Tuesday 31 January 2012

Local Government Information Unit Awards 2012

I was delighted to learn today that I have been shortlisted in the Local Government Information Unit (LGiU) Awards 2012 in the "Online Councillor of the Year" category!     I was particularly honoured as I am the only  councillor from a Scottish local authority shortlisted in any of the 11 categories.

LGiU advised me :

"I am pleased to inform you that you have been shortlisted for an award at the 2012 LGiU and CCLA C’llr Achievement Awards.
Now in their third year, the C’llr Achievement Awards are established as the only national ceremony to recognise and reward the fantastic work of councillors from across the political spectrum.
There are 11 different awards on offer in 2012, and the shortlists for each category are now available on the LGiU blog.
The winners in each category will be announced at a ceremony in Westminster City Hall on 27th February, 2012. Several high profile speakers are expected to attend, including Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Eric Pickles (confirmed). An official invitation to the ceremony will be emailed to you later this week.
Congratulations on being shortlisted."
I am very grateful for being nominated and shortlisted.

Riverside Drive Walkway - an update

Further to my article earlier this month about concerns from residents about the state of the walkway from the railway station to Tesco Riverside and the fact that it is claustrophobic given the concrete barriers that Network Rail has insisted upon being in place as the adjacent roadway runs in parallel to the rail station concourse, I have now received the following useful update from the City Council's Director of City Development:

"We have now met with Network Rail and they have agreed that we can extend the Riverside layby to both the east and the west. Network Rail were concerned with the potential for accidental collision to their structure particularly at the new enlarged west access. We have mitigated their concerns by proposing 'Trief' safety kerbs at the entrance together with some protective bollards.

I have attached a copy of our plan showing our proposals. The remaining area from our proposed layby to Tesco roundabout has now had shrubs cut back providing much improved visibility and our proposals have reduced the length of high concrete containment barrier by 40% which will dramatically increase vehicular / pedestrian activity at the layby. Together these proposals should improve the security and visual perception of the area."

I view this as positive progress towards removing the claustrophobic nature of the walkway.   The plans referred to above can be downloaded at http://tinyurl.com/riversidewalkway.

Monday 30 January 2012

Jim Opray

I was very saddened to learn of the death of Jim Opray, former councillor for Ancrum Ward back in the 1980s and my Conservative opponent when I was first elected to the City Council at the Tay Bridges Ward by-election in 2001.

Jim was an absolute gentleman who worked for the local community in so many ways.   In addition to being a former District Councillor, he was a board member at Tayside Recyclers and a volunteer at the University of Dundee Botanic Garden.

Jim made a real contribution to the community and will be sadly missed and long remembered.

Good news on the Roseangle Car Park

I have welcomed feedback that the City Council will give priority to my request to upgrade the Roseangle Car Park early in the new financial year 2012/13.

I have been asking the council for some time to resurface the car park - see its condition - right.   It is in a really poor state with loads of bad potholes and very worn parking bay lining.    The car park is very well-used in an area where finding a parking space is often difficult.  Last year I requested resurfacing only to be told there was no money for it in this year’s budget.

I therefore requested that the City Development Department Director give priority to the car park early in the 2012/13 financial year when he has a refreshed budget and am pleased to say the response looks promising.

The Director of City Development has advised me :

“I have discussed this with the Head of Transportation and he agrees that the resurfacing will be prioritised early next Financial Year.  This is conditional on the car parking CFCR budget remaining at the same level as Financial Year 2011/12 and this will only be confirmed at the budget setting meeting of the Policy and Resources Committee.”

Hopefully therefore we will see this confirmed at the budget meeting in early February.    Local residents will greatly welcome the resurfacing of this badly surfaced car park.

Sunday 29 January 2012

On Wave 102 news

I am on Wave 102 news this morning about my call to increase funding for improvements across 7 schools in the city including Ancrum Road and Blackness Primary Schools.   Click 'play' to listen :

Getting things done ... Magdalen Green fencing

Some years ago, at my request and those of local residents, the City Council erected some fencing at the east end of the Green, near to the Riverside Approach/Magdalen Yard Road junction, to stop a minority of irresponsible drivers from parking on the Green edge and damaging the grass.

The fencing has worked pretty well, but some of it has fallen - see right - so at the request of residents and the Friends of Magdalen Green I have asked the council's Environment Department to have it sorted.

The Department's Head of Environmental Management has kindly agreed to get the fencing re-erected.

Saturday 28 January 2012

Stunning photograph!

With thanks to my good friend and Chair of Friends of Magdalen Green, Dr Angela Mehlert, here's a stunning photo she recently took of the Tay Rail Bridge :

Latest update from Friends of Wighton ...

Ann Heymann
On Wednesday 1st February, the celebrated harpist Ann Heymann will be in Dundee for a special concert and workshop of ancient and historical Scottish and Irish harp music.

Ann is the world's best known and most highly regarded historical Gaelic harp player. Based in Minnesota, USA, this is her first visit to Scotland for many years and the Friends of Wighton are delighted that she will be visiting Dundee to teach and perform in the Wighton Centre, upstairs in Dundee Central Library.

Ann will perform a lunchtime concert on Wednesday 1st February from 1.15pm to 1.45pm. The concert will be performed on a beautiful, craftsman- made replica of the medieval Scottish "Lamont" harp with strings of brass, silver and solid gold wire, and will feature music from medieval times through to the 18th century traditions. Since the 1st of February is St Bride's or St. Bridget's day, Ann will also perform medieval music associated with this ancient Celtic saint.  Admission to the concert is free.

After the concert, from 2pm, she will present a demonstration and masterclass, which provides a chance for any harpists to bring their instruments and get some inspiring tuition from one of the world's masters; this is also a chance for anyone interested in the old Gaelic traditions to stay in the audience and watch the workshop.    Admission to this part of the event is £10 for participating harpists, and £5 for audience members.

A master in the performance and traditions of the Gaelic harp, Ann Heymann continues to spearhead the instrument's revival, recording, performing and teaching around the world. Recent recordings include the critically acclaimed "Cruit go nOr - Harp of Gold" and "Queen of Harps". Her books include the seminal tutor for the old Gaelic harp traditions, "Secrets of the Gaelic Harp" as well as a groundbreaking method book "Coupled Hands for Harpers".

For more information about Ann Heymann including sound clips, photos and biographies please visit http://www.annheymann.com

For more information about the Friends of Wighton and their concert series, please visit http://www.friendsofwighton.com

For more details of these events please call 07792 336804 or email secretary@friendsofwighton.com

Friday 27 January 2012

Our schools deserve better than a Sixty Minute Makeover

I have today highlighted my concerns about aspects of the proposed Dundee City Council Capital Budget and urged that there be a cross-party discussion about ways to improve the proposals to benefit the city’s schools.

There’s much to welcome in the draft capital budget and in particular the proposal to build new primary schools in Menzieshill and Coldside is good news, especially given the state of some existing school buildings.    The total of £20m investment in these two areas will not only bring new primary schools but also community facilities and given the funding level for Menzieshill, presumably new nursery facilities may be possible there too.

However, it is over capital expenditure for other primary schools identified for improvement where I am critical of what is being proposed as the funding is simply inadequate and must be increased.     Seven other schools across Dundee have been identified, including Blackness and Ancrum Road Primary Schools that serve large parts of the West End Ward.  

The recognition of the need to improve facilities at these seven schools is welcome but the amount of funding at only £250 000 per school and that is simply not enough funding to make the sort of modernisation that these seven schools deserve.    It should be remembered that a new-build primary school costs in the order of £9-10 million.      These seven primary schools deserve more than a sixty minute makeover.

I have a specific proposal to make the improvements at Glebelands, Clepington, St Mary’s, Longhaugh, Dens Road, Ancrum Road and Blackness Primary Schools a whole lot better by allocating them £1 million each over the lifetime of the next Capital Plan – four times the proposed funding.

£1m per school is affordable if we consign to the bin another proposed set of expenditure on new headquarters and depots for the Environment Department.   The council has already spent around £35 million on Dundee House and more expenditure on other council offices.   It is about time to focus on our schools and, by abandoning ideas of further council department headquarters and by focussing on schools, we can increase expenditure on at Glebelands, Clepington, St Mary’s, Longhaugh, Dens Road, Ancrum Road and Blackness Primary Schools to £1 million for each school.  

No business case has been brought before a city council committee to make a case for more money being spent on council headquarters buildings.    It would be better spent on our schools.

Thursday 26 January 2012

Getting things done ... Peddie Street

Towards the end of last year, I was pleased to report the introduction of a trial for Eurobins at the north end of Peddie Street, to replace the wheelie bin collection that was not working and that residents had asked for a re-think about.

The trial has worked well and feedback from residents has been very positive but, as a number of residents have pointed out, the lack of concrete blocks to weigh down the Eurobins leaves the possibility of them being insecure - see right.   Blocks are used at other locations to keep Eurobins securely in place.

The City Council has assured me that the bins will be properly weighted down as soon as possible and has also given a commitment to re-site the bin at the east end of Abbotsford Place to improve parking.

TayScreen is 10!

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of attending a very enjoyable event at Dundee Contemporary Arts as part of the 10th Anniversary celebrations of TayScreen that has done so much good work to promote Fife and Tayside for media development and film and TV production, post-production and animation.   

My involvement with TayScreen stems from our joint interest in promoting local television for Dundee, wider Tayside and North Fife, a project now with great potential.

Keith Partridge (right), a Fife-based adventure cameraman, gave a superb talk with dramatic film footage of some of his work.   

In his seminar session, Keith talked about adventure camera work and what it is like to undertake production in remote and dangerous places.  His presentation was hugely impressive and you can find out more about Keith's work at www.adventurecamera.co.uk.

Wednesday 25 January 2012

Kathleen Smith

It is with great sadness that I learned yesterday of the death of Kathleen Smith, Honorary President of Dundee Liberal Democrat Association.   Kathleen was 89 and passed away just a few weeks after the death of her husband of 63 years, Jack.

Kathleen and Jack were both leading members of Dundee West Liberal Association and thereafter Dundee Liberal Democrats over many years.   They helped keep the Liberal cause going in the difficult days of the 1950s and 1960s and, as a young election agent in 1984, I remember Kathleen's kindness in giving a generous donation towards the election of Dundee's first Liberal District Councillor.

Kathleen was a parliamentary candidate in Perth and East Perthshire at the February 1974 general election and also at the Tayside Regional Council election the same year in the then Central/Riverside Division, which covers much of my current West End Ward area.    In the Regional Council election she ran a spirited campaign and laid the foundations of future electoral success.    Both Kathleen and Jack were very supportive of my election campaigns in the West End, for which I will always be extremely grateful.

In addition to her highly successful role as Rector's Assessor at the University of Dundee during the rectorships of Sir Clement Freud and Lord Mackie of Benshie (1974-83), Kathleen was a long-standing elder of Meadowside St Paul's Church.

My thoughts are with Kathleen's family at this sad time.

Presentation to Blackness Primary School pupil

Yesterday, Frances Tait, Chair of the Friends of the University of Dundee Botanic Garden, and I had the pleasure of presenting prizes to Blackness Primary School pupil Gary Scott, age 10, winner of the West End Christmas Week children's window spotting competition.

Gary correctly spotted where the letters of C-H-R-I-S-T-M-A-S were located in Perth Road shops and wins a year's Family Membership of the Botanic Garden and a book token.

On Wave 102 news ...

I was on the Wave 102 news yesterday speaking about my concerns over a likely hike in street lighting costs - click 'play' to listen:

Tuesday 24 January 2012

Getting things done ... Benvie Steps

Residents have contacted me regarding the damaged fencing art the Benvie Steps that lead from Lochee Road to Benvie Road - see right.    Residents are concerned about the access to the former garage site and also to an adjacent tenement's back garden

I contacted the City Council about this and the City Engineer has advised :

"An order has been raised for the repair of two linear metres of fence on the east side at the top of the Benvie Road steps. 

The work has yet to be programmed but the Road Maintenance Partnership will update you once this information becomes available."

Perth Road pavement improvements

It was good to see the Perth Road pavement improvements work start yesterday that will see resurfacing on the south side between Step Row and Shepherd's Loan in the shopping area - see right.

I spoke with the council's Roads Maintenance Partnership yesterday about issues raised by local shops.   I am grateful to the Roads Maintenance Partnership for the very prompt response to these matters.

Monday 23 January 2012

Tonight's City Council meetings

Tonight, after my weekly surgeries at Harris Academy and the Mitchell Street Centre, I attended City Council committee meetings at which:

* At the Education Committee, I welcomed the recommendation not to progress a 33 period model in Dundee's secondary schools.   I also queried why the council did not have the foresight to build the new Kingspark School  large enough to accommodate the proposed additional four classrooms, now being proposed at a cost of an additional £1.1 million.    Of course, if the school needs the additional rooms, they must be provided, but it is a real pity that a school that opened as recently as August 2010 is already requiring expansion.   It would have been less expensive to build the bigger school in the first place.

* At Policy and Resources Committee, I criticised the waste of public money and loss of accountability in the SNP's centralisation of police and fire services.    I also queried the robustness of land sales estimates in the five year Housing Capital Budget, but recognised the efforts made by the department to scale down likely land receipts in the current financial climate.   For the first time in a very long time, the SNP administration proposed sending no councillors to a conference at a cost to the council tax payer.  My goodness - anyone might have thought there was an election in the air.   The rest of us have opposed such expenditure for years!

* At the Development Management Committee, I spoke in favour of Section 75 agreements to limit Houses in Multiple Occupation.   The report before committee was the latest episode in a long running saga about properties in Larch Street.

Getting things done ... Pennycook Car Park

Following complaints from residents about broken fencing at the Pennycook Lane Car Park - see right - I have taken up the matter with the City Council's City Development Department and requested repairs.

I have been assured that an order has been placed with Tayside Contracts to have this repaired.

Sunday 22 January 2012

Getting things done ... Baxter Street

I recently received complaints that work to tidy up the grassed and tree lined area in Baxter Street was "overkill" with damage to the trees.  The area is pictured - right.

I took up the matter with the City Council which has advised me that it will improve the site with new shrubbery in the Spring.  That is to be welcomed.

Saturday 21 January 2012

Concern over increase in street lighting electricity costs

Over the past few days, I have heard from colleagues on other councils across Scotland that the electricity companies are considering increasing very significantly the cost to councils of street lighting.    Although it has yet to be finalised, I understand that Scottish & Southern Energy is looking at increasing its Distribution Use of System (DUoS) charges by approx 2.5pkWhr from 1.7p to 4.3p for unmetered customers. 

The City Council’s Street Lighting Partnership tells me that this would add approximately £280 000 to Dundee City Council’s Electricity Bill.

I have great concerns about an increase of this magnitude – it is extremely high in relation to real inflation and comes at a time when the City Council like other local authorities is trying to finalise its budget for 2012/13.   Such an increase has not been factored into the budget and I have therefore been in touch with the Director of Finance who advises :

“The latest proposed development which is being challenged has not yet been implemented or included in the Provisional Revenue Budget for 2012/13.

We propose to tackle this in 3 ways:

1. We are looking at possible spend to save initiatives to reduce our electricity burden on street lighting.

2. I am taking the latest proposals up with Procurement specialists to see if there is anything that can be done to secure a contract for this element of street lighting.

3. We do have a provision for increased energy costs of £603k in the Provisional Revenue Budget for 2012/13 along with £650k for general contingencies. At present we do not know what the actual impact of energy price increases will be but this is our best estimate.”

Speaking as the Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group on the City Council, my own comment is that it is very difficult to see any justification for this level of increase in charges coming at a time of great pressure on council budgets.     DUoS is not part of the National Procurement Scotland Contract which only deals with the Raw Energy Element.     

I think there is also an issue for the regulator OFGEM in that Scottish & Southern DUoS charges for unmetered Customers is by far the highest of any of the other 12 UK Distribution Companies thereby penalising local authorities in the North and North East of Scotland. 

Friday 20 January 2012

Friends of Magdalen Green Update

Last night, I was again minute-taker at the latest Friends of Magdalen Green committee meeting.

There was good news to report - the Friends' charity Christmas cards sold out during the festive season.    We discussed our first 2012 members' newsletter - this will cover our activities during last year - fundraising, attending community events, our success with new BBQ tables on the Green and campaigning for other improvements on the Green - and our plans for the forthcoming year.

Our forthcoming AGM in May was also discussed.   Taking place in May, this will feature a presentation on the history of Dundee's West End.

For more information about our activities, contact us at friendsmagdalengreen@yahoo.co.uk.

Getting things done ... Blackness Road

I have received concerns from local residents that water is leaking from the site of the former Parkview School on Blackness Road and it is resulting in colder days of a lot of ice across the pavement.   See right.

This is an obvious trip hazard, particularly for pedestrians walking along the pavement in the dark, and I have therefore asked the City Council to see what can be done to resolve the problem.

Thursday 19 January 2012

Sunday event at Balgay Hill

This Sunday (22nd January) sees a Conservation Volunteering Day, taking place on Balgay Hill.     It takes place between 1pm and 3pm - all welcome - meet up at the Mills Observatory at 1pm.

The event is being run by the City Council's Countryside Ranger Service and is a way of helping to improve Balgay Park for the benefit of local people and wildlife.    Please have warm clothing and sturdy footwear.

There are complimentary refreshments at around 3pm for all volunteers.

Wednesday 18 January 2012

More on West End bank branch closure

Further to recent items on this blog, the Courier and on Radio Tay, I gave an update on my concerns about the closure of the Royal Bank of Scotland University of Dundee Branch on Wave 102 today:

Tuesday activities

Yesterday :

* I attended the latest meeting of the West End Schools' Project Board, the group overseeing the construction of the new facilities for Park Place Primary School, St Joseph's Primary School and Park Place Nursery School, currently being built on the former Logie Secondary School site.    It was good to hear of progress with the project and the autumn 2012 opening date on course.

* Thereafter, I attended the latest committee meeting of the Sinderins and Pennycook Courts Residents' Association, taking place at Pennycook Court.  We discussed various issues including progress with the new seating and environment improvements in Pennycook Lane, roads and pavements issues and bin collection.

* Yesterday evening, I took part in the latest West End Sports and Heritage Association (WESHA) committee meeting.   WESHA is making good progress in terms of sporting improvements for the West End including planned improvements to the Riverside sports' changing rooms.

Tuesday 17 January 2012

Latest from Friends of Wighton

Concertinas, melodeons, accordions and all kinds of free reed instruments will be displayed and demonstrated this Saturday morning in Dundee's Wighton Centre, upstairs in the Central Library.   See right!

The event is one of the Friends of Wighton's popular cappuccino concerts.   With complimentary coffee and newspapers served from 10.30am, the music lasts from 11am to 12 noon. Admission is £5.

Traditional musicians John Bagnall & Paul Blackburn have been playing traditional music together for over 15 years, and in this concert their expertise will be put to good use in explaining and demonstrating the various different kinds of squeezeboxes and their place in Scottish traditional music.    They will be playing some popular tunes of the 18th and 19th centuries from the Wighton Collection and elsewhere.   Also, they will be showing off some rare historical recordings of notable players from the past.

This concert will be ideal for anyone interested in traditional music who would like to explore some more unusal aspects of the tradition.

The Friends of Wighton organises a series of events in the Library in Dundee. Other forthcoming dates are :

Wed 1st February at 1.15pm  - Ann Heymann, Gaelic harp 
Saturday 18th February at 10.30am - Karen Hannah & Allan Small, fiddle

For more info please go to www.friendsofwighton.com.

Willie Rennie visits Dundee College

Willie and me at Dundee College yesterday

Leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats Willie Rennie MSP was in Dundee yesterday to visit Dundee College with me, touring the new Gardyne Campus and also discussing college funding cuts with Principal Christina Potter, Depute Principal Grant Ritchie and Assistant Principal Leslie Dick.    

Speaking after the meeting, Willie said:

“It was great to visit Dundee College today with local Liberal Democrat Councillor Fraser Macpherson.

“Dundee College helps people from a range of backgrounds to get up and on in the world with new skills and knowledge.  Improving the life chances of thousands of people of all ages is something we should support and nourish.

“That’s why it makes no sense to cut £40 million from college funds next year which could mean fewer places students and teaching posts might have to go.

“The Scottish Government has the money available to fill this gap as a result of consequentials from Westminster. So the SNP should get the year of to a good start and reverse this cut.

“This would support colleges like Dundee and the great work it does with students and communities.”

What was obvious from yesterday's meeting is that the new Gardyne Campus facilities are superb but for the college to grow and provide the educational benefits for Dundee students, it is vital that there is clarity from Scottish Government about funding for Dundee College and other further education colleges across Scotland.

The recent announcement from the Education Secretary still leaves colleges across Scotland in the dark about their individual funding allocations and, as a result, planning for next year has been made extremely difficult.

What is obvious is that last year’s 10.4% cut is to be followed by a cut of up to 8.5% next year and this has a hugely detrimental consequence for college places, courses and staff jobs.      Our colleges are vital to the future of the Scottish economy.

Monday 16 January 2012

On Radio Tay news

I was on Radio Tay news today on the subject of the proposed closure of the Balfour Street Branch of the Royal Bank of Scotland on the University of Dundee campus :

Campaigning against West End bank closure

With the new University of Dundee semester starting today, I have slammed the decision by the Royal Bank of Scotland to close its branch at the university’s student union and have  written to the Royal Bank’s Chief Executive Stephen Hester criticising the decision and asking for a review of the decision before it goes ahead.    It is understood that the Royal Bank is planning to close the branch in March or April.

The decision to close the branch at the Student Union is really detrimental to the University of Dundee’s students and staff.   Its been a hugely busy branch over the years – I first used it myself as a student in the early 1980s – and it is known to have had the busiest cash point in the whole of Scotland at a time.   I have therefore written to the bank’s Chief Executive urging him to reconsider the decision.

This closure decision comes on top of the decision to close the Ninewells Hospital branch in the West End Ward last year.    The loss of the branch at Ninewells Hospital was a blow.   In addition, many residents of the ward in the Ancrum/Pentland/Tullideph area miss the Lochee branch that was also shut last year.    Despite being largely in public ownership, the bank doesn’t seem much bothered about the public, the customers who rely on local branches.

There are nearly 18 000 students at the university in addition to staff who use the bank branch in Balfour Street on the campus.   It makes no commercial sense to close it.

River Crescent residents' get-together!

River Crescent - just south of Perth Road
Yesterday afternoon, I had the pleasure of attending what has become a very pleasant annual fixture when the residents of River Crescent get together for a coffee and cake at the rather superb cafe at Dundee Botanic Garden, near to River Crescent itself.

It was an extremely pleasant afternoon and good to chat with local residents about a variety of local issues.   River Crescent has a very active and hard-working residents' association who do really good work for the local neighbourhood.

Sunday 15 January 2012

Beautiful Sunday morning at Balgay Park

A cold but beautiful Sunday morning today at Balgay Park :

Getting things done ... Perth Road water leak

Opposite Blackness Library on Perth Road, there has been a very noticeable water leak over the past few days.   See photo - right.    A number of residents have contacted me about it.

Scottish Water's Community Manager has advised me :

"I can confirm we attended on 10 January and are arranging to repair a faulty valve located outside 336 Perth Road.  My colleague will confirm on Monday a date for the repair and I will let you know."

And ... Sunday Song

Adele - vocalist of a generation:

Saturday 14 January 2012

Getting things done ... Kelso Steps

Towards the end of last week, I received residents' complaints about the amount of rubbish lying about the Kelso Steps (see right) that run up from Blackness Road to Kelso Street and are well-used by local residents and visitors to Royal Victoria Hospital.

I contacted the City Council's Environment Department asking for action and was impressed with the very swift response that saw the steps fully swept and tidied yesterday.

Saturday Song ...

My friend and colleague Jim Tolson, formerly MSP for Dunfermline and West Fife, recently mentioned on Facebook that the No 1 hit in the week he was born (a couple of years after me!) was Jackie Trent's "Where are you now?"

In my opinion, its one of the best hits of the Sixties - judge for yourself :

Friday 13 January 2012

TACTRAN newsletter for the New Year

With the permission of TACTRAN, the Tayside and Central Scotland regional transport partnership, I am today featuring the latest TACTRAN newsletter New Year 2012 edition.

This covers a number of local transport issues and in particular the park and ride proposals for the west of the city.

You can download the newsletter by clicking on the headline above or by going to http://tinyurl.com/tactran-jan12.

Thursday 12 January 2012

On Wave 102 news ...

I was on the Wave 102 news today regarding the kite flying issue near Dundee Airport I highlighted recently:

Wednesday activities

Yesterday, in addition to assisting with a number of constituent queries and problems, I also attended the latest meeting of the City Council's Local Economy Monitoring Group.

This is a useful regular forum at which the four party group leaders on the council, the City Council Chief Executive, other senior officers and representatives from Dundee and Angus Chamber of Commerce discuss the local economy, initiatives to improve the employment situation in the city and other economic initiatives.    At yesterday's meeting, representatives from the Federation of Small Businesses also joined the group - a welcome development.

Yesterday's discussions included progress with the renewables sector, the waterfront and V&A at Dundee, the rail station planned improvements and economic research.    Although the Dundee economy - like that across the country - has been going through challenging times, there is much positive activity locally and real commitment to drive forward economic growth for our city.

Wednesday 11 January 2012

Dundee volunteering and employability courses

Here's details of a couple of courses currently on offer :

Tuesday 10 January 2012

Community Council meeting

Tonight's West End Community Council saw a very interesting presentation from Grant Simmons, Regional Manager of the Food Train Project about progress with this excellent initiative the City Council is supporting to assist older people in Dundee with their shopping needs.   

Last month, I updated residents about the project and this evening Grant advised that the first shopping deliveries to local people will take place during the week commencing 23rd January.

Grant gave assurances that local shops will be included as well as supermarkets in providing the goods and this was reassuring, given the local shops in the West End that provide excellent produce at competitive prices.

Volunteers required in the following roles:

·                In store shoppers -To work in a specific supermarket, picking groceries and loading them into the customers shopping boxes

·                Helpers - To help check the shopping through the check-out and loading it onto the van. You will then go around our customers
delivering and unloading their shopping

·                Drivers - Driving the company van, you will collect the shopping boxes from the supermarket and deliver to our customers,
unloading the shopping and putting it away for them if required

·                Office assistance / promotion - Support to the office, answering phones, taking customers shopping requests and helping to keep
the office running smoothly

       For more information please contact:

       Grant Simmons

       Email: dundee@thefoodtrain.co.uk 

       Office D, Market Mews, Market Street Dundee DD1 3LA

West End Community Council update for January

I have today launched my update to the January meeting of West End Community Council that takes place tonight at 7pm at Logie St John's (Cross) Chruch Hall in Shaftesbury Terrace - all residents welcome.

The update covers the following issues :

  • Kite Flying Concern near Dundee Airport

  • Walkway on Riverside Drive

  • Former McCheyne Memorial Church

  • Park and Ride Proposals – an update   

  • On the kite flying concern, the Dundee Airport Manager has contacted me recently about his concerns regarding the flying of kites in the flight path near to the airport.

    The number of incidents is low but there was an incident at the beginning of December involving a kite surfer that was a source of some concern to the airport.   Derrick Lang, the airport manager, is keen that the concern is highlighted to emphasise the point that kites should not be flown near the airport.    

    He adds, “We have reviewed the signage in the east side of the area and is adequate but we have no signage at the nature park area, which would be an obvious choice for someone flying a kite.”    

    I have therefore raised the signage matter with the City Council.    Safety in the vicinity of the airport is vital.

    You can download the update by clicking on the headline above or by going to http://tinyurl.com/weccJan2012.

      Monday 9 January 2012

      Tonight's City Council committee meetings

      Following my weekly surgeries at Harris Academy and the Mitchell Street Centre, I participated in tonight's City Council committee meetings.

      At the Environment Committee, I welcomed a further extension of recycling facilities but emphasised the need to provide additional recycling facilities (such as plastics and aluminium cans) at neighbourhood recycling centres.

      At the Housing Committee, I sought assurances that the City Council will obtain a District Valuer's valuation on 24 council houses in Clepington that it intends to sell off on the open market before marketing them and not sell them below that valuation.   

      The Housing Department wishes to sell them off because they "do not meet the expectations of current applicants for housing" but has actually not attempted to let them out following a lease with Dundee College as student accommodation coming to an end.   

      If the council wishes to sell them off, it owes it to our council house rentpayers to get best value from such a sale and I am grateful to the Chief Executive of the City Council who agreed to my request for a proper valuation by the District Valuer and that the properties should not be sold for less than that professional valuation.

      At Policy and Resources Committee, I pointed out how poor the SNP Government's grant allocation to Dundee City Council will be for 2012/13 - a cash cut of £1.416 over the 2011/12 settlement at a time when other authorities have seen a cash increase.   This is a very disappointing financial settlement for the city and will impact on service provision in Dundee during the forthcoming year.