29/01/2013

City Council Committee Meetings

Tonight saw meetings of the City Council's committees, there were some interesting reports put forward and also some amazing scenes as the SNP group attempted to show their good faith and get opposition councillors to take part in the Changing for the Future Board by attacking just about every opposition councillor.

The Education Committee  considered a report on Standards and Quality in education.  There is a lot of good work from teachers and pupils highlighted in this report.  I was glad that the Convenor accepted a suggestion from my colleague Laurie Bidwell that future reports should also include statistics related to primary pupils.

The City Council set the rent rise for the council house tenants tonight.  The Labour Group attempted to bring in a lower rent rise than the one proposed by the SNP Group. Many obstacles were put in the way of our amendments. Eventually we suggested a rent rise of 4.75% as opposed to the 5% rise which was supported by the SNP Group.

At the Policy and Resources Committee I praised the work done by Leisure and Culture Dundee.   Leisure and Culture Dundee has done a lot of good.  It has innovated and in so doing has delivered significant savings for the council.  It is rewarded for doing this by having its reserves raided as part of the council's budget process.  I worry that this is counterproductive.

There was a remarkable debate about the Changing for the Future Board.  I would point out that the Labour manifesto committed Labour councillors to the abolition of the Changing for the Future Board.  In the spirit of trying to find a solution, and in the hope of reaching a consensus I put forward an amendment which I thought would deal with the problems that opposition councillors have with the private, some might even say secretive, Changing for the Future Board.  I moved an amendment which would have opened up the Changing for the Future Board with meetings in public, with the papers published and the possibility of trade union involvement as well as public involvement.  I tried to get the council to set up a petitions procedure but this was ruled out of order, I will be trying to get this back on an agenda sometime soon.

My main point was that the Changing for the Future Board was set up nearly 3 years ago, opposition councillors have raised concerns about it since then.  The SNP-led Administration has not taken on board any of these concerns.  We are told that our views would be listened to if we attended, this is rather hard to swallow when the Administration have not budged by a single millimetre in our direction in terms of our concerns about the Changing for the Future Board.

We were then treated to a remarkable amendment from Councillor Jimmy Black.  Councillor Black had spoken to me earlier in the day about this policy and then broke my confidence by sharing our discussion with other members of his group.  Councillor Black can rest easy though because tempting as it may be I will not be sharing his views on his colleagues with anyone.  Councillor Black and many other SNP councillors then made all sorts of ridiculous accusations about opposition councillors.  This led to Bailies Borthwick and Scott along with Councillor Macpherson leaving the meeting.  The Labour Group remained but did not dignify Councillor Black's amendment with a vote.

I feel that Labour tonight actually offered a compromise this was thrown back in our faces.  I am sure that the events of tonight's committee meeting have just gone to show opposition councillors that they are quite right not to take part in the Changing for the Future Board.  If the intention tonight was to force councillors to attend the Changing for Future Board then it failed spectacularly. 

The SNP won a majority of councillors in Dundee at the last election, this does not mean that other councillors have lost all their rights.

28/01/2013

A warm welcome

I would like to offer a very warm welcome to all officers of the council reading this blog; if of a nervous disposition I suggest you look away now!