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.

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.