Support for local papers

Today I asked the Chief Executive of Dundee City Council whether the council planned to respond to the current consultation regarding public notices being published only online.

We have to recognise in the twenty-first century that increasing numbers of people do use the internet to access information but not everyone does. I think that there is a very strong case for the publication of public notices in newspapers. Lots of people do not use the internet on a regular basis and some do not have the skills to use it, public notices in newspapers ensures that more people get a chance to read the notice. Local newspapers are also available to consult, free of charge, in our excellent libraries.

It is hugely important that councils are transparent in their dealings with the people they serve. Councils must be doing everything they can to ensure that the public, whom we are meant to serve, have the best information about the work of the council.

I was interested in the result of the debate in the Scottish Parliament today, when MSPs voted against this proposal. I think that it is also important that Dundee City Council makes its views known on this issue and I do hope that we will be given that opportunity.

The consultation can be found here, you can also click on the photograph at the top of this posting to find out how the Courier reported on this issue.


Dundee City Council Committees 25 January 2010

Monday evening saw a meeting of various committees of Dundee City Council, to examine the agendas click here.

The Policy and Resources committee considered the council's response towards Tayside Fire and Rescue's consultation Towards a Safer Tayside. We listened to delegations from the Fire Brigades' Union and from the Chief Fire Officer. A number of councillors made their views known and then the council agreed to put forward the proposal which my colleague
Laurie Bidwell was putting forward, namely that the City Council express its disapproval of the proposals at Balmossie. As a member of the Fire and Rescue Board I will be listening to all the views expressed in the consultation and will take all comments on board prior to the vote at the end of March. As I have said elsewhere if you are interested in this issue I urge you to look at the consultation document and to respond to it, the link is above.

The Policy and Resources committee heard another delegation this time from
DEAP. DEAP is the Dundee Employment Aftercare Project, due to cuts pushed through by the SNP ADminisitration in Dundee DEAP are to lose funding. Bizarrely this delegation was heard in private after the SNP-John Letford alliance voted to exclude the public and the press from the meeting. This project aims to get people back into employment and it is strange that it is being cut at a time when getting people working is a priority. Jobs should be the priority right now.

The Leisure, Arts and Communities Committee considered a report about changes to library opening hours, firstly I want to commend officers who run an excellent service in our libraries. Our libraries are excellent facilities serving communities across our city. We should be celebrating libraries and investing in them. I also want to pay tribute to the people who work in the council's libraries, who work hard to make these places welcoming and responsive to local needs.

I had a few concerns about this report. I think that more could have been done to listen to the views of library users. I hope that if these changes to opening hours go through that they will be reviewed to ensure that if there is a detrimental effect on library attendance that remedial action will be taken. I have read the report and listened to what officers have to say on this report. They are convinced that these changes represent on balance an improvement in the service. I would want there to be a review of this after the changes have been in place for six months or a year.

The theme of the report is about improving the service; therefore I believe that any savings should be invested in the service. If we are about improving service we should invest in library materials such as books and that is what I think the council should do.

Now is the time for clarity not for sophistry, if as the report says we are about improving the library service then we should invest in our libraries. If it was really about cuts to keep the council tax low then the council should have been told that.

The Leisure, Arts and Communities Committee also considered a report about the future of Caird Park Velodrome which would give more control over the velodrome to cycling clubs. I welcomed this report; I think that it is a very interesting proposal. A proposal which we should pay close attention to. If this proposal is successful then I think that there is scope for developing similar proposals with other sporting groups across the city.

I have visited the Velodrome on a number of occasions and I have met with Discovering Cycling Club on a number of occasions. They do an excellent job promoting cycling in Dundee.

Given that Dundee is home to one of the only two (soon to be three) velodromes in Scotland I think that we should be investing in these services.

I hope that the council will work in tandem with Discovery Cycling Club and the cycling community in general to develop an effective organisation to provide excellent cycling facilities in Dundee.

Empowering local people to manage facilities is what we should be doing. I think that once this partnership is up and running we should be encouraging other clubs and organisations to look at ways in which they can form charitable organisations, co-operatives or partnerships which could take on the management of facilities.

I was also disappointed that the Administration pushed through proposals to increase council house rents by 4%. My group supported proposals to limit the increase to 3%. I think that the increase proposed is too high.