Saturday 30 June 2012

Salary cut benefits local communities

Back in 2009, my sister in law and former council colleague Helen Dick who retired from the City Council at the May election, and I decided to refuse the councillor salary increase.   Two Conservative councillors - to their credit - did the same;  not a single Labour or SNP councillor did.   

I have since confirmed that I will continue to refuse that increase throughout the new council term to 2017.   It was not responsible of councillors to accept salary increases when workers across the public and private sectors were - and are - facing pay freezes and cuts.   I remain unconvinced that SNP and Labour councillors grasped that point.

I continue to also refuse to claim a single penny in expenses;  a position I have maintained over 11 years as a member of Dundee City Council - and will continue to adhere to as long as I remain an elected member of the council.

When Helen and I refused the pay increase, we asked that the "saving" be given to benefits community causes across Dundee.   With the advice of council officers, we have gifted the increase to the Dundee Festival Trust as it benefits community groups across Dundee.

The City Council's Director of Corporate Services has recently advised me:

"I would confirm that the amounts to 31/05/12 have now been transferred to the Dundee Festival Trust. For Cllr Macpherson it is £1,252.53 and Cllr Dick £1,220.21."

Friday 29 June 2012

Seafield Road pavements improvement - an update

Further to my recent update on the welcome improvements to the footways in Seafield Road, here's details of information the City Council has given to local residents:

"Seafield Road – No 52 to Roseangle  : Footway Resurfacing Works

I wish to notify you that work is programmed to commence at the above location on  Monday 2 July, 2012 and will last approximately 14 days.  The contractor for the works is Tayside Contracts.  In the interest of public safety, and due to the nature of the works, a road closure will be implemented for both phases of the works.

Phase 1:-  East/west section of  Seafield Road – Nos 52 to 58. (Approx. duration – 6 days)
Phase 2:-  North/south section of  Seafield Road – No 66 to Roseangle (Approx. duration – 8 days)

For both phases, through traffic will be diverted via Roseangle, Bellfield Avenue and reverse for the duration of the works, with appropriate diversion signing in place for each phase.

No on-street parking will be allowed on the section of carriageway being worked on.  Access to the car park to the east of No 58 Seafield Road will be maintained, and limited access to properties within the closed section will be maintained, though delays may be experienced. We would, however ask that vehicular traffic movements be kept to a minimum, where possible. 

Please note that pedestrian thoroughfare will be maintained throughout the works.

Please accept my apologies for any disruption these works may cause. I am sure that you will understand that footway maintenance work is unavoidable and necessitates a degree of inconvenience to road users."

Thursday 28 June 2012

Harris Academy Prize Giving 2012

This morning, along with two of my councillor ward colleagues, other guests, pupils, staff and parents, I had the great pleasure of attending Harris Academy's Annual Prize Giving.

It was again a thoroughly enjoyable Prize Giving, with the school giving recognition to the many pupils who have achieved academically, in sport, and in other ways, over the past academic year.

This year's guest of honour was John Mitchell, who gave a very entertaining speech and Head Teacher, Jim Thewliss, gave a comprehensive update on school activities with plans over the next six years, which include major milestones such as the full implementation of Curriculum for Excellence and the school decant between 2013 and 2016 to the Rockwell site followed by the opening of the new Harris Academy building on Perth Road in August 2016.

Pleasance Court Residents' Meeting

Following an initial meeting last month, I was pleased to last night chair a second meeting of residents of Pleasance Court at the residents' lounge in the complex.

I'm grateful to both Home Scotland (who have tenants across the west and north of the former mill) and Ross & Liddell (who factor the properties across the south of the mill) and who both had representatives in attendance yesterday evening.

Feedback was given by these representatives and myself on the issues raised at the May meeting and there was discussion about these and other local issues.   Additionally, the Chair of the Community Spirit Action Group, the community group that covers much of the wider area between Lochee Road and Blackness Road attended to let the residents of Pleasance Court know about Community Spirit's work.

Sinderins Court - Strawberry Tea

Yesterday afternoon, I had the pleasure of attending the Sheltered Tenants' Strawberry Team at Sinderins Court - see photo of some of those attending - right.

It was a very pleasant afternoon with lots of delicious Strawberry meringues, scones and other tempting sweets available.   A good time was had by all!

Wednesday 27 June 2012

Adult Learning Newsletter - Summer 2012 edition

The City Council's Adult Learning Newsletter for Summer 2012 is now available.

It includes details of adult learning opportunities in the West End, including "Just the Job", a course for residents preparing for employment and for whom English is their second language, and "Options and Choices", a course about career ideas and updating your CV.    Both courses commence on 23rd August at the Mitchell Street Centre.

Please note two corrections to the newsletter :

Jobshop Changes

Menzieshill Community Centre, Fridays 9.30am-12noon - contact Annette Miller 432973

Douglas Community Centre, Wednesdays 11am-12.30pm - Contact Claire Shepherd 436942

You can download the newsletter at

Tuesday 26 June 2012

Surgeries ... and City Council

Yesterday, I held my weekly Monday surgeries at Harris Academy and the Mitchell Street Centre.   With the school holidays about to take place, these were the last of my surgeries until the schools return in August but I can be contacted at any time via my e-surgery (e-mail or phone 459378).

Later yesterday, I attended the final council committees prior to the summer recess, at which:

* At Education Committee, I queried the process of reviewing the quality of education provision for young people being educated at home, questioned how soon the City Council may be able to upgrade further schools across Dundee and made the point during a discussion about procurement of school transport that the City Council must look in the future to make best use of its own fleet of mini-buses.

* At City Development Committee, I welcomed use of Vacant and Derelict Land Funding to not only provide the long-awaited footway across the rail lines between Seabraes and Riverside (already agreed) but also to upgrade the area to the west of the former Homebase site on Riverside Drive.    

Much as I welcome expenditure and improvements at our schools in the West End, I queried the expenditure of £29 000 on the formation of two cleaners' cupboards - asking if they were possibly being upgraded with golf leaf paint!    I have been assured that I will be given full details of what the £29 000 would actually be spent on, as this seems an incredible amount of expenditure for only two cupboards.

I also asked for the detail as to how the Business Gateway Re-contracting contract (some £3.3m over 3 years) would be performance monitored.

* At Social Work and Health Committee, I praised the Community Payback Scheme for the way it has been well-managed and undertaken various useful projects across the West End.

* At Policy and Resources Committee, I welcomed a very good report on a Dundee festivals and events strategy for the next five years and sought assurances at the involvement of community festival groups such as WestFest.

West End Schools' Project Board

Yesterday afternoon, I attended the latest meeting of the West End Schools' Project Board, the group overseeing the project to build the new St Joseph's Primary School, Park Place Primary School and Park Place Nursery School.

Construction progress is on schedule with a targeted completion time of mid-September.   This will allow for the pupils and staff to move to their new schools on the former Logie Secondary School site after the October holiday.

The Park Place schools will have new names (as they will no longer be sited in Park Place) - these will be Balgay Hill Nursery School and Victoria Park Primary School.    The Education Department has updated me as to the process used to choose these new names, as follows:

Park Place Primary School

All pupils, parents and staff were engaged in the process.
A survey was carried out on whether or not to change the new name.
Suggestions were sought for a new name.
All were involved in voting their choice from a short list of three (background information was provided for all on why was would be an appropriate name).
Pupil Council counted the votes.
The whole process was discussed at each Local Implementation Group.

Park Place Nursery School

The names were chosen in full consultation with the parents.  The parents came up with five names and these were sent out for them to select their favourite.
The logos/badges were drawn by the children and four were scanned on the one piece of paper for the parents with their children to choose their favourite.  Staff had the same choice.

Pennycook Lane photocall!

As I have previously indicated, the sheltered tenants of Sinderins Court and Pennycook Court have, over past months, been working to improve a seating area in Pennycook Lane that had fallen into disrepair and was very unsightly.    

Their efforts came to fruition yesterday with the unveiling of the new seating area, complete with planters and an array of flowers, greatly brightening up the area and turning an eyesore into a pleasant area to sit at and admire the flowers.

The project would not have succeeded had it not been for the generosity of local charities, the Scottish Community Foundation, Al Maktoum Community Services and Sustain Dundee, and local businessman Jonathan Stewart - with the work to restore the seating carried out by the Dighty Group and the sourcing the purchase of planters by the City Council’s Environment Department.     The pupils of Blackness Primary School will henceforth be looking after the plants – they already have their own community garden over the road in the school grounds.

What was a drab-looking area has been transformed by the efforts of the sheltered tenants and they deserve great praise for turning the idea of improving Pennycook Lane’s old drab seating area into a really nice place to sit.    The old seating was originally constructed under an employment scheme in the 1980s and had long fallen into disrepair with the seats rotten and the area overgrown and graffitied.

Thanks to the efforts of the sheltered tenants, the area is now a real asset and our thanks also go to the local charities and business who gave the funding to make this possible, the Dighty Group and the council’s Environment Department for their help and Blackness Primary School who will be looking after the plants in the future.

Here's some photographs from yesterday's event :
All of us at the unveiling of the new seating and planters area yesterday

I had the pleasure of presenting the prizes to Blackness Primary School pupils who won the Residents' Association competition

Rev Erik Cramb of Al Maktoum Community Services and Marion Adams, Chair of the Residents' Association
I was on Wave 102 news yesterday speaking about this enjoyable event - click 'play' below to listen:

Children's Holiday Club at Logie and St John's (Cross) Church

From Monday to Friday (2nd to 6th July) each morning (10am-12noon) in the halls of Logie and St John’s (Cross) Church (Shaftesbury Terrace), the "On Your Marks" Holiday Club is being run for P1 to S1 children on an Olympics/sporting theme.

Pre-registration is recommended - especially on the first day.  Information will be going out to the various church clubs, but you can download a registration form here.

Monday 25 June 2012

Best of Both Worlds

"Better Together" Dundee launch

I was pleased, along with my LibDem colleague Craig Duncan, to take part in the Dundee launch of the "Better Together" campaign this morning - the cross-party campaign that will be making the positive case for Scotland remaining in the United Kingdom.

Speaking with Dundee people in the High Street, we had a very positive response from residents.    Here's a couple of photographs from earlier this morning:
Being interviewed by Wave 102 's David Proctor

With the cross-party team from the Better Together Dundee launch   
Many thanks to Cllr Richard McCready for this photograph

Concern as school bus withdrawn

I am concerned to have been advised that a decision by Perth and Kinross Council to withdraw a vital school bus that takes Harris Academy pupils home after the school day to Invergowrie, Longforgan and Inchture will adversely also affect pupils in parts of the West End of Dundee.

Last week, Perth & Kinross Council advised Harris Academy parents who live in the Perth & Kinross area of Carse of Gowrie that the 3.50pm Number 16 school bus operated by Stagecoach Strathtay would no longer be supported by their council and was being withdrawn.    This is apparently because of budget pressures and the fact that only one pupil who uses it qualifies for free travel due to distance from home to school.   However, the bus is used by many fare-paying pupils in both the Perth & Kinross Council part of the Harris Academy catchment area and in the area of Perth Road west of Harris Academy within the Dundee boundary.

I have already had concerns about this expressed by constituents who live in the far west part of Perth Road – for example in Clovis Duveau Drive – and the particular concern is for the youngest secondary pupils in S1 and S2 where parents are not comfortable with the long walk these younger pupils will have to take home given the withdrawal of this school bus, particularly in the bad weather over winter.    The bus is to be withdrawn from the start of the new term in August and this exacerbates the already poor service locally following the re-routing of the Number 5 service away from the west end of Perth Road.

If pupils wait for the next service bus, they would be standing waiting for a bus until 4.16pm – over half an hour after the school day ends.    Perth and Kinross Council has indicated to their pupils that they could also use the Stagecoach Strathtay 77 service but it is not well-timed at all and does not help West End pupils living in the far west part of Perth Road, as it does not pass that way.

I have asked Dundee City Council transportation officials to open a dialogue with their counterparts in our neighbouring council to see what can be done in advance of the new term starting in August.

I have to say that I am really concerned to see yet another detrimental cut to bus service provision in this part of the West End – this time also affecting our neighbours into the Perth & Kinross Council area.    We already have a petition gathering pace about the unfortunate change to the National Express Number 5 route that has taken the service away from the most westerly part of Perth Road and this latest news on the afternoon school bus operated by Stagecoach Strathtay is further bad news.

Sunday 24 June 2012

Community BBQ

I had the pleasure yesterday of calling by the community barbeque in Kelso Street organised by the residents of Kelso Street, Kelso Place and Jedburgh Road and was most grateful for the kind invitation.

It was another great example of community spirit in the West End so many thanks to Sarah and her neighbours who organised the day!

Sunday Song!

Not had a musical interlude recently!  This Ricky Martin (featuring Swedish singer Meja) hit from 2000 is a rather good cover of the original by the Hooters from 1993:

Saturday 23 June 2012

An event for diaries for later this summer ...

A high quality PDF version of this poster can be downloaded by clicking here.

Friday 22 June 2012

Trees concern at new school site

Constituents have contacted me to voice concern that two trees have been removed from the Blackness Road boundary of the site of the new St Joseph's and Park Place primary/nursery schools (new building - right).   It is understood that these trees were originally a gift to the city and looked lovely in bloom, so residents are disappointed they have been removed.

I contacted the City Council's education capital projects manager about this and have received the following feedback:

"The two trees in question have been removed after careful consideration and with full consultation with the Council Forestry Officer, Planning Case Officer and Team leader.

Essentially the proximity of the artificial playing surface and the retainment around this facility have dictated the need for the trees to be removed.  The actual root ball of the tree would not be materially affected by the installation of the retaining wall.  Unfortunately, however, the root infrastructure for the tree water system would be compromised and this may well have an effect on the trees' health which could have resulted in it dying over the course of the coming months.

In addition the opinion of the Council Forestry Officer was that the trees have a limited future life possibly another 10 to 12 years and therefore a void may be left in the site even if the watering network of the roots were not compromised.

It is not envisaged at this stage that any further trees along the Blackness Road elevation or other areas of the site will require to be removed.

The strategy agreed with the Council planners is to plant 5 new trees between the Blackness Road boundary and the retaining wall, with a further 4 trees around the corner into the Glenagnes Road perimeter of the site.  Again this has been done in consultation with the Planning Department, prior to making the decision to remove the exiting two trees.

In addition further trees will be planted on site as per the agreed planning permission soft landscaping layout."

The loss of any mature trees is to be regretted, so I am relieved that no further trees will be removed and that new trees will be planted.

Thursday 21 June 2012

Verges on Riverside Drive

I have received complaints from constituents that the verges on Riverside Drive west of the rail station and right along to the rail bridge are in a very tatty state and overgrown with weeds.   See right and below.

Given that this road is supposed to be an "ambassador route", I have asked the City Council to take prompt action to improve matters here.  

Magdalen Artists - an update

I recently did an update on on the Magdalen Artists who have had an exhibition at the Vine as part of WestFest 2012.

With thanks to the Artists, here's ten of the paintings on display:
Blue Vase by Jim Petrie

Duntrune Wood by Liz McCarthy

Lochnagar by Liz McCarthy

By Pat Edgar

By Pat Edgar

Road and the Miles to Dundee by Pauline Murray

Tay at Sunset by Fiona Moore

Two Birds by Jim Petrie

Two Poppies by Fiona Moore

View from the Close by Pauline Murray
The exhibition ran only during WestFest week and had a good attendance, especially on the Saturday.   Although the public exhibition has ended, during June, if you go to the Vine during office hours (43 Magdalen Yard Road), it will be possible to be shown round the paintings.

Wednesday 20 June 2012

Concern over police "North Command" proposal

As reported in yesterday's Courier and Evening Telegraph, I have hit out at the Scottish Government proposals to create a “North Command” stretching from Dundee up to Shetland as part of the abolition of Tayside Police and the creation of a single police force across Scotland, calling the proposed North Command area far too large, unwieldy and inappropriate.

I said at the City Council Policy & Resources Committee last year that the Single Police Force proposals were fundamentally flawed and we now see the creation of a North Command area around 300 miles long, including highly urban areas like Dundee and very rural areas like the Highlands and Northern Isles.   Such an unwieldy command area makes no sense.

The SNP’s single police force proposals are unravelling and I predict that in the long term they will cost public money, not save it, as the SNP Government originally claimed.  Tayside Police is an extremely efficient force and it is not too late for the government to think again and retain the existing police boundaries.

I would also point to the recent Audit Scotland report on weaknesses in the public bodies mergers, as this underlines the fact that the underlying assumptions behind the latest mergers involving both the police and fire and rescue services are flawed and will cost more and deliver less in the long term.

Harris Academy Parent Council

Last night, I attended the last meeting of the Harris Academy Parent Council or this academic year.

There was a useful update from Mr Thewliss, Head Teacher, on school matters including the decant and school rebuilding project, and there was also a useful discussion on social media.

The Parent Council is keen to have a social media presence in the new academic year as a useful tool to keep parents updated, but also keen to see some training/updates for parents to ensure they are aware of the possible risks and dangers to young people from social media.      Making all parents aware of the Think Before You Click message for their children is a very good initiative.

Improvements on Blackness Road planned

Last June, the City Council sensibly decided to postpone road resurfacing works on the part of Blackness Road between Abbotsford Street and Blackness Fire Station.    It makes sense to undertake this work after all the disruption to the roadway around the new schools on the former Logie Secondary site has finished.

Constituents have asked when the work is now planned to happen so I asked the City Engineer for an update.   He has responded as follows:

"... the surfacing works were postponed until mid September 2012 to allow for utility connections to be made to the school development.  A road closure will be required to carry out these surfacing works which are proposed to last 6 days.

A letter drop will be carried out to notify frontagers of the proposed works."

A plan of the works area is given below:
Constituents at Blackness Court have also asked about extending the length of the “bleep” of the Green Man at the crossing near to the sheltered housing as it currently gives the pedestrian the impression that it is not safe to continue walking and this is particularly disconcerting for elderly residents.      

The Head of Transportation at Dundee City Council has responded as follows:

"This pedestrian crossing is planned to be refurbished, ahead of the new school opening, and the UTC team will include an extended 'beeps' stage during the daytime.  After 9pm the 'beeps' are truncated to minimise noise intrusion to neighbouring residents."

Tuesday 19 June 2012

Community project nears completion

Last year, the Pennycook and Sinderins Court sheltered housing Residents' Association secured over £1000 of funding to get new seating in Pennycook Lane and have some environmental improvements too.

The Dighty Group built the new seating and Blackness Primary School's Head Teacher kindly agreed to the school pupils maintaining some planters, as they already do with the ones in the school grounds.

It has taken some time for the group to secure planters as the original source fell through, so many thanks to the City Council's Environment Department which has got the group some planters - now in place - see right - and is also providing plants and Discovery Compost (all of which the Residents' Association is funding).

We are organising a photocall later this month to 'officially open' the improved seating area.  It is really good to see this community project coming to such positive fruition.

On Radio Tay News ...

I was on Radio Tay's News yesterday about road safety adjacent to Dundee's rail station.   Click 'play' to listen:

Monday 18 June 2012

Tonight's Development Management Committee

Earlier this evening, following my surgeries at the Mitchell Street Centre and at Harris Academy, I participated in the City Council's Development Management Committee at which :

* I spoke regarding the proposal for a supermarket in Hawkhill, strongly supporting the recommendation to refuse it, a recommendation unanimously agreed.   Having listened to both deputations and read the report on the application, it was clear to me that this application did not comply with planning policy.   As I indicated tonight, it is important that, in order to be able to vote at this committee in the interests of our constituents, councillors read the Director's report and listen to all the evidence before them before making a decision.   I believe the correct decision - to refuse this supermarket proposal - was taken tonight.

* I also sought assurances about ensuring that works for two new flats at Keiller Court take place only outwith university term time to avoid disruption to neighbouring tenants.

* I sought assurances about the colour proposed for the repainting of a public house in West Port, to ensure it is in keeping with the neighbouring properties.

Council takes action on stupid and dangerous vehicle manoeuvres at Dundee Station

At the recent West End Community Council meeting, a member advised that he had witnessed the driver of a vehicle - to avoid driving up to Greenmarket & then down past the Scottish Enterprise building to the station, where a diversion is in place during the Waterfront road works - simply drove across the pavement into the station car park area directly from South Marketgait, narrowly avoiding pedestrians.

As reported in today's Courier, I raised the matter with the City Council’s Director of City Development calling for action to prevent such a stupid and dangerous manoeuvre from being possible.

In response, the Director of City Development at Dundee City Council has advised:

“From an inspection on site, we believe the motorist must have crossed the footpath at the pedestrian crossing, so as an interim measure we have installed a temporary barrier to prevent vehicular access. The contractor has been instructed to monitor this location and report to the police any driver attempting to access the Station Car park illegally.

Please note that this pedestrian corridor from the pedestrian crossing to the station will be re-configured this summer and the station car park will be closed as part of the Station Bridge replacement contract and this should eliminate this illegal manoeuvre.”

Speaking with constituents, it appears this dangerous manoeuvre was not an isolated incident and had happened on a number of occasions in recent days, so I am pleased that the City Council has taken swift action.   See photo of temporary barrier - above right.   I think it is important that all drivers observe the proper diverted route and don’t try to take shortcuts that are frankly dangerous to both pedestrians and indeed themselves.

The City Council’s Head of Transportation also advised me:

“I have also made Tayside Police Road Policing Unit aware of this manoeuvre, but the engineering measures should prevent any further incidents.”

On Wave 102 news ...

I was on Wave 102 news yesterday regarding the encampment at the Technology Park.   Click 'play' below to listen:

Sunday 17 June 2012

Medical records dumped in West Port

Following the revelation that NHS Tayside medical records have been found dumped in a bin recess area at the back of tenements in West Port, I have had several constituents express concern about this and I have written to the Chief Executive of NHS Tayside in the following terms:

"I have had a number of constituents express concern to me about the recent finding of medical records dumped in a bin recess area in the West Port area of my ward.

I would be grateful if you would give me an explanation as to how this happened and a reassurance that, on fully investigating the circumstances as to how this happened, procedures will be tightened to ensure that this could not occur again in the future."

Having in the past raised residents' complaints about the state of some of the back areas at West Port, I have also been again in touch with one of the landlords about getting these back areas properly tidied.

Scottish Liberal Democrat Leader, Willie Rennie MSP, has rightly called for a Scotland-wide investigation of the safe and proper disposal of medical records - see below:


A Scotland-wide investigation into information management by the NHS has been called for following the dumping of patient records in Dundee.  The records which hold sensitive information on 22 patients from Dundee, Angus and Fife were found dumped in a bin recess in Dundee.

Willie Rennie, Leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, has called for a Scotland wide inquiry.

Commenting, he said:

“This is yet another example of poor control of patient records and information management in the NHS in Scotland.  To dump sensitive information in a bin instead of ensuring safe disposal could be an indication of a slack attitude.

“I am pleased that NHS Tayside has already agreed to investigate the matter, but the problem is that NHS Tayside is not alone.  

“NHS Ayrshire and Arran were heavily criticised by the Information Commissioner for their management of important information.  The failure in Ayrshire and Arran crucially involved learning the lessons from patient deaths.

“The Health Secretary has so far refused to conduct a Scotland wide inquiry but she needs to think again after this latest episode.  I urge her today to agree to an inquiry so that the mistakes in Ayrshire and Arran and in Tayside are not repeated.”  

Russian School at Harris Academy

I have had the pleasure of attending a number of events run by the excellent Russian School at Harris Academy and was delighted to recently make a contribution to the school's new promotional leaflet - see this (right).

The school is going for strength to strength and provides a full curriculum for all with an interest and thirst for knowledge in the Russian language, culture and history.    

You can download a copy of the full leaflet at

Saturday 16 June 2012

Riverside Nature Park Plinths Unveiling event

Later this morning, I took part in an excellent event at Riverside Nature Park, at which five new information panels were officially unveiled by Professor Rob Duck, Dean of the School of the Environment at the University of Dundee.   

The panels look superb and enhance the Nature Park that was officially opened exactly a year ago.   The Nature Park is going from strength to strength, with good visitor numbers.

Here's some photographs from this morning's event, along with a short video from the unveiling ceremony!
The superb view from the Nature Park across the Tay

One of the information plinths

Professor Duck at the unveiling ceremony

Laura Booth of the Tay Estuary Forum says a few words at the event
VIdeo of the unveiling - click 'play' to listen :