Monday, January 31, 2011

Lochee Park

As reported in tonight's Evening Telegraph, I have expressed concern about the events in Lochee Park last Friday night in which up to a hundred young people were involved in anti-social behaviour in the park, causing disturbance to neighbouring residents.  

It is very concerning that a number of the young people involved were as young as 12-13, and there was a considerable amount of alcohol involved - Tayside Police confiscated 40 litres of alcohol.

I have been in correspondence with our local police inspector about the situation and am pleased at the proactivity of our local police officers with regard to this situation.   

Empty Homes in Dundee

As reported in yesterday's Scotland on Sunday, Scottish Liberal Democrats have highlighted nationally concerns that 70 000 houses are lying empty across Scotland and urged that efforts be made to bring them back into use.

Further to my update last month on the subject of empty houses in Dundee, in today's Courier and in the Press and Journal, I have emphasised that the City Council, Registered Social Landlords and others must redouble their efforts to get empty housing back into use to help ensure that targets to tackle homelessness are achieved.

It is clear from parliamentary answers from the SNP Minister for Housing and Communities that there are over 4000 Dundee properties lying empty and around half of these are in the social sector – most being owned by Dundee City Council. 

I welcome Liberal Democrat calls nationally to look at ideas such as giving out grants to renovate homes and put them back into the social rented sector, and loans to put them back into the private rented sector.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Gael's Fire - update

Further to my earlier item about the forthcoming Gael's Fire fundraising event for the Tay Rail Bridge Disaster Memorial Trust, here is a new video (with thanks to Rose!)

Friends of Wighton - latest

The first Friends of Wighton Lunchtime Recital of 2011 takes place on Wednesday 2nd February, in the Wighton Heritage Centre, Central Library, Dundee.
 
The featured artists are The Wighton Singers whose December Recital was lost to the snowy conditions! This lively group meet every Tuesday afternoon in the Wighton Centre under the direction of traditional singer Sheena Wellington. Their repertoire is mostly Scottish song, though some eclectic pieces from elsewhere may turn up in this week's programme!

The recital runs from 1.15pm - 1.45pm.   Admission is free but donations are welcome.

Rev George Robson

This morning, along with two of my ward colleagues and the Lord Provost, I had the pleasure of joining the congregation of Balgay Parish Church at the final service led by Rev George Robson at George's retiral as Minister of the Church.

Rev George Robson
There were excellent addresses by the Lord Provost, Dolly O'Rourke - Head Teacher of Ancrum Primary School, Alister McGregor - Session Clerk until 2005, Les Smith - present Session Clerk, and George himself, in a lovely and appropriate service to mark the huge contribution George has made to the Church, the Dundee Presbytery, the local community in the area and the city as a whole.   George has given unstinting support to the Community Spirit Action Group that represents residents in the area and his contribution will be greatly missed.

I wish George and Lynn a very happy retirement in their new home in Broughty Ferry.

Saturday across the North East!

Yesterday, along with colleagues from Dundee Liberal Democrats, I campaigned at the Angus Council Carnoustie and District by-election in the morning and met with LibDem colleagues from across North East Scotland in Aberdeen later in the day.    Here's a couple of photographs from yesterday!
Above :  In Aberdeen with colleagues Allan Petrie (left) and Alison McInnes MSP (centre)
 
Above :  Campaigning in Carnoustie!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Road condition across Dundee

I have today highlighted the huge job facing the City Council with potholes in road and re-lining works exacerbated by the recent adverse winter weather conditions and described the £15 million funding from Scottish Government that has to cover all 32 councils the length and breadth of Scotland as “totally inadequate for the job.”

I have been in correspondence with the City Engineer over the extent of the work already undertaken and still required.   He has advised :

"Fraser

The repair of potholes across Dundee has been ongoing throughout December i.e. repairing potholes that are identified through the online system, specific calls through customer service, identification by council officers etc. The repairs that have been carried out are of a temporary nature to make safe and may have to be revisited on a number of occasions until permanent repairs can be carried out.

Following the end of the winter period, we have temporarily increased the number of pothole repair teams from 3 to 8 and they have been working across the city repairing defects on a find and fix basis. Starting on Monday 17/1/11, they have been travelling the winter gritting priority routes of which there are 13No, a length of approximately 320km, any actionable defects found at the time have been repaired there and then. Following completion of the priority routes last Friday, the 8 teams moved on to the back up routes and these should be completed by Friday 28/1/11.

Although they will have been around the entire 550km of adopted network by this Friday, I am in no doubt that on some of these routes further actionable defects will appear which will require repairs and some which have already been repaired will require further attendance. From Monday 31/1/11 we will revert back to 3 teams (unless more are required) and the defects will be treated back in line with the policy of Cat 1, 2 & 3 repairs ie actionable defects will be repaired within 3 hours, 3 days or 28 days as appropriate.

For your information, from Monday 17/1/10 to Tuesday 25/1/11 there have been approximately 2900 potholes filled across the city.

With reference to white line marking we have a monthly allowance set aside which usually is sufficient to deal with white lining maintenance issues however we have been unable to carry out white lining for a couple months and there has been a deterioration in condition. We will now be applying a priority approach for repairs and that will be to deal with priority safety issues i.e. junction markings that have completely disappeared. The extent to which lining has deteriorated has still has to be fully reviewed however we will action those priority safety issues as soon as practicable. The backlog of lining previously identified will be actioned when the weather is suitable.

The management of the yellow lining across the city is the responsibility of the parking team and there is an on going programme for Tayside Contracts to refresh yellow lining as directed, as far as I’m able to ascertain the two references in your e-mail* are not contained within the current work package with Tayside Contracts so I have copied in appropriate officers into this. Similar to all other line marking, this programme has been severely affected by the weather.

Road marking is very weather susceptible and to be effective can only be placed on dry roads. Therefore minimal road marking will be carried out until the weather improves as it will be necessary to physically dry the road prior to placing the road markings."


Given that, in the week from 17th January alone, nearly 3000 potholes had to be filled across Dundee, there is a very significant cost involved especially where the road condition is so poor that resurfacing is the only option. I am very concerned that the City Council has been left footing the bill for this and I have asked the City Engineer to quantify the likely costs.

The response from the SNP Scottish Government seems to be wholly lacking and it is important that the council lobbies government for the proper level of funding required to tackle this matter.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Perth Road pavement at West Wynd

Given the work that was undertaken not so long ago to provide dropped kerbing along much of the Perth Road east of Sinderins, I was concerned to have received this from a constituent recently :

"... coming back from church on Sunday I met a neighbour.   He was having great difficulty trying to get on to the pavement with his scooter at the bottom of West Wynd - east side. There has been scaffolding there for a while - it's gone now but the workmen have put back a high kerb instead of a low one. You can see it quite clearly. It's a pity after all the work that’s been done."

I took up the matter with the City Council and have had the following positive response :

"I looked at this section today and can see why there is an issue with wheeled access on East side of West Wynd. This section which is quite narrow was lowered some considerable time ago. A utility reinstatement has been undertaken just to the north and whilst high is not a contributory factor.
I will add this to be improved on next year's work load."

I should stress that "next year" means the new financial year starting April - not in 2012!


Biomass proposal - Dundee City Council response

As reported in today's Courier and on Wave 102 news (click on 'play' above to listen), I have written to Dundee City Council's Chief Executive David Dorward in the following terms :

David
 
I wish to query exactly what will be submitted to Scottish Government over our statutory consultee response on the Forth Energy biomass planning application.
 
The vote on this matter at committee was exceptionally close – 14 to 13 in favour of the view that the council does not formally object to the biomass application at this stage. For those of us who are strongly opposed to the biomass proposal on grounds of public health and visual amenity and whose view is that we should firmly oppose the biomass application at this stage, a highly unsatisfactory situation has now arisen.

Throughout the past few months up to the date of Monday’s committee meeting, as you know, elected members were advised not to express a view on the application publicly in case this compromised their impartiality when it came to taking a view at the City Council’s Policy and Resources Committee as a statutory consultee. In the immediate period before the committee met, the Legal Manager advised me :

“Strictly speaking, whilst this is not a planning application, it is our view that it would be preferable (and would remove a potential ground of challenge) if elected members did not publicly express a concluded view on the application until they have heard the Deputations and the answers to any questions put to them and to officers.”

Because of this advice, many elected members felt unable to respond to the Scottish Government’s consultation undertaken by its Energy Consents and Deployment Unit last year. This means that many councillors were not able to give their views to government on the biomass proposal and highlight issues of concern to their constituents.

Given that, on the statutory consultee response, the successful motion that fails to object to the application at this stage narrowly won the vote, the views of many councillors who are outright opposed to the application are simply not reflected anywhere in the consultation process. Our view narrowly lost at committee and we are too late to respond to the government’s consultation exercise. Scottish Government advises “The consultation period for the addendum is now closed and we are no longer accepting consultation responses or representations from members of the public. A decision will be made on this application once a response is received from Dundee City Council in late January 2011.”

I would therefore propose that our response as a statutory consultee should include a section outlining the minority view on the night and indicate the closeness of the vote. It is vitally important that Scottish Government, in determining this application, is aware that the City Council’s position of failing to outright object at this stage, won the day only by a single vote and there is a substantial body of opinion on the City Council with a different view.

I look forward to your response and thank you in advance.

Best regards

Fraser

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

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Next Dundee West Transition Town meeting ...

West End Boys Amateur Boxing Club - latest

Earlier this evening, I had the pleasure of meeting boxing legend Ken Buchanan and taking part in a photocall to mark Ken becoming President of Dundee's West End Boys Amateur Boxing Club.

Here's Ken with one of the club's younger member tonight.   Its a real tribute to the hard work of Emilio Places-Rey and his colleagues that the West End ABC has grown into a fibrant boxing club and that someone of the stature of the Tartan Legend is now club President.

Traffic Order : South Tay Street

Again, from the City Council :

DUNDEE CITY COUNCIL :   ROAD TRAFFIC REGULATION ACT 1984

DUNDEE CITY COUNCIL (SOUTH TAY STREET ENVIRONMENTAL IMPROVEMENTS) (VARIATION OF WAITING RESTRICTIONS) ORDER 2010

Dundee City Council proposes to make an Order under the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984, the effect of which will be to facilitate environmental improvements in South Tay Street.

Full details of the proposals are contained in the draft Order, which together with a Statement of the Council’s reasons for proposing to make the Order may be examined during normal office hours and without payment of fee at Dundee City Council offices, Reception, Floor 4, 21 City Square, Dundee by any person, during a period of 21 days from 28 January 2011.

Any person may within 21 days from 28 January 2011 object to the proposed Order by notice in writing to the Depute Chief Executive (Support Services), Dundee City Council, 21 City Square, Dundee. Objections should state the name and address of the objector, the matters to which they relate and the grounds on which they are made.

PATRICIA McILQUHAM
Depute Chief Executive (Support Services)

Traffic Order : Riverside Drive

The City Council advises :

THE ROAD TRAFFIC REGULATION ACT 1984 :  SECTION 14(1)

THE DUNDEE CITY COUNCIL AS TRAFFIC AUTHORITY being satisfied that traffic on the road should be restricted to a speed limit of 10 mph by reason of ironwork repair works being carried out HEREBY RESTRICT the speed of any vehicle in Riverside Drive (from Tay Rail Bridge to Tesco roundabout), Dundee.

This notice comes into effect on Sunday 30 January 2011 for one day.

Pedestrian thoroughfare will be maintained.

A convoy system will be in operation to allow traffic to pass the works safely.

For further information contact (01382) 433168.

Mike P Galloway,
Director of City Development

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Pennycook Lane Car Park - fencing repairs promised

I have taken up residents' complaints about the poor state of the Pennycook Lane car park's fencing.    In response, the City Council has replied :

"Tayside Contracts have programmed this job in for Tuesday 15th February and they estimate that it will take 2 days to repair the fence."

Liberal Democrats supporting colleges

On the day the Scottish Parliament debated Stage 1 of its budget, Liberal Democrat Finance spokesperson Jeremy Purvis MSP emphasised that Liberal Democrats are focusing on the need to support Scotland's colleges.

Commenting, Mr Purvis said, “We have met twice with the Scottish Government and are engaging constructively with practical measures to support the economy and to tackle the pressures on skills and colleges.

“As it stands, the SNP budget cuts are too severe for colleges, threatening places and bursaries.

“The Scottish Government should be focused on boosting economic recovery by investing in further education.

“That’s why as part of our budget negotiations, Liberal Democrats have pressed the Scottish Government to provide additional places for young people desperate to gain skills for work. We have also pressed the case strongly to restore funding for college bursaries that help secure opportunities and support for some of the poorest learners in Scotland.

“I am pleased that this joint approach from Liberal Democrats and the NUS is gaining considerable backing and I hope very much that the Scottish Government will respond positively to what is a very clear case.”

Commenting, Liam Burns, President of NUS Scotland said, "I thank the Scottish Liberal Democrats for making this a negotiating issue in the forthcoming budget vote. They have recognised that this is a cut to an already wholly inadequate fund that has failed some of the poorest students for nearly three years now.

"With only weeks before the vote on the budget, thousands of students, staff, friends and family have been emailing their MSPs through http://www.budgetforbursaries.com/. I'm sure the Parliament will recognise that it makes no sense to price those out of further education who have the most to gain."

I spoke on Wave 102 news about Liberal Democrat support for colleges, student places and bursaries today and you can hear this by clicking play below:

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Allotments west of Magdalen Green

Tonight's Evening Telegraph highlights the mindless vandalism that has caused substantial damage to sheds at the allotments west of Magdalen Green on Sunday that saw one shed destroyed by fire and another suffer major fire damage.

As reported in the Tele, I have been in contact with the City Council to see if additional security measures can be considered for the allotments.

It is disheartening for the allotment holders who work hard on their allotments to suffer vandalism and I am asking the Leisure & Communities Department who it can do to help prevent any further incidents.

City Council meetings

A very lengthy series of City Council meetings last night (as I write this, just after midnight!) - some four and a half hours - with a lengthy discussion on the proposal by Forth Energy for a biomass plant.  

A report on the biomass proposal was discussed at Policy and Resources Committee in relation to the City Council's response as a statutory consultee.    There were well-argued presentations from the deputations and, after questions, I seconded an amendment by Bailie Derek Scott to oppose the application on the adverse impact on air quality, the impact of the plant on visual amenity and the effect of heavy goods vehicles passing through residential areas to service the facility.    The Council Leader's motion was simply to defer consideration pending more information on air quality.   This was, in my view, an unsatisfactory response, but was narrowly carried.

Also tonight :

* I attempted, at the Housing Committee, to stop the 4.5% council house rent increase the SNP was proposing and replace it with a lower 3.5% increase.   The SNP Convener ruled this out of order because he said this should have been moved at the Policy and Resources Committee earlier in the evening.   However, the housing revenue budget report to Policy and Resources reads : "The setting of rent levels is a matter for the Housing, Dundee Contract Services and Environment Services Committee" and I am making a complaint to the Chief Executive that, as a result, there has been no proper discussion on the rents setting decision.    The bottom line is that the SNP administration has imposed an unreasonable increase in rents that will hit hard-pressed tenants hard.

* I supported a proposal at City Development Committee to support the campaign to back RAF Leuchars and requested that a letter of support for the RAF base to the Secretary of State for Defence be signed by all political group leaders, plus the Lord Provost and Depute Lord Provost.   This was agreed.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Dundee Carers Centre

This morning, along with a number of councillor colleagues, I had the pleasure of attending a briefing at Dundee Carers Centre in West Marketgait, on the services it provides to the many people in Dundee who are carers - and how vital these services are.

As the Carers Centre points out, "A carer is someone who provides unpaid care and support to a partner, child, family member or friend who could not manage without their help. This could be due to age, disability, physical or mental illness or addiction. Anyone can be a carer – we work with carers aged from 5 to 95."

The Centre provides a huge range of support and more information can be found at www.dundeecarerscentre.org.uk

Sunday, January 23, 2011

West End roads

The state of roads in the city has been a hot topic recently, with both constituents and in the local press.  As always, I continue to raise with the City Council any concerns highlighted by constituents about roads condition in the West End.   

I have now asked from the City Engineer details as to how the City Council is tackling the situation across the city, given the deterioration in the condition of many roads as a result of the recent snow and ice across the city.   It is important that this is tackled promptly and in a way that ensures the worst pothole and other road defects are given priority.  

Another by-product of the recent weather has been the deterioration of road markings - and I have received concerns from residents about this.   Clearly it is important that both white and yellow lining is kept in reasonable condition, for road safety reasons and to avoid obstruction where parking is inappropriate.   Here's two examples I have raised with the City Council at residents' requests :

Perth Road
Brown Street

Sunday song ... Ocean Colour Scene : 'The day we caught the train'

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Dundee Women's Festival 2011

City councillors have been sent details of the planned activities for this year's Dundee Women's Festival, taking place between 28th February and 13th March.

There's a huge range of events, film, drama and workshops and the Festival Programme 2011 is now available from Dundee Voluntary Action at their Number Ten Reception, 10 Constitution Road.

You will soon be able to download it from DVA website and there's also information on Facebook.

Gaza commemoration in the City Square

Earlier today, I spoke in the City Square at the Commemoration Event of the dreadul events in Gaza in 2008/9 in which, during Israeli bombing, many innocent Palestinean civilians were murdered, including 357 children.   

The event was organised by Tayside for Justice in Palestine and included an art installation by Dundee artist Pat Donachie that depicted deaths of the 357 children - an installation of shoes and coffins to which he has added all the names of the children who perished.

As well as being a commemoration, the event also saw the launch of fundraising for a Scottish ship to take part in a flotilla to break the ongoing blockade. The fundraising is going well - as I said in my speech, Dundee people are always generous supporters of worthwhile causes and it was good to learn that nearly £1000 was raised yesterday outside the mosque in Brown Street in the West End.

 Above : Edith Constable of Tayside for Justice in Palestine addresses the commemoration event
Above:  Pat Donachie's art installation

Friday, January 21, 2011

Sewer problem in City Road

Following residents' raising with me concerns about problems with the sewer in City Road (between Blyth Street and Milnbank Road), I immediately raised the matter with Scottish Water. Waste water appeared to be pouring from the ground.

Scottish Water has responded very promptly and advised me :

"I can confirm we will be attending tonight to remove a large ball of rags which is causing the sewer to choke. We will also carry out a clean up of the area.

I can confirm the sewer has not collapsed."

Liberal Democrat support for V&A at Dundee

Earlier this week, my LibDem colleague Alison McInnes, MSP for North East Scotland, met with Graham McKee, the project leader for the V&A at Dundee initiative.

Alison said after the meeting, "I have followed this project with keen interest and it was useful to get an update from Graham McKee on the next steps. We discussed the winning design and viewed the model of the innovative design currently on display in an exhibition at Parliament. The stunning design for the new centre for design innovation has been created by Kengo Kuma and Associates.

"The V&A at Dundee is a welcome addition to the growing arts offered in the city but will also bring significant benefit to the economy of Dundee by creating 900 jobs and an estimated 300,000 visitors per year.

"That is why it is essential that the detailed preparatory work goes ahead promptly now that the winning design has been chosen and I therefore welcome the £5 million of funding committed by the Scottish Government to take forward the V&A project.”

Yesterday, responding to the announcement that up to 170 new jobs could be created in Dundee by Spanish wind turbine manufacturer Gamesa, regional MSP Alison added, "The creation of new jobs in the renewables sector is to be welcomed.

"Gamesa’s interest in siting the logistics and manufacturing centre in Dundee is likely to lead to others following suit. Scotland is widely acknowledged as a centre for renewable engineering expertise and Dundee is a good place to invest.

"I would urge the Scottish Government, Scottish Enterprise and Dundee City Council to do all they can to clinch the deal."

SNP council rents hike criticised

I spoke earlier today on Radio Tay news criticising the above-inflation council house rents increase in Dundee being proposed by the SNP council administration.   You can hear this by clicking on 'play'  above.  

The SNP Housing Convener says that the 4.5% increase is the lowest of the options on the table but what he conveniently forgets to tell tenants is that I proposed that the council also consult tenants on a lower increase – a full 1% lower - and the SNP blocked this to prevent any real consultation on genuine options. Instead tenants got SNP inflation busting options only – ranging between 4.5% and 5% - which will hit hard pressed families at a difficult time.

The response to the consultation – 428 tenants out of 12 995 – or just 3.3% - shows that if you give tenants a fake consultation with no real options other than high increases, tenants will treat the “non-consultation” with the contempt it deserves and boycott it. That is exactly what has happened. The reason the SNP was unwilling to consult on my lower increase level is that, deep down, they know that tenants would have supported the lower level and that would have upset their plans to impose an inflation-busting increase.

I will be proposing a lower increase of just 3.5% when the council meets on Monday.   The Consumer Prices Index this week shows inflation at 3.7% so a 3.5% increase is a reasonable step. The SNP increase they claim is vital is not vital at all – it is excessive and will hit many tenants hard.

I will also speak about this matter on Wave 102's news on Monday.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Friends of Wighton - event this Saturday!

With thanks to Sheena Wellington, here's the latest update from Friends of Wighton :

Saturday 22nd January 2011, 10.30am for 11am £5 :  Karen Hannah (fiddle) with Bob Turner (keyboard)

George Smith's chamber quartet are unable to present the Earl of Kelly's music on Saturday, due to family reasons, so we'd like to announce that Karen Hannah and Bob Turner will perform the Cappuccino Concert instead.

Karen had been due to perform in December but was snowed off!

Karen is a regular performer for Friends of Wighton and is also the tutor for the weekly Saturday fiddle class. For this concert she will be joined by Bob who is an accomplished pianist and keyboard player.

Admission is £5; coffee and newspapers will be available from 10.30am and the music will start at 11am.

Venue is the Wighton Centre, Dundee Central Library, Wellgate, Dundee, DD1 1DB.

New Harris Academy - Project Board

Yesterday, I attended the first meeting of the project board that will oversee the Harris Academy rebuilding project.    The board includes Parent Council representatives, a trades union representative, a Harris Academy FP Association representative and the Head Teacher, as well as councillors and officers.

It was a constructive and productive first meeting to oversee a project that will be some years in its delivery.   I asked questions about the role of Historic Scotland, transportation for pupils during the decant period, capital funding and other matters.

Later yesterday, I also attended meetings of the WestFest committee and the Tay Bridge Disaster Memorial Trust committee.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Friends of Magdalen Green

Last night, I took the minutes at the January Friends of Magdalen Green committee meeting.   We had useful discussions and progress reports on the Green lighting project, BBQ provision on the Green, the community sports/environment hub project, parking on the Green - and other issues.

However, the main purpose of tonight's meeting was a presentation to our colleague and friend Liz Broumley (pictured right) on her and Roger's move to Cromarty next week.   Liz has made a huge contribution to community life in the West End through Friends of Magdalen Green and WestFest and she will be greatly missed.   Liz has made a real and lasting impact on the West End community and I wish her every happiness for the future.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Commemoration - Gaza : Two Years On

I will have the pleasure of speaking at the above event this Saturday (22nd January) at 1pm - full details are given in the poster below and at dundee@scottishpsc.org.uk. 

Blackness Library

Dundee City Council advises that Blackness Library will be closed on Thursday (20th January) due to essential repairs to the water supply at the building.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Hillside Road

Although delayed by the recent winter weather, it was good to see road resurfacing work start today in Hillside Road.  

Many residents had complained to me about the poor road surface and the road improvements will be welcomed.

Monday meetings

Today, my LibDem colleague Cllr Helen Dick and I had a very useful meeting with the City Council's Chief Executive about a number of current issues.   

Later this afternoon, I held my two weekly ward surgeries at the Mitchell Street Centre and at Harris Academy.

At tonight's Development Management Committee, I moved approval (against the officer recommendation) of an application for a further 25 student studio apartments at Taymills in Brown Street.   This is an ideal location for further student housing, close to the University of Dundee, Unversity of Abertay Dundee and Dundee College campuses.   The application received support from Student Services at Dundee College.  

Crucially for me, it aimed to provide 25 high quality student studio apartments that would have relieved the pressure on tenement flats in residential areas of the West End.   The application could have been approved with a Section 75 legal agreement to ensure the apartments could not be turned into mainstream residential accommodation at any point in the future.   

Unfortunately, however, an opportunity lost as I was defeated in a division 17-10.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Campaigning in Carnoustie!

This afternoon, I helped the Angus LibDems' campaign in the Carnoustie and District by-election and their excellent candidate Charles Goodall.

Pictured (right) are Charles and myself in Carnoustie earlier today.

Stress on teaching staff

Further to the article in today's Scotland on Sunday about teacher absences from work due to stress during 2009/10, I have written to Dundee City Council’s Director of Education asking what steps he will take to help reduce the high (4%) teacher absence level in the city caused by stress, what procedures are in place to help teachers in stressful situations and the support the council makes available.

The Dundee figures are :

Number of teachers absent with stress : 60

Number of teachers employed by local authority : 1,509

% absent  :   4.0%

The 4% absence rate of teachers in Dundee due to stress last year is of concern – Dundee’s absence rate is significantly higher than Aberdeen’s (1.6%) and Edinburgh’s (2.6%).   I therefore asked the Director of Education what steps are in place to help teachers in stressful situations, and what further can be done to reduce Dundee’s absences rate.

We owe it to the teaching profession to help teachers in stressful situations. Tackling teacher stress will make education provision more productive and will save the City Council money.

Supporting teachers is vital and I am concerned that the policies of the Dundee SNP administration may make the situation worse.  I would particularly point to reports they are putting forward to reduce promoted posts in primary and secondary schools that will simply add to the burden on teachers.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

"Just the Job"

A new course - "Just the Job" - starts this coming Thursday (20th January) at the Mitchell Street Centre - from 1pm to 3pm.   It is aimed at local people looking for work, whose second language is English and who would like to learn to improve their CV, application form filling and interview skills.

The course runs until 24th February and more information can be obtained from the City Council on 436415 or 435872.

The future of West End Community Council is in our hands!

The West End Community Council elections take place this month. The Community Council has been in existence since the 1970s and is a real voice for the Community Council area - the area includes much of the West End Ward from the Logie Estate southwards - to Marketgait in the east and Clovis Duveau Drive/West Loan at the far west end of Perth Road in the west.

The current Community Council members have worked very hard for the area and local councillors including myself work well with the Community Council on local issues.

Some of the long-serving Community Councillors will be retiring at this election and it is vital that new members come forward to join the Community Council - nominations must be made by the end of the month. You can find out more by going to http://tinyurl.com/wecc2011.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Winter maintenance - latest update

Despite the recent thaw, I have continued to receive concerns about the state of roads - and particularly pavements across the West End - with ice.

I'm grateful to the Winter Maintenance team who have today responded to my concerns about the very icy cul de sacs in Invergowrie Drive.   

I have had a number of calls about the state of the path/steps from the Tullideph Sheltered Housing from Tullideph Place down to Logie Street.   The elderly residents need to use this to get to the bus and several have unfortunately fallen.   Also, Tullideph Street is still difficult for pedestrians.

I have also again raised winter maintenance issues in Ancrum Drive and Glamis Drive - and at other locations across the West End.

The Roads Maintenance Partnership Manager at Tayside Contracts advised me earlier today as follows :

"There is no difference in priority given to clearing adopted footways at locations of DCC or RSL sheltered housing. Adopted footways have been attended to in accordance with the winter maintenance policy i.e. priority routes and then back ups. Some sheltered housing may be located on the priority routes and others may not.

There has been a priority of clearing DCC sheltered housing from the housing access to the boundary of a council owned footway (not necessarily adopted). If we haven’t been able to clear the footway at an identified DCC or RSL sheltered housing complex, resource has been deployed to hand spread grit. It has become clear following the recent snow fall that this may not be adequate and we will be looking to review this to consider providing an access route to a cleared footway.

Excavators being used since the end of December have been large scale machines and these have been used in the main to clear carriageways and where feasible the associated footway. This is due to the large build up of snow/ice and the small plant which is more accessible to footways becoming ineffective."

Temporary Traffic Order - Perth Road

Dundee City Council proposes to make an Order under Section 14(1) of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 for the purpose of facilitating kerb realignment works. The Order is expected to be in force for three weeks from 7 February 2011. Its maximum duration in terms of the Act is eighteen months.

The effect of the Order is to prohibit temporarily all eastbound vehicular traffic in Perth Road from its junction with Riverside Avenue for a distance of 50 metres or thereby.

Pedestrian thoroughfare and vehicular access to premises will be maintained where possible.

An alternative route will be available via Riverside Avenue, Riverside Drive (except Heavy Goods Vehicles) and Perth Road. An alternative route for Heavy Goods Vehicles will be available via Riverside Drive, South Marketgait, West Marketgait, Hawkhill and Perth Road.

The right turn lane from Riverside Avenue (westbound) and left turn lane from Riverside Avenue (eastbound) into Perth Road will be closed for the duration of these works.

Please forward any comments you may have regarding this proposal to the Network Management Team, City Development Department, Tayside House, Crichton Street, Dundee, no later than five working days prior to the commencement date. If you have any queries please call (01382) 433082.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Real Time Information - City Centre

At this week's West End Community Council meeting, concern was expressed that the real time bus information in Commercial Street was not working.    I reported this to the City Council and have now been advised :

"One of the real time display screens at the bus shelters outside Waterstones was temporarily out of order (for about 3 days or so) but it has now been repaired and both displays are working."

I have also reiterated the need to get all real time information at shelters across the city where they are still not working repaired as soon as possible.