Month: June 2017

Let’s open up South Lanarkshire Council

9th June 2017

Extract of an article in the Rutherglen Reformer

by Rutherglen South Liberal Democrat Councillor Robert Brown

South Lanarkshire Council has always had a majority Labour administration, or a Labour administration sustained by the Conservatives which made little difference. This May, no political Party had a majority of seats. The 3 main groups each had to elect a new leader, so there was very much a changing of the old guard.

Eventually a minority SNP administration emerged. It is though a ruling group of only 25 – a full 7 Councillors short of a majority.

This is a major opportunity to open up the Council and make it more accountable and accessible to the public.

Petitions Committee

The SNP have already indicated they want to set up a Petitions Committee – which Liberal Democrats also support but I want this as part of a wider programme to give the public better opportunities to influence the Council.

I want regular Town Hall meetings where the Council is accountable to local people and organisations on the budget, the operation of services and major local initiatives.

More exciting Council meetings

Council meetings themselves often last only 10 minutes with only a roll call of attendees and approval of minutes. The Council should be the showpiece of local democracy, debating the big choices facing the area, a regular Question Time to grill administration leaders, and the ultimate decision-making on key matters. This needs a reform of the Council’s standing orders and a more outward looking approach by Council leaders.

Power for local People

Much more power should be exercised locally. The Area Committees should be strengthened and the arrangements for public consultation reformed. The Neighbourhood Boards in Fernhill and Cathkin have been very successful but have recently been stripped of support. The Housing Forums have been less successful and better ways need to be found to consult Council tenants.

Royal Burgh heritage

Rutherglen has always been proud of its Royal Burgh – an independent community with historic legal rights. Yet the Royal Burgh heritage hasn’t amounted to too much in recent years and it is time it was rebuilt as the focus of local community pride. Key to this is using the talents and expertise of the people in some of the amazing local organisations

An open Council, strong Area Committees, the power of the Royal Burgh and other local traditions, more powerful public involvement – these are the keys to a stronger local democracy in Rutherglen and Cambuslang and across South Lanarkshire.

Robert Brown comments on General Election result

9th June 2017

Following the declaration of the results, Rutherglen & Hamilton West Liberal Democrat candidate Robert Brown said:

“Many congratulations to Gerard Killen on his victory. The Liberal Democrat vote doubled in Rutherglen & Hamilton West which is very welcome but our focus at this election was always to win in our target seats across Scotland.

I am delighted that the Liberal Democrats have gone up from 1 to 4 seats across Scotland and have knocked out the SNP in Edinburgh West, East Dunbartonshire and Caithness – and only missed in North East Fife by an agonizing 2 votes.

The big losers were the SNP in Scotland and the Conservatives across the United Kingdom.

The story of the night was the demolition of the damaging and divisive SNP stranglehold on Scotland with their loss of 21 seats. This must mean the end of the unwanted second independence referendum for a long time.

But the minority situation in Westminster also means that there is a better chance of avoiding the disaster of the hard Brexit the Conservatives have been pushing down our throats. It is time for the Prime Minister to show some statesmanship, ditch her meaningless rhetoric and try to work as closely with Europe as possible in all our interests. My personal prediction is that the Brexit negotiations will unravel and that the minority Conservative government will not last unless she genuinely tries to build a wider consensus that will unite Britain rather than further divide us.

Both a bit of SNP humility on the independence referendum and a change of heart by the Tories on their hard Brexit strategy would be highly welcome to most people in Rutherglen & Cambuslang.”

Liberal Democrats offer a new start and a brighter future

29th May 2017

Rutherglen & Hamilton West Liberal Democrat candidate Robert Brown said today:

“The choice at this election is clear – to change Britain’s future with the Liberal Democrats – or to divide and damage Britain and Europe with the SNP and the Tories. The Liberal Democrats are the best choice for voters who want to hold back the Conservatives and build a progressive opposition to a Tory government.

Liberal Democrats are against an unwanted and divisive second independence referendum. We stand full square for Scotland staying in the United Kingdom and for Britain staying in Europe. No one else offers that mix, particularly since Labour lost the plot.

The Brexit process, initiated by the Tories because of toxic divisions in their Party, has been an incompetent disaster from start to finish. It has landed us with a potential exit bill of £60 billion even before we begin. The Tory hard Brexit will also make it much harder to pay for public services.

People want a new start – a better, more federal relationship for Scotland and the other nations and regions of the UK, keeping our wider partnerships in Europe, NATO and the Commonwealth, and tackling the major issues in education and health.

Liberal Democrats will stop Theresa May’s brutal personal home levy (the “dementia tax”) and will keep the triple lock we introduced in government ensuring steady increases in the state pension.

Our progressive, outward-looking message is focused on real priorities –to invest in education and the NHS, particularly in mental health, all of which have gone downhill under the SNP government.”

Liberal Democrats score on Campaign trail

29th May 2017

Local Liberal Democrats took their message to the streets of Rutherglen, Cambuslang and Burnside on Saturday with local candidate Robert Brown leading street stalls in the all 3 town centres, handing out leaflets and talking to local people.

Robert Brown said:

“We had a really great response from local people and I was very gratified by the level of support we are getting in all three areas.

People like our progressive, outwards-looking message, focused on real priorities – they were interested in Liberal Democrat plans to invest in mental health, education and the NHS, all of which have gone downhill under the SNP government.

What was very striking too was the strong opposition to both the SNP who want to break up Britain and the Tories who are landing us with both mean-spirited policies like Theresa May’s “dementia tax” on elderly care and an unnecessarily hard and isolationist Brexit which will make it much harder to pay for public services.

There is a strong sense that people want a new start – a better, more federal relationship for Scotland and the other nations and regions of the UK, keeping our wider partnerships in Europe, NATO and the Commonwealth, and tackling the major issues in education and health.

Liberal Democrats attack “mean-spirited” Conservatives

22nd May 2017

Prime Minister Theresa May’s plans to snatch away the savings of older people to fund care in their own homes have been savaged by Rutherglen & Hamilton West Liberal Democrat candidate Robert Brown. Robert Brown described the Tories – whether in London or in Scotland – as “still the nasty Party” and said that older people the length and breadth of Britain would shudder at the sheer unfeeling and uncomprehending nature of the Conservative proposals.

Robert Brown said:

“For 70 years, there has been a contract between the public and the government that, in return for paying taxes and national insurance payments, they would be looked after in old age. Now Theresa May – and Ruth Davidson’s – Conservatives are proposing that people should face what is effectively a “Personal Death Tax” charged against their homes. And the more help you need, the more the Conservatives will snatch away from you when you die.

The cost of at home care currently met by the State would now be clawed back after death, hitting nearly a million vulnerable people. It is clear that, under the Tories, when you are old and frail, the costs are going to be down to you and you alone.

Most people don’t like this cold, mean-spirited, Conservative approach to our most vulnerable citizens. The Liberal Democrats will continue to campaign to give social care the extra funding it needs, properly funded with a penny on income tax to pay for it.

All Theresa May’s talk of helping the Just About Managing will ring hollow as long as this bad decision remains in place.”

Robert Brown says “Liberal Democrats can change the direction of our country”

22nd May 2017

A clarion call to local voters to vote Liberal Democrat and “change the direction of our country” has been issued by Liberal Democrat candidate Robert Brown with the general election less than 3 weeks away.

Robert Brown said that people were fed up with an excess of politics and with the uncertainty of Brexit and the further independence referendum threatened by the SNP. He condemned the unappealing and damaging choice offered by the other Parties of:

  • a hard Brexit and the punishing threat to elderly people needing care from Theresa May and Ruth Davidson’s Tories,
  • the total uncertainty of where Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party stands on everything from Europe to defence to benefits, or
  • an SNP failing our schools and hospitals whilst obsessing about another independence referendum.

Robert Brown said:

“It really is time to change the whole direction of our country. Only the Liberal Democrats offer a package of common sense on Europe and the future of the United Kingdom, healing divisions rather than stoking them – allied to a package of progressive reforms which will help the NHS, guarantee the future of our older people, reverse the decline in our schools and give mental health, particularly of young people, the priority it deserves.

The more Liberal Democrat MPs on June 8th, the better the deal on Europe. The more Liberal Democrat MPs, the more jobs and money for the NHS and schools. The more Liberal Democrat MPs, the brighter our future – after the mess being made by the current Government.

We will protect Scotland’s place in the United Kingdom by developing modern, federal institutions across the UK. Our penny on the income tax from dividends will provide the resources to transform mental health. The triple lock on the state pension introduced has guaranteed a rising income to pensioners – secured by Liberal Democrats in government – and will be protected against Theresa May’s cuts. Our programme to borrow for investment in housing and infrastructure will boost the economy and improve public services, whilst lifting the pay cap on public sector pay will give our hard-pressed public service employees a stake in the future.”

Liberal Democrats demand “Council accessible to local communities”

22nd May 2017

The new situation on South Lanarkshire Council – where no one Party has a majority – is a superb opportunity to open up the Council and make it more accessible and accountable to the public and to local communities. This was what Rutherglen Liberal Democrat Councillor Robert Brown told the first meeting of the new Council on Thursday.

The SNP are the largest Party on the Council – but they fall a long way short of having overall control and have already suffered 2 defections to bring their 27 Councillors down to 25 in a Council of 64 members.

Buoyed by a 50% increase in his own vote, Robert Brown secured undertakings from the new Council leader that a number of matters would be looked at.

Robert Brown said:

“South Lanarkshire Council should be much more open and accountable to its citizens and to the local communities in the 4 local areas, including Rutherglen/Cambuslang. The Council meeting itself has become a sham with hardly any major decisions being made by the full Council. Part of the reason is the restrictive nature of the procedural rules and the unnecessarily long time limits for lodging motions or questions. I am keen to see the Council itself restored to its full role.

Secondly the engagement with the public is poor. Why should there not be Town Hall meetings, perhaps quarterly where the Budget and other major issues are explained to local organisations and interested members of the public?

Thirdly the Area Committees should have greater powers over local services and priorities. At present they do little more than administer local voluntary sector grants. We need a review too of the way the Council deals with local consultation with the public and local groups – community councils, housing forums and neighbourhood management. The arrangements badly need revitalization.

Finally the fact that there is a minority administration should push the Council to be more open and inclusive, to involve the talents of Councillors of all Parties and of the many talented people in local communities.”

Liberal Democrats announce Parliamentary candidate

8th May 2017

Local Liberal Democrats have selected Rutherglen Councillor Robert Brown as their candidate for Rutherglen and Hamilton West constituency at the General Election.

Speaking after his selection, Robert Brown said:

“Liberal Democrats go into this election in good heart, buoyed by the highest percentage of the vote for some years in last week’s Council  elections. We stand full-square for Scotland in the United Kingdom and Britain in Europe.

It is time to send a message to both Theresa May and Nicola Sturgeon that Rutherglen and Cambuslang do not want to be dragged out of either the United Kingdom or the European Union.

This is the most open election in Rutherglen for years and the Liberal message – outward looking, international, tolerant and optimistic – is in stark contrast to the division and parallel universes offered by the Conservatives and the SNP. Liberal Democrats are the real opposition to both.”