Major shake-up planned at Falkirk Council

A major shake-up in the structure of Falkirk Council will be introduced over the next two years.

By Kirsty Paterson, LDR
Monday, 29th March 2021, 7:00 am
Falkirk Council chief executive, Kenneth Lawrie. Picture Michael Gillen.
Falkirk Council chief executive, Kenneth Lawrie. Picture Michael Gillen.

Chief executive Kenneth Lawrie said the changes he was proposing are about making the best use of the council’s resources as it leads the area’s recovery from the pandemic while also facing huge financial challenges.

He said: “We must use every opportunity to change and transform what we do and how we do it, both to support our communities and businesses, and also to assist with the financial challenges.”

As part of the changes, Falkirk Community Trust services will be split up and divided among the directorates, although details of how this will work have still to be discussed with the Trust’s current management.

There will also be a change of name for Development Services, which will now be known as Place Services.

However, not all councillors were impressed with the change of name.

Councillors Malcolm Nicol said that he thought the title was “totally meaningless” while Councillor John McLuckie branded it “stupid”.

Mr Lawrie replied that the term Place was commonly used in local government and was about recognising the distinctive needs of different communities.

He told councillors that the directorate is leading major projects – collectively worth over £1 billion – happening across Falkirk, including new roads projects; the Grangemouth flood prevention scheme; and the new Council headquarters and arts centre.

To make this easier, he proposed creating a team called Invest Falkirk, which would oversee all of these projects.

Council leader Cecil Meiklejohn supported the chief executive’s proposals, saying it was important for the council to modernise and transform and the new structure would make this easier.

She said: “When we reviewed our council priorities, there were a number of comments from constituents about us being more fleet of foot, able to make decisions better and just get on with the tasks in front of us.”

The leader of the Labour group, Robert Bissett, said they did not feel that they had had enough time to fully scrutinise the complex report and asked to delay any decisions until a further meeting.

But Mrs Meiklejohn said that the pace of change was critical and there was no reason for a delay.

Councillor Joan Coombes said she was more worried about the fact that Trust services were being split up in the new structure.

In particular, she said that the proposal to put Sport and Leisure into Children’s Services was “speeding up the closure of services”.

She said: “You can use all the positive words you want but this restructuring is trying to absolve the fact we will be wasting £1 million every year paying a rates bill that wasn’t necessary.”

Mrs Meiklejohn, however, said that the Trust decision had been made so it was now time to look at how it would integrate into the council.

The changes are expected to save £275,000 over five years.

Trade unions have been consulted and will take the proposals to their members to see if any concerns are raised.​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​