Tuesday, 22 April 2014

City Council meetings

After some weeks of illness, I was pleased to be able to attend my Monday surgeries at the Mitchell Street Centre and West Park Centre yesterday afternoon - and many thanks to colleagues who have covered them in recent weeks.

Thereafter I attended a lengthy evening of council committee meetings.   It was kind of the Lord Provost at the start of the City Council meeting to welcome me back to council meetings and I thanked everyone for their kind concern and good wishes during the time I was ill.

At Education Committee, I welcomed an excellent initiative by the Robertson Scholarship Trust to provide up to 20 annual bursaries to assist senior Dundee pupils moving to university.   Starting in September, these bursaries will provide support to talented young people in the city who may otherwise not have access to sufficient resources to enter higher education.

At Policy and Resources Committee, there was a discussion about welfare reform that would have been a whole lot more productive had the SNP administration's motion not predictably gone on about independence.    I agree with the Labour councillor who made the point that Dundee councillors have a job of work to do in terms of the council's own responsibilities and should be concentrating on this rather than debating and splitting along predictable lines on the referendum issue, which is clearly nothing to do with the role of Dundee City Council.

However, I did express concern at the underspend of some £127 578 in Discretionary Housing Payments (DHPs) in 2013/14.    The council should be redoubling efforts to ensure that DHP budgets are fully spent to assist those most needing them and officers did give assurances about doing all they can to ensure maximum spend.

At the same committee, in a discussion on the council's banking arrangements, I supported a motion from my ward colleague Cllr Richard McCready criticising Royal Bank of Scotland's decision to close Perth Road's branch of the bank.    You can sign my petition against the closure here.

At Environment Committee, on the contentious matter of the SNP administration's proposals to move to fortnightly general waste bin collections, I moved the following amendment:
Item 2:   Improvement and expansion of domestic recycling services
Remove recommendations at 2.2 to 2.5 inclusive.
Add new recommendation :
2.2 Instructs the Director of Environment to bring forward a further report that includes an option that proposes improvements and expansion of the council’s domestic recycling services and also preserves weekly residual waste collections to all households currently receiving these. Such a report to include the detailed costs of each option to be considered for each of the 6 phased areas proposed in Appendix 4.
This would have allowed councillors to fully consider all options - as opposed to "fortnightly general waste collections - take it or leave it" which is Dundee SNP policy.     I lost the vote 15-12, having had the support of all opposition councillors - the SNP members all voted for the fortnightly option.    

Another amendment - by the Labour Group - which would have put any change on hold until there is a public consultation exercise - was also lost by the same margin.    Perhaps it was no surprise that the SNP pushed through the policy before there is any consultation as its clear the public simply don't support what the SNP is doing.   The feedback from constituents is strongly against the ending of the general waste weekly collection.    

I am aware of one referendum that has taken place on this very issue elsewhere in the UK (in Dartford) - 95.3% of residents there voted for the retention of weekly residual waste collections.   If the SNP is so sure its fortnightly policy is so popular, put it to the vote and let the people of Dundee speak.     It is also interesting to note that Dundee SNP did not include fortnightly bin collections in its 2012 council manifesto.

At City Development Committee, after hearing a deputation from Balgay Bowling Club, I asked questions about the proposed tree preservation order (TPO) affecting the Fernbrae Hospital site.    The preservation order itself makes sense - there are some lovely, mature trees on the site - but the bowling club is concerned about specific trees and the boundary wall collapse.   I visited the club at its request last year about this matter and sought assurances last night that the TPO would not prevent a satisfactory resolution of the boundary wall concern.   Having obtained this assurance, the TPO was approved.