Apology Accepted over Hawkhill Site

I welcome the decision that Dundee City Council's policy to improve the corner of Bellfield Street and Hawkhill will be implemented.  This came after the SNP Administration had to withdraw a report which attempted to allow a property developer to build houses on the site despite the council having a clear policy to improve the site.

I welcome the announcement that the council's policy will be implemented.  I note that the announcement is by the Council's Chief Executive and not for the council's political leadership, which does beg the question who is running the council?  I have been clear from the outset that the unanimous decision of the council from December 2016 should be implemented.  I am glad that it will be.  I also accept the Chief Executive's apology.

Lessons must be learned from this debacle.  There must be no repetition of this.  It is good to hear that the Chief Executive has said that he has changed procedures to prevent any repeat of this sorry saga.  I would also point out that this report made its way through the SNP Group without anyone pointing out the very obvious flaw in that there was already a policy for this site.  Councillor Macpherson and myself pointed this flaw out in a private committee session, I would reiterate my concern that we have private meetings too often.

I look forward to the area across from the Whitehall Theatre being improved and I am glad that my point of view has prevailed on this but I must say that we should not have got into this situation in the first place and there should be no repeat of this either.


Please find below a copy of the email sent by Dundee City Council Chief Executive David  Martin to all councillors today.

Dear councillor,
Following the withdrawal of a report on the above site at the City Development Committee on 27 March, I have now had the opportunity to discuss the matter fully with relevant senior officers and investigate the circumstances surrounding the submission of this item to members.  In essence, there has been a breakdown in internal communication between officers in the Neighbourhood Services and City Development directorates.  This led to one service in the Council seeking to work with a prospective developer to realise a housing development opportunity for the city, while another service was implementing an existing decision of the Council to undertake an environmental improvement project on part of the same site.  The corporate discussions that members would expect to take place where new opportunities arise for the use/re-use of a piece of land that had been designated for another purpose had been inadequate in this instance, leading to incomplete reporting and advice being given to Councillors at the City Development Committee regarding the status of the site concerned.  Unusually in this particular case, the matter was further complicated by the site being referred to by a different name in reports to the City Council's Committees in December 2016 and March 2017.

Nonetheless, it is clear that the high standards of professional advice that members of the City Council are right to expect was lacking on this occasion, and I would once again apologise to all Councillors for this.  I have now instructed officers to proceed to implement the decision taken by the council in December last year to complete the environmental improvement project originally intended, and have taken steps to ensure that all reports to Council Committees are reviewed by all members of the Council Management Team prior to submission to members to avoid a repetition of this unfortunate mistake. 

David R Martin
Chief Executive
Dundee City Council



Who makes council policy?

I was hugely concerned last week to find out that the council was proposing to sell off land across from the Whitehall Theatre despite the fact that the council had a clear policy for the area
The work on the green space was meant to have been finished by now, yet very little has been done and the council seems to have forgotten its commitment.
I asked the chief executive why this has happened, and the response was that there has been a mix-up.
That’s not good enough – if this commitment has been forgotten that begs the question, what other policies aren’t being fulfilled?
I also think that there is a need for more transparency, meetings should only be held in private as a last resort.
I understand that due to business confidentiality some discussions need to be private, but there needs to be a balance to allow the public to stay informed.
There is a need for answers on this issue.  It may not be the biggest policy decision that the council ever faces but it is important to get to the bottom of who makes policy for the council and who has the right to overrule a democratic decision.