Action to Tackle Increase in Underage Tobacco Sales in Aberdeenshire

>> Monday, 17 October 2016

The number of undercover enforcement visits to local shops will increase this year, after a “disappointing” rise in non-compliance with tobacco sales laws. In percentage terms, the number of retailers in the area who sold tobacco to children during enforcement activity by Trading Standards officers increased last year.

Local authorities have a duty to work under the Tobacco and Primary Medical Services (Scotland) Act 2010 to prevent the sale of tobacco to children. This involves investigating complaints about alleged offences and taking measures to reduce the number of offences.

The law prohibits the sale of cigarettes to under-18s and buying cigarettes on their behalf. It also requires the registration of tobacco retailers and includes a ban on tobacco displays in all premises selling related products.

Scottish Trading Standards services are working with the Scottish Government to increase enforcement activity to help reduce availability to young people.

In the year up to March 2016, officers in Aberdeenshire conducted 12 test purchase visits throughout the area using 16-year-old volunteers.

A total of 4 sales were made, 33% of the test purchases, resulting in warning letters being issued to retailers and their staff, with follow up visits to be made.

The previous year, 64 test purchases were carried out, resulting in 5 sales (7.8%).

Chair of Aberdeenshire Council’s Infrastructure Services Committee Cllr David Aitchison, said:

“These figures show a disappointing increase and so more visits will be carried out in the coming year to emphasise the importance of taking adequate steps to prevent tobacco sales to young people taking place.

“Good progress had been made in the previous two years, so we hope our planned enforcement activity will help to return to a more positive position.

“Ultimately the aim here is to reduce the number of young people who smoke and we need retailers to understand why that’s important and get behind it.”

Vice-chair Cllr Graeme Clark added:

“We have to work together as a community, enforcing national legislation locally so that we support efforts to prevent young people from taking up smoking. This is an important issue.

“Selling cigarettes to young people purely to make a profit at the expense of their health cannot be condoned and I’m glad the vast majority of local retailers are taking that message onboard.”

Trading Standards staff carried out 71 visits to tobacco retailers over the last year to inspect premises and provide help and advice on complying with legislation. Advice was issued to ten found not to be displaying statutory notices regarding underage sales. This is a 5% increase on the previous year.

Following a campaign launched in March 2012 in conjunction with Aberdeen City and Moray councils to highlight the issue of illegal tobacco sales, 19 reports were received during the year providing information about alleged sales of counterfeit cigarettes.

Several of these were in relation to the same premises and further action is being pursued against the business.

In addition, monitoring of social media sites identified 15 potentially illegal tobacco traders in and around Aberdeenshire – appropriate action is being pursued.

At a recent meeting, members of Aberdeenshire Council’s Infrastructure Services Committee agreed a continued programme of enforcement and advice for the coming year, including further test-purchasing by 16-year-olds.

Activity will also include inspections of premises where tobacco is sold and surveillance of premises where complaints or other intelligence indicates tobacco products may be being illegally sold, including the use of social media sites.

This year the trading standards team will also try to raise awareness of the legislation as it applies to purchases of tobacco products by and for under-18s at and around schools and further education institutions.


Peterhead SNP Councillors Welcome New Sports Pitches

Local football teams will come together tonight to celebrate the opening of new sports pitches in Peterhead after facilities at Catto Park received a significant upgrade over the summer.

As part of an investment of around £800,000 by Aberdeenshire Council, the all-weather pitch and grass football pitch have been replaced, with new surfaces, drainage, floodlights and fencing installed.

A mini-football tournament involving teams from Peterhead Boys’ Club and local primary schools will take place on Monday 17 October (tonight) from 6.00pm.

Commenting, Peterhead North & Rattray SNP councillor Anne Allan said:

“I’m delighted to see these new pitches opening following the upgrading works and pleased that local teams will now be playing on top quality pitches.”

Chair of the Buchan Area Committee and councillor for Peterhead South & Cruden Stuart Pratt added:

“This is good news for the town and while the facilities should have been upgraded some time ago, I’m very pleased we are now seeing progress on a range of things from the Catto Park pitches to plans for a new Peterhead Academy to regeneration funding for the town.”


SNP Select Housing Officer for Banff & District By-Election

>> Thursday, 29 September 2016

The Scottish National Party has selected Dr Glen Reynolds as its candidate for the by-election on 3 November caused by the death of Cllr Ian Gray.

Dr Reynolds has worked throughout Banff and District for ten years as both a housing and community safety officer for Aberdeenshire Council, bringing a great deal of knowledge of the workings of the council, having seen it from the inside. Dr Reynolds has raised a family in the area along with his wife, who is a local primary school teacher.

Commenting on his selection, Glen Reynolds said:

“The circumstances of my selection are sad of course, as Ian Gray was such a devoted and hard-working councillor. My ambition is to follow in his footsteps and to speak out for this ward. 

“I have forged excellent working relationships with council officials and our local police which are essential as we continue to make the ward attractive to live and work in, especially to younger folk. After the recent divisions on the UK's membership of the EU, I shall be working with everyone to ensure we gain the best possible outcome after the vote. I know the weaknesses and strengths in how the council operates, and how it can work for the best interests of the area.”

Dr Reynolds is a Director of Grampian Housing, arguing for more affordable, decent homes, and is a shop steward for the health union UNISON. He continued:

“I aim to continue to work with the Royal College of Nursing and the Scottish Government to improve the situation regarding GP shortages in our communities. I am also keen to promote the use of community wardens throughout the ward, as in Peterhead and Fraserburgh. If wardens are good enough for them, they are good enough for this ward. With a background in housing and health, I aim to make the Council work for all of its residents, not least those who need the most help. We must bring people into the area for it to have a sustainable future and I am determined that this happens, as part of the regeneration we need.”

Dr Reynolds has a background with charities Victim Support and Age Concern and is Chair of his local church council, having taught Christian Studies at the University of Aberdeen. Glen says that on a personal note, he loves writing and walking the family dog, Dougal.


'Equity & Fairness Key to New Mental Health Services Contract' - Thomson

>> Thursday, 15 September 2016

Councillors on Aberdeenshire Council’s Policy & Resources Committee have approved the award of a new contract for Mental Health Services across Aberdeenshire to the Scottish Association of Mental Health (SAMH).

The decision follows an invitation to organisations to bid for the new service specification.

The current contracts end on 31 December 2016 and the existing providers will continue until the new service begins on January 1 next year to enable a smooth transition of service for Aberdeenshire’s service users. The tender has been progressed in three ‘lots’, covering north, central and south Aberdeenshire given the broad scope of the services.

A report to councillors set out the reasons for the contract, highlighting that Aberdeenshire Council requires a community-based mental health service to promote the achievement of a mentally well and inclusive Aberdeenshire in which people who experience mental disorder are enabled to recover and achieve their personal outcomes.

The service is being commissioned to provide more equitable services across north, central and south Aberdeenshire; to target service provision more appropriately to individual risk and need; and to support those recovering from mental disorders and help them enjoy mainstream activities alongside other members of the community.

The report goes on to say that no existing service users will find services suddenly inaccessible to them. All will be introduced to the new provider and support plans agreed.

It further says that new services will address a number of current gaps in provision with additional:

  • A move away from buildings based services to more community based provision
  • Increased focus on recovery
  • Improved links to Employability Services
  • Building community capacity by encouraging the use of volunteers and peer support
  • An increased focus on service user outcomes, rather than outputs
  • The geographical spread of service provision is better matched to known demand.

Councillors discussed the new way forward for delivering mental health services, and on agreement awarded a two year contract (with extension options) to SAMH, described as the clear preferred bidder in each lot.

In a statement, committee chair and council leader Councillor Richard Thomson said:

“This contract has been deliberately structured to uphold a number of key principles, the most important of which is that we want to deliver mental health services based on equity and fairness across Aberdeenshire, with input from service users and based on delivering services at point of need. We are looking forward to working with SAMH and would like to thank the other organisations for their involvement with this detailed and necessarily complex process.”


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