Meeting of full council - Thursday, March 8, 2012
8th March 2012
The Council Plan, changes to standing orders and the council’s response to a consultation of maternity services in NHS Grampian were discussed at a meeting of Aberdeenshire Council held today (March 8).
The Provost acknowledged the achievements of four young people from the council who had competed at the Young Local Authority of the Year. Pete Millar and Fiona Gibson from Customer Communication & Improvement were awarded joint third overall and received a highly commended award.
Vicky Morris and Stuart Bews received extremely positive comments from the judges on the content of their debate and their presentational skills.
The Young Local Authority of the Year is a national competition which exists to enhance the communication skills of people in the early stages of a career in local government.
Trusts and Common Good Funds
Cllr Stephen Smith brought forward an item relating to the costs of administration of Trusts and Common Good Funds held by the council. He explained that some trusts were paying more money in administration than the amount raised through income. He asked that the charges be capped on individual trusts and common good funds so as not to exceed the income generated.
Cllr Joanna Strathdee seconded the motion, raising concerns that the administrative costs were eating into the capital held in the trusts.
Cllr Jim Gifford advised that the P&R Committee had previously considered the issue and moved an amendment to support the current position, as the administration of the trusts are managed collectively and overall, the income generated exceeds the costs of the administration.
Head of Finance, Alan Wood provided an overview of the position and explained that he was satisfied that the council was managing the financial governance of the funds, achieving best value within an acceptable level of risk.
The motion was lost 30 votes to 33.
Council Plan 2012/13
The Chief Executive presented the Council Plan and advised that it set out the key priorities for the council and would guide the council as it moves forward. He added that it made clear connections between national and local priorities. Council Leader Anne Robertson advised that this was part of the modernisation of the service planning process and brought all the plans together.
It was recognised that the plan would be reviewed following May’s elections and the Plan was welcomed and supported.
A series of amendments to Standing Orders were put forward. Council was put on notice that the changes would be considered at the next meeting of the council.
Maternity Services in NHS Grampian
The Council was asked to respond to a consultation exercise, covering a range of proposals to maternity services in Grampian, to improve the quality of care to women and families, and address the changing needs of communities.
The council agreed that it would submit a response that reflected the wide views of members, rather than seeking endorsement of a preferred option.
Director of Housing & Social Work, Ritchie Johnson acknowledged the work and welcomed the opportunity to comment on the proposals to maternity services in Grampian.
Cllr Peter Argyle acknowledged the excellent service provided by frontline maternity staff but raised concerns about the proposal to close the birthing unit at Aboyne. He explained that the unit offers services to communities over a large area with widely scattered communities and that it was important that women were given the opportunity to have a birth close to home.
Cllr Graeme Clark described the proposals as an ‘unacceptable risk to rural communities’, as Cllr Linda Clark urged attention be paid to the skills and training of staff.
Cllr Rosemary Bruce welcomed some of the initiatives that were being recommended, but urged a re-think on the proposal to close Aboyne, given the long distances involved and limitations with the public transport network.
Cllr Moira Ingleby added that she was keen to see consultant-led and scanning and screening clinics remain in Huntly and this was supported by Cllr Strathdee.
Cllr Bryan Stuart welcomed the plans for a new 24/7 unit in Inverurie. However, Cllr Fergus Hood said that there was no mention of capital costs for a maternity unit in Inverurie in the proposals and that there was no clear timescale for the Inverurie unit. His view that the unit in Aboyne should not be closed until Inverurie has been built.
Representatives from the NHS advised that the proposals gave a continued focus on homebirths, reflecting the rural nature of Grampian. They advised that community midwives would be integrated with community maternity units, giving them valuable birthing experience and helping them to maintain their skills. This would make the homebirth option safer and more widely available for those who were suitable.
Cllr Anne Robertson welcomed the strategic approach to reviewing maternity services in Grampian and acknowledged that the proposals lacked detail at this stage, given that it still has to go through certain processes, concluding with a decision by the cabinet secretary.
A response to the consultation will be formulated to be submitted to NHS Grampian Board.
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