West End Christmas Week Launch - Dundee West Church Coffee Morning

This morning I attended the launch of West End Christmas week. The pictures show the balloon launch, children from local primaries have put their names on the balloons and the one which makes it the furthest will win a prize. The pictures show the scene before the launch and then the balloons disappearing into the sky.
I also visited the stalls at the community fair. It was good to see so many local organisations taking part. This was held in the recently refurbished halls of Dundee West Church. I also managed to visit the coffee morning organised by the Guild at Dundee West Church of Scotland. These were great community events and everyone involved in organising them deserves credit.


Scrutiny Committee

This afternoon I took part in a meeting of the City Council's Scrutiny Committee. This committee considered a range of reports on such things as the work of the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman and the Standards Commission, as well as HMIE reports on Dundee schools (including Downfield Primary pictured above) and Care Commission reports on young persons units run by the Social Work department and a respite unit run by the Social Work Department.

Queen's Speech

The Government set out its priorities for the next parliamentary session in the Queen's Speech today. There is an interesting briefing on it here. A very interesting video is also available.
The Government has clearly put building Britain's future at the heart of its programme. This package will lead to smarter, reformed and responsive government.
I am particularly pleased to see measures aimed at ending child poverty in this country by 2020. The bill to ban the use, production and transfer of cluster munitions is one that I welcome. The Energy Bill will protect the most vulnerable against rising energy prices and will develop low carbon energy and industry via the development of carbon capture and storage.
The Financial Services Bill will reform financial services to give consumers more protection and empower the Financial Services Authority and the Government to introduce tougher regulation of banks and their risky practices to protect the taxpayer.
I also think that the draft bills on House of Lords Reform and on International Development are to be welcomed. I support an elected second chamber and I have long worked for more progress toward the international commitment to spend 0.7% of gross national income on development assistance from 2013.


Future Jobs Fund

This afternoon I attended an event where Scotland Office Minister Ann McKechin MP heard about the work of the future jobs fund. The Future Jobs Fund is a UK Government scheme which aims to create jobs for young people. It was good to see that the SNP-led Administration in Dundee is able to see the benefits of the UK in providing jobs and training.

It was also good to see young people who are working hard to make the best of themselves, working hard to gain skills and experience. I would like to wish all the young people I met this afternoon all the very best and I hope that they find long-term employment soon.

TV Reception Problems

I have contacted the BBC with regard to TV reception problems experienced in the West End and beyond. Constituents have complained to me that they are experiencing poor reception on BBC1 on terrestrial TV.

A number of constituents have raised their concerns with me about the poor quality of the reception they are receiving from BBC1. Indeed as a local resident I have also been experiencing problems with TV reception on BBC1. I have contacted the BBC, and I have been reassured that they are aware of the problems and that they have been dealt with. My constituents need to know that these problems are being addressed and that there will be no repeat of this issue. I will be keeping an eye on this and I hope that these problems have been dealt with.


Development Quality Committee

Tonight there was a meeting of the City Council's Development Quality Committee. There were six planning applications to be discussed. I was pleased that the derelict former NCR building next to Dundee Ice Arena will be demolished as a result of tonight's meeting. I had to declare an interest as I had given my opinion on these proposals at a meeting of Dundee Ice Arena where I am a director. It was good to hear that this cannot take place unless the mural in that building is preserved appropriately.

Concern over inclusion of Balmossie in Fire Proposals

As I have said elsewhere I attended a meeting of the Tayside Fire and Rescue Board this morning. I raised my concerns about the inclusion of plans for changes to the service at Balmossie and Forfar fire stations. My concerns centre on the fact that a very similar proposal was rejected by the board in March of this year after the public made their views known in an extensive consultation. You can read the minutes of the March meeting here. I think that it is essential that people who take part in consultation processes should know that their views will be listened to and that their views matter. I issued the press release below.

Concern over inclusion of Balmossie in Fire Proposals

Councillor Richard McCready today made known his views on Tayside Fire and Rescue Board's proposals to make changes at Balmossie and Forfar Fire Stations. Councillor McCready is a member of Tayside Fire and Rescue Board and seconded a motion today which would have deleted references to Balmossie and Forfar from this year's Towards a Safer Tayside Document. He is disappointed that this move was defeated and that a number of Dundee councillors voted against this motion.

Councillor Richard McCready said, 'Last year the Fire and Rescue Board had a major success when there was a record response to the consultation. I also think that this made people think about the Fire Board and hopefully fire safety issues. I have made clear my views about this issue. In March of this year I think that the board made a clear decision. As we all know the public holds politicians and public bodies in a degree of contempt at the present time. I think by appearing keen to overturn a decision so recently made, made in part in response to the views of the public, we are making a mistake. This is not a party political issue. For myself I agree with Stewart Hosie MP when he said that March's decision on Balmossie 'was the right decision in the interests of community safety.' Whilst I am happy for the people of Tayside to make their views known in the consultation and I would urge them to do so I feel that the proposals for Balmossie should not go forward. In my view it is premature to bring this proposal forward.'

'I am disappointed by the outcome of today's vote. Now it is essential that people right across Tayside take part in this consultation and let the members of the Fire and Rescue Board know their views. The public's voice was clear last year I will be interested to see what has changed this year. I agree with Stewart Hosie's view that this issue was dealt with earlier this year and that this should not have been brought back so soon. It is a shame that Mr Hosie's city council colleagues did not agree with him.'

Tayside Fire and Rescue Board

This morning I attended a meeting of the Tayside Fire and Rescue Board in Forfar. The main item which will attract attention is the issue regarding the future of Balmossie Fire Station and I will discuss that elsewhere.

I raised a number of issues, on the accounts I asked the auditors if they felt that the board played a sufficient role in the monitoring spending and ensuring that public money is safeguarded. I was informed that we did but I think that it was worthwhile that they reminded the board of our responsibilities.

I also spoke about the board's Single Equality Scheme and Action Plan 2009-2012. I asked 'Can I ask how we intend to monitor this important area of work both internally as it impacts on staff and externally as they impact upon the people of Tayside?' I was told that reports would be made to the board in due course and that training was available to all staff.

Tayside Fire and Rescue is developing a Shared Services Initiative where some services are shared between different fire and rescue services. Clearly greater efficiency in local government is something that we should all support. There is also a mood about for shared services right across Scotland. I think it is important we continue to have effective local democratic control of services. I welcome the report but I would say that I believe we should continue to stress the importance of local democratic control. If a decision is to be made to reduce the number of Fire and Rescue Boards in Scotland it should be made by the Scottish Government and approved by the Scottish Parliament. You can read a report on this in the Press and Journal.