Harris Academy Prize Giving

I was very pleased to be invited to attend the Harris Academy Prize Giving this morning. There was a very interesting speech from Tony Finn of the General Teaching Council Scotland. It is always good to see young people being rewarded for their hard work. Clearly there is a great deal of talent in Harris Academy. I wish everyone associated with the Harris a very happy holiday and to those who left the school today I wish them all the very best for their future. Harris Academy does a great job for the pupils but it is clear that a new building is required. I hope that this happens soon.


Dundee Science Centre Sensation 10 years old

Tonight I attended a brief celebration of Dundee Science Centre Sensation's 10th birthday. Until last year I was a member of the board of directors of Sensation. Sensation is an excellent place to visit, it also does an excellent job in promoting science education. The promotion of science is crucial to the future of the Dundee. Jobs related to science and technology are crucial to the future economy of our city. We must compete at the highest level and must utilise the scientific knowledge which is available in Dundee.
Sensation is well worth a visit, they do a great job and have exciting plans for the future.


Improvement and Efficiency Sub-Committee

This morning I attended a meeting of the Improvement and Efficiency Sub-Committee. I raised a couple of questions. On the first report I asked questions about the performance indicator on 'Number of Learning Centre users as a % of the population.' The Leisure and Communities Department point out that many people use their own computing devices on the wireless networks available in libraries and community centres. Currently they are unable to quantify how many people log on in this manner I asked whether it would be possible to quantify this. I was told that the department didn't know but that they were actively looking into this. I also noted that the intention was not to use this as a performance indicator in the future. I sought some clarification on this as I was concerned that we were dropping an indicator mostly because it was going in the wrong direction. I was reassured that this was not the case.

On the second report I asked questions about equality impact assessments. I am concerned that the Best Value 2 Audit highlighted this as an area where there is a need for improvement. I asked about this and pointed out that I had searched the City Council's website and had found information that was old, dating from 2007. I was told that there was more recent information available online and that I must have come across old information. I was grateful to be told by officers that they would tidy-up the website and ensure that only current information was available. The information I was talking about is here. In these times of change and even cuts in local government I believe that it is crucial that we take Equality Impact Assessment seriously. We need to ameliorate the actions which the council will take, we must ensure that the poorest and weakest are not hit disproportionately. As a Labour councillor I will try my best to ensure that we protect the poorest and weakest in our city.

Friary public meeting

Along with my ward colleague Councillor Jim Barrie I attended a meeting of parishioners at St Francis Friary. I am concerned about the future of this site. Clearly many local people are very upset about the decision which has been taken to close the church. I was very happy to accept the invitation from my constituents to attend this very well-attended meeting. The City Council has no locus in the decision to close the church, however the council does have a locus in the protection of this 'B' listed building and its grounds. I outlined to the meeting the position regarding the listed buildings. I think that there will be a need for more dialogue over this process.

Dundee Leisure Board Meeting

On Tuesday evening I attended a meeting of the board of Dundee Leisure. This was a good meeting where we heard about the plans for the summer. Dundee Leisure has a great collection of sports facilities which are well worth a visit.


Delighted at Cross-Party Support for Jobs Call

I welcome Cross-Party support for the call for jobs and investment for Dundee. I moved an amendment to the council's Single Outcome Agreement Delivery Plan 2010/12 which was accepted by the Council's Policy and Resources Committee on Monday evening.

I am delighted that the council put its political differences to one side and united to make its voice heard calling for jobs and investment for Dundee. This is the most important thing we can do to promote the city. We need jobs to secure prosperity for the people of Dundee. I look forward to seeing how the Dundee Partnership will deal with this important issue.

Moving the amendment at the Policy and Resources Committee on Monday evening I said, 'I welcome this report but I would like to see more emphasis being put on jobs. Getting Dundee working is the way to boost the economy and also a way to maintain public services.'

'I think that the Dundee Partnership should work towards a cross party multi-agency, short life, working group to look at the issue of jobs. We must do all that we can to promote work in the city. We should also be making the point to the Scottish Government and to the UK Government that jobs are our priority and that we want them to support us on this. For example I would like to see both governments committed to moving government jobs away from Edinburgh and London. There certainly used to be cross party support for that and also I would like to see the UK Government reconsider its decision not to implement Labour's plans for tax breaks for the computer games industry.'

'This is the most important issue facing Dundee today; we should join together and make our voices heard in unison calling for jobs and investment in Dundee.'

My amendment was as follows:

'It is further recommended that the Council proposes to community planning partners that a multi-agency, cross-party, short-life working group is established under the auspices of the Dundee Partnership to promote jobs in the City of Dundee and to lobby the Scottish Government and the UK Government to bring jobs and investment to the City of Dundee.'

Riverside Nature Park

The City Development Committee on Monday evening considered a report on delivering the Riverside Nature Park. I welcomed this report and look forward to a very long wait coming to an end. Since I was elected I have been approached by constituents on a regular basis who want to know about progress towards the opening of a nature park at Riverside. The site is already a haven for wildlife and could become even more so once this project comes to fruition. I met with officers to get an update and I have been very impressed with the way in which council officers have engaged with members of the public about these proposals over the last few months. I am pleased that this work is being financed mainly from external sources.


Harris Academy

Monday evening's Education Committee heard an update on the refurbishment of Harris Academy. As a local councillor I want to deliver an improved building for Harris Academy as quickly as possible. Like my colleague Councillor Bidwell I am happy to work with the Administration to ensure that this happens sooner rather than later. A number of people have raised their concerns about a start date of 2013 with me. At first I was under the impression that this was a typographical error.

The Harris Parent Council recently visited the Rockwell site to look at the accommodation they expected to use from August 2011. This council has recently agreed significant investment in the Rockwell site which was in the expectation that Harris Academy would be located there. This begs the question in these tough financial times are we wise to invest in Rockwell at this moment.

Harris Academy needs a new building; I want to help the Administration deliver a new building for Harris Academy. I think that the timescales should be quicker than this and I would be happy to help the Administration make that happen.

Dundee City Council and Committees 28 June 2010

Monday evening saw the last meeting of the City Council and its committees prior to the summer recess. The City Council considered reports on scrutiny arrangements for the council and also on the Best Value 2 Pathfinder Audit. I was pleased that the scrutiny arrangements were amended to ensure that the Convener of the Scrutiny Committee is treated in the same way as every other convener on the council. Scrutiny is important to the efficient delivery of council services. Officers and the Administration should have nothing to fear from effective scrutiny. We are surely all councillors to deliver the best for the people of Dundee.

The Leisure, Arts and Communities Committee considered a range of interesting reports. I was happy to support the council's allotments policy. There is a growing degree of interest in allotments. Allotments also allow the council to meet many of the priorities which we have set ourselves.

Like other members of the council I was appalled to hear of on-going problems of vandalism and theft experienced by allotment holders, I urge anyone with any information about this to contact the police. I recognise the problems faced by the City Council in financing increased security at allotments but we should also highlight that security is the main concern of allotment holders and associations. I would like a guarantee that the actions outlined on site security will be undertaken and will be undertaken in a genuine spirit of partnership. Overall though this is a very welcome report.

I welcomed the Leisure and Communities Departmental Plan, 'The Departmental Plan is very impressive, it does beg two questions. Can it be delivered in an environment where budgets are reducing and perhaps even more importantly where there are fewer staff to deliver it?

It is important that the department's role in combating inequality is recognised and that this is mainstreamed right across the council - as this issue was adversely commented upon by the Best Value 2 audit.

I want to draw attention to some of the plans which I think deserve particular comment. I fully support plans to develop Camperdown House as a visitor attraction. Staff will be located there in the not too distant future but it is important that we allow the people of Dundee and visitors to our city the chance to visit this incredible building. I also want to mention the ongoing work in Community Safety and development which makes our communities better places. I also support the creation of three community sports hubs in the city and look forward to these being reported to the committee in the not too distant future.

This is a challenging plan and I look forward to hearing about delivery over the next few years.'


WestFest Final Day

I was delighted to take part in the procession from Victoria Park to Magdalen Green, there is always something special about marching behind a pipe band and unique about marching behind Loadsawimminsingin. This is how the final day of WestFest started. We made our way down to the Green where there was a lively mix of stalls and entertainment. It was a beautiful day (with just the odd spot of rain). It was good to see so many local people enjoying themselves.

WestFest is down to the work of a dedicated team who worked hard to put the event together. I think that when people go out of their way to put something back into the community they deserve great credit and as a local resident and a local councillor I would like to thank and congratulate everyone involved in organising WestFest. The pictures here show Magdalen Green, Brian Cox opening the event, Claypotts Castle Primary School Signing Choir and Loadsawimminsingin.