News from South and West Fife Area Committee

The members of South and West Fife Area Committee met this morning (Wednesday).

EXTRA PARKING FOR THE CAIRNS, CHARLESTOWN

Vice Convener, Cllr Andrew Verrecchia welcomed the report on the proposal to provide extra parking for the residents at the Cairns, Charlestown.

He said: “Availability of on-street parking has been a longstanding issue for residents of The Cairns. I’m pleased that we have been presented with design options and costings that could see an extra 16 or 18 parking spaces being created.

“We’ll consult with residents before officers progress to secure the funding and planning consent that’s required to allow this proposal to become a reality.”

LOCAL ECONOMIC PROFILE

Members were then presented with the latest local area economic profile which is used to help inform committee discussions and decision making.

Committee Convener Cllr Alice McGarry was keen to see the report given the ongoing economic impact and uncertainty resulting from the pandemic. She said: “The full scale of this impact is yet to emerge, but the data is useful now in helping to prioritise local projects and improvements in our communities.

“Fortunately concerns of a significant spike in unemployment haven't yet materialised but we have seen the employment rate in the South & West Fife area suffer in the last year with around 1,000 fewer local jobs available to people. And although the out-of-work benefits rate in the area remains lower than the Fife average, we do need to be mindful that there has been an increase in over 200 local claimants in the last few years.

“It is encouraging to see that despite a slight increase, Inverkeithing has the lowest percentage of town centre vacant units in Fife and that Kincardine’s vacancy rate has improved markedly. The rejuvenation of local town centre trading is a very welcome one to emerge from the effects of Covid-19.”

GROUNDS MAINTENANCE ANNUAL REVIEW

The performance of the Council’s grounds maintenance, domestic waste collection and street cleaning services was discussed by the Area Committee.

The report to members noted the challenges faced in delivering the services throughout 2021 and advised that a new decentralised way of working would better deliver on local priorities and help local areas shape their environment.

Cllr McGarry said: “Although Covid-19 related absences have had an impact on service, I think that the teams on the ground should be commended for their efforts this past year. Despite these difficult conditions under which they have been operating, we have still seen a grounds maintenance, bin collections and street cleaning service that has fared better than many other councils.

“Weeds and litter are concerns that residents raise with elected members. It’s encouraging therefore to hear that a new management system will improve work scheduling in the future and that new mechanical sweepers, which are also able to remove weeds, are being trialled.

“It’s a difficult balance to strike with budget challenges, the effects of climate change and the phasing out of glyphosate weedkillers all having an impact. Looking ahead, I’m pleased to hear that the team also has plans to be more involved in helping to deliver longer-term local improvements that are community-led.”

PUPIL EQUITY FUND

Members were given an update on the Pupil Equity Fund (PEF), now in its fifth year. The funding aims to address the challenge of closing the poverty related attainment gap in schools.

During 2020/21, Fife received funding of over £9.8m, the second highest allocation in Scotland. Funding goes directly to schools, and it is the role of the headteacher and school community to decide how best to use this to ensure equity for their pupils.

The global pandemic obviously created an unprecedented, challenging situation for schools. Therefore, a significant amount of funding was used to address digital exclusion for children and young people at home, particularly for those who receive free school meals.

During the last year, where the pandemic has caused significant isolation, there have also been several interventions focusing on health and wellbeing.

Investments in South & West Fife clusters include:

  • Additional staff to provide targeted literacy and numeracy support which has helped lead to an increase in spelling age by more than 8 months for 84% of children and ensure that most pupils from selected target groups are now on track in their mental maths.
  • Outdoor learning became more of a priority. An after-school nature club offering children access to structured and supported activities, that they may not have otherwise been able to participate in, created many positive experiences.
  • Funding is being used to reduce the cost of the school day to many pupils. This includes payments for residential trips, support for resources to use at home, purchasing uniforms and attending breakfast clubs.

KINCARDINE COMMUNITY CENTRE ANNEXE ROOF FUNDING

The Committee approved funding of £8,000 towards roof repairs for the annexe in Kincardine Community Centre. Alloa and District Rifle Club operate from the facility and have recently signed off on a new lease for the annexe.

Convener, Cllr Alice McGarry said: “The club is commendably active with 28 members, 3 of whom took part in the 2021 Olympics and Paralympics as part of Team GB. As well as their own activity, the group also hosts sessions for individuals and groups, including the local scouts and disability groups.

We are pleased to award this funding which will not only address maintenance issues at the building but also support the good work of the club and improve the facility for the local community and the wider surrounding area.”

The committee papers are available online at https://www.fife.gov.uk/kb/docs/articles/about-your-council2/politicians-and-committees/committees/area-committees/south-and-west-fife-area-committee