A NEW 10 year plan to deliver a fairer Fife will tackle poverty and "fight austerity by creating opportunities". 

It's been drawn up by the Fife Partnership with the aims of improving lives and putting people and communities at the centre of decision-making. 

Councillor David Ross, co-chair, said: "We’re fiercely ambitious for Fife. And we have to be, because right now, far too many Fifers are living in poverty, and it’s just not right. 

"Poverty isn’t someone else’s problem; it doesn’t just affect some individuals and families – it impacts on everyone. 

"People can’t afford to pay their rent, they’re not spending in local shops and businesses, these in turn are shedding jobs or closing down, and our villages, towns and local services are suffering."

He added: "We’re not aiming to be average, we want to really make a difference. 

"We’re building on a good track record of partnership working and community engagement in Fife but this plan is a commitment to do more, to do it better and to put fairness at the heart of everything we want to achieve.”

The partnership includes Fife Council, NHS Fife, Police Scotland, the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service, Fife Voluntary Action, Fife College and the Scottish Government.

Co-chair Councillor David Alexander added: "This plan will bring local public services, voluntary organisations and communities together to work towards a set of common aims. 

"Collectively, we have vast resources and a wealth of knowledge – with united, focused effort, we can drive out inequality and improve lives.” 

Fife has growing inequalities and poorer health, a struggling economy in mid-Fife and a growing older population. 

In the most deprived areas, one in three of the working age population are claiming benefits and life expectancy is 10 years less than in some other communities in the Kingdom. 

The negative impact of welfare reform is estimated at £655 per working-age adult in Fife, with a knock-on £153m effect on the economy here. 

Some work has started with council staff given poverty-awareness training and local projects set up to help families feed their children over the summer holidays and improve people's mental health. 

Cllr Alexander, who is also joint leader of the council administration, has welcomed Scottish Government legislation which places a duty on local authorities to reduce the negative impacts on economic disadvantage. 

“A duty which will help us poverty-proof all our decisions can only be a good thing, especially with the spectre of Universal Credit and increased financial hardship looming for many Fifers,” he said.

“But while we understand the challenges facing the council and communities, we’re talking about a lot of progressive and positive action.”

The plan aims to give people more opportunity to have their voice heard and decide how money is spent in their area. 

Cllr Ross said: "We’re actively working to create opportunities, employment and wealth.

“We’re promoting the Living Wage and apprenticeships, within the council and in businesses across Fife. 

"And the Edinburgh and South East City Deal will help build a stronger business community in south and mid Fife by investing millions in commercial property over the next 10 years, which could create some 2,000 extra jobs. 

"Increased employment brings personal benefits; more money, better health – but also wider community benefits; thriving economy, reductions in antisocial behaviour and crime.

“But to tackle the root cause of inequality long-term, we’re also asking if more fundamental shifts are needed in society."

He said Fife had "led conversations about a universal basic income" and now has the backing to develop feasibility studies and a business case. 

Cllr Ross added: "It’s far too early to say where a pilot might happen – we don’t even know if it will be the right thing to try. But it could be a game-changer, so we’re taking it seriously because we know we have to try new things and learn as we go.”