Lib Dems finance spokesman said: “The Green Party has no credibility at all. They have called for more and more expenditure but have not done as we did and identified the waste and bureaucracy that needs to be tackled. This should be the priority; not putting up taxes for low or medium earners to a grotesque amount as the Green Party are advocating.” Yet today the same Lib Dems who are part of the coalition government in Westminster are implementing swingeing cuts to jobs, public services and benefits are railing against a decision to not spend £7m to safeguard a power they have no intention of implementing.

This is not, however to let Swinney and the SNP off the hook. In his defence Swinney yesterday said that MSP’ could not be informed of every piece of information with parliament then MSP’s would need bigger briefcases. This is undoubtedly true but this was a rather large and fundamental piece of information. Furthermore it was on an issue that the SNP campaigned vigorously on back in 1997 and one which the public may well have been interested in.

It should also be noted that on November 10th, only two weeks ago, an SNP spokesperson had this to say on the tartan tax: “The SNP has no plans to implement the 3p tartan tax at present. We believe that it would have a negative effect on household budgets.” Surely the SNP press office knew that the tartan tax was not an option until at least 2013 at this point? Or was the reason they had no plans to implement it the fact that they, but not the Scottish public, knew it was not possible?

Greens back tartan tax

By Andy Mackie

The Scottish Green party is the first in Scotland to propose using  Holyrood’s tax raising powers.

A motion was passed at the party’s annual conference, held in Edinburgh at the weekend, to oppose cuts to services and to look at taxation as a tool to achieve this. Explaining this stance in the run up to next years Holyrood elections Patrick Harvie MSP said:  “We don’t want the electorate to be faced with five political parties proposing five different flavours of cuts. In doing this we have to acknowledge that, unfortunately, other ways of raising revenue have to be explored.”

Harvie acknowledged that the tax varying powers available are limited. He said: “You can only change the basic rate, I would love it if we could raise the higher rate making it a more progressive system.” Harvie added that the party would also be looking into ways of implementing local taxation. He said: “We will be looking at a broader range of local taxes that can be more progressive and ensure that those with the broadest shoulders do pay more.”

The other parties in Scotland, however, do not share the Greens enthusiasm for tax increases. Liberal Democrat Finance spokesperson Jeremy Purvis MSP said: “The Green Party has no credibility at all. They have called for more and more expenditure but have not done as we did and identified the waste and bureaucracy that needs to be tackled. This should be the priority; not putting up taxes for low or medium earners to a grotesque amount as the Green Party are advocating.”

The SNP pointed out that any tax increase would impact on all families their spokesperson said: “The SNP has no plans to implement the 3p tartan tax at present. We believe that it would have a negative effect on household budgets.”

The Scottish Labour party stopped short of ruling out the policy, a spokesperson said: “Labour will look carefully at all the evidence but there are practical difficulties with the Green’s proposals which would be hard to overcome.”

The Scottish Conservatives were unavailable for comment.