Biomass Plant - Time for clarity

Click on the picture to read the Courier's report on this.
Back in June I moved the City Council should object to the proposals for a Biomass plant being put forward by Forth Energy.  At the time I was very concerned that the proposals needed to be subject to robust and detailed scrutiny.  I felt that a full public enquiry was the best option for everyone concerned but it was particularly the best option for the people of Dundee.

I remain unconvinced about the merits of the scheme.  Earlier this week I was raising concerns about air quality in the city and I think there is no way that the biomass plant wouldn't have a detrimental impact on air quality in the city.  I also worry about the wider environmental impact of the proposals and whether the fuel would really be from sustainable sources.

After the council's decision back in June the ball is now firmly in Forth Energy's court.  They need to tell the Scottish Government whether they are going to appeal or not.  I am surprised that they have not made a clear decision before now and I am calling on them to make a clear decision so that the people of Dundee can have clarity about the way forward.

I think that Forth Energy should make up their minds sooner rather than later for the sake of the people of Dundee and let us know what they plan to do.


Muslim Cemetery

At Monday evening's Environment Committee I was pleased to see a report come forward which highlighted progress towards the creation of a Muslim cemetery in the city.  Dundee is a city built on immigration, it is a city of people from many faiths and indeed of people of no faith.  It is this diversity which makes Dundee a great city.

I congratulated the Convener of the committee on his support for the policy and also on the work which officers of the council had done on this important policy.  I also paid tribute to the members of the Muslim community in Dundee who have worked hard to bring this projection towards fruition.  I also paid tribute to my colleague Councillor Mohammed Asif who has done so much to bring this project forward.  I hope that the trust which will be running this facility is a success.


Absence Levels in Schools

At Monday evening's my colleague Councillor Laurie Bidwell put an item on the agenda to try and  ensure that there is action taken on pupil absence rates.  Recent official statistics show that Dundee has the worst absence rate in Scotland.  The council's Education Department quibble with the way that the statistics are recorded.  I am sure that they have a point but I would be more inclined to support them if they could point me in the direction of a good report (and there are many of them) whose findings they rejected as a result of not agreeing with the methodology.

I think that the Education Department in Dundee do a good job and that our teachers, associated professionals and support staff in schools do a good job often in some very difficult circumstances.  I also take my role as a councillor seriously and believe that one of my main duties is to ensure that we do get it right for every child in Dundee.

We were told on Monday evening that it was wrong to compare Dundee and East Renfrewshire which has the lowest absence rates.  Clearly there are great social and economic differences between Dundee and East Renfrewshire but should we just give up?

I think that children in Dundee face barriers to their education every day most of which are to do with poverty.  The City Council does not have all the levers to deal with those barriers, neither would an independent Scotland and nor does the United Kingdom.  I cannot accept that this means we should do nothing. 

We have a duty to the children and young people of Dundee to ensure that they get the best start in life and that they can reach their full potential, education is crucial in that work.  Every day missed from school is an opportunity missed.  Obviously some absences cannot be helped due to ill-health.  But we can and should do more to deal with other absences.  We owe the young people of Dundee that. 

I was very disappointed that genuine efforts to improve the prospects of children and young people in Dundee were met with such opposition.

Education Committee Facilities Service Review

At Monday night's Education Committee there was a report on proposals to transfer 'Facilities Services' from being Dundee City Council employees to being employees of Tayside Contracts.  To you and me it was about transferring cleaning and janitorial staff.

There may well be some merit in these  proposals especially the bits which look at ensuring that jobs like school crossing patroller are more rewarding because they are linked to other tasks and provide more sustainable employment opportunities.  This is an issue which I have raised on a number of occasions with officers.

We heard a deputation at the meeting from John Begley on behalf of GMB members.  Mr Begley raised some very interesting points.  The most fundamental of which was that the members who he represented had not agreed to these changes and had only heard about them second-hand.  The Director stated in the course of the meeting that the outstanding issues could be dealt with quickly.  On this basis I could not see what the rush was, I did not understand why a decision had to be made on Monday evening.  With a little willing on both sides a solution could have been arrived at, instead of which we had a decision railroaded through for no good reason.

I think that the Council should strive to be a good employer and that it should work with its trade unions and seek to find solutions to problems instead of creating problems.  We heard a deputation from some very reasonable people trying to represent their members best interests and I would also say trying to deliver the best education service possible for the city.

I think that it is wrong that the council was not prepared to listen to them and I think allowing a little more time to get the policy right and listen to the workforce would have been the right thing to do.

Clean Air - Time for Action

I was disappointed to see three Dundee locations named in Friends of the Earth Scotland's research into the most polluted streets in Scotland.  These three areas Meadowside, Lochee Road and Seagate have previously been named as being seriously polluted.  I have tried to promote action on these areas and especially on the Lochee Road site as it is in my ward.

As many readers will know I moved against the plans for a Biomass plant in Dundee because I was concerned about the possible impact on air quality.  I know that the solutions for these sites are difficult but it is essential that we keep trying.  I will continue to work with officers to ensure that every effort is being made to ensure that improving air quality is a priority for the city council.

I will be looking to meet with Friends of the Earth Scotland and with officers of Dundee City Council to ensure that action is taken.

The people of Dundee deserve reassurance over air quality in the city.  We need action to promote clean air.