Site visit - Ancrum Place

Today I visited Ancrum Place along with officers from the Housing Department and the City Engineer's section to examine how action will be taken to repair the road and car park at Ancrum Place.

I'm pleased that action is happening with regard to this. I was pleased earlier in the week to be told that the Housing department agreed that something should be done about this area. Today I was looking for an idea of how the works will be brought forward. I was pleased that the works will include the section of road which leads to the car park from Ancrum Place.

This work will need to be planned and costed by the Council and will be subject to a report to a council committee in the near future. I will be looking for the committee report and hope that work can begin soon. This is something that local people have been calling for and I am glad that the council has listened.
The picture shows the state of the road at Ancrum Place.


Private talks stifle debate

I was pleased to see that this morning's Courier carried a report on my concerns about the City Council holding meetings about cuts in private. I remain clear that holding these decision making meetings in private goes against the spirit of the councillors' code of conduct.


A Budget that picks on the poor

Back in June I said that the ConDem Government's budget would pick on the poor. I am surprised that the Institute of Fiscal Studies (IFS) has published a report today which suggests that I was right. You can read the IFS report here. This report states that the Budget was regressive and it did not pay enough attention to equality issues.

In local government we should be worried about this. Dundee City Council is about to make a number of cuts. It is important that what ever cuts the secret cabal set up by the SNP Administration comes up with are tested for their equality impact. It is likely that the cuts in Dundee will also be regressive and it is important that councillors keep a focus on this. We cannot have a situation where the poorest in society face a double whammy of regressive Con Dem cuts from Westminster, backed by regressive SNP cuts from Holyrood and the City Council.

Fairness should be the basis for all actions by government at every level.

Visit to Riverside Composting Facility

This morning I visited Riverside Composting Facility where garden waste is turned into compost by the City Council's Waste Management Department. The department has produced a leaflet which outlines how the process works and you can see it here.

Every so often constituents raise concerns with me about the smells which emanate from the site so I was keen to see what actually goes on. I was very impressed with the work which does boost the council's green credentials. However, there is no doubt that from time to time the process does produce smells which are unacceptable to people who live in the West End. I have been reassured that every effort is made to alleviate the worst of these problems and if problems are brought to the attention of the Waste Management Department every effort will be made to solve the problem. I am happy to take up any concerns which people may have on this issue.
The picture above shows some of the windrows of garden waste which are in the process of being turned into compost.

Now's not the time for secrets

I can't say that I always agree with the editorials in D C Thomson publications (I don't think they'd want me to to anyway) but I have to say that I thought that every member of the City Council should reflect on the editorial in the Tuesday edition of The Evening Telegraph which is below:

Now's not the time for secrets

Dundee is facing unprecedented cuts in its council spending, sparked by the Government's vow to balance the country's books.

There is no doubt hugely controversial and difficult decisions will have to be made as the city leaders try to find £40 million in savings.

Each and everyone of us is also likely to feel the pain as council departments are asked to slash 5% from their budgets.

Most people will understand the predicament that the council finds itself in as it picks up the pieces after years of burgeoning public spending.

However, what the public will not understand and will not accept is for the authority to hold some of the discussions on these cuts behind closed doors.

Council leader Ken Guild has tried to reassure dissenting opposition members by claiming that all proposals will be discussed in public at committees.

So, why then, did the council vote for the special board, set up to look at savings, to be held in secret?

Just what do our politicians and officials think will be gained by kicking out the public from such meetings?

Have they forgotten that it is the public's services that face the axe, or the fact that it is the taxpayer who pays their wages?


Ancrum Place road and car park

After listening to the representations which have been made to me by many constituents who live in Ancrum Place and Morven Terrace about the dreadful and unacceptable state of the road and car park at Ancrum Place I have been calling for action from the council on this. I was pleased to hear from the Housing Strategy manager of the City Council that action will now be taken, you can see his response to me below;

'Dear Cllr McCready

I refer to your previous correspondence on the poor state of the car park at Ancrum Place. In order to address the problems residents are facing here a contribution from the risk management fund has been made to enable Housing to carry out repairs to the car park.

These repairs will now be instructed via City Engineers. I will keep you updated on the timescale for completion of the repairs.

Thanks, Gordon
Gordon Birrell Housing Strategy Manager'

I think that this is good news but I will be seeking further clarification about the extent of the work which is to take place.

Scotmid Active Members Meeting

This evening I attended a Scotmid Co-operative Active Members Meeting in Montrose. I am a great supporter of the co-operative model and think that it's time has come.
Scotmid has a commitment to co-operative principles and to putting something back into the local community. Click on the picture to find out about joining Scotmid, and making a contribution to the development of an ethical Scottish business.

Child Protection

This afternoon I attended a meeting of the Best Value Review of Child Protection Services for Dundee. This is obviously a hugely important issue. We must take child protection seriously and strive to do all we can to ensure the safety of children in our city. If you have any child protection concerns in Dundee call Dundee's Child Protection Line on 307999.

Greater Balgay Stakeholders Meeting

This afternoon I attended the Greater Balgay Stakeholders meeting. This is a very interesting meeting which aims to promote the excellent resource which Balgay Park is for the people of the West End and beyond. I think that an effective partnership is being built between staff of the Council and local people. I was also delighted to buy a copy of the excellent booklet produced by the Friends of Balgay entitled 'A Visitor's Guide to the Treasures of Balgay'. This is a great production and is a available from the Friends of Balgay and in the Mills Observatory. I hope that the financial problems which the council faces will not mean an end to this very effective partnership with local people.


Changing for the future board

Tonight at the City Council's Policy and Resources Committee at item 2 we discussed the proposals to set up the Changing for the Future Board. This board is meant to deal with the difficult financial times which we face. We must all take our responsibilities seriously and put the interests of the city and its citizens first. The Labour Group put forward an amendment which would have made these meetings take place in public and would have broadened the membership and importantly would have included trade union representation. Our amendment would have improved these proposals but the SNP Administration were unable to take our constructive suggestions on board which rather call into question their 'bona fides' on working together in the first place. After our amendment was defeated we supported an amendment by Bailie Rod Wallace which would have meant that this board did not go forward.

I was particularly concerned that the meetings would be secret and that councillors who were not on this board would be disenfranchised. The constituents of councillors not on the board would also be disenfranchised.

I supported Councillor Keenan's amendment and said:
'It strikes me as odd that the way to deal with this important area of policy is to deal with it in secret. People outside this chamber and outside wherever this proposed secret cabal will meet will only ask themselves what is that these people have got to hide?

Why should we be against secrecy, well the councillor's code of conduct says we should be. I would remind all members that it is our responsibility to ensure that we comply with the code. We might be told that this is OK tonight but it is up to each of us individually to make sure that we are in compliance with the code of conduct. Ignorance is no defence and neither is the claim so fondly repeated here of 'a big boy done it and ran away.' We are responsible.

In the Key Principles of the Councillors' Code of Conduct it clearly states
'You have a duty to be as open as possible about your decisions and actions, giving reasons for your decisions and restricting information only when the wider public interest clearly demands.'

The public interest in terms of the future services which we are to deliver for the people of Dundee is for openness. I would suggest that it is not public interest but rather party interest which requires secrecy.

We should also bear in mind the Best Value 2 audit. It said, 'Elected members need to make a bigger contribution to the leadership of the council and its partnerships over a range of important areas, and need to be better supported by officers to do so.'

Being spoon-fed by officers in secret doesn't do this.

The Best Value 2 Audit also stated that 'The Council has many of the key elements in place to ensure good governance and accountability. However, elected member scrutiny of decision-making and performance needs to improve.'

Meeting in secret to approve policy already decided by the Administration and the Lord Provost is hardly what Audit Scotland were looking for.

These are difficult times and we must each of us take our responsibilities seriously. Trying to hide what you are doing will not fool the people of Dundee. Let's make decisions in public, let's involve the workers and their trade unions and the citizens of Dundee and lets put the best interests of the city first, instead of narrow party interest. '

Wide Range of Options for Council Services

At item 5 of the City Council's Education Committee there is a report on proposals for the council to join a Limited Liability Partnership to deliver the Seemis programme for the education department. This proposal was agreed and this sort of partnership between a variety of councils seems to be something that we will see a lot more of in the future. As a Labour and Co-operative Councillor I asked whether the council will look at a whole range of service delivery vehicles, such as co-operatives, mutuals, trusts, joint committees as well as Limited Liability Partnerships. I was pleased that the Chief Executive agreed that this variety of service delivery vehicles would be considered.

Tayside Fire and Rescue Board

This morning I attended a meeting of the Tayside Fire and Rescue Board in Perth. The agenda focused on how to deal with these difficult economic times. There were no real substantive decisions made today but I am clear that we need to ensure that our priorities are protecting jobs and services and ensuring the safety of the people of Tayside. This will be difficult.

I welcomed work done by Tayside Fire and Rescue to link in with the Islamic community in Dundee and across Tayside. Much of this work has been based at the Central Mosque in Dundee which is in my ward. Hopefully this will make Tayside a safer place by spreading the fire safety message which will help everyone in Tayside.