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Edition 365 July 19 ~ July 25 2014
* Ardrossan Library future secured
* Potential management job-losses at Morrison’s
* Burgess blasts UK benefits sanctions
* MP questions UK military sales to Israel
* Pensioners will be better-off with independence
* Chance to recognise high-performing Council staff
Online: local news - global reach. Taking Ardrossan, Saltcoats and Stevenston to the world.____________________________________________________________________
The big EU fib
* Then and Now
* A day to remember – Baton photo special
* When Robert met Danielle
* Successful year for Saltcoats Boys’ Brigade
* No activists
* Not quite the Union of equals they’d have us believe
* Number 1s
* Where am I?
* Where is it?
- News stories throughout the week.
North Ayrshire Council’s decision to provide a national charity with unused office accommodation will help secure the future of Ardrossan Library.
That was the news to emerge this week after the Council’s ruling SNP Cabinet agreed to transfer ownership of offices formerly used as the district’s library headquarters. The facility, which has lain empty for three years, is located within the same building as Ardrossan Library in Princes Street. The charity has indicated it will spend in the region of £500,000 upgrading their part of the building to accommodate a day-care centre for people who have communication support needs as a result of deafness, blindness, sensory impairment, learning or physical disability. Sense Scotland has also stated as many as 40 personnel could be employed at the facility, with many of the posts likely to be filled locally.
Ardrossan councillor Tony Gurney, a member of the SNP Cabinet, said the move makes clear the administration’s commitment to retaining Ardrossan Library in its current location. “For too long there has been uncertainty about the future of Ardrossan Library,” said Cllr Gurney, “but the new partnership with Sense Scotland not only delivers the potential to create up to forty jobs in Ardrossan town centre, it secures the future of the building and with it the library.”
Mr Gurney said the prospect of breathing new life into a town centre building that had been vacant for three years, while safeguarding the library in its current location presented an “exciting opportunity” for Ardrossan.
In addition to traditional books, Ardrossan Library will continue to offer e-books and magazines, music downloads and DVDs, films, audio-books, access to computers and free wifi, alongside a range of hard-copy and online research and reference materials.
The Library opening times remain: Monday and Thursday – 1.00pm-5.00pm and 6.00pm-7.30pm; Tuesday and Friday – 10.00am-1.00pm and 2.00pm-5.30pm; Saturday – 10.00am-1.00pm and 2.00pm-5.00pm. The facility is closed on Wednesdays.
North Ayrshire Libraries' Twitter feed can be found here.
Potential management job-losses at Morrison's
Katy Clark MP has expressed concerns for the jobs of managers and supervisors in local branches of the Morrison’s supermarket chain.
The company has embarked on a statutory consultation period with workers, and has indicated it intends to change its management structure to introduce what it describes as “simpler, smarter ways of working”. Morrison’s confirms the move is expected to result in the loss of around 2,600 managers and supervisors in stores across the country.
With supermarkets in Stevenston and Largs, some of the job-losses could affect local Morrison’s workers.
Katy Clark told the3towns, “I have written to Morrison’s, asking them to provide a detailed breakdown of what job-losses are being planned on a store-by-store basis. Although focusing on management and not the wider workforce, the loss of any skilled jobs within the constituency will be detrimental. Both the Largs and Stevenston branches may be affected and I am looking for urgent confirmation about what this impact would be.”
The Labour MP for North Ayrshire & Arran revealed shop-workers trade union Usdaw has met with Morrison’s senior management to agree principles for the consultation. Ms Clark said, “I would advise any Morrison’s staff concerned about the process to contact their union representative and engage fully in any consultation, and I would urge Morrison’s to look at redeployment and re-training as an alternative to making staff redundant.”
The Bradford-based supermarket chain posted an annual loss of £176m in the year to February and recently announced a 7.1% drop in quarterly sales. Despite the poor corporate performance, company Chief Executive Dalton Philips received a basic salary of £850,000.
Burgess blasts UK benefits sanctions
Margaret Burgess MSP has revealed that figures obtained by the SNP have found a “staggering increase” in the number of people being hit by benefit sanctions imposed by the UK Government’s Department for Work & Pensions.
The MSP for the local constituency of Cunninghame South said, “Those hit by sanctions can have their benefits taken away for a fixed period of anything from a week to three years.
"These figures show that lone parents have been hit the hardest, with a staggering 563 percent increase in sanctions since 2009. There has also been a 65 percent increase in the number of disabled people being sanctioned and a 76 percent increase in women having their benefits removed.”
Mrs Burgess, also the SNP Scottish Government’s Minister for Housing & Welfare, said she is worried lone parents are the hardest hit group, saying, “This sets alarm bells ringing about the impact of the policy on children in North Ayrshire and across Scotland.
"We already have analysis from the Child Poverty Action Group showing that 100,000 more children in Scotland face being pushed into poverty by 2020.
“The 65 percent increase in disabled people being hit is also cause for major concern. A welfare system should be supporting and empowering people with disabilities, not making life more difficult for them.”
Mrs Burgess blasted the Tory-led UK Government, noting, “In the week when David Cameron promotes a few more female Tory MPs, supposedly to show his party’s commitment to equality for women, these figures give the game away: in the real world women are bearing the brunt with 69 percent of welfare cuts falling on them.
“Evidence of Westminster’s failure on welfare grows by the day, with a four-fold increase in the number of people relying on foodbanks as a result of the UK obsession with dismantling the welfare state.
“The Scottish Government continues to do what it can to mitigate the impact of welfare cuts, but with the full powers of independence we could do so much more. In an independent Scotland we can build a welfare state that empowers people, tackling poverty and helping to bring about the fairer Scotland we all want to see.”
MP questions UK military sales to Israel
As Israel increases its attacks on the people of Gaza by launching a ground invasion in addition to air and sea bombardments, local MP Katy Clark has questioned the Tory-Lib Dem Government on military links between the United Kingdom and Israel.
According to a 2013 report by the Westminster Committee on Arms Export Controls, there were over 380 Standard Individual Export Licenses and Open Individual Export Licenses granted to UK companies in relation to supplying military hardware and components to Israel. The value of the contracts was put at £7.8billion.
Included amongst equipment supplied to the Israeli government by UK companies were components for drones and military combat vehicles, and technology for small-arms ammunition.
In 2009 the UK Foreign Secretary confirmed that components manufactured in Britain were almost certainly used by the Israelis during a previous invasion and bombardment of Gaza.
Katy Clark last week asked the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills if he will suspend all standard individual export licences and open individual export licences to Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories until at least such time as a ceasefire in the present conflict has been established. The Labour MP for North Ayrshire & Arran also asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will investigate whether any UK-manufactured weapons or components have been used by Israeli military forces during the current offensive, which the Tel Aviv Government calls Operation Protective Edge.
In addition, Ms Clark has questioned UK Ministers on whether or not they believe Israel has complied with international legal obligations during the recent military action, and has asked what steps the UK Government will take to assist Palestinians who have been made homeless.
Katy Clark said, “Like many, I have been appalled to hear the reports of civilian deaths in Israel and the occupied territories. The footage of four Palestinian children killed by an Israeli missile while playing on a beach was particularly disturbing.
“I believe the [UK] Government now needs to review its military relations with Israel as a matter of urgency. It cannot be right that British-manufactured weapons and components can continue to be exported to Israel at a time when increasing numbers of civilians, including children and disabled people, are dying as a result of Israeli air and naval strikes.
“If we are going to have a lasting peace in the region we need to bring about an end to these outbreaks of violence. The UK, rightly, does not sell weapons to Hamas but it now needs to take an even-handed approach and end its military ties with Israel until a fair and lasting peace is secured.”
Pensioners will be better-off with independence
Local MSP Margaret Burgess has condemned the UK Government for “refusing to come clean” on the level at which the single-tier state pension would be set in 2016, if Scotland was to remain part of the British Union.
The SNP MSP contrasted the UK Government’s stance with the openness of the Scottish Government, saying, “We have been clear that new pensioners in an independent Scotland can expect to receive £160 per week on the single-tier pension from 2016. However, Westminster refuses to reveal what the UK rate would be.
“We’ve asked David Cameron and other UK party leaders to come clean, but it’s clear they’ve no intention of doing this before the referendum.
“All Westminster will say is that the new single-tier pension rate will be slightly above the minimum guarantee. That’s currently set at £148.35 per week, so a fair estimate of the UK single-tier pension rate will be around £155 per week in 2016. With independence, new pensioners in Scotland receiving the Single-Tier Pension will get £160 per week.”
The figures equate to pensioners in an independent Scotland being £260 a year better-off in terms of the state pension alone.
Mrs Burgess, MSP for Cunninghame South, said, “The Scottish Government is also committed to introducing a pensions triple-lock with independence. This means that pensions will increase either by the rate of inflation, the rise in earnings or 2.5 percent, whichever is highest.
“On top of this, we can establish a state pension age that meets Scotland’s needs, and immediately review Westminster’s plans to increase the retirement age to 67.
“Scotland has paid more tax per head than the rest of the UK for each and every one of the last 30 years, so spending on pensions is more affordable for Scotland. The figures show that 38 percent of Scottish tax revenues are spent on social protection, including pensions, compared to 42 percent for the UK as a whole.”
In addition to representing a local constituency, Margaret Burgess is also the SNP Scottish Government Minister for Housing & Welfare. She noted, “The Westminster parties cannot get away with hiding the truth from Scotland’s older people. They must come clean about how much our new pensioners stand to lose as part of the UK.
“Only independence will deliver the powers we need to bring about a fairer deal for our pensioners and ensure we have a pension system that is right for Scotland.”
Chance to recognise high-performing Council staff
North Ayrshire Council has launched a search to find staff members who have gone the extra mile on behalf of the public.
Residents and customers are being invited to nominate individuals or groups of employees who have provided exemplary service. The ‘North Ayrshire Achieves’ awards recognise and reward those who have gone above and beyond what was expected in delivering services to local people and communities.
A Council spokesperson said, “Submissions have started coming in for the ‘Going the Extra Mile’ category of the annual awards scheme – but there is still time to enter. Nominations can be submitted online or by completing forms that are available from libraries, local Council Offices or the Customer Service Centre at Bridgegate House in Irvine.”
The closing date for receipt of nominations is noon on September 12th. Winners will be announced at the North Ayrshire Achieves presentation in November.
Nomination forms can be completed and submitted here.