Busy Tuesday

During a busy Tuesday, I had the pleasure of attending a launch meeting of ‘DUSTIE’ – an initiative by the Enterprise Gym at the University of Dundee.
 
This is an excellent initiative that is aimed at providing university students with paid, supervised work experience that will benefit both the student and the local community.    The first two projects – a Green Advice Centre and a Green Bike Travel project – have much merit and it will be good to see the projects develop in the months ahead.
 
Also yesterday, I visited the new police office at Dundee Airport where two of our local community police officers are now based.   It is good to see community bases like this for our community police officers.    During the visit I was also able to speak with the Airport Manager about airport issues.
Last night, I attended the latest meeting of “Bonnie Dundee”, the group that encourages improvements to the Dundee environment and helps local groups who keep Dundee’s parks, open areas, streets and gardens in good shape.    There was a good discussion about local improvements, including in the area around the Seabraes steps.

Ryehill Police Station refurbishment – an update

Further to my recent item about the refurbishment of the Ryehill Police Station, just a reminder that the station is closed from tomorrow.   A further update from our local police inspector:
 
“Ryehill Police Office will be closed from the 11th March 2013 for a period of 10 working days (in reality 2 weeks) to enable Tayside Police to carry out maintenance and repair works both internally and externally. 
 
A notice will be placed on the front door of the police station informing members of the public of the situation. 
 
The 101 telephone number (non emergency) will still be available. 
 
Ryehill officers will be working from either Police HQ or Lochee Police Office. There will be no reduction in patrols (Community or Response). 
 
Supervisors will monitor the situation daily to ensure that there is minimum impact on the community.”

Ryehill Police Station refurbishment

I recently mentioned that the Ryehill Police Station is to undergo a much-needed refurbishment.
 
Our local police inspector has updated me as follows:
 
“The work is scheduled to commence the week of the 11th March.   Building contracts inform me that it will take approx. one week to complete;   I would suggest at least two. 
 
The place is getting a decent makeover, including outside paintwork, lights being fixed, paving slabs being lifted and relaid, the bedding area being planted up, render work being undertaken, etc. and some internal work that is badly needed. 
 
I will ensure that the West End LCPP is kept fully informed.   
 
Hopefully this will go some way to addressing some of the issues that have been highlighted and improve the Perth Road area.”

Monday’s City Council committees

After my two Monday ward surgeries at the Mitchell Street Centre and at Harris Academy yesterday, I attended City Council committee meetings at which:
 
* At Development Management Committee, the planning application for the new Dundee Railway Station was discussed and approved.   West End Community Council had been denied a deputation request as they had not submitted an objection but I was permitted to raise with the Director of City Development their questions about traffic management and the public consultation process.
 
* At Policy and Resources Committee, I commented on the draft local fire and rescue plan and questioned performance indicators about injuries arising from fires.   I also asked about the police response to domestic housebreaking that had seen an increase during 2012.   The police are taking a very proactive approach in combating house break-ins through the “After Dark” initiative.

Monday activities

This afternoon, after a number of visits to constituents, I attended the public exhibition about the parking proposals for part of the West End.
 
The exhibition was well attended – see right – but what is very clear from speaking with residents at this that they want a proper public meeting at which the plans can be discussed and questions answered.   The council is currently planning no public meeting and at last week’s West End Community Council, I raised this concern.   
The Community Council is therefore inviting the council’s Head of Transportation to its next meeting – this is a public meeting – and I hope he will accept the invitation.    It was impossible in the atmosphere of the exhibition at the library to hear all the points being made and answered.   A proper public meeting is therefore vital.
 
I spoke with the Director of City Development before council committees tonight and stressed this point.
 
After my two Monday ward surgeries at Harris Academy and the Mitchell Street Centre, I attended council committees at the City Chambers.    This evening, the first special Policy and Resources Committee on policing policy and performance took place.    This will become the replacement for the Tayside Police Board when the new single police force across Scotland takes effect next April.
 
I asked questions about performance information being provided at ward level, queried domestic housebreaking levels and provision of home security advice and praised the high level of public satisfaction with the quality of police service across the West End and Lochee (Dundee Section 2).

Pleasance Court – Residents’ meeting

Last night, I had the pleasure of chairing the latest – and well-attended – meeting of the residents of Pleasance Court.
 
There was a useful discussion on a number of local issues – seagulls nuisance, wheelie bins, parking issues and security to name a few – and I am most grateful to representatives from Home Scotland, Ross & Liddell, Tayside Police and Community Spirit Action Group who attended and participated in the discussion.

Laser attack at Dundee Airport

As reported in last night’s Evening Telegraph, I have condemned a highly irresponsible use of a laser pen last Sunday which was shone into the cockpit of the CityJet aircraft from London City coming into land at Dundee Airport.
 
It was an incredibly stupid thing for someone to do and, speaking with a police representative at the West End Local Community Planning Partnership last night, I am reassured that Tayside Police is investigating the incident.
 
I spoke on Wave 102 news about the matter this morning – click ‘play’ below to listen:

Thursday activities

Today :
 
* I took part in a school/pupil/traffic safety site visit to St Andrew’s Primary School (pictured right) as part of the on-going work of the working party on safety outside city schools.
 
* I held my Thursday weekly surgery at Blackness Primary School.
 
* I attended the latest – and a very positive – meeting of the West End Local Community Planning Partnership, that took place at the Tartan Coffee House on Perth Road.    Subjects covered included:
  • An update on the proposed consultation on residents’ parking that will be launched on mid-October.
  • Details of the Dundee West District Plan by Tayside Fire and Rescue.
  • Tayside Police’s tactical assessment for the West End.
  • Useful discussions on recycling, derelict buildings, parking on Magdalen Green, bus services and other local matters.

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.

Tayside Police – Mobile Surgeries

I am pleased to advise that Tayside Police is again holding mobile surgeries for the area served by the Lochee and Ryehill Police Stations – the West End and Lochee.

This is an excellent opportunity for local residents to speak with the police officers who serve our local area and raise any issues or concerns they may have.

There will be a mobile surgery at 11am to 1pm on Monday of next week – 21st May – outside the Spar on Perth Road near to Sinderins.    All residents welcome!

Scott Street car vandalism

Residents in Scott Street are rightly angry at the mindless vandalism of 16 vehicles in Scott Street overnight on Wednesday/Thursday.

Our local Police Inspector Graham Young updated the West End Local Community Planning Partnership meeting on Thursday evening about this disgraceful vandalism of residents’ cars and gave assurances that the police putting resources into catching the person or persons responsible.

I spoke on Wave 102 news about the matter today – click ‘play’ to listen:

Crime statistics

Last week, the Evening Telegraph highlighted crime statistics for 2010/11 across the city.     This indicated the apparently high crime rate in parts of the West End Ward.

Beat 26 which covers quite a large part of the West End Ward has been highlighted in the past for its high number of incidents reported to and investigated but as it is a large area largely to the north of the Nethergate and Perth Road shopping areas right up to Pentland, it is important to emphasise that much of the area has a very low crime rate and that the total of crime incidents can appear skewed by the part of the Beat area that covers the clubs and other night time economy area. Instances of housebreaking and theft are a real concern – in some instances these are “opportunist thefts” from mainly ground floor flats where windows have been left unsecured and it is important to emphasise that Tayside Police will provide any resident with free home security advice for their property.    


I would add that there is a great community policing team in the area who work hard to combat crime and they do rely on local residents reporting anything they see as potentially suspicious.

New Community Police Officer

Yesterday afternoon, at the Ryehill Police Station, I met with PC Jim Mitchell, the new community police officer for the Perth Road area.   Jim is a very experienced officer and is a great addition to the team of community police officers in the West End.

We have a superb policing resource in the West End and it was good to speak with Jim today about local issues.  You can read more about Jim and his role at http://tinyurl.com/perthroadpolice.

Attack on young woman condemned

As reported in tonight’s Evening Telegraph, I have condemned the appalling attack on a young woman late on Friday on Lochee Road near the junction with Cleghorn Street.

Attacks of this nature are thankfully unusual in the local area but it is vital that anyone who was in the vicinity between 10pm and 11.30pm last Friday evening and who has any information – no matter how insignificant they think it may be – contacts Tayside Police – see http://www.tayside.police.uk/Contact-Us.

Wednesday meetings …

Dundee Remploy factory
Yesterday afternoon, I had the pleasure of visiting the Dundee Remploy factory, to meet the Operations Manager and the GMB Shop Steward.

Dundee’s Remploy factory provides employment for 43 local people, most with disabilities.   They produce high quality materials, mainly for the Ministry of Defence and also for police, fire services, the Home Office, and others.

There is much concern over the future of Remploy, following the Sayce Report, on which a consultation exercise has recently ended.

I had a tour of the Dundee Remploy factory yesterday.    Most of the staff have given many years of loyal service to the company and produce goods of the highest precision and quality.    Dundee’s Remploy factory must be supported.   

What is clear speaking with the local management is that if Remploy Dundee is to survive and prosper, it must now look to bid for work in the local procurement market.   To that end, I have contacted economic development staff at the City Council to ask that all support – from the City Council, Business Gateway and Scottish Enterprise – is given.   I am most impressed that the City Council’s Head of Economic Development has already been in touch with the Operations Manager at Remploy Dundee to offer advice and support, following my e-mail to him requesting support.

Later yesterday, I had a site meeting with the local Housing Officer to look at guttering repairs needed at the Ancrum Place and Morven Terrace sheltered housing and thereafter had a very productive meeting at the Lochee Police Station on West End policing issues.

Assault on pensioner condemned

As reported in today’s Courier, I have condemned the assault on a 66 year old pensioner in the Nethergate early yesterday.

I am shocked that this man has been attacked in the Nethergate and I do hope he is making a full and speedy recovery from what must have been a frightening experience.    

It is vitally important that the culprit is caught as soon as possible and I urge anyone who was in the vicinity of the Nether Inn around the time to contact the police if they saw anything suspicious.  Tayside Police can be contacted on 0300 111 2222 or at mail@tayside.pnn.police.uk.

Balgay Cemetery

Residents are aware that I have previously expressed concern about a number of terrible instances of vandalism of graves in Balgay Cemetery.   As reported in last night’s Evening Telegraph, I have condemned as appalling and mindless further recent vandalism affecting around 15 headstones.

I have been again in touch with the Tayside Police local Inspector and Sergeant about actions our local police are taking to apprehend those responsible.   The police have advised that :

“Unfortunately the incidents have been on a sporadic basis and there is no definite pattern.  We have increased high visibility patrols in the area using special constables to boost numbers, along with regular officers on foot and cyle patrols within the cemetary. Patrols shall continue for the foreseeable future, using CCTV where appropriate, and we are looking to conduct plain clothes patrols with a view to identifing whoever is responsible.”

I am pleased at the proactivity of our local police service and would urge anyone who sees anything suspicious to contact Tayside Police.

New West End Police Inspector

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of meeting Inspector Graham Young, the new police inspector for the West End and Lochee.

I had a very productive discussion with Inspector Young about local issues in the West End and we also talked about community engagement including police attendance at West End community events, including West End Christmas Week, and further Police Community Surgeries in the West End.

Inspector Young leads a great team of police officers serving the local area – police contact details are available at http://www.tayside.police.uk/Contact-Us.  

West End Community Council

Last night, I attended the April meeting of West End Community Council at Logie St John’s (Cross) Church Hall.

Following on from my meeting in February with John Logue, Tayside Area Procurator Fiscal, and Chief Superintendent Gavin Robertson of Tayside Police, at which we discussed tackling vandalism, John and Gavin spoke last night to the Community Council on this issue, the work of the Procurator Fiscal and co-operation between the fiscal service and the police.

It was a very useful presentation, followed by a lively question and answer session.   The community council also discussed a number of other local matters including parking, the impending opening of Riverside Nature Park and tenement factoring.

Sinderins fight concern

As reported in today’s Courier, I have expressed my concerns and those of West End constituents about the weekend fight near Sinderins in which around 30 people were involved and which left a 51-year-old man needing hospital treatment for a head wound.

 This is a matter of concern to residents, particularly as it took place in an area where such behaviour is extremely unusual.

I have been in touch with Tayside Police regarding the matter.

Concern over break-ins

Last night’s Evening Telegraph reported on a number of recent break-ins in Marchfield Road, Pitfour Street, Rosefield Street and Peddie Street, together with my comments expressing concern about this.

Intrusion into people’s homes causes great upset and anxiety to householders, in addition to the theft of personal possessions.   

I have no doubt that Tayside Police will be putting in significant resources to apprehending those responsible and the co-operation of any members of the public with information is vital.

Liberal Democrats campaigning for local policing

As featured on tonight’s STV News and on local radio, North East Scotland MSP Alison McInnes, together with myself and Dundee Liberal Democrat colleagues, today launched a petition outside Tayside Police’s Headquarters that invites the public to support the campaign to stop Scotland’s emergency services being centralised into Scotland-wide force.

Alison then visited the Broughty Ferry and West End shopping areas to meet local people and explain why she and the Liberal Democrats oppose the abolition of Tayside Police and Tayside Fire and Rescue and believe that centralised police and fire services would be to the detriment of areas of Scotland outside Strathclyde & the central belt.

Alison said, “The SNP Scottish Government is aggressively pursuing the creation of a single nationwide police force and a one-size fits all approach to policing. It is clear that this proposal is being driven by personal preference rather than facts.

“However the Justice Minister has failed to give any details of where the £200 million savings that he purports will be made is to be found. In reality, it will be hugely expensive, increase political interference and could reduce the number of officers on the beat. Indeed there are fears that the proposals could result in the loss of up to 4,000 officers across Scotland.”

Allan Petrie, former Dundee Councillor and now Convener of Dundee Liberal Democrats, added, “The Scottish Government has failed to account for the costs of implementing a merger. This could amount to millions of pounds and was the reason similar plans were previously scrapped both here and in England and Wales.

“Tayside is already one of the most efficient police forces in the country. It would be extremely foolish to see an efficient force like Tayside become part of a Scotland wide force, to the detriment of the people of Dundee, Angus and Perthshire.”

Allan added that a merged Fire Service could result in re-opening the debate over the future of the Balmossie Fire Station. He said it was very clear that the people in Barnhill, Monifieth and across Broughty Ferry who are served by Balmossie do not want to see the fire station downgraded and he was concerned that, in a single Scotland-wide fire service, local voices would be drowned out.

Alison Burns, Liberal Democrat candidate for Dundee City West, said, “Inevitably, with a single force run from either Edinburgh or Glasgow, bureaucrats would be given far too much say over local policing without full awareness of local circumstances and issues.

“This policy poses the greatest challenge to our local police service for a generation and would be disastrous for Dundee and Tayside.”

From my own perspective, it is clear, speaking to constituents in the West End today that they are very concerned by these Fire Service and Policing centralisation proposals. People in Dundee value local Police and Fire services and centralising the services into a national service is something they view with concern.

THE PETITION READS :

“We are concerned that a one-size-fits-all approach to our emergency services will leave our area worse off. We are concerned that it will lead to a loss of local accountability, increase political interference and reduce the numbers of officers on the beat and firefighters in our local fire stations.

Help Alison and the local Scottish Liberal Democrats oppose the proposed centralisation of the Police and our Fire and Rescue Services by signing our petition and returning it to: Alison McInnes, Dundee Liberal Democrats, Freepost SCO3668, Dundee, DD4 7ZR.

“I/We the undersigned oppose any moves toward a single nationwide Police Force or Fire and Rescue Service”.

Some photos from today :

Above:   From Left – Me, Alison McInnes, Alison Burns and Allan Petrie

Above :  Alison McInnes in the West End

Above :  From left – Alison McInnes, Alison Burns and I take the petition to Blackness Fire Station

Assault concern

As reported in tonight’s Evening Telegraph, both I and my ward colleague Richard McCready have condemned the shocking assault last Sunday on a 23 year old man who was hit by a vehicle at the junction of Shaftesbury Road and Seymour Street.  

He was unhurt in the initial collision but then suffered a broken nose and two black eyes following the driver of the vehicle assaulting him after the collision.

This area of the West End is a very pleasant part of Dundee and this sort of dreadful assault is highly unusual.   As I indicated in the Tele tonight, whilst this may be an isolated incident, I am absolutely sure Tayside Police is making every effort to apprehend the individual responsible.

Wednesday

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.

Lochee Park

As reported in tonight’s Evening Telegraph, I have expressed concern about the events in Lochee Park last Friday night in which up to a hundred young people were involved in anti-social behaviour in the park, causing disturbance to neighbouring residents.  

It is very concerning that a number of the young people involved were as young as 12-13, and there was a considerable amount of alcohol involved – Tayside Police confiscated 40 litres of alcohol.

I have been in correspondence with our local police inspector about the situation and am pleased at the proactivity of our local police officers with regard to this situation.   

One single police force bad news for Dundee

I have today expressed considerable concern over Scottish Government moves towards merging Scotland’s eight police forces into one single force for the whole of Scotland, pointing out that this could lead to a diminution of local policing, centralisation focussing on the central belt and a loss of local police officers.

I am very concerned at the SNP Scottish Government’s apparent support for such a move – there must be concerns that a single force would be dominated by Strathclyde and the central belt, to the detriment of the rest of Scotland. One size does not fit all when it comes to policing and local policing here in Dundee really does matter.

I am dubious that a national police force would save up to the £200 million a year the government claims – without the loss of hundreds if not thousands of police officers.    Another consideration is the loss of local accountability if the current Police Joint Boards were abolished and replaced with a centralised arrangement  – with just one Chief Constable and the Justice Secretary.

We need to continue to have good local policing with local democratic accountability. These centralising proposals, sweeping away local forces and boards, are not in the interests of local policing.   The Liberal Democrats will continue to oppose the loss of Scotland’s local police forces.

Violent crime concern – action by Tayside Police

Tonight’s Evening Telegraph covers the concerns about violent crime in the Tayside Police Beat 26 area – this includes parts of the West End Ward and extends down to ‘night-time economy’ areas adjacent to the City Centre.

Any extent of violent crime in the area is of great concern and I am reassured that our local police officers put in very significant effort into the prevention and detection of this sort of crime. It is extremely important that residents live in a safe environment and are given reassurance that the police act swiftly and effectively to tackle each and every instance of criminal activity.

With specific regard to the concern about violent crimes in part of the West End Ward, I am pleased that, from this week, Tayside Police’s Community Engagement Team is being deployed in the West End and Lochee areas and this will provide additional police resources. I specifically asked our Police Inspector for the area for reassurance that this additional resource will be deployed to tackle exactly this sort of criminal behaviour and have had this response :

” …  this large beat starts at the railway station and stretches to Balgay Hill. I have just done a very quick look during the last 2 months and there have been assaults, but nearly all have been in the ‘spine’ of the Marketgait.

The C26 beat covers places like the new Gala Casino, West Port and public houses in South Tay Street, which are still part of the city centre and have a large night time economy, due to being popular places to visit.   Alcohol normally is a contributing factor in assaults in these areas. Officers are deployed at peak times at weekends through Operation Centresafe as part of our normal business.”

On my request about use of the additional resources of the Community Engagement Team that will supplement existing local police resources, I am assured that this has been passed onto the team, which is to be welcomed.

Tackling break-ins – an update

Further to my recent update on the meeting I had with Tayside Police regarding the issue of break-ins in parts of the West End, I am pleased to note tonight’s report in the Evening Telegraph about the issue. See http://tinyurl.com/breakinstackled – the full story is in tonight’s paper.

It is reassuring that Tayside Police is putting resources into this issue and that this is showing results through improved detection rates.