Cllr Derek Wann represents the Arbroath East & Lunan Ward on Angus Council.
Scotland, for the last 14 and half years, has been governed by the SNP; in my opinion, not very well. The obsession with separation from the rest of the UK has been put to the front of all their thoughts, meaning education, NHS, drug issues, poverty, and care for the elderly, have all come last.
In 2017, when we were elected and managed to bring together an administration of eight Conservative councillors and nine others of mixed party and independents, we were informed by the previous Finance Convenor (SNP) that we would not be able to run the Council as there was no money left. We were appalled that a council funded by their own party in Holyrood was not provided enough grant. Or that they had not looked after the local authority’s finances – they were a disaster. Well, they have had a shock. Despite those challenges, we have not just maintained, but provided an improved service, to the people of Angus.
We now have the top recycling rate of all 32 local authorities in Scotland. We also have the second-lowest council tax of all mainland councils.
Angus, and specifically Arbroath East and Lunan where I sit as an elected councillor, is under severe pressure due to the ever-declining Scottish Government funding for local authorities. We have seen over £60 million cut from budgets over the last seven years and a growing pressure on local services.
Arbroath East and Lunan has a higher-than-average rate of child poverty in Angus. As we have been in administration for the last four and a half years, we have implemented several projects to help, including our highly successful Holiday and fun programme, which is now emulated by other councils throughout Scotland. Schools in the area and all over Angus have stepped up to the mark and offer breakfast clubs, food hubs, and school uniform recycling initiatives. But more must be done. However, with cuts made in all departments, and other pressures, this is getting harder. Yet I believe that this is the most important issue that we must concentrate on.
Only by holding the Scottish Government to account on education and by closing the attainment gap can we push our young into careers and further education which will eventually lead them out of poverty. This is failing under the SNP Government. We must not give in – and more pressure from our Conservative MSPs and councillors is needed.
The current fixation from the SNP on separation from the rest of the UK must stop and the money they currently spend on this expensive project must be diverted to education and addressing poverty.
Angus Council’s economic development team under our administration has worked brilliantly in bringing new business to Angus. Even through the pandemic we have seen our business and industrial parks fill up with existing and expanding companies, as well as new business. This would not happen if we were run by an SNP administration.
We have Arbroath’s only Local-Authority-run care home in my ward, and it seems to be under constant threat of change or closure. We fought and won a battle a few years back to save Seaton Grove, but a new residents questionnaire has been issued and this has caused more upset and anguish amongst residents and their families. If we had adequate funding the Angus Integration Joint Board would possibly not have to consider this.
Council provision of housing has been great under our administration, although Covid has caused some delay in starts. However, the programme is underway again and we will see 14 new, much-needed, houses completed in the next few months and a development that was just completed a year ago, all in my area.
In general, the area is no different from many others when it comes to local issues – litter, dog fouling, some vandalism. But local groups have stepped up to assist and help fantastically in cleaning the streets up, and there are also plans for new community-run hubs, such as Showcase the street at Seaton Park. This will be a tremendous addition to the area, once full funding has been gained. In the meantime, Angus Council has provided a grant of £200,000 towards their all-weather outdoor pitch area, through the Place Based Investment Allocation.
Much of the area offers fantastic scenery and parks, such as Lunan Beach, Arbroath Cliffs, and our fantastic park at the West Links. But transport, if you do not have a car, is limited for getting to Lunan; again there are no funds to provide public transport, and this can be a disadvantage for families without their own transport. I would like to look at this in more detail especially for the summer months, where the area is well worth a visit.
These elections in May 2022 are more important than ever and we must ensure that a majority of Conservative councillors are elected to stop the SNP gaining power in Angus.
When we are successful in May, and manage to form a new administration, we have lots more ideas to improve the lives of our residents.