LABOUR SLAM “INCOMPETENT” COUNCIL AS ARC USERS RECEIVE FINAL DEMAND FOR PAYMENT EVEN THOUGH CHARGE SUSPENDED

LABOUR SLAM “INCOMPETENT” COUNCIL AS ARC USERS RECEIVE FINAL DEMAND FOR PAYMENT EVEN THOUGH CHARGE SUSPENDED

ANOTHER WEEK, ANOTHER SHAMBOLIC CHAPTER IN COUNCIL’S ARC CHARGE FIASCO

Local Labour politicians have slammed Dumfries and Galloway Council after it has emerged that some Activity Resource Centre (ARC) users have received ‘final reminder’ letters demanding that they pay ARC charges, despite the charge being suspended.

Labour councillors David McKie and Jeff Leaver attended a meeting of the local Enable branch in Castle Douglas today (Tuesday), which is the charity for people with learning disabilities to hear their concerns about the ARC charges. They are now demanding a meeting with Social Work Director John Alexander this week to discuss the matter.

In May the Council admitted that a report from March 2011, which supposedly introduced the ARC charges, was incorrect because it failed to state that a new charge was being brought in. Labour councillors successfully pushed for the suspension of charges at a meeting of the council last month, but Tory and SNP councillors united to block a full inquiry. The Council is now gathering further information before a final decision is taken at the end of August.

Labour’s Social Work Spokesman David McKie said:

“Another week, another shambolic chapter in the council’s ARC charges fiasco. You couldn’t make this sort of incompetence up. The council is sending out final demand letters for ARC charges, even though they are suspended. The letter from the council warns that ARC users may face ‘further recovery procedures’ unless they pay up. This is causing serious distress to some of the most vulnerable people in our region who are worried about the consequences.

“We are demanding an urgent meeting with Social Work Director John Alexander this week to discuss this latest revelation. We need to know why final demand letters are being sent out for a charge that is on hold and how many people received them.”

Dumfries and Galloway MP Russell Brown, who earlier this month submitted a Freedom of Information Request to the Council to seek answers on how the charge was brought in, added:

“ARC charges were slipped in by the backdoor and have been one blunder after another. First there was the error in the original report and then the incorrect claim that no one had so far paid ARC charges. Now it has emerged that final demand letters have been sent out even though the charge is suspended. The whole thing is a mess and the council is all over the place. Councillors and ARC users have been misled time and again. We need the truth, which is why I have submitted a Freedom of Information request demanding that all the details are released into the open.”

ENDS

CONTACT – ANDREW MACKENZIE 07769206856

TORY SHAKE UP OF ENERGY MARKET SLAMMED AS “MISSED OPPORTUNITY” THAT WILL INCREASE BILLS

TORY SHAKE UP OF ENERGY MARKET SLAMMED AS “MISSED OPPORTUNITY” THAT WILL INCREASE BILLS

BRITISH GAS REVEALS £100M EXTRA PROFITS THIS YEAR – JUST MONTHS AFTER SAYING THEY WERE FORCED TO INCREASE ENERGY PRICES

Local MP Russell Brown has criticised plans by the UK Government to shake up the energy market, as it is expected they will lead to higher bills for customers.

The Government’s draft Energy Bill was published yesterday (Monday) and represents the biggest reform of the energy market since privatisation. Russell Brown’s comments follow similar criticism from a committee of MPs, who have called on the Government to urgently rethink their proposals.

The key concern of the Government’s draft Energy Bill is that it will drive up the cost of electricity and gas for consumers, because:

- it fails to radically reform the energy market by breaking the stranglehold of the big six energy companies.

- it introduces long term contracts for green energy, ensuring that power companies are given a fixed price for the green energy they produce. Since these contracts are guaranteed by the energy companies and not the government, there is nothing to stop the costs being passed to consumers and increasing their bills.

- it creates uncertainty about subsidy to renewable and nuclear power generators, which will put off investors and increase the cost of energy for consumers.

These new plans come at the same time as British Gas comes under renewed pressure as it has emerged they have made £100m extra profit in the first six months of this year. This is despite their claim last summer that they had no option but to increase gas and electricity prices of 18% and 16% respectively.

Dumfries and Galloway MP Russell Brown said:

“Many people have seen their electricity and gas bills soar by almost 20% in the last year and households are now at the very brink. Rather than bring bills down, the Tory-led Government’s plans to shake up the energy market will see customers paying even more.

“Our energy market is failing people and the Energy Bill was an opportunity for radical reform that broke the stranglehold of the big six energy companies. Instead, the Government is rushing through a botched bill that will likely mean prices go up rather than come down. It will increase uncertainty, deter investment and allow energy companies to pass more of the cost of green energy onto consumers. The Energy Bill was an opportunity for the Tory-led Government to show it understood the struggle facing ordinary people. But once again the out of touch Tories expect families and pensioners to suffer because they refuse to stand up to the big energy companies

“It is a bitter coincidence that these proposals come at the same time as new revelations about British Gas’s profits. Last summer they told us they had no choice but to raise gas and electricity prices by 18% and 16% respectively, but it has now emerged that they have made £100m in extra profits in the last six months alone. The Government’s Energy Bill should tackle profiteering at the expense of ordinary people, not hike up bills even further.”

ENDS

CONTACT – ANDREW MACKENZIE 07769206856

NOTES TO EDITORS

More info - http://www.scotsman.com/news/uk/shake-up-of-electricity-market-may-push-up-bills-mps-warn-1-2426851

Link to report by committee of MPs (Energy and Climate Change Select Committee) on the Draft Energy Bill can be found here:
http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201213/cmselect/cmenergy/275/27502.htm

OPPORTUNITY FOR GOVERNMENT “TO RIGHT A GRAVE WRONG” BY PUTTING RESOURCES INTO PORTS

OPPORTUNITY FOR GOVERNMENT “TO RIGHT A GRAVE WRONG” BY PUTTING RESOURCES INTO PORTS

GOVERNMENT MINISTER “BETTER NOT COME EMPTY HANDED” TO WEDNESDAY’S VISIT

Dumfries and Galloway MP Russell Brown has said the visit on Wednesday (25 July) by Scotland Office Minister David Mundell  to the Cairnryan port is “an opportunity for the Government to right a grave wrong” and reverse the cuts they made to policing in 2010.

The meeting will take place at Stena Line’s new terminal in Cairnryan. It will begin at around 10am and last an hour.

While the previous Labour Government was looking to increase the Border Agency funding at the Galloway ports, within weeks of the General Election in 2010 the Tory-led Government cut the funding for three seconded police officers. Since then the number immigration offenders using the ports as an entry point into the UK has soared. An official UK Border Agency report published earlier this month showed that in 2011 a total of 281 immigration offenders were detected at the Scottish and Northern Irish sea ports, an 77% increase on the previous year.

Ahead of the meeting with the Scotland Office Minister on Wednesday, Russell Brown MP said:

“I have been demanding that a Government Minister visits the ports ever since the cut in ports policing was first announced. While it has taken two years for a Minister to even have the decency to come, this visit is an opportunity for the UK Government to right a grave wrong. David Mundell must listen to the real concerns about security at the Galloway ports and pledge serious action that will make a difference. That means reversing their cuts and increasing the resources available to help the police. Mr Mundell better not come empty handed, because a talking shop or just a photo opportunity won’t do.”

Speaking about the Tory-led Government’s cuts to ports policing in 2010, Russell Brown MP said:

“Within weeks of the General Election in 2010, the Tories overturned the previous government’s decision and cut ports police. This was a reckless act that ignored almost all the advice at the time. Since then the number of immigration offenders using the Galloway ports has soared. The route through the Galloway Ports has long been known as a soft touch for illegal immigrants, but the irresponsible cuts by both UK and Scottish Governments opened the already ajar door even wider.”

ENDS

CONTACT – ANDREW MACKENZIE 07769206856

BUCK STOPS WITH SCOTTISH GOVERNMENT FOR ENFORCING COCKLE FISHING BAN

BUCK STOPS WITH SCOTTISH GOVERNMENT FOR ENFORCING COCKLE FISHING BAN

ILLEGAL COCKLE FISHING “DEVASTATING” FOR FUTURE FISHING IN THE AREA

Local politicians have called on the Scottish Government to take responsibility for dealing with illegal cockelers along the Solway coast.

There has been a marked rise in illegal cockling in recent weeks, following a ban on cockling in the area last year. It has emerged that, while the Solway coast is closed to cockle fishing, both the police and the Scottish Government claim they are powerless to enforce the ban.

The Scottish Government is responsible for the management of the Solway, following the winding up of the Solway Shellfish and Management Association last year. Dumfries and Galloway MP, Russell Brown, and Dumfriesshire MSP, Elaine Murray, have written to the Scottish Government to demand that they take action to enforce the ban.

Dumfries and Galloway MP Russell Brown said:

“Local people are getting more and more frustrated that they know these gangs are cockle fishing illegally but no one seems able to do anything about it. Everyone accepts there is a serious problem, but the Scottish Government and police are both pointing the finger at each other.

“Having a ban on cockle fishing is pointless unless it is able to be enforced. The buck stops with the Scottish Government because they manage the Solway. The criminal gangs are fully aware of the lack of policing of the waters. It is acting as an open invitation to come because the likehood of getting caught is minimal. It’s time the Scottish Government took responsibility for dealing with these gangs.

“The people the gangs use to illegally cockle fish are risking their lives out on the Solway Coast. These are dangerous waters at any time, but especially at night. This has all the makings of a tragedy waiting to happen.”

Dumfriesshire MSP Elaine Murray said:

“Local people right along the Solway Coast have put up with this for too long. The problem of illegal cockling is getting worse. It is now clear that the Solway coast was closed to cockle fishing last year without any plan for how they would stop people from breaking the ban. We are now in the position where the only people who are doing it are those flouting the law, while local fishermen have no option but to stand back and watch.

“The ban was brought in to protect future stocks, but the longer this illegal activity continues, the longer it will take cockle levels to return to a sustainable level. This could be devastating to future cockle fishing in the area.”

ENDS

CONTACT – ANDREW MACKENZIE 07769206856

LOCAL MP WELCOMES CO-OP TAKEOVER OF DUMFRIES, STRANRAER AND CASTLE DOUGLAS LLOYDS TSB BRANCHES

LOCAL MP WELCOMES CO-OP TAKEOVER OF DUMFRIES, STRANRAER AND CASTLE DOUGLAS LLOYDS TSB BRANCHES

Local MP Russell Brown has welcomed the announcement that the Co-operative Group is to purchase 632 Lloyds bank branches, which will see the mutual bank take over the Lloyds TSB branches in Dumfries, Stranraer and Castle Douglas.

Across the country the sale means that the size of the Co-op’s retail banking business will triple and its share of the UK’s current accounts will increase to 7%.

Dumfries and Galloway MP Russell Brown said:

“Local people in Dumfries and Galloway will now have a real high street alternative to the current big banks. The Co-op is set to take over the Lloyds TSB branches in Dumfries, Stranraer and Castle Douglas.

“The expansion of the Co-op is good news and is a big step towards building a better banking system. For too long our banks have more focused on high stakes investments in the financial markets at the expense of what is good for customers. The financial crisis and the recent scandals show the price we are all paying for the culture of casino banking.

“The banking system has let down local people and businesses. The failure of banks to provide mortgages is stifling first time buyers and the lack of lending is choking small business. There are horror stories of local businesses in Dumfries and Galloway going to the wall because they have been mis-sold financial products by banks.

“The number of people applying for accounts with the Co-op has soared by 25% in the last week, because people and businesses want solid banks that they can build long term relationships with.”

ENDS

CONTACT – ANDREW MACKENZIE 07769206856

NOTES TO EDITORS

The Lloyds TSB branches in Dumfries and Galloway set to transfer to the Co-op are:

Dumfries (6 Queensberry Square)
Stranraer (21 Castle Street)
Castle Douglas (55 King Street)