Dundee City Council closes Camperdown Golf Course

The SNP Administration pushed through the closure of Camperdown Golf Course at the meeting of the Policy & Resources Committee on Monday evening.

You can read the flimsy report calling for the closure of Camperdown Golf Course here from the marked page 153 onwards.  Six flimsy pages which beg more questions than they answer closed Camperdown Golf Course after sixty years.

I moved an amendment which said that the closure should not happen unless a lot more work was done to provide more information.

Let’s be very very clear.  Leisure & Culture Dundee operate Camperdown Golf Course on behalf of Dundee City Council.  The council currently pays them a management fee to operate the course and the other facilities which the City Council has delegated to them.  Leisure and Culture are perfectly within their rights to come to the council and say that they cannot continue to operate the golf course.

However, that means that Dundee City Council had to make the decision.  It was the decision of Dundee City Council's Policy & Resources Committee which decided whether Camperdown Golf Course closed or not.

The report presented to the committee was totally inadequate.  It does not demonstrate that every avenue has been looked at.  It makes statements and offers no evidence.

The Director of Leisure & Culture and the Chief Executive accepted that the Equality Impact Assessments could be better.  These are integral to the decision making process it is a disgrace that this decision was forced through after this was said.

I feel sorry for Camperdown Golf Course elsewhere in the reports for the meeting we were told that there was a year on year increase in use.  In normal circumstances this would call for a self-congratulatory press release and photo call instead Camperdown Golf Course was marked for closure.

The figure in the report of £440,000 is for all of Golf Dundee’s activities.  What is the actual figure for costs at Camperdown Golf Course the report does not say.

The club captain at Camperdown Golf Club Ian McAlindon spoke eloquently for his members.  They had not been consulted.  They had been told that the course was safe.  He said that he was 'gobsmacked' when he heard that the course was marked for closure.  The report also said that Camperdown Golf Club was in financial difficulty Mr McAlindon said that this was not true.  The report and Mr McAlindon cannot both be right.

This suggests to me that no effective consultation has taken place before such a major decision is made.  Informal discussions as highlighted in paragraph 4.10 of the report do not represent a consultation with other possible providers.

The relevant financial information was not in the report.  Even if you were minded to close Camperdown Golf Course it should not have been done on the basis of this incomplete, flimsy report.  As the Revenue Monitoring Report also presented on Monday evening demonstrated previous schemes to deliver savings have not come off or have not delivered the expected income.

The plans for a golf driving range at Caird Park are interesting but as far as this report is concerned uncosted.  A figure of £80,000 is mentioned but not substantiated.  We cannot assume anything about income or expenditure about this plan.

The hope for the best school of accounting is unacceptable.

Camperdown Park can be and should be an attractive place to visit.  Much has been done in recent years with the new visitor centre at the Wildlife Park and the new play area for example.

We need to develop a refreshed  master plan for the park.  We should note that the then Environment Committee agreed in September 2012 to look at finding a productive use for Camperdown House.  It is unacceptable that seven years on there has been no progress on this.  This should be a priority.  Councillors are the custodians of Camperdown House and Camperdown Park we have a duty to find ways in which Dundonians and visitors can use these great assets.

Being able to visit Camperdown House and perhaps play golf is surely one way of doing this.

I pointed out that some councillors might think that the closure of Camperdown Golf Course will not impact on them.  But by condemning Camperdown Golf Course to closure Dundee City Council set a very unwelcome precedent about the closure of facilities.  Which facility will be next?

There appear to be no guarantees that people who have recently been transferred from Leisure & Culture Dundee employment to maintain the grounds will not be made compulsorily redundant.  

I wanted the council to demonstrate the every option to keep Camperdown Golf Course open.  I wanted to look at at whether the golf course could be brought back in house, whether another provider could be found or whether a community asset transfer could be a solution.  My amendment included these options.  I was delighted when Councillor Lynne Short called for a community asset transfer to be considered I was surprised and slightly confused when Councillor Short then voted to close the golf course.

Monday evening's meeting was not Dundee City Council's finest hour.  The poorly set out proposals were pushed through.   On the basis of the report before the council on Monday evening the very least that was needed was an awful lot more information before such a big decision was made.

Along with my colleagues in the Labour Group I am willing to work with the members of Camperdown Golf Club and the users of Camperdown Golf Course to see if this closure can be stopped.

It is hard to disagree with my colleague Councillor Charlie Malone who said that this is an act of  'cultural vandalism.'


Action needed on 20mph Speed Limits

On Monday evening Dundee City Council's City Development Committee considered a report on the trail 20mph zone in the Glens and Johnston Avenue.  I welcomed that report and I called for more action to promote 20 mph zones in residential areas across the city.

My main concern is that the Glens 20mph zone was intended as a trail to influence future trials and implementation across the city. The 20mph speed limit in the Glens Area was unanimously agreed by this committee as a trial in December 2016.

The recommendation in December 2016 put forward by the Administration and supported by the whole committee was that the Committee

a) ‘notes the outcome from the citywide consultation on 20mph speed limits and endorses its findings.  The findings of this report will be used in bringing forward, where appropriate, future 20mph speed limits across the city; and

b) approves an initial twelve month trial of a 20mph zone ( signed only) around the ‘Glens area.’

It appears to me that the report from Monday has forgotten that this was intended as a trial with a possibility that it might be extended.

The 2016 report recognised that 20mph are not suitable everywhere.  I was asking for a further report on where the lessons learnt in the Glens might be applicable and posing the question of whether 20mph could be the default speed limit within the city.

The City of Edinburgh has taken a decision which makes 20mph the default speed limit in residential areas and I think that at the very least we should be looking to bring forward a report on the feasibility of that.

I was not suggesting that we made a decision on Monday rather that the Executive Director returns to a future meeting with a report which takes forward the spirit of the report unanimously passed by this committee in December 2016.

I was glad to that the Committee unanimously agreed to this proposal and that a further report on 20 mph zones will be brought forward.


Dundee City Council Budget - protecting our future, saving jobs today

The SNP Administration's Budget proposals were voted through at the Budget meeting on Thursday
21 February.  This means that cuts to primary school teachers, to support workers in schools and school budgets were voted through.

I am disappointed that our sensible proposals to protect education spending, to stop the on-going attack on the terms and conditions of council workers and to spend more on health and social care were rejected.  You can read more about our proposals here.

During the debate I spoke in favour of our proposals.

There were many disagreements during the council meeting but there is one thing that the council is still united on.  It remains the policy of Dundee City Council that Dundee needs a better settlement from the Scottish Government.  The council's lobbying has so far fallen on deaf ears.  The budget may well have been passed but we need to keep up the pressure to make sure that, at the very least, next year Dundee gets a fair deal.

Our proposals would have utilised more of the council's reserves.  This is because we are clear that this is the rainy day. There is no point in building up reserves at the same time as cutting jobs and services.

I remain concerned about the on-going attacks on the terms and conditions of the council's workforce.  The Labour Group proposed to delete the proposals to attack the terms and conditions of the workforce.  All the trade unions, who made excellent contributions through their deputations, said that they would be happy to work with the council,  to look at any proposals put forward, but said that they would not agree to plans which hurt workers terms and conditions.  We hear lots of pious talk about the workforce being the council's biggest asset but talk is cheap, it is actions which count.

Labour's proposals would have protected a whole range of voluntary organisations such as Barnardos, Action for Children, One Parent Families and Victim Support among many, many others.  The fact that under 43 different headings in the voluntary sector there was to be a 5% cut shows that there had been very little thought about how this might impact on service delivery.  Instead there was an arbitrary cut of 5% proposed.  We tried to protect this investment, but the SNP voted through this cut.

We also wanted to spend more on Health and Social Care than the SNP.  We proposed an amount targeted at reducing hospital re-admissions and issues around trips and falls.  This would utilise social care workers more effectively and prevent any proposals for split shifts amongst these essential workers.

The SNP put forward proposals to cut funding to Dundee's cultural bodies other than the V & A.  We proposed to continue to support Dundee Heritage Trust, Dundee Science Centre, the DCA and Dundee Rep and Scottish Dance Theatre as well as the V & A.  We also proposed extra funding for Dundee Rep and Scottish Dance Theatre to allow them to do even more community work.  Given that Dundee prides itself in its cultural activities it is bizarre that these cuts were pushed through.  Remember that this council wanted to be European City of Culture in 2023.

Most importantly our proposals tried to delete all the savings in the education budget.  It is crucial that we give every young person in Dundee the best start in life.  Officers said that these cuts would impact on  the education in our schools.  Our plans would have stopped the 3% cut to school devolved budgets, it would have stopped the rise in prices for school breakfast clubs and preserved the Kick It Kick Off programme.  Our plans would have recognised and valued the work of support staff in our schools.  Instead we will have the situation where Pupil Equity Funding is used inappropriately to cover for cuts in mainstream budgets.  That was called cheating when I was at school.

Our proposals were a budget for the many not the few, a budget which would have protected the future of our city by saving jobs and services.


Attacking terms and conditions of workers

Last night at Dundee City Council's Policy and Resources Committee a report was presented to the committee entitled 'Managing Workforce Change'.  This report was put forward a mere three weeks after it was first raised with the trade unions and it is a thinly veiled attack on the terms and conditions of employees of Dundee City Council.

After listening carefully to the points made by four separate trade union deputations I seconded my colleague Councillor Kevin Keenan in calling for the report to be noted and for there to be meaningful discussions with the trade unions before any such report is brought back to committee.

The council often says that the workforce is the biggest resource that it has and if we truly think that we have a duty to value our workforce. It is unacceptable in my view to refuse to listen to the voice of the workers and to not value their contribution.

To some extent trade union negotiation was taking place in the council chamber last night.  Trade unions had been told, and nobody denied that this was true, that there was no point in negotiating with them as they would disagree with the proposals anyway.  This is not how to carry out negotiations and shows bad faith from the start.  It also begs the question, who sanctioned this policy?  Was it only officers or was it the administration?  In either case it also begs the question of who is in charge?

We were told last night that this was not about implementing a policy soon it was about opening up opportunities to do things differently.  Why the indecent haste to implement the policy then?  If it is not about being able to do things soon why not talk about the proposals with the trade unions..

The whole approach strikes me as counterproductive.  At the trade union demonstration on Saturday I heard about the willingness of social care workers to take strike action.  It seems to me that the council is keen on such a confrontation.  This is not in anyone's interests.

If officers and the SNP Administration are so convinced that the proposals that they put forward last night are correct what are they frightened of in discussing them further with the workforce and their trade unions.

Underlying the whole debate is the threat of compulsory redundancies. I am clear that council leaders over a number of years have clearly stated that the policy of the council is a policy of no compulsory redundancies.  This was denied last night, but it was instructive that the council's chief legal officer was unable to agree with the Convener that the council did not have a policy of no compulsory redundancies.  We were told that there was no intention to use compulsory redundancies but if that is the case what is the necessity to state an openness to that policy now.

Finally, this policy was first shown to the trade unions on 24 January and three weeks  later was debated in committee  Why the haste?  Is this to be the new norm with regard to policy development.  Frankly, for a number of issues in the West End the ability to turn around policy is closer to three years than three weeks.  Again I say, why the haste?

Dundee City Council should value its workforce and be exemplars in terms of employment practice.  Last night Dundee City Council was, sadly, very far from that.