Commenting on Housing Affordability in Dundee

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On Tuesday the Bank of Scotland published the results of its survey on housing affordability in Scotland.
The table shows that Dundee is the third most affordable city in Scotland with a house price to earnings ratio of 4.67. This compares with the lowest ratio in Stirling at 3.81 and Inverness, the highest in Scotland at 5.71.
Dundee's favourable ratio is based on the comparatively lower average house prices in the city. This is an advantageous for first time buyers who can stump up a deposit, but it is not so positive for those owner occupiers selling up and leaving the city, especially if they were moving to Inverness where their money wouldn't go nearly so far.
Last week Zoopla published a survey which I also reported. That survey showed that renting in our city was 2% more affordable than house purchase.
The downside of both these reports is what the indicate about the local economy in Dundee.  It seems likely that demand for housing by new residents moving into the city has been depressed by a reduction of jobs in the private and public sectors.


Wefare Reform - How Will It Affect You? April Meeting of Broughty Ferry Community Council Tues 2 April 2013 7pm

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The  next meeting of Broughty Ferry Community Council will be devoted to exploring the implications of Welfare Reform.

Speakers will inform and engage in discussions about the effects of Welfare Reform on the incomes of people in our community.

Over the next few years there will be a series of fundamental changes to benefits that taken together will amount to the largest shake of since the Beveridge Report in 1942. Some of these changes will begin on Monday 1st April.

These include the move towards online application only for many welfare benefits, monthly rather than fortnightly payments, payments to bank accounts, and the imposition of the 'bedroom tax' on council and housing association tenants whose homes are now calculated to have spare bedrooms.

The meeting will be held in the Broughty Ferry Library on Tuesday 2nd April beginning at 7pm. 

Broughty Ferry Community Council meets in the Library on Queen Street on the first Tuesday of each month except August. Its meetings begin at 7pm and conclude by 8:45pm.

Purposeful Annual General Meeting of Dundee Youth Council

Chairperson 2013/14 of Dundee Youth Council Daniel Coleman
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Last night I attended, by invitation, the Annual General Meeting of Dundee Youth Council. Their meeting was held in the City Chambers in Dundee.

Outgoing Chairperson, Laura Gorman, presented some of the highlights from 2012/13 which are referred to in the Youth Council's Annual Report. She  also reported on the election of their new Office Bearers for the coming year. Daniel Coleman was elected as Chairperson for 2013/14. 

Laura also referred to their Manifesto which builds on their citywide survey of undertaken in 2011/12 and which had involved 4494 respondents from our nine secondary schools.

There were also updates from the members of the Youth Council who had led their campaigns over the last year including the It's No Fare Campaign. This campaign aims to:

  • Lower the bus fare for all under 18's to a reasonable price;
  • Improve the reliability of the buses and
  • Increase the frequency of buses. 

There were also reports on some of the opportunities Youth Councillors had taken to provide a youth perspective in public consultations and in meetings. Most notably, this included Youth Councillor for Dundee East, Matthew Landsburgh, who had been appointed as a member of the Board of NHS Tayside.

It is clear that Youth Councillors and Members of the Scottish Youth Parliament in Dundee are committed to representing the interests of young people in our City and striving purposefully to do that.

Link to Summary of the Results of the Youth Council Survey 2011/12 


Queen Street Road Works Progressing

Cables being laid in Queen Street
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Work of laying the new electricity cables along Queen Street seems to be progressing well and is apparently on target for a finish this weekend. 

Since Tuesday 19 March, contractors have been working on the stretch of Queen Street between Fort Street and St Vincent's Street.

My picture was taken from the top of the steps up to the entrance to the Library.

In a week when residents on Arran have been without power because of severe weather damage to their above ground electricity transmission cables, the importance and relative security of our new underground electricity supply for Broughty Ferry is emphasised. 


Final Meeting of Tayside Police After Thirty Eight Years Service

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On Monday morning, I attended the last meeting of Tayside Police Board. 

Members of the Board considered a number of reports which detailed the transition from eight regional Police Forces to the new Single Police Force for Scotland that will come into effect on Monday 1st April 2013. While it was clear that the changeover has taken a great deal of planning, other reports dealt with day to day policing which had been effectively continuing in parallel with the preparation for the changeover next week.

For example, the report, TAYSIDE POLICE PERFORMANCE POSITION AT JANUARY 2013, revealed that:

"The force achieved 3 out of 4 of crime reduction targets by January:

  • A reduction in violent crime of 22.6% (101 crimes)
  • Despite an increase in robbery of 2.0% (2 crimes)
  • A reduction in vandalism of 9.8% (342 crimes)

Domestic housebreaking failed to achieve target

Domestic Housebreaking - saw a 15.2% increase from 541 to 623 crimes at the end of January. The end of year target is 700 ..... ."

During their 38 years of operation as a regional police force, I think Tayside Police have effectively protected the combined communities of Dundee, Angus and Perth and Kinross.

At the end of the morning senior officers and staff and elected members braved the cold wind for a procession down the High Street and ceremony in Tay Street for not only Tayside Police but also Tayside Fire and Rescue, which is also to become a single national service at the same time.


Anton Drive Replacement Retaining Wall Going Up Fast

Reconstructing the retaining wall in Anton Drive
Tuesday 12 March.
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Since Monday 11 March contractors have been erecting the replacement retaining wall along on the side of Anton Drive in the Ferry.

In July 2012, I was informed that, after a safety inspection by the Council's Senior Engineers, it had been necessary to erect safety fencing along the length of this wall prior to replacement or repair of the wall.

The first picture shows work in progress on Tuesday 12 March. Despite subsequent snow and ice, the second picture shows excavation and construction much further up the street.

Reconstructing the retaining wall further
along Anton Drive
 - Tuesday 19 March.
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Residents I have talked this week are relieved that this work is now being undertaken. A big BUT from them is that the trees on the embankment above the new wall are not being reduced in height. Residents who live in the terraced houses opposite the wall remain concerned that their homes will be damaged when one of the tall trees topples over. A long term resident who has lived in these homes since they were built, remembers three separate incidents when falling trees and branches have damaged property beneath. When these concerns have been reported to the Council over many years, a major constraint is that these trees are on private land and this limits the power of the Council to intervene. I have written to the Council's Forestry Officer to request that they contact the private owners above to request that remove diseased and dying trees.


Dundee Beats Edinburgh in Top Five Locations Where Renting is Cheaper Than Buying a Property

Top 5 UK locations where renting rules

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In a survey published recently in an Independent blog posting, Dundee is identified in the top five places in the UK where it is cheaper to rent than to buy a home. Best of all Dundee came in at number four, a place above Edinburgh!

The Independent's Property Correspondent, Alex Johnson, drew upon an analysis by Zoopla. Their analysis,
'suggests that renting a typical two-bedroom property is £987 more expensive per year than paying an interest-only mortgage on an equivalent home.'

Link to Independent blog article for details of how Zoopla made their calculations. 

While buying is now cheaper than renting across 86% of the UK’s cities, up from 84% one year ago, it is clear that in Dundee the differences are less pronounced and different. The table of 'Top 5 UK locations where renting rules' (see above) shows Dundee coming in at 4 above Edinburgh! The table shows that it is 2% cheaper to rent than to buy in Dundee.


Familiar Mural on the Coastal Pathway to be Removed but Hopefully Replaced

Click to enlarge image of mosaic mural
Regular walkers and cyclists that use the coastal pathway from Douglas Terrace to the Stannergate will soon find that a distinctive mosaic panel will have vanished. The panel is located close to the Douglas Terrace end of the coastal pathway. The mosaic is being removed along with the concrete panel to which it has been stuck, as part of the latest phase of the upgrading of the coastal pathway.

For the sake of posterity, I thought that this public artwork deserved remembering before it was gone.  It has brought some colour and a riddle to the wanderings of folk who read its message: 'If you take the time to look, you'll find wild flowers ....'

Broughty Ferry Environmental Project, who installed this mural, are hopeful that they will be able to replace it with another mosaic in a new location, once the construction work is complete. 


Launch of Teach Global Ambassadors at One World Centre Dundee

Sally Romilly front row left
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Yesterday, I went to the launch of the Teach Global Ambassadors programme at the One World Centre in Dundee.

The One World Centre in Princes Street is an education centre for global and environmental issues. In their shop front premises one can access inspirational people and a wide range of resources to promote learning and understanding about these issues. They have a very positive record of working with Dundee schools and communities.

Sally Romilly, the one paid member of staff at the Centre, introduced the Teach Global Ambassadors Programme which aims to increase young people’s awareness and critical understanding of our interdependent world, and their role, responsibility and lifestyles in relation to a globalised society. 

Cllr Richard McCready, Jenny Marra MSP and me
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It will involve working with secondary teachers in Scotland and Lithuania. In the first phase of the programme, this will involve Secondary Schools in two local council areas. 

I hope that Dundee will be one of these Councils.

This was an informative and positive event.

One World Centre Dundee
189 Princes Street Dundee DD4 6DQ
Office hours Monday - Thursday 10:00 - 16:00
Phone 01382 454603 - during office hours 


Ardler Primary School and Nursery Class - Inspection Report 19 March 2013

On Wednesday, Her Majesty's Inspectors of Education (HMIe) published their report of their inspection visit to Ardler Primary School and Nursery Class.

The report identified that the school and nursery class had many strengths and areas where they have been making significant progress.

It also identified three key areas for improvement:
  • Improve arrangements for meeting children’s needs at the primary stages;
  • Improve primary-aged children’s attainment in reading and writing and
  • Use self-evaluation in a focused way to secure further improvements in learning, teaching and curriculum development.
The report concluded that:
'.... the school needs additional support and more time to make necessary improvements. Our Area Lead Officer along with the local authority will discuss the most appropriate support in order to build capacity for improvement, and will maintain contact to monitor progress. We will return to evaluate aspects of provision and the progress in improving provision within twelve months of publication of this letter. We will then issue another letter to parents on the extent to which the school has improved.'

Parents and Carers with children at Ardler Primary School will want to be reassured that the Council will now provide the 'additional support' required and explain how the areas for improvement. will be progressed.

In October 2012, the Inspection Report on St Andrew's RC Primary School was published and that report also indicated that the school required 'additional support' from the Council.

I think it is significant that both Ardler Primary School and St Andrew's RC Primary School lost a Depute Head Teacher in the SNP's budget cuts introduced in April 2011. Now we are seeing the effect of this and other cutbacks in our schools. When these budget savings were announced, I warned that these short term cuts would cause long term damage.

Link to Ardler Primary School and Nursery Class HMI Report


Dundee Schools' Bands and Orchestras Spring Concerts 2013

Last night I attended the second of the two Spring Concerts in the Caird Hall featuring performances from the Dundee Schools' Bands and Orchestras.
The programme last night featured the Guitar Ensemble, Junior String Orchestra, Percussion Ensemble, Concert Band and Schools' Symphony Orchestra. On Tuesday night I would have seen and heard from the Junior Wind Ensemble, the Intermediate Orchestra, the Rock Band and the Senior Wind Ensemble. 
It was good to find that a variety of musical instruments and genres is embraced and supported by the Instrumental Music Teaching Service.

At the concert, talented young musicians from our primary and secondary schools performed a variety of pieces from Bizet to The Beatles.  

My favourite musical moment of the evening was the stirring performance of the Intermezzo from Sibelius's Karelia Suite. Members of the audience with longer memories no doubt remembered that this piece were used as the title music for the former ITV current affairs programme This Week. A stand out individual performance was the young singer who sang with the percussion ensemble.

As a regular at these evenings, I appreciated the slicker staging of the performances. Clever use of the entire Caird Hall stage and the choir stalls meant that there were fewer intervals between performances when the chairs and music stands had to be shifted around. When this was necessary however short videos were informative and entertaining.

Well done to all our young performers and the staff and parents that nuture their musical talent.


Today is UK Government Budget Day, International Happiness Day and the Spring Equinox

Wednesday 20 March 2013 is not only UK Budget Day but also International Happiness Day and the Spring Equinox.

I suppose that gives us a multiple options as to what to think and feel about the day.

The United Nations has declared 20 March 2013 as the first ever International Day of Happiness. It apparently hopes the initiative will encourage governments to consider the well-being of their citizens, rather than focusing efforts solely on economic growth. Unfortunately the Chanellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, needs no encouragement in that direction as he has presided over a shrinking economy chronically dipping in and out of recession.

While the calendar may tell us that its the Spring Equinox, the chilling weather outside and the lack of green shoots in the garden tells us something different. At least the days will be longer than the nights.

Rather than singing, Ken Dodd's 'Happiness', two quotations from Shakespeare come to mind:
'Now is the winter of our discontent' and 'beware the Ides of March'.


Grove Academy Internet Survey - Pupils Need Help With Their Investigation

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S3 Pupils at Grove Academy are undertaking a survey as part of a Computer Science project. This survey is being carried out throughout the local community to find out about awareness of using technology safely.

These pupils need folk to compete their online survey. It takes about 15 minutes to complete. All responses  are being collected anonymously. 
The survey is open to anyone from the age of seven upwards.

To complete an online survey, click on this link.


Older People in Broughty Ferry Had Their Say

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Last Wednesday afternoon, a group of older people from Broughty Ferry attended a consultation event held at the YMCA in Brook Street.

The event was organised by a new team of Community Engagement Workers who have been funded through the Reshaping Care for
Older People Fund. They are based at at The Volunteer Centre in Dundee.

I attended in a dual capacity as both a Ferry Councillor and an older person.

During the afternoon folk were invited in small groups to have our say about our area over a cup of tea. More specifically, we were aksed what we liked about our area, what we would like to see improved in our community and most importantly, how we could help to achieve this.

It was a productive and interesting afternoon which was helpfully facilitated by the Community Engagement Workers.

Follow Up Event - Date for Your Diary
On Wednesday 15 May 2-4 pm there will be a Feedback Event to hear what was said about growing older in The Ferry.


Welfare Reform Event to Raise Local Awareness and Explore Local Responses 25 April 2013 Dundee

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Faith in Community Dundee is organizing an event on Welfare Reform on April 25, 2013, in collaboration with Hillcrest Housing Association.

This event is for faith communities and projects in Dundee who need to become more aware of the key changes within Welfare Reform and who may be interested in considering possible responses to help local people.

A detailed programme will be issued nearer the event.

Please note that the event is free-of-charge and light lunch will be provided. If you wish to attend, please call Gordon or Varsha on 01382 825351 or email Varsha at


Update on Bus Diversions in Broughty Ferry until Last Bus on Sunday 31 March 2013

Diversion route Strathtay Buses 73, 75, 78 and 79 
Tues 19 - Sun 31 March 2013
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I have been advised by the Council that the next phase of the major road works in Queen Street in The Ferry will begin on Tuesday morning 19 March. 

In this phase, running between Fort Street and St Vincent Street, the lane driving westwards towards Dundee will be closed. 

Starting on Tuesday 19 March and running until Sunday evening 31 March 2013 Strathtay Bus Services 73, 75, 78 and 79 heading towards Dundee will be diverted - see map above. Instead of their coming along Queen Street, they will be diverted up Abertay Street; Nursery Road, Forthill Road, Fort Street and thereafter back down to the stop close to the Post Office Bar and the standard route towards Dundee. There will be an additional temporary bus stop on Dalhousie Road (south side) close to the junction with Shiell Street. This is marked on the map above.

In effect there will be no buses picking up or dropping off on Monifieth Road/Queen Street that are heading towards Dundee between Abertay Street and Fort Street. This will not affect the 73, 75, 78 and 79  bus services running in the opposite direction towards Monifieth.

On Monday evening 18 March 2013 the road works on Queen Street between the junctions on Claypotts Road and Fort Street will be completed. As a result the temporary one way system on this stretch of road will no longer be needed. This means that the No5 bus that has been diverted on its return journey from Barnhill will revert to its standard route from first bus on Monday morning 19 March. 

While these temporary road closures and bus diversions are inconvenient, residents I am sure accept that they are necessary so that the main electricity supply cable to central Broughty Ferry can be upgraded.


Red Nose Day 2013

It's Red Nose Day 2013.  

A former colleague at the University of Dundee sent me this picture recalling our enjoyable fund raising efforts with staff and students circa 2008. 

Of course behind all the fun and bizarre challenges there is a serious purpose to Red Nose Day. 

The money they raise is used to transform the lives of countless people, both here at home in the UK and across Africa.

While it's a bit late to organise a last minute fund raising activity, there is plenty of time to support others who are out and about Doing Something Funny for Money. We can also make a donation direct. 
Click on link to go to the Comic Relief Donation Website


Road Works Cause No5 Bus Route Diversion in The Ferry

Members of North Barnhill Residents' Group met on Tuesday evening. One of the issues they asked me to take up was the temporary diversion of the No 5 bus which had apparently been unannounced. 

Currently, on the return leg of its journey towards Dundee the number 5  bus usually runs along Nursery Road, Forthill Road and Fort Street down to Queen Street. While Queen Street has been dug up, traffic is restricted to running one way only towards Monifieth between Claypotts Road and Fort Street. As a result, the No 5 bus now turns right up Forthill Road, turns left onto Balgillo Road and heads back towards town.  On Tuesday, passengers from Barnhill who wanted  to get down to central Broughty Ferry were getting off the bus at Forthill Road and walking down the hill into The Ferry. 

While this temporary diversion may be just inconvenient for many passengers, it can present an unwelcome and impossible challenge for those with restricted mobility who need to get down to The Ferry.

While these Barnhill residents recognised the need to dig up the roads for the relaying of the electricity cable, they did wonder why there was apparently no specific warning about this change from National Express Dundee and the City Council? One positive suggestion they proposed was to use the travel information screens at bus shelters to warn folk on this route about these changes before they get on the bus.

I have emailed the Transportation Department and  to see whether they can improve the travel information on this route and to let the travelling public know how long they think this bus diversion will be necessary.


New Warning Signs for Dog Owners on Walkway at Douglas Terrace

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As a regular dog walker along the coastal pathway from Douglas Terrace to the Stannergate, my attention was drawn today to the new sign (see left) erected by the Environment Department. 

This warning sign, reminds dog owners of their responsibility to clean up after their dog. It also  points out that if owners don't clean up after their dog, council staff or the police can issue a Fixed Penalty Notice of £40, which increases if it's not paid.

Many of my constituents complain about dog fouling in The Ferry. According to Keep Scotland Tidy, in a recent national survey, 69% of the Scottish public said that dog fouling bothered them more than any other type of litter and 52% singled it out as the type that offended them most.

I hope that the new signs are backed up with enforcement so that we can look forward to cleaned up streets.


Sunset Over Campfield Square Shopping Centre

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This was the beautiful sunset over Campfield Square earlier tonight. 

This dramatic skyline was what greeted me when I walked back into the Square after my surgery at the Community Centre. 

My Surgeries - Tuesdays

Forthill Sheltered Housing Complex 3a Forthill Drive 3:30 - 4:00pm
Barnhill Community Centre Campfield Square 5:00 - 5:45pm (2nd and 4th)
Broughty Ferry Library Queen Street 6:00 - 6:45pm 
(all school term time only)


Slippery Underfoot Conditions on Broughty Ferry Roads and Pathways

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The snow and freezing conditions in Broughty Ferry yesterday, left stretches of untreated roads and pavements deceptively slippery.

When I went out to Church on Sunday morning, the overnight snow was beginning to melt.  In the late afternoon, I ventured out for a dog walk along to the Stannergate on the coastal pathway. At this time, I felt the significant drop in temperature and noticed that this had led to icy patches on side roads and pavements. Many of these slippery sections of roads or paths did not at first glance appear to be hazardous. It was only when one got up close that it was apparent that there was a thin layer of icing on a section of road or path to catch out the unwary and send them sprawling.

These slippery underfoot conditions are particularly hazardous for older people. I have written to the Council to ask that the pavement gritter is sent to Broughty Ferry on Monday morning.


Consultation on the Proposals for the Merger of Dundee and Angus Further Education Colleges

Dundee and Angus Further Education Colleges have this week published a detailed set of joint proposals for their merger: Decisions and Ambitions for a New College Serving Dundee and Angus.

In the introduction they say:

"In response to the (Scottish) Government’s aims for the reform of further education in Scotland, Angus College and Dundee College are currently working to create a strong and influential college for Tayside. The target vesting day for the new college is 1 November 2013.

As part of the merger planning process, we are holding a formal consultation on the proposed merger, which will run from 8 March to 19 April 2013. 

You can read our consultation document online - we would welcome your views on the proposed merger. The responses will help inform and shape the new college.

We consider it critical to our future success that the new college meets the needs of all of our stakeholders, not least our students, staff and employers. You can respond by submitting your comments online or you can download a printable version of the Consultation Response Form.

If you would like to request a printed copy of the Consultation Document or Consultation Response Form, please contact Dundee College Marketing Department on 01382 834948 or "

Given the importance of Dundee College to the breadth of educational opportunities in our city, I have written to the Director of Education to urge that the prepares a draft response to this consultation and brings this to the next Education Committee for approval. 


Potholes in Aberdour Place Reported

Potholes at the junction of Aberdour Place
and Abercromby Street
Constituents in Aberdour Place have complained to me about the state of their road.

My picture, left, shows some of the potholes at the junction of Aberdour Place with Abercromby Street. Local residents have observed how the road surface has deteriorated during the winter weather.

Walking round Aberdour Place, it is clear that there are several more sections as pockmarked and deserving of attention as the one I have photographed.

I have reported this this specific roadway to the Roads' Maintenance Partnership. I have also requested they inspect the remainder of Aberdour Place, particularly the junctions with its various cul-de-sacs.


International Women's Day 8 March 2013

Today is International Women's Day. The first International Women’s Day (IWD) was celebrated in the United States in 1909 to honour the garment workers’ strike in New York the previous year. Since then, IWD has been celebrated in many countries around the world with events focused on improving rights, working conditions, and opportunities for women. 

In 1977, the United National General Assembly adopted a resolution designating March 8 as International Women’s Day.

A friend messaged me on Facebook today and asked what I was doing to support IWD. Here is my response:
(In my role as Labour's Education Spokesperson in Dundee), I am asking the Education Department to promote greater equality for young women in our Secondary Schools as measured by curricular choices.

This is consistent with the legal duties of the Council and Councillors under the terms of the the Equality Act 2010. This legislation introduced a new public sector general equality duty which became law across Britain. The general equality duty requires Scottish public authorities to pay 'due regard' to the need to: eliminate unlawful discrimination, victimisation and harassment; advance equality of opportunity and foster good relations. These requirements apply across the 'protected characteristics' of age; disability; gender reassignment; pregnancy and maternity; race; religion and belief; sex and sexual orientation.

Friends Of Broughty Ferry Library Public Meetings Thursday 14 March 2013

Report to Broughty Ferry Community Council March 2013 Meeting

On Tuesday night 5 March, I attended the monthly meeting of Broughty Ferry Community Council. 

Here some extracts from my report to the Community Council:

Parking Issues Beach Crescent
Constituents had complained to me about the lack of access to parking in Beach Crescent for residents and visitors. They were also concerned about the parking of commercial vehicles, mainly vans, which they thought had outstayed their welcome. The Transport Directorate of the Council had responded promptly and had agreed to direct one of the parking attendants to check out cars and vans parked for lengthy periods along Beach Crescent. They had also informed me that in the coming months they will be reviewing the Parking Restrictions around Broughty Ferry including consideration of introducing limited waiting parking restrictions for Beach Crescent to encourage day time turnover of spaces which would assist the local businesses, whilst leaving parking overnight for residents' use. Any recommendations about additional parking restrictions will be subject to consultation.

Pilot Pier  
A resident had previously complained to me that the chain link barrier at the Pilot Pier had been left unlocked and opportunistically cars and vans had been parking there. I initially approached the Environment Department. They helpfully redirected my enquiry to Economic Development who are responsible for securing the pier. The chain and padlock has been replaced and the pier re-secured. 

Review of Bus Shelters
The City Council is in the process of reviewing the position of the bus shelters following significant bus route changes over the last two years. If members of the Community Council or the public want to nominate any locations where they think a bus shelter would be needed, they should contact me.

Out of School Clubs Opening Hours Affected by Walk to Rule
A reduction in the casual car user rate for staff travel was introduced in the recent Budget 2013/14. Consequently, some staff have decided to not make their private car available at work. As a result they are walking or using public transport between work locations. At the end of last week, in some parts of the Ferry it was reported that Facilities Staff  for Primary Schools, (Janitors) who now look after a cluster of primary schools made their point by walking between schools. This meant that the Forthill Out of School Club opened half an hour later than usual causing inconvenience to parents and carers, pupils and staff. I hope the SNP led Administration of the Council will sort out the mess they have caused by unilaterally reducing the hitherto nationally agreed rates for casual car mileage.

Broughty Ferry Community Council meets on the first Tuesday of every month (excluding August) in the Community Library, Queen Street, Broughty Ferry Dundee DD5 2HN. Community Council meetings begin at 7pm and are open to the public.


Supporting Dundee Bid for UK City of Culture 2017

Yesterday it was confirmed by UK Culture Minister Ed Vaizey that Dundee will be in competition with as many as ten other locations for the the prestigious title of UK City of Culture 2017.

The 11 places that have registered their initial interest in bidding are:

Aberdeen, Chester, Dundee, East Kent (covering Ashford, Canterbury, Dover, Folkestone and Thanet), Hastings and Bexhill on Sea, Hull, Leicester, Plymouth, Portsmouth and Southampton, Southend on Sea, Swansea Bay (covering Swansea, Carmarthenshire, Neath, and Port Talbot).

Labour in Dundee made making such a bid one of our manifesto commitments at the local government elections in May 2012. I am pleased that there is now cross party support on the Council to pursue submitting such a bid.

Bearing in mind our existing cultural assets of vibrant and engaged communities, Dundee Contemporary Arts, Dundee Rep, the McManus and Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art, with the VandA at Dundee the icing on the cake, I am convinced we have a compelling case to make to the judges and we should be able to see off the competition.
Click on this link to listen to my colleague, Councillor Richard McCready, making the case for Dundee's bid on Radio Scotland.

All eleven places have until 30 April 2013 to submit their initial bids to an independent advisory panel which will be chaired by Phil Redmond. The panel will then decide on a shortlist which will be announced in June 2013.

The chosen place will succeed Londonderry, which is the UK City of Culture for 2013 and the first place to be awarded this prestigious title.


Speed Limit on Dalhousie and Monifieth Road Reduced This Week to 30mph

Motorists driving along the main A930 lower road between Broughty Ferry and Monifieth will be faced with a reduced speed limit later this week.

The section of Dalhousie Road/Monifieth Road which is currently subject to a 40 mph limit will be brought down to 30 mph. This lower limit will mean that there is a consistent 30 mph speed limit on the main road between The Ferry and Monifieth.

Detailed analysis of traffic volumes, accidents, the current speed drivers travel at and local concerns were all taken in to account when the limits were revised. I think this will make a significant difference to the quality of life of the people who live, work and travel through these areas.

On Wednesday 6 March, the existing 40mph signs will be removed on Dalhousie Road/Monifieth Road, leaving a continuous length of road with a 30 mph limit.


Flatlining EMAs and Reductions in College Budgets Bad News for Our Young People

At a time when there aren't many jobs in Dundee available to school leavers, gaining more qualifications can make a crucial difference to securing a job or place in further training. The Educational Maintenance Allowance (EMA) was designed to help more 16-19 year olds either stay on at school beyond S4 or sign up for a course at a Further Education College and gain those qualifications.
The EMA is available to eligible 16-19 year olds and is worth £30 per week.
The recent release of figures for EMAs awarded by the Scottish government shows a decline over the last four years rather than an increase in Dundee.
This adds up to a reduction in the number of students from low income households who are staying on at school or doing a College course. At a time when youth unemployment in our city is stubbornly high, this reduction in EMAs is a backward step.
The SNP in Scotland has already cut spending on further education colleges like Dundee College and they are now planning to cut another £50 million from the budget for Colleges over the next 2 years. As a result, the number of teaching staff, courses and places will be cut, and the ability of the colleges to help more students improve their skills and job opportunities will be reduced.” 
Taken together these reductions in EMAs and cuts in College budgets are bad news for our young people.
Councillor Lesley Brennan said: The economy and the community benefit from investing in students staying on at school or going to college to improve their qualifications and skills. Previous research has estimated that the net economic benefit to Scotland from the work of colleges could be at least £1.3 billion a year. For every £1 invested in colleges, an estimated £3.20 is generated in assets. I know that many young people in the East End Ward would benefit from the personal advantage that comes from staying on at school or doing a training course at College. Not only would each student gain, but it would also give a handsome payback to us all in Dundee.


Temporary Closure of Anton Drive Proposed Beginning on Monday 11 March 2013

Dundee City Council propose to make an Order under Section 14(1) of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 for the purpose of facilitating works for the construction of a retaining wall.  The Order is expected to be in force for five weeks from 11 March 2013.  Its maximum duration in terms of the Act is eighteen months.

The effect of the Order is to prohibit temporarily all vehicular traffic in in Anton Drive, Broughty Ferry for its entire length.

Vehicular access for residents of Anton Drive will be maintained where possible.

An alternative route will be available via Forthill Road and Nursery Road.

Please forward any comments you may have regarding this proposal to Andy Scrimgeour, Network Management Team, City Development Department, Dundee House, 50 North Lindsay Street, Dundee  DD1 1LS, no later than five working days prior to the commencement date.  If you have any queries please contact Mr Scrimgeour on 01382 433168.

Commitment to New Bus Shelter in Balgillo Road

Constituents in Balgillo Road have complained to me about the lack of a bus shelter at the stop beside the corner shop close to the junction with Forthill Road. They would like some protection from the wind and rain while they wait for a bus. They would also appreciate access to 'real time' information about the upcoming buses on the route.

I first passed on these concerns and requests in 2011 just after the bus timetables and routes were altered. At that time, I was informed then that decisions to move bus shelters or install additional ones would be taken once things had settled down on the new routes. 

Following renewed representations from constituents, I approached the Transportation Department again at the end of last month. This time there was a thumbs up; an agreement that a new Bus Shelter would be provided. 

This is positive news for my constituents who were hopeful, when informed of this, that the installation of 'their' bus shelter will be sooner rather than later.


Temporary Closure of Coastal Pathway Between Douglas Terrace and Grassy Beach

Improved surface on Beach Lane
The second of two planned closures of the Coastal Pathway in Broughty Ferry will take place in this coming week. 

Contractors Kilmac will be laying concrete under the walkway which will mean all day closures on Tuesday (March 5) and Wednesday (March 6). Signs will be put up and an alternative route will be available over the footbridge over the railway and along Beach Lane. 

Beach Lane has recently had work undertaken by the Environment Department to improve its surface. The contract to upgrade the last unimproved section of the coastal pathway between the Stannergate and Douglas Terrace is expected to be completed in the spring. 

In August 2012, I requested that Beach Lane should be improved not only in anticipation of its vital role when the coastal pathway was closed for rebuilding works but also because it is one of the 'core paths' in Broughty Ferry and is well used in its own right.


Welfare Reform in Scotland: Separating Myth from Reality

Yesterday, I attended a free briefing seminar on welfare reform run by The Poverty Alliance. This seminar focused less on describing the profound range of changes to the benefit system about to be introduced but on the popular myths about claimants of welfare benefits. The two speakers argued persuasively that it is these myths that have legitimated the imposition of a range of cuts in entitlement to benefits in cash and kind. 

It challenged participants in the seminar to take on the role of myth busters. So here is my contribution, drawing on facts and figures from the seminar and a recent publication, Truth and Lies About Poverty from the Baptist Union of Great Britain, the Methodist Church, the Church of Scotland and the United Reformed Church.

In 1753 John Wesley, the founder of Methodism said,
“So wickedly, devilishly false is that common objection,
‘They are poor, only be cause they are idle’."

Yet today many churchgoers and members of the general public alike have come to believe that the key factors driving poverty in the UK are the personal failings of the poor – especially ‘idleness’.

Myth 1
‘They’ are lazy and don’t want to work
The most commonly cited cause of child poverty by churchgoers and the general public alike is that “their parents don’t want to work”.  The perception that most people in poverty owe their situation to laziness runs counter to the most basic of facts. The majority of families that live in poverty do so despite being in employment. Excluding pensioners, there are 6.1 million people in families in work living in poverty compared with 5.1 million people in poverty from workless households.


Ballumbie Primary School is Blooming Marvellous

I attended the official opening of Ballumbie Primary School on Thursday morning. This event provided a wonderful demonstration of the creativity and learning of the pupils in their new school. Whether they were performing in unison when the choir sang or the percussion group drummed, or solo singling, playing violin, highland dancing or reciting poetry; their performances were confident and warmly appreciated by the invited audience.

My highlight of the morning was the Choir's opening number, 'Don't Stop Us Now'.

"Don't stop us now We're having such a good time
We're having a ball don't stop us now
If you wanna have a good time just give us a call
Don't stop us now ('Cause we're having a good time)
Don't stop us now (Yes we're having a good time)
We don't want to stop at all" 
(after Freddie Mercury)

The optimistic message of the Choir's adaptation of Queen's hit song summed up the school's and children's aspirations. As the children sang, I thought it also presented Parents and Carers, Councillors and Education Managers with a challenge to provide the conditions that will enable our children to flourish and not to rein in their aspirations. Now we have made the long term investment in this new school, it is important that the year to year money for teachers and other staff is maintained so that the Primary pupils at Ballumbie Primary School can make the most of the learning possibilities that this new school building provides.

North East Labour Councillor Brian Gordon, said:
I am proud to have been one of Councillors in Dundee who initiated the process that led to the merger of Newfields and Whitfield Primary Schools and the Whitfield Community Nursery and its replacement with this fine new school, community nursery and community wing. This new school building is a step forward for the education of our children and also a bold statement of commitment to the continuing regeneration of Whitfield.