28/09/2010

Exhibition of Designs for V & A at Dundee


FREE Admission to Exhibition

Wednesday 29 September to Thursday 4 November
Abertay University Library, Bell Street, Dundee DD1 1HG

Opening Hours

Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday 09.00 – 21.00
Wednesday 09.00 - 17.00

25/09/2010

Ed Miliband Elected Labour Party Leader

Earlier this afternoon at the Labour Party Conference in Manchester, the results of the Labour Party leadership ballot were announced. Ed Miliband was elected leader of the Labour Party narrowly defeating his brother, David Miliband.

In his victory speech he said: "The Labour Party in the future must be a vehicle that doesn't just attract thousands of young people but tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of young people who see us as their voice in British politics today."

He paid tribute to his predecessors Gordon Brown and Tony Blair, but added: "We lost the election and we lost it badly. My message to the country is this: I know we lost trust, I know we lost touch, I know we need to change."

Ed was in Dundee for a campaigning rally at Discovery Point on Friday 10 September 2010

24/09/2010

SNP's Mistaken & Meanest Cut of All?

Surely, one of the meanest and most mistaken cuts so far anticipated in Dundee has been set in train by the SNP led City Council. They have initiated a short term review of welfare rights services in the city. This is part of the Changing for the Future measures they devised to identify savings to deal with the anticipated £20 million shortfall in the council's budget for the next financial year.

Recent news on the Dundee economy have made for grim reading. Rising levels of unemployment, combined with job losses at Realtime Worlds and low vacancy rates. And the prospects are not looking good with alarming levels of combined public sector cuts in the city amounting to 1000 jobs disappearing. Add to that the impact on low income households of proposed cuts in social security benefits announced by the Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition. Already some agencies such as CAB in Dundee are reporting that demand for welfare benefits advice and debt counselling are stretching their resources.

Councillor Laurie Bidwell said:

"At a point when many Dundee folk are exposed to the negative side effects of the bankers' excesses, why do our SNP councillors think that there is any scope for significant savings to be made in welfare rights agencies in Dundee? As a council, I think its our civic duty to protect the citizens of Dundee when they experience reductions in household income. If we don't have a vibrant range of free and independent advice agencies in the city, we can't guarantee the rights of our citizens when they are experiencing financial hardship or treated unfairly by public bodies and private organisations. Without access to free and independent advice services, these rights would only be reserved for people who can afford to buy their own financial and legal advice from solicitors and accountants. It's also common sense that if you maximise a household's income by helping them claim the welfare benefits they are entitled to, it not only raises the household's income but also increases the money circulating in the local economy in Dundee. It's a 'no brainer' that the demand for debt counselling and welfare rights advice in our city is likely to escalate rather than reduce in the near future. Why are the SNP being so unsympathetic to our citizens at times in their lives when they are experiencing real hardship?"

Councillor Richard McCready said:

"I am outraged at these proposals. The welfare rights services across the city offer a diverse service to a diverse group of users. We need to ensure that there is as much support as possible for those who need welfare rights advice. I think that proposals which might lead to a diminution of the service available to the people of Dundee are misguided. Our top priority must be prosperity and we need to do all we can to promote jobs in the city and for those who need welfare rights assistance we need to support the best service possible."


Notes

As part of the wide ranging 'Changing for the Future' package of measures, approved at the Policy & Resources Committee of Dundee City Council on Monday 23rd August, there was a Review of Welfare Rights provision.


Link to the Policy & Resources Committee Agenda and Papers which run to 204 pages. NB you will only need to examine/print out pages 7 - 16.
http://www.dundeecity.gov.uk/reports/agendas/pr230810-1.pdf

The Review of Welfare Rights was one of the reasons why Labour Councillors voted against the 'Changing for the Future' agenda but the SNP group pushed ahead using their majority on the Council.


There is a thirteen week time frame for the review, led by the Assistant Chief Executive, Chris Ward, concluding at the end of November 2010.

22/09/2010

Outreach Antenatal Care

The report Pregnancy and complex social factors: A model for service provision for pregnant women with complex social factors, commissioned by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, details the poor health outcomes for mother and baby when there is little or no antenatal care. To counter many of the women from these client groups not attending traditional antenatal care in health centres, they propose outreach care in a number of locations. In relation to school aged young women, they propose antenatal classes might be run in schools.

While the report is focused on the NHS in England, I am sure it has some pointers for midwifery in Scotland. In Dundee we do have a high level of young mothers of school age and provision already exists to support mother and baby at the special unit at Menzieshill High School. This report suggests starting that support before birth. If it improves the health of mothers and their babies, I think it should be considered carefully.

It is interesting that the news coverage about this report has focused on the recommendations for the enhanced antenatal care for school pupils. Many of the other women with complex social factors featured in the report, including those with drug and alcohol dependence are apparently not being reached by traditional antenatal care. Given the worrying level of drug misuse in our city, I suspect that is probably more of a priority issue in Dundee right now.

21/09/2010

National Express Bypasses Key Parts of Broughty Ferry

In early November, National Express buses will no longer pass through central Broughty Ferry when the No 5 circular bus is re-routed. The No 5 bus service will no longer cross the railway line and travel through central Broughty Ferry removing convenient drop off and pick up points in the central shopping area.

Many older residents, including some who live in sheltered housing, have approached me with their concerns. They complain, for example, that elderly residents will now have to get off the bus at the Post Office Bar and walk along Queen Street to the post office at the top of Grey Street, then walk across the rail crossing to get to the main shops within the Ferry. When these residents have finished their shopping, they will need to carry their messages up the steep incline to reach the bus stop at the foot of Forthill Road.

Likewise, residents in Dundee Road/Broughty Ferry Road remain inconveniences and cut off by the withdrawal of their bus services since the end of June.

I think both sets of bus users are very reasonable in asking for a solution to the withdrawal of bus services that they have come to rely on. Come on Travel Dundee, you can surely do better than this!

20/09/2010

Big Changes Ahead for Dundee Teachers and Schools - How Will These Help To Deliver Enhanced Pupil Attainment?

Education Conveners from local councils up and down Scotland have recently been meeting Mike Russell, the Cabinet Secretary for Education at the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities in Edinburgh. They reportedly agreed to abandon many aspects of the terms and conditions of work of our teachers that were established following recommendations made in the McCrone Report.

Changes apparently supported by Convener of Education Liz Fordyce include:
  • increasing contact time with pupils by reducing paid preparation and marking time;

  • increasing the number of rungs on the salary scale so that teachers take many more years to reach the same top point of their salary scale;

  • reducing the rate of pay for supply teaching and

  • abandoning the Chartered Teacher programme.

At a local level, Councillor Fordyce and her SNP colleagues are also planning to close smaller primary schools and reorganise the management of the Education Department with other services. Since the number of pupils in a single class are protected by legal limits, they plan to focus on reducing teaching posts outside the classroom but which currently enrich the curriculum and support teaching and learning.

What impact does Councillor Fordyce think these changes will have on education service she is responsible for?

How will she maintain the steady rise in SQA examination results achieved in recent years following the introduction of the 'Learning Together in Dundee' initiative and a new management structure in the Education Department to facilitate this?

How will she ensure that the impact of these changes will not fall disproportionately on pupils from disadvantaged households already under-performing according to the analysis in the recently published 'Better Odds at School' report from Save the Children Scotland?

19/09/2010

Last Week to Comment on Proposed Renewable Energy Plant in Dundee Docks

Forth Energy has made an application for permission to develop and operate a 'renewable energy plant' (also referred to in the press as a biomass power station) in the Dundee docks. Forth Energy submitted its application to the Scottish Ministers on 17th August 2010. Comments on the proposals should be made directly to the Scottish Government Energy Consents Unit, by Friday 24th September 2010.

Forth Energy believes that its proposed Dundee Renewable Energy Plant will be a valuable step in tackling the global challenges of climate change and the national challenges of increasing the amount of energy to be generated from renewable sources. In addition they believe that the project will contribute to addressing the potential generation capacity shortfall and security of energy supply issues.

Alternative views are available from the RATTS Action Group
in Dundee.

What do you think?

More Information - Dundee Consent Application
Read/download the Non Technical Summary of the Application

How to comment on the application...

Email directly the Scottish Government at:
EnergyConsents@scotland.gsi.gov.uk

Or

Post Your Comments to
Scottish Government
The Energy Consents and Deployment Unit
4th Floor
5 Atlantic Quay
150 Broomielaw
Glasgow
G2 8LU

18/09/2010

Road Closures Fort Street and Gray Street B/ferry Wed 22 & Thurs 23 September

Next week there will be two one day road closures in central Broughty Ferry sanctioned by Dundee City Council.

On Wednesday 22 September, for one working day, to facilitate Scottish Water inspection works being carried out, the driving of any vehicle in Fort Street (from Fisher Street to King Street), Broughty Ferry will be prohibited.

On Thursday 23 September, for one working day, to facilitate Scottish Water inspection works being carried out, the driving of any vehicle in Gray Street, (from Beach Crescent to King Street), Broughty Ferry will be prohibited.

In both cases, a pedestrian thoroughfare will be maintained.

Alternative routes for vehicles will be signposted.

For further information contact (01382) 433168.

17/09/2010

Better Odds At School


Save the Children Scotland have produced a thoughtful and penetrating policy briefing 'Better Odds At School'. In this report they point out that children from Scotland's poorest families make less progress than their classmates from better off households.

The achievement gap in Dundee that the 'Better Odds At School' briefing reveals is a matter of great concern to me. I am a supporter of equality of educational opportunity and if this report is right, the difference between the SQA exam results in secondary schools in our city of pupils in receipt of free school meals compared with those pupils not in receipt of free school meals is very worrying and worthy of further investigation.

I call on Education Convener, Councillor Liz Fordyce to:
  • ask the Education Department's statistician to check the analysis used by the report's authors and report back to the Education Committee;
  • prepare a report for the Education Committee based on applying the Save the Children Scotland's analysis to the 2010 SQA examination results;
  • invite Save the Children Scotland to give members of the Education Committee a briefing about their report and the analysis on which it is based and finally
  • commit to applying a rigorous equality impact assessment on each of the cuts in Education she is planning for next year so that these will not impact unfairly on children from households with the lowest incomes."
Sign the Save the Children Scotland's Online Petition

16/09/2010

10 days Left to Respond to Consultation on Eastern Primary School Move


The City Council's Education Department propose to move Eastern Primary School from its present site in Whinny Brae to the buildings previously used by Grove Academy on the south side of Camperdown Street with effect from August 2011. These buildings were previously earmarked for conversion into office accommodation for Council staff.


There are only ten days left for members of the public or parents to send in their comments about these proposals to the Education Department.

Click on this link to read or download the full proposal paper.

Written responses to these proposals should be sent to
Mrs Lina Waghorn
Head of Primary and Early Years Education
Floor 8, Tayside House
28 Crichton Street,
Dundee, DD1 3RJ

lina.waghorn@dundeecity.gov.uk

by the close of consultation on Tuesday 28 September 2010

15/09/2010

Offshore Wind Farm Public Consultation Exhibtions 29 Sept & 14 Oct Discovery Point Dundee

SeaEnergy Renewables Limited propose to use their deep water engineering experience from the North Sea to develop in the Outer Firth of Tay. It is anticipated this will consist of approximately a major wind farm 15-22 km off the Angus Coast180 wind turbines covering an area of about 150 square km - see location map below.

This project will be seeking consent through section 26 of the Electricity Act which requires an application to be made to the Scottish Government.

If you would like to find out more about this proposal, including the Environmental Impact Assessment Scoping Report, there will be public exhibitions in Discovery Point Dundee on Wednesday 29 September and Thursday 14 October 12 noon - 8pm both days.

Read or
download the Non Technical Summary of the Environmental Impact Assessment Scoping Report (12 Pages)

Read or download the full Environmental Impact Assessment Scoping Report (149 pages)

13/09/2010

PE Shortfall in Dundee Secondary Schools

Last week I publicly queried why two of our Dundee Secondary Schools were not providing the government recommended two hours of quality Physical Education per week for all their pupils in S1- 4 classes.

This week, I have been surprised to learn that St John's Roman Catholic High School and Craigie High School are the two secondary schools in the city that were apparently not meeting this standard. This is puzzling because both these schools have excellent indoor and outdoor facilities for physical education.

I am pleased that my questions have led to the Education Department committing to undertaking to 'audit the provision of PE in all our schools' again. I hope that the Education Convener, Councillor Liz Fordyce, has appointed sufficient qualified PE staff to ensure that this standard can be achieved in all nine of our Secondary Schools.

09/09/2010

Meeting with Marlyn Glen MSP at Holyrood

On Wednesday I had a meeting with Marlyn Glen MSP at the Scottish Parliament to discuss constituents' issues.

In the afternoon, I went into the visitors' gallery to hear the announcement of the Scottish Government's legislative programme and Labour's response. Although the ten bills listed include some worthy reforms, unfortunately they fail to address the key issues facing people in The Ferry of supporting and developing employment, training and education.

08/09/2010

SNP fail to bring forward Literacy Action Plan


Labour’s Literacy Commission reported in January this year and Mike Russell, the SNP's Education Secretary promised Parliament during the debate on its findings that he would bring forward a Literacy Action Plan. However eight months on - despite the overwhelming vote in the Scottish Parliament in favour of such a plan being brought forward - nothing has been forthcoming so far from the Scottish Government.

The Literacy Commission found that almost one million Scots have difficulties with literacy and every year nearly 1 in 5 children leave primary school not able to read and write to the basic standard. The Commission’s report called for a zero tolerance approach to tackle the problem of illiteracy and made a number of clear recommendations.

It is a bitter disappointment on International Literacy Day that despite repeated promises by Michael Russell no Literacy Action Plan has been brought forward. The Literacy Commission’s report was a wake-up call for Scotland. Eight months after the Literacy Commission Report and Labour’s debate on the report we’ve seen nothing from Mr Russell’s department. Every child in Scotland deserves the tools for future success and eradicating illiteracy is the vital first step in providing these basis skills. Mr Russell appears to think that the problem of illiteracy will be resolved by the Curriculum for Excellence. But if, as the Minister claims, the new Curriculum has been running effectively in Scottish primary schools for years what additional steps is he taking to prevent 13,000 children leaving primary school every year unable to read and write effectively? The truth is that specialist learning support is being removed from schools up and down the country as a result of SNP policies, making the job of classroom teachers more difficult.

07/09/2010

Dundee Secondary Pupils Miss Out on Quality PE?

A Scottish Government pledge that all school children receive a guaranteed minimum of two hours of physical education each week is apparently not being met in all of our Dundee Secondary Schools.

In May 2007, the SNP promised parents that their children would be guaranteed two hours of PE each week with a specialist PE Teacher. Parents in Dundee will be disappointed to learn that in July 2010, in response to a Freedom of Information request, it was revealed that two secondary school in Dundee were only meeting half of this recommended minimum provision for pupils in S1-4. This is despite, Education Secretary, Mike Russell's insistence that,
'The Scottish Government, together with our partners in CoSLA and local authorities, are committed to young people throughout Scotland receiving two hours quality PE every week.'

Perhaps more worrying is that when pupils move up into in S5 and S6, PE and sport become entirely optional and many pupils opt out.

Two hours of PE is supposedly embedded within the Curriculum for Excellence, which, according to the government has been adopted in all schools from August this year.

Will Education Director, Jim Collins, now confirm whether any improvements have been made to the timetabling of PE in our Secondary schools in the new school year? More specifically can he guarantee that every S1 - S4 pupil will be timetabled for two hours of quality Physical Education every week?

06/09/2010

Magnficicent Production of Crazy for You by DSMT

On Friday evening I had the pleasure of attending the latest inspired performance from Dundee Schools Music Theatre (DSMT) at the Whitehall Theatre.

This relatively 'new' musical, from the 1990s, weaves together a plot about a New York playboy who is sent to Deadlock, Nevada to revive a dying theatre with well loved songs composed by George and Ira Gershwin in the 1930s.

I was really impressed with two leads who not only possessed outstanding singing voices but also danced well and had dramatic poise. The rhythm and synchronicity of the company of dancers was admirable as they powered their way through a variety of song and dance routines.

I hope that the SNP administration on the City Council do not try to cut this veritable 'jewel in the crown' of the Education Service in Dundee. Ominously, when I invited the Convener of Education, Liz Fordyce, to declare her support for DSMT at the last Education Committee meeting, she declined to do so. I think it would be crazy for you and me if the SNP led council were to disinvest in the performing arts in our schools.

Free Tickets Last Night of the Proms - Outdoor Video Screen City Square

Superstar violinist Nicola Benedetti and presenter Kaye Adams help bring the curtain down on the world's largest music festival on Saturday 11 September, as they complete the line-up for the Scottish finale of this year's BBC Proms.

Broadcast live from the Caird Hall, in Dundee, they join soprano Lesley Garrett, guitarist Paul Galbraith, the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Garry Walker, and the specially assembled Dundee Proms Chorus.

This annual gala concert marks the conclusion of the annual BBC Proms season and visits Dundee for the first time.

All the tickets for the concert have now been allocated, but those unlucky enough to miss out will still have the chance to join in via a giant screen located just outside the Caird Hall, in City Square. The live BBC TV broadcast of the concert will be relayed to the screen, provided by Dundee City Council.

Tickets for the outdoor Screen event are free of charge and, in keeping with the spirit of the Proms, there are standing "promenade" tickets with very limited seating capacity, which will be available on the night on a first come first served basis.

Tickets are limited to four per application, and are available by email: citybox@dundeecity.gov.uk, and in person at Dundee City Box Office 6, City Square, Dundee.

04/09/2010

Evening Class Enrolment at Grove Academy Monday 6 September 7pm

On Monday evening 6 September it's enrollment night for evening classes at Grove Academy. Between 7pm - 8.30pm, Broughty residents can sign up for an evening class organised by Broughty Ferry Education and Recreation Association (BERA). Classes will commence on Monday 13th, Tuesday 14th and Thursday 16th September 2010 and run for ten weeks. There will be no classes between 4 October and 15 October.
BERA's programme for the Autumn includes many new classes such as:
Ashtanga Yoga -
a more dynamic form of traditional yoga in which the sequence flows from one posture into the next, using the breath to help ease into positions;
Self Defence For All
- a traditional karate style which is suitable for anyone who has not done martial arts before and also people who are not 100% fit (no high kicking);
Local History
- the history of Dundee and Angus from AD80 to 1940 and will mix lectures with field trips and other group activities and
Jewellery Workshop
- learn how to translate some of your favourite objects into personal jewelery.
and many old favorites such as Bridge, Cooking and Woodwork.

Please note that classes will only run if there is a minimum of 10 students registered by the end of enrolment session on 6 September 2010.

Concessionary fees are available for many classes. Full-time students, senior citizens (60+) and other benefit recipients should show proof of entitlement.

There is no provision for telephone reservations.

There is disabled access to all classes.

Further information is available on the BERA website
or email info@beradundee.org.uk

03/09/2010

SNP responsible for misery of young teachers unable to find work


New statistics revealed today by the Times Educational Supplement Scotland (TESS) showed that older teachers ar not delaying their retirement, putting paid to the argument that they are partially responsible for the desperate job prospects facing new teachers.

The most common retirement age of teachers has actually fallen over the past three years - from 62 years in 2007-08 to 60 years in 2009-10 - according to the Scottish Public Pensions Agency. Its figures revealed that the average retirement age was 61.86 in 2007-08; 60.98 in 2008-09; and 60.16 in 2009-10.

The TESS reports that since the teacher jobs crisis began to bite, one explanation consistently put forward by the SNP Government and the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (CoSLA) for the lack of posts for new entrants was that older teachers were putting off retirement beyond 60 because of the impact of the economic downturn on them and their families. But Ronnie Smith from the EIS said: "This finally lays to rest the myth that older teachers deferring retiral are blocking job opportunities for new teachers."

The reason we have almost 2500 fewer teachers in Scotland and only 11 per cent of newly qualified teachers have obtained permanent posts is because of the SNP's mis-management of Scotland’s education system and their broken promises. SNP education cuts in the good times when Scottish Government budgets were expanding will be compounded in the future by the Tory/Liberal cuts in the pipeline.

The SNP’s educational legacy is fewer teachers, fewer classroom assistants, hardly any jobs for newly qualified teachers, teaching unions on the brink of strikes, parents fundraising for books and essential equipment and not one school yet built by the Scottish Futures' Trust in the term of this parliament.

02/09/2010

End Legal Loan Sharking

The UK now has one of the highest levels of personal debt in the world - in April this year the British people owed over £1,460bn in private debt.

Irresponsible lending can cause debts to become unmanageable: some loan and credit companies are charging annual interest rates equivalent to over 2500% (despite the Bank of England base rate being just 0.5%).

Borrowing at these rates repeatedly tips customers into inescapable cycles of debt and poverty. High debt repayments are linked to rent, council tax and utility arrears, constraints on job seeking behaviour, poor diets, cold homes, and mental and physical health problems.

This is legal loan sharking, a national scandal which must be stopped. It's come to our main streets. I agree with those who think its time to pressurise for government action to cap lending rates for all consumer credit.