I want to see Harris Academy refurbished as soon as possible. I want the work to go quicker than is suggested in the report but I understand that it requires to be done correctly. I would want an assurance that the planning work will be concluded as quickly as possible and that every effort is made to start and more importantly finish these works sooner rather than later. There was considerable disappointment when the delay was announced prior to the summer and I hope that everyone associated with Harris Academy will soon be able to see tangible progress.
Councillor Tom Ferguson said, 'I am glad to support the train service between Dundee and London, this is important for tourists, for students and workers in our city. The city needs good connections with London. It is important that we all get behind these calls to make sure that the direct rail service between Dundee and England survives.'
I have said, 'There must be direct train services between Dundee and London. It is essential for the economic development of our city that these services are retained, indeed they should be improved rather than scaled back. This train service is important to attract jobs and investment and tourists to our city. We must also keep up the fight to get the train station refurbished it is a poor advert for the city at the moment. With the improvements which are taking place at the waterfront it is essential that there is a twenty-first century station in Dundee with twenty-first century rail services stopping there. I am pleased that there is cross-party agreement on this issue and that people are putting the interests of the city first. I am also clear that we cannot hope to get the train station refurbished if the station doesn't have at least the same level of services as at present.'
This was debated by the City Council's City Development Committee (see pages 39-51) on Monday evening and I am pleased that this was passed unanimously. It is important that the council speaks with one voice when discussing matters which affect the future of our city, the Administration should bear this in mind.
Most importantly we must all make our voices heard and as Monday's Courier said a solution must be found.
It was good to see Ed in Dundee a couple of weeks ago and I hope that he will return soon to campaign for Labour in the city. I am sure that over the next few weeks and months Ed Miliband will formulate a range of exciting policies which will challenge the ConDem in Westminster and the SNP in Holyrood.
I would like to congratulate the Bonnie Dundee campaign and the various council staff who have made the efforts which allowed Dundee to win a Silver medal. The City Council has once again won the Sustainable Development award showing that the city is at the forefront of the best environmental practice. Well done to Broughty Ferry for a Silver Gilt award and also to Ardler for a Bronze award. I was particularly pleased that the judges praised the McManus Galleries.
It is important that the council remembers that the work which goes on to prepare for the Beautiful Scotland awards which includes both volunteers and council workers is important. It might seem easy to make cut backs to gardening in the city or to put less stress on environmental issues but cuts here would actually impact on the quality of life of the people of Dundee. We can all play a part in keeping our city 'bonnie' and the council should take a lead.
Recent news on the Dundee economy have made for grim reading. Rising levels of unemployment, combined with job losses at Realtime Worlds and low vacancy rates. And the prospects are not looking good with alarming levels of public sector cuts in the city amounting to 1000 jobs disappearing. Add to that the impact on low income households of proposed cuts in social security benefits announced by the Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition. Already some agencies such as CAB in Dundee are reporting that demand for welfare benefits advice and debt counselling are stretching their resources.
Councillor Laurie Bidwell said:
"As a council, I think its our civic duty to protect the citizens of Dundee when they experience reductions in household income. If we don't have a vibrant range of free and independent advice agencies in the city, we can't guarantee the rights of our citizens when they are experiencing financial hardship or treated unfairly by public bodies and private organisations. Without access to free and independent advice services, these rights would only be reserved for people who can afford to buy their own financial and legal advice from solicitors and accountants. It's also common sense that if you maximise a household's income by helping them claim the welfare benefits they are entitles to, it not only raises the household's income but also increases the money circulating in the local economy in Dundee. It's a 'no brainer' that the demand for debt counselling and welfare rights advice in our city is likely to escalate rather than reduce. Why are the SNP being so unsympathetic to our citizens at times in their lives when they are experiencing hardship?"
Councillor Richard McCready said:
"I am outraged at these proposals. The welfare rights services across the city offer a diverse service to a diverse group of users. We need to ensure that there is as much support as possible for those who need welfare rights advice. I think that proposals which might lead to a diminution of the service available to the people of Dundee are misguided. Our top priority must be prosperity and we need to do all we can to promote jobs in the city and for those who need welfare rights assistance we need to support the best service possible. I note that an SNP councillor in the city is agonising over the threats to benefits from the ConDem Government, this is exactly why the various welfare rights providers in the city should be supported.'
'Councillor Bidwell and myself have been denounced over this issue and if by exposing the proposed SNP cut we have prevented them then I am glad. It is clear that as soon as the council administration are challenged to defend any of their policies they capitulate. Labour will continue to stand up for the people of Dundee in the face of unfair cuts from the ConDem government and the SNP in Edinburgh and the City Chambers.'
As part of the wide ranging 'Changing for the Future' package of measures, approved at the Policy & Resources Committee of Dundee City Council on Monday 23rd August, there was a Review of Welfare Rights provision.
Link to the Policy & Resources Committee Agenda and Papers which run to 204 pages. NB you will only need to examine/print out pages 7 - 16.
The Review of Welfare Rights was one of the reasons why Labour Councillors voted against the 'Changing for the Future' agenda but the SNP group pushed ahead using their majority on the Council.
There is a thirteen week time frame for the review concluding at the end of November 2010.