Stirling CLP: Delivering on our Manifesto for Stirling

In 2017, Stirling Labour published a Stirling manifesto which contained a series of commitments that would be pursued by Labour Councillors if elected.     Over the last year the Labour Group of Stirling Councillors have shown what a seat around the table and a great deal of hard work can do to deliver Labour commitments that work for the many, not the few.   Here is the first of a new regular series of articles on how your Labour Councillors are delivering on promises for Stirling.

Our manifesto committed us to “ensure tenants are always put first and that landlords live up to their obligations”.

That’s why Cllr Danny Gibson has led on moves to investigate the need for a rent pressure zone in Stirling, saying “landlords who don’t want to live up to their responsibilities with repairs, or squeeze as much out of people’s pockets as they can, should take note that we’re watching them and we will ensure that tenants are treated fairly now and in the future”.

In “jobs and economy”, we promised to “lead the way by ensuring Stirling Council sets the standard we want all organisations to aspire to”.

That’s why this month your Labour Councillors have set a “gold standard” in paternity pay for council employers and adopted Unison’s “Apprenticeship Charter” to ensure our young people have key rights and their managers key responsibility in ensuring we are developing a workforce with the skills we need now and in the future.  We’ve also ensured that the Living Wage at Stirling Council is set higher than the Living Wage Foundation recommends.

We promised to “poverty proof the school day, ensuring every child has the support they need to learn.”

We have a lot still to do here, but this month Cllr Margaret Brisley ensured that nearly 1500 children will benefit from a significant rise in a key Stirling Council poverty fund.  The clothing and footwear grant will rise from £50 to £130 per child, which research suggests is the cost faced by parents ahead of a new school.

Labour Cllr Chris Kane has set up and chaired a Short Life Working Group looking at ways the council can tackle the appalling tragedy that is the Tories’ “Universal Credit”.  His report will be presented at a full meeting of Stirling Council next week, but has already delivered on a key recommendation to help tackle digital poverty with a £200,000 investment in digital support across the council’s libraries.  The Labour Group continue to ensure that the council work in partnership with organisations such as the Citizens Advice Bureau to help our citizens deal with universal credit, which Chris says  is “fundamentally flawed and devastating to the most vulnerable people in our communities”.

We promised to “invest in new equipment for play parks”.

Earlier on this month, the Partnership Administration announced a £250,000 boost for play parks which will see new equipment installed across 22 parks in the seven wards that make up the council area.

We said we would commit to making Stirling a dementia friendly city and district.

Again, we have much still to do, but Cllr Christine Simpson is a member of the Council’s Adult Social Care Panel, where she works to promote and further our manifesto commitments on health and social care.  Recently Christine was at Stirling’s King’s Park to hear how the public space has become “dementia friendly.”

We said we would “put pressure on the Scottish Government to overhaul the planning system to put more power in the hands of our local communities, not the hands of developers or distant government bureaucrats”

That’s why we highlighted that it took 382 days for SNP Ministers to agree with their own appeals panel NOT to allow building on Airthrey Kerse, and why we highlighted that Scottish Government Ministers have decided to make the final decision on whether to overturn Stirling Council’s decision to not build more houses on the Bannockburn Battlefield.

Your Labour Councillors will always stand up for STIRLING and its many communities.

Your Labour Councillors will never shy away from putting pressure on the SNP Government, as they demonstrated with their condemnation of the SNP spin on this year’s budget offer to Scottish Local Authorities.  They’ll also continue to put pressure on the Tory Government on issues including Universal Credit and their uncaring attitude to communities affected by RBS closures.

We’ll also call out government measures, both at Holyrood and Westminster, if they make delivering our local manifesto more difficult – as we did when the SNP Government’s published a draft transport bill that undermined our ambition to deliver a community owned public transport company.

Your Labour Councillors have a great deal of work still to do in the coming years, but we stand by our manifesto and will strive to implement as much of it as possible during the current Administration at Stirling Council.  We’ll continue to deliver regular updates on our progress on this website.

Want to join us?  Click here to join Labour and help create a world that works for the many, not the few.

Courts AGREE with SNP Government: Fracking NOT currently banned in Scotland

Commenting on the news that fracking is not currently banned in Scotland, Stirling Council’s Environment Spokesperson Cllr Danny Gibson says,

Danny Gibson“In both the current Stirling Council Administration and the previous one, Labour’s environmental policies have made Stirling one of the greenest in the UK.  Labour have invested in low-energy LED streetlights.  Labour are generating power from solar panels on council buildings and council homes.  Labour have helped reduce energy bills by installing insulation measures in council homes and helping the private homes that need it the most.  Labour have ensured Stirling recycles over 55% of its rubbish, one of the highest rates in the country.  Our climate can’t stand another fossil fuel and our communities don’t need the risks associated with fracking.” 

“Fracking was a key issue for voters across Stirling in recent elections.  People can clearly see now that what the SNP Government say on the campaign trail and what they say in the courts are two completely different things.”  

“We need real leadership on this issue and if the SNP Government won’t provide it, Labour will.”

This story relates to our 2017 Stirling Council Manifesto commitment:

  •  We will use all of the tools at our disposal to stop fracking in Stirling and use all of the influence we can bring to bear to ensure a national ban on fracking.

SNP Government draft transport bill undermines Stirling’s ambition for a community owned public transport company

In Stirling Labour’s 2017 manifesto for Stirling Council, we announced plans to create new community ownership models in energy, broadband and public transport.  When the Labour/SNP partnership was formed, six key priorities for local government were agreed.  One of them says:

“We will create and implement environment and infrastructure improvements. We will deliver new ownership and delivery methods around energy generation, public transport and internet access, ensuring profits and services work to community, not commercial priorities.”

The SNP Government’s recent draft transport bill will leave the profits of bus operators in the hands of private companies and let them cherry pick the best routes, while abandoning the loss-making lifeline services and forcing Local Authorities to pick up the pieces.

Stirling Labour’s Community Ownership Spokesperson, Cllr Chris Kane, says,

IMGP9304 (1)“This SNP bill will hamper our ambition to create a community owned public transport company which works to community, not commercial priorities.  This bill will leave profit in the hands of bus companies while councils pick up the gaps and losses.  Once again it seems that Brian Souter’s Stagecoach has more influence over government policy than people and communities.  I support Scottish Labour’s plans to radically overhaul the bill to allow councils to create a public transport plan that works for the many, not the few.”

In its current form, the bill would only allow local authorities to run bus services in very restricted circumstances where there is no private provider and the legislation would not allow any public sector bids for bus franchises.

In practice, the legislation would only allow public control of the routes that private providers deem unprofitable, leaving local councils to pick up the pieces and all the losses going forward.

Scottish Labour will now put forward a series of amendments to radically overhaul the bill and give the country a transport system that works for the many, not the few.

Speaking after the bill was published last week, Scottish Labour’s Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy, Connectivity and Transport Colin Smyth MSP said:

 “Under the SNP government bus fares have soared but passenger numbers have plummeted as bus services have been dismantled route by route. This bill was a chance to deliver real change on our buses and start to reverse the SNP’s decade of decline but instead it is a huge missed opportunity. We know the SNP prefer private to public ownership when it comes to our railways, now we know it is the same on our bus routes. Labour will now put forward a series of amendments to change the bill. We will safeguard the free bus pass for older people, improve concessionary travel for young people and allow local authorities to deliver a people’s bus service where passengers, not profits are the priority.”

This story relates to our 2017 Stirling Council Manifesto Commitment:

  • We will commit to the creation of a municipal public transport company to provide public transport. Community priorities, not commercial priorities, should determine where and when public transport operates.

Labour Councillors introduce Unison’s “Apprenticeship Charter” to Stirling Council

Labour’s Finance & Economy spokesperson, Cllr Margaret Brisley has voted to introduce Unison’s “Apprenticeship Charter” at Stirling Council.  At a recent meeting of the Finance & Economy Committee, which Margaret chairs, the charter was proposed and adopted as council policy immediately.

The Charter details the rights of apprentices and the responsibilities of their managers and the council.

Among the rights afforded to Apprentices are the right to a contract, the right to an interview for a vacant post when their apprenticeship finishes and the right to join and participate in the Trade Union of their choice.

Among the responsibilities placed on their managers are to ensure the quality of the training builds the skills to lead to a real job, to recognise that apprenticeships are investing in “future labour” not “cheap labour”, and to encourage and celebrate apprentices.

Stirling Council currently employs 91 apprentices, with a further 115 employees undertaking professional learning towards the next stage in their careers (such as probationer teachers).  Training is provided by local accredited providers such as Forth Valley College.

Already Stirling Council engages apprentices under a contract of employment and pays a higher rate compared to the national minimum wage. Modern Apprentices start on an hourly rate of £7.14 compared to the national minimum wage of £5.90.  Age 16 Craft Apprentices start on £5.86, compared to the national minimum wage of £3.70 and once they have passed the trade test, their hourly rate increases to £11.13 per hour.

Cllr Brisley says,

IMGP0497“In 2012, Labour ensured that Stirling Council was one of the first in Scotland to pay staff the living wage.  This week we’ve already delivered on a Labour commitment to double paternity leave from two to four weeks on full pay.  Now I’m proud that, working with our Trade Union colleagues, we’ve adopted the Apprenticeship Charter to ensure our young people have key rights and their managers key responsibilities in ensuring we are developing a workforce with the skills we need now and in the future.  Labour is the party of and for workers and I will work tirelessly with Trades Union colleagues to promote, protect and enhance rights while Labour are in Administration on Stirling Council.” 

This story relates to our 2017 Stirling Council Manifesto Commitments:  

  • “we will lead the way by ensuring that Stirling Council sets the standard we want all organisations to aspire to”

Universal Credit Savaged by Public Spending Watchdog

The Tory Government’s shambolic and cruel “Universal Credit” benefit has been slated by public spending watchdog The National Audit Office. In a report published on Friday 15 June, the NAO says that Universal Credit cannot prove it helps more people into work, does not deliver value for money and will probably end up costing more than the benefit system it replaces.

The report paints a damning picture of Universal Credit and the Department of Work and Pensions, saying they are defensive, insensitive and dismissive of the pleas from welfare advisors and those directly affected by the roll out of the benefit.

Stirling Labour’s spokesperson on welfare, and Convenor of Stirling Council’s Community Planning & Regeneration Committee, Cllr Chris Kane says,

“It is difficult to overstate how much of a negative impact the introduction of Universal Credit has had in Stirling since it was introduced on 28th June 2017.  In the last few months I have heard stories so astonishing that they are almost inconceivable; women fleeing domestic violence being told that before they can begin the long grotesque wait for a new application to be processed, they must first spend weeks disentangling an existing joint claim and must do it with their abusive partner at their side.  Single parents having to go their library because a claim can only be made online and they can’t afford a computer, or internet access, at home.   This new report says that 46% of people say they do not have the digital skills to complete the application without assistance. Up and down the country, council after council, CAB after CAB, claimant after claimant have been sharing evidence with the Tories on the scale of the problem, but other than tinkering around the edges, nothing of substance has changed.  I am ashamed of this Tory Government and its universal credit system that is fundamentally flawed and is devastating to the most vulnerable people in our communities” 

For the last few months Chris has chaired a Short Life Working Group on Stirling Council which has been investigating how the Universal Credit rollout has impacted on Stirling citizens and  council tenants.  The report is due to be published next week ahead of being reported to the full meeting of Stirling Council on 28th June.

Chris also said,

“My thanks go out to Stirling Council staff and third sector partners such as Home Start, the Citizens Advice Bureau, Start-Up Stirling and the Stirling Carers Centre for their professionalism and compassion.  It is in stark contrast to the spiteful bureaucratic barbarism of the Tory Government at Westminster.”  

If you are affected by Universal Credit, you can seek advice at various drop in events at Stirling Council libraries, by contacting the Stirling Citizens Advice Bureau, or if you are a Stirling Council tenant, by contacting Housing Services.

This story relates to our 2017 Stirling Council Manifesto Commitment

  • We will work tirelessly to create good jobs, warm homes, caring communities and excellent education opportunities for all.

Jobs and Tourism boost with new Stirling Hotel

IMG_1748 2Stirling’s tourism sector got a boost today with the official opening of Travelodge’s new £6 million pound hotel.  Stirling Provost Christine Simpson cut the ribbon at the hotel, which is built on the site of the former Rainbow Slides a stone’s throw from Stirling’s Railway Station.

Labour’s Finance & Economy Spokesperson, Councillor Margaret Brisley, said,

“A key Stirling Labour manifesto commitment is to increase the number of two night / three day breaks in Stirling.  To do that we need more places for people to stay and this Travelodge has brought seventy four new bedrooms to our city.   Travelodge estimate their guests will contribute around £2 million to the Stirling economy each year.  This modern hotel also creates twenty five new jobs and is a welcome boost to Stirling’s tourism offering just as the summer season gets underway.” 

Travelodge’s investment in Stirling comes some thirty years after they opened their first Scottish hotel at Stirling’s Motorway Services.

This story relates to our 2017 Stirling Council Manifesto Commitments:  

  • We will promote Stirling to employers around the world and help them to locate in Stirling.
  • We commit to ensuring our cultural and economic policies promote the concept of a three day Stirling visit

SNP Government to build homes on Bannockburn Battlefield despite Council objection?

SNP Government Ministers have decided to hear an appeal by developers to build houses on the Bannockburn battle field DESPITE Stirling Councillors refusing planning permission last year.

bruce-statue-1024x377

Developers submitted a speculative proposal to build 250 houses on land that that wasn’t zoned for housing.  Among the 13 reasons for refusal given by councillors was that the development would not respect the battlefield, particularly the views and interpretation from the nearby rotunda and Robert the Bruce memorial. Developers appealed the decision and this week SNP Ministers decided to hear their appeal personally, rather than leave it to civil servants.  It raises the possibility that, bizarrely, the SNP Government might overrule Stirling Councillors and allow expensive houses to be built on a site SNP supporters, and much of Scotland, considers hallowed ground.

Bannockburn Councillor Margaret Brisley said,

“This is the most bizzare interference from the SNP Government in local planning issues yet. Councillors of all parties turned down this application because of the visual impact it would have on the battlefield.  The developer, as is their right, have appealed that decision to the SNP Government reporter but most people expected this to be a formality.  By calling this in, SNP Ministers either don’t care about the Battle of Bannockburn, or they don’t trust their own civil servants to do their job.  Either way, this is another sign of a controlling, centralising SNP Government that doesn’t care about local democracy and the rights of local people to make the decisions that are right for their communities.”

SNP Ministers have a track record of overruling their own councillors and trampling on local democracy when it comes to planning decisions.  Last year SNP Ministers granted planning permission for a development at Park of Keir, despite overwhelming protest from residents, Stirling Council and even the SNP Government’s own planning appeals Reporter.  Residents in Bridge of Allan and Causewayhead are still waiting to hear if Ministers will ignore the public and Local Authority decisions and grant housing at Airthrey Kerse.

Speaking after the rejection last year, SNP Councillor Alasdair MacPherson said, “the unanimous rejection of these plans by councillors represents our recognition of the national importance of the historic Bannockburn battleground and this Green Belt area – the Council fully agreed with planning officers that the proposals were completely inappropriate for such an important site in Stirling’s history and future.”

This story relates to our 2017 Stirling Council Manifesto Commitment:

  • We will put pressure on the Scottish Government to overhaul the planning system to put more power in the hands of our local communities, not the hands of developers or distant government bureaucrats

National Tennis Academy for Stirling

Commenting on the news that Stirling is to be the home of one of two new National Tennis Academies, Stirling Labour’s spokesperson for Sport, Leisure and Culture, Councillor Chris Kane says,

“With the National Swimming Academy and National Curling Academy already based in Stirling, our growing reputation as Scotland’s capital of Sporting excellent is further enhanced by this welcome news that one of two UK National Tennis Academies will be based at the University of Stirling.  Coupled with the excellent facilities at the Peak and the news last week that the University is investing £20 million in a new sports centre, we are fortunate to have world class facilities and coaches on our doorstep and I look forward to seeing the next Andy Murray or Gordon Reid supported from Stirling’s nursery school all the way to the courts of Wimbledon in the years ahead.”

Get help from the Stirling Citizen’s Advice Bureau when you need it

At the recent meeting of the Stirling Constituency Labour Party, Jim Roche, Chair of the Stirling District Citizen’s Advice Bureau (CAB), gave a presentation on the advice services and assistance offered to people across Stirling.  From offering a drop in service at their offices in Upper Craigs, to providing outreach services in libraries across the District, CAB help Stirling’s citizens get support on everything from applying for benefits to changing energy supplier.

Jim talked about a new rural and Eastern Villages outreach service run in partnership with Stirling Council, which gives advice and support to people transitioning to the Tory’s horrendous Universal Credit benefits scheme.

Labour Councillor Chris Kane, who is Stirling Council’s Convenor of Community Planning & Regeneration, says,

IMGP9304 (1)“So many of the services we rely on in every day are only offered online, meaning we require access to a computer, access to the internet and the skills to use both.   While our children are being swept along by the digital revolution, the rest of us are trying to ensure we’re not swept aside by it.  Digital literacy should never be taken for granted and if you are struggling, please remember you are not alone. Through services such as the Rural and Eastern Villages Advice Network, Stirling Council and CAB staff are here to help.  Not everybody can afford a computer, meaning Stirling Council’s libraries offer a digital lifeline for many people. We want to ensure that nobody is excluded and everyone can get appropriate advice and support as close to home as possible.”  

CLP Secretary Jennifer Preston said,

IMGP9284 (1)“The Stirling District Citizen’s Advice Bureau work hand in hand with Stirling Council staff to provide Stirling’s citizens with the support they need, when they need it most.  Under the current Tory Government, there has never been a greater need for a service like the one CAB have provided so well for so long.  There are many things the Tory Government do that are bordering on inhumane, but the cack handed way they continue to mishandle the most vulnerable in our society through policies like Universal Credit is truly appalling.  Hearing first hand from Jim some of the issues that CAB has to help people deal with was heartbreaking.”

If you are, or know anybody, who could benefit from speaking with CAB, you can get in touch as follows:

  • CAB, 3 Cameronian Street, Stirling, FK8 2DX (their office is opposite the Stirling Observer office on Upper Craigs).  The office offers a drop in service from 10am-3pm Mon-Thu.
  • Outwith the drop in times, you can get in touch at any time by calling 0808 800 9060.
  • You can visit the local CAB website at www.stirlingcab.org.uk

Comment on Royal Bank Bannockburn Branch

Reflecting on the news that the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) Bannockburn branch has had a short term stay of execution, Bannockburn Councillor Margaret Brisley says,

IMGP0497“If RBS are looking for our thanks for keeping the Bannockburn branch open for a few extra months, they can whistle.  They shouldn’t be shutting it at all.  

 The taxpayer – you and I – are the majority shareholders in the Royal Bank.  The Tory Government could if they chose to, intervene and tell the Royal Bank to develop and use a social backbone.  

 Our Tory MP, Stephen Kerr, has been worse than useless – despite having a direct dial to the Treasury, he’s been unable to influence his own party to do the right think for his constituents.  From bank closures to Universal Credit, Stephen Kerr and this Tory Government show time and time again they have nothing but hardship to offer working class communities and the most vulnerable in our society.” 

RBS announced some months ago that they were due to close the Bannockburn branch this month.  This week they announced the branch will remain open until a new branch opens in the Thistle Centre.  The new branch will also replace the premises at Pitt Terrace and occupy the former Costa Coffee unit at Murray Place and the Savers shop immediately behind it.

Councillor Chris Kane, whose Stirling East ward covers Hillpark and Whins of Milton, says,

IMGP9304 (1)“I’m at a loss to understand how this new Thistle Centre branch is any more convenient than Pitt Terrace.   Locals who need to use the bus will, I suppose, be able to move from the bus station to the new premises completely under cover.  But that’s cold comfort if you’ve been soaked to the skin waiting for the bus at the other end.  

 RBS continue to treat loyal, long standing customers and branch staff atrociously.  RBS were quick to take a taxpayer bailout when they needed it, after years of pocketing outrageous profits for shareholders and senior management.  

 When the customers who have remained loyal to them through the best of times and the worst of times need the bank’s help and support, they find the branch door slammed shut in their face.”