DISSOLUTION UPDATE

Following the Prime Minister’s announcement on Monday 17th April and subsequent vote to hold a UK General Election, the UK Parliament will be dissolved as of the 3rd of May 2017.

During the period when Parliament is dissolved there are no Members of Parliament and strict limitations are imposed on what I can and cannot do during this time. For instance, I will be unable to take any new cases forward.

Please be assured that my constituency team and I will continue to work on your behalf to resolve existing issues and assist you as best I can throughout the dissolution period.

My constituency office will remain open between the hours of 9am and 5pm on weekdays. Should you wish to discuss this or any other matter please do not hesitate to contacting me by email or by calling our constituency office on 01236 45396

Please feel free to get in touch should you have any questions.

New Report Slams HMRC Office Closures

I very much welcome the publication today of another report – this time from the Public Accounts Committee – which further confirms that plans to close HMRC offices such as Cumbernauld are ill thought through, and tells HMRC to explain what assessment it has made of the impact on local economies.

I was pleased to submit evidence to the committee, and I welcome the fact that MPs recognise the potential impact on towns has not been properly considered, citing Cumbernauld as a specific case in point: “Closing down offices in any town will affect that local community. For example, HMRC employs around 1,500 people in Cumbernauld, who will be expected to move to the regional centre in Glasgow. Closure of the Cumbernauld office will have a serious impact on the town, community and local businesses. It also takes no account of the already overcrowded transport into the city”.

It is also welcome that the committee has agreed that in essence, Cumbernauld meets all the criteria for becoming an “HMRC hub” – reflecting this HMRC even had it on a 42 strong shortlist: “HMRC decided to close some large offices, such as Cumbernauld, Livingston, Wrexham, and Bradford, that appeared to tick the boxes for regional centres….HMRC told us that while it included Cumbernauld in its initial list of 42 locations, the town had not made the cut against its criteria”.

The message is clear – the Conservative government must think again. Its plans for HMRC are unjustified and potentially counterproductive. The HMRC office closure plan must be stopped now.

Rape Clause Debate

MSPs in the Scottish Parliament are debating the UK Government’s ‘two child cap’ on child tax credits and the vile rape clause – which would force victims of rape to relive their trauma and prove they were sexually assaulted in order to receive support for their child.

This cruel and revolting policy has been condemned by Women’s Aid, Rape Crisis Scotland and even the Equality and Human Rights Commission. The Scottish Conservative’s support for this policy is indefensible and I agree with the First Minister that the rape clause has no place in a civilised society.

Universal Credit Roll Out

Today a report published by the Trussell Trust has highlighted
the damaging impact of the Universal Credit roll out and shown that food bank use is continuing to rise.

The report finds that food banks in areas affected by full Universal Credit roll out – like Kirkintilloch and the surrounding villages – have seen a 16.85% average increase in referrals for emergency food, more than double the national average of 6.64%.

In a debate last week I urged the Minster responsible to halt the Universal Credit roll out and I have also submitted evidence to the Public Accounts Committee at Westminster about the effect of the roll out in the constituency.

Today’s report is further evidence why the Tories must halt this shambolic roll out with immediate effect and you can read more about the Trussell Trust report by visiting:

https://www.trusselltrust.org/…/uk-foodbank-use-continues-…/

You can also read my comments to the Kirkintilloch Herald by following the link below.

PEF School Funding Decision

I’m delighted to learn that North Lanarkshire Council have scrapped their plans to divert millions of funds with of Scottish Government funding away from deprived schools in the local area.

The Pupil Equity Fund (PEF) was created by the Scottish Government to help close the attainment gap and place funding in the hands of head teachers – who are best placed to decide where extra resources are needed to raise educational attainment.

Over £1.56 million in funding has been allocated to schools in the Cumbernauld and Kilsyth area and Scottish Government guidelines state that this funding should go directly to schools in addition to other funding.

However, Labour run North Lanarkshire Council contacted head teachers to demand that £1.3 million in funding was handed over to NLC to pay for existing classroom assistants and an administrative team at local authority headquarters  – violating the Scottish Government’s guidelines.

Myself and local MSP, Jamie Hepburn, both contacted North Lanarkshire Council’s Chief Executive to raise concerns regarding these proposals and urged the council to reconsider. I’m glad that they have decided to abandon these proposals and that head teachers will now have full discretion over the allocation of PEF funding.

 

Universal Credit Roll Out

Despite the hysteria around yesterday’s election announcement and today’s vote in Parliament, I remain fully focused on representing my constituents at Westminster and holding the Tories to account over their harmful austerity cuts.

I have received countless emails from constituents who are struggling to get by as a result of the Universal Credit roll out and in a debate this afternoon I called for the disastrous roll out to be halted with immediate effect.

The roll out has been a complete dog’s breakfast, with people being left without any income for weeks on end and this ludicrous situation has resulted in arrears and some constituents falling into a spiral of debt and despair. On top of this, studies have shown that the combined effect of cruel Tory austerity cuts, such as the reductions to Universal Credit, will force one million more children into poverty by 2020.

When a social security system is acting completely contrary to its original purpose – substantially increasing rather than reducing poverty – it’s surely time to go back to the drawing board and ask what it is we are trying to achieve.

Election Announcement Reaction

Today, Theresa May’s massive U-turn has taken everyone by surprise after she repeatedly ruled out an election until 2020. There is no doubt her decision is based purely on party politics and her belief that she will be able to wipe the floor with the Labour party in England, setting us up for long term right wing Tory party rule for years and years to come.

We all know that a Tory Government means more austerity cuts, rising poverty and a hard Brexit that will cost jobs. So now, more than ever, it is important we have strong representation for Scotland’s communities at Westminster, opposing this right-wing agenda and doing everything we can to protect Scotland’s public services and economy.

It has been a tremendous privilege and an honour to serve the people of Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East over the last two years as your local MP. We’ve managed to achieve a good deal, but there is still much more to do and that’s why I look forward to asking the people of my home constituency to give me their backing once again in June.

Election Announcement

The First Minister’s comments on Theresa May’s U-turn and the general election announcement:

“That means that this will be – more than ever before – an election about standing up for Scotland, in the face of a right-wing, austerity obsessed Tory government with no mandate in Scotland but which now thinks it can do whatever it wants and get away with it.

“It will once again give people the opportunity to reject the Tories’ narrow, divisive agenda, as well as reinforcing the democratic mandate which already exists for giving the people of Scotland a choice on their future.

“The SNP will always put the people of Scotland first – and between now and June 8th we will work harder than ever to retain the trust of the people.”

Rape Clause

ppalling that Ruth Davidson has come out in favour of the UK Government’s vile rape clause – which requires some mothers to ‘prove’ they were raped to officials in order to receive tax credits for a third child.

I have recently contacted the Minister responsible for implementing the vile rape clause and will provide an update as soon as I have received a response.

There will be a protest against the this shameful policy and the Tories equally callous ‘family cap’ at 6pm this evening in George Square. If you’re in Glasgow make your vice heard and head along to support.

Hope Community Gardens

Thanks to Hope Community Gardens for inviting me along to their Easter Coffee morning at the Muirfield Centre, Cumbernauld. I had the very difficult choice of picking out a winner and runner up from these cracking Easter hats!

This is a great example of a community garden that is used by residents and people visiting the centre. Like all community projects it is reliant on volunteers to make it successful. If you are interested in getting involved and maybe even growing your own food contact Janice Crawford (crawford.janice@sky.com)