14/06/2011

Dundee City Council Meetings

Monday evening saw the latest meeting of the City Council and its various committees. The City Council agreed to restructure the committees of the council. There will no longer a Leisure, Arts and Communities Committee due to the establishment of Culture and Leisure Dundee. Th old Housing, Dundee Contract Services and Environment Services Committee will also be abolished. These will be replaced by a Housing Committee and an Environment Committee.

The final meeting of the Leisure, Arts and Communities Committee was held. I raised some concerns on the report at item 7 on the departmental service plan. In general this is a very interesting report. It draws attention to the excellent work which has been done by the department and the staff deserve to be thanked for their hard work in these difficult times. I asked a couple of questions. Firstly, I sought a reassurance from the Chief Executive that these issues would continue to be effectively scrutinised after the reorganisation which I mentioned above. I was told that they would but as with everything the proof will be in pudding and I will be keeping a very close eye on this. Secondly I drew attention attention to an outcome which pointed out that fewer people were taking part in community based learning. The report states that this is due to a reduction in staffing, it suggests that the remedial action is to change the target. I accept that if there are fewer staff then we cannot expect them to do the same amount of work but I do question whether the answer is to move the goalposts in the middle of the game. This is evidence that the cuts being made are not without an impact. My colleague, Kevin Keenan, raised concerns about the downturn in the numbers attending events at the Caird Hall.

The Policy and Resources Committee considered a wide range of items. The longest debate was around the issue of Palestine which had been put on the agenda by Councillor Fraser Macpherson. Cllr Macpherson had wanted to consider the issue of boycotting Israeli products but he was informed that this was not possible by the council's legal officers. Similar issues had been raised at other Scottish local authorities without their legal officers raising any concerns. I think that the council should have a concern about our ethical procurement policy. In my view this would look at the issues around Israel/Palestine but it would also look at a whole range of other issues. I think that the City Council should try to speak with one voice on these issues and I voted for an amendment which calls for a just and lasting solution to the problems of Israel/Palestine and for a two-state solution. I am a great believer in the maxim of Pope Paul VI 'if you want peace work for justice.' We will not get peace in Israel/Palestine by just asking for peace but we will get peace if there is a just solution. All parties need to work towards this, particularly the Israeli Government and the Palestinian authority.

Later on in the Policy and Resources Committee there was a report on Tayside Procurement Strategy. Kevin Keenan attempted to get the council to commit to a review of our ethical procurement policy. This review would look at a wide range of issues, but as the City Council we must be clear that our actions have an impact and that in effect we are 'indirect employers' of those who provide services for us. Therefore we need to be satisfied by the policies and practices of everyone with whom the City Council does business. We were told that there will be a review later in the year and I sought and received a reassurance that this would include consulting widely with people and organisations in Dundee including, for example,
the Dundee Fairtrade Forum.

The Committee also considered how we deal with the corporate maintenance of land. Labour tried to get this report deferred so that a full report could be brought forward which would give a clear understanding of what the council would and wouldn't be doing in the future. Instead we will be presented with a done deal which will be difficult to amend. This will be a disappointment to many people in the city.