26/02/2016

More Education Cuts in Dundee City Budget 2016-17 - My Contribution tot he Debate at the Budget Meeting

At the Budget Meeting on Thursday 25 February 2016, I made the following contribution to the debate about the SNP's budget proposals.

"Convener, with regard to Education your budget is full of short term cuts with long term damage to education in our city.

In June you are closing a well regarded and very well led high school in Menzieshill which parents and carers fought to retain. This will be happening at a time when the latest national population projections confirm a continuing and significant population growth in our city especially in the 0-15 age group.

In our primary Schools we continue to reduce capacity while there are proposals afoot to increase the nursery education and care entitlement. This would require considerable additional accommodation in our Primary and Nursery school buildings.

On Monday night I pointed out at the Education Committee that having 'Reserved Places' in four out of the soon to be eight secondary schools in the city is an indicator that our secondary schools are filling up and only Braeview, Craigie, St Paul's and Baldragon have some remaining capacity to cope with population growth in our city. 

Combined, Convener, with your fire sale of Council properties and sites, this means that not only will we have pressure on school places in the future but no Council owned  sites on which to build the new primary and secondary schools we will need.

In relation to the supply teacher budget, you have cuts back on this and gamble that there will be no no increase in demand such as a flu epidemic or an increase in staff on maternity and paternity leave that will increase demand for supply teachers in the next year. You are in my mind misleading people in Dundee when you claim this will make no difference. In the current year schools have been unable to spend this budget because of the lack of supply staff caused largely by the national shortage of teachers. If, as the Holyrood government tell us that they have at long last sorted out the lack of training places for teachers, we might have the potential supply teachers to employ next year but not the budget in our schools to pay for this. 
Short term cuts and long term damage Convener.

We can also see that the direction of travel will be to accommodate the rising number of pupils by allowing classes in our schools to get larger. Apparently you are happy for Dundee to be mid-table at everything  and not really ambitious to be outstanding. 

Convener, some of your colleagues have congratulated you on your creative approach to finding your budget cuts. But our constituents and our staff know that there are many dangers in your 'creative accounting'.

So Convener, I cannot support your budget today because you do not have the best interests of our city at heart. Your short term cuts will inflict long term damage to our children in our schools in the City. 

Not so much Getting it Right for Every Child, but Getting it Cheap for Every Child."

After the meeting I said:
It was very disappointing that the Finance Convener, Councillor Willie Sawers would not even allow a discussion of the Labour motion at the budget meeting. He just arbitrarily ruled it out of order, even though it had previously been agreed by the Council's Chief Legal Officer as a competent motion.. Councils must, by law, fix their budget for by mid March, so there was still time to put these savage budget cuts on hold and try, with a united political front, to negotiate a better deal for the city from the Cabinet Secretary for Finance, John Swinney. I don't think any Councillor should dismiss an opportunity to try to negotiate a better deal for our city. 

Dundee deserves better

21/02/2016

Dundee is One of the Bright Sparks

Yes it's official, Dundee is one of the UK Bright Sparks, as defined by Sunday Times Journalist, Oliver Bennett.

In his feature article published today, he reviews "hi-tech hotspots where innovation is set to ignite the local property market."

Dundee is the sole location identified in Scotland. In the short entry about Dundee, Bennet writes:
"For a while, Scotland had a Silicon Glen: .... But it is Dundee - once known for 'jute, jam and journalism' - that may prove most interesting, particularly as it has become a centre for Computer Gaming.


It's a pity that the article has no mention of the V&A at Dundee or the recent UNESCO City of Design designation nor any references to residential and commercial property developments in the city. Nevertheless, it's good to see our city featuring positively in national media.

17/02/2016

Scottish Water Urged to Sort Out Pumping Issues at Douglas Terrace

Scottish Water Pumping Station Douglas Terrace, Broughty Ferry.
Before Christmas, contractors resorted to putting up safety barriers once again at the pumping facility at the end of Douglas Terrace. 

Above ground, behind these fences, there are two manhole covers propped open by a heavy duty hose connecting the two pumps that are seated well below ground level. 

I am advised that this is necessary because these pumps, that help to propel sewage and waste water towards the Hatton treatment plant, are not working properly. 

This is not the first time that this has been the case in recent years. The fencing and industrial pipes are a bit of an eyesore, but every day they are in use is an indicator that all is not well with this pumping facility below.This facility is maintained by Scottish Water's operators, Veolia. I think Scottish Water owe it to their water and sewage rate payers to pursue their operator to sort out this issue to get this facility working effectively.