Fife councillors get more say on local plans

Cllr Alex Rowley
Cllr Alex Rowley

COUNCILLORS in Kirkcaldy are being given a greater say in shaping policies to reduce inequality, increase employment and tackle climate change in their local areas.

With wide variations in the quality of life across Fife, the Council is committed to strengthening the role of its seven area committees in community planning.

It means councillors will be able to influence decisions to tackle deprivation, poverty and unemployment affecting their own area, instead of relying on a ‘broad brush’ Fife-wide approach which may fail to address the particular problems on their own patch.

The move is in response to the latest update from the Fife Partnership, an organisation bringing together the public, voluntary and private sectors to channel their resources to strengthen Fife’s future.

Councillor Alex Rowley, chairman of Fife Partnership and leader of Fife Council, said: “I believe creating strong communities and working with them to not only reduce but also prevent deprivation and inequality is crucial.

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

“Our area committees are in a unique position to understand and influence what is going on in their locality.”

Across Fife, the community planning report for 2012 highlights:

• 21 per cent of households are in relative poverty.

• 20 per cent of children are living in households dependent on out of work benefits or tax credits.

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

• 16.9 per cent of Fife’s working age population are claiming benefits.

• Rates of alcohol-related hospital admissions are 5.7 times higher in the most deprived areas compared to the least deprived.

• An estimated 1.38 per cent of people aged 15-64 have a drug use problem.

• NHS Addiction Services has 1082 clients and drug and alcohol services run by the voluntary sector have 2902 clients.

But Cllr Rowley pointed out the picture varies greatly in different areas of Fife.

“Once you break down these statistics at a local level you start to see the real inequalities and level of problems that exist in our communities,” he said. “There are many people who just could not hold a job down. There are too many young children denied opportunity and destined to a life of disadvantage.

“Health and wellbeing, support for families, opportunities for young people in sport and leisure, early intervention in learning and education are all things over which the Council has direct influence.

“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.”