18 Oct 2011

Paisley Daily Express - 18 October 2011

Enquiry needed
The shocking news last week that Renfrewshire Council spent £14.2 million on voluntary redundancy payments must be investigated. North Lanarkshire Council, which is twice the size of Renfrewshire, spent £4.25 million. Edinburgh City Council, which is nearly three times the size of Renfrewshire, only spent £1.27 million. There is no doubt that Councils will have to shed jobs because of cuts by the UK and Scottish Governments. But while Renfrewshire is cutting vital services for the elderly, the sick and the disabled, it is handing out shed loads of money to make people redundant. Why is it that Renfrewshire is spending more money for its size on making people redundant, compared to any other Council in Scotland?  The SNP run both the Scottish Government and Renfrewshire Council. Has Alex Salmond not given enough to the Council? We need to be told. Or has Renfrewshire Council acted without any regard to the consequences? And remember, for every member of staff who is paid off early under early retirement, Council tax payers will continue to pay an enhancement every year until that person dies.
Whatever has happened, we need an independent enquiry into the way Renfrewshire is spending our money and cutting services.

Stacey Salomon

And talking of spending money, do you remember the controversy last year about the large payment made to a losing X Factor ‘celebrity’ to switch on the Christmas lights? Well this year the ‘celebrity’ beneficiary of Renfrewshire Council’s largesse, is another losing X Factor finalist, someone called Stacey Solomon. Now no one would deny that a good family night out brings a real boost to Paisley Town Centre. But how can Councillors justify spending huge sums of money on B-list celebrities when vital services are being cut? It’s about time there was a reality check.

Pleural Plaques

In 2009, the Scottish Parliament passed welcome legislation to give those who suffer from pleural plaques the right to claim compensation. Pleural plaques is a condition associated with exposure to asbestos. Regrettably, the major insurance companies decided to challenge the right of the Scottish Parliament to pass this legislation. Thankfully the Supreme Court of the UK has thrown out the attempt by insurance companies to deny justice to those exposed to asbestos. I hope those companies will now respect the decision of the Scottish Parliament.
Well done to Scotmid, the Co-op group which owns Semichem as well as local convenience stores in mid-Scotland. Scotmid has agreed a partnership with the Scottish Ambulance Service which will see its stores equipped with life-saving defibrillators and staff trained to use them. The initiative is being backed by the British Heart Foundation (BHF) Scotland.
The chance of survival from a heart attack is much greater when a patient receives early defibrillation backed up by cardiac care from an ambulance team. This is a real life saving initiative and I hope other store groups will look at this Co-op led initiative.
Violence against Workers
Unison, Scotland’s largest union in Public Services, recently published its annual violence at work survey. It showed that last year 27,775 violent incidents were recorded by Scotland’s public bodies. The survey also showed that there were 280 convictions under the Emergency Workers (Scotland) Act, a decrease on the previous year. In the last Scottish Parliament, I tried to introduce a Bill to toughen up legal action against those who assault workers who are serving the public. Unfortunately Alex Salmond and his Ministers refused to support this Bill. There is a real complacency about violence perpetrated against workers who serve the public. These statistics show there is still a significant problem. I hope Alex Salmond will do the right thing and back a Bill to protect those who serve us.
Mumps, Measles and Rubella Vaccination
Leading microbiologist Professor Hugh Pennington has commented that a preventative measure exists and that it was "almost criminal" for the Scottish Government not to use it.
There have been 22 confirmed cases in Scotland this year so far, compared with 11 for the whole of last year. There has been a sharp increase in the number of measles cases in Europe in the last 12-18 months and with more than 12,000 cases of measles identified. This has led the European Centre for Disease Control to issue a warning to those who have not been vaccinated.
A preventative measure exists, yet the SNP government are failing to be proactive in its approach. I strongly urge the SNP to heed Professor Hugh Pennington's advice and embark on a catch-up campaign immediately.