23 Apr 2012

Paisley Daily Express - 23 April 2012

Bus Services
Many communities throughout Renfrewshire rely on reliable and affordable bus services. Bus operators rely on a grant from the Scottish Government to keep these services running. Alex Salmond has decided to cut the bus operators grant which has led to a number of operators threatening to withdraw services and increase fares. Some operators, including those serving Renfrewshire are worse affected than others. Even those who qualify for concessionary travel are affected as a cut in services will hit them too. Many people will end up trapped in their local community, having to rely on expensive taxis if they can’t afford a car.
Scottish Labour has been calling for the regulation of bus services, to guarantee reliability and quality, at fares which the public can afford. Alex Salmond used to support regulation of buses until the owner of one of the biggest bus companies gave the SNP £500,000. Last Thursday in the Scottish Parliament, in a Scottish Labour sponsored debate, we heard of problems from right across Scotland. Alex Salmond needs to reverse the cuts to the operator’s grant and he should support the calls for Scottish bus services to be properly regulated.

Renfrewshire Child Protection
It’s heart breaking to hear of children who are at risk because of the failings and negligence of their parents. Many of these youngsters are damaged for life, even before they get a proper start. Tragically in some cases, the neglect results in death, as in the widely reported case of Declan Hainey. It would be wrong and foolish to say that such tragic cases can always be avoided. Equally we need to learn from mistakes and failings to ensure that everything humanly possible is being done to protect vulnerable children.

Recent press reports have highlighted “systemic failures” in child protection procedures in Renfrewshire Council. The press has reported that there were problems even before Declan Hainey died. So far no one in Renfrewshire Council has taken any responsibility for the series of tragic mistakes. Did senior Councillors compromise child protection by cutting budgets and staffing levels? Why were identified failures never reported to the full Council? How can Councillors hold the Council to account if no information is disclosed? Why have senior officials not implemented a policy of openness and disclosure where there has been a failure? We need answers. We need to know if there has been a cover up, with senior Councillors and officials covering for each other. We need a full independent inquiry into the “systemic failures” in Renfrewshire. Why won’t Alex Salmond order an inquiry? Is it because the SNP runs Renfrewshire Council? We cannot allow senior Councillors and officials to continue as though nothing has happened. Anything less would be a disgrace.

Linwood Tesco – stay vigilant

I welcome the recent announcement by Tesco that work is to start on its planned development at Linwood. It’s good to see the fences go up along with the notices of impending demolition. People in Linwood have waited a long time to see the town centre demolished. After refusing to meet with Councillor Anne Hall, Jim Sheridan and myself, Tesco has finally agreed to a meeting. We will continue to demand assurances about early demolition to finally rid the community of what has long been an eyesore. But the community needs to stay vigilant. We have heard these promises before from Tesco, but seen little action. Was it a coincidence that the sudden flurry of activity coincided with a possible Westminster investigation by the Scottish Affairs Committee which had been requested by Jim Sheridan MP? 

Tenant Protection

In recent years, I have started to receive more and more complaints about private sector tenancies. Sometimes it’s about anti social behaviour by tenants who drift in and out of short stay tenancies. They often don’t care about the effect their behaviour has on families who have lived there for years. The problem can be made worse by unscrupulous landlords who play the system. They allow complaints to build up and only act at the last minute to avoid legal action. They then bring in another lot of bad tenants and the process starts all over again, to the annoyance and frustration of decent neighbours.

I welcome the announcement last week, of a consultation to identify ways of helping tenants and dealing with the minority of rogue landlords. We certainly need to find ways to give local authorities the powers they need to tackle this problem. Private sector tenants need better protection, but so too do their neighbours. And above all it’s time to deal with those landlords who only care about their profits, and don’t care about the misery they cause.