Committee round-up: Communities Committee 9.11.17

A new fire and rescue plan for Aberdeenshire and the council’s housing investment plan for the next five years were among items discussed at Aberdeenshire Council’s Communities Committee on November 9.

Latest financial position discussed

The committee was updated on the council’s budget position as of the end of September.

Councillors were told that the council’s budget was forecast to overspend by £2.9million, with revenue pressures being seen in sports and leisure management, support for homelessness, and in housing support.

In terms of the council’s capital spend, which is currently within budget due to contractual delays, the committee sought reassurance that efforts would be made to deliver the capital plan timeously.

New Aberdeenshire fire and rescue plan approved

The success of closer working between the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) and local councils was celebrated as the emergency service’s new plan for Aberdeenshire was approved.

The Aberdeenshire Local Fire and Rescue Plan 2017-20 was introduced by Local Senior Officer (LSO) for Aberdeenshire and Moray David Rout.

He told councillors the plan was developed following a ‘detailed, analytical assessment’ of the current plan for the area, and through consultation with the public via the Aberdeenshire Citizens Panel.

As well as highlighting the local and national priorities for the service and how performance will be measured, the plan focuses on six local priorities for Aberdeenshire:

• Unintentional Harm and Home Safety
• Non-Fire Emergencies
• Deliberate Fire Setting
• Non-Domestic Fire Safety
• Unwanted Fire Alarm Signals
• Emergency Response and Community Resilience

As well as the core duties of the SFRS, the committee went on to discuss how the service would support the community planning partnership’s aims of reducing child poverty, tackling alcohol issues, and the creation of ‘connected and cohesive’ communities.

The service’s involvement in road safety initiatives such as Safe Drive Stay Alive and Crash Live was also highlighted, and the committee heard of the service’s focus on recruitment and retention and increasing the number of female employees.

Following approval of the new plan, Communities Committee chair Cllr Anne Stirling paid tribute to LSO Rout, who is due to retire from the service.

She said: “David should be very proud indeed, as should the service, of his approach to partnership working, both through the council and the Aberdeenshire Community Planning Board.

“David has always been constructive and allowed the relationship to be the best it’s ever been. His leadership has created a legacy of professional service that has served the communities of Aberdeenshire very well.”

Cllr Stirling added that the committee looked forward to monitoring the implementation of the plan and achieving positive outcomes for residents in Aberdeenshire.

Also in attendance was Pat Watters, chair of the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service Board, who spoke of the national approach to forward planning and the changing shape of the service.

Approval for new Strategic Housing Investment Plan

Aberdeenshire Council’s new Strategic Housing Investment Plan, which outlines the authority’s priorities for affordable housing investment, was approved.

The plan, which will run from 2018-2023, also outlines how the new housing will be delivered, the resources required, and how key partners will be involved.

Over the next five years, the plan aims to deliver up to 2,622 new homes, with around 394 potentially suitable for those with particular need. The bulk of the housing will be available for social rent, with 110 for mid-market rent and 249 for low cost shared equity.

There was some discussion about the need to ensure developers meet obligations for affordable housing before the plan was approved. The plan will now be submitted to the Scottish Government.

Funds to be used to speed up delivery of affordable housing

Uncommitted funding of £1,375,000 from the council’s Affordable Housing Reserve Fund is to be used to ‘kick-start’ new affordable housing projects, it has been agreed.

The funds remain from a £4million allocation from the council’s General Fund, from which £187,000 has been spent on the creation of 41 new affordable homes in Peterhead and Inverurie, and a further £2,357.000 on a further 191 homes across Aberdeenshire.

A report before councillors highlighted one potential scheme that could benefit from advanced funding. The project for 36 new affordable homes in Banchory for social rent could potentially be completed by winter 2018.

Other potential projects are being assessed for Stonehaven, Peterhead, Fraserburgh, Kintore, Boddam and Inverurie.

Performance of Education and Children’s Services praised

Improved satisfaction within Education and Children’s Services was welcomed by the committee.

A report before councillors outlined performance from April – June 2017, highlighting that no measures were performing below target, and that satisfaction with libraries, museums and galleries, and with leisure facilities had improved.

Cllr Stirling praised the work of service employees. “I think we need to acknowledge the work that is being done in these very difficult times,” she said. “It is to be commended. I think we have got an exceptional workforce and think this committee should recognise that.”

Performance of Aberdeenshire Health and Social Care Partnership discussed

The committee was provided with an update on the performance of the Aberdeenshire Health and Social Care Partnership, as previously approved by the Integration Joint Board for Health and Social Care.

Councillors were told that out of 40 performance indicators a total of nine were red, four were amber and 12 were green, with the others having no set targets.

The reporter added that development work was being undertaken so that further information on customer and staff satisfaction could be shown to highlight good practice and areas for improvement.

Other matters