LOCAL, LISTENING, DELIVERING: The Lib Dem approach to our council

Aberdeenshire Council Liberal Democrats today launched their manifesto for the local elections on 3 May. The Liberal Democrats have been in the adminstration since the council was established in 1996.

The future holds many challenges for local government; Aberdeenshire Council is not immune to the financial constraints and pressures facing the whole public sector. Effective, efficient use of public money, combined with sound financial management, is essential.

We recognise that strong local government is a fundamental requirement of a liberal democracy; its strength comes from its relationship with the people it serves. Aberdeenshire Council has an important leadership role and yet must be accountable and responsive to the people and communities we serve.

We are proud of our record of listening to our residents and delivering local services in a fair and effective way. We can demonstrate that we have delivered the overwhelming majority of the commitments and promises we made in 2007.

Aberdeenshire Liberal Democrats are proud of what has been achieved in the integration of work, transport, leisure and housing in our settlements. We will work in partnership with communities, developers and other agencies to ensure that Aberdeenshire continues to offer the best quality of life.

Local planning policies and process play a key role in delivering the aspirations of communities, residents, business and the council. We have already delivered significant improvements and will continue this work. Planning must be strongly linked with Economic Development; both are integral to developing sustainable communities.

We have listened to Residents’ Surveys, which have consistently highlighted the priority residents give to the appearance and cleanliness of their communities. We have ensured that as far as possible, residents’ expectations have been met. We will continue to give priority to this work and to environmental issues.

Liberal Democrats also value our built heritage and have given a high priority to both protecting and enhancing it. We will stress the need for higher design standards in new development, seeking design solutions that respect the built heritage of Aberdeenshire.

We are committed to the waste hierarchy of ‘Reduce, Re-use, Recycle’ and have worked to deliver an efficient and effective Waste Management service. We will continue to encourage residents to work in partnership with the council in managing their waste and driving down the volume of waste going to landfill.

Economic Development plays a vital role in ensuring that Aberdeenshire remains a prosperous and economically active region. All council services must contribute to the goal of an economy that delivers sustainable growth, low unemployment and a broader economic base. The current economic situation serves to emphasise the importance of this work:

Our Economic Development service has built successful relationships across Aberdeenshire, Europe and beyond, promoting Aberdeenshire across the world as an excellent place to do business. We will continue to give a high priority to this work, as well as supporting initiatives developed within communities. We will deliver the council’s new Economic Development Strategy.

Our new Local Transport Strategy was developed through consultation with communities and our partners. It contains our aspirations and ambitions for transportation in and to Aberdeenshire. We will work to deliver this Strategy and continue to lobby for significantly better investment by the Scottish Government in our transport infrastructure.
Liberal Democrats are committed to investing in Education in its broadest sense. Despite the intense financial pressures in recent years, we have continued to manage the council’s resources in order to deliver an integrated and up-to-date life-long education service, delivered in the best possible environment.

We will offer the best possible opportunities for Education, Learning and Leisure to all. We will continue to involve all of our communities in the decisions that affect them. We recognise the great value of our Education, Learning and Leisure staff, teaching and non-teaching and the contribution they make to delivering excellence in Aberdeenshire Education.

We also recognise the vital importance of our school estate in the delivery of a modern education to all. We have committed significant capital resources to the provision of new secondary and primary schools and will continue to grasp every opportunity to invest in our schools.

Education is a life long process and there should be educational opportunities open to all, regardless of age or means. We support the delivery of such opportunities through Community Learning and Development and are committed to involving the community fully in this service.

Culture and Heritage are important to our communities; we will continue to work in partnership with community groups to widen opportunity in the face of budget pressures. We remain committed to the provision of a modern Library service across Aberdeenshire, freely available to all.

In Aberdeenshire, the Social Work and Housing Service has faced considerable challenges over recent years, brought about by a steadily growing but ageing population, increasing expectations and ever mounting volumes of regulation and inspection by Government and its agencies. The pressure on housing in a rural area, combined with government timetables for homelessness, has grown and will continue to grow.

We will continue to foster joint working with other agencies, with community groups and with the wider community in order to maintain high quality services in Aberdeenshire, fairly and on the basis of need. The financial background will require continuing robust budgetary control and sound management of service finances.

We are committed to the provision of social housing of all types and tenures and to maintaining the high standards of the Council’s own housing stock. We have worked in close partnership with our tenants and this will continue. We have worked with housing associations, other agencies and with developers to increase the supply of affordable housing in Aberdeenshire communities. We will build on this work and seek to improve still further the services we offer.

The issues around health and social care grow ever more complex and demanding. Aberdeenshire Liberal Democrats are committed to the greater integration of Health and Social Care and to working closely with our partners.

Aberdeenshire remains our absolute priority. Our approach has been – and will remain – pragmatic. We are driven by commonsense, local, decision making rather than by political dogma. Our programme for 2012 to 2017 will build on our achievements to ensure that Aberdeenshire offers all its residents the best quality of life and all of its businesses the best possible environment in which to prosper

  • The full Manifesto Document can be downloaded by clicking here.

Buses: make your views known

If you have points you would like to make to the local bus bosses, then there’s a public meeting coming up for you.

The next Kincardine and Mearns Bus Forum will be held on Monday 26 March at the Council Chamber, Viewmount, Stonehaven.

Interested members of the public, community councillors and local councillors attend. They can all raise their points about local buses with representatives from Nicoll’s and Stagecoach. 

It starts at 7.30, and lasts until 9pm.

The facts about our primary schools

Parents can be reassured that our local primary schools can cope with the number of children needing educated.

Councillor Ian Mollison said: “At the moment Portlethen, Fishermoss and Newtonhill primary schools do have capacity to take more children.

“Fishermoss has 263 pupils, and officials have recently told councillors this number is projected to fall to 241 by 2016.

“Portlethen has 297 pupils, and this is to rise to 543 pupils by 2016. Hence the need to consider rezoning in Portlethen for a better balance.

“Newtonhill has 303 pupils, and is projected to have 281 in 2016.

“This can be checked by looking at the reports prepared for Kincardine and Mearns Area Committee on 7 February, item 5 on the agenda. Click here: http://www.aberdeenshire.gov.uk/committees/detail.asp?ref_no=80257287006…

“These figures take account of all known housing development, but of course they are subject to some variation!

“Should there be a sudden rise in the number of young children which leads to a need for a third primary school in Hillside, then the council has funding set aside in the years to come to build the school. A site has been earmarked, and at the moment the council has until 2017 to take up this option.

“Should the third school be necessary I would have no hesitation in supporting it.

“I note that it is being said that Stewart Milne would like to build 1500 more houses at Portlethen. Well he may, but he would need to get planning permission first. Local councillors ruled out further major development of this sort when they approved to new Local Development Plan for Kincardine and Mearns. That was one of the reasons we unanimously agreed that it would be better to develop a new town at Chapelton of Elsick. We are now waiting to see if the Scottish Government supports our decision – or decides we got it wrong. We hope to hear within the next few weeks.

“Assuming the Scottish Government supports us local councillors (but who knows?), then Stewart Milne’s plans will be contrary to the new Local Development Plan.

“In the meantime, the council is investing in our current local schools to give our children the best education possible. By the way, a further £100,000 is being earmarked this week for more upgrading at Portlethen Primary.”

Hopes for missing link dashed

Fresh hopes that a path could link Newtonhill with Portlethen have been dashed.

The proposal was raised at Newtonhill, Muchalls and Cammachmore Community Council by vice-chairman Michael Morgan who hoped that obstacles in the way of constructing the path could be overcome.

Attempts by Aberdeenshire Council officials last year foundered as they attempted to negotiate with landowners. The aim was to construct the path for walkers and cyclists parallel to the railway line between East Cammachmore and the southern end of Portlethen.

Mr Morgan was hopeful that there might be a new willingness amongst those involved, with the possibility of grant funding.

Councillor Paul Melling recalled that the idea had been mooted by pupils at Portlethen Academy who wanted a quick and safe route between Newtonhill and the school. At present anyone wishing to walk or cycle between the two communities has to use a footpath beside the A90 Aberdeen-Stonehaven dual carriageway.

Councillor Melling said: “It would be a real boon for youngsters and everyone else.”

However fellow Liberal Democrat councillor Ian Mollison has had it confirmed since the community council meeting that gaining the agreement of all the landowners remains a stumbling block.

He said: “One landowner agreed in principle, with conditions. However, it has not been possible to gain agreement with the second landowner. And I am told that a third landowner cannot be traced.

“It is very likely that compulsory purchase proceedings would be needed to acquire the land. This would be difficult to pursue successfully as there is viable alternative beside the A90, even though it is not ideal.

“It appears that the new path, although desirable, could not be considered essential and is therefore unlikely to meet the legal criteria for compulsory purchase. This means that the outcome of any such proceedings is, at best, uncertain.

“I am bitterly disappointed that this missing link cannot be established.”

Back the campaign for a better rail service!

Local Liberal Democrat councillors this week called on Kincardineshire residents to put their views to the Scottish Government on the future of railway services.

North Kincardine councillor Ian Mollison said: “People have the opportunity to play their part in shaping Scotland ‘s rail services. In 2014, the contract for ScotRail passenger services and funding arrangements for Network Rail in Scotland come to an end. The consultation by Transport Scotland is a crucial part of the government’s considerations.

“I have already responded and made the case – again – for the re-opening of local stations such as Newtonhill. It is folly that the Aberdeen area does not have its own commuter services. This would take some of the pressure of our roads.”

Councillor Paul Melling said: “Although passenger numbers have been increasing at Portlethen, we need more trains to stop, and a strong marketing campaign so that people know what services are available.”

Stonehaven has seen more and more people use its station, but again not all trains stop there. Councillor Peter Bellarby commented: “The extra car parking has been a great success. We need to build on that and encourage people to travel by train rather than by car.”

Mearns councillor Provost Bill Howatson said: “I am heartened by the re-opening of Laurencekirk station, which has exceeded all expectations. The crucial decision to re-open the station was made by the then Liberal Democrat Transport Minister Nicol Stephen. We need more investment like that in our local rail services.”

Councillor Mollison added: “This is the chance for people to have their say, rather than just mutter into their coffees!”

The consultation ends on Monday 20 February. Further details can be found at the www.transportscotland.gov.uk website.

How the council helps keep the buses running

Aberdeenshire Council gives financial support to help keep some bus services running, writes Councillor Ian Mollison. Without that help, these services would not be viable and probably cancelled by the operators.

In the Portlethen/Newtonhill area, the services are as follows:

Monday to Friday

0500 hrs ex Stonehaven – Newtonhill – Portlethen – Aberdeen [Service 7A]
0905 hrs ex Newtonhill – Portlethen – Aberdeen [Service 7]
0959 hrs ex Portlethen – Marywell – Aberdeen [Service 8]
1159 hrs ex Portlethen – Marywell – Aberdeen [Service 8]

0940 hrs ex Aberdeen – Marywell – Portlethen [Service 8]
1240 hrs ex Aberdeen – Marywell – Portlethen [Service 8]
1325 hrs ex Aberdeen – Portlethen – Newtonhill [Service 7]

Saturday

0527 hrs ex  Stonehaven – Newtonhill – Portlethen – Aberdeen [Service 7A]
0627 hrs ex  Stonehaven – Newtonhill – Portlethen – Aberdeen [Service 7A]
0855 hrs ex Stonehaven – Newtonhill – Portlethen – Aberdeen [Service 7]
1107 hrs ex Stonehaven – Newtonhill – Portlethen – Aberdeen [Service 7]
1156 hrs ex Portlethen – Marywell – Aberdeen [Service 8]

0940 hrs ex Aberdeen – Marywell – Portlethen [Service 8]
1240 hrs ex Aberdeen – Marywell – Portlethen [Service 8]
1325 hrs ex Aberdeen – Portlethen – Newtonhill [Service 7]
1455 hrs ex Aberdeen – Portlethen – Newtonhill – Stonehaven [Service 7]

I have been advised by Neil Stewart, the council’s principal officer for local bus services in the Public Transport Unit, that there are some journeys operating quite close together. These were not tendered in this way, but the operator indicated that they would cover all the tendered components by means of more than one journey e.g. the 0905 hrs ex Newtonhill – Aberdeen (Monday to Friday) fulfils the demand from Newtonhill to Portlethen and Aberdeen, while the 0959 hrs ex Portlethen – Aberdeen (Monday to Friday) fulfils the demand from Portlethen to Marywell Park and from Marywell Park to Aberdeen. This was tendered as one journey from Newtonhill to Aberdeen via Portlethen and Marywell Park. It’s the same in the afternoon and on Saturdays.

The vast majority of journeys between Aberdeen and Portlethen/Stonehaven are operated by Stagecoach Bluebird on a commercial basis. If a journey is not operated, the company normally informs Traveline (to inform the public) as well as the Traffic Commissioner.

Regarding the small number of supported journeys on the corridor, it is the operator’s duty to keep the council informed, and unless the non operation is due to severe weather conditions, there is no payment. Indeed, if the failure constitutes a breach of contract, it will be subject to the council’s penalty points system, which can also result in the imposition of financial penalties.

Don’t look for your MSPs’ number in the phone book!

The new Aberdeen phone book is being delivered locally, but one section of the business listings is perplexing North Kincardine councillor Ian Mollison. 

“As you do, I was checking to see that my own entry was there correctly. I also turned to the entries for Members of Parliament, and was astonished to see that it contains several West of Scotland MSPs, but not all our North East MSPs. 

“If you want the numbers for Pauline McNeill, Paul Martin, Trish Godman and Jamie Hepburn, then you are in luck. However why would anyone here want to phone an MSP more than 100 miles away rather than someone locally? 

“Even worse, Pauline McNeill and Trish Godman are not MSPs any more. One was defeated in this year’s Scottish elections, and the latter retired. 

“Maureen Watt, who was elected as the MSP for Aberdeen South and North Kincardine in May, is listed as a North East Region MSP. 

“And not there at all are our regional MSPs Liberal Democrat Alison McInnes, Labour’s Jenny Marra, Tories Alex Johnstone and Nanette Milne, and the SNP’s Mark McDonald. Neither is Nigel Don, the member for Angus North and Mearns. 

“To be fair to BT, it does say in the phone book that if the MSP you want is not listed, then contact the Scottish Parliament. 

“Nonetheless it is seven months since the elections. 

“At least Sir Robert Smith, the MP for West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine, is listed.

“I have contacted BT to draw their attention to these anomalies. And believe it or not, they are unable to correct the mistakes as the company responsible is based overseas. Their staff do not understand how the Scottish Parliament works. I am sending them the corrected data. ”

Sewage blockage in Newtonhill

Scottish Water staff were called to Newtonhill at hte New Year when sewage started bubbling out of a manhole.
 
A resident in Anderson Drive said later: “It was disgusting. This is not the first time this has happened, and occasionally there is a smell of sewage in the area, particularly at one point.”
 
A spokeswoman for Scottish Water that staff had been called out after being contacted by local people. A main had become choked. Workers cleared the sewer and washed the road.
 
Councillor Ian Mollison, who stays nearby, said: “A foul water main linking Muchalls with the treatment works at Nigg, Aberdeen, comes down Anderson Drive. There have been a number of problems with the main along its route over the years.
 
“Sometimes mains get choked with all sorts of strange items. Disposable nappies in particular and a build-up of fat can cause blockages.”

Welcome for consultation into re-opening village post office

The Post Office is proposing to open an outreach service in Newtonhill, following the closure of the village’s own branch in December 2010. 

The plan is that the Newtonhill Pharmacy will host the service on Friday afternoons from 2.00 to 4.00.

Brian Turnbull from the Post Office said: “The establishment of a hosted service presents the best possible solution for us to restore services to Newtonhill It will be provided by our subpostmaster from Laurencekirk, and will provide the same range of products and services, with the addition of a Euro and Dollar on demand bureau de change.”

The Post Office is seeking feedback from customers before going ahead. Comments should be sent by 15 February to the National Consultation Team, Post Office Ltd, PO Box 1138 , St Albans AL1 9UN or by email to consultation@postoffice.co.uk .

Newtonhill resident and Liberal Democrat councillor Ian Mollison welcomed the news. “This is a much-needed service which has been greatly missed since our former postmaster took ill. I hope it is a success, so much so that the hours can be expanded, perhaps by providing a service on Saturday mornings too so that working people can take advantage of it. I have spoken to the local pharmacists and he too hopes it will be well suported, with the possibility of longer opening hours.”

Fellow North Kincardine Liberal Democrat councillor Paul Melling said: “Newtonhill is a growing community and I hope it warrants a better service than two hours a week. Nonetheless this is better than nothing and it will be up to the local people to prove that there is a demand for longer opening hours.”

The carnage on our local roads

A newly-produced map unveils the scale of deaths on local roads over the last 10 years – with accidents on the A90 in Kincardineshire alone claiming 22 lives and leaving a further 21 injured between 1999 and 2010.

The BBC’s road deaths map illustrates the extent of the carnage on roads throughout Great Britain. The map was based on police reports received by the broadcaster.

North Kincardine councillor Ian Mollison said: “It paints a depressing picture, and highlights the dangers of driving across the country. Men, women, teenagers and youngsters have been victims of accidents on the dual carriageway between Laurencekirk and Portlethen.

“Every improvement on the A90, such as the Findon interchange and the Portlethen underpass, helps to save lives. 

“The South Deeside Road between Bridge of Dee and Kirkton of Durris has also claimed seven lives, with four injured, during that period.”

Councillor Mollison, who is a member of the Scottish Accident Prevention Council’s roads committee, added: “ Britain has one of the best records in the world for road casualties, but more needs to be done. Each death is one too many.”

Fellow North Kincardine Liberal Democrat councillor Paul Melling commented: “Most accidents are caused by drivers travelling too fast or not taking heed of road conditions and other drivers. People feel safe in their own world when driving a car, whether there is sunshine, rain, snow or ice outside. Being in their own personal bubble can lead to complacency.

“The more that can be done to reduce the risk the better, such as closing off unnecessary cross-over junctions on the A90 and building more deceleration lanes.”

One notorious blackspot is the Laurencekirk junction, which has a 50mph limit. However drivers are still being caught by the speed cameras.

Mearns Liberal Democrat councillor Bill Howatson said: “Laurencekirk is set for major housing expansion and that has to be accompanied by a 21st century flyover. The case for investment has been made. Now it is time to deliver.”

The details are available at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-15975564