Last night's City Council committee meetings were lengthy, at some three hours in total, and a number of important subjects were discussed, including :
Parking : The long-awaited report on residents' parking, looking at five areas of the city including the area approximately east of Sinderins from Roseangle/Magdalen Yard Road in the south to Blackness Road in the north (termed 'West End' in the report) and the Invergowrie Drive area finally appeared on the agenda of the City Development Committee.
The report (see http://tinyurl.com/parkingreport) gave the outcomes of the surveying work and informal consultation on the difficulties residents in the affected areas face trying to get their cars parked in these areas of high parking demand.
The surveying and consultation took place during my period as Planning & Transport Convener and it had been the intention of the previous administration to maintain the momentum in the process of finding parking solutions for residents, by bringing a report to committee in spring 2009. The SNP administration that took control of the council at that time has since taken an age to move this process forward (I have lost count of the number of e-mail exchanges and converstations I have had with council officers including the Chief Executive in lobbying to get the report to committee for discussion and progression) - but at least the matter has now finally been debated.
The report envisages the drawing up of residents' parking scheme proposals in 4 of the 5 areas (not the Invergowrie Drive area) with priority in terms of timing of this work being given to two areas, including the area I refer to above as 'West End'.
I sought assurances from the Director of City Development over timescales and he indicated that (subject to public consultation) should a parking scheme find favour with residents, it would be in place in approximately 18 months.
Whilst welcoming the fact that consultation with the community is to take place, I stressed that this must be proactive and inclusive - to ensure that any scheme finally agreed is fit for purpose and actually has the support of residents. I pointed out that the response rate to the questionnaires issued in the area during the informal consultation period was only 16%, so public engagement is vital. I have concerns about the so-called "cost neutrality" of the proposed scheme and a charge of around £77 per annum may well make any scheme unattractive.
Given the large number of residents who regularly contact me about their problems with parking, I will be following progress on this issue closely and would welcome feedback from residents at any time - firstname.lastname@example.org or call me on 459378.
Parking again! : At Education Committee last night, another aspect of parking was discussed - that being the drop-off of pupils and parking around schools. The report (see http://tinyurl.com/schoolsparking) outlined the successes of the parking pilots at Park Place Primary in the West End and Eastern Primary in Broughty Ferry and proposed a roll-out across the city.
I welcomed this, particularly given the number of concerns raised by parents and other residents about the parking problem outside West End schools - in addition to the long-standing concerns at Park Place that resulted in it being a pilot site, I get many complaints about the parking situation at both Blackness Primary School and St. Joseph's Primary School in particular.
In answer to my question to the Director of Education last night about the speed of roll-out of the project to particular schools, he gave a commitment that this would be shared with local councillors and I have now written to him seeking detail about the West End schools.
Policy and Resources Committee : At Policy and Resources Committee, I asked the Chief Executive for assurances about how the City Council's 2009/10 overspend was being tackled - at £220 000 in the red, net of underspends, as of 30th November 2009, there is concern at this, particularly given the continuing areas of expenditure pressure such as demand-led social work services and winter maintenance.
The committee also discussed cuts to Fairer Scotland Funded projects to the tune of nearly £1m. As these projects provide much-needed services to many of our most vulnerable citizens, this is an issue of considerable concern.
I have specifically raised with the Chief Executive my concern about the proposal to remove funding from six projects, particularly given that most projects have met or indeed exceeded their targets/outcomes.
At committee last night, I particularly highlighted my concern at the proposed removal of funding for the Sheltered Shopping Scheme - its loss would be met with great disappointed by the many elderly folk across Dundee who use this useful bus service to take them shopping. I am in correspondence with council officers seeking clarification as to how this service could continue to be funded.
At both Education Committee and Policy and Resources Committee, a report of free school meals and P1-3 class sizes reductions was tabled.
Whilst welcoming the approach taken on school meals (expansion of breakfast clubs including Blackness and Park Place Primaries, with the Park Place facility being a joint one with St Joseph's), the approach the SNP administration is taking with class sizes benefits only some schools and shows just how hollow SNP promises to reduce all Primary One to Three classes to 18 or less, made at the last election, really were.