Dundee City Council Meetings 7 December 2009

The City Council and its various committees met on Monday evening. The agendas can be found on the City Council's website. I spoke on a number of issues.

Harris Academy

The Education Committee considered an Agenda note on Harris Academy. Like everyone else I welcome investment in Harris Academy. Clearly there is a very strong case for refurbishing Harris Academy and I know that people in the West End and beyond are very pleased that this work will go ahead.

I am disappointed about this agenda note. I do think that this committee requires a fuller report. Collectively we need to ensure that we are making the best use of the resources available to refurbish Harris Academy; on the basis of this agenda note I am not sure that we can make an informed decision. It is important to remember that this is at a time when the Scottish Government has been unable to deliver some of its key pledges in education apparently from not sharing the full information with the whole cabinet; I think that this agenda note leaves us in a similar position. Further on in Monday's agenda the Social Work and Health Committee approved spending £38,000 - to explain this spend there is a 3 page report. I look forward to receiving further information, it is disappointing that the Education Committee did not receive a full report.

Civil Service Jobs

The City Development Committee considered a report on the campaign to get civil service jobs for Dundee. The policy of dispersing Civil Service jobs from Edinburgh was instigated by Donald Dewar. Clearly Dundee could have received more jobs but the truth is that it received some. The policy of the current Scottish Government is that it will receive none. This is a policy which has been 'kicked into the long grass.'

Shona Robison MSP said, 'There have been a lot of warm words, but little is being delivered.' I am sure that the Convener means to deliver more than warm words, perhaps it is Scottish Government ministers, including Shona Robison who are preventing the SNP-John Letford Administration from campaigning for Dundee.

The Scottish Parliament is currently considering the Public Services Reform Bill; I called on the Convener to join me in calling for the new body that emerges from current Public Services Reform Bill to replace the Care Commission to be based in Dundee.

Outdoor Play Strategy

The Leisure, Arts and Communities Committee considered a report on outdoor play, I said, 'I welcome this report which recognises how important these outdoor areas are to our city. I commend the department for taking this policy area very seriously. It is crucial to recognise as the report does the legal rights of children and young people to access play. It is also imperative that we recognise as does the report the health and educational benefits of providing good quality play and outdoor areas.

I would be grateful if the officers could provide answers to a few questions.
1. What is being done to ensure that children and young people with disabilities or with access problems can access appropriate play equipment?
2. Are there any plans divest the council of public play areas?
3. On page 7 of the report before us it talks about schools opening up their outdoor spaces for casual and organised play after school and during holidays, could we have some idea of how that policy will be taken forward?'

The Convener confirmed that there are no plans to divest the council of play areas. Officers told me that they give consideration to access issues when redeveloping play areas. Officers also told me that there were no clear plans about how to ensure the use of education department resources for outdoor play. I will be pursuing this further.

Dementia Strategy

The Social Work Committee considered a report on dementia strategy. I said, 'This report and its approach is to be welcomed. Anyone who has experienced a relative or friend suffering from these terrible conditions will know how important it is to get policy right in this area. We must give support to those with dementia and give support to their families and carers. I particularly welcome the individual focus of this report. There is no one-size fits all approach here and I welcome that. It is important to respect the independence and dignity of people with dementia.

As I have said I welcome this report; its sets out ambitious targets could I ask if you are convinced that the funding is in place to deliver all these targets?' Officers assured me that they are satisfied that they can deliver on these targets.

West End Schools Project

I asked the Director of Finance about the spending which had gone on so far on the West End Schools Project. She assured me that the spending so far had been on design and on geo-technical work. She also said that no further spending would go on until an answer had been received from the Scottish Government with regard to the size of the site.

West End Local Community Planning Partnership

I supported plans to give the West End Community Planning Partnership (and the Ferry LCPP) equal status to the other six in the city. This was voted down by the administration.