Partnership working 101

Joint press statement on the 101/102 bus service – there is also a letter going to the political leaders of the other four councils (City of Edinburgh, Midlothian, Scottish Borders Council and South Lanarkshire,) as well as the Chair of SPT (Strathclyde Partnership for Transport) and the Chief Executive of SOSE (South of Scotland Enterprise).:

“Speaking about the possible cessation of the 101/102 service from Dumfries to Edinburgh, Co-Leaders of Dumfries and Galloway Council, Cllr Stephen Thomson and Cllr Linda Dorward issued the following statement:

“We understand that there are concerns about the future of the current 101/102 service from Dumfries to Edinburgh. We share these concerns but want to reassure local people that Dumfries and Galloway Council and SWestrans are proactively trying to find solutions.

“Currently, SWestrans, SPT and Scottish Borders Council fund the 101 / 102 service. Following a procurement exercise, the proposed 86% increase in costs to continue the service as per the current timetable from August 2022 are unacceptable and far outweigh the available funding. This means that the current service would end on 14 August when the contract ends.

“We are committed to doing all we can to find a solution so that this doesn’t happen.

“We recognise how important it is for our local communities and for our economy to have this service running from our region to the national capital. That is why SWestrans remains fully committed to providing the current funding of some £105k each year for this service.

“We want a collective solution between all the partners to be found. We are pleased that SPT has brought all the current funding partners and some new local authorities (Midlothian and the City of Edinburgh) together to discuss this important transport route and what we can do in partnership to address this situation. A further meeting will be taking place on Friday.

“Ahead of that meeting, we will be writing to all the organisations who are attending on Friday to ask them to look at their current funding arrangements and whether new sources of funding can be identified.

“We have a shared responsibility to provide services to local people that they can depend upon. We will work with our partners to try and find a solution so that we may continue to provide the 101/102 service.”

Lovely Weather for Wind Farms

Situation upate from Dumfries and Galloway Council’s Resilience and Community Safety team

WHAT?

  • Starting tomorrow at 0400 D&G will be covered by a YELLOW warning for high wind in coming days 0400 – 1500 Saturday and again between 1800 Sunday to 1200 Monday. The latest warnings can be seen on the Met Office warnings page – UK weather warnings – Met Office 
  • Gusting windspeeds are forecast to be highest around lunch tomorrow and then again overnight 2100 Sunday to 0300 Monday.

SO WHAT?

  • The Council’s Resilience Team has been carefully monitoring current weather forecasts. At 16.00 the Team hosted a Situational Awareness meeting with LRP partners including SPEN, the WoS RRP, SFRS, SAS, NHS and Police Scotland.
  • All partners have shared duty officer numbers and will remain in close contact over the weekend.
  • SPEN have mobilised local resources and put additional staff on standby should any high winds locally result in damage to their distribution system and result in localised power outages. In their graduated response plan, they have moved to “Level 3 – Warning of possible emergency, our state of readiness will be increased across the company”. In practise this means SPEN have 32 operational staff ready to respond across D&G. We noted the forecast wind direction is mainly from the west and north west, more normal for D&G and unlike Storm Arwen.
  • P&O and Stena may cancel sailing but should have parking capacity on site, which should avoid OP STACK being activated.
  • Depending on local impacts there may be disruption to school transport on Monday morning.
  • We will monitor the care for people and welfare issue closely.

WHAT NEXT?

  • The LRP has provisionally earmarked further meeting for 1500 Saturday and 1900 Sunday, but we will be flexible and cancel these if not required or add others as impacts dictate.
  • DGC and partners will issue appropriate warning and informing messages via social media. DGVOST will not be activated unless impacts dictate added value.
  • The Resilience Team will continue to provide updates as and when required.

Below are a few useful links, particularly SPEN’s power cuts map. In addition, see “Ready Scotland” advice on Storms and winds with further useful links

Power Cuts mapStenaScotrail
Traffic Scotland live incidentsP&OWest Coast Mainline
Emergency School closures  
Ready Scotland

During a storm, buildings can be damaged; falling trees and loose debris can cause a danger to passers-by, and damage or blocking of key routes can impact travel. If you live by the coast, storms may cause flooding. In thunderstorms, lightning is also a risk. Lightning strikes the ground in Britain about 300,000 times a year. For climbers, fishermen, walkers, golfers, and other at-risk people, it’s important to consider how to minimise the danger. When a storm or thunderstorm is forecast, follow the Ready Scotland advice below. Before a Storm Secure loose objects such as ladders, garden furniture or anything else that could be blown into windows or cause danger: Check the weather forecast, and keep up-to-date with the latest weather warnings. Check on vulnerable neighbours or relatives and help them prepare; Park vehicles in a garage, if available; If chimney stacks are tall and in poor condition, move beds away from areas directly below them. During a Storm Keep up-to-date with the latest weather warnings, flood advice and road conditions, and follow any travel advice from Police Scotland; Take care driving on exposed routes such as bridges, coastal routes or high open roads. Delay your journey or find alternative routes if necessary; Don’t go outside to repair damage while the storm is in progress; If you lose power, call 105 – it’s free of charge and will put you through to your local network operator who can help and advise you; If possible, enter and leave your house through doors on the sheltered side of the building, closing them behind you. After a Storm Be careful not to touch any electrical/telephone cables that have been blown down or are still hanging. Call 105 to report damage to electricity power lines and substations that could put someone in danger. If there’s a serious immediate risk, phone the emergency services; Make sure that vulnerable neighbours or relatives are safe and help them make arrangements for any repairs.

Borderlands – latest Places briefing

Here is an embedded Microsoft PowerPoint presentation shown to Dumfries and Galloway Council members today, and a list of the towns in scope:

Towns in scope

  • Kirkconnel​
  • Whithorn​
  • Stranraer​
  • Wigtown​
  • Eastriggs​
  • Castle Douglas​
  • Gretna​
  • Lockerbie​
  • Sanquhar​
  • Annan​
  • Dalbeattie​
  • Thornhill​
  • Newton Stewart​
  • Lochmaben​
  • Moffat​
  • Kirkcudbright​
  • Dumfries​
  • Langholm

Bin, from Old Celtic benna, and akin to Welsh benn “a cart,”

Bin, from Old Celtic benna, and akin to Welsh benn “a cart,”

From 17th May 2021, households in Annandale & Eskdale will start receiving delivery of bins as part of the roll out of the long (very long) awaited roll-out of the kerbside recycling service which is planned to start in earnest in the area on 31st May.

The rest of the region will all be up and running by then; Wigtownshire has very much had the “poll-tax”treatment in terms of the testing, over-complication, and sometimes painful experience of kerbside recycling before anywhere else. Things have been simplified since then so, COVID permitting we will all be able to recycle like the rest of Scotland.

Here’s some key information from the PDF

The majority of residents will be provided with two 240ltr recycling wheelie bins:

• Blue-lidded bin for paper, card and cardboard.
• Red-lidded bin for plastics, metals and cartons.

Non-recyclable waste will now only be collected every fortnight – this waste type should be signifi cantly reduced if residents make full use of the new recycling service.

Residents will also be able to recycle glass bottles and jars at Recycling Points and Household Waste Recycling
Centres – when the new service is fully rolled out there will be over 80 Recycling Points across the region.

The new collection service will operate over a four-week cycle, meaning residents will have either recyclable or nonrecyclable waste collected once a week. A typical collection cycle may look like this:

Week 1
Blue-lidded recycling bin

Week 2
Non-recyclable waste

Week 3
Red-lidded recycling bin

Week 4
Non-recyclable waste

Lockerbie and Lochmaben Common Good

Lockerbie and Lochmaben Common Good

Members were presented with a hefty list of what we now know are Common Good assets in Lochmaben and Lockerbie, and there could well be more. We also had a number of reports asking us to consider agreeing to sell or put some assets on the market.

We said no.

We were emphatic as a committee last night that we need more detail on each of the assets, and that those details will come back to us at a future meeting. We won’t make any recommendations for the sale, or not, of Common Good assets, even those that the Council may deem surplus to requirements, without first ensuring that the appropriate consultation has taken place and the public have been properly notified.

Only then can we make a recommendation that has proper regard for interests of the residents of the former Common Good Burgh.

The assets being suggested for sale weren’t even on Dumfries and Galloway Council’s Common Good Register, which legislation requires us to keep. Draw your own conclusions.

Hopefully that will reassure any premature concerns that may have arisen due to the way the reports and recommendations were worded in the published papers. We’ll be looking at the wording more carefully for future reports, as well as clarifying the process so that it can be more consistently applied.

I can only imagine what Common Good assets have been sold in the past and with what transparency, but thankfully with the recent Community Empowerment Act and Land Reform Act, as well as Community Asset Transfers becoming more common, we are getting a lot better a lot quicker as a Council in doing our research and making what we know public.

This was the list presented to the committee for Lochmaben and Lockerbie. I’ve previously shared this with both of the respective Community Councils but reports with proposals to sell some of the pieces of land ‘at pace’ sparked completely reasonable reactions from stakeholders and residents who weren’t aware of the Common Good status of the land, never mind being consulted about it.

Lockerbie and Lochmaben Common Good Sub Committee papers for December 16th 2020

Lochmaben:

Park, Tennis Club and Bowling Green Pavilion, Victory Park
Lochmaben Town Hall
Land – Former Paddling Pool, Mossvale, Nethermill Road
Kirk Loch Caravan Park (Katie Waugh’s Yard), Castlehillgate
Car Park, Princes Street/Castle Street
Public Toilets, Castle Street
Burgh Yard, Eastgate/Annandale Crescent
Public Open Space, Mill Road (oddly maintained by DGHP)
Land, The Barras (Church Crescent to McCalls Coaches)

Lockerbie:

King Edward VII Park, Matthews Loaning
Lockerbie Town Hall
McJerrow Park and Store, Victoria Gardens
Former Caravan Park, Glasgow Road
Golf Course, Lambhill
Land – Corrie Road (from top of Bridge St)
Car Park, McJerrow Park, Victoria Gardens
Car Park, adjacent Lockerbie Station
Land, Rosebank Crescent (Play area at Park Place)
Land rear of 54 to 60, Victoria Park

Lockerbie to Lochmaben Active Travel Cycle Path

Lockerbie to Lochmaben Active Travel Cycle Path

The opportunity is here again to build a strong case for creating a linking active travel route between Lochmaben and Lockerbie. The national body Sustrans has a new staged process that makes it easier for community-led groups to start out on the best path and almost minimise the often overly complex interrelationship between local authorities’ (Dumfries and Galloway Council’s) annual budgets and capital programme commitments, and any relationships with the STP (Strategic Transport Partnership) in this case SWestrans.

Fortunately there is interest from The Royal Burgh of Lochmaben, Royal Four Towns, and Lockerbie & District* Community Councils, as well as local cycling, walking and active travel enthusiasts, along with those within the catchment area keen to find safe active ways to get to Lockerbie Academy.

Here are some drawings produced by the Council from 2006 and then 2014 showing the proposed and alternative routes. There is also a dated document relating to bridging the river by Arla. (The Council recently sold a parcel of land to Arla that they had been renting up until recently which was on the former cyclepath. Any new route wouldn’t be able to follow the complete route of the old railway exactly as the drawings show.)

Hopefully these can be discussed at the upcoming meeting on 3rd December where the Council officer will be attending to help the project group make the most of the opportunities available.



Unequal Does Not Equal Unfair But Sometimes It Sucks

Unequal Does Not Equal Unfair But Sometimes It Sucks

Royal Mail has a Universal Service Obligation as it operates under OFCOM’s responsibility to ensure a “one price goes anywhere” service that delivers anywhere in the UK. Royal Mail’s challenge is to find a way to make this both sustainable and profitable, which is no easy task as more communication and document delivery gets done digitally.

This attempts to be both a fair and equal service delivered on behalf of the State, so it doesn’t matter where you live, you get the same service for the same price.

There is not the same requirement for a private business to meet this obligation. In fact, having worked with ecommerce websites since 2005, a variation table for delivery charges is a standard element of the online shopping basket, both for the customer and the retailer. A local food outlet may use a concentric zones model for delivery charging, such as collect at the shop for free, deliver for £x locally based on local postcodes, or streets, and £y outwith the local area, and maybe not deliver at all outwith a certain distance as it would be unviable. Great if you live near the takeaway in Lockerbie, or Dumfries, not so if you live in Newcastle or Aberdeen.

Your business may operate directly from a shop and have to find the most economical way to post your products to customers. Royal Mail, while the same price for anywhere in the UK, may not be the most economical option for your business depending on the size, shape, weight and volume of product orders you have to ship. So businesses have to make a decision on how best to reach their market.

It’s a matter of fact that unequal numbers of people are settled in different concentrations in geographically distant places. There are economies of scale locally, regionally and nationally and it costs more to send things across the sea or very long distances that take more time to travel. I would imagine that when Royal Mail set a price for their universal service they will have to balance the fewer but more expensive deliveries to more remote areas, against the voluminous but more profitable deliveries to the large centres of population.

This really isn’t news but it is a factor of living in a remote rural area, at least as far as private courier businesses are concerned; you don’t get the same level of service. TNT set it out fairly clearly on their website. I shop online regularly and it has always been this way. You have to pay a premium to get or guarantee a delivery to a more remote area if you buy from a business that uses a commercial courier. One of the reasons I shop online is that some shops only have outlets in cities which are far away (and perhaps more commercially viable) so it still works out cheaper for me, even with more costly delivery, than taking out time, travel, fuel or tickets, parking, child-care, a day off work, or whatever sacrifice would be required to buy the desired goods.

WooCommerce, a popular online shopping platform, lets businesses set their delivery zones by painstakingly provided lists of postcodes to easily separate what is UK Mainland, Northern Ireland, Scottish Highlands and Islands, which for most businesses in the UK, are more expensive locations to ship to. This feature is as old as ecommerce and online retailers have always had to set their free shipping, shipping zones, tiered shipping fees, and delivery options to best suit the commercial pressures of their business.

All the online retailers I’ve worked with have always factored this in and, if they are reputable, should make it clear on their checkout pages so customers can make an informed decision. Some services just simply won’t deliver to non-mainland UK, and that can sometimes include the Highlands as in the case of Parcelbright. It is a consumer choice, and it is fair that information is made clear. It does suck sometimes that the price can be greater in a rural area but unless you are Royal Mail, there are reasons for it. It may also suck to be considered “not UK mainland” when you live in parts of Scotland, but first port of call should be that retailer so they can account for their actions and inaccurate use of language when they really mean “locations that are hard and expensive for me to get my products to quickly and reliably”.

The Scottish Parliament Information Centre (SPICe) has recently reported the increase in online shopping and it’s no surprise that the trend has been rising, especially with high-street retail and shopper behaviour being impacted in 2020 by the COVID-19 pandemic response.

What is interesting is the presentation of data in the report. As the volume of online sales has increased year on year, that element of online sale delivery charge for rural remote areas has also increased, not in percentage but overall in line with the volume of sales to those remote areas. There is literally no real surprise in this. It’s just a totting up of the delivery charges customers knowingly have to pay for shipping items to remote rural or island locations. There is a useful graphic showing the breakdown of costs paid by Highlands and Islands and areas of Scotland.

This fact is so predictable it is almost by definition not a ‘postcode lottery’. It reflects a structural feature of population distribution, geography, and prevailing economies of scale in the UK. It could suggest opportunities for some businesses knowing there is a chunk of a £43 million internal Scottish market to play for, or it might be very difficult to crack the profit-barrier set by customer-sparseness, distance-from-source and water-crossing challenges. The rise in online shopping may include a delivery charge that others in populous parts may avoid, but may also still be less expensive than physically travelling to shop in Dumfries, Carlisle, Newcastle, Glasgow or Edinburgh. This might benefit families pockets at Christmas but is probably more likely to hurt local rural retailers. It would be useful to see more rounded data on this before shouting the odds about a perceived injustice.

Personally, it takes me hours of my time to travel to and from Dumfriesshire, and gallons of fuel for my car, to go to Ikea at Straiton, Edinburgh. It’s clearly unequal that my friend in Edinburgh can get there and back within an hour, but it’s not unfair. I just have to factor in time, distance, cost, and competing demands, differently to my friend. Normal. Part of living in a rural area is that there are often different costs and benefits. Normal.

Distinguishing between unequal and unfair is a good start in being able to articulate more complex challenges, hopefully in a way that helps make improvements possible.



Biggest waster or best recycler?

SEPA’s latest report for 2019 makes for instructive reading and Dumfries and Galloway is winning all the wrong prizes

In Dumfries and Galloway we produce on average 0.52 tonnes of waste per person, nearly the highest in the whole of Scotland (average is 0.44).

https://www.sepa.org.uk/…/waste…/household-waste-data/

We recycle on average 0.15 tonnes per person, nearly the lowest in the whole of Scotland (average is 0.20).

All round we win the prize for the highest Carbon Impact at 1.41 TCO2e per person (TCO2e = “Tonnes of Carbon Dioxide equivalent”.)

Scotland’s overall household waste recycling rate was 44.9%, an increase of 0.2 percentage points from 2018 and 5.4 percentage points up from the 39.5% achieved in 2011.

Dumfries and Galloway’s overall household recycling rate was 28.8%. We have a long way to go.

It’s imperative that Dumfries and Galloway Council gets the Waste Collection and Recycling Service sorted out after all these expensive and ineffective years.

As individuals and households we can take our own measures to reduce how much waste we produce, but this will only work as a whole system if and when our local authority finally delivers.

Dumfries & Galloway Council have previously celebrated bringing the region’s household waste recycling centres (HWRC’s) back in house, assisted by over £6m support from the Scottish Government to ease the costs of the former PFI contract, a Westminster government (red and blue) device that has accelerated inequality and loss throughout the public sector.

This bringing back in-house could pave the way for a successful, transparent and accountable service but only if we accept responsibility and get into line with legislation. We’re still not there yet, and it’s been a perennial shame for Dumfries and Galloway Council to sit so far behind the rest of Scotland with recycling, while millions of public pounds got wasted over the years.

Thankfully there should be no more hiding behind voluminous reports and “exempt” papers protecting private financial deals. It’s taken until this Council administration where the SNP have been able to lead, uncover, and hold to account, that some of the languishing legacy messes have started to get cleaned up.

Opening Village Halls and Community Centres

Councillor Stephen Thompson welcomed the latest Dumfries and Galloway Council crib sheet to help groups that manage and operate community centres or village halls understand how to restart and open safely.

There is no prescriptive advice from Scottish Government in the Phase 3 update of 23rd September 2020 and it is the responsibility of the hall operator to carry out a documented risk assessment based on local circumstances.

This is based on safety first, minimising risk of infection, and taking measure to protect participants, staff and volunteers. SportScotland have advice as well for opening gyms, activity halls, bowling halls, dance, yoga, and so on (and so forth).

Some key bullet points to consider:

• As compliance with the national guidelines is a condition of reopening, it’s recommended that hall owners / operators / groups to wait until the appropriate guidance is published by the Scottish Government.
• Not all halls will be opening right away – groups who do not own their meeting place should check with the hall owner / operator.
• Most insurers have stated that groups will not be covered unless they comply with the national guidance being issued.

The Council will try and support any groups or management committees so get in touch using the details below if you have any questions.

Wigtownshire:
CommunityAssets-Wigtown@dumgal.gov.uk

Stewartry:
CommunityAssets-Stewartry@dumgal.gov.uk

Nithsdale:
CommunityAssets-Nithsdale@dumgal.gov.uk

Annandale & Eskdale:
CommunityAssets-Annandale&Eskdale@dumgal.gov.uk

Or call 030 3333 3000 and ask to speak with your local Community Assets Officer