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.

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

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

bruce-statue-1024x377

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

Bannockburn Councillor Margaret Brisley said,

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

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

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

This story relates to our 2017 Stirling Council Manifesto Commitment:

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

National Tennis Academy for Stirling

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

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

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.