Committee round-up: Communities Committee 15.2.18

A frank discussion on human trafficking and an update on Police Scotland’s annual police plan were among items discussed at the latest meeting of Aberdeenshire Council’s Communities Committee.
Partnership approach to human trafficking to be explored
A partnership approach to tackle the horrors of human trafficking is to be developed for Aberdeenshire, following a frank and open discussion of the subject by councillors.
Aberdeenshire Council’s Communities Committee heard a joint presentation from the Trafficking Awareness Raising Alliance (TARA) and Police Scotland.
Councillors were told that almost 21million people are victims of modern day slavery globally; 11.4million women and girls and 9.5million men and boys. And 4.5million are victims of sexual exploitation, of which 98% are women and girls.
Those who are trafficked may be used for labour, forced criminality, or sexual exploitation.
Between 2014 and 2017, Police Scotland recoded three concern reports in relation to human trafficking in Aberdeenshire, consistent with levels in neighbouring authorities.
Cllr Glen Reynolds, who raised the issue at a meeting of the full council last year, welcomed the discussion of the subject.
The committee went on to have a detailed discussion covering a number of related themes, including the national referral mechanism in Scotland, the vulnerability of Aberdeenshire’s coastline, and support for those released from trafficking.
It was then agreed that a report should be brought before the Aberdeenshire Community Partnership Planning Board to examine any policies or actions required in connection with human trafficking, with a view to recommendations being presented back to councillors.
Response to Police Scotland annual plan agreed
Aberdeenshire Council’s views on Police Scotland’s Annual Plan 2018-19 was agreed by the committee.
A report before councillors explained the response was drawn from a survey of relevant teams within the council on various aspects of the police’s proposed approaches to tackle key priorities over the coming year.
The proposed priorities are:
·         Violence, disorder and antisocial behaviour
·         Serious organised crime
·         Counter terrorism and domestic extremism
·         Protecting people at risk of harm
·         Road safety and road crime
·         Acquisitive crime
The council’s response is broadly supportive of the plan, with survey results mainly showing services ‘agree’ or ‘strongly agree’ with the content, but called for a focus on partnership working to reduce road injuries and road crime. The response also suggested community policing and education be added to the plan.
Revenue and capital budget positions outlined
The most recent figures for the Communities service’s capital and revue budgets were brought before the committee.
The report explained the forecast for the Communities revenue budget stood at £114,490,000 as of the end of December. This predicts the service being £422,000 in excess of the planned budget by the end of the financial year.
Pressures relate to work carried out relating to the future provision of sport and leisure services, and housing support, while an underspend is forecast under homelessness due to extra budget becoming available for hostels. 
The Communities capital budget currently stands at £4,400,000, with the forecast for the current financial year standing at £2,713,000. As many projects within the budget take more than one financial year to complete, the underspend will be carried forward to 2018/19. 
The committee acknowledged the update and approved a series of budget adjustments outlined in the report.
Budget monitoring for housing revenue account noted
The committee went on to look at the budget position for Aberdeenshire’s Housing Revenue Account (HRA).
As of the end of December last year, the account is expected to be £246,000 over budget, due to an increase in cost of ‘void’ properties, a reduction in sheltered housing income, and a reduced income from recharges to tenants.
The overspends are offset in part by a reduction in the cost of repairs and maintenance, and an increased rental income figure as a result of fewer house sales.
The HRA capital budget, meanwhile, is currently forecast to be £5,704,000 lower than the annual budget of 36,465,000. The underspend is due to delays in the council’s housing improvement plan, and its new build programme. There has been an overspend on contracts for windows and doors, however.
Other matters
·         The full public reports considered by the committee can be found via
·         Anybody with concerns about an individual or groups they fear may be the subject of trafficking, or have themselves been trafficked, can contact the following agencies for support and advice:
o   Police Scotland National Human Trafficking Unit: 01236 818475
o   Migrant Help: 0141-884-790
o   Modern Slavery Helpline and Website: