SNP run Perth and Kinross Council considering swingeing cuts despite tax hikes

Mid-Scotland Fife MSP, Murdo Fraser, took time in parliament yesterday to question the Finance Minister Derek MacKay on heavy cuts in local services being considered by SNP-run Perth and Kinross Council.

This is despite planned increases of up to £500 in the Council tax for the coming year.

The Shadow Finance Minister raised the fact that officials at PKC were considering cuts in the following areas:

  • 24 fewer secondary teachers in English and Maths
  • Scrapping primary school swimming lessons
  • Reducing the opening hours of community campuses
  • Increasing cost of school meals from £2.10 to £2.70
  • Scrapping the community warden scheme
  • Cutting 94 care home places across the region

In response the Finance Minister, Derek Mackay, insisted that spending decisions were for local authorities to make and that the Scottish Government was continuing to generously fund local services.

Murdo is calling for front-line services to be protected, especially as local authorities are planning large increases in council tax..

Commenting Murdo Fraser MSP said:

“Modest properties across Perth and Kinross are set to see substantial increases in their council tax bills, yet despite this, the SNP-run council is considering a whole raft of damaging cuts to services.

“At a time where bed-blocking is a huge problem it seems almost inconceivable for the Council to be considering cuts to care home places. At a time where the performance of our children in literacy and numeracy is slipping, 24 teachers in English and Maths face the chop. And at a time when community safety has never been more important this SNP-run Council is considering getting rid of the community warden scheme.

“It is time for the SNP to come clean. We know that Scottish Government funding from the UK is up more than £500 million over the current year, yet Councils up and down the country are expected to make tough decisions whilst increasing tax at the same time.

“I would urge the SNP administration on Perth and Kinross Council to think hard before deciding to cut services along the lines planned.”

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Murdo to give lecture at Blackwatch Museum

MSP turned historian, Murdo Fraser, is set to give a lecture on his recent book on the Scottish Civil War of 1644-45 at Perth’s Black Watch Museum on Thursday the 19th of January.

Although more accustomed to lecturing his political opponents Murdo will take time to narrate the story behind the personalities and relationships involved in Scotland’s bloody civil war.

Murdo spent several years, in between raising a family and representing his constituents, researching and writing “The Rivals: Montrose and Argyll and the struggle for Scotland” before it was released in October 2015.

The lecture will take place at Perth’s Black Watch Museum between 7pm and 830pm on Thursday the 19th of January.

Tickets, including a drinks reception, are available from the Museum website online priced at £9 for non-members and £7 for friends.

Commenting Murdo Fraser MSP said:

“Perth’s recently refurbished Black Watch museum is a fantastic venue and it will be a pleasure to give a talk on my book ‘the Rivals: Montrose and Argyll and the struggle for Scotland’.

“The relationship between Argyll and Montrose shaped the Civil War and I look forward to being able to describe the events, personalities and relationships involved in this conflict.

“Politics has changed a lot in 400 years and the price of failure is no longer met at the Maiden but there is a certain parallel between what happened in the 17th century and modern day constitutional politics.”

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Murdo slams First Minister on Forth Road Bridge Closure

During First Minister Questions, Mid-Scotland and Fife MSP, Murdo Fraser, called on Nicola Sturgeon to clarify when the new Queensferry Crossing will open following yesterday’s 17 hour closure of the existing Forth Road Bridge.

The Conservative MSP claimed that yesterday’s travel chaos could have been avoided had the new bridge, complete with wind shear protection, opened in December last year as previously promised by the First Minister.

In response the First Minister criticised the HGV driver for failing to note weather warnings and stated that the Bridge was still on track to open in June.

Commenting Murdo Fraser MSP said:

“Whilst it is all very good for the First Minister to state that the Bridge is due to open in June, if it had opened in December, as she previously promised, commuters, businesses, and motorists traveling through Fife would not have had to deal with yesterday’s travel chaos.

“Workers across Fife who depend on the Forth Road Bridge for getting to and from their place of work have already had to put up with lengthy bridge closures under this SNP administration and are desperate for a government that can be trusted when it comes to transport.

“It is symptomatic of this Government that broken promises are heralded as successes and I would encourage the First Minister to concentrate on ensuring that the new bridge actually opens on time.”

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Mental Health Services cut back in Perth and Kinross

Mid-Scotland and Fife MSPs, Murdo Fraser and Liz Smith, have raised serious concerns over the provision of mental health services in NHS Tayside following news of the paring back of services at the Murray Royal in Perth.

As a result of doctor shortages, General Adult Psychiatry inpatient services in Angus and out-of-hours crisis response in Perth and Kinross will be moved to Carseview in Dundee. At the Murray Royal the out-of-hours assessments are being transferred, between 3am and 9am on weekdays and weekends, to Carseview in Dundee.

NHS Tayside are short of nearly 13 whole-time equivalent junior doctors which is making it impossible to offer services at three sites. The health board have blamed a national shortage of psychiatrists for exacerbating issues.

Commenting Murdo Fraser MSP said:

“It is very concerning to hear about the loss of this valuable service from the Murray Royal in Perth to Carseview in Dundee.

“Clearly there continues to be severe pressures on the NHS across Scotland, particularly in mental health services and this is something that the SNP Government must address quickly.”

Commenting Liz Smith MSP said:

“These changes will inevitably worry patients and families across Perth and Kinross and are symptomatic of a wider problem of recruitment within our NHS. Clearly the Scottish Government is failing to address these challenges and I would call on them to listen to our universities who have previously flagged up issues relating to junior doctor training.

“Mental health services are facing enormous pressures and if we are to meet these challenges head on then units like the Murray Royal will need to be equipped with staff to meet demand.

“NHS Tayside have made this decision due to a culmination of factors and I would encourage the Scottish Government to help them navigate these challenges.”

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Murdo calls on Mid-Scotland and Fife Energy Businesses to apply for Ignite funding

Mid-Scotland and Fife MSP, Murdo Fraser, is calling on businesses in Perth and Kinross, Fife, Stirling and Clackmannanshire to consider applying for a new business grant aimed specifically for social enterprises specialising in energy.

The Centrica-backed business accelerator programme, will provide financial investment and support through the “Ignite Big Energy Idea” scheme.

Thus far, there have been 25 successful applicants, with Dundee based IRT Survey’s benefitting from the programme. The only criteria is that the idea must make a positive difference to society.

Ignite is the UK’s first impact investment fund that focuses on energy, providing firms with the funding and expertise they need to help achieve their potential and make a positive impact on society.

Enterprises must submit their applications to the Big Energy Idea before 31 January. If shortlisted, they will be asked to pitch to a panel of industry and social enterprise experts in February.

Murdo Fraser MSP said:

“Innovative businesses across Perth and Kinross, Fife, Stirling and Clackmannanshire could benefit from a programme which has already distributed more than £8million across the UK and I would encourage those eligible to apply for support.

“Turning ideas into reality is expensive, especially if they are socially beneficial, and it is great to see Centrica use the Ignite scheme to drive innovation in this area.

“We have already seen a business in neighbouring Dundee grab this opportunity and I believe that there are others across Mid-Scotland and Fife that are potentially sitting on the next big idea.

“Improving Scotland’s energy efficiency and drawing more of our heat and transport energy from renewable sources is a big challenge and one that schemes like this can support.”

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Budget completely fails to deliver for Businesses and families in Mid-Scotland and Fife

Mid-Scotland and Fife MSP, Murdo Fraser, has slammed Derek Mackay’s first budget as it delivers higher taxes for families and punitive rates for businesses.

The newly installed Finance Minister, has chosen not to match the UK Government and cut the higher income tax band threshold that would reduce the tax burden of doctors, nurses and teachers. Instead the SNP Government has chosen to rubber stamp punitive increases to council tax for modest family homes.

However, in an embarrassing climb-down, following Conservative pressure, the SNP have abandoned plans to shift council tax revenue from local authorities and place them in under-performing schools in another area.

Commenting Murdo Fraser MSP said:

“This is a budget that fails to grasp what businesses and families across Perth and Kinross, Fife, Stirling and Clackmannanshire need and want.

“Businesses don’t need a tax that makes the cost of trading higher than anywhere else in the UK and middle-income families are desperate for the type of tax relief the UK Government is delivering for the rest of the country.

“In addition to these tax decisions the Scottish Government is taking £130 million from Local Authorities budgets in a move that will deprive rural services of vital support, this is not protecting local services.

“Today, I called for a budget that grows the tax base, one which rewards hard work and makes Perth and Kinross, Fife, Stirling and Clackmannanshire a competitive place to live and work. It is time for the Scottish Government to deliver this.”

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Teacher numbers drop in Perth and Kinross again

As pupils in the Perth and Kinross prepare to break up for the festive period, new statistics show that class sizes are not getting smaller with figures showing another 8 teachers were lost in the area last year.

The Scottish Government’s Summary Statistics for Schools, published today, show that since 2010 there are 28 fewer teachers in Perth and Kinross. Primary schools are particularly badly affected with the region dropping 24 primary teachers since 2016.

Furthermore, the percentage of P1-P3 pupils in class sizes of 18 or fewer now stands at 14.7% in Perth and Kinross, down from 23.3% in 2010.

In 2007, the SNP promised to cut class sizes between P1 and P3 to 18 or less.

Murdo Fraser MSP who has been warning about the fall in teacher numbers for a number of years, said the figures once again show how parents and pupils are being let down by the SNP Government.

Murdo Fraser MSP said: 

“These annual figures once again show a fall in teaching staff numbers in Perth and Kinross and a rise in class sizes. We are now in a situation where only 14% of pupils in the Perth and Kinross are in classes of the size the SNP promised to parents.

“The first few years of education are so important for youngsters, particularly those from more deprived backgrounds which is why it is important to have sufficient staffing. The Scottish Government has completely failed to live up to its promises on this.

“Instead, classes Perth and Kinross are getting bigger as teacher numbers fall. Teachers in the region are working really hard but they are being let down by a failure to recruit and appoint enough staff.”

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Fuel Poverty figures show that more than one in ten Mid-Scotland and Fife Householders are behind on their bills

Mid-Scotland and Fife MSP, Murdo Fraser, has called for real change to help residents stuck in fuel poverty as new figures have revealed the true scale of indebtedness in the region.  Figures provided by the UK’s largest specialist debt charity, StepChange, show that in Mid-Scotland and Fife, 13.3% of clients had electricity arrears in 2016 (up from 10% in 2015) and 13.72% of clients had gas arrears (up from 9.9% in 2015).

The Scottish Government’s own numbers have shown that 38% of residents in Perth and Kinross, 36% in Fife, 34% in Stirling residents and 32% in Clackmannanshire are having trouble heating their homes.

Fuel poverty is defined as spending more than 10% of your income on utilities with the Scotland wide average being 34.9%.

In light of the figures, Murdo has urged the Scottish Government to invest heavily in improving energy efficiency. People living in a home with low energy performance are three and a half times more likely to be suffering from fuel poverty as those in a home with high energy performance.

To tackle this issue, the Scottish Conservatives have called for significant investment to ensure that all homes meet the EPC C rating or above by the end of the next decade – a call supported by the recent Scottish Fuel Poverty Strategic Working Group report.

Commenting Murdo Fraser MSP said:

“These figures are really concerning, particularly because they show that more and more people are struggling to pay their heating bills in Perth and Kinross, Fife, Stirling and Clackmannanshire.

“With nearly one in three households in Mid-Scotland and Fife in fuel poverty, it’s clear something major has to be done. Having a warm home during the winter shouldn’t be a luxury, yet many people across the region are struggling to heat their homes properly.

“The Scottish Government’s current strategies are failing and that is why we need transformational change. Ensuring that older homes are retrofitted for energy efficiency is important as the last thing we need is expensive heat escaping through windows and doors.

“That is why we are calling for the Scottish Government to prioritise making Scottish homes more energy efficient. Setting a target to get all homes up to adequate standards, backed up with significant investment is needed to reduce the number of people in Mid-Scotland and Fife struggling with their gas and electricity bills.”

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Early Christmas Present as £100k of funding awarded in Mid-Scotland and Fife

Awards for All Scotland have granted community groups in Mid-Scotland and Fife £99,322 of funding for various projects including news sports equipment and a young carers project in Fife.

The Awards for All Scotland funding gives groups a chance to apply for a grant of between £500 and £10,000 for projects that aim to help improve local communities and the lives of people most in need. A range of projects are funded all of which involve bringing local people together, helping them learn and getting people more active.

It is a partnership between sportscotland, Big Lottery Fund and Creative Scotland and applications are received on a rolling basis.

Commenting Murdo Fraser MSP said:

“The variety of projects receiving funding underlines the real diversity of community groups in Mid-Scotland and Fife working to make lives better.

“From Meigle Primary School who will spend their funding on playground equipment to Fife Young Carers, there are projects throughout the region that will make maximum use of their own individual grant.

“Awards for All do a fantastic job in supporting communities throughout Scotland and I would call on other groups throughout the region, in need of support, to submit their application.”

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£12.4 million pickpocketed from Perth and Kinross and given to Dundee in SNP Council Tax grab

New plans by the SNP to increase council tax will result in £12.4m moving out of Perth and Kinross and being relocated to Dundee, with the City of Discovery set to benefit by £13m over the course of the policy.

Research from the Scottish Conservatives has shown that the controversial proposals, which will increase tax for bands E to H, will not let councils spend any of the extra revenue they raise. Instead, the money will be centralised and spent on an attainment fund in other areas.

In Perth and Kinross, council tax payers will fork out an extra £12.4 million over four years, which will be redistributed to other areas of Scotland with Dundee being a significant beneficiary.

In order to push the plans through the Scottish Parliament, even the SNP were forced to admit that their plans “undermine the principle of local accountability and autonomy”.

Murdo Fraser MSP has said the plans amount to a “tax grab” on Perth and Kinross and damage the principle of local accountability.

Murdo Fraser MSP said:

“People across Perth and Kinross, whose Council tax is increasing, will be dismayed to learn that this money is not being spent on schools in the region but elsewhere in Scotland, with Dundee set to see a £13m net increase over the next four years.

“The Scottish Government’s plans threaten a fundamental part of local taxation – which is the money raised in an area should stay in that area. Last week SNP politicians acknowledged this fact and even voted in favour of a motion criticising this approach.

“These figures will no doubt anger parents living in modest homes who are now being taxed more to subsidise schools out with their area. This is quite simply wrong and is yet another example of local decision making being centralised by the SNP.”

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