29/12/2013

Tay Bridge Memorial Unveiled

On Saturday I attended the unveiling of the memorial to those who lost their lives in the Tay Bridge Disaster.  Saturday was the 134th anniversary of the disaster.  It is remarkable that there had been no memorial before now.

I think that it is important to remember those who lost their lives in this disaster.  The Tay Tail Bridge Disaster Memorial Trust has done a remarkable job raising funds to establish this memorial.  The disaster is a tragic aspect of the history of Dundee and Fife but it is important that people in the city and beyond have an understanding of the history of the city.  I would like to pay tribute to all of those who played a role in making the memorial a reality.

On Saturday evening there was a fireworks display to mark this event, and you can see a video of this event courtesy of the Courier.

10/12/2013

Dundee City Council Environment Issues

At Monday evening's meeting of the City Council and its committees I spoke on a number of issues linked to environmental issues. 

At the Environment Committee I raised my concerns about air quality in the city.  I was pleased to see a report which suggests that progress is being made but I was very concerned to note media reports from yesterday that the so-called 'safe' are not safe and that even these 'safe' limits can cause ill-health and even premature deaths.  I have asked that council officers look at this report published in the Lancet and I will be looking to meet with them to discuss what we can to do to deal effectively with the problem of pollution.

In a linked report the council is looking to launch the Dundee Ecostars Fleet Recognition Scheme.  This is a scheme which promotes environmental standards and fuel efficiency for operators of lorry fleets.  I thought that this was a good report and I asked whether the council could use tendering processes to encourage companies to sign up to this scheme.  Officers of the council are going to look into this and report back to me.

At the Policy and Resources Committee there was a report on the Marchbanks Recycling Centre.  Back in August the Administration changed its mind on changes they had made to recycling at Baldovie and Riverside.  At the time this was said to be in response the concerns of the public.  Bailie Borthwick and my colleague Kevin Keenan highlighted that their constituents still wanted  Marchbanks site re-opened.  The report stated a variety of statistics which justified the decision already made, but it is clear that no effort was made to listen to the views of the people of the north and central parts of the city.  It was disappointing that no meaningful consultation had taken place on this important issue.  The Environment Department needs to consult with the people of Dundee in order to change the city's recycling regime, such a consultation needs to be much more meaningful than this attempt.

Nelson Mandela RIP

Like many many others I was saddened to hear of the death of Nelson Mandela.  His death has touched many people and it is clear that he leaves an amazing legacy, a legacy which it is hard to live up to.

Growing up and becoming politically aware in the 1980s I was aware of Mandela and the terrible injustice of apartheid.  Probably one of the first political actions I took was to attend (very briefly) the regular picket of the South African Consulate in Glasgow in what is now called Nelson Mandela Place.  I should probably have been doing my Modern Studies project at the Mitchell Library but supporting the South African struggle seemed more important.  I also rather liked the Specials song Free Nelson Mandela and this prompted me to find out more about Mandela and the ANC's struggle.

I was lucky enough to hear Nelson Mandela speak once.  This was when he addressed the Labour Party conference in the year 2000.  The video of that speech is posted above.  Just to be in the same room as him was a great privilege. Mandela was a man who knew a great injustice in his life and he managed to overcome this without bitterness.  This was an amazing achievement.

I would like to pay tribute to my predecessors on the City of Dundee District Council who had the foresight to award the Freedom of the City of Dundee to Nelson Mandela at a time when he was still imprisoned and many people said he was a terrorist.  As a member of the City Council I felt that it was fitting that we observed a minutes silence in Nelson Mandela's memory at the City Council meeting this week.  It is also right that there is a book of condolence available for everyone to sign in the City Chambers.  I was pleased to sign this myself earlier this week.

As I said Nelson Mandela left a legacy which will be difficult for others to follow but we should do something.  I am inspired by this quote from Nelson Mandela, 'Overcoming poverty is not a task of charity, it is an act of justice. Like Slavery and Apartheid, poverty is not natural. It is man-made and it can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings.'  For my part I will try to remember this at all times and I hope that it will in some way influence my actions as a member of Dundee City Council.  I would also encourage people to support the work of ACTSA (Action for Southern Africa).

Nelson Mandela - Rest in Peace.

01/12/2013

World AIDS Day

Today, December 1st is marked around the world as World AIDS Day.  It is important that we ensure that everyone knows the facts about AIDS and that we continue to look for ways to prevent the spread of AIDS and also look towards finding a cure for AIDS.

Today I supported the work of Progessio in working to combat HIV and AIDS.



You can  hear what Ed Miliband thinks about World AIDS Day in the video above and you can read Jim Murphy MP's views below:

AIDS free generation is in sight, but only if we fight for it - Jim Murphy
Jim Murphy MP, Labour’s Shadow International Development Secretary, speaking on World AIDS Day, said:
“The global fight against HIV and AIDS has transformed over the last decade. Treatment is up, deaths and infections are down, and for the first time since the start of the epidemic three decades ago there is now a real sense that we could see the end of AIDS in a generation."

“But we must not be complacent – more than a million people across the planet died from AIDS last year, thousands will die today, thousands more tomorrow. We can beat HIV and AIDS but only if we redouble our efforts, recommit to progress, and end discrimination."

“This World AIDS day, an AIDS free generation is in sight, but only if we fight for it.”

30/11/2013

Happy St Andrew's Day

I would like to wish everyone who is celebrating a very Happy St Andrew's Day.  Today it is somewhat overshadowed by the tragic helicopter crash in Glasgow. 

The picture here is the stained-glass window from St Andrew's Cathedral in the West End.  I would like to see St Andrew's Day celebrated a little more in Scotland.  I also think that we should look a little more at the life of St Andrew (or at least the little we know about his life).  For example St Andrew was the person who found the boy with the loaves and the fishes at the feeding of the five thousand, perhaps we should take action to deal with hunger at home and abroad to mark St Andrew's Day.

29/11/2013

Action needed on Pay day lenders and the cost of living crisis

http://www.keziadugdale.com/debtbusters/
Along with my colleague Lesley Brennan I have called for more action on pay day lenders and the cost of living crisis.  In part we were responding to a report published this week entitled Scotland in the Red.
 
The findings in the report for Dundee City East show the average pay day loan debt was £817; and in Dundee City West the average pay day loan debt was £1,218.

 
I think that this report is a stark reminder of the cost of living crisis which faces many people in Dundee in the run-up to Christmas. 
 
I welcome the fact that the Scottish Government has listened to my colleague Kezia Dugdale MSP and that the UK Government is listening to my colleague Stella Creasy MP and taking some action against Pay Day lenders. 
 
I believe that pay day lenders should have to produce a wealth warning which states the cost of the loan. 
 
The wealth warning would be similar to the health warnings on alcohol and cigarettes and is designed to make sure that people understand what they are doing when they sign up to a pay day loan.  I want effective action against Pay Day lenders who trade on the misery of others and I will be keeping a close eye on the changes being made by the Scottish and UK Governments.
 

The council can and should do more to combat debt in the city.  We need to do all that we can to promote Discovery Credit Union for example.  The council should also look at doing more to promote the Living Wage in the city and also bring more jobs to the city. We need to see jobs delivered rather than talks about jobs.'
 
The UK Government, the Scottish Government and the City Council need to work together to tackle the problems of debt and deal with the cost of living crisis. We need coordinated action to tackle these problems.

My colleague Councillor Lesley Brennan said, “These figures tragically reveal the despair that traps families who need to take out high-cost loans to pay for essentials such as food and heating."

“These people who are caught in the cost of living crisis need support to manage their debts.  The case for taking action to cap the cost of borrowing has proven to be indisputable, with action now promised."

“We need to go further and support credit unions who can provide loans that cost much less than those from legal loan sharks."


 

26/11/2013

Feast of Christ the King

On Sunday along with colleagues from the council, the Scottish Parliament, the House of Commons, Dundee's universities and many others I attended a special Mass at St Andrew's Cathedral in the Nethergate for the Feast of Christ the King.

Bishop Vincent Logan, the recently-retired Bishop of Dunkeld, thanked those of us who serve in public office for our service.  This is not something I look for, but it is welcome.  The sermon reminded us that we are elected to serve and that we should serve those most in need in society.  It is important that we work hard to be a voice for the voiceless in society.

As ever there was a really warm welcome from the parishioners of St Andrew's Cathedral and the music during the Mass was of the usual high standard.

I was disappointed that on Sunday evening I was unable to attend an event organised by Dundee Evangelical Christian Alliance at St Peter's Free Church.  I hope to meet with them at some point in the near future.

25/11/2013

West End Christmas Fortnight

On Saturday I was delighted to attend the Christmas Fayre at Dundee West Church to launch the West End Christmas Fortnight.  It was great to see stalls from a wide range of local community organisations.  I spoke to representatives of organisations such as  Timebank, Solar Cities, Abertay Historical Society, Friends of Riverside Nature Park, Friends of Balgay Park, Jericho House, the Food Train and representatives from the Russian School and the Polish School among others.  The picture here shows some of the young people from the Polish School singing some Polish songs.  It was also good to get the chance to visit the  coffee morning at Dundee West Church as well.

There are a range of events over the next couple of weeks celebrating the forthcoming Christmas season in the West End.  Not least of which is the Christmas Light Switch-on on Tuesday evening starting with a concert at Dundee West Church at 6.15pm.

22/11/2013

West End Local Community Planning Partnership

On Thursday evening I attended the latest meeting of the West End Local Community Planning Partnership.  This is the meeting were officers from the council and from other partner organisations share information and try to deliver joined up services to people in the West End.  The meeting heard about work which is being done on the over provision of alcohol.  I would be interested in constituents views on this important issue, are there too many pubs and off-licences in the West End?

We also heard about the on-going problems being caused by welfare reform.  It is clear that welfare reform is making an impact in communities across Dundee and that over the next couple of years things will only get worse.

It was also good to hear about the work of a number of colleagues in different departments across the West End.

20/11/2013

Dundee - A UK City of Culture

Firstly I want to say how disappointed I am that Dundee did not win the bid to be UK City of Culture in 2017.  I want to congratulate Hull and wish them every success in their year as UK City of Culture.  I also want to congratulate everyone associated with Dundee's bid who did so much to bring together an exciting programme of events.  I hope that many of these will still go ahead.

I have been a long-standing supporter of this bid and I am glad to have played my part in getting Dundee to apply to be UK City of Culture in 2017.

Whilst it would have been good to win I know that Dundee does not necessarily need a title to proclaim what those of us who live there know that Dundee is a UK City of Culture.  One of the strengths of Dundee's bid was the strong community aspect of the bid.  As I said in the video here Dundee's bid was for everyone in the city.

The strong partnerships in Dundee have become stronger as a result of this bid and it is important that we build on this and look for ways to ensure that these benefits are not lost.  I will be looking for the City Council and the Dundee Partnership to preserve all that was good about the bid.  The bid team with the support of the people of Dundee developed a series of ideas for 2017 and we must look to develop those ideas and deliver some of the imaginative and exciting proposals which were included in this plan.

It is the policy of the council to consider bidding to be European City of Culture in 2022 (I think that's the date) I think that we should be thinking about this and working with the UK Government to look at the prospects for such a bid. These are exciting times for Dundee, the Waterfront re-development is taking shape. I look forward to the V & A at Dundee opening by 2017 and I am sure that this will be a major development for Dundee, Scotland and the United Kingdom. It is disappointing not to have won the title of UK City of Culture however I am clear that Dundee is a City of Culture and I will be campaigning to build on our bid and make sure that Dundee continues to develop for the good of everyone in the city.

Harris Academy Parent Council

On Tuesday evening I attended a meeting of the Harris Academy Parent Council.  As always it was a good opportunity to hear the views of parents.  Tonight's meeting was very interesting and included an update on the exam results at the school.  It is always good to hear about the good work which is going on at the school. 

There was a discussion about road safety in the vicinity of the temporary location at Rockwell.  I will be continuing to seek extra school crossing patrollers near the school.

19/11/2013

Police Counter Closures

On Monday evening at the City Council's Policy and Resources (Police, Fire and Community Safety) I was pleased to support my colleague Lesley Brennan in her attempts to get the council to object to the closure of the police counters at  Longhaugh and Maryfield Police Stations.

This was an interesting debate where a number of SNP members indicated clear dissent from the party loyalist, the Scottish Government can do no wrong attitude being promoted by the Administration.  It was a shame that they did not have the courage of their convictions when it came to voting. 

Whilst it is true that people are more and more using the telephone and electronic means of contacting the police there are still a relatively large number of people who want to visit the police station in person and speak to a human being.  In large part this policy is driven by the need to reduce civilian police staff numbers.  I am not convinced that this is the way forward.

I was pleased to hear Cllr Jimmy Black support that part of Lesley Brennan's proposal which called for a reassurance that future  changes to the police service would be reported to the council in a timeous manner.  I was pleased to second his suggestion and I was disappointed that this reasonable cross-party proposal was ruled out of order.

Scottish Labour is running a campaign on this issue, you can support that campaign here. http://www.scottishlabour.org.uk/campaigns/entry/save-our-police-service

Fire and Rescue Services

At tonight's Policy & Resources (Police, Fire ad Community Safety) Committee I raised a number of issues about fire and rescue services.  On the quarterly performance report  I raised concerns about a rise in the number the deliberate secondary fires.  These are fires set in for example rubbish bins.  Those who set them think that they are 'fun' but in reality they are very dangerous and cost the taxpayer money. I wanted to know that there was  plan to deal with the 179% variance between the target and the actual performance.  Part of the reason given was that there was good weather over the summer which encouraged people to be outside and created dry, combustible materials.  I don't think that we would win many votes by seeking a poor summer next year and in any case this is well beyond the powers of the committee.  It was good to hear about plans to deal with this problem. 

I also asked about plans to deal with unwanted fire signals, this is when fire alarms are set off and fire engines respond.  Sometimes these go off by accident or sometimes deliberately.  There are many facilities in the West End which have caused problems such as students halls and even Ninewells Hospital.  Whilst I support efforts to ensure that these systems operate correctly and to deal with malicious use of these alarms, I am concerned that we should not change the response.  We need to err on the side of caution and ensure that an appropriate response continues to be made.

On the Scottish Fire and Rescue Update I raised concerns about the future of the fire control room in Dundee.  I also asked that the council support the retention of vehicle and equipment workshops close to Dundee. You can also show your support for the control room by signing the petition organised by the local Fire Brigades Union.

13/11/2013

Call for Special Commission to mark UK City of Culture Year

At the City Council's Policy and Resources Committee on Monday evening I proposed that Dundee's year as UK City of Culture in 2017 is marked by the commissioning of a work of art or a heritage commission.  The council's Policy and Resources Committee was debating the council's collections policy.

 

At the start of Monday evening's round of meetings the Lord Provost praised Dundee's bid.  I echo the Lord Provost's call to wish the bid the best of luck as Dundee makes its presentation next week.  I believe that Dundee has a very strong case and I know that we are in with a very good chance of winning this important accolade.

 

When I looked at the report which detailed Dundee's artistic, heritage, scientific and technological collections I was very impressed. This strong base will surely go a long way in making Dundee's case to be UK City of Culture.  I think that when Dundee wins we should look to develop a permanent reminder of Dundee's year as UK City of Culture in 2017.  I think that we should look to commission a piece of art or a heritage collection which will reflect Dundee's place as UK City of Culture in 2017.  I would want the people of Dundee to be included in such a commission.  This should not be a piece of art chosen by solely by council officers or politicians instead it should be a piece of art or heritage which reflects the lives of the people of Dundee.  The City of Culture bid is about the people of Dundee and we should be looking to find ways to allow the people of Dundee to remember what would be an exciting year.  I think that there should be a commission to mark the year and I think it is important that decisions on such a commission are made by the people of Dundee.  Such a commission need not cost a lot of money but should reflect the views of the people of Dundee.

 

I was pleased that my idea about this was received warmly in the council chamber and in due course I expect to bring it forward and ensure that Dundee's year as UK City of Culture is remembered long after 2017.

30/10/2013

City Council Meetings

Monday evening saw the October meeting of Dundee City Council and its various committees.  At the Environment Committee I spoke about plans to bring a Mountain Bike Skills Trail to Templeton Woods.  I hope that the trail is a success  I was concerned about the impact on other users of Templeton Woods and whether increased bike use of the area might cause more ware an tear on the paths in the area.  I also asked about what happens to young people who develop skills and enthusiasm in mountain biking. 

I also asked about the Scottish Government's consultation on 'A Strategy to Tackle and Prevent Litter and Flytipping. I was concerned that the council were suggesting that there was an equivalence between littering and dog fouling.  I think that the council needs to take the issue of dog fouling much more seriously.  I was also concerned about suggestions that consumers be surcharged for excessive packaging of goods they bought.  I think that we need to limit the level of packaging of goods.  It is important that manufacturers and retailers limit the amount of packaging and ensure that packaging is only produced when absolutely necessary.

At the City Development Committee I raised my concerns about plans to spend up to £1million pounds on refurbishing offices for the Environment Department.  My main concern was the lack of detail.  In the council's Capital Plan there are plans to spend millions on building a new  headquarters for the Environment Department at Marchbanks.  We have been told that these plans are being ditched but they still remain as the council's policy.  A much more detailed report was required, it does beg the question as to whether the SNP Administration take council committees seriously or not, they do have the votes to push anything they want through the committee but they should do the whole council the courtesy of reporting openly on proposals.

The council agreed to Dundee's Single Outcome Agreement.  There is a lot of good partnership work going on at this time in Dundee.  The focus of the Single Outcome Agreement is  on 'jobs and the economy, social inclusion and quality of life.'   I think that there is a need to focus on delivery in terms of this, we have had talks about jobs it is time that jobs were delivered for people in Dundee.  We must also ensure that the Waterfront redevelopment and the V & A at Dundee make a real difference to everyone in Dundee and that these bring prosperity to whole city.

28/10/2013

Harris Academy Project Board

This morning I attended the latest meeting of the Harris Academy Project Board.  The Project Board looks at the progress being made on building the new Harris Academy.  As people who have seen the site on the Perth Road recently will have noticed that demolition of the old school is well underway.  It is good to see real progress being made .

I was pleased to agree that there should be a sub-committee that looks at transport issues to the school at its temporary home at Rockwell.  It is important that this issue is monitored, it appears to be the main issue which is causing any concern about the temporary home of the school at Rockwell.

24/10/2013

Harris Academy Parent Council

Tonight I attended a meeting of the Harris Academy Parent Council at the temporary home of the school at Rockwell.  It was a good opportunity to hear about how the school is settling into its temporary home.  There are still on-going problems with regard to transport to the school.  Issues in Dundee seem to be being sorted but there are still issues in Perth & Kinross. 

I am clear that we need to work to ensure that those young people who are being educated in the Rockwell building receive the best education possible.  That means that the council will have to work to deal with the issues which are popping up from time to time.  If you are at the Harris or the parent or carer of a pupil at Harris Academy and you have any issues please get in touch.

I am looking forward to the meeting next week of the Harris Academy Project Board which will look at the progress being made towards the new school building.

22/10/2013

Development Management Committee

Tonight I attended a meeting of the City Council's Development Management Committee.  There were a number of important reports tabled tonight.  One was the proposals for the Park and Ride facility at Wright Avenue.  I was prepared to move against this proposal.  The Convener was unable to even find a seconder for the report which had been tabled so in actual fact the proposal fell.  I spoke against the proposal because I was not convinced that this was the best location for a park and ride facility. 

I am not fundamentally opposed to park and ride facilities and I am generally supportive of anything which would reduce traffic in the West End or City Centre.  Riverside Nature Park is a growing gem in the West End.  Council officers and importantly local people have done a great job campaigning for the nature park which has turned an ugly landfill site into a beautiful nature park.  I was very concerned that it appeared that one of the main reasons why the site had been chosen was financial.  I think that other site should have been looked at.  I think that the committee made the correct decision not to allow this proposal to go forward. 

There was another important report before us when Next were looking to change the planning conditions which limit what can be sold at the Kingsway West Retail Park.  I supported the report put forward by the Director of City Development which argued in favour of protecting the shopping areas of the city centre.  I was also concerned that there were attempts by big business to pressurise the council into taking away restrictions on the actions of businesses which might have a detrimental impact on shops and other businesses across the city.   It is difficult to stand up against big business when they are promising investment to the city.  I was worried though that council officers felt unable to verify the claims that Next would create 85 new jobs.  I want Next to invest in Dundee but I was concerned that their proposals would set precedents and have a detrimental impact on shopping in the city centre.  I hope that they will look for other ways to invest in Dundee.

Dundee should be open for business and we should be looking to attract and encourage investment in the city but this cannot be at any cost.  We should look to protect the wider interests of businesses in Dundee and protect the interests of the people of Dundee. I think that the committee made the correct decision to refuse to change the planning restrictions which would have undermined the city centre.

16/09/2013

Concern over Harris Academy Fire

I was very concerned to hear about the fire at the Harris Academy site on the Perth Road on Sunday evening.  I am seeking a briefing from the council about the causes of the fire.  I want to know if there is anything that could have been done to prevent this fire.  It is important that lessons are learnt from this and appropriate action is taken.  This fire put the caretakers working on site in danger, it put local people in danger and it put firefighters in danger we must do all that we can to ensure that there is no repetition of this incident.

It is important that we listen to the voice of the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service who point out in tonight's Evening Telegraph that fire services in Dundee could have been stretched by what they believe to have been wilful fire-raising at Harris Academy.

I am looking for reassurance from the council that we are doing all that we can to ensure that such incidents don't happen again.

31/08/2013

Seamus Heaney RIP

I met Seamus Heaney when he was an honorary graduate of the
 University of Dundee
I was really sorry to hear of  the death of the great Irish poet Seamus Heaney.  First and foremost this is a great loss to his family and friends.

I heard him give an amazing lecture in Dundee when he was receiving an honorary degree from the University of Dundee.  I was delighted to meet him just after the graduation ceremony.  He took a great interest in what I had been doing at the University of Dundee and the topic of my thesis on Irish immigration to Dundee.  It was great to get the chance to spend a few minutes talking to such a great man.  One of my prized possessions is the graduation programme which Seamus signed for me.  He was a humble man who wore his learning and success lightly but who clearly made a great contribution to twentieth and twenty-first century culture.

I have previously said that Dundee's close links with Ireland should be celebrated in our bid to take over the title of City of Culture from the City of Derry.  I had envisaged that one of the main ways this could have been done would have been to have Seamus Heaney  who was educated in Derry and was an honorary graduate of Dundee University come to Dundee, sadly this suggestion can no longer be made.

Seamus Heaney's poetry remains though and I hope that people will read it and be inspired by it and remember this great man, may he rest in peace.


29/08/2013

Update on Harris Academy

Last week at the City Council's Education Committee Mr Arthur Forrest who is a teacher's representative on the committee and an official of the EIS trade union raised concerns about the cleanliness of Harris Academy at the Rockwell site as well as a number of health and safety issues.  I was very concerned to hear these allegations and I asked that the Education Department deal with them quickly, I also asked to be kept informed of progress towards dealing with the concerns.  The Director of Education has responded with a report that you can see here

According to the report there are no on-going issues.  I hope that this is the case.  It is crucial that the young people now being educated at the Rockwell site are in no way disadvantaged by these issues.  I am committed to working with the council, with Harris Academy staff, pupils and parents to ensure the best possible education for everyone using the school.  I am determined to ensure that staff are working in an appropriate environment.  We should be very concerned when trade unions raise issues.  It is their job to speak on behalf of their members, and I hope that the City Council's Education Department will listen to what they have to say in the future.

21/08/2013

Harris Academy

At Monday evening's Education Committee I was pleased to see a report which outlined some progress towards actually building the new Harris Academy.  I want to see this happen sooner rather than later.

At the meeting I was concerned to hear concerns expressed by the EIS representative on the Education Committee Mr Arthur Forrest about health and safety issues at the Rockwell site where Harris Academy is temporarily based.


I was very concerned to hear what the EIS representative Mr Forrest said about Harris Academy.  I have seen the work which went on to try and get the Rockwell site ready for Harris moving in, and there were always going to be teething difficulties.  My main concern though is that for the next three years while Harris Academy is at Rockwell that everything is done to make sure that the young people have the best educational experience possible, this cannot be done at the expense of health and safety.  The concerns raised by the EIS need to examined in detail and remedial action taken where necessary.  I have asked that the Director of Education keep me updated on progress with this important matter.  I hope for a swift and amicable resolution to this.

20/08/2013

Council takes stand against Blacklisting

On Monday evening at the City Council's Policy and Resources Committee on behalf of the Labour Group I put forward my motion against Blacklisting.  I was very pleased that there was unanimous support for the proposals which I put forward.  There was a deputation from the Unite trade union, which highlighted their concerns about blacklisting.  My colleague Brian Gordon seconded my motion and spoke on the history of blacklisting in Dundee.  I was also pleased to see the Dundee Trades Council lobbying

Dundee Trades Council Leaflet
 
councillors as they came into the council in favour of my motion.

I am delighted that the council spoke with one voice on this important issue.  I will be asking council officers to keep me up to date about progress on tackling this human rights abuse.  Unite held a protest outside the Scottish Parliament over Blacklisting recently please look at their video of the event which is above.

My speech condemning blacklisting can be seen below:


I am pleased to move the motion in my name on the papers in front of us

 

I believe that we should take a stance against blacklisting for a whole variety of reasons but mostly I want us to say that we are opposed to blacklisting and that we should try to prevent blacklisters from benefiting from public sector contracts because that is the fair thing to say.

 

The council has major financial clout in the city, we are one of the biggest employers in the city, and we are one of the biggest developers in the city.  I don’t think that is a bad thing, but I do think that we should ensure that the City Council uses its financial clout to benefit the citizens of Dundee.  That’s why we agree that we should be promoting local jobs and apprenticeship schemes for example.

 

 

 

There is growing evidence of the widespread nature of blacklisting; various trade unions have given evidence of this in recent times.  The Scottish Affairs Select Committee in the House of Commons has done an excellent job of exposing this unfair practice.  I want to pay tribute to their work, especially the work of my MP Jim McGovern.

 

Blacklisting is generally accepted to involve the termination of workers employment for issues not related to performance, including:

 

·       Raising legitimate health and safety concerns;

·       Being a member of a trade union;

·       Being or having previously been an active trade union representative;

·       Having worked at sites where some form if industrial action took place;

·       Belonging to political parties whose ideas employers do not share; and

·       The clandestine sharing of such workers names in order to deny access to future employment.

 

The question we have to ask ourselves tonight is this, is it fair that someone should lose their livelihood because of their trade union activity or because they have a concern for health and safety.  Also if a company does indulge in these unfair and illegal practices should the public sector offer them any succour.  Should we allow council tax payers money to be used to blacklist anyone?

 

I return to my original point this is about fairness.  If we take a stand against the unfair practice of blacklisting then a strong message is going out from this council which will be added to the many similar calls being made up and down the country at this time.

 

I hope that we will speak with one voice this evening against blacklisting and I move the motion.

17/08/2013

Great Fundraising Efforts

I don't normally make charitable appeals on this page but I wanted to draw attention to some fundraising efforts by two of my colleagues.

My Labour colleague, Councillor Lesley Brennan is taking part in the Relay for Life this weekend in support of Cancer Research UK.  If you would like to support Lesley and her Keep Left team as they raise money for this worthy cause please visit their page.

My ward colleague Councillor Fraser Macpherson is abseiling down the Tower Building in support of the MS Society Dundee Branch.  Please visit Fraser's JustGiving site to make a donation to this great cause.

16/08/2013

Recycling Policy Binned

The City Council's SNP Administration has announced a U-turn where they have binned the unpopular policy on limiting what can be recycled at the recycling centre at Baldovie and Riverside.  It is a shame that they have not reconsidered the situation at Marchbanks.

I welcome this U-turn by the SNP Administration.  I am glad that they have listened to opposition councillors and more importantly to the people of Dundee.  I find it ironic that they are trying to claim credit for this given that they have consistently said that there are no problems with this policy.
 

This policy was wrong, despite what the report to the council says next week I do not think that the policy was working in the way in which the council thought it would.  The council is about to start a consultation on the future of domestic waste collection and recycling across the city I hope that it is handled better than this policy has been.  I also hope that they listen to the people of Dundee from the start and don't impose something only to come back months later with their tail between their legs and admit that they got it wrong as they have over the recycling centres.


Dundee should be at the forefront of recycling.  I want Dundee to have a reputation as Scotland's greenest city.  I am prepared to work with other political parties, charities and the people of Dundee to make this happen.  Since they got it so wrong in this case I hope that the SNP Administration will be open to working constructively with others to restore Dundee's environmental reputation.

Earlier in the week I gave my views to the Courier  about the council's policy on the recycling centres.  I am glad that the SNP Administration's U-turn has dealt with this problem. You can read what I said below:

'It is important that the City Council lives up to its responsibilities and encourages recycling as much as possible.  Over the next few months Dundee City Council is going to consult with the people of Dundee regarding domestic waste collection.  I welcome this consultation I find it remarkable that a similar consultation was not held prior to the closure of the Marchbanks Recycling Centre.  It beggars’ belief that the future of the recycling centres at Marchbanks, Riverside and Baldovie are not included in a review of domestic waste in the city.’
 
'I am very concerned about the policy which has been put forward with regard to the recycling centres I fear that the law of unintended consequences may apply here.  A number of people have said to me that once told they could not recycle something at Riverside they did not travel to Baldovie with the material but rather just put it in their general waste bin.  This will not improve the council’s recycling figures.’

 

‘Part of the justification for the change in policy was to reduce the number of lorry journeys undertaken to move to recyclable material around the city and thereby reduce the City Council’s carbon footprint.  By asking people to make a round-trip from say Craigowl to both Riverside and Baldovie of something like 17 miles are we actually doing anything about the carbon footprint of the city in general?  The council should be giving a lead to the rest of the city in terms of care for the environment, indeed in the past Dundee City Council has given the lead to Scotland in terms of care for the environment.  The council should be making recycling easy for the people of Dundee.  Unfortunately, I fear that recent changes have resulted in the council making it harder for people to recycle in Dundee, I am sure that nobody wants that situation.’

 

‘I am also concerned that we may well have a situation where instead of taking material to a recycling centre it is dumped somewhere.  This causes environmental problems as well as possibly being a fire-hazard and the council will have to clear it up anyway offering a cost rather than a saving to the council.’

 

‘I know that the council is in a difficult financial situation and needs to look for cost savings.  We have been told all along that changes to the recycling centres were not about costs, if that is truly the case then the council has an opportunity, at the very least, to say let’s include the future of the three recycling centres in the review of the domestic waste collection strategy.’

 

‘On behalf of the Labour Group I want to do what is best for the environment of the city and the people of the city.  We are prepared to work with the Administration to look at ways in which this problem can be dealt with.  I think that the future of the recycling centres should be looked at, should we return to three centres, should they all take the full range of material?’

 

'Most importantly how can we as councillors ensure that the people of Dundee receive the service that they want and need?  I am glad that the council says it will listen to people over the issue of domestic waste collection, surely we should also listen on the issue of recycling centres.’

West End Local Community Planning Partnership

On Thursday evening I attended the quarterly meting of the Local Community Planning Partnership in the West End.  This was an interesting meeting which discussed a wide range of issues.  The Local Community Planning Partnership brings together a wide range of partners from the public and private sector.

There was a presentation on a proposal to organise a time bank in the West End.  If you are interested in this proposal for the West End there is a meeting about how to take this forward on 23rd August at 10am at the Volunteer Centre, Number 10 Constitution Road.

There was an interesting discussion on the council's actions on derelict land and buildings in the West End.  The council is starting to take this issue seriously but I think that the council should be looking at ways in which they can take serious action against owners who consistently refuse to take their responsibilities seriously.

The City Council's Housing Department is consulting on changes to the council's Housing Allocations Policy and there was a presentation on this.

13/08/2013

Police, Fire and Community Safety

On Monday evening there was a meeting of the City Council's Policy and Resources Committee (Police, Fire and Community Safety).  This committee is how the local elected members hold the new national police and fire service to account.  Although we do not have the power to instruct the police and fire service it is important that they listen to the views of local elected members.  Hopefully we will be reflecting the views of our constituents.

I asked a question about the percentage preparedness of firefighters.  The target for the '%of operational personnel who have retained currency of risk critical core skills' was 80% but in the last quarter only 64% was achieved.  I was told that this figure was improving and was also told that there had been no time when firefighter cover in Dundee was compromised. 

The Council made a very brief response to the consultation of the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service's Three Year Strategic Plan.  I think that this is a document that anyone with an interest in promoting community safety should have a look at. 

There were also reports from Police Scotland highlighting their work.  I was interested to see a break down of crimes in the West End ward and I will be keeping a close eye on this for the future to ensure that crime is adequately dealt with in the West End.

Community safety is important and the council must work with the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service and Police Scotland to deliver for all the people of Dundee.  It will be a test of the efficacy of the single police and fire service policy whether we are able to do this.

Development Management Committee

On Monday evening there was the first set of meeting after the end of the summer recess.  The first meeting was the August meeting of the Development Management Committee.  The most important planning application was for the V & A at Dundee. I was pleased to see that this application went through without any opposition.  I look forward to progress being made on this important project from now on.  There was also an application approved for a pedestrian and cycle bridge over the railway line at Greenmarket towards Tesco Riverside an the waterfront.  I think that this is an exciting proposal and I hope that it will open up the waterfront to people in the West End.

There were a couple of other applications in the West End.  I seconded an amendment which opposed giving planning permission for a off-sales at City Road.  I felt that this was an inappropriate site for such a development given the proximity of sheltered housing.  I was also concerned that the papers suggested that the title deeds at this development preclude the sale of alcohol.  Whilst this might not be a issue for the Development Management Committee and there may be legal remedies for this it does strike me as silly to discuss a proposal which cannot at this time be developed.

There was also an application for planning permission for a ATM machine outside the SPAR on the Perth Road.  I was disappointed that this was a retrospective application given that  the work has already been carried out.  I have had a long standing concern about traffic issues outside this store and the impact that this has on traffic flows in the Perth Road.  Whilst it may be that the Development Management Committee is not the best place to deal with this I voted against this proposal due to my concern about traffic in this area, unfortunately the committee voted to approve the application.




12/08/2013

Blacklisting Meeting

Last week I received a very welcome visit from Willie Thomson, an organiser with the trade union Unite, along with two Dundonians who are the victims blacklisting, Francie Graham and Stewart Merchant.  It was good to get the chance to hear first hand about the impact of blacklisting on the lives of people in Dundee.  It was also good to hear from Unite about their campaign against blacklisting.  I have already heard from GMB and UCATT about their concerns.

On behalf of the Labour Group on the council I am bringing forward a motion opposing blacklisting and committing Dundee City Council to take appropriate action to ensure that public money is not given to companies which are operating a blacklist.  As I have said before I think that this is an issue of fairness.  It is about whether how we think people should be treated.  Should people who are trade unionists and have an interest in health and safety be discriminated against and have their livelihood taken from them?

I hope that Dundee City Council will speak with one voice on this issue and give a clear signal that we believe that there is no place for blacklisting when the issue is discussed on 19th August.

08/08/2013

Fairtrade Forum

Today I chaired a meeting of the Dundee Fair Trade Forum.  It was good to hear about financial support that the forum has received from Scotmid (I should say that I am a member of Scotmid's Northern Committee). It was also great to hear about plans for the fair trade stall at the Flower and Food Festival at Camperdown Park on 7th, 8th and 9th September. If you are planning on going to the Festival please go along and visit the stall.

Now that Scotland has been declared a Fair Trade Nation it is important that we work to continue the progress towards fair trade. The Fair Trade Forum in Dundee is determined to play our part to help people in Dundee make the choice to go for fair trade.

What would you love to see in Dundee in 2017?

As people will know Dundee is in the final four for the title of UK City of Culture in 2017.  This is something that I have been campaigning for since the concept of UK City of Culture was launched in 2009.  I think that Dundee has a very strong case and I hope that we will be named UK City of Culture 2017.

The people at the We Dundee website, which did so much to promote the bid have relaunched their website and they are now asking the question 'What would you love to see in Dundee in 2017?'  Please visit the website to give your own example, I'm going to outline a few ideas of my own.

In 2017 I want to see Dundee put on a cultural festival that attracts people from all over the world to Dundee, but more importantly I want Dundee to have a festival that has something for everybody in the city.  I want the V&A Dundee to be open and hosting exhibitions which bring people to the city and are also for the people of the city. I want to see many of the headline events of the City of Culture year taking place in Community Centres and other facilities across the city.  The City of Culture must break out of the cultural quarter and city centre (important though they are and be for everyone).

Dundee's bid to be UK City of Culture 2017 getting a great send-off

The current UK City of Culture is the city of Derry I think that Dundee should take the baton from Derry and celebrate the strong links between Dundee and Ulster.  My PhD research was on this topic and there is the remarkable statistic that in 1851 one in five of the population of Dundee had been born in Ireland, mostly in Ulster.  Dundee flourished at this time on the basis of people leaving rural Ulster to work in the textile industry in Dundee, in Derry there was a very similar phenomenon.  We should look at the links of these two textile producing cities.  We should look at the influence of the many students who come to Dundee today from both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.  We should look at the work of someone like Seamus Heaney who is a honorary graduate of the University of Dundee and comes from just outside Derry.

I want to see an international football match played in Dundee in 2017 at either Dens or Tannadice, or I am being greedy one at Tannadice and one at Dens.  I want to see major events happening on the Tay, I recall seeing speed boat racing on the Tay before or perhaps a Tall Ships event, the City of Culture must make good use of our fabulous setting on the banks of the Tay.

Whatever your views please visit the We Dundee website and tell them what you would love to see in Dundee in 2017 during Dundee's year as UK City of Culture.

Eid Mubarak

I would like to wish 'Eid Mubarak' to everyone celebrating Eid al-Fitr.  I am happy to have Dundee Central Mosque in my ward at Brown Street and I am lucky enough to have visited the Mosque on a number of occasions.  I have always received a very warm welcome in Brown Street and the other Mosques in Dundee.

I am also very impressed with Islamic Relief's current campaign which has declared war on hunger and I was pleased to see that  Labour Leader Ed Miliband supported the launch of this campaign.

Once again I would like to wish all the best to all my sisters and brothers celebrating Eid, I hope that this is a good time for them and their families.

07/08/2013

Remembering Hiroshima - Never Let it happen again

Alan Cowan addressing the Hiroshima Commemoration on the Law
On Tuesday evening I joined others walking to the top of the Law to commemorate the anniversary of the dropping of the nuclear bomb on Hiroshima.  I always try to attend this event which has been going on since 1981.

I am opposed to nuclear weapons and I am determined to work to create a world where there are no nuclear weapons. In one of my previous jobs I campaigned against the replacement of trident nuclear weapons.  You can read my contribution to the debate on the renewal of Trident nuclear weapons from the Scotsman in 2007, whilst this article is from the viewpoint of Scotland's churches I remain convinced that the replacement of Trident is wrong from a variety of points of view both religious and secular.

It was good to be joined by my colleagues Jenny Marra MSP, Cllr Laurie Bidwell, Cllr Lesley Brennan and Cllr Brian Gordon as well as Cllr John Alexander.  It was also good to see people from a variety of political parties, trade unions, and faith groups taking part in the event.

We should never forget the devastation caused by the Hiroshima bombing and we should be looking for a way to bring a lasting peace to the world.  We really should be looking to turn swords into ploughshares and find more productive ways of using the vast resources which nuclear arms cost each year.

05/08/2013

Call for action on Blacklisting

Discussing the important issue of blacklisting with George Ramsay from UCATT,
 Richard Leonard from the GMB, Jim McGovern MP and Cllr Norma McGovern
Dundee City Council has considerable financial clout and we should be using this for the benefit of the people of Dundee. That's why it is important that contracts with construction firms should include clauses about employing a local workforce, that's why contracts should encourage companies to train apprentices. I think that the council should be looking at what we can do to combat blacklisting. The Scottish Affairs Select Committee has highlighted that blacklisting of workers has gone on in construction industry. People have been denied work because they had been concerned about health and safety or been active in their trade union. I think that this is unacceptable.


People should not be discriminated against because they are trade unionists. We should be looking for ways to ensure that no publicly funded contracts go to companies which are involved in blacklisting. Workers should be actively encouraged to have a concern for health and safety they should not be discriminated against for it.


I would like to praise the work of the House of Commons Scottish Affairs Select Committee, which includes Dundee West MP Jim McGovern, in highlighting blacklisting. I want to see action from the UK Government and the Scottish Government which will allow councils and other public bodies to take action which will allow them to do all they can to prevent blacklisting. I want Dundee City Council to make a stand and say that we are opposed to blacklisting and that we will work hard to ensure that no public money is spent on contracts with companies which operate a blacklist.


This is an issue of fairness. The City Council should be working to ensure that all workers whether employed directly by the council or indirectly via contracts are treated fairly. We should also send out the message loud and clear that we think that health and safety is important and that it is scandalous that anyone should lose their job because they are concerned about health and safety.

I am looking to bring forward a motion at a meeting of the City Council on 19 August on blacklisting.  I hope that it will receive cross-party support.

30/07/2013

Appalled by Graffiti Attack

Some of the appalling graffiti, anyone with information
should contact the police
I am really really disappointed by the graffiti attack on a large numbers of properties in the Blackness Road area. These actions are utterly disgraceful.  There is no excuse for this wanton damage which is to be condemned without reservation. I hope that those responsible for these appalling attacks are caught and dealt with severely.
 
 
An attack on this scale should be regarded as an attack on the West End Community.  I would urge anyone who witnessed these events should contact the police.
 
 
Removing the graffiti could prove expensive for the residents and I think that we should find the means that would make it less so for them. That's why when I heard from local residents about the graffiti attacks yesterday I contacted the council's graffiti repaid response team and asked that they help local people deal with the problem. I knew that they might be inundated with calls so I suggested that they should be proactive and knock on the doors of people who are affected and offer them help. I am pleased to say that this is what is happening today.
Once again I would urge anyone with any information about the graffiti to contact the police. There is no excuse for this and it should be dealt with severely. I know that the police are taking this very seriously and I hope that whoever was responsible will be caught.

Call for Review of Seagull Control


Jim McGovern MP and myself with some of the residents of Harrison Avenue blighted by seagulls

Along with Jim McGovern MP as the Opposition Spokesperson for the Environment I am calling for Dundee City Council to review its current practice towards controlling Seagulls across Dundee.

Many people have raised concerns about the Seagulls but I would like people to get in touch with me with details of any issues they have recently had. By building up a full picture of this problem we can see its full scale and ask for more to be done. I have written to Ken Laing, Director of Environment for Dundee City Council asking about current measures undertaken to control Seagulls. I am looking for these to be reviewed and compared with other comparable local authorities. At present the council charge households for control methods, to me this seems far too high a price particularly for people living in known hot spot areas. I believe that other Councils operate a free scheme of deterring and removing eggs during breeding season when the birds are at their most vicious. We need an all round review of current measures with no option left off the table.


Jim McGovern MP said: 'Time and time again I am contacted by constituents who have been bothered by menacing Seagulls that have hit or dive bombed them after they nested on rooftops. This is not to mention other problems of noise, disease and spilling litter that they also create. The mess that they leave behind is evident across the whole City and detracts from local areas. It seems to me that current efforts by Dundee City Council are simply not stepping up to the mark as Seagulls continue to prove a complete nuisance and in a lot of cases danger across the City. I was also informed of the birds attacking local school pupils when they were eating their lunches. I know that there are restrictions on controlling wild animals but I believe the case can be made that these birds are a public health and safety hazard and more measures should be taken.'

Helen Potter, a local resident of Harrison Avenue said: 'This is a lovely area to live in but the Seagulls have become a real health and safety hazard. The sheer number of them that often land in our garden can be quite scary especially with our young granddaughter around. The mess they leave behind can be very dangerous if she comes into contact with it. The Council must do something about this as it is not our problem but it has been caused by the local businesses nearby attracting them yet if they nest on our roof we have to fork out £85 despite already paying enough in taxes.'

Teddy Bear Picnic - Roseangle Play-Park

Delighted to discuss plans for Roseangle Play Park with Sharon Dickie from the group
On Sunday I was pleased to support the work of the group looking to help refurbish Roseangle Play Park by attending their Teddy Bear's picnic today.

I was pleased to attend the rather wet Teddy Bear's picnic.  The group looking to improve the play park at Roseangle are doing a great job and they deserve to be supported.  I wish them every success in their efforts.

It is great that local people are making an effort to improve the play park and make a real difference to their local community.  If you want to find out more about their work visit their Facebook page.  They have a wide range of fundraising activities over the next few months please consider supporting them.

03/07/2013

Community Spirit Meeting

This evening I attended the July meeting of the Community Spirit Action Group.  There was an excellent presentation on the work of Starter Packs in Dundee.  Starter Packs provide some basic household goods for people taking on tenancies.  Starter Packs do a great job in Dundee and they deserve support.

There was a discussion on the future of domestic waste collections in the city and the ongoing problems caused by the closure of the Marchbanks recycling centre and the restrictions of the materials which can be recycled at Riverside and Baldovie.  It is clear that people are still very unhappy with this change.  There was also a discussion about the way in which the council cuts grass in communal areas of the city.

It was also great to see a presentation on the graffiti clean-up which took place in early June. This was a great community effort which made a real difference to the local community.

02/07/2013

Great to see new Olympia Open - Hope Dundee Wins National Performance Centre

I am delighted to see the new Olympia opened, a project started when I was Convener of Leisure, Arts and Communities.  I am now delighted to support Dundee's bid to gain the new National Performance Centre in sport.

I am delighted to see the response to the opening of the new Olympia.  Having visited the swimming pool I am pleased to say how impressed I was with the new facility.  It is great and I hope that Dundonians and visitors to the city will enjoy the new pool.  I think that it is important that we promote sports facilities in the city. I am proud to have played my part in the delivery of the new Olympia, along with the new regional gymnastics centre at the Dick McTaggart Centre.

I think that it is now crucial that everyone in Dundee gets behind the bid to bring the National Performance Centre for Sport to Dundee.  Dundee needs to get its share of national institutions.  I think that the National Performance Centre for Sport would be a great addition to the city and would help in my long-held ambition to bring an international football match to the city.  My colleague Jenny Marra has done a great job promoting this and I hope that Dundee is successful in this bid.

Campaigning with Jenny Marra MSP to bring National Football Academy to Dundee

On behalf of the Labour Group on the City Council I have said to the Administration that we would be delighted to work with them to build a united front to campaign to bring this much-needed and overdue investment from the Scottish Government to our great city.  I have welcomed the fact that the City Council is committed to a capital investment of at least £5million in sports facilities no matter what the outcome of the bid.  I think that Dundee has a very very strong case and I fully expect Dundee to be successful in its bid for the National Performance Academy for Sport.