Co-operative Party Campaign Convention

Today I was at the Scottish Co-operative Party's Campaign Convention in Stirling. It was good to meet up with fellow members of the Co-operative Party. The Scottish Co-operative Party has produced an excellent manifesto for the Scottish Parliament. The policies set out in this document are about putting people first. I am proud to be a Labour and Co-operative Candidate for the Scottish Parliament election and I hope to get the chance to put forward policies which will bring about more co-ops and mutuals in Scotland.

McManus Refurbishment given special mention at Doolan Prize

The McManus: Dundee's Art Gallery and Museum received a special mention for its refurbishment at the Doolan Prize awards on Friday evening. It is a shame that the McManus did not win the overall prize but I think that this is a commendable result. Well done to the architect Paige/Park and all the staff of the council who were involved in this project.


Christmas Light Night

I was pleased to be at the Christmas Light switch-on in the City Centre tonight. It was a very enjoyable event. I am glad that the event this year clearly referred to Christmas as it was a nonsense last year to try to make out that the event had nothing to do with Christmas. Well-done to the Dundee churches who put on a Nativity play.
I do think that Christmas celebrations start too early these days but I did think that the City Square was looking good tonight.

McManus wins prizes

I was very pleased to attend the award ceremony of the Dundee Institute of Architects which was held in the Invercarse Hotel on Thursday evening.

I am very pleased that the McManus won several awards from the Dundee Institute of Architects. It is excellent that the hard work and commitment of the council's staff and contractors has been recognised. The McManus won awards in best public building award, best interior design, best regeneration/conservation award and also won the supreme award. Winning these awards is important and shows that the investment in McManus was worthwhile. It was worthwhile because the people of Dundee and beyond are also voting with their feet and the visitor numbers are spectacular. Dundee deserves the very best and I think in the McManus between design and construction and museum staff the council has come close to delivering the very best. The current exhibition in the Victoria Gallery of prints and watercolours from the Orchar Collection is well worth a visit.

I would also like to wish the McManus well in the Doolan Prize which is awarded tonight.

The other prize winners at the Dundee Institute of Architects awards demonstrate the talent and expertise in our area and reflect well on Dundee and its surrounding area. A fair number of the winning designs were in the West End.


Scotland should play in Dundee

I have contacted the Scottish Football Association to urge them to stage either full internationals or age-related international matches in Dundee. This was after Scotland had played the Faroe Islands at Pittodrie Stadium in Aberdeen in an friendly international match on Tuesday evening.

I am pleased that Scotland won Tuesday's match, it was also good that the match was played in Aberdeen. Hampden Park is the spiritual home of Scottish football and I think that big matches should be played at Hampden, however I also think that internationals should sometimes be played outside Glasgow not least of which in Dundee. I have written to the Chief Executive of the Scottish Football Association, Stewart Regan, asking that the SFA consider hosting international matches in Dundee. Hosting matches in Dundee would bring attention to the city and bring visitors to the city and this would have an economic benefit. This could also benefit Dundee's clubs who could receive a fee for the use of the ground. International matches have been played in Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Kilmarnock in recent years I think that Scotland fans in Dundee and surrounding area should get the chance to watch the national team close to home.

Junction City Road/Tullideph Road

I was delighted to see that the traffic lights at the junction of City Road and Tullideph Road are now up and running. I have been approached by many constituents who were very concerned about the works which were going on and pedestrian safety at this junction. I will be keeping an eye on this junction and I hope that the new traffic lights make the junction safer.


Development Management Committee

Monday evening saw a very brief meeting of the Development Management Committee. This was very brief and in part this is because there are more delegated powers under new legislation. It was also brief because there is a paucity of applications, this is bad for the local economy. We should be looking for ways to promote development in a sustainable manner.


Tayside Fire and Rescue Board

This morning I attended a meeting of the Tayside Fire and Rescue Board in Perth. This was a very interesting meeting which also highlighted some of the forthcoming issues which face us. I asked a number of questions. On Expenditure Monitoring I asked for more details of the underspend reported on staff costs. I was told that there was an element of slippage which is a result of non-filling of vacancies as a result of the Fire Board not knowing the budget settlement yet.

The Quarterly Activity Report is well worth looking at as it outlines much of the work of Tayside Fire and Rescue. My colleague Bailie Helen Wright asked a very important question about how we deal with hoax and malicious calls. I am clear that we must do everything we can to deal with this issue. It puts firefighters and the general public at risk, if firefighters are dealing with hoaxes they cannot deal with real fires.

The Deputy Chief Fire Officer gave a very interesting presentation on Home Fire Safety Visits. Please contact Tayside Fire and Rescue if you would like a Home Fire Safety Visit.

There was a report on Collaborative Working Between Tayside Police and Tayside Fire and Rescue this is a crucial report to the future of the service. I support partnership working and Tayside Fire and Rescue is involved in many innovative partnerships which are to be commended. I asked whether it was wise to go down this road given the apparent national uncertainty about the organisation of fire and rescue and indeed police services. I also asked about how the workers and trade unions will be involved bringing forward these proposals. I was told that in terms of the organisation and lack of budget information it is important to move forward. I was told that the trade unions will be involved in bringing forward these proposals. I will be keeping a close eye on these proposals as they are brought forward.

We also agreed the consultation process for the Towards a Safer Tayside 2011/12, I urge anyone with an interest in these services to look out for this report and respond. I was also reassured by the Chief Fire Officer's statement that the Aerial Rescue Pump we are ordering, unlike ones purchased elsewhere such as Lothian and Borders and Central it is fit for purpose.

HMRC Jobs in Dundee under threat

I am very concerned at suggestions that jobs in HMRC in Dundee are under threat due to changes made by the Con/Lib Dem Government in welfare benefits. Newspaper reports have suggested up to 700 jobs are under threat. Dundee should have its fair share of government jobs and I would not want any jobs to be lost. I will be contacting the PCS trade union to discuss the matter with them. I will also be contacting the Department of Work and Pensions to find out their plans for these jobs in Dundee. I will ask the City Council's Chief Executive about what the council plans to do about these civil service jobs. Attracting jobs to Dundee and keeping jobs in Dundee is my priority.


Answers Sought over Mills Observatory

As a West End Councillor and Labour spokesperson for Leisure, Arts and Communities on the City Council I have sought answers over the future of the Mills Observatory. I am a long-term supporter of the observatory and I believe that it should be maintained.

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.

Remembrance Sunday

This morning I attended the brief remembrance service at St Joseph's Church in Wilkie's Lane. As local residents will know there is a memorial to the parishioners of St Joseph's who were killed in the First World War on the outside of the church. I always find it quite poignant to look at the names on that memorial and think that all those young men lived and worked in the West End. The service also highlighted the need to work for peace and for justice in order to try to prevent more wars.