This week the Council’s Policy and Co-ordination Committee focused on poverty and inequality, and how the Council plans to work with partners and communities to shape local services for a better, fairer Fife.
Based on significant research and local consultations, the Fife Partnership has drafted a single 10-year plan to streamline its approach and make it easier to understand. The main aim is to put people and communities at the centre of all decision making. And we want to know what you think of it – take a look and leave your comments online.
Council Co-Leaders, Councillors David Alexander and David Ross, who are also Committee Conveners and Co-Chairs of the Fife Partnership, welcomed the plan, which will now guide the work of all local agencies.
Fife Council Co-Leaders with the Plan for Fife
Cllr Alexander commented: “This plan will bring local public services, voluntary organisations and communities together to work towards a set of common aims. Collectively we have vast resources and a wealth of knowledge – with united, focused effort, we can drive out inequality and improve lives.”
“We’re fiercely ambitious for Fife,” added Cllr Ross. “And we have to be, because right now far too many Fifers are living in poverty, and it’s just not right. Poverty isn’t someone else’s problem; it doesn’t just affect some individuals and families – it impacts on everyone. People can’t afford to pay their rent, they’re not spending in local shops and businesses, these in turn are shedding jobs or closing down, and our villages, towns and local services are suffering.
“We’re not aiming to be average, we want to really make a difference. We’re building on a good track record of partnership working and community engagement in Fife, but this plan is a commitment to do more, to do it better and to put fairness at the heart of everything we want to achieve.”
The Committee also heard about the Council’s response so far to the Fairer Fife Commission (which reported in November 2015). There’s a lot of work already underway. Behind the scenes Services are preparing to work in new ways and frontline staff have had poverty awareness training. On the ground, local projects have helped families feed their children over the summer holidays and new services are helping improve people’s mental health.
Cllr Alexander also welcomed new Scottish Government legislation which will place a duty on local authorities to reduce the negative impacts of socio-economic disadvantage, and pointed out that this means taking positive steps.
“A duty which will help us poverty-proof all our decisions can only be a good thing, especially with the spectre of Universal Credit and increased financial hardship looming for many Fifers.” he said. “But while we understand the challenges facing the Council and communities, we’re talking about a lot of progressive and positive action.”
“All over Fife we’re seeing sparks of activity and enthusiasm,” continued Cllr Alexander. “Local people want to get involved in helping their neighbours and making their community a better place to live. We’re going to work to give people more opportunity to have their voice heard; help decide how money should be spent in their area and how local services should be run, and help build people’s confidence and capability to take a more active role.
“The Tayport Community Hub is a great example of people turning aspirations for their own community into reality. The Committee just approved another £250,000 (on top of the £250,000 funding previously agreed by North East Fife Area Committee) to help the voluntary organisation turn a piece of derelict land into a hub to improve local community and sports facilities. We’re not just putting money in the pot – we’ll work in partnership with that community, hopefully transferring council-run services to the facility, supporting their venture and reducing our overall costs.”
The Council’s Co-Leaders also acknowledged the vital strategic role the Council has to play, both in delivering services directly and influencing the decisions of other organisations.
Cllr Ross said: “We’re actively working to create opportunities, employment and wealth.
“We’re promoting the Living Wage and apprenticeships, within the Council and in businesses across Fife. And the Edinburgh and South East City Deal will help build a stronger business community in south and mid Fife by investing millions in commercial property over the next 10 years, which could create some 2,000 extra jobs. Increased employment brings personal benefits; more money, better health – but also wider community benefits; thriving economy, reductions in antisocial behaviour and crime.
“But to tackle the root cause of inequality long-term, we’re also asking if more fundamental shifts are needed in society.
“Fife has led conversations about a universal basic income and councillors agreed that officers should work on a proposal for a pilot in Fife. But we must be realistic, this is a very complex issue which will take years of investigation and ground work. We couldn’t pursue the concept of a basic income our own, but now have the backing of several councils and the Scottish Government, to help develop feasibility studies and a business case. A basic income also implies changes to taxation and benefit systems, which would need UK Government co-operation.
“It’s far too early to say where a pilot might happen – we don’t even know if it will be the right thing to try. But it could be a game changer, so we’re taking it seriously, because we know we have to try new things and learn as we go.”
Concluded Cllr Alexander: “We will fight austerity by creating opportunities and delivering real improvements for everyone.
“The Partnership’s Plan for Fife is really your plan and it’s important that we hear what you think of it. Please take some time to read the plan and give us your views.”
The draft Plan for Fife doesn’t cover all the services provided by the organisations within the Fife Partnership, but sets out the Council’s ambitions under four key themes:
- Opportunities for all
Inclusive growth and jobs
Community – led services
For more information and to read the plan go to www.fifedirect.org.uk/letstalk where you can also leave comments. Councillors will agree the final version of the 10-year partnership plan in December.