Tuesday, May 31, 2011
Coming up for 3 years ago on www.dundeewestend.com, I mentioned the various versions of the classic song "You don't know me" and invited views on which version is best. Out of the blue, I received this rather late entry in my in-box yesterday!
"I appreciate Elvis's version of "You don't know me" and Willie Nelson's as well. However, my favorite by far is the version by Mickey Gilley. I may have a bias due to the fact that this is the first version that I remember hearing and at a time when it had some meaning in my life. If you have not heard his version, try it out. I don't think you will be disappointed. Fun Blog post even though I'm nearly three years late."
So here it is!
Monday, May 30, 2011
Back in 2007, the City Council agreed with a Liberal Democrat manifesto pledge to increase annual expenditure on upgrading unadopted pavements in the City from £200 000 to £500 000. I was therefore pleased to be advised last week by the City Engineer that the City Council intends to upgrade pavements in
Marchfield Road, Marchfield Crescent and the north side of Menzieshill Road during 2011/12. However, I have queried with the City Engineer why a number of West End pavements that have high priority will not be upgraded until the following financial year.
Pavements in a number of other streets in the West End also have high priority, including the cul de sacs of Invergowrie Drive and the pavements in Oxford Street, Kelso Place, Cambridge Street and Harrow Street and I had hoped to see these brought up to standard this year. I have queried this with the City Engineer as I want to see these pavements brought up to standard as soon as possible.
Sunday, May 29, 2011
I was pleased to hear yesterday from Emilio Places-Rey of the West End Boys' Amateur Boxing Club to let me know that the boxing club's great work with young people in Dundee is featured in the "Real Lives" section of this week's Herald Magazine.
If you haven't seen yesterday's Herald Magazine, you can get the magazine via subscription at http://theherald.newspaperdirect.com although I expect the article will soon appear on the "Real Lives" section of the Herald's website (at http://www.heraldscotland.com/life-style/real-lives).
The article entitled "Saved by the Bell" is really interesting and it is good to see recognition of what the boxing club is achieving locally.
|Images from the Herald Magazine article|
Saturday, May 28, 2011
At the request of residents, I recently asked the City Council about the possibility of providing plastics recycling facilities at Tesco Riverside. Many local residents have yet to be provided with the "green recycling boxes" that cater for plastics, bottles, etc and the provision of plastics recycling facilities at Tesco Riverside would be of benefit.
The City Council has responded as follows :
"I'm afraid we are currently unable to provide plastics recycling bins at Tesco Riverside. As I thought, this had been considered when the current bins were originally installed but could not be implemented due to issues with both space at the site and operational capacity. As plastics do not compact under their own weight as other wastes do, these bins tend to fill up much more quickly than others. In order to cope with anticipated usage therefore, a greater number of bins on a more frequent collection schedule is required - a provision we unfortunately do not currently have the operational capacity to fulfill.
While this is the situation at the moment, I must stress that we do intend to provide plastics recycling facilities at this very popular site at some point in the future, although I'm afraid I cannot provide any timescales for this at present. In anticipation of the forthcoming legislative requirements for waste & recycling, we've had to change our policy on recycling provision & look at the implementation of full city-wide services rather than adding to individual sites in isolation. We therefore require further efficiencies throughout our service in order to allow for any such future rollout plans."
I do hope it will be possible to look at this again in the near future, particularly as the recycling facilities at Tesco are well-used. The City Council has a fair bit to go in terms of rolling out plastics recycling to many homes in Dundee. I also asked - again following residents' requests - about the possibility of having a plastics recycling facility at Neighbourhood Recycling Points (like this one at Lochee Road/Mitchell Street) and have received the following reply from Dundee City Council :
"At the moment we don't have any provision for plastics at our NRPs. The size of the containers combined with the bulkiness of the plastics would necessitate more frequent uplifts than we currently have the operational capacity for. Greater plastics provision at bring sites is something we're keen to investigate further in future but any current NRP sites would provide bins for recycling three colours of glass and paper & cardboard only."
Friday, May 27, 2011
* On Thursday morning, I took part in the second Harris Academy Project Board that will oversee the Harris Academy rebuilding project.
* In the afternoon, I attended part of the City Council's Housing Best Value Review Group, at which I raised questions regarding the performance of the City Council in re-letting empty council houses, an issue I have previously raised at the council's Scrutiny Committee.
* Thereafter, I chaired the first meeting of the West End Christmas Week 2011 committee. Early days in planning this year's Christmas Week, but great progress and enthusiasm!
As reported in yesterday's Evening Telegraph and today's Courier, I have expressed concern at the City Council’s expenditure of £567 297 on office furniture for the new Dundee House, particularly in relation to the way in which the expenditure has been approved in a wholly unsatisfactory way, lacking in openness and transparency.
On numerous occasions over many months at the Dundee House Project Board, I have expressed concerns at the possibility of the council spending large sums of taxpayers’ money on furniture and I made it very clear that any decision on such expenditure should be brought to a council committee for debate and discussion before any expenditure took place.
I am furious about the way in which this contract has been decided – over half a million pounds decided by “convener’s approval” – a method of delegated approval because of “short timescales”. The council has known it was moving into Dundee House for years – I simply don’t accept that the matter could not be brought to committee for a proper debate and discussion before this level of expenditure is made.
When council officers advised that this contract was to be authorised by the “Convener’s Approval” method, I requested that the Chief Executive bring the matter to an urgent meeting of the Policy & Resources Committee earlier this week, rather than what the officers were proposing (it simply being noted at a meeting of the Policy and Resources Committee in the middle of June, long after the contracts are signed and a 10 day ‘standstill period’ is over). However, this request for discussion at Monday’s Committees was refused and the matter will be simply “noted” at committee meetings on 13th June.
I wrote to the Chief Executive on Monday as follows :
“I am very unhappy about the situation given the amount of expenditure & the fact that there will be absolutely no discussion of this until 13th June, by which time the 10 day standstill period will be over. Officers regularly ask the Convener for approval to place items on committee agendas at extremely short notice – I’ve seen it where the first I knew about an item was when I saw it sitting on my desk in the council chamber.
Far better that, however, than to rush it through under delegated powers then fail to report it to committee for three weeks. It would have been good practice to bring it to committee tonight and I would have thought that was obvious.”
A full debate on the matter is important particularly given that 85% of the contract has been awarded to companies that are not Dundee-based; the level of contract award to Dundee companies was just £87 750 out of £567 297.
This is a very large contract of over £0.5 million and it would have been right and proper that there was a full discussion and debate over this expenditure coming at a time of such significant financial challenges facing the City Council. The way this has been handled is highly unsatisfactory.
I have today sent a detailed list of questions about the tendering process to the Chief Executive and the Chief Architectural Services Officer.
Thursday, May 26, 2011
We had a superbly well-attended Friends of Magdalen Green AGM and Public Lecture last night, with around 60 people attending the event at Dundee West Church.
Professor Charles McKean gave an hugely informative, entertaining and thought-provoking lecture - here's a short video clip from his talk and a few photos :
|Professor McKean addresses the audience|
|Angela Mehlert, Friends of Magdalen Green Chair, opens the AGM|
|A great turnout of local residents!|
Wednesday, May 25, 2011
Although I will have my usual surgery tomorrow night at Blackness Primary School at 6.15pm, because next Monday - 30th May - is the Victoria Day holiday, my surgeries will not run then.
However, I can be contacted at any time on 459378 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
* Last night, I attended the Blackness Primary School Parent Council meeting at which, in addition to planning for the school's fete on 11th June, we discussed a number of issues including the need for 'zig zag' no parking markings adjacent to the school. I have again raised this matter with the City Council's Head of Transportation.
* Later last night, I attended the River Crescent Residents' Association meeting. We had a useful discussion about a number of local matters including a local water leak issue (I have raised with Scottish Water), road safety locally and pathway access to the soon to be opened Riverside Nature Park.
* The Courier this morning published Dundee councillors' allowances and expenses totals for 2010/11. My LibDem colleague Helen Dick and I again have the lowest claims, claiming no expenses at all and maintaining a salary cut that we have taken since April 2009.
Tuesday, May 24, 2011
City Council Sports Development is holding a Fun Day on Friday 27th May in the City Centre. All activities will be FREE on the day with something available for participants aged 3 months and up.
The Fun Day is open from 11am and will finish at 3pm. Activities available on the day are Street Football, Dance, Rugby, Basic Moves, Basketball, Street Athletics, Hockey, Mini Kickers, Mini Rugby and activities for people with a disability.
The Wave 102 roadshow will also be present and will be situated in the City Square to engage with the local crowds.
So come along and remain active during this city wide schools in-service day. There will be lots of prizes and goodies handed out to participants on the day.
For further information on the Sports Development Fun Day go to www.dundeesportsdevelopment.com.
The City Council has advised me that it has processed Orders for pothole repairs in both Hillcrest Road and Marchfield Road, following my passing on residents' concerns.
The road condition in Hillcrest Road is particularly poor and I have asked the Roads Maintenance Partnership to consider full road reinstatement works here.
Monday, May 23, 2011
Just before my Monday surgeries at the Mitchell Street Centre and at Harris Academy late this afternoon, I took part in a site visit on Magdalen Green with a colleague from Friends of Magdalen Green and with council officers to look at various issues following cycle path work recently. To say it was windy on the Green would be understatement of the year - and the effects of today's wind was evident to see right across the city, not least at the back of the City Chambers in Crichton Street tonight - see right.
At tonight's City Council committees, I asked questions at the Education Committee about the future support for primary schools in tackling parking problems near school entrances and at City Development Committee questioned the very significant costs associated with utility diversion works at the Waterfront and also sought assurances about the future robustness of public transport real time information systems across the city.
Sunday, May 22, 2011
This afternoon, along with councillor colleagues and two of the area's MSPs, I took part in the launch of the Dundee WestFest World Record Piggy Back Race Attempt! Here's a photo and the WestFest Press Release below sort of explains all ...!
Dundee WestFest is announcing an attempt at the official Guinness World Record for the biggest Piggy Back Race .
The launch will take place this Sunday 22/5/11 at 1 pm at the Bandstand on Magdalen Green Dundee
Taking part in the launch will be Councillors Fraser Macpherson, Jim Barrie and Donald Hay, MSPs Jenny Marra and Joe Fitzpatrick
along with a fancy dress pig and jockey and a small crowd.
Dundee WestFest a world record
The record breaking attempt, being held on Fathers' Day, will be the centrepiece of Big Sunday (19/6/11) WestFest's gala day on Magdalen Green to bring the weeklong festival to a close. The event is open to all but the organisers want as many fathers and their children as possible to celebrate the day by being part of a World Record. Big Sunday will see Magdalen Green filled with an afternoon of fun events; community group and sport displays; the Courier's and Fat Sam's Rock Talk Stage featuring the best local bands; Radio Tay's Road Show; a beer tent; craft and food stalls as well as a car show.
The attempt is a celebration of Dundee’s other world record; the longest journey by a seaplane achieved by the Mercury Maia flight. The feat was accomplished using a small seaplane riding piggyback on a larger one and flew from Dundee to Orange River South Africa in 1938.
Chair of WestFest Paola McClure said, "We thought this would be a really fun event. We need over three hundred people to smash the record so we are asking local community groups, sports teams, clubs and businesses or individual pairs to join in. We hope people will use it as an opportunity to get sponsorship for their own groups or charities. We have even arranged a discount at Party Wizard if people want to take part in fancy dress". Details of how to enter can be found on the WestFest website www.dundeewestfest.co.uk, by emailing email@example.com or calling 07432 377321
"We are looking forward to a week of great events from classical guitar to cabaret and alternative music. There will be taster sessions on offer in things such as dance and circus skills and new things are being added to the website calendar every day. Drama and literature are not being overlooked and there will be something for everyone including children’s storytelling, book launches, poetry reading in an unusual venue and the unmissable Bob Servant Hero Of Dundee introduced by the author Neil Forsyth and portrayed by Dundee Rep’s John Buick. Nor is the week without a bit of clout; on Friday 17th January, at the invitation of WestFest, Dundee’s Brian Taylor will be broadcasting the Big Debate live from the Bonar Hall, so if you have ever wanted the opportunity to put the people who make things happen on the spot, now is your chance. The shape of the programme is governed by the questions posed by the audience but we expect issues such as community and the big society and Scottish independence to be hot topics." Details of how to join in can be found on the BBC Scotland website.
Chair Paola McClure continued, "WestFest’s Big Sunday is also open to community groups who would like a space for setting up their own stall or activity, Whether it is to raise funds or let the world know what they do, we invite them to join in and help make it a week to remember. WestFest is all about the community of Dundee so speak up and join in."
Following residents' complaints about the extremely poor road surface - including potholes - in Osborne Place, I have requested that the City Council repair the roadway, but also consider future resurfacing, given the very poor condition of the road (see right).
* A reminder that the Friends of Magdalen Green Free Public Lecture and AGM takes place at Dundee West Church at 7pm on Wednesday. The speaker is Professor Charles McKean on the subject of "Did the 20th Century nearly kill Dundee?" - it will be a fascinating talk and complimentary refreshments will also be provided. All residents extremely welcome!
* On Thursday afternoon, we are holding the very first planning meeting for West End Christmas Week 2011. Christmas Week takes a lot of planning; hence the start of meetings so early in the year! We're very grateful for all local residents and businesses who help with Christmas Week and if you'd like to assist, please contact by e-mail - firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone - 459378.
Saturday, May 21, 2011
I recently received a concern from a West End resident about the state of the Benvie Road steps down to Lochee Road.
I raised his concern with the City Engineer, who has responded as follows :
"Benvie Road steps are part of the Council's adopted road network and as such are inspected regularly. Following your enquiry, the Road Maintenance Partnership inspector for the area inspected the steps and has raised an order to re-set two slabs on the top step. No other actionable defects were identified during his inspection."
Last night, Janet & I had the pleasure of attending a reception at Dundee One at which Kengo Kuma (right), lead architect for the V&A at Dundee project, gave a very informative presentation on this project and previous projects he has led.
Kengo Kuma is giving further presentations today as part of the Ignite your weekend! events I mentioned yesterday.
|V&A at Dundee winning design|
Friday, May 20, 2011
Last night, I attended the quarterly West End Local Community Planning Partnership meeting at the Tartan Coffee House in Perth Road. This is a good opportunity for representatives from different council departments, councillors and representatives from other organisations like police, fire and rescue and the NHS to discuss local issues and matters of concern and also let local residents raise issues, ask questions and have their say.
It was a very productive meeting, stretching over two and a half hours and covering many issues. There was an excellent presentation on Community Payback Orders, discussions about derelict buildings, residents' parking, the new local community plan for the West End and the consultation process, refuse issues and a host of other topics were discussed.
The Tayside Fire and Rescue representative advised that there will be an Open Day at Blackness Fire Station on Saturday 2nd July - more on that to follow!
Yesterday, along with five fellow councillors representing wards in other parts of Dundee and the City Council's Chief Executive, I met with two senior representatives of Royal Mail to discuss postal issues in the city.
The meeting was primarily as a result of the concerns from councillors who serve communities covered by the Dundee East Sorting Office and therefore much of the discussion surrounded the issues about the mail service in the east of the city.
However, I look the opportunity to raise two issues affecting the West End :
* The Royal Mail intends to roll-out the revised mail deliver system to both the Central and West Sorting offices in due course (the so-called "Way Forward"). I was advised that Royal Mail has the introduction of the revised arrangements now planned for January 2012 for the West Sorting Office and for June 2012 for the Central Delivery Office. I made the point that, given the very significant problems introducing the "Way Forward" in the east of Dundee, introducing the new system in much of the west area in the depths of winter was not a good idea. The Royal Mail representatives said they were 'sensitive' to my point so I am hoping that a rethink on a January 2012 start date will be considered.
* I raised the need to retain a City Centre Parcel Collection facility. Royal Mail has extended their lease at Crichton Street for 6 months but I am anxious to ensure that a facility in the City Centre is retained given its good public transport links and the much poorer public transport links at 'alternative' sites such as Baird Avenue. The Royal Mail representatives committed to informal discussions with the City Council over the future parcel collection facility and I welcome their willingness to have what I hope will be a constructive dialogue with City Councillors over this important facility.
Following the disruption to National Express Dundee bus services yesterday, the bus company has advised me this morning :
"The service is now back to normal. National Express is looking at ways to compensate passengers who had tickets and who were unable to get home and information regarding this will be reported in the press."
Thursday, May 19, 2011
WestFest 2011 is taking great shape and the team organising the week's events have put in huge effort.
There's now a detailed calendar of events available online and there's no doubt that it will be a superb week!
Good news on the Olympics Torch Relay - from Dundee City Council tonight :
The Torch Relay will start on Saturday, 19th May 2012 and then travel around the UK for 70 days. On Friday 27th July 2012 the Flame will enter the Olympic Stadium to light the cauldron in the Opening Ceremony and formally start the London 2012 Olympic Games.
The London 2012 Organising Committee of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games (LOCOG) confirmed the first 74 locations on the route yesterday. Many more will follow as the content of each day is put in place throughout the rest of the year.
Dundee has been confirmed as one of 6 Evening Celebration Sites within Scotland - 66 in total throughout the UK - as part of the London 2012 Olympic Torch Relay.
On the 12th June 2012, the Torch will reach the Dundee City area and will travel a route throughout the city arriving at the Evening Celebration Site. Details of the venue and route will be announced at a later date. Visit the Dundee page.
Once the complete route is confirmed later in the year, we are aiming that 95% of the population will be within a one hour journey of the Olympic Flame. The London 2012 Olympic Torch Relay is the Games on your doorstep and we invite you to nominate someone to be a Torchbearer in your Relay.
Torchbearers Nomination Process
Together with the three Presenting Partners – Coca-Cola, Lloyds TSB and Samsung, LOCOG is seeking 8,000 of the most inspirational people to have their moment to shine next summer by carrying the Olympic Flame.
The LOCOG Torchbearer programme to find 2,012 inspirational people who have gone beyond their personal best will run for six weeks from 18th May. The nomination portal at www.london2012.com/olympictorchrelay asks nominators for up to 150 words on why their nominee should carry the Olympic Flame. The deadline for nominating through the LOCOG campaign is 11.59pm on Wednesday 29th June 2011. Judging panels will be set up in each Nation and Region of the UK to select the Torchbearers for their area.
90% of the 8,000 Torchbearer places will be made available to the public through a number of channels including the four public nomination campaigns to be run by LOCOG, Coca-Cola, Lloyds TSB and Samsung. Each of the 8,000 Torchbearers will have a story of achievement and or contribution to their local community.
Wednesday, May 18, 2011
As I reported recently, there was an excellent fundraising event in February - Gael's Fire - at Balgonie Castle and in aid of the Tay Rail Bridge Disaster Memorial Trust.
At tonight's Trust meeting, I was pleased to take this photograph of Stuart Morris of Balgonie, Trust Chair, with a cheque for £1700, to add to the Trust's Memorial Appeal :
* I am pleased to note that some of the dropped kerbing around the Corso Street area that I requested last year on behalf of residents is now being installed - see example at the junction of Corso Street and Peddie Street (right).
* Last night, I attended the Harris Academy Parent Council meeting and, following this, have been in touch with the Head of Secondary Education regarding issues raised.
* I was pleased to be advised by the City Engineer recently that the weeds spraying programme at road edges etc commenced last week. This year, the programme will start in the west of the city and progress eastwards and am pleased to be assured that extra resources will be put into herbicide application of street trees in streets like Blackness Road and Blackness Avenue.
* Today's Courier featured an update on the concerns I have raised about the large and ugly utility boxes BT Openreach is installing in Conservation Areas such as on Magdalen Green.
Tuesday, May 17, 2011
As reported in this morning's Courier and tonight's Evening Telegraph, I am of the view that last night’s decision by City Councillors to approve 3 “superfast broadband” cabinets in parts of the West End in conservation areas create an unnecessary blot on the landscape in areas that are historic and should be the subject of heritage protection.
At last night’s City Council Development Management Committee, I proposed that the applicant, BT Openreach, be asked to think again on the design of these large boxes, but my motion to do so was unfortunately defeated 14-10.
The motion read :
"The development is contrary to Policy 61 : Development in Conservation Areas of the Dundee Local Plan Review 2005 as it fails to preserve or enhance the character of the surrounding area by reason ofthe inappropriate size, scale, design and location of the proposed box.
For the same reason, it also fails to meet the requirements of Section 64 of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) (Scotland) Act 1997."
I don’t think anyone objects to the provision of superfast Broadband but the question is are the boxes housing the cabling appropriate for Conservation Areas? The boxes are much larger than the usual utilities box at some 1.6 metres high so they are very noticeable. There’s been absolutely no attempt by BT Openreach to provide a box that has a heritage style appearance more in keeping with a Conservation Area.
These boxes outwith Conservation Areas do not require planning approval but have already attracted criticism as they are large and ugly - BT Openreach is rolling out these large boxes that they have purchased in China, right across the UK, including at historic and conservation sites.
It is deeply disappointing that BT is not prepared to look at something more acceptable in Conservation Areas. One of these boxes will go on the edge of Magdalen Green, where the City Council has placed heritage style litter bins, precisely to ensure they look appropriate in the conservation setting.
So I call on BT Openreach to look again at the style of utility box they are using for this project given the significantly larger size these are when compared to usual utility boxes. A large national company like BT should take account of the appropriateness of its street furniture for the setting they are placed in and these big ugly boxes should not be sitting in the city’s Conservation Areas. There are alternative styles that are more appropriate and I call on the company to consider these.
As one of the first Scottish Liberal Democrats to declare for Willie Rennie as our new party leader, I was delighted to learn earlier today that Willie has become Scottish Liberal Democrat leader.
Here's the party's news release :
Rennie new leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats
Monday, May 16, 2011
After months of road closures to allow for works by Scottish Water, then Scotland Gas Networks, and finally Tayside Contracts to resurface the road, Thomson Street has now permanently reopened.
The new road surface is excellent and it was good to be advised earlier today that the disabled parking bays for residents have been repainted.
The residents of Thomson Street have shown great patience through months of disruption and will be relieved to see the road upgraded and back open permanently.
Late last month, I highlighted residents' concerns that the safety barriers at the Peddie Street/Hawkhill junction are damaged.
I brought this to the attention of the City Council and have since been updated as follows :
"These barriers on Hawkhill at the foot of
Peddie Street were checked ... and an order has now been raised to replace two damaged panels and three posts. This work will be carried out within the next three weeks."
Sunday, May 15, 2011
This year the University of Dundee Botanic Garden celebrates its 40th anniversary. The Friends have their AGM on Wednesday 25th May and, in addition to refreshments, there's a twilight walk round the Garden beforehand.
Saturday, May 14, 2011
Today is World Fair Trade Day. Our local Dundee Fair Trade Forum marked the day with a stall in the City Centre. I recently asked the City Council for an update on its support for Fair Trade and received the following response:
"The Chief Executive asked me to respond direct to your enquiry about the Council's commitment to Fair Trade. This is demonstrated in the following ways:
- the Fair Trade logo now appears on the front page of the Council's website, and takes visitors to information about the Council's approach to Fair Trade and to a link to the Fair Trade Foundation's website
- a number of Councillors from various parties are actively involved in promoting Fair Trade. In addition to your own involvement, Councillor McCready now chairs the Fair Trade Forum (in a personal capacity) and Councillor Bowes represents the Administration Group. Around 25% of members attended a briefing held during Fair Trade Fortnight last year
- the Council's catering franchise agreement now states that 'The Council is committed to the promotion of Fair Trade products and this should be reflected in any proposals submitted'. As a result, the Caird Hall and McManus Galleries cafe now serve Fair Trade products. The Central Library has a Fair Trade vending machine
- the Council's Corporate Procurement Strategy states that 'to advance ethical procurement it will work in partnership with the Dundee Fair Trade organisation to achieve their aims'
- the Leisure and Communities Department was one of the partners involved in organising a Strictly Fair Trade Tea Dance in 2010, while the Education Department has continued to encourage schools to take part in Fair Trade projects. At the last count, 8 schools were working towards Fair Trade School status and primary teachers have taken part in several CPD sessions on Fair Trade
One area in which the Fair Trade Forum continues to seek a change in Council policy is in terms of a commitment to use Fair Trade products whenever possible (e.g. at meetings and when offering hospitality) As you know, the Council makes Fair Trade products available, but does not use these exclusively."
A member of the Dundee Fair Trade Forum has made some suggestions to me about further ways the council can assist and I raised these with Dundee City Council. Already, there has been a positive response to some - for example, adding a link to the Dundee Fair Trade Forum's website to the Fair Trade page on the Council's website.