Extra powers to kickstart beleaguered communities

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AREA committees are to be given extra powers which it’s hoped will help better shape communities to their specific needs and drive down problem issues such as poverty.

Fife Council has confirmed that all seven area committees, which are made up of ward councillors, are to have strengthened roles in scrutinising, shaping and delivering the priorities for their areas.

The decision was made on the back of an update on the progress being made by Fife’s community planning partners to reduce inequality, increase employment and also tackle climate change.

Leader of Fife Council Alex Rowley said: “There are huge inequalities across Fife in health, household income and the ability of communities to influence decisions affecting their local area.

“We must drive an agenda that will tackle a culture where long-term worklessness is seen as normal and inevitable, get those who can work the training and skills to take advantage of the jobs that are out there, and we must do all we can to support business develop and grow.”

Cllr Rowley said area committees were in a “unique position” to understand and influence what was going on in their locality, so welcomed the decision to give them a bigger say in community planning initiatives.

The community planning report for 2012 highlights that 21 per cent of households are in relative poverty and that 20 per cent of children are living in households dependent on out of work benefits or in receipt of tax credits where reported income is less than 60 per cent of average income.

In Fife 10,403 people are on the housing waiting list and 1116 people are homeless.

Rates of alcohol related hospital discharges are 5.7 times higher in the most deprived areas of Fife compared to the least deprived.

“Once you break down these statistics at a local level you start to see the real inequalities and level of problems that exist,” Cllr Rowley continued.

“Our area committees must be able to influence the decisions that are being made in their local communities, scrutinise the effectiveness of the public sector spend and services delivered to make sure we bring about real change.”

“I want to empower local councillors to be able to get all the facts on the issues in their areas, examine what is being done and how effective it is and set the direction of policy to tackle the issues impacting on the communities they represent.

“This move is a step in that direction.”