Licences for Exhibitions and Performances

A number of people have been in touch with me to raise their concerns about changes implemented by the Scottish Government to licencing law which would allow councils to charge for licences for arts events and performances which were until now exempt. There has been some concerns raised in places like Edinburgh where charges were proposed. A group of people from Dundee's creative industries are organising a meeting to discuss this issue this evening. You can read a report in today's Courier about this.

I hope to be able to attend the meeting this evening. I have asked the council for a briefing on where we are at the moment and the response I have received is copied below. Basically, it says that there are no plans to charge for these licences but that there will need to be a review which takes into account the changes to the legislation. I will certainly be arguing that the City Council should not charge for these licences.

'Dear Councillor McCready,

I refer to your recent enquiry concerning the Council's proposed response with regard to the above matter. Roger Mennie has asked me to reply to you on his behalf and I would advise as follows.

This situation has arisen following the enactment of the Criminal Justice and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2010. Prior to this, events only required a public entertainment licence if they were ones which the public had to pay to enter or participate in (and, even then, a licence was only required if the event was of a type listed by the local authority in a resolution). The 2010 Act removes the payment element, therefore, free events are now potentially licensable. Again, however, they will only need a licence if on the local authority's list. This takes effect from 01/04/2012.

The list for Dundee was drawn up in 1984. It includes such things as - ice rinks, circuses/carnivals, snooker/billiards halls and bowling alleys. It also covers any events taking place in schools or educational establishments, church halls, etc. where the event is not part of the educational or religious activities. The chances are that the likes of an art exhibition or similar events would not fall into any of the categories in our current list and would therefore not need a licence (although there is a general category of "any public show of any description whatever" which might encompass some such events). Any events taking place in premises already the subject of a liquor licence are also exempt (this is contained in the legislation itself).

Councils are looking at the lists in each of their areas and considering whether these should be changed and, if so, which events should be included and which specifically excluded. The problem is that the procedure for changing the list is rather protracted and involves the Licensing Committee publishing an amended resolution, advertising it for a month for public comment and then a period of 8 months has to pass before it takes effect! Therefore, in common with some other councils, we are proposing a pragmatic approach to deal with this issue in the interim. A note will be submitted to the Licensing Committee on 29/03/2012 asking it to agree that the current list will only apply to paid events (and that free events will continue to be unlicensed) until a new resolution is drawn up and approved in accordance with the procedure outlined above. The rationale behind this is that the 1984 list was compiled when only paid events needed a licence and it is likely that it would have been worded differently if free events were to be covered. We will have to consult with the public and all interested parties as part of the procedure for drawing up a new resolution anyway. It might be the case that the new resolution will contain a specific exemption for events such as art exhibitions, school fetes, etc.

We are working on a public statement to this effect to try to allay the fears which have been expressed in some quarters about this change to the law and this will hopefully be issued later today or tomorrow. I hope this is of assistance to you. However, if you require any further clarification, please do not hesitate to contact Stuart or myself.

Yours sincerely

Brian Woodcock
Senior Solicitor (Licensing)'

I am happy to listen to the views of local people on this issue.


Procurement Matters - Or how councils can make a difference

Procurement matters, it might not seem like a very exciting topic but it should be. Some people might say that in these difficult financial times we should be looking for the cheapest bottom line and that's it. Well in my opinion that sort of attitude is just not good enough. As in most things there is more to life than just the cost.

On Monday evening Dundee City Council committed itself to paying the Living Wage to council employees. I was very pleased with this. I think that the City Council must now go further and ensure that workers in arms-length organisations also get the Living Wage. We should go further still and look at ways in which the Council can insist on those who are employed on contracts with the Council also receive the Living Wage. There are ways that this could be included in contracts if we were imaginative enough. Using procurement processes to promote this is important.

Also on Monday night the Leader of the Council suggested that he was not that bothered about the fact that the new Forth crossing is investing in jobs in China, Poland and Spain. As the SNP Government have claimed, he suggested that Scottish steel could not be used on the bridge because it was the wrong type of steel, sounds a bit like the wrong type of snow. He also claimed that no Scottish firm bid for the contract, this is because of the way the procurement process was set up. Public bodies should be very wary of setting up procurement processes which mean that local businesses are excluded. We should be using this huge infrastructure investment to create jobs in Scotland not in China.

The UK Government has recently attacked Remploy factories across the country. Thankfully, for now, the Dundee Remploy factory has been saved but over 100 disabled workers in Scotland are going to lose their jobs. My colleague, Jenny Marra MSP, has suggested that local authorities should look at ways in which they can ensure that business goes the way of organisations such as Remploy. She has pointed out that Remploy could supply the new uniforms for the proposed single police and fire services. There is scope for a lot of different work which could go Remploy's way. Councils and other public bodies should look at ways of delivering this. We should be looking for ways in which our investment adds value to the local area.

Councils and other public agencies should be concerned about procurement. We should be concerned about the ethics of what we buy. When councils and other public bodies enter into contracts they should be concerned about health and safety, about training and apprenticeships, about rates of pay, about environmental impacts, about local jobs, about things like fairtrade. Councils should recognise that they can make a difference through the procurement process and they should recognise that money that they invest on behalf of local people should be used to benefit as many local people as possible. There are many things that are more important than the bottom line; procurement matters and councils and other public bodies can make a difference.


Royal Mail Collection Centre Baird Avenue Experiences

Tonight at the West End Community Council it was decided that the next meeting in April will be about the on-going problems caused by the decision of Royal Mail to move their collection centre away from Crichton Street in the city centre. The new centres are at Edward Street for the DD1 postcode area and Baird Avenue for the DD2 postcode area. I have made clear my unhappiness with these changes previously.

For people like me who actually live in the West End ward in the DD2 area it seems daft that I have to travel, often past Edward Street, to the north of the Kingsway to Baird Avenue. This is a nuisance but for someone like me who has access to a car not impossible but Baird Avenue is very poorly served by public transport. I also have a great deal of concerns about the access arrangements at Baird Avenue, I have some doubts about whether they meet minimum standards.

The meeting of the Community Council will take place on Tuesday 10th April at 7pm in Logie and St John's (Cross) Parish Church Hall.

It is important that we put concrete examples of the problems which have been caused by these changes. Lots of people have already told me about their concerns. I am keen to find out more, if you have had problem with this new service please get in touch with me, email me on richard@richardmccready.org.uk I want to hear from you, and I will raise your concerns with Royal Mail.

West End Community Council

Tonight I attended the March meeting of the West End Community Council. The main item was a presentation by Janet Wade, who is the City Council's Recycling Projects Officer. She made a very interesting presentation about recycling and about how the council can improve on its work in this area. Dundee has been a forefront of recycling thanks mostly to the commitment of Labour councillors like the late Julie Sturrock. We now need to move forward and ensure that recycling improves in the city. In part this means finding innovative ways to recycle in flatted and tenemental properties. As Labour's Environment spokesperson in Dundee I am keen that Dundee remains at the forefront of recycling. This is good for our city, and good for the planet. The aim is to reach a situation where there is zero waste. It is worth taking a look at Zero Waste Scotland's website for some ideas about what can be done.

There was also a discussion about a range of issues which concern people in the West End.


Malicious Calls to Fire Brigade - 'Despicable'

Tayside Fire and Rescue are facing a malicious call every 38 hours. In the first two months of the year 64 fire appliances were sent to fires that did not exist. I have described this as a despicable thing to do. Hoax calls put the lives of firefighters at risk, they also mean that firefighting resources are being misused and may not be there for people who actually need them. Hoax calls also mean that scarce resources are being misused. At this time Tayside Fire and Rescue can ill afford to be using resources on calls that are hoaxes.

It is not funny or clever to make a hoax call. I know that Tayside Fire & Rescue are working hard educate young people about the problems hoax calls cause. A fire engine with a blue light on is an inherently dangerous vehicle. Everytime firefighters are out under a blue light they are putting their lives on the line. I know that they use their skill to minimise the risks but this is not an unrisky profession. Hoax calls are not just made by young people but it is important that everyone is educated and aware that this is a clever or a funny thing to do.

Those who protect us as firefighters deserve not to have their lives put at risk by those who make hoax calls.

Dundee City Council Adopts the Living Wage

Tonight at the Policy and Resources Committee there was a debate on the Living Wage. On tonight's agenda you can see the proposals that the SNP Administration were going to bring forward. Surprising they changed their mind after Alex Salmond committed the SNP to the Living Wage over the weekend. I had prepared an amendment which would have committed the council to the Living Wage and encouraged the council to campaign for the Living Wage in arms-length companies and in companies with which the council contracts business.

The Administration brought forward a very similar motion to that which I had prepared, with the exception of that their motion made clear that they had only brought it forward because Alex Salmond told them to. On one level imitation is the sincerest form of flattery but this is much much more important than that. I supported the council introducing the Living Wage because it was the right thing to do.

The Council should take the lead and should be promoting the Living Wage. We should ensure that all council workers receive at least the Living Wage and we should also be pushing for ways to ensure that arms-length companies, such as Leisure and Culture Dundee pay the Living Wage.

The Council should also be leading by example in the city, campaigning for the Living Wage to be paid right across the city in all sections of economy.

One way in which the Council can do this is by ensuring that we go as far as is possible in requiring companies contracting with the council to pay the Living Wage.

We should be very concerned about the way companies which get business from the council operate. In some senses we are indirect employers in this instance. The Living Wage is good enough for our workers and it is good enough for all workers in the city and for those paid through contracts let by this council. Some people will suggest that we cannot do these things, I would argue that we should not worry about the legality of such issues we should worry about the moral case. It is morally right to pay people a Living Wage of £7.20 an hour.

I was delighted that the message went out from the council meeting that we believe in the Living wage and that we think that it should be paid to council staff and right across the city.

I was disappointed that the Conservative Group voted against this very sensible policy, the Living Wage can make a difference to the lives of people in Dundee and can make a difference to the Dundee economy.