Time for Post Office to Act on Rutherglen closure

14th July 2018

The continued closure of Rutherglen’s Main Street Post Office requites urgent action by the Post Office organisation, according to local Liberal Democrats. The Post Office facility at 217 Main Street was run under franchise by a local shopkeeper in the Premier Convenience Store until the business closed down in June.

Rutherglen Liberal Democrat Councillor Robert Brownthis week demanded that the Post Office took urgent action to restore a service for people in the Burgh.

Robert Brown said:

“The Post Office, despite recent reorganisation, is a public service in a privileged position. It has public responsibilities to the local community. Liberal Democrats campaigned against the original closure of the Crown Post Office in the historic Post Office building next to the Town Hall. Closing the Crown Post Office has proved to be a big mistake which has left regular uncertainty in its wake.

Like others I have made representation to the Post Office about the situation but have only had bland replies. The Post Office is understandably tight lipped about its arrangements with the previous postmaster. Whatever the background to that, Rutherglen now lacks a main post office in the town centre which is an unacceptable position.

It is time for the Post Office to step up to the mark, identify a new location for the main Post Office and get the facility up and running again. There is no obvious reason why the position could not be advertised now or approaches made to some of the other shops in the Main Street area or the Arcade to provide the Post Office facility.

I know anecdotally of older people having to trail up to Burnside or to one of the other Post offices. Rutherglen is the main local centre – most of the buses feed into it; it is the most convenient location for many people from around the area. It is high time local people in the Royal Burgh had a Post Office again.”

Reflexions on summer, football … and Landemer

6th July 2018 Reformer Column

Landemer wins the prizes

Another successful Landemer Festival has been and gone, bathed in the sunshine of the best summer on record. Landemer is not just a Saturday occasion with stalls, entertainment and the Landemer Queen. It is a festival stretching over more than a week with events like the Fun Run, Art competition and music in hospitals as well. Its origins are obscure although, like Lanark’s Lanimer, it certainly has mediaeval origins, connected with the protection of the Royal Burgh’s boundary stones.Curiously there is a town called “Landemer” in Normandy – the Germans built a “Gun Battery Landemer” there as part of their Atlantic Wall defences in World War Two. Clearly there is a subject here for more research.

The World Cup

Sport is very much in the news this summer – with Wimbledon, a unique Scottish victory over England at cricket, and the football World Cup. I am not sure my blood pressure can take any more penalty shoot outs though!

Many politicians feel it necessary to have a football team they are passionate about. It is part of their image! Some SNP politicians however make it a point of honour never to support England – and went so far as to call votes in Parliament precisely when England were playing Columbia. Most people thought the stunt a bit pathetic – the SNP described it as “fighting austerity”.

 Prime Minister Harold Wilson boasted in 1966 that England only won the World Cup when Labour were in power. In 1970, England lost at the quarter finals – and Wilson lost the General Election a few days later. Football can bite back at politicians!

Today few of the leading Brexiteers seem to be football fans. Her advisers hinted that Theresa May might support Norwich City  but it is clear that the PM is not inspired by the game. Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees-Mogg are too busy plotting to have time for the distraction of football.

I rather think it might be good for the country if they lightened up a bit, found a football team and took the occasional day off from “negotiating” Brexit – the worst deal in history since the Americans elected Donald Trump!

Robert Brown backs Scottish Youth Parliament Declaration

29th June 2018

At the Council meeting on Wednesday, a motion was passed recognising the importance of young people’s rights and endorsing the Scottish Youth Parliament’s “Right here Right now” campaign.

A declaration to this effect was supported by the leaders of the political groups including Rutherglen South Liberal Democrat Councillor Robert Brown.

Robert Brown said:

“The Scottish Youth Parliament has done a tremendous job in empowering young people to have an input into National and community affairs. It is important that the council takes every opportunity to involve young people in decisions which affect them. This is what today’s declaration was all about.”

Community empowerment must be done properly – Robert Brown

28th June 2018

Proposals by South Lanarkshire Council’s SNP Administration for a new approach to community participation have been criticised by Rutherglen Liberal Democrat Councillor Robert Brownas “disappointing” and “not thought through properly”.

The Council’s Executive Committee agreed to appoint 7 new officers to a new Community Participation and Empowerment Team. An “Awareness Session’ for Councillors has been arranged to brief them about the new proposals.

Robert Brownsaid:

“I am strongly in favour of empowering local communities and groups but much of what is done at the moment doesn’t work very well. There doesn’t seem to be much that is particularly new in the proposals.

One of the big problems is that “consultation exercises” are shot through with jargon so that people feel left out. The traditional tenants and residents groups have also declined or disappeared.

I want to see a much more radical approach. The Council’s Area Committees should be much more at the heart of decision making so they can be real champions of local communities.

A yearly or twice yearly “Town Hall” type meeting in local areas like Spittal, Burnside or Cathkin chaired by the local Councillors could have reports on all Council services in the area including plans for housing regeneration, road and pavement resurfacing, Parks and facilities and transport.  That could give local residents real engagement – with scope for a public Question Time session and effective accountability from elected representatives.

It is entirely unclear what the proposed new community development officers would do. I think they should be linked to local halls or facilities with the job of supporting new local groups and helping reinvigorate older ones.

It would have been far better if Councillors had been able to discuss the new arrangements before they were taken forward.”

South Lanarkshire Council sets up Petitions Committee

29th June 2018

A Petitions Committee is being established by South Lanarkshire Council following a report by a Group chaired by Rutherglen South Liberal Democrat Councillor Robert Brown. The Committee will commence work after the summer recess. The proposal of the Task & Finish Group was approved by the Council at its meeting on 27thJune.

Petitions will require at least 50 signatures and relate to matters within the Council’s control. Individual complaints and matters being heard through normal planning or licensing processes will not be competent petitions.

Robert Brownsaid:

“I have long thought that there needed to be a direct line for citizens of South Lanarkshire to put their ideas, concerns and grievances directly into the decision making process at the Council. A process for people to lodge petitions with the Council and have them heard by a Council Committee could be a major step in giving local people more power.

I am glad that the Petitions Committee has now been approved by the Council with the support of all Parties. That gives it strength and standing. We were also insistent that it should be independent of the Council administration and chaired by an Opposition Councillor.

The Council will now be publicising the arrangements for the new Committee so that local people and community groups are aware of it.

I believe this is a major step towards opening up the Council and making it more accountable to the public.”


Rutherglen Air Quality Management Area long overdue – Robert Brown

23rd June 2018

The Rutherglen Air Quality Management Area declared under South Lanarkshire’s Air Quality Action Plan is welcome but long overdue, according to Rutherglen Liberal Democrat Councillor Robert Brown. The Council’s Action Plan is out for public consultation until 3rdAugust.

Robert Brown is keen to have suggestions from the local community as to ways in which it can be improved.

Robert Brown said:

“Until the 1960s the main cause of poor air quality would have been industrial pollution or smoke from household fires. Now it is by a mile caused by motor vehicles, particularly at busy junctions like either end of Rutherglen Main Street. There are now far more vehicles on the roads than there were 20, 10 or even 5 years ago.

However it is clear from the document that the problem of air pollution is one that needs action right across Rutherglen. This is important for many reasons but particularly because it damages the quality of life for many people with breathing conditions like asthma.

The Action Plan is welcome but long overdue and it needs to be strengthened in key respects if it is to be effective.

There are a number of key issues to tackle –

  • engine idling at school gates and when vehicles are stopped at junctions
  • traffic congestion which causes a lot of emissions in congested areas
  • unnecessary through traffic in residential areas
  • badly maintained vehicles which pump out exhaust fumes
  • older buses causing greater pollution

I want to see a focus on tackling traffic pollution hotspots, protecting residential areas, reducing the emissions in Rutherglen Main Street and improving public transport. These all play their part in tackling the problem of air pollution.

One interesting idea was the use of plants which can digest emissions and improve the air quality of key junctions.”

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.”