Wednesday 30 June 2010

Weeds problem ...

I have expressed concern at the lack of weeds spraying on many roadways in the West End - see photo (right) from Blackness Road.

I raised the matter with the council’s City Engineer who advises that :

“Traditionally (Dundee Contract Services) always start in the east and head west with their routes planned that way. Three men are usually on the task starting around mid-May and taking eight to ten weeks to complete. All this is weather dependant.”

I have questioned the way in which the work is approached, given that it may be the end of July before some streets in the west of the City are attended to, by which time weeds are huge.

I have suggested to the City Engineer that there would be more merit in spraying streets where there is a known problem first – for example, many of the streets in the Blackness Road area urgently need attention, especially where the weeds are very overgrown in tree pits.

Improvement and Efficiency Sub-Committee

Today, I attended the Improvement and Efficiency Sub-Committee of the City Council, where I asked questions about internet use at City Council libraries and community centres and about progress on air quality in Dundee.

This will be the last ever meeting of this sub-committee as it will shortly merge with the Audit and Risk Management Sub-Committee and the Scrutiny Committee to provide for a more effective and streamlined audit and scrutiny function.

Tuesday 29 June 2010

David Bruce - a credit to the West End

Today, I had the pleasure of meeting David Bruce of Blackness Road, who was recently honoured for his bravery during a break-in at his home. As the Courier put it :

"David Bruce of Dundee, who was 15 when he displayed “courage and maturity beyond his years,” will also be presented with a St Andrew’s Award.

The Dundee boy was asleep at home in October 2008 when he was disturbed by noises.

Getting up to investigate, he discovered a man and woman had broken into the house and were going through his mother’s things.

He confronted them and grabbed the woman’s handbag in an attempt to prevent her running off.

The man then held a pair of scissors to David’s neck.

David asked the couple to leave and they fled with items from the house.

He called the police and gave a statement.

A police spokeswoman said, 'This was a frightening ordeal for David, but he displayed courage and maturity beyond his years.

'As a result of his calmness and observation skills the matter was brought to a successful conclusion.'"

It was a real pleasure to meet with David and his dad - and give David my personal thanks for his selfless actions.

Friends of Magdalen Green latest

This evening I attended the latest committee meeting of Friends of Magdalen Green, in my new capacity as the group's secretary.

It was a very productive meeting at which we started planning our autumn coffee morning and also discussed other issues including the repainting of the play equipment at the playpark adjacent to the green at the bottom of Roseangle.

Monday 28 June 2010

Busy Monday

This morning, after a meeting with the Director of Education and the Head of Secondary Education regarding the report that went to Education Committee tonight about the Harris Academy improved school buildings project, I met with City Development officers as well as representatives from West End Community Council and Blackness Primary School Parent Council at the Sinderins junction (see right) as a follow-up to our meeting there a couple of months ago to discuss safety issues.

There's been good progress since the April site visit - the time length of the noise signal to advise pedestrians that it is safe to cross has been doubled in time length - this is a very welcome improvement. We also discussed possible safety barriers at Hawkhill, improving lights visibility for drivers on Perth Road heading west, and repairs to the tactile surface on the pavement on Perth Road, near to the junction with Shepherd's Loan.

After my two surgeries at the Mitchell Street Centre and Harris Academy late this afternoon (my last there until after the school summer holidays), I attended a marathon session of City Council meetings, including :

* All-party agreement on new scrutiny arrangements. A good example of cross-party co-operation that I would welcome more of on the council. I also welcomed the merging of three committees into one - something I moved for over a year ago, but was at that time outvoted on. It is important that the council streamlines its committee structure and today's agreement on merging efficiency, audit and scrutiny committees into one makes a great deal of sense.

* Education Committee - I expressed concern that the report on the Harris Academy - Review of Feasibility Study report delays the project start to around Autumn 2013. I sought assurances about front-ending the project to achieve an earlier start, and on Scottish Government's legal commitment to the project. I also sought assurances about consultation with parents and pupils and the establishment of a project board. At this committee, I also asked questions about the effect of the review of Grove House on providing proper office accommodation for city council staff.

* City Development Committee - I welcomed progress at the proposed Riverside Nature Park.

* Leisure, Arts and Communities Committee - I welcomed a report about allotments strategy, deplored recent vandalism at allotments and asked a question about securing funding, particularly for security fencing.

* Housing, Environment and Contract Services Committee - I asked a question on recycling - particularly about plastics and aluminium recycling, something I (and many constituents) wish to see further promoted.

* Policy and Resources Committee - I asked a question about the robustness of projected capital receipts for council house sales, moved an amendment that would have given all parties representation on the Dundee Partnership Board, not just the SNP and Labour (I lost 15-11 but thank Conservative and Labour members and the Independent Depute Lord Provost for support), and was pleased to see a Labour amendment for a cross-party working group to promote jobs in Dundee getting all party support.

Sunday 27 June 2010

WestFest finale!

The first-ever
and highly successful Dundee WestFest ends today with its parade and party - here's a short video clip from the events at Magdalen Green this afternoon.

WestFest has been a superb success, with over 70 events taking place over the week. The WestFest team deserve our thanks and congratulations on organising such a superb series of events - roll in WestFest 2011!

Observer not observing accurately

Today's Observer makes wild allegations, claiming that half of Liberal Democrat voters are ready to defect.

Scratch beneath the surface and you find that it is based on private polling for the Ed Miliband Labour Leadership campaign and,
as Political Betting highlights, more Liberal Democrat voters are more likely to vote LibDem over the Coalition Government's budget proposals over Child Benefit, than are less likely to vote LibDem. The Observer chose only to highlight those less likely to vote Liberal Democrat, thus making their article nonsense.

Political Betting says :

"One of the great things about the polling transparency rules is that ... information is made available by the pollster even for privately commissioned surveys.

I wonder whether the Observer saw the detailed spread-sheets from the pollster or was the report based on what the Ed Miliband campaign told them?"

Political Betting asks :

Has the Observer been conned by the MiliEd campaign?

You bet it has.

Saturday 26 June 2010

Bus service concerns

As reported in today's Courier, I have raised constituents’ concerns about the changes to bus services covering parts of the West End Ward from tomorrow.

These affect the 9/10/11/12 “Outer Circle” service and I have received numerous representations from residents in the Ancrum, Tullideph and Pentland areas, who feel that the removal of that service is detrimental particularly for elderly residents who used it and that the revised 11/12 service not adequate.

Across the West End, the bus changes are a mixed bag in that, in all fairness to National Express Dundee, there is an improvement in part of the ward with the replacement for the 9X – the new 5A service – being generally more frequent. This is to be welcomed.

However, the people in other parts of the West End such as Pentland, Ancrum and Tullideph are rightly concerned at the revised 11/12 service that will only run from approximately 9am to 3pm on weekdays. People are naturally concerned about the loss of service outwith these times. In addition Service Number 2 is only hourly and often runs full.

I recently wrote on behalf of constituents to Lawrence Davie, Managing Director of National Express Dundee and specifically asked if the frequency of the new 11/12 service could be looked at again after it has been in operation and the demand can be quantified and hopefully increased if usage is good.

Mr Davie replied, “We have reduced the level of service to match the usage. The position will be reviewed in three and six months after commencement. I hope the 6, 11/12 in their new formats are used and that we can retain these in the future.”

It is important that the 11/12 and the new 6 service gets good usage in the months ahead and I will be continuing to argue for an improved service for the areas covered by these services.

Benvie Road garage - progress

Earlier this year, I updated residents that work had started to demolish the fire-damaged former garage in Benvie Road.

Although the work has taken some time to finish, I was pleased to note, on a visit to the site today, that the work is now largely completed (see photo - right)

The derelict garage was a fire hazard and a worry to residents in the adjacent flats, so its demolition is to be welcomed.

The Emergency Budget : measures that pay for the past and plan for the future

After the longest and deepest recession since the Second World War, last week's Budget has set out a five year plan to rebuild the British economy based on the Government’s values of responsibility, freedom and fairness. It shows how the Government will make the tough choices required to carry out Britain’s deficit reduction plan in a fair way that strengthens and unites the country.

It is a decisive budget that deals with the record deficit the Coalition Government inherited from Labour. It is tough but fair. Everyone will contribute, but the Coalition Government’s plans will ensure that those with the broadest shoulders will bear the heaviest burden.

Thanks to Labour, we have one of the largest budget deficits in Europe. Thanks to their incompetence, we are now are borrowing one pound for every four we spend. There is nothing progressive about a party that chose to saddle our children with their debts. Every time a Labour politician complains about budget cuts, he or she should be reminded that it was the former Labour Government that presided over the shambles that got our economy into this perilous state.

We only have to look at Greece to see what happens to countries that don’t live within their means, and where the government failed to take decisive action - more businesses going bust, higher unemployment, and rising interest rates.

If we fail to deal with the deficit it will be the poorest who suffer the most.

The Liberal Democrats and Conservatives have come together to tackle the debt crisis facing our country, acting quickly and taking the tough decisions that the Governor of the Bank of England and the G20 support, and that Labour ducked.

However the Budget doesn’t just pay the bills of the past, it also starts planning for the future. The Budget is written with responsibility, fairness and enterprise at its heart.

Helping low and middle income earners
As we promised in our manifesto and our coalition agreement we are raising the income tax threshold. The first step to lifting it to £10,000 a year has been taken by increasing the threshold by £1,000 to £7,475 a year, which will give 23 million low and middle income earners up to £190 back in their pocket to spend. This measure will take 880,000 people out of income tax altogether.

Those with the broadest shoulders bear the heaviest burden
As we promised in both our manifesto and our coalition agreement we are ensuring that the wealthier pay their fair share. We are increasing the rate of Capital Gains Tax to 28% for higher rate taxpayers while keeping it at 18% for basic rate taxpayers. In line with the Coalition Agreement we are also increasing Entrepreneurs Relief from £2m to £5m. There will be no indexation and no taper relief- these only complicate the tax system. This will raise an extra £1bn and end the disgraceful situation of bankers paying a lower rate of tax than their cleaners.

Securing a fair deal for Pensioners
As we promised in our manifesto we are introducing a ‘triple lock’ to protect pensioners. In future pensions will rise with the higher of earnings, 2.5% or inflation. This year because RPI will be higher than CPI it will rise with RPI, in future the inflation measure will be CPI. The standard minimum income guarantee in Pension Credit will be increased in line with RPI this year so that the poorest pensioners receive the full benefit of the rise in the Basic State Pension. We believe that it is only fair that pensioners are guaranteed a decent pension from the state on which to live.

Tackling Child Poverty
We believe that every child deserves a fair star in life. And this budget keeps a commitment to tackling child poverty in meaningful way. Despite this Budget representing an unprecedented fiscal consolidation the Coalition Government has taken action to ensure that there is no measurable impact on child poverty. This has been achieved by committing a further £2bn in to the Child Element of tax credits. The coalition also remains committed to introducing the Pupil Premium – which will give more money to the pupils and schools that need it the most.

The Environment
We believe that climate change is one of the most serious threats that the world faces and the Coalition Government has pledged to make this the greenest government ever. The Coalition Government is committed to:
* providing the right incentives for low carbon investment. The Government will publish proposals in the autumn to reform the climate change levy in order to provide more certainty and support to the carbon price;
* creating a Green Investment Bank. Detailed proposals of which will be provided after the Spending Review; and
* establishing the Green Deal for households, to help individuals invest in home energy efficiency improvements that can pay for themselves from the savings in energy bills.

Rebalancing the economy
The Coalition Budget introduces a bank levy (based on balance sheet size), which will raise £2.5bn a year. It is only fair that that the banks pay their fair share back to the taxpayers who helped bail them out. This will contribute to tax cuts for all other types of business. Corporation tax will be cut from 28% to 24%, over 4 years, with 1% cut each year. The small companies' rate will not rise to 22% as proposed by Labour; instead it will be cut to 20%.

The government has an enormous task ahead, thanks to the incompetence of the previous Labour Government, but it has made a positive and responsible start in ensuring that our country returns to economic growth and prosperity.

Friday 25 June 2010


A very early start today - 5am - and the day spent in Campbeltown with the 'day job'. Back at 7pm, so a long day, but very productive and good to have a walk round the town with colleagues on such a lovely afternoon.
Above : View across to Campbeltown Loch
Above : The Linda McCartney Memorial Garden in the town

Thursday 24 June 2010

Fundraising for the MS Therapy Centre

A message (below) from David Wilson, son of our long-standing friends Cllr Willie and Margaret Wilson of Perth. David is raising funds for the Tayside MS Therapy Centre in Peddie Street :

Hi All,

As many of you know I dabble in a little in triathlon to counterbalance my ongoing red wine and cake addiction. In the autumn of last year, in a moment of weakness, I decided to scratch the itch and entered Ironman Switzerland 2010. My initial grand plans and finishing goals were scuppered by a virus for most of the winter and spring so now I am on 'Operation Just Finish It.....before it gets dark would be nice!'

This change in focus led me to think more about doing something positive with doing something a bit stupid. My Mum has secondary progressive Multiple Sclerosis and regularly attends the Tayside MS Therapy Centre at Peddie Street in Dundee for amongst other things Hyperbaric Oxygen Treatment. It has been one of the few treatments that has really helped. She also enjoys the friendly atmosphere created by the staff and the other patients.

The Tayside MS Therapy Centre is a totally autonomous self-help,self-funding local charity receiving no statutory funding whatsoever. The Centre caters for people affected by Multiple Sclerosis and offers Hyperbaric Oxygen Treatment, Physiotherapy, Counselling, Aromatherapy, Reflexology, Yoga, Continence and Nutrition advice. It also affords people with MS to have access to information and to meet others with similar problems in an informal and friendly setting. The centre provides help, support and advice for people with MS, their families and their carers.

So on the 25th of July I hope to be swimming 2.4 miles, cycling 112 miles and then running a Marathon only to end up exactly where I started some 12+ hours before but hopefully raising some money for a good cause in the process. Any donations to help me on the way to my fundraising target would be fantastic, just click on the link below to go to my JustGiving page.

Thank you


Wednesday 23 June 2010

Plastics Recycling - a further update

Earlier this month, I featured an article about the types of plastics that are collected from the 'green box' recycling facility available to some householders in the West End and elsewhere in Dundee. However, this facility has not been extended as yet to all households and a constituent recently asked about the possibility of having plastics recycling at Pennycook Lane's recycling centre. I have received the follwoing feedback from Dundee City Council :

"At present within the west side of Dundee we have plastics recycling bins at Magdalen Yard/Roseangle Car Park, Riverside Recycle Centre, Tesco South Road, and also at the Marchbanks Recycling Centre. There are also 9 green box routes on the West side of Dundee whereby residents who are on these routes are entitled to present as many boxes as they require.

Plastics take up a greater volume than any other type of recyclate, therefore, we are limited to putting plastics bins into sites that will accommodate multiple large bins. In most sites this means a minimum of 3 large plastics bins to cope with quantities of plastics to avoid fly tipping. To put in a recycling point the planning guidelines are strict, and as a result there are only a limited number of sites that will adequately meet these guidelines, along with being large enough to site multiple bins. At present we also only have funding to keep on the road 1 full-time collection vehicle and another for 2 mornings per week for plastics, and their collection schedules are at capacity at present. Pennycook Lane is a particularly unusual layout for a recycling point. This site has been in place for quite some years now, and I imagine we would probably have some difficulty getting such a site approved through Planning now. There is unfortunately no room to add the additional 2-3 plastics recycling bins that such a busy site as this would require.

We will certainly take your constituents comments on board, and as funding permits we will continue to look for opportunities to expand our recycling services."

Tuesday 22 June 2010

Latest West Fest ...

Another packed day of WestFest activity, including Environmental Question Time and West End Poets tonight.

And an update about one of the great events taking place tomorrow :

Friends of Wighton at WestFest

As part of WestFest, Friends of Wighton will be presenting a concert at St Peter’s Church, St Peter’s Street, Dundee on Wednesday 23rd June. The concert, which starts at 7.30, will feature the Wighton Singers, Simon Chadwick on medieval harp, fiddle players Karen Hannah and Gordon Penman, and singer Sheena Wellington.

Tickets, price £4.50 are available from Dundee City Box Office 6 City Square, Dundee, DD1 3BG
Tel: 434940 or e-mail - or at the venue on the night.

Monday 21 June 2010

26th Dundee Scouts, Cub Scouts and Beavers - Silent Auction presentation

Tonight, at Logie St John's (Cross) Church Hall, I had the great pleasure of presenting awards of appreciation to the sponsors of the 2010 26th Dundee Scouts Silent Auction. Over £1300 was raised and the Campbell family deserve great credit for all their efforts with the auction to raise funds for our local Scouts.

Here's a photo from the presentation, including representatives from the Apex Hotel and CityJet, who generously donated to the auction :

Car speed concern : Tayside Police reply

At the weekend, I wrote to the Chief Constable following the concern about a high-speed car incident last week in parts of the city, including across the West End.

I have had an extremely prompt response from Tayside Police's Central Division Road Policing Unit as follows :

"Cllr Macpherson

I refer to your communication received in respect of the matter involving the car driving at speed through Dundee and found abandoned in Clayhills Drive last Thursday 17 June 2010 and the concerns raised by your constituents.

As you will be aware I echoed your constituents concerns re - this type of behaviour in the media. With regard to the use of CCTV in relation to this type of incident I would comment as follows: As soon as the police became aware regarding the manner of driving of this vehicle CCTV was tasked with trying to locate the vehicle and assist with identification and as you suggest support the co-ordination of resource with the aim of preventing a continuation of this driving behaviour by the most appropriate means. A police patrol who had been in the area and who had become aware of the vehicle travelling at speed in Broughty Ferry Road made efforts to maintain observations on the vehicle with a similar aim in mind and update on its location until CCTV could assist as previously stated. The road policing officers in this vehicle, being fully aware of the likley increased road user activity at this time, continued to update their position and observations to ensure that resource(s) could be tasked, including CCTV, and also that their position and response could be fully considered.

The short timescales involved from the police becoming aware of this vehicle and the resultant abandoning of it in Clayhills Drive did make it extremely difficult to realise and co-ordinate an effective policing response to safely intercept and / or stop this vehicle. Police units were deployed strategically in an effort to lookout for this vehicle as the responding unit had considered its position and was endeavouring to update on the vehicles location and / or direction of travel rather than pursue the vehicle due to the possible risks to all road users.

The CCTV footage obtained and accounts from members of the public who have come forward to our appeals for assistance are all being examined at this time to identify the individuals involved in this incident.

Thank you for your communication and hope that this deals adequately with your query but should you wish anything clarified then please don`t hesitate to contact me direct."

Graduation week : Seabraes

With this being graduation week at the University of Dundee, I was concerned that Scotland Gas Networks are undertaking pipe laying works at the Seabraes viewing point in Nethergate/Perth Road. The Seabraes viewing point is well-used by graduates and their families for photographs after graduation ceremonies.

I contacted the City Council to see if SGN would refrain from undertaking unsightly work during the week and am pleased to say that the City Development Department has advised :

"SGN will stay away from the Seabraes gardens for the whole of this week."

Sunday 20 June 2010

WestFest launch!

The first-ever WestFest was launched this afternoon with a host of events at Balgay Hill and Victoria Park.

You can download the calendar on the WestFest website or find out more information by calling into the new WestFest shop in Perth Road.

River Crescent Residents' Association AGM

This afternoon, I had the pleasure of addressing the AGM of River Crescent Residents' Association in the Botanic Garden's Glass Classroom.

It was a very well-attended meeting and good views of the garden from the glass classroom (see right) but very warm on such a lovely day!

Saturday 19 June 2010

Graffiti Action Day - 3

Following the two successful days last month when residents, councillors, council staff, police and others did a great voluntary effort to clean off graffiti across the West End, we held another "anti-graffiti" morning today, getting rid of graffiti at sites adjacent to parts of Perth Road - such as this (see right).

Another highly successful and productive morning, ridding the area of much graffiti mess.

Letter to Chief Constable Justine Curran

Dear Chief Constable

I write following the
high speed car drive across the city that saw the car speeding dangerously across parts of the West End Ward and further east, but including the busy Perth Road, and eventually being abandoned in Clayhills Drive.

Following concerned residents contacting me expressing concern about the stupidity of the driver who drove recklessly at excessive speed and with no concern for public safety, I write to ask what steps Tayside Police can take to minimise the possibility of such a lengthy dangerous driving in the future. Specifically, what role can CCTV make in assisting police to stop a vehicle cross a large part of the city?

I would be grateful for your feedback & thank you in advance.

Best regards


Cllr Fraser Macpherson
Councillor for the West End
Liberal Democrat Group Leader - Dundee City Council

Friday 18 June 2010

WestFest 2010 - launch day is Sunday!

With WestFest week launching on Sunday, here's the opening Sunday afternoon events in and around Balgay :

2pm : Opening welcome - Sheena Wellington (Victoria Park)
2pm-5pm : Art Mart (Victoria Park)
2pm-5pm : Dundee Travel Active Stand (Victoria Park)
2pm-4pm : "Sun-day at the Mills, Talk Planetarium show and Sun watch (Mills Observatory)
2.15pm-5pm : Sensation's science activities (Victoria Park)
2.15pm-5pm : Children's art workshops (Victoria Park)
2.15pm-5pm : Children's activities and quizzes (Victoria Park)
2.15pm-5pm : Dundee and District Wood Turners - exhibition and demonstration (Victoria Park)
2.30pm-3.30pm : Yoga taster session - Salute the Sun (Top of Balgay Hill)
2.30pm-4.30pm : Volleyball (Victoria Park)
2.30pm-4.30pm : Face Painting & henna painting (Victoria Park)
3.15pm-4.45pm : Open Mike Bands (Victoria Park)
5pm : Close
Toilets at the Lochee Park Pavilion.

South Tay Street Environmental Improvement Scheme

There has been some concern and criticism of the current pavement works in South Tay Street and I raised this issue with the City Council's Director of City Development, who has replied in the following terms :

"The works currently being carried out in South Tay Street relate to an environmental improvement scheme linking west Nethergate/DCA Cultural Quarter with Dundee Rep and the Tay Square.

This includes the replacement of the existing footway slabs many of which are broken and uneven. The new slabs are of high quality and are in keeping with those used with the earlier phases of the Cultural Quarter environmental improvements.

The South Tay Street works are not repair works and are not funded from the Road Maintenance budget and will therefore have no bearing on footway repairs carried out elsewhere in the City.

It is expected that the works will be complete by early July."

Thursday 17 June 2010

Last couple of days

Last night, I attended an extremely productive meeting of the Tay Bridge Rail Disaster Memorial Group that took place at the Riverview Station restaurant, near to where we wish to see the proposed memorial erected :
Above : Around the site at Riverside where we would like to see the Memorial erected
Above : Stuart Morris of Balgonie, group chair, with his presentation about the disaster

This morning, I had a useful update from City Development Department officers on the project at the proposed Riverside Nature Park. There is excellent progress and a report to committee will come forward later this month.

After a meeting with the Chief Executive of the City Council and senior officers, other groups leaders, the Lord Provost and Depute Lord Provost on a number of issues, followed by my surgery at Blackness Primary School, I attended the Harris Academy Parent Council meeting tonight - unusually, at the former Rockwell High School site (see below), where we were given a guided tour of what will be the school "decant" facility during the forthcoming modernisation project for Harris Academy. The temporary move to Rockwell undoubtedly poses challenges for the Harris staff and pupils but it is clear that the Head Teacher and his staff are well-prepared.

Lastly, my thoughts are with Kathryn and Jim Mitchell of Baxter Street, following the sudden death of their son, Ethan, aged only 7. Ethan, a Blackness Primary School pupil, died of a brain tumour and his gran Catherine Smart gave a moving tribute to Ethan in today's Courier.

Wednesday 16 June 2010

West End Boys' Amateur Boxing Club - update!

I was pleased to receive an update today from Emilio Places-Rey about the West End Boys' Amateur Boxing Club - they have just met with the BBC again who are going to be filming at the club in the near future.

Here's a couple of photographs from their most recent training session - below. It is good to see the club going from strength to strength.

Roof improvements for the Tullideph area

A roof repair programme for parts of City Road, Tullideph Road and Tullideph Place starts on Monday (21st June), with work on Tullideph Road starting first, City Road second and concluding with Tullideph Place.

The programme should complete by September.

The Housing Department has written to tenants with full details and I am also happy to speak with any tenant who may have any questions about the forthcoming work.

Tuesday 15 June 2010

Blackness Area Residents' Association

Tonight I attended a useful committee meeting of the Blackness Area Residents' Association committee at the Corso Street sheltered lounge (pictured right).

A number of local matters were discussed, including open space maintenance and the
recent walkabout in the area covering local issues.

Friends of Wighton Cappuccino Concert

Distinguished Gaelic singer Wilma Kennedy is the guest at the Friends of Wighton Cappuccino Concert on Saturday 19th June 2010 - 10.30am for 11.00 am :

Wighton Centre - Upstairs in Dundee Central Library, Wellgate, Dundee, DD1 1DB.

Admission £5, includes coffee and newspapers served from 10.30am.

Tickets available on the door, or in advance from Rainbow Music, 35 Cowgate, Dundee - 01382 698397.

Monday 14 June 2010

City Council committees tonight ...

After two busy surgeries at the Mitchell Street Centre and Harris Academy late this afternoon, I attended tonight's City Council meeting and service committees :

* At the City Council meeting, councillors heard from
Ali and Khalid El-Awaisi about Ali's harrowing experience on the Mavi Mamera at the hands of Israeli commandoes, when all Ali and his friends were trying to do was bring much-needed aid to the people of Gaza. In my speech to the City Council, I made clear my concern about Israel's breach of international law. The City Council unanimously adopted a motion adding its voice to condemnation of the violence and seeking support from the Scottish Parliament and other Scottish local authorities on this matter of world-wide concern.

* At Education Committee, I supported a report on a proposed response to Scottish Government's consultation on reducing class sizes, but pointed out the abject failure of the SNP government to live up to promises to reduce all primary school class sizes to 18 in P1-P3.

*At the
Housing, Dundee Contract Services and Environmental Services Committee, I welcomed a proposal to improve the anti-graffiti effort by the council, particularly with respect to private property and highlighted anti-graffiti efforts we have undertaken in the West End.

* At Policy and Resources Committee, I spoke about the report on Professor Peter Wilson's update on progress on child protection in the city. I also asked for an update on shared assessments and was given a useful and detailed response by the Director of Social Work.

Sunday 13 June 2010

Perth Road pavement

The condition of the footpath on the north side of Perth Road - between Hyndford Street and Rockfield Street - is in poor shape. As one resident wrote to me "what a mess, almost every slab is broken or sunk down."

I have written to the City Council about this, calling for improvements.

Saturday 12 June 2010

Plastics recycling - good news

I have long supported encouraging plastics recycling as part of the city's overall recycling efforts. A constituent in the West End recently complained that certain plastics that were previously uplifted via the green box recycling service service were no longer being collected - such as plastics with the recycling symbol 6 (such as salad trays and yoghurt pots) - and I raised this with the City Council. I reproduce the positive feedback from the council below :

"We recently became aware that our green box sorting crews have with good intentions for some time been uplifting items from green boxes that had not been contractually agreed with our plastics reprocessor. In response to this, approximately 6 weeks ago we called our green box collection crews in for additional training who were instructed to revert to uplifting only those items as stated on the reverse of the collection calendar. Our reprocessors will only accept a small percentage of contamination from us, and we have an obligation to adhere to this. For approximately 1 month thereafter our green box sorting crews began leaving non types 1 and 2 plastics behind in boxes. Our crews make an effort to leave in such boxes cards stating the cause of the contamination.

There are 7 plastic types in total, and as these have different melting points they cannot be recycled together, therefore require additional sorting post collection. Most local authorities in Scotland can only accept types 1 and 2 plastics as these have typically been the most commonly disposed of plastics, and are the easiest to find markets for.

Although the contract we have with our plastics reprocessor is not yet up for renewal, our department called a meeting with them a fortnight ago to request that they take more in the way of plastics from us. Following extensive negotiations our reprocessor has agreed to this, with the exception of such plastics as black sacks, packaging films, PVC plastic, and polystyrene. This does though now mean that we can formally accept such plastics as yoghurt pots, butter tubs, plant pots, meat trays and microwaveable meal trays. Our green box sorting crews were informed to put this into action a little over a week.

We will shortly be writing out to all residents on green box routes to inform them of this recent and positive change. We have held off on writing out to residents until we could be certain that the new situation was set in stone.

In Dundee we are unique in that the waste that has not been recycled does not go to landfill. Instead, the non-recycled waste is sent to DERL an energy from waste plant at Baldovie. Dundee City Council's Waste Management department are though committed to expanding our recycling service as far as funding permits. At present we are on track to meet the Scottish Government's 40% recycling target by the end of this calendar year, and are considerably further ahead of all other Scottish city local authorities in this important area.

I hope this helps to answer your constituent's enquiry, and once again we apologise for the confusion caused by this. We feel though that despite the recent upset to the service the end result has been a very positive outcome for the amount of plastics we are now able to capture in green boxes and at recycling centres and points."

Friday 11 June 2010

Further digital TV meetings with local residents

Last June, I chaired meetings at various sheltered housing lounges across the West End at which Digital UK updated residents about the digital switchover.

With the switchover now imminent - in August - I held two more today at two lounges we were unable to visit last time - Sinderins Court in Hawkhill and the Lime Street sheltered lounge in Logie. On this occasion, I was accompanied by Colin Scott, Regional Projector Co-ordinator for the BBC switchover help scheme.

Colin gave excellent presentations and answered residents' questions. If any West End resident has any queries about the switchover, please call me on 459378 or e-mail and I'll ensure the appropriate person from either Digital UK or the help scheme resolves any query or problem.

The picture below is of Colin speaking at Sinderins Court earlier today.

Magdalen Green : Presentations

Further to the excellent presentations I referred to in my last update - from the Friends of Magdalen Green meeting last night, you can now download them as follows :

Gillian Molloy :

Iain Flett :

Thursday 10 June 2010

Thursday activities ...

After spending much of the day in Glenrothes with the "day job", I attended the City Council's Scrutiny Committee late this afternoon, where there was constructive discussion about a number of inspection reports by the Care Commission and Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Education - on educational and social work facilities in Dundee - and on the city's adoption and fostering services.

Later, after my weekly surgery at Blackness Primary School, I had the pleasure of chairing a superbly well attended public meeting of Friends of Magdalen Green in Dundee West Church at which Iain Flett, Dundee City Archivist, spoke on the history of Magdalen Green and Gillian Molloy of the Friends of Dundee City Archives discussed the history of street names in the West End. Both were extremely interesting and we are most grateful to Gillian and Iain.

And - congratulations to Angela Mehlert, our new Friends of Magdalen Green Chair! I'm now the group's secretary.

Wednesday 9 June 2010

Wednesday ...

Today, a couple of site visits - the first with residents of Thomson Street together with Scottish Water and City Council representatives to investigate a bad smell from drains on the roadway - the second with the Police, City Council representatives and fellow councillors to look at vehicle access problems in the Pentland Crescent/Avenue/Saggar Street area (see photo right). In the latter case, the significant problem is access along Pentland Crescent for fire engines in emergency situations and we discussed possible solutions.

I have now had an update from the City Council
on the pothole complaint I raised about the corner of Shaftesbury Road and Rockfield Street as follows :

"The area inspector for the Shaftesbury Road/ Rockfield Street area has now raised an order for the filling of a pothole at the junction mentioned above and the timescale for repair is twenty eight days."

On another note, I am very pleased to report that, following new recruitment, the school crossing patroller I had requested for Harris Academy and Blackness Primary School pupils for Blackness Road at the Kelso steps is this week in post - a great result.

Lastly, I was saddened to learn about the
death of Mr John Anderson of Marchfield Terrace. My thoughts are with his family and friends at this sad time.

Tuesday 8 June 2010

Tuesday news ...

This morning, I was disappointed to hear from the City Council about vandalism to the paper recycling facility in Brook Street. The Recycling Projects Officer advised me :

"I am writing to inform you that unfortunately a paper bin within the Neighbourhood Recycling Point on Brook Street Dundee was burnt out at the weekend, now for the second time.

As you may remember was the case with the second act of arson to the NRP on Bankmill Road earlier this, that it is our standard policy to replace the burnt out unit for a second time. Any further incidents, however, will result in the removal of the paper bin from the NRP unit as these are very costly to replace, and could prove to be an ongoing fire hazard.

We have a replacement unit in stock and we will be looking to reinstate the paper bin as soon as our operations are able. We will continue to monitor this site closely in the forthcoming period and hopefully there will be no repeat of the previous vandalism."

I am advised by the City Council that the replacement cost is £520 and as I point out in tonight's Evening Telegraph, residents rightly deplore this sort of mindless vandalism that could end up resulting in the loss of a well-used and popular paper recycling facility. This afternoon, our local Police Inspector said he'd progress my request for use of mobile CCTV in the vicinity to deter further vandalism.

Also this afternoon, along with a representative from Blackness Area Residents' Association (BARA), a fellow councillor and council officers, we undertook a walkabout in the BARA area (a rather wet walkabout as it was raining!) to look at local issues and problems. The walkabout covered Peddie Street (pictured right), Abbotsford Place, Abbotsford Street, Corso Street and parts of Blackness Road and Blackness Avenue.

This evening at
West End Community Council, there was an interesting talk on the conservation of resources, given by Doug McLaren of the Tayside Foundation for the Conservation of Resources.

St Joseph's - parking update

Further to my news item last week about parking at St Joseph's Primary School, I have this morning received this from the City Council's Head of Primary Education :

"The working group responsible for the monitoring of the project met on Friday 4th June. They reported that awareness of the project in and around schools is very high. Leaflets have been distributed to parents in schools involved to date. In addition, two travel specialists have been hired to advise schools and parents about all aspects of safety/travel routes etc. around schools.

The travel specialists will visit St Joseph's RC Primary School this week to speak to parents and school management. They emphasised that parents need to accept responsbility and that this is a long term programme which will need time to bed in. We are still fairly early on in the scheme. All schools have to produce and implement their Travel Plan by the end of June."

West End Community Council Update

I have today launched my June 2010 update to West End Community Council.

Subjects covered include :

• Sinderins Junction

• Dropped Kerbing - Peddie Street

• Proposed Riverside Nature Park

• Hillside Road pavements

• Allotments

• Bus changes from 27th June

• Pennycook Lane Car Park

The Community Council meets tonight at Logie St John's (Cross) Church Hall at 7pm.

You can download the update by going to

Monday 7 June 2010

Improving woodlands - Ninewells Hospital grounds

Last month, the Forestry Commission announced funding to improve urban woodlands, and it was great to see the grounds of Ninewells Hospital included in this funding package.

Today I met the Forestry Commission's Policy & Development Officer at Maggie's Centre and was given a tour of the project. This will provide for new pathways and access for patients at Ninewells and Maggie's to be able to access the superb woodland to the south of the hospital.
Above : The superb woodland in the hospital grounds.
Above : New cycle path, funded by TACTRAN.

City Council Audit & Risk Management Committee

I attended the City Council Audit & Risk Management Committee today and asked questions about the extent of moves towards shared services given the financial challenges facing the council and on car parking income - seriously short of budget target.

There is considerable concern amongst opposition councillors - including myself - about the lack of transparency and lack of preparation of the SNP administration regarding the budget and proposed cuts. In response to a question from me, the Director of Finance confirmed that a budget report will be on the agenda of the Policy & Resources Committee on 28th June.

Pennycook Court and Sinderins Court - residents' AGM

This morning I had the pleasure of speaking at the Annual General Meeting of the residents' association for Sinderins Court and Pennycook Court.

It was a very well attended meeting and I updated residents on a number of matters, including road and pedestrian safety, the move to digital TV and dropped kerbing.

Sunday 6 June 2010

WestFest programme ...

With WestFest fast approaching, the team has published its superb programme for all the forthcoming events - it is superb!

You can download the programme at

Latest round up ...

Friday's Evening Telegraph and Saturday's Courier covered concerns about the transportation of drugs on the 333 bus service that runs between Perth Royal Infirmary, Ninewells Hospital and Royal Victoria Hospital.

I had raised concerns with Professor Tony Wells and have received the following response :

"Thank you for your e-mail of 27 May 2010 regarding the transportation of controlled drugs via the Service 333 Hospital Link Bus.

I wish to advise you that following the recent extension of the bus route to include Royal Victoria Hospital, ad hoc pharmacy requests for items required outwith the scheduled delivery service are being transported via this method. Controlled drugs are not included in the items that are to be sent via this method of transport. I do however understand that when this service commenced there was one occasion when a controlled drug was sent to Royal Victoria Hospital along with a number of other pharmacy items. This was an error and measures have been put in place to ensure this will not occur in the future. The use of the bus to transport goods is seen as good use of an existing resource and a way of avoiding unnecessary expenditure. Any goods placed on and removed from the bus are carried out by NHS Tayside staff, with the goods being transported in a locked compartment."

I have responded as follows :

"I have concerns that any drugs are being transported by public transport and would ask what risk assessment has been carried out in this respect? What guidelines exist within the NHS in Scotland with respect to the transportation of drugs and do these clarify good practice in relation to transportation by public transport? Can I ask if the “locked compartment” is a static and unmovable part of the bus or is it a portable unit? Is it out of reach of a child? Can I also seek assurances that there is a responsible person of staff accompanying the transportation and that there are adequate security arrangements?"

I will update residents when I receive answers to these questions.

Improvement Service on blogging

The Improvement Service last week issued a helpful briefing for councillors on the merits of blogging and featured comments from myself and other councillor bloggers in Scotland about why blogging is a good way to update and connect with constituents, in addition to 'traditional' methods, such as newsletters, attending residents' meetings and surgeries.

You can read the guide at