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Peterhead Councillor Anne Allan Backs Retention of Free Parking Period

>> 15 June 2019

Peterhead North SNP councillor Anne Allan has described plans to end free parking periods in the town’s ‘Pay and Display’ council car parks as a “backward step” and “detrimental to Peterhead town centre”, ahead of a crunch council vote on Thursday.

In a bid to start making a profit from Aberdeenshire’s loss-making car parks, Conservative and Lib-Dem members of the council’s Infrastructure Services Committee tried to begin the process of removing free parking periods from council ‘Pay and Display’ car parks last November.

A counter-proposal from opposition councillors – which would instead have balanced the car parking budget while retaining a half-hour free parking period in all towns was defeated by 9 votes to 5, with Conservative and Lib Dem committee members voting against.

However, the Conservative and Lib Dem bid to scrap the free period was thwarted after opposition councillors insisted that any decision on the change be taken instead by all 70 councillors at a meeting of January’s full Aberdeenshire Council.

Speaking ahead of Thursday’s meeting of the Full Council, Cllr Anne Allan said:

“Introducing a free parking period was a key pledge made by SNP councillors standing for election in 2012 and we campaigned strongly on this issue, working across party lines with other councillors get it introduced.

“Having a free parking period removes one of the major disincentives for people who perhaps have only one or two items they need to get but don’t want to fork out to pay for parking when they are only going to need a parking space for maybe 10 minutes. It encourages people back into the town centre and that is a good thing.

“The proposal to remove free parking from our car parks just doesn’t make sense and is a backward step. If shoppers are forced to pay for making even a brief stop-off, many customers will choose to go instead to the supermarkets.

“All the feedback suggests that having this short free parking period has helped sustain town centres. Removing it will be detrimental to the town centre and I will be voting to support local shoppers and local businesses and retain a free parking period when this is debated next week.”

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Aberdeenshire Opposition Welcomes Public Engagement Commitment

>> 13 June 2019

Aberdeenshire Council’s Opposition group has welcomed a commitment given today by council officers to improve the authority’s efforts to inform the public about their right to be involved in shaping public services.

Opposition Leader Cllr Richard Thomson (SNP) challenged officers at today’s meeting of the council’s Business Services Committee to step up efforts to improve public awareness of the ‘Participation Request’ process after hearing that just one request had been made in Aberdeenshire under the new powers given by the Community Empowerment Act.

Cllr Thomson’s request – which received unanimous cross-party support – will now see further efforts made by the council to raise public awareness of the process. Committee members also agreed that they should receive an update report in six months time to outline the progress which has been made.

Challenging suggestions that the limited number of Participation Requests ‘may be reflective of the good standard of engagement and participation in Aberdeenshire’ which exists currently, Opposition Leader Cllr Richard Thomson (SNP) said:

“Right now, the low uptake probably has more to do with people not knowing this is something they can do than it has with anything else.

“While this is not the only way that communities and groups of individuals can get involved in decisions over services delivery, it’s still an important tool for influence, especially as a way of opening up dialogue where communities find it difficult to be heard.”

“Today’s cross-party agreement that we should do more to promote awareness of this mechanism is a positive step which, if used well, can help open up the council to new ideas and approaches and allow different voices to be heard more clearly.”

Participation Requests set on a statutory footing the ability of community groups or members of the public to request to have involvement in, and influence over, decisions and services which affect communities.

The single participation request received by the council over the past twelve months - up from zero in the previous period - came from Mearns Community Council and Stonehaven & District Community Council, seeking an improved and more equitable public involvement in participatory budgeting.

The Scottish Government introduced Participation Requests as one tool within a wide range of reforms and changes to community engagement and involvement in local decision-making. Taking account of recommendations from the Christie Commission, the Act introduced this new right to strengthen community voices in shaping local services.

The procedure and further information can be found on the Council’s website at: https://www.aberdeenshire.gov.uk/council-and-democracy/communityempowerment/.

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Opposition Partnership Secure Review into Fitness Room Usage for Young People

>> 6 June 2019

At a meeting of the Communities Committee on Thursday 6th June, opposition Councillors at Aberdeenshire Council sought and received an assurance that Aberdeenshire Council would review its policy in respect of under 16’s using fitness rooms throughout the area.

Current arrangements mean that under 16s cannot use the fitness rooms unaccompanied in Aberdeenshire, despite this being allowed in a number of local authorities. Officers also confirmed that under 16’s who follow a National Governing Body Programme for fitness can currently request usage of fitness suites, but this would need to be agreed by the local authority.

Commenting, Opposition Spokesperson for Communities, Cllr Gwyneth Petrie (SNP) said:

“This issue was recently brought to our attention, and I am delighted that officers have agreed to review this over the Summer period.

“Physical wellbeing has been well linked to mental wellbeing, and allowing more access to our fitness suites can only be beneficial for the young people of Aberdeenshire. It will also mean that young people are not having to travel outwith Aberdeenshire to use such facilities – making it easier for them, and promoting usage of our own fitness suites."

Cllr Glen Reid (SNP) added:

“I only recently discovered that 14 year-olds were unable to use the gym unaccompanied when my son was refused and had to use a gym in Aberdeen. This is a ridiculous situation whereby young adults need to organise travel to another local authority area to participate in healthy activities.

I welcome the review as we have excellent facilities within Aberdeenshire Council’s control, and we need to remove any barriers preventing people from accessing fitness, starting with young adults.”

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'Living Wage Accreditation - Council Fails to Lead by Example'

The Opposition Partnership of Aberdeenshire Council today expressed concern at a meeting of the Communities Committee over the continued refusal of Aberdeenshire Council to seek accreditation as a Living Wage Employer.

In work poverty is a serious issue, and official figures from 2016 contained within papers before the Committee on 6th June, indicate that 22% of workers in Aberdeenshire are paid less than the Living Wage. Payment of the Living Wage in Scotland is currently £9.00 per hour. The National Minimum Wage is £7.38 per hour for those aged 21 and over.

Today's Committee meeting considered the draft Aberdeenshire Child Poverty Action Plan. One of the measures to be taken by the Council is engagement with employers who are procured by the Council under contract, to carry out work to enable public services to be delivered. Whilst the Council itself is a ‘Living Wage employer’, it has historically been reluctant to enforce such a living wage condition on those it contracts with in terms of the procurement process. If it did, it would meet the criteria to become a ‘Living Wage Accredited Employer’.

Opposition Partnership members today sought reassurance that the possibility of accreditation would continue to be looked at by Aberdeenshire Council, and sought clarification over the level of resource needed. Reassurances were received that further information would be brought back to the next meeting of the Communities Committee in September 2019, with a view to find a practicable way forward.

Deputy Leader of the Opposition, Councillor Alison Evison (Labour, North Kincardine) stated:

“Back in the day it was a battle to get the Tory/Lib Dem led Aberdeenshire Council to agree to pay the Living Wage in November 2012, but that was only a start to what the Council could do to impact on reducing poverty. Quality employment based on 'Fair Work' principles is key in reducing the poverty experienced by many families, and the Council surely has a responsibility as a major employer to set an example to others. T

he resource required for the Council to become an accredited living wage employer would be a sound investment in the people of Aberdeenshire and show commitment to an inclusive local economy.”

Communities Committee member and Banff and District Councillor, Glen Reynolds added:

"Committee members received an update in May regarding progress towards Aberdeenshire Council becoming a 'Living Wage Accredited Employer'. The status of 'accredited' means that the Council has to ensure that all contracted suppliers with the Council guarantee that their employees are paid the living wage. It is a status that 16 Scottish Councils and 124 Scottish public sector bodies have sought and obtained. 

Unfortunately, Councillors had been advised that there was not a dedicated resource that would enable that Living Wage accreditation to be sought. That is arguably a damning indictment on the will of the Council to seriously address poverty and child poverty issues in the Shire, as experts have universally concluded that such accreditation would help reduce such appalling circumstances in the 21st century.

"Accreditation plays a significant role in reducing child poverty and in-work poverty from the concerning levels currently seen across Aberdeenshire. To not have the will and resource to support this is plain wrong."


A briefing paper to the Committee in April estimated that a cost to achieve accreditation would be £67,054 as of 2017.

Chair of the Audit Committee, Troup Councillor Ross Cassie stated:

“I fail to see how such a figure is reached. Many of the bodies in the Council Contract Register are already obliged by statute to pay the living wage, and the work necessary to engage with the other bodies could not surely lead to such a level of expenditure? 

As it stands Aberdeenshire Council are seeking to be ‘Do as I say and not as I do’ partners with those they commission and contract with."

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