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.