This week in Annandale 14/09/2015

Lockerbie Tower Buildings
Tiny wee success maybe? Looks like council officers will be able to at least close the open window on the first floor without a cherry-picker and major disruption. This should restrict the access for birds into the building. Unfortunately the frustration is likely to continue while the private owner neglects the facade and gutterings of the building until a clear risk to public health or safety occurs. The building is still on watch by Building Control.

Lockerbie Syracuse Scholars
The process for potential students is starting off again for the Syracuse Scholarship. The trust met with the Academy headteacher and administrative staff to help ensure a smooth and fair process for all the potential students candidates, taking into account prelims, Christmas, and all the rest. I also took the chance for a mini-tour of Lockerbie Primary School from the headteacher to appreciate the strengths it has in catering for a wide range of student needs (what’s the difference between a “pupil” and a “student”?)

Beattock Walkabout
This was a great morning to take in some of the issues directly and we were able to go all around the village via the community land and pond, along by Craigielands Park and Moffat Manor, along to the old school and church (Kirkpatrick Juxta) and back along the cycle path and up through Smiths Way to the Old Stables. Have reported all the issues raised and will update at the next community council meeting as per usual.

Lockerbie Community Council and DGHP
This meeting prompted the letter to DGHP to raise concerns on behalf of residents in DGHP properties, affected by the SGN Gas Meter Exchange Programme. Although letters were sent to residents by the utility company, DGHP as landlord should have communicated to residents that this work was going to be carried out, and vulnerable residents in particular would be more at ease knowing that DGHP had sanctioned the works.

It would also have helped if DGHP as landlord could have provided a point of contact to listen to any resident concerns and voice those to the utility company if need be. Work has already been carried out where the new meter is now more difficult to access, to take a reading for example, especially for some vulnerable residents.

Standard, cold advice for dealing with any issues like this is normally to deal with the utility company directly, or seek advice from DGCAS, or to refer the matter to Ofgem after the work has been carried out. I feel this misses the spirit of DGHP’s main aims in having tenants at the core of everything they do, and better communication can prevent bigger issues down the line.

However, DGHP responded quickly and now that they are aware of this issue they will contact SGN to see what their replacement programme is, and ask for a point of contact, for tenants who will be getting a meter change, who can provide advice. They will also make their Customer Service Centre aware of the programme so they can direct any queries in the direction of the correct member of DGHP staff who can help them.

Annandale Area Committee
This did happen. The main items of interest were “exempt” so can’t report them just now!

Annandale & Eskdale Licensing Board
This was an emergency meeting that had to be called to address call-ins by Police Scotland. The Board dealt with the issues proportionately and I think as fairly as possible, but it was an experience with and emotional element to contend with as we felt compelled to apply endorsements and warnings.

Ward Visit
The new Director of Communities was doing a tour of Annandale North – mainly staff but also community groups, such as those aligned with the Lockerbie Masterplan, and community councils later in the day. The 4 ward councillors met at Moffat Academy to discuss openly some of the ongoing ward concerns over delivery of projects, accountability, community empowerment, the importance of local considerations that will be different from the rest of Dumfries and Galloway, and as much else as we could fit into an hour. All sounded good at the time but I’m more interested in what gets delivered and how the Council culture can improve.

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