Lesley Brennan  : Four Features of The Cuts


24 February 2016

The politics of the cuts

The multi-million £ cuts that are about to descend on council services across Scotland and have arisen from decisions taken by John ”Minimal Impact” Swinney have shown Dundonians two things :

*Dundee’s SNP council cannot protect Dundee from the policies of the SNP Government in Edinburgh.

*Dundee’s SNP council has shown no great desire to protect Dundee from the policies of the SNP Government in Edinburgh.

Rather than speak up for Dundee, they have chosen to remain quiet.

In Dundee , SNP stands for “Silent National Party”

The economics of the cuts

UNISON quote research that demonstrated the benefits that expenditure by a council brought to a community through its investment in  “goods, works and services” and the impact of employment spending in the local economy

These were :

For every £1 spent, 64 p was invested in the local economy.

Council employees in the area spent around 50p in every £ they earned in the local economy .

The coming cuts will overturn these benefits and reduce the amount of money in circulation to the severe detriment of the local economy.

The broader picture

The cuts that are being forced upon councils in Scotland will increase inequality in a society that is already highly unequal.

Official government figures show that total wealth in Scotland is in the region of £714 billion.

Of that, the richest 2 per cent of households in Scotland own 17 per cent of all personal wealth in the country amongst themselves

The lowest 30 per cent of households own 2 per cent in total of all personal wealth in Scotland.

The Politics of Identity

Media-political bubble conversation is of the opinion that we now live in a new era of politics , the politics of national identity supposedly having overcome the politics of class.

But outwith the bubble , events are taking place that may have unintended consequences.

These enormous cuts in local council expenditure may see the beginning of a new politics of identity –Do you identify with your city, your town and your community ? - or do you identify with the policies of the Scottish Government?

Lesley Brennan  : Response to John Swinney claim that cuts will have "minimal impact" on Dundee
19 February 2016
Responding to Finance Secretary John Swinney's description of the SNP's multi-million pounds cuts package as having a " minimal impact" upon the city, Lesley Brennan said :

“John Swinney and his SNP Government are completely out of touch with the needs of the people of Dundee.

“He believes that the city can take a £23 million cut with just ‘ minimal impact' on jobs, services and the local economy

“You cannot cut your way from austerity to prosperity.

“At the eleventh hour , Mr Swinney must think again about the serious effects that his cascade of cuts will have on Dundee.”

Scottish Parliament : Written answer

17 February 2016

Lesley Brennan (North East Scotland) (Scottish Labour):

To ask the Scottish Government what assessment it has made of what the impact on (a) staff levels, (b) council services and (c) the area's economy would be of a 3.5% reduction in the 2016-17 local government grant settlement for Dundee City Council.

John Swinney:

The package of funding the Scottish Government is providing for the coming financial year to local government will enable councils to increase the pace of reform and improve public services to communities across the country.

Taking into account the addition of the £250 million to support the integration of health and social care, next year’s reduction in local authority overall estimated expenditure is less than one per cent. I believe that such a reduction should have minimal impact on the jobs, services or the area's economy of any of Scotland's councils, including Dundee, as they should be able to address these challenges from a healthy base as local government funding has been rising in Scotland in recent years with core funding protected and new money provided for additional responsibilities.

Jenny Marra : Flint Group Closure

19th. February 2016



Commenting in the Flint Group closure, Jenny Marra said ,

"I am bitterly disappointed in the Flint group decision.

"We have a profitable factory in Dundee and a workforce that are willing to look at anything to keep production in this city, but management have turned down ideas and cost savings that have been presented by the workforce.

"Flint could still be gracious to the workforce that have served them so loyally for years and give Dundee six months for us to put together a sustainable buy-out plan.

"I hope they will examine their consciences and seriously consider this stay of execution in the interest of their workers."

Kevin Keenan: Cuts - They Can't Blame Westminster This Time



16 February 2016


The SNP Administration announced the next wave of cuts to jobs and services that Officers will be expected to deliver for them and whilst they have issued a number of flowery words, these are real hard hitting cuts to services that will see people lose their job.

The Report on re-modelling of Home Care Services - the footer at the bottom of the page would suggest that this Report has been sitting around from June 2014. If services were not to be affected by these cuts, they would have been taken long before now.

The City Council’s Property Rationalisation Report that will only save £200k in 2016/17 needs a re-think as it will see vacant buildings becoming a blight on our landscape across the City as they propose to close the following seven buildings:

Claverhouse, Dudhope Castle, Downfield House, Linlathen Resource Centre, Bell Street Music Centre, Lochee Children and Family Centre and the Educational Choice Project and moving them to the former Rockwell School after Harris decant to their new school.

I believe that closing Rockwell as soon as it’s vacant will deliver a larger saving than the above proposals given that within their own Reports; they suggest the part year saving for the closure of Menzieshill School will achieve £756k.

Given this, I can’t see why Rockwell School couldn’t produce a bigger saving than £200k next year.

Another area that needs a re-think is the proposed increase in payment that will be made to DERL of some additional £415k.

DERL is solely owned by Dundee City Council so the SNP must re-think this proposal considering that .

DERL has been in profit and year on year the City has reduced the waste going there for disposal.

Instead of giving them £415k, we should be considering a large reduction and spending the money where it’s needed in our schools delivering directly to the classroom teacher the materials and resources they really need to help them make a difference.

The Administration need to justify the political choices that they make and the effect they will have across the City.

They can’t blame Westminster this time.

No ifs or buts they’re Nicola’s Cuts.

 

Lesley Brennan  : Dundee faces the highest percentage cut

22 January 2016

Dundee faces the highest percentage cut of all the councils in mainland Scotland in the provisional allocation of revenue for the next financial year to councils by the Scottish Government.

Figures released yesterday by the impartial Scottish Parliament Information Centre (SPICe) reveal that Dundee’s cut for 2016-17 is 5.5 per cent, the highest of all local councils in mainland Scotland.

Only the island councils of Shetland and Western Isles face higher cuts.

In real terms, Dundee’s cut stands at £16.3 million for the year ahead.

Commenting on the new perspective on the cuts, Lesley Brennan MSP said :

“Essential everyday public services that Dundonians use are now at risk because of the austerity policy that the Scottish Government is pursuing against local councils in Scotland.

“Despite the draconian cuts that Dundee faces, its SNP-run council is failing to stand up for the city against these very cuts that are being imposed by their own SNP Government .

“ Instead, it has excluded itself from its duty to join together with communities across the city to campaign against these swingeing measures.

“The SNP government must not make the mistake of assuming that Dundee City Council’s silence over these cuts from Holyrood means that Dundonians somehow approve of them or accept them.

“ Nothing could be further from the truth.”

Lesley Brennan : 24th. March 2016 and Oil Prices

21 January 2016

Our new year 2016 already had a very special event set aside, but that will now not take place.

That was to be 24th. March 2016, which Alex Salmond declared to be Independence Day , the first day of an independent Scotland .

However, the collapse in oil prices, and therefore oil revenues, has comprehensively discredited the SNP’s economic case for independence.

Alex Salmond’s case for a secure economic future for an independent Scotland rested on oil at $113 per barrel, as set out in the SNP Government’s White Paper in 2013.

This month, oil prices have been at a 7-year low , and Brent crude has been at around $40 per barrel, around one third of the value that Mr Salmond’s economic case was built upon.

Expected oil revenues have fallen drastically .

The Office for Budget Responsibility says that the UK Treasury is likely to receive just £130 million in taxes from North Sea oil this year compared with £2.2 billion last year , and just £130 million than the £7.5 billion predicted in the SNP Government’s White Paper .

So in the months to come, with oil revenues plummeting, it is unlikely that we'll hear more about Nicola Sturgeon’s prediction in August of last year of another oil boom for Shetland with the magnitude of a “second energy bonanza” or of references to Mr. Salmond’s previous forecast of another oil boom two years ago.

Independence won’t be on the ballot paper next May.

Instead, the political debate will focus on the record of the Scottish Government.

The election is about the SNP government’s performance in government over the past 8 years.

That is why it will be about education at home and not about embassies abroad

- About an appointment to see your GP – and not about the appointment of 100 ambassadors world-wide after independence.

And the Scottish Government will face the same questions repeatedly :

”Name one redistributive policy of the Scottish Government that has reduced inequality in Scotland”.

“How can low taxation of the rich pay for high quality public services for the rest

Lesley Brennan  : NHS Staffing

19 January 2016

The recent Audit Scotland report NHS in Scotland in 2015 revealed a service struggling to cope.

It confirmed that spending on the NHS on Scotland by the SNP Government has fallen in real terms by 0.7% in real terms between 2008/09 and the last full financial year, 2014/15.

It concluded that the SNP Government are not making sufficient progress towards its own 2020 “vision” which is “to enable everyone to live longer, healthier lives at home or in a homely setting by 2020”

One of the principal issues facing the NHS in Scotland is dealing effectively with rising demand, and concern is growing over staffing levels to address the demand.

Latest available data on the number of nursing and midwifery vacancies in North East Scotland (combining NHS Grampian and NHS Tayside; for September 2015 ) was just under 600.

Over 170 of these had been vacant for 3 months or more

Similarly, the number of vacancies in North East Scotland for consultants was just over 70, and 34 of these had been vacant for 6 months or more.

Nursing vacancies can be covered temporarily by expensive bank and agency expensive staff , but additional pressures are placed on existing staff to cover for the vacancies.

The consequence for an already hard-working staff facing excessive workloads is even more stress, the danger of burnout, and exhibiting “presenteeism” –attending work while unwell so as not to let work colleagues down.

As an example of the strain, the NHS in Scotland saw the number of stress-related sick days among nurses increase by a third rise, by 34% from over 116,000 in 2012 to 156,000 in 2013.

Earlier this year, bodies representing medical professionals warned that Scotland could find itself short of 900 GPs by 2020 unless government policy changed course and that 2016 poses significant added pressure for the NHS in Scotland through rising demand and staff vacancies.


Lesley Brennan  : Women and Inequality

19 January 2016
Policies that promote gender equality aim to establish that men and women share the equal rights and obligations that are characteristic of a fair and forward-looking society.

Despite progress , women’s economic inequality remains a long-standing matter.

It is experienced by many who are in jobs that are low paid, part-time, with little or no prospect of career advancements and confined to a relatively small spread of jobs. (“gender segregation”)

There is also the Motherhood Penalty in which a woman’s career can be set back on becoming a parent, as well as a lack of women in top posts, and women’s caring roles.

All of these factors and others combine to create the Gender Pay gap.

It exists despite the fact that the Equal Pay Act was established in 1975.

Using the most recent data from the Office of National Statistics, the Gender Pay Gap for the local council areas in North East Scotland is; :

Aberdeen – Women earn 94 per cent of men’s wages

Aberdeenshire – Women earn 92 per cent of men’s wages

Angus – Women earn 87 cent of men’s wages

Dundee – Women earn 88 per cent of men’s wages

At UK level, Equal Pay Day is an annual event as part of the campaign to close the gender gap.

It marks the event by taking the calendar to illustrate the Gender Pay Gap.

This year it was 9th. November, and in terms of the Gender Pay Gap, a woman working full-time would work for nothing from then till January, while the man continued to be paid.

As well as being underpaid, women face being under-represented.

This also has an economic outcome.

Academic research has highlighted the under-representation of women in academia, business, public service and public office, highlighting the estimated benefit to Scotland’s national income from a doubling of women’s high-level skill contribution to the economy -£170 million a year.

The Women 50 : 50 campaign

The aim of the Women 50 : 50 campaign is to have equal representation of women in public life such as Parliament, local councils and on public boards.

Women make up 52 per cent of the Scottish population, but they account for around just one third of members of public boards and MSPs, and a quarter of councillors.

Experience from elsewhere tells us that this is a policy whose time has come.

Labour's sister party in Sweden , the Social Democrats, are the main party in a 50 : 50 government , and the new Canadian government has a gender-balanced Cabinet.

Laurie Bidwell : Commenting on Continuing High Levels of Pupil Absence in Dundee Schools

14 December 2015

Being at the bottom of a national league table for pupil absence is not where we want to be in our schools and our city.

Days lost through absence from school are days lost from learning.

Of course it is important to recognise that average attendances mask the fact that a majority of our pupils have excellent attendance at school.

On the other hand, a relatively small proportion of pupils may have a very poor record of attendance which depresses the average attendance in a specific school and across the city.

However we interpret them however, there is a job to be done to raise the average citywide attendance.

When we look for solutions, I have misgivings about putting too much reliance on short term projects employing temporary staff.

When their project is over , after two or three years, the initiatives they have begun may well be unsustainable by the remaining core staff in a school.

The reduction in the number of Guidance staff in Secondary Schools and the number of Depute Head Teachers in our Primary Schools will not have helped our schools focus on tackling non attendance.

These cuts have reduced the staff who would directly follow up these issues with pupils and their teachers as well as parents and carers.

Just now the Council is consulting on a plan to reduce by a third the number of places for pupils in our three small scale Education Centres which offer an alternative to secondary pupils who are disengaged from their secondary schools who often have multiple additional support for learning needs.

Currently many of the pupils who transfer to one of these centres experience a dramatic improvement to their attendance and participation in learning.

I am concerned that the vague alternative and much cheaper services the Council are discussing will make matters worse not better for these pupils and less effective in promoting their attendance and participation by these pupils.

If we are going to tackle a low average attendance in our schools, relative to other Councils in Scotland, I think we need to stick with what currently works and promote initiatives that have the backing of staff and parents and carers, rather than impose more short term initiatives from the centre.

 

Richard McCready : Cuts to Street Cleaning and Ground Maintenance

11 December  2015

On Monday evening the City Council's Policy and Resources Committee considered a report on changes to street cleaning and grounds maintenance.

Before the meeting I listened to trade unionists who were lobbying the council about this. I was pleased to listen to Unite members who work in street cleaning. They told me that there had been no meaningful consultation with staff and trade unions and that they felt that the proposals were flawed.

These proposals wee first dreamt up in the secret Changing for the Future Board where press and public are barred. Just prior to the meeting all councillors were invited to a briefing on Participatory Budgeting. This is about including the citizens of Dundee in the budget making process. I think that this is a good idea and have previously called on the council to carry out a full open consultation on the budget with the people of Dundee.

Street cleaning and open space maintenance are areas of service that contributed to Dundee winning the Britain in Bloom award. A few weeks ago the council rightly praised the work of the staff in these areas. Now the council appears to be saying that this is not important.

I acknowledge that these are difficult times and that cuts from Holyrood and Westminster are having an impact. Surely though we should listen to the views of local people and to the views of the workforce.

The council consults on all sorts of things, indeed there is a consultation going on at the moment on the length of the school day despite this not being council policy.

I want to give the people of Dundee a say in whether they think the city should be dirtier or not. If this policy is right then what is there to fear from sharing information and listening to the public?

We were told that Dundee is near the top of the Premier League in these areas. We should celebrate this. I am unaware of any Premier League team that would go out of its way to make sue that they got worse.

I want meaningful consultation with the workforce and their trade unions. The workforce, those people who contributed to winning Britain in Bloom, why wouldn't we listen to them?

I think that the council should be open and transparent with the budget process. It is clear that this is a money-saving exercise and perhaps the Administration and the officers should just be clearer about that.

Fundamentally I think that we should listen to the workers and to the people of Dundee and use that as a means of developing policy.

I was disappointed that my attempt to have a full consultation that would have allowed the people to have their say was defeated by a coalition of SNP, Tory and Lib Dem votes.

Laurie Bidwell : Widespread Disapproval by Ferry Residents to Proposals from Local Government Boundary Commission

 

14 December 2015

Last week it was reported that close to 1000 residents from The Ferry had submitted written objections to the Boundary Commission for Local Government in Scotland (LGBCS).

Their representations have focused on opposing the proposal for removing that part of West Ferry that lies to the west of Victoria Road and Claypotts Road from Ward 8 The Ferry for elections to the Dundee City Council.

By any measure. this level of public response is a magnificent display of community solidarity, an overwhelming demonstration of disapproval with these proposals and a clear vote for West Ferry staying an integral part of The Ferry ward for city council elections.

We now await the deliberations of the Boundary Commission for Local Government in Scotland. Apparently, any changes they finally recommend to the Scottish Government would be planned to come into force for the next local Government elections in May 2017.


Laurie's Submission to the Local Government Boundary Commission regarding the Ferry Ward Boundaries  

Dear Local Government Boundary Commission for Scotland , 

I am writing to add my weight to many hundreds of my constituents who attended a public meeting on Tuesday 1st September and the regular October meeting of The Broughty Ferry Community Council as well as those that have already submitted written representations.

The former meeting was the largest about a local issue in The Ferry during my eight years as a City Councillor. The latter meeting was the largest public attendance at an ordinary meeting of the Community Council for many years.

Almost without exception residents from West Ferry were hostile to your proposals. Almost without exception residents from other parts of The Ferry were supportive of retaining the entire Ferry ward and not having West Ferry pruned off or any other part of their ward subsumed into another ward. I understand that this has been reflected in the written representations you have already received.

As an opposition Councillor, I regret that I did not take the opportunity to move against what became the LGBCS proposal when the Council discussed this.

At that meeting, the tabled proposal from the majority SNP group on the Council was obviously going to be voted through.

The case for retention of the current boundary for Ward 8 does not however wholly depend on the number of objectors but also the following arguments:

Parity.

Using the LGBCS figures, not unreasonable parity, would be achieved by retaining the existing ward boundary.

Community/Local Ties.

The Ferry Ward is effectively identical with the long established community of Broughty Ferry.

The electoral boundary currently adequately defines what is essentially the eastern suburb of Dundee.

This arrangement will be disrupted by the proposed boundary change.

This moves the western boundary eastwards so that the West Ferry part of Broughty Ferry will, to a great extent, be merged into the adjoining East End Ward.

The western boundary of the historic (independent and electorally separate) Police Burgh of Broughty Ferry is identical to the current western boundary of West Ferry/Broughty Ferry (this has been confirmed to the Community Council by Ian Flett, the City Archivist).

After Broughty Ferry was subsumed into Dundee in 1913, this electoral boundary was retained and exists to this day.

Not only is the existing Ward 8 boundary historically significant, but the identity of The Ferry is strongly felt not only by residents born and bred in The Ferry but also by those residents like me that have moved to the city and made their home in Broughty Ferry.

The strength and prevalence of these ties are also evidenced by the volume of objections you have already received.

Local services.

There is a complex web of local statutory and voluntary organisations that serve people in the ward; for example the Broughty Ferry Community Council and Grove Academy.

Significantly, while much of the current West Ferry lies outside the current catchment area of Grove Academy, through placing requests and the increased capacity of the new Grove Academy, many children from West Ferry attend Grove Academy along with their counterparts from other neighbourhoods in The Ferry ward.

In conclusion

I think there is now overwhelming evidence of a strongly held held consensus amongst my constituents that The Ferry ward should retain its existing boundaries.

It is now the responsibility of the Commission, not the electors of The Ferry ward, to decide the potential alternative changes that might be required in adjoining wards to make this aspiration a reality.

Lesley Brennan : Labour's Campaign against Tory Tax Credit Cuts

Labour’s is campaigning against the Tory government’s £4 billion tax credit cuts that would leave three million families £1,300 a year on average worse off.

It is part of David Cameron’s “compassionate conservatism” , a vision of society that he shares with former US President George W Bush.

In reality, the “compassion” requires the state to do exactly the opposite – a withdrawal from its responsibility to provide for the vulnerable and a removal of social security provisions from them.

In another part of society, the rich are undisturbed.

According to Equality Trust, the wealth of the richest 1,000 families in Britain increased by £28 billion last year , an increase several times more than the £4 billion cut in tax credits.

Their total wealth, according to the Sunday Times Rich List is £547 billion.

This is why the impoverishment of families set to lose over £1,000 a year is the antithesis of fairness.

That is why we are campaigning against these cuts.

Recipient families receiving Child or Working Tax Credit (April 2015) by Scottish Parliament constituency

Dundee City East

Out of work

Families 2,100 ; Children – 3,600

Working Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit

Families – 2,400 : Children – 3,700

Child Tax Credit only

Families - 800 ; Children – 1,500

Total number of families 6,200.

Dundee City West

Out of work

Families 1,700 families ; Children – 3,200

Working Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit

Families – 2,200 : Children – 3,600

Child Tax Credit only

Families - 800 ; Chilldren – 1,600

Total number of families 5,600.



Lesley Brennan : Tory Pretence as the "Workers' Party"

12 November 2015


Quite soon after the General Election in May, the Tory Party tried to re-invent itself as the "Workers’ Party”, using ideas from business marketing strategy

Some said that this was an exercise in “rebranding” through changes in a product , including its name, symbol, image and advertising to distance it from a previous regime of not-so-favourable business.

Others said it was something less, a “re-badging”, which means that it remained the same product but with a different logo or trademark applied to it.

Whether it was re-branding or re-badging, the public soon discovered that the Tories remained , in Theresa May’s words , “The Nasty Party”.

George Osborne , the Chancellor of this new “Workers Party” who had portrayed his austerity policy as a national “we’re all in this together” movement, now turned the screw even tighter on the lives of workers and their families in receipt of tax credits.

These workers are the working poor, those on low wages, those who are underemployed, those on zero hours contracts, and many more who are working hard to support their families.

The pause in Mr. Osborne’s thwarted attempts to rip some £4bn – a horrendous sum of money- in tax credits from them gives us the opportunity to remind ourselves of the effect of these cuts that were to implemented in the name of a punitive policy to “make work pay”

Touchstone, the TUC blog, provides estimates of how this and other changes will affect the various groups of families, all told, saying :

“These cuts are massively biased against the poor.

“Look, not at the change in pounds and pence, but the percentage loss in disposable income for working families”:

• Poorest quintile (lowest fifth) : 8.78 per cent.

• Second quintile: 4.29 per cent.

• Third quintile: 1.24 per cent.

• Fourth quintile: 0.26 per cent.

• Richest quintile: 0.03 per cent.

The price of these cuts is deepening inequality , a much more divided society and even more exclusion from opportunities.

These result from the policies of the new “Workers Party”.

And to show workers who earn low wages and endure poor working conditions what kind of society the “Workers Party” represents , there is the “Workers Party” Trade Union Bill which intends to obstruct and prevent the unions from seeking better wages and improved working conditions for their members.

Jenny Marra : SNP Excuses Are Wearing Thin

13 November 2015


When the people of Scotland took part in the independence referendum, they were set two choices – full independence or a more powerful Scottish Parliament which remained part of the UK.

The status quo wasn’t on the ballot paper because there was broad consensus that people wanted change in our political system.

After a two-year debate in which we exhausted all the issues, we eventually decided to stay part of the UK and the debate moved on to which powers Holyrood should take control of.

As you will know, we had a ‘Vow’ which led to the all-party Smith Commission and then the Scotland Bill to decide and formalise the transfer of powers to Scotland.

This week, the long-awaited Scotland Bill was agreed and extensive powers over tax and welfare will now be coming to the Scottish Parliament.

It is the biggest transfer of powers to Holyrood since devolution and has the potential to transform the way we do politics in Scotland.

It has already sparked a whole raft of new debates as the political parties decide how they would use the powers if the people of Scotland elect them at next May’s election.

For Labour, we have made our taxation intentions clear – we will increase the top rate of tax to 50p, spending that money on education, and we will reverse George Osborne’s proposed cuts to family tax credits by keeping air passenger duty as it is.

That was the thrust of Kezia Dugdale’s speech at the Scottish Labour conference in Perth just a fortnight ago and this bold approach based on fairness received plaudits and support from right across Scottish life.

The real surprise is the reaction of the SNP.

Having argued for these powers to come to the parliament for so long, they appear to have no idea what to do with the new powers.

Reversing the tax credit cuts?

No plan.

A more generous welfare system as they themselves promised in the referendum?

Nothing to say.

A more progressive tax system?

Not a clue. It looks like power for power’s sake rather than taking action to make Scotland a better place.

All they have promised so far is tax breaks for airline companies who are already enjoying bumper profits

The lesson for the SNP is to be careful what you wish for.

They created a demand during the referendum that they now can’t meet and people are beginning to see through their rhetoric.

Instead of getting on with doing what they can do, they prefer to moan about what powers they don’t have.

The litany of excuses is wearing thin now.

With these new powers coming to the Scottish Parliament, what was once Tory or Westminster cuts will now be SNP decisions if they don’t take steps to reverse them or recreate a better system.

I hope the transfer of powers will mark a new phase for Scottish politics, one where our politics is more grown up.

For its first 16 years, the Scottish Parliament was largely a place where we decided how to spend money but didn’t have to account for raising any of it. So when the money ran out, it was always someone else’s fault.

Now those excuses won’t wash. Tax and spending decisions will be decided by Holyrood, not Westminster.

Those of us who campaigned for a Scottish Parliament did so because we believed it could make a difference to people’s lives.

But too often debates in the Scottish Parliament have descended into a proxy fight with Westminster over decisions taken down there.

Now the hard decisions on tax and welfare will be taken in Edinburgh and the blame game we see so often will have to stop.

The buck stops with our Scottish Government, not the UK Government in London.

This era of new, more responsible politics can only be good for Scotland and can hopefully help us heal the divisions of last year’s referendum.

Jenny Marra : Response to HMRC Job Losses Labour's Campaign

12 November 2015


Responding to the HMRC job losses in Dundee, Jenny Marra, Scottish Labour MSP for North East Scotland, said:

“It makes no sense for the HMRC and the UK Government to axe the hard-working and skilled workforce in Dundee at a time when our city needs jobs.

"This is devastating for the workers and for our community.

“The Tories claim to be on the side of hard-working people but the staff at HMRC have been given a very different message today. Dundee needs investment and jobs.

"This decision to centralise jobs in Edinburgh and Glasgow is not consistent with the possibilities of decentralisation that civil service jobs can offer.

“I am meeting the trade unions tomorrow to discuss how we will fight to save these much-needed jobs and make HMRC think again.”

Richard McCready - No to TTIP

12 November 2015

On Monday evening Dundee City Council discussed TTIP, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership.

This item had been put on the agenda at the request of Councillor Jimmy Black.

As my awareness of TTIP has grown over recent times I have become more and more opposed to TTIP.

For this reason I was pleased to be able to vote on behalf of the Scottish Co-operative Party to oppose TTIP at the recent Scottish Labour Party conference in Perth. It was also clear that there is strong opposition to TTIP from many trade unions.

The committee heard from representatives of Dundee Stop TTIP. It was clear from their contribution that they were opposed to TTIP in its entirety. The motion put forward by Councillor Black talked of the council having 'serious concerns' about TTIP.

TTIP is meant to be a trade agreement.

I find the secrecy around the negotiations very worrying.

The proposed use of quasi-judicial measures, such as an Investor-State Dispute Settlement system, under which multi-national corporations may sue elected governments whose laws or actions are deemed to be contrary to the operation of the so-called free market and free trade.

TTIP could have a detrimental impact on the environmental protections which we need and which are in place to some extent in the EU. I am opposed to any erosion of environmental standards as I think this would negatively impact on attempts to tackle climate change.

My opinion was that 'serious concerns' just did not go far enough.

I oppose TTIP and that, in my opinion was what the council should support.

Laurie Bidwell : Broughty Ferry ward boundaries

7 November 2015


My Submission to LGBCS About Proposed Boundary Changes for Ward 8 - The Ferry.

Dear Local Government Boundary Commission for Scotland ,

I am writing to add my weight to many hundreds of my constituents who attended a public meeting on Tuesday 1st September and the regular October meeting of The Broughty Ferry Community Council as well as those that have already submitted written representations.

The former meeting was the largest about a local issue in The Ferry during my eight years as a City Councillor. The latter meeting was the largest public attendance at an ordinary meeting of the Community Council for many years.

Almost without exception residents from West Ferry were hostile to your proposals. Almost without exception residents from other parts of The Ferry were supportive of retaining the entire Ferry ward and not having West Ferry pruned off or any other part of their ward subsumed into another ward. I understand that this has been reflected in the written representations you have already received.

As an opposition Councillor, I regret that I did not take the opportunity to move against what became the LGBCS proposal when the Council discussed this.

At that meeting, the tabled proposal from the majority SNP group on the Council was obviously going to be voted through.

The case for retention of the current boundary for Ward 8 does not however wholly depend on the number of objectors but also the following arguments:

Parity.

Using the LGBCS figures, not unreasonable parity, would be achieved by retaining the existing ward boundary.

Community/Local Ties.

The Ferry Ward is effectively identical with the long established community of Broughty Ferry.

The electoral boundary currently adequately defines what is essentially the eastern suburb of Dundee.

This arrangement will be disrupted by the proposed boundary change.

This moves the western boundary eastwards so that the West Ferry part of Broughty Ferry will, to a great extent, be merged into the adjoining East End Ward.

The western boundary of the historic (independent and electorally separate) Police Burgh of Broughty Ferry is identical to the current western boundary of West Ferry/Broughty Ferry (this has been confirmed to the Community Council by Ian Flett, the City Archivist).

After Broughty Ferry was subsumed into Dundee in 1913, this electoral boundary was retained and exists to this day.

Not only is the existing Ward 8 boundary historically significant, but the identity of The Ferry is strongly felt not only by residents born and bred in The Ferry but also by those residents like me that have moved to the city and made their home in Broughty Ferry.

The strength and prevalence of these ties are also evidenced by the volume of objections you have already received.

Local services.

There is a complex web of local statutory and voluntary organisations that serve people in the ward; for example the Broughty Ferry Community Council and Grove Academy.

Significantly, while much of the current West Ferry lies outside the current catchment area of Grove Academy, through placing requests and the increased capacity of the new Grove Academy, many children from West Ferry attend Grove Academy along with their counterparts from other neighbourhoods in The Ferry ward.

In conclusion

I think there is now overwhelming evidence of a strongly held held consensus amongst my constituents that The Ferry ward should retain its existing boundaries.

It is now the responsibility of the Commission, not the electors of The Ferry ward, to decide the potential alternative changes that might be required in adjoining wards to make this aspiration a reality.

Lesley Brennan : Labour's Campaign against Tory Tax Credit Cuts

14 November 2015


Today marks Labour’s National Campaign Day against the Tory government’s £4 billion tax credit cuts that would leave three million families £1,300 a year on average worse off.

It is part of David Cameron’s “compassionate conservatism” , a vision of society that he shares with former US President George W Bush.

In reality, the “compassion” requires the state to do exactly the opposite – a withdrawal from its responsibility to provide for the vulnerable and a removal of social security provisions from them.

In another part of society, the rich are undisturbed.

According to Equality Trust, the wealth of the richest 1,000 families in Britain increased by £28 billion last year , an increase several times more than the £4 billion cut in tax credits. 

Their total wealth, according to the Sunday Times Rich List is £547 billion.

This is why the impoverishment of families set to lose over £1,000 a year is the antithesis of fairness.

That is why we are campaigning against these cuts.

Recipient families receiving Child or Working Tax Credit (April 2015) by Scottish Parliament constituency

Dundee City East

Out of work

Families 2,100 ; Children – 3,600

Working Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit

Families – 2,400 : Children – 3,700

Child Tax Credit only

Families - 800 ; Chilldren – 1,500

Total number of families 6,200.

Dundee City West

Out of work

Families 1,700 families ; Children – 3,200

Working Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit

Families – 2,200 : Children – 3,600

Child Tax Credit only

Families - 800 ; Chilldren – 1,600

Total number of families 5,600.

Jenny Marra : SNP Excuses are Wearing Thin



When the people of Scotland took part in the independence referendum, they were set two choices – full independence or a more powerful Scottish Parliament which remained part of the UK.

The status quo wasn’t on the ballot paper because there was broad consensus that people wanted change in our political system.

After a two-year debate in which we exhausted all the issues, we eventually decided to stay part of the UK and the debate moved on to which powers Holyrood should take control of.

As you will know, we had a ‘Vow’ which led to the all-party Smith Commission and then the Scotland Bill to decide and formalise the transfer of powers to Scotland.

This week, the long-awaited Scotland Bill was agreed and extensive powers over tax and welfare will now be coming to the Scottish Parliament.

It is the biggest transfer of powers to Holyrood since devolution and has the potential to transform the way we do politics in Scotland.

It has already sparked a whole raft of new debates as the political parties decide how they would use the powers if the people of Scotland elect them at next May’s election.

For Labour, we have made our taxation intentions clear – we will increase the top rate of tax to 50p, spending that money on education, and we will reverse George Osborne’s proposed cuts to family tax credits by keeping air passenger duty as it is.

That was the thrust of Kezia Dugdale’s speech at the Scottish Labour conference in Perth just a fortnight ago and this bold approach based on fairness received plaudits and support from right across Scottish life.

The real surprise is the reaction of the SNP.

Having argued for these powers to come to the parliament for so long, they appear to have no idea what to do with the new powers.

Reversing the tax credit cuts?

No plan.

A more generous welfare system as they themselves promised in the referendum?

Nothing to say.

A more progressive tax system?

Not a clue. It looks like power for power’s sake rather than taking action to make Scotland a better place.

All they have promised so far is tax breaks for airline companies who are already enjoying bumper profits

The lesson for the SNP is to be careful what you wish for.

They created a demand during the referendum that they now can’t meet and people are beginning to see through their rhetoric.

Instead of getting on with doing what they can do, they prefer to moan about what powers they don’t have.

The litany of excuses is wearing thin now.

With these new powers coming to the Scottish Parliament, what was once Tory or Westminster cuts will now be SNP decisions if they don’t take steps to reverse them or recreate a better system.

I hope the transfer of powers will mark a new phase for Scottish politics, one where our politics is more grown up.

For its first 16 years, the Scottish Parliament was largely a place where we decided how to spend money but didn’t have to account for raising any of it. So when the money ran out, it was always someone else’s fault.

Now those excuses won’t wash. Tax and spending decisions will be decided by Holyrood, not Westminster.

Those of us who campaigned for a Scottish Parliament did so because we believed it could make a difference to people’s lives.

But too often debates in the Scottish Parliament have descended into a proxy fight with Westminster over decisions taken down there.

Now the hard decisions on tax and welfare will be taken in Edinburgh and the blame game we see so often will have to stop.

The buck stops with our Scottish Government, not the UK Government in London.

This era of new, more responsible politics can only be good for Scotland and can hopefully help us heal the divisions of last year’s referendum.

 

Richard McCready : Remembrance


On Wednesday I joined a number of colleagues, veterans and members of the public for the two-minutes silence to mark Armistice Day.

This is always a very important day and it is remarkable to watch as the centre of Dundee comes to a standstill for a couple of minutes.

I think that it is important that we remember the impact of war and those who have lost their lives in wars.

This is not about glorifying warfare but rather about remembering the impact of war on real people and families in our community.

I was reminded of this on Sunday as I stood at the war memorial at St Joseph's Church in Wilkie's Lane.

The war memorial there contains 234 names and when it was unveiled in 1924 it was said to be the biggest number at any church in Dundee.

It is sobering to think that all of those names are of people who lived and worked in the West End.

The congregation at St Joseph's are trying to find out something about all of those named on the memorial in order to tell the stories behind the names.

One of the names on the memorial is that of Fr James Shine, an Irish priest who served at St Joseph's until 1915 who was killed in France in 1918 while serving as a British Army chaplain.

I spoke about Fr Shine at a conference at Bath Spa University in the summer.

I think that this is a very interesting story which deserves to be much better known.

I am a strong supporter of Great War Dundee which aims to mark the centenary of the First World War in a variety of ways, and reflect the many different aspects of life in the city which were impacted by the First World War.

The Great War Dundee project is trying to find the stories behind the city's roll of honour, and has launched an online version of the roll of honour. If you have a story of a family member then Great War Dundee want to hear from you.

Lesley Brennan : Women 50:50 and Council Representation


25 October 2015

Lesley Brennan has placed an item on the agenda of Monday's Dundee City Council meeting seeking support of 50:50 and recognising that more needs to be done at local government level.

Currently, there are six women on Dundee City Council:

Labour group is 40% women

SNP group is 12.5%

Her motion reads :

Council notes that women are underrepresented across Councils in Scotland and make up only 25 % of Councillors

This Council further acknowledges that whilst voluntary mechanisms such as all women shortlists have made some progress, women are still not represented fairly.

The Council congratulates the Women 50:50 campaign who have working across all political parties and have gained support from the SNP, Scottish Labour, Scottish Liberal Democrats and Scottish Green Party leaders.

The Council welcomes and supports Women 50:50’s call for legislated candidates quotas in the Scottish Parliament and Council elections and backs the campaign’s call for fair representation of women in Scotland.

£28 million cuts for Dundee City Council 22 October 2015

£28 million cuts for Dundee.

It does not come as any surprise that these council cuts are on their way.

News of these cuts are coming at the same time as NHS Tayside’s financial crisis has been revealed.

The Scottish Government could help the council by using some of the £347 million it underspent last year

For a city that is desperate to attract jobs, it really is bad news when the council has indicated that it will lay off a number of people

We are trying to use all of our powers as a council to attract investment, and obviously the council paying people off will have a negative impact on the amount of money being spent in our shops.

We have to try to protect the most vulnerable people

The sad fact of life is that cracks are already beginning to show in areas such as health and social care.

The Scottish Government is showing that their record of financial management is maybe not as good as ithey are trying to make it out to be.

Off-site Education Centres in Dundee : Just One Sentence in Report
19 October 2015
Commenting on the information published in the Council's Annual Estate Review, Laurie Bidwell, said : "Despite informing staff and the press that the council were in the process of cutting and re-locating the three off-site education centres in the city, there is only one sentence in the committee paper about this.

"This is clearly a wholly inadequate basis for the Education Committee considering the case for undertaking a formal consultation."


SNP Council Cuts : Bad News in Instalments

Kevin Keenan

 
17 October 2015

“The SNP Administration is delivering bad news in instalments with the Finance Spokesperson sending an early message to Dundee citizens to brace themselves for budget cuts.

I also detect a change of tone with the admission that services were “slashed” in the last budget process - these would previously have been described as “efficiency savings”.

SNP Administration already has a poor record on Education.

They have failed in their promise on pupil numbers and their record on recruiting and retaining teachers is poor.

The Convener has now given an early warning of further cuts to off-site provision.

This will be another announcement, like the closure of Menzieshill High School, which will have an affect on every school in the City.

If there is a cut in off-site provision, this will mean that pupils who need this support will remain in mainstream schools longer leading to classes being disrupted as their additional needs monopolise the classroom teacher’s time.

Our pupils and their teachers deserve better.

We are looking at short term cuts with long term damage.

The Administration have cut millions of pounds from budgets year on year; they have already closed a day care centre and will close a secondary school affecting hundreds of people and their families and yet last year a further 19 employees joined the ranks of the top earnings bracket in Dundee.

Are their cuts being made in the right places?

The Scottish Government would have people believe that they fully fund the Council Tax freeze.

Yet year on year the SNP Administration in Dundee have been cutting budgets and “slashing” services and trying to blame everyone else without shouldering any responsibility themselves.

The Scottish Government could deliver considerably more support for this City by using some of their £347m underspend which they accrued last year.

No doubt we will see some of this spend coming forward as they look to secure their own positions in the 2016 Scottish Government elections.

In the meantime, the citizens of Dundee can only live in the hope that the services they need will be there for them.

More cuts from a Party which pretended to be anti-austerity at the UK General Election but at every opportunity avoid using their devolved power that could make a difference.



Staffing Levels in Dundee Schools

Laurie Bidwell


20 October 2015

Commenting on the Report on Staffing Levels in Dundee Schools for the Education Committee next Monday, Councillor Laurie Bidwell said:

"The report from the Director of Children and Families' Service paints a varied picture.

"It is positive that at a time of shortage of teachers across the country the Council has managed to compete more effectively for potential staff.

"It is also positive that the 1412.5 teachers in post is more than the 1407 teachers counted in 2014.

"But the fact remains, this is still a significant drop from September 2013 when the Council had 1436 teachers in post.

"The report is also selective about what it reveals. On class sizes it does not for example identify the number of classes currently being taught at maximum.

"In relation to ongoing shortages of supply teachers, neither does the report refer to how secondary schools are having to improvise supply cover nor how primary schools are covering the non contact time of primary teachers which they use towards preparation and marking.

"At the meeting on Monday 26 October, we shall want reassurance that strategies are in place for Dundee to recruit the teachers it needs as competition for teachers sharpens between councils.

"Councils in the Highlands and Islands have recently had a summit with Angela Constance and have agreed to work together on recruitment and promoting alternative routes to teacher qualification.

"What are our plans for Dundee?

"This performance is not what the SNP promised at the May 2011 elections to the Scottish Parliament.

"In their Teachers' Manifesto May 2011, they committed to:

"'Bring stability to teacher numbers by ensuring councils stick to the agreed minimum number of posts.'

"It is significant that here in Dundee, this is the first year since 2011 that a year by year reduction in teacher numbers has been halted.

"It will take more than one year to be convinced that our SNP led Council now really means business on maintaining teacher numbers in our school


Richard McCready : Parking in the West End

14 October 2015
 


I am calling for immediate action to resolve the on-going parking chaos that uncontrolled commuter parking is having on residents in areas of the West End.

Dundee City Council recently agreed to take over car parks from the University of Dundee at Miller's Wynd, off the Perth Road and at Hunter Street, just off the Hawkhill.

For years now, the SNP administration on the city council have ignored the needs of local taxpayers living in parts of the city’s West End closest to the University and the city centre.

Instead, they have put the interest of commuters who park for free and clog up residential streets and local unrestricted car parks in the West End, above that of their own citizens.

This is one of the most frequent and highly charged complaints that local people, residents and businesses, raise with me as a local councillor.

It is now time to redress the balance and that is why I am demanding that this issue is taken seriously by the administration and steps are taken to resolve the problem as soon as possible.

I know that we have looked at a residents' parking scheme, but the one-size fits all approach was not the answer and neither was the cost.

I think that the council should look at the possibility of different solutions in different streets. We must also address our reliance on the car.

I want to hear from local people about what they think could be done to help solve some of the problems which parking causes in the West End.

Laurie Bidwell : Commenting on Thefts from NHS Tayside over 5 Years

13 October 2015


On the basis of Freedom of Information Requests, it is regrettable to learn that over £400,000 of losses to NHS Tayside over the last five years were attributable to theft.

Whether it is lead stolen from roofs or equipment and furnishings removed from wards and surgeries, every pound spent on replacements is a pound not available for spending on the treatment of patients.

Those who chose to deliberately or opportunistically steal from the NHS are stealing from us all as we all contribute to the cost of the NHS through our National Insurance contributions and taxes.

Having said that, the budget of NHS Tayside is in excess of £640 million per year and they are a major owner of buildings in many locations.

Seen it that light, the figure of £80,000 attributed to thefts per year (averaging out the reported annual losses from the five year total) suggests good security of NHS Tayside premises and sensible oversight of their movable property which I don't think intrudes on the treatment of patients.

Lesley Brennan : Trade Union Bill  

11 October 2015

While David Cameron is seeking to shackle trade unions with a vindictive Trade Union Bill in this country, Barack Obama has been praising the work of trade unions in his own country.

Last week, President Obama held a Workers’ Voice meeting in the White House with representatives of the trade unions.

While David Cameron wants to enfeeble unions here, Mr Obama was saying this of unions in the US :

“When folks attack unions, they’re attacking the cops, firefighters, teachers, nurses, service workers, public servants, auto workers, plumbers, Americans who keep our streets safe and clean, who prepare our food, who clean up after us, who care for our aging parents…. We should be strengthening our labor laws, not rolling them back. “

While Mr. Cameron is considering that union members on strike should wear armbands to identify themselves and that unions give two weeks notice of posts on Twitter and Facebook regarding possible strike activity, Mr Obama congratulated the unions in the US for their good work :

Firstly historically :

“Labor unions were often the driving force for progress. The 40-hour workweek, overtime pay, health insurance, retirement plans”

And also today :

“ Good pay; benefits; workplace safety; work-family balance; skills training; the freedom to organize. That’s what unions secured for us.”

President Obama asked the trade union representatives to tell him about “ the ideas you have to strengthen workers’ voices across the country.”

He addressed the role that unions play in wages and rights at work and in reducing inequality in society.

"Wages need to rise more quickly. We need jobs to offer the kind of pay and benefits that let people raise a family -- and in order to do that, workers need a voice……as union membership has fallen, inequality has risen.”

He dismissed claims that advances in workers’ rights and higher wages held back economic growth .

“We’ve got to change an attitude and mindset that says giving workers more voice means inefficiency and we won’t be competitive, or suggests that there’s a contradiction between economic growth and decent wages, or suggests that we should have a race to the bottom with other countries, or suggests that somehow the current arrangements in which a growing amount of what we produce in this country going to the top .001 percent is in the natural order of things and is somehow fair and just.”

Contrast that positive view of President Obama on the benefits that trade unions can bring to individuals, to families, and to communities in the US with the reactionary Tory attitudes in the UK Trade Union Bill.



Lesley Brennan : The Coherent Alternative Our Country Desperately Needs

11 October 2015

Labour has brought together a team of seven economic heavyweights in its Economic Advisory Committee to advise the party on developing  “a pragmatic and deliverable economic policy for our country and in developing a fairer and more prosperous economic alternative based upon investment and growth which reaches all sections of society.”

Its formation follows from Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership election mandate “to oppose austerity and to set out on economic strategy based on investment in skills, jobs and infrastructure.”

The Committee will be convened by Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell.

Some of its members will be better known than others; all oppose George Osborne’s spending cuts and agree that the austerity policies of the Cameron years in Downing Street have been a failure .

To select just three of them :

Perhaps the best known is Thomas Piketty, the author of the acclaimed recent best-seller “Capital in the 21st Century” who wants to assist in :

“constructing an economic policy that helps tackle some of the biggest issues facing people in the UK.

“There is now a brilliant opportunity for the Labour Party to construct a fresh and new political economy which will expose austerity for the failure it has been in the UK and Europe.”

Another Committee member is Nobel Prize laureate Joseph Stiglitz

He condemns austerity as “an utter and unmitigated disaster” and expands thus :

“ But its defenders are willing to claim victory on the basis of the weakest possible evidence: the economy is no longer collapsing, so austerity must be working! But if that is the benchmark, we could say that jumping off a cliff is the best way to get down from a mountain; after all, the descent has been stopped.”

Another is Ann Pettifor of PRIME Economics :

“Osborne’s most striking political achievement, with the connivance of the economics profession and media, is to reframe the debate about the most severe crisis in living memory away from finance and towards the welfare state - identified as causal of the crisis.”

The setting up of the Committee is a significant move as Labour returns to its traditional Left-of-centre politics with a corresponding rejection of the economics of austerity .

The Tories remain in thrall to austerity as the “way forward”, and as a consequence, the failed policies of austerity will continue to overshadow the lives of millions every day.

This is despite the fact that these policies, where implemented, have been shown quite emphatically not to have worked, having created economic insecurity, a rise in social inequality, and a collapse in living standards for very many.

Austerity , as Jeremy Corbyn has said, is a political choice , and there are alternatives to this political doctrine that has vilified public spending.

At the same time as the new Committee has been formed, the latest “narrative” within the Parliament-media bubble is that the Tories are now occupying the “centre ground” that Labour has “vacated” by moving to the Left under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership.

However, George Lakoff, the American professor of cognitive science, specialising in the linguistics of political messaging, has his own interpretation of such “movements”.

He has previously strongly cautioned against accepting the analysis of this kind of spin from inside the bubble, and the consequence of settling for the compromise of a so-called “centre ground”

The “Guardian” describes his view thus :

“ He says : ‘The Left is losing the political argument – every year, it cedes more ground to the right, under the mistaken impression that this will bring everything closer to the centre. In fact, there is no centre: the more progressives capitulate, the more boldly the conservatives express their vision, and the further to the right the mainstream moves.’”

As Lakoff advocates, Jeremy Corbyn is standing his ground.

The Committee will provide a new voice, advocating the involvement of the state on behalf of the many, not the few, as Labour, in its own words, constructs a “coherent alternative our country desperately needs.”



Lesley Brennan : The Underspending Continues

5 October 2015

The Scottish Government set an unenviable record in 2013-14 of almost half a billion pounds underspending on vital public sector services that families in Scotland rely upon.

The total was an unprecedented £444million underspending, putting even greater stress on already under-resourced public sector staff such as nurses and teachers

During these times of austerity, this under-funding of the public sector continues .

In the latest year, 2014-15, the level of belt tightening may have eased slightly , but it still remains at a worryingly high level of £350 million.

For families across Scotland the underfunding of public services has meant that fewer college places are available, fewer teachers in their children's schools, fewer nurses, and less support for vulnerable groups all because the public sector has been without the resources that it desperately needs.


Georgia Cruickshank : Legal Highs" : Debate on New Psychoactive Substances

5 October 2015

There was a debate in the Scottish Parliament last week on progress on implementing recommendations of the expert review group on new psychoactive substances (link >>>)

Anger has already been expressed by Georgia Cruickshank at news that another shop in Dundee is now selling "legal highs"

She has called for more testing to be carried out on the contents of these products that are being sold, saying :

“Every time one of them becomes illegal, the ingredients changed slightly and then the products go back on the market. "

She added : “If you would like to know more about Dundee Campaign Against Legal Highs or join us on a demo, please get in touch."



Brian Gordon - Mill O'Mains : Speed Limit May Not Be Enough

4 October 2015

I welcome the news that 20mph signs are to be erected throughout the entire Mill o'Mains area.

I have concerns however that this may not be sufficient to ensure the safety of pedestrians and drivers in the area

I am prepared to give this new road traffic safety strategy time to see if it proves to be successful .

However, as there is no traffic legislation to stop vehicles using rat runs, I would not rule out a further development where there would be just one main exit from the Mill o'Mains estate.

 

Dundee University - Scottish University of the Year

Laurie Bidwell

21 September 2015


On Friday the University of Dundee was named Scottish University of the Year in The Timesand Sunday Times Good University Guide 2016.

This annual award was based on an in-depth review of higher education in Britain.

Alastair McCall, editor of The Sunday Times Good University Guide wrote:

“The University of Dundee is the epitome of what a good university should be.

It provides an outstanding education and university experience for its students, is a key driver in the regional and national economy, and its researchers – particularly in the medical field – are pushing back the boundaries of knowledge and the treatments available to the wider benefit of society.”

Professor Sir Pete Downes, Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Dundee said:

"Our success follows a sharp rise in our overall ranking in the Good University Guide’s league table, we have risen eight places to 37th in the UK rankings and to fourth in Scotland.

We are now the top university in Scotland under The Times and The Sunday Times analysis of the National Student Survey outcomes for teaching quality, ranking ninth-equal in the UK."

This is a significant and well deserved accolade for the University of Dundee and is another positive indicator of the renaissance of Dundee.

Congratulations to the all the academic and support staff on their collective achievement.



Opposing The Trade Union Bill

Lesley Brennan

As part of their oppressive Trade Union Bill, the Tories are consulting on proposals that would require trade unions to provide employers with details of their planned activity on social media such as Facebook, Twitter, and blogs two weeks before a strike would commence.

Any failure to observe this stricture could land the unions with fines of up to £20,000 for each breach

The TUC are promoting TwoWeekWarning – the online campaign against these proposed restrictions.


The Tories’ plans have attracted the condemnation of organisations such as Liberty, the British Institute of Human Rights (BIHR) and Amnesty International UK, who have issued this joint statement :

“The government's plans to significantly restrict trade union rights – set out in the Trade Union Bill – represent a major attack on civil liberties in the UK.

“By placing more legal hurdles in the way of unions organising strike action, the Trade Union Bill will undermine ordinary people’s ability to organise together to protect their jobs, livelihoods and the quality of their working lives.

“It will introduce harsher restrictions on those who picket peacefully outside workplaces – even though pickets are already more regulated than any other kind of protest. Unions will be required to appoint picket supervisors who must wear armbands and carry letters of authorisation, the absence of which could expose their unions to legal action.

“Further proposals out for consultation could mean unions are required to provide a protest plan to employers, police, and other State regulators, revealing in advance if they plan to use social media, including Twitter and Facebook during their campaign and what they plan to set out on websites and blogs.

“Taken together the unprecedented measures in the Bill would hamper people’s basic rights to protest and shift even more power from the employee to the employer.

“It is hard to see the aim of this bill as anything but seeking to undermine the rights of all working people.

“We owe so many of our employment protections to Trade Unions and we join them in opposing this bill.”

The bitterness towards unions behind the Bill is borne out by new figures from the Office of National Statistics which show that strikes are at a historically low level.

Last year there were just over 150 stoppages compared with just over 1,200 thirty years ago.

Nearly two-thirds of strikes last for just one or two days.

Most disputes were settled without recourse to strike action - the number of strike ballots (650) was four times the number of stoppages that occurred.

Comparisons with countries in the European Union show that industrial disputes indicate in the UK stand at just over half of the European average.

These proposals are an attack of the rights of trade unions and their members, and they are deliberately one-sided.



Dog fouling - zero tolerance needed


21 September 2015

Richard McCready

As Dundee Labour's Environment spokesperson I am calling for real action to combat dog fouling in the city.

I welcomed new plans by the City Council's Environment Department but there must be stronger enforcement.

It is good to see that the number of officers of the council who can now issue Fixed Penalty Notices for dog fouling has now increased to 23.

My experience and the experience of my colleagues in the Labour Group is that when we ask for action on dog fouling we are told that there is only one officer available.

Indeed on Monday evening in the Council Chamber SNP Councillor Ken Lynn agreed with me and said that he had received the same response.

It is good that the number of officers who can issue Fixed Penalty Notices has increased but if they are not actually combating this disgusting practice on our streets it is a pointless exercise.

I have contacted officers in the Environment Department looking for more information about who is able to issue Fixed Penalty Notices and how often each officer is issuing them.

I am concerned that it is difficult to ensure that Fixed Penalty Notices are paid and I will be looking for ways in which we can ensure that those who are irresponsible enough to allow their dogs to foul our streets know that there is a penalty which will have to be paid.

Most dog owners in Dundee take their responsibilities seriously, it is important that those that don't are aware that there will be zero tolerance of dog fouling in our city.

There was also interesting developments about the licensing of professional dog-walkers and that is an area where I will be looking for updates.

There was also the development of dog walking trails on Balgay Hill and at Dawson Park
.