1 Feb 2011

Paisley Daily Express - 1 February 2011

Teacher replacement scheme

Last week I was castigated in the Paisley Daily Express by the SNP Councillor who is responsible for education in Renfrewshire. She criticised me for opposing SNP and Lib Dem plans to replace teachers with the long term unemployed for up to 10% of the school week. She says that those unemployed for six months or more are not long term unemployed. Really? It’s a frightening prospect that in an SNP led Scotland, being unemployed for six months or more is now regarded as short term. She says that I am scaremongering for saying that “teachers will be replaced by unqualified and inexperienced recruits from the dole”. But that is in fact what is happening. To qualify for one of these positions, you would have to be unemployed for six months or more. The latest wheeze I am told, is to recruit some unemployed teachers after six months on the dole and pay them about half what a teacher earns and not pay them at all for holidays. So SNP led Renfrewshire Council cuts teacher numbers but might recruit a few unemployed teachers to work for a pittance, doing the work that teachers used to do. And is it true that this Council wants to give full time teaching jobs to only those who are prepared to work on the teacher replacement scheme? And all the while, they are supported by the Lib Dems and Tories – now isn’t that a surprise? This SNP Councillor says that I am insulting the unemployed. Not so. It takes four years to train as a teacher. These replacements will be trained over a few weeks, some of them never having any training in education at all. And in her most dishonest statement of all, this SNP Councillor says that “our children will still be taught by qualified, registered teachers”. Not true. For ten percent of the school week they will be supervised by recruits from the long term unemployed who don’t need to have any educational experience at all. This is a shameful move and I hope these misguided Councillors will listen to the well argued case being put by more and more Renfrewshire parents.

Tenancy Deposits

I welcome the recent action in the Scottish Parliament to introduce a national Tenancy Deposit Scheme. It is estimated that in Scotland between 8, 000 and 10, 000 tenants annually have £3.6 million of their deposits wrongly withheld. While the majority of landlords behave responsibly, it’s right to tackle the minority who are fleecing tenants. This used to be an issue mainly in big cities, but I am seeing private tenancy problems right across Renfrewshire. It’s not just in Paisley which has a large student population. I have received a number of complaints from Johnstone, and I know from speaking to my colleagues, that it is a similar story elsewhere in Renfrewshire. Once operational, the Tenancy Deposit Scheme will be free for landlord and letting agents to participate. Tenants will no longer have to take legal action to seek recovery of a wrongly withheld deposit. There will be access to a free and independent dispute resolution service where there is no agreement over the return of a deposit cannot be agreed between the tenant and the landlord. This scheme is a welcome step forward.

Dodgy security Firms

Over the years we have all read stories about cowboy security firms using threats and intimidation to obtain contracts on building sites. I know the Police have been working hard to tackle the problem but often it can be difficult to obtain evidence. It has been frustrating to see some of these cowboy firms providing security to publicly funded housing projects. I am pleased that action is being taken to ban these companies from any contracts in social housing construction across Scotland. Police and law enforcement agencies have teamed up to target unscrupulous security firms involved in the construction sector. The rules which apply to Scottish Government departments will now be extended to housing associations and similar organisations. The Police have long believed that some of the firms providing “security” are no more than a front for organised crime. They use cash from these “legitimate” contracts to bankroll drug dealing and other criminal activity. It’s right to make sure that public money is not being used to help front companies for crooks.