Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Waste water spillage problem

At the start of last month, I raised with Scottish Water the mess around the Riverside Drive/Riverside Avenue junction (pictured right) where waste water has blown through the manhole cover.

At the time, Scottish Water responded, but this has since happened again, and I have again raised this recurring problem with Scottish Water.

Monday, August 30, 2010

V&A at Dundee - Making it happen

The exhibition of the six shortlisted designs for the building that will house the V&A at Dundee will open at the University of Abertay Dundee Library on Wednesday 29th September.

It will run until Thursday 4th November and will give all Dundonians the opportunity to give views on the six designs.

The V&A at Dundee website is at
www.VandAatDundee.com.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Western Cemetery Association

I attended a very useful meeting on Thursday with representatives of the Western Cemetery Association and the Director of Leisure & Communities and some of his team, about the cemetery and supporting the Association's work.

The Association does excellent work in assisting with the conversation of the cemetery and we had a very positive meeting.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

The council's budget

As reported in today's Courier, the Liberal Democrats on Dundee City Council have decided that, as presently constituted, the so-called Changing for the Future Board, is not something we will be prepared to support and, as Group Leader, I will not attend the Board's meetings.

At last Monday's Policy & Resources Committee,
the Labour Group Leader proposed and I seconded an amendment that would have made the Board open and transparent and would have also ensured the trades unions had representation on it. The SNP administration rejected this reasonable request in the usual "our way or no way" approach we all too regularly see from the SNP.

The events of the past week have done little to show that the SNP is in any mood for genuine co-operation with the others on the council and one can only conclude that the SNP administration simply views the Board as convenient camouflage for the cuts in services they intend to make.

I have always said that all on the City Council should be working together to the good of Dundee at a time of an extremely challenging financial situation. When the SNP starts to give a little and stops expecting absolutely everything their way, a spirit of co-operation will be possible. But, secret cabals are absolutely not the right way forward.

X Factor - Phenomenal!

Well, wasn't Mary Byrne rather superb!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Improvements promised at Dundee Bus Station

I recently wrote to the Operations Manager of Stagecoach Strathtay as follows :

"I have received complaints about an alleged lack of staffing at the Seagate bus station – people saying there are few staff on, it taking ages to be served, people missing buses as a result. Can you advise me of the current situation? Many thanks."

I have received the following positive response :

"Fraser

Seagate Bus Station is currently under review and staffing levels is high on the agenda.

The staffing of the above is currently split between ourselves and Citylink but I agree the present set up is not working.

We are also relocating our Admin staff back to the Bus Station from (the Stagecoach offices at) Smeaton Road later this year which will rectify all the problems."

DEC Pakistan Floods Appeal

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Adult Learning Open Day in the West End

The City Council's Adult Learning Team is holding an Open Day on Wednesday 8th September at the Mitchell Street Centre. Further details below :

Thomson Street road closure - some issues raised

A couple of issues with the Thomson Street road closure that started earlier this week have been brought to my attention by residents :

* The length of the road closure - Residents have asked why the closure length is so long at any given time (about 100 metres) when not all of that length is being worked on. The City Council has advised me :

"The contractor is trying to balance the inconvenience to residents with completing work as swiftly as possible, hence barriering of the whole 100m sections to avoid any delay in moving parked cars or tracking down owners, some of which may not even be Thomson Street residents."

However, the council further advises that the contractor does appreciate the problems faced by residents and is pleased to speak with any resident further about the matter.

* Bins collection - The Waste Management Department has advised me as follows :

"We met with the contractors Morrison construction and Turriff construction and the following arrangements have been made.

The contractors have notified the residents to present their domestic waste bins and recycling bins as normal on the collection days. The contractor will move the bins half to the top of the street at the Perth Road and half to the bottom of the street at Magdalen Yard Road and after we empty the bins they will then return them to the front of the properties."

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Safety outside local schools

I have raised parents' and residents' concerns about inappropriate parking at West End schools on various occasions in the past.

Following implementation of the
safer parking arrangements at St Joseph's Primary School last term (see right), this afternoon I met with the Head of Primary Education, the Head Teacher and our local community police officer, to discuss how well the new arrangements are working.

The results have been largely positive - there will always be some difficulties given the busy nature of Bellfield Street and the school's proximity to the junction with Hawkhill - but it is clear that the vast majority of drivers are observing the "don't park right outside the school" safety message.

At the start of the new term, both Ancrum Road Primary School and Blackness Primary School saw the "safer parking" arrangements implemented. This is to be greatly welcomed. The photo below is outside Blackness Primary School in Pennycook Lane.

Hustings meetings

Just back from an evening in Kinross at a Liberal Democrat candidates' hustings meeting for the Mid Scotland and Fife region ahead of next year's Scottish Parliamentary Elections. Err ... no, I am not a would-be candidate - I'm the returning officer!

I'm also returning officer for the internal party election for the promising new North Angus & Mearns constituency, where we held the hustings meeting last Sunday evening.

Tonight's meeting at the Loch Leven Community Campus was extremely well attended and it was great to listen to a group of experienced and impressive people wanting to represent the party in the Mid Scotland and Fife region at next year's election.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Ancrum Place - good news!

Earlier this month, I highlighted residents' concerns about the state of the car park and roadway owned by the Housing Department at the end of Ancrum Place, behind the Morven Terrace/Ancrum Place sheltered housing. The issue was also highlighted in the Evening Telegraph.

I am pleased to report good news I received today from the City Council's Housing Strategy Manager :

"Dear Cllr Macpherson

I refer to your previous correspondence on the poor state of the car park at Ancrum Place.

In order to address the problems residents are facing here a contribution from the risk management fund has been made to enable Housing to carry out repairs to the car park.

These repairs will now be instructed via City Engineers. I will keep you updated on the timescale for completion of the repairs."


As the car park and road area is in very poor condition, I have been concerned about this, particularly as it is used by elderly people who live in the nearby sheltered housing. I am therefore very pleased that the Housing Department has responded positively to the request that the car park area be improved.

And Tuesday ...

Today :

* I had a very useful meeting with the Director of Dundee Contract Services and a senior member of his team about garden and open space maintenance. This follows on from several issues raised with me by residents in the Corso/Abbotsford area and in the Logie Estate.

* This evening I attended part of the River Crescent Residents' Association meeting at which I updated members on a number of local matters, including the proposed Harris Academy school buildings improvement.

* And ... later this evening, I attended the Friends of Magdalen Green committee meeting where we planned our Autumn Coffee Morning. It takes place at Dundee West Church on Saturday 25th September from 10am to 12 noon - don't miss it!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Busy Monday ...

In addition to holding two surgeries today :

* I had a positive meeting with the Chair, Chief Executive and Head of Pharmacy at NHS Tayside about the
transportation of drugs issue I have highlighted recently. The NHS representatives agreed to put the policy before the Board’s Improvement & Quality Committee for discussion and have also agreed to my request to retain records for longer.

* I met the Director of Housing and the Housing Strategy Manager about ensuring that the Logie area is given every support to ensure there's a residents/tenants group into the future, following the recent decision by Logie Residents' Association to disband.

* I then met with the Sinderins Court and Pennycook Court Residents' Association and we had a good discussion on a number of local issues, including bus services.

* I attended a lengthy series of City Council meetings tonight - including :

- Education Committee - where I raised a question about preparations for Standard Grade replacement following implementation of the Curriculum for Excellence.

- City Development Committee - where I highlighted my concern that the department's Service Plan does not include improving parking opportunities in areas of parking difficulties - including parts of the West End. The council's progress with this issue is delayed and that is unfortunate. I sense no clear direction from the SNP administration to deliver the much-needed parking improvements for the West End. At this committee, I also expressed concern at the loss of parking spaces in South Tay Street.

- Housing Committee - at which I sought assurances that provision of showers will still be made for all people with medical need. In relation to progress with the Scottish Housing Quality Standard, I raised the need to provide controlled entry facilities for tenants in flatted properties.

- Policy & Resources Committee - where I seconded a motion by Cllr Kevin Keenan, Labour Group Leader, to make the proposed so-called Changing for the Future Board more democratic, open and accountable. Unfortunately the SNP group had the usual 'take it or leave it' approach and this positive amendment was defeated. And in a similarly unfortunate way, my suggestion that the Development Quality Committee be renamed the Planning Applications Committee (i.e. - it is what it says on the tin) rather than the SNP administration's meaningless "Development Management Committee" proposal was lost, despite my suggesting deferring the matter for a short time to enable further discussion of the matter. One thing is for sure - the SNP is certainly not for listening to anyone else's point of view. Nothing new there then.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Standard Grades replacement

A constituent recently wrote to me expessing concern that there appears to be still no criteria for the new national exams that will be replacing Standard Grades. He asked if this meant that teaching staff have to start teaching the new curriculum, but with no idea about the detail of the exams that they should be preparing pupils for?

The Head of Secondary Education at the City Council has advised me as follows :

"The new examination framework will not begin until May 2014. Pupils in the present S2, S3 and S4 stages will continue to sit Standard grade exams until May 2013. The SQA is currently developing the new examination framework and is working with teachers from subject departments across the country, including a number from Dundee, to develop the new exams.

These will be tried and trialled in schools and refined to ensure that they are fit for purpose. The Scottish Government has made it clear that the new assessment framework will build on the learning experiences and outcomes actoss the subjects being studied in S1-3."


It would, of course, be a bit bizarre if a pupil undertook the new curriculum but sat the examinations that were a product of the old curriculum. I have therefore asked for, and received, an assurance that no pupil on the new curriculum for excellence will sit the old Standard Grade examinations.

Leading Dundee campaigner chosen for Dundee East

Announcement from Dundee Liberal Democrats this afternoon :

Dundee Liberal Democrats have today announced the selection of well known Dundee community activist and child protection campaigner Allan Petrie, as their Scottish Parliamentary Candidate for the Dundee East.

Allan has a wealth of experience in representing people and working to improve local communities. He served as Dundee City Councillor for Pitkerro Ward from 1999 to 2003. Although elected as an SNP councillor, he left the party given increasing concerns about the direction of the SNP, and he joined the Liberal Democrats four years ago.

Allan has also served as chairperson on many community groups as well as serving on the advisory group of the national Community Voices Network that held Ministers to account for their policies on the regeneration of local communities, until that body was abolished by the SNP Government.

Allan said, “I have put my name forward due to many people asking me to stand as they are fed up of politicians who not only make promises they do not keep but also spend more time trying to run our lives instead of the country.

“The people of Dundee are fed up of being treated as second class citizens by this government. Despite promises, Dundee citizens still have to pay for parking at Ninewells Hospital and still experiencing real deprivation while this government and local council play about with the cosmetics of the issues.

“We need to tackle the social, economic and physical regeneration of our communities by giving more power to the communities themselves. Local communities know what the problems are and how they can be fixed and I will campaign at local community level on behalf of all the citizens of Dundee East.”

Saturday, August 21, 2010

X Factor winner from Scotland? You bet ...

Homelessness in Dundee

Earlier this month, the Courier printed an article about the concerns of some of the city's homeless people about the possible lack of bed spaces in Dundee. Following this, I have been in correspondence with the City Council's Director of Housing about the matter, and, as reported in today's Courier, the Director has given me an update on the issue. Below is the substance of her response :

"As part of our statistical returns to the Scottish Government (HL1 Returns) we are required to record any applicant who claims to have slept rough on the night preceding their homelessness application and also whether they had slept rough at any time within a three month period prior to applying. Our returns for 2009 and for the first two quarters of 2010 show no rough sleepers have applied as homeless.

I appreciate that our HL Returns only record persons who apply to the City Council as homeless and also only record information as given by applicants themselves, however, our experience is that there is not a significant problem with rough sleeping in Dundee. Due to the lack of need for services to rough sleepers we diverted funding from the Cyrenians Outreach and Resettlement Team to what is now Transform's Homefinder Project. Homefinder staff still retain an outreach remit but this is mainly carried out through briefings with the Police and City Ambassadors to advise that rough sleepers be referred to the Lily Walker Centre. So far we have not had a significant number of referrals.

As the Courier article states, we have protocols in place with voluntary sector hostels in Dundee and we refer people for temporary accommodation to these agencies along with providing accommodation within our own supervised and dispersed units. It is fair to say that we still experience significant demand for temporary accommodation and where people are able to stay with friends or relatives we will advise them to do so if there is a shortage of available bed spaces at any particular time. This may account for the reference in the article to people being advised to contact on a daily basis to check on availability of temporary accommodation but where there is a crisis situation we would use Bed & Breakfast accommodation and would not have people rough sleeping.

Unfortunately there are a small group of homeless people who are barred from all hostel accommodation in the City due to behavioural problems usually associated with substance or alcohol misuse. It may be that individuals in this category have slept rough on occasion but this is not due to an overall lack of bed spaces in the City. Where an individual with these issues presented to ourselves we would accommodation within our own temporary accommodation and endeavour to engage the person with services which may help them to address the issues leading to their homelessness, assuming the health and safety of our accommodation staff was not compromised by doing so.

I would assure you that we keep temporary accommodation requirements in the City under review and at this time supply appears to be sufficient ... Our strategy is to reduce demand for temporary accommodation through focussing on prevention of homelessness work but should we find that demand for temporary accommodation increases in future we would look at increasing supply through our partnership arrangements with the voluntary sector along with reviewing our own stock of temporary accommodation."

As I indicated in the Courier today, it is important that every effort is made to ensure that people without housing are assisted promptly and effectively. It is an issue I will continue to take a close eye on as ensuring that all have adequate housing is extremely important.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Latest Friday Video - Bee Gees - Too much heaven - 1978

LCPP meeting - outcomes

Yesterday, I mentioned that the West End Local Community Planning Partnership meeting was taking place last night.

It was a very productive meeting, and in addition to an interesting presentation on Dundee Waterfront, there was agreement on a joint initiative between Tayside Police, Tayside Fire and Rescue and the City Council's Housing Department to promote grant aid to encourage controlled entry for flatted properties in the West End.

Additionally, there was an update on progress about road safety in Pentland, following the site visit I participated in back in June - improvements in Pentland Crescent look possible, subject to funding availability.

I also raised concerns about dumped furniture in the back areas of tenements in parts of the area - particularly as these can be a fire hazard concern.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

And ... surgeries start again tonight!

With the school year having started yesterday, my weekly surgeries for the West End start again tonight - at 6.15pm at Blackness Primary School (staffroom, ground floor).

You can get full details of both my Thursday and Monday surgeries at
http://tinyurl.com/frasersurgeries.

I can also be contacted at home at any time on Dundee 459378 or you can use my e-surgery facility by e-mailing esurgery@frasermacpherson.org.uk.

West End Local Community Planning Partnership Meeting

Tonight, at 7pm in the Tartan Coffee House in Perth Road, the next West End Local Community Planning Partnership meeting takes place.

Tonight's meeting will see a presentation of the Dundee Waterfront project, amongst other local issues that will be discussed.

All local residents in the West End are welcome to attend.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Thomson Street - latest

Further to my update last month on the impending gas and water work that will start next week in Thomson Street, I have received the following update from Scottish Water today :

Our contractors, Morrisons, will begin a short programme of work to replace more than 300 metres of ageing water mains in Thomson Street, Dundee. Work is planned to start on 23 August and last for approximately 4 weeks.

Our engineers will use the latest slip-lining method, in order to keep disruption to a minimum. Slip-lining involves easing the new durable, plastic pipe into the existing water main, which in itself provides a robust outer protection.

In order to keep traffic disruption to a minimum, we will only be working one section at a time. The letter below has been sent to local residents and further notices will be sent regarding the planned interruptions to supply :

Dear Customer,

Further to my letter dated 29th July 2010, I am writing to you as promised with an update on the work to replace the water mains in Thomson Street.

How this affects you
Work is planned to start on 23rd August and last for approximately 4 weeks. During this time it will be necessary to close Thomson Street to allow all work to be carried out as safely as possible. Work will be carried out in 3 sections and access will be maintained for 2 of the 3 sections of Thomson Street at any one time.

Work at section 1 will start on 23rd August followed by sections 2 and 3. Details of each of the 3 sections are as follows:

• Section 1 – Top of Thomson Street to 22/24a Thomson Street
• Section 2 – 22/24a Thomson Street to 46d Thomson Street
• Section 3 – 46d Thomson Street to Bottom of Thomson Street

Each section will take approximately 10 days to complete and an interruption to your water supply is required to connect your property to the new water main. Please be aware that the duration of each section may change depending on the progress of the work.

What do you need to know
Due to the nature of the water network, some properties will require more than 1 interruption. You will be given 48hrs notice of any supply interruptions.

Working hours will be Monday to Friday 07.30 to 18.00 hrs. No weekend working is anticipated at this stage.

Our contractor Morrison Construction will also assist with bin collections for each section when it is closed for our work. Bins should be taken out as normal where Morrison Construction will assist with moving bins to appropriate areas for collection.

Ally Mitchell from Morrison Construction will be available during working hours to provide assistance and can be contacted on 07809 530642. Any out of hours issues, please call our Customer Helpline detailed below.

We will make all reasonable efforts to minimise disruption.

We would like to thank you for your understanding and cooperation while we complete these essential works. If you have any questions or requirements about Scottish Water or the project, please call our Customer Helpline on 0845 601 8855 quoting reference “Capital/400797/MRN"

Nick's speech on a fairer Britain

Dear Fraser,

Today, the coalition Government is 100 days old.

I want to take this moment to say thank you once again for all your support, all your hard work, all your generosity. Thank you for everything you did to help us win over a million more votes for the Liberal Democrats in the General Election. Thank you for getting Liberal Democrat ministers into government for the first time in generations.

Today I made a speech about how the Coalition government is building a fairer society in Britain. Both David Cameron and I have always made it clear that we are governing Britain for the long term, not for tomorrow's headlines.

One of our main long-term goals is to increase social mobility. A fair society is one where everyone has the chance to do well, regardless of their beginnings. A society where no-one is held back by the circumstances of their birth. Where what counts isn't what school you went to, the job your parents did or the colour of your skin, but your ability and ambition.

When the history books are written, I want them to say that this government paid down the budget deficit and laid down the foundations of economic prosperity for years to come. I also want them to say that children born in 2015 are less constrained by the circumstances of their birth than any previous generation.

There is a huge amount of work to be done. Labour spent huge amounts of money pushing low-income households just above the poverty line - but with no impact on the chances of the next generation.

The two most important areas which I outlined in my speech today and will guide the Government's social mobility strategy are:

Tax reform. We will reform the tax system so it encourages social mobility, rather than social segregation. We took a first step towards that at the Budget by raising the income tax threshold, taking 880,000 people out of tax altogether. Reforming income tax is explicitly aimed at those who are in paid work - the surest route out of poverty. Making income tax fairer will not only be a measure to boost fairness today, but is also an investment in fairness tomorrow.

I will also be chairing a new ministerial group on Social Mobility, including Conservatives like Iain Duncan Smith and David Willetts as well as Liberal Democrats like Sarah Teather and Lynne Featherstone. Alan Milburn, who is widely respected across the political spectrum for his tireless work on social mobility, will act as an independent reviewer of the Government's success in delivering social mobility.

Thank you once again for all of your support.

All best wishes,

Nick Clegg MP
Leader of the Liberal Democrats & Deputy Prime Minister

City Council Scrutiny Committee

This afternoon, I attended the first meeting of the newly "revised" scrutiny committee - this now includes the roles of audit and efficiency, previously covered in separate committees. This is a significant improvement (less committees=greater efficiency) and something I proposed a full year before it was implemented.

The agenda was comprehensive and I asked questions on many items - the substantive matters including the lack of consistency in HMIe follow-up reports in that they do not update quality indicators when undertaking the follow up report. This was obvious in relation to the follow up report about the Whitfield Community Early Years Centre - a really good report but with a lack of consistency by HMIe in terms of updating quality indicators.

The committee agreed to my suggestion that HMIe is contacted in relation to this.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Right turn at the railway station

Constituents have contacted me about the inadequate time drivers turning right from the filter lane in Riverside Drive - going into Dundee rail station (having come from the Riverside Roundabout east of the station) - are given before westbound traffic on Riverside Drive is given the green signal.


I have raised their concerns with the council's City Development Department.

Final stage of digital switchover tomorrow

Further to my update earlier this month, the final stage of the digital switchover in Dundee and across Tayside and north Fife takes place tomorrow - when the final analogue channels get switched-off permanently.

Freeview viewers should rescan channels again tomorrow. Full details are
available on the Digital UK website. This does not affect cable and Sky viewers.

As I have previously indicated, I am particularly anxious that elderly residents are given the fullest assistance, and if I can be of any help to any West End resident, do please call me on Dundee 459378 or e-mail
tvswitch@frasermacpherson.org.uk.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Seymour Street/Perth Road

At the south end of Seymour Street, there is an area of grass on the south side down which water constantly flows, and then across the pavement of Perth Road.

Needless to say, in winter, the water freezes, meaning that the pavement becomes a sheet of ice. It is just as well there's the grit bin nearby (see right)!

I met with a local resident on-site last week and we agreed that, given there's a street drain to the immediate west, simply providing a channel to let the water flow into the drain, rather than across the pavement, would be the obvious solution.

I have therefore contacted the City Engineer suggesting this.

Progress with the Scottish Housing Quality Standard

Earlier today, I attended a briefing for councillors by the Housing Department on progress towards the city meeting the Scottish Housing Quality Standard by 2015. This is in advance of a report going to committee next Monday.

There has been significant progress - for example, in the provision of bathrooms and kitchens - but there are some areas of concern.

I asked questions about the provision of controlled entry systems in blocks of flats - something that is a boon to residents in terms of safety and tackling anti-social behaviour. Progress with this is well short of target and in part this is where there is a mix of tenants and owner-occupiers in the block and the owner-occupiers' permission and contribution is required. Following the briefing, I have raised a question with the Depute Chief Executive (Support Services) in her role as the council's senior chief legal officer about this matter.

The report next Monday also proposes :

"Agree to the cessation of installation of showers from 2011/12 not approved by Social Work on medical grounds, and remit the Director of Housing to investigate alternative methods of providing showers where required."

I have concerns about this and have written to the Directors of Housing and Social Work seeking assurances.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

News from Dundee LibDems - Alison Burns becomes Dundee West candidate

Announcement from Dundee Liberal Democrats this afternoon :


Well known Dundee lawyer and jazz singer Alison Burns has become the new Scottish Liberal Democrat candidate for Dundee West in advance of next year's Scottish Parliamentary elections.

Alison’s life, which saw her go from being the first female apprentice engineer at Timex, to a lawyer and tutor at the University of Dundee and then onto international success as a jazz singer, reflects the modern City of Dundee with its combination of industry, academia and the arts.

Following the announcement of her selection as the Lib Dem candidate Alison said, "It’s a real honour to have been selected as the Lib Dem candidate for Dundee West, the city where I was born, grew up in and love.

I am not a career politician but I got involved in politics because I feel passionate about creating a fairer Scotland and a more prosperous and vibrant Dundee.

I hope to knock on thousands of doors over the coming months and personally meet with as many local residents as possible in order to act on their concerns to establish a credible alternative to Labour and the SNP in Dundee."

Brought up in Downfield in Dundee and educated at St. Columba’s Primary Dundee, Lawside Academy and the University of Dundee, Alison Burns brings wide ranging experience and energy to politics.


On leaving secondary school Alison became one of the first female apprentice engineers at Timex in 1977 before going on to work for British Telecom in Dundee as a draftsperson.

In 1987 she decided to follow her love of the arts by becoming a professional actress working at Dundee Rep before going on to present TV shows for Channel 4 and BBC Scotland as well as acting in theatre, television and film. Around this time her career as a singer was also taking off as she worked with Danny Wilson, Michael Marra and co-founded the well known Dundee singing group The Penny Dainties.

In 1992 she went to college and studied to attain the academic qualifications to be accepted into the Law Faculty at the University of Dundee. Upon graduation she worked as a solicitor for Thorntons WS in Dundee and Arbroath before moving on to becoming a consultant for leading London law firm.

In 2001 she co-founded a successful music company as well as becoming a trustee for a charity.

She joined the Liberal Democrats in 2005 and acted as campaign manager for a number of Parliamentary election campaigns as well as working to increase the number of female candidates in the party.

Alison now sits on the board of Dundee University Students Association (DUSA) as an external trustee and is a practising solicitor specialising in Intellectual Property law.

Public expenditure, public waste

On Friday at lunchtime, Dundee City Council sneaked out a press release about budget cuts and its proposed way forward ("Estimated savings of 40 million needed over three years"), together with a report that will go before the Council's Policy & Resources Committee a week tomorrow.

I say "sneaked out" because the timing of the release to the media was done in such a way that no opposition councillor could have possibly had the opportunity to read it before the inevitable calls from the media asking for a response. If the SNP administration is serious about working in a cross-party and consensual manner, it was hardly a flying start.

Furthermore, SNP councillor Willie Sawers, in that press release, says, "The financial squeeze imposed on us by the Westminster Government is unprecedented and the overall financial picture has worsened as the implications of UK budget cuts have become clearer."

And having had a swipe at the coalition government then goes on to say "In the best interest of the city, we would like to move forward from the old confrontational exchanges between parties." Mmmm ... perhaps not the best ever attempt at getting away from confrontational politics. Furthermore, someone should remind Cllr Sawers that the local government settlement is determined, not by the Westminster Government, but by his own SNP government in Edinburgh.

The lack of preparedness of the SNP government to properly manage a difficult financial situation is of concern.
Today in the press, COSLA rightly hints that the SNP government's less than even handed approach to cuts may make the local government position worse, and given the vital social care services provided to the elderly and vulnerable by local government, not subjecting NHS Boards to look at efficiency measures would be a big mistake.

Here's a few potential NHS efficiencies for a start :

* Cut out the so-called "merit awards" paid to some of the highest paid NHS consultants on top of their large salaries. My LibDem colleague in Angus, Sanjay Samani,
recently highlighted this issue with NHS Tayside.

* Cut down the NHS hospitality expenditure. Official figures obtained by the Labour Party earlier this month showed that
NHS hospitality costs in Scotland increased by almost 25% in the last three years, from £1 076 044 in 2007-08 to £1 332 501 in 2009-10. Almost £4m spent in the past three years and, as the Courier pointed out, a staggering £804 148 by NHS Tayside alone.

* Investigate fully and ensure no repetition of the scandal of NHS Education for Scotland
attending 21 conference in all parts of the world, including Durban, Instanbul and Sydney.

* Scrap the SNP policy of
free prescriptions for rich people.

Of course, the NHS in Scotland, is not the only service where the SNP government has failed to properly control expenditure. In various newspapers today,
including the Sunday Mail, Scottish Liberal Democrat leader, Tavish Scott MSP, highlights the disgrace of Scottish Enterprise's ballooning spending on hospitality. Scottish Enterprise spent £499 078 on hospitality in 2009/10, up from £437 940 in 2008/09. Last month, they spent thousands on hospitality at the Open Golf Tournament at St Andrews.

As Tavish says, "SNP ministers need to get a grip of quango spending. Scottish Enterprise have their priorities badly wrong."

Ancrum Place - dire roadway and car park

Residents from the Ancrum Place/Morven Terrace sheltered housing last week highlighted in the Evening Telegraph the absolutely shocking state of the road and car park to the rear of the complex - at the back of Ancrum Place. I completely share their concerns.

As reported in Friday's Tele, following residents' complaints to me about the state of the car park and road, I contacted the Area Housing Manager in June 2009 about it (the Housing Department own the ground). He advised that costings had been requested for repair. Fourteen months later and we appear to be no further forward.

I have now received this e-mail from a senior member of Housing Management :

"... the land is held on the HRA since it is unadopted. The Department owns considerable areas of such unadopted land. There are no resources identified for the maintenance of such areas.

Funding within the HRA is extremely pressured with around £130M required to 2015 to meet SHQS standards on the housing stock alone. Meeting SHQS by 2015 is a legal requirement and so we must concentrate resources accordingly.

Given the state of these areas I have contacted the Council's risk management department for funding but have been unable to secure any such funding.

... the Council is looking corporately at how best to deal with addressing these issues more effectively going forward."


I have responded to him as follows :

"Thank you for this. Of course I appreciate the pressures on the HRA but can I remind you that on 23rd June 2009 I was advised :

“costings have been requested for these works meantime”

and I hadn’t heard anything further whatsoever since.

Were these costings obtained and what were they?

Also can you advise what is actually being done “corporately” to find a solution and the timescale for feedback on any possible results of this? Thanks."

I am meeting the officer concerned and the Director of Housing about another matter this week and will be discussing the matter further with them then. The bottom line for me is that it is not acceptable that this area is left in this extremely poor state.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Aviva site tidied

Further to the caravans leaving the Aviva/Norwich Union site at the Technology Park, the council's Rapid Response Team has now largely tidied the mess left behind. The council's Chief Executive has updated me as follows :

"There was considerable amount of rubbish to clear, and I am told the vast majority has been cleared away. There is still some rubbish on the site, but this will be cleared as soon as possible.

Aviva has been very co-operative and prompt at dealing with the legal action, and we will be charging them for the cost of clearing the rubbish and cleaning up of the site."

Lawrie's site - progress

Following my recent updates about the state of the former nursery site in Perth Road, it was good to note the badly damaged "For Sale" signs replaced during the past week - the new signs are pictured right.

Following the actions of the City Council in contacting the owner, it is to be hoped that some trimming of the badly overgrown foliage on the site, particularly at the Perth Road boundary and adjacent to residents' homes at the southern edge, takes place soon.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Friday video - Billy Ocean - 1976!

Swallow roundabout - update

Further to my update on 7th August on the Swallow roundabout roadworks, I have received the following update from the City Council late today :

"For your information, BEAR(S) have informed me today that A85 Riverside Avenue at Swallow roundabout re-opened early this morning by 2.30am (closure was planned for two nights) after successful completion of the overnight resurfacing works with no delays experienced through the short diversion route via the Technology Park. No delays were also experienced on the other 4 nights when the roundabout coped well with the contraflow system as predicted by BEAR and ourselves.

The essential works at Tay Road Bridge was also successfully completed after the 1am to 4pm full closures on Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday mornings. The actual overlap with A85 Riverside Ave closure was about 1.5 hours."

Radio Tay News this morning ...

I was on the Radio Tay News this morning following the mess left at the Aviva/Norwich Union site at the Technology Park - check 'play' to listen:

video

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Travellers leave the Aviva site at the Technology Park

As reported in tonight's "Evening Telegraph", the caravans have now left the Aviva/Norwich Union site at the Technology Park and I asked the City Council's Chief Executive to have the significant mess tidied.

I have again stressed that the travelling community is encouraged to use the facilities already provided by Dundee City Council at Balmuir Wood. It is not acceptable that Dundee council tax payers end up meeting the cost of the extensive clean-up.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Meeting with National Express Dundee

This evening, along with two office bearers from the Community Spirit Action Group and my ward colleague Cllr Donald Hay, I met with Lawrence Davie, Managing Director of National Express Dundee.

The Community Spirit representatives handed over the petition about the 11/12 service - with some 650 signatures from local residents.

It was a very positive and constructive meeting. It is clear that National Express Dundee is listening to local concerns and Lawrence hopes to announce positive changes to the service once he has Board approval and agreement from the Traffic Commissioner. This should hopefully allow longer weekday services and some service at weekends, going a good way towards addressing residents' concerns.

We also discussed the issue of early morning number 17 buses and Lawrence will look further into this matter.

Dundee Blind and Partially Sighted Society Ladies' Club

This afternoon, I had the pleasure of addressing the Dundee Blind and Partially Sighted Society Ladies' Club on the challenges facing the City Council and some key projects.

The club meets every Wednesday at the society's premises in Ward Road - and it was a real pleasure to meet the members, who gave me a very warm welcome.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Riverside Drive/Riverside Avenue roundabout - again!

Last month, I mentioned the feedback from the City Council I had received about the overgrown roundabout near the Riverside Inn (formerly Marmalade Pot).

I have now had the following further update from the City Engineer :

"The shrubs were reduced in height approx 2 years ago but have since grown again to cause a problem to pedestrians crossing the road. Reducing the height again will only solve the problem in the short term.

As the cost of traffic management etc is high for carrying out regular pruning of the shrubs on the roundabout, we are currently considering the possibility of removing the shrubs completely and replacing with a number of trees with a reasonably high canopy which would increase visibility for pedestrians whilst retaining a ''green'' element to the roundabout.

We would also propose to remove soil, place lotrak and bark. All of this would have an initial capital cost but would reduce and quickly payback the continual cyclic costs associated with the shrubs that are there presently.

If this solution is preferred, we will aim to implement it in the autumn; otherwise we will prune the existing shrubs."

Retaining a 'green' element to the roundabout but making it less 'maintenance intensive' makes a great deal of sense - but, one way or another, it will be good to see the roundabout's vegetation thinned out as this will make it easier for pedestrians to cross safely.

Monday, August 09, 2010

Roseangle Cafe Arts at The Bridge!

Last week's West End Christmas Week meeting took place at the new cafe facility at Dundee West Church - Roseangle Cafe Arts at The Bridge.

It is a super new cafe for the West End and Rev Andrew Greaves & the congregation of Dundee West must be proud of what has been achieved. Emma, the Manager, is making a superb job of running the new cafe - it is really warm and welcoming! You can read more about the cafe at its Facebook page at
http://tinyurl.com/roseanglecafearts.

The new cafe and arts space is in the basement of Dundee West- across from Laings in Roseangle.

Annfield Street

The following was recently brought to my attention :

"On the north kerb at Annfield Street , about half way between Peddie Street and Blackness Street there are two large holes. One is surrounded by a metal cage. It looks like someone has once done work on the gas supply but never refilled in the hole. Next to it is a 1/2 metre square hole in the tarmac about 8 inches deep. I can't tell why it has been dug out or by who. I placed a bin over it to stop people falling down the hole.”

I contacted Dundee City Council and have been given the following feedback :

"This excavation was not carried out by a utility but by a local company under a road opening permit.

Their agent has been contacted and they will ensure the company reinstates this timeously.

I visisted site and there is adaquate protection around the excavation so there is no danger to the public.

Also two furter bore-holes were taken at the locus within the last fortnight or so and these will also be properly reinstated."

Scouts Scotland website

Back in June, I had the pleasure of presenting a cheque to the 26th Dundee Scouts at Logie St John's (Cross) Church Hall- and thank all involved, including the generous sponsors that made their silent auction such a success.

This is a now a link to the Scouts Scotland website which has more news about the Dundee Scout Auction - see
http://tiny.cc/scoutslogiestjohns.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Abbotsford Place & Corso Street - dropped kerbing

I recently wrote to the City Council as follows :

"An elderly sheltered tenant of Abbotsford Place has contacted me following a bad fall when she fell trying to negotiate the kerbing near her home (using a zimmer) to get to the sheltered lounge.

There seems to be a lack of any dropped kerbing in the street and I was wondering if this could be looked into.

Aa resident in Corso Street nearby has made a similar complaint – getting from Corso Street along to Annfield Street (across Peddie Street). For an area with sheltered housing the area seems to lack dropped kerbing."


I have received the following positive response from the City Development Department :

"This area is being included in this year's list of works for Dropped Kerb provision. ... tackling dropped kerbs on an area basis is more cost effective and this west end area will be ordered this financial year."

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Tay Rail Bridge Disaster Memorial Fund - Public Appeal

Today's "Courier" gives readers a useful update on the Tay Rail Bridge Disaster Memorial Group's impending public appeal, including my own comments - see http://tinyurl.com/couriertay.

The group is going from strength to strength and if you are interested in learning more about it, do please contact info@taymemorial.com.

Friends of Balgay Summer Meeting

This afternoon, I had the pleasure of attending the Friends of Balgay Summer Meeting at the Mills Observatory.

Unfortunately the planned speaker did not materialise, but hero of the hour was Stewart Murdoch, the City Council's Director of Leisure & Communities who gave an impromptu talk about the arts in the city, including progress with the V&A project. All credit to Stewart - not just impromptu but informative and entertaining too!

At the meeting, the Friends' new publication - "A Visitor's Guide to the Treasures of Balgay" - was launched. It is an extremely well presented and informative guide to Balgay Park, Balgay Bridge, the observatory, the Planet Trail, the Rose Garden, Victoria Park and other aspects of Balgay. It is well worth a read, and great value at only £1.

Swallow roundabout roadworks

At the end of last month, I reported the impending overnight roadworks at the Swallow/Landmark roundabout. These start tomorrow - Sunday 8th August - for 5 nights (from 7.30pm to 6.30am).

It now appears that there will be 'overlapping' roadworks resulting in overnight closure of the Tay Road Bridge - effectively Dundee's only other main road link to the south and I have had exchanges of correspondence with the City Council regarding the fact that both roads will be affected overnight on one night. I paste below an update from the City Council I received yesterday :

"Further to your discussions with the City Engineer, I would confirm the impact of the overnight (0100-0400) closures of the Tay Road Bridge for the sign gantry installation works and the overnight (1930-0630) lane closures on A90/A85 Swallow/Landmark roundabout for resurfacing of the roundabout next week had been co-ordinated in advance. We spoke to BEAR (S) this morning and BEAR (S) also believe that the overnight contra flow system at Swallow will have no impact on traffic flows.

Although the lane closures on the A90 are for the full week, the closure of the A85 Riverside Ave leg of the junction is for Wednesday & Thursday nights only. Thursday night/Friday morning (0100-0400) will be the time both the bridge and Riverside Avenue are closed.

As the traffic is lighter over night and there is an readily accessible alternative route via Coupar Angus Road as well as the Technology Park diversion route there are no traffic issues foreseen."

Former Norwich Union/GA site at the Technology Park - an update

As reported in today's Courier, I spoke yesterday with the City Council’s Chief Executive David Dorward about the latest travellers' encampment and was advised that council officers have already been in touch with Aviva, owners of the former Norwich Union/GA site at Dundee’s Technology Park .

In my discussions with the council’s Chief Executive, he advised me that Aviva are taking necessary steps to have the caravans moved on.

However, there are clearly issues about the occupation of sites in the city and the need for proper security to avoid unauthorised entry.

Furthermore, there is a need to ensure that the travelling community is encouraged to use the facilities already provided by Dundee City Council at Balmuir Wood.

Friday, August 06, 2010

Perth Road - crossing concern

Yesterday I met a constituent about the crossing on Perth Road west of the Riverside Drive junction. He made a very sensible point about the crossing and I have written to the council in the following terms :

"A constituent called me about the crossing point here (between two bollards & clearly marked as such for cyclists crossing as well) – the problem being that although there are SLOW markings on the Perth Road coming east, there is nothing to alter drivers coming up Riverside Drive (past the Botanic Garden) then swinging west into Perth Road that 2-3 seconds after turning they are faced with pedestrians crossing.

I went along with my constituent on-site and he absolutely has a point – cars come swinging round the corner and its very difficult to get across safely particularly in the morning rush hour (Lots of cars going to Ninewells go that way).

Can some SLOW markings on the road be made? Many thanks."

Bunty - aged 2

Our Bunty (left) recently had her second birthday. Today, she was out visiting cousin Millie (right), owned by my sister in law and council colleague Helen. Photogenic doggies, or what?!

Freedom of Information

Yesterday, I wrote to Dundee City Council's Chief Executive following a discussion with the Evening Telegraph about the council's unwillingness to supply details of councillor expense claims - an article thereafter appearing in yesterday's edition.

"David

I understand from the Evening Telegraph that under Freedom of Information legislation they requested copies of councillor expenses claims and have been denied this on the grounds it is “personal information.”

I have real concern that this will be perceived by the public as the council flying in the face of the spirit of Freedom of Information legislation. It should be remembered that the expenses claims of MPs are now available for the public to scrutinise. I am not suggesting for one moment that there is any impropriety in any claims and am aware that these are thoroughly checked by officers before payment, but the public perception of withholding this information would be detrimental to the City Council.

It appears that the City Council is therefore not recognising the need to be fully open with the public and I do think this matter should be reconsidered.

I look forward to your response.

Best regards

Fraser

Cllr Fraser Macpherson
Councillor for the West End
Liberal Democrat Group Leader - Dundee City Council
"

I will, of course, update constituents as to the response received.