Labour Councillor criticises SNP administration for failing to listen to residents’ concerns over Local Development Plan
7th April 2021

Councillor Jim SheridanLabour Councillor Jim Sheridan has expressed his concern at the political manoeuvring of the SNP administration on Renfrewshire Council to disallow proper scrutiny of the plan.

Councillor Sheridan said, “The plan when presented to the Communities, Housing & Planning Policy Board on 16th March was rejected by members including two of the SNPs own councillors.”

Controversy surrounded the Renfrewshire Local Development Plan, following hundreds of objections from residents in Lochwinnoch regarding significant house building proposals.

Councillor Sheridan said, “Having taken cognisance of their genuine concerns the Communities, Housing & Planning Policy Board rejected the developer’s proposals.”

Members of the Labour Group have since learned that the SNP administration are working to undermine the work of the Communities, Housing & Planning Policy Board by taking steps to bring the plans back before the Committee in the hopes that their dissenting Councillors would reconsider their objections.

Councillor Sheridan added, “Given that the Local Development Plan will impact communities across Renfrewshire it was proposed that all members should be consulted through a Special meeting of the full Council and this was proposed and supported by all opposition and independent Councillors but rejected by the SNP administration.

This blatant political manoeuvring seriously calls into question the SNPs repetitive claim that they are a listening party?”

SNP shocking scandal of care home deaths
5th April 2021

Labour Candidate for Renfrewshire North and West Johanna BaxterLocal people are telling Labour candidate Johanna Baxter that they are shocked at the number of deaths from COVID that have occurred in Scotland. In care homes in Scotland 9% of deaths were related to COVID, as opposed to a figure of 7.2% across the UK as a whole.

Many quote the shocking case of 38 residents who died in Erskine care facilities by October last year.

Earlier in 2021 it was announced that Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service's dedicated Covid 19 Death Investigation Team (CDIT) is probing the circumstances of coronavirus-related deaths in 474 care homes across the country.

Johanna Baxter, Labour's candidate for Renfrewshire North and West, said of the scandal, "As Head of Local Government for Unison, I was aware of the problems of workers not getting the correct Personal Protective Equipment and campaigned hard to get the changed. But there remain many questions that the SNP Government needs to answer to ensure that the lessons on this pandemic are understood, and the elderly are never put at unnecessary risk again."

Only Labour can beat the SNP in Renfrewshire North and West
2nd April 2021

Labour Candidate for Renfrewshire North and West Johanna BaxterThe SNP is knee-deep in controversy. Locally, there has been Derek Mackay's scandal ridden resignation, and absence from Parliament; and nationally the Scottish Government's flawed handling of sexual harassment complaints. Now there's a massive split.

All the while Scottish Labour is gaining support and closing on the SNP in Renfrewshire North and West. With Labour climbing in the polls, Conservative and Lib Dem voters are switching tactically to Labour locally, in what is becoming a clear Labour/SNP race.

Support for hard-working Labour candidate, Johanna Baxter, is also increasing with previous SNP voters, phone canvassed by Labour, saying that this is an election where they may not cost their votes as usual.

Johanna Baxter commented; "After fourteen years of SNP rule the electorate is sick and tired of being taken for granted. This is especially true in Renfrewshire North and West, where Derek Mackay has not delivered for the last year, yet he has only just left the party - a month before the elections. He should have resigned months ago and local by-election take place. Local people need someone who will show up, stand up and speak for them."

Solidarity with Rolls Royce workers
31st May 2020

1,300 worker’s in Rolls Royce’s Inchinnan plant are being left in the dark over the announcement of worldwide job losses, amounting to 9,000 of their employees. This is a fifth of its workforce, of which 8,000 will be in the UK, and it seem Inchinnan workers will not be immune.

This news comes as no surprise as it follows on from similar announcements in the aviation industries where it seems that ordinary workers are paying the price for things that are not their fault. Rolls Royce worker’s are highly skilled and when redundancies take place it’s not only the job that goes, the skills go also and it is short termism at its worse to expect those skills to be there when things pick up which would result in costing them more.

Unite the Union has said that this decision is “shameful opportunism”. Assistant General Secretary said “The news Rolls-Royce is preparing to throw thousands of skilled, loyal, world-class workers, their families and communities under the bus during the worst public health crisis since 1918 is shameful opportunism.

“This company has accepted public money to furlough thousands of workers. Unite and Britain’s taxpayers deserve a more responsible approach to a national emergency. We call upon Rolls-Royce to step back from the brink and work with us on a better way through this crisis”.

It is also incumbent on both governments, at Westminster and Holyrood, to ensure an inclusive approach that shows Rolls Royce that this is not the right way to behave in a national emergency, and to work to save these jobs and skills for future of this important industry and wider community.

The Labour Group in Renfrewshire Council sends solidarity to, and will support, the workers in Inchinnan, and will do everything in our power to stand up for them in any way we can.

From the Renfrewshire Council Labour Group Blog with permission of the Labour Group.

Black Lives Matter
28th May 2020

Following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, on 25th May, and the huge worldwide showing of public anger and outrage, people are rightly demanding an end to racism, both societal and institutional, because too many black and ethnic minority people face the scourge of racism on a daily basis. Whether it be at work, in their communities, at school etc., or not being able to get the same job opportunities in the first place, being targeted by the police, not being able to get a bank, loan and so, the BAME community have had enough. Just because of the colour of their skin, they are being treated as inferior to white people and that is why the black lives matter message is so important.

At he heart of this, is our own country’s murky colonial past and how we treated indigenous populations as we sought to expand our empire, in particular, how much of that expansion was built on the backs of slaves. As a result, questions are being asked about our own country’s involvement in the slave trade and how we look up to, and honour, those who profited from it.

Paisley and Renfrewshire should not be immune to such questions. It is right and proper that we look at how we prospered from slavery, directly of indirectly, due to our booming weaving industries in the late 18th century and all of the 19th century. We had an industry that relied on the importing of cheap cotton and we should reflect on how that impacted on the growth of Paisley and Renfrewshire.

The Labour Group are calling on Renfrewshire council to undertake a review on what was Paisley’s role in the slave trade and how did we benefit off the back of slaves in general.

From the Renfrewshire Council Labour Group Blog with permission of the Labour Group.

Does local government in Scotland have a future?
24th May 2020

As a Labour Group, we have consistently sent out the message regarding the chronic underfunding of Renfrewshire Council by the Scottish Government. The SNP in Holyrood have been in control of the reins for the past 13 years and local authorities have borne the brunt of the austerity measures brought in by the conservatives in Westminster which have been turbo charged in Scotland, resulting in cuts to services, outsourcing, community delivery of services, centralising services and redundancies with over 60.000 jobs been lost.

Figures from the neutral Scottish Parliament Information Centre (SPICe) show that between 2013-14 and 2018-19, the Scottish Government’s revenue budget was cut by 2.8 per cent by Westminster, but the Scottish Government were even more brutal in their cuts to councils – hammering them with a 7.5 per cent reduction in funding over the same period.

It was clear that this could not go on. The current situation is simply unsustainable, and something must be done. But what? Local authorities know how best to deliver services to local communities, they have been doing it for years and have continued to adapt and modernised in response to new situations and challenges. However, with their centralising agenda and an increase in ring fencing, the Scottish government may be giving a glimpse of the future, as they see it.

Enter coronavirus.

This pandemic is devastating in its impact in all our communities. It hurts everyone in our society, we see that by the number of hospitalisations, deaths, deaths in care homes, etc, that are occurring and also, in the changes in our daily lives, our work and leisure lives and in the businesses that are struggling or failing, where jobs are being lost.

Both governments, in Holyrood and Westminster were slow to act. Their attitude seemed to be that it will ‘never reach our shores’. On 16 March, National Clinical Director of the Scottish Government, Jason Leitch said that he would be comfortable going to a public event, after his wife went to a Stereophonics’ concert. Talk about burying your head in the sand. This is the same guy who is all over our television screens telling people to stay home, so maybe that advice should have gone out sooner.

People have said that we are living in exceptional circumstances, and we are, and that Covid19 is an unforeseen occurrence, and they are also right. But pandemics are not. We have had strategies in place for years. The Civil Contingencies Act 2004 was supposed to address strategies to deal with civic emergencies. Chapter 5 of the Act talks about emergency planning (updated 2011), and preparing for an emergency, should that occur. In 2016, the then Deputy First Minister of Scotland, John Swinney, launched the Scottish Government’s ‘Preparing Scotland – Scottish Guidance on Resilience’, with a number of spokes, including guidance on dealing with mass fatalities in Scotland 2017, where it talks about dealing with flu pandemics. In July 2018, the UK Government published its Biological Security Strategy, which the Scottish Government contributes to, and talks about our response to biological risks. So, we were well prepared, in fact the UK scores number two, next to the US, in the Global Health Security Index. What went wrong, is not for discussion here.

Now, as we all know, austerity has been a disaster for the working people and the most vulnerable in our society. It has left our NHS in a critical state, it has hammered our public sector and decimated Local Authorities. In Scotland, as we have already stated, the Scottish Government have turbo charged austerity and passed it on to councils.

It, therefore, shocked no-on when Renfrewshire Council’s Chief Executive expresses her deep concern that the level of financial pressures, as a result of Covid19, will significantly exceed this level of funding.

In total £2.7 billion has been deployed by the Scottish Government to target a wide range of specific interventions in response to the COVID19 emergency. However of this only £80 million has been distributed to local government at this stage with a future £180 yet to be distributed, providing in total £260 million to support services provided directly by local authorities, just under 10% of the overall funding deployed by the Scottish Government.  Of this, the Renfrewshire Council has received £2.7m of the £80 million distributed to date and would expect to receive in the region of £5.3 million - £5.8 million of the estimated undistributed £180 million based on normal distribution approaches. This would provide a share for the Council of £8 million - £8.8 million of the confirmed funding made available to directly support local government. This is significantly less than the estimated £26 million - £27 million of net additional costs.

The issues that we face in Renfrewshire Council, is one where, chronic and systematic underfunding has led directly to the loss of jobs and services, throughout the council which is being compounded by the current crisis. Unless we see a massive injection of resources, then services that we all rely on, such as, refuse collection, grass cutting, social care, education and schools, leisure and community facilities are all at risk. Council workers are doing a fantastic job under very difficult circumstances and we should all applaud them, but Governments have the ability to ease their burden and the burden of those they serve, by financing the council properly and recognise the work that they do.

However, the wider questions are, what does the future hold for local authorities, in Scotland? Will the deepening funding crisis that we face, result in irreparable damages to the services that we provide? In meetings with council officers, we are constantly reminded of the need for financial stability, and of course that is important. But you can be financially stable by having little staff and without providing any services whatsoever. So, it all becomes a bit meaningless.

Given that that the Scottish Government already has a centralising agenda and does not seem to trust local councils, could this be excuse that they have been waiting for? Could we be seeing more outsourcing to the private or voluntary sector with the loss of thousands of jobs. More responsibility for community groups? The loss of democratic accountability at a local level?

Without the funding that is needed, just to survive, this could just be around the corner for all our local councils in Scotland. However, we do not just need an injection of cash to see us through this Covid19 crisis. We need local authorities to be properly funded with packages where confidence can be restored among our employees and in our communities, and with financial stability that would enable services, not just to be delivered, but to grow also and enable our society to thrive.

Before Covid19, we were limping from one crisis to another with no end of the devastation in sight. With the arrival of the coronavirus, we are now at a different level of deepening uncertainty and imminent emergency. Maybe it is too late. Perhaps we are already in the throes of Lingchi – death of a thousand cuts. Time will tell.

From the Renfrewshire Council Labour Group Blog with permission of the Labour Group.

Mary raises concerns of Childcare Expansion
11th March 2020

Mary Fee MSPScottish Labour’s Mary Fee MSP has raised a series of concerns about the state of the childcare expansion for 1,140 funded hours during a debate in the Scottish Parliament, following an Audit Scotland report showing the risks of the recruitment and building programme.

Mary Fee, Member of the Scottish Parliament for West Scotland, was leading a debate in the Holyrood for Scottish Labour on the childcare expansion, which will see eligible 2 year olds and all 3 and 4 year olds receive 1,140 hours of funded early learning and childcare.  The debate comes after a follow up report by Audit Scotland, two years after its initial report, shows that serious risks remain for the all sectors of early learning and childcare.
In opening for Scottish Labour, Mary warned that the sustainability of funded providers in the private and voluntary sectors are at a great risk, partly because of the SNP’s mismanagement of the expansion.  Mary also highlighted potential loophole that could result in childcare staff not being paid the living wage, despite this being a key demand in the contracting of funded hours.

Any risks could delay the expansion beyond the deadline of August 2020, which leave councils and partner providers with less than 5 months to complete building work and recruitment.   Figures from the Audit Scotland report shows that over 2,200 council nursery staff are still required. This equates to over a quarter of the total additional staff identified by councils and the Scottish Government.

Audit Scotland also highlighted that the infrastructure projects are the biggest risk to the expansion, with half the places expected to be created through new building and refurbishment work to be ready with days and weeks before the start of the new school year in August.  The report also highlighted a series of delays and lack of contingency planning that could leave children and families without their full entitlement to funded hours.

Mary will be writing to all councils in the West Scotland to receive a further update on recruitment and building work.

Speaking during the debate, Mary Fee said “Scottish Labour welcomes the finding of the follow up report into early learning and childcare, as we did the initial report in 2018. Both reports show the scale of the expansion of funded early learning and childcare and the challenges faced then and now. Legal advice shows that private providers may not have to pay their staff the living wage and we want the Scottish Government to acknowledge this loophole and set out how they plan to address this in the coming months.  The most significant challenges facing the expansion are recruitment of staff and the building of infrastructure projects.  The expansion poses risks to the sustainability of partner providers and childminders. It is teetering on the edge. The only way we will find out the success or failure is through the experiences of children and families.  The Scottish Government has 5 months to get this right and 5 months to prevent families from being let down.  Scottish Labour wants to see the best quality childcare, led by committed, dedicated and well-paid staff.”

5,000 Young Scots wait to long for Specialist Mental Health Services in 2019
3rd March 2020

Mary Fee MSPMore than 5,000 children and young people have been forced to wait more than 18 weeks for access to specialist mental health treatment, official figures show.

New figures published today by the ISD reveal that 1,307 children and young people seen by CAMHS between October and December 2019 waited too long, bringing the total number of people who waited longer than the four and half month target in 2019 to 5,017.   In the last three months of 2019, only 66.4 per cent of children referred to CAHMS were seen within 18 weeks, down from the 72.8 per cent during the same quarter in 2018. 

Of the children and young people seen by CAMHS between October and December 2019, 272 had been waiting for over a year.

The West Scotland MSP also reveals that 615 young people in the Greater Glasgow and Clyde area, which includes Renfrewshire, Inverclyde, West and East Dunbartonshire, waiting longer that the 18 week target across 2019.  Scottish Labour MSP, Mary Fee, said  “These new figures show what we have known now for some time – the SNP is failing Scotland’s young people.  At a time when youth suicides have been increasing these figures should shame SNP ministers into action.  Only Scottish Labour will fund our NHS properly, protect it from privatisation and invest in new initiatives to support good mental health and support for people when they need it.”


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