16/06/2016

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.

04/04/2016

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.

29/03/2016

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.

23/03/2016

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?

 

22/01/2016

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.

15/01/2016

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.

12/01/2016

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.

11/01/2016

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.

09/01/2016

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.
 


Still campaigning for a Living Wage (and against zero-hours contracts as well!)

http://www.thecourier.co.uk/news/local/dundee/sports-direct-criticised-for-still-using-zero-hours-contracts-1.918448
Earlier this week I was asked by the Courier to comment on the plans by Sports Direct to ensure that it was paying more than the Minimum Wage, this came after some investigations appeared to suggest that Sports Direct was in fact paying less than the Living Wage by making staff turn-up earlier than the time they were paid from.  It is remarkable that a company which is represented on just about every high street could be behaving like that in 2016.

It is worth remembering that prior to the 1997 Labour Government there was no National Minimum Wage.  The minimum wage was delivered by Labour and is evidence of why we need Labour Governments in Holyrood and Westminster.

I have campaigned for the Living Wage and was responsible for pushing Dundee City Council into paying the Living Wage and also pressing for the council to take the lead and ensure that Dundee becomes a Living Wage Economy.

I think that it is good that Sports Direct pay more than the Minimum Wage, I think they should be moving towards a Living Wage.  I also want to say that George Osborne's so-called National Living Wage is no such thing - it is a rise in the rate of the Minimum Wage for people over 25.  I want to see movement towards a real Living Wage set at a rate agreed by an independent body.

People also need to know how many hours they will be expected to work and also need a clear idea of what their earnings will be.  Most people have a set of basic fixed costs such as accommodation, utilities, council tax plus the necessity to feed and clothe themselves if they don't have certainty over their earnings this is very difficult.  I think there is a need for action at all levels against zero-hours contracts.  When Sports Direct applied for planning permission for a new shop in Lochee I tried to move an amendment which would have banned zero-hours contracts.  I think that it is daft that the council can make statements against zero-hours contracts but when it comes to regulations which we impose we were powerless.  I asked the Scottish Government if they planned to do anything about this and was told that they did not.  The easiest and most straightforward place to get rid of zero-hours contracts would be at Westminster, only a Labour Government will achieve that.

I want to deliver decent jobs for everyone.

09/12/2015

Cuts to Street Cleaning and Ground Maintenance

George Barr & Joe Young from Unite lobbied councillors on Monday evening
On Monday evening the City Council's Policy and Resources Committee considered a report on changes to street cleaning and grounds maintenance.


Before the meeting I listened to trade unionists who were lobbying the council about this.  I was pleased to listen to Unite members who work in street cleaning.  They told me that there had been no meaningful consultation with staff and trade unions and that they felt that the proposals were flawed.

These proposals wee first dreamt up in the secret Changing for the Future Board where press and public are barred.  Just prior to the meeting all councillors were invited to a briefing on Participatory Budgeting.  This is about including the citizens of Dundee in the budget making process. I think that this is a good idea and have previously called on the council to carry out a full open consultation on the budget with the people of Dundee.

Street cleaning and open space maintenance are areas of service that contributed to Dundee winning the Britain in Bloom award.  A few weeks ago the council rightly praised the work of the staff in these areas.  Now the council appears to be saying that this is not important.


I acknowledge that these are difficult times and that cuts from Holyrood and Westminster are having an impact.  Surely though we should listen to the views of local people and to the views of the workforce.



The council consults on all sorts of things, indeed there is a consultation going on at the moment on the length of the school day despite this not being council policy.

I want to give the people of Dundee a say in whether they think the city should be dirtier or not.  If this policy is right then what is there to fear from sharing information and listening to the public?

We were told that Dundee is near the top of the Premier League in these areas.  We should celebrate this.  I am unaware of any Premier League team that would go out of its way to make sue that they got worse.

I want meaningful consultation with the workforce and their trade unions.  The workforce, those people who contributed to winning Britain in Bloom, why wouldn't we listen to them?


I think that the council should be open and transparent with the budget process.  It is clear that this is a money-saving exercise and perhaps the Administration and the officers should just be clearer about that.

Fundamentally I think that we should listen to the workers and to the people of Dundee and use that as a means of developing policy.

I was disappointed that my attempt to have a full consultation that would have allowed the people to have their say was defeated by a coalition of SNP, Tory and Lib Dem votes.




18/11/2015

West End Community Council

The West End Community Council serves most of the West End ward.  The Community Council is a statutory body which is often consulted on policy and planning issues which impact on the West End.

Nominations are now open for the West End Community Council.  These nominations have been re-opened because not enough nominations were received previously.  If enough people do not come forward then the West End Community Council will fold.

If you live in the area covered by the West End Community Council please have a look at the details here and see if you would like to be a Community Councillor.

16/11/2015

No Ball Games - What do you think?


http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-north-east-orkney-shetland-34808346
I have asked Dundee City Council for its views on whether we should follow Aberdeen City Council's lead and take down the 'No Ball Game' signs. I am also seeking the views of local residents about this issue.

 

I was very interested to see media reports of Denis Law taking down 'No Ball Game' signs in Aberdeen. I know that there are strong opinions around this. I know that local residents need to be able to live in peace in their own homes but I also know that for many reasons we should be encouraging young people to be more active.

 

I am asking Dundee City Council for their views on this. I would really welcome the views of local people about this. Is there a way to encourage more activity from young people at the same time as ensuring that people can live in their own homes in peace and quiet?

12/11/2015

Remembrance

On Wednesday I joined a number of colleagues, veterans and members of the public for the two-minutes silence to mark Armistice Day.  This is always a very important day and it is remarkable to watch as the centre of Dundee comes to a standstill for a couple of minutes.

I think that it is important that we remember the impact of war and those who have lost their lives in wars.  This is not about glorifying warfare but rather about remembering the impact of war on real people and families in our community.  I was reminded of this on Sunday as I stood at the war memorial at St Joseph's Church in Wilkie's Lane.  The war memorial there contains 234 names and when it was unveiled in 1924 it was said to be the biggest number at any church in Dundee.  It is sobering to think that all of those names are of people who lived and worked in the West End.  The congregation at St Joseph's are trying to find out something about all of those named on the memorial in order to tell the stories behind the names.

One of the names on the memorial is that of Fr James Shine, an Irish priest who served at St Joseph's until 1915 who was killed in France in 1918 while serving as a British Army chaplain.  I spoke about Fr Shine at a conference at Bath Spa University in the summer.  I think that this is a very interesting story which deserves to be much better known.

I am a strong supporter of Great War Dundee which aims to mark the centenary of the First World War in a variety of ways, and reflect the many different aspects of life in the city which were impacted by the First World War.  The Great War Dundee project is trying to find the stories behind the city's roll of honour, and has launched an online version of the roll of honour.  If you have a story of a family member then Great War Dundee want to hear from you.

10/11/2015

No to TTIP



On Monday evening Dundee City Council discussed TTIP, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership.  This item had been put on the agenda at the request of Councillor Jimmy Black.



As my awareness of TTIP has grown over recent times I have become more and more opposed to TTIP.  For this reason I was pleased to be able to vote on behalf of the Scottish Co-operative Party to oppose TTIP at the recent Scottish Labour Party conference in Perth.  It was also clear that there is strong opposition to TTIP from many trade unions.



The committee heard from representatives of Dundee Stop TTIP.  It was clear from their contribution that they were opposed to TTIP in its entirety.  The motion put forward by Councillor Black talked of the council having 'serious concerns' about TTIP.



TTIP is meant to be a trade agreement.  I find the secrecy around the negotiations very worrying.  The proposed use of quasi-judicial measures, such as an Investor-State Dispute Settlement system, under which multi-national corporations may sue elected governments whose laws or actions are deemed to be contrary to the operation of the so-called free market and free trade.



TTIP could have a detrimental impact on the environmental protections which we need and which are in  place to some extent in the EU.  I am opposed to any erosion of environmental standards as I think this would negatively impact on attempts to tackle climate change.



The video at the top of the page outlines some of the arguments against TTIP and is from the Stop TTIP campaign.



My opinion was that 'serious concerns' just did not go far enough.  I oppose TTIP and that, in my opinion was what the council should support.  As you will see the motion below is in three parts.  I agreed with the points put in the first and second part, I just felt that the conclusion proposed just didn't go far enough.



I was pleased to move an amendment which said that we opposed TTIP, the text of the motion is below and my amendment is below that.  I am pleased that my amendment was agreed to and thank those councillors who voted for this.




This Council notes:


1.            That the EU and USA are negotiating a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).


2.            That negotiations are underway to determine which goods and services TTIP will apply to and if new rules can be agreed to protect investors, harmonise standards, reduce tariffs and open new markets throughout the EU and USA.


3.            That there has been no impact assessment about the potential impact on local authorities.


4.            That there has been no scrutiny of the negotiating texts by local government and no consultation with local government representatives


5.            That MPs are also unable to scrutinise the negotiating documents.



This Council believes that:



1.         TTIP could have a detrimental impact on local services, employment, suppliers and decision-making.


2.         A thorough impact assessment of TTIP on local authorities must be undertaken before the negotiations can be concluded.


3.         The EU's proposed Investor Court mechanism provides transnational companies with privileges not shared by individual citizens or nation states, and that this is unacceptable, as is the ISDS system of arbitration


4.         The EU’s food, environmental and labour standards are better than those in the US and TTIP negotiations must raise and not lower these standards across the EU and USA.


5.         Sourcing supplies and employment locally is important to strengthening local economies and meeting local needs. TTIP must not impact on local authorities’ ability to act in the best interests of their communities.


This Council agrees:


 


1.         To write to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, The Right Honourable Greg Clark, MP, the Minister for Local Government and Community Empowerment, Marco Biagi, MSP, local MPs, MSPs and all Scottish MEPs raising our serious concerns about the impact of TTIP on local authorities and the secrecy of the negotiating process.


 


2.         To write to COSLA to raise our serious concerns about the impact of TTIP on local authorities and ask them to raise these with the Westminster and Scottish Governments on our behalf.


 


3.         To call for an impact assessment on the impact of TTIP on local authorities.


 


4.         To publicise the Council’s concerns about TTIP; join with other local authorities which are opposed to TTIP across Europe and work with local campaigners to raise awareness about the problems of TTIP.
 
 
My amendment to the last section is below:
 


1.         To write to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, The Right Honourable Greg Clark, MP, the Minister for Local Government and Community Empowerment, Marco Biagi, MSP, local MPs, MSPs and all Scottish MEPs raising our opposition to TTIP on local authorities.



 



2.         To write to COSLA to raise our opposition to TTIP  and ask them to raise this with the Westminster and Scottish Governments on our behalf.



 






3.         To call for an impact assessment on the potential impact of TTIP on local authorities.





 



4.         To publicise the Council’s opposition to TTIP; join with other local authorities which are opposed to TTIP across Europe and work with local campaigners to raise awareness about the problems of TTIP.
 
I was pleased that Councillor Black was prepared to accept my amendments even though, the SNP have yet to make clear that they oppose TTIP nationally.  I felt that it was right that Dundee City Council spoke with nearly one voice on this topic.
 
I will continue to campaign for openness and transparency in world trade and for a trade system that looks after the interests of workers and the environment.

04/11/2015

New Housing Bill

There is legislation going through the Scottish Parliament just now which will make changes to private tenancies, Private Housing (Tenancies) Bill.  Local people will know that private tenancies are important in the West End.  There are some contradictions in this bill. 

One of the main proposals in the legislation is to make it more difficult to evict tenants.  This is something which I think is to be welcomed.  At the moment too much power rests with private landlords and people should have more security of tenure.

This legislation might make it harder for anti-social tenants to be evicted.  There are fears that frightened or intimidated neighbours might not be willing to speak out at tribunals being proposed in the Scottish Government’s Private Housing (Tenancies) Bill.

I have constituents who are already living in fear next to anti-social tenants and would not be willing to make themselves known.  There are definitely people who have spoken to me who are at the end of their tether with anti-social behaviour but they don’t want to come forward and have their neighbours know they have complained.

I hope that MSPs will be aware of this dilemma as this legislation moves through the Scottish Parliament.  It is important to ensure tenants get more power but it is also important that anti-social tenants can be dealt with effectively.

Private rented accommodation is a major part of the housing offer in the West End.  It is important that the correct checks and balances are in place to ensure to make sure tenants are protected and anti-social behaviour is not tolerated.

Opposition to the Trade Union Bill

Speaking at the STUC Women's Committee demo
 against the Trade Union Bill
I am proud to be a member of the GMB a trade union with a long and proud tradition of improving the lot of workers right across the country.  The Conservative Government is proposing to bring in legislation that will limit the freedoms of trade unions.  I think that people have a human right to organise in the way in which they see fit.  The government is planning to legislate to limit the freedom to organise.

I am particularly concerned about proposals that mean that check off will be banned in the public sector.  Check off is a system that allows people to pay their trade union membership from their salaries.  Public bodies actually make money out of this activity.  It is also used, rightly, to make donations to charities or pay for things like bicycles, these activities are not being targeted so it is clear that this is an attack on trade unions.

Trade union officials are sometimes given the ability to spend some time on union activity whilst at work, this is known as facility time.  This usually contributes to better industrial relations.  The proposal is to outlaw this.  There is also a proposal to allow the use of agency staff to break strike action.  Strike action is taken as a last resort and not taken lightly.  It is a human right to be able to withdraw your labour and just wrong that attempts are made to undermine that right.

On behalf of the Labour Group on Dundee City Council I moved a motion which committed the council to oppose the bill, and to refuse to co-operate with it.  The council is committed to  maintaining check off, maintaining facility time and refusing to use agency staff to break strikes.

I was really pleased that the council spoke with near unanimity in support of my motion.  Dundee's only Conservative councillor could not bring himself to support my motion. 

On behalf of the Scottish Co-operative Party I was pleased to speak against the Trade Union Bill at the Scottish Labour Party Conference in Perth at the weekend.  The main points I made are below:

'From the consumer and co-operative wing of the Labour movement I want to send support and solidarity to the industrial wing of the labour movement.'

 

'Co-operatives are about people getting together to organise themselves.  Whether it is workers getting together to form a workers co-operative or consumers getting together to form a retail co-operative.  We believe that we have an inalienable human right to organise ourselves.  The Trade Union Bill is an attack on that inalienable human right.'

 

'It is clear that this bill, if passed, would lead to poorer industrial relations.  It is just plain daft.'
 
I was also honoured to be asked to speak at the demonstration organised as part of the STUC Women's Conference.  I made many of the points made here and highlighted the important contribution of trade unions, and in Dundee especially women trade unionists to the history of Dundee.
 
I support the right of people to join a trade union and to organise as they see fit and I hope that the UK Government will have a change of heart and that the campaign by trade unions is successful.

12/10/2015

Car parking - tell me what you think

I am calling for immediate action to resolve the on-going parking chaos that uncontrolled commuter parking is having on residents in areas of the West End.  Dundee City Council recently agreed to take over car parks from the University of Dundee at Miller's Wynd, off the Perth Road and at Hunter Street, just off the Hawkhill.

For years now, the SNP administration on the city council have ignored the needs of local taxpayers living in parts of the city’s West End closest to the University and the city centre.

Instead, they have put the interest of commuters who park for free and clog up residential streets and local unrestricted car parks in the West End, above that of their own citizens.

This is one of the most frequent and highly charged complaints that local people, residents and businesses, raise with me as a local councillor. It is now time to redress the balance and that is why I am demanding that this issue is taken seriously by the administration and steps are taken to resolve the problem as soon as possible.

 

I know that we have looked at a residents' parking scheme, but the one-size fits all approach was not the answer and neither was the cost. I think that the council should look at the possibility of different solutions in different streets.  We must also address our reliance on the car. 


I want to hear from local people about what they think could be done to help solve some of the problems which parking causes in the West End.

18/09/2015

Dog fouling - zero tolerance needed

As Dundee Labour's Environment spokesperson I am calling for real action to combat dog fouling in the city. I welcomed new plans by the City Council's Environment Department but there must be stronger enforcement.

I welcome the report which was agreed on Monday evening. (pages 3-10)  It is good to see that the number of officers of the council who can now issue Fixed Penalty Notices for dog fouling has now increased to 23.  My experience and the experience of my colleagues in the Labour Group is that when we ask for action on dog fouling we are told that there is only one officer available.  Indeed on Monday evening in the Council Chamber SNP Councillor Ken Lynn agreed with me and said that he had received the same response.  It is good that the number of officers who can issue Fixed Penalty Notices has increased but if they are not actually combating this disgusting practice on our streets it is a pointless exercise.

I have contacted officers in the Environment Department looking for more information about who is able to issue Fixed Penalty Notices and how often each officer is issuing them.  I am concerned that it is difficult to ensure that Fixed Penalty Notices are paid and I will be looking for ways in which we can ensure that those who are irresponsible enough to allow their dogs to foul our streets know that there is a penalty which will have to be paid.


Most dog owners in Dundee take their responsibilities seriously, it is important that those that don't are aware that there will be zero tolerance of dog fouling in our city.

There was also interesting developments about the licensing of professional dog-walkers and that is an area where I will be looking for updates.  There was also the development of dog walking trails on Balgay Hill and at Dawson Park.