|A foggy Abbotsford Street|
This morning, I participated in the third of recent ‘walkabouts’ in West End estates – this time around the Blackness area – in particular Corso Street, Abbotsford Street, Peddie Street and Abbotsford Place.
There were various issues raised including graffiti, a broken gate, a steep drop in a back garden area, and wheelie bins left permanently on the street in Peddie Street (where there is a solution in sight).
I was pleased to be advised that the grit issue I raised with the City Council after yesterday’s meeting of Blackness Area Residents’ Association is being attended to.
This afternoon, I attended the latest committee meeting of Blackness Area Residents’ Association (BARA).
In addition to updates about Dundee West Communities Association (a group that brings together tenants’ groups in the west of the city) and Dundee Federation of Tenants’ Association, we also discussed local issues including parking problems and the continuing issue of grit on pavements (following winter maintenance) – I have raised this with the City Council, both in relation to the BARA area and in many other streets across the West End.
This morning, I attended the funeral of Jessie Gault, a much respected long standing resident of Abbotsford Street and committee member of Blackness Area Residents’ Association. Jessie was a really lovely lady and will be sadly missed.
This afternoon, I met with John Logue, Area Procurator Fiscal for Tayside, and Chief Superintendent Gavin Robertson from Tayside Police about vandalism issues. It was a very productive meeting and it is good to hear about the effective co-operation between the police and the procurator fiscal’s office on crimes of concern to local residents.
I was very saddened indeed to learn earlier this evening that Jessie Gault, who has made a real contribution to Blackness Area Residents’ Association (BARA) over the years and has been a well kent and well respected resident of the Blackness area, has sadly passed away.
The photo (below) from 2006 is of Jessie (second left in green) next to myself at a presentation to BARA by the Lord Provost.
Jessie will be very sadly missed; a really nice lady who made a real contribution to the community.
This morning, along with two of my ward colleagues, City Council officers and members of Blackness Area Residents’ Association, we had a “walkabout” around Corso Street, Abbotsford Place and Street, Peddie Street and parts of Blackness Road and Blackness Avenue to look at any repairs required and issues needing tackled in the area.
Another useful and productive walkabout – and on a beautiful autumn morning too.
Last night, I attended a committee meeting of Blackness Area Residents’ Association.
Issues discussed included the impending ‘rents setting’ consultation that Dundee Federation of Tenants’ Associations will participate in with the City Council, on behalf of council tenants.
I also updated the committee on refuse collection issues and West End Christmas Week.
Later that day, I attended the City Council’s Audit & Risk Management Committee and – after two surgeries at the Mitchell Street Centre and Harris Academy – the main City Council committees took place in the evening – some 4 hours in total – and the main points are :
* The SNP administration is putting up council rents by 4%. The SNP won the vote by 2 against my amendment to limit the increase to 3%. I am grateful for the support of the Labour and Conservative groups and Depute Lord Provost Ian Borthwick in my attempt to stop the SNP imposing an increase that is simply not reasonable. The Retail Prices Index was only 2.4% last month. The consultation with Dundee tenants was flawed – the choice was the SNP 4% or … the SNP 4%. No wonder there were far fewer consultation responses than last year – the SNP “consulted” on a done deal. Non-consultation if ever there was.
* Fairer Scotland Fund. I was very unhappy with the debate on this important issue last night.Following the decisions made by the Dundee Partnership to remove or reduce funding from around 45 Fairer Scotland Fund projects in the city that may result in the loss of around 35 jobs, I have written to the council Chief Executive David Dorward calling for a fundamental review of the transparency of decision making processes within the Dundee Partnership and a review of governance arrangements.
I am gravely concerned about a process that appears to allow the SNP administration on the City Council to take away £1.577 million of monies previously ring fenced in the Fairer Scotland Fund, simply to help balance the council’s own budget. Projects aimed at helping the least affluent and most vulnerable Dundee people have been raided simply to help the council’s revenue budget is a staggering example of the SNP acting as Robin Hood in reverse – taking from the poorest in society, the people most in need of help – simply because the SNP administration appeared incapable of balancing the council’s budget without taking away from Fairer Scotland Funding to the tune of £1.5 million.
At committee, councillors heard directly from representatives of one of the projects – the Dundee Employment and Aftercare Project (DEAP) – about how it is helping large numbers of Dundee people to secure sustainable employment. DEAP conducts 13 job shops across the city in local community centres and has around 2500 clients registered for employability support. In under two years, it has helped secure over 1400 job outcomes for local people. The SNP appeared unmoved by pleas to ensure that DEAP’s funding be restored and that is deeply regrettable.
The dynamics between the City Council and Dundee Partnership lack transparency and democratic accountability and I have suggested to the City Council’s Chief Executive that they be subject to review.
Councillors are accountable to the electorate but there seems remarkably little democratic accountability in the decision making process that resulted in so many valuable projects having their funding removed or reduced.
It appears that the SNP administration can take away £1.5 million of the Dundee Partnership’s Fairer Scotland Funding allocation at the drop of a hat, but that councillors who want to see funding restored to projects are ruled out of order.
There is something very wrong about that and a full review of the relationship between Dundee City Council and the Dundee Partnership is urgently required.
* Changes to Library opening hours were discussed at the Leisure, Arts and Communities Committee (this includes Blackness Library).
* There was a discussion on winter maintenance policy, following the recent very challenging weather conditions. I raised the issues of ensuring gritting of sheltered housing areas and the need to keep grit bins filled.
* I supported a Conservative amendment to ensure councillors do not to attend an expensive Social Work Conference but this was out-voted by Labour and SNP councillors. The council budget is in a difficult position and now is the time to cut out expenditure like this.
As I indicated to the Courier thereafter, I felt the meeting was constructive, although I have sought clarification of a number of savings that are being proposed.
My greatest area of concern about the 2010/11 budget is the reduction in Fairer Scotland Fund budgets, resulting in the removal of funding from a number of excellent projects in the city. I was very concerned to learn today that one project whose funding has been removed (Dundee Employment and Aftercare Project) has been refused permission to put its case to the council’s Policy and Resources Committee next Monday. I have written to the City Council’s Chief Executive making clear my disquiet at this decision and calling for a rethink. If DEAP is not given leave to speak to councillors at committee next Monday, I intend to move suspension of council Standing Orders to allow DEAP to speak.
On another matter, I had a positive meeting this morning with senior Waste Management officers and the SNP Convener of Housing, Dundee Contract Services and Environmental Services about bulky uplifts policy and charging. It is around 10 years since the council’s bulky uplifts working group reported, and I had suggested that a review of policy should now be undertaken. We met today to discuss this and had a useful exchange of views about the issues, including looking at other authorities’ good practice through benchmarking (for example, some councils have concessionary pricing or free uplifts for some residents, such as those on low incomes, the elderly, etc) and improving the recycling effort.
A busy day today starting with my chairing the TACTRAN (regional transport partnership) meeting at the Angus Council Chamber in Forfar.
Later on, I also chaired a meeting regarding Travel Dundee’s bus service changes, at which a representative of the bus company met with City Councillors to explain the company’s rationale for the changes and listen to our concerns about some of the changes, which commence on 2nd November. You can download a copy of the new bus route guide by going to : http://td.casionwide.com/news/archived/downloads/routemap_download.pdf
Tonight, I attended the monthly meeting of Blackness Area Residents’ Association at the Corso Street Sheltered Lounge.
A busy few days have passed – including the following!
The signs provide information about the number of available spaces in 12 car parks around the city’s inner ring road and is the result of funding from the Tayside and Central Scotland Transport Partnership (TACTRAN).
The up-dated signage gives “live” information of major car park occupancy which will help reduce unnecessary traffic going round looking for a parking space.
City council planning and transport convener and Chair of TACTRAN, Councillor Fraser Macpherson said: “There were 12 information signs installed about a decade ago and they have now been replaced by 23 new signs at strategic points along the inner ring road.
“They will help motorists by providing them with information about the availability of spaces in the major car parks around the city centre and there is also improved directional signage to ensure direct links between the inner ring road and adjacent main car parks.”
“As well as helping motorists find a parking space more easily, the new information system will contribute to TACTRAN’s Regional Transport Strategy objectives, by helping to reduce City Centre traffic congestion, improving air quality, and assisting public transport operation, through more efficient management of traffic using the City’s transport network”.
The sign legends have been improved with LED displays of the number of available spaces at the nearest car park as well as the cumulative number of spaces should a motorist continue along the ring road.
The system works by detecting vehicular movement at car park entrances and exits, with the information relayed by radio signal from the car park to a control centre at Tayside House. The information is then relayed to the information signs.
This afternoon, a useful and productive meeting with one of the local Head Teachers on the West End youth football team initiative, and tonight a meeting with Blackness Area Residents’ Association.
Lastly, a positive response from Dundee City Council following complaints raised by both myself and the Friends of Magdalen Green about inadequate litter bin provision on Magdalen Green.
I’m pleased with the prompt response by the City Council’s Leisure & Communities Department to recent complaints about litter on the Green and, in particular overflowing litter bins and a toilet roll wrapped round the bandstand. I was a bit surprised by the comment of a Council spokeswoman who told the Courier “the bin supply is adequate.”
Although the department empties bins very regularly, it is patently obvious that the existing provision of bins is inadequate. Bins were overflowing yesterday.
I am therefore pleased to have received confirmation today that the department is to “consider an extra few bins strategically placed to accept the overflow” something which I think will be welcomed.
An exceptionally busy week both with my day job (as I am running a large conference next week) and with City Council and West End matters, so here’s a brief summary!
* Tait’s Lane : Had complaints about the general tidiness of the lane and the pathway that runs from the lane to Peddie Street and I have had favourable responses from the Waste Management Department and from Dundee Contract Services. The latter are going to tackle the overgrown weeds and I have also asked Economic Development if they can do something about the sadly neglected seating at the grass area in the lane.
* Last Sunday, I mentioned the request I had passed on to the Animal Control Team from residents for a dog bin at the end of the tunnel under Riverside Avenue near to the Invergowrie boundary (see http://frasermacpherson.blogspot.com/2007/08/dog-bin.html). I am pleased to report that I have been advised that a new bin was installed yesterday.
* A very useful meeting at the Scottish Parliament on Wednesday with Nicol Stephen MSP, Tavish Scott MSP and my fellow LibDem council group leaders from Scottish local authorities about issues facing councils.
* Along with the other party group leaders in Dundee, we met with the President of COSLA on Tuesday about the future direction of COSLA and challenges facing local government.
* A West End constituent recently contacted me about his difficulties getting an NHS dentist and, as this is a parliamentary matter rather than a local authority one, I passed him on MSP details. He’s let me know the feedback he has received which he felt it might be useful to pass on to others via the blog – “… where an NHS Board considers that the existing NHS general dental service provision is insufficient to meet the demands of the local population, and no independent general dental practitioner is available to fill the gap, the Board can appoint salaried dentists. NHS Tayside already employs a number of salaried dentists, and are looking to approve further such posts. Any constituent wishing to enquire about an appointment with a salaried general dental practitioner should contact NHS Tayside at Ashludie Hospital, Monifieth, Dundee, DD2 4HQ (Telephone number 01382 527861).”
* Yesterday, along with the Public Health Minister, I was delighted to attend the launch of “Get Active Getting There” project at Gowriehill Primary School. Gowriehill is one of eight primary schools and two secondary schools (including Harris Academy) in the west of Dundee participating. It’s a great project to encourage school pupils – and indeed the community as a whole – to make use of the local paths network to walk and cycle.
A pilot project in Edinburgh in 2005 resulted in a 50% increase in walkers and cyclists using local routes and the City Council is pleased to be working with SUSTRANS and NHS Tayside on this new excellent project in the City. You can read more by clicking on the headline above.
* Some time ago, the Blackness Area Residents’ Association asked for better markings at the bus stop on the east side of Blackness Avenue (half way down) to ensure the bus can get clear access to the side of the road to allow passengers to get off the bus safely. Many elderly folk get off the bus here and it’s important that they can alight at the pavement properly. I am pleased to say that I have just had the following positive feedback from the City Council’s Planning & Transportation Department indicating what is to be provided here (hopefully within the next three weeks) :
“A ‘BUS STOP’ box marking 29m long with thick yellow Clearway marking. This will ensure that the bus can park with the door at the boarding point allowing safe boarding and alighting for all. We are about to undertake this exercise across all 900 bus stops as part of the Dundee barrier free city commitment.”
Bellfield Street (St Joseph’s Schoolhouse)
Brook Street (No 82.Above Veterinary)
Mid Wynd (4 flats from 79 Perth Rd, Ryehill. (1E,1F,2E,2F) & Purdom Hse
Nethergate – West Of Marketgait (No 125)
Roseangle (Except No 50 – 60)
St. Peter Street
Tay Square (except No 10 – already has w/b)
Tay Street – South (Nos.43-79 & 56)
Windsor Court (140’s)
Scotland Live, Radio Scotland, May 2 2007
I have been asked to look into your complaint about the eve of poll election feature on Scotland Live on 2 May. I’m sorry that you have been unhappy with the earlier response that you have received from the BBC, and I hope I can deal with your concerns here.
We have now had an opportunity to listen to the item in question and we have been in contact with the programme makers in Scotland. We have also reviewed the previous correspondence between you and the BBC.
You may be aware that it is the role of the ECU to investigate complaints to determine if there has been a serious breach of the standards set out in the BBC’s Editorial Guidelines. You can find these atwww.bbc.co.uk/guidelines/editorialguidelines.
The item in question was a programme made up of series of reports about the campaigning activities of the various parties contesting the Dundee West constituency in the elections to the Scottish Parliament. You complained that the BBC failed to include the Liberal Democrats in the piece and that this was clear bias, whether intentional or not.
As you know, the intention was to carry pieces from each of the main parties which would feature activists on the ground in the final run-up to polling day. The BBC had told the parties that parliamentary election candidates would not be interviewed for the piece. The parties were not told, however, that council candidates would not be interviewed either. In the event, the Liberal Democrat interviewees, including yourself, were both council candidates and the BBC decided at a very late stage that these could not be used. You are quite right, and Phil Wells has already conceded, that this led to serious imbalance in the item. This was compounded by the fact that a Conservative interviewee who was included turned out to have been a council candidate as well, though this was not realised by anyone at the BBC until the item had been broadcast.
There is no dispute that to broadcast the item in this form was a serious mistake and a serious breach of the standards set out in the BBC guidelines on broadcasting during elections. These say:
We should make, and be able to defend, our editorial decisions on the basis that they are reasonable and carefully and impartially reached. To achieve this we must ensure that:
You have also complained, however, that you have been given “absolutely no reassurances as to how this sort of error will be avoided in future”. We put this to the programme team, and this is the reply we received:
The programme editor spoke to everyone involved in the piece – radio reporters, the producer and the senior broadcast journalist with responsibility for planning. He reiterated the absolute importance of checking the credentials of people appearing on the programme, both when setting people up ahead of time and when meeting them on the day. This is particularly true during election time. He also spoke to the whole programme team at its weekly team meeting to drive the message home. In the future, as editor of the programme, he will monitor any e-mail or interview request which goes to a political party. This should prevent something like this happening again.
This, it seems to me, is the proper response to the errors which were made and should be sufficient to ensure that this or similar errors are not repeated. In the circumstances, I feel that the actions already taken mean that this aspect of your complaint has also been resolved. It would, plainly, have been better to have notified you at the time of what had been done, and I’m sorry that this did not happen, but I’m afraid that a procedural lapse such as this does not fall within the remit of the ECU to address as a complaint.
As your complaints would have been upheld had an apology not already been made and the actions taken not satisfied me that it was resolved, a summary of my decision will be posted on the BBC Complaints website. I will notify you when this has happened. Meanwhile, I hope you will accept my further apologies on behalf of the BBC, and my thanks for giving us the opportunity to look into it.
Head of Editorial Complaints
I have investigated the history of Concessionary Licence at Corso Street Complex. Our own internal TV licensing documentation related to Corso Street Complex dates back to 1992. There is no indication that the complex held the concessionary Licence during this period to the present day.
Contact With TV Licensing (UK)
I spoke directly to a representative of TV Licensing Board, who is responsible for regulating the concessionary scheme national, on 5 June 2007 regarding the design of the sheltered housing complex at Corso Street. He informed me that where designated sheltered housing complexes have a mix of sheltered and mainstream units pepper potted throughout a development ( *i.e. similar to Corso Street where the ground and 1st floor accommodation of a tenement building has a mix of sheltered and non-sheltered tenants) would not qualify under the Sheltered Housing Concessionary TV Licensing regulations. It is my understanding that Wedderburn Sheltered Complex does not have this type of pepper-potting of sheltered and non sheltered housing; as a result qualifies for the Sheltered Housing Concessionary TV Licence.
In situations where sheltered complexes have lost their concessionary status as result of the type of *pepper potting described in the previous paragraph, existing tenants under the age 75 affected by this decision would retain the concessionary status but new tenants under the age of 75 moving into the sheltered complex would not (i.e. they would pay the full cost of the licence)
NB All individuals over the age of 75 are entitled to a free TV licence.
The Next Step
To obtain official clarification on Corso Street entitlement to the concessionary licence, TV Licensing representative agreed to forward a Sheltered Housing Concessionary Licensing Application Form to us. Once we receive the form Dundee City Council’s Sheltered Housing Officer for Corso Street, will complete and submit it to TV Licensing on the Council`s behalf. Upon receiving TV Licensing decision on the application, I will contact you directly with the relevant information.
The summary of the 2006 Air Quality Updating and Screening Assessment for Dundee was on the Environmental Services and Sustainability Committee. The particulate matter concentrations in Union Street were above average. The report to committee indicated this will have been adversely affected by major construction projects in the vicinity. However, I sought assurances that this will be closely monitored and this assurance was given.
The Communities Committee included detail of a consultation process on the future of Community Councils, given the new ward arrangements. This is to be welcomed, although I stressed that a “one size fits all” approach would not be appropriate. In some places it may be an exiting Community Council will comfortably ‘fit’ into the new STV ward area. However, in others, a combination of different Community Councils in an STV ward (or other representative organisations) may be the more appropriate way forward.
The Blackness Area Residents’ Association AGM takes place tonight (with bingo afterwards) in the Corso Street sheltered lounge at 6.30pm. The West District Housing Manager is the speaker – on local housing issues.
Below : Photo One – Western Cemetery – Chaired a very productive meeting of the steering group towards a “Friends of ..” society on Tuesday – the plan is to have two further ‘planning’ meetings in the New Year – one looking at the “draft masterplan” of works that could be undertaken at the cemetery to improve the infrastructure; the other to look at the practicalities of settting up a formal society. Thereafter, there will be a public meeting to set up the group formally.
And … below : Just before setting off to Crieff, I attended the ‘official opening’ of Blackness Area Residents’ Association’s new film projection system on Wednesday at the Corso Street Sheltered Lounge!
Below : Fraser at the Conference (sorting out exhibition set-up on Wednesday!)
Below : And the Conference Party Night!
And lastly (7 minutes to Coro Edition 2!!) – here’s the news release sent to local media regarding tomorrow’s West End Christmas Week launch :
On Saturday, the 2006 Dundee West End Christmas Week will be launched at 10.30am in the grounds of Blackness Primary School by Lord Provost John Letford and the children of Park Place Primary, St Joseph’s Primary and Blackness Primary Schools.
The children will be displaying their Schools’ Christmas Trees in the Blackness Primary playground and the winners of the schools’ “Wish for the World” Christmas competition will be announced.
The children will also be able to meet Santa and other characters and there will also be a street football competition in the Blackness Primary School Grounds. Dundee Instrumental Band will be playing Christmas Carols!
The West End Christmas Week committee would be really grateful if you would give this advance publicity. West End councillor Fraser Macpherson said, “This is the sixth year we have run the West End Christmas Week and this year’s week will be the biggest and best yet with a spectacular fireworks display next Wednesday.”