‘Hidden poverty’ and low wages in north east Fife

Councillor Bryan Poole
Councillor Bryan Poole

“Hidden poverty” and the high percentage of people in north east Fife not earning a living wage have been highlighted by local councillors.

Cupar councillor Bryan Poole, speaking at a meeting of Fife Council’s north east area committee, said there was a lot of hidden poverty in the area and generally more inequality than people realised.

Councillor Bryan Poole

Inequality issues may be greater than people realise

His views were shared by Councillor Brian Thomson, St Andrews, who said research by the Trade Union Congress revealed that more than 34 per cent of employees in north east Fife earned less than the living wage - the highest percentage in Scotland. It was a “shocking figure.”

The committee agreed that both issues should be prioritised.

A report before councillors, setting out high priority issues, put support for the elderly as a major topic, particularly the impact of fuel poverty.

Another matter highlighted was the need for targeted training to allow the elderly to access resources, such as digital skills.

The report - to identify priorities for the Fife Community Planning Partnership - looked at many other issues, including business and tourism promotion.

It proposed a focus on increasing links between St Andrews and the rest of north east Fife and continuing to work with local businesses to promote apprenticeships.

There was also the potential to work with schools, the Scottish Rural College at Elmwood and businesses to ensure a pathway between education, training and employment.

Transport problems, said the report, were having an impact, with poor links between north east Fife and other surrounding areas, including Perth. They were a barrier to employment, particularly when many jobs were seasonal or had unsociable hours.

Examining other trends in the district, the report revealed that children made up 15 per cent of the population - the lowest in Fife.

In 2013/14, Bell Baxter High School had a roll of 1637 pupils, Madras 1400 and Waid 834.

Commenting on secondary school provision, the report said the Cupar North proposal had the potential to increase the size of the town by up to 1400 houses, with a resulting impact on local services and facilities.

With the school already operating close to capacity and having limited room for expansion, it was likely the impact on accessibility and quality of education would play a key part in the planning / consultation process for the development.