Labour Group Leader, Councillor Kevin Keenan said, 'I read in the press this morning that answers were not forthcoming from the Administration in relation to detail of their proposed budget cuts. I hope, as I am writing this Press Release, that this has been resolved, as I would not like to think that the Leader of the Administration, Mr Ken Guild, was in any way trying to mislead Councillors and the citizens of Dundee as he and his other colleagues went to great lengths to explain that every detail of these proposals had been looked into and they were well aware of the impact.'
'On Monday evening, I was very disappointed in the Administration as they looked to have been revelling in the thoughts of the cuts that they are proposing. This looked to me to be somewhat irresponsible.'
'Each of the Labour Group's Shadow Spokespersons will write directly to the Conveners of their respective Departments to hold them accountable. We shall be asking for a detailed report, an explanation of each of the bullet points mentioned in the 20+ page document that the SNP issued as their policy for the City's future.'
'We shall be expecting a very detailed explanation and we would be wishing to be re-assured that every aspect of these policies has been fully impact assessed and a full explanation be given as to how they will, at minimum maintain services, in particular Education and Social Work.'
'In Education, over £4.5million worth of cuts on top of John Swinney's proposals that I believe will harm the Education Service in our City and therefore look forward to receiving every re-assurance from Cllr Fordyce, Convener of Education.'
'In Social Work's proposals it mentions a re-design of Adolescent Services, this is a terminology that, to my knowledge, has not been used by Dundee City Council before. Therefore, I wonder what they are trying to hide? We only have to look at the additional funds that have gone into Children's Services from Dundee City Council and its Partners, NHS Tayside and Tayside Police in the aftermath of the very poor HMI(e) Report to wonder how any credible saving can be taken from any area of Social Work. Again, we await the detailed response from Cllr Barrie.'
'The Administration needs to give the citizens of Dundee full details of what these one liners are, as these one liners, in normal circumstances, would be ruled incompetent.'
'We will firstly seek this information from the respective Conveners as it is their political policy that now drives this City. Should be be unhappy, we will take this up directly with the Officers that the Administration will expect to jump through hoops and deliver these cuts on their behalf with so many less of a workforce to make it happen with.'
I am committed to doing what I can to protect public services and deliver the best possible outcome for the people of Dundee and the staff of Dundee City Council. I am seeking a briefing from the Convener of Leisure, Arts and Communities about the impact of cuts in the Leisure & Communities Department.
Much more detail is required and the Administration must face up to the fact that councillors from a variety of parties who represent the majority of first-preference voters in the 2007 Dundee City Council election have not been convinced to take part in closed-door meetings. To show true leadership and put the best interests of the city first the Administration should be considering a new approach that is acceptable to the other parties in the City Council.
If you have any questions or comments about these proposals please do not hesitate to get in touch with me.
I am concerned about reports which suggest that the future of RAF Leuchars is under threat. I hope that this possible closure does not have a detrimental impact on the defence of the UK. I am seeking information about the potential impact on the Dundee economy. I presume that there are a number of Dundee businesses which receive orders from RAF Leuchars and its associated workforce.
I am also concerned that there have been suggestions that RAF Leuchars could be used as a commercial airport, with the likes of Ryanair operating from it. Such a proposal might actually be good for Dundee but I think it is important that we consider all the implications. If Leuchars was operating as an airport what would the impact be on future of Dundee Airport? Dundee Airport is important for Dundee's business and academic community and makes a contribution to the economic development of the city. The City Council while not now operating Dundee Airport has invested money in the airport over many years, it is important that the impact on the investment which the council has made is considered.
I am seeking a meeting to look at the ways in which the city is promoted. I am particularly keen to find out how areas such as South Tay Street and the West Port are promoted. The UK Government's decision to increase VAT caused an increase in the cost of off-street car parking. I was not convinced that this should also mean an increase in the cost of on-street car parking which are VAT exempt and that is why I voted against the increase. Since the decision was made I have been approached by a number of businesses in the West End who are concerned that this will have a detrimental impact on their trade. Some are already feeling that times are tough as a result of the economic situation and the recent poor weather has not helped. I am keen that the council does all it can to help the economic development of the city and I want to hear what officers of the council are already doing and look at ways in which further assistance can be given.
I welcome the opening of this new line between Bathgate and Airdrie. I support improving the rail system in Scotland. I think that some consideration should be given to promoting further rail improvements around Dundee. I want to look at the frequency of services to Scotland's other cities, I want to ensure that direct services continue between Dundee and England, I want to see if we can get more regular services which stop at all the stations along the Tay Estuary. I was pleased that the City Council decided last week to make its voice heard about the need for Network Rail to support the Tay Estuary Rail Study. I think that this is a scheme that has a great deal of merit and that Network Rail and others should be looking to see how and when it could be implemented.
I have been campaigning for an improved railway station in Dundee, it is just as important to deliver improved rail services to Dundee and I hope that over the next few years the council, Network Rail, the train operating companies and the Scottish and the UK Governments will work together to deliver these which would be in the best interests of our city and our country.
Labour leader Iain Gray has commented upon this resignation:
“Scotland had lost confidence in the Transport Minister and it was only right that he should resign. The First Minister should not have stretched the issue out over the last week and acted more decisively at an earlier stage.
"Labour had also contacted the Scottish government asking for a meeting so we can contribute suggestions as to how we can help improve the response to severe weather warnings and we hope for a positive response from the First Minister. “
The weather has been better over the last couple of days but there is still much to be done to clear up the snow and ice from streets in Dundee and beyond. There are also reports, which I hope that the new minister has watched, that snow and ice may return towards the end of the week. The country must deal better with poor weather over the rest of the winter.
LABOUR ANNOUNCE EXPERT GROUP TO ADVISE ON NATIONAL CARE SERVICE
Scottish Labour Leader Iain Gray has announced the next step in the most ambitious reform of elderly care in Scotland since the creation of the NHS. Labour intends to create a National Care Service within the lifetime of the next Parliament.
At a press conference in Glasgow, Mr Gray announced the membership and remit of the Expert Group on Future Options for Social Care, which will be chaired by Sir John Arbuthnott, to advise on the creation of the new service.
The Expert Panel will undertake a series of ‘listening exercises’ across Scotland and produce a report by April next year setting out the principles that will underpin a National Care Service and how it will improve the experience of people requiring care, their carers and their families.
Scottish Labour Leader Iain Gray said:
“Almost every family in Scotland will know what it is like to care for an elderly relative. It can mean a daily battle with the NHS or social work for services that vary enormously across the country. Scottish Labour introduced Free Personal Care for the elderly and we are proud of that. But the time has come to improve the delivery and consistency of care.
“I want Scotland to have a National Care Service on which our people can depend within the lifetime of the next Parliament. This is about the local delivery of national standards of care and an end to the postcode lottery. Just as our predecessors rose to the challenge of the last century and created the NHS, we must rise to the challenge of the twenty-first century and ensure our elderly and disabled citizens receive the social care they need.
“The involvement of people of the calibre of Sir John Arbuthnott, and the other members of the panel, shows how seriously we are taking this challenge to improve the experience of people requiring care, their carers and their families.”
Sir John Arbuthnott said:
“This is one of the greatest challenges facing society in coming years. The rapid increase in the older population is fully recognised. The help and support that assures the wellbeing of older people and allows them to participate as fully as possible in their communities is a priority. They have much to offer in wisdom and experience.
“Colleagues on the expert group have longstanding experience in providing care and treatment for this age group. But we will also welcome the the views of the voluntary sector, including churches, faith groups as well as of families who provide much of the front line love and care. The views of older people are also central.
“It is time to revisit the way in which the balance of treatment, care and wellbeing is provided to best effect.”
EXPERT GROUP ON FUTURE OPTIONS FOR SOCIAL CARE
At the Labour Party Scottish Conference held in Oban in October 2010, Iain Gray announced our intention to establish a National Care Service. To assist in that task we agreed to set up an expert panel, led by Sir John Arbuthnott.
Title and Remit
The expert panel should be called The Expert Group on Future Options for Social Care.
The remit is as undernoted:
To make recommendations on the establishment of a National Care Service for Scotland; recognising the need to shift the balance of care to community settings; acknowledging the important role of carers and all care providers; ensuring an equally high and fair standard of care across the country, and improving the experience for people requiring care, their families and their carers.
The Expert Group will be expected to specifically consider:
- the funding available for a merged social care budget from both local authorities and health
- future needs and demographic trends
- governance arrangements for a national care service based on reform of CHCPs
- the role of all care providers
- the scope for including services for those with learning disabilities, physical disabilities and mental health issues alongside older people’s services
- managing the transition from the existing pattern of service to the new national care service.
The Expert Group will be chaired by Sir John Arbuthnott.
He will be joined by David Manion, Chief Executive of Age Scotland and Councillor Harry McGuigan as announced at Conference.
In addition, the following have agreed to be members:
Dr Alistair Noble – GP
Professor Brian Williams – Royal College of Physicians, former Consultant Geriatrician
Professor June Andrews – Dementia Development Centre, Stirling University
Peter Scott – Chief Executive, Enable Scotland
Hugh Clarke – Retired Head of Fieldwork Services, Glasgow City Council Social Work Services.
All Group members are serving in an independent expert capacity.
It is proposed that the initial output of the Group will be a short paper setting out the principles that would underpin a National Care Service. This would be available at the end of March/beginning of April.
In the period leading up to this, there would be 4 ‘listening sessions’ – one in January, two in February and one in March. At least one will be held outside the central belt, probably in Inverness.
I was very disappointed to see the result of the tuition fees debate today. I am appalled at the violence which has taken place, I'm not sure that it helps to make the case. It is clear that politicians should not make promises that they will not keep. The Lib Dems could have argued their case. Politics is about choices, yes these are difficult financial times but this was a choice to cut higher education funding in England (and this will have a knock-on effect due to the Barnett formula).
Labour's Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland Ann McKechin MP has commented on this;
“Tonight will be seen as a betrayal of young people throughout the United Kingdom.
“The impact of the decision will damage higher education not just in England but in Scotland too and we should not let the LibDems and Tories forget that.
“After the countless promises made by Liberal Democrats against fees increases it not just a black day for education but also one for honesty in politics.
“We are now moving to a system where England will have the highest public university fees of any industrialised nation in the world and Scotland will also take a huge hit in funding. Access to higher education will be set back for a generation. This Government has comprehensively failed to protect the future for our younger generation.”
John Denham who made an excellent speech in the House of Commons has also commented upon the vote tonight.
The video here shows a video of Dundee University Rector Brian Cox discussing his views on university funding. I think that his idea of everyone involved in university life joining together to discuss how to fund universities and student support.
My colleagues in the Labour Group and I are concerned that we are not getting enough information about the future of council services. We moved to defer spending on education department's Music Centre until we had a full report on all property related issues in education and also the full council budget. The report before us tonight was flimsy and did not make the case that the spending was unavoidable. I was pleased that the Chief Executive restated that he has made representations to ensure that HMI(e) and Learning and Teaching Scotland jobs should be retained in Dundee if the merger goes through.
At the City Development Committee I was pleased to see a report on future rail services in Scotland. I agree with the report that we need to ensure that the Tay Estuary Rail Study should be treated seriously by Network Rail and the Scottish Government. I am committed to working with anyone to try and bring better rail services to Dundee.
I was disappointed that the Administration pushed through plans to increase car parking charges both for off street car parking which is being forced on us by the Con Dem government's increase in VAT. Unfortunately the Administration pushed through on the Convener's casting vote plans to increase on-street parking charges. This was not necessary as there is no VAT on these charges.
The Social Work and Health Committee considered a very interesting report on a Charter of Rights for People with Dementia. This comes from the Cross-Party Group in the Scottish Parliament on Alzheimer's which is chaired by my colleague Irene Oldfather MSP. There was an excellent report from the Care Commission on the Out and About Support Service. I am clear that this report should have been sent to Scrutiny Committee rather than the Social Work and Health Committee. I was also disappointed that proposals were made to change the Elms Close Support unit. Again I think that any changes to this needed to consider the whole picture of where the council is going I do not feel that was available to the committee this evening.
I am very sorry to hear that Bishop Vincent Logan has tendered his resignation as Bishop of Dunkeld. He has done a great deal of good work not just for the Catholic community in Dundee and throughout Scotland.
I first met Bishop Logan when I was an undergraduate student, he was also a great help to me when I was researching for my PhD and made a number of church resources and historic records available to me. He was always very interested in my historical research into nineteenth-century Dundee.
When I was National Secretary of the Bishops' Conference of Scotland's Justice and Peace Commission Bishop Vincent was always very supportive. He has always had a strong vision of the importance of promoting justice and peace.
Bishop Vincent has served the Catholic Church well in his role and he has also played a wider role than that in the life of the city of Dundee and the wider area of Dunkeld Diocese and right across Scotland.
I hope that Bishop Vincent's health improves and that he has a long and happy retirement.
I was also sad to hear of the untimely death of the former Bishop of Brechin John Mantle, he had served his diocese well and also the wider community in Tayside.
I am appalled to hear about the spate of vandalism to cars in Windsor Street and Place and in Magdalen Yard Road, it is galling to hear of other incidents of such vandalism across Dundee. I hope that the culprits are caught and punished appropriately. I will be speaking to Tayside Police to find out what actions they are taking. Nobody wants to have to pay for repairs to vandalism at any time of the year but this is a particularly bad time for people to have extra expense. I hope that anyone who has information about vandalism takes appropriate action and contact the police.
Today is World AIDS Day. I think that the international community must keep working towards effectively dealing with HIV/AIDS. The UN has made a number of statements about the issue. I support Christian Aid's campaigns to put pressure on government's across the world to maintain their investment in the campaign against HIV/AIDS.
It is a great day to celebrate our patron saint and think about the future of our country. I think that it is a shame Scotland does not celebrate our patron saint as much as some other countries.
Labour's leaders Ed Miliband and Iain Gray have issued a joint St Andrew's Day message. The UK Government has today published its proposals to implement the Calman proposals. These are to be largely welcomed by everyone with Scotland's best interests at heart. I will be keeping a close eye on the progress of this legislation.
I have contacted the police about the outbreak of graffiti mainly at shops on the Perth Road. It is really disappointing that this has happened. There should be zero tolerance of graffiti. I hope that the police can identify the culprits and take appropriate action. I have also contacted the City Council seeking to get action taken against the graffiti. We all have a job to do against vandalism. We should not tolerate it, we should report any suspicions to the police. The City Council's Waste Management team have said that they will attempt to deal with this graffiti soon.
The Education Committee had a long debate about the proposals to relocate Eastern Primary adjacent to Grove Academy I was pleased that the Administration eventually gave into the concerns of local Ferry councillors such as my colleague Laurie Bidwell and Bailies Scott and Wallace. Road safety is obviously very important and we should be very concerned about it. I was happy to support progress on Harris Academy's refurbishment.
The City Development Committee agreed to look at design and engineering for a new station concourse at Dundee Railway Station.
The Social Work and Health Committee looked at the important issue of children in residential care. It also looked at reports on the quality of private and voluntary sector care homes. The quality of these is important, we should be giving the best to the elderly and to vulnerable adults.
I welcome the fact that the City Council's Education Committee will be discussing the issue of forming a project board for the refurbishment of Harris Academy at its meeting tonight. Progress is required on this important project. It is a shame that it has taken so long for progress to happen. This is largely due to the Scottish Government insisting on using the Scottish Futures Trust as the funding model. This model has yet to lay a single brick. Now the model has been changed into what trade unions describe as 'PFI in all but name' we might see progress. I am disappointed for the staff, pupils and parents associated with Harris Academy that progress has not been made before now, I am also disappointed for those in the construction industry that progress has not been made before now. The Labour Group is prepared to work with the Administration to bring forward these plans sooner than is currently envisaged.
I would also like to wish the McManus well in the Doolan Prize which is awarded tonight.
I will contacting both the Council's Chief Executive and the Director of Leisure and Communities to seek reassurance over the future of the Mills Observatory. The Observatory is unique in being built to promote public understanding of science. I know from personal experience how much it is loved by children and young people. I want to ensure that its future is protected.
I understand that these are difficult economic times but I do not think that this is an excuse to downgrade the Mills. I am open to discussions about how the observatory is managed but the bottom line is that it must remain in public ownership and remain free to the public.
I am appalled that as the local councillor and opposition spokesperson for Leisure, Arts and Communities I have to read about the council's plans in the newspapers. This demonstrates how poorly thought out the Administration and the officers secret meeting programme is. The council should be up front with the changes it proposes and allow the people of Dundee to know what it is planning to do. The City Council's values state that we will 'Inform, consult and involve users of council services about what the Council is doing and how it is performing.' It also states that we will 'Efficiently utilise our resources to provide the standards of public service expected by citizens and at an acceptable cost.' I do not think that the council is doing either of these at the moment.
The Mills is an excellent resource for the city, it is great place to visit; it promotes interest in science helping in education, I am keen that it remains that way for many years to come.
I am pleased that Nobel Laureate and Freeman of the City of Dundee Aung San Suu Kyi has been released in Burma. There are still over 2000 political prisoners in Burma and they should be released. Releasing Aung San Suu Kyi does not hide the fact that the recent elections in Burma were a sham. The international community should continue to put pressure on the Burmese generals to enter into a genuine dialogue with Aung San Suu Kyi and various ethnic groups to deliver a genuine and long lasting settlement in Burma.
I support the work of the Burma Campaign UK. I am really pleased that Dundee has given the Freedom of the City of Dundee to Aung San Suu Kyi. The Council called for her release and it is good that she has been released but this is not the end of the issue.
I was pleased to join Marlyn Glen and Jim McGovern, Labour councillors in supporting Shelter Scotland's campaign to 'Make Housing Matter.' This campaign calls for the Scottish Government to ensure that housing is given prominence in the budget announced next week. It was good to see that the Convener of Housing, the SNP's Jimmy Black also supported this campaign.
I will leave the rights and wrongs of leaking budget details to others and I will also not linger too long on the fact that the Scottish Government has previously scrapped major capital spending projects but if there is a chance that a refurbished Harris Academy can be delivered sooner then I want that to happen. I know that parents, pupils and staff were disappointed when the refurbishment was put back two years. If Mr Swinney wants to spend on capital projects then I would strongly make the case that Harris Academy should be one of the projects considered. I think that the refurbishment of Harris Academy would be good for the Dundee economy and bring much needed work to the construction industry in Dundee. Importantly it would also deliver a learning and teaching environment fit for the twenty-first century for the pupils and staff at Harris Academy.
I am pleased that the Chief Executive of the City Council will be making representations to the Scottish Government to make the case to retain these jobs in Dundee. Dundee does not have its fair share of Scottish Government jobs I would be hugely disappointed if the city lost some of those which are already here. Dundee is a main centre for Learning and teaching Scotland, if this merger goes ahead I want to see a main centre for the new body in Dundee. In the current economic climate promoting jobs must be the top priority.
Please find below a copy of the response which I have received from Dundee City Council Chief Executive David Dorward:
'Thank you for your e-mail. I plan to write to the Scottish Government next week asking that the amalgamated new body continue to have their main offices in Dundee.
I understand why many headstones have warning markers affixed to them but it is clear that in many cases the ownership is unknown or so distant that nothing will come of it. Headstones are an important record of the history of the city, we should do all we can to preserve these historic records.
The Policy and Resources Committee considered a report about bringing the plans for a new Olympia to fruition. This is the Administration delivering a Labour manifesto commitment.
I welcome this progress on this building. It will be good deliver a modern facility for the people of Dundee. I also hope that this facility will attract people into the city from further afield and that families will visit Dundee to see exhibitions at the V & A and then go for a swim in the New Olympia.
I had a couple of questions have we done everything in our power to ensure that Dundee workers and Dundee businesses are used. This will be a major boost for the construction industry I hope that boost is felt in the Dundee economy. Also have we allowed enough in the budget to deal with all possible contingencies.
Also in Policy and Resources Committee, I was pleased to support my colleague Laurie Bidwell in his motion against changes, which are in effect a cut in Working Families Tax Credit.
Call for Effects of Changes to Tax Credits on Council Staff to be Investigated
In George Osborne's Budget in June and his comprehensive Spending Review in October there were a cluster of changes announced in the qualifying conditions to Tax Credits. Tax Credits are paid by the government through the payroll, to workers on low incomes. Changes to the regulations look likely to disqualify some existing staff members from their current entitlement to tax credits. That is why Labour Councillors Laurie Bidwell and Richard McCready have placed this on the agenda of the City Council's Policy and Resources Committee on Monday evening. They will be bringing forward a motion to get the Council to assess the position of staff who may be affected in these changes.
Councillor Laurie Bidwell said:
"A significant number of Council staff job share or undertake part time work. Taken together, all these changes to Tax Credits may make a significant difference to many of our staff; especially if they lose entitlement to Tax Credits and through this help towards child care costs. While some of these changes are more than a year ahead, it is not too soon for the Council to investigate the likely impact of these changes on its own staff and assess what might be done to help staff retain their entitlement to Tax Credits. I think this is the least that the Council can do as a major and responsible employer. Maximising the income of staff from wages and benefits is not only good for our staff and their families but also good for the economy of the city."
Councillor Richard McCready said,
"The Council has a duty to ensure that employees are rewarded for their efforts and that parents are able to work to support their families. I am very concerned about the accumulative effect of these changes to tax credits.'
“This venture promises to transform the Dundee waterfront and I am confident it will become a mecca for the Arts sector in Scotland.
“I have made my support for this project clear and I will continue to argue strongly for government support for the V&A Museum.
“The Arts sector is critical to create the economic growth in Scotland and this kind of project is what the country needs to help lift us out of recession.”
I am committed to being a champion for the V & A at Dundee and playing my part in delivering this important project for our city.
I addressed the Labour conference in Oban on Sunday and gave my own commitment to work to ensure that the V & A project comes to fruition. Scottish Labour's Culture spokesperson Pauline McNeill MSP also committed herself to delivering the V & A.
I am delighted that Scottish Labour will pledge to support the V & A at Dundee project in the manifesto for next year's election. I will be a strong voice making the case for Dundee, making the case for the V & A at Dundee.
You can read my speech to the Scottish Labour Party conference here.