It’s been two years since the voters of Almond and Earn decided to elect me to be a councillor at Perth and Kinross Council. It certainly wasn’t my silver tongued skills of persuasion that got me there, as I couldn’t even persuade my own children to vote for me. To be honest, I’m not even sure how my wife voted. It is a secret ballot, y’know.
Anyway, what have I learned since 2017?
For a start, the council is massive. It employs over 4,000 people and has an annual turnover of over £400 million pounds. It’s complex and provides a wide range of services, some of which you may not even be aware of. These include cremations, kinship care, bin collections, Kids’ clubs, community engagement, care in the community, health care and that’s only some of the things that alliterate with K. Judging from my mailbox, the topics that generate the most interest among constituents are road safety, potholes and dog fouling and I think we are making progress on those three issues.
A lot of the complexity comes from the wide of groups of stakeholders who have an interest in the running of the council. Constituents, service users, Community Councils, employees, senior management, the Scottish Government, the Care Commission, Councillors all have to have a say. Like all large organisations, including private companies, the different groups of stakeholders operate like a coalition. There are, and should be, some conflicts between the stakeholder groups, but on the whole, the organisation operates reasonably well. Many of the decisions the council makes are constrained by laws made by the Scottish Parliament and the UK government. Most of the time, the council runs on precedent, that is, it depends on things running the way they have always run. That is not necessarily a bad thing as it allows services to be delivered day to day, but it can make things difficult to change when change is needed.
One of the greatest privileges of being a councillor, is meeting with the many super-citizens who volunteer so much of their time to organisations that create a sense of community. Where there is a sense of community, where people feel they belong all sorts of things go well: less vandalism; less litter; improved school results; reduced loneliness and better mental health amongst many other benefits.
In Abernethy, we are blessed to have:
Abernethy in Bloom;
Abernethy Keep Active Club;
Williamson Hall Committee;
Abernethy Community Cinema;
Abernethy Primary School Parent Council;
Abernethy Community Council;
Abernethy Tennis Club;
Abernethy Bowling Club;
Abernethy Walking Group;
Abernethy Burns Society;
Various book clubs;
Auld Abernethy Association;
Abernethy Horticultural Society;
The ladies who recently picked many bags of litter from roadside at both ends of the village;
And not forgetting the volunteers who run this fine journal – The Abernethy Crier.
Apologies, if I’ve missed out a group.
Across the whole ward of Almond and Earn there are similar organisations who make everybody’s life so much better.
Of course, Councillors do not have magic wands and I won’t make promises I can’t keep but it is a real pleasure when people come to you with a challenge and you’re able to make a difference and sort it for them, for example, housing. If there is something, you’d like me to help with then let me know and I’ll do my best. My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org
Spotlight on Road Safety. What matters to you matters to the Council and Councillors. The Council’s Traffic and Network team probably is one of the busiest departments of the council receiving numerous requests from Councillors, Community Councils and members of the public on all traffic and road safety issues. Everybody uses the road network. The team are also responsible for the promotion of initiatives which encourage healthier lifestyles through cycling and walking. These initiatives can assist in the reduction of traffic congestion and improve the local environment. Significant investment has been made to improve road safety in Perth & Kinross. Speed of traffic and bad driving are on the Agenda at most CC meetings. Additional funding has enabled the team to deliver many road safety schemes, progress has been made but there is an ever increasing number of requests for the implementation of additional road safety measures. It is a challenge for council officers to decide which community’s need is most important. Each community thinks their request should be top of the list. There is a backlog of 500 requests waiting to be added to the list, and each request requires design, consultation and funding.
How to manage this? I am Vice Convener of the Environment and Infrastructure Committee and at the meeting in March we agreed a criteria based system for prioritising incoming requests for road safety schemes. All requests will be listed in descending order of priority, with highest scoring requests being programmed into the work stream as resources allow, once assessed and scored against criteria.
What are the criteria? Assessment criteria are based on number of reported collisions, casualties, environment, school travel plan, sustainable transport, road alignment, cost and land availability. By the end of the year the prioritised list will be available online through myPKC. I hope this will make it easier to understand why any request for a VAS sign or similar request may have to wait. The public must realise that this is not a waiting list. If subsequent requests are received which are deemed a priority they will be placed higher on the list than existing requests which have been on the list for some time. I hope this gives a little insight into the challenges facing councillors.
The environment matters to everyone and we can all play a small part in looking after our own neighbourhood. Thank you to everyone who has been involved in a litter pick in April whether with a group or picking up litter when you are out for a walk. We all notice the difference. We just need to stop dropping litter or throwing from a car or van!!
Volunteers are the backbone of communities and in March Almond & Earn Partnership through Community Investment fund awarded funding to the following groups in Abernethy providing funding for the Williamson Hall to upgrade the gents’ toilet, the Pavilion to help with renovations and to Abernethy School Nursery for blinds. The Partnership will again have funding of £50k for the year. As yet we have not decided how best we can use the money to tackle any inequality within the whole ward. Almond & Earn Partnership really would like someone from Abernethy/Aberargie to join the partnership. I am happy to have a chat. An interest in community and equalities is essential.
Abernethy in Bloom spring planters have been enjoyed by visitors and residents and I look forward to the summer displays. I am sure they would welcome more helpers to help with watering and weeding.
By the time you read this summer will almost be upon us, I wish you all a good summer and hope all events planned; the Fete, School Sports, Gardens Open Day, etc. are successful.
Contact details kathleenbaird @pkc.gov.uk , 01738475086, mob 07584206839
Time has once again come round for the people of Abernethy to be kept up to date with what is happening in the Council and its impact on all that live in the area of Abernethy.
The biggest impact for all is the increase in Council Tax by 4% per year for the year plus the same 4% increases over the next two years. That is an increase of 12.7% compound.
Well you could say that this will protect the services that we expect from our council. After all its been well said that all the so-called easy cuts have been taken and any other cuts will have a far greater impact on local communities. However the administration budget did nothing to convince or comfort anyone that this is the scenario. The past budget came on the back of SNP budgets and some of the administration were very quick to point out that “the SNP set this up and we cannot change it”. That narrative is well past its sell by date.
You may say that I would say that anyway. Really? We are now “in the midst” of a review that will most likely make a reduction in School Crossing Patrol Officers. This service is not statutory, the administration being content that if new light-controlled crossings are installed, these areas will lose the School Crossing Patrol Officer, regardless of how busy or not the road happens to be.
The administration in Perth Council also succeeded in pushing through a motion that school meals production will be relocated outside Perthshire to Dundee with the cost of 50 jobs throughout rural Perthshire. If this plan goes ahead our school children are expected to eat meals prepared by staff employed at a Dundee based unit, then frozen transported to the schools to be defrosted and then reheated. No consultation before this decision. No proper costings into how this proposal will be cost effective. Crucially we have no resistance from the administration group in Perth Council to this scheme even though the impact on rural employment in PKC. Councillors should have at least requested council officers that recommended this motion to consider any idea of centralising the preparing of school meals to be kept within PKC boundary that would perhaps reduce the impact on employment within PKC.
Although the planning for the additional height of 4 turbines at the Binn Eco-Park was unsuccessful, l am sure the community hope that an acceptable solution is found to the supply of power the Eco-Park. An Eco -Park with such a carbon footprint as the Binn has, with the reliance on diesel powered generation, is very concerning. Binn Group are an important employer within the area and sustainability of operations is crucial to ensure employment levels in our area are retained or increased in the future.
I wish you all a guid summer with plenty of opportunities to get a great tan.