The SNP Councillor Group meeting on Monday was energised by the recent General Election results and there was some healthy discussion about the success for Dumfries and Galloway constituency, and significant progress made in Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale constituency. But Annandale North is in the only blue bit on the map of Scotland and that needs to be recognised for the time being.
The Chief Executive Service of the Council gave a presentation on Commissioning which is often misunderstood – what is meant is the long term strategic planning for services, in particular for the Council, and the delivery of outcomes for citizens. This has obvious relevance to joint commissioning with NHS under the new Integrated Joint Board (IJB) but should not be confused (as it often is) with ‘monitoring’ or ‘contract management’; commissioning is not ‘procurement’, it is the more strategic service planning to achieve outcomes. These outcomes are what make up the Single Outcome Agreement. The challenge for councillors is to hold officers to account on the commissions coming forward so that the focus is on outcomes rather than contract management and procurement.
I was finally able to organise a meeting in Lochmaben to get Taylor Wimpey (responsible for the Barony Gate Development), DGHP (responsible for the Glebe Crescent development linked by the ‘emergency path’) the Council’s Grounds Maintenance and the Lochmaben Tenants and Residents Association (TARA) round the table to discuss how best to address resident concerns and bins. One key fact to note is that the residents of the Barony Gate development all pay, as part of their contract, an annual Factor fee. The interesting points that emerged from the were that the Factors for Barony Gate will empty the bin sited inside the playpark but will charge the residents extra if it contains dog poo. There is a way for the residents to agree to change to another Factor who may be more sympathetic but in the meantime the plea is for the council to adopt the playpark so that residents don’t have to pay additional costs. The council can’t afford additional bin-emptying as the revenue or maintenance budget won’t accommodate it, but are prepared to re-site a bin should it be possible. This could mean that residents of both the Barony Gate development and the rest of the town, e.g. the nearby Glebe Crescent residents linked by the emergency path, and those who walk through there to use the playpark or visit Mill Loch, can put dog poo in a bin and not shunt the cost of collection onto the poor residents of Barony Gate. That would seem unfair. However there is currently an adoption process going on and until that becomes finalised we have to wait. It should be clear by the next TARA meeting in June and I’m hoping there will be some improvement to report.
Wednesday featured some Site Visits as part of Planning Applications Committee to Shawhead and Dalbeattie which allowed councillors to get a better understanding of the applications currently in session. These are meant to be respected without other attendees making representation or lobbying but there’s always a bit of comment or a weighted remark to politely acknowledge (or try to ignore.) Later in the day Lochmaben Parent Teacher Council met to discuss matters surrounding the primary school and there seemed to be consensus on action to improve road safety on the High Street at the crossing point (and there was a sniff of budget available for works to be carried out.) No timescale yet for the biomass boiler installation.
Beattock (Kirkpatrick Juxta) Community Council are looking at developing a Skate Park project driven by local school students which would be a great learning experience for all ages. There were updates to ongoing issues with the very questionable record keeping and Service Level Agreement monitoring by the Council around Beattock pavilion; the unfortunate vulnerability of Caravan residents, in this case at Craigielands, who are often caught in a legal limbo as a result of weak governance by, e.g. Planning Authorities, and bending of rules regarding non-permanent residence; Road surfacing needs in Cornal Court and Younger Place (which will be addressed in the short-term with a view to future resurfacing) and of course Beattock Station re-opening and the provision of a stopping service.
The council is currently undergoing the “New Director appointment process” for the new Communities Directorate so as part of the Employment and Appeals Sub Committee I can’t say much about that given the confidentiality requirements.
Royal Four Towns Community council was well-attended this week as well with more information to be made available on their Hightae website.