Ben Lawrie to Angus MP: “Support Review on No Deal Impact Assessments”

The Liberal Democrats have called on Dave Doogan MP to backs calls for a review of the no-deal Brexit impact assessments in light of the threat of the coronavirus pandemic.

In a letter addressed to the MP for Angus, Liberal Democrat spokesperson for Angus, Cllr Ben Lawrie said: “as the Prime Minister continues to refuse to rethink his position on accepting an extension to the transition period, it is time the facts were laid bare about what this will mean for our country.”

The intervention coincides with the fourth anniversary of the EU referendum result this week, the 23rd of June. Despite concerns, the Government formally rejected the option to extend the transition period earlier this month.

Acting Leader of the Liberal Democrats Ed Davey said:

“Even before coronavirus, the Government had a tight timetable for the Brexit talks. As the Prime Minister continues to oppose extending the transition period, he must at least be honest about what this means for our country.

“By reviewing the impact assessments done last Autumn, as well as undertaking an economic assessment, the Government can be transparent with the public about the consequence of refusing to extend the transition period.”

Liberal Democrat spokesperson for Angus, Cllr Ben Lawrie added: 

“Boris Johnson’s refusal to even consider requesting an extension to the Brexit transition as we face a global health and economic crisis shows he is putting his Brexit ideology before the UK’s national interest.

“The pandemic has had an unprecedented impact on jobs, businesses and the wider UK economy. Tackling the coronavirus crisis must be the Conservative Government’s priority, and people have a right to know to what extent a no deal puts this at risk.

“In the interests of everyone living across Angus, the Liberal Democrats are urging Dave Doogan MP to join us in calling for this review.”

Support needed to protect local workers and prevent redundancies.

The Liberal Democrats are urging the Government to extend furlough support until it is safe to do so and bring forward bespoke packages of support for key sectors, such as hospitality, or face local unemployment.

Acting leader of the Liberal Democrats Ed Davey MP, who is asking the public to join his campaign to protect workers, said thousands of families face “financial uncertainty” and called for the Government to do more.

According to government statistics published this week, 12,400 people in Angus have benefited from the job retention scheme.

Government statistics also show a further 3,000 people in Angus are receiving financial support through the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme, following a successful campaign by the Liberal Democrats.

However, the Party has warned that many self-employed people are still excluded from this support, including those who became self-employed since April 2019, and called on the Government to urgently expand the scheme to cover them too.

Acting leader of the Liberal Democrats Ed Davey MP said:

“The Coronavirus crisis is leaving thousands of families facing financial uncertainty. Financial support must be agreed to ensure no one is left behind.

“Liberal Democrats are calling for statutory sick pay to be increased to £220 a week to ensure everyone can self-isolate, following guidance, regardless of their type of work.

“Ministers must also resolve the gaps in their plans by helping those who recently became self-employed by expanding the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme.”

Liberal Democrat spokesperson for Angus, Councillor Ben Lawrie added:

“The furlough scheme is a lifeline for so many. However, I worry what will happen to people here in Angus who rely on furlough support if it ends before it is safe to go back to work.

“Many parts of our economy, such as hospitality, will simply not be back up to speed by October. The Government must bring forward bespoke packages of support for these industries to save jobs and prevent mass unemployment.”

The Liberal Democrats are urging people to support their campaign here: https://www.libdems.org.uk/protect-jobs

990 of EU Nationals in Angus Left in Limbo

The Liberal Democrats are calling for EU citizens to be given the automatic right to stay in the UK, as new official figures show 990 EU nationals living in Angus have not been granted permanent Settled Status to remain in the UK.

Pointing to the contribution of EU nationals working in the NHS during the Covid-19 crisis, Liberal Democrat Home Affairs Spokesperson Christine Jardine urged the Government to “show its own support for the people’s heroes by extending the right to remain to all EU and foreign nationals, many of whom are fighting for our lives.”

Of the 2,770 EU nationals across Angus who have applied for permanent residency, only 1,760 have been granted settled status.

220 EU nationals living in Angus have applied to the Home Office scheme but are still waiting for a final decision to be made. Another 770 have been given only temporary Pre-Settled Status, meaning they will have to reapply within five years or be forced to leave the UK.

Although the Home Office has announced a one-year visa extensions for certain health and care staff, the Liberal Democrats have secured cross-party support for their campaign to give all health and social care workers on the frontline of this crisis indefinite leave to remain.

Liberal Democrat Home Affairs Spokesperson Christine Jardine said:

“The coronavirus crisis is an unprecedented threat. NHS staff, social care workers and other health professionals are putting themselves in harm’s way each and every day to keep us safe.

“The Government has a chance to show its own support for the people’s heroes by extending the right to remain to all EU and foreign nationals, many of whom are fighting for our lives during the Covid-19 pandemic.”

Angus Liberal Democrat Councillor Ben Lawrie added:

“Too many EU nationals in Angus are deeply anxious about their right to stay. With the uncertainty of Brexit, it’s disgraceful to leave them in legal limbo like this.

“Families and children must not be made to live under a cloud of uncertainty any longer. The Liberal Democrats will continue to stand up for EU citizens by fighting to guarantee their rights to live and work in the UK.”

Cllr Lawrie welcomes 999 Day

999 Day will take place at 9am on 9th September

A motion was passed at today’s special meeting of Angus Council to support Emergency Services Day.

Emergency Services Day, otherwise known as 999 day, will take place on the 9th of September.

The aim of the day is to:

  • Promote volunteering across the emergency services including special constabulary, NHS community responders, retained firefighters, RNLI and coastguard volunteers.
  • Promote using the emergency services responsibly.
  • Educate the public on essential skills including how to be safe in the water, fire safety, crime prevention, and basic yet essential life saving skills.
  • The 999 day will be an excellent event for emergency services charities to fundraise, raise their profile, and generate support.

Speaking at the meeting, Liberal Democrat Councillor Ben Lawrie said:

“Our Police, Ambulance, Fire and Coastguard Services put themselves in the face of danger as part of the day job to ensure that there is always someone there to protect us when we’re at our most vulnerable.

These are our real life super heroes.

Emergency Services Day aims to educate the public in life saving skills, promote responsible behaviour to reduce the strain on services, and raise awareness of volunteering opportunities to aid and bolster the crucial work that our emergency services do.

It’s a fantastic idea and something that this Council should be full square behind.”

The motion to support 999 day was backed unanimously by Councillors and the Emergency Services Flag will be flown on Council buildings on that date.

More information on 999 day here.

Monifieth to receive £100k Town Centre Funding

Scottish Liberal Democrat Councillor for Monifieth & Sidlaw Ben Lawrie has welcomed £1 million of funding for town centres in Angus, with Monifieth earmarked to receive over £100,000 of this Fund.

The Town Centre Fund, which aims to stimulate and support economic investments which encourage town centres to diversify and flourish, was today approved by Angus Councillors who opted to distribute the Fund across burghs proportionally to population, meaning Monifieth will receive £107,411 of investment.

The Council has identified a shortlist of projects and options for this Fund from previous engagement with local communities and businesses. These projects will form the basis of a consultation with local people which will provide opportunity to give feedback on the proposed projects and feed in new ideas for the Council to consider.

Speaking after the meeting Councillor Lawrie said:

“The fact that Monifieth is to receive its fair share of this Fund will be welcome news to Monifieth residents who often feel like they live in the forgotten burgh. I would encourage local people to engage with the consultation to make sure they don’t miss their chance to influence how it’s spent.”

One possible project in Monifieth would see improvements to hard landscaping and environmental improvements around the high street including the space around the War Memorial and links to the beach, to create a more attractive environment for residents and businesses.

More information on the Town Centre Fund can be found here.

One possible project in Monifieth would see improvements to hard landscaping and environmental improvements around the high street including the space around the War Memorial and links to the beach, to create a more attractive environment for residents and businesses.

Positive reports for Seaview & Tealing Primary Schools

At last week’s Children & Learning Committee, Monifieth & Sidlaw Councillor Ben Lawrie welcomed positive reports for Seaview Primary School, Tealing Primary School and their respective nursery classes following inspections from Education Scotland.

Speaking at Committee, Councillor Lawrie said:

“I attended Seaview Primary School in my youth and it was a fantastic time for me which set me up for life. I remember it being a great learning environment with some really amazing staff who were very patient with my classroom antics.
I left Seaview 12 years ago but it’s very heartening to see those same standards being upheld today and knowing that the pupils there are in just as good hands now as I was all that time ago.

It’s also good to read the very positive comments about the children, the staff and the Headteacher of Tealing Primary School and their Nursery class. Whilst some areas of improvement have been outlined for both schools, I have full confidence that this feedback will be taken on board and that these schools are only going to get better.”

Information about the Seaview Primary School & Nursery Class inspection can be found here.

Information about the Tealing Primary School & Nursery Class inspection can be found here.

Cllr Lawrie has welcomed positive reports for local Primary Schools

Year of Young People 2018: Reflections

Over the years I’ve heard people say negative things about young people.

They cause trouble.

They’re on their phones too much.

That they’re too soft, or easily offended.

So it was a refreshing change of tone when as a nation we decided that 2018 was the year that we were going to put young people on the pedestal.

To celebrate their achievements, their contributions to our communities & the potential they each have in transforming our society.

As part of the Year of Young People, Angus Council developed a Youth Engagement Strategy and one of the impressive things about this strategy is that it was co-designed with young people. One important element of democracy is that change happens with people, not to them so it’s absolutely common sense that young people are involved in designing a strategy for engaging with young people.

I was also really impressed by the ‘Power of Youth’ Participatory Budgeting event (funded by the European Interreg Programme). This event had different projects put forward and voted on by young people with the winning projects receiving funding. This put power in to the hands of young people and let them decide what their own priorities are.

We did a lot of good things for the Year of Young People but I’m keen to keep the ball rolling. On top of the legacy work that the Council has planned there are things that us elected members can be doing to make sure our young people are represented.

We have local Members of Scottish Youth Parliament (or MSYPs) and I’ve had frequent contact with them where they’ve told me about the campaigns they’re involved in and where we’ve worked together on common goals.

Last year, by collaborating with our MSYPs, the Monifieth & Sidlaw Councillors managed to organise surgeries in Monifieth High School. This was a great opportunity to talk to local young people and find out what matters to them, it was certainly worth doing.

Young people are never short of ideas and hopefully with the Year of Young People, we’ve started something that won’t end any time soon.

You can find more information on Angus Council’s Year of Young People Projects here.

Young people receiving their Saltire Awards at ‘The Power of Youth’ event.

Cllr Ben Lawrie Welcomes Interreg Funding for Angus Health & Social Care

The Angus Council Scrutiny & Audit Committee met this morning in Forfar.

Commenting on the Angus Integration Joint Board Annual and Strategic Performance Report at this mornings Scrutiny & Audit Committee, Cllr Ben Lawrie said:

“I noticed that the [Angus Health & Social Care] Partnership accessed funding through the Interreg programme, allowing them to work with European Partners on digital innovation and improving service design.

This is a really good example of how the Interreg programme benefits Angus and I hope that the UK Government will continue participation in the programme after Brexit so we can continue to reap these benefits.

I’m also heartened to see all the work that’s being done around substance misuse.

I see there’s been some collaboration with the Tayside Council on Alcohol who do a lot of outstanding work around drugs and alcohol abuse so it’s good to see their involvement.

Also, the report lists a lot of training which has been overseen by the Alcohol & Drugs Partnership. I think there’s a good focus here on education, harm reduction and preventing deaths and this is something I welcome.”

Angus IJB Chief Officer Vicky Irons responded to Cllr Lawrie’s comments on the Interreg programme saying:

“We’ve had huge benefit from the Interreg project… We’ve learned so much from that partnership that will benefit us in the future.”

Angus Councillors back “Brexit Task Force”

A cross-party motion to establish a group to review the implications of Brexit for Angus was passed unanimously today at a meeting of Angus Council.

The motion was seconded by Liberal Democrat Councillor Ben Lawrie who said at the meeting:

“Brexit will have far-reaching implications for Angus; opportunities to be seized, and challenges to overcome.

If Angus is to make the most of Brexit, then it’s important that we keep our eye on the ball and prepare for every eventuality, this is exactly what this officer group will set out to do.

Whilst the list of issues for them to examine is not exclusive, some of the things they will look at include:

Funding
Angus currently receive millions of pounds from various EU funding programmes, some of which there may be scope to participate in from outwith the EU.

Domestic and structural funding looks set to be replaced by the UK Shared Prosperity Fund, the officer group will be well placed to respond to UK government consultations as they come out to make sure that replacement funds are properly targeted to meet the individual needs of Angus and that opportunities to cut bureaucracy in the funding application process are fully seized.

As well as funding, the group will look at

Changes to regulations
EU legislation currently affects much of the work that councils do around state aid, procurement, environmental regulations, waste management, energy efficiency etc. It will be prudent for the council to have an understanding of how leaving the EU will affect the way the council operates as well as if there is scope for powers coming from Brussels to be further devolved to local authorities.The group can also look at the

Effects on the labour force
For example, the soft fruit industry is one of Angus’ largest industries. An officer group will be able to examine how Brexit will affect the migrant workforce, which plays an integral role in this sector, and recommend any action that the council can take to make sure that the soft fruit industry is adequately supported.
This is in line with measures other councils in the UK have taken. In response to Brexit, Cornwall has set-up a Brexit task force which has already made calls to the government for solutions which will fit the region’s needs.

Brexit, for better or worse, will undeniably have implications for the council and across the whole of Angus. We should be prepared to hit the ground running on our date of departure.
If we wait until we leave the EU to review these implications it will already be too late. The earlier we set up this group, the earlier it can participate in UK government consultations to voice Angus’ needs. There are groups such as COSLA representing the needs of local authorities in general but they are not able to represent the individual and sector specific needs of Angus Council.

Failing to prepare is preparing to fail, and I hope that members here today will join me in supporting this motion so that this council is prepared for the future, come whatever may.”

Mike Rumbles MSP has commended the move, commenting:

“Bracing for the Brexit body blow is not an act of desperation, it is what is right to keep our most vulnerable housed, our industries flourishing and youngsters educated.

I commend this motion and am pleased a majority of Angus councillors voted in favour. I would also heavily recommend other councils across the country do the same.”

Saved! – Monifieth Recycling Centre open for another year.

At today’s full meeting of Angus Council, councillors voted 13 – 8 in favour of halting recycling centre closures across Angus.
Speaking at the meeting, Monifieth & Sidlaw Councillor Ben Lawrie said:

“I’d like to start by disagreeing with the comments made by one of the members here at the last meeting of the full council, when he said that he “doesn’t think recycling centres are that important”.

Because I do think recycling centres are important. So do my constituents in Monifieth and they are fiercely opposed to the closure of our local centre.

But that shouldn’t be news to anyone here.

This is a view that Monifieth made abundantly clear when the SNP originally proposed these closures.

They made it clear to me on the doorsteps prior to the election.

They made it very clear last week at the public meeting held by Councillor Myles.

And they’re still it making clear today, taking time out of their day to attend this meeting. The people’s voice on this issue has been consistent and united.

I’d like to commend the Monifieth Community Council and the people of Monifieth for the energy they’ve shown in making their opinions heard.
Democracy is at its best when people are active in telling their politicians what they want.

So I will be voting for the motion today, to give us more time, in the hope that we can find a sustainable and fair arrangement that satisfies people in Monifieth as well as across Angus.”

 

The motion puts on hold all closures of recycling centres across Angus for one year so that public consultation can be held and a deeper review of options can be consulted. Leader of the Council Bob Myles stating during the meeting that “We must make the right decisions, not the quick ones.”

 

Speaking after the meeting, Cllr Lawrie said:

“Despite it looking like a lost battle over the past few days, we’ve managed to pull out the stops and halt the imminent closure of the Monifieth Recycling Centre.

This isn’t a permanent solution however, we’ve bought ourselves another year, but a new site for the Centre will have to be found.

If us folk in Monifieth want there to be a local centre in the long term we’re going to have to be proactive in coming forward with offers or suggestions of a location. It won’t be easy but hopefully if we find a suitable site then there is potential for a brand new centre. To me, that would be the ideal outcome.”

Willie Rennie MSP & Cllr Lawrie campaigning to for the Monifieth Recycling Centre last April