First our Rail Stations, now SNP target Bus Services

As the consultation on Rail2014 and the Edinburgh Glasgow Improvement Programme end, and we await the outcomes on station closures and the future of the Queen Street to Anniesland northern line, we might have thought that that the public fury over these threats to our public transport would have taught the SNP Government that people want public transport improved, expanded but definitely not cut.

But this week I received notice from First Group of a new threat by the SNP Government to bus services.

The Bus Service Operators Grant, administered by Transport Scotland, is paid to bus operators to enable them to run services which might not otherwise be commercially viable and keep fares down.

The Scottish Government has recently informed bus operators that, from 1st April 2012, it plans to reduce the budget for the Bus Service Operators Grant by around 20%. In addition, the Scottish Government is changing the method it uses to calculate payments to operators. The combined effect could have a far reaching impact on many bus passengers, particularly those who live and travel in areas like the Glasgow conurbation.

And among the consequences First Group warn of:

  • Increased fares and a reduction in service levels – this is likely especially in cities such as Glasgow.
  • Increased pressure on local authorities – it is likely that the reduction in support will make it more expensive for local authorities to support socially necessary bus services and school services as operators will face higher costs when operating contracts. In addition, local authorities may be asked to support more services that are no longer commercially viable.

The SNP are telling people to use public transport on the one hand and are then cutting transport funding on the other. The SNP have known for months from the bus operators themselves that the scale and the speed of these cuts would have a damaging impact on the bus network, and it’s simply not good enough to try to pass the blame and expect operators to maintain current services while cutting their grant.

People are already struggling to keep pace with the rise in the cost of living and this latest news of increasing bus fares and cuts in services will hit the pockets of those hardest pressed in society and do nothing to promote greater use of public transport.

Maryhill Activity Directory 2012 Launch

Maryhill Activity Directory is one of the really valuable resources I’ve came to rely on over the last few years. Jammed packed with details of all the voluntary groups and activities across my ward and the wider Maryhill area.

The Directory is a credit to Jim Hamilton, who’s energy and enthusiasm seem boundless, and to all the team who bring this together. The launch at Maryhill Fire Station was a great day out and was officially launched by Lord Provost Bob Winter who spoke on behalf of all four ward Councillors including Mary Paris, Mohammed Razaq and myself. 

We have been delighted to provide funding for the Directory over the last four years. I know we all wish Jim, his team and the Directory every success in the future.

Hard copies of the directory are available at most centres or you can drop Jim a message at: [email protected]

A budget that put Glasgow first

Today we came so close. In fact we came to within 2 votes of securing a better budget, a budget that met Glasgow’s needs. Too often people tell me that when push comes to shove politicians will always go with what is in the interests of our party and not what is necessarily the best for Glasgow.

So today we faced the question head on and we put Glasgow first. All of Glasgow’s opposition parties agreed to meet this morning and see if we had the wit and the will to set aside party advantage and work in partnership to present a credible alternative budget that for the first time in a generation stood a real chance of securing a majority in Council.

This wasn’t going to be an SNP budget, a Green Budget or a Scottish Liberal Democrat budget. No party would be able to claim it had sole ownership or led on this budget.

We were able to agree an alternative and the full detail of our budget is contained here in the Opposition Budget

Despite our best efforts and the support of six Labour Councillors we were unsuccessful. The Labour party budget secured the support of 38 Labour Councillors, one suspended Labour Councillor and one Independent. In total they had 40 votes to our 38.

Despite the spin they place upon the opposition budget and claim it cut education and jobs, the fact is that our joint budget proposed:

  • £32 million for a new primary school building programme.
  • To restore the cap of no more than 20 pupils in S1/S2 Maths and English classes.
  • Employ additional ESL Teachers and increase the number of teachers in Family Centres
  • A £2 million jobs fund to support training and employment for young people
  • The appointment of a Carers Champion and increased investment in Carers Centres.
  • £8 million additional investment in roads and pavement maintenance.
  • Enhanced recycling and the introduction of weekly blue bin collections.

We believe that it was right for Glasgow’s opposition parties to try to secure the best possible budget for Glasgow. This time we lost but I believe all of us benefitted from working in partnership in the best interests of Glasgow. I think that’s what people want to see more of, not less. Rest asssured I will always work with those who continue to put Glasgow First.

PROTECT GLASGOW’S COLLEGES FROM SNP CUTS

Scottish Liberal Democrats have launched a major campaign to reverse the SNP’s planned £40 million cut to college budgets which threatens 9000 college places across Scotland as well as the number and quality of courses available.

With youth unemployment rising at a faster rate in Scotland than across the UK it clearly makes no sense to limit the opportunities for our young people. But the SNP’s Education Secretary Mike Russell has described his £40 million cut as a “full, fair and final settlement”.

Scottish Liberal Democrats disagree and are calling on the SNP to reverse the cut, a cut they do not have to make because Liberal Democrats in the UK government have helped to secure more than £400 million of additional money for Scotland. We want this money to be used to save college places which are vital to the future prospects of our next generation of Scots.

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said: “Colleges throughout Scotland are extremely concerned about the impact these cuts are going to have, which threaten 9000 places. We should be in the business of creating opportunities for young people, not cutting them. Colleges play a vital role in helping young Scots get the opportunities they deserve, to gain the skills to get up and get on in life. The SNP need to stop the dither and delay, use the extra money that Liberal Democrats in the UK government have secured for Scotland and invest in the taxpayers of tomorrow who will help us get our economy back on track.”

Glasgow’s colleges do great work helping people to get on in life, but the SNP budget cuts will hurt the prospects of staff and students. If the SNP insist on this cut then it could mean the loss of over 1,700 college places in Glasgow.

College SNP budget cut of 6.9%    Estimated cut in student places  
Anniesland College £612,246   178  
John Wheatley College £495,245   131  
North Glasgow College  £576,923   177  
Stow College £512,756   167  
City of Glasgow College £2,103,102   661  
Langside College £661,601   193  
Cardonald College £905,446   270  
         

I fully back Willie Rennie’s campaign to save these vital college places. It is important that all of our local communities rally around our colleges to help protect student places and I urge people to join the campaign to protect Glasgow’s colleges.

Sign the petition to protect our colleges

Save Our Stations – Save Our Line

The campaign to save the northern Anniesland to Queen Street rail line and stations at Kelvindale, Maryhill and Gilshochill seems to have drawn the ire of my former boss and Glasgow Region MSP, Bob Doris. In replies to constituents, Bob says;

 “Can I take this opportunity to reassure you over the future of our local railway stations. I appreciate that fears have been raised by some politicians in other parties. However let me be clear. The stations on the Maryhill line are NOT under threat.”

Now I’m not looking to fall out with my friend Bob but let’s look at the two consultations currently under way.

Edinburgh Glasgow Improvement Programme

If you look in this document you will see not a word about any impact upon Glasgow local services. So hats off to our Constituency MSP, Patricia Ferguson, who discovered via questions at an EGIP briefing that officials are looking at the upper level platform currently used by the Maryhill line. Let’s be clear there is now a real threat that the Maryhill service will not go direct to Queen Street via Ashfield in order to free up space on the upper platform for the additional Edinburgh Service to be delivered via the £1 Billion EGIP scheme.

And indeed Bob seems to know all about this threat because in a letter on 16th January 2012 to Transport Minister Keith Brown, he says:

“I also appreciated your time in relation to discussing the possibility of an enhanced north Glasgow rail service that would connect the Maryhill and Springburn lines. I note that this may also have the benefit of reducing rail congestion on the tracks at the high level of Queen Street Station where trains enter and exit. I further note that this could be helpful to assist in the desired aims of EGIP, whilst at the same time enhancing north Glasgow rail services.”

Now I don’t know how making passengers from Gilshochill, Maryhill and Kelvindale travel to Springburn, change and then wait for another connecting train is an “enhanced service”. I’m not even sure it could be delivered which is why Transport Officials are looking at diverting the service back through Partick. But what I do know is that any Glasgow MSP worth their salt should be honest enough to advise residents in Maryhill and Kelvindale that they are going to lose the service to the upper platform in Queen Street.

Rail2014

The SNP Government, like Bob, is hiding behind its statement that it has no proposals to close Glasgow Stations. They say that the consultation” does not offer a position on stations, nor set out any plans or proposals. We are consulting on the principles, rather than the specifics..”

Problem number one for the SNP Government is that their consultation is consulting on closures.

7.11 “We would welcome views on what locations may be more appropriate for stations and which current stations are no longer required.

Problem number two is the hit list (sorry Factsheet) which contains the names of fourteen stations.

STVlocal quotes the Transport Minister Keith Brown as saying:

The fourteen stations don’t actually appear in the Transport Scotland consultation. There is a factsheet and that is where people have got this information from.” He added: “People have asked us can we list these stations. Somebody has responded to the consultation and has asked for the stations within an area and that’s why these stations have appeared on this sheet.

But here’s why I’m confused. Transport Scotland and the Minister say that the 14 named stations are provided because someone asked for a list of stations in Scotland that are in an area one mile from another. So in the Factsheet accompanying the consultation they say:

“There are some areas where there are rail stations that are located in close proximity. In the Glasgow commuter area there are 11 stations located less than one mile from another rail station offering similar services and there are three other stations in other parts of Scotland.”

But there aren’t just 14 stations within a mile of another in Scotland. In fact there are 60 and the Transport Minister should know this as he provided that detail in a written response to Labour MSP John Pentland.

So let’s be clear there is now a direct threat to the northern line from both the Edinburgh Glasgow Improvement Programme and from the Rail2014 Consultation. Constituents need to respond to both.

Save Our Stations – Save Our Line.

Save Our Stations

Kelvindale Station opened 2005

The SNP Government says it wants a passenger-centric rail service so why are Kelvindale, Gilshochill and Maryhill stations now threatened with closure and the very existence of the entire line under threat?

In the Transport Scotland document ‘Rail 2014 – Public Consultation’, launched by SNP Ministers Alex Neil and Keith Brown, Glasgow is singled out as having 11 stations located less than one mile from another rail station offering similar services. The lease costs associated with these 11 stations total £208,000.

The alternatives suggested for Gilshochill and Maryhill stations therefore are that passengers go to Summerston and that Kelvindale passengers go to Anniesland. This of course completely ignores the location of these communities, the geography of the area and the added costs of getting to these alternative stations. Why take a bus from Cadder or Maryhill to Summerston, or Kelvindale to Anniesland in order to get the train into Queen Street?

The result would be that passenger numbers would significantly drop on the line; the threat to close Ashfield on the same line underlines the threat.

At the same time, as our constituency MSP, Patricia Ferguson, has highlighted, the Edinburgh/Glasgow Improvement Programme threatens to end any remaining Queen Street, Summerston, Anniesland service by terminating the existing northern service short of Queen Street and forcing passengers to travel to the city centre via the Anniesland, Partick route instead.

Our Community Councils will be campaigning against these threats as will Maryhill Kelvin Councillors and our constituency MSP. You can also help by letting friends and neighbours know about the threat and encourage them to support the campaign to save our stations.

Let the SNP Government know you oppose this threat to our stations and rail line by sending your views on the consultation to:

[email protected]cotland.gsi.gov.uk

Postal submissions should be sent to:

Rail2014, Transport Scotland, Buchanan House, 58 Port Dundas Road, Glasgow G4 0HF

The closing date for the consultation is 20 February 2012

Glasgow agrees new waste strategy

Last Thursday saw some good news on finally tackling Glasgow’s poor record on waste management which has seen our city bottom of the league in terms of recycling performance.

The project will mean:

  • 250 new jobs created
  • Household recycling rates increased to 50%
  • 90% of contract waste diverted from landfill
  • Production of renewable energy supplies for up to 22,000 households

Last year, Glasgow City Council achieved a 24% recycling rate. With the introduction of managed weekly collection, improvement in Household Recycling Centres and collection of additional recyclate material, the recycling rate is expected to reach 32%. However the Viridor solution will now complement Glasgow City Council’s existing recycling and recovery activities and raise the household recycling rate to 50%.

The new facility which we approved will be created in the Polmadie area and will create 250 new jobs and save the council £10m a year. It will combine a Smart Material Recycling Facility with an anaerobic digestion combined heat and power plant to deliver heat and power for the local community.

Full details of the proposal can be found here.

Winter weather advice

As winter starts to bite I received the following message from Land and Environmental Services this afternoon and wanted to share the update and advice with residents.

From Land & Environmental Services.

The first significant snowfall of this winter has fallen overnight across Glasgow and many other parts of Scotland.

Our gritting fleet worked continuously throughout the night treating our priority carriageway routes. This morning, we had over 350 personnel involved in snow clearing and gritting of our priority and secondary carriageway and footway routes. Resources are also deployed on refilling grit bins across the City. GHA are also assisting in this operation.

The latest weather forecast predicts further frequent wintry showers throughout today and until the early hours of tomorrow morning. An accumulation of snow of up to 5cm is possible. The next few days are likely to see blustery showers of sleet and rain with temperatures dipping below zero overnight.

Other services have also been adversely affected by the weather, notably our refuse collection services which are likely to be disrupted during the next 48 hours. At the present time, all efforts are being made to uplift refuse from each area of the city as normal, but this will be subject to prevailing conditions throughout the day. Residents, who have presented their wheeled bins to the kerbside of their property, should leave wheeled bins at the kerbside as efforts will be made by the service to uplift these collections as soon as possible. The aim is to maintain normal scheduled collections in each neighbourhood of the city, however, this will be subject to local conditions and collections may be subject to delays in uplift.

Should any of your constituents have any particular concerns during this period, the most effective way of reporting these is via our 24hr fault reporting service on 0800 37 36 35.

Further information on our winter service, advice on self help and winter driving tips are also available on the Council’s website

Some Christmas Cheer from Maryhill Kelvin Area Committee

December’s Area Committee was able to bring a little early Christmas cheer by approving funding for all of the following projects. I was particularly delighted to support the new Netball team and the project by the Scottish Ensemble to introduce musical instruments to pre school children.

The funding bids approved were:

Glasgow Community Safety Services

Creative Choices: To provide a Music pilot programme (6 months) in Maryhill Hub.

Community Central Hall, 304 Maryhill Road, Glasgow.

To obtain architectural designs to inform a consultation exercise with management, staff, service users and SCSWIS (formerly known as the Care Commission) to improve facilities for the Day Care Centre to meet the best standards of quality care for the elderly users.

Kelvinside Allotment Association – Allotment site: Julian Avenue / Mirrilees Dr.

Kelvinside Allotments Association provides leisure gardening resources for local residents to improve health and well-being and community cohesion. Their allotments sites are based at Kirklee/Julian Avenue /Mirrilees Drive, in the Maryhill/Kelvin ward. The organisation is requesting funding to provide two raised beds to increase the availability of accessible allotment plots which could also be utilised by disabled residents.

Scottish Ensemble, Centre for Contemporary Art, Sauchiehall Street, G2 3JD

The aim of the Scottish Ensemble is to reach the audience of the future and to engage the next generation. The Ensemble is requesting funding for a contribution towards Musical Hats! which is an early years project designed to introduce string instruments and world music themes to pre-school aged children. It is proposed that the project will be delivered in 12 nursery schools across Glasgow and East Ayrshire including Caldercuilt Nursery School (Maryhill/Kelvin)

Workshops will be carried out in each nursery school in January and February and will culminate in a final performance in the arts venue The Bridge. The workshops also include work with the teachers within the nurseries to enable them to continue to develop music education following the completion of the workshops. By introducing musical themes and string instruments in a relaxing and stimulating environment the project is expected to increase the confidence of both the children and the teachers to connect with their own cultures and develop similar projects in the future.

North West Women’s Centre, 17-33 Shawpark Street, Glasgow.

The Centre provides social, recreational, educational, advice and information services, counselling, therapies, volunteering opportunities and listening drop in sessions twice weekly. The Centre seeks to purchase six new tables and replacement crockery for the Centre, which could be used for events for service users. The new equipment would enable the Centre to market itself as a venue for meetings and events.

Maryhill Netball Club, Maryhill Sports Centre, Maryhill Community Centre, Glasgow

The Maryhill Netball Club provides netball coaching/games to the Maryhill Community. The Club operates from Maryhill Sports Centre and Maryhill Community Centre. There are currently 26 members aged 8 -13 years, with 60% living in the Maryhill Kelvin ward. The Club is recently established (10 months) and is applying for support towards the purchase of training/match strips. The strips would provide the Club with a local identity and would assist families with the expenditure of providing strips for training and match games.

152 Boy’s Brigade, 1990 Maryhill Road, Glasgow

Craft materials, sports Equipment & Trip. The project seeks the cost of arts and craft materials and the delivery of an educational outdoor trip over the Easter period. The BB provides, an Anchor Boys, Junior section & Company section with 35 (5-16yrs) boys attending. Arts and crafts materials will be used by all groups at weekly sessions. An educational outdoor trip is planned for Easter.

Action on Garden Maintenance Scheme complaints

Glasgow’s assisted gardens maintenance scheme provides basic garden maintenance for some 17,000 citizens. The service is designed to help elderly and disabled people.

In previous years the service was supplied directly from the Council’s Land and Environmental Services department but this year the service was transferred to Glasgow Regeneration Agency with the hope of providing workplace and training opportunities to young people and offering the prospect of full time job opportunities.

However since the service transferred the number of complaints has steadily risen with constituents complaining of having received either no service or a very limited and poor quality service.

I recently met with managers from Land and Environmental Services (LES) to raise the level of complaints and the failure of the Regeneration Agency to deal with constituent complaints. A full debate on the issue was held at our Full Council meeting and the city’s Labour administration have now indicated that additional staff and management support will be provided. They have also indicated that the season will be extended into October in order to ensure that constituents receive some kind of service.

I fully support the aim of creating training opportunities for young people but I think it’s clear that Glasgow Regeneration Agency and LES were poorly prepared for the new scheme. The reasons behind the problems will be subject to scrutiny by Councillors as will the future delivery.

Nearly 300 constituents in Maryhill Kelvin receive this service and I’m determined to ensure that there is a dramatic improvement in the quality of the service for the start of the New Year.

Who is eligible for this service?

This service is available to residents of Glasgow who meet the following criteria:

  • The householder is a registered Council Tax Payer
  • The householder is over 70 years of age
  • The householder has a medical condition that prevents them from maintaining the garden
  • There are no able bodied persons between the ages of 16 and 69 in the household

What service is provided? 

  • 13 cuts per year
  • 3 hedge cuts per year