Saturday, January 31, 2015

Launch of Dundee as a UNESCO City of Design #cityofdesign

Yesterday, I was delighted to attend the packed launch event at the University of Dundee to recognise our city becoming a UNESCO City of Design, the first UK city to be given this prestigious recognition - see right

The launch event was part of three days of events that continue today at DCA.

Dundee’s bid focused on three approaches to design: place, covering architecture and redesigning Dundee, products, such as life-saving drugs, jewellery and computer games, and processes, including designing public services to support people.   

Only 17 cities around the world hold the UNESCO City of Design title, including Beijing, Berlin, Helsinki and Montreal, so this recognition for our city is a tremendous achievement.

Friday, January 30, 2015

City Council Revenue Budget 2015/16

As reported in both the Evening Telegraph and the Courier, I have submitted draft proposals to council officers that would seek to remove some of the worst of the budget cuts the Dundee SNP administration proposes to make.

These SNP cuts include a reduction in street cleaning services, the closure of the Victoria Park bowling green and Baxter Park bowling green, closing the DUN.C.A.N. anti-crime project and the highly controversial SNP proposals to restructure the Young Mum’s Unit at Menzieshill High School.

I am keen to see the worst of the SNP cuts being rejected and have looked to find alternative savings that would ensure the highly successful DUN.C.A.N. anti-crime project does not close, street cleaning is not cut back, bowling greens are not closed and the Young Mum’s Unit does not suffer detrimental cuts.

I have asked council finance officers to look at the legality and competency of my alternative savings which would not impact detrimentally on vital services and I thereafter aim to present these at the budget meeting on 12th February.

X7 hospital bus problems - outcomes from meeting with Stagecoach

Further to my article on 15th January about the X7 hospital bus service, my Perth & Kinross Council colleague Cllr Willie Wilson and I have now met with Stagecoach about the issues affecting the service - mainly related to the bus type used.    This has been reported in the Courier and the Evening Telegraph.

I reproduce below the news release issued to update constituents about the outcomes from what was a productive meeting :
Following a meeting held in Perth on Thursday, 22 January 2015, some positive outcomes have been agreed between Perth & Kinross Council, Dundee City Council and Stagecoach East Scotland regarding accessibility arrangements to the new X7 Link Bus Service.  The meeting was attended by Councillor Willie Wilson, Perth and Kinross Council, Councillor Fraser Macpherson, Dundee City Council, Officers from the Transport Units of both Councils, a representative from NHS Tayside and Mr Andrew Jarvis, Managing Director for Stagecoach East Scotland.

The meeting agreed a number of short-term measures that could be taken to try and improve accessibility; some of which have already been progressed by Stagecoach East Scotland.  These include alterations to the arrangements for locating wheelchairs within the coach and changes to the on-board CCTV system to allow better driver observation of people who may wish to leave the service.  In addition, Stagecoach are to review the availability of handrails that are of assistance to customers within the coach.  The company advised that they are in discussions about making the headroom greater in the stairwell area of the coach.  A review has already been carried out of the buzzer arrangements whereby people can alert the driver of the requirement to stop.

In addition to the above modifications of the existing bus, both Councils and Stagecoach are to examine opportunities for extending some journeys of the 16A Bus Service to Perth Royal Infirmary.  This would provide an alternative link between the two hospitals for passengers who find the X7 Service too difficult to access.  The meeting also heard that the increased passenger usage of this service had already approached nearly 20% in total (compared to the former X7 and 333 services).  This included a 12% increase on the former 333 Route between Ninewells Hospital and Perth Royal Infirmary.

Speaking following the meeting, Councillor Willie Wilson said:

“The meeting was constructive, led to agreement on a considerable number of small improvements to the existing bus which I hope will help passengers with accessibility.  In addition, if we can make changes to the 16A Service and allow a direct link between Perth Royal Infirmary and Ninewells using that service, it will at least provide an alternative journey for people who find it impossible to use the X7.  In the longer term however, we have pressed Stagecoach to provide a better form of coach on this service.”

Following the meeting, Mr Andrew Jarvis of Stagecoach said:

“I was pleased to meet Councillors Wilson and Macpherson to discuss the X7 and highlight the tremendous growth in customers the newly combined X7 and 333 has generated.  The new coaches meet all relevant accessibility legislation and are supremely comfortable vehicles to travel on.  However, we do acknowledge that other than for two seats, the rest of the seating requires the use of steps to enable access, which some customers have expressed concerns about.

We do operate the alternative 16A service every hour between Ninewells Hospital and Perth City Centre using low floor buses for those that struggle with steps.  We will now work with Perth & Kinross Council to see if amendments are possible to the 16A to allow some journeys to extend beyond Perth City Centre to the Royal Infirmary.”

Councillor Fraser Macpherson of Dundee City Council added:

“Stagecoach has acknowledged that there is an issue with access to the current vehicles.  We have all agreed that this needs to be remedied and, in addition to short term measures agreed at the meeting, we are all looking towards medium term when more suitable buses can be introduced to the route.  This largely depends on user numbers, but if the current trend continues then we will have a strong case to press the company to renew the coaches dedicated to the route.”

Sir Winston Churchill

Last week, the City Archivist kindly shared with me (in relation to a public enquiry) the PDF of a fascinating election address from Sir Winston Churchill's ill-fated 1922 election campaign in Dundee.

With the permission of Local History at the Central Library, it seems very fitting to feature this today - the 50th anniversary of Churchill's state funeral.

You can download the full leaflet here.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Getting things done : Seymour Street

Residents have again complained to me about further potholes on the roadway of Seymour Street.

I reported this to the City Council's Roads Maintenance Partnership and an officer has responded as follows :

"I have spoken to the Inspector for the above location and he advised that an order has been raised to carry out repairs.  I can advise that repairs will be carried out with the Planer Patcher once Winter Maintenance is complete."

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Harris Academy Project Board

This morning, I took part in the latest meeting of the Harris Academy Project Board, the board charged with overseeing the new Harris Academy construction project and associated matters.  The board was chaired today by the City Council's new Chief Executive.

We had a very productive and positive meeting, with reports of excellent progress with the construction of the new building, as I had already seen first-hand during a visit on-site before Christmas.    There is good contact with and updates for the neighbouring community through regular newsletters and adjacent residents have been invited to see round the site to see building progress for themselves (as has West End Community Council).

We had an explanation about the various community benefits of the project, including another five new start apprentices on-site, in addition to the existing six, with over 50% of the workforce coming from the Dundee area.

We discussed various other aspects as the school project moves towards completion for August 2016, including school transport and road safety in the vicinity of the school (and possible waiting restrictions to assist).   

I also raised the importance of having a new education and recreation association established well in advance of August 2016 to ensure maximum community use of what will be excellent facilities at the new Harris Academy campus.

Site concerns in Benvie Road

Over a considerable period in the past, I raised residents' concerns about the condition of the former garage at the top end of Benvie Road that had been the subject of fire raising.

A building warrant to demolish the structure was granted in 2010 and the derelict garage was thankfully demolished.

However, as you can see below, the site is still very much an eyesore :
I have been in touch with the City Council's Head of Planning to see what can be done to encourage a future productive use of the site.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Tuesday meetings - Hogmanay 2015 and schools consultation

This afternoon, I had the pleasure of attending a meeting at The Shore, organised by Dylan Gowans and Reece Denyer, about having a Dundee Hogmanay 2015 event.   It was a productive discussion and a summary of the meeting can be found on the Dundee's Hogmanay Facebook page here.

Well done to Dylan and Reece for taking the initiative - I'll be helping in any way I can in the months ahead.

Tonight, I attended the consultation meeting at Harris Academy on the proposal to close Menzieshill High School at the end of the 2015/16 academic year and include the Menzieshill High School catchment area within an expanded Harris Academy catchment area.   The full proposal can be read here.

I listened carefully to all the views put forward by parents, pupils and others attending the meeting tonight and am pleased to speak with any resident at any time about this important issue.  My surgery details can be accessed here - or call me at home on 459378.

Lighting concern - Riverside Avenue to Perth Road

Residents have expressed concern that lights on the path under the rail line, between Perth Road and Riverside Avenue (that runs to opposite Wright Avenue), are not working.

There are six lights on this path of which only three are working.

This is a frequently used path and I have contacted the City Council's Street Lighting Partnership seeking urgent repair.

Monday, January 26, 2015

City Council tonight

Following my ward surgeries at West Park Centre and the Mitchell Street Centre this afternoon, I participated in tonight's City Council meetings.

Immediately prior to the meetings starting, along with councillor colleagues, I signed the 'Be The Change' declaration to show support for people with learning disabilities - see below:

Representatives of all the groups on the City Council, together with the Chief Executive on behalf of Council employees, signed the declaration, which is part of a campaign organised by ENABLE Scotland, promoted by local organisation Advocating Together (Dundee) to stop the use of offensive and hurtful language towards people with learning disabilities.    The message of the campaign is – don’t put up with it, don’t use it, let’s lose it!   

The major issue tonight at council committees was the debate over the V&A Museum of Design Dundee budget at Policy and Resources Committee.   On behalf of all the opposition members, I put forward the following amendment :

Dundee City Council – Policy and Resources Committee – 26th January 2015

Item 4 – Construction of the V&A Museum of Design, Dundee

Amendment by Councillor Fraser Macpherson

Add  :

2.1.4    notes the Chief Executive’s intention, as discussed in Para 9.3, to carry out a full review of the background to the project and its cost, but recognises that if such a review is to have any credibility it must be undertaken independently of Dundee City Council.    Committee therefore instructs the Chief Executive to engage with the External Auditor and appropriate bodies to ensure that an inquiry is established independent of Dundee City Council.    Committee also instructs that this inquiry should report its findings as soon as practicable.

In a lengthy debate, the administration conceded an independent chair for the enquiry (proposed to be procurement expert John McClelland) and establishment of a Project Board with equal representation of administration and opposition members.   After assurances given to me by the Chief Executive, I was able to withdraw the amendment.    It is now important that John McClelland's review moves forward speedily and the project can learn from his findings to enable the V&A project to be delivered without further budget difficulty.

You can read more about the V&A discussion on the Evening Telegraph's Twitter account and at The Courier.

Later this evening, I attended a meeting at the University of Dundee at which Scottish Liberal Democrat Leader Willie Rennie spoke with students on a variety of issues.    Willie is pictured (below) after the meeting with my Dundee LibDem colleagues Daniel Coleman and Craig Duncan:

Harris Academy contractor's newsletters

During the West End campus building project for St Joseph’s Primary School, Victoria Park Primary School and Balgay Hill Nursery School, the contractor has kept adjacent residents updated throughout the building of the new schools via community newsletters.

I am pleased to say that this practice has continued with the Harris Academy building project, with the most recent newsletter from last month downloadable here.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Temporary Traffic Order : Westfield Place

From the City Council :

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

THE DUNDEE CITY COUNCIL AS TRAFFIC AUTHORITY being satisfied that traffic on the road should be prohibited by reason of Scottish Water repair works being carried out HEREBY PROHIBIT the driving of any vehicle in Westfield Place, (from Roseangle to approx. 30 metres north), Dundee.

This notice comes into effect on Monday 2 February 2015 for 5 working days.

The one way order which relates to Westfield Place will be rescinded for the duration of these works.

Pedestrian thoroughfare will be maintained.   Alternative routes for vehicles are available via Perth Road / Roseangle.

For further information contact 433168.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Bonnie Dundee 2015 AGM

The Bonnie Dundee Annual General Meeting will take place at the Dalhousie Building, University of Dundee, on Tuesday 24th February 2015, starting at 6pm.

There will be a talk on "Pollinators on Blooms" by Dr Christopher Connolly and the AGM will also include an update on Dundee's entry into Britain In Bloom, as a UK Finalist in the City Category.

All welcome.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Friends of Wighton - Cappuccino Concert - Saturday 24th January

Mark Spalding
From Sheena Wellington :

Tomorrow sees the first in this year's series of Cappuccino Concerts will be held in the Wighton Centre, upstairs in the Central Library.

These popular Saturday morning events are held every month, with coffee and newspapers served from 10.30am and the music performance from 11am to noon.  Admission is £5.

For January, the Friends of Wighton are pleased to welcome back Mark Spalding, who will perform a programme of unusual and exciting music on the piano and also on the Wighton harpsichord - a delicious 18th century style instrument that is kept in the Wighton centre.

The programme will include some music themed around burns night, as well as showcasing some items from Mark's latest project to mark the 40th anniversary of Stockhausen's "Tierkreis" (signs of the zodiac).

Mark said, "This is Stockhausen's most popular and accessible piece:  very tuneful, each of the 12 melodies has a definite tonal centre".

Mark's playing on the beautiful harpsichord is sensitive and expressive and is always a hit with Wighton Centre regulars. This unusual programme of piano and harpsichord music should prove to be a very enjoyable morning.

For more information please see www.friendsofwighton.com

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Getting things done - River Crescent

Last August, at my request, the council responded to constituents' requests to fill in potholes in the roadway of River Crescent - see right.

At the time, I said, given the deteriorated state of the road, it required a more permanent improvement.    

I am pleased to say that the council's Roads Maintenance Partnership has now advised me that the street is imminently programmed for extensive structural patching.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Adult Learning in the West End

The City Council's Winter Adult Learning newsletter is now available and can be downloaded here.  

Courses in the West End Ward at the Mitchell Street Centre are given below including a new "Options and Choices" series starting tomorrow :

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Damaged fence across pathway at Benvie Road

A damaged fence from the rear of a property in Lochee Road has blown across the pathway leading to Benvie Road from the Benvie steps.   See below :
I have asked the City Council's Rapid Response Team to have the panel moved safely off the pathway and the Housing Department's Private Sector Unit to speak with the landlords concerned about having the fence repaired.


Monday, January 19, 2015

V&A Museum of Design Dundee : bring in independent auditors

I have formally requested that the City Council’s Chief Executive David Martin ask the Auditor General to engage Audit Scotland to independently investigate the full circumstances of the budget problems affecting the V&A project.

As I indicated on Friday, the huge increase in V&A projected costs is a shocking indictment of the poor project management skills of the SNP administration with regard to the V&A project.   When the Chief Executive and Chief Officers met with myself and two other opposition councillors about the situation on Friday morning, I was shocked when we were informed that the costs have shot up to £80.11 million.    The SNP administration has kept opposition councillors completely in the dark about the soaring costs.   

The Chief Executive has promised me a full investigation as to the detailed reasons behind the huge increase in cost.    However, as I have said to David Martin, given the concerned reaction I have received from many constituents, I have no doubt that, if public confidence is to be maintained in the project, any investigation has to be independent of the City Council.   Therefore Audit Scotland must be called in to do that.

If the City Council fails to formally ask the Auditor General to undertake an independent investigation, I will make such a request of the Auditor General myself.

The V&A project is vital to the city’s economic growth and absolutely has to be delivered but the public purse cannot be used as a bottomless pit.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Mosaic in Tay Square - repairs agreed

Just before Christmas, I highlighted deterioration to the mosaic at Tay Square - see right.

At the time, I had contacted the City Council about this seeking repairs.

I have now had the following response from the Head of Planning :

"We have now completed the investigation.  Works will be undertaken to address the existing problem areas as well as other areas that have the potential to deteriorate in future.  

The materials to be used require temperatures to exceed 10ºC.  Therefore, the works are likely to be undertaken in the spring."

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Glenagnes Street

Residents have complained to me about an area of overgrown weeds next to the pavement on the south side of Glenagnes Street - see right.

I have taken this up with the Environment Department and have asked for this to be tidied.

Friday, January 16, 2015

V&A Museum of Design Dundee : budget concerns

The City Council's Chief Executive and Chief Officers met with myself and two other opposition councillors about V&A budget this morning.   You could have knocked me over with a feather when it was announced the costs have shot up to £80.11 million.    

The SNP administration has kept opposition councillors completely in the dark about the soaring costs and it is a shocking indictment of the poor project management skills of the SNP administration with regard to the V&A project.  

The Chief Executive has promised a full investigation as to the detailed reasons behind the huge increase in cost.   

The V&A project is vital to the city’s economic growth and absolutely has to be delivered.     

I think a more cross-party civic approach to its delivery will now be vital if it is actually to be achieved.

High Mill Open Gallery Project

Yesterday, I had a productive meeting with Mark Munsie, Operations Director and Gill Poulter, Heritage & Exhibitions Director, both of the Dundee Heritage Trust, regarding the High Mill Open Gallery Project.

I had previously met Mark back in September 2013 soon after the announcement of the Heritage Lottery Fund being allocated £1.48 million to the project and it was good to learn of the good progress that has been made with the project, with the restoration work on time and on budget.

The High Mill Open gallery will open to the public in late summer 2015 and will be a fantastic new facility in the city.

The photo below shows the external scaffold of High Mill at present :

mono 68 launch

An update from the Curator of Museum Services at the University of Dundee :

Today sees the opening of mono 68 in the Lamb Gallery, University of Dundee.

The exhibition features striking black and white photographs of Dundee in 1968. 

The photos were all taken in one month by artist Phil Thomson whilst a student at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art. 

Phil is now a design lecturer at Birmingham City University. 

He explains, “The images are a snapshot of Dundee and its inhabitants, in transition from the post-war austerity years to the brave new world of flyovers, shopping centres and tower-blocks.  I was aiming to capture the social and urban characteristics of the period – a pronounced gender divide in the workplace, the street as playground, graffiti as an emerging means of expressing identity, personal transactions rather than digital interactions and the nature of inner-city transport.   They give a distinct feeling of a lost world, almost a sense of lost innocence.”

Phil decided to re-examine the photographs in 2014, and thanks to social media has been trying to track down information about the people and places he captured. Visit the mono68 Facebook page to see some of the images.

The exhibition will be launched today with a free talk by Phil about the work, which will take place in the D’Arcy Thompson Lecture Theatre on the ground floor of the Tower Building at 5.30pm.

Everyone is welcome and there is no need to book.    Following the talk, refreshments will be served in the gallery 6.30-7.30pm.   Anyone unable to attend the talk is still welcome to come for the reception afterwards. 

Thursday, January 15, 2015

X7 hospital bus problems - meeting with Stagecoach agreed

Further to my recent article about concerns from residents regarding the problems the bus type is causing on the X7 hospital bus service between PRI and Ninewells Hospital, my colleague Cllr Willie Wilson of Perth and Kinross Council has issued this news release on behalf of his council colleague Cllr Alexander Stewart and myself :
A meeting date has been agreed between Scottish Liberal Democrat Councillor, Willie Wilson, and Councillor Fraser Macpherson to discuss the accessibility and suitability of the type of coaches used for the new X7 service from PRI to Ninewells Hospital and Aberdeen.  Councillor Willie Wilson is the Scottish Liberal Democrat Councillor for Perth South in the City of Perth and Fraser Macpherson is the Scottish Liberal Democrat Councillor for the West End Ward in the City of Dundee.  Councillor Alexander Stewart, their Scottish Conservative and Unionist colleague for Perth City South, has also been invited to attend the meeting.  

Stagecoach have now agreed to a meeting to be held on Thursday, 22 January 2015.  As well as the local councillors and representatives of Stagecoach, the meeting will be attended by representatives of the Public Transport Units of Dundee City Council and Perth and Kinross Council.  

Complaints have previously been received regarding the new service about accessibility and suitability for a whole variety of passengers.  The new coaches only have one space for a wheelchair, have no dedicated built-in access ramp and the amount of seating on the lower deck is restricted to only two cramped seats immediately behind the driver.  There are no facilities for buggies and prams to be taken on the coach apart from them being dismantled and loaded into the boot.  

In addition, if a wheelchair ramp is required it has to be taken out of the boot by the driver in all weathers, put in place and then replaced in the boot once the wheelchair passenger has been secured into the space at the front of the bus.  The stairs on the coach are particularly difficult to negotiate if anyone suffers from visual impairment or orthopaedic injuries.  In addition, passengers with heart conditions and those who find it difficult to negotiate the stairs on a moving bus find the coaches very difficult to handle.

Councillor Willie Wilson said:

“The buses are three quarter million pounds each and appear to be designed for inter-city travel, not inter-hospital work.”

Councillor Fraser Macpherson said:

“We need to have this meeting to emphasise to Stagecoach the unsuitability of the types of vehicles that are provided on this service, particularly between Ninewells Hospital and Perth Royal Infirmary.”

Councillor Alexander Stewart, who has always taken a keen interest in anything to do with Perth Royal Infirmary, said that he added his support to the efforts to have the type of coaches reviewed:

“I welcome this meeting and hope that it will lead to a serious review of the type of bus which is provided on the route, whilst the improvements to timetabling and frequency of buses will be greatly welcomed and it would appear that the company have chosen the wrong type of coach for inter-hospital travel.”

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Schools consultation information

Further to the decision taken at the City Council's Education Committee on 8th December to consult on a proposal to close Menzieshill High School from the end of the 2015/16 school year and the Harris Academy catchment area be increased to include the Dundee part of the Menzieshill High School catchment area, the Director of Education has written this week to consultees as follows :

On 8 December 2014, the Education Committee gave the Director of Education approval to consult on the following proposal:

The closure of Menzieshill High School and redelineation of the catchment area of Harris Academy to include Menzieshill High School’s existing catchment area within Dundee; and to transfer that part of Harris Academy’s catchment area, which comprises the catchment area of Rosebank Primary School to Morgan Academy’s catchment area and make Morgan Academy the associated secondary school of Rosebank Primary School; and to make Baldragon Academy the associated Dundee secondary school of Longforgan, Inchture, Abernyte, Auchterhouse, Birkhill and Liff Primary Schools from August 2016.

The principal implications of the proposal are that:

 Menzieshill High School be discontinued at the close of the school session 2015/16. It is proposed that the changes in the rezoning also take effect for all applications for school places at Harris Academy, Morgan Academy and Baldragon Academy for the school session 2016/17 onwards. Menzieshill High School’s existing catchment area within Dundee will become part of Harris Academy’s catchment area;

 All enrolled pupils in Menzieshill High School will be entitled to transfer to the new Harris Academy at the commencement of academic session 2016/17. Any pupils who wish to enrol at another school would be entitled to make a placing request for that school;

 Perth and Kinross primary schools (Abernyte, Inchture and Longforgan) and Angus primary schools (Auchterhouse, Birkhill and Liff) which were all formerly associated with Menzieshill High School would become associated primary schools of Baldragon Academy;

 The part of Harris Academy's catchment area, which comprises the catchment area of Rosebank Primary School, would become part of Morgan Academy's catchment area; and Rosebank Primary School would become an associated primary school of Morgan Academy;

 the Dundee associated primary schools of Menzieshill High School, (Gowriehill Primary School, Hillside Primary School and Camperdown Primary School) would become associated primary schools of Harris Academy; and

 Invergowrie Primary School will remain an associated primary for Harris Academy.

Consultees should note the following points in relation to the proposal and consultation process:

1 The consultation begins on 12 January 2015.

2 Full details of the proposal and a copy of the proposal paper are available on the Dundee City Council website www.dundeecity.gov.uk from this date

3 A copy of the Proposal Paper may be obtained from your school office or from Customer Services, Ground Floor, Dundee House, 50 North Lindsay Street, Dundee.

4 Electronic representations to the proposal should be e-mailed to education@dundeecity.gov.uk

5 Written representations on the proposals may be submitted to Mr Michael Wood, Director of Education, Floor 2, Dundee House, 50 North Lindsay Street, Dundee, DD1 1NL.

6 Where possible, an acknowledgement will be sent to confirm receipt of all representations whether written or electronic. The representations will be used to inform the consultation.

7 The last day of the consultation period is Friday 27 February 2015. This is the last point by which representations must be received for the Council to take them into account.

8 In addition, the following evening public meetings have been arranged to offer you the opportunity to make your views known.

22 January 2015 - Menzieshill High School – 7pm
27 January 2015 - Harris Academy – 7pm
28 January 2015 - Rosebank Primary School – 7pm
2 February 2015 - Baldragon Academy – 7pm
3 February 2015 - Morgan Academy – 7pm

We look forward to hearing from you or talking to you at the above meetings.

Yours sincerely
MICHAEL WOOD
Director of Education

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Mary Slessor Commemoration

Earlier today, I took part in the Mary Slessor Commemoration at the Steeple Church at which, on the centenary of the death of Mary Slessor, a commemorative plaque and standing stone was unveiled to celebrate the huge achievements of Mary Slessor during her extraordinary life.

The event outside the City Churches started during a significant snow storm, but, appropriately, as the stone and plaque were unveiled, the sun broke through.

The Mary Slessor Foundation has organised events throughout 2015 and you can read more about these here.

Here are two photographs from today's commemoration :
The unveiling ceremony
Doug Binnie of the Mary Slessor Foundation addresses the attendees

West End Community Council Update for January 2015

UPDATE AT 3.40pm :  Tonight's meeting has been cancelled due to the weather.

I have today launched my West End Community Council Update for January 2015 - you can download this here.

Subjects covered in the update are :  Bin collection and recycling, sight lines at the Marchfield Road and Jedburgh Road junctions with Blackness Road, repairs to the Tay Square mosaic and Electric Car Charging points.

The Community Council meets at 7pm tonight at the Logie & St John's (Cross) Church Hall in Shaftesbury Terrace - all welcome!

Monday, January 12, 2015

City Council meetings

Earlier this evening, following my weekly ward surgeries at the Mitchell Street Centre and the West Park Centre, I participated in tonight's City Council meetings.

* At Environment Committee, I stressed the need ensure that there is a fast and efficient response to any implementation problems with the new waste and recycling bin collection arrangements being rolled out in part of the West End.   

Much of this will be from early March (much of the area of Peddie Street and Logie westwards to the city boundary plus some other parts) but a small area in Ninewells Village (the housing in the hospital grounds) and Clayhills Drive was implemented from the start of December.    There has been a problem at one block of flats  and I have been in discussions with the Environment Department in the past week about getting this fully resolved.   The Environment Director has assured me this situation is being closely monitored to ensure the new collection arrangements work well henceforth.

Like other councillors who contributed to the debate, I also stressed the need for good public consultation before new systems are implemented.

* At Policy and Resources Committee, I congratulated all who had played a part in Dundee recently being named UK UNESCO City of Design.    

I also sought assurances about the quality of the housing repairs reporting service going forward (as it is being moved into the council's corporate contact centre), highlighting several recent concerns I have raised about lighting repairs in council houses and on communal stairwells in council flats.

New myjobscotland website launches tomorrow

Tomorrow, Tuesday (13th January), a brand new and improved myjobscotland recruitment website will be launched.

The city's libraries are administered by Leisure and Culture Dundee who advise:

"As it is a completely new website you will need to re-register your details, but don’t panic as you will have 3 months to revisit any applications you have made on the ‘old’ site.   

You may wish to start taking back-up copies of your previous applications now so you have them for your records, and are able to copy them over to any new applications you wish to make.

In the meantime, you can keep applying on-line as this won’t affect current applications or applications made up until 13 January 2015.    However, from this date onwards no new jobs will be advertised on the ‘old’ website."

Anyone not having their own computer can, of course, get access to the at local libraries across the city, including Blackness Library, and also at the Mitchell Street Centre.   Free access further details are available here.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Litter pick at Riverside Nature Park

Earlier today, I was pleased to join the Friends of Riverside Nature Park and City Council Environment Department officers in a litter pick of the park.

Despite it being rather rainy, it was less cold than I had expected!    Here's a photo of some of the volunteer team today :

Reiterating the call for 20mph zones in residential streets

Yesterday's Courier highlighted my call for the City Council to again consider lower 20mph speed limits in highly residential areas.   Part of the article is reproduced below :
As residents will recall, last June, I proposed to the council's City Development Committee that the City Council consult communities on where local people feel a 20mph limit would be appropriate.     This failed to get support at committee by a single vote, due to the failure of SNP councillors to support a consultation exercise.

As I indicated in the Courier yesterday, the sort of locations I feel these may be appropriate are narrow streets in highly residential areas, particularly where there are large numbers of elderly people or children out playing.    Examples in the West End where residents have indicated support include the Perth Road lanes and the Logie area, both of which have very narrow streets and areas of sheltered housing.

The reason that lies behind my renewed call is new Transport Scotland guidance, published on behalf of Scottish Government, that is far more supportive of 20mph zones in appropriate areas than the previous 2002 guidance.    City of Edinburgh Council is now introducing 20mph zones over wide areas of residential streets and Glasgow City Council is also moving this road-safety measure forward too.    

I have written to Dundee City Council's Head of Transportation pointing out that the City Council's policy to oppose consultation on 20mph zones and implement them in appropriate streets is now at odds with government guidance - and what's he going to do about that?

There is significant evidence that 20mph limits in residential areas has a positive impact on road safety.   The road safety charity Brake has a useful car stopping distances calculator which highlights how much longer it takes to stop at 30mph and higher compared with at 20mph or under.

I think its important to explode a few myths about what I am proposing.    There is no suggestion of imposing lower speed limits without public consultation - 20mph should be introduced only where residents want it.    There is no suggestion that 20mph limits would be followed by calls for even lower limits.  Also, 20mph zones are only appropriate for residential areas - I am not suggesting major routes become 20mph.

It is clear, from the large amount of feedback I had from residents around the time of last June's committee decision, that there is significant public demand for this road safety measure.    If the City Council continues to hide its head in the sand about the new Transport Scotland guidance, I will take the matter back to committee, and will continue to do so until sense prevails.    

At this stage, all I am asking for is proper public consultation on this matter with communities across our city.   What exactly does Dundee City Council fear about that?

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Through Smoke and Flame: WWI Propaganda Posters by Frank Brangwyn

In commemoration of World War I, the McManus Galleries’ Annual Winter Works on Paper is drawn from the city's collection of sketches, posters and prints by artist Frank Brangwyn (1867-1956).

This is currently taking place through to 25th January and you can read more about the exhibition here.

Friday, January 09, 2015

Connected Baby Film Night at Al-Maktoum College

Looking for something interesting to do in the New Year that will be both fun and educational.     Are you interested in human connections?    Then come to Film Nights with connected baby, and you'll get to see connection in action.    The event takes place on Tuesday 13th January 2015 at 6.30pm at the Al-Maktoum College.    

Connected Baby Film Nights Series hosts screenings of little known films that offer insights into the power of human connection.     This is the first film series event in Dundee, in partnership with Help For Kids.   

What better film to kick off with, for the 2015 series, than the one that started the whole journey: the connected baby?     We are treated to in-depth scenes of babies playing jokes on their siblings, being scared by their image in the camera lens, sticking tongues out at their parents, and keeping track of their mum while she searches for a new nappy.   

We hear from a range of leading infant psychologists, who help us to understand the significance of babies behaviour and especially to see how communicative they are, right from birth.    It turns out that babies are more socially skilled than most of us have realised.    The implications of that insight are astounding, for it speaks to the very core of what it means to be human.

The screening will be followed by a discussion - because insights are better when they are shared. Anyone interested in exploring the theme of human connection is welcome to join us.    All proceeds going to Help For Kids.     This is possible because use of the venue, Al-Maktoum College of Higher Education, has kindly been donated by its directors.   

Tickets are available from Eventbrite and read more here.

Thursday, January 08, 2015

Unleashing Creativity at Dundee and Angus College

Over 30 budding creative entrepreneurs from Dundee and Angus College have been working with Dundee Heritage Trust partners on an exciting range of projects for the new High Mill Open Gallery. The entrepreneurs consisted of 3D designers and interactive media developers.

The 3D design entrepreneurs developed plans and sketch perspectives to illustrate their design ideas for the interior of the new Hill Mills Open Gallery.    These designs were then developed into 2D digital models using specialist 2D software.

The brief for the Interactive Media entrepreneurs was to develop a mobile friendly website for the gallery.    The website allows visitors to access architects drawings and get the latest news and images on the development of the gallery.

This exhibition is open daily at Verdant Works until 18th January and will demonstrate the development phases for both these projects, along with the finished products.   It is well worth a visit.

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Jim Lee

I was greatly saddened to learn yesterday that Jim Lee, former Managing Director of Travel Dundee (now National Express Dundee), has passed away.

Jim was very approachable and helpful during the time I was the City Council's Planning and Transport Convener - the photo below is of Jim & myself at the launch of a safer travel initiative back in 2007.   He was also a constituent in the West End and a former neighbour of mine - a thoroughly nice man who will be sadly missed.

My thoughts are with Jim's family at this sad time.
With Jim at the Safer Travel Textline launch - 2007

Discovery Days 2015

Tomorrow and Friday sees a real opportunity to hear from the University of Dundee’s new professors newest professors and award-winning teachers and communicators, as they share with us the ideas that inspire them.

Everyone is welcome including school pupils, members of the public and our staff & students.

Discovery Days 2015 will take place on Thursday 8th (1.30pm-5pm) and Friday 9th January (9.30am-4.30pm) at the Main Lecture Theatre, Dalhousie Building on Old Hawkhill. 

You can download the Discovery Days 2015 programme here or see more on the Facebook page here.     Refreshments and lunch are available and the event will close on Friday 9th January with a free wine reception.

Free tickets available from www.dundee.ac.uk/tickets, e-mail revealingresearch@dundee.ac.uk or call 386660.