Opening of Fintry Primary School – Questions for Keith Brown, Minister for Skills and Lifelong Learning in the Scottish Government
In last nights debate, Fire Chief Stephen Hunter was apparently unable to convince any Dundee Councillor that it was a good idea to downgrade Balmossie and thereby reduce from eight to seven the number of fire crews and fire engines based in the city and that somehow this cut would enhance community safety in Dundee. Just as I predicted, 'it is inconceivable that any City Councillor should support a reduction in this vital emergency service' (reported in the Courier on Monday), there was cross party support last night to indicate emphatically that Dundee City Council does not support the downgrading of Balmossie Fire Station. I think the change of heart of some Councillors was undoubtedly because of the mounting evidence of significant public opposition; especially the more than 3000 people who have already registered objections. Unfortunately, Councillor Christina Roberts (SNP Dundee East End) Vice Convener of the Fire and Rescue Board did not indicate last night whether she is now persuaded to change her vote when this issue returns to the Tayside Fire and Rescue Board. I think she should publicly clarify her position.
Fire Station and thereby reduce from eight to seven the number of fire crews and fire engines based in the city and that somehow this cut would enhance community safety in Dundee.
While I think the City Council's decision on Monday night is an important milestone in defeating this ill conceived proposal, I don't want constituents to think that they no longer need to bother responding to the 'Towards a Safer Tayside 2010/11' consultation and registering their views. Until the Fire and Rescue Board decide at their March meeting, after the consultation period closes, we cannot assume that our fire and rescue service at Balmossie is safe from the proposed damaging cutbacks.
While most constituents in The Ferry are clearly indicating their opposition to halving the fire service at Balmossie, this has implications for the other parts of Dundee. Withdrawing the full time night time fire crew taken together with withdrawing the day time 'retained' (on call) fire crew and their fire engine from Balmossie will mean there is one less fire and rescue crew and one less fire engine to respond to attend fires, road traffic accidents and floods in Dundee. In fact this will mean that there will be a reduction from eight to seven fire engines and crews stationed in Dundee.
On Monday evening, the Policy and Resources Committee of the Council will consider their response to the Tayside Fire and Rescue's consultation, 'Towards a Safer Tayside 2010/11'. It is this document that contains the ill conceived proposals about Balmossie Fire Station. I shall be bringing forward a motion that the Council's response to the consultation is to indicate their opposition to the downgrading of the fire and rescue services based at Balmossie. It is inconceivable that any City Councillor should support a reduction in this vital emergency service, especially when retaining it will not impose extra costs on council tax payers in Dundee.
The re-erection of the signal box has been a matter that many local interest groups have campaigned for. I want to particularly thank the Broughty Ferry Community Council and its Planning Secretary, David Hewick, for persistently highlighting this issue and constructively pressurising for the sympathetic resiting of the signal box. I trust that the developers will be able to start the conversion work soon.
On Monday evening the Education committee will be hampered by only having part of the financial and educational picture spelled out. What I can reveal is that the Chief Executive has confirmed that the Education Department has been asked to identify savings of 1% of its budget which amounts to £1.3 million. The details of what reductions in service have been targeted will remain confidential until the budget documentation is released. The Director of Finance confirmed on Thursday last week that the budget volume is likely to be ready to be circulated to elected members later this week. It seems pointless to improve some aspects of services with one hand and remove them with the other and not consider the overall impact of these combined changes on the education of all of the children in our nursery, primary and secondary schools at the same time.
I shall be asking the Director of Education and the Education Convener the following questions at the meeting:
Firstly, with regard to the targeted 13 primary schools for class size reductions, what changes to class teaching will also happen at the same time? I understand that to keep the cost down, more children in Primary years 4-7 will be taught in composite classes (containing children from more than one year group).
Secondly, what is the timescale for the roll out of this policy to the remaining majority of primary schools in the city? Many parents in our city will be wanting to know how long their children will wait for this.
Thirdly, how will some of these thirteen schools who receive more money for extra teachers to reduce class sizes feel the effect of the £1.3 million budget cuts in Education yet to be revealed?
Fourthly, what is the projected overall teacher count for Dundee for September 2010? Will there be more or fewer teachers than in September 2009?
Fifthly, what will be the implications on the council's plans to drive up attainment and achievement in our schools from the combined effect of these class size reductions and budgetary cuts?
cold weather and recorded their opposition to the proposal to downgrade Balmossie Fire Station. Over 95% of those I talked to were against this proposal. The pressure of public opinion against this unreasonable and ill thought out proposal is mounting. I hope members of the Fire and Rescue Board are receptive to hearing and responding constructively to this level of criticism?
Severe Winter Weather Emphasises Importance of Full Time Night Shift Fire Crew at Balmossie Fire Station
I am pleased that Ken Guild (SNP Ferry Councillor and Leader of the City Council) has seen sense and says he is no longer of the view that Balmossie fire station should be downgraded. It is a pity of course that he didn't do his homework before the Fire and Rescue Board meeting in November. Perhaps this was inexperience in his role as Leader of the City Council or being distracted by the SNP's ambitions for independence? Will Councillor Guild now assure his constituents in the Ferry that his colleague, SNP Councillor Roberts, Vice Convener of the Fire & Rescue Board, will have a have a change of heart when the results of the current consultation are considered by the Fire and Rescue Board in March?