Monday, February 28, 2011

Law Nursery

This morning, I had the pleasure of meeting parents of children at Law Nursery;   they are very concerned at SNP plans to close the nursery on its long standing and highly successful site and relocate it within Rosebank Primary School.  

I accepted a petition with 1161 signatures on it - an indication of real concern about SNP plans.    I delivered this to the Director of Education later today.

Tonight, we unfortunately saw the high handed arrogance of the Dundee City Council SNP administration at its worst.   Bowing to public pressure, they withdrew their paper to close Law Nursery from the Education Committee but refused to give parents and the Education Committee any reassurance that the report will not come back and that the proposal is permanently dropped.

I have called on the Education Convener Liz Fordyce to stop this unfortunate approach and give parents a categoric assurance that she has dropped the closure proposal permanently.   I spoke tonight to a parent leading the campaign to save the nursery on its present site and although she had been advised that the item was dropped from tonight’s committee, no assurance was given that the proposal has been permanently abandoned, as parents demand.

Tonight saw the SNP administration rather lose the plot.    Some members of the public were denied access to the meeting and the Education Convener failed to give any reassurance to members of the Education Committee over Law Nursery.

I ask Mrs Fordyce to give a clear and categorical assurance that the SNP has permanently dropped its plans to close the Law Nursery facility and move provision to Rosebank Primary School.

It is not what parents want and its about time Mrs Fordyce started listening to them.

More on concerns at Fire & Police centralisation

Further to my recent update on LibDem concerns about the effect of centralising fire and police services, today's Courier highlights the negative impact on Balmossie Fire Station.

It is important that the centralisation of police and fire services is stopped, but unfortunately the SNP, Labour Party and Conservatives support it.

My colleagues Allan Petrie, Craig Duncan and Alison McInnes MSP are pictured at the fire station (see right).  We will continue to campaign against emergency services centralisation and for fire stations like Balmossie.

Severe weather and winter maintenance briefing

Prior to Christmas, at the City Council, I requested of the council's Chief Executive that a proper debriefing on winter maintenance arrangements takes place at which councillors could raise residents' concerns and issues about the way the bad weather conditions were tackled.

This was agreed to and the debrief took place today.   It was an extremely useful and constructive meeting at which council officers agreed to ensure that points raised today will be taken into account when winter maintenance policy is reviewed for 2011/12.

Amongst issues I raised today :

* There is a need to ensure that priority is given to all sheltered housing areas - Dundee City Council and Registered Social Landlords' owned properties.   This was accepted.

* The Council should do more to respond to offers of help from the many members of the Dundee public who are keen to help their neighbours and others in the community, particularly the elderly and vulnerable.  Dundee City Council should co-ordinate a "Snow Heroes" effort, the sort of thing that was so well co-ordinated elsewhere in the UK.   This was agreed but must be progressed in the months ahead.   Dundee is full of decent folk, keen to help the vulnerable in difficult weather and the council must harness this.

* There should be better use of gritters overnight/24 hour use.  Again, agreed.

I pay tribute to all staff who put in a huge effort over the difficult weather conditions in December and early January.

I hope that today's briefing will result in improvements to planning and arrangements for future winter maintenance.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Battle of the Bands!

Stewart Findlay, who is acting as the local co-ordinator for the upcoming Scottish Boys' Brigade Bands Contest, that is taking place at the Caird Hall on Saturday 12th March, has been in touch with me about promoting this excellent event on www.dundeewestend.com

The event is open to the public with doors opening at 10.30am and finishing around 3.30pm.   Guests may come and go as they please throughout the day.   Entry to the event is only £3 and £2 (concessions) and tickets can be purchased on the day of the event at the main entrance to the Caird Hall.

Bands from all over Scotland will be competing to be crowned the 'Best BB Band in Scotland' in their chosen grades and there will be pipe bands, brass bands and flute bands in attendance. 

It will be a great day and I have no doubt it will be extremely well-supported.

Paton's Lane and Perth Road

A resident recently advised me that “ … the pothole in Patons Lane at the entrance to the Servite sheltered housing is rapidly expanding to deep crater status.”

I raised this with the City Council and am advised :

"An order has been raised to fill this pothole in Paton's Lane with a timescale for completion of twenty eight days or sooner."

In Perth Road, a resident called to say there is water gathering/road drainage problems at the bus stop on Perth Road at the Post Office and at the crossing at Nisa.

After raising with the City Council, I am advised :

"Tayside Contracts are to check gulleys and poly channel at the locations below and clear as required within the near future."

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Morven Terrace

Residents in Morven Terrace have complained to me about vandalism of the phone unit in the phone box at the entrance to the street.   See me pictured (right) at the phone box.

I have brought this to the attention of British Telecom and have requested repairs.

West End reports - including concerns over Royal Mail Collection Office

Claire Matthew, who is currently undertaking postgraduate studies in journalism, has been covering news stories affecting the West End.   She has recently started a blog at http://westofcentre.posterous.com/ that has already covered items about crime and concerns about the possible closure of the Crichton Street Parcel Collection Office.

On the Royal Mail Collection Office issue, Claire has uploaded a video report :

Untitled from Claire Matthew on Vimeo.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Liberal Democrats campaigning for local policing

As featured on tonight's STV News and on local radio, North East Scotland MSP Alison McInnes, together with myself and Dundee Liberal Democrat colleagues, today launched a petition outside Tayside Police’s Headquarters that invites the public to support the campaign to stop Scotland’s emergency services being centralised into Scotland-wide force.

Alison then visited the Broughty Ferry and West End shopping areas to meet local people and explain why she and the Liberal Democrats oppose the abolition of Tayside Police and Tayside Fire and Rescue and believe that centralised police and fire services would be to the detriment of areas of Scotland outside Strathclyde & the central belt.

Alison said, “The SNP Scottish Government is aggressively pursuing the creation of a single nationwide police force and a one-size fits all approach to policing. It is clear that this proposal is being driven by personal preference rather than facts.

"However the Justice Minister has failed to give any details of where the £200 million savings that he purports will be made is to be found. In reality, it will be hugely expensive, increase political interference and could reduce the number of officers on the beat. Indeed there are fears that the proposals could result in the loss of up to 4,000 officers across Scotland.”

Allan Petrie, former Dundee Councillor and now Convener of Dundee Liberal Democrats, added, “The Scottish Government has failed to account for the costs of implementing a merger. This could amount to millions of pounds and was the reason similar plans were previously scrapped both here and in England and Wales.

"Tayside is already one of the most efficient police forces in the country. It would be extremely foolish to see an efficient force like Tayside become part of a Scotland wide force, to the detriment of the people of Dundee, Angus and Perthshire.”

Allan added that a merged Fire Service could result in re-opening the debate over the future of the Balmossie Fire Station. He said it was very clear that the people in Barnhill, Monifieth and across Broughty Ferry who are served by Balmossie do not want to see the fire station downgraded and he was concerned that, in a single Scotland-wide fire service, local voices would be drowned out.

Alison Burns, Liberal Democrat candidate for Dundee City West, said, “Inevitably, with a single force run from either Edinburgh or Glasgow, bureaucrats would be given far too much say over local policing without full awareness of local circumstances and issues.

"This policy poses the greatest challenge to our local police service for a generation and would be disastrous for Dundee and Tayside.”

From my own perspective, it is clear, speaking to constituents in the West End today that they are very concerned by these Fire Service and Policing centralisation proposals. People in Dundee value local Police and Fire services and centralising the services into a national service is something they view with concern.

THE PETITION READS :

“We are concerned that a one-size-fits-all approach to our emergency services will leave our area worse off. We are concerned that it will lead to a loss of local accountability, increase political interference and reduce the numbers of officers on the beat and firefighters in our local fire stations.

Help Alison and the local Scottish Liberal Democrats oppose the proposed centralisation of the Police and our Fire and Rescue Services by signing our petition and returning it to: Alison McInnes, Dundee Liberal Democrats, Freepost SCO3668, Dundee, DD4 7ZR.

"I/We the undersigned oppose any moves toward a single nationwide Police Force or Fire and Rescue Service".

Some photos from today :

Above:   From Left - Me, Alison McInnes, Alison Burns and Allan Petrie
Above :  Alison McInnes in the West End
Above :  From Left - Alison McInnes, Alison Burns and I take the petition to Blackness Fire Station

Ancient and Modern Keyboard music from Angus

The Friends of Wighton's monthly Wednesday Lunchtime concert in Dundee will be on Wednesday 2nd March 2011, at 1.15pm. The venue is the Wighton Heritage Centre, upstairs in Dundee Central Library.  Admission is free.

The programme has a local theme, with Mark Spalding playing keyboard music both ancient and modern. He will perform 17th century harpsichord music from the Panmure manuscripts, unique collections of Scottish music preserved for generations at Panmure House, near Carnoustie, Angus. The manuscripts are a rare survival of Scottish art music of this early date, and include music by the Scottish composer, William Kinloch.

Mark will also play modern piano music composed by the recently deceased Arbroath born composer Morris Pert (1947-2010). Morris Pert was born in Arbroath, Scotland in 1947. He graduated B.Mus. from Edinburgh University in 1969, and went on to study composition and percussion at the Royal Academy in London, where he was a pupil of Alan Bush. He has written three symphonies.

The Wighton Centre, upstairs in Dundee's Wellgate Library, is a beautiful performance and study space, built to house the Wighton

Collection: an internationally important collection of over 700 old books of Scottish music. The collection of rare antique volumes was assembled by Dundee Merchant Andrew Wighton, and donated by him to the City after he died in 1866. The centre is also home to a very fine French two-manual harpsichord, which will be used for Wednesday's recital.

For more information please visit http://www.friendsofwighton.com or phone 07792 336804.   Morris Pert's website is at http://www.morrispert.com.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Thursday ...

After a visit to Ancrum Drive to discuss impending works that the City Council will undertake to ensure the flooding problem from Lochee Park into residents' gardens is tackled, I attended a very interesting briefing on the private sector house condition survey in Dundee, undertaken by David Adamson and Partners.

This contained very interesting information about the city's private sector housing stock - owner occupied, former local authority sold housing and private rented housing.  Of concern is the extent of investment needed to bring those houses requiring repair up to an acceptable standard (£24.82 million to achieve tolerable standard/visible repairs up to £76.02 million for comprehensive repairs) and environmental concerns - graffiti/vandalism/parking issues/rubbish etc - a concern for some residents in the West End and in other wards, according to the survey.

Later today, I had a very useful meeting with the Head of Secondary Education about the City Campus proposal and progress with Curriculum for Excellence.   Thereafter, I held my weekly surgery at Blackness Primary School.

Edith McFee

I was saddened to learn that former Fife councillor Edith McFee has passed away, at the age of 85.

Edith represented Newport on Tay, Tayport and Wormit on Fife Regional Council and then Fife Council for 21 years.   A rather younger Fraser Macpherson helped Edith in her first election campaign back in 1982.

Edith represented all that local councillors should be - caring, hard-working and always putting constituents first.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Car sharing club for Dundee?

Last week, I attended a highly interesting and enjoyable lunchtime workshop at the University of Abertay Dundee about the possibility of Dundee establishing a city-wide car sharing scheme.

The session was chaired by Chas Ball, Director of Carplus, who promote responsible car use through car sharing clubs.  

I see real potential for this in Dundee - particularly in the parts of the West End where parking is a real problem.

The Courier published a good background report on the workshop.

Health and stability classes for West End elderly residents

I have been speaking recently with Ann Prescott, until recently Minutes Secretary and webmaster for West End Community Council.

Ann is keen to promote health and stability classes for elderly folk in the West End and has been speaking with Murray McDowell of Good Health and Fitness about this.

Murray is happy to promote such a class for local people and told me, "We would look at opening up the gym to the elderly for group training sessions working on core stability and balance.  The gym is free at 12 noon every day, we would need a minimum of 8 for the class and the class would be priced at £5 per user to cover our cost for instructors etc."

Further details are available from Murray - murray@goodhealthandfitness.co.uk or 01382 204707.

Tay Rail Bridge Disaster Memorial Trust - latest news!

Was good to see Reg Tait of the RT Burns Club speaking recently on Celtic Music Radio about the trust and the forthcoming Gael's Fire fundraising event.   The clip below also has footage from the launch of the public appeal just after last Christmas.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Refuse collection - Thomson Street and Shepherd's Loan

Following problems with the bin collection at Thomson Street yesterday that I raised with the Waste Management Department on behalf of residents, the City Council has advised :

"... there was no access to part of Thomson Street on Monday 21/2/11 due to further road works.  We made arrangements to uplift all bags presented at collection time and we will return again later in the week.   For information we have the same problem at part of Shepherds Loan and we will revisit later in the week."

Monday, February 21, 2011

Another mobile phone mast - Ninewells Avenue

At the City Council's Development Management Committee tonight, I moved refusal of yet another mobile phone mast planning application in the West End - this time at Ninewells Avenue and close to Glamis Gardens (formerly Wimberley Court) and the Hillside area.

I made the point that there is too little co-operation in mast sharing between mobile phone companies.   This application was by O2 and Vodafone, but there are already three Orange/T-Mobile masts off Riverside Drive and another on the water tower in Yarrow Terrace.

My motion to refuse read :

1. The proposed development is contrary to Policy 1 - "Vibrant and Sustainable Communities" of the Dundee Local Plan Review 2005 as the development is likely to impact adversely on the environmental quality enjoyed by local residents by reason of design and layout. There are no material considerations of sufficient strength to justify the granting of planning permission contrary to the policy.

2. The proposed development is contrary to Policy 78 - "Location of Telecommunications Equipment" of the Dundee Local Plan Review 2005 as there is a failure to demonstrate that there are no other viable options in respect of alternative locations. There are no material considerations of sufficient strength to justify the granting of planning permission contrary to the policy. 

3. The proposed development is contrary to Policy 1 of Dundee City Council's adopted Non-Statutory "Planning Policies in Relation to Telecommunications Masts and Other Apparatus" as the applicant has failed to investigate all alternative sites in order to minimise the visual impact of the proposal.

4. The proposed development is contrary to Policy 2 "Residential Areas" of Dundee City Council's adopted Non-Statutory "Planning Policies in Relation to Telecommunications Masts and Other Apparatus" as there is a general presumption against the siting of free standing masts in residential areas unless the mast is sensitively designed and sufficient justification is provided.

Unfortunately, I lost the vote 15-11, so yet another mobile phone mast will be erected in the area.

Riverside Nature Park

Having long campaigned for the public opening of the proposed Riverside Nature Park, I was delighted to get a tour round the project with council officers this morning.

There's been a huge amount of work undertaken in past months to allow the site to be finally opened to the public later this spring. The pathways, fencing and planting are all taking shape - and here's a couple of photos I took this morning :

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Bus shelter vandalism

Residents are rightly angry at the mindless vandalism of a bus shelter in Blackness Road - see right.   It is the most westerly shelter on the north side.

I have reported this to both the Police and the City Council and asked the council to make necessary repairs.

I have also asked the Head of Transportation for an update on the costs to council taxpayers of vandalism to bus shelters in 2010/11. 

Jedburgh Road

Following residents' complaints, I have raised with the Street Lighting Partnership the damaged lamp post in Jedburgh Road, at its west end.  

I have asked if it can be repaired or replaced.

Sunday song ... so which version is best?

Stop ..

Sam Brown version
Jamelia version
Sam Brown in my view!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Community Council Elections

As I reported earlier this month, it was good to see new - and more long-standing - people elected at the recent West End Community Council elections.

Although there were sufficient people elected to keep the Community Council a vibrant organisation, there are still some unfilled places.   Nominations have therefore been extended to 4th March and you can read more about this at http://tinyurl.com/weccelection

Who Cares Wins

As reported in last night's Evening Telegraph, the West End Boys Amateur Boxing Club has gained the support of the armed forces charity "Who Cares Wins."

The Who Cares Wins charity's founder Billy Fitzgerald set up the charity to find funding for a purpose built long stay mental health treatment unit for ex service personnel suffering with severe mental health problems.

Emilio Places-Rey of the West End Amateur Boxing Club told me, "If I told you that 15 months ago that I was opening a boxing club and to have Ken Buchanan as President and Billy Fitzgerald backing us, you would have thought I was crazy.

I am making my vision into reality and we have got a lot more to do.  It is thanks to people like yourself and others coming together that is making it happen."

I am pleased to support this hugely worthwhile project that is giving real opportunity to many young people in the local area.

Latest on Real Time Bus Information

Further to my last update on this, the City Council has now advised me :

"206 of the 319 powered shelters in the city have been repaired (17 Feb 2011).

The contractors have tackled the majority of the more difficult shelters (i.e. those with advertising units). A few of the unfinished shelters are at relatively advanced stages of repair.
 
I would expect the work to be completed by the end of April 2011."

Friday, February 18, 2011

Carol Anderson and Martin MacDonald perform in Dundee

On Saturday 19th February, in Dundee Library's Wighton Heritage Centre, there will be a cappuccino concert performed by traditional musicians, Carol Anderson and Martin MacDonald.

After a relaxing and sociable coffee and newspapers, served from 10.30am, the hour-long concert will begin at 11am.

Carol Anderson is an energetic and sensitive fiddle player from Aberdeenshire. She has been playing since the age of ten and was taught by Jean-Ann Callender. Over the years she has played in many bands, and is currently working with accomplished musician.

Martin MacDonald, a Lewisman and piper, whose fingerpicked guitar and 5 string banjo is extremely sympathetic to their repertoire of mainly Scottish pipe tunes.

In 2010, Carol and Martin recorded their debut CD “Single Track Road Trip” and appeared at the prestigious North Atlantic Fiddle Convention.

They are joined on Saturday by Dundee–based singer Barbara Dymock, who will add some traditional Scottish songs to their usual instrumental mix.

Admission is £5 (including coffee and newspapers).   Venue details: Wighton Centre, Dundee Central Library, Wellgate, Dundee, DD1 1DB.

Assault concern

As reported in tonight's Evening Telegraph, both I and my ward colleague Richard McCready have condemned the shocking assault last Sunday on a 23 year old man who was hit by a vehicle at the junction of Shaftesbury Road and Seymour Street.  

He was unhurt in the initial collision but then suffered a broken nose and two black eyes following the driver of the vehicle assaulting him after the collision.

This area of the West End is a very pleasant part of Dundee and this sort of dreadful assault is highly unusual.   As I indicated in the Tele tonight, whilst this may be an isolated incident, I am absolutely sure Tayside Police is making every effort to apprehend the individual responsible.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Roseangle Play Park

Following residents' concerns about the state of the paintwork at the Roseangle Play Park, I raised the matter with the Leisure & Communities Department of Dundee City Council.   I have now received the following positive reply :

"An order has been submitted to Dundee Contract Services and I understand they will deal with this as a priority as weather permits."

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Fairer Votes Dundee office opens!

Further to the meeting of the Fairer Votes campaign that I recently hosted, this evening, I was pleased to visit the Dundee Fairer Votes Office at the Micro-computing Centre of the University of Dundee, on its opening day.

Here's Robin Ford, who is leading the local team, at the office (right).

Help the Yes to Fairer Votes campaign here in Dundee - call 0755 703 5535 or e-mail yesdundee@gmail.com.

Wednesday meetings

This morning, following the meeting about pedestrian safety at the Tullideph Road/City Road junction that local residents' group Community Spirit and I had with City Council officers on 2nd February, we had a follow-up meeting at the junction.  

It was a useful discussion about safety at the junction and City Council road safety officers have offered to attend a future Community Spirit meeting to discuss concerns with local residents.

I then attended a meeting with Education officers about the building programme for the replacement Park Place Primary School, St Joseph's Primary School and Park Place Nursery School.

Thereafter, I attended the Dundee House Project Board, where I raised a number of questions and concerns about that project.   I then attended the City Council's Scrutiny Committee, at which I raised questions about numerous matters on the agenda.  

I am disappointed to learn about the lack of progress on the time it takes Dundee City Council to let vacant council houses.   The SNP administration has gone on at length about its so-called 'enhanced relets' policy.  This has cost council tenants a fortune and the net result appears that - thus far - the time taken to let houses has actually and incredibly worsened.   

The Housing Department has given a commitment to improve on the 98.7 days it took to let houses (on average) last September (it was lower at 74.5 days in September 2009) and it has now set itself a target of 65 days - although it is not clear when they expect to achieve this.   The SNP's flagship housing policy is not delivering.   

I also asked questions about ensuring that new tenants get Housing Benefit from the start of their tenancies, committee reports on revenue expenditure having better financial appraisals, customer excellence and on other matters.

Conservative councillor Derek Scott asked a very pertinent question about the lack of progress on Demand Responsive Transport (DRT).   As the previous Chair of TACTRAN, the regional transport partnership, I ensured that funding was available for pilot DRT projects for Dundee and a rural pilot in Perthshire/Stirling.   It is disappointing that the Dundee pilot has not moved forward under the SNP, as DRT would help elderly people, people with mobility difficulties and people not living near main bus routes get access to public transport.   At my request, an update report will go to City Development Committee.  This is to be welcomed.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

... and Tuesday

This afternoon, I had the pleasure of attending the AGM of the Sinderins and Pennycook Courts tenants' association.   This took place in Pennycook Court (see right) and was very well attended by residents.

Guest speaker was Iain Flett, Dundee City Archivist, who gave a really entertaining and informative talk on the West End of old - looking at a map of the West End from just after the Great War, and also taking residents on a walk up the Hawkhill of 1950, using the Dundee Directory of 1950-51.

Later this afternoon, I attended a meeting at the Vine on Magdalen Yard Road, where West End Community Council now has a community base.   We discussed ways of encouraging even more community groups in the West End to make use of the facility for meetings and social events.   This is a great resource for the area and I am very keen to see the community making use of it.

This evening, I attended the latest meeting of Harris Academy Parent Council, at which the Head of Secondary Education spoke about the City Campus proposal, the school rebuilding project and decant arrangements. 

There were also updates from the Head Teacher and the School Captains in what was an interesting and well-attended meeting.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Monday

Following the tragic accident on Riverside Drive on Sunday in which Philip Fleming of Step Row died, I have been in touch with Tayside Police and the City Council about the circumstances.  My thoughts are with Philip's family at this very difficult time for them.

Today's Courier covered my concerns about the proposed Crichton Street Collection Office closure by Royal Mail.   Astonishingly, having been advised by Royal Mail on Friday :

“We do not have a relocation date as yet but once a date is confirmed we will write to yourself, all opinion formers and business customers. Posters will go up in the branch and a customer letter or leaflet will be sent to all residential customers.”

The City Council (landlords of the collection office) advised me today :

“Councillor Macpherson,

I refer to your recent e-mail to the Chief Executive regarding the Crichton Street Collection Office.

I write to advise that the Royal Mail has served notice to terminate its lease of the subjects effective from 14th April, 2011.

This department will shortly be advertising the subjects for lease.”

The only conclusion I can draw is that Royal Mail knew perfectly well when they e-mailed me on Friday that they knew the closure date.   I have e-mailed them seeking an assurance that they will postpone the closure decision pending a proper public consultation on the future of the Crichton Street facility.

At the City Council tonight :

* I mentioned assurances I had received that a new sound system in the Caird Hall will not cause problems with acoustics in the hall.   The Caird Hall Manager has sent me a very detailed and helpful response on issues I had raised with constituents.

* I expressed concern at the freezing of Dundee Citizens' Advice Bureau's funding and the effect on its reserves.

* I mentioned the need to ensure IT expenditure is justified - I had also raised capital spend on IT at last week's budget meeting.   I am grateful to the Head of Information Technology for the response he has given to my questions on this matter.

* In one of the council's low points of late, the SNP Council Leader pressed ahead with a highly partisan motion on fuel prices that some members of the City Council could not possibly support.    It was very obvious that all councillors strongly support the Courier's excellent campaign "The Fight for Fairer Fuel" and a motion supporting the campaign could have been unanimously passed.  

However, the SNP wanted to make petty political points, so a division took place.   As I said, and the Depute Lord Provost agreed, the City Council is at its best when it is united.    The SNP is more interested in petty party politics.   An opportunity lost.   Anyone might think Joe FitzPatrick and Shona Robison are losing an election ...

Sunday, February 13, 2011

WestFest 2011!

The second WestFest will take place from Monday 13th to Sunday 19th June 2011 and already has a new logo - see left.

The team of local volunteers organising the 2011 events would welcome your support - contact them at westendfestival@rocketmail.com - many thanks!



Postal collection centre - demand for proper public consultation

Further to my meeting with Royal Mail last November, I have now called on the organistaion to postpone its planned closure of its Crichton Street Collection Office pending a proper consultation with customers and the general public.
 
This follows Royal Mail admitting that there would be “no consultation on this move as it is a business necessity change”, something that contradicts assurances given to me when I met Royal Mail in November to express my concerns about the closure.   Proper consultation is absolutely vital as it will show how vital the facility in Crichton Street is and that the public back it staying open.

I feal that Royal Mail has already made its mind up and will try to close the office in April without bothering to hold a proper consultation.   I am therefore demanding that a proper public consultation takes place.

If the Crichton Street facility closes, Royal Mail say that the Baird Avenue and Edward Street Royal Mail Centres will be the alternative available collection centres.

My major area of concern is that, although the Edward Street depot is handy for some West End residents in the Blackness/Milnbank area, for many West End residents, it is not a convenient location. It is not an easy walk for an elderly person travelling by bus. From both the 17 and 22 services' routes, the walk is hilly in places. Baird Avenue is utterly hopeless if you rely on public transport.

Royal Mail claim the Crichton Street office struggles to cope with the increased parcel business, given its limited space and it also fails to meet Disability Discrimination Act requirements.

I am convinced that the Crichton Street office could be relatively easily altered to comply with the Disability Discrimination Act. The front access is already relatively level and all it would take to comply with disability requirements is a new reception desk, repainting and provision of an induction loop.

The crucial point is that this office is extremely well situated in terms of public transport and, by comparison, the alternatives are poorly served by public transport.

Pinegrove - an update

Earlier this month, I mentioned that I had responded to residents' concerns about flooding on Perth Road at the entrance to Pinegrove (see right).

I am pleased to advise that the City Council has responded as follows :

"Following receipt of your email ... the area inspector for Perth Road arranged for the jetting and clearing of the drainage channels at Pinegrove and this has now been done."

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Real Time Bus Information

Almost exactly a year ago, the City Council advised that an electrical fault had developed in a significant number of the bus shelters and, as a result, real time bus information (RTI) was being switched off pending repairs.   

It is of concern that, 12 months later, there are still some bus shelters without their RTI back on.    This includes some shelters in Blackness Road where I have been requesting repairs, at the request of residents, for some time.

With regard to Blackness Road, I am pleased to have received this update late yesterday from the City Council's City Development Department :

"I can advise that the shelter at Blackness Road / Harrow Street was repaired on Friday, 4 February 2011. Unfortunately, the repair came just too late to be included in the batch of electrical certificates that were handed into my street lighting colleagues last Friday.

I was e-mailed today to say that the completion certificate for Harrow Street had been handed in this week. The shelter at Kelso Steps has also been repaired. The next stage is for ACIS (Real Time providers) to collect the certificates and attend the site so that the real time can be reactivated."

However, it is also important that those shelters still without their RTI switched back on see repairs undertaken as matter of urgency.

Friday, February 11, 2011

West End Local Community Planning Partnership

After a lengthy (4 hour) council budget meeting yesterday, I attended the first West End Local Community Planning Partnership of 2011.

There was a good discussion of local issues including concerns over the state of listed buildings, vandalism and parking.    

There were also useful updates from LCPP members including local police, fire and rescue, the City Council Housing Department's Private Sector Team, the Social Work Department and NHS Tayside.

Budget debate

At yesterday's City Council Policy & Resources Committee at which the City Council's budget was set, on behalf of the Liberal Democrats, I seconded a motion from Cllr George Regan on behalf of the Labour Group, that would have seen the SNP cuts-hit education budget increased by £376 000 over SNP proposals.  

This proposal would have seen a funding increase in schools' absence cover, SQA presentations funding, study support and continuing professional development for teaching staff compared to the SNP cuts agenda.  I have real concerns about the "devolution" of absence cover budgets (cut by the SNP) - there is now no central budget to help a school pay for supply teachers if its devolved budget runs out through staff illness. 

The proposal was unfortunately not supported by SNP councillors who appear, judging by their votes yesterday, more interested in sandwich lunches for councillors, alcohol purchases, councillors attending conferences and a civic car - as cutting these out would have helped pay for the additional education budget funding that the Labour Group proposed and the Liberal Democrats supported. 

The SNP administration on Dundee City Council is out of touch with public opinion - whether it is their thoroughly inadequate response to public concerns over the biomass plant proposal or their wrong calls on the council budget.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Dundee City Council Budget

On Wave 102 news this morning regarding the City Council Budget - click 'play' to listen :

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Wednesday

This morning, I attended the funeral of Jessie Gault, a much respected long standing resident of Abbotsford Street and committee member of Blackness Area Residents' Association.   Jessie was a really lovely lady and will be sadly missed.

This afternoon, I met with John Logue, Area Procurator Fiscal for Tayside, and Chief Superintendent Gavin Robertson from Tayside Police about vandalism issues.  

It was a very productive meeting and it is good to hear about the effective co-operation between the police and the procurator fiscal's office on crimes of concern to local residents.

Tavish Scott : Liberal Democrats improving the Scottish Budget for students and colleges

Dear Fraser

Today’s Scottish Budget is a major boost for students and colleges.

It has delighted the National Union of Students who have said: “The Scottish Liberal Democrats have worked very hard for students on this issue” and “This is great news”.

It will help tackle a crisis faced in Scotland’s colleges from 1st April this year. They can’t afford to wait for a new government. They need action now. As news reports in the last few days have highlighted, there are potential course closures at Elmwood, James Watt, North Highland, Dumfries & Galloway and Carnegie College and many more.
The changes we have negotiated from the Scottish Government will give thousands of students access to bursary support. That will mean they can take up their studies and find ways into work.

We have also secured funding for more than a thousand new places directly at colleges. This will help colleges who are facing severe financial pressures.

We have also secured funding for additional modern apprentices and training opportunities that rely indirectly on colleges. I raised the issue of apprenticeships in renewable energy at FMQs in the autumn. This is tackled in the Budget changes we have secured.

We are also very pleased that we have secured funding for a second year for our idea of a Post Office Diversification Fund. This benefited fifty post offices in the last year and can now benefit more this year. The fund helps post offices introduce new types of business (such as hot food or drinks). It will help them stay open, serving their communities.

Of course, this Budget and the changes we have secured will not solve all of the problems that Scotland faces. Colleges and communities still face enormous challenges. Much will have to wait until after May. Our plans for government envisage a spending review and budget revisions very quickly after the election. We have already spoken with the Permanent Secretary’s senior officials in order to brief them on our intentions to move rapidly in government.

But the steps we have secured today mean a better Budget for Scotland than would have been the case without the Scottish Liberal Democrats.

Yours sincerely,

Tavish Scott MSP
Leader, Scottish Liberal Democrats