26/06/2013

Austerity Uncovered - STUC Tour

On Tuesday in between council meetings and attending a funeral I very briefly went along to see the STUC's Austerity Uncovered Tour in Dundee.  Unison were also there campaigning for a fair pay rise for local government workers.

I was pleased to get the chance to hear from Dave Moxham from the STUC about the campaign.  They are looking for long-term policies including
  • A new industrial policy to back our industry
  • Banks that work for the people and a new state investment bank
  • A jobs guarantee for young people
  • A fair tax system tackles the tax dodgers and makes banks pay a fair share through the Robin Hood Tax
  • A massive programme to build social and affordable housing
I am supportive of all of these objectives.  It is important that we listen to the voice of trade unions.  The economic crash was not caused by trade unionists but rather by banks.  It is crucially important that policy makers listen to the views and experiences of people who are in the firing line of cuts and benefit changes and that is one of the things that the STUC tour is trying to do.

I was also happy to listen to Unison activists make the case for a pay rise for their members.  Councils are put in a very difficult position by the funding settlements we have but we must also recognise that the workforce is the greatest asset the council has.  We should also recognise their economic impact on the local community and that putting more money in their pockets can boost the local economy, that's one reason why I campaigned for the Living Wage for Dundee City Council workers.

Once again I would just like to say sorry that I wasn't able to stay for longer.

25/06/2013

Frank Christie RIP

I was really sad to hear of the death of my friend, former councillor Frank Christie.  Frank was a lovely man who was always a great help to me.  I am glad of Frank's support for my election as councillor for the West End and his support for my candidacy for the Scottish Parliament.

Frank served the city well for over twenty years as a member of Dundee District Council and Dundee City Council.  Frank was a long-standing and valued member of the Labour Party.  He was a powerful debater and had a wide-ranging knowledge on political, historical, and cultural issues.

At Monday evening's City Development Committee in a very nice gesture the Convener, Will Dawson, started the meeting by asking Labour leader Kevin Keenan to pay tribute to Frank who was a former Convener of this committee's predecessor.

One of Frank's most lasting achievements in politics was negotiating to secure the return of Discovery.   This was in many respects the catalyst for the refurbishment of the waterfront.

The photograph above shows Frank speaking in the City Square, with another old friend the late John Henderson in the background.  I am not sure what the occasion is but it is great to see Frank in his prime.  Thanks to Helen Wright for the photograph.

I attended Frank's funeral today and it was a fitting tribute to him.  The final song I think did well to sum up Frank's view on things.


City Council Objects to Biomass Plant

I welcome the decision by Dundee City Council to object to the plans for a biomass plant in the port of Dundee.  I moved the amendment which was supported by 20 votes to 6 at the Policy and Resources Committee.  You can read the report put forward to the council last night by clicking on the link and reading pages 13-107 of the document.
 
I was pleased that the majority of members of the Policy and Resources Committee supported the amendment which I put forward.  My amendment raised concerns about air quality and the design of the building.  My main aim was to try and deliver a public enquiry where all the issues can be considered.  I thought that all of the deputations which we heard on Monday evening had something worthwhile to say.  I would say that after listening to the evidence in the constrained way which it is considered in the council committee that there was no clear winner in terms of the debate but there was sufficient doubt about the issue of air quality and the size and appearance of the plant.  A public inquiry will allow all the issues to be dealt with in an open and transparent manner and I am convinced that this is the best way forward.
 
 
 
 You can see the amendment which was supported by 20 votes to 6 below.
 
"Dundee City Council objects to the application on the grounds that emissions resulting from the development will exacerbate air quality standards in the City resulting in an adverse impact on public health and the development, by reason of its height, scale and massing, would adversely impact on the visual amenity of the City and would form a discordant feature on the Waterfront."
 
The main parts of my speech can be seen below :
 
I have read the report and listened to the deputations with great interest.  I would like to thank all of the deputations for their contributions. It is clear to me that we cannot come to a conclusion this evening about who is right and who is wrong here.

I want to place on record my wish to do anything I can to bring sustainable jobs to the city of Dundee.  This is important and should be a priority for all of us.  Whatever message goes out from the committee meeting this evening I am clear that we should unite and send out the message that Dundee is open for business and that we will try to work with people to bring jobs to Dundee.

I am concerned about air quality standards in the city.  I have tried to take action about poor air quality in parts of my ward.  We all have a duty to do something about poor air quality.  It includes what we do here as elected members of the council.

At paragraph 5.4 of the report on page 10 (14) we are told that the 'impact of the proposal is not deemed to be sufficient to warrant an objection on local air quality grounds.’  But we are then told in the next sentence that ‘there will be an impact on air quality and the Local Authority’s objective of improving air quality in the local area.  How could we ignore this?

We need to listen to the views of the public and consultees.  Over 3000 members of the public, at the very least, have objected to the proposals, with 7 in favour we are told.  My postbag is reflective of this except that I have not received any correspondence in favour of the proposal.

We also see that the West End Community Council and Friends of the Earth Tayside are opposed to the proposals.  We should do more than dismiss their concerns.

We should be very concerned that NHS Tayside do not consider that all of their concerns have been addressed with regard to air quality and public health.

There are possible conditions set out in the report, but they are after the event.  That is why I am suggesting that we object on these grounds.

The other grounds on which I believe we should object are on the reasons of height, scale and massing this proposal will adversely impact on the visual amenity of the city and be a discordant feature of the waterfront.

Tayside House is currently being demolished.  We are told time after time that this was Dundee’s least favourite building.  We are told that it was a blot on the skyline.  I make one side reference to the fact that Tayside House brought jobs to Dundee but that many people were still pleased to see it go.

Tayside House is said to have been a blot on the skyline.  We are being asked here this evening to say that we think that it is acceptable to build a building which is significantly taller than Tayside House.  Is this acceptable?

We are rightly proud of the efforts which we are making to improve the city, with cross-party support, do these proposals fit in with this vision.  I do not think so.

The effect of supporting my amendment would be to virtually guarantee a public inquiry into these proposals.  This is what has happened in other places with similar proposals; do the people of Dundee deserve any less?  If I am wrong in my opinion of these proposals then a public inquiry would prove that.  There is surely nothing to fear from a public inquiry and everything to gain from giving people the reassurance that all the issues have been looked at in an open and transparent manner.

I move my amendment that we should object on the grounds of the negative impact on air quality standards and thereby public health and on the grounds that the development will adversely impact the visual amenity of the city and form a discordant feature on the waterfront.