Tuesday, 20 March 2018

In Touch - What Have I been Doing

Hello, here is an update on what I have been doing this past week. One thing about this role is, you never get bored! Variety is definitely the word for it. From a Monday morning walkabout to discussing transport and education issues at the Area Committee to assisting a resident with a potentially dangerous land issue, there has been a lot to do. It isn't just the doing either, it is the follow-up. Listening and talking with a resident is the first stage, the next is sending the email or making the telephone call (although email is my preferred route as that way a trail can be kept) but the one that often takes the longer part of what I do is the subsequent emails and back and forth between Council officer and resident. Whilst I endeavour to have each case shut within 7 days that is just not always possible due to often having to contact more than one officer and department, some matters also require a Council officer to then go and source further information. Others require me to consider and liaise with colleagues before moving a matter forward. So here is what I have been up to this past week or so. 

Single-Use Plastics
To rewind a little to a motion that myself and Cllr Darren Watt brought to full Council on Thursday 8th March on the phased transition away from single-use plastics at two Fife Council buildings, which I wrote about here - http://www.kathleenleslie.co.uk/2018/03/single-use-plastics-we-would-like-fife.html
We were extremely disappointed that the SNP-Labour Administration chose to play petty party politics on an issue that is so important to everyone. I do not need to go into detail here on the catastrophic damage single-use plastics do to our natural environment as I already spoken of that in the previous post (all in the above link) but I would like to think that despite their refusal to support this motion at Council it appears that at the Committee level last week the Administration has reported that it will be adding this to its zero waste strategy. At this point we will await and see what comes of that. I will also continue to encourage councillor colleagues to not use single-use items in the restaurants - you don't need a plastic knife to butter your toast! You don't need a silly wee plastic cup at the water foundation - bring a reusable bottle! 
I would also like to thank the Fife Free Press who gave us considerable coverage on this. Exactly one week after the motion was defeated I attended Kinghorn Community Council who have a working plastics sub-committee and are looking at strategies for the town's restaurants to move away from single-use plastics. I am pleased to announce that when I asked if I could attend their next sub-committee meeting this was met with agreement. An update following that meeting will be provided. Moving away from using single-use plastics is everyone's responsibility. A single-use water bottle is reckoned to take over 450 years to degrade and even then the micro plastic fibres will remain in the oceans. The damage to seabirds and marine animals is heartbreaking and we all have a role to play in ending this. Our oceans should not be a rubbish bin for plastic bottles, lighters, plastic bags, pens, cotton buds, toothbrushes, plastic razors, and the rest...

 Follow-up article

Around The Ward
Now the snow has gone (I better not speak too soon) the questions are being asked. I have had a number of both community groups and individual residents raise concerns about impact on local communities due to road closures and lack of grit bins. There is currently a Council working group looking at grit bins across the local authority - too many streets had either no grit bin or an empty grit bin. Whilst community resilience teams were in place and ready, communication with centralised services in Glenrothes was not always so straightforward. I have been documenting feedback on this and some of my colleagues are also doing this - once we have a clearer Fife-wide picture, thought can be given to how exactly to take this forward. Therefore, I am encouraging anyone adversely affected by the severe Winter weather to get in touch - whether it be concerns about elderly neighbours, access to roads (or lack of access), grit bins, salted roads or anything else, let me know. 
Last week I attended the Burntisland Castle NDP to hear about updated issues; car parking spaces, anti-social behaviour and roads affected by snow came up. A possible police campaign called "You're Asking For It" was presented by the community police officers. This was run successfully in Lanarkshire and led to a reduction in proxy purchasing - it is against the law to be proxy purchasing for anyone under-age, fines can and are issued. Additionally, I was pleased to get an update on the work of the Youth Action Group who are organising a music event during Civic Week in the town. Engaging young people in their community is so important, I cannot emphasise this enough. If young people feel they have buy in and stake in their community the chances of anti-social behaviour are reduced and people work together across the generations. 
A number of residents have contacted me with questions and enquiries and as always I have been following these up. Do get in touch if there is anything you would like to discuss. I do not have another councillor surgery this month but am very happy to meet up at a time of your suiting if there is anything you would like to discuss. If you are unsure if it is myself or an MSP (or an MP) you need to speak to then I can direct you as appropriate. 

Saturday - Kinghorn RNLI 
Saturday was a busy day and one during which many cups of coffee were drunk and far too many sweets, pancakes, biscuits and other delights were sampled! The morning began at Kinghorn's RNLI coffee morning. I cannot stress enough how vital the RNLI is to our shores. We are an island nation and simply put; the RNLI saves lives at sea. The RNLI is a charity and is run by volunteers, they operate 24 hours a day, 365 days a year and cover the coasts of the United Kingdom and Ireland. Kinghorn has an RNLI station and Saturday's coffee morning raised around £800 in donations. Each year Kinghorn RNLI do a coastal walk to raise funds, this year I am hoping to participate in this. Rather than me attempting to cover here all the amazing work they do here is a link to the website - https://rnli.org

Saturday - Kirkcaldy Food & Drink Fair
From the coffee morning we headed along to Fife College to visit the Kirkcaldy Food & Drink Fair organised by Kirkcaldy 4 All. There was a wonderful selection of local and national independent traders, from gin tasting, to cheeses to preserves and meats to whisky, gin and coffee along with sushi, vegetarian & vegan options to a cooking demonstration - something for everyone! I was absolutely impressed, enthused and delighted to taste so many delicious foods in one afternoon - although I am not so sure my wallet was, given the amount of things I just had to have...
I also listened to concerns by some stallholders about location of the monthly farmers market (away from the High Street which is quite unusual for a Saturday market), for those who have a restaurant on the High Street fines being issued to delivery drivers, parking charges and business rates all being noted as concerns. If we are serious about regenerating the High Street we must be more creative and I was slightly concerned to hear at today's Area Committee about a consideration of moving away from retail to leisure and tourism. I am unconvinced such activities will be able to sustain it and parking charges will be a barrier to many when they can go elsewhere to out of town retail parks and not pay for parking.

Growing Kirkcaldy - fantastic group and I look forward to learning more about their work

Burntisland Central Tenants and Residents Association
Monday was a chilly morning so wrapped up warm I headed along to the newly formed Burntisland Central TRA or CBI as it is known. There was a great turnout of local residents who were all very enthusiastic and keen to point out local issues that need to be addressed - dog fouling, vandalism, bin location, parking, seagulls and anti-social behaviour. Council representatives from Housing and the Kirkcaldy Area were also in attendance. We spent just under two hours walking around the area where residents were able to provide lots of local information. I very much look forward to working with this group. I have seen the great work of other TRAs such as Invertiel so know that much can be achieved with a community working together. 

Fife Federation of Tenants & Residents Associations
Today started meeting representatives of other TRAs around Fife at the AGM where the Chair outlined current social housing projects around the local authority and residents raised concerns and asked questions. I was struck by a question from one man in regards to the building of more housing and the need for a new GP surgery where he lived. He quoted a three week wait time to see his GP. Sadly, this is a common theme across much of Fife and Scotland. One of the reasons why the Scottish Conservatives launched the Save Our Surgeries campaign led by Shadow Health Secretary, Miles Briggs MSP. Since 2008 it is estimated 3,000 doctors have left Scotland to work elsewhere and Scotland will soon have a shortfall of 850 GPs - this is deeply concerning. Unfortunately as in education, this past decade the SNP Government has not invested and planned sufficiently and the result being the long waiting times we now see. Education and the NHS should be the priority of any government but Scotland has been stuck in a decade long obsession by the SNP Government in pushing for independence, which continues despite failing in the 2014 referendum. 

Kirkcaldy Area Committee
This afternoon the Kirkcaldy Area Committee met and us councillors had much on the agenda to debate and discuss. The link to the papers can be found here - https://www.fifedirect.org.uk/publications/index.cfm?fuseaction=publication.pop&pubid=3EF42AB5-BBF4-FA04-5084CEDBD6DCCF5D
I asked questions on a variety of agenda items including the proposed sale of a piece of Common Good Land (councillors requested further information before agreeing to the report recommendations), the use of Kirkcaldy Leisure Centre for roller hockey which has damaged the floor (again councillors requested further information before moving forward with a funding request) and the Kirkcaldy schools Attainment and Achievement report was also presented. I asked questions in regards to reducing the number of national qualifications being taken in S4 (there is an argument for reducing breadth to create depth but I would counter that with the need for wider experience and experiential learning - this goes back to my thoughts last week on the focus on reaching pre-conditioned outcomes - see link - http://www.kathleenleslie.co.uk/2018/03/next-steps-for-curriculum-for-excellence.html ) to school exclusion rates and what was being done to monitor and address these and also if there were any particular patterns behind these. 
I also asked for further information on what "positive destinations" are cited for pupils who have additional support needs (ASN). Two headteachers, an Education Officer and a Development Officer were on hand to answer our questions - of which there were many from around the table, all relevant and thoughtful. Kirkcaldy schools are all working hard to raise attainment, continue to work on literacy and numeracy, utilise PEF money and ultimately develop youngsters who, upon leaving school, enter a positive destination. Possibly one of my further questions is the tracking of these "positive destinations" and more detail on what these are and what sort of longevity does that actually mean. 
Councillors were encouraged to visit schools in their ward and across the Area - I have already been doing this and consider it to be a very important part of my remit as a councillor. Education is key (as I have stated many times before) and schools within Kirkcaldy have a group elected representatives who are all clearly very interested in progress and what they are doing - this is a very definite positive. 

I hope you have enjoyed reading this post, please do get in touch if you would like to discuss anything mentioned here or any matter that is of concern.


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