Policy and Resources, Committee Round-Up 3rd March 2016

Policy and Resources Committee discussed performance of Police Scotland and the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service, considered the creation of a new Property Investment Fund and agreed a funding package to support the on-going response to flooding.

Police call handling and the call centre

Divisional Commander (Contact Command and Control) Alan Spiers gave a short presentation to committee regarding the changes to police call centres and command and control. He said that the police were moving to a three centre model for calls and command across Scotland, located in Dundee, Glasgow and Edinburgh.

He recognised the importance of the transition to the new model and highlighted the work taking place to ensure that local knowledge was maintained.

Police Scotland – performance monitoring

Chief Superintendent Campbell Thomson highlighted the work of Police Service in responding to the flooding over the New Year, advising that the police were able to make use of the flexibility of resources from across the wider Police Scotland force to target the areas with the greatest risk of harm. He also acknowledged the response from all key agencies, working together, to support communities during flooding.

He highlighted that the force is maintaining its focus on local policing, and noted the increased local activity focused in Buchan, targeting those people who cause the most harm in our communities. He explained that there was a current issue of serious organised crime gangs targeting the most vulnerable people in communities and he gave a commitment to continued proactive policing to tackle such crime.

Responding to a question from Cllr Fergus Hood, Mr Thomson explained that more people were being educated at the roadside regarding traffic offences, but left no doubt that Police Scotland would continue to target drivers using excessive speed, particularly where speed limits have been introduced to protect road workers. He described drivers travelling at excessive speed as ‘disrespectful and dangerous’.

Performance Report – Scottish Fire and Rescue Service

David Rout presented the report to councillors, highlighting the positive performance with regards to the Fire and Rescue Service which show 5 out of 6 performance indicators showing improvement from the same period last year. Aberdeenshire was highlighted as having lower levels of activity for the population

Paul Newlands from Scottish Fire & Rescue Service highlighted the work taking place to tackle unwanted fire alarms. He explained that a new policy came into being in 2014, with advice being provided in the first instance; then escalated with a formal letter; moving to formal engagement with fire safety officers to discuss areas of concern if the site generates 10 false alarms over a 6 month period; and the final stage where decisions may be taken to reduce attendance with fewer appliances being sent, whilst on-going support and education continues.

The response from the Fire and Rescue Service during the flooding was described as ‘exceptional’, in particular given the loss of the Ballater fire station to the flooding, and that 7 members of the Ballater crew and their families were displaced due to the flooding.

Budgets – revenue and capital

Head of Finance, Alan Wood, highlighted that the council was forecast to underspend £6.4 million for 2015/16, which demonstrated spend of 99% of the council’s total budget.

Chief Officer for Health & Social Care Adam Coldwells advised committee of the challenges surrounding future demands on the health budget, which is forecast as requiring an additional £5m each year for the next 20 years to support current demand – this was highlighted as unsustainable. He explained that people needed to be encouraged to take more responsibility for their health and reduce reliance on public services. The focus of the new health and social care partnership would be to encourage lifestyle changes and greater support being provided by communities.

The committee was advised that the council was forecasting spend of £107 million on capital projects for 2015/16, which is £7 million under budget.

eDevelopment costs

Councillors approved a £31,000 contribution towards a national eDevelopment project to progress to a virtually paperless approach to ePlanning. The project will continue to build on the improvements to the end-to-end planning process, including the ability to automatically receive new planning applications electronically. Further activity is planned nationally to cover Building Standards.

Funding for a new Property Investment Fund

Peterhead, Fraserburgh, Banff and Macduff will benefit from a new Property Investment Fund aimed at bringing derelict and vacant properties back into use. The fund of £400,000 was agreed following discussions at Infrastructure Services Committee and the Regeneration Member Officer Working Group where the scale of dereliction in some streets in Macduff and Banff has been highlighted.
The fund is an important part of the council’s Regeneration Strategy, to breathe new life into towns and villages across Aberdeenshire.  The aim is to bring prominent, town centre properties which have been empty for at least six months, back into use.  Applications will be open to individuals, community groups or businesses who own and wish to invest in their property to bring new, sustainable uses to the towns of Banff, Macduff, Fraserburgh and Peterhead. 
Grants of up to £10,000 will be awarded for feasibility studies, architectural drawings or quantity surveying work at phase 1, with further grants of up to £100,000 available in phase 2 for building/renovation work.
Councillors have agreed to run the scheme for two years as a trial to demonstrate what is achievable and what is required to entice private and community developers to invest in their town centres.

Damage from Storm Frank and associated flooding

Councillors approved emergency funding to cover the costs of flooding in Aberdeenshire. £3 million was approved for remedial works required following damage caused by Storm Frank and associated flooding, although the expected costs of the flooding across Aberdeenshire is estimated to be up to £7.6 million.
Committee was told that there are several funding sources which the council can access to cover the costs including the council’s Winter and Other Emergences Fund, council insurance, additional money received from the Scottish Government and the Bellwin Scheme.

The works include the A93 emergency/temporary road replacement which was carried out by council teams and using materials from Aberdeenshire’s own quarries which cost £300,000. Emergency bridge repairs to the A93 Invercauld Lodge Bridge and main Invercauld Bridge were also carried out by the council’s in-house team and external contractor and cost in the region of £70,000, whilst the Ballater caravan park clear up is expected to cost around £100,000.

Delegated authority was also agreed for a further £1.2 million of works required for repairs to council houses. This includes 22 flood damaged homes within the Ballater area which are being stripped out and dried, with 8 homes being upgraded with insulation, windows, kitchens and bathrooms.

In addition, Aberdeenshire Council has been allocated £2 million from the Scottish Government to provide grants to households, businesses and community groups affected by flooding. By mid-February, the council made payments to 650 householders and 80 businesses, and is continuing to administer a further 100 outstanding applications. A further £3,000 grant is available to businesses who can demonstrate that their business has been severely impacted as a result of the flooding.

There are on-going discussions with the Scottish Government regarding the use of the Bellwin Scheme – a Government backed scheme to support local authorities financially when faced with major incidents.

Aberdeen City Region Deal funding

Councillors approved costs to support the bid and related work on the City Region Deal, and funding of up to £125,000 for 50% of the costs of expert advice provided to Aberdeen City Council during 2015/16 in the development of the Bid.