Harris Academy Official Re-opening

I was pleased to join pupils and staff at Harris Academy today for the Official Re-opening.  John Swinney carried out the official opening.

It was a very enjoyable event and the pupils used the event to show off their skills.  There were great musical performances, multi-visual presentations and baking!

This was a very positive day for Harris Academy. I am sure that its enhanced buildings and facilities will help promote a wider range of learning opportunities for all of its pupils. It is clear that Councillors made the right decision to rebulid the school from scratch rather than refurbish the existing buildings from the 1930's and 1960's.

I am pleased as one of the local councillors to have played my part in delivering a new school for Harris.  There have been teething issues.  I look forward to working with the school and the council to deliver the best school possible for the young people at Harris Academy.

I was pleased to be at the event with among others my colleague Councillor Laurie Bidwell.  Laurie commented as below,
"The facilities of the new school are very impressive. I am sure that staff and pupils who worked through the three year decant to Rockwell will be relieved to be back on the Perth Road enjoying their impressive new school buildings. My only regret is that, from the feasibility study that I instructed in my time as Education Convener which was completed by April 2009, it has taken seven years to realise our ambitions for a new Harris Academy."

I would like to wish all the pupils and staff of Harris Academy all the very best in their new school.


Black & British: A Forgotten History - Dundee's diverse history

Last week the latest episode of Black and British; A Forgotten History featured a little known part of Dundee's diverse history.  This was the visit of Frederick Douglass, the escaped American slave, who spoke in favour of the abolition of slavery at the Bell Street Baptist Chapel.  This building is now the council's Music Centre for school pupils.  You can watch the programme on BBC iPlayer here.

I was pleased to have been present when the Dundee section of the programme was filmed.  The story of Frederick Douglass's visit to Dundee is fascinating.  It is remarkable to think that large numbers of Dundonians wanted to listen to Frederick Douglass in 1846.  The series demonstrates that Dundee's history, Scotland's history and the history of the UK is not just the story of rich, white men which is how it can sometimes seem.

As a historian I think that it is important that we recognise that our story and the story of our city is much more complex and diverse than we usually think.

I am pleased that one of the outcomes of the programme is that there is now a plaque on the wall at the Music Centre which marks Frederick Douglass's visit.  As the council intends to stop using this building soon I am asking that we make sure that any future use of the building preserves the historic connection with Douglass which has just been acknowledged.

I also think that we should look to celebrate Dundee's diverse history on a more regular basis. Along with my colleague Councillor Georgia Cruickshank I am looking to see if we can develop a way to celebrate Black History month in Dundee.  Black History Month is marked in October each year and I hope that we can find a way to mark this each year.


Homelessness Far From Fixed

I am pleased to support Shelter Scotland's Homelessness - Far From Fixed campaign.  Homelessness can happen to anyone.  It is shocking and shameful that homelessness still exists in Scotland today.  Dundee City Council and the Scottish Government must do all that they can to fix homelessness in Dundee and across Scotland.

Homelessness in Dundee:

  • 1,085 Dundee Households assessed as homeless last year
  • 283 Dundee households currently in temporary accommodation
  • 127 Children in Dundee currently in temporary housing
  • 954 Dundee cases opened by Shelter Scotland advisors and volunteers last year
  • 423 calls to Shelter Scotland's free national helpline were from Dundee last year
(Source Shelter Scotland)

I will be seeking a briefing from Dundee City Council about how the council deals with homelessness.  It is important that families have access to appropriate good quality housing. 

 As part of Shelter Scotland's campaign I played their game of snakes and ladders.  This was a little
bit of fun which made a serious political point about the problems faced by families who might become homeless.


Playing games at planning?

At Monday evening's Development Management Committee there was a debate on an application by Aldi to build a store next to Asda at Myrekirk.  This was odd given that Dundee City Council's Development Management Committee agreed to the very same application last year.  I have concerns about why we were put in a position to make a decision on an issue that we had already decided upon. 

I support people and companies having recourse to the courts in order to ensure that the law has been correctly applied.  I would point out that when the council ends being involved in this there is a cost to council taxpayer.

I have written to the Cabinet Secretary, Angela Constance MSP, to raise my concerns about this case.  It is ludicrous, in my opinion, that we were asked to make a judgement on an identical planning application to one which had already been approved.  I asked on Monday night why the council did not just say that we had a position on this and move on.  I understand why I was told that this could not happen but I think that does mean that we should consider whether the law should be changed.  I felt that both Aldi and Asda were playing games on Monday evening with their deputations.  That may be fine for two commercial rivals to do what they think they must to preserve their profits but this impacts on the people of Dundee and has a potential to impact on the future of council services in Dundee.

I am particularly concerned about the cost to Dundee City Council of court proceedings which may or may not be the result, in part at least, of a commercial tactic to prevent rival shops from opening.

I do hope that the various planning applications and legal proceedings in this case are all genuine.  It would be appalling if any of these parties were playing games to frustrate the sales potential of a rival.

I think that councillors and the council were put in a very difficult position on Monday evening and that a change in legislation might go some way to stopping this happening in the future.


Where is Dundee's City Deal?

The Chancellor of the Exchequer in the Autumn Statement  announced that he recommitted to the Tay Cities deal, whatever that means.  I think that there should be some public talking about what is planned but also importantly action, some areas are seeing investment already,
and Dundee seems to be at the back of the queue.

Along with a number of my colleagues I have been asking "where is Dundee's City Deal?"   I want to know why Dundee is at the back of the queue when it comes to the City Deal.  Dundee needs jobs, Dundee needs investment.  If those in positions of authority in Dundee can't be bothered to deliver a City Deal for Dundee then they should get out of the way and let people who have the best interests of Dundee and the people of Dundee at heart take their place and deliver investment for our city.

I have asked time and time again why Dundee's City Deal has not been brought forward and have yet to receive a convincing answer.  Our city needs jobs, our city needs action, our city needs investment, our city needs a City Deal.


Stop Threatened Closure of Ryehill Police Station

Some of the Local People Campaigning to Keep Ryehill Police Station Open
with Jenny Marra MSP & Councillor Richard McCready
Along with my colleague Jenny Marra MSP I am calling on Police Scotland and the Scottish Government to stop the threat of closing Ryehill Police Station. Police Scotland have attempted to kick the issue into the long grass but answers received in the Scottish Parliament and in correspondence in the past week show that Police Scotland plan to consult on closing Ryehill Police Station in the near future. Jenny has tabled a motion in the Scottish Parliament calling for the consultation to be dropped and for the station to stay open, while I am continuing to collect signatures for a petition against closure.  You can sign the petition here.

Police Scotland are saying that they are not going to close the station just now but crucially they say that "cannot give assurances" about the "long-term future" of the station. This is not good enough. The Cabinet Secretary for Justice, Michael Matheson told me in a letter that Police Scotland would be consulting on the future of Ryehill Police Office. I want a cast-iron guarantee for the future of Ryehill Police Office and a public-facing police presence in the West End for the long-term. That is why I am continuing to campaign on this important issue and collect signatures from local people in support of keeping Ryehill open.

The people of the West End need clarity on the future of Ryehill. I want a clear guarantee from Police Scotland that it will be staying open.

Jenny Marra MSP said, 'I want a guarantee that Ryehill Police Station will stay open. Ryehill was not included in the list of 58 police stations which are proposed for closure by Police Scotland but it is clear from the Cabinet Secretary in answer to Councillor McCready and myself that they do plan to consult on closing Ryehill. This lack of transparency is disgraceful. I have tabled a motion in the Scottish Parliament calling for Ryehill Police Station to remain open. There was cross-party support for Ryehill Police Station when it was debated by Dundee City Council recently, and I hope that there will be cross-party support for my motion.'

You can read a copy of the letter which I received from Michael Matheson MSP, the Cabinet Secretary forJustice, which makes it clear that there are plans to consult on closingRyehill Police Station.

Please see text of the motion tabled by Jenny Marra MSP below:

Ryehill Police Station

That the Parliament notes the consultations being conducted by Police Scotland into the future of 58 police stations around Scotland; understands that the proposed consultation on the future of Ryehill police station in the west end of Dundee was not on the published list but that the consultation on this station is due to start in January 2017; believes that it is misleading that Ryehill was not included in the list of stations under consideration; understands that closure of the station will be one of the options included in the consultation; further understands that Police Scotland has confirmed that the option of sharing facilities with other public bodies such as the council is not possible in the Ryehill building because of space constraints; notes that Police Scotland has indicated that, if Ryehill is to close, police officers for the west end community won't be based in that area but in the neighbouring council wards of Lochee and Maryfield; believes that this is not the level of service that local residents expect and deserve; considers that, if Ryehill closes, visible policing in the west end would effectively cease; understands that, for this reason, there is strong local opposition to the consultation and potential closure of Ryehill police station, and notes the calls on the Scottish Government and Police Scotland to drop the consultation and keep Ryehill open.


Remembrance Sunday

Today was Remembrance Sunday.  I know that services and commemorations took place across Dundee today.  I was at St Joseph's Church in Wilkie's Lane.  St Joseph's has a fine First World War memorial outside the church.  It is easy to walk past the memorial and for it to fade into the background in some respects, but today standing facing the memorial and looking at the list of names was humbling.  The memorial has 234 names on it.  These are all people who lived in the streets and lanes of the West End.  News of their deaths brought sadness to many households across the West End.  Thinking about this brings home the impact of the War here in Dundee.

I was honoured to be asked to read the famous verse from the Ode of Remembrance by Laurence Binyon:

'They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.'

It is important to remember those who have died in conflict over the years and to redouble efforts to say 'Never again.'

If you want to support the Poppy appeal please visit PoppyScotland's Website.


Perth Road Shopping Area Consultation

Concerned over empty shops on the Perth Road
Earlier today I popped into the Tartan CafĂ© on the Perth Road to visit the consultation on the future of the Perth Road.  I have long been campaigning about protecting the Perth Road shops.

I am concerned that there was a period a few months ago when shop after shop and restaurant appeared to be closing.  A number of new places have opened recently and hopefully this demonstrates confidence in the area.

As a local councillor and local resident I want to see good quality facilities for local people on the Perth Road.  I want to see a vibrant mix of independent retailers and specialist shops, but we also need to provide shops that cater for every pocket.

The consultation being carried out by the council is about what can be done to improve the area.  I know that the issue of parking will come up and I still believe that the council needs to look at this issue and with more flexibility.  One size does not fit all.

I want to look at possibilities for branding the Perth Road shopping area.  I think that we should also look at things like street furniture and public art as a way of making the area more interesting.

 I would also be keen to explore ideas like the Perth Road Pound.  This would be a form of 'currency ' that could be used in all the shops in the area, in effect a bit like vouchers.  This is an idea that has been tried in a number of other areas like Bristol you can find out more about the Bristol Pound here.

Fundamentally, the council needs to hear from local businesses and local people.  What do you think should be done in the Perth Road.  You can find out a little more on the council's website or make your views known to localdevplan@dundeecity.gov.uk

There can be few people left who haven't shopped online or at an out-of-town store (and I am certainly not one of them) but we need to acknowledge that we need to use the Perth Road shops or the threat is there that we lose them.

I look forward to the council creating plans to improve and enhance the Perth Road.


Localism Prioirity for Police Scotland - Keep Ryehill Police Station

 I welcome the publication of Strategic Police Priorities for Scotland by the Scottish Government. I particularly welcome the commitment to localism in the document which makes the case for investment in the Police Station at Ryehill in the West End ward rather than its closure which is planned by Police Scotland. I"ve written to Michael Matheson, Cabinet Secretary for Justice asking him to support the campaiIgn by local people in the West End to keep Ryehill Police Station open.

I welcome the Scottish Government's strategic priorities for policing. The first priority is localism. This flies in the face of attempts to close the local police station in the West End. I think that the priority around 'localism' makes the case for developing the services available from Ryehill rather than for its closure.

Whilst localism is clearly the top priority which would lead to the retention of Ryehill Police Station all the other priorities set out in the document also contribute to the case for keeping Ryehill open.

I  will be making the case to the Scottish Government and to Police Scotland that the needs of the local community in the West End are to have a local police presence which is accessible and public-facing.

I have written to the Cabinet Secretary for Justice, Michael Matheson, asking him how the priorities that he has set out are compatible with the plans that Police Scotland have the closure of our local police station in the West End. Given Mr Matheson's commitment to localism I have asked him to support the campaign to keep Ryehill Police Station open and to sign the petition which I have launched on this important issue.

You can also sign the petition by clicking here  



Richard Sloan RIP

I was saddened to hear of the death of my friend and comrade Richard Sloan.  Many people like me will know Richard through politics but at this sad time it is important to remember Richard as a husband and father and friend to many and to pass on our condolences to Mairi and the family he leaves behind.

When i first met Dick Sloan he was serving as one of my predecessors as a District Councillor for parts of what is now my ward. Dick stood down from the council at local government reorganisation.

Dick and I worked hard in the run-up to the 1997 General Election to assist in the successful election campaign for Anne Begg in Aberdeen South.

I have enjoyed campaigning with Dick over many campaigns. I will miss his enthusiasm and his irreverent sense of humour.

I was speaking to Dick only on Wednesday of last week and we were discussing next year's council elections. It is an appalling thought that when that election comes round Dick won't be there to help.

Dick had recently been helping with our campaign to keep Ryehill Police Station open.

I shall miss his commitment, his intelligence and his sense of fun

My thoughts are with his family at this very sad time. Rest in Peace Dick.
Dick Sloan and me collecting signatures for the petition to Save Ryehill Police Station


Ryehill Police Station - Support from Unison

On Saturday I was pleased to be joined by a number of local people campaigning to keep Ryehill Police Station open.  Local people were coming forward unprompted to sign my petition against the closure.  You can sign the petition here.

I was really pleased to be joined by members of the Unison Police Scotland Staff branch, who showed their support for the campaign.  Cuts in police staff numbers have had a big impact on the work which Police Scotland does.  Indeed there are now cases of very well-paid, highly trained across a variety of roles police officers who are empowered to work on the streets to make places like the West End safer sitting in offices doing tasks which were previously done by police staff.

Indeed I am clear that I think that Ryehill Police Station should remain open but importantly it should have an enhanced public-facing presence.  That public-facing presence would be work for Police Staff.

My campaign to keep Ryehill Police Station open will continue over the next few weeks.


Keep Ryehill Police Station Open

Along with other local residents I have made clear my position that I think that Ryehill Police Station should stay open.  Indeed I think that we should be looking to enhance the facilities at Ryehill rather than close them.

I have also made clear my concern that Police Scotland are carrying out an informal consultation.  I want to know what an informal consultation.  People should know how to respond and how a decision will be made.  I fear that this is a tactic which hopes to create a situation where people will just accept the decision and move on.

I have launched a petition against the closure and I hope that local people will show their support.  You can sign the petition here

It is important that Police Scotland hear the voice of the people of the West End, please sign the petition.


Commercial Waste Recycling - No Increase in Fly-Tipping

At Monday night's Neighbourhood Services Committee there was a proposal put forward which was designed to make sure that commercial operators do not use the Household Waste Recycling Centres at Riverside and Baldovie.

I support making commercial operators pay the appropriate rate for the disposal of waste.  I had some concerns about the way in which this will be implemented though.

I was very concerned that there appeared to have been little thought about the lay-out of the sitesand about how council employees are empowered to be able to challenge anyone who should not be using the centres.

The council was proposing to use new digital resources and some works to help implement the policy, yet there was no evidence that funding was available for this.  It was suggested in the report that this policy would lead to an increase in income.  I want to see that the council delivers on what officers and the SNP Administration say they can deliver.  So I was pleased to be told that the council will report back in around eight months on its performance against increasing income from commercial waste.

I also want to see more items that otherwise might end up in one of the Household Waste Recycling Centres either reused or recycled.  We must do more to prevent resources which could be re-used being binned.

However my main concern would be that this policy ends up creating an unintended consequence which is a rise in fly-tipping.  I think people who shouldn't be using the Household Recycling Centres at the moment know that they shouldn't be using them.  Business ethics might not be their strong point.  I wonder if it is naive to think that these people will accept that they cannot use these sites and then register as commercial operators and pay to dump their rubbish.  I hope they do but I fear a rise in fly-tipping.  This would would be bad for the environment and the amenity of the city and also bad for the finances of the council.  I received reassurances that this would not be the case but I do worry that this policy is counter-productive.


Promoting the Living Wage

On Monday evening Dundee City Council agreed to become an accredited Living Wage Employer.  I welcomed the report on Monday evening,  I think that many people thought that the council had signed up to this quite a while ago.  However, it is good that the council will be a fully accredited Living Wage employer.

I have been calling on Dundee City Council to pay the Living Wage since 2010 and I am pleased that we are making progress.

It is good that the council is leading the way on this.  We should value our staff and pay them the real Living Wage. 

The council should also use its financial power to make contractors and sub-contractors pay the Living Wage.  The public sector should not be shy about using its procurement power to ensure that people are treated fairly.  We should be saying clearly that Dundee should be a Living Wage economy.  Whilst I accept that is appears to be a challenge for some firms in Dundee, we should also be saying that people should be valued in their workplace. 

I want to know what the council will do to lead a campaign to make Dundee a Living Wage City.  The Dundee Fairness Commission recommended that Dundee become a Living Wage City.  We need to use the Fairness Commission report as a blueprint for action, it should not be kept secret.  I asked what are Dundee City Council and the Dundee Partnership doing to make this happen?

I am glad to see some progress being made here tonight but it is crucial that the Fairness Commission report doesn’t go the way of so many other worthy reports and collect dust of a shelve.  Tonight is a good start but we need to see sustained efforts to ensure that all of the recommendations of the Fairness Commission are implemented in full.

Getting Scottish Living Wage Accreditation is an important first step but the council must lead a campaign to make Dundee a Living Wage city.

I was pleased to get some reassurances that Dundee City Council and the Dundee Partnership will be leading the way and delivering a Living Wage City.


Ryehill Police Station

At Tuesday evening's West End Community Council meeting Police Scotland officers reported that Police Scotland intends to consult on closing Ryehill Police Station just off the Perth Road.

I have huge concerns about this proposal.  I think that we need a public facing police station at Ryehill and we have not had that for some time.  I think that local people in the West End want to know that there is a local police presence on the Perth Road.

I am calling for Police Scotland to make clear what their proposals are and also to provide clarity about the consultation process.  I am concerned that we have been told that we are in an informal consultation process.  This is unsatisfactory.  We need to know the detail of the proposal and how the formal consultation will take place.  If this proposal has been put in the public domain then we need to know how to formally respond.

I also want to hear from local people about their views on this proposal to close our local police station.  Please email on richard.mccready@dundeecity.gov.uk with your views.


Harris Academy Parent Council

Last night I attended the Annual General Meeting of the Harris Academy Parent Council.  This was an important meeting because it was the first after the school had moved back to the Perth Road and also the first after the closure of Menzieshill High School.

Any new building would suffer from teething problems and there are a few at Harris Academy, there are issues about heat in some of the rooms for example.  The council is looking at solutions to these.  I will be keeping a close eye on the actions of the council, because whilst teething problems are inevitable they also cannot get in the way of the education of the young people at Harris Academy.

There are some travel issues, one of which is the perennial issue of people's behaviour outside of schools.  Parents, carers and others picking up pupils need to act in a responsible and safe manner.  This is true at Harris, just as it is at St John's and at Blackness Primary and at Victoria Park, St Joseph's and Balgayhill. There are some issues around buses and I have raised these with the bus company and with council officers.

I want to congratulate the office-bearers of the Parent Council on their re-election last night and also point out that they have done a marvelous job in recent weeks visiting the school on a regular basis to see for themselves what is happening.  Staff have been putting in a huge effort to make the opening of the new building a success as well.

If any parents or pupils have any issues which they think can't be solved by the school I am happy to hear from them.

We all know that there will be issues around the new school but I am keen to work with parents, pupils and the school to make the new Harris a success.

Community Spirit Action Group

On Wednesday evening I attended a meeting of the Community Spirit Action Group which covers the northern part of the West End ward.  It was once again an excellent chance to listen to the concerns of local people.

Much of the discussion was about how unsatisfactory bus services are for this part of the ward.  The what seems like the umpteenth year in a row changes made by Xplore Dundee and Stagecoach are taking away services from local people.  Many of these people are elderly or less mobile and cannot walk distances to the areas of the ward where there are relatively good bus services.  My view on this is clear we need regulation in the bus industry.  The market does not provide services that meet the needs of all the people in the West End.  At the same time as bus companies focus on profitable routes the bus industry receives hidden subsidies from the public purse, Dundee City Council pays for the infrastructure of bus stops and information boards for example.  We need action to improve bus services.

There were also issues raised about recycling and the plethora of roadworks which have been disrupting the area recently.


Frederick Douglass and Dundee's Diverse History

Last week I was delighted to be able to attend an event which marked Frederick Douglass's visit to Dundee in 1846.  Frederick Douglass was an African-American on the run slave who campaigned for the abolition of slavery.  He spoke against slavery across the USA and toured the UK including coming to Dundee.

In Dundee Douglass spoke at the building which now houses the council's Music Centre in Bell Street.  As part of a forthcoming BBC series 'A Black History of Britain' Dr Peggy Brunache gave a brief but very interesting talk on Douglass's visit to Dundee.  A plaque was unveiled on the outside of the building commemorating Douglass's visit to Dundee.

I think many people will be surprised to find out about this part of Dundee's history.  It reflects the fact that Dundee's history is much more diverse than many people understand.  Along with my colleague Councillor Georgia Cruickshank I am keen that Black History month is marked in Dundee.  The story of our city is not just about middle-class white men and we should be looking at ways of celebrating and marking this fact.


Further bus changes make case for regulation

Both of the main bus companies which operate in Dundee have indicated that they plan to make major changes to their services in Dundee.  I believe that these actions make the case for bus regulation.  Both Xplore Dundee, formerly National Express Dundee and Stagecoach talk about bus ‘services’ when in reality they are only really interested in running profitable services.

The main bus companies which operate in Dundee Xplore Dundee and Stagecoach, have decided to make widespread changes to the bus services which they offer in Dundee.  Some of these will have an impact in my ward, for example, the proposal that the number 16 bus will operate via Ninewells Hospital and will stop serving the western end of the Perth Road.


Dundee City Council does not run bus services but it does provide the infrastructure for bus services and does subsidise many services in the city when it thinks that there is a social need.  Increasingly commercial bus companies are only interested in running profitable services and claim that they cannot cross subsidise services.  This also means that for the elderly, the young and those with mobility problems increasingly it is anything but a ‘service’ which they are being offered.


I will be making representation to both bus companies about their proposals and I urge my constituents and others to do likewise.  I am happy to pass on concerns to the bus companies from my constituents.


I think more generally this makes the point that bus services should be regulated.  Bus companies should not be able to get infrastructure paid for and then pick and choose which  profitable service they wish to run.  Bus companies should be required to offer what they nearly all say they offer – bus services.  Bus services should be run in the interests of passengers not only in the interests of shareholders.


I will be making representations about the changes to the bus services in Dundee but I will also be contacting  the Scottish Government asking for them to look at regulating bus services.  People in the West End and beyond want bus services that meet their needs not just the needs of shareholders.
You can read about the proposals here.  I am happy to pass on concerns to the bus companies, please get in touch with me.


Latest bus change in Dundee makes case for regulation

I'm disappointed at the cancellation of the Number 26 Bus Service by Stagecoach.  I believe that this demonstrates the need to bring in bus regulation in Scotland.  I  believe that given the level of subsidy that bus companies receive that they should provide a public service.

Unregulated competition in the bus market is not helping the travelling public in Dundee.  Companies cherry-pick profitable services and try to undermine other services, none of this goes any way to providing an integrated bus service which serves the needs of the people of Dundee.  There are many aspects of the bus service in Dundee which are good but neither bus company in Dundee provides socially necessary services unless they receive a subsidy to do so.  I want the government to regulate Scotland's bus services to better serve Scotland's passengers.

I think we should stand up to powerful vested interests in the bus market and elsewhere and say to them that for the level of public support they get whether through infrastructure like bus stops - provided by the council, or subsidies provided for some routes we expect a public service.  We expect a service which meets the needs of the people of Dundee and of Scotland.

I want to see a People's Bus service run in the interests of people and not in the interests of the shareholders of bus companies.  I want an integrated transport system underpinned by new regulation which would provide transport authorities with powers to set service levels and group profitable routes with non-profitable routes. I want local communities to have a greater say over bus services.

The current unregulated service is not good enough and needs to be fixed.

This is why I am pleased that the Scottish Labour Party has stated that it will bring in legislation to regulate the bus industry.

It is why as a co-operator and a Scottish Co-operative Party candidate in the Scottish election I am proud to support the People's Bus Campaign.  I want to see bus services which are just that -  services.  We should be more interested in meeting the needs of bus users rather than the needs of shareholders.  We should regulate bus services, we should prevent big businesses from cherry-picking profitable routes and encourage not-for-profit services.

Shocked at rats in broad daylight in City Centre

Report from the Courier 4 April 2016

I am shocked at reports in the Courier this morning about rats running about in daylight in the city centre.  I am even more shocked by the admission by the City Council that this is happening before cuts to street cleaning take effect.  What state will the city be in then?
These pictures are shocking. I will be seeking answers from the City Council about this. The case for reducing the numbers of street cleaners has never convinced me. Dundee is one of the best performing council's for street cleaning according to surveys. It is strange that the council has chosen to undermine this by reducing numbers of workers.


The council needs to ask whether the people of Dundee want to see rats running about in our city centre or anywhere else. I think I know the answer to that. We need to ensure that street cleaning is given the priority it deserves and which the people of Dundee expect


This is a consequence of the Dundee SNP meekly accepting cuts from Holyrood and effectively being a ‎conveyor belt  for Tory austerity. These choices have consequences and in this case the consequence  is rats on our streets.


Dundee City Council refuses to listen to West End concerns over parking

At Monday evening's City Development Committee there was an item on car parking in the West End.  I called for action to improve car parking for local residents.  I am disappointed that the City Council has done nothing since local people rejected the proposed residents' parking scheme.  When the scheme was rejected by local residents I made clear my view that this was not the end of the matter.

Local people rejected the scheme because it did not meet their needs, this did not mean that there were no problems with car parking in the West End.  I am hugely disappointed that the council has not come forward with new proposals more tailored to the needs of local people.

From what people say to me they are keen on localised parking schemes in their street for example.  Dundee City Council must listen to the views of local people and deliver a car parking scheme which meets their needs. 
I was hugely disappointed that the City Council refused to listen to the views of people in the West End and rejected my calls that people in the West End should be listened to.  What are the SNP Administration frightened of, why won't they listen?

Please watch the video to find out more about my views on car parking in the West End. 

If Dundee City Council will not listen to the views of the people of the West End I will, I would encourage any local residents with views about car parking to get in touch with me.


Where is Dundee's City Deal?

On Tuesday a City Deal was announced for Inverness, previously City deals have been announced for Aberdeen, Edinburgh and some time ago for Glasgow.  Dundee is being left behind.


Where is Dundee's City Deal?  It is not good enough that Dundee is left behind. Our city needs investment.  We should be trying maximise the opportunities for our city.  Millions of pounds of investment is heading to other city regions in Scotland and Dundee is left out.  We need investment to bring jobs to our city.  I will always make jobs and prosperity my priority.  Dundee City Council has a duty to deliver for the people of Dundee.  We have heard a lot of talk about jobs and investment but now is the time for results.  We need to hear about real money being invested in our city.


I want to know why the Scotland Office are able to say that no formal approaches have been made about a city deal for Dundee.  Possible investment is on the table and we need to make that a reality for the people of Dundee.  My colleague Councillor Kevin Keenan first raised this issue in 2013, it is unacceptable that other areas in Scotland and across the UK are benefiting from this investment whilst Dundee appears to be uninterested in securing this funding.


The people of Dundee need to see action to deliver investment for our city.  I want answers.  I still want to know where is our City Deal?



Police & Fire Budgets - Why no Dundee input?

I am surprised that the meeting of the Dundee City Council which deals with police and fire issues was cancelled on Monday due to a lack of business.  I've written to Dundee City Council Chief Executive asking when the council will have an opportunity to scrutinise the budget of the police and fire services in Dundee.  The next meeting is scheduled for 21st March and may be too late to make any representations on the budget of the police or the fire service in Dundee.

I was surprised to see that the meeting of the police and fire service committee was cancelled due to lack of business to discuss.  I would have thought that Police Scotland would have been keen to outline to local councillors the vision of the new Chief Constable and how this might impact on policing in the city.  Like local government both Police Scotland and the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service are facing cuts in the next financial year.  The role of the local police and fire scrutiny committee is meant to be to influence local delivery of services.  I do not see how we can do this in any meaningful way if we are denied the opportunity to at least have a say on funding and possible cuts to services.


We have heard warm words about how both Police Scotland and the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service value the input of local councillors in the development of their policies but the most important influence on the services they provide is funding. It appears to me that Dundee City councillors will not have an opportunity to make representations about the financial plans of either organisation prior to decisions being made about their budgets for the next financial year.

There are cuts planned of £12.2 million to the Scottish Police Authority and £19.4 million to the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service; these cuts are likely to have an impact on the provision of services in Dundee.  Whilst it is for these bodies to set their budgets and priorities they claim to listen to local elected representatives and I fear that in Dundee we will not have a chance to really influence the police or fire budget.

Rethink needed over West End car parking

I'm calling for a rethink from the SNP Administration on Dundee City Council over car parking in the West End.  I've been asking for action on car parking since the end of the consultation on car parking which ended in 2012.  The previous proposals for a residents' car parking scheme were rejected by local people due to cost and the lack of flexibility.  I believe that there is a need for a more flexible approach.


Local people rejected the previous proposals for a residents car parking scheme over three years ago.  I believe that this was largely on grounds of cost and the lack of flexibility in the scheme.  It was a one size-fits all scheme over a large area of the West End.


The council is consulting on parking restrictions in the West End I think that the council should revisit residents' parking in the West End.  I think that there is a scope for localised parking schemes which suit people in one street for example.  There is a problem with residents' parking in parts of the West End and the council should be looking for ways to alleviate the problem.  I am disappointed that any suggestion that they look at it has been dismissed before it has even been considered.


Everyone has to question our reliance on the car but there are clearly issues around car parking in the West End that need to be dealt with.

I am calling for the SNP Council to listen to the people of the West End and deliver car parking solutions that meet their needs.

Call for re-think over TSB closure on Perth Road

I'm calling for the TSB to rethink their decision to close the Perth Road branch of the bank.  I've ten to the Chief Executive of the TSB demanding a rethink.

A number of people have contacted me about the future of the TSB branch on the Perth Road.  I am appalled at the decision to close this branch by a bank which uses the slogan 'Local Banking for Britain' in its advertising.  It seems to me that this branch is well used and also that having banking facilities in the West End is important for the vibrancy of the Perth Road shops.


As a local resident I know how important the Perth Road shops are to local people.  I believe that having a bank amongst the mix of shops is important to promoting the shopping area and attracting footfall.  I will be meeting with the TSB  to raise my concerns and demand a rethink of this decision.


The TSB re-brand a couple of years ago was meant to signal a change - a change to local banking.  This decision makes that look like a lot of nonsense.


I want to see this decision changed and I would urge all TSB customers who use the Perth Road branch to make their views known to the bank.


Action needed on poor air quality

As Labour's Environment spokesperson in Dundee I am demanding action by Dundee City Council on poor air quality. I'm frustrated that year after year streets in Dundee are named in this research by Friends of the Earth Scotland.  Lochee Road and Seagate are named yet again as amongst the most polluted streets in Scotland.  Friends of the Earth Scotland claim that there are 2,000 deaths in Scotland each year as a result of poor air quality.  If these figures are even close to being correct then they must act as a call to action.

It is disappointing that yet again we find Dundee streets named amongst the most polluted in Scotland. I have raised this time and again and it is time for concerted action on this. Dundee City Council should call a summit of all interested parties and ensure that everything is being done to eradicate poor air quality in Dundee.


I am also calling on the Dundee Fairness Commission to look at the impact of poor air quality in Dundee.  It is important that this is looked at.


Action is needed - the health of people in Dundee relies on effective action and Dundee City Council must take a lead on this.
I know that Dundee City Council is trying to deal with this issue but it is important that there is concerted action on this aimed at finding a long-term lasting solution.


Active Schools/Outdoor Learning transfer of jobs more detail required

At Monday evening's Policy & Resources there was an Agenda Note on the transfer of jobs in Active Schools and Outdoor Learning from the City Council to Leisure & Culture Dundee.  This is a major change and will have a major impact on the lives of these workers if it goes through. 

An Agenda Note is a brief way of reporting to a Dundee City Council committee.  I was appalled that this proposed major change was being put forward in a mere six paragraphs.  Those six paragraphs do not tell us how many jobs will be impacted by these proposals.  Bizarrely given the focus of the SNP Council on cutting £23 million there are no details of the financial implications of these proposals.  This is not good enough.  You can see the Agenda Note above.

I asked for an assurance that before any final decisions are made that there will actually be a proper report to the council.  Proper governance leads to better decisions.  I was pleased that the Administration agreed to my request, such a big change should not be made on such a flimsy prospectus.


Sustainable Energy and Climate Change Action - Give the public a say

Monday evening's Policy and Resources Committee (pages 42-48 of the pdf file) heard about Dundee City Council's plans to develop a Sustainable Energy and Climate Action Plan, the intention was to develop this plan with the Dundee Partnership.  I think that it is crucially important that we do all that we can to improve the environment in Dundee.  That is why I was at the forefront of the campaign to stop the Biomass Plant on the waterfront and why I continue to campaign about air quality in Dundee.

I welcomed the report and I support the plan to reduce carbon emissions across the city by 40% by 2030 and to look to improve resilience against the impacts of climate change.  I will always campaign to protect and improve the environment. 

Whilst I welcomed the report I thought that it did not go far enough in getting the people of Dundee involved in developing the plan.  I asked that there should be consultation with the wider population of Dundee about the plan.  I know that people in Dundee care about our environment and that they will be interested in how we can achieve reductions in carbon emissions and also mitigate the impacts of climate change.

I was very pleased that my plea was listened to this and this plan will be developed in consultation with the people of Dundee.  I will be seeking clarification about how this will be done.  In the meantime I am always happy to hear from anyone who has ideas about improving the environment here in Dundee, please get in touch.

I think that it is important that politicians at all levels, and officers at council and government level are prepared to listen to the people we serve.  We need to recognise that we are the servants of the people and that we have a duty to listen to them.

Air Quality - What is happening?

At the Environment Committee on Monday evening there was only one item, this was spending up to £7,500 to remove the air quality monitoring unit on Union Street.  I have been campaigning for improved air quality for a number of years and I do think that Dundee City Council needs to do all that it can to provide leadership and deliver improved air quality.

I asked whether officers were convinced that air quality had improved enough in Union Street for this equipment to be removed.  I also asked whether the equipment which was being removed could be reused.  Officers said that they were convinced that air quality in Union Street has improved and told me that the equipment could be reused.

I also asked whether the City Council is effectively using all the powers that it has to improve air quality.  I was told that I will receive a response to this later.  I look forward to getting a full response but I remain concerned that there needs to be more of a focus on improving air quality and the environment.  I will continue to campaign on this issue.


Camperdown House - time for a long-term use to be found

As regular readers will know I have been campaigning for a long-term sustainable use for Camperdown House for a number of years.  Camperdown House belongs to the people of Dundee and they should have the ability to visit the house.  I also think that opening the house would add another dimension to a visit to the park.

Dundee City Council has been marketing Camperdown House for some time and apparently there has  been some interest in it recently.  I know that many many people were delighted last summer to visit the house when afternoon tea was being served by students from Dundee and Angus College.  I hope that the council will facilitate future ventures like this by the college.

I am not opposed to a commercial use for Camperdown House but there has to be some element of free, or at least relatively inexpensive, access to the house for the public of Dundee, who after all own the building.

Perhaps it could be a coffee shop or tea room, or maybe a few rooms which tell the story of the house or of the Battle of Camperdown and Admiral Duncan. 

I want to see action on this, there have been too many false starts at Camperdown House.


Council Cuts- Cuts to Communities

There is often a lazy way of presenting the work of councils that suggests that there is fat that could be cut and always more efficiencies to be made.  Surely no serious observer can think this now.  There are to be £23million worth of cuts in Dundee in the next financial year.  All staff, except teachers, have been asked to think about 'voluntary' redundancy.  These 'cuts', 'efficiencies', 'restructures' or whatever else you want to call them impact on communities.  Taking £23million out of the council's budget will have an impact on every community in Dundee.  In other circumstances job losses on this scale would rightly lead to MPs and MSPs standing outside an office or a factory gate campaigning against the job losses.  Can we expect that in the City Square any time soon?

These cuts are about political priorities and political choices.  John Swinney chose to pass on more cuts to local government as the report to go to Dundee City Council's Policy and Resources Committee on Monday evening makes clear.  You can read the whole report here (pages 3-11 of the pdf) but the relevant paragraphs are below

"8.1 The outcome of the Westminster Spending Review was announced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer on 25 November 2015. The Scottish Budget totals show a cash increase of £1 billion (3.3%) between 2015/16 and 2019/20, largely due to the Barnett consequentials of  changes to other Whitehall departmental budgets. When adjusted for projected inflation,
however, this represents a real terms reduction of 4.1%. For 2016/17, the year-on-year cash increase is £0.5 billion (1.7%), which represents a standstill budget in real terms.

8.2 The recent grant announcements by the Scottish Government reflect the outcome of the Westminster Spending Review. The figures announced by the Scottish Government are in respect of the 2016/17 financial year only: no figures are currently available beyond this
point. It is anticipated that the Scottish Government will undertake a Spending Review covering the period 2017 to 2020, although the timescale for this review is not yet known.
8.3 As noted in paragraph 5.2 above, the local government grant settlement for 2016/17 reflects an overall cash cut at national level of £350 million, or 3.5%."
As you will see there was actually a cash increase in Scotland's budget, which given inflation and other pressures represents a standstill budget but a national cut of 3.5% has been inflicted on local government.  The cuts to local government and to communities in Dundee are a political choice.  John Swinney chose to deliver a budget like this which will cut jobs and services across Dundee.
The staff of the council deserve to know where the cuts are going to impact.  They should not be left worrying about their jobs for weeks on end.  Trade unions in Dundee are getting together to protest about these cuts and I hope that there is a large turnout for their campaign.