Dundee still faces a “significant challenge” in tackling the city’s drugs problem, a new report has found.
Watchdogs at the Accounts Commission found improvements had been made in a number of areas but warned the city “continues to face complex and deep-rooted challenges”.
Tim McKay, interim deputy chair of the Accounts Commission, said while “significant investment” had transformed parts of the city – notably the waterfront area – this was in contrast to “the endemic poverty, inequality and drug-related deaths”.
His comments came as the commission’s latest report told how the city has the highest rate of drug-related deaths in Scotland and added that “pressures around poverty and mental health remain significant”.
Dundee City Council leaders are aware of the problems and are “striving” to deal with them, but the authority “needs to increase its pace of change”, the report said.
The Accounts Commission said the council “needs to move from incremental to transformational change across all its services”.
In particular, it added it needs to “make quicker progress in narrowing the attainment gap for more vulnerable or disadvantaged children” in education.
The report stressed there had been a “steady pace of improvement’” since the commission had last looked at the council’s performance.
It also said the authority has “ambitious and innovative ideas” – but said leaders “needs to be realistic about what can be achieved in the short term and prioritise those actions that can be delivered and will have the greatest impact”.
The council and its partners were praised for being “successful in regenerating and reinvigorating the city centre through projects such as the Dundee Waterfront development, including the V&A Museum of Design Dundee and the new Dundee railway station”.
While the report said performance had improved in many service areas, it stated: “Progress still needs to be made and measured in tackling poverty and inequality, and the related challenges such as substance misuse, and physical and mental health problems.”
Mr McKay said: “Dundee is a well-led council and whilst there has been much improvement to the city and services, those in disadvantaged areas have not all benefited from that transformation.
“The significant investment to transform parts of the city, most notably the waterfront, sits in marked contrast to the endemic poverty, inequality and drug-related deaths.
“Many services have improved but the council and its partners must now act faster to address these long-standing issues.
“As the council continues to transform the city it is critical that the social value to all Dundee residents of this investment can be demonstrated. Without this, those who are already disadvantaged will not see the benefits of the investment in and regeneration of their city.”
Councillor John Alexander, leader of Dundee City Council, said: “This report showcases the excellent work that’s being carried out in the city by the council and its partners in a number of areas.
“It reflects well the progress we’ve made as well as some of the challenges we face going forward.
“We know that there are areas where more needs to be done to improve the lives of people in the city and we are working hard with our partners to deliver that change.
“Through the Fairness Commissions and Dundee Drugs Commission, all partners, communities and those with lived experience are working together to identify and implement effective change.”