22 Oct 2012

Paisley Daily Express - 22 October 2012

Misery as fuel bills soar

I fear for the elderly and hard-pressed families in my constituency who are facing yet more winter fuel misery as British Gas hike prices to record levels. Their shocking six per cent rise – twice the rate of inflation – could see bills soar by up to £100. This comes on the back of British Gas reporting an increase in profits of 23% to £345million earlier this year. This is devastating news for the less well off already struggling to make ends meet. I know people were forced to ration their heating last year because of high prices and I worry the health of our old folk could suffer as they sit in the cold scared to put the heating on because it costs too much. Unless ministers get to grips with spiralling energy bills, people will rightly think that the Government is completely out of touch. We need a stronger regulator and that is why I support Labour’s plans to replace Ofgem, which lacks the power to say no to price rises, with a more robust regulatory body.

Free parking just the ticket

Free parking in Paisley at the weekend is good news for my constituents in nearby Linwood, Johnstone, Elderslie and Barrhead who may be encouraged into the town centre to shop, spend and boost the economy. It is a wise move by my Labour colleagues on Renfrewshire Council who are working hard to boost trade and bring back our bustling High Streets. I’m right behind new Council leader, Mark Macmillan, in his efforts to boost the centre of Paisley. Traditional town need to look at new ways to attract people and get them to use local shops and facilities. Scrapping these parking charges is a step in the right direction. Weekday charges are to be cut in some long and short stay car parks, and the cost of parking season tickets will fall by a third saving those who travel from anywhere in Renfrewshire to work in the town some money too. Well done Renfrewshire Council.

We’re still waiting, despite SNP promises

If we were waiting for a bus operated by the SNP, then we’d be waiting a long time for it to arrive. In fact, we’d all have to get on Shanks’s Pony if we wanted to go anywhere! Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has launched the SNP's proposals for a Saltire Card, designed to provide integrated cashless travel across Scotland. The card - allowing passengers to pre-load money which they can then use to pay for journeys on trains, buses, ferries, subway and trams throughout Scotland – has been a long time coming.The SNP first talked of these plans in 2008.This card has still to get off the drawing board, with no concrete proposals, timescales, coverage or agreement amongst Scotland's transport providers. We need action, not soundbites.

Whooping cough vaccine

Pregnant women here in Renfrewshire are being offered the chance to be vaccinated against whooping cough to protect their unborn babies. And I would urge everyone to take up the offer. Every expectant mum in Scotland should think seriously about the risks they could avoid by taking this one simple step.Cases of whooping cough in Scotland have soared from 61 in 2011 to 1,037 so far this year, including 65 infants who were under three months old. As a dad and granddad I am well aware of the stress and worry you feel when a child is ill. Don’t take any chances – get the jab.

Lotto good news

Congratulations to two sporting clubs in my Renfrewshire South constituency who scooped awards totalling £3,417 from the Big Lottery Fund’s 2014 Communities programme. Barrhead Netball Club will use their £1457 award to develop the under 12 team and set up an under 14 team for young girls as well as organising coaching sessions, buying 10 strips and two first aid kits. Barrhead Community Tennis Club will use their £1960 award to help fund coaching fees, pay for volunteer training and venue hire in a bid to encourage more young people to participate in a new form of physical activity.