24 Aug 2011

Paisley Dailey Express - 24 August 2011

Hitting the weak

There are growing concerns that the Tory led Treasury cuts are driving the country towards recession. The Tories are being given cover by the Liberal Democrats whose personal ambitions allowed them to abandon all the principles they had in opposition.
And it’s the weak and vulnerable who are being hit the hardest. The bankers and the financiers whose greed and irresponsible behaviour caused the financial crisis, are still being rewarded with massive bonuses and pay awards. It’s at a time like this that we need the Scottish Government and the Council to help the most vulnerable. And yet Alex Salmond is cutting back on funding for Council and voluntary organisations, while at the same time demanding powers to cut the taxes for big businesses.
And here in Renfrewshire, the Council is protecting the wages of top officials while penalising the frail, the disabled, and carers. I’ve recently heard harrowing
tales of high charges and poorer services for those who really need our support. There’s something badly wrong when the Council helps the high earners and cuts back on the elderly, the sick and the disabled.

Energy Prices

We take certain things as a given. We believe that everyone in this country should have the right to good clean water and proper sanitation. So why do we limit access to heating, lighting and cooking depending on what we can afford? The energy companies act like a cartel. They have all just announced massive price increases, on average an increase of £190 per year for an average customer. At the same time the profits of these energy companies continue to boom.
We know that many elderly people will face hard choices between heat and food in the coming winter. That’s an absolute disgrace in the 21st century in a civilised country. I welcome the action by the regulator Ofgem to investigate how the energy companies calculate their profits. What we really need is action by the UK Government to tackle these companies and to legislate for every citizen to have a basic right to lighting, heating and cooking.

Quiet Summer?

Summer is usually the quiet time in politics. Not this year. We’ve had the shocking revelations about phone hacking by the News of the World. Andy Coulson, once a trusted adviser to David Cameron, has been arrested. And it looks as if there is much more to come. Our local MP, Jim Sheridan, has been at the heart of the Parliamentary Committee investigation, trying to get to the bottom of this.
And of course there were the riots across England. No one can justify the looting and the violence, but we need to get to the bottom of why this is happening and why the Police failed to nip the riots in the bud.
The riots also allowed politicians to display double standards at their worst. Many Tory MPs want a clamp down on social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter. Yet many of these same MPs praised the use of Facebook and Twitter in Iran, Syria, Egypt, Tunisia and Libya. They condemned the regimes which tried to stop young people spreading information about unrest and protests, but somehow it’s ok if we clamp down.
The looting and theft was appalling. Many ordinary families and small businesses suffered. There have been jail sentences for taking without payment, items like bottles of water and electronic goods. But the public hasn’t forgotten that some of the MPs who want tough action against looters had to pay back expenses for claiming items to which they were not entitled. David Cameron had to repay nearly £1,000 including a claim for clearing wisteria and vines. Perhaps some quiet reflection is called for?

Exam Choices

I have been contacted by constituents who are worried about the restrictions being placed on their children when studying for Highers. Pupils are choosing subjects to study in 4th year and then finding that the subject is no longer available at Higher because of the cut backs. This can have a devastating effect on University and career choice for young people.
Renfrewshire Council has the second worst record in Scotland for cuts to education. Proportionately for the size of the Council, it has cut more teaching jobs than any other Council in Scotland. We are now seeing the consequence of this with young people being denied the chance to follow subjects through to Highers.
Renfrewshire Council needs to re-examine its education strategy before it blights the lives of our pupils.