The Countess of Strathearn’s Birthday

Here’s an excerpt from the official 2016 public flag flying list for D&G Council buildings. These are the important days when we are currently required to fly the union flag:

January 9th – The Countess of Strathearn or Duchess of Cambridge’s birthday (same person)
January 20th – The Countess of Wessex’s birthday
February 6th – The Queen Elizabeth II’s accession day anniversary
March 10th – The Earl of Wessex’s birthday
April 21st – The Queen Elizabeth II’s birthday
June 2nd – The Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation day anniversary
June 10th – The Duke of Edinburgh’s birthday
June 11th – The Queen Elizabeth II’s official birthday
June 21st – The Earl of Strathearn or Duke of Cambridge’s birthday (same person)
July 17th – The Duchess of Rothesay or Duchess of Cornwall’s birthday (same person)
August 15th – The Princess Royal’s birthday
November 14th – The Duke of Rothesay or Prince of Wales’s birthday (same person)
November 20th – The Queen Elizabeth II’s wedding day anniversary

Now they can’t help being entitled chavs, whoever they are, just as we can’t help being unentitled chavs, but by playing along we’re just perpetuating the comical enshrinement of symbols for an archaic ruling family and their subjects, or a sadly-still-with-us class-based inequity framework loosely based on a cocktail of historical land-grabs, blue blood(???), divine right(!!!), primogeniture (back in the day), and more recently a “tourism” argument.

We are technically able to fly the saltire on every other ‘non-designated’ day of the year, but this Administration doesn’t want to because they are proud to be Scottish. However we are required to fly the saltire on the following days:

January 25th – Burns Day
November 30th – St Andrew’s Day…

…HAH not really, fooled you! You would think so what with us being in Scotland, but seemingly the saltire is only flown on St Andrew’s Day if there are two flagpoles on the building. If there’s only one you just fly the union flag again.

Just a bit of harmless fun though, eh?

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This week in Annandale 17/10/2016

This week in Annandale 17/10/2016

Met the Tenants and Residents Association to pick up issues with DGHP and other tenants in Lochmaben and Lockerbie.

Also pleased to report that there has now been a Service Level Agreement agreed between Moffat Thistle and the D&G Council so they now have a set of keys for Beattock pavilion. Previously keys were lifted from Beechgrove Sports Centre, Moffat but now, after a long long long process the Council have recognised liability and ownership for the pavilion, the community council can take a fee for booking their pitch, and Moffat Thistle have a good pitch for their home ground, which should ease the pressure on the Moffat pitches.

Beattock may now get a decent path fashioned as a betterment by Scottish Power Energy Networks for digging up the roads (again) – was able to speak with Council Roads officers to see what practical improvements would be allowed to help join up the gap in the cyclepath/footpath. Looks light a green light to go ahead.

BTW am a wee bit caught up with by-election activities for Annandale North so that’s another time investment until 17th November.

Meeting with Council’s Roads Network Manager to try and get to the bottom of how works and repairs actually get prioritised and programmed. Shocking. This Council is so ingrained in 20th Century ways of working despite over 5 years of investment in IT, Training, Plant and Equipment, etc. that reportedly on a given day you will get members of staff sitting in vans parked up somewhere because there’s no work organised for them. How demoralising for staff and how wasteful for the public purse. There is clear demand, there is budget and staff resource, so who’s treating the Council like a cushy number and not tackling works management properly?

Lockerbie Community Council are arranging a public meeting to get views from residents and business on what they’d like to see to improve the presentation of the town, which was kicked off around a discussion about the state of the roundabouts at the entrances to Lockerbie. Lockerbie Town Hall at 6:30pm on 15th November just before the next community council meeting.

After DGHP’s no show we managed a successful meeting with residents, the Gas contractor and DGHP officer to find a way forward for the installation of new boilers in Dryfesdale Court, Lockerbie. Very constructive and looks like a reasonable solution can be agreed wth residents having their voice and concerns heard.

Scottish Social Security consultation response was submitted by the Communities Committee of the Council, mostly responding on issues about how it can be administrated at a local level.

Supported MSP Joan McAlpine with some of her surgeries in Eaglesfield and Ecclefechan. Ecclefechan will become part of the new Annandale North ward in the next Council election so I intend to find out more about some of the projects and issues in the town and area just in case…

This week in Annandale 10/10/2016

This week in Annandale 10/10/2016

Police and Fire and Rescue Sub Committee

Consultation is now in progress about the under-used police stations across the region with no decision made and a report to come back to the Council with the results of the community feedback for final consideration. This will likely be end of the year of start of 2017. Whithorn is currently used by Scottish Ambulance Service and Langholm – well the old police station actually belongs to D&G Council but they Police rent a room in the Town Hall – and the Chief Superintendent was keen to emphasise that providing a dedicated community policing team and sharing other public and community resources was the best way forward. You can’t spend the same public pound more than once… the Christie Commission on the Future Delivery of Public Services even got a couple of mentions. Super.

Kirkpatrick Juxta Community Council (Beattock)

Scottish Power Energy Networks (SPEN) attended and gave assurances alongside the contractors to address some community concerns, including:

  • improving the Traffic Management and keep heavy vehicles in the village to an absolute minimum by using the A701 where possible;
  • working with the Council to see if a better path could be reinstated to fill the gap in the cyclepath/footpath network;
  • work with Transerv to address the state of the trunk road roundabout where the land is difficult to maintain and only 2 and 1/2 trees remain from the “100” that were to be planted;
  • There will be delivery of a Transformer in early November but the timing will be determined by Police Scotland as it will need to be controlled and may happen during the night;
  • SPEN are having ongoing (now commercially sensitive) discussions with landowners on the Holms Road side to address access concerns;

Kirkmichael Community Council (Parkgate, Nethermill)

Some progress on getting the Bus Shelter fixed on the A701 but more concerns about the bus shelter in Nethermill. These are the responsibility of the Council to maintain but Kirkmichael CC is considering contributing something. Drainage issues at Clarks Engineering resurfaced as well as a debate on the best way to get broadband provided in the rural communities that are still distant from digital exchanges. There was a former SAS in the room so I was vigilant and behaved myself…

Lockerbie Swimming Pool Trust

Physically couldn’t make it without use of clones due to both community councils being on the same night! Frustrating but please accept my apologies.

Whitesands Flood Protection Scheme

Virtual walkthrough of the proposed vision shown to elected members with press, media and public (via Dumfries area Community Councils.)

Lochmaben Pipe Band

Met with members of Lochmaben Pipe Band to discuss fundraising towards getting Grade 1 Pipe Band Status and a strong sustainable future. Really positive and dedicated group! Currently Grade 3A but going for Grade 2 and then…

Other things

Oh and there’s a wee SNP Conference happening in Glasgow

 

This week in Annandale 03/10/2016

This week in Annandale 03/10/2016

Old Boilers

Currently meeting with residents and tenants of DGHP properties in Lockerbie to try and get a fix for the boiler replacement issues that have been coming to light over the recent programme. DGHP have contracted a piece of work out to upgrade boilers and in Dryfesdale Court there are a number of residents concerned about the level of engagement and care being taken. Understandably contractors will have a specific job to carry out, but DGHP you would think would monitor the quality of this against their key value of putting the tenant first. Will be meeting again on site next week.

Scottish Social Security System

There is a consultation out now on ‘A new future for social security’ to gather views to inform the development of the Scottish Social Security Bill. The consultation paper is openly available to all organisations and individuals who wish to contribute. The D&G Council response will be presented to the Communities Committee on 20th Oct 2016 with the focus being on the administrative thoughts but if you want to get your views in please feedback at least to the parts that interest you (it’s in lots of sections but would take a while to complete it all!!!) This is a drip-feed of more powers coming to Scotland from Westminster and something we can help shape to suit Scotland more effectively.

Moffat High Street 20mph limit

There’s scope for a 20mph limit in the town centre following some of the recorded data measured over recent weeks. The average (mean) speed is already about 20mph so this could in theory be put in place without costly traffic enforcement works.

2016-moffat-high-st-average-speed


Lockerbie Academy Parent Council

First meeting of the Parent Council since the AGM and a healthy turnout. One of the concerns to take on was the standing room only for students travelling from Brydekirk to the Academy on the 383 service bus operated by Houstons, which is provided on a commercial basis rather than from the School Transport budget.

Who’s got the biggest poppy?

As we move futuristically through the 21st Century it’s of interest to note that the comparative size of poppy wreaths for Lords and Lord Lieutenant’s can still evoke feelings of mutual jealousy and of being put out. Interestingly, there is a ‘traditional’ Moffat wreath placed by the Community Council at the Dowding Memorial Service composed from a gathering of local heather and wild flowers.

Lochmaben Community Council

Attended and reported on council matters and am currently following getting the trees on the High Street trimmed, the new OpenReach broadband/fibre cabinets near the hospital, and the ongoing problems with the lift in Lochmaben library, to mention a few.

Golf Club VAT Windfall

Local golf clubs may be able to benefit from the latest HMRC Guidance on VAT (May 2016) and may get a cheeky VAT refund awarded. It would certainly be a much-needed boost for struggling clubs in the short term at least, and hopefully all go towards the common good.

Post-Brexit Survey

DisMayed at the Brexit fallout clusterf*ck and worried about the type of future we could be in for if we do nothing? Would you like to live in a country based on better values for you and your children? Take the national survey

 

 

This week in Annandale 26/09/2016

This week in Annandale 26/09/2016

I attended a Citizenship Ceremony on Monday to find out what actually happened at these events first hand. For Dumfries & Galloway these take place in Buccleuch Street Council offices in Dumfries and are for residents of the UK who have gone through a long 5 or 6 year process to become Citizens of the UK, after gaining Indefinite Leave to Remain.

“I, [name], swear by Almighty God that, on becoming a British citizen, I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, Her Heirs and Successors according to law.” is the oath people have to say and at the end of it there’s a CD player that plays God Save the Queen (not the Sex Pistols version.) It means a lot to those who achieve citizenship, which confers a status that we in Scotland, or rest of UK, consider normal, but I nearly burst out laughing when I first heard the oath. It just sounds like something out of a pompous family fairy tale. Anyway I contained my demeanour and spoke to the new citizens who basically had to get back to work and their normal lives as it was.

Planning Applications Committee highlighted a planning permission in principle for a site in Lochmaben. I asked for a site visit so members could better understand the proposed site and location in relation to the B7020, the existing speed limit signs, the footpath provision and the changes over recent years around the community owned Castle Loch – should be happening in the next couple of weeks.

Moffat Community Council was busy and I have a full list of issues and enquiries to follow up (as per usual) aside from my summary report:

Well Road
Vallance the builders contacted again and asked to deal with the vegetation. Drainage to be checked.

Burnside Railings
No money in council budget for railings and fences, suggestion to remove if community happy to do so.

Hidden Corner
Ongoing work to get the footpath widened at old bridge abutments. No cost for works provided yet.

Overhanging branches at streetlight (Ladyknowe)
Outwith Roads Department responsibility but works to be done via Schools for the Future (PPP) as nearest Council asset.

Station Park
Council report still not approved at committee but Council Officers working with community on Heritage Lottery Fund application. Council to lead on application to ensure ongoing maintenance of park and structures and demonstrate engagement with community, and biodiversity. Meeting CC in October and HLF offering to meet in November.

Signs
The sign for the Rugby Club is on order and will be erected in due course. Proposals for the Dark Sky town signage have been passed to the Community Council and approved. Funding for this has been made available from the Council’s tourism budget.

A708 Pothole
Reported in January and fixed in September 2016.

Hedge at Mansfield Place
Trimmed by DGHP and now on maintenance programme for future.

Old Academy
Missives still not concluded.

Barnhill Road
The Planning Inspector to check for authorised use of land. Also road repairs asked for to fix defects but will be prioritised. Council officer suggested it would “appear prudent for cyclists not to travel at speed on the roads in question”.

Beattock Station
STAG report being advanced looking at impact of proposed stations on timetabling, freight and passengers, as well as affordability, and will be reported back to Swestrans and Council committees.

Speed Bumps on A708
Council Officer response: this section of A708 now looks pretty tatty, but from a strict road safety perspective, nothing requires immediate attention.

Dickson Street
Patching works have been carried out and various ironwork reset. Scottish Gas Networks have still to reset one toby.

Annandale & Eskdale Area Committee was characterised by quality not quantity (hack) as only 4 councillors turned up. The Committee was just quorate but we made up for it by heavily scrutinising the reports, especially the commissions to what was DGFirst – this is now meant to be Enterprising DG but councillors are concerned that this entity has not started providing reports on what it is now doing, so it is effectively trading without being monitored fully.

Parking in Lockerbie was provided with another option to consider after I managed to arrange a meeting between a landowner and the Swestrans officers who are able to take these issues forward through the proper process. There has been an inordinate delay over putting the yellow lines and parking restrictions back in town, especially along Well Street and the High Street but am still pushing for this along with the Community Council

Social Work Services Committee happened and the main confirmation was that all Home Care workers, including the contracted services, should now be getting the Scottish Living Wage @ £8.25ph. This marks a good use of the direct investment from Scottish Government into Health and Social Care to directly support this and keep it at least one-step removed from wayward Council Administrations. I asked about the concerns that had previously been raised in Annandale about the pressure on providing care in rural areas but was assured that the new negotiated hourly rate for providers would allow them to manage the wage and travel budget across their service. One oddity is that we can calculate roughly the number of required assessed home care hours needed per year in Dumfries and Galloway and this figure should be our target to achieve, but historically a number has been set that means nothing so this was raised at Committee for future performance reporting.

I later met with the Health and Social Care Locality Manager and Social Work with members of the Board of Bankfoot Residential Care Home in Moffat to discuss the wider provision required to meet the need for beds in the town and area. With the changes to the surgery and the plans for a proper Health Centre, there does need to be a mix of accommodation available so that people don’t get stuck in the wrong place.

I so wanted to go to the Proudfoot Open Day for the Proudfoot Indoor Sport and Social Club on Saturday but other business got in the way. Was all set with the guitar-head on and a table-tennis bat as well. Main thing is it’s now open to the public and you don’t need to be a member to get in.

 

This week in Annandale 19/09/2016

This week in Annandale 19/09/2016

Man Down

Councillor Tait has resigned so Annandale North is not fully represented at the moment. There will have to be a by-election (again!) which is sub-optimal to say the least, especially with it being so close to the 2017 Council Elections next May.

Crazy Separatists

There was a motion at Full Council by the D&G Independent Conservative(?) Group (already separated from the other Conservative and Unionist Council Group) for Dumfries & Galloway to separate from Scotland when Scotland gains independence. I mean, there’s a lot you could write about this but I don’t really want to go down someone else’s rabbit-hole. Too many weak assumptions and holes in the argument – read the papers on line from the council website and see what you think. I mean how do you slice up David Mundell MP? A big chunk of the Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale & Tweeddale constituency would be gone into the ether, not to mention 2 Conservative constituency MSPs from the Scottish Parliament. Forget a Plan B, there wasn’t even a Plan A. Enough to say it got voted out of the chamber, although it did get support from some Dee Ward councillors who appear to have more concern around business uncertainty affecting their own undertakings, than valuing the self-determination and illumination of the people of Scotland, quite selectively blind to the actual reality of impending Brexit. What puzzled me was why Dumfriesshire MSP Oliver Mundell (Conservative), and others, were in this splinter group’s Council office for hours til 6pm on the night before the Council meeting. Is there a chance they could all kiss and make-up just before the 2017 Council Election?

Lockerbie Community Council

There was another community councillor from another parish talking on the night about the Lockerbie CC members getting more involved in ANCBC – the Harestanes windfarm funding body. The Board has some vacancies and these can be filled from all the members of the company – each of the 30-odd community councils involved has 2 members assigned to the company and they can help shape the Board’s direction. The Board should be communicating to all the members (not just those on the Board) about this in more detail but there were some issues with email addresses in the past, and of course the disestablishment of some community councils after their elections last year. I contacted Scottish Power Renewables to ask their take on how flexible the funding distribution model can be and was interested to find that the £2k per year allocated to each community council can be ‘rolled-up’ if it’s agreed to assign it to a specific community project that meets the right criteria.

Beechgrove Sports Partnership, Moffat

Should be in a position for Annandale & Eskdale Area Committee to determine a lease for the Beechgrove Sports Partnership at the October 2016 meeting (just missed the report deadline for the meeting on 28th September.)

This week in Annandale 12/09/2016

This week in Annandale 12/09/2016

Lockerbie Syracuse Scholarship Trust

The Syracuse Trust will be opening again in October for applications – the actual Trust Deed specifies that the opportunity is open to all residents of Lockerbie Community and isn’t restricted to Lockerbie Academy students, although this is normally where most of the interest is from. The forms should become available on the School website next month and the closing date will likely be 11th December. The ward councillors have taken turns at being Chair each year so there should be a new one in place for this year…

Samuel Elliott Bequest

This trust fund has traditionally supported a Christmas lunch for older people in Johnstonebridge over recent years, as well as Lockerbie Community Council who had sought support for the Lockerbie Gala by getting funds for ice cream for the children (and young at heart.) Like many small trusts it’s now at the point where the cost of keeping it is more than it’s annual income so we’ll be looking for a best way forward at the next meeting.

Lockerbie & Lochmaben Common Good

No, it’s not closed for applications but we did have to eat into capital to fund a project at the last meeting. As is well known, the fund’s income for dispersing to community projects in Lockerbie comes from rent of Common Good land. This is currently being used by the golf club who have a long-term lease with the Council to use the land for a fair rent. However recent years have seen challenges for golf clubs in general and Lockerbie is no different with drainage issues and weather being some of the factors affecting the club’s income – the Common Good committee had previously decided to reduce the golf club’s rent for 3 years to recognise the value of the club to the community but at a cost to the Common Good fund. Tricky. I’ve been in contact with club members though and have met with members of the Committee so am getting a better understanding of the challenges the club will have to overcome to have a sustainable future. More to come on this as the club’s AGM is coming up in November which will allow members to get up to date.

Kirkpatrick Juxta community council (Beattock)

Ongoing frustrations in Beattock with the disruptions caused by the works enabling the Minnygap connection. Private landowners can hold the likes of Scottish Power to ransom when the land is in the ideal cable path but of course the ‘public realm’ can be disrupted without paying out monies to the normal community.

Policy & Resources Committee (P&R)

Our SNP Council group met with the Unions on Monday and it was helpful to hear the concerns and ideas coming forward in light of the budget reports and P&R Committee. The staff costs savings have been a concern especially around the manner of the consultation with the Joint Trade Unions. The current status is that the officer-led initiative appears off-target as it is not delivering the predicted savings. We asked the Human Resources officers for assurances over staff getting proper training and also how ‘vacancies’ were being managed by managers. It looks like lack of recruitment to a post is delivering a saving but this is not the intended outcome as existing staff can get more stressed and services can suffer. The sickness and absence figures are way worse than the national average, except for teaching staff it must be said. The Scottish Government has provided more certainty for teachers through the funding settlement structure but other staff that this Council has direct control over are not being served as well.

We managed to deal with the Kirkcudbright Art Gallery project soberly and with prudence. Some gung-ho nutters were being somewhat cavalier in chucking an ever-increasing proportion of reducing council money at the project with no controls in place, even glibly recommending unsafe and incompetent conditions. Luckily we challenged the use of contingency capital funding getting assurances from the Chief Executive and the Finance Officer that the roll out of Next Generation Broadband for rural areas would not be compromised, and were able to cap the final amount of funding so that the project we’ve supported all the way through could go ahead but with responsible controls. There was also some blatting on about “gain-share” and £40million being shared out, none of which was in the actual report of course, and what was in the actual report wasn’t as clear as it should have been.

Royal Four Towns Community Council

Carried over from last week and attended to pick up a on a couple of local issues. Busy community council and hall committee in Hightae so very much a supporting role.

Surgery in Lochmaben Church

Broadband is available in Lochmaben church – you can hire the office out and get free wifi! I held a ‘surgery’ (wrong name really) and was able to catch up on an email backlog and get some reading done. I think I should really be putting up posters in some locations. The website/newspaper ad strategy has had limited success.