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.

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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.”

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.

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.”

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,

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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.