Developing Visions and Values in Our Schools

Photo copyright acknowledged
Many of our schools are developing or revising their statement of their vision and values.  These statements are both a source of inspiration as well as a reference point to guide expectations and behaviour. The process of arriving at what is recorded should be inclusive so that pupils, teachers and parents and carers are all on the same page. 

I know that Grove Academy are currently going through this process, which has involved a number of rounds of consultation with staff and pupils. It was referred to in the Head Teacher's recent report to the Grove Parent Council.

At St Thomas Of Aquin's High School in Edinburgh, freelance artist Angus Reid has worked with a group of  S4 pupils to explore what a statement of values means to them, and how it affects their whole relationship to the school. His novel approach led to the adoption of a short statement which pupils produced and which has now been displayed on the wall of a stairway for all to see. The full statement the pupils produced is available on this link. (Note you will need to scroll through the images to find the specific pictures from St Thomas Of Aquin's High School.)

I wonder whether the Grove statement will read like this and where it might be re-presented?


Paving the Way for Falls Prevention in Broughty Ferry

Click on image to enlarge
Earlier this week, a sprightly constituent over retirement age contacted me about her unfortunate fall. She had tripped on an uneven stretch of pavement on the western side of Claypotts Road just north of the junction with Brook Street and just south of the railway bridge. As a result, she had broken her nose, and had sustained heavy bruising around her eyes and the rest of her face. Frankly she looked as though she had been mugged or had lost a boxing match. Where she tripped the concrete pathway has sections where the surface is crumbling away and this has made the pavement uneven and over time deeper holes have been developing.

I have reported this to the Roads Maintenance Partnership. 

In the last fortnight, I have reported numerous stretches of roads and pavements in The Ferry which are rutted and/or have potholes. While this usually leads to some filling in of those that staff judge to be the worst, some of the patching does not last very long. I think the Council are losing the battle with stretches of roads and pavements falling into disrepair faster than they can be given a temporary fix.

Uneven pavements and potholes are not only a source of potential danger for members of the public but they are also a costly issue for the NHS.

A report on falls and health, published by the Scottish Government in May 2012 confirms this point:

"With an ageing population, falls and the consequences of falls are a major and growing concern for older people."

"Falls and fractures, in people aged 65 and over, account for over 18,000 unscheduled admissions and 390,500 bed days each year in Scotland."

"In addition, in the over 65 population, falls cases are the largest single presentation to the Scottish Ambulance Service (over 35,000 presentation each year)."

Despite these statistics, falls are not an inevitable consequence of old age. I think the Council needs to take its share of responsibility for the cost to the NHS of falls and a serious reduction in the quality of life of those older persons that sustain more serious injuries such as bone fractures.

Quotations above extracted from:

Up and About or Falling Short? - A Report of the Findings of a Mapping of Services for Falls Prevention in Older People Published by the the Scottish Government, 23 May 2012


Dundee University Almost Top of the Class Again

Dundee University come very close to the top of the class again in a student satisfaction survey. They achieved a 90% level of student satisfaction and came second only in Scotland to Heriot Watt University in Edinburgh in the 2012 UK wide National Student Survey. 

This follows a first place in the UK in the Times Higher Education Student Experience Survey published back in February 2012.

This a consistent and creditable performance.

Here is a table of the overall student satisfaction levels at Scottish Universities in rank order drawn from the results of the National Student Survey 2012:

  1. Heriot-Watt, Edinburgh – 91%
  2. Dundee – 90%
  3. St Andrews – 90%
  4. Aberdeen – 89%
  5. Glasgow – 89%
  6. Strathclyde, Glasgow – 89%
  7. Robert Gordon, Aberdeen – 87%
  8. Stirling – 87%
  9. Glasgow Caledonian – 85%
  10. West of Scotland, Paisley – 85%
  11. Edinburgh – 83%
  12. QMU, Edinburgh – 83%
  13. Edinburgh Napier – 82%
  14. Glasgow School of Art – 77%
  15. Abertay, Dundee – N/A

Broughty Ferry Library Seeking Friends' Group

On Wednesday evening I attended a consultation event about forming a Friends' Group for Broughty Ferry Library. This followed an afternoon meeting earlier in the month.

Sandra Westgate, our Branch Librarian, gave an overview of the library and shared some statistics about library usage.

Did you know that the Broughty Ferry Library opened in October 1928 as a library and reading room and is consistently the busiest branch library in the city? Here is a selection of its vital statistics for the last year:
  • 144271 visitors
  • 8943 members
  • 98136 items were issued 
  • 2006 users of the computers
  • 4756 attendances at the Baby Rhyme Time
  • 201 events for children
  • 4 adult reading groups
  • 532 events for adults
It is hoped that a Friends' Group for Broughty Ferry Library would not only be able to help extend the reach of the library into more community events but also help with funding. The library is part of Leisure and Culture Dundee which is an organisation working at arms length from the Council with charitable status.  As such, new forms of funding should be available for additional services or activities.

Both consultations were well attended and a keen group of supporters have indicated their interest and potential support. They will be invited to a follow up meeting but there is room for more folk to come on board. It's therefore not too late to declare your interest in supporting or being part of the Friends of Broughty Ferry Library Group by contacting Sandra Westgate:

Broughty Ferry Community Library
Queen Street, Broughty Ferry, Dundee, DD5 2HN
Phone:  01382 436919


Welcome for Funding Commitment for Rebuilding Baldragon Academy

I welcome the announcement made yesterday, by the Scottish Government, that the rebuilding of Baldragon Academy has been approved as part of the Schools for the Future programme. I know this will be welcomed by the Baldragon staff, pupils and  parents.

The current Baldragon Academy buildings are over 50 years old and pupils in the North West of the city deserve a Secondary School that is fit for the 21st Century. The original proposal by the Council included the replacement of Sidlaw View Primary School on the same campus and I hope that is part of what has been approved as well.

This really is a school for the future announcement as the government's letter makes it clear that Baldragon will not be among those schools with an accelerated start over the next 18 months. That might have been possible as the rebuilding of the school will be on another part of the Baldragon site. Unlike Harris Academy, there will be no need to decant pupils during the building of the replacement Baldragon Academy.

Ward Councillor Kevin Keenan said:

"As a local Councillor, I am very pleased that a new build Baldragon Academy received the approval of the Education Minister yesterday as part of the Government's Schools for The Future programme.

"I am, however, a little disappointed this Project is not within the first phase of funding, which would have seen a construction start within 12 to 18 months - delivering much needed jobs for Dundee's construction workers.

"It remains great news for the pupils, staff and parents along with the wider community as this new build will deliver a much improved learning environment and is therefore very welcome."


'Crisis' Looms as Staffing Levels at City Schools near 'Breaking Point'

This post reproduces a substantial part of an article which was published in the Evening Telegraph on Tuesday 25 September 2012 written by Reporter Philip Sim.

Teachers in Dundee have warned of an impending "crisis" in staffing levels at city schools.

The number of teachers available to cover classes has been badly hit by staff taking maternity leave, among other factors, and a local union representative warned that the system is nearing breaking point.

At a meeting of the education committee (held on Monday 24 September 2012) discussing the department's new service plan for city schools, Arthur Forrest of the EIS teaching union told Councillors that there were serious issues with the number of available teachers.

"We have extreme problems in schools trying to get supply, and it's moving towards crisis," he said.

"We're unable to find teachers to take classes - we have support for learning
teachers being taken from young people to cover classes."

"The motto is 'get it right for every child', but how can we when the (support for learning) teachers identified to work with the children are taken away to teach classes?"

"Often teachers speak to me and say they're spending too much time fire-fighting, covering classes." Mr Forrest added that "head teachers and senior management teams often didn't have time to work on implementing the "ambitious" changes outlined in the service plan because they had to cover classes."

"Senior management, who should be leading the changes, are unable to do so
because they are fire-fighting," he said.

"It says in the report that this will be delivered by a lead officer, but everyone knows that the changes take place in the schools and it's the head teachers and their teams who lead it."

"It's vital we're aware of the pressure on schools."

"I'd like an assurance from the Director that the people who are put in to lead speak to the real leaders to take account of reality."

Education Director Michael Wood admitted there were currently 56 teachers on
maternity leave from the city's schools, but said the authority was striving to bring in more support. "We were interviewing over the course of last week and we're interviewing this week for 20 more primary teachers," he said.

"Before the holidays we will have an open advert for staff."

"In all of our schools we're making sure we prioritise so we don't have a situation where children are disadvantaged due to a teaching issue."

"In terms of our head teachers, their voice is crucial. Our head teachers are the key drivers for improvements within our schools."

"The plan is a five-year plan, it allows us time to adapt and regroup in the light of experience."

"I'm out in schools on occasion doing supply work, as I want to see the schools and how the work is done.

"The reality is we don't know what's happening out in the field unless we get out there - we have people at the pumps."

When asked if he was happy with the director's response, Mr Forrest said: "I wouldn't go so far as to say I'm happy, but I heard him."

National Go Home on Time Day

Today is National Go Home on Time Day. The reason why I am featuring this is that I think many folk who are in work are working excessive hours. This is especially true following significant reductions in staff in many private, public and third sector organisations.

In our Council I know from my direct experience that many of our Senior staff are working long hours whether they are still at their desks in Dundee House or continuing to work outside the office on their smart phones and home computers. In the last few days I have had emails from senior members of  City Council Staff with the following times:

  • Saturday 22 September 2012 09:18
  • Tuesday 25 September 2012 08:17
  • Tuesday 25 September 2012 21:34

While I applaud their dedication, this does not suggest we are promoting a good work life balance for our staff. I also think that their long hours are evidence of the mounting pressure of their papering over the cracks which are opening up following widespread early retirals.


Christmas Lights with £19,000 Worth of Health and Safety

Click on image to enlarge
At the City Development Committee meeting last night, a report had been added to the agenda recommending acceptance of a tender:
Christmas Lights 2012 - Erection of Trees, Lights and Decorations

Of the £159,093.75 cost of the contract, £25,968.75 was for allowances of which 19,968.75 was for Professional Services ie 12.5% or one eighth of the overall cost.

Incidentally, I received this report in my mail tray on the afternoon of the meeting which left no time for advance questions to senior members of staff.

The proposed contract involved "the erection and connection of the Christmas lighting equipment and features with supply cables as required at:
Dundee City Centre, Westport, Seabraes, Stobswell, Lochee High Street and bypass roundabout, Whitfield Police Station, Broughty Ferry Library and Brook Street including the erection of main City Centre Tree and associated satellite Christmas trees and garlands." 
This list indicated the same locations as last year. I also knew that the Council had purchased some new lights for the City Centre in recent years.

This is what I asked at the meeting and the reply I received:

My Question
"I welcome this report and the repeat programme of Christmas lights and trees that is proposed throughout the city, including Broughty Ferry, for this Christmas. These are much appreciated and enjoyed by residents and visitors to our city. I am puzzled however how in this report £19,000 worth of technical services is justified for what is essentially a repeat programme? It will be the same lights, and decorations, same locations to put up the Christmas decorations. How can this be justified?"

The answer I received from the Director of City Development was that there was a considerable volume of health and safety matters associated with this work to plan and supervise. 

After the meeting it occurred to me that it had a been a good thing that health and safety regulations had been a little more lax when the Innkeeper in Bethlehem offered Mary and Joseph overnight accommodation in the stable.

Notwithstanding that thought, I will be pursuing this with Mike Galloway, Director of City Development. I shall also be complaining to the Chief Executive, David Dorward, about late circulation of reports which hampers the scrutiny by Councillors.


Dead Branches Overhanging Open Space in Forthill Road Reported

A constituent has alerted me to the large dead branch of a tree overhanging the open space on Forthill Road. 

More worrying, in the picture you can see the part of the tree is cloaked by ivy. When ivy spreads to the canopy of a tree it adds to the risk of  the risk of branches or the entire tree being lost in high winds. It may be that more than the branch should be removed in the interests of public safety. 

I have asked the Council's Forestry Officer to have a look at this tree and refer any work that needs to be done to the owners of the land on which the tree is growing.


No Extra Budget Cash for School Building in Dundee in 2013/14

In his Budget statement last Thursday, the Cabinet Secretary for Finance announced an additional £80 million for school building. This would, he claimed, boost the school building programme in Scotland by delivering 69 schools – 12 more than previously planned, and earlier than scheduled. At the same time as building more schools this would he claimed be a boost for jobs, especially in the construction industry.

This gave me the hopeful impression that some almost shovel ready school building projects in Dundee might be brought forward to the next financial year 1 April 2013- 31 March 2014. I had hoped that this would also have helped find jobs for those construction workers in our city who lost their jobs when Brown Construction went into receivership.

But research carried out by the independent Scottish Parliament Information Centre (SPICe) has cast doubt on this part of John Swinney's spending plans. They say:
 “This involves an acceleration of Non Profit Distribution investment originally planned for 2015-16 and 2016-17 into 2014-15, and will not impact on capital investment in 2013-14."

It would now appear that getting an earlier start to construction of the replacement Harris Academy will not now be feasible. 


Cyclists and Pedestrians Need to Show Mutual Consideration on Shared Coastal Pathway

Diverse traffic on the coastal pathway
 at Grassy Beach - click to enlarge
I think many of my constituents are aware that I enjoy walking along the coastal pathway between Douglas Terrace and the Stannergate. Most days I take our dog Milli for a walk along this pathway. Milli enjoys chasing a ball on the beach and a swim off the slipway at Grassy Beach. On my walks, I usually encounter other dog walkers, joggers, folk out with children in the buggy, walkers, drivers of mobility scooters and of course cyclists; all of whom have the right to use this pathway.

Some walkers I have encountered resent the presence of cyclist using the pathway. I usually point out that it was the charity Sustainable Transport (Sustrans) which made substantial grants towards the upgrading of each of the sections of the pathway so that that it could remain open. The walkers accept that if this was the price of retaining the pathway so be it. 

But several walkers have expressed their concern that the mixed modes of human traffic sharing this pathway is 
"an accident waiting to happen"
They point out how frightening it can be when a cyclists comes up behind them and passes them at speed. But it's not just the cyclists who may offend other path users. I sometimes witness dogs running out of control and in front of cyclists. I have also seen walkers and joggers engrossed in their music and unaware of other traffic on the route.

So the issue I want to raise is the need for all those who use this pathway to show more consideration to each other. This means cyclists ensuring they have a bell or other warning device and make use of this as they approach pedestrians up ahead. It also means that they should moderate their speed when approaching walkers especially when the pedestrians are blind sided.  For walkers it means their avoiding getting engrossed with their music or their conversation so that they don't step out in front of an approaching bike. Dog walkers should also try to keep their dogs under control and clear up their dog's mess and dispose of this in the bins provided.

I have also written to the Head of Transportation to see whether the walkway hard surface might be divided into two lanes; one for pedestrians and one for cyclists. I am hoping this may be possible when the final section of the pathway is rebuilt later this financial year and the pathway has a more uniform width.


No Extra Places at Dundee College in Draft Scottish Budget Yesterday

Yesterday afternoon, John Swinney MSP, the Cabinet Secretary for Finance delivered his statement to the Scottish Parliament on his draft budget 2012/13.

In his statement John Swinney announced:an extra £17 million for colleges to maintain student numbers and support (in financial year April 2013- March 2014 and underlining is my emphasis)
This is effectively putting back into the budgets of the Colleges money he had previously announced would be cut from their budgets next year. This additional cash means that places will be frozen at this year's level. It should mean that that there won't be any further reductions in places available next year.

Earlier this week, I had identified a big difference between the rising number of applicants for further education courses at Dundee College against recruitment targets that had been limited by reductions to the College's budget for this financial year. 

A spokesperson for Dundee College has confirmed:
'that currently we have 523 applicants who are fully qualified that we have had to put on a a waiting list. We also have 342 applications on the waiting list but these are people who have conditions to be met.'
I note that many offers of places to undertake a course at College will be conditional on achieving entrance standards such as achieving passes in examinations at school.

These figures, released by the College, show that there are already 865 applicants waiting for a place at Dundee College. Of these 523 are good to go but there is no place to start now.  Just over a third are applicants who are working towards meeting the entrance requirements of their course.

When our pupils leave school in June 2013, those that want to extend their qualifications at Dundee College will likely find that they are in competition for  a place with applicants who are already on the waiting list from this year.

I hope that John Swinney can be persuaded to increase further the budgets of the FE Colleges beyond the £17 million already on the table. This would be fair to the applicants marking time on the waiting list.


Dundee Peer Educators Share their Project at Scottish Learning Festival

Yesterday I attended the Scottish Learning Festival 2012 in Glasgow. This annual event aims to inspire and transform learning and teaching to help improve the life chances of all young people.

I was delighted to find that one of the innovative developments in our city; Peer Education Project: Health Buddies in Schools was one of the seminars in the programme. This involved Teaching and Community Learning staff along with six of the peer educators, pupils from Braeview Academy and Morgan Academy. This was I think the only seminar that day that involved pupils being an integral part of the presentation. 

Amy Burnett from Braeview Academy presenting
Our Council staff from Schools and The Corner gave an informative overview of why and how the project came about. Then six of our senior pupils, three each from Braeview and Morgan offered insights into their experience of undertaking their training and then delivering a health education message to young people lower down in their schools. 

The six pupils were excellent ambassadors for the city and our secondary schools exhibiting in their presentations an abundance the four capacities enshrined in the curriculum for excellence:
"to be: 

  • a successful learner, 
  • a confident individual, 
  • a responsible citizen and 
  • an effective contributor."


Brian Cox Filming Bob Servant Independent on Douglas Terrace

Click on this image to enlarge
Yesterday, while I was out on my regular dog walk along the coastal pathway, I came across Brian Cox and a film crew hard at work. They were filming outside the cottage hard by the railway bridge at the end of Douglas Terrace. 

The film crew were here in The Ferry to make the next three episodes of Bob Servant Independent for BBC Four. The series will be televised in the Spring. 

Judging by the sunny weather while they have been filming, The Ferry should be shown in a very good light. 

Once the series is televised, I think there would be scope for some Bob Servant themed walks round Broughty Ferry. Perhaps that might be something for the Broughty Ferry Development Trust or an opportunity for one of our Broughty Ferry Traders?


Anton Drive Residents Impatient for Replacement Retaining Wall

In early July, following torrential rain, the City Engineer decided that the weight of water above a retaining wall in Anton Drive was potentially in danger of collapse and was to be fenced off as a precautionary measure. As this retaining wall was built on Council land managed by the Housing Department, it turned out to be the responsibility of the Housing Department to fix. 

At the same time, following my request, a commitment was given to Ferry Councillors and the residents of Anton Drive that we would all be involved in examining an appraisal of different ways of replacing the wall. Two options had been identified; either rebuilding the wall with a better construction than the wall that is being pushed over or re-landscaping the bottom of the slope with the loss of the existing pathway. 

The residents in Anton Drive are concerned that no discernible progress has been made ten weeks after this announcement. In the meanwhile, the residents of Anton Drive have had the usable width of their road reduced by the safety fencing. This has led apparently to their parked cars being damaged by passing vehicles such as bin lorries with several residents either losing wing mirrors or having paintwork on their cars damaged.

I have written to the City Engineer and his colleague in the Housing Department as well as the Housing Convener, Councillor Black to ask them to hurry things up.


Shortage of Places at Dundee College

Figures released recently by Dundee College demonstrate a significant shortfall between the number of places at the College and the number of applicants. 

At the same tine that youth unemployment is at record levels in our city, we can see that a place at Dundee College is also subject to stiff competition; 8932 applicants chasing 3812 places.

Dundee College
Number of applications - 19087 
Numbers of individuals applying - 8932
(note many applicants apply for more than one course)
Number of places - 3812 
(figures supplied by Dundee College)

It must be very disheartening to get knock backs from employers and then find you are also rebuffed when you try to improve your qualifications at college because there is such a shortage of places. 

In the last two years the Scottish Government has cut the teaching budgets of Further Education Colleges by 10% each year with two more years of similar cuts scheduled. That has led to the number of College lecturing staff being reduced by more than 1800 across Scotland. This reduction in staff reduces the capacity of Colleges to provide places. It means that too many young people who want to get the qualifications that would help them into jobs are being denied the chance.

In a recession, we need to invest more not less in training and education so that when the upturn comes we have adults ready and well qualified to take their place in the workplaces that are expanding. We must not give up on our school leavers and aspiring adult learners. I hope the Scottish Government reverse their cuts in the budgets of further education colleges and pay for more places. We can't afford another lost generation.


Good and Bad News from Scotrail for Train Services from Broughty Ferry Station

There was good and bad news about the rail services to and from Broughty Ferry station earlier this week. Would you like the good or bad news first?

Last September, I welcomed the announcement about improvements to the schedule of trains that were to be stopping at Broughty Ferry Station when the then new national rail timetable was coming into force on Sunday 11 December 2011. This included four more trains a day going south and three more trains a day heading north. These improvements were introduced on a pilot basis to be evaluated in 2012.

The good news is that from Sunday 9 December 2012, one further train a day will stop at Broughty Ferry in both directions. This afternoon service will help fill one of the gaps in the current timetable.

The bad news is that ScotlRail will not be delivering an hourly timetable of stopping trains at Broughty Ferry on the Aberdeen to Glasgow and Glasgow to Aberdeen route. There will continue to be long gaps between services and it will remain difficult, if not impossible to commute into Dundee from The Ferry unless you have unusual working hours.

I have been saving this for last. The best news is most definitely that the pilot programme of improved stopping trains at Broughty Ferry has been judged a success on the basis of growing passenger numbers. So our rail services in The Ferry are no longer a pilot programme. In other words, we are no longer under threat of returning to a station with virtually no train services. For that we have to thank all those passengers who have voted with their feet and let the train take the strain.

Finally, I shall continue to press for a comprehensive timetable of stopping trains at our station. This makes sense environmentally and practically.


Commenting on Two Pupils at Forthill Primary School Hit By Car at Crossing with Patroller

It has been reported in The Courier that earlier this week two young pupils were hit by a car as they crossed Nursery Road on their way to Forthill Primary School. They were apparently crossing with the help and protection of a School Crossing Patroller:

The children's father was reported in the Courier saying: ''It was horrifying — I just watched as it happened. I feared the worst.''
The Courier Reporter added: "Forthill Primary pupils Jodi (8) and sister Charli Ewing (5) were lucky to escape serious injury in the accident with a black Fiat Panda as they walked hand-in-hand across Nursery Road .... Happily, both girls escaped serious harm and did not require hospital treatment. 
They were recovering at home in Broughty Ferry and are already looking forward to returning to school. The accident is under police investigation."

I am very relieved to learn that the two young pupils who were hit by a car, were not badly injured and will soon be back at school. 

I am member of the School Parking and Pupil Safety Working Group established by The Council in response to a range of concerns raised by parents and Councillors like me about pupil safety in and around our schools. As part of the work of that group, I have visited a number of Primary Schools including Forthill, to see the drop offs in the morning or the pick ups in the evening.

In meeting with parents at school gates, I have heard many stories about car drivers ignoring School Crossing Patrollers with their distinctive 'lollipops' and by so doing putting young lives and the lives of the patrollers at risk. 

I appeal to drivers to take particular care in the vicinity of our schools and slow down when they see the flashing road signs warning of schools ahead and obey the School Crossing Patrollers when they hold up the traffic for our children to cross. No driver wants to have to live with the guilt of maiming or killing a child on their conscience for the rest of their lives.


Home Scotland AGM at the McManus Museum and Art Gallery 13 September 2012

Presenting the prize to the winner of the
Best Kept Garden Competition.
Last night I was reporting to the Annual General Meeting of Home Scotland (Housing Association) members in Dundee. This meeting was held in the McManus Galleries and was well attended by members from Dundee, staff of the Association and folk with an interest in social housing and the work of our housing association in Dundee.

The year 2011 to 2012 has been a busy one for the Dundee Area Committee. We have had 8 meetings, been on an 'away day' in the training room of the new Visitor Centre in Camperdown Park and also taken an active part in discussions with members of the other three Area Committees in Scotland.

Our principal achievements as an Area Committee have been:

  • Commenting on and monitoring key changes in the Home family of organisations as these affect our tenants/customers in Dundee;
  • Keeping in touch with wider developments in the Home Group and shaping new developments by having members of our committee on the Board of Home Scotland and the National Customer Panel;
  • Following up issues that committee members bring to the Area Committee;
  • Interviewing key staff from Seddons before endorsing them as single maintenance and repairs contractor for Scotland;
  • Holding three consultations with customers/tenants in Blackness Sheltered Housing, Whorterbank and Whitfield;
  • Developing links between Criminal Justice in Dundee and our Maintenance Manager so that in future some of our neighbourhoods can be benefit from work by offenders on Community Payback Orders;
  • Continuing running the Cleghorn Charitable Trust which provides small grants for basic furnishings for customers/tenants moving into their new home;
  • Exploring ways to cut the energy bills of customers/tenants;
  • Monitoring the performance of the new UK call centre for Home Group and the new repairs contractor for Scotland and
  • Meeting members of the North East England Regional Viewpoint Committee in Durham to see at first hand what their new structure might offer.
Overall it was a very constructive evening with a number of members expressing interest in joining us on the Area Committee.


Loose Stone on Bridge Parapet is Reported to City Engineer

A large stone on the Fort Street railway bridge in Broughty Ferry has worked loose. Its an ornamental and heavy stone on the end of the bridge parapet at the junction of Fort Street, Brook Street and Erskine Lane. 

This is the slab of stone to which the Fort Street sign is fixed and which can be clearly seem in the photograph. Looking closely you can see that it's slightly skewed because it can swivel round on the wall below.

I have reported this to the City Engineer because I think it is a potential hazard.   


Integration of Adult Health and Community Care - Council's Response to Scottish Government

At the meeting of the Policy and Resources Committee on Monday evening 10 September 2012, Councillors were asked to approve a draft response to the Scottish Government in relation to their consultation on The Integration of Adult Health and Community Care.

Here is what I said while asking a series of questions about gaps in the draft consultation responses from the Council.

"Convener, (Councillor Ken Guild also a Ferry Councillor) the problems of lack of integration of the planning and delivery of social care services have long been identified. From the point of view of many elderly constituents in Dundee, combining health and social work services currently funded and managed by local authorities and The National Health Service so that they provide a seamless service seems desirable. But the devil will be in the detail. 

Like the drafters of this report, I have concerns that democratic accountability to our council will be weakened without a wide range of elected member involvement in the new Health and Social Care Partnerships.  

Convener, we are both local Councillors with a high proportion of older people in our constituency whose services will be affected by this proposed integration. I think our position, as Councillors, to intervene and influence those responsible when one of our constituents has a dispute about their integrated care looks as though it would be weakened and diminished. In order that this is not another example of remote and distant authority, I would have preferred if we had followed the Policing example and had reporting of the planning and performance of the Integrated Health and Community Care direct to this Policy and Resources Committee. In addition I would urge that in our Council's response  question 6 (in the consultation) should be answered directly by saying that we are not in favour of a Dundee Health and Social Care Partnership combined with other local authority boundaries."

The Committee agreed to accept my proposal about responding to question 6 and senior Social Work officers agreed with my analysis about the potential negative effects of a lack of democratic accountability.


Broughty Ferry Education and Recreation Association Grant Approved

At the meeting of the Policy and Resources Committee last night, Councillors approved a grant of £2850 to Broughty Ferry Education and Recreation Association (BERA) who organise the annual programme of evening classes in The Ferry. The BERA committee, all volunteers, have been organising these classes for over 30 years. 

The investment of the grant and support to BERA from the Adult Learning staff of the Council is much appreciated by BERA and I think is a good investment. Last year BERA provided over 1500 places in their classes in a wide variety of subjects and what's more paid more than twice the value of this grant back to the Council in rental payments for the use of school premises for their classes.

BERA's new programme of classes is already underway for the Autumn term at Grove Academy and Forthill Primary School. If you want to find out if there is a still a place in one of their classes email BERA and refer to the details on their website


Dundee Cyclathon Success 2012

Registration in Camperdown Park
Yesterday I took part in the Dundee Cyclathon organised by Claverhouse Rotary Club. The cyclathon uses the Dundee Green Circular route with a start and finish in Camperdown Park. The event encourages fund raising for the Caring for Kids charity or for the self-nominated charity of an individual or teams of entrants. The Cyclathon is not a race and includes cyclists of varying ages and abilities.

This year I registered a team, 'Bidwell Bikers' raising money for Tushinde Children's Trust that supports the education and nutrition of children living in the sprawling Mathare slums in Nairobi.  I had signed up my two daughters to cycle and attract sponsorship with me. My older daughter badly sprained her ankle and so had to withdraw from the event. Her place was taken by a neighbour.

As well as enjoying a pleasant bike ride round the circuit and collecting our medals at the end, we have already raised over £250 and there's more to come in from folk who have committed to support us and from whom we now need to collect the cash.

As a Councillor, it was also interesting for me to do the rounds because some improvements to the Green Circular route have been proposed in a report that is being considered by the Environment Committee later today. As I have cycled round the route the day before the meeting, I think that will give what I have to say some additional credibility.

One early observation is that the frequency and positioning of Green Circular way markers is inadequate and that does need to improve. 

Another observation, is that our Environment Department staff have worked really hard to bring the Green Circular route up to scratch for this event and the general public at other times.

A good day out on two wheels.


Barnhill Stretch of Pavement in Urgent Need of Resufacing

A constituent in Camphill Road has complained to me about the very poor state of a section of pavement in her home area. It is in fact stretching a point to refer to this pathway as a pavement. The pathway in question is at the beginning of Abertay Street on the western side of the road between Campfield Square shops and Camphill Road.

My constituent finds that the potholes and unevenness in the surface on this short stretch of pathway makes it impossible for her grand daughter to push her wee dolls pram round to the shops. Furthermore, the sharp exposed chunks of gravel are very hard on the feet of adults and children. They are also very punishing on the knees and hands of those, young and old, who are unsteady on their feet and fall over onto the gravel.

The picture shows both some of the holes in the path as well as the coarse and sharp exposed gravel on the surface of the path. This coarse and angular gravel is probably more exposed now that some of the finer particles has been dispersed by the wind and rain over the years.

I have written to the City Development Department to request an urgent resurfacing of this short section of pathway. It would be good if the Council could make this rough section of path into a bona fide pavement.


Drainage Improvements Completed on Coastal Pathway

New drainage channel to catch water
seeping from the wall.
Yesterday afternoon, I walked along the coastal pathway from Douglas Terrace to the Stannergate. 

Just beyond the Grassy Beach Centre, on the raised section of the pathway, the building work to create better underfoot conditions has been completed.

A new drainage channel has been installed which catches the water seeping from the wall above and then takes this to a new drain.

Further down the slope on the seaward side of the path, a additional drain has also been installed so that any surface rain water does not collect and form a pool.

New drain to disperse surface water.
I trust this satisfactorily reduces the likelihood of poor underfoot conditions at this spot, which some of my constituents had complained about at the end of July.

I think this represents a comprehensive and very satisfactory response from the Environment Department, whom I first approached about this.


Baldragon Academy Pupils Feature in CBBC Newsround Special Tonight

Pupils from Baldragon Academy feature in a CBBC Newsround Special which was broadcast at 5pm tonight. 

This programme, called Starting secondary school: Up and Away is about the transitions from Primary to Secondary School. It was timed to coincide with children in England starting back to school. 

The programme begins with testimony from a series of pupils with additional support needs as they anticipate and then reflect back on their first few days at Secondary School.

The pupils from Baldragon are featured in a short sequence at the beginning and in the last few minutes of the programme making it clear that all children have concerns prior to moving up to Secondary School.

The whole programme delivers the positive message that there's no need to be scared about the the big move up to Secondary school.

"It was really good to see and hear from pupils at Baldragon Academy talking confidently about their experience of moving up to their Secondary School. They reflect that their prior worries about the big move were unnecessary. Clearly these pupils have settled into life at their new school in just a few weeks. I congratulate Baldragon pupils and teachers for managing the transition so well."

You can catch up with the programme for the next week on BBC iPlayer.

Panmurefield Residents Left in the Dark

Residents in Panmurefield Village have contacted me to complain that they have been left in the 'dark'.

A recent replacement of street lighting bulbs in Lawers Drive has left road users worse not better off. Motorists and pedestrians have found the replacement lamps don't have the same luminosity. While the new lamps may reduce the Council's energy bills, the illumination of our streets and the safety of residents has been compromised.

I  have written to the staff in the Transport section of City Development to seek clarification of the extent of this new programme of 'upgrading' and to put a temporary stop on any further such work in The Ferry. I have also requested that work is undertaken to get the residents back to square one before the nights draw in.


Panmurefield Environmental Issues Reported

Following up a complaint from a constituent, I took my dog for a walk in the public open space between Panmurefield Village and Balgillo Road. 

This valuable corridor of land sits either side of the Dighty Water. The major pathway running along the North bank is a section of the Dundee Green Circular.

My picture, bottom left, shows two public benches near the section of the Green Circular close to the Seven Arches bridge which have been almost overwhelmed by the growth of weeds including Giant Hogweed. I have reported this to the Environment Department.

The main section of the pathway which runs above the benches (and is out of view) seems to be poorly drained and is prone to water pooling and consequently gets muddy. I have also reported this and requested this stretch of the Green Circular is added to the programme of upgrading works to the surface of the route which is ongoing. 


Broughty Ferry Community Council September Meeting

Last night I attended the September meeting of the Broughty Ferry Community Council who meet in the Broughty Ferry Library.

One of the regular items on the agenda is reports from elected members.

Here are some extracts from my report, which I read out at the meeting of the Community Council: 

  • I have been working with the Environment Department on issues raised about the coastal walkway/cyclepath between the Stannergate and Douglas Terrrace.
    • Work is well advanced to improve the drainage on the raised sections of the path west of the Dundee Sailing Club Centre and beneath Ravenscraig. This should ensure that the slime does not grow back and spread across the path again.
    • The brambles and nettles have been cut back on Beach Lane. There is a commitment to improve the surface of the path where it is currently muddy. This is important because this path will become the main access route to Grassy Beach from central Broughty Ferry when the final section of the unimproved raised section of the coastal pathway is closed for upgrading.
    • A quarterly cleaning of the coastal pathway has been programmed. It will be undertaken by a small mechanical sweeper from the Stannergate end as far as the steps up to the footbridge over the railway  This will be extended as far as Douglas Terrace when the last unimproved section of the coastal pathway is upgraded.
  • I have been very concerned about the recent decision of the Development Management Committee of the Council with regard to relaxing the planning conditions on Sainsburys and the admission by the Director of City Development that no routine checks had been made on developers such as large retailers to see whether they had been complying with planning conditions.
One of the Community Councillors, Ken Anderson, reminded me and the meeting that I had also been taking up the issue of traffic calming measures in the narrower section of Camphill Road and he endorsed what I had been promoting along with the residents.


Missing Bus Timetable Requested for Stop at Campfield Square Shops

Residents in Barnhill have complained to me about the lack of a bus timetable at the 'new' bus stop on the south side of Nursery Road close to the Campfield Square Shopping Centre. They are glad that the bus stop has been replaced but puzzled why the Timetable space has remained blank.

I have written to the transportation department to request a timetable is inserted as soon as possible.

I shall be watching this space!

Forthill Tenants' Association Meeting

Yesterday evening, I attended the monthly meeting of the Forthill Tenants' Association which meets in the Tenants' Lounge in the Complex on Forthill Drive.

Forthill Tenants' Association is an enthusiastic and hard working group of older people who bring lots of life experience and many years involvement to their work on this committee. They are also a group of folk who know what they want and will enlist support wherever this lies to help them to achieve their goals.

These meetings are always lively and the members present are enthusiastic and caring. I always enjoy attending their meetings.

A worthwhile and constructive meeting. I am glad that I attended.


Broughty Ferry Waterfront from the Stannergate to the Dighty

I was in Tayport this morning. Standing on the harbour wall provides an uninterrupted view point across the estuary towards Broughty Ferry. It was here that I shot this short video, on my hand held Panasonic TZ10 camera. 

The video begins its sweep at the the western, Stannergate, end of The Ferry coastline and pans slowly to Balmossie Station and the Dighty at the eastern boundary. Apologies for the camera shake.

Its a fine coastline, I am sure you will agree. As a former Ferry Councillor used to say, 
'Broughty Ferry is the jewel in the Dundee crown'.

Road Safety Fears from Camphill Road Residents

Camphill Road looking East along
one of the narrower stretches.
Many residents in Camphill Road have contacted me to pass on their concerns about road safety in their street. 

Their concerns focus particularly on the narrower section of their road between the top of Whinny Brae and the junction with Queen Street at the traffic lights. 

They think that the corners in this stretch of the road leave drivers with blind spots. These hazards mean that motorists, pedestrians and cyclists are in danger of colliding at the corners where sight lines are restricted by the turns in the road and parked cars down one side of the road. In the picture (click on the picture to enlarge) notice that the single free lane is bounded on the left with a narrow pavement.

Observations of close run collisions at this point make some residents fearful that this is a serious accident waiting to happen. Their solution is to make Camphill Road east from its junction with Panmure Street one way. This would also reduce the opportunity for Camphill Road to be used as a rat run.

I have written to the Head of Transportation at the City Council to request that the traffic flows on this section of Camphill Road are monitored and options for improving road safety are assessed. The residents I have met are however adamant that they are not requesting the Council to paint more double yellow lines as many homes in the narrower part of the road have no off street parking.