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,

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“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.  

Stirling Council Labour Group Leader calls on local MSPs to show support for local services in next week’s budget.

Stirling Council Labour Group Leader, Councillor Danny Gibson, has today written to all local MSPs urging them not to support any minority Scottish Government budget that inflicts further financial pain and austerity on Scotland’s Local Authorities.

The letter, sent to constituency MSPs Bruce Crawford and Keith Brown, along with all Mid-Scotland and Fife list MSPs urges them to:

“show your support for our remarkable council staff and our treasured local services by pledging not to support a budget that inflicts more austerity, more cuts and more unnecessary pain on Local Authorities.”

The letter comes just days before SNP Finance Secretary Derek Mackay is due to deliver his budget.  Last week the Accounts Commission said that Local Authority budgets have fallen across Scotland by 7.6% in real terms since 2011.

Councillor Gibson said,

IMGP9286 (1)“Whatever way the minority Scottish Government choose to dress it up, Scotland’s Local Authorities have less money to spend on essential services than they did 6 years ago.  We are heading towards a cliff for local services and rather than throw us a lifeline, the minority Scottish Government is pushing us closer to the edge.  It must stop and it must stop now.  We need the support of all of our local MSPs to stop more council cuts.”

 

The full text of Councillor Gibson’s letter can be read below:

Dear

 Funding for Local Authorities in 2018/19

 Next week the minority Scottish Government will publish its budget for the coming year.  This will include information on the grant being given to Local Authorities, including here in Stirling. 

 I am writing today to ask you to pledge to NOT support any Scottish Government budget that imposes more austerity and financial pain on Local Authorities.

 Last week the Accounts Commission confirmed that Local Authority budgets fell in real terms in 2017/18 compared to 2016/17 and have fallen across Scotland by 7.6% in real terms since 2011. This has resulted in 30,000 local government job losses over this period and Unison Scotland state that nine out of ten austerity job losses in Scotland have been in Councils”.

Whatever way the Scottish Government choose to dress it up, Scotland’s Local Authorities have less money to spend on essential services than they did 6 years ago. 

 If the Scottish Government do not act now to reverse the hugely damaging approach they are taking to Local Government finances, the question we must ask is not if council services will break, but when will they break? 

 We are heading towards a cliff for local services and rather than throw us a lifeline, the Scottish Government is pushing us closer to the edge.  It must stop and it must stop now.  We need the support of all of our local MSPs to stop more council cuts.”

 The Scottish Parliament has never had so many economic levers to use to support our vital local services. We need a wholescale review of council tax, rather than the tinkering around the edges we saw last year.  We need to use the tax raising powers of the Scottish Parliament to protect, not cut, the local services our citizens rely on every day. 

 You can show your support for our remarkable staff and our treasured local services by pledging not to support a budget that inflicts more austerity, more cuts and more unnecessary pain on Local Authorities.

 I urge you to tell Finance Minister Derek MacKay this before next week’s budget.

On budget day, you have a voice inside the chamber at Holyrood and, more importantly, a vote.  

 Kind regards

 Councillor Danny Gibson

Labour Group Leader on Stirling Council

 

 

ENDS

Labour demand local MP take action in response to shock closure news for local Royal Bank branches.

Labour’s Bannockburn Councillor, Margaret Brisley, has today written to local MP Stephen Kerr demanding he stand up for local communities and fight the closure of Royal Bank of Scotland branches in Bannockburn, Bridge of Allan and Dunblane.

Councillor Brisley says,

margaret-brisley“Some of the Royal Bank’s elderly customers have loyally banked with them for half a century or more.  These are the customers whose taxes bailed out the Royal Bank when the Royal Bank needed their support. I find it thoroughly disgusting that customer loyalty and support is being rewarded with the bank door slammed in their faces.  As the majority shareholder, the UK Government can, and should, step in and stop this.” 

The full text of Councillor Brisley’s letter can be read below:

1 December 2017

Dear Stephen

Today, residents in my ward woke to the news that the Royal Bank of Scotland is looking to close their Bannockburn branch.  Residents in Bridge of Allan and Dunblane also received similar news. 

This comes just days after the Bank of Scotland announced closures to branches in Bridge of Allan, Dunblane and Springkerse. 

Elderly residents in my ward and across Stirling who rely on face-to-face banking are being let down by banks. 

Small businesses in my ward and across Stirling who deal predominantly in cash transactions are being let down by the banks.

Communities who see branches as a cornerstone of shopping precincts are being let down by the banks.

The UK Government is the majority shareholder in the Royal Bank of Scotland.  It can put pressure on the Royal Bank to be different. 

Pressure to strengthen communities, not abandon them.  To reward customers for decades of loyalty to the Royal Bank with a little bit of loyalty in return. To give loyal staff much better than callous uncertainly for their futures just weeks before Christmas.

Our communities and our citizens were there for the banks in 2008 when the needed our help.  Will you ask the UK Government to ensure that the Royal Bank is there for our communities when they need help now?

As the Member of Parliament for Stirling, will you meet with relevant government officials and ask them to find a way to reverse these hugely damaging closures?

Will you put pressure on the Royal Bank of Scotland to work with communities to find a way to keep these branches open?

I would be grateful for your responses soon – time is very much of the essence here. 

Kind regards

Cllr Margaret Brisley

Labour Councillor for Bannockburn Ward

 

Comment on Kerse Road Bridge Closure Plans

Stirling East Councillor Chris Kane says,

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“Network Rail initially suggested a totally unacceptable thirteen month full closure of the bridge. Through a lot of hard work from Stirling Council officers, and lobbying by Braehead Community Councillors and elected councillors, this has been reduced to a six month full closure with significant mitigation measures on affected roads.

Road safety is my number one priority and the proposed series of measures will go a long way towards this, as will the clear commitment from Network Rail and Stirling Council to spring into immediate action if something unexpected happens. 

This will have to be monitored extremely carefully.  There needs to be regular, meaningful communication with communities and affected businesses throughout the closure.   Network Rail have been told that their level of engagement with businesses in Springkerse is not up to scratch and they have committed to an immediate improvement in communication.

While this closure will cause a huge inconvenience for local residents and organisations based in Springkerse, it is important to remember that Stirling is open for business and ready to give our usual welcome to tourists and day trippers.  The further away from the closure you are, the more time you’ll have to react to the diversionary signs and less time will be added on to your journey.

Nobody thinks this is an ideal situation but at the end of the process we’re going to have a bigger, better bridge and an electrified railway with better, faster more environmentally friendly trains.”

MSP visits Stirling library dedicated to the life of Scottish Labour Party Founder

Labour MSP Richard Leonard was in Stirling this week to tour the Cunninghame Graham Library at the Stirling Smith Art Gallery and Museum.  Robert Bontine Cunninghame Grahame was a writer, politician, journalist and adventurer who became the first ever socialist MP when elected in North Lanarkshire in 1886. He went on to found the Scottish Labour Party in 1888 with James Keir Hardie and, much later, the Scottish National Party in 1934.

L-R Colin O'Brien, Chairman of the Smith Art Gallery and Museum (and former Labour Stirling Councillor & Provost); Gerry McGarvey, Secretary of the RBCG Society (and former CLP Secretary) and Richard Leonard, Labour MSP and Secretary of the Keir Hardie Society
L-R Colin O’Brien, Chairman of the Smith Art Gallery and Museum (and former Labour Councillor & Provost); Gerry McGarvey, Secretary of the RBCG Society (and former CLP Secretary) and Richard Leonard, Labour MSP and Secretary of the Keir Hardie Society

The library, which opened in 2016, houses the collected works of, and about, this giant of the early socialist movement in the United Kingdom.  Whilst the library is free and available to visit by appointment at any time, every Thursday it is staffed by volunteers who are on hand to answer questions from visitors.

As Secretary of the Keir Hardie society, Richard was keen to reinforce the ties with the Cunninghame Graham society.  He toured the library and the museum with Cunninghame Graham Society Convenor Gerry McGarvey and Smith Art Gallery and Museum Chairman Colin O’Brien.

Richard says,

“Keir Hardie and Cunninghame Graham were there at the very dawn of the Labour movement and without them, our political landscape would be very different.  I am passionate about ensuring people have access to history so we can learn from it and I wanted to meet the volunteers here at the Stirling Smith who are doing so much to keep the legacy of Robert Bontine Cunninghame Graham alive.  My visit reminded me of the Great Dock strikes of 1889, which Cunninghame Graham supported and stood alongside the dockers fighting for a minimum wage for their work.  These were also the docks which operated a policy where men would gather at the gates, sometimes two or three times a day, and hope to be called on to work.  The dockers knew this the “call-on policy”, but today we might describe it as a zero hours contract.  Each generation fights for what is right, but the similarities of what has gone before can provide context and help focus today’s efforts.” 

Gerry says,

“Cunninghame Graham is such an amazing character.  In his day he was such a dynamic figure as a politician and a writer.  But he was also an Argentinian cattle rancher and a British aristocrat.  He travelled to Morocco disguised as a Turkish Sheik and he prospected for gold in Spain.  He befriended Buffalo Bill in Texas and taught fencing in Mexico City.  He founded the forerunner of both the Labour Party and the Scottish National Party.  The more you find out about Robert Cunninghame Graham, they more you want to know.”

Robert Bontine Cunningham Graham
Robert Bontine Cunningham Graham

Robert Bontine Cunninghame Graham died in 1936 in Argentina, but is buried at Inchmahome Priory on the Lake of Menteith, near to his family’s estate at Gartmore.  For more information on the Cunninghame Graham Library, log onto www.smithartgalleryandmuseum.co.uk.  The Museum also has items related to RBCG on permeant display as part of the “Stirling Story” exhibition.

For more information on the Cunninghame Graham society, check out their Facebook Page.

For more information on the Keir Hardie society, log onto www.keirhardiesociety.co.uk

Scottish Government deliver “slap in the face” to local residents over Park of Keir

Almost seventeen months after Stirling Council refused planning permission for development on the Park of Keir, SNP Ministers have overturned the decision.

Stirling Labour Councillor Margaret Brisley who chaired the Planning Panel that refused the application in 2015 said:

margaret-brisley“This is a deeply disappointing decision by the SNP Scottish Government who have delivered a slap in the face to local residents and local democracy. Stirling Councillors agreed our Local Development Plan which didn’t include such a provision on this site. Stirling Council Planning and Regulation Panel held a public hearing and considered all aspects of the application and ultimately refused it.  It is also unacceptable that the SNP took so long to come to this unfortunate decision – had any local council taken this amount of time on a planning application, they would face criticism from the Scottish Government.”

Stirling Labour Group Leader Councillor Danny Gibson said:

IMGP9286 (1)“This is an outrageous decision by the SNP’s Local Government Minister which treats local democratic decision making here in Stirling with contempt. Instead of more central command and control over the planning system from this minority SNP Scottish Government, MSPs in Holyrood should be ensuring that the Scottish Government respects local government. To make matters worse the Minister Kevin Stewart MSP has even ignored his own Scottish Government reporter’s recommendation “To dismiss the appeal and refuse planning permission”.  It would seem that the Minister who ‘called in’ this application in for his own decision thinks he knows better than everyone else. Locally we are all proud of the tennis achievements of the Murray family however this greenbelt land is the wrong location for this project – there are plenty of other suitable sites in the Stirling Council area and it is still not too late for the applicants to work with, not against, public opinion on this matter.”

 

 

Statement by the Stirling Constituency Labour Party on the lifting of suspension and reinstatement of Tory Party Whip to Stirling Councillors Robert Davies and Alistair Majury:

 “Stirling deserves better than offensive Tory councillors and feckless Tory discipline.  Given the deeply offensive views expressed by Councillors Majury and Davis, ‘Keep your heads down lads and it will all blow over in a couple of months’ is a response you’d expect in a 1970s TV cop show, not a political party in 2017.  With this incident, the Tory party has shown bad judgement in choosing councillors and poor leadership in denouncing sectarianism and racism in Scotland today.  

Councillors Davies and Majury need to face up to their actions and offer their resignations to their constituents.”

Chris Kane on EVE OF ELECTION DAY

The Stirling Observer have been running a series of articles from candidates ahead of the General Election.  Here’s what Chris Kane had to say in the newspaper on the eve of Election Day:

IMGP9304 (1)“Britain needs a government that works for the many not the few. The Tories have spent the past seven years giving the super-rich tax breaks while working families are set to be on average over £1,400 a year worse off. People can’t risk voting Tory, just as they can’t risk can’t risk voting SNP. In 2015, Labour warned that a vote for the SNP would let the Tories get back into Number 10. That’s exactly what happened and now we have the chaos of Brexit and the threat of a second independence referendum. People across Scotland are trapped between two governments with the wrong priorities. A Tory Government intent on a hard Brexit and an SNP Government determined to divide Scotland again with another independence referendum. Only a Labour Government will be a government for the many, not the privileged few. Labour will increase the incomes of working people with a £10 real living wage, we will ban zero hour contracts to ensure people get a fair day’s pay, and we will protect pensioners by guaranteeing the triple lock until 2025. Labour will end the public sector pay cap.  Labour will invest in enforcement of rights at work and empower workers and their trade unions. A Labour Government will bring the railways back into public ownership and use the profits to lower fares and improve services.  Labour will transform our energy systems, investing in new state-of-the-art, low-carbon gas and renewable electricity production.  Labour will deliver universal superfast broadband by 2021 across Scotland, with a focus on rural broadband coverage.  Labour will reregulate the buses and pursue municipal ownership; public transport should run to community not commercial priorities. I’m proud of our manifesto and I would encourage you to read it at www.scottishlabour.org.uk.  If elected I’ll be a local Labour champion and work every day to make you proud. Tomorrow, vote for the many, not the few.  Vote Labour.”