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Angus & The Mearns

Angus councillor inspired by great-granny’s essay on the suffragists

February 9 2018

An Angus councillor has unearthed a fascinating insight into men’s views on the suffragists as the nation commemorated the centenary of some women winning the right to vote. Brenda Durno, SNP member for Arbroath and East Lunan, has been so inspired by an essay written by her great-grandmother in 1904, she is hoping to donate it to a museum in the north east. The amusing reflection was written in the Doric language by Isabella Moir, a 12-year-old pupil at Belhelvie School in Aberdeenshire. She was the eldest of 10 children and had two sisters and seven brothers. Councillor Durno said: “The celebration for the 100 years since women won the right to vote made me think of the essay. “My great grandmother was born in September 1892 and died in May 1992. “She latterly lived in Potterton with my aunt and uncle who ran the shop there and I found the essay when she died.” Mrs Durno chose to enter local politics in the footstep of her father, the SNP councillor Alex Shand, but admitted her great-grandmother was a Liberal supporter. “She was right into politics and was a great friend of Lord Tweedsmuir - the SNP wasn’t around then.” The essay relates to a conversation between a brother and sister as he reads a newspaper article on ‘The Suffragists’. As he works his way through the article, his views become apparent. He berates the efforts of the “limmers of suffragists” claiming “weemans place is at hame” It reads: “They canna mak an men their men’s sarks, keep a clean fireside an have a vote. “Gie then an inch an they wid tak an ill (mile).” The essay goes on to say there a was a time when women were happy “tae tak the chance o’ the first man that socht them, an thankful tae leave the voting an the rulin o the nation tae him”. It was on February 6, 1918 that women aged over 30, those who owned property or had a university education were granted the right to vote through the Representation of the People Act. Mrs Durno is hoping to donate the essay to a museum which specialises in the Doric and would welcome suggestions as to who to contact.

Angus & The Mearns

Brechin and Montrose infirmaries to be hit under bold Angus health blueprint

January 13 2018

In-patient beds at Brechin and Montrose Infirmaries are to be permanently removed under new plans for a radical shake-up of health care provision across Angus. A blueprint for the future agreed by members of the Angus and Social Care Integration Joint Board (IJB) at a meeting in Forfar outlined opportunities for development in care homes, minor injury and out of hours and inpatient care services to facilitate what health chiefs say will be a more integrated approach to service provision. Health bosses say the re-think is required to address a situation of almost a third of Angus hospital beds lying empty at times. Under the new plans, which will be developed over the coming months, inpatient care will not be delivered from Brechin Infirmary, which has been non-operational since October 2015 or from Montrose Infirmary where the environment has been branded no longer suitable for the delivery of modern healthcare. The changes could see a new role for the mothballed Mulberry adult mental health unit at Stracathro. The meeting heard the current hospital provision is “unsustainable and unsafe in the long term.” In an IJB report to the board, chief officer Vicky  Irons said optimising resources and joining up health and social work services is critical to realising the ambitions of health and social care integration. “This approach requires people to be central to decisions about their own needs, outcomes and support. We are focused on delivering an approach to integration that has a much greater emphasis on prevention, early intervention, self-management, supporting people in their own homes and communities and less dependence on hospitals and care homes, "she said. “There are warning signs about the ageing future workforce in health and social care. There are buildings in current use that are not fit for purpose. “We have more hospital beds than we need and our workforce is therefore not deployed to best effect. Ms Irons said: “We are currently not using our resources in the most effective way. There are more hospital beds than we need in older buildings that are not fit for the delivery of modern healthcare. "Our review of inpatient beds revealed that, on average each day, there were 37 inpatient beds across Angus lying unoccupied - that's 29 per cent of our inpatient beds. “Our available resources will not be able to support all of our predicted commitments without change. There is confusion about where to access services and support, there are preventable admissions to hospital. “There is a risk of unsafe care in some settings, there are additional demands and stresses on the workforce and resources tied up in in-patent facilities that are no longer required”. Inpatient care for stroke, psychiatry of old age, medicine for the elderly, and palliative care services will be delivered from Stracathro Hospital, Whitehills Health & Community Care Centre in Forfar and Arbroath Infirmary. The board heard some local GPs had questions about access to community beds, which will be managed by consultants under the new model. GPs had also requested to be involved in plans for new intermediate care home beds in North East Angus. A commitment was given to continue to develop local plans with GPs, and to ensure patient care is managed jointly with consultant colleagues. Ms Irons concluded: “Health and care services across the country are facing staffing challenges and Angus is no different. For these reasons, we need to redesign how our services are delivered to continue to provide efficient health and care services for our communities. The Angus Care Model, which is a two to three year plan, will be developed and implemented over the coming months, will allow us to do this.”  

Angus & The Mearns

‘Complex’ Angus issues blamed for high prescribing costs

January 12 2018

A “complex” set of issues has been blamed for Angus being labelled the “sick man of Scotland.” An aging population and a high percentage of people living with chronic disease were among the reasons put forward during talks on the area's above average prescribing costs. Members of the Angus Integration Joint Board (IJB) in Forfar were told prescribing is forecast to hit a £2.5 million overspend this year –  more than 10% of the total budget figure of £21m. The Tayside health and social care partnerships currently budget £80m annually for family health services (FHS) prescribing and NHS Tayside a further £40m for secondary care prescribing. However, Tayside’s FHS prescribing costs have historically been above the Scottish average, resulting in annual overspends in recent years and making it one of the main drivers behind the health board's current financial woes. Addressing the meeting, Alison Clement, clinical director, admitted Angus prescription costs were “significantly greater” than those for the rest of Scotland, at 13% above the national average spend.     The report said the reasons for the higher FHS prescribing spend in Tayside, and in Angus in particular, were complex, multi-faceted and not entirely understood. Board member Alison Rogers, a non-executive board member with NHS Tayside, questioned why the reasons were still “not entirely understood.” She said there had been an overspend in Angus since the days of the community health partnerships (CHP) adding: “I remember receiving reports and there was always an overspend. “Why are we not any nearer in understanding this?” Ms Clement replied that the reasons were “incredibly complex.” She said: “We are understanding some of it. We are diagnosing more illnesses, there is a better detection rates and recognition of more chronic conditions. “There is not one thing the same across Angus when we look at GP practices. “Not every practice in Angus is doing the same thing but we are looking at the overspend.” She explained Angus had a very high elderly population adding: “It is incredibly complex, there is not one answer and it is very difficult to put it into simple terms.”   Asked how costs could be curbed, Ms Clement said: “We are particularly interested in the amount of prescriptions  we are issuing. It is coming down, but at the same time the cost of medicine is going up considerably, which has affected Angus. Because it is a complex problem there will be a set of solutions.” IJB chairman Hugh Robertson referred to a story about the issue in The Courier, which described Angus as the “sick man of Scotland”. He said: “We did get some press coverage. I am concerned that the costs are high. There continues to be concerns on the committees I sit on over the prescribing costs. “I note that it will be about six months before we start to see initiatives put in place and I hope to see financial benefit within the three-year target.”  

Angus & The Mearns

Stracathro assurances sought after resigned reaction to “tick box” Mulberry decision

January 27 2018

Local politicians have been swift to condemn the decision to close the Mulberry unit at Stracathro Hospital after its fate was finally sealed. The Angus unit is to go as part of a Tayside-wide redesign of mental health services. Mairi Gougeon, SNP  MSP for Angus North and the Mearns, described the decision as “bitterly disappointing” and called for assurances that Stracathro has a future. She branded the public consultation over Mulberry  a “tick box exercise”. North east Conservative MSP Liam Kerr slated the SNP government for not stepping in earlier to address problems with the recruitment of junior doctors adding: "If steps had been taken to recruit junior doctors, none of this would be necessary." Mrs Gougeon is to visit Stracathro next week to seek further assurances over the range of services the hospital will continue to offer. She said: “No matter how it is dressed up by the IJB or NHS Tayside, this is a real blow to Angus and will make in-patient care for many of my constituents much harder to access. “It will also substantially increase journey times for friends or relatives to visit patients and it comes at a time where the number of mental health cases are on the increase.” “Angus spoke the loudest in the consultation with 43 per cent of all responses coming from the area. "Despite the fact a clear majority of responses were unified in their opposition to the closure of the Mulberry Unit, that proposal is now going ahead. " It was an uncomfortable inconvenience to the IJBs and NHS Tayside and it wasn't conducted in a fashion that allowed alternative views to be considered. "They will now have to deal with the fall-out from this decision.” She said the public needed to be reassured Stracathro has a future. “I have had written assurances from both the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport and NHS Tayside's chief executive that this is not under threat,” she added. Mr Kerr said: "The integrated joint boards faced a terrible choice which had already been made for them. "There was a consultation for people to get involved in, but it was terribly flawed from the start. "It's impossible to ask a question when there's only one answer: a preferred option that means Angus patients and their families lose local treatment.” Angus Conservative MP Kirstene Hair said: "Since being elected I have been inundated with the concerns of constituents that we are about to lose a vital part of our local health service. "This is not a ward which is underused. Lives are saved at the Mulberry on a daily basis. "This is yet another blow to local healthcare and a sad day. "Those affected will face unnecessary barriers to treatment as public transport links between north Angus and Ninewells Hospital are not up to scratch – and almost impossible to manage for those living rurally. "The health board has to look again at how it engages with the public on these major decisions to ensure my constituents they are not being ignored," said Ms Hair.

Angus & The Mearns

3% Angus Council Tax increase on cards as authority wrestles with “unprecedented” £18 million shortfall

February 13 2018

Angus residents are expected to be hit with a 3% increase in community tax when the local authority sets its budget on Thursday. Some 600 full time posts out of an estimated 5,000 jobs will be axed over the next three years, and it is proposed that on-street parking charges are introduced across the county by September. Angus Council leader Bob Myles and finance convener Angus Macmillan Douglas outlined the stark realities facing the council at a briefing in Forfar on Monday. The council is facing a funding shortfall of just over £18 million – the largest ever - with £33 million being cut from the budget in the past. It is proposed £10.3 million of savings will be achieved through change programme activity; £4.6 million by curtailing capital spending to reduce loan charges; £0.6 million from existing uncommitted reserves  and £1.1 million from adjustments to committed reserves. Savings of £3.3m have been identified from the Angus Health and Social Care Partnership, £760,000 from changes to school staffing and a reduction in the music instruction service. There will is a proposed reduction for winter maintenance of £104,000. A further shortfall of around £26m is projected for 2019-21 and steps have already been put in place to prepare for this. The proposed 3% increase in council tax is expected to generate an additional £1.5m and the introduction  of parking charges will raise £700,000 a year. Council leader Mr Myles, an Independent councillor for Brechin and Edzell,  said: “With the reduction in grant coming from the Scottish Government it is becoming increasingly more difficult to deliver all the services we have done in the past “We have tried to do the best we can to alleviate any impositions on our council tax payers but again the council tax payers have had a tax freeze for a long time now and the word we are getting back from some of them is that they would happily pay a little more if they were getting the services." Angus Macmillan Douglas, Conservative councillor for Kirriemuir and Dean, said when the current administration came to power last May its major objective was improve the efficiency of the way Angus Council did its business. It could either cut its services “to the bone” or improve efficiency and productivity. He said: “We decided we would go flat out to help officers to improve the productivity of Angus Council.” Councillor Myles praised local communities which had come on board to facilitate various projects, including BRAVO Brechin which had “put Brechin back on the map” in a positive light. “The Open in Carnoustie will attract world-wide coverage for Angus – we want to showcase what we are doing. “It is more difficult to do that with limited resources but we are doing our best.”

Angus & The Mearns

Hands off! — Calls for historic artwork to be retained in Montrose

March 8 2018

Hands off our artwork! That is the message to NHS Tayside after it emerged a historic bust of Montrose benefactor Susan Carnegie was suddenly removed from the town's Royal Infirmary. For years it sat proudly on the second stairwell of the infirmary. News of its removal was posted on the Montrose Memories Old and New Facebook page with many calling for the work, and any others from the infirmary, to be retained in the town. One post branded NHS Tayside “vultures”. The removal of the bust has sparked fears this is another step in a gradual process of preparing Montrose Royal Infirmary for closure, following the loss of the maternity unit and GP beds. Local author and historian Forbes Inglis likened its removal to that of the grandfather clock which was rescued from going under the auctioneer’s hammer some years ago and which is now on display in the health centre. He said: “The precedence was almost set when it was to be put to auction. “It turned out it never belonged to NHS Tayside in the first place – it was given to the patients of the infirmary therefore it never legally belonged to NHS Tayside. If you don’t own it you can’t sell it so it was presented to the health centre. “Not everything in the infirmary belongs to NHS Tayside. This bust is part of the history of the town and it should either be donated to the museum or the health centre.” Susan Carnegie, aided by Provost Christie, started a subscription to raise funds to build the Montrose Lunatic Asylum, Dispensary and Infirmary, the first such establishment to be built in Scotland. Forbes continued: “She was the driving force behind the first asylum. She was forward looking back in the day, more so because she was a woman. “It is a real concern in the town that this bust has been removed. “It is a piece of local history and it should remain in the town." Kirstene Hair, Scottish Conservative MP for Angus, said: "Many people locally will fear this is just another step in a gradual process of preparing Montrose Royal Infirmary for closure. "This type of historical artefact should be treated as an asset for the community. "If the bust does not hold pride of place at the hospital, then it should be kept at a museum. It cannot simply be left to gather dust. "The contribution of Susan Carnegie - particularly in changing attitudes towards mental health - was immense and should be treasured. "The bust should remain on display so that people are reminded of all that she did for the local community." Gail Smith, head of community health and care services for Angus Health and Social Care Partnership, said: “The bust of Susan Carnegie, which is a valuable sculpture, was on display in an area of Montrose Infirmary which is no longer being used and which was cordoned off for safety reasons. “The bust was removed from the area for safekeeping and we are in discussion with Signal Tower Museum in Arbroath who have asked if they can borrow the bust for their Pioneering Women in Angus exhibition to mark the 100-year anniversary of female suffrage. “We have a very clear policy to follow when we leave any premises and this includes cataloguing all assets and donated items to ensure that they are appropriately re-homed locally or returned to the donator.”

Angus & The Mearns

Electronic tag and 280 hours unpaid work for DVLA blunder killer driver’s Angus offences

January 25 2018

A killer driver who drove while already banned but was granted a new licence after an DVLA blunder has been banned for a further five years and put on an electronic tag. Halim Cholmeley, 44, from Glenprosen, appeared for sentencing at Forfar Sheriff Court on Wednesday having previously been sent to jail for six months in December for getting behind the wheel while disqualified. His prison term is due to end within days, but Cholmeley was back in the dock before Sheriff Alison McKay for sentencing on other offences, including obtaining a licence while disqualified, driving while banned and without insurance. An earlier court hearing was told an administration error by the DVLA enabled the recruitment consultant to obtain a new licence. He went on to use it to take a £50,000 Audi SUV for an extended test drive despite him being subject to a 10-year-ban imposed on him when he was sentenced to a six-year prison term at Edinburgh High Court for causing a crash which led to the death of Perth taxi driver Gavin McCabe on Dundee’s Kingsway in March 2009. Sheriff McKay told Cholmeley he had been banned from holding or obtaining a driving licence but that he had gone on to obtain a licence which he was not entitled to do. The court was told that when the DVLA issued him with a new licence in June 2016, the system from which they provide print-outs to the courts for sentencing in driving cases did not have all the relevant disqualifications that Cholmeley had on his licence. The court heard that the accused had conceded he should have petitioned the court for a licence but, due to the DVLA error, he was issued with another licence. Defence agent William Boyle said his client had done nothing fraudulent but physically did not go to the court to withdraw the ban. “This was a genuine advantage of an administration muddle,” said Mr Boyle. “If it was highly suspicious, one could think this was a fraudulent scheme to bypass the court, but he is not charged with that.” Sheriff McKay disqualified Cholmeley from driving for five years, ordered him to carry out 280 hours unpaid work to be completed within 12 months, and placed him on a Restriction of Liberty Order between the hours of 7 pm and 7 am for 11 months. The DVLA previously said it was investigating the circumstances of the licence being wrongly issued, but has not made any further comment in the wake of the latest sentencing.

Angus & The Mearns

Spotlight shone on Forfar’s ‘hidden gem’ Castle Hill

May 11 2018

A historical hidden gem in the heart of Forfar has been given a new lease of life. Castle Hill, which is tucked from view and accessed from Canmore Street, has been given a makeover thanks to work co-ordinated by Forfar Action Network and Angus councillor Lynne Devine.  There is now an information board telling the history of the castle and the Mercat Cross, new seating and a viewfinder on top of the tower. Ms Devine has spoken of a number of uses for the secluded setting, which provides the ideal backdrop for a wedding. She is also hoping to build on the town’s history by setting up a heritage trail. Thanks to generous funding from Angus Environmental Trust, the work has been undertaken by local companies and the council with some volunteer help from Murton Farm. Trees have been taken down or pruned to give a better view of the glens to the north while replanting and re-grassing has been undertaken. Ms Devine said: “Castle Hill is such an unknown gem in Forfar and many’s the Forfarian who says they’ve just never been up there. “With its quirky entrance and quaint cobbled lane, it opens up into a lovely quiet spot where I could imagine plays being enacted by adults or children, historical talks being given, or indeed as happened last weekend, weddings taking place. “I hope more people will go up, explore some of the town’s history, see the town and the glens from a different angle and take visitors up to see it.” Ms Devine has acknowledged the wealth of history in Forfar and it is her ambition to make more of it, to bring people into the town and to make local history more accessible to local people. She has hopes of creating a heritage trail set up and has appealed for anyone interest in helping to contact her. She can be contacted on cllrdevine@angus.gov.uk or 07827 986672. Anyone wishing to visit Castle Hill can obtain the key to the locked gates from Ali the newsagent in Castle Street.

Angus & The Mearns

Brechin primary’s pioneering mental health project praised in Parliament

February 8 2018

A ground-breaking project to help children at a Tayside primary school cope with adverse experiences has been praised in the Scottish Parliament. Mairi Gougeon, MSP for Angus North and Mearns, highlighted work at Maisondieu Primary, Brechin, which tackles the impact of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs). Staff have worked with the Scottish Association for Mental Health and experts in the field of mental health and young people to launch a strategy to support the mental health and wellbeing of children at the school. This has helped children develop coping mechanisms and build resilience in the face of ACEs, with the work recognised by Mrs Gougeon during a debate at Holyrood. Studies show ACEs, such as sexual abuse, domestic violence and neglect, can lead to physical and mental health issues for children, not only when they occur but later in life. Mrs Gougeon said: “The work carried out by Maisondieu is incredible and the staff there deserve an enormous amount of praise for the work they are doing. “The school has developed a long-term strategy involving parents, the Scottish Association for Mental Health and specialists who work in the area of mental health in young people. “The school recognises there is no mental health part to the curriculum so is actively trying to do something about it. “From nursery through to Primary 7, it is helping children explore their feelings and develop coping strategies. “Our schools cannot solve all the problems or challenges that a child faces when they are at home. “But they can play a key role in helping to develop resilience and build coping mechanisms to ensure that any ACEs children have do not hold them back or have a lasting impact on the rest of their lives.” Children who have experienced ACEs are three times as likely to have poor mental health and to be morbidly obese. They are four times as likely to have had or have caused an unintended teenage pregnancy and nine times as likely to be in the criminal justice system, according to a survey conducted by the UK Centre For Public Health in 2012. But with as many as 67% of people growing up with at least one ACE, the need to tackle the issue has been highlighted in a 70/30 campaign which aims to reduce child maltreatment by 70 per cent by 2030. “But this is not just about building resilience — we need to do all we can to prevent ACEs and this means attacking the issue from all sides,” said Mrs Gougeon. “This is not just a health issue, and not just an education issue. “It’s about health, education, social work, justice, welfare and many other elements working together to challenge the myriad of issues that children face. “That is why I fully support the 70/30 campaign which has a goal to reduce child abuse and neglect by 70% by 2030.”

Angus & The Mearns

Transformation of former Forfar school faces further delays

March 6 2018

Progress on the transformation of the former Forfar Academy building has been further delayed. The £5.6 million project , which is now a year behind schedule, involves the conversion of the main B-listed building, nursery annexe and playground of the imposing building in Academy Street into 29 affordable council homes for social rent. They comprise 18 one-bedroom flats, six two-bedroom flats, one three-bedroomed flat and four five-bedroomed townhouses at an average cost of £193,000. The local authority is financing the project with a £1.6m grant subsidy provided by the Scottish Government. The site was later home to Chapelpark Primary School which closed its doors for the last time as part of the Forfar primary schools project, with the school’s catchment area split between the new Strathmore Primary School and Whitehills Primary School. Chapelpark was given a £200,000 price tag, but the financial crisis and a downturn in the housebuilding industry meant it did not sell, leaving the local authority with a hefty annual energy and maintenance bill to avoid it suffering the worst effects of lying empty. Despite attempts to sell the 200-year-old building and suggestions it could become a cultural hub for the burgh, the local authority eventually revealed its plans for conversion and new-build development. The main building is being converted into 12 one-bed and four two bed flats, with a central access created for the first time in the façade of the B-listed school. Conversion of the annexe building on the corner of the site adjacent to Couttie’s Wynd sees the creation of six one-bed, two two-bed and one three-bed wheelchair accessible flat. The project will be completed with four 4/5-bed terraced townhouses in a scheme with 35 car parking spaces and landscaping in the playground of the former school. The original scheduled completion date was March 2017 which was then moved to summer 2017. In September there was a major event in the Reid Hall with all the agencies when tenants who will soon call the former school home were given the chance to see the project’s progress towards completion. The authority’s housing team gave the soon-to-move-in tenants an opportunity to see plans and drawings, as well as samples of bathroom and kitchen fixtures and fittings which will grace their new homes. Commenting on the latest delay a council spokesperson said:  “The transformation of the B-listed school building into 29 high quality affordable homes for social rent, is taking longer than expected due to a combination of factors. “Additional engineering alterations were required to the existing buildings when the full extent of structural integrity issues emerged once work had started; and external works have been delayed due to poor weather. “Whilst this is disappointing, it is not unusual for developments which transform iconic buildings into a new use, to be more complex than originally foreseen. "We believe this significant housing development will breathe new life into this landmark building, and this part of Forfar.”