Sport Dundee Committee

On Wednesday evening I attended the February meeting of Sport Dundee, the sports council in Dundee.  It was good to hear about plans to promote sport in the city in the run up to the Commonwealth Games.  It was also good to hear about successes on the hockey pitch and speed skating course by Dundee athletes.  It was also good to hear about progress from the Dundee Academy of Sport and progress on promoting netball in the city. If you are involved in sport in the city please check out the Sport Dundee website.

Scrutiny Committee

On Wednesday I attended a meeting of the City Council's Scrutiny Committee.  There was a relatively light agenda at this meeting.  I was pleased to see a report on St Andrew's Primary School which suggested that progress has been made.  I asked questions about what happens next at St Andrew's and was told that the Education Department are confident that once a permanent headteacher is appointed appropriate support will be given which will ensure that progress continues.


West End Community Council

On Tuesday I attended the February meeting of the West End Community Council.  There was a wide range of topics discussed.  Firstly, there was a discussion about the City Council's debate about its policy towards dogs which was debated on Monday. There was clearly a great deal of interest in this policy among people in the West End and I took note of what local people were saying and I hope that their views will have be reflected in the final policy.

I was also able to report back on the progress that I had made on the issues around the width of the road outside Harris Academy.  The council has agreed to change the road markings on the stretch of road outside the Perth Road site.  There were a number of concerns raised about the construction phase of the Harris project and I will raise a number of them.

There was also a discussion about community policing in the West End.  Members of the Community Council commented on fact that since the change-over to Police Scotland Community Police officers have not been regularly attending meetings of the Community Council.  This is not a criticism of any of the local officers.  I think that there seems to have been a change of policy about attendance at community meetings by Community Police officers.  I understand that attending every meeting may not be the best use of police officers time but I do think that community officers should be attending Community Council meetings regularly.  This was clearly the unanimous view of the meeting.  After all, the Community Council is a statutory body and I think that my experience of Community Police officers attending meetings is that this is valuable both for the officers and the community groups.  I will be contacting Police Scotland and seeking an assurance that Community Police officers will attend the West End Community Council on a regular basis in the future.


Control of Dogs in Parks, Cemeteries and Open Spaces

At Monday evening's Environment Committee there was an important report on the Control of Dogs  in Parks, Cemeteries and Open Spaces.  This report sets out a lot of what the Environment Department is thinking about doing in relation to dogs.  I think that people should read this and comment on it.  I want to hear the views of the people of Dundee on the issue of dogs, what do you think needs done?

I welcome the report which was brought forward on Monday evening particularly as I have to say that problems with dogs in open spaces across the city are being raised with me more often now.  Some of the changes brought about by the Land Reform Act in 2003 are good but we need to look to see if these are working in reality and if we need to go back to our MSPs and say that there are unintended consequences of this law and it needs revisited.

I think also that it is important to take a step back and look at what we doing in all areas of policy around dogs.  I hope that this will be a process which listens to the views of the people in Dundee.  It is important that we listen to those people who are complaining about the actions of irresponsible dog owners.  It is also important that we listen to the views of responsible dog owners.

The Council needs to ensure that there are sufficient resources in this area of policy.  I regularly receive complaints about a lack of dog waste bags and too few animal wardens.  This is an area which really upsets people and it is important that we deal with unruly dogs and with the issue of dog fouling.  This is a public health issue and the council must take it seriously.

The report gives a list of places where free dog waste bags are available and the Administration must be clear with their intentions with regard to the continuation of free dog waste bag provision.  I read in Monday night's Evening Telegraph a letter which highlights the fact that you cannot get free dog waste bags at Dawson Park, yet I have been approached by the coach of a football team based at Dawson Park who says that there is a problem with dog fouling on the pitches there.  How does having pitches covered in dog poo help us to allow these young people in this football team achieve their potential?  Has the council got this policy right?

We also need to consider what we are doing with regard to dangerous dogs.  It seems to me that legislation is currently aimed at dealing with the consequences of dangerous dogs rather than trying to eliminate the problem.  Whilst this is beyond the powers of the council, it is the council that is in the front line in this area of policy and we should be using our experience to influence policy development.  My colleague Jenny Marra has been campaigning for better legislation around dangerous dogs and I think that there is some merit in looking at this further.

I look forward to further reports on this issue and I hope that the people of Dundee will influence the policy of the council on dogs in public spaces.  I want to hear what people think about this, if you have any views on this get in touch with me richard@richardmccready.org.uk

Conference Costing at least £699 - Value for money?

At Monday evening's Housing Committee there was a proposal to send up to two councillors to the  Chartered Institute of Housing Conference.  This event is taking place at the SECC in Glasgow and the delegate cost is £699 per person, there would also be travel and accommodation costs on top of this.  Last year the council spent nearly £5000 on this event.

I am sure that there are elements of this event which are worthwhile but I find it hard to justify such expenditure.  Later this week the council will be setting its budget and making severe cuts.  There are proposals to take away support for pupils in the early years of primary school for example, how can you justify sending councillors to a conference at this cost at the same time?

SNP Councillors were eager to justify such expenditure, it is essential for councillors to attend conferences to learn about policy, apparently.  I do wonder if this is such an important conference which will make a difference to our understanding of housing policy why we are not all being sent to this conference.

I think we should take a stand and say that such expenditure is beyond the pale.


Pre-Purchase of Cemetery Lairs

At Monday evening's Environment Committee I welcomed a report on a change to the council's policy with regard to the pre-purchase of cemetery lairs.  Back in 2007 when I was the Convener responsible for Dundee's cemetery's I proposed an end to the pre-purchase of burial lairs, this was due to the lack of on-going provision at that time.  Since then our policy to increase cemetery provision has come to fruition.  I was pleased to see this report come forward.  The report means that it is now possible to pre-purchase cemetery lairs.  Whilst it may not be the most appealing policy to talk-about it is important that the council continues to provide cemetery provision for the people of Dundee.