18th December 2017
Local Council services look likely to face substantial cuts as a result of the SNP Government’s draft Scottish Budget outlined last week. Rutherglen Liberal Democrat Councillor Robert Brown said the SNP had “massively overhyped” their Budget plans and had performed a “sleight of hand” on Councils, landing them with increased pressures and reduced Budgets.
Robert Brown said:
“Liberal Democrats wanted a penny on income tax to deliver a transformative investment in education and a step change in mental health. The SNP Government opposed this at the elections but have now been forced to do something. I welcome this but it amounts to little more than tinkering.
The SNP Government overhyped publicity suggested it was bonanza time for Councils. Instead they have tried a sleight of hand against local communities and local services – the result of the SNP Budget is actually a complicated mishmash which will be damaging to Council services. A,ccording to research by the Scottish Parliament, the Budget leaves Councils facing a cut of £183.7 million in real terms as well as having to find another £150 million to meet the Scottish Government’s unfunded pay policy.
The SNP go on about the evil Westminster Government but the SNP themselves have made a deliberate decision to slash Council budgets. From 2013-14 to 2017-8, Council budgets from the Scottish Government fell by 6.9% whereas the Scottish Government Revenue Budget fell by only 1.6%. Now Council services – which means road repairs, school staff, libraries, halls, social services – look like facing further substantial cuts.
Article in the Rutherglen Reformer 7th December 2017 by Councillor Robert Brown
The Rutherglen Reformer has reported regularly on the increasing volume of cars on local roads, and speeding and other concerns by local residents across many local streets – including Broomieknowe Road, Greenlees Road, Richmond Drive, Calderwood Road and Curtis Avenue amongst others.
This week we had the first meeting of the Roads Safety Forum – potentially a very influential body made up of Councillors, roads and education officials and police amongst others.
The single biggest pressure point is probably around local schools at the morning and afternoon school runs. It is fair to say that most parents drive with consideration for others, particularly children. However hurry to get to work, impatience and aggression are also an unwelcome feature from a minority of parents and carers at many schools. Some people seem to think it is OK to double park, block car park routes, obstruct resident driveways and park on pavements. Double yellow lines and prohibitive zig zags are there for other people!
The Council have taken a number of initiatives to encourage children to walk to school. A range of leaflets and publicity materials are available. Everyone is aware of the health benefits of having more exercise and walking more. Most primary schools have a School Travel Plan – and pupil Junior Road Safety Officers who take their duties very seriously!
Yet the sad truth is that little change is being effected in the proportions of children who walk to school – and the more congested the school gate, the less attractive walking or cycling becomes.
So the Roads Safety Forum is looking at what more can be done to make travel to school safer, to reduce school gate congestion, to reduce unnecessary parking around schools and to persuade more children (and parents) of the benefits of walking to school.
The safety of children has to be the first consideration. I want to see the best ideas across the Council and from other areas brought together to make a real impact, making the school gate safer and routes to school which are pleasant for children and parents alike.
8th December 2017
The initial deal done by Prime Minister Theresa May with the European Union is a fudge on top of a surrender on top of a contradiction. This was the comment by Rutherglen Liberal Democrat Councillor Robert Brown following the Conservative Government’s last minute deal with the European Union to allow Brexit talks to continue. The end result was to land Britain and the Brexit process in a worse mess than ever.
Robert Brown said:
“So far the Government’s negotiations have achieved literally nothing. All the controversial issues have been punted into the long grass – the Northern Ireland border, the “divorce” bill, access to the Single Market and the Customs Union. Instead of saving £350 million a week as the Brexiteers promised, we have a bill thought to be around £60 BILLION to pay.
This is an agreement made up of contradictory assurances – not least to the DUP on the one hand and the European Union on the other about the Irish Border. It is also increasingly clear that we will need to stay in the Single Market and the Customs Union and accept their rules – but lose any power to influence these as we have at present as members.
The Conservative party are in complete chaos over Brexit. When Theresa May returns with a bad deal or no deal at all, the British people must be allowed their say on the terms in a Brexit deal referendum – with the option to halt the whole process altogether.
Every day, Brexit is proving to be the worst decision made by any British government in three quarters of a century.”
7th December 2017
The Royal Bank of Scotland came in for sustained cross party criticism for its further programme of branch closures at Wednesday’s meeting of South Lanarkshire Council.
An urgent Statement agreed by all the Political Party Leaders attacked the Royal Bank’s decision to close 62 further branches in Scotland. In this area, Cambuslang and Burnside branches have already closed. Now more branches across Lanarkshire are due to close.
Rutherglen Liberal Democrat Councillor Robert Brown said:
“It is a matter of shame for Scotland that the profiteering greed of the Royal Bank of Scotland almost crashed the national and world economies in 2008. The Bank is still part owned by the taxpayer and it should remember that.
The Bank has already closed its branches in Burnside and Cambuslang without looking at alternatives to help local customers – like collaboration with other Banks to provide pay in facilities for local businesses and groups. It is time they took seriously their duties to local communities and residents.”
The Leaders’ statement reads:
“South Lanarkshire Council deplores the announcement by the Royal Bank of Scotland that it intends to close 62 branches in Scotland.
These are reported to include several that serve communities in South Lanarkshire – Biggar, Carnwarth, Douglas, Cadzow St. in Hamilton, Larkhall, Lesmahagow and Strathaven and earlier closures at Cambuslang and Burnside.
Council is deeply concerned about the potential impact of such closures on local communities, especially those in rural areas and those where there are no other bank branches.
Council notes that such closures would be a betrayal of the RBS Customer Charter of June 2010 which included a commitment never to close a branch which was ‘the last bank in town’.
Council supports efforts to fight the closures and mitigate the impact on our local communities and residents.
4th December 2017
Council services can take no more cuts without serious reductions in both general Council services and in education and social work services supporting children and vulnerable people. This was the comment by Rutherglen South Liberal Democrat Councillor Robert Brown in reaction to South Lanarkshire Council’s budget proposals which go before the Executive Committee this week.
Robert Brown said:
“The Council is largely dependent on central government grant for funding for local services. These are vital services like teaching staff in education, social work staff caring for vulnerable children, disabled people and older people together with the cultural, sporting and voluntary sector supports which provide libraries, football fields, youthwork provision, employment support and a range of other things which make South Lanarkshire a better place.
For some years we have suffered annual budget shortfalls of around £20 million. The result has been salami slicing of key staff in all areas. We have had a “double whammy” – reductions from the SNP Government in the Council share of the Scottish budget as well as the general austerity since the banking crisis in 2008.
This constant damage to Council services has to stop– it affects every citizen of South Lanarkshire in some way, and particularly people more dependent on local services, such as older people and children.
I am particularly concerned at the further cuts in attendance and behaviour support in schools, the heavy cuts proposed in road and pavement resurfacing and the growing pressure on community care for elderly people.
Liberal Democrats have consistently argued for a 1p increase in Scottish income tax to fund a transformational investment in education – and there are now at last some signs that the SNP Scottish Government in Edinburgh is embarrassed by the way Scottish schools have been slipping down international league tables under their watch and are looking at this. It is not before time.
Final decisions will probably not be taken on the Council budget until February. Before then, we need announcements of clear and specific support from the Scottish Government. They have the powers – they need to use them!”