Festive messages from our local councillors

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Councillors from North Kincardine, Stonehaven and Mearns pass on their season greetings.

Councillor Alison Evison - North Kincardine

One delightful experience this Christmas was sitting behind the Brownies at Portlethen Academy’s production of Beauty and the Beast. They engaged totally in the pantomime spirit, helping the talented cast to create an atmosphere full of sparkle. The performance was notable for show-casing the talents of many pupils and staff, both those on stage and those involved behind the scenes.

I was struck by the sense of community behind this production - so many brought together to create something special. There was a similar sense at the Portlethen Gala this summer, when local organisations set up stalls to share their activities.

As we look ahead to the challenges of 2016, we can see that the contributions made by community groups will be valued even more. We know that the budgets of local councils have been cut substantially and that economic changes are putting many north-east jobs at risk.

Without the volunteers who give their time to provide activities for children, maintain community halls, support elderly residents, run food-banks and promote sport and well-being, so much which is vital to our communities would not be possible.

So, thank you for giving in 2015 and for what will be given in 2016.

Cllr. Wendy Agnew - Stonehaven and Lower Deeside

The Outdoor Swimming Pool had a successful year despite the patchy summer and my grateful thanks go to all the volunteers and committee members who strive to keep the old lady up to scratch.

I cannot ignore the problems facing Cumbria this Christmas time and I am sure all those residents in Stonehaven who experienced flooding and also those residents who witnessed the aftermath of the flooding can appreciate the problems and worries of the Cumbrian people. I hope that somehow the residents of that area can rebuild their homes once more.

Speaking of the flooding a good news story. Many residents will be aware that a large tree at the white bridge had to be taken down for flood protection measures and a group of people asked the council for the tree trunk in order that they could do something with it. What has emerged is that these people have carved a bench out of the trunk. I have seen the bench and it does the tree justice. I hope that a plaque can be made thanking the people concerned and explaining why it is situated adjacent to the spot where the tree grew. I wish everyone a Happy New Year.

Cllr Jean Dick - Mearns

The year of 2015 was a record breaking year in more ways than one.

The SNP had a landslide win in the general election, sending a huge majority of MPs to Westminster, giving Scotland a strong voice. This was cause for celebration for many, though not for all.

A record not to be celebrated is the increasing amount of migrants and refugees attempting to enter Europe in search of a better life or fleeing from terror.

When we witness the plight of those less fortunate than us, we are reminded that we live in supportive and safe communities. We have family, friends and neighbours to call on for help when needed.

We have the emergency services, Police, Fire and Ambulance and the NHS to keep us safe and well. Those fleeing from danger have none of these. As we approach 2016, we would do well to reflect on the words on the mace in the Scottish Parliament: Wisdom, Justice, Compassion and Integrity and act on them when needed. Happy New Year to all.

Cllr. G. Clark - Stonehaven and Lower Deeside.

We live in changing times. Whether it’s our unseasonal weather, either man-made or cyclical, or in politics, both at Westminster or Holyrood, the old order is changing. Even at Aberdeenshire council, the SNP group, with the help of others, is now in charge. It will be a huge task to take £50 million out of the budget in the next 3 years.

The one constant we are grateful for is the amount of volunteering which continues in our communities. In all weather, our residents are prepared to help those who are less-able to do the things the rest of us take for granted. We can’t thank them enough and I wish them the compliments of the season- lang may their lums reek!

Our area is suffering from the low oil price and in both Aberdeen city and Aberdeenshire the confidence has been shaken after all these years of plenty. Let’s hope for a gradual and sustainable recovery.

I’d like to thank all our residents for their enthusiasm and commitment in Kincardine and Mearns. Let’s hope for a prosperous new year for all, for locals and incomers alike. Let’s all enjoy living in such a beautiful and safe part of the world.

Cllr Peter Bellarby - Stonehaven and Lower Deeside

2015 draws to a close with some news that is not good. We have had devastating floods in Hawick, Cumbria, Lancashire and Yorkshire. This points to the urgency of getting the major flood alleviation scheme in Stonehaven up and running. I hope that the obstacles can be resolved so that construction can start as soon as possible. It should provide protection for all but the most exceptional events. We also need a proper flood warning system for coastal flooding.

There is good news. The new primary school at Drumoak is nearing completion at last after some setbacks beyond the control of the Council. Next we must see progress in addressing the problems of Dunnottar School where the staff are excellent but the building old and constrained.

Progress is being made in finding new uses for the Stonehaven court building. I look forward to a successful outcome in 2016.

We have tough times ahead in 2016. There is the downturn in the oil and gas industry and the difficult financial situation that the council faces. We will all have to do our bit so that there is some good news in 2016.

I wish readers all the best in 2016.

Bill Howatson - Mearns

Many years ago, I made New Year resolutions – wish lists, pious hopes and personal targets, all looking to put the winter solstice to rest and heading for a kind Spring. But many were overly ambitious and unobtainable.

I’ve learned over time to be more constructive and make less pretence at reaching the impossible which always takes bit longer to achieve!

Every new year, we strive to put the worst of the past behind, but as history shows the world can be very unforgiving – ask the homeless, the dispossessed and the unemployed. But there is one area I would like to see flourish and gain even more recognition in 2016 and beyond, the voluntary sector. It represents, in a variety of roles and guises, a massive unpaid army of workers in our communities numbering some 15 million people in the UK.

Volunteers play a vital role in supporting local authorities, working in our hospitals, running lunch clubs, networking and keeping countless other facilities open and running.

Aberdeenshire Council could not function without volunteers, neither can wider society. Volunteers’ efforts are often underestimated, but their impact cannot be minimised. All strength to them for the future, and warmest good wishes to you all for 2016.