15 Apr 2013

Paisley Daily Express - 15 April 2013

Bedroom Tax Co-operation?

Surely it’s time for the SNP and Scottish Labour to put aside their differences and work together on their agreed opposition to the bedroom tax? We know it is the responsibility of the Tory Lib Dem government in Westminster. We know that it will be financially damaging to thousands of families across Scotland, including here in Renfrewshire. We know that there will be a cost to Councils and Housing Associations. But we also know that devolution has given the Scottish Government powers to act in many aspects of public life so that in Scotland we can do things completely differently in areas such as health, education and housing. We can also decide to use our budget in whatever way we see fit, even though there can be consequences.

The SNP and Labour are largely saying the same thing about the bedroom tax. We both want it scrapped. In the meantime can we not agree to pass legislation that makes sure that the vulnerable are not thrown into the street because of arrears caused by the bedroom tax? Why leave it to individual Councils and individual Councillors to shoulder the responsibility? Why not use the law to provide a level playing field? And what about the thousands of Housing Association tenants who are not covered by Councils? Why should they not be given protection? And why should the financial burden be put onto Councils and Housing Associations? Surely the SNP and Labour can sit down, agree how much can be provided in financial assistance, and agree where the money will come from?

We have the power and the means to make a difference, however small, even though it may be costly. It is time to put aside the party political posturing aside and put vulnerable people first.

Banking Excesses  

Two weeks ago we were reminded about how Scottish banks helped to ruin the UK economy and, in fact, nearly total collapse. Those responsible were richly rewarded despite their misdeeds. The Parliamentary Commission on Banking has now revealed the extent of the failure of Sir James Crosby and the senior management team. Like ‘Sir’ Fred Goodwin, a local Paisley boy, he has done very well, with a number of executive directorships – and that’s on top of his £580,000 per year pension. He has been shamed into saying he wants to give up his knighthood and hand back £174,000 of his generous pension. That still leaves him with over £400,000 per year and, depending on how he returns the other £174,000, he could receive a tax bonus of over £30,000.

And what about the rest of the senior management team that caused so much heartache and distress to ordinary citizens? Will they get off scot free?

It is time to have a proper look at the bonuses and excessive payments not just to those who have left the industry, but to those who are still receiving obscene payments while the rest of the country suffers.

Energy profits are still a concern

In my last Paisley Daily Express article I criticised the failure of Ofgem to take action against the big energy companies. We then read about the £10 million ‘fine’ handed out to SSE for mis-selling energy contracts to customers. Ofgem were quick to contact me to point out this record fine, which I welcome. No company should be allowed to get away with this type of malpractice.

But what about the real story? What about the massive profits being made by these energy companies while pensioners and families with young children have to worry about their bills? Ofgem can take some satisfaction when we see real action against these excesses.

We need answers on recycling plant

The fire may be out, but the problem still remains for those living near the waste recycling plant in Johnstone. The waste is building up again. I was grateful for the immediate response of the relevant agencies, but I want to know what happens from here. I have asked the Council to carry out a site inspection to check out the growing pile of waste materials. I also want the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) to inspect for potential problems. Local residents need a guarantee that everything possible is being done to protect their interests.