Dundee wins Library of the Year

I welcome the news that Dundee has won the Library of the Year award, along with Devon, at the Bookseller Industry Awards.  I am a Trustee of Leisure and Culture Dundee, the organisation which operates Dundee's public libraries.
I am delighted that Dundee has won this award.  This is well-deserved recognition of the work of the staff in Dundee's Libraries.  We are fortunate in Dundee that we have a network of libraries across the city which serve the needs of the people of Dundee.  I am glad to see improvements taking place, such as the installation of a lift at Blackness Library in my ward.  Dundee's libraries were commended at the award ceremony for their 'impressive digital participation programme.'  Dundee's libraries have demonstrated that reports of the demise of libraries in the electronic age are overstated.  They have also shown that libraries need to be looking at the changing needs of library users.
I would just like to offer my congratulations to everyone connected with Dundee's Library Service - well done.

Official Opening of West End Schools

This morning I was delighted to attend the official opening of the new schools and nursery in the West End, Balgay Hill Nursery, St Joseph's Primary and Victoria Park Primary.  As the local Councillor, a local resident and indeed a parent of a child at one of the schools I am delighted to see the schools officially open. This investment is a legacy of the Labour-led Administration. I know that the young people have settled well in to their new schools. Staff and pupils are enjoying the improved facilities. I wish Balgay Hill Nursery, St Joseph's Primary and Victoria Park Primary all the very best of luck as they continue to enjoy new facilities. This investment in the West End is to be welcomed and I will be campaigning to ensure that investment in education in the city is maintained.

It was great to see so many local people at the event, it was a shame that not every parent could be invited.  There were great performances from pupils at all three schools, it was a great day and well done to everyone who was involved in the organisation.

Labour Education spokesperson, my colleague Councillor Laurie Bidwell, also attended the event and his views are below:

"The opening of the the new West End schools today is a red letter day in the West End as we celebrate the opening two new schools and a nursery on a shared campus on their Blackness Road site. I am sure that parents and carers, teachers and pupils will all appreciate the outstanding facilities that this new campus provides in the heart of their community. Having been involved in commissioning of these new schools as part of Labour's 2008/2012 Capital Plan and taken part in the consultation meetings, it is good to return to see at first hand how our architects have imaginatively used the space on the site to create 21st century facilities for the pupils in each of these schools. I know our teachers will be do their best to exploit the enhanced possibilities for teaching and learning in their fine new schools. I shall continue to advocate not making short terms cuts in the Education staffing budget that causes long term damage to schooling of our children."


Jericho House Meeting

On Wednesday I was pleased to attend the monthly meeting of the Jericho House support group.  As I have said on many occasions Jericho House does a great job helping people with problems associated with alcoholism.  It was good to hear that there had been a great response to the play which the house had recently put on at the Steps Theatre.  I attended the play and thought that it was really very good and a great credit to everyone involved in its production.  With thanks to my ward colleague Councillor Fraser Macpherson you can get a flavour of the production by watching the video above.

Tennis Investment Welcomed by Dundee Labour

Dundee City Council has responded to pressure from Dundee Labour amongst others to improve tennis facilities in the city.  I welcome the moves to improve tennis provision in the city. Like everyone else I think that we need to build on the success of Andy Murray and promote this popular sport in the city. I will be keeping a close eye on progress. I am pleased that the campaign from Labour led by Jenny Marra MSP has borne fruit.
It is crucial that Dundee wins the bid to get the National Performance Centre which will gives us a tennis centre in the west of the city. I hope that the council is pulling out all of the stops to win this bid. However if the city is unsuccessful then there needs to be a plan B to ensure that there are tennis facilities in the west of the city. It seems to me that South Road park would be an ideal location to develop as a centre for tennis. 

You can watch the video above to find out more about tennis in the city and Labour's campaign to have the tennis facilities in the city improved.
My colleague Jenny Marra MSP has worked hard on this issue and has met with Tennis Scotland to push for investment in Dundee.  You can read her views below:
“I’m delighted that Dundee City Council has listened to Labour’s campaign for better tennis facilities for Dundee.
“I started this campaign last summer after Andy Murray’s tennis success because I want children in Dundee to have as many opportunities as possible to fulfil their potential and get involved in sport.
“The Victorians put tennis courts in parks across Dundee but so many of them have fallen into disrepair. It’s not too much to ask to have decent sports facilities across our city and that is why today’s news is very welcome.
“I’m especially pleased that the Council is resurfacing the tennis court in Lochee. Lochee’s court is in the worst condition of all and it is not good enough for children in Menzieshill, Charleston and Lochee to have substandard facilities. I look forward to the opening of the new court and seeing children playing more sport. It’s so important for their health, fitness and confidence.
“I’ll be paying close attention to the progress of the Council’s plan to improve facilities right across the City. If the Victorians had the foresight for good sports facilities, it doesn’t seem too much to ask to make sure they are in good condition for our children today. Dundee City Council’s news is very welcome.”


West End Community Council

Tonight I attended the May meeting of the West End Community Council.  There was a range of local issues raised this evening.  The local police reported on the recent spate of graffiti attacks in the West End.  It is important that we have zero tolerance of graffiti.  Anyone with any information about these graffiti attacks should contact the police.

A number of local people raised their concerns about the changes which have taken place to the recycling centres in the city.  One person pointed out that when told that they would have to take the material to Baldovie (they weren't sure where it was) they simply put the material in their grey general rubbish bin.  So this instance was a dent to Dundee's recycling record.  How many more people are taking this view?

Many people drew attention to the environmental impact of the  changes.  The City Council may have a slightly decreased carbon footprint as a result of fewer lorries taking recycled material between the three recycling centres.  Local people felt though that the carbon footprint of the city as a whole was most probably higher as a result of the changes.  Many people have been raising their concerns about this with me.  I have also raised my concerns that there may be a rise in fly-tipping as a result of this change in policy.  I am looking for action from the council on this matter.

Police, Fire and Community Safety - Policy and Resources Committee

Monday evening saw the latest meeting of the council's Policy and Resources Committee which focuses on police, fire and community safety.  These committee meetings have come about as a result of the police and fire reform process.  In my opinion it is essential that some form of robust local scrutiny must be maintained.

Monday's evening saw some interesting reports.  Under the Dundee Community Safety Partnership Commissioning budget I highlighted the £5,000 being allocated to Fire Risk Environmental clean-ups.  I welcomed this proactive effort to reduce the number of malicious fires by removing combustible material from communities in the city.  I pointed out that a number of constituents had raised concerns with me that changes to the recycling centres in the city will lead to an increase in fly-tipping.  I was concerned that this had not been factored into the policy considerations about this, but I was pleased to hear that if there is a problem with fly-tipping then this budget will be increased to deal with the issue.

I was also pleased to see the final Annual Public Performance Report of the former Tayside Fire and Rescue Board.  As a former member of the board I was pleased to see what had been achieved by the Tayside Fire and Rescue Service in its last year.  I think that in some ways this is a challenge to the new Scottish Fire and Rescue Service.  It has a lot to live up to at least maintain the service delivered in Tayside.  I was pleased to be told that the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service will be looking to report in such detail to the council about their performance in Dundee next year.  I believe that openness and transparency are important for effective scrutiny and also that effective local and national scrutiny will deliver a better service for the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service and the people of Scotland.

Development Management Committee - New Harris Academy Approved

A view of the planned new Harris Academy from the south
Monday evening saw the May meeting of the Development Management Committee.  There were a number of planning applications including for the new Harris Academy and for housing on the site of the former Parkview School.

I was pleased to see that the plans for the new Harris Academy were approved.  I sought a reassurance that items such as the clock tower and other items in the entrance portico will be reused in the new school.  I know that a lot of local people have called for this.  I was pleased to be told that this would happen.

I welcome the granting of planning permission for the new Harris Academy.  This is good news for school and for the West End and beyond.  I hope to see work starting in the summer.  I hope that this will bring jobs for local people.  I want to see this new school in the West End built on time and on budget.  I look forward to working with the school community, the local community and the City Council to bring about the best possible school for the young people of the West End.

I voted against the plans for houses on the former Parkview School site on Blackness Road.  I thought that the proposals had some merit however I felt that there were issues about overshadowing of neighbouring properties.  I also worried about the number of houses proposed for the site.  The vote on the proposals finished 14-14 and the Convener used his casting vote to approve the proposals.