Airthrey Kerse Planning Appeal REJECTED

Commenting on the news that Scottish Government Ministers have refused a planning appeal that would have allowed 600 homes on land at Airthrey Kerse, Stirling North Labour Councillor Danny Gibson, who represents Causewayhead, Cornton and Stirling University, said,

Danny Gibson “I would say we’ve been holding our breath hoping the Scottish Government would make the right decision, but we’d have been holding it for 382 days.  That’s how long it took between the Scottish Government’s planning and environment appeals division making a recommendation to Scottish Ministers to refuse the appeal, and Ministers getting around to agreeing with them.   This is a victory for local communities who did not support this application and a vindication of Stirling Council’s 2016 decision to refuse planning permission. It is also an indictment of the current national planning procedures, which allow a minority SNP Government to keep communities cruelly hanging on for decisions seemingly on the whim of Ministers.”

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

Clothing & Footwear grant set to rise significantly for low income families

schooluniformNearly 1500 children across Stirling are set to benefit from a Labour Councillor’s work on a key Stirling Council poverty fund.  From August, children will be eligible for £130 School Clothing and Footwear grant – which research suggests is the cost faced by parents ahead of a new school year.

Stirling Council has a statutory responsibility to help children from families who need financial support with footwear and clothing for school.   COSLA recently agreed to a Scottish Government proposal to fund a national minimum contribution of £100 per child.  A report to Stirling’s Finance & Economy committee this week  recommended this amount be adopted immediately, with £50 coming from the Scottish Government and £50 from Stirling Council.

However, Labour’s Economy spokesperson Margaret Brisley, tabled an amendment calling for the amount to rise to £130 per child.

Margaret explained,

IMGP0497“Research from the Poverty Truth Commission suggests the current cost of clothing a child for school is £129.50, and that is with shopping at supermarkets and bargain stores.    The cost of school uniforms is leaving many children in low income families at risk of bullying and embarrassment because they are sent to school in ill-fitting clothes, or in clothes which don’t meet the dress code. If we are serious about closing the attainment gap and tackling child poverty, then we need to explore every option to get families the help many so desperately need.    This isn’t about blazers and ties, this is about ensuring our children can concentrate on learning rather than what their peers are thinking about them.  This is ensuring parents don’t have to prioritise between gym shoes and pencil cases.  This is about ensuring our policies work for the many, not the few, and target those who need our help the most.”

Margaret’s amendment was accepted, meaning those families who need it will receive the funding in time to prepare for the school year starting in August.

Margaret added,

“I would encourage any family who is struggling to check if you are eligible for this grant and to fill in the application form as soon as possible”

Last year Stirling Council gave 1499 children across the district footwear and clothing grants.  Labour’s proposal to set the amount at £130 per child is expected cost £44,970 per year.

This story relates to our 2017 Stirling Council Manifesto Commitments:  

  • we will poverty proof the school day, ensuring every child has the support they need to learn.

UPDATED: Labour councillors vote for “gold standard” in paternity leave at Stirling Council

**Update 14/06/18 – the motion was carried at the meeting of the Finance and Economy Committee and will become Council policy. 

In 2012, Labour ensured that Stirling Council was one of the first in Scotland to pay its staff the Living Wage.  In 2015, Labour ensured that Stirling Council set standards again by becoming an Accredited Living Wage Employer.  In 2018, Labour will again lead the way by voting for Stirling Council to introduce one of the most family friendly paternity leave standards in Scotland.

Currently staff are entitled to one week on full pay and one week on statutory paternity pay, which is currently £145.18.  Currently, almost a third of eligible council employees don’t take the second week, with many citing financial pressures as their reason for returning to work.

The new proposal, to be debated at the Finance & Economy Committee on Thursday would see new dads entitled to four weeks of paternity leave on full pay, to be taken during the first year after their child is born. Labour’s 2017 General Election manifesto contained a commitment to “double paid parternity leave to to four weeks and increase paternity pay – because fathers are parents too and deserve to spend more time with their new babies.”

Labour’s Finance Spokesperson, and Convenor of the Finance & Economy Committee, Councillor Margaret Brisley says,

IMGP0497I’m proud that Labour is leading this charge on Stirling Council to give new dads every opportunity to play a pivotal role in the critically formative first weeks and months of their children’s lives.  Various international studies have found a link between longer paternity leave and greater involvement of fathers in the early lives of their children, greater well being for mums, reduced incidence of postnatal depression in both mums and dads, better outcomes for children and an increased sharing of household work.  By taking away a little of  the financial pressures, Labour want to ensure that mums and dads can share in both the joy and the work that comes with a new addition to their family.  I hope by adopting this proposal that it sends a message to other employers that they should also consider putting in place similar methods in their businesses.”

In the proposal to the Finance & Economy Committee, it says “if adopted, it would place Stirling Council in a gold standard position in relation to the paternity leave terms and conditions available to employees.”

This story relates to our 2017 Stirling Council Manifesto Commitment:  

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

Stirling Labour Councillors welcome first moves towards possible rent pressure zone for Stirling City Centre.

Stirling Council have approved plans to begin to gather evidence on the need for a rent pressure zone in Stirling City Centre.

The Private Housing (Tenancies) (Scotland) Act 2016 introduced the new Private Residential tenancy for all new tenancies created after 1 December 2017.  The Act included a new provision for a local authority to make application to Scottish Ministers for the designation of Rent Pressure Zones.

Rent Pressure Zones may be necessary if rents begin to rise to fast and to far in any given community, causing undue hardship to tenants.

Stirling Labour’s Environment and Housing spokesperson, Cllr Danny Gibson, said,

IMGP9286 (1)“A rent pressure zone doesn’t stop rents rising, it simply limits the rate and amount by which they can rise in any given year.  As a ward councillor for the city centre, I hear anecdotal evidence from tenants about steep rent rises and I see genuine fear about being able to afford to stay in their current home in the future.   What we’ve done at committee is to try and take the guess work out of the picture and begin to gather evidence on what is happening in the rental market in Stirling.”

“Stirling has plenty of landlords who work in partnership with their tenants and I want to ensure that continues.  However, 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.”

Scottish Labour has made reforming housing a priority and recently unveiled plans for a “Mary Barbour” law, which would limit rent rises with a link to wages and ensure that they are affordable, as well as ensure that all private rented properties meet proper standards for health, safety and energy efficiency.

This story relates to our 2017 Stirling Council Manifesto Commitments:  

  • We will ensure tenants are always put first and that landlords live up to their obligations.

Stirling Labour invests in Playparks across the District

At the recent meeting of Stirling’s Environment and Housing Committee, Stirling Labour Councillors voted to approve a quarter of a million pound investment in playparks across the district.

Labour’s Environment and Housing Spokesperson, and Deputy Convenor of the Environment and Housing Committee, Danny Gibson, said:

IMGP9286 (1)“In our 2017 Stirling Council manifesto, Labour promised to invest in our playparks and I’m delighted that this year we’re spending £250,000 in replacing equipment in 22 parks across all seven council wards.  From a £20,000 multiclimber in Church Park in Cowie to £13,000 for a roundabout and Trimtrail in Riverside, these investments will make a real difference to children and families using our popular neighbourhood parks. As a dad with young kids myself I regularly see just how well used our parks are and I know how important this investment is.”

This story relates to our 2017 Stirling Council Manifesto Commitment:  

  • we will invest in new equipment for playparks.

Confirmation of long held Labour position on Stirling Smith & Big Noise

Supporters of the Stirling Smith Art Gallery and Museum, and Raploch’s Big Noise, received welcome confirmation today (Thursday) of a long held Labour position that proposals floated by council officers to cut funding to both organisations will NOT be in this year’s Stirling Council budget.

The Smith was facing a 90% reduction in its funding in 2020, with the Big Noise facing big reductions from next year.  Both organisations have been the subject of grass roots campaigns to highlight the importance they play in their communities and the real threat to their futures.

In a Statement from Stirling Council SNP Labour Administration, Labour Councillor and Depute Council Leader Danny Gibson said,

IMGP9286 (1)“The Big Noise and the Stirling Smith are jewels in Stirling’s cultural crown and we will not be taking the budget options concerning them forward into our final proposal this year.  However, the immense pressure on local government finances looks set to get worse and eventually that will mean we cannot give money we do not have.  I would urge everybody who had signed a petition or written a letter to continue their campaign by writing to every MSP and MP and urge them to save Local Authorities from more devastating cuts in the years ahead”.

Councillor Gibson’s comments were echoed by Labour’s Administration Partners, with the SNP’s Scott Farmer stating “the options relating to both the Stirling Smith and Big Noise are being removed from budget projections”.

Rumour has it that the Labour Group made it clear months ago that these options were non-starters, but that they still ended up in the Priority Based Budgeting consultation process.

“When the school bully steals your lunch money, he’s still a bully if he offers you some of it back”

The longer term security of both organisations is no clearer than it is for any other local service, as the pressures on Stirling Council’s finances continue to mount.  The SNP Government has done a deal with the Greens at Holyrood to lessen the impact of Derek Mackay’s turbo charged austerity agenda by increasing the money on offer to Local Authorities this year – but who knows what will happen next time.

Councillor Gibson said,

“When the school bully steals your lunch money, he’s still a bully if he offers you some of it back. It is farcical for (local SNP MSP) Bruce Crawford to agree with Derek MacKay’s “fair” cut to our budget six weeks ago and then claim SNP decisions have delivered a “fairer” budget this week, when he’s only doing it because the Greens told him what to think. This pantomime nonsense of the SNP Government presenting a terrible deal simply so they can let a Green Knight ride to the rescue is hugely damaging and creates unnecessary fear and anxiety for council employees, the communities they serve and the services they provide.  Stirling deserves better than this.”

“The SNP Government has a habit of giving with one hand and taking away with the other”

On the new budget settlement announced this week by the SNP / Green “coalition”, the Labour Group’s Economy Spokesperson Councillor Margaret Brisley said,

IMGP0497“The SNP Government has a habit of giving with one hand and taking away with the other, so I’m going to remain skeptical until we drill down into these figures.  We’ve still got a projected budget deficit over the next five years in Stirling of over £20 million and it still isn’t clear if this is a one year settlement or if this additional cash will be included in the baseline for future settlements.  If not, we’re right back where we started next year.”

So while there is still a great deal of work to be done before Stirling Council sets its budget for 2018/19 on February 22nd, Labour supporters can be assured that our Labour Councillors are working hard to write a budget that delivers for the many, not the few.  Our councillors are also ensuring that the Administration continue to tell Finance Minister Derek MacKay exactly what his continued assault on local services are doing to Stirling, regardless of how uncomfortable that makes the SNP Councillors on the Partnership administration.

Stirling Council will meet to set its budget for the coming year on February 22nd.

Commenting on the SNP Government’s revised budget offer for Stirling Council:

The Labour Group Finance Spokesperson Margaret Brisley said,

IMGP0497 “The SNP Government has a habit of giving with one hand and taking away with the other, so I’m going to remain skeptical until we drill down into these figures.  We’ve still got a projected budget deficit over the next five years in Stirling of over £20 million and it still isn’t clear if this is a one year settlement or if this additional cash will be included in the baseline for future settlements.  If not, we’re right back where we started next year.  Scotland has learned to ca’ canny with “I am the SNP, your saviour’ pronouncements from the nationalist throne in Edinburgh.  There’s nothing progressive about the SNP Government and I’ll be working to ensure Labour values deliver for Stirling in the February budget.” 

Stirling Council Labour Group Leader Danny Gibson said,

IMGP9286 (1) “When the school bully steals your lunch money, he’s still a bully if he offers you some of it back.  It’s farcical for Bruce Crawford to agree with Derek MacKay’s “fair” cut to our budget six weeks ago and then claim SNP decisions have delivered a “fairer” budget, when he’s only doing it because the Greens told him what to think.  This pantomime nonsense of the SNP Government presenting a terrible deal simply so they can let a Green Knight ride to the rescue is hugely damaging and creates unnecessary fear and anxiety for council employees, the communities they serve and the services they provide.  Stirling deserves better than this.  The SNP Government have delivered nothing but misery for our local communities in recent years and for them to claim otherwise is disrespectful and wrong.   

Labour values at the heart of Stirling Council’s “Priorities for 2017-2022” Plan

The Labour / SNP Partnership Administration published its “Priorities For Local Government” Document this week, with six key pledges to inform decision making over the next five years.   The document follows in depth negotiations between Labour Councillors and SNP Councillors which has seen all of Labour’s 2017 Local Government manifesto included in the final document.

With commitments to build more social housing and tackle poverty in all its forms, Stirling Council’s priorities are delivering for the many, not the few.

Of particular interest are commitments to create new community ownership solutions for public transport, energy and broadband – ensuring these vital services as delivered to community not commercial priorities.

Stirling Constituency Labour Party Secretary Jennifer Preston says,

IMGP9284 (1)

“Labour’s councillors are delivering on their commitment to put Labour values at the heart of local government during this Administration and it is clear that Labour’s vision and commitments are underpinning and driving the partnership administration. In these difficult times, I am heartened that we have Labour councillors in a position of power on Stirling Council who are prepared to push back against a centralising and austerity driven agenda from Holyrood and Westminster.

Labour Group Leader on Stirling Council, Danny Gibson, says,

IMGP9286 (1)“When we agreed to the partnership administration with the SNP, we did so on the condition that we would work together and as equals.  We are at the heart of decision making, sitting as either a convenor or vice-convenor on all of the council’s decision making committees.  We have outlined a vision for Stirling, which is now enshrined at the heart of what Stirling Council will do over the next four years and I’m looking forward to delivering for the many, not the few, over the coming years.”   

Stirling Council’s priorities were agreed at a full meeting of the council on Thursday 8th December 2017. You can access the document by clicking here.

The six key priorities are:

Priority A

We will look after all of our citizens, from early years through to adulthood, by providing quality education and social care services, to allow our communities to lead their lives to their full potential.

Priority B

We will target all forms of poverty across our communities and mitigate the impact of austerity and welfare cuts on those hit the hardest.

Priority C

We will create more affordable and social housing in all of Stirling’s communities and lead by example as an organisation in setting exceptional standards in building practice, environmental practice, employer practice and tenant relations.

Priority D

We will deliver inclusive economic growth and promote prosperity delivering a City Region Deal and pursuing policies and solutions that encourage high quality, high paying jobs into all of Stirling’s communities.

Priority E

We will develop and implement environment and infrastructure improvements and deliver new ownership and delivery methods around energy generation, public transport and internet access, ensuring profits and series are delivered to community, not commercial priorities.

Priority F

We will commit and coordinate our resources to ensuring Stirling becomes a must visit destination with heritage, culture, environment and economic strategies working hand in hand to encourage tourists to stay for a minimum of three days and three nights.

Labour Councillors vote for Living Wage rise on Stirling Council

Today, the Labour Group of Stirling Councillors voted to raise the Living Wage at Stirling Council to £8.80 per hour.  This is a slight increase on the rate recommended by the Living Wage Foundation in November, which was £8.75 per hour.

Under the previous Labour-led Administration, Stirling Council became a Living Wage Accredited Employer in 2015.  Every year the Living Wage Foundation sets an hourly rate for accredited employers to pay and gives them six months to make the change.

Labour Councillors voted to introduce the rise immediately and backdate it to the 16th November 2017. The rise was also backed by other political parties on the council.

The Labour Group’s Economy spokesperson, and Convenor of Stirling Council’s Finance & Economy committee, Cllr Margaret Brisley, said,

margaret-brisley“I’m proud that It was a Labour led Administration that ensured Stirling Council became a Living Wage Accredited Employer in 2015.  I’m equally proud that today we’ve voted to ensure that our employees will get slightly more than the Living Wage Foundation’s recommended rate of £8.75 per hour and that we’re not waiting the allowed six months to implement it.  All Stirling Council employees will receive a minimum of £8.80 per hour, backdated to 16th November, ensuring those who need it most will get a little extra in their December pay-packet.”

Click here for more information on the Living Wage Foundation.

Labour Councillor Chris Kane slams the ‘appalling’ impact of Universal Credit in Stirling

 

At the December meeting of Stirling Council, councillors will hear about the devastating impact that the introduction of Universal Credit is having on our most vulnerable citizens.  A report, first presented to the Council’s Community Planning and Regeneration Committee in November, was sent to full council because the impact was considered so vast and so great, that it cut across all council services.

Speaking at the November meeting, the Labour Convenor of the Community Planning and Regeneration Committee, Councillor Chris Kane, said,

IMGP9304 (1)“It is difficult to overstate how much of a negative impact the introduction of Universal Credit has had in Stirling. 

 I am appalled that a policy, peddled as liberating and progressive, is being implemented in such a cavalier and cruel fashion.  Up and down the country, council after council are telling the same story:  Universal Credit is fundamentally flawed and is devastating to the most vulnerable people in our communities.

 We have heard stories today so astonishing 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. 

 Stirling Council, and our third sector partners, have been preparing for this vicious storm for over a year.  It arrived on 28th June and it is showing no signs of abating; in fact, it is getting worse.    The question we must ask is not ‘are our services coping?’, but rather, ‘when will they break?’ 

 So, what must we do?  We must remit this report for consideration by the full council to ensure we have a coordinated response across all of our services and committees.  We must share our evidence of the stark reality of this unfolding disaster with the UK Government, in the vein hope that one more voice pleading for a reassessment might be enough to make a difference.  We must ask the Scottish Government to identify money to assist us; for while Local Authorities have the liabilities of Universal Credit it is Holyrood who have the power to provide mitigation resources. 

 Where this committee can influence change immediately is through internet access, particularly in our libraries. We must instruct our officers to establish what additional measures are required to ensure our citizens, many of whom do not have a computer or even an email address, get the support they need for a Universal Credit application process that is entirely online. 

 Finally, we must thank Stirling Council staff and our 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 bureaucratic barbarism of the universal credit roll out.