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Aberdeenshire Community Planning Partnership disappointed over plans for police, and fire and rescue

8 September 2011 grampian_police.jpeg

The Aberdeenshire Community Planning Partnership has voiced its concern and disappointment over plans announced by the Scottish Government to create single police and fire bodies for Scotland.

The plans were revealed by First Minister Alex Salmond as part of the Programme for Government 2011-12 yesterday (Wed, Sep 7), with further details provided by Cabinet Secretary for Justice Kenny MacAskill today (Thu, Sep 8). 

Mr MacAskill said that a period of consultation would be undertaken regarding how the changes would work in practice.

In March this year the Aberdeenshire Community Planning Partnership made a submission to the Christie Commission concerning the future of public services in Scotland.

In the submission, the Partnership highlighted the strength of the relationship between public sector partners in the north-east of Scotland and the joined-up nature of the approach to public service delivery in the area.

The submission stressed the debate about change needed to focus on the three main issues of the process of reform, the need for local democracy, and the reform of service delivery through innovation.

It also argued the debate needed to be about ‘far more than structures, the number of councils and other public sector bodies’.

Chair of the Aberdeenshire Community Planning Partnership and Leader of Aberdeenshire Council Cllr Anne Robertson today voiced her concern at the Scottish Government’s plans.

Cllr Robertson said: “The announcement is extremely disappointing, particularly given the robust response given by the Partnership to the Christie Commission which stressed the importance of local accountability.

“As was outlined in the submission, Aberdeenshire is a rural area with unique challenges which we believe are best met through local democratic and accountability arrangements.

“The centralisation of service provision would be at odds with the delivery of the community empowerment and development agenda. 

“To overcome the challenges which lie ahead, we must be able to continue to work together with our communities to identify priorities and target our resources where the need is greatest.”

Partnership working is well-established in Aberdeenshire, with a number of public bodies sharing resources to provide tailored services to communities, and often generating savings. 

Grampian Fire and Rescue Service has strong links with partners in Aberdeenshire, including Aberdeenshire Council’s care and repair team, Grampian Police’s roads policing unit, and as a provider of outreach centres for Aberdeen College.

The service also operates two very successful ‘First Responder’ schemes in support of the Scottish Ambulance Service, a co-located fire/ambulance station has been established in Fraserburgh, and another is planned at Tomintoul. Ambulance rapid response vehicles use city fire stations at peak times as a base.

Grampian Police also shares property with a number of local partners, including the Scottish Ambulance Service and Aberdeenshire Council, most recently at the Westhill Service Point.

Aberdeenshire Council was one of the first local authorities to agree the Single Outcome Agreement with the Scottish Government as a community planning partnership in June 2008.

Cllr Robertson said local accountability was vital in terms of supporting Aberdeenshire Council’s key pillars of early intervention; economic development; and demographic change.

“The Partnership’s submission clearly stated that changing geographic or organisational boundaries will place an unreasonable burden on the public sector and is unlikely to improve outcomes for the public,” said Cllr Robertson. 

“We believe that local accountability is fundamental to the democratic expectation of individuals and communities, and share the concerns expressed by others, including COSLA.”

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