Friday 31 December 2010

On Radio Tay News ...

Was on Radio Tay News this afternoon talking about the Empty Homes Initiative :

A fair and ambitious Scotland

Dear Fraser,

I want so much better for Scotland in 2011 than we’ve had. And I don’t just mean the weather. People want a Scottish Government where we take the right, long-term decisions for the country, not for any political party. Take decisions that can build a stronger, better and more prosperous Scotland. So I want the New Year to start the process of building a better future for our country: to protect and create new jobs, to give real control to local people over the public services they depend on and to restore Scotland’s reputation for excellence in education.

As leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats I want to achieve more for our country. A Scotland that creates the most innovative and entrepreneurial economy in the world; where our children are among the best achieving in the world with kids from the most deprived backgrounds reaching double the current levels of attainment; and where we move towards a low-carbon, no-carbon country with Scotland being in the top 5 countries for energy efficiency.

Politicians can’t do this. People across Scotland can. People working in the private sector, voluntary bodies and communities of Scotland. Teachers in schools. Nurses in hospitals. Bus drivers getting us to work. It will be a Scotland where we co-operate, trust and respect each other’s contributions.

It will be a Scotland where hard work and innovation are rewarded, but one where Government will invest, educate and support to make sure it is fair.

That’s the Scotland I want to begin to build and 2011 is the year to begin.

Happy Hogmanay.

Tavish Scott

Tavish TV : Tavish's New Year message

Postal delivery concerns

There has been much attention recently on the problems with postal deliveries in the east of the city, with a huge backlog of deliveries from the Royal Mail Sorting Office at West Pitkerro.

However, as the Evening Telegraph reported last night, there are similar issues in at least parts of Dundee West.   I first raised these earlier this month, but despite assurances from Royal Mail, I have this week received further complaints about erratic postal deliveries and late delivery of mail - complaints coming from the Pentland, Shaftesbury Road and Perth Road areas.  

I have raised constituents' concerns with Royal Mail's External Relations Manager and asked for assurances that postal delivery reliability will be restored as soon as possible.

Blog 2011 new look ...

With 2011 fast approaching, I have given the main site a bit of a make-over.  

Its not a hugely radical change to the existing layout but goes give the blog a fresh look and moves the sidebar to the left.

Thursday 30 December 2010

City Road/Tullideph Road pedestrian crossing

Last month, the new traffic lights at the City Road/Tullideph Road became operational.   However, since then I have received a number of residents' concerns about the way the crossing is operating for pedestrians.   This is well summarised by one resident's comments :        

"Regarding the Traffic Lights at Tullideph/City Road they are working although the time for crossing is very short as they change from Green to Red before one is half way across the road and there is no beeping sound which is not very convenient for a person who has impaired sight."

The City Council has advised me :
"The nearside redman greenman puffin pedestrian facility at the refurbished traffic signals at City Road / Tullideph Road are designed to operate so that the pedestrian sees the greenman indication (invitation to cross) and sets off across the road.

With a puffin facility, there is no indicator at the far side of the road to confuse the pedestrian when the indicator changes from greenman to redman. And when the pedestrian sets off across the road having seen the greenman, he is guaranteed enough time to cross the road, irrespective of whether he sees the greenman return to the redman indication. But the arrangement should be that once the pedestrian sees the greenman and begins to cross, he does not see any indication thereafter to confuse him (no indicator on the far side of the road).

As to the absence of an audible indication, I will have this checked and rectified."

A site visit with residents, myself and a City Council roads officer to look at the junction's operation will take place in the near future.

Gael's Fire

Further to Tuesday's excellent launch of the Tay Rail Bridge Disaster Memorial Appeal, here's a video (with thanks to Rose) promoting the upcoming Gael's Fire fundraising event for the appeal.

Wednesday 29 December 2010

Scottish Empty Homes Partnership - an update

I recently contacted the City Council's Director of Housing about the Scottish Empty Homes Partnership - an excellent initiative that includes COSLA on behalf of Scottish local government, Shelter Scotland and Scottish Government and aims to get many of Scotland's empty homes back into use and thereby further help tackle homelessness.

I was keen to ensure that Dundee City Council signed up for the Empty Homes Initiative and very encouraged by a detailed and positive response from the Director, the main points from which I detail below :

"The Housing Department contacted Kristen Miller from the Scottish Empty Homes Partnership back in September to discuss the initiative.

Since then, the Department has had the opportunity to meet with Kristen to learn more about the initiative and discuss it further. The meeting was helpful in finding out how we might best target our efforts within Dundee.

Kristen's role is to provide information and support to local authorities and their partners to examine initiatives to make better use of empty properties where possible. Many of the examples of good practice highlighted by Kristen relate to action underway in England and Wales where there are different legislative mechanisms and funding streams available to bring empty homes back into use.

Key to the development of a strategy is identifying empty properties and finding out why they are empty. Kristen has been developing a quick reference guide to developing questionnaires to assess why properties are left empty, what owners intentions are towards their property and what are the barriers to bringing such properties back into use.

The Council has now also decided to reduce council tax discounts for second homes from 50% to 10%, additional funding can be used towards funding social rented housing. This reduction in relief may be an incentive to owners not to leave properties vacant. Work undertaken for recommending this reduction in discount indicated that there are around 180 second homes within the City.

You may have noticed in Housing News that according to the Bank of Scotland the number of vacant properties in Scotland has risen to its highest level in six years. There were 106,239 vacant homes in Scotland in September 2009, a rise of 2.7 per cent from 103,433 in September 2008. The number of vacant homes is at its highest since 2003 (106,312), accounting for 4.3 per cent of all homes in Scotland. harnessing this adds weight to the drive to bring empty homes back into use.

Many of the local authorities with high levels of vacant properties are rural authorities for instance Western Isles has the largest proportion of vacant homes in Scotland (13.3 per cent); over three times the average for Scotland (4.3 per cent). Argyll and Bute (11.4 per cent) have the second highest level of empty homes, followed by Orkney Islands (8.9 per cent). Based on the figure of 180 second homes in Dundee would equate to 0.25% of the total housing stock.

Dundee City Council has signed up to the Empty Homes Initiative. From the discussions and investigation to date the next steps we are progressing within the Housing Department are the development of a questionnaire to owners of second homes to assess reasons why properties are lying vacant as well as information provision highlighting to owners the possibilities for bringing their properties into use. This would include information for example on how to register as a private landlord and the Scheme of Assistance for repairs to private sector dwellings."

A New Year message from Nick Clegg

Dear Fraser

Well what a year! A white-knuckle election; a new coalition government; Liberals in power for the first time in 70 years.

I've recorded a short message reflecting on the events of 2010 and looking forward to what Liberal Democrats will deliver in Government in 2011.
Some people will continue to predict the worst for our Party - the same people who have been underestimating the Liberal Democrats for as long as we have existed.

But we prove them wrong at every single turn. The next twelve months will be no different, because we will continue to build the liberal, fairer, greener Britain that we all believe in.

Happy New Year!

Nick Clegg
Liberal Democrat Leader

Tuesday 28 December 2010

Tay Rail Bridge Disaster Memorial Trust Public Appeal Launch

This morning at the McManus Galleries, I attended the launch of the Public Appeal for the Tay Rail Bridge Disaster Memorial Trust and had the pleasure of introducing the speakers - Lord Provost John Letford, Depute Provost Lizz Mogg of Fife, Provost Ruth Leslie Melville of Angus and Stuart Morris of Balgonie, Chair of the Trust.

The launch was exceptionally well attended and after the speeches, there was an excellent showcase of Mike Gibb's Five Pound and Twa Bairns - the musical is being brought back in 2011 in aid of the Memorial Appeal.

Here's a couple of photos from the event - and there are a couple of videos in the article below :
Lord Provost John Letford welcomes guests - above
The Civic Guests, Stuart Morris and cast members - above

Videos from Tay Rail Bridge Disaster Memorial Trust Public Appeal Launch today

From today's launch of the Tay Rail Bridge Disaster Memorial Public Appeal :

Stuart Morris of Balgonie welcomes guests - above

Showcase of Five Pound and Twa Bairns - above

Monday 27 December 2010

Bus services : latest

Following constituents' concerns about the timetable reliability of 73 Tayway services recently, I raised this matter with Stagecoach's Operations Director for East Scotland, who has responded as follows :

"We have had problems adhering to the timetables on all services due to the weather conditions of the last few weeks.  Whilst most of the main roads are now clear and easily passable there are still a number of side roads which are in a less acceptable condition.  Very few services are contained purely to main roads meaning that there is a knock-on effect on timetables."

The Courier today covered the issue of bus fares increases, including the feedback I have received from National Express Dundee and my own concerns about the fare increases.

Ice on the Tay ...

With thanks to Angela Mehlert, a rather superb photograph of ice on the River Tay, by the rail bridge - taken on Christmas Eve.

Wave 102 studio tour for primary school competition winners!

This morning, I had the pleasure of attending the studio tour of the Wave 102 studios arranged for the winners of the P3 and P4 Christmas Decorations Competition at our local primary schools during the recent West End Christmas Week.

Wave 102 presenter Jon Quipp was a great host and I'm very grateful to him and Wave 102 for their generosity and help with Christmas Week.

Here's Jon photographed above in the studio with Yusra Vindhani of Blackness Primary School (left) and Josh O'Brien of Ancrum Road Primary School (right).

Sunday 26 December 2010

Response from National Express Dundee

I have had a prompt response from Simon Mathieson, the new Acting Director of National Express Dundee, to my questions and concerns about proposed bus fare increases in Dundee.    He writes :

"My response to your comments is below:

a) In any fares increase there are some fares that will increase more than others. The 4+ stages fare is going to apply to a small percentage of journeys that are made. I would encourage people to look at switching to our range of Day tickets or Travecards that will provide better value. If you have specific journeys that you think are being treated unfairly then I would be happy to look at them on a case by case basis.

b) The Monthly Direct Debit fare did not increase in 2009 as an incentive for passengers to switch to this form of payment but we are not able to freeze this price this time around. Given the cost increases we have faced in 2010 and will face in 2011, such as fuel and insurance, we have had to increase prices. However, the Travelcard products do still offer great value.

c) The Evening Saver was used by around 0.5% of our passengers. Sales have been declining and so we have made the decision to simplify the day ticket range by offering just the Daysaver.

I appreciate that people are unhappy with the fares increase and will be working very hard for the people of Dundee to ensure that they receive a brilliant bus service."

In response, I have queried the effect of the 4+ stages increase on services serving the West End, such as the 5, 22 and 26, and also requested a meeting with National Express Dundee about the matter.

Saturday 25 December 2010

Festive Greetings ...

Friday 24 December 2010

Christmas Eve fun at Magdalen House!

As reported in tonight's Evening Telegraph, this morning, I had the pleasure of attending the presentation of Christmas Pies (and sausage rolls!) to the folk at Magdalen House in Roseangle.

The presentation was courtesy of the generosity of Greggs the Bakers and Lesley Christie from Greggs and I are pictured (right) at the presentation.

Greggs have again been generous contributors to West End Christmas Week and we are most grateful to them.

Snow, snow and more snow - a Christmas message from Tavish Scott

Dear Fraser,

What a run in to Christmas - snow, snow and more snow!
The kids have loved it and community spirit has returned to Scotland’s streets and pavements as we’ve dug out neighbours and their cars. But if you’ve been a traveller or commuter from Shetland to Edinburgh or Stirling to Glasgow it’s been ghastly. Trains, planes and automobiles have all struggled. And the number one complaint? Tell people what’s going on. Government at all levels, train operators and airport bosses had better learn that for the future. People need, want and expect accurate information about what’s going on, why and when it will get better. That’s the message for this year.

So as we celebrate Christmas, I want to recognise all those Scots who’ve worked so hard to help people in need through these wintery months. They are the unsung champions across Scotland and deserve our heartfelt thanks and support.

I also want to recognise Scottish servicemen in Afghanistan and in other countries. Our thoughts are with them and their families back home at Christmas time.

Merry Christmas to you and your family.

Tavish Scott MSP
Leader, Scottish Liberal Democrats

Thursday 23 December 2010

Domestic Refuse Collection - Christmas and New Year

Update from the City Council :

Domestic Refuse - domestic refuse should be collected on normally scheduled days e.g. if your normal day of collection is Monday then your collections are scheduled for Monday 27th December and Monday 3rd January.

Domestic Recycling - all domestic recycling collection during the festive period will be carried out as scheduled. Please consult your collection calendar or visit

Recycling Centres - at Marchbanks, Riverside and Baldovie are closed on 25th/26th December and 1st/2nd January. They will be open as normal (9 am - 4.15 pm) Monday to Friday both weeks for disposal of excess waste.

However please note that severe weather may affect these arrangements. In the event of further adverse conditions, information will be available on local radio, in the local press and on the Council's website.

Harris Academy - progress on car parking

Some months ago, the City Council proposed a significant extension of double yellow lines in Perth Road and West Park Road near to Harris Academy, because of the number of parked cars that have caused problems such as obstruction.

Some weeks ago, I had a meeting at Harris Academy with residents, the Depute Head Teacher and a City Council Risk Management representative to see if an alteration to the road access in the school (pictured right) could mean more staff cars are off the street and into staff car parks.   This would avoid the need for much of the proposed yellow lines, which bring with them disadvantages for residents.

Earlier this week, along with a representative of the Education Department and the school's Depute Head Teacher, I attended a site visit to look at proposals City Engineers have drawn up that will widen the access and allow separation of pupil access from that of vehicles.

It is a sensible solution that, in my view, will greatly improve matters.    The proposal will go before the Education Committee early in the New Year and I hope it is endorsed.   I am most grateful to council officers who have worked across departments to achieve a practical solution to this problem.

Dundee winter maintenance : salt supplies

I have raised with the Director of Tayside Contracts and the Chief Executive of Dundee City Council the matter of salt supplies.   The City Council's Chief Executive has updated me this afternoon as follows :

"At the beginning of the season we had in stock approx 5,500 tonnes of salt (this is 1,000 tonnes higher than usual). Up to and including the 21 December approx 4,000 tonnes has been used. We have received 1,000 tonnes from suppliers and 500 tonnes of mutual aid (from Perth & Kinross) leaving us with a balance of approx 3,000 tonnes. Using present conservation methods and usage at present levels this will get us to the middle of January by which time we expect to receive further supplies.

With regard to delays and prioritisation of supplies all Councils are reporting on a daily basis to Transport Scotland the usage and holding of salt. It is inevitable that supplies will be directed to the areas of most need and as far as Dundee City is concerned we do not fall into that category at this time.

We are obviously keeping the situation under review throughout the holiday period."

Wednesday 22 December 2010

National Express Dundee - bus fares increase concern

As reported in yesterday's "Evening Telegraph" and today's "Courier", I have expressed concern about increases in bus fares by National Express Dundee that will see increases of as much as 38%.  

Taking into account feedback I have had from West End residents, I have written to Simon Mathieson, the new Acting Director of National Express Dundee, as follows :

"I have had constituents already express concern at the proposed fare increases and in particular :

a) The 55p rise in 4 stages or more seems very hefty in relation to inflation

b) The Adult Monthly Direct Debit Travelcard rise again seems hefty in relation to inflation (also the 4 week charge and equivalent child charges)

c) Why is the Eveningsaver being discontinued?

I have concerns that these increases may result in fewer passengers using services so would be grateful for your feedback on the matter – many thanks."

Real Time Bus Information

Further to my item about this matter at the end of October, I asked for an update from the City Council's Sustainable Transport Team Leader and have been advised as follows :

"Unfortunately, work on the shelters has ground to a standstill during the snowy weather. The contractors will not be working on the shelters until 5 January 2011 (when they return to work after their Christmas break). I am advised that weather permitting, they could have four (two man) squads working on the shelters each week.

I e-mailed the contractors on 29 October 2010 and asked them to give priority to a number of shelters - Blackness Road / Harrow Street was among them. I will advise them again that after completing the Clearchannel shelters, the Harrow Street shelter should be among the first they visit."

Magdalen Green and Windsor Street ...

With grateful thanks to Angela Mehlert, Chair of Friends of Magdalen Green, for these photos of Windsor Street and the Green in the current snowy conditions!

Tuesday 21 December 2010

Stopping Up Order at Hillside Terrace - Public Inquiry - decision announced

The decision in respect of the Stopping Up Order at Hillside Terrace, Dundee has now been issued by the Scottish Ministers. The decision is as follows:

The Scottish Ministers agree with the Reporter's findings and conclusions and adopt them for the purposes of their own decision, and accept the Reporter's recommendation that the Order should be confirmed with a modification.

Accordingly the Scottish Ministers confirm the Dundee City Council (Hillside Terrace, Dundee) (Stopping Up) Order 2009, subject to the addition of a second Schedule to the Order containing the condition that:

"1. Before Hillside Terrace is permanently closed lowered pavement crossings shall have been installed at each intersection of the adopted footways in Glamis Drive and in Almond Place."

Monday 20 December 2010

Thomson Street latest

I have been advised by the council that :

“Thomson Street - now to remain closed until end of February 2011”

Given that the residents have now seen their road closed since 23rd August, firstly by Scottish Water work then works by Scotland Gas Networks, I queried the matter with Scotland Gas Networks (the work was originally to have been completed last month). The response from SGN is :

“Progress on site has been slower than we estimated due to the presence of rock below the ground surface, other utility apparatus and the difficulties in laying a large diameter gas pipe down a very narrow street. The severe winter weather at the end of November has also resulted in a 2 week shutdown on site and generally slowed things down e.g. we must now clear snow to allow our works to progress in a safe manner.

The site works will close down on Wednesday 22nd December 2010 for the Festive period and resume on Wednesday 5th January, 2011.

I can confirm that letters will be delivered to residents to advise them of the revised completion date.”

Whilst I think everyone appreciates the difficulties facing the contractor in the current weather conditions and there have also clearly been technical challenges too, I have asked Scotland Gas Networks to make every effort to get the roadworks finished and the road reopened as early as possible into the New Year.

The City Council has given me a commitment that the road will not be left long term with a patchworks of filled in holes and an uneven surface caused by the extensive works and the road will later be resurfaced properly - although at least 4-6 weeks after the pipes work is complete to ensure that any settlement is evident before resurfacing takes place.

Green Santa - a grotto with a difference!

This is no ordinary Christmas event; this is a Waste Management Department "Green Santa event".

Come along to the Wellgate shopping centre on Thursday 16th December between 10.30am and 4pm for lots of hints, tips and information on ways to reduce, reuse and recycle your waste this Christmas.

Green Santa and his helpers will be at their grotto outside the library to answer your questions and there are activities to keep the little ones happy too.

Members of the Dundee Real Nappy Network will be there to show off their "green" nappies to Santa and there will be some exciting real nappy competitions and prizes up for grabs.

Sunday 19 December 2010

No 5 bus service

I have, on behalf of residents, raised the possibility of improving the National Express Dundee Service Number 5 at the west end of Perth Road - with Simon Mathieson, the new Acting Director of National Express Dundee.   As one resident advised :

“Is it time to have another look at the Routing of Service 5 at the far end of Perth Road?

Westbound, it goes up by Maggie's Centre into Ninewells and returns, eastbound, through the Technology Park via Apollo Way and on to Perth Road past Millbay Terrace.

For the residents of Millbay Terrace and Clovis Duveau Drive, the service is therefore as much use as a chocolate teapot, as it only serves their housing estates in one (inbound) direction. Other than an hourly Stagecoach Service 16, there is little else for them.

Why can't it be routed via Apollo Way in both directions, giving a real uplift to services on this section of Perth Road?”

A good point and I will advise of feedback when I hear back from the bus company.

Peddie Street

With the further snow falls, there will be additional challenges facing the winter maintenance operation, and I have highlighted with the City Engineer the situation facing users of the MS Therapy Centre in Peddie Street.

I have, following a request, asked that the pavements on the east side of Peddie Street near the centre be improved to help users of the centre get access to it.

Saturday 18 December 2010

Request for action on remaining treacherous roads and pavements

I have advised the City Engineer that I remain concerned at the condition of numerous streets in the West End that are still very slippy underfoot with ice.   I am particularly concerned for elderly residents.

As an example, here's a photo from yesterday of Paton’s Lane (right), a street with two sheltered housing complexes – run by Abertay Housing and Servite.

Elderly residents in the sheltered housing are concerned about the condition of the pavements and roadway in Paton’s Lane itself.

Although some parts of the pavement have been gritted, the ice underfoot is very slippy. I spoke with one elderly resident yesterday who has now not been out the house in over 3 weeks.    It is important that these areas are tackled, especially with further bad weather forecast.

The City Engineer advised me earlier today that my request would be actioned, subject to the availability of excavators to get through hard-packed ice.   I have asked about the availabilty of these excavators.

Christmas Week Winners!

At the Community Council meeting last Tuesday, we drew the winners of the West End Christmas Week shoppers' draw and the winner of the children's window spotting competition.

You can read the full winners list by clicking on the headline above or by going to

The list will also appear on the West End Community Council website at and there will also be a copy on the Community Council noticeboard outside Nisa in Perth Road.    A letter will shortly go to every winner advising them how to collect their prize.

There was a huge number of entries - thanks to all who took part!

Friday 17 December 2010

West End Christmas Week De-Brief Meeting

This afternoon, at The Vine, I attended the West End Christmas Week Committee "de-brief" meeting, at which we discussed how well the 2010 Christmas Week events ran, lessons to be learned, and ideas for 2011.

It was an enjoyable and productive meeting and I'm extremely grateful to everyone who made the 2010 10th Anniversary Christmas Week such a great success!

Dundee City Council Budget Cuts

I am frankly astonished at the latest comments by Dundee City Council Leader, Councillor Guild, in tonight's Evening Telegraph.   Mr Guild claimed that the SNP administration has “achieved all of our objectives”  - at a time when education expenditure alone has been slashed by over £4 million.   

Cllr Guild says he doesn’t want to appear self-congratulatory but that’s exactly what he is coming across as.    The latest comments by Mr Guild strike an entirely inappropriate chord at a time when council services are being cut.
The SNP administration has a “topsy turvy” set of priorities.   I am taken aback to learn that Councillor Guild is still wanting to pay thousands of pounds for celebrities to appear at council events at a time when vital services were under severe pressure.

There is absolutely no evidence to support Cllr Guild’s that celebrity attendance at events ‘more than justifies the fee’.    There can be no justification for paying celebrities thousands of pounds as £4m is slashed from education in the city and council workers are being forced to accept a pay freeze – effectively a cut after inflation is taken into account.

I am increasingly of the view that the SNP administration had lost touch with reality.    It is difficult to take seriously any Education Convener who thinks £4m of education cuts will somehow miraculously make education services better as Cllr Fordyce, the Education Convener, has claimed.

Mr Guild claims that opposition councillors are ignoring their responsibilities - this is simply inaccurate.   My Liberal Democrat colleague Cllr Helen Dick and I are meeting the Chief Executive and Department Directors on Tuesday to seek answers on budget cuts.

Opposition councillors are working hard in the best interests of our constituents.   It is the SNP that has lost sense of reality.

Thursday 16 December 2010

Tay Rail Bridge Disaster Memorial Trust meeting

Last night, I was 'minute taker' at the latest meeting of the Tay Rail Bridge Disaster Memorial Trust.   

It was an excellent and productive meeting at which we finalised arrangements for the Launch of the Public Appeal on the 131st anniversary of the disaster - 28th December.   It will take place at McManus Galleries.

We are delighted that the event will be hosted by the Lord Provost of Dundee, John Letford, and Provost Ruth Leslie Melville of Angus and Depute Provost Lizz Mogg of Fife will be in attendance, along with other dignatories.

Wednesday 15 December 2010

Wednesday activities

This afternoon, I was interviewed for tonight's STV news about my concerns regarding the City Council's SNP Administration education 'savings' proposals that propose a so-called "City Campus" for senior pupils that would see pupils having to travel between schools for classes.   I have called for a proper explanation of how this would actually work but judging by comments made by the SNP Education Convener in tonight's Evening Telegraph, she has "yet to fully consider transport for the plan."   Announced, but not thought through.   Astonishing.

Thereafter I had the pleasure of attending the launch in the City Square of Stagecoach Strathtay's fleet of brand new vehicles for the "Tayway" 73 service (Arbroath to Ninewells Hospital, including the West End).

The buses are brand new Enviro 400 buses, which benefit from state of the art technology, including the latest “green” Euro 5 engines, CCTV, free wi-fi and low floor entrances, making them easily accessible for wheelchair and buggy users. New branding has also been fitted to the vehicles, allowing the public to easily identify the 73 service.

I'm pictured (below) at the new buses at City Square after the launch.

School crossing patroller back in Blackness Road

As reported in last night's "Evening Telegraph", I was relieved to be informed that, as of this week, the ‘missing’ school crossing patroller problem (following staff illness and vacancies) at the Kelso steps crossing in Blackness Road is now resolved and a new patroller has been trained as is now on duty.

Many pupils from both Blackness Primary School and Harris Academy cross there and parents were naturally concerned when the crossing was not being staffed by a patroller.   Blackness Road is a very busy bus route and I was therefore pleased that a new patroller is again covering the crossing.

Post deliveries

I have recently received concerns from residents about erratic post deliveries in parts of the Perth Road area - this could not be wholly due to recent weather as the problems of days without any deliveries appeared to start before the onset on the recent bad weather.

Having contacted Royal Mail on residents' behalf, I have received the following feedback from their External Relations Manager :

"I have looked into this and the office has been experiencing a high level of sick absence which unfortunately has impacted on deliveries in this area. We apologise to customers for any convenience caused and robust plans are now in place to ensure customers receive their mail as and when there is mail for them."

West End Community Council Meeting

Last night I attended the West End Community Council December meeting.   We had a very useful discussion with a member of staff from the City Council's Leisure & Communities Department about the possibility of increasing allotments provision in the West End.

I also undertook the "shoppers' prizes" draw from West End Christmas Week with all at the community council meeting drawing the winners out of the hat.   A list of winners of the great prizes donated by West End businesses will be published on this site, the Community Council site and on the West End Community Council noticeboard (outside Nisa in Perth Road) once all winners have been informed.

And congratulations to the pupil from Ancrum Road Primary School who has won the Window Spotting Competition.   She wins a children's party at the play den at Barnetts Motor Group, kindly donated by the company!

Tuesday 14 December 2010

Monday meetings

After busy surgeries at the Mitchell Street Centre and Harris Academy (at which winter maintenance issues were to the fore) I attended last night's City Council meetings.

DEVELOPMENT MANAGEMENT COMMITTEE :    I seconded refusal of a planning application to build a 102 bedroom hotel on land south of Riverside Avenue on the grounds that the proposal was contrary to the Council's Development Plan, the hotel would be extremely tight on a site of limited size and there is no adequate public transport.   The application was refused.    I also seconded approval of an outdoor seating area at a public house in Meadowside as I felt a pavement cafe there was entirely appropriate, subject to licensing approval.

POLICY & RESOURCES COMMITTEE :   There was a lengthy debate about the Scottish Government's draft budget and the financial implicationsfor the City Council.    Apart from asking questions about the extent of budget savings required, I expressed concern at the Scottish Government's conditions in relation to the settlement, which make a nonsense of local decision making.    The Dundee City Council SNP administration has released its proposed list of cuts, but it is long on one-liners and devoid of detail.   I have today written to a number of department Directors seeking clarification in a total of 20 areas of cuts.    A couple of examples :

Education Department :  "Secondary - establishment of concept of 'city campus' to share teaching expertise for senior pupils across the city" - I have asked how will this work; will pupils be expected to travel across the city to other schools to get teaching;   will they get reimbursed travel costs;  will teaching staff have to move schools and will any staff posts be lost as a result?

Leisure and Communities :  "Transfer Caird Hall; Libraries & Arts & Heritage facilities to public Trust status" - I have asked for full detail of what is being proposed; effect on entry charges or free entry for those facilities currently free to enter, governance arrangements and effect on employee terms and conditions.

It is astonishing that the SNP Administration released this document yesterday (and it went to all staff too) without giving any indication of what each proposal means in practice.   It can only lead to concern and speculation and the sooner the necessary detail and reassurance is given, the better.   It was also astonishing that the SNP finance spokesperson described £14.589 million of cuts in expenditure as "relatively limited."

Away from budget matters, I also asked questions about charity relief of rates and council tax discount on unoccupied property at last night's Policy & Resources Committee.