City Council Budget Set
15 February 2013
Yesterday the City Council set the Budget for the next year.
Given their majority on the council it
will come as no surprise that the SNP got their Budget proposals
The SNP proposals included removing the restriction of class sizes in primary schools; increasing class sizes for Maths and English in 4 of Dundee's secondary schools.
An across the board cut of 5% to
externally funded social work services and externally funded supporting
The Labour Group put forward amendments to the council's capital plan.
Our plans would have seen money moved from being spent on improvements to the Environment Department to being spent on improving schools in the city.
Unfortunately our amendment was voted down
by the SNP.
I seconded Labour's Revenue Budget amendment.
Our amendment would have retained class
sizes of 20 for Maths and English classes in every secondary schools and
given a fund to soften the blow of the cuts to externally funded social
work services and supporting people services.
The Budget is all about priorities.
I accept that times are difficult and that
governments in Holyrood and
have not been kind to us.
There are many things in the Budget that I would rather the council was not doing.
To be fair, I am sure that every councillor is the same.
I want to say that the education of young
people in our schools is a priority and I want to say that protecting
the vulnerable in our society is a priority.
Our savings would have come from things like hospitality budgets, and money spent on dealing with ash from the non-functioning DERL plant.
I believe that it is wrong to treat pupils differently in different schools.
I want every one of the council's schools to be successful and to invest in the future of the young people who attend that school.
That is why our amendment sought to
re-instate class sizes of 20 for S1 & S2 Maths and English.
I cannot believe that an across the board 5% cut to externally purchased social work services or protecting people services is a well thought out, fair and equitable way of proceeding.
We heard deputations from Unison and Dundee Voluntary Action.
I shared concerns which had been raised
about the Equality Impact Assessment
We must seek to defend the poor and the vulnerable in our society.
We should seek to be a voice for the voiceless.
I am disappointed that officers have suggested that Labour's plan to use the police and fire service reserves was not allowed.
But we found £300,000 to set up a fund to soften the blow for those organisations being faced with a cut of 5%.
We were also looking for any extra monies
that become available from places like DERL should be spent on
protecting the vulnerable in our society.
Labour's amendment sought to support education and sought to support those most in need of council services.
I am disappointed that SNP councillors did not listen to us and that they voted to cut 5% off services for some of the most needy in Dundee.
Last Monday evening saw the latest round of City Council Committee meetings.
As Labour's Environment spokesperson I spoke on a number of items on that agenda.
I spoke about my concerns about air quality.
This is an important issue.
We must be concerned about reports that suggest that Dundee has 4 of the top 15 polluted streets in Scotland.
I was interested in officers’ views of the reports recently issued by Friends of the Earth Scotland.
I also wanted to know what the council is doing to deal with the areas where air quality is bad?
I also wanted to know if there were other areas of the city where we should consider monitoring air quality and if so how would these be chosen?
I will continue to look for more information on this important issue and try and get the council to take action where appropriate.
I also spoke in favour of the renaming of the Caird Park Stadium in memory of Ronnie McIntosh.
I was very pleased that this item was brought before us. I think that this is a fitting tribute to Ronnie McIntosh.
I did not know Ronnie well but I did meet him on a number of occasions.
He was a man who tried to overcome hardships and who made a real effort to put something back into the community.
I think that renaming Caird Park Athletic Stadium the Ronnie McIntosh Athletics Stadium is a fitting tribute.
I hope that this gesture by the council will offer some comfort to his family and friends.
I hope that many Dundonians will be inspired by Ronnie McIntosh’s legacy and strive to achieve their best at this stadium which is being re-named in his honour.
At the Policy and Resources Committee I spoke in favour of bringing the National Performance Centre for Sport to Dundee.
I welcome this report it is good to see that it is being taken forward.
I think that Dundee has a strong case to make for the National Performance Centre for Sport being based in Dundee.
Clearly, many people in the city have shown their support for this facility to be in Dundee through supporting Jenny Marra's campaign on the issue.
It is good to see a strong partnership, among a variety of organisations, pulling together to deliver this bid for the city.
What we need now is for the Scottish Government to see the strength of the case that Dundee has put together.
I said to the Convener, Cllr Guild, “I know that you will be pulling out all the stops to ensure that this facility and investment is delivered to Dundee and in that you have my full support.
“If there is anything that the Labour Group can do to assist you in your campaign to make the Scottish Government listen to our bid all you have to do is ask.”
I fully support this important bid and fully expect the Scottish Government to do so as well.
At the Housing Committee there was a debate on the bedroom tax and the direct payment of housing benefit to claimants rather than landlords.
This policy pursued by the Tory/Lib Dem government is wrong and will have bad consequences for families across Dundee.
There were reports before which will allow the council to alleviate the problems caused by these changes to a few council tenants.
There was then an attempt to use this policy as a reason to support independence, although it is interesting to note that the motion that the SNP councillors passed in effect supported the so-called 'devo-max.'
I said that we should focus on what was before us and call on the UK government to look at ways in which it could look at how benefits are paid especially to try and prevent rent arrears.