Dundee Airport : Loss of Belfast and Birmingham flights

The loss of the Loganair routes from Dundee Airport to Birmingham and George Best Airport Belfast is a real blow.     
I wrote to the City Council’s Head of Economic Development about the matter and called for every effort to be made to attract additional flight destinations.   
He has responded:
“The Scottish Government announced recently that they would be commissioning a study into future options for Dundee Airport and the development of services.  They have included us in that study.   
The work is out for procurement just now and the current expectation is that it will report in the new year. 
None of that will take the place of attempts to widen the service offering and HIAL are actively seeking new operators and services.”
The study is, in itself, positive as it is vitally important that the city has good links, particularly to ‘hub’ airports and I hope we will see progress towards other destinations well in advance of the V&A at Dundee opening.

Belfast … and Eurovision

I’ve been in Belfast the last couple of days with the ‘day job’ – the photo (right) was taken at the George Best City Airport this afternoon.   

A really enjoyable visit and coming after the Institute I work for having its International Conference earlier this week in Dublin.    So, with a dodgy link, it seems appropriate to highlight the fact that it is Eurovision 2011 tomorrow with a revisit to one of the best-ever Eurovision winners – Niamh Kavanagh of Ireland, back in 1993!

Campaigning, Belfast, Surgeries, City Council …

A very busy few days – with the Liberal Democrats campaigning across the West End and the Dundee West constituency as a whole.     Pictured above is John Barnett, Dundee West Liberal Democrat candidate, in Cleghorn Street yesterday.
I missed much of Sunday’s campaigning as I have been in Belfast with the “day job” (photo below!) and returned just in time to attend my afternoon surgeries at the Mitchell Street Centre and Harris Academy, followed by City Council meetings tonight.
At tonight’s Council’s committees, I raised questions about the Bike Boost initiative as part of the Dundee Travel Active project, the review of ‘out of hours’ social work service, and welcomed the decision to give the job brokerage services contract to the Dundee Employment and Aftercare Project (DEAP).      The handling of this matter by the Dundee Partnership and the SNP council administration has been unimpressive, the tendering process wasteful and unnecessary and – in terms of the future – I made the point that now is the time for all councillors in the city to get behind DEAP and the excellent work it does to secure job opportunities for Dundee people.
I also raised my concern at the expenditure of nearly £80 000 to change the car parking and access at the East District Housing Office – an office barely three years old.    Why is the council spending such a large sum of rent-payers’ money changing parking arrangements so soon after the project was completed?    The SNP Housing Convener appeared disinterested in the matter and I have written to the Chief Executive of the City Council asking further questions about the concern.    City Council tenants are entitled to know that their rent monies are being properly spent.

English Local Elections – and the European Election

I’ve been in Belfast with the day job since Thursday – got back earlier today – so catching up on the English County Council Election results. The LibDem County Council results in England – the disappointing south-west apart – showed good, solid progress. In the BBC projected vote share, we are 5% ahead of Labour – 28% to 23%, with the Conservatives on 38%. We are up 3% on last year, Labour down 1% and the Conservatives down 6%. It is our best share of the vote this Parliament and although there is no denying the Tories had a good day – in actual votes, they were well short of their 40% target and the ‘inevitability’ of a Tory General Election win is no way a foregone conclusion.
The superb result in Bristol, where we won 15 of the 23 seats up for election – and took control of the Council for the first time – showed the LibDems are the main players against Labour in most of the cities across the UK (and I mean UK – Aberdeen, Cardiff, Edinburgh – not just in England).
The media spin is of a Conservative clean-sweep, but that is inaccurate. In many of our key parliamentary battlegrounds across southern England we have done well, holding our own and making small gains against the Conservatives. We made net gains from the Conservatives in, among other places, Essex, Hertfordshire, Surrey, Cumbria, East Sussex, Dorset, the Isle of Wight, Warwickshire and West Sussex.
In the north of England, the LibDems are clearly the challengers in much of Labour’s traditional heartland, with particularly spectacular gains in Burnley and Ashfield and – with net gains in Staffordshire, Nottinghamshire and Leicestershire – the party is gaining right across the Midlands.
So – off to the European Election count at the Caird Hall tomorrow night!
Footnote – given the ‘invisible’ European Election in Scotland (and England and Wales), it was rather heartening to drive through Belfast on Thursday and see election posters everywhere.
A very different election in many ways, with the key question being – will Sinn Fein top the poll for the first time? Interestingly, I note the Official Unionists are standing as “Conservative and Unionist” and their posters use Cameron’s “Vote for change” slogan and logo. Perhaps not the best year for them to link up with the Tories, with the Unionist vote split between the DUP, UUP with added fake Dave, and Jim Allister MEP’s Traditional Unionist Voice, who I suspect will give the two main unionist parties a run for their money.
A thoroughly enjoyable time (as usual!) in Belfast, with glorious weather.

Northern Ireland, Shelter, Parking Issues, Windsor Street

Apologies, no blog entries since the middle of last week, partly because I was in Northern Ireland for a few days with the day job and partly because of the backlog on return! My colleagues and I had the pleasure of meeting the Lord Mayor of Belfast while across in Northern Ireland (see right) and during a tour of City Hall yours truly was invited to model the councillors’ robes! See below, right.

On return, Shelter and I issued a joint statement about availability of housing/tenancy advice from Shelter and other organisations, following the recent issues about termination of tenancies in parts of the Perth Road/Step Row area. The story was featured by the BBC (click on the headline above to view) and the Evening Telegraph. I also spoke on Wave 102 about the issue.
I organised a site visit yesterday with residents/community council representatives and a member of Planning & Transportation staff about the difficulties exiting Windsor Street at its north end. Two of my West End councillor colleagues were also able to attend. I have been promised feedback following this on the parking issue adjacent to the junction.

The City Council issued a news release today about moving forward the parking strategy – this will allow for the consultation I have been pressing for on residents’ priority parking in parts of the West End. Here’s the news release:
Dundee is set to have a comprehensive car parking strategy that will help contribute to the economy of the city.

Councillors at the city council’s planning and transport committee on Monday (June 11) will be asked to approve a central Dundee parking strategy. A report to the committee also focuses on the needs of residents living in and around the city centre.

Planning and transport convener Councillor Fraser Macpherson said: “The strategy aims to ensure that there is a balance between the economic prosperity of the city and safe, sustainable transport.

“Dundee is now a very successful regional shopping centre and a car parking strategy has a key role to play in supporting its vitality by encouraging a high level of turnover of shopper and visitors through suitable quality parking provision.

“It is reckoned that the current level of parking supply in the city achieves the right balance between supporting the economic vibrancy of Dundee while encouraging the use of public transport.”

Councillor Macpherson said the focus on the requirements of parking for residents in and around the city centre was a very positive move.

“The council has been encouraging people to live in the city centre areas so we need to look at the best way of accommodating residents’ parking in a way that does not adversely affect the overall balanced parking strategy. This is something that will require further consultation and investigation.

“It is also very important that we look at ways of helping people living in areas surrounding the city centre who can, for example, be affected by commuters parking on roads near their properties.”

Belfast, City Centre, Riverside Approach, Seabraes

Was in Belfast Tuesday/Wednesday with the “day job” – we ran a professional meeting on local government reform at Belfast City Hall – keynote speaker Sir Michael Lyons of the Lyons Inquiry – excellent day. As the photo shows, Belfast City Hall is a superb civic centre.

If you click on the headline above, you can read the article about my latest City Centre & Harbour Community Council update (and indeed download it) – attended half the meeting tonight (slightly exhausted after last couple of days!) but useful discussion on festive and other matters.

Good news! Photo below shows Network Rail busy replacing the blue boards today on Riverside Approach – but less good is the other photo from a local resident showing the glass at Seabraes. The City Council met with SET earlier this week to explore the detail of a proper maintenance arrangement; meantime I have requested that the glass gets cleaned up.