Broughty Ferry Lifeboat Carol Concert St James Church

The annual Broughty Ferry Lifeboat Carol Concert took place at St James Church earlier tonight. A large congregation packed the church to sing carols and to hear the Christmas message through a series of well chosen readings.

The programme was enhanced by beautiful singing from the Choir of Eastern Primary School. The photograph caught some of the actions and movements from the children during their lively and spirited performance of 'Must be Santa' which received the heartiest round of applause.

Undoubtedly, the congregation also gave generously to the funding of the lifeboat which tonight was not called out to a rescue but tied up on its moorings just beyond The Lifeboat Church.

Over 700 sign petition to keep night cover (at Balmossie)

Over 700 sign petition to keep night cover

"OVER 700 people braved the wintry conditions on Saturday to sign a petition against proposed changes to full-time night cover at Balmossie fire station."

Read the full story in the Dundee Courier


Don't Downgrade Balmossie Fire Station

Towards A Safer Tayside 2010/11, the forward plan for Tayside Fire and Rescue, has recently been issued for public consultation. One of the key changes proposed is the downgrading of Balmossie Fire Station which serves Broughty Ferry, Monifieth and their landward areas out to Monikie. One of the fire crews and one of the two fire engines currently based at Balmossie will be redeployed to Forfar. The consultation period will close on Monday 8 March 2010.

This morning Katrina Murray, (Prospective Labour Candidate for Dundee East Westminster Constituency), Councillor Brian Gordon and I joined members of the Fire Brigades' Union at Campfield Square shopping Centre in Barnhill where we helped to collect 350 public responses to the Tayside Fire and Rescue Board's consultation.

In a press release:

Katrina Murray said:
"The reasons why its wrong to downgrade Balmossie Fire Station are just as valid this year as they were last year. These proposed cuts will affect the day to day safety of not just the people served by this fire station but all of the folk in Dundee and Carnoustie whose fire and rescue crews will need to cover this loss. I can't think why the four SNP councillors from Dundee, who attended the Fire and Rescue Board on 16 November, voted in favour of reducing fire crews at Balmossie. I encourage voters in the area served by Balmossie fire station to make their voices heard through the consultation. I shall work hard to reverse this ill conceived and dangerous proposal."

Laurie Bidwell said:
“Withdrawing the full time crew on night shift from Balmossie will mean that there may be unacceptable delays in getting a fire crew and fire engine to a night time fire. Waiting for retained crew members to get up from their beds at home and make their way to Balmossie will delay this vital emergency service getting to the scene of a fire, road traffic accident or inland flood. I think most constituents in The Ferry find it reassuring that there is a 24 x 7 full time crew at their fire station ready to turn out in an instant to protect their lives and property.”


Tour of Grove Academy

This morning I was invited on a tour of Grove Academy who moved into phase two of their new school buildings last month. The school has fully removed from the old Grove and is now accommodated in, and enjoying, their impressive new accommodation built as part of Labour's PPP programme in the city. I am sure these will facilitate enhanced teaching and learning and through this higher levels of attainment and achievement.

The school has many additional facilities not contained in their previous building including an assembly hall, dance studio, fitness suite and swimming pool. These outstanding facilities are contained in a wing next to the school's main entrance on Claypotts Road carefully designed for dual use by the community. From March/April 2010, Dundee Leisure will take over managing these facilities out of school hours. After six pm week nights, over weekends and during school holidays members of the public will be able to use the gyms and swimming pool. Interestingly, the opening of the swimming pool will fulfill one of the long outstanding conditions contained in the agreement for the annexation of Broughty Ferry into Dundee in 1913. Well done Dundee City Council!

Baldragon Academy Christmas Concert

Earlier this evening I enjoyed attending the annual Christmas Concert at Baldragon Academy in Dundee. The programme included many fine performances from pupils and staff. I was particularly impressed with the proportion of boys singing and playing instuments in a variety of combinations. I especially enjoyed the percussion ensemble whose 'Hey ya!' was played on varying lengths of plastic tubes. The music department is to be congratulated for the wealth of musical talents it has fostered and coached to an entertaining standard. Very well done Baldragon!


Grove Academy Top Dundee Comprehensive School in Herald League Tables

Congratulations to staff and pupils at Grove Academy for their position as the highest performing Dundee Comprehensive School in The Herald's League Tables of Secondary Schools in Scotland. They are comfortably placed at 37th in Scotland's top 50 performing schools. These league tables have been calculated by comparing the higher exam results from each school on the basis of S5 pupils gaining 5 or more Highers at one sitting. 19% of Grove pupils achieved passes in 5 or more Highers in the SQA examinations in May/June 2008. Without detracting from their performance, league tables like this do come with a health warning.

Brian Boyd, emeritus professor of education at Strathclyde University, quoted in The Herald today said:
“Once again, we have the annual ritual of trying to give parents information which helps them choose a school, but what we end up with is often very misleading because what league tables tend to show you is the affluence of the catchment area, ­rather than the input of the schools or the effort of the teachers. Exam results give you no indication of how much value is added. If you were trying to measure what a school does you need to measure what level a young person is when they enter the school and compare that to where they are when they leave, and exams do not do that – they give no indication of the contribution the school has made.”

For that reason, when I was Education Convener of the City Council (May 2007 - April 2009, I encouraged the Directorate to work with our schools to collect the data to also publish 'valued added' tables that can measure the difference between a pupil's starting points on entry into primary one and secondary year one and their exit level of attainment on leaving secondary school. Jim Collins, Director of Education, should clarify whether the Council has now collected the data to be able to publish value added tables for our schools. The new Education Convener, Liz Fordyce (SNP), should clarify whether she is willing to publish these results.


Towards A Safer Tayside 2010/11 November 2009 Out for Consultation

Towards A Safer Tayside 2010/11, the forward plan for Tayside Fire and Rescue, has recently been issued for public consultation. Residents in Broughty Ferry should study these carefully. One of the key changes proposed is the downgrading of Balmossie Fire Station that serves, Broughty Ferry, Monifieth and their landward areas out to Monikie. One of the fire crews and one of the two fire engines currently based at Balmossie will be redeployed to Forfar. The consultation period lasts until early February. Don't say you haven't been warned. Protest and survive!

View or Download Towards a Safer Tayside 2010/11 Consultation November 2009

Fill in the Response Questionnaire online

Request a printed copy of the "Towards a Safer Tayside 2010/11 Consultation November 2009", a comments/response sheet and a reply paid envelope from:

Tayside Fire and Rescue
Fire and Rescue Headquarters
Blackness Road

Tel: 01382 322222
Fax: 01382 200791


Dundee Choral Union - Caird Hall Sunday 13 December 2009

I attended Dundee Choral Union's Christmas Concert, earlier this evening in the Caird Hall. The programme comprised:
  • Serenade For Strings by Elgar
  • Gloria by Rutter
  • Choral Fantasy by Beethoven and
  • Mass Of The Children by Rutter.

The performers included:

  • Dundee Choral Union - comprising 34 sopranos, 38 contraltos, 11 tenors and 23 basses
  • National Youth Choir of Scotland
  • Chloe Marger, Pianist
  • Soprano and Baritone Guest Soloists and the
  • Orchestra of Scottish Opera.
Tonight's performance did not disappoint. In fact it was a wonderful musical preparation for Christmas.

The Choral Union, established in 1858, 'to practise and execute chiefly sacred music' is, I think, one of our most enduring and outstanding cultural organisations in the city.


Carol Singing at Douglasfield Mecca

This afternoon, I enjoyed singing with staff and pupils from Baldragon Academy who were caroling in the vestibule of Mecca bingo in Douglasfield. We were also very appropriately accompanied by four well behaved dogs as the group were raising funds for the Brown Street dog shelter. Bingo players arriving enjoyed the singing and gave generously. The School hope to raise more than last year's total of £70.

Education Cuts & Commitments in Dundee Must Be Declared to Early Meeting of Education Committee

The Education Department of Dundee City Council has, I understand, been asked to identify a 2% budget reduction for next year, a reduction of close to £3 million. In a budget mainly spent on teaching staff, this will mean fewer teachers or a drastic reduction in other budgets. At the same time, Mike Russell, the new SNP Cabinet Secretary for Education in the Scottish Government realises he cannot afford to pay for the SNPs big electoral promises on class size reduction, free school meals and increasing teacher numbers. He wants to scale down the SNP promises and renegotiate the Concordat between the Scottish Government and local authorities.

Our Council is being asked to respond by Christmas to these new Concordat proposals which will, if endorsed, mean that class size reductions are focused in a minority of city council schools. But which schools will benefit and which ones will miss out? Free school meals for P1-3 primary classes will only be provided in some Primary Schools. But which children will benefit and which children will miss out? What will be the effect of the combination of class size reductions in some P1-3 classes, some additional free school meals and the planned £3 million budget cuts? Does this mean that some schools will not only lose out on the smaller class sizes and free school meals as well as taking the brunt of the planned cuts? Will some primary schools who receive extras teachers to reduce class sizes perversely lose access to specialist support for learning teachers, classroom assistants and visiting specialist teachers of physical education and music?

Parents and carers in Dundee will expect that this magnitude of chopping and changing should not be dreamed up behind closed doors and quietly put in place in the next school session. They would expect that important issues like this are carefully scrutinised by the Education Committee. I call on Education Convener Liz Fordyce and Leader of the Council Ken Guild to agree to hold an emergency meeting of the Education Committee before Christmas to debate these issues before signing up to a new concordat that commits the Council to actions that may have a perverse effect on primary schooling throughout our city.


West End Schools' Site – Qualified Approval from Scottish Government – Time to Consult

I am pleased that Ministers in the Scottish Government have now made their decision about the West End Schools' site, which has been conveyed in a letter from the Schools Directorate in Edinburgh. The letter contains qualified approval for the site for the planned twin campus primary schools for the West End to replace the existing Park Place and St Joseph's Primary Schools. I note that the letter finishes by politely but firmly urging the Council to consult with and reassure the community on a number of contentious issues:

'I would ask that the Council acts on the three recommendations of HMIe (Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Education) by sharing and discussing its detailed plans for the joint campus with parents, by reassuring them regarding the two specific matters mentioned and by making clearer its plans and commitment for dedicated use of part of Victoria Park as playing fields by the two schools.'

It is clear from the government letter that there are now detailed plans not previously shared with elected members nor with parents and teachers. Parents, teachers and the Education Committee should be consulted and involved without delay.

Labour West End Councillor Richard McCready said:
"I welcome a decision being made, now it is time for the council to work with local people to deliver a solution which suits everyone. Clearly the report by the HMIe leaves a number of issues unresolved and makes the case that parents need to be engaged in the process. I hope that the Education Department set out a clear time scale which engages parents and the local community in bringing forward these proposals. I will be seeking an urgent meeting with the Leisure and Communities Department to discuss the impact of the proposals on Victoria Park. Victoria Park is a popular local park and if PE lessons are held there regularly this will change the nature of the park. Recently I asked the Director of Leisure and Communities about plans to use Victoria Park in this way and he stated that he knew of 'no such plans.' There is a need for joined up thinking if this proposal is to be brought forward. Overall the message is clear. If the Education Department want to bring this project to fruition, it must engage much more effectively with parents at all the schools in the West End and demonstrate that their concerns have been addressed.”


Chancellor's Pre-Budget Report December 2009

Earlier today, Alistair Darling, the Chancellor of the Exchequer presented his Pre-Budget Report to the UK Westminster parliament. I think he has managed to skillfully combine investment to support economic recovery with measures to reduce the national debt while enhancing social protection for those most vulnerable to the negative effects of the recession. There are also green measures to enhance energy efficiency and reduce our carbon footprint.

I think the following proposals will be of interest to many of my constituents:

- Windfall tax on excessive city bonuses.
- Bingo duty to be cut from 22% to 20% for next year's Budget.

- Basic state pension will rise by 2.5% in April, a real-terms increase of nearly 4%.

- Enterprise Finance Guarantee scheme for bank loans to small businesses to be extended for a further 12 months, guaranteeing a further £500m of loans.
- The Time To Pay scheme allowing firms to spread tax payments will be extended for as long as needed.
- Empty property relief threshold to be extended so that 70% of all empty properties will be exempt.

- Support for mortgage interest payments for the unemployed to be extended for a further six months.
- Minimum number of hours those over 65 need to work to receive Working Tax Credit to be reduced.
- Government to guarantee that anyone in work will always be better off than they were on benefits, with extra cash help from the Government if needed.

- Benefits linked to inflation, such as Child Benefit, will rise by 1.5%% in April.

- Government to double its commitment and finance four carbon capture and storage demonstration projects.
- New scrappage scheme to help up to 125,000 homes replace inefficient boilers, and changes to be made to the Climate Change Levy, company car tax and fuel benefit charge.
- From April, people with a home wind turbine or solar panels who send power back to the National Grid to receive an average tax-free payment of £900 a year.

- Electric cars to be exempted from company car tax for five years, with a 100% first year capital allowance for electric vans.

Update from Monday's Housing Committee

On Monday evening, at the the meeting of the Council's Housing, Dundee Contract Services and Environment Services Committee, I raised the issue of a complete absence of planned affordable housing developments in Broughty Ferry. For full details see No New Affordable Homes to Rent Planned in The Ferry in the Council's draft Strategic Housing Investment Plan 2010-15. My views received a sympathetic hearing. I am delighted to acknowledge that Director of Housing, Elaine Zwirlein and the Convener of Housing, Jimmy Black agreed to look constructively at proposals for affordable housing in Broughty Ferry when sites and resources are identified. I invite potential developers to contact the Council if they have any proposals for housing developments in Broughty Ferry which potentially include affordable housing including low cost home ownership and homes to rent.


Commemorating the Broughty Ferry Lifeboat Disaster - Tuesday, 8 December 1959

The Lifeboat Mona
(Peggy Seeger)


Remember December of fifty-nine

The howling wind and driving rain

Remember the gallant men who drowned

On the lifeboat, Mona was her name

The wind did blow and the sea rose up

Beat the land with mighty waves

At Saint Andrew's Bay the light ship fought

The sea until her moorings gave

The captain signalled to the shore

"We must have help or we'll go down"
From (Broughty) Ferry at two a.m.

They sent the lifeboat Mona

Eight men formed that gallant crew

They set their boat against the main

The wind's so hard and the sea's so rough

We'll never see land or home again

Three hours went by and the Mona called
The wind blows hard and the sea runs high

In the morning on (Carnoustie) Beach

The Mona and her crew did lie

Five lay drowned in the (Chalon) there

Two were washed up on the shore

Eight men died when the boat capsized

And the (eighth) is lost forever more

Remember December of fifty-nine

The howling wind and the driving rain

The men who leave the land behind

And the men who never see land again

Panmurefield Planning Appeal Decision

The planning appeal by developers for outline permission to build 20 detached houses in Panmurefield in the open space to the south of the Dighty and north of Inchcape Road in Broughty Ferry has been refused by a Planning Reporter. This appeal was initiated by the developer following the original refusal of outline planning consent by the City Council. In his summary, the Planning Inspector, wrote: "All of the site is designated as open space and as a wildlife corridor. The Development Plan presumes against the development of such land. Greenfield sites such as this are only considered for development where (unlike in the case of the appeal proposal) this has been demonstrated to be essential in order to provide adequate effective development land. ... I also consider that it would be inappropriate to accept the principle of developing this site when this would necessitate alterations to a listed building of which no details are known. The lack of information on the site access (which is likely to be unacceptably at risk of flooding) adds weight to my conclusion that the appeal should be dismissed."


No New Affordable Homes to Rent Planned in The Ferry

Later today, the Housing Committee of the City Council will be considering the adoption of the Strategic Housing Investment Plan 2010-15 in which no new affordable homes to rent are planned in The Ferry ward for the next five years.

Councillor Laurie Bidwell said:
"I am concerned that the aspiration of many people in Broughty Ferry for an affordable home to rent is unlikely to be realised because the new Strategic Housing Investment Plan does not recognise them as a priority. As it stands, none of the 1000 new homes in the city over the five year life of the plan will be built in The Ferry. This is very disappointing news for people on the waiting list for an affordable home. This is also very unfair. The Ferry ward has the lowest proportion of social rented housing in Dundee and lengthening lists of new applicants and transfer applicants for housing. Many of the council and housing association homes built here over the years have been purchased under the 'right to buy' so there are a declining number of homes to rent from the council or a housing association. While there are many good quality owner occupied houses in The Ferry, not everyone wants to buy their own home or can afford to do this. This isn't just an issue for Ferry folk because many housing applicants in other parts of Dundee aspire to live in Broughty Ferry and are currently on the waiting list. For these reasons, I will be raising this at the Council meeting and demanding that, like the West End ward, new homes to rent in Broughty Ferry should be included in the plan. The announcement on Friday, by the Scottish Government of a £70 million lending facility offered by the European Investment Bank to five housing associations, including Home Scotland and Sanctuary Housing Associations who operate in the city, should mean more cash will be available than anticipated when the Strategic Housing Investment Plan 2010-15 was drafted. I hope that will mean that some of planned investment can be deservedly spent in Broughty Ferry without diverting cash from meeting housing needs in other parts of the city.


Home Scotland & Sanctuary Housing Associations to Benefit from new Lending Facility from the Euopean Investment Bank

According to Scottish Government sources, eight Scottish housing associations, will have access to an additional £70 million lending facility offered by the European Investment Bank through the Housing Finance Corporation. This is an alternative private lending source helping to support new affordable home developments and jobs in the house building sector. Of the eight associations, two, Home Scotland and Sanctuary are currently active in Dundee.
Councillor Laurie Bidwell said:
"I hope that some of this additional investment will come to Dundee providing a boost to building affordable homes and through this creating and sustaining skilled jobs in the construction industry."


What Next After PPP Primary Schools in Dundee?

A celebration like the official opening of Rowantree Primary School today, is also a time to look back and look forward. How did we get here? How are we ensuring that more communities in Dundee can also celebrate the opening of their replacement new or refurbished Primary School? Rowantree Primary School could not have been built without the foresight and commitment of the Labour led administration of Dundee City Council. The form of funding available from the then Scottish Government was to finance school building through a Public, Private Partnership (PPP). Had we listened to the then Opposition SNP Councillors in Dundee, no progress would have been made and this school and the other five Primary Schools and two New Secondary Schools in our city would not have been built. While we were waiting for the successor school building programme from the SNP government in Hoyrood, we did not sit back on our laurels. We commissioned the building of a number of schools using prudential borrowing:
  • Replacement Kingspark School for pupils who have learning difficulties (nearing completion on a new site on Clepington Road);
  • Replacement school for Whitfield (detailed design work underway);
  • Replacement twin campus schools for Dundee West End and
  • Replacement twin campus schools (2) for Lochee Charleston.
    (Note: both sets of twin campus schools were progressed by the Labour led Administration of the Council; they are now on pause awaiting Government decisions about the sites selected prior to consideration of planning applications and detailed design work)
Parents and carers living in communities in Dundee not benefiting from these school building programmes, may well be wondering what plans are in place for their local schools. Now the SNP run both the government in Edinburgh and the Council in Dundee, this is a pertinent question for Liz Fordyce, Convener of Education in the city and Mike Russell, the new Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning in Edinburgh. In the May 2007 elections for the Scottish Parliament and Local Councils, the SNP promised to match Labour's PPP programme brick for brick. Furthermore, they claimed that they would introduce a cheaper way of financing school building under the auspices of the Scottish Futures Trust (SFT). After a delay of over two years finding out what detractors forecast; that the SFT wouldn't work, a decision to partly fund the refurbishment of Harris Academy in Dundee with an anticipated start on site in 2012/13 was announced in Edinburgh at the end of September. This is I think likely to be the extent of new investment in school building in Dundee by the SNP led Scottish Government 2007-11. A slow down in school building in Dundee will have serious consequences. Firstly, and most obviously it will lead to more pupils and teachers consigned to learning in existing school buildings some of which were not designed for the twentieth century let alone the twenty first century. Secondly, it will also condemn many construction workers in Dundee to unemployment. I have asked the Liz Fordyce, the Education Convener about her ambitions for commissioning new schools in Dundee. At the last meeting of the Education Committee, she was unwilling to reply to my question about her school building legacy in Dundee. I think she was loathe to admit that she will be presiding over another SNP failure to deliver on their electoral promises about schools.”

Cabinet Secretary for Education & Lifelong Learning, Fiona Hyslop, Demoted in Cabinet Reshuffle

Earlier today, First Minister Alex Salmond admitted, "education needed a fresh look" when he announced a mini reshuffle of his ministerial team. Fiona Hyslop, the under pressure Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning was demoted. She is to be replaced by Mike Russell, previously the Culture and External Affairs Minister. Fiona Hyslop takes over the role Mike Russell is giving up.

Laurie Bidwell, Labour's Education Spokeperson in Dundee said:

"Today's move follows a dificult time for Ms Hyslop, who has been under fire for months over not delivering on the SNP's manifesto commitments. More particularly, not reducing primary school class sizes in years 1-3 ; not cancelling higher education student debt and not matching Labour's PPP school building programme 'brick for brick'. It will however take much more than a reshuffle of his pack to make some impact on the issues where Fiona Hyslop was not making much headway. The reason why local authorities were finding it difficult to follow her tune was down to tightly restricted resources. If her successor is more persuasive in Cabinet and commands more cash for schools some progress can be made reducing class sizes and building more schools. Ironically, to achieve that, Mike Russell will need to squeeze wasteful public spending such as the National Conversation, Scotland's most expensive blether, which until today he was promoting in his former role."

Another Success from PPP Building Programme Celebrated at Opening of Rownatree Primary School

Laurie Bidwell, Labour’s Education Spokesperson on the City Council in Dundee said:
“Earlier today, I was privileged to attend the official opening of Rowantree Primary School. Today was principally about celebrating the emerging identity of this new school which is the result of the merger of Mossgiel and Mid-Criagie Primary schools sixteen months ago.

The children entertained us with recitations of poetry, singing, dancing and music making. The thoughtful programme featured a fine blend of tradition and modernity, interweaving the songs and poems of Robert Burns with songs by the Proclaimers and Dougie MacLean. The opening celebrations also included playing by the staff band who demonstrated that, like their pupils, they were a very talented team.

The new school is built to barrier free design with outstanding facilities for teaching and learning that will help staff deliver the new curriculum for excellence. I am sure that this school will serve the communities of Linlathen and Mid-Craigie as a place for children to enjoy learning and celebrate their achievement and attainment. In addition, its provision of a Community Room, Sports Hall and external all weather pitch will mean that this school has the potential to develop into a resource for parents, carers and other adults to engage in community learning and recreation."


One Day Road Closure Brook Street (between Church Street and Westfield Road), Monday 7 December 2009

Dundee City Council as Traffic Authority, announced today that the section of Brook Street between Church Street and Westfield Road, Broughty Ferry, Dundee will be closed to vehicular traffic on Monday 7 December 2009 for 1 working day. This is to permit safe access for manhole repair works being carried out. They also confirm that a pedestrian thoroughfare will be maintained during these road works. Alternative routes for diverted vehicles will be available via Westfield Road/King Street/Church Street.


Dundee Misses Out on Scottish Government Cash for New Primary Schools

This morning the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning announced a list of Primary Schools to be built or refurbished with part funding from the Scottish Government through their Scottish Futures Trust. No Dundee Primary Schools were selected for this latest tranche of funding. Labour spokesperson for Education in the City, Laurie Bidwell said:

"I am disappointed that no Dundee primary schools have benefited from the SNP Government announcement on Primary Schools this morning. Unfortunately, this confirms my view that their three phase programme of school building will only part fund one school project in Dundee and that is the refurbishment of Harris Academy. Welcome as that decision was in September, it falls far short of the SNP manifesto commitment of May 2007 to match Labour's school building programme brick for brick. One Secondary school refurbishment falls far short of the Labour led administration's PPP programme which has delivered two new secondary Schools (St Paul's and Grove) and six new Primary Schools (Claypotts Castle, St Andrew's, Craigowl, Downfield, Rowantree and Fintry). Not only does this SNP school building programme fall far short in the number of new schools to be built in Dundee, but also its speed of working will not set the heather alight. Two months on from the fanfare of publicity on 28 September, when the refurbishment of Harris Academy was announced, the Director of Education, is still unable to confirm the amount of government cash to be committed to this project. The longer this takes to be confirmed the less likely it is that any work can begin on Harris Academy before 2012/13."


Alleged Incidents on School Buses at St Paul's Academy

Labour's spokesperson on Education in the City, Laurie Bidwell said:

"It has been reported to me that pupils from St Paul's Academy have been misbehaving on a school bus service. On two nights this week, pupils have apparently been put off their school bus by their driver. Furthermore, it is alleged that these pupils put off the school bus were then sent home in taxis organised by the school, perhaps at the expense of Education funds. Disruptive behaviour by any of our school pupils in the city is unacceptable. I hope the pupils involved are ashamed of their behaviour and the way they have undermined the good name of their school."


Chistmas Story at the Winter Light NIght

The recent controversy about Christmas being cancelled in Dundee was brought about by the SNP administration bringing forward plans in August for the re-branding of the Switching on of the Christmas lights as Winter Light Night. I was one of the few Councillors that night who actually spoke out against this at the City Development Committee meeting, decrying the secularisation of the event. When I heard that commercial interests in the city were in favour, I asked whether the churches had been consulted and the reply was negative. In his press release dated Friday 21 August 2009, Councillor Dawson said, "I am very much looking forward to being one of the 25,000 people we expect to take advantage of a wide and varied programme including street entertainment and retail opportunities." Understandably, this has provoked negative reactions, especially from members of church communities in Dundee. I hope that in the changes that are now being made at the last minute to include a CHRISTmas strand in the proceedings, there is room to properly engage with Advent and the anticipation of Christmas by telling the Christmas story. It would be a pity if there was no room at our Inn to accommodate and celebrate Christmas.
Importantly, the christian season of Advent begins on Sunday 29 November not Friday 27 November.


Heating Replacement at Baldragon Academy

At the Education Committee tonight the Committee approved a tender to spend £41,263 on replacement storage heaters at Baldragon Academy.

Councillor Laurie Bidwell said:
"I sought to defer this decision to give more time for a fuller options appraisal. I did this because I do not think that replacing faulty storage heaters in the school with new storage heaters is the answer. The Council should take decisions that represent best value. As part of considering what is best value, we need to consider the running costs of a heating system over time and its environmental impact as well as the initial cost of installation. In this case, I do not think this tender represents best value in its wider sense. Firstly, I question whether doing half the job, by replacing 40 faulty heaters now is good value for money. It is usually cheaper to do a job like this in its entirety rather than in a series of stages that prolongs the completion of the work and usually costs more in the end. Secondly, I think a decision to stick to storage heaters will saddle the Education Department and School with a heating system which will be more expensive to use and less adjustable and comfortable than a pumped hot water system with radiators complete with individual thermostatic valves. I do not think storage heaters will be such a cheap option when considered over the lifetime of the system. Thirdly, when the Director of Education was questioned about the environmental impact of his proposal or the potential cost savings no costs or figures were available. He could, I think, only speculate that a gas central heating system would cost more than £1 million but had no technical member of staff present to offer any real detail.

By introducing the spectra of pupils and staff potentially left in the cold, the Education Convener, persuaded enough councillors to support her proposal. Had there been any real prospect of a heating crisis as Baldragon Academy, no one, least of all me, would have been critical of a smaller number of heaters not working being replaced immediately while more time was given to preparing and justifying to the Education Committee the best value option.

I am pleased, in the light of the debate that I instigated, that Councillor Borthwick persuaded the Convener to now bring forward a report on long-term heating solutions for the school."

Dead Seal on the Stony Beach

This morning a constituent alerted me to a dead seal washed up near the high water mark on the stony beach running alongside Douglas Terrace. I have contacted the relevant council department who have been asked to remove the carcass from the beach later today.


Civic and Academic Mass St Andrew's Cathedral

This morning, I was privileged to attend the Annual Civic and Academic Mass at St Andrew's Cathedral in Dundee. The Celebrant was Mgr Ken McCaffrey who was deputising for Bishop Logan who has been ill. The Mass setting was uplifting with inspirational singing from the Diocesan Choir. Representatives of staff and students from the Universities of Dundee and Abertay were well represented along with civic leaders from Angus, Dundee and Perth & Kinross Councils, the Chief Constable, the Chief Fire & Rescue Master and Dundee East and West MPs. After the service there was time for networking in the Crypt where refreshments were served. In the photograph from left to right: Mgr Ken McCaffrey; Gwen Boswell, Frank Zwolinski both from the University of Dundee and Councillor Laurie Bidwell.


Response to Councillor Roberts about Balmossie Fire Station

In Dundee Evening Telegraph on Friday, Councillor Christina Roberts claimed that the decision to consult the public again about the downgrading of Balmossie Fire station was informed by the necessity to make savings.
Councillor Laurie Bidwell said:
"Councillor Roberts is being rather selective in what she reveals in her letter. It is true in the introduction to Towards a Safer Tayside 2010/2011 the Fire and Rescue Board Convener, expresses similar sentiments to those contained in Councillor Roberts's letter. But reading on, in the section about downgrading Balmossie, it is clearly stated that 'This proposal will cost no more money and importantly no less money," (page 149 of Board Papers) since the money saved in Dundee will be earmarked for spending in Forfar.

Councillor Roberts also does not comment on why she thought that a similar proposal, which was turned down emphatically in the public consultation and by the Fire and Rescue Board in March, should be worthy of being re-examined now.

Finally, Councillor Roberts fails to mention how her constituents often rely on fire crews from Balmossie when they are moved to Kingsway East fire station to back up the Kingsway crews."

While Balmossie Fire Station does primarily serve Broughty Ferry, Monifieth and their landward areas, it frequently back up crews in other fire stations, particularly but not exclusively Kingsway East in Dundee..


Broughty Ferry Local History Group Launch WW2 Display at The Library

Broughty Ferry Local History Group meet in Broughty Ferry Library on alternate Thursdays to reminisce and to research and record aspects of everyday life in 'the village' down the years.

They are currently engaged in a substantial project to create a community archive relating to life in the 1940s and 1950s. As part of this longer term project, they have recently created a small collection of artifacts which are currently on display in Broughty Library to mark the seventieth anniversary of the outbreak of World War II. This display consists of a montage of items designed to present a 'snapshot' of Broughty as it was in 1939, the last year before the outbreak of the conflict. It consists of shop adverts relating to businesses which once operated in the area, researched items from local newspapers and Dundee City Council minutes relating to events in Broughty at the time, together with personal items and recollections submitted by group members. It is designed as a prelude to a further display which they hope to mount in the New Year relating to the war itself and the years immediately after.

The display will be on view till the end of the month during the normal Broughty Ferry Library opening hours. The group invites people to come and see it and, if they are interested, to join them in their meetings in the Library every second Thursday at 2pm during term time.

Councillor Laurie
Bidwell said:
"This relatively new group have got off to a really positive start with the helpful support of Community Learning & Development staff from the Leisure and Communities Department. I have enjoyed looking at their display in the Library today. I am delighted that they have been able to share their artifacts and reminiscences with pupils from Eastern Primary School. I look forward to the sharing of their longer term project to record life in
Broughty Ferry during the 1930s and 1940s. I hope many residents will take advantage of the opportunity to see the display in the library."


Disappointment at Fire & Rescue Board Decision

At the Tayside Fire & Rescue Board on Monday 16 November, the Board voted to go ahead with a consultation on 'Towards a Safer Tayside 2010/11' which includes as a major change, the downgrading of Balmossie Fire Station serving Broughty Ferry, Monifieth and their landward areas.

I am very disappointed that the Tayside Fire and Rescue Board, meeting on Monday, voted to go ahead with a consultation on the downgrading of Balmossie Fire Station. I wonder why Dundee SNP Councillors on the board did not support the exclusion of Balmossie from the consultation on 'Towards a Safer Tayside 2010/11'? Many politicians, including Dundee East MP Stewart Hosie (SNP) thought like me that it was premature to return to a matter that had been exhaustively consulted on between November 2008 and March 2009 and about which the communities served by the fire station were emphatic in their rejection. Regretably, we are where we are. I want to reassure constituents that I will do my utmost to ensure that there are plenty of public opportunities for them to put forward their views when the official consultation on "Towards a Safer Tayside 2010/11" is launched. I am confident that residents in Broughty Ferry will want to come forward to support the fulltime retention of their local Fire and Rescue Service.


Appeal to Drivers & Pedestrians in the Vicinity of the New Grove Academy

The rebuilding of Grove Academy has recently been completed. On Monday 16 November, the new school, in one integrated building, will open its doors for the first time to staff and pupils. A significant change is that the main entrance to the school has been moved to Claypotts Road adjacent to the junctions with Davidson Street and Ballinard Gardens.

I want to urge all road users in the vicinity of the new Grove Academy to take extra care next week while we all become familiar with the changed layout. Pupils crossing the road by the new school main entrance need to be wary of restricted sight lines because of the bend in Claypotts Road. Buses stopping adjacent to the school gates may also restrict their view. I think, many manoeuvres by drivers in and out of the new Grove school car park, especially right turns, will be potentially hazardous for pedestrians and other road users. These changes will also affect adults attending Grove for evening classes organised by BERA. From Monday night, they will need to use the new entrance to the school on Claypotts Road to access all of their classes.

In addition, road users should also note that on Monday 16 November there will be temporary closure of the end of Claypotts Road south of West Queen Street while the road over the railway bridge is resurfaced.

One Day Road Closure in Ferry is Delayed

Dundee Roads Partnership announced earlier this morning that the structural road patching works in Claypotts Road, Broughty Ferry have been delayed. These were originally organised to take advantage of the Grove Academy in-service days today and yesterday.The section between Queen Street and Brook Street will now be resurfaced on Monday 16 November.This delay is very unfortunate as these road works will now coincide with the opening day of the new Grove Academy phase two. The new school main entrance is now in Claypotts Road.

Review of Class Sizes Provides Figleaf for Education Secretary

On Wednesday, Fiona Hyslop (Cabinet Secretary for Education & Lifelong Learning) announced that a review to address the mix of class size control mechanisms is to be led by David Cameron, President of the Association of Directors of Education Scotland (ADES).

David Cameron - a former Director of Children's Services at Stirling Council - will take forward an in-depth review of the various class size control mechanisms, which include regulations, circulars, and teachers' terms and conditions, announced Education Secretary Fiona Hyslop today.

Mr Cameron's review will have a remit to bring forward recommendations before next summer on the best approach for coherent and effective class size control mechanisms in Scottish schools.

This follows the announcement in September 2009 of plans for a legal maximum of 25 for all primary one classes from August next year.

Laurie Bidwell, Labour Education Spokesperson in Dundee said:

"While the current measures and controls to determine class sizes are confusing and need to be rationalised, this review is really a fig leaf to cover the embarrassment of the Education Secretary that she is unable to adequately fund reducing Primary 1-3 class sizes to 18 as her party promised in the May 2007 elections to the Scottish Parliament. To fulfill this SNP manifesto commitment would require a substantial increase in the budget for teachers in Dundee and money for extra classrooms at schools that are currently fully subscribed such as Barnhill Primary School in Broughty Ferry."

Existing arrangements for regulation of class sizes are as follows:

* Primary one - maximum of 25 set by circular
* Primary one to three - maximum of 30 set by regulations
* Primary four to seven - maximum of 33 set by teachers' terms and conditions
* Composite classes - maximum of 25 set by teachers' terms and conditions
* Secondary one to two - maximum of 33 set by teachers' terms and conditions
* Secondary one and two maths and English - maximum of 20 set by circular
* Secondary three to six - maximum of 30 set by teachers' terms and conditions
* Practical classes - maximum of 20 set by teachers' terms and conditions.


Balmossie Fire Station Under Threat

Members of the Tayside Fire and Rescue Board reading their papers for the Fire Board meeting in Forfar next Monday morning, may be experiencing a sense of deja vu. On their agenda is the approval of a public consultation process for 'Towards a Safer Tayside 2010/2011'. Included in recommendations for 2010/11 are proposals to downgrade Balmossie Fire Station which are nearly identical with those that were consulted on extensively and voted down by the Fire Board in March of this year. When I raised this issue with the media last week, I had hoped that good sense would have prevailed in setting the agenda for the next Tayside Fire and Rescue Board meeting. My constituents in Broughty Ferry will be very disappointed. They will be forgiven for thinking that the consultation proposed is a sham. Last year a record number of people responded to the proposed Fire and Rescue Strategy and in Broughty Ferry more than 600 people objected to that part of the strategy that was linked to downgrading services based at Balmossie Fire Station. Not only were the overwhelming majority of respondents unconvinced but the proposals did not convince members of the Fire and Rescue Board either. On 30 March 2009, Councillors on the Fire and Rescue Board voted by twelve votes to five to drop that part of the strategy. If the consultation last year was entered into genuinely and respectfully, how can so many voices be ignored? Why is the Fire Master, Stephen Hunter, so obdurate that he cannot take no for an answer from the public and the Fire and Rescue Board?"


Home Energy Asssessors Begin Door Knocking in B/ferry Monday 9 November

On Monday 9 November a team of Home Energy Assessors will start knocking on front doors in Broughty Ferry to help householders stop wasting energy and save money in their home as part of the Home Insulation Scheme funded by the Scottish Government. The Home Insulation Scheme – which is Scottish Government-funded and endorsed by Dundee City Council – will include a free home energy audit and will offer suitable properties in the area loft and cavity wall insulation – or a top-up to existing loft insulation – at a specially negotiated price or free of charge depending on the measure and household circumstances. Delivered by the Energy Saving Trust, the energy and money saving programme will offer householders in Broughty Ferry free home energy audits, advice on making their homes more energy efficient, and direction to other advice and services available from the Energy Saving Trust.

Councillor Laurie Bidwell said: I think this will be a potentially helpful service to many residents in Broughty Ferry. I hope that it will help reduceenergy bills in homes and the 'carbon footprint' from Broughty Ferry. Residents who are out when the Advisers call will not lose out as the Advisers will not only call back but also post through their letter box details of how to make an appointment with Energy Advisers. Finally, residents should remember that Energy Advisers that call at their front doors will carry an official photo identification which they may ask to see.


Appalling Theft from St Mary's Broughty Ferry

Thieves made off with money raised from selling commemorative poppies from St Mary's Episcopal Church in Broughty Ferry on Monday 2nd November. As a member of St Mary's and a local Councillor I am appalled about such a mean theft at a time approaching Remembrance Sunday when we recall the sacrifice of our service people to protect us and our way of life. I hope this does not persuade the congregation to increase security measures that reduce access to the church for those seeking a place of tranquility for prayer and meditation.