Arbroath West, Letham & Friockheim candidate Richard Moore has criticised Angus Council and Holyrood for Council Tax increases significantly above the rate of inflation. “The new National E-H Increase means increases can be over sixteen times the rate of inflation – and there is no guarantee that this increase will be spent on improving services in Angus,” said Richard. “This flies in the face of Alex Salmond’s statement, supporting the Lib Dem view, that ‘we believe that local income tax is a better and a fairer way to contribute to paying for local services. We believe that taxation should be based on the ability to pay.”
Richard added “Alex Salmond, while First Minister, stated ‘there is something fundamentally flawed about a taxation system that does not take account of people’s ability to pay’, yet this is exactly what the SNP-controlled Scottish Parliament is implementing.
“This will impact on the construction industry, as most properties now are rated E; it will affect the housing market, as people will be deterred from moving up the ladder with the additional costs, which means the ‘first-time buyer’ properties will be blocked. Local Income Tax is the way forward, not this draconian, unfair process.”
Liberal Democrat campaigner Ben Lawrie has called on members of European Parliament to back proposals to offer UK nationals “associate EU citizenship” in upcoming Brexit negotiations.
This proposal would give UK nationals the choice to pay a fee into the EU budget in order to retain EU benefits such as freedom of movement across EU member-states and a vote in EU parliamentary elections.
Writing to Scotland’s MEPs, Ben said: “I feel that this would help in addressing the anxieties that many people are experiencing as a result of the recent vote to leave the European Union whilst still respecting the vote of the majority.
I hope that you will use your position in the European Parliament to support this proposal as part of the Brexit negotiations.”
The idea of EU associate citizenship was originally proposed by liberal Luxembourg MEP Charles Goerens and has gained the support of the EU’s top Brexit negotiator, Guy Verhofstadt.
If you agree that UK nationals should be offered associate EU citizenship then sign the petition at: https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/172021/
A local resident recently contacted me to bring my attention to the bus stop outside the Monifieth Health Centre on Victoria Street.
The markings on the road next to the bus stop need repainted as the recent roadworks on Victoria Street have removed the word ‘stop’ and part of the word ‘bus’.
I have written to the council about this and sent them a picture of the road, hopefully they will repaint it soon.
Protecting our environment has always been a priority for me and as part of this I have always been an advocate for renewable energy.
There are however many people who don’t share my enthusiasm for renewable energy as to them this usually means wind turbines causing an eyesore in the local environment or having to fork up for costly solar panels. These aren’t our only options though!
Something often overlooked by local authorities is sewage energy.
In 2012 Thames Water generated 14% of its annual energy from sewage, saving £15 million from its power bills.
Thermal hydrolysis process plants (THP) are pressure cookers which heat leftovers from wastewater treatment and aid in breaking down waste and producing energy.
Thermal hydrolysis produces 20% more biogas than anaerobic digestion alone.
Currently, there are plans to form an anaerobic digestor plant in Angus, near Caroustie. Upon inspection of a recent report from the Council’s Development Standards Committee I have seen no mention of thermal hydrolysis.
In light of this I have written to the convener of the committee Rob Murray as well as Craig Fotheringham (another member of the committee and councillor for Monifieth and Sidlaw) asking whether the plant will incorporate Thermal Hydrolysis and if not then why not.
Protecting our environment depends on action at all level of government whether its local or international and the formation of the anaerobic digestor plant in Angus presents us with an excellent opportunity to stop wasting our waste!
The Scottish Government is currently running a consultation seeking views from the public on the proposed framework to transform mental health in Scotland.
This morning I made my contribution to this consultation highlighting the need to prioritise cutting down the unacceptably long waiting times prevalent in our mental health services.
I raised the need to increase accessibility to therapies rather than prescribing medication as a first resort and in particular the need to move away from cognitive behavioural therapy as a ‘one size fits all’ therapy and instead adopt a wider variety of therapies to match the needs of individual patients.
My full submission to the consultation can be found here.
The Government’s consultation is still open and I encourage anyone with experience of Scotland’s mental health services, whether as a patient or as a professional to make their own contribution to the consultation which can be found here.
With the announcement that the council will be closing several recycling centres around Angus, Liberal Democrat council candidate Ben Lawrie has raised concerns surrounding the proposed closure of the Monifieth Recycling Centre.
“There are several reasons why I believe that closing this centre is a bad idea. Our environment is of the utmost importance yet we’re failing to incentivise people to recycle by making them travel longer distances to use recycling facilities. Not only will longer journeys to these facilities impact our carbon footprint, people will also be less likely to make the effort at all, instead opting to fly-tip at the council’s expense.”
“The closure of the recycling centre, paired with the new garden waste collection charges are a double whammy of bad news for the residents of Monifieth as well as the local environment and I hope that the Council will soon see sense.”
Changes to recycling facilities in Angus are projected to save £246,500 – falling short of planned savings.
Monifieth & Sidlaw candidate Ben Lawrie has recently spoken out on the new garden waste collection charges introduced by Angus Council labelling them “unfair and ineffective”.
The charges, introduced last month were initially intended to deal with “severe budgetary constraints”, however since their introduction only 1/3 of households have signed up for the service.
Commenting on the lack of uptake, Mr Lawrie said: “With only a third of households in Angus signing up for the new garden waste collection charges it is now clear that this charge is not only unpopular, it’s not working either.”
“I fear that the failure of this scheme will lead to a rise in fly-tipping, which will need to be dealt with at a cost to the council, this seems to me a very counter-intuitive result for what was originally supposed to be a money-saver.”
“Talking to people around Angus, the common message I’m getting is that people feel that their council tax should be paying for waste collection and that these new charges are just a back-door tax imposed by the SNP administration in Angus.”
Earlier today I wrote a letter to all local MPs, MSPs and MEPs urging them to fight to keep Scotland’s place in both the UK and the EU.
The letter read as follows:
“Whilst I am disappointed with the recent referendum result I believe that there is a way for Scotland to retain it’s EU membership without holding another independence referendum and that there is also a strong mandate for doing so. Currently, Denmark is a member of the EU. Greenland and the Faroe Islands are both parts of Denmark but are not in the EU. I believe that the UK could negotiate a similar arrangement where Northern Ireland and Scotland hold EU membership whilst being members of the UK whist England and Wales leave. As 55% of the Scottish electorate voted to remain in the UK and 62% of the Scottish electorate voted to remain in the EU, I believe that this solution has a large mandate and would be the best thing for Scotland and I hope that you will consider doing everything in your power to push for this outcome.
Yours sincerely, Ben Lawrie”
To me this is without a doubt the best option for Scotland and the most democratic one. I worry however that this solution will be overlooked by the media who will fan the flames of a second independence referendum as they know that this is a controversial issue in the eyes of the Scottish public and will attract the most readers.
Liberal Democrat MSP for North-East Scotland Mike Rumbles has come out in favour of a remain vote in response to my recent call for MSPs to campaign to keep Britain in the EU.
Last week I received a letter from Mike Rumbles saying that “membership of the European Union has long been a strongly held commitment of the Liberal Democrats and I am proud to say that we are leading a very strong and positive campaign for our continued membership.”
He went on to outline the economic advantages that a remain vote would have for Scotland pointing out that “hundreds of thousands of jobs in Scotland depend on our trade relationship with our friends in Europe with more than £11 billion of exports from Scotland ending up in other EU countries” as well as the fact that “Scotland is set to receive around £6bn in funding from the EU between 2014 and 2020. More than half of the foreign investment which comes to Scotland is from EU member states.”
He also highlighted how Scottish farmers benefit from EU membership as they receive “vital support through EU funds and their produce is sold right across the continent” adding that he was “disappointed that the Scottish Government has failed these farmers with the delayed Common Agricultural Policy payments.
Mike Rumbles MSP backs Britain’s continued membership of the EU.
Mike also agreed with me that our EU membership also keeps Scotland safe with the European Arrest Warrant “helping to bring criminals across the whole of the continent to justice.”
He finished his letter saying “I believe Scotland’s place in the EU helps ensure that every family, every business, and every person in Scotland is part of a stronger, safer and more prosperous nation.”
I wholeheartedly agree with the points that Mike makes and am proud that the Liberal Democrats have been leading the campaign to keep Britain in the EU.
The UK’s Public Accounts Committee has opened an inquiry into improving access to mental health services which you can read about by clicking here.
Whilst the committee is no longer accepting evidence towards the inquiry from the public (the deadline was at midday today), I managed to make a written submission yesterday.
I submitted the following written evidence to the Public Accounts Committee:
“Written evidence submitted by Ben Lawrie on a personal capacity.
Paragraph 1 – Introduction
Paragraph 2 – Waiting times for mental health services are far too long.
Paragraph 3 – Not enough varieties of services are offered.
Paragraph 4 -The waiting list utilises a system which disadvantages those who need help the most.
(1) My name is Ben Lawrie, I am 21 years old and I am a studying a joint-degree in Psychology and International Relations at the University of St Andrews. Having suffered from depression and anxiety myself I am a dedicated mental health activist and am currently the Mental Health Representative on my University’s Wellbeing Committee. My reason for submitting this written evidence is that I have seen first-hand the short-fallings of the mental health services through my own experience in seeking help, as well as hearing accounts from friends who have also not received the support that they deserve.
(2) Waiting times are far too long, when I was referred to a psychiatrist in Angus where I live it took around four months for me to get an appointment. For someone with depression and suicidal thoughts, a whole night is a very long time to persevere, four months is simply not good enough. After finally receiving an appointment I had roughly four months to wait between each appointment with the new-found knowledge that I had a mental illness but without any therapy or medication to deal with it. I quickly became disillusioned with the mental health services and stopped going for appointments. Now I am registered in Fife as that is where I attend university, I have again been referred to a psychologist and this time I have been told that the waiting list will be at least a year long, I don’t think I need to explain how this is simply not good enough. Sadly I am not a unique case, a friend of mine in Angus who suffers from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder managed to get an emergency appointment with the mental health services, despite it being an emergency appointment the waiting time was two months long. Normal appointments should not take this long let alone emergency appointments.
(3) After persevering through excruciatingly long waiting times, it is often the case that the support provided is not satisfactory. The psychiatrist I saw seemed generally disinterested in me and eager to put me on anti-depressants and send me on my way. He seemed unsure of what was wrong with me and made it out to be my fault for not finding the words to explain it properly and therefore I was reluctant to take medication if he wasn’t even sure what the problem was to begin with! I’m sure that somebody wouldn’t be sent for chemotherapy unless the doctor was sure they had cancer so I don’t see how it’s acceptable to prescribe anti-depressants to someone when you don’t yet know what mental illness they have. Because of this I was reluctant to accept medication and insisted on counselling instead. After a few weeks wait I finally received counselling from a woman who had the best intentions but after my second sessions she told me that my problems were maybe a little complicated for the counselling she could offer and I was sent back to seeing the psychiatrist once every few months. It was then that I became disillusioned with the support on offer, grudgingly accepted medication (which came with unpleasant side effects) and stopped seeing the psychiatrist. This brings me to my second point, when someone is successful in receiving therapy it tends to be Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), and whilst CBT has its merits, its currently being used as a one size fits all solution and many people would benefit far more from different kinds of therapy. There needs to be more of a variety of therapies to suit different individual needs.
(4) Finally, the waiting list system in place in Fife (I’m not sure if its used everywhere in the country) leads to people who need help the most not getting it. This is because after a few months of being on the waiting list they send you a letter asking if you wish to remain on the waiting list and if you don’t reply within two weeks they take you off of the list. I recently received such a letter and as I was in a fairly reasonable state of mind upon receiving it I was able to reply promptly. However, a close friend of mine who suffers from bipolar disorder and is also on the waiting list received her letter whilst going through a severe manic episode. During this time she was under the delusion that she was somebody else and did not reply to the letter in time. Subsequently she was taken off of the waiting list and had to re-join again from the start. Because of this system, people with more severe mental illness and need help the most are the ones most likely to find themselves unable to respond to their letter and be pulled off of the waiting list and this is a huge problem which needs to be addressed.”
This written evidence was submitted yesterday and I will post updates as I get them.