This week in Annandale 18/05/2015

Dry council business first (as a note to self): there is a Council property and maintenance seminar coming up for councillors which should outline a service-delivery-led approach rather than the inefficient building-led approach. People will know many examples of council buildings in their areas that don’t benefit from proactive maintenance budgets, and it is often a time-consuming and frustrating fight to get seemingly basic repairs carried out, which invariably ends up being a more costly strategy (if indeed that is a strategy.) The council property portfolio should soon be available online, so with recent mapping work carried out by graduates it will be possible to ensure easy checking of “property MOTs” with ready access to survey data, planned preventative maintenance budgets, and how these can be aligned with outcomes and delivery of services which is what matters most to most people.

Station Park
Discussions with Council officers went from being somewhat discouraging to fairly positive in the course of this week: it’s been an unreasonable slog for community councillors having to attend meetings for years around safeguarding the future of Moffat’s jewel-in-the-crown park and well-known victoriana-style boating pond. As it stands now after discussions with DG First and Community and Customer Services, the Station Park and also the Beechgrove Tennis projects will be led more effectively by council officers to support the community groups involved in making sure the right reports, applications, capital funding requests and supports are given, so that the council and external funders, as well as members of the public and ward councillors, are able to track progress easily. That’s the plan anyway, but it needs to move quickly so as not to miss any opportunities in the coming weeks and months. I’m expecting a publicly available paper to Annandale & Eskdale Area Committee to outline what work council officers are doing that brings together all the previous survey work and visions carried out by officers and members of the community.

Tuesday included sitting on the Day Opportunities Fund in Annan which awards funds through the Putting You First initiative for new projects aiming to help reduce isolation. Constituted community groups can apply for up to £1200 but check the website for details.

Lockerbie Community Council that evening featured an initial engagement from SPEN who are planning some improvements to the power lines. Unfortunately this will mean scheduled power outages, but this has now been flagged up with the Council’s Social Work department so that known vulnerable people and commissioned services working in Lockerbie can be warned in good time to minimise any potential disruption and distress. There is also an information event being planned for the Town Hall so that more information on each area of town is made publicly available, although the High Street itself shouldn’t be affected.

Wednesday’s Annandale & Eskdale Area Committee focused on a petition from Johnstone Community Council about the B7076 running through Johnstonebridge. Councillors worked together to push for another review of the speed limit at the village, to bring it down to a 40mph limit, to improve road safety especially in light of recent accidents, including a tragic fatality. DGFirst are due to carry out a series of works to update the signage around the stretch of road which is currently confusing at best and also make changes to the road markings and siting of the bus-stop. The speed limit review will go the Economy, Environment and Infrastructure Committee. This is an issue that won’t go away until the community feels safe and it’s clear that Johnstonebridge doesn’t fit neatly into the Roads Guidance so a solution that recognises the concerns of the community needs to be found. There were also some grants awarded at the Area Committee to Lockerbie Gala for £1500 and the Old School project for £5320.

Following the main committee there was a session for councillors providing more information on School data on the Parentzone (Education Scotland) website. This gives a wide range of information including “positive destinations” for students including: higher education, further education, training, voluntary work, and employment.

Update on the Proudfoot
This continues to progress but armed with an extensive survey of the building, the Management Committee now have a clearer picture of the extent of ongoing works that the fabric of the building will need to ensure its longevity. How this can be best taken forward will require some legal guidance as to how a Trust can be continued in some form of community vehicle that takes the weight of responsibility for the structure of building from the Management, who are more naturally focussed on operating the building for all the user groups, but allows meaningful support from the council in terms of helping with business plans and sourcing external funding. I’ll be following this up with the relevant officers very shortly.

Things to look forward to: Lochmaben Action Group are going to be involved in the Lunch Club event on 4th June with a special appearance by the children from Jaybees nursery who will be doing some singing at the Portacabin in Lochmaben.

Finally on Friday morning I got the chance to shadow one of our apprentices as part of Modern Apprentice (MA) Week 2015 in Hutton Primary School at Boreland on the B723. Incidentally this is being put forward by the Boundary Commission as an area that would become part of the Annandale North ward in future as part of the proposed boundary changes. I was made to feel very welcome by the MA Classroom Assistant and the rest of the school staff, as well as the children who, even though they were to be busy with maths challenges and spelling, kindly presented me with some mixed fruit sorbet to try that they had been making in class. N-ice.

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