20/09/2017

Cars parked all the way along Ninewells Avenue avoiding the charges
I am calling for an end to car parking charges at Ninewells Hospital, which is in the West End ward.  I have been calling for the end to this policy since 2009.  This policy is a further cost to NHS staff who have suffered years of pay freezes.  I am clear that there is no such thing as a 'free' car parking space, they must be paid for in some way and must also be regulated. 

 

I want to see an end to car parking charges at Ninewells.  If free car parking at hospitals is the policy of the Scottish Government then it should apply in Dundee just as much as anywhere else in Scotland. Taxpayers in Dundee are paying for 'free' car parking at hospitals across Scotland.   I know that I will be told that Labour agreed to the contract, if the Scottish Government thinks free car parking is the way forward then the contract should be bought out in Dundee.  I want to do what is right for my community not worry about the rights and wrongs and political point scoring of who made the original decision.

 

We should also be clear that 'free' car parking is a cost to the NHS budget nationally.  In Dundee charging for car parking is a further tax on NHS staff and ill people and their families and friends.  I am not advocating a free for all at Ninewells just that staff should be able to get free parking when they are working and that people attending for appointments or for reasonable visiting should also get free spaces.

 

We must also do all that we can to make Ninewells accessible to people without the need to take their car to the hospital.  The current policy either penalises those who pay or encourages others to park in the surrounding streets becoming a nuisance to many of my constituents.  I have written to NHS Tayside and to the Cabinet Secretary for Health about this issue.

19/09/2017

Welcome for Civil Service Jobs for Dundee



Jenny Marra MSP's letter calling for these jobs to come to Dundee
As Dundee Labour's City Development spokesperson I have welcomed the announcement by the Scottish Government of Civil Service jobs coming to Dundee with Scottish Benefits Agency coming to Dundee.


My priority for Dundee is jobs.  Along with the Labour Group I will work with anyone to ensure that good quality sustainable jobs are brought to Dundee or kept in Dundee.  The Scottish Benefits Agency coming to Dundee is something that my colleague Jenny Marra MSP has been calling for and I am glad that her call has been supported.


This is the first new Civil Service jobs to come to Dundee in ten years and it is good that the SNP-led Scottish Government has finally delivered on its campaign from 2003 and 2007.  It is good that this has eventually led to jobs coming to Dundee.


I have been calling for Civil Service jobs to be relocated to Dundee since I was elected.  Indeed when I work for former Dundee East MP John McAllion it was one of our big campaigns.


We are keen to work to ensure that these jobs become a reality before too long.  Labour in Dundee will work with the council and the Scottish Government to ensure that Dundonians receive a pay packet from the Scottish Benefits Agency before too long.


I look forward to these jobs coming to Dundee and I hope that they are the first of many jobs for our city.

14/09/2017

Campaign to be a Living Wage City

Along with council colleagues, including Councillor Charlie Malone and others I attended a Living Wage Roadshow in the City Chambers on Wednesday evening.  I was the first person to promote the Living Wage on Dundee City Council, and while I welcomes what the council is doing to promote the Living Wage he is clear that there is much much more that could be done.


It was good to see just how far we have come since I first proposed the Living Wage in a Dundee City Council meeting.  I am really pleased that after a fairly long campaign that Dundee City Council is now a fully accredited Living Wage employer.  I want Dundee to become a Living Wage city with a Living Wage economy.  People need to be rewarded for their work.  Dundee City Council has considerable financial clout in this city and we should not be afraid to use that to ensure that the people of Dundee  are paid a decent wage.  Dundee residents should benefit from council external contracts and we should make sure that all council contractors and sub-contractors are paid the Living Wage.  Dundee City Council should be at forefront of the campaign to make Dundee a Living Wage city and should lead by example.


It was good to hear about what the council is doing in conjunction with the Poverty Alliance, the Living Wage Foundation and the Scottish Government to ensure that more companies sign up to the Living Wage and there are special accreditation rates over the next month.  I want to work with anyone to make our city a Living Wage economy and improve the lot of very many of our fellow Dundonians.

13/09/2017

Chic Farquhar RIP

Chic supporting Labour on the campaign trail
I was sad to hear of the death of former Labour councillor Chic Farquhar.  Chic served Dundee and more especially Lochee as a councillor for 42 years.  He held a variety of posts including Lord Provost.  He was my predecessor as Convener of Leisure and Arts.  He was a hard act to follow.  Before I heard of his death on Tuesday I was thinking about Chic at the celebrations for the 150th Anniversary of the McManus Galleries.  Chic was the political lead for the refurbishment of the McManus, I took over responsibility for this when I was elected as Convener of Leisure and Arts.

Chic's role as 'Mr Lochee' is relatively well known.  He did have a wide variety of interests.  For example, he was hugely supportive of disabled sport in the city through the Dundee Disability Sports Council.  He was also, for many years, the Chair of the Dundee Sports Council promoting the work of volunteer sports clubs across the city.

Chic was, of course, a stalwart of the labour and trade union movement and served the movement well over many years.

Whatever their politics someone who has served their community for 42 years has made a strong contribution to their community and our city. Whilst many people will comment on Chic's political career it is important to note that he will be missed by his friends and family and my thoughts are with them.

08/09/2017

Big Noise Douglas

Cllrs Kevin Keenan & Richard McCready making their way into
Dundee City Chambers to support El Sistema
I was delighted to see the Big Noise Dundee launched on Thursday.  This version of the El Sistema programme is to welcomed and I hope that it will make a real difference in the Douglas area.

I was particularly pleased to see this happen as I had made clear my support for this project several times in the council chamber.  Indeed I spoke in favour of it long before the council's administration was prepared to support it.  I first mentioned that we should support it when I was paying tribute to the life and legacy of the singer Michael Marra.  This should be a lasting memorial to Michael Marra.

I have heard about the great work that the Big Noise has made in Raploch and indeed in the area of Glasgow where I was born, Govanhill.

I hope that the Big Noise Douglas will be a great success.

07/09/2017

Community Spirit Action Group

I was at the regular meeting of the Community Spirit Action Group in the north of the West End ward on Wednesday evening.  It was an interesting meeting.  It was good to listen to local people's concerns.  Their concerns included road safety, buses, bin collections and trees amongst other things.

It is always good to listen to the views of local residents and I was very happy to get a number of constituent cases to chase up.

It was good to get the chance to talk about changes to the bus services which will impact on this area.  Xplore Dundee are to introduce a new service 4 which will serve the Logie Estate.  This service will be an off-peak day time service but it is a start.  I am pleased that Xplore Dundee have listened to the case which I am the Community Spirit committee have been making over a number of years.

One World Centre AGM


On Wednesday I was pleased to be able to get along to the Annual General Meeting of the One World Centre.  I was pleased to be able to support this excellent organisation.

It was good to hear about work which they have been involved in which has helped the integration of refugees in our community.

Our city was built on international trade and it is important that we understand that we are truly part of one world and that we should act accordingly.

I want to pay tribute to the work of Ann Gammack who has served as Convener of the One World Centre for the last five years.  In the annual report she says 'In our globalised world we can no longer build a wall around ourselves and shut out the rest of the world.'  I could not agree more.  My neighbours are the people of Dundee but they are also people around the whole world.

I will continue to campaign for change in the economic situation here is Dundee and around the world.

04/09/2017

Basque Refugee Children Exhibition


As regular readers will know one area of history which fascinates me is the Spanish Civil War and reactions to it in Scotland and the UK.  I have been pleased to mark the sacrifice of the volunteers of the International Brigade at the memorial outside the McManus Galleries.

This week there is an exhibition in the Central Library of the story of the Basque Refugee Children who came to Britain in 1937 to escape the Civil War and bombing in the Basque Country.  In Dundee there was a great deal of support for these children and the Dundee Free Breakfast Mission made their home in Montrose available for these children to stay there.  There was a great deal of support for this including from the local co-operative societies, political parties and trades unions.

If you want to know more about the history of these children please visit the website of Basque Children of 37 website. The website includes a number of  articles about the so-called Montrose colony.  In the 80th anniversary of this refugee crisis we need to look at what we would do today to support those suffering throughout the world.

Dundee Rep - August: Osage County

 Amongst the many organisations which I am associated and which I support is Dundee Rep Theatre.  I was appointed by the council as a Director of Dundee Rep and Scottish Dance Theatre.  As part of this role I attended a performance of August: Osage County. This was the first production directed by the new artistic director Andrew Panton.

I did not know the play before I attended it but I was pleasantly surprised.  This is an excellent production and well worth going to see.  The production was really good with a striking set.  It was funny and challenging at the same time.  An excellent performance by the Dundee Rep ensemble.

It is on at the Rep until 16 September, get along if you can.

01/09/2017

Concern over Job Losses at Scottish Electic

As Dundee Labour's City Development spokesperson, I have expressed my concern at job losses at Scottish Electric which is based in the West End ward.  I am seeking an update from the City Council about what they will do to help the workforce find alternative employment.

This is terrible news for the 99 people who have lost their jobs.  I will be seeking a briefing on what the council can do to help those who have lost their jobs.   It is bad news for the city when a company employing this number of people goes into liquidation.  I am clear though that as Labour's City Development spokesperson my priority is to help to create and protect jobs in Dundee.

It is also crucially important that we do all that we can to protect apprentices.  Those young people who have apprenticeships at Scottish Electric must be found an alternative.  It is so important that they get to finish their apprenticeship and are prepared for the world of work.

There is a lot of construction work going on in Dundee just now.  It is important that as much of that work as is possible goes to Dundee based firms so that the investment benefits the wider economy of the city.  Scottish Electric were working on the new railway station and we should be doing what we can to try and get the workers who have lost their jobs at Scottish Electric to continue to work on the railway station.

28/08/2017

A Working Port - Pay Packets for workers in Dundee Sign of Success

I have been campaigning for a working port with Jenny Marra MSP
As Dundee Labour's City Development spokesperson today I welcomed the agreement between Forth Ports Limited and AF Offshore Decom UK on the signing of Heads of Agreement to establish a new joint venture AF Dundee.  Along with the Labour Party and the trade union movement, especially my trade union the GMB, I have campaigned for a working port in Dundee and in support of decommissioning jobs coming to Dundee.

Dundee needs a working port.  I am pleased to see progress on decommissioning.  This is something which I have campaigned on with Jenny Marra MSP, Labour colleagues and trade unions like the GMB over a number of years.  It is good to see progress being made.

The signing of the Heads of Agreement is good.  I look forward to this coming to fruition and delivering jobs here in Dundee.  I hope that this will result in a jobs boost for our city.  The test for success on this will be when the first Dundee workers receive a pay packet from this project.


I am determined to do all that I can to make Dundee a working port.  Along with the Labour Group on the City Council I will work with anyone to deliver that working port that our city needs.  I want to stop jobs sailing past our city and help to bring them to the city.  This is a good start and I hope that this project will be a success and bring good quality, sustainable jobs to Dundee.

27/08/2017

Theft for Dundee City Council

I was very concerned to see reports of the theft of over £1 million from Dundee City Council and the conviction of a former member of staff.  Councillors and the people of Dundee need reassurance that this cannot happen again.  I agree with my colleague Bailie Kevin Keenan about what is needed to move forward on this, his statement is below.

Commenting after the sentencing of Mark Conway for stealing from Dundee City Council, Labour Group Leader Bailie Kevin Keenan said, ‘The main culprit here is Mark Conway and it is right that the full force of the law has been brought to bear against him.’

‘I am looking for Dundee City Council’s Auditors to produce a report on how this could have happened.  I also want to see evidence that loopholes have been tightened and that as far as is possible senior officers of the council are convinced that this cannot happen again.’


‘The people of Dundee and councillors need openness and honesty about how this was allowed to happen and the reassurance that it is not possible again.  I also want to know what impact cuts have had in this.  Over the last few years the number of staff of the council has been cut and this has led to people taking on more and more responsibility.  Did this mean that there were fewer checks and balances in place to prevent this type of theft and fraud?  I also want to know that Dundee City Council will be doing all in its power to recover this much-needed public money.’

23/08/2017

Contrite Officers Good - But Recycling Regime was Political Decision

I welcome the contrition shown by Dundee City Council Chief Executive and Executive Director of Neighbourhood Services with regard to the problems with bins over the summer but it has to be pointed out that the policy had been decided by councillors not by officers.  Officers of the council have been trying to implement the policy voted through by SNP, Conservative and Liberal Democrat councillors in the face of opposition to the proposals from Labour and the sole independent councillor Ian Borthwick.

When the decisions were made, in June 2016, which implemented the latest chaotic round of recycling changes the Labour Group put forward an amendment to ensure that there was 'meaningful consultation' with the people of Dundee.  On Monday evening we heard that officers are now willing to listen to concerns from people.  Surely, this is a case of shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted.  I believe that if a meaningful consultation had been held prior to the implementation of the changes then some of the problems that have been experienced could have been avoided.  Why was the council frightened to listen to the people of Dundee?

I was surprised to see officers accept the blame for decisions.  Officers do not make policy for Dundee City Council.  It was a welcome show of humility from senior officers but it would have been more appropriate for the political leadership to issue the apology, but as the Courier has pointed out 'sorry' does seem to be the hardest word to say.


I recognise that the Leader of the Council has said that he will fix the problem.  Let's hope that he is true to his word. Perhaps the most disappointing thing about Monday night was that there is unanimity on the council in favour of promoting recycling.  Dundee used to be known for its recycling - it was an early adopter of recycling under Labour leadership.  The Labour Group wants Dundee to be at the forefront of recycling and we want to work with the Administration to achieve this but our past attempts to assist them have been ignored.  We hope for better in the future.

22/08/2017

Air Quality Update

At Monday evening's Community Safety and Public Protection Committee there was an update on Air Quality reported to the committee.  Unfortunately, there are still areas of the city where the air quality remains poor including Lochee Road in the West End ward.  At the meeting on Monday evening my ward colleague Bailie Fraser Macpherson spoke on the issue.  I made the point that I could have also spoken at some length about the lack of changes in air quality in the Lochee Road area over a number of years and that I did not want to return to the committee next year to make the same points.  We need action.  As a group, the Labour Group is happy to work to allow the council to fulfil the SNP Scottish Government's ambition set out in their policy document Clean Air for Scotland - The Road to a Healthier Future.

My colleague Councillor Michael Marra put forward an amendment to the report which was put forward by the Administration.  The amendment asked the council to look at the process and implications for Dundee becoming a Low Emission Zone.  A Low Emission Zone is a policy brought forward by the Scottish Government which would limit polluting vehicles in the city for example.  I was really pleased when the Convener agreed to accept Councillor Marra's amendment.

If we are to make the changes that are needed we must work with haulage and courier companies to ensure that they are prepared for the changes that will surely come in order to improve air quality.  We also need to look at ensuring that public transport makes a contribution to improving air quality.  For example, hybrid buses which have been supported by government funding should be directed to those streets where they will make the most difference to air quality.

We must take air quality seriously. This is why the we must do all that we can to support the work done through the publication of the Cleaner Air for Scotland – The Road to a Healthier Future. If we are to meet our target of full compliance with EU air quality regulation by 2020 then there needs to be a step change in our actions. Also as a city committed to promoting fairness we need to look at who suffers most from poor air quality.  It is the poor and those with already existing health conditions who suffer most from poor air quality.  That is unacceptable. I think that we need to do more to ensure that this is taken seriously. I think that we need to be at the forefront of supporting the environment. On this important issue I am happy to help the Scottish Government achieve their ambitious targets. That is why I think that our city should look to be one of the first with a Low Emission Zone. As a UNESCO City of Design we should want to be at the forefront of designing a city with low emissions.

It is good that the council worked together to try and tackle poor air quality.  I look forward to further reports and to making real progress on improving air quality across Dundee.

20/06/2017

Shocked at job losses in Dundee

As Dundee Labour's City Development spokesperson I have today expressed my shock that 252 jobs at Lloyds Banking Group are to be moved to Dunfermline.  I will be  seeking meetings with the Lloyds Banking Group, the trade union representing the workforce and the city council to discuss what can be done.  As the local councillor for the West End ward I am also seeking a reassurance about the future of the Bank of Scotland branch in the Marketgait.

 

I was shocked to hear about these plans to move jobs from Dundee to Dunfermline.  My first thoughts are with the workforce who will be devastated by this news.  Moving to work in Dunfermline will not suit all of the workforce.  I am seeking a meeting with the Lloyds Banking Group to ask them to explain their rationale for this move and to see if there is anything that can be done to encourage them to stay in Dundee.  I have contacted the trade union in order to get an idea on what the workforce think about this.  I will also be asking Dundee City Council's City Development department what they are planning to do about this and also looking at what the Scottish Government can do to help support Dundee's economy.

 

The Dundee economy can ill afford to lose 250 jobs.  Dundee should be looking to attract jobs not lose jobs. I want to see efforts to create more jobs in the city.

 

I will also be seeking reassurance over the long-term future of the Bank of Scotland branch at this site.  Bank branches are important to the viability of our shopping areas and I want to be sure that the Bank of Scotland branch has a long-term future.

19/06/2017

Road Safety at the West End Campus

Sign outside the West End Campus
This afternoon along with my ward colleague, Fraser Macpherson, and a number of concerned parents and council officers I visited the West End Campus to see the car parking issues at the end of the school day at Balgay Hill Nursery, St Joseph's Primary and Victoria Park Primary.  A number of parents have raised concerns with me about road safety around the schools.

We did see some very poor parking - some of which was unsafe.  It is important that people are considerate of others when dropping off or picking up children from school.  Everyone needs to act responsibly and safely.  Along with others I have asked for consideration to be given for the barrier on Blackness Road to be extended to whole length of the school and for the barrier into the school to be repaired.  I think that we need to look at waiting restrictions and enforcement in the surrounding streets.

There are options for parking slightly further away but which would be much safer than some of the current situations.  Essentially we all need to look at what we can do to make the environment near the school safer.

02/06/2017

Xplore Dundee Visit

Visiting Xplore Dundee with other councillors and Xplore Dundee Staff
Last week along with a number of council colleagues I was pleased to take up the invitation of Xplore Dundee and visit their operation in Dundee.

It was great to hear from Xplore Dundee about their operations and listen to their views on bus services.  It was good to get the opportunity to listen to them.
 

Some parts of Dundee have an excellent bus service whilst others have a poor service I am keen to find a way to even this up.  Xplore Dundee mentioned their wish to initiate a Bus Quality Partnership with the council and this is something that I would like to look at.  It is unclear why the council has not taken up this offer and I will be seeking a briefing on this.

 

I want buses in Dundee to be a service.  I think for that to become a reality we need a change in legislation.  The Scottish Government is bringing in a Transport Bill in the next year and that bill needs to give greater powers and resources to local government to direct bus services more.  We need a situation where bus services are just that, services.

 

People across the city have problems with buses.  In the Logie estate older people want a more regular bus service, in Tullideph Road there are now redundant bus stops as there are at the western end of the Perth Road.  Buses cannot be run solely for profit and we need to find a way to give the council the means to ensure that socially useful services are maintained.

Change to surgery times

I have made a couple of changes to the times of my regular surgeries.  I am still doing the same number of surgeries and in the same places I have just changed the times a little bit.

So from now on my surgeries are as follows

First & Third Monday of the month 12.45-1.15pm Lime Street Sheltered Housing Complex

First & Third Monday of the month 1-30-2pm Corso Street Sheltered Housing Complex

First & Third Monday of the month 2.15-2.45pm Morven Terrace Sheltered Housing Complex

Fridays at 5pm in Blackness Library

(all the above except school and public holidays)

My contact details can be found here, I am always happy to hear from local people about the issues which are bothering them.

25/04/2017

At last investment in Tennis facilities at Victoria Park

Victoria Park Tennis Courts from West End Labour & Co-op on Vimeo.

Since 2009 West End I have been calling for improvements to the tennis courts at Victoria Park in his ward.  I am pleased at long last to see that £88,000 will be spent on these courts to bring them up to an acceptable standard.  After my campaign for improvements Dundee City Council's Neighbourhood Services Committee approved investment of  £88,000 in Victoria Park Tennis Courts.

I have been calling for improvements to these tennis courts over a number of years.  I have been promised that work will take place before and I hope that it will now come to fruition.  The state of the tennis courts is totally unacceptable.  I am glad that the council has listened to my concerns and those of local people and that now action will finally be taken.  I will be watching to ensure that the investment delivers genuine improvements in the tennis courts as I have been promised action previously and none has been forthcoming.

I will continue to look for investment in the West End and to ensure that local people get the best services possible.  Our parks are a great asset to the city and we need to look at ways of ensuring that their facilities are kept up to date.


I also hope that Dundee will receive funding from Tennis Scotland to have publicly accessible indoor tennis courts built in the city.

21/04/2017

Friends of the Earth & Dundee Cycle Forum Hustings

Addressing the Friends of the Earth Tayside & Dundee Cycle Forum Hustings
On Thursday evening I was delighted to attend a very interesting hustings meeting organised by Friends of the Earth Tayside and the Dundee Cycle Forum.

We were asked to give a few opening remarks on the topic of People, Place and Transport the gist of my remarks is below.  I want Dundee to have the best environment possible and I will work with groups like Friends of the Earth Tayside and the Dundee Cycle Forum to play my part in doing just that.

I have been a councillor for ten years and in my time on the council I think that my commitment to protecting our environment has been clear.

I think that we live in a magnificent city and that we should do all that we can to ensure that it stays that way.

That is why I led the opposition on the council to an industrial scale biomass plant in the docks and secured cross-party support for that on the council.  I was glad to be able to lead a cross-party group of councillors in that opposition even if we were told that we were all too stupid to understand the the hard science by the current council leader.

I have been calling for proper action year after year after year about air pollution issues in the city, especially on the Lochee Road in my area.  I think that Dundee should consider applying to be a low emission zone.

We need to do all that we can to protect this great place we call home.  Whether by that you mean the West End, Dundee, Scotland, the UK, Europe or planet earth.

Close to home I am looking for investment in our parks and green spaces.  This is important for the future of our city.  It is too easily overlooked at this time of  £80 million worth of cuts over the last ten years.

I also want to support more renewable energy and I am pleased to say that I am part of a group looking at setting up a Solar Energy Co-operative in Dundee, Scotland's sunniest city.  This has been done in Edinburgh and it is important that we look to promote renewable energy where we can.  For example, the new Harris Academy is a south facing building with a huge roof space and no solar panels on the roof - a missed opportunity.

I also want to promote more district heating systems.  We are heading towards 2019 and the centenary of Scotland's first council housing estate in the the Logie Estate in my ward.  It was built with a district heating system, which apparently heated the pavements as much as the houses but the technology is so much better now and we need to work to deliver district heating schemes, bulk buying schemes and energy efficiency schemes where we can.

Transport is hugely important and we need to find a balance. We know that access to a car is at a relatively low rate in Dundee compared to other places yet transport policy is dictated by car users.  We do need good roads and I looking for improvements to the state of the roads in large parts of the West End.  Potholes which damage cars are bad for the environment.  However, we are too reliant on the car, and I include myself in that.

We need to ensure that we can combat that reliance on the motor car.  We need to make public transport more attractive.  The ABC cards on Dundee buses are a step forward but what we need is an 'Oyster' card style system in Dundee certainly but preferably across Scotland.  A system that is genuinely about joint ticketing and which charges the user the lowest cost at the end of the day.

As a Scottish Co-operative Party candidate in this election I support their 'People's Bus' campaign and I also support Unite the Union's 'Haud the Bus' campaign.  There are people in the West End who have a great bus service but there are places which are neglected.  There are a number of ex-bus stops in the West End in places like the far-end of the Perth Road or Tullideph Road.  It is a disgrace that profitable bus companies can effectively just turn round to the council and more importantly the people of Dundee and say that we are not going to run a service there and there is virtually nothing that the council or the general public can do about it.

We need to change the relationship with bus services.  We need to say to companies that if they want to operate profitable routes then they also need to run socially useful services.  There is a huge hidden indirect subsidy to bus companies in this country and the public gets very little in return for it.  We need to empower local people to ensure that they have a say in how bus services are run in their area.

We should also look to improve local train journeys.  We need to ensure that Dundee remains connected with the major cities of Scotland and the UK but we also need to make sure that we also have connections along the Tay.  We should promote commuting options along the Tay. Estuary by train.  This has been talked about for years - we need delivery now.

I support active travel and I think that we need to invest in active travel and I support spending 10% of the transport budget on walking and cycling.

We have high hopes for our city as a destination with the V & A and hopefully as European City of Culture in 2023.  I want us to be a cycle friendly European city.  More needs to be done around the Waterfront development to deliver a pedestrian and cycle friendly environment and welcome to the city.  We should also use Dundee's position as a UNESCO City of Design to ensure that the highest standard of design is expected right across the city.  We should also expect to be at the forefront of using that status to design a good environment.

I also paid tribute to my colleague Councillor Laurie Bidwell, who is standing down from the council at this election.  Laurie has been a champion of active travel and particularly of cycling over his ten years on the council and the council will need to find another champion of the active travel after the election to match his commitment.

12/04/2017

Refurbish Victoria Park Tennis Courts

Victoria Park Tennis Courts from West End Labour & Co-op on Vimeo.
 I am calling for action to improve the tennis courts in Victoria Park.  A number of local residents have raised concerns about the state of the tennis courts with me. 

Over a number of years I have called for improvements to the tennis courts across the city and especially at Victoria Park.  This has been raised with me by a number of local residents.  Last week I visited the courts and I was appalled by the state of the courts.  I have been promised that action will be taken in the past and I have written to the council again looking for action to improve the state of the courts.

Jenny Marra MSP and I have been calling for action over the years and we have been promised that something will be done.


I want to make sure that the facilities in the West End are as good as they can be.  The tennis courts at Victoria Park need investment and I hope that officers will be able to tell me that this is going to happen.  I am also looking for an update on the chances of the Tennis Scotland funding an indoor facility in Dundee.  Tennis is becoming more popular with the success of British tennis players over recent years and we need to capitalise on that success and provide the facilities needed for the next generation of tennis players to develop their skills.

07/04/2017

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. 
Regards


David R Martin
Chief Executive
Dundee City Council

 

03/04/2017

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.

30/03/2017

Need for more openness and transparency in planning issues

At last Monday's City Development Committee the council considered its response to the Scottish Government's review of planning legislation.  At the previous week's Development Management Committee there had been a wide ranging discussion around a variety of issues about the need for more openness and transparency and being more open to consulting with members of the public.  The report before councillors on Monday evening did not reflect any of the interesting cross-party discussion which had taken place the previous week. I suggested that the council postpone making a decision and that a new report is brought back which reflects the views of councillors.  I was pleased when the SNP Administration accepted this suggestion.


At last Monday evening's Development Management Committee (20 March) there was a long and interesting debate about the need for more openness and transparency in the planning system.  There was also talk about the need to be more open to public consultation and a feeling that the council needs to do more than the bare minimum in terms of encouraging public consultation.

I was pleased that my proposal to take a step back and re-visit the item was taken.  The report in front of us had been issued on 17th March and did not, and could not, take into account the important debate that had taken place on Monday March 20th.  I would say that the Deputy Convener of the Development Management Committee, Councillor Jimmy Black, had played an important role in that previous debate.  I made clear this evening that I feel that Councillor Black should contribute to the formation of the revised submission.  It is important to recognise good work and ideas across party boundaries and I will always seek to do so.  Anyone who thinks that their political party can do no wrong and is the repository of all knowledge is, I am afraid, sadly deluded.  I was pleased to see a cross party approach taken forward this evening.