Food Safety - What have they got to hide?

On Monday night at the Environment Committee there was a report on an audit of the work done by the council's Food Safety Service.  This is a good report, it is clear that there is a lot of good work going on in Dundee, and that this work aims to stop bad practice and keep the public safe.  What concerns me is that the people of Dundee don’t know about it. 

People who have visited restaurants or take-aways may have seen certificates from the Food Hygiene Information Service displayed.  It will probably surprise most people to know that it is not mandatory to display this certificate and if there are failings the council cannot insist that they are advertised.  Only in the extreme case of closing the premises is there an effective means of reprimanding poorly performing establishments. 
It might need a change in legislation but shouldn’t we insist on all food premises displaying their Food Hygiene Information Scheme rating prominently in the premises?  Shouldn’t there be an easily accessible website which tells you that a restaurant or a take-away that you are thinking of using has high standards for food hygiene?  I've written to Richard Lochhead MSP the Cabinet Secretary responsible for food safety to ask for his views.

 A lot of effort is going on here and a significant amount of public money is being spent on food safety, we shouldn’t be coy about sharing the information.  Restaurants and take-aways should have nothing to fear from full transparency.  It would tell its own story about any establishment that didn’t want full transparency.
We should be concerned about keeping the public safe and ensuring that they are as well-informed as possible. 

Pedestrian Crossing at Ashbank Road and Blackness Road Junction

I'm calling on Dundee City Council to re-think its stance on a pedestrian crossing near to the junction of Blackness Road, Ashbank Road and Seymour Street.  I'm a local resident shared constituents concerns with regard to the crossing.  This issue has been raised with me by many local constituents including elderly residents and the not so old.

I am concerned that the City Council appears to have dismissed residents concerns about crossing Blackness Road at this point.  This is a very busy area with a lot of traffic and also a number of Sheltered Housing facilities in the vicinity.  I think that Dundee City Council should engage with the local community and look at ways of improving road safety here, including revisiting the issue of a pedestrian crossing here.

I will be speaking to officers in the City Development Department to ensure that this issue is looked at.  I want to know that the council is doing all that it can to promote road safety in this area for my constituents.

Changes to Admin Staff in Secondary Schools - Why not listen to trade unions?

On Monday at the Education Committee the only item on the agenda was a report on the Review of Support Staff in Secondary Schools.  This document outlines plans to change the roles of administrative staff in secondary schools.  The meeting heard from a deputation from UNISON which outlined the concerns of their members.  I have also spoken to members of the GMB about their concerns about these proposals, their view was that there has been no effective consultation with staff or trade unions.  I am also unconvinced with the rational behind the plans which will mean cutting staff from Harris Academy for example.

It was for these reasons that my colleague Laurie Bidwell put forward a very modest proposal to postpone the decision on this issue.  At the Education Committee there are some non-councillor members who can vote including teacher and church representatives.  This meant that the result of the vote was 16-16, the policy was then voted through on the casting vote of Cllr Stewart Hunter.  It was a shame that the SNP Group were the only people on the council who were unwilling or unable to listen to the views of trade unions. 


Threat of Fire Cuts - Leave Balmossie Fire Station Alone

Tayside Fire & Rescue Board considering the Balmossie downgrade in 2009
As Labour's Fire and Rescue spokesperson in Dundee I am concerned to hear about funding problems for the Scottish Fire & Rescue Service.  I think that before any cuts are implemented local elected representatives should have at the very least be consulted.  I have made clear my support for the excellent work done by firefighters in our communities and the excellent work done by Tayside Fire & Rescue Service  and now by the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service.  I am proud to have played my part in twice ensuring the Balmossie Fire Station was not downgraded
I was disappointed to read about funding problems for the Fire and Rescue Service.  I think that it is important that the Scottish Government looks for ways to protect the budget of the Fire and Rescue Service.  The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service protects all of us and needs to be properly funded.  In 2009 and 2010 I was a member the Tayside Fire and Rescue Board and in each of those years the board voted against proposals to downgrade Balmossie Fire Station.  I want to make clear my view that two very clear local democratic decisions have been made with regard to Balmossie Fire Station within recent memory and that it would be a travesty if this issue was revisited in the near future.  I am also clear that areas should not be played off against each other, if there is a need for investment elsewhere we must ensure that is considered on its own merits.
The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service is doing a good job in our communities protecting us every day of the year.  I think that the Scottish Government and other local representatives need to look at ways in which we can give support to the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service.  I also think that it is very important that any major decisions about local services are subject to robust local scrutiny, including with democratically elected representatives.