Friday, 10 November 2017

In Touch - What Has Been Happening This Week

This week has been particularly busy at both the Ward and the Council level and I still have one more meeting to go this evening.

The week started off on Sunday with me paying a visit to Kirkcaldy to check out a couple of things that I had alerted Council officers to some weeks ago. One was the repainting of double yellow lines on a residential street. This could seem fairly mundane but for residents who are affected by motorists parking along streets where they should not be this is important and of relevance. I am pleased to note that Fife Council did act and the lines have been repainted - please do contact me if you note any such issue on your street. Alternatively you can contact Fife Council directly to log the matter - just contact their call centre on - 03451 55 00 11 - this number can be used to report anything from Council housing repairs to faulty lampposts to damaged fences. Or you can give me a call if you fancy a chat! 

Do please contact either myself or the Council directly if you see any maintenance work you feel needs to be carried out

On Monday I held a councillor surgery in Abbotshall Church but was not inundated with residents which is making me consider that possibly this is not the best way to contact residents, I am hearing similar reports from other councillors. Therefore, the question will need to be considered - do I keep doing surgeries or instead provide the contact information on the usual noticeboards but not have fixed times and dates for them? I tend to find constituents contact me primarily through email and then telephone and of course, through meeting them at TRA meetings, Community Councils and other community groups. Remember - we work for you. My contact details are on this website so do get in touch if you have any concerns, questions, enquiries or suggestions. 
Tuesday was the Education & Children's Services Committee where the now long running proposed rezoning of pupils in parts of Dunfermline and West Fife was addressed for the final time this year. Due to being unanimously rejected by elected representatives for the second time (please see earlier links - and )

an amended timeline of engagement has been laid which should hopefully see all decisions made by August 2018 meaning that pupils affected will have a much longer period of time for adjustment and the Council has also committed to a resilience programme to be put in place, which I am in favour of. However, the issue of catchment and capacity is only part of it, Dunfermline needs new high schools - 2 within the town and Inverkeithing High also needs to be considered as part of any proposals on the school estate. Continued house building along with declining condition and suitability of these schools means moves have to now be made to consider the possibility of building new schools. Following committee I released a short press statement that said: 
"Whilst I fully believe this was the best decision at this stage we need to address the wider issue. A looming capacity crisis has been created due to continued house building around Dunfermline and no long term solution to the school estate. Two of the high schools in the proposal, Woodmill and Inverkeithing, need to be replaced. At this stage Fife Council must begin the process of locating funding for new schools. All pupils deserve to be taught in classrooms and schools fully equipped for the 21st century. Rezoning is a short term solution to a long term problem."
Both the above links tie into that discussion rather than starting it again here and repeating the same information. 

The ongoing matter of littering around Invertiel and school pupils using a shortcut around the viaduct has led to myself and representatives of Invertiel TRA being hopeful we can have further engagement with the school later in the month to try and develop a strategy that will include school and community and reach a resolution. As I wrote in my last post, an extension of the fence is unlikely due to costs and the feasibility of it actually working. Therefore, it is time to consider other solutions and as I very much believe in people working together within communities I believe we can reach a satisfactory conclusion. I shall update as and when more information becomes available. I am also going to be contacting Network Rail to try to establish land ownership around the site.  (You can find the previous Invertiel link here - )

Wednesday was a chilly day and I really felt it considering I spent a good part of the afternoon in a graveyard! Like so many small towns along Fife's coastline, Burntisland is one with a wealth of history which made me absolutely delighted to be invited along to a bulb planting at Kirkton Old Church. Pupils from the local primary school were planting bulbs at the gates of the Old Church and graveyard. Unbeknownst to me the site dates back to around the 11th century and is in the process of being carefully cleaned and gravestones restored, where possible. Floral Action Burntisland (FAB) had organised the bulb planting with the project being led by Burntisland Heritage Trust and supported by Fife Council. The first records mentioning a church in the town date from 1130 although there may have been a Christian site within the settlement before that and the site may have been dedicated to St Serf - a saint linked to many churches around Fife and Central Scotland. Rather than me attempting to write more about this from a fairly recent visit I would suggest that interested readers go to the following link which has a huge amount of fascinating information. One word to note - once the restoration work is finished the site will be open to visitors, do please ensure you were suitable footwear and leave the places as you arrive - no littering, no dog fouling. History is something to be treasured and preserved and this beautiful little graveyard and its long story are ones that we hope will encourage visitors to Burntisland. 

 Some of the ladies from Floral Action Burntisland           Me next to a headstone - possibly of some of my ancestors

Photographs are courtesy of Fiona Fisher (There are some other ones which may appear in next week's local paper)

Yesterday was a day of lengthy meetings. Its that time of year when the budget has to be set and for those of us who are Opposition councillors this means setting our "alternative" budget to the Administration. All of us within the group have been tasked with working in small teams to meet with Council Officers and discussing options that are on the table in regards to the local authority's expenditure for the year. I cannot really go into any details on this just now as none of it is public so it is suffice to say that it makes me (and I would imagine most elected representatives) pause for thought when we consider the impact proposed changes could have on others. It is certainly not a task I take lightly and given my own background in education I am well aware of the areas of concern when it comes to funding, once details are public then these conversations can be opened up. 

The day was rounded off with a meeting organised by Council Officers on PEF - that is Pupil Equity Funding for those unaccustomed to the term - it is an acronym you are likely to hear a lot more about over the coming months. Having sat through committee on Tuesday most of what was covered by officers I had already heard much but as with nearly everything, there is always more to learn. Whilst I have certain reservations about aspects of it and will be following closely how money is spent, I am remaining open minded as ultimately this is about closing the poverty related attainment gap. Youngsters only have one opportunity at education, it is fundamental that they receive every possible opportunity so that all, no matter their background, have the chance to realise their potential. To note schools will publish details on their website of PEF received and where it will be spent. I feel that this is such a vast topic it really needs a whole post dedicated to it, something I intend to do once I have gathered and analysed further information. 

That leads us to today, Friday. This morning I had a meeting at Fife House which ties in with a number of things written on this post but again I cannot talk about it at this point in the lead up to budget proposals. What I will say I did take from it is - not for the first time since being elected, I am realising that it is absolutely imperative as an elected representative I listen to the various opinions and concerns of a wide body of narrative and thought. Things are rarely as they first appear and rare is it to find a two dimensional issue. 

On a wider, national issue, the Scottish Conservatives are running a "Save Our Surgeries" campaign - in response to GP shortages, patient waiting times and not being able to get onto a patient list for a GP practice. I put a post on Facebook earlier this week and it has now had a reach of over 10,000 ! Clearly something people are concerned about - I would absolutely urge anyone with concerns to contact myself if you are in my Ward or one of our MSPs or your local Scottish Conservative councillor. Here is a link to a short post I wrote on it - 

Anyway, enough of my opining for today. Tomorrow is Armistice Day and then the following is Remembrance Sunday. Please remember to observe the 2 minute silence. All we have today in our democracy, freedom of expression and free speech - all that makes us what and who we are, is due to those who gave their all in the past. Lest We Forget. 

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