A story broke last week about a plan to run down and close Leven and Methil local offices and libraries via a process of progressive reductions in opening hours and transferral of services to larger offices in Kirkcaldy and Glenrothes – all in the name of Integrated Service Delivery. You can read the story here.
It caused quite a stir at Fife Council, and at the Communities and Housing Services Committee when I raised it. Graham Ritchie’s sources for the claim were impeccable, so the denial by the the co-leaders really amounted to frantic back-pedalling. Cuts and closures which were being quietly planned are now officially off the table, much to the relief of residents in Levenmouth and Fife Council staff.
Cllr Graham Ritchie has given this comment to the press:
“I’m thrilled that both leaders of Fife Council have said categorically that the libraries and local offices at Leven and Methil are safe and not facing death through a thousand cuts. Both residents and staff will be reassured that services will not be eroded further.
I’m disappointed though that the Methil and Leven offices are still losing the registration of births, deaths and marriages to Kirkcaldy, and I am not alone in this concern.”
And here’s mine:
“Thursday’s meeting of the Community and Housing Services Committee discussed the Local Outcome Improvement Plan, a set of wonderful aspirations for Fife for the next 10 years, but the elephant in the room was cost.
No one wanted to explain how these aspirations could be met against a background of diminishing resource. The money Fife Council has to spend on services is shrinking year on year as are the staff who deliver these services.
One clue was in the aspiration towards “Integrated Service Delivery”. Like “efficiency savings” and “rationalisation”, this can be a euphemism for cuts.
As Fife Council shifts more and more services online, opportunities for face-to-face service delivery in local offices and elsewhere are quietly cut.
The average cost of an online transaction with Fife Council is 9p against £8.91 for a face-to-face transaction, so this generates huge savings in terms of staff costs.
But the cuts to local services hit Fife’s most vulnerable residents the hardest. Those who are old or stuck on benefits for whatever reason are the least able to sort themselves out online and the most in need of local counter services.
It’s great that the SNP/Labour administration is now back-pedalling on the cuts to services at Leven and Methil, but a question remains about local services everywhere else in Fife.
Already bitter disappointment has been expressed by residents in Anstruther who have found that the opening hours for the local office and public office have been cut since they moved to the new Waid Community Campus. The library no longer opens on Saturday mornings and opening hours were further restricted during the summer holidays because staff shared with the school are on term-time only contracts.
I have written to all the community managers across Fife for a full breakdown of the face-to-face services, including opening hours, they currently offer and full disclosure of any reductions to these services or hours which are being discussed or planned for the term of this administration.
Both Fife Council staff and the public deserve honesty, not just about what they stand to gain from “Integrated Service Delivery” but also what they will lose.”