Alex Rowley: bringing changes to govern Fife better


At a full meeting of Fife Council on 24 May, Alex Rowley, council leader, delivered the following speech to members in relation to Labour’s proposed  changes in structures of governance at the local authority.

 

“Provost, in moving this motion  it is important to stress that structures of governance are only a means to an end.

That said, the structures are important as they must support the principles of good governance and the principles that we are aiming to achieve here in Fife ;

Openness, transparency, accountability in the way we govern Fife .

We must have Effective decision making and let me stress, it is about making decisions not just turning up and taking decisions.

It is also about making decisions at the most appropriate level. I said last week that we wanted to continue the work of the areas – I say today we want to empower the areas not just to take decisions, but to hold the council to account for the delivery of services in each area, for the impact of those services in the area and most important, for local councillors to be able to influence what services are provided at the local level.

That is why the proposals we put forward today will begin a process of further decentralisation but decentralisation with a purpose.

Indeed Provost, there is no point of having power unless you have a purpose. And, the purpose of this structure being proposed today is to allow every councillor in this chamber to participate and drive an agenda of change that addresses the big issues here in Fife .

We must strive to ensure that every child in Fife gets the chance to achieve to their full potential.

We are rightly proud of all our schools and their achievements. We are rightly proud of all the teachers, all the staff who together with pupils and parents have lifted Fifes education performance over the last decade.

But to be clear, there is so much more to do. Still too many of our youngsters leave school with little or no qualifications. In the last year, just over 5% of S4 pupils did not achieve a formal qualification and almost half of them had additional support needs throughout their time in school. This is the challenge and this is our purpose, every councillor, in the executive, in the policy groups, in the scrutiny groups, at the area level – at every level working together on this challenge.

And, there are plenty challenges.

In Fife – Over 12% of 18 to 24 year old males unemployed, over 5% of young women that are unemployed.

Young people want a fairer deal and here in this chamber and in the structures we are setting up we can make sure that we strive to do our bit to get those young people that fairer deal.

How are the training and skills budgets being spent and more important is it working – that is the questions we can and must be asking. Can we build new partnerships, get the money direct to the employers and get the quality training and apprenticeships places in place that our young people need and deserve. That is the challenge and that is the purpose of putting in place a structure that can deliver by empowering all councillors to be able to deliver.

As a local councillors there is nothing more heartbreaking than having young homeless people often with families at your surgery desperate to get a roof over their head, or families living in overcrowded conditions desperate to get a house and you have to tell them there is no quick fix, there is simply not enough houses to go around.

To see young men and women leave your surgery in tears is heart breaking and that is why I will not spend another five years going to committees and seeing reports being nodded through and feeling powerless to act on the big issues.

We can do more to build new partnerships with every sector to address the housing crisis we have here in Fife and we can be a powerful voice for Fife and oppose the massive cuts being proposed by the Scottish government to housing budgets. Standing up for Fife – putting people first with a governance structure that allows us to do that.

But it is not just about putting people first, it is about putting people in the driving seat. The public should and must have greater access to the council, so where they have concerns they can petition to relevant committee or policy group. Equally the area committees can do more to get out there into local communities.

There are hundreds and hundreds of volunteers running sports groups and activity clubs that engage thousands and thousands of people every week in Fife . I say lets empower them more, find out what help they need and get the budgets directed to their needs. This structure allows you to develop policy and budgets in that direction.

We must tackle the visible decline in our town centres – we must tackle the tidal wave of wind turbine applications that threatens to swamp our landscape and our space with industrial structures – We must ensure that every pensioner in our communities can live with pride and with dignity and have the support and the care to do so. We must expand nursery provision, develop family centres and put in place a can do attitude to supporting families.

The same can do attitude that says Fife is open for business. We will support companies coming into Fife but we will also support local businesses and help local people to start new businesses that will create jobs and opportunity.

And above all we must be ambitious for Fife, for all Fife communities and for all Fife people.

So Provost, it is not about having power for powers sake, it is not about having structures for structures sake it is about having a purpose, a vision and the determination to drive that vision and achieve that purpose.

A new council for new challenges.

That is what these structures are about, I hope we agree them today and get on with the job in hand

I move.”

 

 

 

 

About alex

Alex Rowley is Fife Labour Leader and councillor for The Lochs