28/08/2009

DCA latest exhibition

This morning I had a brief visit to the DCA - that's Dundee Contemporary Arts Centre, to view the latest exhibition, called Ganghut. I am a member of the Board of Directors of DCA and it is important that I keep up to date with what is going on there.

It is interesting, but it is only on until Sunday.

DCA continues to be an excellent resource for the city and shows how culture can be used to regenerate the city. In the fullness of time I hope that the V & A will continue this by setting up a branch in Dundee.

25/08/2009

Brandon Muir

The City Council's Policy and Resources Committee considered the report on the Serious Case Review on the case of Brandon Muir, read the reports and my earlier views here.

I do not think the committee rose to the occasion on Monday evening. It is important that we recognise that a child aged 23 months died and that we should have ensured that we did everything we could to ensure that the people of Dundee have confidence in the child protection regime in Dundee. After the discussion on Monday evening I think it is important to take a step back and remember poor Brandon and reflect on whether any of us could have done anything else to protect him and are we doing everything we can for Dundee's children now.

I believe that the reports discussed last night should have been referred to the council's Scrutiny Committee where the report could have been examined in greater depth. The council has a duty to do all it can to reassure the people of Dundee that we are doing all we can to protect children part of that is examining in detail these reports and scrutinising them. A reasonable person watching us could easily say that if we refuse to scrutinise these reports 'then somebody, somewhere has got something to hide.' It would be a major mistake to allow this perception to go forth from the council chamber.

Seconding my colleague Kevin Keenan in his call for greater scrutiny I said, 'We must all take this report seriously and do all that we can ensure that children in Dundee receive protection. We must firstly state that the person most culpable in the Brandon Muir case is Robert Cunningham. We should also state that the issues here tonight are to do with procedures and with governance and not especially about the work at the coal face. Many staff are working very hard in very trying circumstances and they should be commended for their hard work. We need to ensure that we are Getting It Right For Every Child and that the council, in many cases the corporate parent, takes its responsibilities seriously. Yes, we need an action plan but we also need to spend some time trying to clarify what the original reports said and trying to understand how we got here. Only by spending some time looking at how we got here in the first place can we go some way to trying to learn the lessons of these reports.'

Council Committees

Last night there were a variety of council committee meetings, I will deal with the Brandon Muir case in a separate post, this post will deal with the main points which I raised at the committees. To see the agendas click here.

At the City Development Committee there was a report on an event called Winter Light Night. This is to replace the Christmas Lights Switch on this year. Along with my colleagues Kevin Keenan and Laurie Bidwell I raised concerns about changing the name from Christmas.

I said, 'I think that this sounds like an interesting event and I hope that it is successful. I note that this is to be this year's pre-Christmas event. I would say that the traditional Christmas lights switch on usually on a Sunday and usually saying what it does on the tin by being called the Christmas Lights Switch On is one of the more successful events in Dundee each year. Does the report reflect on the impact of not having that Sunday afternoon event and will there be a return to a Sunday afternoon event in future years? Was there any consideration given to calling the event Christmas Light Night, people whether they are religious or not understand what Christmas is will they all know what Winter Light Night is?'

At the Leisure, Arts and Communities Committee I raised concerns about the value for money offered by membership of professional organisations. I asked how far a budget of £26,000 would go in resurfacing roads in Camperdown Park.

At the Policy and Resources Committee a report spoke about the impact school building can have on the economy of the city. I raised my concern that the council should bring forward the building of new schools in the West End and in Lochee/Charleston as a matter of urgency, whilst ensuring that there is due process. I also suggested that the Council bring forward the refurbishment of Harris Academy. Officers of the council stated that they would get back to me on this issue. I am very clear that if Labour was still in power Harris Academy would have been our next priority, its refurbishment is much needed. I will continue to press the council for action on this.

Aung San Suu Kyi


At the meeting of the City Council last night I was delighted that the Convener of the Council accepted my request that the plight of Aung San Suu Kyi should be commented upon. In response to this I made the statement below.

'Convener, thank you very much for responding to the request that this issue is raised by the Council this evening. The City of Dundee gave Aung San Suu Kyi the Freedom of the City and I think that it is important that we do more than that and that the City Council continues to show our support for her and for the return of democracy in Burma.

I know that the actions of Dundee City Council will not by themselves secure Aung San Suu Kyi's freedom or bring about democracy in Burma but we should show solidarity with her. The Council should make its voice heard and ensure that our voice joins the many voices being heard which are calling for democracy in Burma. I know that Amnesty International in Dundee and the Burma Campaign in Dundee continue to do a good job of making their voices heard, I think that the council should join with them. The decision to imprison Aung San Suu Kyi further is clearly politically motivated and we should add our voices to the voice of the UK Government in condemning this and calling for international action.'

Tayside Fire and Rescue Board

Monday 24th August was a busy day with a meeting of the Tayside Fire and Rescue Board in the morning and then a marathon meeting of the City Council and its committees in the evening. The agenda for the Fire and Rescue Board is not online yet and I intend to raise this issue to ensure that members of the public can read about what we are doing. The Fire and Rescue Board website does contain a lot of useful information though.



The meeting discussed a range of important issues including the Firefighters Pay Settlement, expenditure Monitoring 2009/10, Tayside Fire and Rescue Quarterly Activity Report -April to June 2009, Scottish Government National Resilience Strategy - Scotland's Resilience: The Contribution of the Fire and Rescue Service, and the Scottish Government Consultation -Draft Fire and Rescue Framework for Scotland 2009. The quarterly activity report was very useful in highlighting the issues that the service are working on just now.