Meeting with new police inspector

The West End has a new inspector in charge of policing in the ward. I was pleased to take the opportunity to meet with Inspector Graham Young to discuss some of the issues facing the community and the police in the West End.

As a local councillor I have always felt that the local police respond really well to the concerns of local people. I am sure that Inspector Young will continue to do so, I would like to wish him well in his new post.

If any constituent has any concerns about crime in the West End please get in touch with the police or if you would prefer contact me and I will raise your concerns with the police.

Scrutiny Committee

On Wednesday I attended a meeting of the City Council's Scrutiny Committee. The committee heard about a very good HMIe report on St Fergus Primary School, I took the opportunity to congratulate the headteacher and ask that he takes back our congratulations to his staff, pupils and the wider school community.

On the issues of Arms Length External Organisations like the new Leisure and Culture Dundee Trust I felt that the implication of the Audit Scotland report Arm's-Length external organisations (ALEOs): are you getting it right? was that such organisations should provide reports to the Scrutiny Committee or some other committee where they would be able to be questioned by councillors in public. At present once-a-year a report is made to the Policy and Resources Committee but the organisation has no right of audience at that committee and therefore cannot be questioned by elected members. There is usually an annual meeting between officers of the council, Conveners and representatives of the ALEOs but these are private.

There was report on instances of violence against council staff. As a councillor I have a duty of care to the employees of the council which should be taken very seriously. There can be no excuse for violence or aggression towards council staff. I asked about the policy with regard to reporting incidents to the police. I was pleased to be told that the council's policy will be made available to all elected members so that we can have a look at it. I was assured by the council that the policies in place would not leave the council open to claims from employees that they were not receiving the appropriate attention.

I was very concerned about Internal Audit reports which suggest that with regard to school transport audit procedures could not all contracts had been signed, that the names all those contractors who might come into contact with school pupils was known, that the council could not be sure that all transport escorts had the appropriate disclosure check and the council could not be sure that all vehicles were appropriately insured. From answers to my questions I think that this is really about the bureaucracy but I think if the council could not be satisfied on these extremely important issues then the service should not have run. As corporate parents councillors have a duty to protect Dundee's children and I don't think in this instance that we done enough. I have contacted the Chief Executive to make him aware of my on-going concerns. From speaking to council officers I feel that there was probably no real reason for concern but I feel if we cannot be as certain as it possible to be, then this is unacceptable.


St John's High School Bus

I am concerned about changes to the bus service which serves St John's High School. I've been approached by a number of West End residents whose children have had had difficulty in getting to school since the new term started.

Parents who have spoken to me are worried that it now takes over an hour to get to St John's High School from the West End by public transport. I had been reassured by the Education department, over the summer, that this would not be a problem but have asked them to make sure that this is the case. I have also approached National Express Dundee and asked them to look again at the services to St John's and indeed the services between the City Centre, the West End, Lochee and Dryburgh. I think that the loss of links here will have a detrimental impact on the West End and Lochee.

I think that a journey time of over an hour, which is what many parents are saying, is unacceptable. If parents in the West End want to send their children to St John's High School, I don't think that we should be putting barriers in their way.

I think in general that there is an issue about public transport helping to maintain the viability of shopping areas like the Perth Road and Lochee High Street. These areas are under pressure from supermarkets and from the economic situation. The City Council Administration has changed bus routes which has encouraged the bus companies to also cut routes and this has meant that for people in the West End especially the elderly population in the Logie estate, and people in the Pentland, Tullideph and Ancrum areas a poor service exists between them and either the Perth Road or Lochee High Street.

I would urge anyone with concerns about bus services to get in touch with me.


West End School Project Board

I was at a very brief meeting of the West End schools project board. It is good to see progress on the building coming along.

It was good to hear about progress being made, and that the schools are making preparations for moving into the new building.

Jericho House

I was pleased to attend a meeting of the Support Group for the Jericho House in Artillery Lane in the West End. Jericho House offers support for those afflicted with alcoholism. The work that they do helps people try and overcome this affliction. The house is looking at ways of raising money and for their work and especially for a new minibus.

I am sure that Jericho House would welcome any support that anyone could give them.

Dundee Fairtrade Forum

On Tuesday I attended a meeting of the Dundee Fairtrade Forum, of which I am the Convener. The meeting looked at the ways in which we can work to help Scotland become a fairtrade nation. This will require a commitment by people in Dundee, along with the City Council and a significant number of businesses to support fairtrade and have fairtrade products served as the default situation and to stock and sell fairtrade products. It would be a major achievement if Scotland became a fairtrade nation and it requires commitment from a lot of people.

Cemetery Vandalism Condemned

I have welcomed moves by the City Council to work with the police and others to deal with the recent spate of vandalism in city cemeteries. On Monday evening the City Council agreed to spend £30,000 on repairing mostly older gravestones where the council cannot trace relatives.

I asked about the recent disgraceful vandalism which has taken place in the city's cemeteries especially in Balgay. I was pleased to hear that council officials are working with the police and others to ensure that appropriate action is taken to prevent further vandalism in the city's cemeteries and hopefully to catch the vandals who have recently smashed gravestones at Balgay. I don't think that we want obtrusive security measures and it is difficult to keep cemeteries vandal-free but we must do all we can to allow those buried in our cemeteries to rest in peace.

There is no excuse for vandalising headstones and those that have done so should be ashamed of themselves. I was very pleased that the City Council's Environment Committee joined me in condemning the recent vandalism. Anyone with any information about recent vandalism should contact the police on 0300 111 2222 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

Crichton Street Collection Office

At the City Council's Policy and Resources Committee I was pleased to support calls to the Royal Mail and to the UK Government to change their mind about the closure of the office. I have already expressed my unhappiness at these moves and highlighted the farcical move for DD2 residents like myself and many West End constituents who will have to go past the new office at Edward Street to go several miles to Baird Avenue. I am awaiting a response from the UK Government myself about this issue.

I was very pleased that the City Council was able to speak with one voice on this issue. I think that our support for the Royal Mail may have sounded more effective if we had also supported this service by voting not to move the council's mail service to TNT back in June.

If you click on the picture above you can read the Courier's report on this debate.

City Council and Committees

Monday evening saw the first batch of City Council and service committee meetings. You can find the agendas here.

In the Social Work and Health Committee I was pleased to support a motion which would have stopped elected members from attending the conference. I was disappointed that the Administration pushed this expenditure through. At a time when the council is looking for savings and asking staff to basically do more work for the same rate of pay, I think that it is very hard to justify spending over £400 on sending a councillor to a conference. I think that it is possible that councillors could learn from attending conferences but I also think that we need to be telling conference organisers that their costs are ridiculous and that these should be looked at. If there is information which it is important that we know then senior officers should make sure that we are made aware of that information.

On the Policy and Resources Committee I asked about a very interesting report which had been prepared by the Yusuf Youth Initiative on youth work support needs for black and minority ethnic young people in Dundee. I wanted to know what was being done to ensure that the recommendations will be followed up. I will be keeping a close eye on this matter as I think that it is important that the council does all it can to meet the needs of all of Dundee's young people.

Tayside Police Joint Board

On Monday I attended a special meeting of the Tayside Police Joint Board, you can see the agenda here. There was an interesting discussion about the recently published report Holding to Account published by the Police Complaints Commissioner for Scotland. This report suggested some changes to the way in which complaints are dealt with especially at the Complaints Sub Committee. The aim is for more openness and for transparency and that is definitely something which the police, and indeed all public services, should be aiming for. There was some discussion about the practicality of one of the suggestions, to have Complaints Sub-Committee meet away from the police headquarters. Practically this would require a large number of extremely sensitive files to be transported to other locations and does beg the question about how appropriate this is.

The main item on the agenda about Police Staff Council Negotiations Pay and Conditions of Service, this is an issue which has been much discussed in the press, was heard in private session.


Tayside Fire & Rescue Board

On Monday I attended a meeting of the Tayside Fire and Rescue Board, if you click on the link you can read the papers for this meeting. The main item on the agenda was further consideration of the Scottish Government's proposals for the future of the fire service in Scotland. I was disappointed that the Scottish Government would not allow their business case for a single fire service to be brought forward. It is clear in these discussions that we need to have as much information as possible about the pros and cons of the various options. The Scottish Government should bring forward its case and make clear which option it favours.