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.”

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.”