Leafleting in Lochgelly, Cardenden and Benarty has given me the opportunity to talk with more people. On the streets people have willingly engaged with me and I have received several emails from residents wanting to learn more about my views on Independence vs Unionism. Below is a response sent by email to a Lochgelly resident who has raised concerns over local education, health and local development proposals.
I feel the primary schools have been let down badly in the local area. My daughter attends LWPS and I cannot fault the teachers as they work hard in very difficult circumstances.
If elected I will support any proposal that seeks to reverse the £3 million cut implemented by Labour to the education budget. I am aware that there is a shortage of teachers nationally, however this should change in the future and we need a budget in place that can employ new teachers when they become available. I would also push to make sure Fife is doing all it can to attract new teachers, and to mitigate the effects of teacher shortages in the classrooms by, for example, employing more teaching and special needs support assistants.
I am also supportive of recent proposals by the Scottish Government to pass more control over schools direct to headteachers. Currently allowing teachers to be moved all across Fife at short notice can be disruptive to pupil learning and prevents schools from building a team of dedicated teachers that are fully committed to the one school. It would also allow headteachers to develop unique solutions to the particular challenges their school faces, rather than the one size-fits-all approach we have at present.
Schools in Lochgelly suffer some of the worst deprivation in Fife, and will receive extensive cash top-ups from the £120 million Pupil Equity Fund recently announced by the Scottish Government to address the poverty-related attainment gap. You can find out how much your child’s school is receiving here – Central Fife Times
If elected, I will do my best to make sure that this money is used to help the most deprived children as intended, and not diverted to plug other gaps in the education budget.
Before any vote could be made on the future of education in Fife, I’d hope that working with headmasters across the ward, the pros and cons of any future proposals could be put together with a full consultation with parents, so that at any vote, I can represent the views of the parents, irrespective of my personal beliefs.
There are plans (rumoured) for a new school to be placed at the bottom of the Public Park. The plans appear to be in the very early stages but as yet there has been no pubic consultation. I would seek to have the plans put into the public domain, so that everyone who wishes has an opportunity to engage and develop the plans as a community rather than being asked to rubber-stamp any prior decision made by the council.
The Lochgelly medical practice is getting a new centre built, it has been on the plans since as far back as 2007. The plans should have been progressed as soon as it became an issue, but for whatever reason the issue has been ignored until now. The health centre is due to be started in 2018.
When built, it is supposed to ease some waiting times (by diverting patients to other health professionals on site) and should increase the number of registered patients who can be taken on. However a major problem remains nationally with the recruitment and retention of enough GPs. Only by increasing GP numbers will we significantly improve access.
Schools in deprived communities receive greater funding to tackle educational inequalities, and I believe deprived communities should receive greater funding to tackle the health inequalities. If elected I will push for increased targetted funding within the ward to try and address the GP issues being faced locally.
As for future development in Lochgelly, the current plan is to extend housing by 1750 homes with the council expecting to rely on section 75 agreements to be in place which will commit developers financially to local infrastructure projects.
Lochgelly has already witnessed an unscrupulous developer (Lomond Homes) ignoring their legal responsibilities by avoiding paying the s75 which left much needed infrastructure never getting developed. As a community we need to demand that public infrastructure is put in place first (and future proofed for an expanding town) before any extensive housing development takes place.
The council should put costs upfront for developing local infrastructure, and then reclaim this cost against future developments under section 75 agreements, so at least that way the infrasture project will get built irrespective of whether the developer honours their legal obligations.