Communities Committee Round-up 6.6.19

Chair of Communities Committee Anne Stirling opened the meeting by announcing the replacement of a committee member – Cllr Geva Blackett replaces Cllr Stephen Calder. Cllr Stirling thanked Cllr Calder for his contribution to the work of the committee.

The committee then heard from the council’s Head of Economic development Belinda Miller, Planning Service Manager Mairi Stewart and Housing Manager Ally McLeod, who gave a presentation on how their services work together to deliver on the Communities Committee’s aspiration for affordable housing for as many people as possible across Aberdeenshire.

Proceedings halted at 11am for a minute’s silence to remember those who lost their lives on D-Day.

Reducing Child Poverty in Aberdeenshire 2019

The committee agreed a Child Poverty Action Plan as well as the Local Child Poverty Action Report for 2018/19.

The Scottish Government has committed to ending Child Poverty, and the Child Poverty (Scotland) Act 2017 puts a statutory requirement on it to reduce the number of children who live in poverty.

The Act also places a statutory duty on local authorities and health boards to jointly prepare and submit to the Scottish Government an annual “Local Child Poverty Action Report” identifying the action taken in the previous year and what action will be taken in the future to reduce child poverty.

The approach within Aberdeenshire to tackling Child Poverty focusses on tackling the root causes and building people’s capabilities through income maximisation, employability, improving quality of life, helping families manage the impacts of poverty and promoting positive life choices.

The Aberdeenshire Child Poverty Action Plan outlines what action is proposed under four overarching goals.

Councillor Glen Reynolds (Banff and District) asked why Aberdeenshire Council has not yet been accredited as a Living Wage Employer and Infrastructure Services Director, Stephen Archer, said achievement of the accreditation had not been ruled out and advised that a report discussing the matter will be brought to councillors in September.

After agreeing the Action Plan and Report, the committee also agreed to receive regular progress updates on this area of work and asked that the report they were considering be referred to Local Area Committees for their information and input.

You can see that report on the Aberdeenshire Council website.

Scottish Fire and Rescue Service Performance Report

Scottish Fire and Rescue Service officers appeared to speak to a performance report focussing specifically on the Aberdeenshire area, covering the period April 1, 2018 to March 31, 2019.

Local Senior Officer for Aberdeenshire and Moray, Ian Findlay, presented the report to councillors for the last time before retiring from his role.

Cllr Stirling commended him for his work to date and said: “What you have done has certainly impacted and made a difference to our communities.”

On behalf of the committee Cllr Stirling formally acknowledged the work that fire officers and other members of the service do to help keep local communities safe.

During his update, Mr Findlay advised that his service has recently committed to a £4.5million investment in its national training centre at Portlethen, with work due to begin in November, which was welcomed by the committee.

He also discussed an upgrade of equipment and training for staff to deal with flooding events, improving the service’s flood response capabilities in communities throughout Aberdeenshire.

Councillors heard that accidental dwelling fires are at a five year low in Aberdeenshire and Mr Findlay gave some context to figures which show an increase by 37% in deliberate fires over the period, albeit the area’s figures remain lower than the national average.

After some discussion and a number of questions on the detail of the report for the SFRS representatives, the committee acknowledged the report.

The report to committee, including the performance report and relevant data, is available on Aberdeenshire Council’s website.

Police Scotland Update

Superintendent Kate Stephen of Police Scotland verbally presented a Performance Update to the committee, which was a general overview ahead of a more detailed report to the committee in September.

She told members that over the last year officers have continued to see further decreases in crime to some of the lowest levels recorded, and said that was down in part to the strong partnership working between public agencies and communities in the north east.

Supt Stephen also gave a progress update on the development of Police Scotland offices at the council’s Buchan House offices in Peterhead.

Police Scotland is co-locating with the council and the committee heard that planning permission was granted in April and the work is on target for completion early in the New Year.

Cllr Stirling thanked Supt Stephen for her presentation and praised the hard work of officers at all levels across the local area.

Live Life Aberdeenshire Performance report

The committee received a report on the performance of Live Life Aberdeenshire, the recently launched vehicle for delivering sports and culture services across the area.

The new service delivery method was introduced in January, so only limited performance figures are available for that period of operation, but they do appear positive, councillors heard.

Participation rates for all services for 2018/19 are over 4.25 million, a small increase on the previous year, despite a national trend of declining library usage.

Councillors considered and agreed the performance report, which contains much more detailed information and can be seen on Aberdeenshire Council’s website.

Annual review of Culture and Sport and Physical Activity Strategies

The committee considered and discussed initial annual reviews of the Council's Culture and Sport and Physical Activity Strategies.

Councillor Anne Allan (Peterhead North and Rattray) praised the amount of activity happening across the area, as laid out in the report. Cllr Stirling agreed, saying: “The breadth of activity has been remarkable. It really has been an exceptional year.”

She praised the hard work and dedication of staff, with the museums teams in particular making extra efforts to engage local communities and the cultural services team performing highly.

Customers have fed back that they felt happier and healthier after participating in activities, programmes and events over the course of the year.

You can see the initial annual reviews in the report to committee on Aberdeenshire Council’s website.

Consultation responses

With minor changes, the committee agreed formal responses from Aberdeenshire Council to a Consultation on Energy Efficient Scotland and to a Consultation on the Proposed New Build Homes (Buyer Protection) (Scotland) Bill.

To see these consultation responses and all other reports to committee, please see Aberdeenshire Council’s website.

** The meeting of the Communities Committee at Woodhill House was webcast live and you can view a recording of the proceedings and see the full detail of discussions online