Saturday, 24 May 2014

Concern over fall in litter fixed penalties across Fife

Fife Liberal Democrats have expressed concern about the fall in the number of fixed penalty notices, now £80, issued for litter dropping over the past three years.

Group leader Cllr Tim Brett said, ‘It is worrying that the number of fines for dropping litter have reduced so much, especially in west Fife. It would be nice to think that this was because the amount of litter dropped has reduced but unfortunately this is clearly not the case.’

He continued, ‘As it has been shown that there is a direct correlation between the amount of fixed penalty notices issued and the amount of litter on the streets and open spaces, regular and constant patrols are needed if we want to minimise the latter; given the significance of the tourist industry to Fife, this is crucial. Therefore I trust that the staff’s other responsibilities are not impinging on their ability to carry out the essential task of vigorously enforcing the penalties.’

Cllr Brett concluded, ‘However, it is hoped that Fifers themselves will take personal responsibility to ensure they dispose of litter appropriately, and so help keep the Kingdom looking its best for residents and visitors alike.’

Note :

Number of fixed penalty notices issued in Fife for dropping litter over past 3 years per area:

2011 -  East: 38   Central: 61  West: 142
2012 -  East: 34  Central: 81  West: 143
2013 -  East: 31  Central: 57  West: 97

Friday, 16 May 2014

Infant cremation in Fife

Following a request from Liberal Democrat group leader Cllr Tim Brett, Fife Council bereavement services have issued a briefing detailing the procedures for the cremation of infants at its two crematoria in Kirkcaldy and Dunfermline. This was as a result of the report carried out by Dame Elish Angiolini following concerns about the practices in Edinburgh’s Mortonhall crematorium.

Cllr Brett said, ‘In view of the disquiet about the disposal of infant remains in Edinburgh it was important that Fife reviewed its own practices. I am pleased that they have done so and note that since 2001 there has been close working between Fife Council, NHS Fife and SANDS, the stillbirth and neonatal death charity to ensure that infant remains are individually cremated, should parents opt for cremation.’

Cllr Brett urged any families with concerns about the practices in either of the Fife crematoria to contact the council’s Bereavement Service but warned that there could be difficulties with obtaining information from before 2001, as different arrangements were in operations and records have not been kept.

He concluded, ‘It is, however, good to know that there is a garden of remembrance at each of the crematoria, where the ashes of babies and children may be scattered should that be the wish of their parents.’

Fife Council Briefing :

There has been further public and media attention on the cremation of infants following the publication of the Mortonhall Investigation Report on 30th April 2014.  This was commissioned by the City of Edinburgh Council after concerns were raised about practices at Mortonhall Crematorium and was authored by the former Lord Advocate of Scotland, the Rt. Hon. Dame Elish Angiolini DBE QC.  The remit of the report was to establish the facts regarding infant cremations at the crematorium and to learn lessons that would help ensure best practice for the future.

Although the report does make some broader recommendations beyond what took place at Mortonhall Crematorium, the next key milestone nationally is the report due from Lord Bonomy’s Infant Cremation Commission. This was established by the Scottish Government on 16th April 2013 with the remit to examine the policies, practice and legislation related to the cremation of infants in Scotland.  The Commission is now considering the Mortonhall findings in order to help inform its report which is now expected to be published by the Scottish Government by the end June 2014. 

The Cremation (Scotland) Regulations 1935 regulate the provision of crematoria in Scotland. These have been amended on a number of occasions. Regulation 16 makes specific provision for the cremation of a stillborn child, although the term ‘stillborn’ is not defined in these regulations.  However, it is defined in the Registration of Births Deaths and Marriages (Scotland) Act 1965 as a ‘child which has issued forth from its mother after the twenty-fourth week of pregnancy and which did not show any signs of life.’

The category of foetal remains (non-viable foetuses or NVF) includes all foetuses following cases of pregnancy loss before 24 weeks gestation. The disposal of foetal remains is not dealt with in any Act of Parliament or Regulations. If the pregnancy has not progressed to 24 weeks gestation, the 1935 Regulations have no application.

Because there is no applicable Act of Parliament or Regulations, the disposal of foetal remains has been dealt with according to policies and codes of practice issued by various bodies. The deficiency of the current legislation has been highlighted in the Mortonhall report and referred to the Infant Cremation Commission for consideration of legislative amendment.

Beyond 24 weeks gestation, the legislation stipulates that ‘if a child is expelled from its mother either before or after the twenty-fourth week of pregnancy and either breathes or shows any sign of life and then dies it must be treated as a normal birth and death and registered accordingly.’

Fife Council has had a policy in place since 2001 developed in partnership with NHS Fife and Sands (the stillbirth and neonatal death charity) to ensure that infants who have died during 12 to 24 weeks gestation are brought to one of the crematoria for individual cremation.

Infants of 24 weeks gestation and older, or those who have been born, breathed and died at any time during pregnancy, are covered by the current legislation and funeral arrangements are made in the normal way.

In cases where bereaved parents opt for the cremation of an infant or of foetal remains, they are given information which warns that there are occasions when there may be no tangible remains left after the cremation process has been completed.

This will depend on the nature of the bone structure and stage of development.  All foetuses and infants grow at different rates which means that two infants of the same age can be completely different in terms of their physical development.

In the majority of cases, no cremated remains are obtained from a cremation of an early stage foetus as the remains are essentially soft tissue.  The potential for securing ashes from the remains increases as the length of gestation increases, although the retrieval of cremated remains cannot be guaranteed in all cases.
If there are ashes, these will be offered back to the family or Funeral Director or, if requested, they can be scattered in the specially-designated baby areas which sit within the Gardens of Remembrance of both crematoria.

The cremators used at both crematoria in Fife have been designed for adult cremations.  The heat and combustion of air and gases causes a turbulence which the undeveloped remains of a foetus or infant in most cases cannot withstand, so the recovery of ashes can be variable despite the type of coffin used.

There is a regular dialogue between Bereavement Services, NHS Fife and Funeral Directors. The wording of information provided to parents now advises that it is very unlikely that there will be any ashes following cremation.  

Previous advice reflected the guidance from the Federation of Burial & Cremation Authorities (FBCA) and Institute of Cemetery & Crematorium Management (ICCM) which referred to there being no remains. In practice, a significant number of foetal and infant cremations won’t produce remains, but where ashes are retrieved these will continue to be offered to the family.

The cremation process continues to be closely monitored and the use a special cremation tray for foetal and infant remains has recently been re-introduced to try and help improve the chances of ashes being retrieved.  A full risk assessment is in hand to ensure safe working practices for crematoria staff.

Given some of the concerns highlighted in the Mortonhall report and anticipating what may emerge from the Infant Cremation Commission, a review of the paper trail between Bereavement Services, NHS Fife, Funeral Directors and families is in hand to ensure that this is as clear and concise as it can be.

At a national level, managers from Bereavement Services are involved via the FBCA in discussions with other local authority and private crematoria operators to review and, where appropriate, improve current working practices.

Lord Bonomy’s report is expected to make a number of recommendations to the industry, some of which might require legislative change and the issuing of new national guidance.  There may be other changes relating to how infant cremations are managed, performed and recorded in the future.  These recommendations will be considered carefully including any changes we might need to make to the current arrangements in Fife.

Finally, if any Councillors would like to visit either of the two crematoria (Dunfermline/Kirkcaldy), please contact Liz Murphy, Bereavement Services Manager, on 03451 555555 Ext. 476681 or via e-mail at

Tim's Update to the May 2014 meeting of Newport, Wormit and Forgan Community Council

1. Parking at Newport Primary School – I met with Stuart Goodfellow from the Traffic Management Department on 1 May when we reviewed the parking issues at the school.  I am waiting for Stuart to get back to me with any recommendations and will advise the Community Council of these as soon as I receive them.

2. New Madras College – As members will probably be aware, the Minister for Local Government and Planning, Derek McKay has asked for a further four weeks to consider the Madras College planning application.I have just been advised that Scottish Ministers have decided not to call in the application and have authorised the Council to deal with the application in the manner that it thinks fit.

3. Tayplan Main Issues – I attended the drop in event on 29 April in Cupar.  There is an opportunity for members of the public to submit comments and views on the main issues for the next Tayplan report by the end of June.

4. Newport and Wormit in Bloom – Members will have seen the publicity about the British Telecom cabinet that was placed in front of the “boat” at the bottom of Flask Road.  Following representations that were made to British Telecom, I am pleased to advise that they have indicated that they will be prepared to move the boat, hopefully at the beginning of June.

5. Newport, Wormit and Forgan Trust – Following discussion at the last Community Council meeting I can confirm that the above Trust “supports people of all ages in the area of Newport on Tay, Wormit and Forgan by furthering health and relieving the effects of poverty, distress and sickness”.  I do not have details of the Trustees of the fund but the fund is administered by Blackadders, Solicitors in Dundee.

6. Japanese Knotweed – Staff from Community Services have developed an action plan for dealing with the Japanese knotweed that is on the nature trail at the junction with Kirk Road and also behind the railway line in Wormit.  I am also releasing a press release about this drawing attention to this problem and highlighting a link to advice on Fife Direct about this at

7. Welfare Reform Elected Members Briefing – I have received a briefing on the current position in relation to welfare reform and would be happy to forward this to anyone who would like to see it.

8. Fife Road Casualties Statistics – The Safer Communities Committee recently considered a report on the above statistics for 2013.  The total number of casualties (for Fife as a whole) in 2013 was 550.  This almost equalled the record low figure recorded in 2012 of 549.  The 85 serious injuries represent the lowest ever number recorded.  All measures have exceeded the Scottish Government targets.

9. Fife Carers – Dementia Workshops – The Fife Carers Centre have notified me of two workshops that are being arranged for unpaid family carers of people living with dementia in the St Andrews area.  These workshops are taking place on Thursday 15 May – “Take a Walk in their Shoes” and Thursday 5 June – “Communicating with Dementia Words and Beyond.”  I would be happy to provide further details to anyone who would like to attend.

10. Licensing of Private Hire Cars-Signage – I have received a briefing note on the above topic on the licensing of private hire cars by the Council and the Council’s policy on the signage allowed on these vehicles.  I would be happy to provide this to anyone who is interested.

11. Eden Estuary May Newsletter – I have received the latest newsletter from Ranald Strachan on the Eden Estuary.  

12. Health Inequalities Checklist – The Fife Health and Wellbeing Alliance of which I am a member has produced a health inequalities checklist.  This is aimed at partnerships, organisations and community groups who are working with individuals and communities across Fife.  It can be used to check if the group are working in ways most likely to reduce health inequalities.  I would be happy to provide a copy to anyone who would like to see it.

13. Newport Library – The North East Fife Area Committee recently received the annual review from the Fife Cultural Trust who are responsible for the provision of libraries and theatres in Fife.  With regard to Newport Library, it was reported that the library was open 22.5 hours per week and operated by 0.7 FTE staff.  There were 36,717 transactions at an operating cost of £16,903.  Trends over one year are an 8% increase in visitors, 3% increase in book business and a 19% decrease in PC business.  Total transactions in 2011/12 were up by 1.2%.  Over the last six years there has been a 27.6% increase in visitors, and a 24.1% increase in book business and a 6% decrease in PC business.  I would be happy to provide a full copy of the report for anyone who would like to see it.

14. Tay Rail Bridge – I have been notified by the project manager of Taziker that they have been successful in being awarded the Phase 4 contract for maintenance work on the rail bridge.  This work will last 120 weeks starting in July 2014.  Taziker have advised that they intend to stay on the Wormit side of the bridge for the duration of the contract but that the generators and compressors will be moved onto the bridge so there should be fewer problems with noise as they will be 1000 metres out into the estuary.  The giant vacuum on Bay Road will not be used on the next phase so, again, there should be no issues from that aspect.

15. High Speed Broadband Roll Out – Steve Revell, the Fife Next Generation Broadband Manager has advised that Newport on Tay has been included in the next phase of communities that will receive high speed broadband.  The provision will be made from July this year but we have been advised that, due to the current network topography and the economics of deployment, it is likely that some premises within selected exchange areas will not be able to access fibre based broadband at the same point in the roll out.  Further information can be obtained from the Scottish Government website and
16. RAF Leuchars – I attended the Freedom of the St Andrews parade for service personnel from RAF Leuchars.  The transition arrangements are about to begin with 6 Squadron moving to Lossiemouth at the end of June.  1 Squadron will then be moving in September and there will be a significant reduction in RAF personnel at that point.  The army units will not be arriving at Leuchars until the summer of 2015.

17. The Newport – the picture gallery in the Newport is now open and the chiropractic clinic will commence on the 19th May..Building work on the restaurant has now started.

18. Waterstone Crook Sports Hub-the next meeting of the group will be held on the 26th may at 6.30 pm in the Blyth Hall.

19. Keep up to date on local matters-I now have a blog on local matters at and am on Facebook at

Friday, 9 May 2014

‘School bus seatbelt policy will not apply in NE Fife,’ say LibDems

NE Fife Liberal Democrat councillors have expressed disappointment that the recently announced proposal for school buses to be fitted with seat-belts from 2018 will not in fact apply to most of the vehicles used in the area.

Group Leader Cllr Tim Brett explained, ‘Of course we welcome any extension of safety measures to our school transport. However the new rules will only apply to dedicated school buses, i.e. those which are only used to take pupils to and from schools. Most buses used for that purpose in NE Fife, including the 56 transporting secondary pupils, are used as ordinary service buses during the rest of the day, and so will not be covered by this legislation.’

Cllr Brett noted that some buses used for school transport do have seatbelts. ‘However, monitoring shows that only 10-20% of pupils actually use the belts provided, which is very disappointing.’

He concluded, ‘Because of the rural nature of NE Fife, the provision or otherwise of seatbelts is very relevant. To make a real improvement to the safety of pupils, resources would have to be provided to purchase dedicated vehicles, or make it a condition that all buses contracted to carry pupils must have belts fitted and that these should be used.’

Thursday, 8 May 2014

LibDems welcome school mobile phones policy

Fife Council Liberal Democrats have welcomed the implementation of a policy on the use of mobile telephones in schools, though with over 1000 confiscations over the past three years are urging that its operation is regularly reviewed.

Group Leader Cllr Tim Brett explained, ‘As a minimum, mobile phones must be switched off and kept out of sight during lessons, though in primary schools this rule might well be extended to cover the whole of the school day. Using phones to take pictures or videos is only permitted with the agreement of all those depicted and after special permission has been granted.’

Cllr Brett admitted that dealing with material posted on social networks was more complicated but that action would be taken when such material had been obtained illegally or was defamatory. ‘However, the fact that 1159 phones have had to be confiscated over the past 3 years suggests that the policy may need to be revised so I welcome the monitoring of it by education officers and will be paying close attention to the results of the regular reviews when these are carried out.’

Thursday, 1 May 2014

Tim welcomes reduction in North East Fife delayed discharges

Councillor Tim Brett, a member of the Fife Health and Social Care Partnership, has welcomed the improvement in the position of delayed discharges for Ninewells Hospital patients who live in North East Fife.

Councillor Brett, who represents the Tay Bridgehead Ward, said, ‘I have recently received an update from our local head of services for older people that shows there has been significant improvement over the last six months with fewer patients being delayed. This has been as a result of working more closely with senior medical staff at Ninewells Hospital and Medical School to ensure that early action is taken to identify appropriate strategies for people admitted to Ninewells but whose homes are in North East Fife. 

Once an individual is no longer requiring medical attention then every effort is made to get them home, with support if that is needed.  I know that a lot of hard work has gone on to achieve this and, following the particular problems last year where a Tayport resident was delayed at Ninewells for many weeks, this is good news.’

The Liberal Democrat group leader added that he knew that the pressure on older people's social work services was increasing every month, with many more very elderly frail patients being referred for support from the social work service. 

He continued, ‘This will undoubtedly further increase pressure on both health and social care services, which means that it is imperative that under the proposed integrated health and social care arrangements, new ways of supporting people in their own homes are developed quickly. I am aware from my role on the Health and Social Care Partnership Board that a number of initiatives are currently being explored which I welcome but it will undoubtedly be challenging to continue to meet the needs of older people.’