Monday, May 29, 2006

Graffiti on utilities' boxes and other West End issues ...

Lots of local issues tackled this week including :

* Useful site visit with two Tait's Lane residents and an officer from the Planning & Transportation Department to look at a part of the roadway where drivers have difficulty negotiating when there are parked vehicles. Pleased to say this will be tackled when the roadway is resurfaced (in the autumn I am told - and its needing it as the photo right shows!)

* Also been in touch with the department regarding concerns about pedestrians crossing at the Marketgait/Nethergate junction since the underpass has been taken away.

* A resident expressed concern at the visbility for persons crossing from Magdalen Green to the playpark at Roseangle (across Riverside Approach) - the Council at my request sent an officer to check and his positive feedback is as follows :- "I will arrange for the white line to be extended southwards for an additional 3 metres. This will still accommodate the existing parking, improve the visibility for pedestrians and can be done relatively quickly."

* I have highlighted the issue of graffiti on utilities' boxes across the West End (see story "Dundee LibDem Councillor highlights West End graffiti problem" by clicking headline above. Featured in today's Courier and interviewed on Wave 102 regarding this. Council's Legal Manager progressing the list I have given him with the utility companies, so hopefully some progress soon.
Photo is me at Riverside Approach/Roseangle/Magdalen Yard Road with example!

* NHS Tayside to meet with me and a couple of council colleagues about the Ninewells Hospital parking charges - see Councillors to meet NHS Tayside over hospital parking issue -
http://www.dundee.prai.co.uk/news/183.html

* Lastly, very productive meeting on Saturday with my Council colleague Helen Dick and two of our Fife Council LibDem colleagues representing the Tay Bridgehead area. Useful to meet with colleagues from neighbouring area & helpful discussions over Tay Bridge and other transport issues.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

City Centre history, Homebase site and hospital parking ...

A very busy week with West End and City Centre issues; firstly pleased that, at my request, the City Council has written to the owners of the former Homebase on Riverside Drive about the state of the site. As you can see from the photo (right) the walling on the pathway to the west of the site is badly damaged and (left) the graffiti on the building is really bad. Whilst its appreciated the site will be a building site in due course as planning approval for flats was approved last December, its important that health and safety issues in particular are addressed ASAP.

A thoroughly enjoyable and very different City Centre & Harbour Community Council meeting on Thursday as most of it consisted of a walk round the historic parts of the City Centre, with Professor Charles McKean from the University of Dundee's Department of History (click on link on headline!) Despite a little light drizzle, it was a fascinating tour and well attended. The photo (left) shows Prof McKean leading part of the group through the Wishart Arch. There's a good overview of the history of the Wishart Arch at : http://www.geo.ed.ac.uk/scotgaz/features/featurefirst8838.html

Other issues of the week included the handrail I'd asked for in Ford's Lane (where elderly people find it difficult to navigate the slope during winter months) finally installed (bit of a war and peace story this one but got there in the end!); a useful LibDem council group leaders across Scotland meeting with Nicol Stephen & other LibDem Scottish Ministers on Tuesday (good for raising issues of importance to us in Dundee & for my colleagues from elsewhere in Scotland) - similarly useful meeting with neighbouring councils later in week; and I have agreed to meet Digital UK when I am next in London (re the Freeview issue - http://www.dundee.prai.co.uk/news/177.html).

Two other issues - had meeting with council colleagues and made comment about the concerns many constituents have raised about proposals to increase car parking charges at Ninewells Hospital. There are two main concerns here:

* Potential impact on making parking in West End streets even more difficult
* The principle that it is wrond (in my view) that patients and patients' visitors should have to pay to access a "free at the point of delivery" National Health Service

See http://www.dundee.prai.co.uk/news/175.html ("Strong Backlash against hospital parking charges") - I spoke about this on today's Tay Talk In on Radio Tay, stressing that I will always stand up for West End residents on this issue. I'm writing to both NHS Tayside & Andy Kerr, Health Minister, on the issue.

And lastly, when is a drain repair not a drain repair? When Scottish Water hasn't done it! Having highlighted the organisation's failure to repair a drain (or, rather, provide a drain cover) following a little girl having an accident in Commercial Street, Scottish Water claimed the work had been done. Err....well maybe not. Having given the Courier a photo (right) rather proving the drain was still uncovered, and one apology from Scottish Water later, I am pleased to report the matter was properly attended to on Friday night (19th).

Saturday, May 13, 2006

City Centre Update

I have just put together my latest City Centre & Harbour Community Council Update. The Community Council meets this Thursday at 7pm at the Central Library at the Wellgate. All local residents are welcome.

I've covered the following issues in the update this month:

• Dock Street (West End) and Whitehall Crescent
• Recycling in the City Centre
• City Churches
• Parklife Skatepark Celebration
• Festive Matters
• Bristol Wireless
• Bell Street Car Park
• Dundee Central Local Community Plan
• Digital Terrestrial Television
• Bus Shelters

You can download it by clicking the headline!

Sad News

I was very saddened to hear yesterday of the death, at the age of 90, of Claire Bruce. Claire was a very well respected member of the West End Community in Dundee and a great supporter and member of Dundee West Liberals, later Dundee LibDems. I quote below the obituary from the Dundee LibDem members' newsletter just issued:

"Dundee Liberal Democrats were very saddened to learn of the recent death of Claire Bruce, a long standing member of the Liberals and Liberal Democrats over many years in Dundee. Claire was an active member during the 1970s and 1980s and was a well known and respected member of the community in Dundee’s West End. Claire was Chair of West End Community Council during the 1980s and played an instrumental part in the successful restoration of the bandstand on Magdalen Green. West End councillor Fraser Macpherson said, “Claire made a massive contribution to the West End. She will be sadly missed.”

Friday, May 12, 2006

Busy Friday

Friday has been a genuinely productive day. Had a very useful walkabout round the City Centre & a bit of the West End with two of the staff from Planning & Transportation to look at the siting/types of bus shelters installed. My main issue at the moment is the lack of timetables at stops without the electronic information. I am promsied that the Perth Road/Blackness area will have their timetables done first, hopefully by next month.

Also met with a member of the same department's staff for an overview of the new on-line PublicAccess to planning applications made to the City Council. See
http://bwarrant.dundeecity.gov.uk/publicaccess/tdc/tdc_home.aspx. This allows any citizen to search and view all planning applications, building warrants, etc in great depth.

Other meetings included a meeting about next Monday's Audit & Risk Management Sub-Committee, which I Chair, a meeting with housing officials regarding housing allocation matters and a meeting with a member of Leisure & Communities Staff about developing Magdalen Green.

Also a number of constituent enquiries involving housing benefit, rabbits on the Green, and traffic issues.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

AGMs, Sea Walls & Traffic Lights ...

Been out of town for bits of the week running day-job seminars in sunny Grangemouth (beautifully sunny actually!) but on Monday did spend some time inspecting damage to the seawall and footpath in Riverside Drive with a Community Councillor and neighbouring ward councillor Neil Powrie. Also meeting of Dundee House Project Board, looking at the replacement of Tayside House proposals. (The existing building pictured right). Apart from evening committees, a few issues raised at my surgery including the landscaping at Seabraes and dumped items (bins, concrete blocks, road signs, etc) at various West End locations. Anyway, reported to Waste Management & Planning & Transportation.

Last night saw the monthly meeting & AGM of the West End Community Council (
http://www.wecc.org.uk/) - the AGM bit ably chaired by Neil (I say ably chaired as he was so lovely about me! Ha Ha!). Items of note - I was pleased to report (following on from my "squint signs" blog below) that the Council is to replace the lights at Sinderins with new kit, which will not only look a whole lot better but will be a more flexible system to hopefully improve traffic flow. There were useful updates from Leisure & Communities staff on Scotland in Bloom, Core Paths and the new Cycle Routes, and other matters discussed included the proposed "West End Spring Clean" day - 24th June - I'm speaking with Waste Management to get their assistance - vandalism, dumped shopping trolleys (speaking with Tescos re this), and was able to give an update from Network Rail about removing these dreadful blue boards on Riverside Approach.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Squint Signs, Skateparks and updates

Firstly, thanks to the local resident who has sent me a photo set of street signs etc from the Sinderins area which show clearly the extent of squint signs at and near the junction (see example, right). This is an issue I have raised in the past, but have taken up again with appropriate departments.
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Today I visited Dudhope Park which was the venue for the Parklife Launch Event - a picnic of action and music. Another lovely day and it was really good to see how well-used the new outdoor skatepark is. Following on from complaints from people about skateboarding in parts of the City Centre, I have been very supportive of this project and good to see it come to fruition. Next mission must be to get lighting installed.
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The Parklife event had the support of the BBC - with the Radio 1 Big Weekend taking place next weekend - see http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio1/bigweekend06/.
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Published my West End Community Council update today, including stories on issues on :
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* Magdalen Green
* Bus Timetables
* Central Dundee Parking Strategy
* West End Christmas Week 2006
* Litter Bin
* Post Offices
* Walkway Seabraes to Tesco
* Peddie Street speeding
* Ryehill Health Centre
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Click on the headline above to download a PDF of it.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Waste Bins, Climate Change, Post Offices

Day mainly spent on day job but helpful discussion with both Planning & Transportation and with Head of Waste Management on (of all things) waste paper bins at/near bus stops. Sunstantive outcomes are waste bin I have asked for on north side of Perth Road near the two bakers at Sinderins is to be provided, the departments are working together on issue to ensure a strategy for freestanding waste bin provision at and near bus stops and shelters and I'm doing a "City Centre walkabout" with P&T staff to look at the siting of bus shelters on the 12th.

Couple of other things :

Back in January, the Department for Work and Pensions decided not to extend the contract for the Post Office card account used by millions to collect benefits and pensions - beyond 2010.
The government's refusal to renew this contract, worth £1 billion in income to the Post Office, could throw the future of some of Dundee's branches into doubt. Today I signed a petition at Perth Road Post Office on this issue - see
http://www.dundee.prai.co.uk/news/157.html

And just to promote a meeting on the Campaign Against Climate Change - the World Development Movement (WDM) Tayside and the local group of the Campaign Against Climate Change (CACC) who are holding a meeting later this month in Dundee to discuss action on global warming.

The meeting takes place at 7.15pm on Thursday May 25th in Room T9, Tower Building, Dundee University, Perth Road, Dundee. Admission to the event is free. For more details, contact Tony Welsh (07886 530 988) or Allan Kelly (07854 808 075). Unfortunately the party national Executive is taking place in Edinburgh that night & I had already committed to attend, but have circulated the Climate Change meeting details amongst the Dundee Liberal Democrat membership.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Council Tax ... genuine progress

In a world of spin, here's genuine unspun success. For the first time since its creation in 1996, the in-year Council Tax collection figure of Dundee City Council has risen above 90%. OK, so here's the Council's press release :-

"Continued improvement in council tax collection"

"Dundee City Council Convener of Finance, Councillor Fraser Macpherson has welcomed new figures that show a continued and sustained improvement in the amount of council tax collected by the end of the financial year in which it was due.

"The in-year collection figure for 2005/06 has reached 90.7% which is an increase of 3.6% over the previous financial year 2004/05.

"Councillor Macpherson said: "This is the fourth year running that we have improved our in-year council tax collection figure and we have firmly established a positive trend. I am particularly pleased that we have reached our target in year collection figure of 90% two years earlier that planned.

"This is largely due to the hard work of the finance revenues staff who have introduced and implemented a new recovery process which has been fully operational since February this year.

"As a result of the new system we have increased payment arrangements of £1.6 million from 7,272 debtor accounts to £6.7 million from 19,450 accounts.

"We have also increased the numbers and value of monthly payments made by direct debit to a level where they are now accounting for almost half of the council tax income. This helps with our cash flow and the amount of interest we can generate.

"Although our in-year and overall collection rates continue to improve, there is still a lot to be done and I can assure the Dundee public that we will continue to pursue all outstanding council tax debt from previous years."

OK, we as LibDems want to move from Council Tax to local income tax, but as things stand its presently a matter of managing Council Tax. The reality - Dundee is still below the Scottish average but Dundee has far greater issues of poverty and deprivation than the average Scottish authority. It is a genuinely significant success of the City Council - and the LibDem/Labour administration - that we have had year on year improvement and a 3.6% increase in in-year collection last year in particular. The Courier covered this today and actually agreed with the editorial! Also interviewed also on Wave 102 on the issue.

Rest of day - enjoyable meeting with the Leader of the Council on a number of issues, Beacon Management meeting with the Police & others re the City Centre and a good few local issues including black bags on Magdalen Green, wonky signage, and a Social Work issue.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Cycle Routes and other things

A good few issues on the go today from damage to a constituent's wall, parking enforcement, paving matters and tree preservation. Pleased to hear from the Council's Access Officer about progress on the new cycle routes. I have been involved in this in that both I & and the West End Community Council had expressed concern about part of the new West End route for less experienced cyclists, which has resulted in two alternative routes on part of the route. Here's the latest update from the Council:-

The cycle routes project is now underway, with the contractor on site today!

They are starting up at the South Road section and working their way down. They hope to be completed by 22nd July.

There are maps for the routes on order - these will be available in a few months. There will be a reprint of the Green Circular map with the routes marked on and also a 'local' map just for the new routes with a bit more information about the places it goes through.

There will be enough Green Circular maps to give them to University to put in Freshers packs.

Generally the route descriptions would be:

Ninewells route:
From the City Centre up South Tay Street and along Old Hawkhill.
Use pedestrian crossing to get over Hawkhill then choice of two routes
1. Quiet route - along pavement beside Hawkill, up Annfield Road, left onto Annfield Street, right onto Peddie Street, left onto Blackness Road.
2. Direct route - up Bellfield Street and along Blackness Road Then the route will go down Glenagnes Road, along Logie Avenue and up onto Balgay Road.
Through Balgay Park to Glamis Road, cross over, use pavement beside Ninewells Avenue.
Cross over Ninewells Avenue and use path on the North side leading to bridge over Ninewells Drive.
Make own way through Ninewells (route to be determined and funding to be applied for) Route connects to Green Circular by using path from Tom McDonald Avenue to Mariner Drive.

South Road route:
As Ninewells route until Balgay Park.
Route takes right turn in Balgay Park to head up towards Lochee Park.
Continues on pavement to Ancrum Road.
Cross over Ancrum Road and turn into Sutherland Street.
Follow road round to left and turn right onto Sutherland Crescent.
Turn right onto Sharpes Lane. Follow path over bridge and continue along path under bridge to Elmwood Road.
Cross over Elmwood Road and continue along path through South Road Park.
Route connects to Green Circular at Lynch Sports Centre.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Digital Terrestrial TV

Issue of the day today has been local reaction to the government's poor handling of the roll-out of digital terrestrial TV. As most people in the south of Dundee (most places south of the Law Hill really) get their TV from the Tay Bridge relay transmitter on the south side of the Tay which doesn't carry Freeview, they are paying a TV licence for rather less of a service than people who can pick up the wider choice of digital TV from their local transmitter.

The government's roll out of Freeview has been ill-thought out. It was rolled out to main transmitters only & now there's not enough bandwidth left for the 25% or so of the population who are served by other transmitters to give them digital TV too until the "analogue switch off" which is years away (in our Grampian TV area - 2010).

I wrote to the Department of Culture Media & Sport earlier in the year and the disappointing Ministerial response was widely reported locally. Many residents in the City Centre & West End have commented just how unfair the situation is so I have now written to T Blair at Number 10 about it. Click on the headline for the full story on the Dundee LibDem website.

Well covered in the Dundee Courier today (see
http://www.thecourier.co.uk/output/2006/05/01/newsstory8287028t0.asp) and I have spoken on the Wave 102 & Radio Tay news about the issue this morning.

If people can't get the same service for the same TV licence fee, shouldn't they be getting a refund, Mr Blair?