Saturday 28 February 2015

Dundee Arts Cafe - Mary Slessor: No Ordinary Missionary

On Tuesday 3rd March at 6pm – Dundee Arts Cafe at McManus :  Dundee’s Art Gallery and Museum -

Mary Slessor was an Aiberdeen quine, who moved to Dundee in the 1850's when the mills were at their height and worked tirelessly with the Church to improve lives for the working class. She then moved on as a Missionary to 'The Calabar' in modern day Nigeria. Here she fought for the lives of children, women, and slaves; for human rights. She was brave and feisty, warm and untiring in her struggle. She also outlived all her family in Dundee despite the risks in the Calabar, also known as "The White Man's Grave." In the Calabar she is known still as "The Mother of all Peoples", yet here her story is relatively unknown, despite featuring on the Clydesdale Bank £5 note!

With biographical story, song and personal insight, Ruth Kirkpatrick weaves the threads of Mary's remarkable life, into a rich tapestry, to commemorate the centenary of her death.

Born in the North East of Scotland, Ruth Kirkpatrick has performed at Storytelling festivals all over, including India, Singapore, Iceland and Dubai. Her strength is in forming a warm rapport with her audience, respecting the tradition but giving her performance a personal, feisty sparkle.

Friday 27 February 2015

Dundee Art Society's Art 125 Exhibition

Dundee Art Society’s Art 125 Exhibition is currently open daily at the Discovery Point Café Gallery.

The society is celebrating its 125th year this year, and this show is dedicated to displaying the rich variety of talent, endowed on the city by their current members.

It includes an eclectic mix of mostly realist styles, some abstract for variety and mixed media works. 

Members of Dundee Art Society range from professional artists to the majority of amateur artists, and the student; the works shown vary tremendously and provide something for every viewing preference, with works in watercolour, oil, gouache, pastel and mixed media including glass.  

Entry is free of charge.

Thursday 26 February 2015

Progress with the pedestrian bridge at Seabraes

Further to my previous updates about the new pedestrian bridge at Seabraes, across the rail line to Riverside, I recently asked the City Engineer for an update on progress with the bridge's construction.

He has responded positively as follows :

"The project is progressing well and is on programme. 

You may have seen that the bridge steelwork has been delivered to site and is in the process of being fabricated for a single lift into place mid-April. 

The works‎ are programmed for completion and opening mid May 2015."

See photo below of the bridge steelwork :

Wednesday 25 February 2015

Wednesday meetings

Today has been a busy day, including :

*   A briefing at lunchtime for councillors whose wards are affected by Phase 1 of the new bin collection and recycling arrangements and an opportunity for us to raise questions and seek assurances for constituents.   Any resident with a concern or a query is welcome to either call me direct on 459378 or the Environment Department on 436289.

*   An afternoon meeting of the Time2Give timebank committee for the West End.   Timebanking is a means of exchange used to organise people and organisations around a purpose, where time is the principal currency.  For every hour participants ‘deposit’ in a timebank, perhaps by giving practical help and support to others, they are able to ‘withdraw’ equivalent support in time when they themselves are in need.    In each case the participant decides what they can offer. 
    It is a great, community-based, concept and Time2Give is going from strength to strength.   Much credit recently goes to Claire who has voluntarily been managing the timebank recently.    You can read more about Time2Give here.

    *   Tonight I attended a meeting at Blackness Library organised by the Environment Department for residents in Blackness Road west of Ashbank Road (on the north side and east of Balgay Road) about how the new bin/recycling arrangements are proposed to affect them.    It was a useful discussion and I was pleased that council officers listened carefully to the points made by residents and promised to take them on board in the roll-out of the new arrangements.

    Bonnie Dundee group - AGM

    Last night, I attended the annual general meeting of the Bonnie Dundee group, at the Dalhousie Building, University of Dundee.

    There was an excellent presentation by Dr Chris Connolly on ‘Pollinators on Blooms’ – the detrimental effects of pesticides on the insect population.   There was also a useful update on Dundee’s forthcoming entry into the Britain in Bloom finals city category. 

    Bonnie Dundee encourages improvements to the Dundee environment and helps local groups who keep Dundee's parks, open areas, streets and gardens in good shape.   

    The Bonnie Dundee group meets on the last Tuesday of the month at 14 City Square – all interested are very welcome to attend.

    Volunteering at Roxburghe House

    Tuesday 24 February 2015

    Unadopted pavements : Hazel Drive

    As part of the unadopted footways programme, the east side of Hazel Drive is due to be upgraded and adopted this financial year.

    As the financial year is drawing to a close, I was asked by local residents to ascertain when the upgrade would take place.

    I am pleased to advise that the City Engineer has updated me as follows :

    "These works are programmed to start on 2nd March."

    Monday 23 February 2015

    Call for consultation on 20's Plenty agreed by Dundee City Council

    Last June, I proposed that Dundee City Council consult residents and communities across Dundee on the subject of having more 20mph zones in residential areas where there is support from residents.  

    On that occasion, my proposal was defeated by a single vote.

    I took the matter back to the City Council's City Development Committee tonight, following the publication in January of guidance by Transport Scotland which is supportive of 20mph zones.

    My motion read as follows :

    "Committee notes Report 43-2015 by the Director of City Development on 20mph speed limits.

    Committee also notes that :

    20mph zones and 20mph limits significantly decrease the risk of being injured in a collision
    lowering the speed limit from 30mph to 20mph can reduce child accidents by up to 70%
    half of people who are hit by a car at 30mph will die and only 10% of people hit by a car at 20mph will die

    Committee believes lower speed limits will make streets safer for pedestrians, cyclists and car users alike and will encourage people to walk and cycle with the consequential benefits for health and quality of life.

    In light of recent “Good Practice Guide on 20mph speed restrictions” published by Transport Scotland referred to in the Director’s report, Committee calls for the development of a policy on the implementation of 20mph zones and limits, and, as a first step, the Director of City Development is instructed, within the next six months, to consult widely with community councils, tenants’ and residents’ associations, other representative community organisations and the public across all eight Local Community Planning Partnership areas to discuss their views of where 20mph limits would be appropriate and would be of benefit to residential amenity and road safety in each community.

    The Director of City Development is thereafter instructed to bring a report to committee on the outcomes of such a consultation exercise, by December 2015, with a view to thereafter considering commencement of a phased programme of introducing 20mph limits on residential roads from 2016/17 onwards, giving due consideration to the revenue and capital and enforcement implications of such a programme."

    I am pleased to say that, on this occasion, the SNP administration agreed to support my motion, as did all opposition members.   I agreed to an alteration of the six month deadline referred to above given the workload of relevant officers, which is perfectly reasonable, but the bottom line is that the council will now be consulting with people across Dundee on this important road safety measure.

    I am indebted to Andy Llanwarne of Friends of the Earth Tayside, Derek Paton and George Gammack who each spoke eloquently as deputations on the matter tonight and to 20's Plenty for Us,  Living Streets Scotland and Friends of the Earth Tayside, for their expertise and support.

    I am now keen to encourage Dundee residents to take part in the forthcoming consultation.

    Changes to Waste & Recycling collections : an update

    I have previously advised residents about the changes to bin collections and recycling arrangements covering much of the West End, now being rolled out.   The area covered in the current roll-out (Phase 1) covers quite a convoluted boundary but is roughly speaking the area west of Peddie Street to the Invergowrie boundary, including Logie, but currently not including Pentland and Tullideph.   

    The council website has more details about the new arrangements.   Delivery of detailed information to residents affected commences today (being delivered between now and 6th March) and the Director of Environment at the City Council has advised me of the following timetable for the phasing in of the new arrangements for Phase 1 (with the exception of a very small number of properties in Clayhills Drive and within the Ninewells Hospital grounds which were switched over last December) :
    Any resident with queries can contact the Environment Department on 436289 or e-mail  

    I previously mentioned the concerns raised by residents in Blackness Road west of Ashbank Road (on the north side and east of Balgay Road) about how the new arrangements are proposed to affect them.   I am pleased to note than an additional consultation meeting has been arranged by the Environment Department for these residents this week - 7pm on Wednesday (25th) at Blackness Library.

    Sunday 22 February 2015

    Bonnie Dundee 2015 AGM this Tuesday

    Further to my previous update about the forthcoming Bonnie Dundee AGM, here's a poster about the AGM this coming Tuesday :

    Saturday 21 February 2015

    Solar Cities Scotland event for Pentland and Logie residents

    From Solar Cities Scotland about improving your home insulation :

    We are having a drop in event from 10am-6pm on Monday 23rd February in Room 17 at the Mitchell Street Centre.

    We have invited all Pentland residents in order to view their recent thermal images as well as Logie residents to in order to discuss the progress of our internal insulation pilot project in one home in Logie for which we received an award of £2000 from Dundee Partnership.  Full information on the outcomes will be in the final report which will be produced by the end of March 2015.

    If you happen to be free and in the area please feel free to drop in or to pass this on to anyone who you think may be interested in finding out more about thermal imaging or our Logie pilot project.    We are happy to give advice with any energy efficiency related queries or renewable technologies for anyone as always too. 

    Please note that, as there is no lift to this room, we have offered to visit people in their homes, or email images to people who have accessibility issues or who can't make it along on Monday.

    Background to the Logie insulation project

    Solar Cities Scotland applied to the Dundee Partnership in September 2014 and was successfully awarded £2000 for a Pilot Insulation Project in Logie.

    We are grateful to the Dundee Partnership for this funding to allow this pilot project to go ahead. We will pass on our findings to Dundee City Council Housing Department as well as to Logie residents, local councillors and other interested parties. We hope that by using this internal insulation product we may be able to offer a viable solution to assist with lowering energy costs and carbon emissions the residents of these solid wall properties in Logie.

    The Logie properties are nearly 100 years old and are known as ‘hard to heat’ properties due to the fact that they are solid wall properties which are not suitable for cavity wall insulation. As a Conservation Area, no external insulation can be applied to the homes. The houses have large, draughty basements which cannot be insulated due to the presence of asbestos. As a result, the only hard measure that can be done is loft insulation. Our thermal images identified that the majority of these homes already have this to the current standard. The issue remains that the homes are expensive to heat with many of the residents suffering from fuel poverty. There are many older people within these homes.

    We are supporting the Dundee Partnership's commitment to tackling deprivation by 'closing the gap' between inequalities in terms of housing and fuel poverty across Dundee.

    We hope that this project will enable people (predominantly older people) to stay in their homes longer, and in higher comfort levels, by highlighting a route to tackling hard to treat homes in the West End of Dundee. 

    Temporary Traffic Order - West Hendersons Wynd and Miln Street

    From the City Council :

    Dundee City Council proposes to make an Order under Section 14(1) of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 for the purpose of facilitating building operations at Verdant Works.  The Order is expected to be in force for 10 weeks from 23 February 2015.  Its maximum duration in terms of the Act is eighteen months.

    The effect of the Order is to prohibit temporarily all vehicular traffic in (1) West Hendersons Wynd from the north side of the entrance to Verdant Works extending for a distance of 26 metres or thereby northwards to the north side of its junction with Miln Street and (2) Miln Street from its junction with West Hendersons Wynd for a distance of 12 metres or thereby in an easterly direction.

    An alternative route will be available via Guthrie Street, Blinshall Street, Douglas Street and reverse.

    If you have any queries please contact 433168.

    Friday 20 February 2015

    Lochee Road - pavement north side opposite Tullideph Road junction

    Numerous West End residents have raised with me the overgrown ivy protruding across the pavement on the north side of Lochee Road opposite Tullideph Road junction.   It is actually on the Coldside side of the ward boundary but many local residents use this pavement.

    Having contacted the council about this, I am pleased to report that work to address this has been agreed and is imminent.

    Thursday 19 February 2015

    Frank's Law to be debated at Dundee City Council

    Frank and Amanda
    Following the recent decision of Angus councillors to unanimously back Amanda Kopel’s campaign for free personal care to dementia suffers aged under 65, the issue will now come before Dundee councillors.

    I have received confirmation that my request that the City Council discuss this important issue has been agreed and the matter will be discussed at the Policy & Resources Committee on Monday 9th March 2015.    Amanda will address councillors at the meeting.

    Following Angus Council unanimously agreeing to back “Frank’s Law” to recognise the need for free personal care to dementia suffers aged under 65, my friend and colleague, Montrose councillor David May, contacted me to suggest it would be highly appropriate for Dundee City Council to also back the campaign, given Frank’s long association with the city and the importance of this issue.

    Having spoken with Amanda, I am pleased to support her tireless campaign for proper recognition of the personal care needs of dementia suffers aged under 65, and I have no doubt the campaign will get wide support across Dundee City Council, just as it did in Angus recently.

    I have the upmost respect for Amanda’s work to highlight this hugely important issue.   She has raised the profile of the campaign to improve access to care for people under age 65 who are battling dementia.  Amanda has made her case to the Scottish Parliament petitions committee and to the previous and present Scottish Health Minister.

    This is a question of equality, fairness and an end to age discrimination of younger dementia sufferers and I do hope it also receives the unanimous support of Dundee City Councillors.

    Friends of Wighton - Cappuccino Concert

    Gerda Stevenson
    From Sheena Wellington :

    This Saturday 21st February at the Wighton Heritage Centre, Central Library - 11am (coffee available from 10.30am).

    Gerda Stevenson, singer/songwriter and Kyrre Slind, multi-instrumentalist.

    Gerda Stevenson trained at R.A.D.A., London, winning the Vanbrugh Award. She has worked on stage, television, radio and film throughout Britain and abroad. In 2014, she was nominated as one the Saltire Society's outstanding women of Scotland.   

    From the Stevenson family of musicians (her father the composer/pianist Ronald, sister composer/harper Savourna, and niece composer/fiddler Anna-Wendy), Gerda is known for her singing in many theatre productions.

    Kyrre Slind is a brilliant musician from Norway now living in Kerry.  He plays several instruments like the Renaissance lute, acoustic guitar, banjo and sitar.  He sings Gregorian chants too.  His music is deeply rooted in the power of nature and he is an accompanist of great sensitivity and skill.

    Tickets are £5 at the door.

    Wednesday 18 February 2015

    Getting things done ... Perth Road

    Residents recently advised about poor state of the north pavement of Perth Road from the so-called "Invergowrie" roundabout (bottom of Ninewells Avenue) eastwards.

    As one resident said, "Apparently the pavements were taken up recently and they are now worse than before."

    I reported this to the council's Roads Maintenance Partnership and am pleased to advise that repairs have now already commenced.

    Tuesday 17 February 2015

    Concern over funding loss for the Hear to Help Project in Dundee

    I have expressed concern at the loss of funding for the Hear to Help Project in Dundee.   Run by Action on Hearing Loss Scotland, it has provided help for people to maintain and use their hearing aids in recent years.   I visited a drop-in session at Blackness Library last year and was extremely impressed with what the project provides for local people.

    I am very concerned indeed to learn that the funding for the above project is not being renewed.   I feel it is a great service as many elderly constituents in particular are able to get some support to maintain their hearing aids, cleaning tubing, etc and the project supplies batteries to them at each visit. 

    It makes it so much easier for residents to have this drop-in clinic in local sheltered complexes and at Blackness Library locally and to access this support on a regular basis.    I fear that without these regular visits, many will find it much more difficult to maintain their hearing aids properly.    It would be greatly detrimental if this service ended.

    The background to the project is that following a pilot in the Borders, in 2010 the Scottish Government provided continuation funding and money to run similar projects in the Greater Glasgow and Clyde, Tayside and Ayrshire & Arran NHS health board areas.   The four Hear to Help projects have made well over 8000 interventions to support hearing aid wearers and have drop-in sessions running in 52 community venues across Scotland.

    Funding for the projects in Glasgow, Tayside, Ayrshire and Arran and the Borders, however, is due to run out at the end of March 2015 and continuation funding is being urgently sought to ensure these life-changing Hear to Help services can continue.   If funding is not found, the loss of the Hear to Help projects will have an immediate impact on the communication, health and well-being experienced by thousands of people with hearing loss.

    I recently wrote to Lesley McLay, Chief Executive of NHS Tayside, emphasising the great value of the project and calling for funding to be found to allow it to continue.    

    In response, Ms McLay advised, “I am conscious of your concerns about the quality of life aspect for users of this service, therefore I have asked (the) General Manager for this area and the Head of Audiology Services … to work with Action on Hearing Loss Scotland to jointly explore potential options for the continuation of the scheme.”

    I know of some constituents who have just recently started using hearing aids who benefit greatly from some individual advice and support. 

    I would be extremely sorry to see this service come to an end due to funding not being continued and am very keen that Scottish Government and NHS Tayside find a route forward to allow Action on Hearing Loss Scotland to continue to run the service.

    Monday 16 February 2015

    Bruce Mackie

    Bruce Mackie
    I was greatly saddened to learn earlier today of the passing of Bruce Mackie, former City Councillor and Leader of the Conservative Group.

    Bruce made a huge contribution to the civic life of our city over many years - representing Broughty Ferry from 1966 right through to his retiral from the council in 2007.   

    He was respected by all as a hard-working councillor who always stood up for his beloved Broughty Ferry but above all Bruce was an approachable, cheerful colleague. 

    In retirement, Bruce continued to keep a close interest in local issues and he called me as recently as a fortnight ago for a chat about the V&A project.   It was typical of Bruce that he didn't even mention his illness - his interest was always for the good of our city and its people.

    Bruce will be really sadly missed - a lovely, friendly man who made a real contribution to Dundee over many years.   My thoughts are with Roberta and the family at this sad time.

    Blackness Library - temporary closure

    Blackness Library will be closed from 2nd to 6th March inclusive.     

    Leisure and Culture Dundee, who operate the library on behalf of Dundee City Council, has advised me of the reasons behind the five day closure :

    “As I am sure you are aware there has been an ongoing problem with fumes from the heating system leaking into the adult section of Blackness Library.   Dundee City Council's best solution is to reroute the flues through the original chimney and preparatory work has been undertaken over the last month.   The final stage of this work will involve the disconnection of the boilers, re-siting them and then connecting them to the new flues.   As this means there would be no heating or hot water and disruptions to cold water supply and possible disruption to the electricity supply the decision has been made to close Blackness Library for five days while this work is carried out.   The closure period will be from the 2nd March to 6th March inclusive.   These dates have been chosen to keep cancellations of group events to a minimum and still allow for the work to be completed this financial year.”

    The Monday to Friday closure during the first week of March is obviously necessary so I asked if it might be possible for the mobile library to visit the area near the library during that time.   

    I am pleased to advise that this has proved possible and the mobile library service will stop in Shaftesbury Road, as close as it can to Logie & St John's (Cross) Church, on Wednesday 4th March from 10.30am to 11am.

    Sunday 15 February 2015

    Riverside Drive - safety barrier

    The safety barrier in the centre of Riverside Drive nearly Discovery Point has been damaged by a vehicle - see below :
    I contacted the City Council about this and the Roads Maintenance Partnership has confirmed repairs are now planned for later this week (17th - 18th, weather permitting).

    No ward surgeries tomorrow ...

    As tomorrow is a school holiday (mid-term), my usual ward surgeries do not take place but I can be contacted at any time at home on 459378 or by e-mail at

    My surgeries resume on Thursday – Blackness Primary School at 6.15pm (in the staff room, ground floor).

    Saturday 14 February 2015

    Fairtrade Fortnight Celebration Event for Teachers

    The One World Centre in Dundee is holding an informal Fair Trade Café Conversations event on Wednesday 25th February at the Cairn Centre, 12 Rattray Street between 4pm and 5.15pm.  

    There will be the chance to sample lots of Fair Trade goodies while chatting with others about Fair Trade opportunities, activities and resources for schools. 

    To reserve your place at this free event, please contact Clare Fulton, Global Learning Adviser at the One World Centre - email or telephone 454603.

    Friday 13 February 2015

    Area at Pennycook Lane/Ford's Lane tidied

    Some time ago, I asked the City Council to tidy the overgrown, litter-strewn area at the top of Ford's Lane, south of the Pennycook Lane car park.     I am pleased to say it has since been nicely tidied - see below :

    Thursday 12 February 2015

    Council Budget meeting

    Earlier today, I participated in the City Council's Annual Budget Setting meeting at which I was the only opposition councillor to propose an amendment (and - I would argue - improvement) to the Capital Budget.   I also proposed an amendment to the Revenue Budget.

    The budget papers can be accessed here.   My revenue budget amendment was as follows:

    Approves the budget savings totalling £3,310,000 as shown in the Administration Group's motion with the following amendments:

           Savings to be Deleted
    Education: Restructure of Young Mum’s Unit (Menzieshill High School)         £    44,000
    Environment: Major Service Redesign and Rationalisation of Ground
    Maintenance and Street Cleansing Operations *                                             £  157,000
    Environment: Review of Bowling Green Provision                                        £    30,000

    *Major Service Redesign and Rationalisation of Ground Maintenance and Street Cleansing Operations – this proposes no introduction in 2015/16 only, but further proposes establishment of an all-party working group, including officers, to determine possible proposals for 2016/17 onwards. Such a working group to be established by March 2015 and report by August 2015.

    Savings to be Added
    Various Savings                                                                                        £ 231,000
    The purpose of my amendment was to avoid a detrimental change to the Young Mum's Unit - the SNP administration proposed removal of the Principal Teacher's post;  to stop cuts in the city's street cleaning service and grounds maintenance and to avoid the closure of Victoria Park and Baxter Park Bowling Greens.

    It was unsurprising that the SNP administration was not for listening and pushed these cuts through but the position of the Labour Group was, frankly, astonishing.   Having "borrowed" savings I had identified and trying to pass them off as their own in their own amendment, Labour then failed to support my amendment.  

    The only conclusion one can draw from that is that Dundee Labour is comfortable with the SNP's West End and Baxter Park Bowling Green closures and the cuts in street cleaning, as Labour did not attempt to reverse these SNP cuts in their own amendment.

    SNP and Labour also failed to support my Capital Budget amendment (in fact, in a Capital Budget of £195 million over the next three years, Labour had no amendment at all of their own).   

    My amendment was as follows :
    This would have increased roads resurfacing in Dundee by £550 000 over the next three years and provided for a budget for new bus shelters where they are required.    

    An opportunity lost I feel.

    Friends of Magdalen Green meeting

    Last night, I attended the latest Friends of Magdalen Green committee meeting and we had a useful discussion on a number of issues including some damage to the Green recently, arrangements for our forthcoming AGM in May and also our forthcoming "Can't Cook, Won't Cook" evening.

    You can download our most recent members' newsletter here - including full details of the "Can't Cook, Won't Cook" evening.   All welcome!

    Wednesday 11 February 2015

    Changes to Waste & Recycling collections : Blackness Road

    Further to my update about the Community Council meeting last night, here's the detail of what is being proposed in relation to new waste & recycling collections in part of Blackness Road.

    Over a long period, I have highlighted to the City Council residents' complaints about wheelie bins sitting permanently on the pavement, which not only causes difficulty for pedestrians particularly those using wheelchairs, motorised scooters or with prams, but has potentially serious safety issues as we saw in 2010 in Peddie Street.

    With the roll-out of new bin and recycling arrangements now taking place in a large part of the West End, I asked the City Council's Environment Department if this will tackle the wheelie bins on the pavements problem in part of the tenement section of Blackness Road.

    I have now been updated as follows and would welcome feedback from any resident about what is proposed :

    "The proposed service provision for the Blackness Road properties (tenements) in phase 1 is as follows:

    226 - 248 (even). Reconfiguration of wheeled bins within each recess area. Wheeled bins for refuse, DMR (paper, card, plastics, metals) and glass to be provided. Bins will be shared by all residents and collected, emptied and returned by the refuse collectors.

    250 - 274 (even), 219 - 295 (odd). Properties to be served by communal, on-street eurobins to be situated on the carriageway. Eurobins to be provided for the collection of refuse, DMR (paper, card, plastics, metals) and glass. All existing wheeled bins for refuse, paper/card and green boxes will be uplifted and removed from service.  

    In terms of the food waste provision, all of the above properties will be served by on-street wheeled bins, each to be stored within a bespoke housing unit. The units will be located either on the carriageway or footway, appropriate to the location and width of footway."

    As I indicated last night, getting the wheelie bins off the pavement will be welcomed, although the need for eurobins west of Ashbank Road on the north side of Blackness Road should be reconsidered, as there is no wheelie bins on pavement issue there.

    Tuesday 10 February 2015

    West End Community Council meeting

    Earlier this evening, I attended this month's West End Community Council meeting - one of the best attended in a long time.

    It was good to see so many members of the public there - and part of the reason was that there was a presentation by council Environment Department staff about the revised waste and recycling collections in part of the West End, about to be further rolled out.

    There was some concern expressed about the consultation process and the extent of communal bins being rolled out in part of Blackness Road.   I discussed these concerns at some length with the Environment Director yesterday.

    The main point is that, whilst introducing communal bins will be welcomed in much of the tenemental part of Blackness Road east of Ashbank Road, where I get continual complaints about wheelie bins sitting permanently on the pavement, the intention is to have them also west of here up to Balgay Road (on the north side), where there has been no problem whatsoever with wheelie bin collections.    A rethink on that is necessary was the mood of the meeting tonight and I agree with that.

    Tomorrow, I'll update my blog with the detail of what is currently being proposed and I would welcome further feedback from residents on this.

    The meeting tonight also discussed other issues including the V&A budget concerns and the consultation on the possible closure of Menzieshill High School and its catchment area being included within the Harris Academy catchment area.

    West End Community Council Update

    I have today launched my February 2015 Update to West End Community Council.    

    Subjects covered include:

    •         Update on Riverside Drive roads issues 
    •         Getting things done : Seymour Street
    •         Lighting concern - Riverside Avenue to Perth Road  

    The Community Council meets this evening at Logie St John's (Cross) Church Hall at 7pm - all residents welcome.      

    You can download my Update here.

    Save Victoria Park Bowling Green

    I have today issued a last minute appeal in advance of this Thursday’s City Council Budget Meeting to save the Victoria Park Bowling Green in the West End but also the Baxter Park Bowling Green, both facing the axe by the SNP council administration.

    The council claims that these bowling greens could be better used so they intend to axe them but the council itself has failed to properly promote the greens and their availability for local people to use.   If the council had been more proactive in advertising these bowling greens, they would been better used.

    In the West End, we are lucky to have excellent private bowling clubs like Hillcrest and Balgay, but for people unable to afford an annual subscription or residents just wanting an occasional game without a recurring subscription, council bowling greens provide that facility.   The bowling green at Victoria Park has a lovely setting and it would be a crying shame to see it dismantled.    

    I have submitted a budget amendment that council officers agree is legally competent and this would save both Victoria Park Bowling Green and the one at Baxter Park.    I call upon all the West End councillors to support efforts to save Victoria Park Bowling Green.  

    My budget amendment also stops the SNP’s proposed reduction in street cleaning services and the highly controversial SNP proposals to restructure the Young Mum’s Unit at Menzieshill High School.

    The bowling greens can and must be saved and I hope common sense with prevail at the budget meeting on Thursday.

    Monday 9 February 2015

    City Council committees tonight

    After my weekly ward surgeries at the Mitchell Street Centre and West Park Centre late this afternoon, I thereafter took part in tonight's City Council committee meetings.

    + At Environment Committee, I asked questions about the roll-out of Phase 1 of the new recycling arrangements for part of the West End and, in respect of several residents' concerns about the consultation and changes to their collection, sought assurances that consultation would be meaningful and that major changes would be reviewed after 3 months to ensure they are actually working and that residents are comfortable with new arrangements.

    + At Housing Committee, I welcomed progress on the sheltered housing review but expressed concern that it took from June 2014 until this January to appoint the new Activities Co-ordinator - I am to be given a detailed explanation for the delay.

    + At Policy & Resources Committee, I welcomed the more measured proposals in the Gaelic Action Plan than appeared in the draft (although I still think they propose more than is required for a city where only 0.33% of the population can speak Gaelic and only 48 people in Dundee speak Gaelic at home).

    I also queried the low actual expenditure in relation to planned expenditure in relation to the Capital Plan for 2014.15 and queried how we can encourage more use of the council's website by the Dundee public - in the recent Dundee consumer survey. only 24% of Dundee people interviewed use the council website.

    Dundee examination appeals drop a real cause for concern

    I have today highlighted the huge drop in the number of SQA examination appeals or re-marking of papers and a resultant sharp decline in Dundee pupils being successful in having a disappointing SQA exam result being successfully re-marked.  The figures – which appear to show a similar pattern Scotland-wide – show a worrying trend.

    The City Council’s Education Department has advised me as follows :
    The Head of Secondary Education at Dundee City Council has advised me :

    “It is worth pointing out SQA have recently changed their system.  In the last two years they no longer have used appeals as we would know them.   They use a re-marking procedure only.   This will mean that data in the last two diets will be entirely different from the pattern before this  SQA consulted widely on this change and the educational consensus was that the new system was fairer and gave greater credibility to the examination system.”

    I accept that the new system cannot be directly compared to the old appeals system as it is now a re-marking procedure only.     In the old appeal system, schools sent additional evidence to show how well pupils had previously performed ‎- usually a prelim paper and mark.   However you look at it though, the fact remains that where in some years nearly 900 Dundee pupils’ marks were successfully appealed under the old system and now fewer than 30 pupils’ results were improved under the new system.

    It is really concerning that we are seeing such a huge drop in pupils’ examination results being reviewed where the pupil, parent and teacher feels the initial grade may be incorrect and the fact that the old system of using additional documentary evidence is no longer taken into account concerns me too.

    Additionally, the SQA now charges schools £29.75 for a marking review and £39.75 for a priority marking review.   I understand some private schools are letting parents pay this if they demand their son or daughter gets their exam script re-marked, but local authority schools’ parents are not permitted to pay.    There are good reasons why Education Departments do not permit parents to pay given that many parents simply cannot afford to meet such a cost, but the fact that it is allowed at all gives an unfair imbalance towards private schools.

    However, leaving aside the cost issue, it is a concerning situation where only 28 pupils’ results across Dundee were re-marked upwards last year, where under the old appeals system, hundreds of Dundee pupils successfully appealed.

    Sunday 8 February 2015

    Saturday 7 February 2015

    Deep concern over V&A budget smokescreen

    I am deeply concerned at the revelation made by Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop that the Scottish Government had been informed by Dundee City Council as long ago as April 2014 that “the initial estimate of the (V&A) price would not be met” – months before City Councillors were asked in September 2014 to approve BAM Construction Limited as the preferred contractor, without the councillors being told anything about the budget problems.

    It is nothing short of downright disgraceful that an agenda note was allowed to go forward to the Policy and Resources Committee on 8th September 2014 asking councillors to appoint the preferred contractor, without any mention whatsoever that the budget was in trouble.

    I now call into question the veracity of the decision taken on 8th September because councillors were asked to make the decision on appointing the contractor with no information that the budget was anything other than the £45 million we had been advised, when it turns out the SNP Scottish Government had been told by Dundee City Council months before that the £45 million budget could not be met.     The whole thing stinks.

    There now needs to be fast progress with John McClelland’s independent investigation and I have written to David Martin, the City Council’s Chief Executive in the following terms :

    From: Fraser Macpherson 
    Sent: 06 February 2015 10:21
    To: David Martin
    Subject: V&A Inquiry & Project Board


    Can I please have an update on progress towards the establishment of the project board, timetable of meetings, etc?

    Also can I ask what progress John McClelland is making in establishing his inquiry, terms of reference, proposed timescales, etc and who is he proposing to interview?

    Many thanks.

    Best regards


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