concerns have been raised by Aberdeenshire Community Planning Partnership over plans announced by the Scottish Government to create a single police and fire bodies for Scotland.
The plans were revealed last week by First Minister Alex Salmond as part of the Programme for Government during 2011-12, with further details provided by Cabinet Secretary for Justice Kenny MacAskill the following day, when he said that a period of consultation would be undertaken regarding how the changes would work in practice.
Responding to the Christie Commission, Aberdeenshire Community Planning Partnership made a submission concerning the future of public services in Scotland.
In the submission, the partnership highlighted the strength of the relationship between public sector partners in the north-east of Scotland and the joined-up nature of the approach to public service delivery in the area.
The submission stressed the debate about change needed to focus on the three main issues of the process of reform, the need for local democracy, and the reform of service delivery through innovation. It also argued the debate needed to be about ‘far more than structures, the number of councils and other public sector bodies’.
Partnership chair and leader of Aberdeenshire Council, Cllr Anne Robertson, voiced her concern at the plans.
She said: “The announcement is extremely disappointing, particularly given the robust response given by the partnership to the Christie Commission which stressed the importance of local accountability.
“As was outlined in the submission, Aberdeenshire is a rural area with unique challenges which we believe are best met through local democratic and accountability arrangements.
“The centralisation of service provision would be at odds with the delivery of the community empowerment and development agenda.
“To overcome the challenges which lie ahead, we must be able to continue to work together with our communities to identify priorities and target our resources where the need is greatest.”
Cllr Robertson said local accountability was vital in terms of supporting Aberdeenshire Council’s key pillars of early intervention; economic development; and demographic change.
She said: “The Partnership’s submission clearly stated that changing geographic or organisational boundaries will place an unreasonable burden on the public sector and is unlikely to improve outcomes for the public.”
“We believe that local accountability is fundamental to the democratic expectation of individuals and communities, and share the concerns expressed by others, including COSLA.”