Rutherglen Post Office

27th May 2019

Commenting on the continued closure of Rutherglen Post Office, Liberal Democrat Councillor Robert Brown said:

“A town like Rutherglen badly needs an effective and sustainable  Post Office. It is really disappointing that the town’s Post Office seems to be providing such a poor service after the months if closure and silence. It is time for the Post Office bosses to get a grip of the situation and ensure a functioning and permanent Post Office in the Burgh.”

Liberal Democrats win big in European elections!

27th May 2019

Rutherglen Liberal Democrat Councillor Robert Brown hailed the Liberal Democrat success un the European elections.

Robert said:

“The Liberal Democrats are the big winners of the night, regaining a European seat in Scotland and electing 16 MEPs across the United Kingdom. Our South Lanarkshire vote is up substantially too with Labour and the Tories both decimated. Liberal Democrats are back with a bang.

The Liberal Democrats are the lead Party of Remain – Remain Parties beat the Parties of hard Brexit across Britain. It is time for the government to think again about Brexit and begin by ruling out the disaster of a No Deal Brexit. 

The voters have sent a powerful message that the fudge and confusion of the Tory Government and Labour Opposition over Brexit will no longer do. Liberal Democrats demand better.”

Sports Council Chair welcomes Glens Victory

13th May 2019

Cllr Robert Brown, Chair of Cambuslang and Rutherglen Sports Council, was delighted at the news of the Glens’ title win.

Robert said:
“Congratulations to the Glens! It was great to see Glencairn win the title, particularly after an 8 goal thriller. It also helps put Rutherglen right there on the map as a centre of sporting excellence.

It gives a real boost for the summer to the Royal Burgh.”

Opportunities for a healthier life

Rutherglen Reformer article 23rd June 2019

New Park opens 

On Saturday I went to the official opening of the £850,000 Fernbrae Meadows Park.

created on the site of the closed Blairbeth Golf course. Many people have already been round it and many more will do so over the next few months. A lot of work has gone into the project from the design and construction teams and by Friends of Fernbrae Park to ensure it is a success.

Rutherglen now has not just the historic Overtoun Park but Fernbrae Meadows at the top of the Burgh and Cuningar Loop at the bottom as well. They all look as if they will be well used.

Beat the Street needs to be built on

Back in March, the Beat the Street project was a roaring success throughout schools in Rutherglen and Lanark, inspiring children and their families alike to compete for points and prizes and, in doing so, to increase their walking and cycling – to school and to other local places. Next year Beat the Street is off to East Kilbride.

What a fantastic project and what fantastic outcomes – more walking and cycling, more exercise, great fun! The project cost £100,000 this year, funded by a combination of external funding from the Air Quality Action Fund and Paths for All (which aims to increase cycling and walking). However we now need three year support  for Beat the Street in Rutherglen linked to other i initiatives like walk to school days, cycling training, and school transport plans to reduce the number of vehicles on the school run and make safer routes to school.

Active Schools

So – walking, cycling, outdoor activities are on the up in Rutherglen. But this is all part of a wider agenda. Over the last few weeks I have, as Chair of the Cambuslang and Rutherglen Sports Council, attended a variety of sporting events for schools – football, rugby, running,, athletics – and seen the enthusiasm of the young people to which the superb talents of the Active Schools Coordinators make such a huge difference.

The goal of all these things is to foster a healthier society, young and old, less illness, less obesity, greater enjoyment of life. All the signs are that Rutherglen and South Lanarkshire are leading the way!

Robert Brown 

Lead European Liberal Democrat candidate campaigns in Rutherglen – as local Liberal Democrats are buoyed by voter surge

12th May 2019

Lead Scottish Liberal Democrat European candidate Sheila Ritchie was in Rutherglen on Friday knocking doors in Burnside in support of the Party’s European Parliament elections. (Photo shows Sheila Ritchie with part of the local Liberal Democrat campaign team.

Rutherglen Liberal Democrat Councillor Robert Brown, who was out with the team on the doors, said it was great to have Sheila Ritchie in Rutherglen. He was amazed at how many parts of Scotland she had already been to during the campaign.

Robert Brown said:

“There is one overriding issue in the European elections – which is to stop the disastrous Tory/Labour Brexit – and this is influencing many people’s votes, left, right and centre across Rutherglen and Cambuslang.

The Liberal Democrats have a high quality team of candidates for the European elections – as befits our standing as the leading pro-Remain Party. Sheila Ritchie is a highly experienced solicitor with considerable EU expertise, a longstanding Liberal Democrat campaigner and is the current Convener of the Scottish Liberal Democrats. She will make a great MEP. We are extremely hopeful of winning back the European Parliament seat we held at every election from 1999 apart from last time.

Sheila’s visit was followed at the weekend by several opinion polls showing the Liberal Democrats ahead of the governing Conservative Party in voting intentions for the European elections on May 23rd. This is quite phenomenal and unprecedented and it bears out what we found on the doorsteps on Friday and on our other recent doorknocking sessions. 

Local people – like voters right across the UK – are rejecting the Conservative and Labour Parties in huge numbers. And they are quite right to do so after the incompetent shambles which Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn have made of the whole Brexit matter. I don’t think I have, in my political lifetime, known a time when both the Government and the Opposition leadership were so unfit for their roles. Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader is pretty much facilitating a Tory Brexit.

There is a major and sustained swing to the Liberal Democrats at present. In the English Council elections a week ago, Liberal Democrats gained 704 new Councillors – the highest number of gains since the Party was founded. In Northern Ireland, our sister party, the Alliance Party, had major gains too.

In Rutherglen we have met considerable numbers of longstanding Conservative and Labour voters who are opting for the Liberal Democrats this time. I expect this trend to accelerate as we get towards polling day.”

Council row over SNP Petitions Committee delay

5th May 2019

A row blew up at the Council’s Executive Committee on Wednesday about delays by the SNP Administration in getting the Petitions Committee up and running and advertised to the public. Rutherglen Liberal Democrat Councillor Robert Brown, who chaired the Working Group which led to the approval for setting up the Petitions Committee, said it was quite ridiculous that it had taken 9 months from the endorsement of the plan last August for the Council to be asked to appoint a Convener and there was still no action plan to make it known to the public.

Independent Councillor Jackie Burns was ultimately appointed Convener, defeating a nomination of Councillor Brown.

Robert Brown said:

“The Petitions Committee is an important initiative in opening up the Council and making it more accessible to the citizens of South Lanarkshire. Liberal Democrats had argued strongly for it and it was in the manifesto of the SNP Council administration. The detailed plans for how it would operate were developed by my Working Group last Spring and approved by the Council in August. 

Despite that, there has been no notification to Community Councils, Parent Councils, Residents’ Groups or other local community organisations and no proper arrangements to tell anyone that the Petitions Committee even existed. The SNP put forward the rather feeble excuse that it was up to Councillors to tell the public. Councillors have a helpful role there but it is no substitute for proper arrangements by the Council to advertise it formally to groups and on social media.

Something went up on the Council website recently but only because I pressed officials on it. I bet if you asked most people in South Lanarkshire about it, they would tell you they had never heard of it.

It took them 9 months even to appoint a chair of the new Committee.

I did get a public promise from the Leader of the SNP Administration at the Executive Committee meeting that an Action Plan would now be developed to get the existence of the Petitions Committee and the procedure for petitions advertised to the public. I really do hope they do it properly but there seems a strange reluctance by the SNP Administration to get on with it properly.The Petitions Committee should provide a powerful tool for local people or groups who feel they are getting the run around on an important issue, or that their interests are being ignored, to get a hearing on it and the opportunity to explore ways forward.”

Opportunities – and worries – in elderly care

Rutherglen Reformer article 11th May 2019

One of the most significant issues which comes my way as a Councillor is the challenge of care for elderly frail family members. The prevailing wisdom – largely correct – is that most people want to be looked after in their own homes rather than in residential care. 

Yet the pressures on close family members can be considerable and, sometimes, supported care at home can be an isolating experience. There is also a looming workforce problem as carers in their 50s and 60s are themselves due to retire in disproportionate numbers quite soon. People these days live longer and older people make up a growing proportion of the population.

South Lanarkshire Council and NHS Lanarkshire are developing what they call a “transitional model of care”. The aim is to avoid people being admitted to hospital, to support them in returning to independent living at home and to make full use of new IT opportunities to support home care.

These aims are admirable but they also raise new challenges. 

Firstly the Council believe the need for long term residential accommodation will be less and are closing some facilities (although not in the Rutherglen area).

Secondly they have started an overdue review of daycare. Facilities like the Harry Heaney Centre in Spittal provide both company and therapy for older people and respite and support for families. However they are currently underused. So looking at whether change in what they do and how they operate should be an opportunity to bring more support to more people.

Thirdly, the standard of care support provided by care assistants is normally excellent – but a short visit 3 times a day does not itself overcome problems of isolation and loneliness. 

And I have concerns too about over-reliance on IT as a solution to the increasing incidence of dementia in older age.

A family carer suggested the idea of dementia-friendly housing and communities to me recently and I have discussed it with senior Council staff. Meeting the challenges of elderly care needs new solutions, but we must not forget that older people require social opportunities and their families may need support and respite. The success of change in community care will depend on how well these challenges are met.

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.”