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Keep up to date with the latest news and stories from across Dumfries & Galloway.

 

DGCOUNCIL ANTI-POVERTY STRATEGY

At the meeting of Dumfries and Galloway Full Council on 17th December Members will hear a report on the work carried out so far following the implementation of The Council’s Anti-Poverty Strategy in June 2015. The Strategy, entitled ‘On the Up’ aims to tackle the often hidden problem of poverty and inequality across the region.

In order to inform the Strategy, the Crichton Institute were commissioned by the Council to undertake a study into the nature and patterns of poverty and deprivation across Dumfries and Galloway. The results were stark, including highlighting the fact the region was the lowest paid in Scotland.

In this first six months since the Strategy and Action Plan were agreed, Members will hear that progress is considered to be good with a wide range of work and activity developing.

Much activity has already taken place around the promotion of the Living Wage. Through our research it became apparent that paying the Living Wage was the single most important contribution to tackling poverty across the region because Dumfries and Galloway is the lowest paid region in Scotland. With this in mind The Leader of the Council wrote to around 2,000 businesses across the region encouraging Living Wage payment which has resulted in many businesses now committed to achieving Living Wage Accreditation.

A three year Employability Partnership Action Plan has been agreed which is backed by European and other funding. A key element of this plan is Employability Co-ordination Groups which are now being delivered across all secondary schools in the region to help identify young people who are likely to leave school without a positive destination.  This work also includes the development of alternative pathways, such as Foundation Apprenticeships.

The creation of family centres in Dumfries, Hecklegirth, Kelloholm, Stranraer and Sanquhar, which will bring together a range of services under one roof, is well under way, with engagement with families and communities scheduled for early 2016.

Funding has been committed over the next three years to promote and develop Credit Unions in the region. It is anticipated that the Credit Union’s capacity and resilience will increase over the next three years, along with an increase in membership and products. This will enable the movement to operate without the need for additional development support at the end of this period.

The Council’s Social Work Services Committee has agreed to support the roll out of the Living Wage to Care at Home providers and pledged to lobby the Scottish Government to secure funding. There is growing urgency to ensure that care providers are able to comply with requirements to pay the new National Living Wage from April 2016 to stabilise current capacity within the sector.

Additional work undertaken included tackling stigmatising language and behaviour against people experiencing poverty. The Council has signed up to The Poverty Alliance’s “Stick Your Labels” campaign and will hold training sessions early next year to raise awareness of this issue. Poverty awareness training has also been provided in schools to enable teachers to recognise the signs of children experiencing deprivation.

Members at the Full Council meeting will be asked to approve funding in order to reduce the costs of the school day for families on low incomes. This work includes a proposal to remove the costs from home economics and technical subjects. Also proposed is Poverty and Financial Awareness training in schools which will be rolled out to cover the wider community. There have already been 419 sessions delivered in the last financial year, 95% of which have been in Primary Schools.

Dumfries and Galloway Council Leader, Councillor Ronnie Nicholson said: “Poverty affects so much of what we are trying to achieve as a council – providing the best start in life for our children, protecting our most vulnerable and building our local economy to provide jobs for our young people.

That’s why we are tackling the problem head on with our Anti-Poverty Strategy. The strategy sets out what we will do to improve the lives of people in our region experiencing poverty in all its forms. I am pleased with the progress and the work which has been carried out this far, but in these challenging financial times we realise that there is still a lot of work to be done to fulfil our commitment to make a difference to the lives of people in our region.”

COUNCILLORS WARNED TO PREPARE FOR CUTS OF OVER £20M DURING 2016/17

At the meeting of Dumfries and Galloway Council next week (Thursday 17 December), Councillors will be provided with an update on the Council’s Financial Strategy, with a stark warning to prepare to make savings of over £20 m during the forthcoming financial year.

The Scottish Government will be announcing details of its budget for financial year 2016/17 and also provide details of the grant settlement for individual councils on 16 December. 

Indications are that the level of funding being made available to councils will be significantly reduced, beyond the level that was predicted.  This will require a significant level of further savings to be identified.

At the meeting of Dumfries and Galloway Council, Councillors will be provided with details of the financial settlement for our council and the exact level of savings our council will have to achieve during 2016/17. However, current estimates in the report suggest the savings target could range from a 4% cut in the council’s grant form the Scottish Government which would require £19.723m of savings to a 6% reduction, which would require £22.655m of savings.

While operational efficiencies and savings are being maximised by the departments, it is readily apparent that the savings levels required cannot be achieved without reductions in services.  Budgets will have to be reviewed and support will be provided to Councillors as they consider which areas of activity could be reduced in a manner which minimises the impact on the achievement of the Council’s Priorities.

Following extensive consultation on our budget last year, this Council set a three year budget.  This included our policy intentions for the next three years which were aligned to our Council Priorities. 

Council Leader, Ronnie Nicholson, said “Whilst the exact extent of the funding reductions won’t be confirmed until the details of the settlement have been issued by the Scottish Government, we know that councils will have to find significant further savings beyond the levels that any council in Scotland ever imagined. It is clear that this will be the single biggest cut in council funding in a generation.

This will be exceptionally challenging for our council.  We have already identified £40 million of savings over the past four years so the numbers of options are running out.  The debate is now no longer about how you trim services and make them efficient. It is now about what services you simply have to stop providing. There is now doubt that difficult decisions lie ahead.  I know that local people understand that the cuts our Council faces are not of our making and, as we take those tough budget decisions, it means that we won’t be able to provide some of our Council’s existing services. But when we do make those decisions we will remain focused on as far as possible protecting the most vulnerable in our communities”

Revamp for Gretna's Central Avenue

At Planning, Environment and Infrastructure Committee in November 2014, Dumfries and Galloway Councillors agreed £1.1 million to fund a project to transform Central Avenue in Gretna.  A contractor has now been appointed so that work can commence on this project from January 2016, with a completion date expected towards the end of the year.

The Gretna Masterplan, which was adopted following extensive consultation in 2008, identified the need to define the area around Central Avenue and Kirtle Place as the town centre. This view was echoed by the Gretna Regeneration Steering Group which is made up of representatives of Gretna Green and Springfield Community Council and Gretna and Rigg Community Council plus local business representatives and local Councillors.

Central Avenue is recognised as the commercial heart of Gretna and a major destination for weddings and partnership ceremonies. This is an exciting scheme which will make the centre of Gretna more attractive and pleasant for businesses, residents, and visitors alike. The original design of Gretna was influenced by the principles of the Garden City movement early last century and this scheme seeks to capture the spirit of this by including tree planting and landscaping which will include hedge planting, grass and the enhancement of community spaces.

Following an extensive procurement process Dumfries and Galloway Council have now appointed P1 Solutions Ltd as the main contractor and the project will be managed by Ironside Farrer Ltd.

A meeting is currently being arranged for early January for the nearby businesses and residents to come and view the plans, programme of work and discuss the project with the Contractor, Project Manager and the Council.  

Councillor Craig Peacock, Vice Chair of the Economy, Environment and Infrastructure Committee said: "The vision for this project is to revitalise this central space to give it a 'garden village' feel. Quality materials will be used throughout creating a much more pleasant area. I am delighted this ambitious regeneration project has been given the go ahead, when complete, it will physically link several green spaces and be a far more attractive place for locals and visitors to spend time. I also believe that through this investment in the infrastructure the local economy will prosper and businesses in the vicinity will benefit through increased footfall as a result of the revitalisation."

“This project has taken a long time to come to fruition and I understand that some people will be inconvenienced while the work is taking place, but I think the end product of a revitalised, clean and pleasant High Street and surrounding area for people to enjoy will be worth it. Gretna needs investment and I am pleased the council has worked with us to get this project underway”

Council System Shortlisted for Digital Public Services Award

Dumfries and Galloway Council has been shortlisted for the Digital Public Services Award from the prestigious Holyrood Magazine Scottish Public Services Award 2015, which are supported by the Scottish Government and Scottish Parliament. They recognise the rich and unique diversity of public life in Scotland and the vital relationships which cut across departmental, geographic and institutional boundaries.

These awards offer the opportunity to celebrate outstanding achievements and give recognition to the work which often goes on behind the scenes to support the governance of Scotland. The award recognises the use of technology to deliver improvements in services to the public. This may include the effective use of technology: to improve service provision; to make public services more accessible; or to increase the operational efficiency or effectiveness of a public body.

Dumfries and Galloway Council has been shortlisted for this award for the development of its Persons at Risk Database (PARD), a ground-breaking project which, during emergencies, enables responders identify the location of vulnerable people through data provided by Social Work Services and the NHS.

Previous major events in Dumfries and Galloway highlighted that emergency responders weren’t able to quickly identify vulnerable people who might need assistance, particularly out with normal office hours.

This project involved partnership working with Dumfries and Galloway Emergency Planning Team, Dumfries and Galloway NHS and Police Scotland to deliver a system which would allow the most vulnerable people in Dumfries and Galloway to be easily identified geographically in the event of an emergency. PARD uses geographic information system (GIS) mapping and national address gazetteers to select and display database information.

The need to incorporate information from Social Work Services and NHS Dumfries and Galloway was recognised at an early stage of development and having a combined portal adds significant value. As a result, this innovative system is the first in the country to achieve this level of data inclusion. Obviously, this level of data sharing presented a number of challenges, particularly an assurance to the NHS on how sensitive data would be managed and used. The system doesn’t hold live data and is designed so that source data can only be accessed on demand and only from within identified PARD search criteria.

PARD, which has also previously won a national ‘Emergency Planning Initiative of the Year Award’ from The Emergency Planning Society, is an effective, simple and intuitive system, which saves valuable time and enables responders to target assistance and scarce resources to those most in need of them.

The Scottish Government Resilience Division has recognised the system as being best practice and is currently looking at options to develop it at national level.

Council Leader Ronnie Nicholson said, “PARD is a ground-breaking project, which enables responders to identify tahe location of vulnerable people quickly and efficiently. Protecting our most vulnerable people is a Council priority and I’m delighted that, once again, we have been recognised for this excellent project which does just that. This excellent system pinpoints the location of vulnerable people during emergencies, saving valuable time in identifying priorities and deploying resources to where they are needed most and I would once again like to congratulate and thank everyone who was involved in developing this outstanding idea.

Headway D&G Announce First Patron

Headway (Dumfries & Galloway) Association Ltd is delighted to announce that triple Le Mans 24 Hour race winner, 2013 FIA World Endurance Champion, ex-Formula One driver and Dumfries born Allan McNish, has agreed to become their first ever Patron.

Headway in Dumfries & Galloway is the only specialist service available to people living with an Acquired/Traumatic Brain Injury (ABI/TBI) across the entire region.

With our local Headway based in such a rural area of Scotland, we are only too aware of specific issues such as Road Safety on rural roads, a very large remote farming community and a host of outdoor pursuit activities including mountain-biking, hill climbing and horse riding. Unfortunately, ABI and TBI do occur in these activities as well as on our roads so with this in mind, we are planning an Awareness-raising and Prevention and Safety campaign for 2016 here in Dumfries & Galloway. This campaign will cover every aspect of our rural area and our events will focus on Prevention and Safety across all age groups in our community.

Allan McNish said “I am proud to be a Patron of Headway (Dumfries and Galloway). I know personally the traumas of head injuries, and often the impact it has on the related families and Headway provides a much needed service to the local community in education, support and rehabilitation for those involved, with over 650 families having been supported by their Outreach service during difficult times.”

Rosemary McCrae, Deputy Manager at Headway said “we are all absolutely delighted that Allan has agreed to be our Patron for Headway here in D & G. As well as being born and bred in Dumfries, throughout his racing career, safety has always been and indeed continues to be, a key priority for Allan. Our Prevention and Safety campaign planned for 2016 will hopefully be greatly enhanced through Allan’s role as our official Patron across Dumfries & Galloway”