Category: Uncategorized

Leisure Trust needs to be opened up – Liberal Democrats

21st December 2018

South Lanarkshire Council runs its leisure and culture activities – halls, libraries, museums, sports facilities Rutherglen Town Hall, Cambuslang Institute and similar facilities – through a semi-independent body called South Lanarkshire Leisure and Culture Limited which is set up as an arms-length charitable body.

But, after a major row involving the removal of the SNP Chair of the Leisure Trust Board by the SNP Administration itself, Rutherglen Liberal Democrat Councillor Robert Brownhas demanded that the Trust be opened up much more to public scrutiny.

At Wednesday’s meeting of the Council’s Executive Committee, Robert Brown secured an admission that the Leisure Trust required to be more transparent and that new arrangements would be proposed for the start of the new financial year.

Robert Brown said:

“South Lanarkshire Leisure & Culture Trust Ltd. holds its Board meetings in private, there is no public notification of its agenda and there are no published minutes of its decisions. Frankly thus is quite outrageous for a body which runs so many important Council facilities.

Following the publication of an exchange of correspondence between the former Chair of the Leisure Trust Board (who has been suddenly removed without public explanation by the SNP Administration) and the Council’s Head of Legal Services – which I had requested at the last Executive meeting – it emerged that the core reason for the change related to the issue of the relationship between the Trust and the Council following a complaint and threatened litigation. 

Neither the Council nor the Executive Committee have had any kind of report on this which is clearly a major concern for both bodies. At the very least there could have been a confidential report to Councillors or perhaps to importance to key aspects of the Council’s business, rumbles on without Councillors having any kind of report or insight into the issues. Meantime there are no published minutes of the Trust nor any transparency of its operations and meetings.”

After the meeting, Robert Brown commented:

“This may sound like an argument amongst council insiders with no relevance to the public but in fact it is about the running of services that are important to everyone – swimming pools, libraries, halls, meeting places. For example there was a later item on the agenda indicating that the Council might have to bail out the Trust to the tune of an extra £400,000 this year. It is quite unacceptable to be in this position without the Trust Board being publicly accountable for it.”

Calls for ending of Primary One testing backed by Robert Brown

21st December 2018

Primary One tests on young children in South Lanarkshire should be halted following the Scottish Parliament’s vote on 19th September calling on the Scottish Government to stop the tests. This was the view of Rutherglen Liberal Democrat Councillor Robert Brown, speaking in a debate on the subject at South Lanarkshire Council on Wednesday.

The debate led to a dramatic 31-31 vote (with 1 abstention) with Liberal Democrat, Labour and Conservative Councillors supporting suspension of the tests – equally balanced by SNP and Independent Councillors who backed the SNP Government’s position. The Council Provost had to use his casting vote to defeat the move to suspend the tests.

Robert Brownsaid:

“It is unfortunate that the SNP Education Secretary John Swinney had not taken more heed of the view of MSPs from all the other Parties – Liberal Democrat, Labour, Conservative and Green – that P1 tests were unnecessary, sometimes damaging and opposed by many parents, teachers, unions and others.

Teachers are already aware from their engagement with children in their care where there are issues – and these are unlikely to be spotted by bureaucratic tests in any event. The tests are really  a bureaucratic requirement by the Scottish Government which takes away from teaching time and diverts attention from the real issues of class sizes and teacher numbers. 

The SNP Education Secretary lacks public or Parliamentary support for pressing on with the tests. It is therefore entirely right that the Council should look at options for suspending the P1 tests. 

This was a very close and hotly-debated vote and P1 tests will unfortunately continue for the time being. I remain of the view they have little benefit and are a distraction for teachers. As in Parliament, opposition to the tests came from all the other political Parties – Labour, Tory and Liberal Democrats – which, in my experience, is extremely unusual.”

Backing Lanarkshire Veterans

21st December 2018

South Lanarkshire Council is backing efforts to give veterans more backing in getting back into civilian life and employment. The Council backed a motion by Councillor Mark McGeever agreeing to create a guaranteed interview scheme for ex armed forces personnel applying for employment vacancies with the Council. 

Rutherglen Liberal Democrat Councillor Robert Brownsuccessfully moved an amendment welcoming the work of Veterans Point Lanarkshire, a service developed by veterans for veterans, in providing practical and mental health support in the community by veterans peer support staff working with a small psychology team.

Robert Brown said:

“Armed forces personnel have served their country in many theatres. The Council is already signed up to the  Armed Forces Covenant recognising society’s obligations to its veterans. Many ex service people have significant skills which are not always certificated. There is also a high incidence of post traumatic stress disorder and other mental health issues which affect some ex service people. 

It is vital that the Council and other agencies give all appropriate support to transition from military life back to civilian lie when they leave the Armed Forces. I was surprised to discover just how many veterans there are in Lanarkshire, some of whom struggle for various reasons when they come out of the forces.

This is the centenary year of the Armistice ending the First World War in 1918. It is entirely appropriate that all efforts are made to make sure our ex service people are valued and supported.”

Reformer Article – “Time to see the other point of view!”

30th November 2018

This last weekend saw the switching on of the Christmas lights in Rutherglen, Burnside and Cambuslang. We are already into December, another festive season upon us, dark and wet weather the order of the day.

The darkness of the season is matched by the darkness of the political world. The Prime Minister has spent the last week touring the UK, telling everyone that her Brexit “deal” is the only game in town. 

Yet, at the same time, official studies from the UK and Scottish Governments, the Governor of the Bank of England and others all point out that all forms of Brexit are worse economically than staying in the European Union. No wonder so many people are now joining the Liberal Democrats in calling for a People’s Vote on the Brexit terms.

So I am glad that I was able to persuade South Lanarkshire Council to back a People’s Vote with an option to stay in the EU. A People’s Vote is becoming increasingly likely – and may be the only way to resolve the obvious stalemate in Parliament. 

But reversing the European referendum decision of 2016 would not solve all problems. Politics has been dominated for far too long by the divisions of Brexit and the independence referenda – both fuelled by dissatisfaction with current political parties, by lack of hope of a better future after the financial crisis, by a sense of being let down by our leaders.

Brexit has already been enormously costly – but it has produced a close examination of many business sectors and many issues as part of the negotiation. We know that London and the financial services industry are too dominant in the political and economic life of our country, that free movement across Europe is vastly more important than it was made out to be, that too much power has been scooped away from local communities by the Scottish, British and European governments, and that lack of business investment, gross inequality of reward, and inadequate research and development continue to hold back our economy.

So the People’s Vote we want on Brexit should be rather more inspiring than the grim referendum of 2016. It might help if we each tried to understand the perspective of those who take a different view to our own. 

Rutherglen Liberal Democrats out in streets with Brexitometer

19th November 2018

Local Liberal Democrats were hitting the streets in Rutherglen on Friday in support of their campaign for a People’s Vote on the terms of Brexit. The Party ran a street stall in Main Street, Rutherglen with a Brexitometer survey on public attitudes. The results showed an overwhelming majority of people in the Rutherglen area supported both a People’s Vote on the terms and stating in the EU.

Rutherglen Liberal Democrat Councillor Robert Brown said:

“Our Street stall was part of a Scottish Liberal Democrat Action Weekend across Scotland in support of a People’s Vote. It was by chance well timed as it followed shortly after the Prime Minister announced her newest proposals for a Brexit deal with the European Union – which has been roundly condemned from all sides. Our Brexitometer was very popular with lots of people keen to express their views.

Brexit threatens to cause huge damage to our economy, security and environment and the deal Theresa May has secured has utterly disintegrated. Brexit will hurt the pockets of ordinary people and leave the United Kingdom weakened.

This is not inevitable. Liberal Democrats demand better. There is a growing tide of public opinion in favour of a Peoples Vote and of staying in the European Union. Only last week, Liberal Democrats got the Scottish Parliament to back a People’s Vote for the first time. Last month, there was za huge March I London which attracted about 700,000 people in support of a People’s Vote.

MSPs and MPs who back the People’s Vote are fast forming the biggest and most cohesive bloc in British politics. Every day, more and more people are coming to the conclusion that the public should have their say on the final Brexit deal.”

Council Transparency – Letter to Editor

The Editor,

Rutherglen Reformer

4thNovember 2018

Dear Sir,

I think Dorothy Connor (Letters 31stOctober 2018) rather misses my point in her comments on the issue of the transparency of South Lanarkshire Council.

The central problem is that most key decisions are delegated to the Council’s Executive Committee rather than being decided by the full Council. In my view the full Council should be the main democratic forum for debate and decision on important issues – partly because it gives all Councillors a voice, and partly because it will attract greater publicity and therefore the issue is more likely to be heard and seen by the public. As Dorothy Connor rightly says, Councillors are responsible to the public.

I was in fact the first Councillor, as far as I am aware, to make a fuss about this and to call for the Council to be opened up to public accountability in a more effective way. The key Budget decisions should certainly be made by the full Council but that is only the start. There should for example be a proper Question Time – as there is in many other Councils – where the Council Administration can be properly questioned on how they are carrying out their functions. I think too the public would be interested in “town hall” accountability meetings in local communities on issues of concern to them.

The SNP Administration did not cover itself with glory by rejecting the modest and reasonable proposals in the motion from Labour group Leader Joe Fagan and myself for the Liberal Democrats. However it is fair to say that the current arrangements where the full Council is too often a formality were established in the many years during which Labour ran the Council. It was only when Labour were put out of office last year that they had a ‘road to Damascus” moment. 

The reality is that the public are not effectively engaged in key Council decisions. This must change and a wholesale review of how the Council operates is long overdue.

Yours faithfully,

Robert Brown

Liberal Democrat Councillor for Rutherglen South

Robert Brown welcomes Cathkin Tenant Co-op agreement

4th November 2018

Cathkin Braes Tenant Management Co-operative has won a renewal of its agreement with South Lanarkshire Council to manage over 200 council houses in Cathkin for a further 5 year period. The Co-op – run by a tenant committee from the area – has managed the properties for over 30 years. The new agreement was approved by the Council’s Housing Committee at its meeting on Wednesday.

Rutherglen South Liberal Democrat Councillor Robert Brown who represents the Cathkin area gave a warm welcome to the decision.

Robert Brownsaid:

“I am delighted that Cathkin Braes TM Co-operative has won such a vote of confidence from the Council – based not least on the high satisfaction rates it gets from local residents.

Cathkin is the only Tenant Management Co-operative which remains in South Lanarkshire but I would like to see the Council look at this idea in other areas, particularly ones with a lot of tenement houses. The Council told me at the Housing Committee that they were supportive of future Co-ops but that initiatives to start them needed strong support from local residents.

Cathkin Co-op is successful because it is run locally by local people and is responsive to local needs.

The Council report commented: “Cathkin Braes TMC is  successful, tenant led organisation that performs well, delivers good outcomes and is well regarded by tenants living in the area.” There was a satisfaction rating of 98% in an independent survey. That speaks for itself.”

Robert Brown: Budget is a “treading water” Budget, overshadowed by Brexit

28th October 2018

Commenting on the Chancellor’s Budget, Rutherglen Liberal Democrat Councillor Robert Brownsaid:

“This was largely a standstill Budget with some giveaways funded by statistical errors in the forecasts. It failed on 2 main tests:

  • It is totally overshadowed by the threat of Brexit to the public finances. These costs could reach £80 billion a year if there is no deal with the EU. Even the Chancellor has found it necessary to squirrel away £15 billion towards paying for Brexit
  • It doesn’t end austerity – that could only be done by raising taxes. As we know, schools, hospitals, council services are all under pressure – as are the wages and incomes of many families.

Liberal Democrats demand better than this. We needed a Budget that gave people fairer taxes and better public services, and a final say on the Brexit deal. Today, we got none of that with Philip Hammond’s ‘treading water” Budget”. 

Liberal Democrats call on Rutherglen Labour MP to back a People’s Vote

21st October 2018

Following the huge March and Rally in London yesterday demanding a public vote on the outcome of Brexit, Local Liberal Democrats are stepping up pressure on Rutherglen’s local MP to back a People’s Vote on the Brexit terns. In an Open Letter to Ged Killen, Labour MP for Rutherglen & Hamilton West, Rutherglen Liberal Democrat Councillor Robert Brown said that Brexit was an issue which defined a generation and required a national not a party approach from MPs.

Robert said the turnout on the London demonstration had been estimated at around 700,000, much bigger than the 100,000 expected by organisers – and the biggest demonstration for many years., probably since the one against the Iraq War and the anti Poverty march.

The size of the demonstration was a game changer and required MPs to step up to the mark.

Robert Brown said:

“It is clear now that Brexit is undeliverable in practical terms. Every single aspect that has been the subject of dispute would leave the United Kingdom worse off by far than staying in Europe. Nobody voted to damage the economy, make it more difficult for businesses, harm the public finances and put yet more pressure on the NHS. Yet that is what we are getting.

The sensible thing is to say “Stop. Let’s think again. Now we know what’s involved, let the public decide since the Government and the Labour Opposition are making such a hash of it.

Liberal Democrats have campaigned for a People’s Vote from the beginning. But Labour’s position is crucial. If Labour MPs follow what the vast majority of their voters and members want, they will back a People’s Vote – and they would greatly increase the prospect of that happening. They really can’t sit on the fence much longer.

I believe Ged Killen is pro-European at heart. Now is the time for him to stand up and be counted. The huge London demonstration shows that the public mood has changed.”

Open Letter to Ged Killen MP

21stOctober 2018

Dear Ged,

I have written to you before about the unfolding disaster of Brexit and my concern about the vacillating attitude of the Labour Party leadership on the issue.

Whatever the political programme that Labour – or indeed other Parties – wish to implement, it is undermined at the core by the economic and financial consequences of leaving the European Union.

It seems to me that that the political situation is now changing fundamentally, not least as shown by the hugely impressive People’s Vote march and demonstration in London yesterday which is reported to have attracted 700,000 people, far above the 100,000 expected.

The catalogue of difficulties in just about every sector of the economy and every part of our society which is revealed on a daily basis also demonstrates just how damaging Brexit will be for Rutherglen, Scotland and the United Kingdom.

I am writing therefore to urge you, firstly, to stand firm against the truly awful Brexit deal being negotiated by the Prime Minister, and the even worse “cliff edge”, no deal Brexit supported by the ultra-Brexiteers – but secondly to give your immediate backing to a People’s Vote on the Brexit terms – with an option to remain in the European Union.

At present, we are headed for a Brexit that nobody voted for. If a deal is stitched together, we now know it will be one that is a million miles away from what was promised in 2016. It threatens jobs, businesses and hospitals here in our constituency; it will mean no end to austerity for years to come and make it impossible to bring the radical change that many of us, from our different perspectives, would wish to see.

This would not only be hugely damaging for our country but it would do nothing to deal with all the real challenges facing our local area. In fact, it will make dealing with those problems harder.

I was pleased to see Labour moving its position a bit at your recent Conference. I agree you should vote down a bad deal, a blindfold deal, and oppose a catastrophic no deal too. It’s now crucial we don’t fall for the false choice that Theresa May is trying to say that we have to accept her deal or no deal. The clear alternative is to stay in the European Union.

But it does look as if there is no Brexit deal that is capable of attracting a majority in Parliament – indeed that Brexit is in practical terms undeliverable. In these circumstances, it seems to me that the right thing to do is for MPs to return the decision to the public in a People’s Vote, against a background of greater clarity on the implications of Brexit than existed in 2016.

It will probably mean that Article 50 will need to be withdrawn or extended to facilitate such a vote – but even the Prime Minister has hinted that this may be necessary in any event.

It is clear from your earlier votes and statements that you are at heart pro-European. Could I suggest that it is now time to take a national rather than a Party view of this huge issue and recognise the growing strength of demand for a People’s Vote on Brexit as shown by yesterday’s Rally.

Not many issues define a generation – this is one of them.

I look forward to your reply.

best wishes,

 

Robert

 

(Cllr Robert Brown)

Liberal Democrats

Rutherglen South Ward

Wreath Laying Ceremony and Guided Tours of Rutherglen Cemetery War Graves

20th October 2018

A short wreath laying ceremony is to be held at the “other” Cenotaph at the Mill Street entrance to Rutherglen Cemetery on Friday 9thNovember 2018 at 2pm in commemoration of those who suffered and died in the First World War. There will also be two guided tours of the numerous war graves in the cemetery, the first at 11am and the second following the Wreath Laying at about 2.15pm.

Rutherglen South Councillor Robert Brown, who has organised the event, said:

“The main Cenotaph is of course the one in the West End of Rutherglen at the junction of Mill Street and Burnhill Street near the West Parish Church. In this Centenary year of the Armistice which ended the Great War, we are looking for a tremendous turn out for the Remembrance wreath laying ceremony there on Sunday November 11that 12.30pm which is Rutherglen’s main commemoration of those who suffered and died in war. The Cenotaph event will be attended by civic, community and religious leaders, the uniformed youth organisations and representatives of many local organisations including the secondary schools.

However the Council is also keen to hold appropriate ceremonies at all the 44 Cenotaphs throughout South Lanarkshire so we have organised this smaller event at the Cenotaph in Rutherglen Cemetery, associated with 2 guided tours of the war graves there conducted by Jane Barton of Turnstone Geneology who has researched the history of many of the graves. The Wreath laying ceremony will be conducted by Rev Alistair May, Minister of Stonelaw Parish Church.

Unlike the main Cenotaph, the memorial in Rutherglen Cemetery contains no names. It is a Sword of Remembrance memorial and the inscription on 3 sides of the structure reads –

THIS CROSS OF SACRIFICE IS ONE IN DESIGN
AND INTENTION WITH THOSE WHICH HAVE
BEEN SET UP IN FRANCE AND BELGIUM AND
OTHER PLACES THROUGHOUT THE WORLD
WHERE OUR DEAD OF THE
GREAT WAR ARE LAID TO REST

THEIR NAME LIVETH FOR EVERMORE

Members of the public interested in one of the tours or in attending the Wreath laying should meet at the Cemetery Cenotaph at 11am for the guided tour or 2pm for the wreath laying and 2ndtour.  The Cemetery is quite steep in parts and one of the more interesting graves is located at the top so people should be prepared for a bit of a hike.

Many of the war graves in the Cemetery are of service personnel who came home but died after the War, perhaps of their injuries. For most of the war soldiers killed on the Western Front were buried there.“