NHS Guidance Puts Your GrandMa and GrandPa at risk

Grandma and GranPa forced to shop by NHS guidnace

NHS COVID-19.  Is the NHS guidace right for Your Granny or Granddad?

Shopping when they should not…

Recently 10 Downing Steet has issued a guide to every resident in the UK.   That advice for a resident appears to be at odds with that of the NHS for those over seventy. See the guide page 6



1) Those Seventy and over, and any with an underlying health condition or are pregnant

This group – there is a slight difficulty that relates to the wording.  If you look at the layout it suggests that it is for that particular group only and there is no clear reference back to the other sections.

Just the mention of protecting yourself by following the advice above. But there is nothing above just a simple heading.

The page before that is page 4 (The physical booklet is out of sequence and page four talks about symptoms).

As indicated, the pages are not in normal read sequence they are 2, 4, 6 and 7 for the front and 5 3 8 and Front piece (Page 1) for the back.  Just on one piece of paper folded but uncut.

There is a simple statement on page 6

If you need shopping or medication, ask family, friends or neighbours to drop these at the door, or if possible order online.

This advice is at odds with the NHS guidance which implies that going to the shops is fine and therefore the NHS guidance is putting the health of those over seventy, those with underlying health conditions, or anyone that is pregnant at risk.

If you have watched the news on television you will see the death rate that is by far the highest is in the over seventy age group.  Therefore, it would seem logical to keep any person over seventy away from the shops. Quote from NRS Scotland says

“Over 60% of all deaths involving COVID -19 were people aged 75 or over”

Therefore, it is logical that people in this group should be treated differently from the population in general.

It also follows that it is illogical that they follow the same rules as everyone else, especially with a death rate greater than 60%.

You can see the NRS data here National Records of Scotland Statistics  

The NHS Guidance is more clear than that of 10 Downing Street. However, it simply applies the same rules to this group at risk as they are doing for the population at large. That is instead of putting processes in place to actively protect this group they leave people over seventy etc to do the same things.

NHS Guidance those over seventy etc… How to protect yourself from coronavirus is exactly the same as that for the population at large.

Therefore, is the idea to kill off Granny or Granddad, those with underlying health condition and mums to be?

See NHS guidance https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/advice-for-people-at-high-risk/

2). The guidance from 10 Downing Street includes those with severe high risk

The guidance here is clear.  That is you should have received a letter from the NHS.  The missing bit is that one needs to contact your GP in this case. For that group, you should stay at home.

Finally, there is no mention about help for the Disabled – How do they cope and how do retailers work with the disabled etc in this situation. Can any guidance be provided?

Surely help needs to be provided to the weakest in society especially as some are essential workers. How do they get to work?

For completeness below is the advice for the population in general.

3) People healthy in general

– Should stay in
– Shop for essentials, and medical items
– Have one form of exercise a day
– Comply with the two-meter rule
– Should work from home if they can
– If they can’t and are essential workers they can travel

4). Comment from NHS Fife

We have asked NHS Fife to comment on this article and it appears that there has been no one available to comment.

New Prescription Collection and Delivery Service

Doctor writing a prescription

You might not have thought of this, but did you know that when you visit your GP and if you need a prescription why not ask for it to be sent with your mobile phone number by email to your chemist. That way instead of standing in a queue to wait for your medication you can pop into the chemist when you receive a text message. A message that tells you that your prescription is ready. Please remember to tell your GP to ask your chemist to send you a text message.

At the moment pharmacies are delivering an excellent service to the public despite the rise in business caused by the COVID-19 virus.

NHS Fife say


“Patients are reminded that they should follow their normal repeat prescription ordering pattern and only order the medicines they need. However, in light of demand at this time, patients should allow some extra time to ensure the prescription is generated, taken to the pharmacy and then assembled, labelled and clinically checked by the Pharmacist.”


“There are currently very few issues with the supply of medicines so there is no reason for individuals to order extra or to stockpile medicines at home.”

“Due to significant demand in response to COVID-19, there may be occasion when some pharmacies will close for short periods, or operate reduced opening hours.  Where this happens there will be clear signage on the entrance to the pharmacy as to when they will be open again or directions to an alternative open pharmacy.”


“The increased demand over the last few weeks has lead to prescriptions taking longer than usual to be processed and the patience and understanding of the public is very much appreciated.  It is important that people order prescription medicines in the usual way and I would stress to only order the medicines needed at that particular time. This will enable medicines to be available for everyone that needs them and will not impact on the medicines supply chain ( as we have seen with foodstuffs, toilet roll etc. )”


There is also a new service to deliver prescriptions to the vulnerable. It is being managed by Fife Voluntary Action (FVA) and it kicked into action on Wednesday 25th March 2020. Since then the demand has been amazing. It uses the services of volunteers to provide the service. Therefore below is the advice from an NHS SpokesPerson to help FVA:

“The newly established priority delivery service is for vulnerable people who are very unwell or self-isolating and have no carer, family member, neighbour or friend who can collect prescriptions from the pharmacy on their behalf.”

So how does the service operate?

Firstly, it is volunteers that will collect prescription medicines from community pharmacies and hospitals, and deliver them to people at their home. Therefore, it relies on their goodwill, when contacting the organisations to be patient and courteous.

Volunteer drivers will try to attend community pharmacies to collect prescriptions from

9 AM – 10 AM or 5 PM – 6 PM

when pharmacies may be closed to the public. This is to minimise risk and disruption to services.

Secondly, you need to make contact with your GP but when you do:


Tell your GP Practice which community pharmacy you would like the prescription sent to. For many people, you will have already done this and the GP Practice will know. If not, you should suggest a community pharmacy near your home. From then on your prescription will be sent directly to the chemist you usually use. As explained earlier once this is set up an email is sent to the chemist for all future prescriptions.

The outcome then may be:

  • A single prescription
  • A number of defined repeat prescriptions
  • Repeat Prescription. If you are a patient that uses the repeat prescription service then this service is very similar to the other services. Therefore, please arrange for your repeat prescription (when you are ready to reorder) to be taken to the chemist. Do this after hours and have it popped through the Chemist’s letterbox – ideally in an envelope.


To access the delivery service, a phone line will operate:-

between 9 am and 5 pm, Monday to Friday.

For more info please see


Fife Voluntary Action would now prefer patients to complete an online form in the first instance – please click on… www.fva.org/prescription

Please note you will need to scroll down the page as the form cannot be seen when you open the page.

but will also respond to telephone calls and emails.

If you have a prescription either paper or sent by email and managed to get it to the chemist then send an email to:-

Email:   prescriptions@fva.org

Please note FVA cannot collect and deliver prescriptions for Methadone and Subutex: Unfortunately, we are unable to collect or deliver these drugs. Please contact addiction services on 01592 716 446 if you need help with these items.

FVA will need the following information:

Personal Information.

  • Your First Name:
  • Your Last Name:
  • Your Street Address:
  • Your Main local area and Postal Town
  • Your postcode:
  • Your phone number
    • Mobile:
    • Home:

Your GP practice

  • Name
  • Address

Your Community Pharmacy (Your Local Chemist)

  • Name
  • Address
  • Date and time the prescription was ordered
  • Is this an urgent Prescription?
  • If it is please tell us why, and when you will run out

  • Any repeat prescription the following week

Special Instructions:

  • Any items to be stored in a fridge
  • How to operate the buzzer (If you live in a flat)
  • Any other advice to help delivery – for instance, delivery directions, the Google Plus code for Google maps may help. Here is an example for the FVA Kirkcaldy:- 4R6P+55 Kirkcaldy
  • Please note FVA cannot leave prescriptions unattended

Additionally, you need to say and agree to the following..

I (Your Name) agree to FVA processing the information you have provided here, and sharing it with NHS Fife, Fife Health and Social Care Partnership, Fife Council and pharmacies purely for the purposes of helping you to get your prescription(s) during this pandemic and any similar emergencies.

Kirk Suspends Church Meetings- Covid 19

As we all know there is a guideline issued by the Scottish Government not to attend busy places and this applies to everyone. You will see from the guidelines that religious meetings are also included. Therefore, the Church of Scotland have issued advice to all local churches not to have regular church meetings and services and these cease from 17th March until further notice.

You can find a copy of the advice here https://www.churchofscotland.org.uk/resources/advice-for-churches-covid-19-coronavirus

Some churches are offering live streaming of daily talks and Sunday service meetings on the Internet. Please see a note below from Dalgety Parish Church written by Rev Christine Sime

‘Following advice from The Church of Scotland all worship services have been cancelled. 

On Sunday mornings I will lead worship from the church – this will be livestreamed, we hope you can join us and know God’s presence and blessing.

Our church building will be open for prayer /reflection each weekday morning for the time being – please keep to advice on handwashing. Prayers will be said every morning in Dalgety Parish Church for congregation, community, nation, world – for all creation. This will be at 10am each morning – wherever you are add your prayers too.

And please help those unable to watch our ‘livestream’ know that they are remembered in prayer. 


The text of the Church of Scotland Advice appears below

Advice for Churches: COVID-19 (Coronavirus)

Updated 17 March 2020

Worship – Cancellation of Services

The Scottish Government now advises that people should minimise social contact by avoiding crowded areas and large gatherings, including religious congregations, and smaller gatherings.

The Church of Scotland now asks, in the strongest terms, that all gatherings for worship should cease until further notice, with effect from Tuesday 17 March 2020. Other Scottish Churches are taking similar actions. This obviously includes Easter services. Some Presbyteries have already instructed this action. This will include, but not be restricted to: housegroups, meetings for youth work, and church cafes. It will still be possible for an individual to offer a livestream of a sermon and prayers. Further information on livestreaming, including information on copyright, can be found in this circular on the Law Department’s webpages here. Sunday broadcasts of a weekly service take place on Radio 4, and also on Radio Scotland; other radio stations are available. Several churches currently offer livestreams or recorded services; a list can be found on our website.

Church buildings can be kept open as a place for people to come and pray. Notices should be clearly displayed asking that visitors observe robust hand hygiene.


The Moderator, the Right Reverend Colin Sinclair, along with the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, and other church leaders, has issued a call for a National Day of Prayer; more details can be found in the news section of our website.


The Church is aware that closing down worship services will impact on congregational income, and we want to encourage people to continue contributing financially as far as possible, and to encourage the increased use of standing orders as an expression of ongoing stewardship.


The key phrase here is to minimise social contact. Sensitive conversations will need to take place with families and mourners ahead of funeral ceremonies, and to consider the size of groups gathering for funerals. It may be necessary in the future to consider whether funerals should be restricted exclusively to minister, immediate family, and funeral directors. In addition, local guidance from funeral directors and crematorium staff will be critical here. It should be noted that many crematoria have the facility to livestream services and to host a recording of services for a period of time after the cremation service.


Certain venues will be restricting attendance, and it may be that couples have to work through what changes have to made, including, in some cases, rearranging. Restrictions on travel into the UK will also have an effect on guests at weddings. Again, sensitive conversations will be the order of the day.

Pastoral Care Networks

Please see our guidance note from the Church’s Safeguarding Department with some useful guidance about setting up small pastoral care networks with a practical outcome. This guidance note contains a postcard which may be useful. There are some good ideas here about small groups; such groups can mitigate social isolation, and help people to continue to feel that they are part of the wider community of faith. Previous advice about using tools such as Skype, email, letters, greetings cards, Facetime, and Whatsapp groups are all useful approaches and some of these are particularly helpful where people don’t use technology.

General Assembly

The decision has been taken in the light of Scottish Government advice to cancel the General Assembly of May 2020. The Office of the General Assembly will be in touch with commissioners separately.

Hygiene recommendations

Best hygiene practice should continue to be observed in all pastoral contacts.

Updated advice is available from NHS Scotland.

Public Health Scotland and the UK Government recommend that you should take usual infection prevention precautions including:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds
  • Use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser that contains at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not available
  • Churches can underline the importance of handwashing by ensuring that hand sanitisers are not available in toilets where soap and water can be used
  • It is particularly important after taking public transport to use sanitiser on your hands
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands
  • Carry tissues to catch coughs and sneezes and bin the tissue
  • If you feel unwell, stay at home, do not attend work or school
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces in church buildings

NHS Scotland have prepared a poster which could be displayed at your building entrance to give advice to visitors. The purpose of this poster is to protect the visitor and those within the building.

Travel advice

Advice has also been issued to travellers, advising against all non-essential travel worldwide. This advice was revised on 17 March.


Below are two posters which you may wish to display in your buildings.

This page will be updated when new advice becomes available from NHS Scotland and the UK Government.

Online worship

Several churches live stream or post their services online. You can find a list of these on our Kirk services online page.

Benarty, Cowdenbeath and Dalgety Bay Surgeries: Lesley Laird MP for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath

Lesley Laird MP Surgery List for Friday 20 09 2019

Dalgety Bay Surgeries: Lesley Laird MP for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath

We have just received this poster it is shown below. It says that Lesley Laird will be holding surgeries in her constituency this coming FRIDAY.



– 10.30 am Benarty Centre, Flockhouse Avenue, BALLINGRY

– 11.15 am Maxwell Centre, Stenhouse Street, COWDENBEATH

– 12 noon Dalgety Bay Library, Regents Way, DALGETY BAY

No appointment necessary but you may prefer to call Lesley Laird’s office to confirm

If you cannot attend at any of the times above please just make an appointment. You can do so at Lesley Laird’s office and her contact details are below:-

☎️ Tel 01592 724129

✅ Email lesley.laird.mp@parliament.uk

Address John Smith Business Park, 1 Begg Road, Kirkcaldy KY2 6HD

Lesley Laird Surgery Note for Friday 20th September 2019
Lesley Laird MP Surgery Note 20 09 2019 courtesy of Lesley Laird MP

Rimini donate much needed laptop computers to Fife Disability Charity

At 2pm on Monday 29th July, Employees from Rimini Street Support and Rimini Street Foundation presented Disabilities Fife  with three much needed refurbished laptop computers.

Rimini donate 3 laptop pcs to Disabilities Fife

This is part of Rimini’s charity work in the UK and USA.

Chair of Disabilities Fife Charles Litster said “Our computers at the moment are badly in need of a replacement.  Therefore,  as a result we will be able to operate more effectively meeting the needs of members, general public, and Fife Council”,

Charles added “It will greatly assist with our Access Panel work when we are on site looking at Access issues”

“Therefore we give the Rimini Street Foundation a big thank you”

CAA Intervention requested on Flight Path Issues

Letter Below sent to Edinburgh Airport, CAA,  and ICO yesterday Thursday, 28th June 2018 by Charles Litster (Human Rights and Equalities Campaigner)

Subject: Edinburgh Airport – Flightpath E7A consultatio – request to CAA to extend consultation

Dear ICO, CAA and Edinburgh Airport

Open Letter: Request to extend the Consultation Period for the Edinburgh Airport E7A Flight Path Consultation – It currently closes today 28th June – Consultation ends at 11:59pm

From this note you will see that the current consultation has been done quickly and I am asking that the current process is brought to a halt and a more structured consultation takes place.  A consultation based on current recommended Good Practice and 2018 Guidelines, as opposed to the out of date guidelines Edinburgh Airport staff are using.

If this was an EU regulation, it would be mandatory to use the 2018 guidelines.

It was late on Thursday 24th May 2018, on the eve of General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) coming into play throughout the UK.  An Edinburgh Airport flight path campaigner heard about an additional consultation to change the flight path, which was a significant change to what was submitted to the CAA towards the end of 2017.

This is a complex subject and the consultation was crouched in technical aviation terms. A glossy document was later received in Dalgety Bay on or after 31st May with some people still receiving it in their letter box on 2nd June or later.

Information Commissioner Officer (ICO) – GDPR

On eve of GDPR in the full knowledge that a consultation was about to take place an email was sent out to all consultees from the previous consultation to agree to being on the Flight Path consultees email list. Basically, asking all consultees to opt in.  Please see document marked “A”

Firstly. GDPR is a complex issue and we all need to take advice on it – specifically from the ICO, and that is why this section is here but…

1) The writers of the email spelt out there may well be further consultations.

2) It was very close to 25th May and this is the only email I received.

3) At this point of time everyone knew that by sending an opt-in request when everyone’s email box was full of opt in requests there would be a high risk of there not being as many opt-ins as one would like.

4) This is the difficult bit and needs the view of the ICO – the airport had a legitimate interest in sending emails to people on the contact list as they were consultees and should be updated as a matter of courtesy. Therefore, it is my view that it was not necessary to ask for an opt-in in the first place.

It is my point in 4) I am trying to bring to the attention of the ICO and I am asking the ICO to contact Edinburgh Airport and to be helpful. To that end, I am also asking for all people that have been dropped off the consultee list, as a result of the GDPR request, to be restored as Consultees.

Given that consultees have been dropped, it brings into question the validity of this particular consultation as they should have been made aware of it and told about it by email, as those dropped off consultees may have a valid interest in the new flight path.

The least that should have been done is that a pdf copy of the new consultation should have been sent out with the GDPR request.


Therefore, for this reason I am asking the CAA to intervene and halt the current consultation and I am asking for a restart at a future date to be determined by the CAA.

< – – – After this point the ICO has no need to read any further if she so wishes

The Initial Strategy for the Consultation

Was not to involve the Community in any way. The intention was to deliver the Consultation document to residents in the area concerned and ask then to respond to a complex set of issues without any further explanation. It was only after the intervention of Lesley Laird MP that a public meeting was hastily arranged for 8th June 2018. Most residents received invites to the meeting by mail on 6th/7th June.

Despite that and many apologies from those that could not attend there were over 250 people at the meeting in Inverkeithing High School.   Everyone we very concerned about the proposals.

There was a further Drop-in session organised at Inverkeithing Community Centre for 14th June 2018


The meeting 8th June 2018

It was heated meeting and major concerns raised by all the speakers

These included (and this is not an exhaustive list):-

  • – A resident that had lived near Heathrow and found the noise overhead in Aberdour worse than that she had experienced at Heathrow
  • – One-person, highlighted risks of cancer from aviation fuel – stated source of info from a previous local study
  • – Eight Schools being on the proposed flight path
  • – Inaccurate population figures about areas impacted – for instance the population of Dalgety Bay is nearer 10,500 than 8,500.
  • – Concern about increasing mental and physical health issues caused by noise pollution on residents under the new flight path. The increased costs to the NHS.
  • – Concern that proposals from the floor of the meeting were not being taken seriously and what appeared to be a lack of interest to look at alternative routes.
  • – When providing flight figures as part of the consultation all the figures referred to are averages.  As I understand it they referred to the arithmetic mean. In simple terms what is needed is the
    • highest number of flights,
    • The most likely number of flights especially during peak times and seasons, and…
    • the lowest levels of flights plus the arithmetic mean
  • – A noise monitor was offered to measure the noise of flights overhead but that is only after the consultation period and the results would not be included in the consultation.
  • – The computer model according to the speakers does not include actual measurements of noise in the areas, but uses data based on the Geographic location of Gatwick.
  • – I must say that I have travelled to Gatwick in the past and it is very different in many ways to Edinburgh and the surrounding villages/towns.
  • – My questions are:-
  • A) How can the computer model be validated against an area that is very different to one the planes will fly over?
  • B) Why are they not validating the model against the impact of the actual noise?
  • – A Queens Counsel was in the audience and he stated that he was not happy with the current consultation process and wanted a consultation that met his understanding of what should be done.
  • – The airport was operating on historical guidelines for the consultation, consultation processes and flight paths regulations instead of the new 2018 guidelines that had stricter rules and good practice about consultation and flight paths etc.

Subsequent meeting at Inverkeithing Community Centre (Drop-in event)

It was clear that some of the issues had been looked at for the high elderly population and disabled in Dalgety Bay. But this had been discounted to save money for the aircraft operators. The priority of the airport is to make small savings for the aircraft organisations and in my view showed a lack of concern for the wishes of the whole community.

Not many people are aware of this… but Edinburgh Airport is based close to the River Forth – this leads into the North Sea and there is a great expanse of water for planes to fly over, turn and gain height thereby reducing considerably any noise or pollution hazard.

But the officers from Edinburgh Airport are refusing to consider this and any other options to recommend to the CAA.

Given all these concerns and lots of unanswered questions, there is much work for Edinburgh Airport to respond to it would be sensible and prudent to halt the current consultation – set a new date were all the issues can be dealt fully and understood by all.

This would be far better than the currently rushed consultation and should follow the 2018 guidelines and best practice.

To that end I am asking for the CAA to quickly intervene, halt the current consultation and set a new date to provide time for the airport and the communities to talk and co-operate with each other.

Best wishes

Charles Litster

Fife Human Rights and Equalities Campaigner


Fife Teacher numbers – A storm in a Tea Cup

The story starts over the weekend, with a tweet from the SNP as shown in our image below. The SNP say that the Fife Labour Council administration is cutting teaching numbers in Fife.  Fife Labour take a different view.

Image of Councilor Lesley Laird’s article on Facebook

We must say there always two sides to any story and here is Fife Labour’s reply viaLabour Councillor Lesley Laird.  The SNP article follows.

“Folks – with regards education story doing the rounds here are the facts. This change will mean that more Fife children will be taught by a permanent teacher rather than temporary or supply. We are having to do this because of the chronic shortage of teachers in Scotland – Circa 4000 less since 2007. Read what Council Leader David Ross issued yesterday based on clarifying the position with Fife’s Head of Education.

There Will Be No Cut in Teacher Numbers in Fife

Fife Council Leader David Ross has completely rejected claims by the SNP that Labour plans to cut teacher numbers in Fife. He said, “The SNP have got it wrong. There is no cut in teachers.

“What we are proposing is that we move teachers around to better meet the needs of our children. It is improving frontline education not reducing it.

“We currently have over 100 vacant frontline teaching posts in primary and secondary education. These are being covered by supply teachers, by heads and depute heads and by other temporary arrangements, such as combining classes. This means these children do not have the benefit of a consistent, permanent class teacher.

“Why are there these vacancies? Because there is a teacher shortage across Scotland. The SNP Government has failed to fund teacher training properly for the past few years, so there aren’t enough teachers to go round.

“I want to be absolutely clear:

· These proposals will allow us to fill 100 vacant teaching posts on a permanent basis, directly benefiting children across Fife
· There will be an increase in the size of some classes but none will be above the statutory minimum
· There will be no reduction in the overall number of teachers
· The Pupil Teacher Ratio will not be affected

“The SNP in Fife are choosing to twist the facts in an attempt to have a go at the Labour Administration, rather than admit that this move will be of great benefit to children who at present don’t have a permanent teacher.”

The story from the SNP

Image of the SNP Facebook page

‘Reverse teacher cuts now!

Cllr Neale Hanvey, the SNPs new leader in Fife, has called for the immediate halt to cuts of teaching posts in Labour’s budget proposals.

Fife Council’s Labour administration has proposed a £3m cut from Education budgets in a bid to redistribute teaching staff to reduce current vacancies. According to Cllr Hanvey this will see 70 front line teaching staff posts removed.

Councillor Hanvey said:

“This outrage did not feature in officers’ proposals to elected members this year so it is completely down to Labour wanting to hit education and undermine the Scottish Government’s efforts to improve the life chances of our youngsters.

“The hypocrisy of Labour never ceases to astound me. In Holyrood they complain about investment, while Fife is set to receive close to £10m this year in Pupil Equity Funds. That is real money going straight to the front line, where it’s needed. Meanwhile in Fife, Labour undermine our head teachers by ripping 70 front line teaching posts out of the budget. Once these posts are gone, it is highly unlikely they will ever be reinstated

“I’m sure most folk will think that using Fife’s most vulnerable children, to attack the Scottish Government in this way, is pretty despicable stuff. I therefore call on Fife Labour to abandon their educational austerity proposal and put their trust in our front line staff.”

The SNP Spokesperson for Education, Cllr Fay Sinclair said:

“This Labour administration has already closed schools across Fife, now they want to cut teachers too. It is an appalling way to treat our young people and our hard-working teachers.

“While the Scottish Government is investing in education, Labour wants to cut school budgets by £3 million and reduce teaching posts in Primary schools and high school Maths and English departments.

“Last year we opposed Labour’s removal of healthy lunch choices from primary school menus and managed to see that cut reversed. I urge them to think again on teacher numbers too.

“Our children deserve better and I know parents across Fife will join me in calling for Labour to scrap these plans.”

The Fife Council Draft Budget… The count down starts now – Have your say

Fife Council - Fife House with a white Fife Council van

Potential 7.5 per cent Council Tax rise.

With less than four working days to comment, the citizens of Fife face a tight timeline to respond to 19 pages plus of information with just 7 pages of explanatory text.

To put the draft budget into  perspective we all at some time have to  face life’s challenges.  They may be in our career, our family and our finances.  Often the financial challenges can take their toll and one  may need help from others to decide what to do.

Government grant cut…
£38m deficit instead of £21m

Fife Council is no different.  Their income £752m, which for most of us is out of our league and their spend – well in our terms it is enormous, that is £791m  (The greater portion of the spend being staff salaries and office accommodation),  that figure  would make most peoples’ credit card turn up at the ends.

But as a result the Council have ended up with a deficit of £38m  instead of the £21m already budgeted for.  The £16m plus increase is as a result of a cut in the Scottish Government support grant.

Therefore,  the Council is like a family, that is trying to make ends meet.  Typically, one tries to make savings or increase your income.  On that note Fife Council is like you and I.

When savings are not savings?

But some pages in their draft document are  not clear.  The Council refer to savings, as a generic term.  As you will see later I mention the example of Council Tax Income.  There you will see a figure of 1.5m savings.  That is not a  saving but £1.5m of additional Council Tax coming into the Council from a variety of new builds etc.

Which reminds me…  In my youth I asked a female friend  of mine to go out and do a bit of shopping for me.  After a couple of hours she returned and happily announced that I had been saved £20.  There, I was waiting, waiting eagerly,  for four crisp blue £5 notes to re-enter my wallet.  She smiled and looked into my eyes. Her eyes twinkled.  A twinkle with a concentrated spark  ( I recognized that smile, the spark, and it always worried me).  Her face – full of beams of sunshine, said it all.

As opposed to a saving she needed more money. More money from me! The upshot, I was short of £20.  I had not saved a bean!

At which point I dived into my wallet and drowned in a sulk.  The pain deepened as I sunk further into my wallet with despair.  My wallet emptied, as I extracted those four hard earned fivers. The money just floated out of my hands.  It sailed away.   I had smiles  on the outside,  but on the inside… disappointment!

Fife Council  – Their Budget Challenges

Fife Council similarly have a budget challenge, and this includes:-

  • A backdated equal pay settlement.
  • A reduction in grant from the Scottish Government of 3.6%, more than what was expected.
  • And nine years of static council tax.  Therefore to alleviate this it  has been suggested there could be a 7.51% increase.  The Council Tax yield after the deduction of  a £4m penalty is a cool £7.5m.

Therefore, like anyone with such challenges the Labour administration need your input, so please do complete and return your comments to Fife Council on or before 4th February 2016.  This is essential as the Council have made it clear that they want YOU to join the conversation see –Let’s Talk.

Councillor David Ross
Councillor David Ross encourages you to participate

There you will see how easy it is to do.  Fearing nothing, we had a go ourselves.

Firstly you need to download the document from the Fife Direct Website.  The link is here at Let’s Talk.  Which may be a challenge to some members of the public that do not have Internet access. We understand there are paper copies that are available to the public from local offices and libraries.

We downloaded and opened the Draft Revenue Budget and then shouted Agh! or some other not so polite words!

We thought… We will never understand this!  So we had a cup of tea, put our feet up and relaxed. Then looked at it a bit more.

When we did we found there was a good bit of explanatory text (Pages 1 to 7) and that really did help.

An index to the 19 page document…

To help you we have listed the important bits here:-

  • Table 1 (page 3) – Original draft summary budget prior to the Scottish government grant decision.
  • Table 2 (page 4) Revised draft summary after the government grant decision. This has an item updated budget assumptions  section (See Appendix 2). The figures in table 1 do not relate to table 2 because of the equal pay settlement.
  • Appendix 1 – Draft Revenue Budget 2016-2019 (page 8 – High level list of savings).
    There is an Options to close heading with the words Operational Savings and Proposed additional savings below it. You can find details of these in appendix 2 and appendix 3 respectively.
  • Appendix 2 (Page 9) – Summary of Revised Assumptions see Table 2 (If there is a bracket around the assumed figure it means the item is spend, not a saving) and there is also a reference to savings of £1.5m on Council Tax income. This is not a saving as such. What is meant here is an increase in Council Tax Revenue of £1.5m.

There is also a summary of operational savings.  You can find details of these here http://publications.1fife.org.uk/uploadfiles/publications/c64_OperationalSavings.pdf

There are total savings of £5.366m for the operational ones and £9.450m for the updated assumptions.

  • Appendix 3 (Page 10) – Proposed additional savings £4.279m
  • Appendix 4 (Page 12) – Further Possible Budget Savings £5.440m
  • Appendix 4 (Page 13)- Rejected Additional Savings  £11.371m ((Remember this is a draft so they could be ruled back in)
  • Appendix 5 (Page 14)- Temporary Savings £9.373m

We were curious about this one for no other reason than…

When the word temporary is used by government departments etc it always is a cause for concern.  We always remember the story about the introduction of income tax as a temporary measure in 1803. Two old pence on each pound was charged on income over £60 a year (equivalent to £5,641 as of 2016).  In the main we all still pay income tax.   Therefore it is a tax that was a temporary measure that is still with is,  and  I must say costs a lot more than one new penny in the pound.  Just a thought… income tax at less than 1% of your income.  Wow!

So we asked some questions

You talk about temporary savings can you explain how that will operate?

“These savings will be for one year only and it will be a reduction in budgets.”

Will you put your workers on short time for a year?

“No, employees will not be on short time for a year.”

The Temporary Savings

Can you please explain some examples of temporary savings?

  1. Reduction in Supplies and Services

“This is a reduction in budgets for consumable items such as printing, stationery, equipment etc”

  1. Reduction in Maintenance of Building

“We have a budget to allow us to undertake routine maintenance on buildings, for one year only this budget will be reduced, meaning that some maintenance will not be undertaken.”

  1. Reduction in Maintenance of Roads.

“Similar to buildings there is a budget to maintain roads, for one year only this budget will be reducing, meaning that not all road maintenance work will be undertaken.”

  1. Review of inflation

“Inflation is applied to some budgets to reflect the increase in prices, given the financial challenges, we have reviewed this requirement and will not be applying inflation to some items.”

  1. Review of Staffing Budget – vacancy management

“Services will be asked to hold vacancies and manage the recruitment process, meaning that there will be a delay in recruiting some staff which will result in a saving.”

  1. Review of Trust Funding

“Fife Council has a number of subsidiaries and trusts which are receive some of their funding from the Council.  Given the scale of the challenges and the need for the council to make reductions, we are reviewing the level of funding we provide to these organisations.”

  1. Review of Capital Plan – planned slow down

“This reflects the revenue savings that would be generated from a reduced level of borrowing to fund the capital programme.  This has been calculated on the basis of the level of underspend on the capital programme this year and reported to committee last week.”

  • Appendix 6 (Page 15) – 7.51% increase in Council Tax.
  • Appendix 7 (Pages 16) Further Areas for Potential Savings.

This includes proposals to shave off 30 minutes from the working time of staff and close the Council Offices for half a day a week.

  • Appendix 8 (Pages 17-19) Transformational Proposals – looking at other options and efficiencies.

So that is it apart from TLAs…

TLAs the downfall of man

Oops! I should have said (TLAs) Three Letter Abbreviations which some think is our downfall!

Here are the abbreviations we spotted.

IJB – Integrated Joint Board

CCFM – Catering, Cleaning and Facilities Management – which is a Business Unit of the council

PBB -Priority Based Budgeting – this was a report prepared looking at the methods of budgeting for Transportation Service. The report proposed a number of initiatives which are now in the draft budget and identified with PBB.

To summarise, we have looked at this draft budget to find out how easy it is for you to have your say.  We believe it is well worth everyone contributing to the Let’s Talk debate.  You just need a cup of tea, a little bit of time and perhaps a lot of patience.

Councillor Altany Craik
Councillor Altany Craik explains the consultation process

And to that end  please do contribute.

Just for a word of encouragement we have asked Councillor Altany Craik somes questions about the process

1) What will Fife Council do with your comments when they receive them?

“The responses will all be collated and analysed.  we will get a copy of all consultation responses to consider.”

Will my suggestions abouts savings and additional revenues be listened to?

“On the revenue raising ideas, nothing is off the table – we need to balance the budget through a combination of efficiency, savings, raising revenues and transforming processes and service delivery.”

Altany then added…

“There can be no sacred cows in terms of consideration.”

Thank you Altany, the bottom line, your expert input is needed by Fife Council.

So, it is now time, first of all to start reading and secondly writing your responses.  Once you have done so please submit your comments, suggestion and ideas on how to make the budget work.  That is before time runs out on this Thursday, 4th February 2016!

Helen Grant Book Signings in Fife

Helen Grant at her book signing
Helen Grant at book signings in Fife on Saturday 4th july. Helen meets with readers in Waterstones’ stores in Dunfermline and Kirkcaldy

Crieff based fiction writer Helen Grant had a busy Saturday in Fife doing book signings. The signings took place on 4th July 2015, in Waterstone’s Kirkcaldy at 11am, and Waterstone’s Dunfermline at 2pm.

Helen writes thrillers with international locations, all of them published by Penguin Random House. On Saturday she signed copies of Forbidden Spaces, a trilogy of thrillers set in Brussels, of which the last book, Urban Legends, was published in March 2015.

As well as signing copies of the trilogy, Helen chatted to readers about her books – in particular about their urban exploration theme. The books involved extensive research and she used her experiences of living in Brussels to add more atmosphere to her story.

Helen aims to make her stories as realistic as possible, and to that end she has visited nearly all the locations in the trilogy. The places visited include an abandoned factory, the Gravensteen castle in Ghent, a disused railway tunnel and the Brussels sewers!

As you will have guessed, Helen lived in Brussels before she moved to Crieff. Her life in Brussels inspired her to write the trilogy. Consequently, as she now lives in Scotland Helen is working on a new novel set in Perthshire. Like her other books, it is a thriller and has exciting elements of mystery and intrigue.

As always Helen’s fans appreciate her special signed copies and look forward with anticipation to her new Perthshire novel.