Month: June 2018

Opening of modernised Burnside Primary School

23rd June 2018

Rutherglen Liberal Democrat Councillor Robert Brown said:

“The official opening of the modernised Burnside Primary School was a great event. The new school building, like all the new South Lanarkshire school estate, is built on a generous model, with plenty of break out space. It is clear that staff and pupils alike enjoy learning and working in Burnside. I wish them all success for the future in their new school.”

Armed Forces Day

23rd June 2018

Rutherglen Liberal Democrat Councillor Robert Brown said:

“Armed Forces Day is a chance to show support for the United Kingdom’s Armed Forces who defend our country and its interests, helping to promote peace and provide security.
The South Lanarkshire Flag raising event at Hamilton was attended by Councillors of all Parties including myself and, as always, was very impressive with the delegations from all the armed forces, army, navy and air force, as well as Cadets and Reservists.”

Elderly Care Row at Council meeting

21st June 2018

A major row has blown up at South Lanarkshire Council’s Social Work Committee about the future shape of elderly care facilities across the county. The Council administration are proposing to introduce a new model of care based on provision of intermediateElderly Care Row and rehabilitative beds to support people coming home from hospital. Most Councillors supported the model but Liberal Democrat and Labour Councillors criticised the fact that this was being funded by the closure of existing care homes in the Hamilton area.

A motion by Rutherglen Liberal Democrat Councillor Robert Brownto refer the whole matter to the full Council for decision to allow a closer look at the financial options was defeated by the SNP and Tories voting together.

Robert Brown said:

“The growth in the numbers of the elderly population with more people living longer is great but it brings with it pressures on community care and health facilities.  The Council’s move to support people leaving hospital to be more independent is absolutely right – but I and others were concerned that the Council seemed to be winding down the number of residential places it provided in order to fund the new set up.

The discussion was a bit confused and I am not sure the Tory Councillors understood they had voted to close two residential homes.

The reality is, as Council officials admitted, there will still be at least the same need for places in residential homes – and probably a greater need – and I want to see the Council continuing to play their part in this.

The immediate proposals affect Hamilton and Blantyre only but will see 2 existing homes there with about 60 places close. However, in due course this will affect what happens in the Rutherglen and Cambuslang area too.

The new approach to elderly care is intended to be rolled out across all 4 localities of South Lanarkshire including Cambuslang & Rutherglen. where the only residential home provision at present is the 50 units at David Walker Gardens. The plan talks about “an enhanced provision” there and it remains to be seen what this means in practice. The Council emphasis seems to be on more transitional care beds so there may be less long term residential places there. However the Council have a three year plan and it will probably be a couple of years before there are significant changes in our area.

I think it is likely that plans will adapt in the light of experience with the new model in the Hamilton and Clydesdale areas. My personal view is that ways need to be found of providing additional facilities, including more transitional beds – but also keeping up the numbers of long term places which will still be needed.

This is a nationwide problem and will require additional funding from the Scottish Government.”

Robert Brown gives warm Welcome to new Autism Strategy

21st June 2018

South Lanarkshire Council’s Autism Action Plan was given a warm welcome by Rutherglen Liberal Democrat Councillor Robert Brown when it was presented at the Council’s Social Work Committee on Wednesday.

The Plan covers the years 208 to 2023 and commits to continued funding of the ARCH (Autism Resource Co-ordination Hub) which replaced the defunct Pan Lanarkshire Autism One Stop Shop based in Motherwell in 2016.

Robert Brownsaid:

“ There have been tremendous developments in recognition and support for autism in recent years. In Rutherglen/Cambuslang, we established local education provision in the Autism bases at Cathkin Primary School and Cathkin Secondary School after a long campaign by the Action Group.

Amazingly, according to research by the London School of Economics, autism costs the UK economy £32 billion a year – more than dementia, cancer, heart disease or stroke. It is estimated that something like one child in 67 is on the autistic spectrum. Probably nearly 5,000 people in South Lanarkshire are autistic.

One of the big successes of the previous Strategy was the support of over 50 practitioners to obtain an SVQ Level 2 in understanding Autism which gives a tremendous resource across South Lanarkshire of new people with professional knowledge of the condition.

The key priorities of the new Action Plan are for better diagnosis and support, improved life opportunities, more accessible information, better support in transitions at school or into work or college and improved professional awareness.

It is vital that there is local access to autism services and I have been assured that  there is a strong emphasis on this.”

Limetree Unit closure “lost” between 2 Health Boards

17th June 2018

Rutherglen Liberal Democrat Councillor Robert Brownsaid this week he was appalled at the secrecy surrounding the proposed closure of the Limetree Unit care facility at Rodger Drive by NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde, reported last week in the Rutherglen Refomer. He claimed that the issue appeared to have got lost somewhere in the bowels of the NHS machinery – the facility is located in Rutherglen which is now part of Lanarkshire Health Board but run by NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde.

Robert Brownsaid:

“I am pretty certain that none of the local Councillors were advised of what was happening here – I certainly wasn’t.  Even worse it is now clear from documents theReformerhas identified that NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde have been trying to offload the Limetree Unit for several years – it was part of a “saving to be delivered” as long ago as 2016!

I have written to the Chief Executives of both Glasgow and Lanarkshire Health Bords demanding more information as to what is happening and why it appears to being slipped through away from public knowledge.

This is not the first time that the future of Health facilities serving Rutherglen and Cambuslang have been kept secret. We all remember the furore over the GP Out of Hours facility at the New Victoria when Rutherglen patients were to be shifted to Hamilton without consultation. That one was only stopped after I discovered it by accident after attending an NHS Lanarkshire meeting.

There may be good arguments for changing the way the NHS provide or support services. There is no argument at all for doing these things privately without public knowledge or debate. It is also high time that the Rutherglen and Cambuslang area was properly treated by the 2 Health Boards rather than being an inconvenient bureaucratic anomaly. The reality is that, despite the focus on Lanarkshire organisation and Council links, geography means that many local people want to continue to be dealt with either locally or by Glasgow hospitals or other services.

Damaging Brexit is beginning to crack – but Labour must get rid of Corbyn

17th June 2018

Rutherglen Liberal Democrat Councillor Robert Brown offered immediate – but qualified – support to Rutherglen & Hamilton West Labour MP Gerard Killen following his rebellion against the Labour whip in favour of staying in the European Economic Area. Robert Brown was Gerard Killen’s Liberal Democrat opponent at the Genera Election.

The House of Commons were voting on the European Union Withdrawal Bill and, in particular, on the amendments passed in the Lords which the Conservative Government sought to reverse.Robert Brown said:

“Prior to the vote, I wrote to Ged Killen urging him to help stop Brexit and back a more pro-European future for Britain in these important votes in the Commons last Thursday.

The whole disastrous Brexit mess is above Party and I congratulate Gerard Killen for having the courage to defy the Party whip along with some other Labour MPs to make his own decision. However he and his fellow Labour rebels need to go further. If they believe, as I do, that the whole Brexit prices is an unfolding calamity, threatening the living standards of ordinary families, damaging the future funding potential of our public services, then the Labour pro Europeans need to back a People’s vote on the Brexit terms, and give the electorate the chance to forge a new way forward.

The negotiations conducted by Mrs. May’s Government have achieved literally nothing – which is hardly surprising when the Cabinet is divided even over what they want from Brexit. I have frankly not seen such an incompetent Government in my lifetime.

But sadly there is no real Opposition either.

It is increasingly clear the hard Tory Brexit is backed by Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour leadership. It is a tragedy for the country that, at this historic time, there is in effect no alternative government if, as is increasingly likely, Theresa May’s Government cannot deliver either a successful negotiation or a parliamentary majority for whatever emerges from this divided Tory cabinet. Nobody would dream of replacing Theresa May by Jeremy Corbyn just to keep the same uninspired and damaging programme of leaving the EU.

The start point to a rescue plan for our country is to get rid of Jeremy Corbyn and elect a new Labour leader.”

Robert Brown appeals to Rutherglen Labour MP Ged Killen to help stop Brexit

10th June 2018

Brexit can be stopped – but only if pro-European Labour MPs do their duty. This was the message from Rutherglen Liberal Democrat Councillor Robert Brownin a personal letter to Rutherglen & Hamilton West Labour MP Ged Killen this week.

The House of Commons is due to vote shortly on the European Union Withdrawal Bill and, in particular, on the amendments passed in the Lords which the Conservative Government seek to reverse.

Robert Brownsaid:

“I have made no secret of my view that coming out of the European Union is a total and unmitigated disaster, which will damage the living standards and prospects of almost everyone in the United Kingdom. The negotiations conducted by Mrs. May’s Government have achieved literally nothing – which is hardly surprising when the Cabinet is divided even over what they want from Brexit. I have frankly not seen such an incompetent Government in my lifetime.

Parliament has the opportunity to do two things. First, they can insist that, whatever else, Britain remains in the European Customs Union and the Single Market – that is the absolute least that is needed if British trade, jobs and living standards are not to be wrecked by Brexit.

The second is to pass the Liberal Democrat amendment requiring a People’s Vote on the terms of Brexit – with an opportunity to do what the majority of people in opinion polls now clearly want which is to remain in the European Union if the terms are unsatisfactory. Actually we already know the terms are highly unsatisfactory and damaging to our country’s interests.

That is why I have written personally to Ged Killen whom I have known and worked with as a Council colleague and in the campaign to keep Scotland in the United Kingdom.

The position of Labour MPs is crucial. If they back key amendments from the House of Lords, they can halt Brexit in its tracks. If substantial numbers of them vote according to their judgment , they can beat the Government on this and require a People’s Vote on the Brexit terms.

If on the other hand they continue to support Jeremy Corbyn in backing a hard Brexit – in effect giving cover and protection to the Tories – Theresa May, Boris Johnston and Michael Gove – they will condemn the country to a very difficult future.

This is a key moment and it is time for Labour MPs – most of whom are at heart pro-European to stand up for what they believe in.

Ged Killen and many of his Labour colleagues were voted in last May, not least because many young people believed it was the best way to stop Brexit and secure a European future. I hope they were not wrong.“

Paying tribute to Schools – Rutherglen Reformer article

1st June 2018

This week I want to pay tribute to the headteachers, teachers, janitors and support staff who run our schools, nurseries and early years provision – and the voluntary Parent Councils who do so much work in supporting them.

We don’t always think of them that way but schools are big business! In South Lanarkshire we have no less than 123 primary schools, 19 secondary schools and 5 additional support needs schools. The education budget is well over £300 million a year – half the Council’s total revenue expenditure.  Stonelaw, Trinity and Cathkin High Schools each have a roll of over 1,000 young people – and growing.  An individual secondary school will have a budget of around £6 million and approaching 100 staff. Local primary school rolls range from around 140 to over 400.

The SNP Government have come under a lot of attack because Scotland has been falling down the international league tables in education. After a decade of falling teacher numbers, they have been forced to put more money into education through the Scottish Attainment challenge and the Pupil Equity Fund – following in large measure the pupil premiums pioneered by Liberal Democrats in the UK government before 2015.

The enthusiasm and energy brought to a school by a cadre of new, freshly qualified teachers is amazing. As a Scottish Education Minister I recall being totally inspired by meeting lots of fresh young teachers recruited when we raised teacher numbers across Scotland to the unprecedented level of 53,000.

So the last thing schools need is more tinkering with the structures – and the forthcoming SNP Education Bill is largely about that. The success of our schools is based on inspiring leadership, committed teachers and supportive and engaged parents, not interference by Ministers in Edinburgh.

Parent Councils also make a huge contribution through fundraising and other school support but also in representing the wider parent body in engagement with their local schools. I am constantly impressed both by their organisational success with galas, fetes and other events and by their knowledge and commitment. They are undoubtedly amongst the most effective organisations in Rutherglen and Cambuslang.

SNP Plan a “recipe for super austerity” – Liberal Democrats

27th May 2018

Local Liberal Democrats have described the Report of the SNP Growth Commission as “a recipe for super austerity” which “holed the independence campaign below the waterline.”

Commenting on the Report, Rutherglen Liberal Democrat Councillor Robert Brownsaid:

“The SNP appear to have ditched the plan that failed so spectacularly to convince the public in 2014. Gone is much of the social democratic rhetoric and the idea that an independent Scotland would have money growing on trees. Gone is the bonanza of the oil revenues.

Instead the SNP want to cut public debt drastically. This is understandable, given the costs and uncertainties of independence but the result would be cuts in services that can only be described as a recipe for “super austerity”. Even Theresa May and the Tories have given up on this policy now. Far from being the plan for optimism and hope described by the First Minister, this is a grim plan for Scotland for a future of falling living standards and belt tightening from the SNP.

In short Nicola Sturgeon has ditched the plan they gave us in 2014 which fell apart on contact with reality. Now she has given us another plan, which is undoubtedly more realistic about how difficult and undesirable independence would be. However, if she can ditch one plan so readily, the Scottish public can be forgiven for being unconvinced by the new plan.

The reality is that the costs and complexities of independence are similar to those of Brexit that we see unfolding every day before our eyes.

A further independence referendum on top of Brexit would be a total distraction when we should be concentrating on improving public services and driving improvements to our economy. Instead of opening up the debate on independence, Nicola Sturgeon should ditch it “for a generation”. This needs building relationships with others, not breaking up our long-established United Kingdom.

This will be a slow burning fuse – but I believe the SNP’s own Growth Commission has in fact holed independence below the line.”

Time for Programmed Maintenance of Council houses – Robert Brown

27th May 2018

South Lanarkshire Council’s Housing Repairs Policy Review threw up some criticism at last week’s meeting of the Housing & Technical Resources Committee.

Rutherglen South Liberal Democrat CouncillorRobert Brownsaid the document was “deliberately vague” in the way it dealt with programmed maintenance of things like gutters, close painting and slab repairs. He said it was time the Council had a programme for checking and maintaining routine issues like that.

Robert Brownsaid:

“The reality is that there is not a proper programme for when closes and external areas get painted or gutters cleared. Consequently there were tenement buildings right across Rutherglen that had not been painted for years and others where weeds were growing from gutters. The painting programme has slipped from 5 years to 10 years before it even began.

I know there are problems with divided ownership – some council tenants, some owner -occupiers, some private tenants – in individual blocks. However it must have a higher priority to get on top of this.

The Council say they do 5 yearly checks on the condition of properties but this must be followed by speedier action to tackle the issues shown up. Many tenants simply don’t know what is happening in their areas on repair programmes.”