Liberal Democrats secure £35 million extra funds to help those affected by the “Bedroom Tax”

£35 million extra will be provided to local Councils to help people worst affected by the under-occupancy deduction from housing benefit – the so called “bedroom tax”. The announcement follows a long campaign by Liberal Democrats including local Rutherglen Liberal Democrat Councillor Robert Brown.

Councillor Brown secured the passing of a motion at the Scottish Liberal Democrat Conference in February this year calling for a review of the bedroom tax.

Robert Brown said:

“I very much welcome this announcement by the Government and am glad to have played my part in bringing it about. A lot of work was done by Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie MSP and Michael Moore MP, our Liberal Democrat Secretary of State for Scotland, and I am grateful for their efforts. It really does show the value of having Liberal Democrats in government.

The money includes £10 million transitional payments to all Councils, £5 million for a specific rural fund, and a major increase in the Discretionary Housing Payment Fund of £20 million. It will give Councils a lot more flexibility to help people affected by these housing benefit changes.

There are a lot of people living in overcrowded conditions who need bigger houses so it is right that efforts are made to release larger houses where people don’t need the extra rooms. South Lanarkshire Council have put in place a good platform of incentives to help people move to houses of a size which suits their needs, and this money will be a great help to their efforts.

However I still think the speed and detail of the bedroom tax policy needs to be independently reviewed. There are no smaller houses available for many people to move to, while others need the extra room for disability, caring needs of child access reasons by parents or grandparents. Part of the answer too is building more houses for rent but this will obviously take time.

The extra funds are hugely welcome but I will be continuing to campaign for a full review of the policy.”

Comment on South Lanarkshire Budget

Robert Brown – Comment on South Lanarkshire Budget

 

Rutherglen South Liberal Democrat Councillor Robert Brown said that South Lanarkshire had done a decent job on the Council’s budget – but criticised the cuts imposed by the Scottish Government in Edinburgh as leading to “salami slicing of services”

Robert Brown told the Council:

“We all know that public finances are tight but it is not good enough when the Scottish government gets a real terms increase in its funding together with control of taxes – yet passes on cuts to the Councils. A big fuss was made about the £7.78 million extra that came to the Council at the last minute following the budget deal in Edinburgh – but that only reduced almost £35 million of cuts we faced.

The SNP government have imposed cuts on Councils for some years now – that leads to the loss of a teacher here, a support worker there and generally to salami slicing of staff which makes it more and more difficult for the schools to provide the top class education we want.

To make things worse, schools have been struggling to recruit teachers and other staff. So the announcement of an increase in support for teacher training is welcome – except that it only partially makes up for the cuts in teacher training the SNP imposed earlier. It should be no surprise that Scotland has 4,000 teachers less since the SNP came to power, nor that we are slipping down the international league tables on education.

That is why the Liberal Democrats wanted £500 million of transformational investment in education through a penny on income tax.”

Liberal Democrats back Scotland’s majority

Liberal Democrats back Scotland’s majority

The Scottish and European referenda caused great hurt in our country. Most people regard themselves as Scottish, British and European in varying degrees  – and with no contradiction between them. The referendum process damaged this sensible and healthy view of our identity, and it is now time to heal and bring people together.

Last weekend, I went to Perth with a delegation from Rutherglen for the Scottish Liberal Democrat Spring conference. I found the Party in good heart, buoyed up by over 30 council by elections gains across the UK and a brilliant Parliamentary by election win in London.

There was a strong sense that Liberal Democrats now speak for the majority in Scotland. A majority of people voted for Scotland to remain in the United Kingdom – and we stand firm with them.

And a majority of people in Scotland voted for the United Kingdom to remain in the European Union – and we stand with them too.

No one else stands with the majority in Scotland – for the United Kingdom and for the European Union.

And yet our country’s future is threatened by two parties – the Tories and the SNP – who do not speak for the majority. The Conservatives of Theresa May who want to drag us into a hard Brexit that people in Scotland did not support. And the SNP of Nicola Sturgeon who want to break up our United Kingdom supported so strongly in the 2014 referendum.

Nicola Sturgeon is edging closer to a second divisive independence referendum which two thirds of voters tell opinion pollsters they do not want. She is milking a grievance artificially injected into the debate by the Brexit referendum last June. Why? – because the Tories were reckless with the future of the UK and called an unnecessary referendum few people wanted to sort out toxic splits in their Party.

The SNP and the Tories do not speak for Scotland.

It is time to heal the divisions of the two referenda with a new vision for our country – a refreshed Union, a federal Union which balances the rights, needs and responsibilities of the United Kingdom with the rights, responsibilities and needs of Scotland. It is the sort of arrangement which works in many countries – from Australia and Canada to Germany and Switzerland. It is a set up where people can choose to be both Scottish and British without contradiction.

Time for action on older council houses

Time for action on older council houses

A call for quicker action to upgrade the older houses in Rutherglen and Cambuslang was made by Rutherglen South Liberal Democrat Councillor Robert Brown at South Lanarkshire’s Budget meeting on Thursday. Councillor Brown was speaking as the Council approved a major expansion of its new house building programme.

After the meeting, Robert Brown said:

“The Council has done good work with the regeneration packages in areas like Fernhill and Cathkin, with recladding and energy efficiency, and with internal improvements. But this has left behind a lot of older houses in Blairbeth, Spittal, Fernhill, Cathkin and Springhall in my ward as well as similar houses in Cambuslang and other areas. Some of these houses need renewal of things like roofs, windows  and roughcasting. The old roughcasting is routinely grey and tired beside the new housing. Many people understood that this would be dealt with as part of the regeneration of these areas.

Springhall has a major challenge with the outside environment. We have got the Council to do comprehensive improvements to close mouths, bin shelter areas, back courts etc in some parts – but, at the present rate, it will take much more than a decade to complete. People pay rent and are entitled to a decent environment around their homes.

There is a strong demand for additional new housing, but it is important to give a fair deal too to existing householders. My call was for this to have a higher priority within the Council’s spending plans and for a faster rate of action on these older houses.”

Liberal Democrats announce local council candidates

Liberal Democrats announce local council candidates

Rutherglen Constituency Liberal Democrats have announced their candidates for the May Council elections for the local area.

The candidates are –

  • Rutherglen South: Councillor Robert Brown
  • Rutherglen Central & North: Liz Keenan
  • Cambuslang West: Norman Rae
  • Cambuslang East: Ellen Bryson
  • Blantyre: Stephen Reid

Sitting Councillor Robert Brown said:

“Liberal Democrats in South Lanarkshire will be contesting all 20 seats in the Council area for the first time ever. We go in to the elections with high hopes of gaining seats in South Lanarkshire, not least in Cambuslang and Rutherglen – following almost 30 gains across the country in recent months and a superb Parliamentary by election victory over the Tories before Christmas in Richmond Park.

We will be fighting the election on local issues – better housing, traffic safety, environmental issues and above all education. We want more community power for Rutherglen and Cambuslang. We want to open up the Council and make it more accessible and accountable to local people.

However we are also well aware that many people also look at the key national issues. Only the Liberal Democrats are campaigning to keep Scotland in the United Kingdom, and the UK in Europe. The SNP of course want to separate from the rest of the UK and the Tories have all lined up smartly behind Brexit – while Labour seems to have lost its direction and its purpose.

The Liberal Democrats offer an outward-looking, international and liberal vision, action on local issues, priority for education, community safety and housing, and opportunity for young people. This approach is badly needed in these uncertain days.”

Candidate details:

 

  • Robert Brown has been Liberal Democrat Councillor for Rutherglen South since 2012. He graduated with first class honours from Aberdeen University, served as Procurator Fiscal Depute in Dumbarton and was senior civil partner with a major Rutherglen and Glasgow legal firm. He was a Councillor for Rutherglen South and Fernhill wards for 15 years, then MSP for Glasgow for 12 years. He served as Deputy Minister for Education and Young People in the Labour/Liberal Democrat Coalition in the Scottish Parliament.

 

  • Liz Keenan has lived much of her life in Rutherglen. She has had a varied career in sales, as a home help and has now returned to College to study social care. She has two grown up sons and a grandson. She has been Secretary of Overtoun Park Bowling Club, a mental health volunteer and involved in Croftfoot Action Group.

 

  • Norman Rae is a native of Cambuslang, went to West Coats Primary School and Cathkin High School. This led on to a PhD in Geography at Glasgow University and a Master’s degree in librarianship at Strathclyde. He currently undertakes freelance writing/information work. He is a well-known member of Rutherglen Repertory Company, a former volunteer with Cambuslang Credit Union and was election agent for Rutherglen constituency at the recent Scottish elections. Norman is Secretary of Rutherglen Constituency Liberal Democrats.

 

  • Ellen Bryson attended the then Rutherglen Academy and Cathkin High School. She graduated from Strathclyde University with a joint honours degree in Economic History and Geography and qualified as a teacher at Hamilton College of Education. She has taught at various schools, including a school in Malawi and later at Stonelaw High School (teaching geography, and travel and tourism) until 2014. She was chair of Halfmerke Primary School Board in East Kilbride. She is now a volunteer guide at the David Livingstone Centre and the National Museum of Country Life.

 

  • Stephen Reid was brought up in Blantyre where he lives, and attended the former Blantyre High School before obtaining an HND in Business Administration from Anniesland College. He has worked in the civil service and as a customer sales representative. He contested the Blantyre council by election in 2015 when he increased the Liberal Democrat vote and has been active on community issues since then.

20,000 waited over 4 hours at new Southern hospital

20,000 waited over 4 hours at new Southern hospital

New research from the Scottish Liberal Democrats has revealed that almost 20,000 patients waited over 4 hours for emergency treatment at the flagship Queen Elizabeth University Hospital since it opened its doors in May 2015. The £842 million hospital, formerly the Southern General Hospital, serves patients across the south of Glasgow and surrounding areas, including Rutherglen and Cambuslang.

The analysis shows that –

  • 19,577 out of 159,123 patients attending A&E have waited more than 4 hours (an average performance rate of just 87.7% against the 95% target)
  • It has only hit the target during two weeks out of 92 (in the weeks ending 6 December 2015 and 3 July 2016)
  • The worst week (ending 8 Jan 2017) saw 465 patients wait more than 4 hours (25.2% of attendances)
  • The trend in performance is downwards.

Rutherglen Liberal Democrat Councillor Robert Brown criticized health bosses and Scottish government Ministers for the failings of the hospital.

Robert Brown said:

“This analysis confirms that, for almost 2 years, SNP Ministers and Health Board chiefs have been totally unable to get a grip on the situation. Their predictions that all would be well after initial teething troubles have been falsified. Constant assurances that they would achieve targets have fallen in the Clyde.

Despite years of planning, there is a strong sense that key departments have insufficient capacity and that bed numbers were chopped too much. Far from hitting targets, the performance is getting worse as the graph clearly shows.

Things can’t continue like this. Patients and families need to know what has gone wrong and what is being done about it.

A & E staff work hard in a very stressful environment – but the Scottish government and NHS bosses have to make sure they have the resources, support and systems to do their job.

UK Public opinion on Europe will change

UK Public opinion on Europe will change – just like the Iraq War

There is a long way yet to go in the debate over Britain’s future in the European Union, according to Rutherglen Liberal Democrat Councillor Robert Brown. Robert Brown said it was “highly likely” that public opinion on Europe would change dramatically, just as it did on the Iraq War.

Robert Brown said:

“There is a strong case for giving the public a say on the terms of Brexit when the Prime Minister has concluded her negotiations. It is the right and democratic thing to do. When the EU referendum was held, there was no plan, no White Paper, no negotiating brief. People had contradictory ideas as to what they wanted.

My personal view is that the case for Brexit will unravel during the negotiations under the weight of the many challenges. There could be a total change round of opinion, just as there was over the Iraq War.

In April 2003, a big majority thought that the Iraq War was justified. A YouGov poll at that time showed support for the Iraq War stood at 66%. The Liberal Democrats and Charles Kennedy got howled at in Parliament and by the media for opposing the war.  But opinions changed. By September 2004 support had fallen to 38%. Now you would be hard pressed to find anyone who thought it had been a good thing.

If the Brexit deal damages jobs, the economy, the environment and our security – when we see the real consequences of Brexit – it will be time to ask a new question and have a public vote on the outcome.

Liberal Democrats will continue to make the case for Europe, the only Party doing so without hidden agendas.”

Robert Brown drops in on “Bin It” Project at Fernhill School

Councillor Robert Brown drops in on “Bin It” Project at Fernhill School

The award winning* drama-based education programme, Bin it!, which educates students about responsibility and litter, has launched its eighth annual nationwide tour of schools. The Bin it! tour encourages young people to work together to make a lasting change to local areas and keep their environment tidy.

This year, the long running Bin it! project is visiting over 50 secondary schools across the country – from Glasgow to Birmingham to Cardiff. Last week the tour visited a range of schools from across Rutherglen, Glasgow and Motherwell including Fernhill School in Rutherglen, Hyndland Secondary School, Lomond School, Our Lady’s High, The Glasgow Academy, St. Mungo’s Academy, John Ogilvie High School, Govan High School and Whitehill Secondary School.

Rutherglen South Liberal Democrat Councillor Robert Brown popped in to see and support the project at Fernhill School.

Developed by The Wrigley Company, in partnership with specialist education consultancy Rapport, Bin it! is targeted at 11-13 year olds and is designed to explore the issues and impact of littering, helping students to understand why it is so important to take personal responsibility for correct litter disposal. Since it began, the programme has visited over 400 schools in the UK, reaching over 56, 000 pupils.

The Bin it! team of actors aims to engage and educate young people, encouraging pupils to make positive choices about the responsible disposal of litter in their environment and urging them to take pride in their community. Bin it! has a proven record of success, with results showing that a significant proportion of pupils think more about gum disposal having taken part in the session.

Robert Brown said:

“It is great to see projects like this which engage with children and play a positive part in building a sense of community and citizenship in young people. It certainly engaged the attention of the young people. I think it has made them go away and think about what they do with their litter.

The actors – Chris Mosely and Terri Musson – were very good at making the point using humour in a way which the girls related to.”

Louisa Rowntree, Communications Manager, Wrigley said:

 “The Bin it! project has a long record of success and it is great that so many more schools have the chance to benefit from it this year. We hope that 2013 will be our most successful tour to date, reaching as many young people as possible and reinforcing the message of keeping our communities litter free, up and down the country.”

* Bin it! has won two IVCA Clarion Awards for Best Live Event and Best Printed Materials

Campaign against Dog fouling

Statement by Rutherglen South Liberal Democrat Councillor Robert Brown on Rutherglen Reformer campaign against Dog fouling

Robert Brown said:
“I am delighted to support the Reformer campaign Nae Messin’ against dog fouling – many congratulations to the paper for running it.

I have long campaigned against the nuisance of dog fouling and irresponsible owners who don’t or won’t pick up after their pets. Most dog owners are highly responsible but a minority in all areas cause a disproportionate problem. Dog faeces are a danger to health, particularly of small children, as well as an unpleasant hazard in our streets in Rutherglen.

Blind people too, or people with sight loss, are particularly badly affected because they can’t see the dog droppings. This includes many elderly people whose eyesight is poor.

The Reformer campaign will match the Council’s forthcoming “Wanted” campaign to target dog fouling offenders. The Council are authorising more staff to impose on the spot penalties for offenders. I am particularly keen on the large correx posters which will go up in targeted areas. I have seen this work well in areas like North East Fife.

I hope local people and local groups will really get on board with these efforts to tackle the menace of dog fouling. The Helpline number is being widely publicised and information about offenders is hugely helpful in enforcement.”

SNP Walkout undermines democracy

A premeditated walk out by the Opposition SNP Group from Wednesday’s meeting of South Lanarkshire Council has been attacked as “undermining democratic accountability” by Rutherglen South Liberal Democrat Councillor Robert Brown. Councillor Brown was speaking at the Council meeting following the walkout.

Robert Brown said afterwards:

“The SNP had a grievance about proposed changes in the membership of the Divisional Licensing Boards, SPT and the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities. They tried to stop the changes being discussed by a rather spurious claim that they were illegal. They were then told by Council officials they were wrong. Rather than put their case in debate to the Council, they all walked out – clearly a move that had been decided on in advance.

I think most people will see this as very petty – Councillors are certainly not elected to stage political stunts and walk out of meetings. It is a very arrogant and undemocratic way of proceeding. Speaking personally, I had not made my mind up how to vote and wanted to hear the arguments on the matter.

Since I was elected in May, I have been astonished how ineffective the SNP have been on South Lanarkshire Council. They very rarely ask questions, and I have hardly ever seen them move a motion on a matter of substance. As the main Opposition group on the Council, their job should be to articulate alternative choices to those of the Administration. ”