Angus MacDonald hits out at unfair charges on elderly and infirm

The SNP's Scottish Parliamentary candidate for Falkirk East, Grangemouth Councillor Angus MacDonald has hit out at new charges for non-residential social care services being introduced by the ruling Tory/Labour administration at Falkirk Council, branding the charges "an attack on the most vulnerable within our society".
The first phase of the raid on the pockets of elderly and infirm residents, which is due to come in to force in November, will net the council a staggering £1.6m a year for services that were free under the previous SNP led Administration.

Branding Labour and Tory Councillors as "heartless" for re-introducing charges for essential social services Councillor Angus MacDonald said:

“What Labour and their Tory co-horts are saying in justification for their new charging regime for such as MECS (Mobile Emergency Care Service) are the same arguments they put forward the last time they wanted people to pay. In 2001 they argued other councils were charging and so Falkirk should as well. The SNP fought Labour on the issue in 2001 and won and we will fight this Labour / Tory attack on the elderly and disabled now.

"These are essential services that save lives and yet Labour and Conservative Councillors are putting obstacles in the way of people who are already living on benefits from receiving these services, thus putting lives at risk. You can not image anyone being asked for a credit card number when they phone 999 and yet that is what this uncaring Labour / Tory coalition are doing in Falkirk Council.”

School building hits record high

SNP administration delivered state-of-the-art schools in Falkirk East

School building has reached a record high with 303 Scottish schools being rebuilt or refurbished in the last three years – more than in the term of any previous Scottish administration - meaning more children than ever are in good or high quality school buildings.
grangemouth high schoolWithin hours of the SNP coming to power at Holyrood in 2007 one of the first actions of the new SNP Government was to 'sign off' the four NPDO (Not for Profit) schools in Falkirk district, which were delivered by the SNP-led administration in Falkirk. The £110 million contract to build new high schools in Grangemouth, Falkirk, Denny and a new St Mungo's was a flagship policy of the previous SNP-led administration. As a result 1000's of children are benefitting from first class state-of-the-art facilities that are returning benefits to the local community, not filling the wallets of city fat-cats through Labour's discredited PFI schemes.

The SNP delivered these NPDO schools despite Labour's belief that the old schools were 'fit for purpose'.

SNP Candidate for Falkirk East, Councillor Angus MacDonald said:

"It was the vision of the SNP-led administration in Falkirk that delivered the four new NPDO high schools in Falkirk district. Had it been up to Labour, pupils would still be getting taught in the old, tired schools that Labour believed were "fit for purpose".

"We know that better school buildings mean more opportunities for our children and better conditions for our teachers. I am particularly pleased that we have broken the pattern of private finance profiting from Scotland’s school buildings.  With more schools built or refurbished in the last three years through traditional capital or non profit finance schemes Labour’s plans to allow the private sector to profit from our school buildings have been firmly put into touch.

SNP welcome progress on Falkirk pension fund investment in social housing

The Investment Committee at Falkirk Council, which safeguards the £1 billion Falkirk Council Pension Fund, has backed a call by Grangemouth SNP Councillor Angus MacDonald to investigate investment in badly needed social housing as an income stream for the pension fund.

At a Special Full Council meeting held in June Councillor MacDonald called on the Council to look at investment by the Falkirk Council Pension Fund into social housing. Councillor MacDonald argued that such an investment, while providing much needed housing would also provide the Falkirk Council Pension Fund with a guaranteed, index linked investment.

The Investment Committee had previously decided to invest 3% of its ‘Alternative’ section of the Strategic Asset Allocation fund in infrastructure projects, and Councillor MacDonald argued that social housing would be an ideal vehicle for capital investment

Members of the Investment Committee, of which Councillor MacDonald is a member, discussed the proposal in detail at its most recent meeting held on Thursday. Members were informed by officers and advisers that the Pension Fund does have the capacity to invest in social housing within Forth Valley.

Council finance officers have now been instructed to “further explore suitable market funds and the potential to incorporate a specific Forth Valley social housing project”. Informal talks have already taken place with local registered social landlords however the initiative is still at a very early stage.

The Scottish Government is also actively investigating ways in which pension funds can be used to accelerate the building of social housing throughout Scotland.

Welcoming progress, Councillor MacDonald said:

“I am extremely pleased that my initiative is being progressed by our finance officers. We badly need more social housing in Falkirk district, and indeed the wider Forth Valley. This initiative ticks all the boxes, allowing construction of social housing and the resultant construction jobs it would bring, while providing the Falkirk Pension Fund with a guaranteed index-linked investment. Affordable housing is a low risk, ethical investment so in effect, everyone’s happy!”

“While the SNP Government has provided grants to Falkirk Council to allow the construction of 130 flats in the district, there are around 8,000 applicants on the Council’s housing waiting list, so 20 new flats per year are not going to make up for the properties sold under the ‘Right to Buy’ legislation. This initiative would allow social landlords to construct properties when they are currently finding difficulty in securing funding from traditional sources such as our banks.

“I look forward to further reports coming to the Investment and Housing & Social Care Committees in the near future, once officers have explored the proposal and options in more detail."

The SNP’s Housing spokesperson, Councillor Cecil Meiklejohn also gave her backing to the initiative, saying:

“I very much welcome this initiative and also the Scottish Government’s recent statement on the use of local government pension trusts to invest in social housing. Local authorities across Scotland are under considerable pressure to meet the Government target for homelessness by 2012 and this initiative will go a long way to helping registered social landlords provide modern properties for rent.

“The accelerated funding from the Scottish Government has allowed Falkirk to start to meet the considerable housing demand however that is likely to now come to an end thanks to the new Tory Liberal Government. With a significant cut expected in the Scottish block grant received from London it is essential that we find alternative ways to help fund social housing to enable building programmes to continue.

“Housing Associations have a major role in delivering social housing and this is an ideal way of supporting our housing partners to deliver good quality homes.

Copyright © Angus MacDonald MSP 2017

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