Monday, March 31, 2008

Further recycling progress in the West End

Friday's Evening Telegraph covered news that Dundee’s neighbourhood recycling scheme is to be expanded, given its success since its introduction last year. Click on headline above to view.
The photo (right) is the launch in Blackness Avenue of the original phase last year, attended by myself, fellow councillors and members of Blackness Area Residents' Association.

I'm pleased to say that it is planned to include the West End in this expansion, and the following areas are being considered, subject to consultation with nearby residents :

· Perth Road - east of Ryehill Lane
· Perth Road - at the east side of Seabraes
· Balfour Street - in the Dundee University campus near entrance of Students Union building
· Scott Street - east of Glenagnes Road (subject to the adjacent land owner's permission)

It is intended to consult with residents this week and give a period for feedback, so the new facilities are likely to be installed later on in April. Residents' groups/Community Councils are also consulted and nearby householders will also be provided with an information leaflet and reusable jute bag to carry recyclables to the bins.

Each Neighbourhood Recycling Point will consist of 4 steel containers for recycling each of the following materials:

· Paper
· Clear glass
· Green glass
· Brown glass

Bygone News ...

There's an interesting section on the Dundee City Council website where you can take a trip down memory lane to find out what was happening in Dundee 25, 50, 75 and 100 years ago!


You can browse a selection of old newspaper headlines, what's on listings, hints and tips and much more from bygone days. It covers not just 25, 50, 75 and 100 years ago from 2008 (ie 1983, 1958, 1933 and 1908) but also the equivalent years back from 2003-2007 as well.


You can see more by clicking on the headline above. The photograph of the area around Dundee City Square/Boots corner/east end of the old Overgate (above right) comes from the Professor George Howard Bell "Old Dundee" collection hosted on the University of Dundee's website at : http://www.dundee.ac.uk/armms/g_h_bell04.htm

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Parking progress

I am pleased to see the imminent start of survey work by City Council consultants, looking at ways of improving parking for residents in various parts of the City, but particularly those adjacent to the City Centre, including the West End.

This follows on from approval of a report to the Planning & Transport Committee last autumn (click on headline to view) that gave authority for the City Council to ensure there was a serious investigation of options to improve residents’ parking, consult with communities about the options and report back to committee on the views of residents, the options available and the costs of implementing improvements. Transportation data experts Count on Us has been appointed to undertake survey work.

The work will take some time as it is extensive, starting with survey work, but also thereafter detailed consultations with residents and communities. I regularly discuss with residents the difficulties many have trying to park near to their homes, so this development is very welcome indeed. It allows for the experts to survey the extent of problems, look at solutions, but crucially, consult with communities on options.

The areas subject to the work initially cover the West End (particularly the area of the district shopping centre and adjacent areas and the area immediately adjacent to Ninewells Hospital), together with Dudhope, Hilltown and Princes Street.

Different solutions may be the best way forward in different areas and that the outcomes from this exercise could benefit other communities in the future. The City Council has also established a working group (of which I am a member) to look at particular parking problems in the City’s housing estates.

Not quite passed away yet...!

Firstly, many thanks to all who have given me their best wishes following my recent minor hospital operation. I'm doing fine although won't be exactly tripping the light fantastic for a week or so yet!

Rumours of my passing away back in 1993 are greatly exaggerated. It's been pointed out that if you enter "Fraser Macpherson" into the search engine of Spock, the people search engine that helps you find friends and colleagues on the web, the first two of five results have photos of me, but beside the rather out of date one (photo from Tay Bridges Ward by-election in 2001!)
has the biography of the late Canadian jazz musician Fraser MacPherson. (Click on headline to view).

At least the other brief biography is correct!

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Wimberley site

Last July, the Evening Telegraph featured residents' concerns about the state of the site of the former Wimberley student housing (click on headline above to view).

I had raised the concerns with the University of Dundee (who at that time still owned the site - it has since sold it) and the City Council as planning authority.

In November, I attended a meeting of residents about the site - held at Menzieshill Parish Church . It had been arranged between the Chair of West End Community Council and the developer who had purchased the site (and their architects), prior to a planning application being submitted.

The architect had invited me as ward councillor and, having sought advice from the City Council, I was allowed to attend only in an "observer" capacity as a planning application could come forward and elected members of the City Council are subject to a Code of Conduct in relation to planning applications. Over 70 residents attended the meeting.
Months later, the site is still in the same, poor state, and I have been in regular touch with City Council Planning Officers regarding residents' continuing concerns about the site's condition.

Yesterday, I received the following update from a planning officer:
“I talked to the architect this week on the above subject and have been advised that the applicants are still considering their options for the site and have, to date, not instructed the submission of any formal planning application for the development of the site.”


I have therefore asked the planning officer if the developer can be asked to undertake a tidy-up of the site meantime.

Scottish Parliament : Intervention squabbles ...

From parliamentary proceedings last Thursday, involving Labour member Frank McAveety and our local SNP MSP Joe FitzPatrick ... ho-hum ...

Mr Frank McAveety: “Will the member take an intervention?”

Joe FitzPatrick: “I would be pleased to take an intervention if the member will talk about Labour's revaluation policy.”

Mr McAveety: “I would like to talk about—”

Joe FitzPatrick: “No, no, no.”

Mr McAveety: “The member mentioned budgets—”

Joe FitzPatrick: “I am not going to—”

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Trish Godman): “Just one moment. I think that I am in charge here—the last time I looked, I was.”

Joe FitzPatrick: “Sorry.”

The Deputy Presiding Officer: “Are you taking Mr McAveety's intervention?”

Joe FitzPatrick: “Not if he is not prepared to talk about—”

The Deputy Presiding Officer: “You either take it or you do not.”

Friday, March 28, 2008

Blackness Road/Glamis Road

I have for some time had complaints about the condition of the roadway and roundabout at the junction of Blackness Road and Glamis Road. The roadway and kerbing is in poor shape and the roundabout drab. I have raised this with the City Council and have received the following feedback :

"Blackness Road/Glamis Road junction is included in the carriageway resurfacing programme for 2008/09. Work is scheduled to begin in April 2008 and will last approximately two weeks. Included in these works is the lifting and re-laying of the kerbing on the roundabout and around the south east corner of Blackness Road and Glamis Road."

I am continuing to pursue ways of brightening up the roundabout (some flowers and plants would be nice) and here's the City Council's Temporary Traffic Order in respect of the planned road and kerbing works :
Dundee City Council propose to make an Order under Section 14(1) of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 for the purpose of facilitating reconstruction and resurfacing works. The Order is expected to be in force for two weeks from 14 April 2008. Its maximum duration in terms of the Act is eighteen months.

The effect of the Order is to prohibit temporarily all vehicular traffic in (a) Glamis Road south of the roundabout with Blackness Road and (b) Glamis Drive west of the roundabout with Blackness Road.

Access for residents will be maintained where possible.

An alternative route will be available via (a) Perth Road, Ninewells Avenue, Glamis Road and reverse and (b) Invergowrie Drive, Perth Road, Ninewells Avenue, Glamis Road or Invergowrie Drive, Perth Road, West Park Road and reverse.

Please forward any comments you may have regarding this proposal to the Network Management Team, Planning and Transportation Department, Tayside House, Crichton Street, Dundee, no later than five working days prior to the commencement date.

If you have any queries please contact the City Council on 433275.

This week's FMQs

Again, it was Nicol Stephen who made all the running at First Minister's Questions yesterday - this time pointing out the SNP’s hypocrisy on their policy for the prison transport system.

“This week, the SNP Government privatised the prison transport service for young people for the first time. It gave a major new contract to Reliance. Does the First Minister think that Reliance is the right organisation to carry out that public service?




“I wonder why the First Minister does not listen to his Cabinet members on the issue. Look at what they said when they were in Opposition.




"Nicola Sturgeon said: "Reliance assurances have been shown not to be worth the paper they are written on".




“She also said that: "Running public services for private profit is a recipe for disaster."




“Kenny MacAskill said that it was wrong to hand prison escorts to Reliance; the SNP said that that was "gambling with public safety".




“So why have the First Minister and Kenny MacAskill just given Reliance brand-new services to run? What kind of backtracking, breathtaking, promise-breaking U-turn is that?




“It is like Margaret Thatcher waking up one morning and saying that Arthur Scargill was the right person to run our coal mines after all. The headline on one SNP press release was "Reliance: Time to dump the Keystone Cops".




“Why have Salmond and MacAskill, Scotland's Laurel and Hardy, just given a new contract for more services to the keystone cops? Why has the First Minister privatised that service?”



You can read the full exchange by clicking the headline above.




The major media commentators are again recognising Nicol's real impact as LibDem leader in the Scottish Parliament :




· Magnus Linklater; Scotland Editor, The Times: “The only one who is having some kind of effect is Nicol Stephen, the Liberal Democrat Leader, who consistently brings up embarrassing revelations. He had great fun yesterday, pointing out that the Executive had just given a new contract to Reliance, the transportation company… It is fair to say that Mr Salmond had no great answer to this. It is equally fair to say that no one seemed particularly surprised. And so the braying grows…” (Times, 28.03.08)




· Ian Bell; Political Commentator, The Herald: “Nicol Stephen had fun with changed SNP attitudes towards the Reliance "Lags'R'Us" service.” (Herald 28.03.08)

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Walk and Talk Course

A new course is starting in April in the West End for all interested in finding out more about our local area - the history, the people, the environment etc.
Walk and Talk is a 6 week course starting Thursday 23 April from 10am to 12 noon at Mitchell Street Centre
Including health tips, visits, information, exercise and photographs, it will be a packed programme of events! Click on headline above to view further details and to find out more and book a place, contact Dorothy Potter on 435827.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

More on Facebook ...

Further to my recent blog entry about the LibDems on Facebook, you can see Greenpeace on Facebook by clicking on the headline above.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Iraq: 5 Years On

Organ Donor Card event

This morning, along with other City Councillors, I attended an Organ Donor card event at the City Chambers, hosted by the Lord Provost.


The event was jointly arranged with REVIVAL (see http://www.revivaluk.org/), a local charity that assists patients who have received or are about to receive an organ donation.


We all signed up on-line to the Organ Donor Register. It's simple to do - click on the headline above and you can do so in a couple of minutes.


There are a substantial number of local people waiting for an organ donation so hopefully this event will encourage more residents to sign up to the register.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Western Cemetery Association ... and Blackness Library 100th anniversary update

I attended the Spring meeting of the Western Cemetery Association (WCA) on Friday which proved most worthwhile. A site visit will take place shortly at the Cemetery with Association members and the City Council Leisure & Communities Department, to look at further ways the Association can help with gardening improvements at the Cemetery. You can read more about the Association's activities by clicking on the headline above.

The Friday WCA meeting took place at Blackness Library ... which brings me to ... Blackness Library, and an update on the 100th anniversary celebrations. Back in February, I mentioned (http://frasermacpherson.blogspot.com/2008/02/blackness-librarys-100th-birthday.html) that the library is 100 years old this year. The anniversary date is 22nd October.

I have recently been advised by the City Council that a Centenary Planning Group has been formed and has started planning the Centenary event. A number of things have already happened:

* Research is being undertaken at the City Archives and Local History Department for material for use in an exhibition. Photographs and newspapers from October 1908 will be sourced.

* The Carnegie Trust and the Carnegie Museum in Dunfermline have been contacted for information.

* A leaflet is being produced inviting the public to come forward with any memorabilia and reminiscences.

* A programme of events for the week of the Centenary is being compiled and will include author visits, competitions and quizzes, activities for schoolchildren and adults, storytelling and tours of the library.

* Local groups have been invited to publicise their activities through displays in the library.

* Information is being prepared about the centenary celebration to be added to the library's webpage.

* A reception in the library will be organised to celebrate the centenary on October 22nd.

Good to see all this happening - the photo (above right) shows the opening of the library back in 1908.

LibDems on Facebook

The LibDems have just expanded our presence on Facebook with a new page where you can sign up as a fan of the Liberal Democrats - click on the headline above to do so.

You can see the latest news from Nick Clegg, view our latest photos from around the country, have discussions with other like minded people and much more.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Benvie Road Steps

Last year, the Benvie Road steps (to Lochee Road) were cleaned up, following my raising residents' concerns about their condition (and at that time, a load of paint that had been covering part of the steps area). You can read the original article by clicking the headline above.
I have recently received further residents' complaints about the steps here and I raised the matter with the City Council. The City Engineer has now responded positively as follows:

The steps at Benvie Road were again checked by the area inspector who did not find them to be slippy at the time of his inspection. However an order will be raised for the power washing of the steps to address any build-up of moss.

Additionally, there will be mortar repairs applied to any cracks. This order will be prepared for forwarding to the contractor at the start of the new financial year.
I will ask the area inspector to monitor the situation.

Affordable housing

I was pleased to see the Scottish Liberal Democrat Housing spokesperson, Jim Tolson MSP, this week raising in the Scottish Parliament the affordable housing shortage.


Jim said, “The Liberal Democrats see housing as a basic human right and believe that it is incumbent on the Scottish Government to build environmentally sustainable homes, which produce cleaner and safer communities.

“The SNP’s Budget includes a six per cent real terms cut to spending on affordable housing in the first year. Additional spending on affordable housing supply is, at best, less than 20 per cent of what is needed. We are extremely concerned that the current housing budget will fail to provide enough affordable homes to rent in the run up to the 2012 deadline for abolishing all unintentional homelessness in Scotland.”

The Scottish Government seems incapable of grasping the nettle, and it is dreadfully concerning that additional spending on affordable housing supply is, at best, less than on fifth of what is actually needed. The budget cut of 6% in real terms in year one is difficult for any SNP Minister to justify.

It is very clear that the SNP is clearly looking to abandon the pre election pledge to give first time buyers a £2 000 grant to buy their home. It was, frankly, a totally ill conceived policy - a reckless populist pledge - but it sort of sums up the SNP "promise everything costed or not" manifesto last May.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Road condition : Blackness Road

Following a resident's complaint about the road condition on Blackness Road east of the Fire Station and the Al-Maktoum Institute, I contacted the City Council about this. I have now received the following response :

"Thank you for your report of potholes on Blackness Road near the Al Maktoum Centre. The area inspector has checked the location and an order has now been raised for the filling of these potholes."

Forces Focus

Liberal Democrat Shadow Defence Secretary, Nick Harvey MP, has launched Forces Focus, a new website concentrating on the state of our armed forces (click on headline above to view).
Nick says, “Our 2005 Manifesto stated that one of our priorities was to look after our Armed Forces so they can look after us. At a time when our forces are committed to fighting on two fronts, as well as operations around the world, this holds just as true now as it did three years ago.

“With continued operations around the world, defence remains at the top of the agenda and it is essential that the Government’s ‘duty of care’ to service personnel is fulfilled.

“However, the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan have proved to be more challenging and more hostile than anticipated. More than ever in recent history our forces are at a point of critical overstretch. Numerous senior ranking military officials have voiced their concerns about the impact of Iraq and Afghanistan on the troops and on morale, retention and recruitment, and the British Legion’s ‘Honour the Covenant’ Campaign brought personnel welfare to the forefront of the political agenda.

“We need to ask what is the real cost of operations and the impact of overstretch on our current operations overseas and the future for our armed forces? I suspect it will be both great and far-reaching. It goes without saying that if we continue to stretch our Armed Forces as we are doing something will have to give.

“As a party we are well placed to continue these campaigns and feed into wider debate on the future for our Armed Forces and the nature of defence in a changing international and strategic landscape.

“That is why I, and my colleagues on the defence team, have set up the Forces Focus website. We want to continue to spark debate about defence and offer the chance to discuss issues ranging from welfare to disarmament and procurement, as well as keeping you up-to-date on what we as a team are working on.”

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Scottish Roundup, Bus Fares and Paton's Lane again ...

Further to yesterday's blog entry about the refuse collection problems in Paton's Lane (featured in today's Courier), I have had further feedback from the City Council first thing this morning :

"...the crew got access late Wednesday afternoon and the bins got emptied."

I have recently written to Stewart Stevenson MSP, the Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change, about the about the Scottish Government’s refusal to increase the level of fuel duty rebate in Scotland in line with recent rises in fuel duty, which is leading to increased bus fares across Scotland.

Already this week we have seen an increase in the bus fares of one operator locally and the SNP Government’s failure to match the fuel duty compensatory rebate that bus operators in England are receiving is resulting in inevitable bus fare increases.

At a time when we should be encouraging greater public transport use by the public, the Scottish Government appears to be encouraging exactly the opposite and this policy inevitably results in fares increases, particularly unfair on the third of Scots who do not have access to a car.
I have asked Mr Stevenson to consider an increase in fuel duty rebate for public transport to match rises in fuel duty to protect bus services across Scotland. I am hoping Mr Stevenson will see the sense in avoiding further increases in bus fares and to encourage use of public transport.

Lastly,
www.scottishroundup.co.uk ("Reporting from Scotland’s soapbox") has recently given this blog a wee mention :

"We have a blogging birthday to celebrate as well: Cllr Fraser Macpherson started putting his exploits as a LibDem Councillor in Dundee online two years ago. Councillor’s blogs usually follow one of two paths: the first is not to focus primarily on general issues, sometimes inspired by their work on the Council, sometimes not, and while we might not get a feel for how the blogging Councillor spends his or her day, we do understand a little better what makes them tick.

The second path is to focus on what they’re up to as a Councillor: where they’re going, what they’re doing, who they’re talking to. We might not find out much about the Councillor’s view on, say, the Lisbon Treaty, but it gives residents a chance to keep tabs on what their representative is doing in their name. Fraser Macpherson’s blog is a great example of the second way of doing things, and any Councillor looking to take to their keyboard could do far worse than read his site to see how he goes about it."


Click on the headline above to read more about
www.scottishroundup.co.uk.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Refuse collection - Paton's Lane

There have been problems this week with refuse collection in Paton's Lane, surrounding difficulties with access for the bin lorry due to parked cars in this narrow lane and I was contacted earlier today by the Courier about this.


I have been in touch with the Head of Waste Management and he has responded as follows:


"... we have visited this lane every day this week and we will be there again tomorrow. Most of the residents know that parked cars causes problems for us on collection day so I suspect it may be a non resident. Be assured we will get the refuse collected."

On the issue of parked vehicles, the consultation with the community in this part of the West End (and also at the area south east of Ninewells Hospital) about ways of improving residents' parking is about to commence and this will hopefully address the issues of not just difficulty servicing the refuse collection but also the real difficulties local residents have finding a nearby parking space.

Nick Clegg - positive leadership

Some very positive press recently about Nick Clegg's leadership of the Liberal Democrats - here's a few examples:



…there is no doubt that Mr Clegg speaks for many voters when he refers to parliament's "clapped-out" procedures"…. On the basis of his performance this weekend Mr Clegg has the potential to be a distinctive, radical and engaging leader.
Steve Richards, Independent 11th March 2008

The party certainly seems comfortable with [Nick Clegg]. … The new Lib Dem leader is a highly skilled communicator. Often engaging and impressive on the TV and radio airwaves.
John Pienaar, BBC, 9th March 2008

Clegg issues political challenge (headline)
Mr Clegg … signalled a shift towards a tax-cutting agenda, pledging to find ways to channel any spare public money into reducing individuals' bills rather than boosting public services.
Daily Express 10th March 2008

Nick Clegg: Let voters sack corrupt MPs (headline)
MPs caught misusing public money should face by-elections where constituents would have the chance to sack them, the Liberal Democrat leader told his party conference today.
Daily Telegraph 10th March 2008

[Nick Clegg] called for: a £25,000 cap on political donations; MPs found guilty of serious misconduct to be forced to defend their seats in a by-election; greater local democratic control of services; and a citizens' jury of 100 people to join political parties, churches, civil society groups and others in a constitutional convention to "redesign the way Britain is governed".
Guardian 10th March 2008

... a defiant first party conference speech [from Nick Clegg].
ITN 9th March 2008

Clegg seeks 'new type of government' (headline)
Epolitix 9th March 2008

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

More on best TV advert ...

The Jack Russell doggie of VW advert fame caused a flurry of e-mails about what is really the best TV advert! Many thanks to all who responded. The other clear favourite is the current PG Tips 'The Return' advert - here's the extended version - brilliant!

Monday, March 17, 2008

United for Local Television

Earlier this month I gave an update on the blog on a number of Freeview television issues (see http://frasermacpherson.blogspot.com/2008/03/dundee-television-issues-update.html).

With specific regard to the issue of provision of local public service television for Dundee in the future, local MSPs Joe FitzPatrick (SNP, Dundee West), Alison McInnes (LibDem, North East Scotland) and Marlyn Glen (Labour, North East Scotland) all responded positively to my request to sign a motion in the Scottish Parliament on the issue - see below - I note that Nanette Milne (Conservative, North East Scotland) has also given the motion her support, so good to see all-party agreement on this issue:

S3M-01359 Cathy Peattie (Falkirk East) (Scottish Labour): Local Television— That the Parliament congratulates Ofcom on finding a means to deliver local television through Freeview to virtually every household across the United Kingdom; looks to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport to introduce a licence in the near future to enable the provision of local public service television to be offered in each area at digital switchover, and urges the Scottish Government to consider how it can support the establishment of local public service television throughout Scotland.


Supported by : Jamie Hepburn, Rob Gibson, Bob Doris, Jim Tolson, Patrick Harvie, Trish Godman, Marilyn Livingstone, Tom McCabe, George Foulkes, Mary Mulligan, Pauline McNeill, Malcolm Chisholm, Hugh Henry, Robin Harper, Lewis Macdonald, Ted Brocklebank, Dr Richard Simpson, Nanette Milne, Alison McInnes, Jim Hume, Liam McArthur, Helen Eadie, Mike Pringle, Hugh O'Donnell, Marlyn Glen, Jamie McGrigor, Joe FitzPatrick, Ken Macintosh, Kenneth Gibson, John Park


Lodged on Friday, February 15, 2008; Current


There has also been a motion presented to the Westminster Parliament on the issue - click on the headline above to read today's press release from "United for local television" about the issue. Here in Dundee, as I have previously indicated, the City Council’s Economic Development Director has made a detailed submission to Ofcom indicating that Dundee wishes to be considered for future local TV output, given the popularity of the former Channel 6 station in the City.
Local TV provision for Dundee would be an super development, so I'll keep fingers crossed on the Ofcom front! Many thanks to all residents who have contacted me regarding this issue, for their support and encouragement.

Melville Terrace Street Sign

I have received residents' complaints about the state of the street sign in Melville Terrace, at its junction with West Park Road - as you can see above, it has seen better days! I have asked the City Council for a replacement.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Baxter Street - street lighting

During the past week, I was speaking with residents in Baxter Street about their street lighting concerns.

There is - because of additional lighting that was installed when new housing was built on the south side - an imbalance of lighting columns, with fewer on the north side. A lamp standard on the south side was knocked over recently and this made the immediate area (and in particular on the north side opposite the damaged column) very dark indeed.

Thankfully the lighting column has now been replaced and the wattage of the light has been increased, which will hopefully address the concerns about the less bright northern side of the road. I paid a visit there on Thursday evening on the way to the "Community Spirit" meeting at the Mitchell Street Centre to see the situation for myself, and I have been in touch with the Street Lighting Partnership at Tayside Contracts about the situation.

Fuel poverty issue raised in the Scottish Parliament

Full marks to the Scottish Parliament - on Thursday it passed a Liberal Democrat motion urging a holistic approach to tackling fuel poverty - and all credit to Liberal Democrat Energy spokesperson Liam McArthur MSP who has championed the issue. As Liam McArthur has said,

"Over 650,000 households in Scotland are considered fuel poor. The situation is serious and, without urgent action, likely to get still worse. I am delighted therefore that we have achieved consensus across the parliament.


"Liberal Democrats will now look to the Scottish Government to take forward the proposals in our motion, particularly the one-stop-shop approach to tackling fuel poverty and the re-establishment of the Fuel Poverty Forum. The Scottish Government must also heed the parliamentary majority in favour of local tax rebates as incentives for householders to install microgeneration packages.


"I am certain that many thousands of Scottish families struggling to cope with rocketing energy prices will join me in welcoming this positive result."
You can read more from the parliamentary record of Thursday's proceedings by clicking on the headline above.

While household fuel prices have risen by six times the rate of inflation over the past year, power companies’ profits have risen by 500 per cent. For every 5 per cent increase in fuel prices it is estimated that 40,000 more Scottish households become fuel poor, while almost 3,000 deaths a year are linked to living in cold, damp housing. So let's see some concrete action from our parliamentarians on this issue and - as the debate at Holyrood highlighted - the need for a one-stop-shop approach to tackling fuel poverty and the re-establishment of the Fuel Poverty Forum.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

A few updates:

A few updates:
  • A busy Friday evening trying to sort out electricity reconnection for an elderly couple in the West End (the main electricity cable outside their home had been inadvertedly cut) and I was very concerned for their situation - in the dark and cold. Thankfully, after various telephone discussions with Scottish & Southern Energy, their electricity supply was reconnected about 11pm.
  • I recently raised the damage to the "No Through Road" signs at the entrance to Bankmill Road, following residents' concerns. I have now had the following response from the City Council:

"The 'No Through Road' signs at the entrance to Bankmill Road have been checked by the area inspector. An order will be raised for the straightening of these poles for completion in the new financial year."

  • Following concerns raised by residents about a shopping trolley dumped by the railway line south of Magdalen Green, I contacted Network Rail. I have now had the following feedback:

"The shopping trolley has been removed and returned to the Tesco store. We have also cleared litter around the area and removed graffiti from the footbridge."

VW Polo - Dog confidence

Dog singing the Spencer Davis Group tune - best advert on the TV!

Friday, March 14, 2008

More news from the last week ...

The West End Community Council on Tuesday evening had two excellent presentations - one from Digital UK on the analogue TV "switch off" due in Dundee in 2010; the other from West End Tennis Club on their project to improve the club facilities. The Club has given me an update sheet on this which you can read by clicking on the headline above - and you can read more by going to the Club's website at : www.westendtennis.org.uk
Last night, the "Community Spirit" group - to campaign for the Pentland, Tullideph, Ancrum and Cleghorn area (and surrounding neighbourhood) - held its first AGM and was formally launched, at a well-attended meeting in the Mitchell Street Centre.
It was great to see the enthusiasm of local people who are keen to get an active community group going for the area to help tackle local issues in the north part of the West End Ward - just as West End Community Council does so well for the southern part of the ward. City councillors, the Police and others are keen to support the group in its activities in the months ahead.
Also yesterday, I spoke with Mrs Latif, following the robbery at her newsagents in Lochee Road earlier in the week. The local community is shocked at another incident of this type in the area, and very concerned for Mrs Latif in particular. I have contacted Tayside Police to ask for the use of mobile CCTV units in the Lochee Road area, which I think will help reassure the local community.

Nicol Stephen challenges SNP government on failure to deliver promise to first time house buyers

During their weekly clash at FMQs yesterday, Leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, Nicol Stephen MSP, demanded that the First Minister clarify his government’s position on its manifesto commitment to provide a £2000 grant for every first-time buyer in Scotland.

“It is clear that the Chancellor of the Exchequer's budget fails to deliver for Scotland. The new whisky tax, for example, smacks more of smash and grab than sound government and it is bad for Scotland's industry, but this is not the first time the First Minister and I have criticised Labour budgets. In fact, this very week three years ago, the First Minister, who was then in opposition, set five tests for the United Kingdom budget, which he described as ‘simple ... tests to determine whether the budget is ... designed for Scottish success’.

“Now that the First Minister is in government, which of those tests does he still think is important and which of them is met in his own Scottish budget?

“At the moment, I want to focus on the First Minister's own tests, particularly the second. The SNP made a very specific promise to give a £2,000 grant to every first-time buyer in Scotland. In 2005, the First Minister said that the matter was urgent; in 2006, his deputy said that it was time to help first-time buyers; in 2007, his manifesto said that it was a promise. It is now 2008. Where is it? The newspapers tell us that it has been cancelled.


“Now that the First Minister can deliver in government, his own budget fails his own simple test. Does he still support the £2,000 grant? Does he think that it will ever be put in place? Or does he intend, every year, to break his promise to the 30,000 first-time buyers who enter the market each year?”

You can read further (from FMQs) by clicking the headline above.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Mobile Phone Recycling Week

I'm pleased to see the City Council taking a very active role in promoting its Mobile Phone Recycling Week, running until 16th March.

During Mobile Phone Recycling Week, residents can recycle their old mobile phones at Dundee City Council libraries (including Blackness Library) and the reception area of Tayside House.

The money which will be raised by recycling your old mobiles will be donated to the Children's Hospice Association Scotland.

You can read more by clicking on the headline above.

"Community Spirit" launch

"Community Spirit" - a new community group for the "north" part of West End Ward, covering Ancrum, Pentland and the Cleghorn area launches tonight (Thursday 13th March) at the Mitchell Street Centre (6pm for 6.15pm). All local residents are invited.

A number of local residents in the area have been involved in developing a community group, assisted by Dundee City Council staff and local councillors. Following a successful initial public meeting at Balgay Church Hall last October, tonight's meeting will see the group formally established.


I have produced an update newsletter for the meeting covering various local issues - you can download a copy of this by clicking on the headline above.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Blog's 2nd Birthday!

12th March is this blog's 2nd birthday. The response to the blog from West End residents has been fantastic, with thousands of hits! Many thanks to all.


Nick Clegg on the Budget

Dear Councillor Macpherson

This is not a green budget. This is not a people's budget. This is a con trick budget that protects the rich and abandons the poor. The Government has bottled it on green taxes and failed to implement the necessary measures to cut child poverty.


This was an opportunity to give whatever help possible to millions of stretched British families who are feeling the pinch and whose money just doesn't go as far as it used to.
Instead, we have a budget which gives only limited help to the poor, but maintains special treatment for the rich.


The piecemeal reforms that the Chancellor is introducing to the chaotic Tax Credit system won't get the Government anywhere near meeting its 2010 child poverty target.
The reality is that the Government's approach has failed. If we are to abolish child poverty for good we must not only increase income, we must increase opportunity too.


These are the people most in need in our society - yet after ten years and yet another budget, they are still no nearer being given the true support they need.


It's a budget designed to fill a black hole masquerading as good for the environment. Green taxes should be revenue-neutral. They should not be treated as a wheeze to squeeze ever more money out of the British people, but should instead be designed to encourage green behaviour, and to cut the taxes of the most needy.


But instead of a budget for the environment, we have a budget driven by fiscal incompetence and political desperation.


Why has Alistair Darling not had the guts to claw back the huge profits made by energy companies, thanks to the emissions permits that the Government has given them for free?


4.5 million people still live in fuel poverty and the Government's 2010 fuel poverty target has been conveniently forgotten by ministers.


Trying to grab headlines by increasing the Winter Fuel Payment for just one year will do nothing to help poor pensioners in the long run.


Surely this is the time to compel all energy companies to introduce real, fair, social tariffs for all vulnerable people, not just those on pre-paid meters?


This budget gives no real help to families struggling with higher food bills, higher energy bills and higher debt repayments. What is this budget doing to help junior nurses, teaching assistants and soldiers serving in Afghanistan? The answer is nothing.


After 11 years in Government, Labour has completed its fiscal fusion with the Tory Party.


Yours sincerely,


Nick Clegg

Leader, Liberal Democrats

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Stop age discrimination - update

I recently featured a blog entry about Help the Aged's excellent campaign against age discrimination. Older people face age discrimination every day and Help the Aged is campaigning for a new law on age equality to give older people protection against age discrimination.


I wrote to the Minister responsible (Harriet Harman MP) and have now had this response from her office :



Thank you for your e-mail addressed to the Minister for Women and Equalities, the Right Honourable Harriet Harman QC MP, asking that legislative action be taken against age discrimination in the provision of goods, facilities and services.



Sadly, for reasons that I am sure you will understand, Ministers are unable to answer all their correspondence personally and your letter has been passed to me for reply.



The Government has recently consulted on its proposals for an Equality Bill, which it has a manifesto commitment to introduce during this Parliament. The consultation document, A Framework for Fairness, sought people's views on whether there is a case for introducing legislation to prohibit harmful age discrimination in the provision of goods, facilities and services.
The consultation closed on September 4th last year. We received over 4000 responses and a significant number of these were about harmful age discrimination. The Government is now preparing its response which we hope to publish in due course.



The key question being considered is whether legislation would be the most appropriate way to tackle harmful age discrimination or whether it might be more appropriate to agree targeted measures to deal with those areas or sectors where there is evidence of harmful incidents. We are considering whether and how we can ensure that any legislation would not prevent beneficial differential treatment on grounds of age - like free TV licences for people aged over 75 and discounted access to leisure facilities for both older and younger people.



Thank you for drawing the Minister's attention to this crucial policy area which, as more and more of our population lives longer, is high on our agenda.



Kind regards
Sharon Foster-King
Government Equalities Office

Monday, March 10, 2008

Tonight's Council Committees - and Old Dundee

At council committees tonight, the committee I chair, Planning & Transport, had very positive agenda items on the regeneration of Lochee and Stobswell, together with a tree preservation order being confirmed, to protect trees and screening of industrial units on Riverside Avenue.


At Policy & Resources Committee, I spoke on a couple of items:


  • Fairer Scotland Fund - to express concern at the £230 000 reduction in funding Dundee is receiving this year - funding that is targeted at the least affluent communities. Both I and Council Leader Kevin Keenan asked for all-party consensus to persuade Scottish Government to increase funding to the City in this area .

  • Scottish Futures Trust - The Scottish Government's "non profit" suggested alternative to PPP capital funding. I made the point that although I have no problem in principle with a not for profit model, the bottom line is - will the Scottish Government come up with the Level Playing Field support the previous Scottish Executive funded? Without it, Alex Salmond's claims of meeting previous capital improvements in schools "brick for brick" will fall flat on its face.

On another matter entirely, if you click on the headline above, you can see an excellent resource on "Old Dundee - People and places from a Victorian City."

Community Council Update

I have today launched my March 2008 update to West End Community Council.

Issues covered include :

* Bridge at Riverside Drive - flooding and potholes
* Wheelie Bins - update
* Footpath and kerbing repairs - Perth Road, Glamis Road and Park Place
* Magdalen View - pedestrian access

You can read a copy of the update by clicking the headline above.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Thoroughfare from Shaftesbury Road to Perth Road, adjacent to Seymour Lodge

I am very pleased at the positive response from Tayside Police to my request that the Force upgrade an area of pathway in their ownership, that is extremely well used by residents in the West End, but currently in very poor condition.
Last month, I raised the condition of the thoroughfare from Shaftesbury Road to Perth Road, adjacent to Seymour Lodge (click on headline above to view) and this led to two representatives of Tayside Police meeting me on-site last Wednesday, and a resultant agreement by Tayside Police to upgrade and resurface the west side of the thoroughfare, adjacent to Seymour Lodge, a building in the Force’s ownership.

I have to say that I am delighted by Tayside Police’s very prompt and efficient response to requests for an upgrade that I have received from local residents. The pathway has deteriorated badly over the years and the commitment to resurface it and create a proper pavement edge will be a boon to local pedestrians.

The Police have indicated that it will take some weeks for work to progress as there will be a need to liaise with the local authority on drainage issues. However, their representatives advised that they would progress this issue as a priority.

Cambuslang

Leaving aside her rather dire performances at First Minister's Questions, donations declarations and overall lacklustre leadership, Wendy Alexander's latest pronouncement on a by-election in South Lanarkshire on Thursday rather defies belief:



Wendy Alexander welcomed the Labour’s victory in Cambuslang East by-election today after the count was completed as “an excellent result for the party”.

“What is particularly satisfying is Labour won the seat from the SNP, something they have significantly failed to do in any council by-election since the May elections. “This result is a major blow to the nationalists and their inflated claims about their own by-election performances. A seat held by the SNP has gone to Labour. It is clear that voters in Cambuslang have not bought the SNP spin and realise it's Labour that best stands up for their interests."



The full Labour spin can be read on the Scottish Labour website by clicking on the headline above.





Err ... an excellent result? The actual result was the Labour vote DOWN 22%, SNP unchanged, Conservatives down 6% and the Liberal Democrats the biggest gainers of the four parties, gaining 8%. The "independent" vote was some 600, which explained the rest of the Labour decline.




As one Labour blogger (http://lukeakehurst.blogspot.com) admitted :




"Quirk of STV is that if a minority councillor in a ward dies or resigns, the largest party in the multi-member ward usually picks up the seat - this ward was 2 Lab, 1 SNP last year."




Given their huge lead in Cambuslang last May, Labour should have won this by-election by a mile. Instead, they squeaked home. If Wendy Alexander thinks a 22% drop in the Labour vote is an "excellent result," it shows the dire state Scottish Labour is now in.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Neighbourhood Watch

There has been interest from a number of residents in Neighbourhood Watch schemes and the matter has been discussed at the West End Community Council. Our community policeman has been providing advice to interested residents.

There's useful resources on the Association of Scottish Neighbourhood Watches website (click on headline above to view more).

Nicol Stephen challenges SNP on dumping promises on student debt

Another superb performance by Nicol Stephen at FMQs last week, challenging the First Minister to explain the SNP’s broken promise to dump student debt.



“ Last week, the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning, Fiona Hyslop, was asked on television's ’Politics Now’ programme: ’Are you going to remove student debt? Are you going to write it off?’ “Her reply was: ’We never promised to write it off.’

“Does the First Minister think that she was absolutely and completely accurate in saying that?

“The SNP seems to have a new tactic, does it not? It used to deny breaking its promises. Now it denies making them in the first place. Does the First Minister expect us to forget that "dump the debt" was on every leaflet, on every badge and on postcards to students? There was a cartoon logo and there was even a podcast by the First Minister, yet Fiona Hyslop said last week: ’We never promised to write it off’"

“I wonder whether the First Minister has seen the SNP website that says: ‘We will write off the accumulated debt’. Who should people believe, I wonder—Fiona Hyslop or fionahyslop.com?”
Official Report


Leading commentators have widely praised Nicol's performance at FMQs:

Angus MacLeod; Scottish Political Editor, Times: “Salmond wasn’t just caught off guard, it was the final riposte from Stephen, and it was an absolute bullet bullseye when he asked who had been speaking, Fiona Hyslop or fionahyslop.com? It was an absolutely brilliant one. It showed again that Nicol Stephen is developing a rare, rare talent for First Minister’s Questions.” (STV’s Politics Now show 06.03.08)

Eddie Barnes; Political Editor, Scotland on Sunday: “He absolutely got him. He creamed him. Salmond answered the question by not answering. Alex Salmond knew he had been absolutely got on this one.” (BBC’s Holyrood Live show, 06.03.08)

Alan Cochrane; Scottish Political Editor, Telegraph: “For a sheer knock-em-down, unmitigated parliamentary victory we had to look no further yesterday than Mr Stephen. Again...chalk up another victory for Mr Stephen.”
(Telegraph 07.03.08)

Brian Taylor; Scottish Political Editor, BBC Scotland: “Do you remember the “debt monster”, a hideous carton beast besetting students? Only the SNP could slay it, apparently. Nicol Stephen certainly remembers all this and he cited this evidence with vigour in challenging the First Minister. The wry smile on Alex Salmond’s face told the story... He had been, temporarily, tackled. And the Chamber knew it.”
(BBC Online blog 06.03.08)

Friday, March 07, 2008

Dundee Television Issues : An update

I recently wrote to the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Andy Burnham MP) about the proposed different levels of TV channel provision planned for Dundee and the issue of Local Television for the City in the future. Additionally Lord Provost John Letford wrote to Lord Currie of Marylebone (Chair of the media regulator Ofcom) on the issue.





I have written in the past to the Department of Culture, Media & Sport and the industry regulator Ofcom about the fact that many of my own constituents in the West End cannot receive any digital terrestrial TV because they are served by the Tay Bridge relay transmitter that will not carry Freeview services until the digital switchover in 2010.

However, it is further disappointing to note that many Dundonians (along with many others served by relay transmitters) will still get a second class service after the digital switch over, as the Tay Bridge transmitter will not carry all the Freeview services that other transmitters already carry. Digital UK advises that the service from Tay Bridge will be called “Freeview Lite” which really means that it is light of many of the TV and radio stations others already receive – 36 TV and radio stations short to be precise.






I print below the Secretary of State's full response on this matter :







Dear Cllr Macpherson

Thank you for your email of 20 December, regarding digital switchover and the Tay Bridge transmitter.

The Government has committed to ensuring that terrestrial analogue broadcasting signals are maintained until everyone who can currently get the main Public Service Broadcasting (PSB) channels in analogue can receive them on digital systems. In fact, 82% of households in Scotland, higher than the UK figure of 73%, can already receive 22 channels including BBC TV services, digital radio and services like E4, More 4 and Film 4. This is a significant gain from the five analogue channels. After digital switchover, 98.5% of UK households (the same percentage who can currently receive analogue signals) should have access to the 3 PSB multiplexes carrying these channels.

However, there are also 3 other commercial multiplexes. After switchover these multiplexes should be available to around 90% of UK households. Extending coverage beyond 90% is a commercial matter in this case and the decision to do this lies with the multiplex operators.

As you know, the TV licence fee is used to fund the BBC, and the principle is that everyone who can receive television signals pays for a licence for this purpose (which allows the BBC to produce programmes that might not otherwise be made, if market forces were the sole factor in play). It is payable in full irrespective of the use made of that service and the quality of reception.

The BBC operates a number of digital services for those who can receive them, and, during the process of reviewing the BBC’s Royal Charter, we did consider a reduction in the licence fee. We decided against this, as it could actually have worked as a disincentive to take up of digital services.

As part of the review of the BBC’s charter, we looked at alternative funding mechanisms for the BBC, and whether the use of a licence fee was still the best option. You may be interested in reading the discussions on this subject in the “Funding” sections of the Charter Review Green Paper (p58-64), available on the Charter Review website at:
http://www.bbccharterreview.org.uk/have_your_say/green_paper/gp_funding.pdf.

We decided that for the present, the licence fee was the best option when considering the alternatives. We have committed to looking into this matter again half way through the current Charter (which should be roughly at the end of the switchover period in 2012) as we recognise that the broadcasting landscape is changing rapidly.

Yours sincerely,

ANDY BURNHAM




The digital switchover gives a unique opportunity to extend terrestrial television choice for people who don’t have satellite or cable TV and, for many like those in much of the West End, Charleston and parts of Broughty Ferry, the City Centre and Craigiebank who are served by a “relay” rather than a main transmitter, this choice of stations will be much reduced. The Minister's response is therefore disappointing in this respect as the decision to categorise some of the multiplexes which carry digital TV signals as “public service” and others as “commercial” effectively meant that there would be two classes of viewers – those who get access to all the channels, and those who get fewer.






On local television for Dundee, Lord Currie has indicated to the Lord Provost that Ofcom welcomed views from communities where there is likely local TV demand, and the City Council’s Economic Development Director has now made a detailed submission to Ofcom indicating that Dundee wishes to be considered for future local TV output, given the popularity of the former Channel 6 station in the City.

A motion has now been placed before the Scottish Parliament encouraging Ofcom to support Local Television in Scotland (click on headline to view it). On a cross-party basis, I approached our local MSP Joe FitzPatrick (SNP) and NE regional members Marlyn Glen (Labour) and Alison McInnes (LibDem) and I am delighted that all three have agreed to support the motion and support the principle of local television for Dundee.
Addendum : See also -

Tree branch concern in Seafield Lane

Many thanks to those residents who contacted me earlier today about damage to a tree which sits at the top end of Seafield Lane, near Perth Road.
One of the branches had snapped, but was still partially attached and resting on top of the street light on the opposite side of the lane. The street light glass casing had been broken.
As one resident put it, "Considering more bad weather is forecast, the tree branch does not look safe as it is stretching from the tree to the street light, accross the road."
I immediately contacted both Street Lighting and the City Council's Forestry Officer and am grateful for their immediate response. Street Lighting had taken steps to ensure no problems with the street light and the Forestry Officer has also replied saying that the tree is in the ownership of a local housing association and that the broken branch has now been made safe.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Tayside Police single non emergency number (SNEN)

Tayside Police has advised me that it is to be introducing a single non emergency telephone number to replace a large range of existing non emergency phone numbers across the Force's area.

This will mean that people will be able to call the Police on non-emergency matters from anywhere in Tayside on one number. I think that's to be greatly welcome, and as Tayside Police says,

"Currently it can be confusing to know which number to call in either emergency or non emergency situations. The move to a single non emergency number will be linked to the provision of more detailed information about when to use 999 or the new number."
You can read the full details by clicking on the headline above.

Riverside Drive again ...

The lane closure to allow work to set back fencing round the Homebase site on Riverside Drive had to be slightly delayed until tomorrow morning (Friday).
I have just been advised that the slight delay of 24 hours is due to the contractor organising signs and fencing associated with the lane closure and the works to improve drivers’ sight lines.

I have now been told that work will commence on Friday morning to improve the sight lines for drivers exiting at the roundabout from Tesco on Riverside Drive.
There have been a lot of residents’ concerns about the issue so I am pleased it is being addressed. Further discussions with the developer about improving the pedestrian pathway past the site on its north side will take place on Friday too.