This week in Annandale 24/08/2015

Beattock Station
The campaign to get Beattock Station reopened and trains to stop there continues, especially given the new voice for Scotland at Westminster with Drew Hendry MP the SNP spokesperson for Transport being an additional asset that could help, along with Keith Brown MSP (Cabinet Secretary for Infrastructure, Investment and Cities), Derek Mackay MSP (Minister for Transport and Islands) and of course the cross-party support from south of Scotland MSPs. Because of the complexity of the arrangements between Network Rail, Transport Scotland, the new Scotrail operator Abellio, the inter-city services using the West Coast Main Line (WCML) and the reality that there is a Scotrail station at Lockerbie but no Scotrail trains stopping on that line between Gretna and Carstairs, means the Council can only really recognise and aspire to the benefits of improved rail access to and from the region and catchment communities and businesses. South Lanarkshire recognise that Symington, if re-opened, would add to the community benefits but similar complexities apply. People don’t care about the complexities, they just want a service to stop and help join up with the rest of the country.

Community Empowerment
What is a community exactly? Commuity of Interest, geographical community? This is mentioned a lot but the Council needs to up its game to make it work locally for people wanting allotments, or to take on old council or NHS buildings, or influence how services are delivered locally. There are still too many voices in the public sector trying to fit the new legislation into old ways of working. Unite and challenge.

Moffat Community Council
A spicy agenda especially the Moffat CAN item where it was clear there was a lot of public feeling about the state of the site and its future. I’ve taken the Accessiblity vision for Moffat to Directors so that we can test out how empowered the community actually is when trying to influence how the Council delivers services locally.

Lochmaben Gardens Competition
This is a great event and I’ve been lucky to attend and meet some of the contestants and winners in the different garden categories. A glass of wine is available on request and the volume and heat in the Town Hall seemed to go up a notch while the gardeners were waiting for the photographer to arrive. Respect due to the prize-winner in her 99th year!

Welfare Reform Sub Committee
I’ve been placed on some more committees. Whether reward or punishment remains to be seen but the Welfare Reform Sub Committee is one that shouldn’t have to exist in an independent Scotland. This is a mish-mash of trying to deal with the fall-out from changes to DWP benefits, Bedroom-tax and managing the funding the Scottish Government has provided to help protect the vulnerable from policies passed without significant challenge by people who should have a heart. The substance of this committee was looking at the Discretionary Housing Payment scheme that the council runs and trying to find a way to deliver it fairly for what it’s intended, but it means it can’t be relied upon so helping people out of poverty or debt should be the priority.

Moffat Art Collective
Some great works on display at Moffat Town Hall by artists in Moffat and Annandale, ranging from acrylics, watercolours, bronze and oil paintings. It was an unusual pleasure to meet people in a more informal environment and experience some of the talent we host in our region.

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