03/10/2009

DCA Exhibition - It's Burning Everywhere



This afternoon I took the time to visit the current exhibition at the DCA. I am a member of the board of DCA, appointed by Dundee City Council. The exhibition is called It's Burning Everywhere by Thomas Hirschhorn. For more information check out the website.

This is a very challenging exhibition which asks questions about our attitude to war and violence. Some parts of the exhibition are gruesome but this does add to the questions which the exhibition asks. This is well worth a visit.

02/10/2009

Fest 'n' Furious






This afternoon I attended the launch of this year's Fest 'n' Furious Festival. This also included an excellent talk by Sara Grey on songs which are shared in Scotland and the USA. The links between Scotland and the USA (and to a lesser extent Ireland) were discussed and this was really very interesting.
There is an excellent programme for Fest 'n' Furious this year and further information is available on their website.
Fest 'n' Furious is a great event for Dundee and I am very impressed with the programme. Well done to Sheena Wellington and her team who put the festival together. It is important that we remember our history and culture and Fest 'n' Furious helps Dundonians and others to do that. It is important to remember that our history and culture is not just about landlords and chieftains but also about the people and the songs which are heard at Fest 'n' Furious reflect the heritage of the people of Dundee.

29/09/2009

For A' That


Tonight I attended an event at Dundee Rep to launch For A'That A Celebration of Burns. This was a very interesting evening which was entertaining and also informative. It discussed the many images that we all have of Robert Burns. The evening also provided a showcase for the excellent work which goes on at the University of Dundee. I am looking forward to reading this book, click here to find out more about the book.
It is important that we celebrate our culture and discuss it in a meaningful sense. I think that this was a fitting way to celebrate the 250th anniversary of the birth of Robert Burns.

Welcome for Guide to Committee Meetings

I received a copy of the Guide to Committee Meetings which has been produced by Dundee City Council. This is a document which I asked the council to produce and I welcome it.

Welcome for Guide to Committee Meetings

West End Councillor Richard McCready today welcomed the publication by Dundee City Council of a Guide to Committee Meetings. Councillor McCready wrote to the Chief Executive of the Council prior to the summer asking for such a guide to be produced. Councillor McCready acted after a number of constituents had attended council meetings and had been very confused by what had gone on.

Councillor Richard McCready said, 'I welcome the publication of this guide. It is important that the work of the council is open and accessible to the people who elected us. It is easy for the council to get mixed up in jargon and procedures but we need to ensure that the public can see what we are doing and understand what is going on.'

'I have visited the Scottish Parliament and the House of Commons and in both there are leaflets available to members of the public to help them understand what is going on. I hope that this document will help people understand what the council does. Since my election in 2007 I have been disappointed that there have not been better attendances at council meetings by members of the public. The council makes decisions on behalf of the people of Dundee it is important that the people of Dundee can have access to the meetings where these decisions are made.'

'I welcome this document and hope that the council will continue to work to make its work open and accessible to everyone in Dundee.'

NHS Car Parking Charges

My ward includes Ninewells Hospital which is a great facility for local people. Ninewells is a massive facility and thousands of people visit it every day. This brings lots of traffic, it is worth pointing out that there are excellent bus connections with Ninewells. There are car parking charges at Ninewells and this means that some people who work at or visit Ninewells park in the streets around Ninewells. This has a detrimental impact on local people. I welcome the Scottish Government's abolition of car parking charges at most hospitals, I want fairness for Dundee and I want car parking charges abolished at Ninewells. Paul Martin MSP is promoting a bill to abolish car parking charges at hospitals. To find out more about Paul's Bill and to take action to support him and to support UNISON's campaign to abolish car parking charges click here.

Call for Support for NHS Parking Charges Bill

West End Councillor Richard McCready today called on all the MSPs who represent Ninewells Hospital to support the NHS Parking Charges (Scotland) Bill which is sponsored by Paul Martin MSP. The Scottish Government has abolished car parking charges at most hospitals in Scotland, but not at Ninewells Hospital.

Councillor Richard McCready said, 'I have contacted the MSP for Dundee West and the Regional List MSPs for North-East Scotland to ask them to support Paul Martin's Bill which would abolish car parking charges at Ninewells. This campaign is supported by the trade union UNISON, they believe that car parking charges at Ninewells are a tax on the sick as well as staff. If it is right to abolish car parking charges at most other hospitals in Scotland then it is right to abolish car parking charges at every hospital in Scotland.'

'Car parking charges at Ninewells cause many people who are visiting or who work at Ninewells to park in the surrounding areas. This has a major impact on local people who find cars parked in their neighbourhoods. I think that this bill would be good to for people in these areas. This is an issue of fairness, if it is fair to abolish car parking charges elsewhere, car parking charges should be abolished at Ninewells.'

Cycling Action Plan


The Scottish Government has issued a consultation document on its Cycling Action Plan. This was discussed at the City Development Committee on Monday 28th September. A number of councillors made their views known about this consultation. My view is that this response to the Scottish Government consultation is to be welcomed. Cycling is important and we should all be working harder to ensure that cycling is promoted. The Cycling Action Plan does this and I am very happy to see that the Council's response to question 10 is clear. We saw in the Evening Telegraph last week that the people of Dundee did not support proposals to have a road tax for cyclists. I am pleased that the Convener has seen that this Scottish Government proposal was wrong. Anyway as one of the ladies asked by the Evening Telegraph last week about this said, 'Where would you put the tax disk?'


To find out more about Labour's campaign on this click here.

28/09/2009

City Council Meeting

Tonight saw a meeting of Dundee City Council and its service committees, to check the agenda click here. I raised a variety of issues in the committees.

Education

In the Education Committee I seconded my colleague Laurie Bidwell in a motion asking for the SNP/John Letford Administration to bring forward a report on proposals for new and refurbished schools. My speech is below:

'Page 53 of the work of fiction known as the SNP Manifesto for the 2007 says

'We will match the current school building programme brick for brick,'

This was clearly a laudable objective but even today's welcome announcement does not fulfil this promise. In fact, it is nowhere near fulfilling this promise.

I welcome the announcement of investment in Harris Academy which was made today. I know the many local people who supported the campaign to refurbish Harris Academy will be happy with this result. I hope that it will be a boost to the local economy in these hard economic times, but if that is to be the case we need a reassurance that work will commence soon.

I am clear that a Labour-led Scottish Government and a Labour-led Council in Dundee would have resulted in the work on Harris Academy being much further progressed than now. It is also worth noting that the current Scottish Government has twice the resources which were available to Donald Dewar.

In the last report we heard about 8 new or refurbished schools. (not including St John's, or Forthill PS.) The previous Administration added King's Park, a school and nursery in Whitfield, two schools and a nursery in Lochee/ Charleston and two schools and a nursery in the West End. That's 19 new or refurbished schools which the SNP/John Letford Alliance has to match along with their friends in the Scottish Government.

I wish you well in that endeavour Convener.

I want to hear what the other plans you have are Convener, pupils, parents and staff at schools across the city are waiting to hear. I would imagine that everyone in the chamber will want to hear about these proposals and I cannot imagine that there would be any opposition to this reasonable and much needed request.'

City Development Committee

At the City Development Committee I spoke on an item about disabled parking spaces. In my contribution I said:
'This report is to be welcomed. At this time it may rankle that there are significant costs involved but this is a matter of fairness. It is important that we provide a service to our citizens who have a disability. I know that people will be shocked to find out that disabled parking spaces outside the city centre have been advisory only. This means that able-bodied people could park there without fear of any repercussions. This legislation is designed to make the lives of disabled people a bit easier. I welcome this report and congratulate Labour's Jackie Baillie who promoted it in the Scottish Parliament.'

Policy and Resources Committee

Rory Malone from the trade union UNISON spoke at the start of the meeting. He spoke about UNISON's Public Works Campaign. My colleague Kevin Keenan placed a motion on the agenda asking that the council to make a statement on the percentage increase allowed for pay awards in the provisional budget. My contribution to the debate is below:

'Firstly, I want to thank Mr Rory Malone of UNISON for making his views known and telling us about UNISON's Public Works Campaign. As a Council I think that we need to remember that one of our greatest assets is our workers. Often it is those who are not well paid who go the extra mile to ensure that services are provided. I think that we should go into national pay negotiations with an open mind and look at ways in which we can come to an accommodation with the workers. A 0% increase is a real terms cut, and as most Council staff live locally this would have a knock-on effect on the economy of the city.

Our workers will find it hard to believe that there is an allowance of 2.5% in the budget and that the Administration is prepared to offer 0%.

I support free collective bargaining and national agreements. It is a right as several speakers have said. National agreements brought pay increases of between 15 and 50 per cent to members of the Administration earlier this year. That is correct, it is correct that they get the rate for the job although I'm not sure that we have ever got to the bottom of where the Depute Lord Provost's allowance went.

We should be fair to our workers.'

Harris Academy Announcement

The Scottish Government announced today that Harris Academy is to be included in the programme to build 14 new schools in Scotland. Along with my colleague Laurie Bidwell I welcomed this announcement but we still need to get a lot more detail about how this will be delivered.

Harris Academy Announcement


Councillor Laurie Bidwell said: 'I welcome The announcement this morning by Fiona Hyslop, Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning, that Harris Academy is to receive Government funding towards its major refurbishment. This is hopeful news for education at Harris Academy. I am pleased that the SNP Government and the SNP Administration on the City Council have listened to our campaign. But many questions need to be answered about the details attached to the decision. Much more needs to be clarified before the champagne corks should be popping. I have placed an item on the Education committee agenda tonight (Monday 28 September 2009). I shall be asking for:
confirmation of the timescale for the comprehensive refurbishment at Harris Academy. When can work start? Is the start date so far off that any current pupils will not enjoy the new and upgraded facilities?
confirmation of the amount that the Scottish Government has committed. Is it £1 million or £20 million? That will make a make a huge difference to what can be achieved;
clarification of how the council's share of the costs will be financed. The government announcement in June suggested 60% from them and 40% from the council. To finance the Harris Academy refurbishment would mean at least £8 million borrowing for the council to find. What other planned capital improvements may have to be delayed to make way for the refurbishment of Harris Academy? Will the Labour planned replacements of a new Primary School and Nursery in Whitfield, the two replacement Primary Schools and a Nursery for Lochee-Charleston, the replacement Schools for Park Place Primary School and Nursery and St Joseph's Primary School all need to go back down the queue?'
'I should like to thank all those people who have supported our campaign and petition over the months and weeks since my first press release about about Harris Academy in June , but the campaign must continue until we are reassured that the comprehensive refurbishment is to be fully and speedily implemented.'

Councillor Richard McCready said:
'The refurbishment of Harris Academy is good news for the school and for the West End. I am glad that the SNP Administration on the City Council listened to our campaign and eventually made the case for Harris Academy which has the support of local people.'

'Hopefully, this marks the long awaited start to the refurbishment of Harris Academy. If Labour had been in power in Edinburgh this would be under way by now. The SNP promised to match Labour's school spending 'brick for brick', where are the other projects? Which other Dundee schools will be included in a future refurbishment or rebuilding programme?'

Tayside Fire and Rescue Board Support Fora


This morning I attended a meeting of the Tayside Fire and Rescue Board's support fora. This was to discuss the proposals to be included in the next Towards a Safer Tayside document.
This will be very important to the future of fire and rescue services across Tayside.