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.

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

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

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.