Angus & Mearns Liberal DemocratsWorking Year Round for Angus, Mearns & Stonehaven

recyclingI have just sent an email to the Councillors for the Monifieth and Sidlaws Ward raising my concerns surrounding proposals to close recycling centres in Angus.
The message reads as follows:

“Dear Rob Murray JP, Sheila Hands, Craig Fotheringham and Margaret Thomson,

I am writing to you in regards to the Council’s proposed closure of
recycling centres across Angus, particularly the one in Monifieth.
The closure of Monifieth’s recycling facilities concerns me for a
number of reasons.
If the proposed closures go ahead, that will leave the centre in
Arbroath as the nearest recycling centre for people in Monifieth.
Having to travel to Arbroath to make use of these facilities will be
largely inconvenient and will increase our carbon emissions.
I’m also concerned that this will lead to an increase in fly-tipping
which will need to be dealt with at the councils expense, this seems counter-intuitive as the proposals are being made as a cost-saving measure in the first place.
I am also deeply concerned at the impact that closing the Monifieth recycling centre will have on jobs. Workers at the recycling centre work hard to provide us with a good service and I’d hate to see those jobs lost.

I’d also like to raise my concerns with the Council’s alternative
proposal to charge people for using recycling centres. This is what we pay council tax for and to double-charge us to use these facilities is unfair and could also lead to an increase in fly-tipping.
I believe that this problem stems from the council being critically
underfunded due to the Scottish Government’s freeze in council tax for the past decade and that the best solution can only come from the Scottish Government recognising the need to properly fund our local authorities.

Yours sincerely,
Ben Lawrie.

P.S. I have attached a link to a petition highlighting just under 3,000 people who share similar views, I hope that their concerns are duly noted.
https://www.change.org/p/angus-council-don-t-close-angus-re…

By davidmay

In my view Willie Rennie is correct when he says that the Scottish Tory leader is correct that Ruth Davidson backs the chancellors tax cuts for the wealthy while seemingly agreeing to cuts on benefits for the disabled. It seems to be that this sums up the Scottish Tories as they are happy to cut taxes for the wealthy but make no criticism of Osborne’s cuts on disability benefits.

‘Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie has today called out the leader of the Scottish Conservatives for being in George Osborne’s pocket as she continues to stand by the Chancellor’s tax cuts for the wealthy while keeping silent on benefits cuts for the vulnerable.

In a newspaper interview published today Ruth Davidson was unwilling to respond to questions regarding the three separate times she welcomed George Osborne’s budget, which would have cut £4 billion in Personal Independence Payments for disabled people over the next four years.

Commenting on the interview Mr Rennie said: “Ruth Davidson has been skewered by her support for George Osborne’s disability benefit cuts.’

“The Scottish Tories were the first to welcome George Osborne’s plans to cut taxes for the richest, and services and benefits for those at the bottom.

“The truth is that they would still be supporting the disability benefit cuts today if Iain Duncan Smith had not resigned.

“Ruth Davidson has matched George Osborne on tax cuts for the richest and was silent over disability benefit cuts. She is in the Chancellor’s pocket.”

From:: David May

Apr/16

13

Angus schools under the PPP scheme

By davidmay

Having read about the issues about the PPP schools in Edinburgh and the fact that several have been closed while inspection work was being carried out, I made contact with the director about the Angus schools that were constructed under the PPP scheme. I have been told that told that Angus Council has no buildings constructed by the partnership or contractor associated with the Edinburgh schools issue.
Altogether I am aware that Angus has seven PPP schools, and despite the fact that are no reasons to suggest that they have any problems or any issues, the council will work with our partners to ensure that their construction has been done in in accordance with appropriate standards
The director also went on to comment that the council wishes to assure parents and staff they have no reason to suspect there are any problems but that they will carry out inspection work in a discreet and unobtrusive way.

From:: David May

Apr/16

11

Blackfriars Court Roof

By davidmay

image001

A resident of Blackfriars Court in Montrose contacted me which led me to a site visit. I was told that due to heavy rain a roof was leaking over one of the staircases, and this has led to water leaking onto the staircase and therefore, potential difficulties for the elderly residents. I contacted the head of housing about this, and informed him that action was needed as soon as possible before there is an accident, especially as one of the residents has poor eyesight. I am delighted to report that I heard that the roof repair is underway.

From:: David May

Apr/16

8

Recycling report to Communities Committee

By davidmay

It is good news in the report that more residents are increasing the amount of recycling at home between 2013 and 2105 rather than going to recycling centres and this is due to the roll out of the new kerbside service across Angus.

However, I am aware that as a result of the Scottish Government budget decisions the council have had to make very considerable cuts and consequently, non statutory services are targeted for consideration for the cuts. The result is that Brechin, Carnoustie, Forfar, Kirriemuir and Monifieth recycling centres are being proposed for closure and this is very disappointing as it means for many residents they will have to drive further to get to their nearest centre, which environmentally is not good news.

I am also disappointed that there will also now be a cost to the collection of garden waste as this has been another of the successes of waste collection in the last few years. This is seen by some as a stealth tax being introduced by the SNP administration. I am concerned that some householders on very low incomes may have difficulties meeting this extra cost. Furthermore, there are likley to be some that put their garden waste in the general waste bin which means more going to landfill, which is the opposite of what our council would like to do.

The proposals are also not good in another area and they are not going to be welcomed by the withdrawal of food collection from some rural areas.

Like my party that is pushing a green agenda, I am very much a supportive of what our council has been doing in the area of recycling but overall the proposals are bad news as more is likely to head to landfill.

Additionally 5 unattended public toilets will now be closed and this is also disappointing, but the council have to meet the SNP government’s insistence on cuts and overall this saves overall over £800,000.

David

From:: David May

Apr/16

2

Cut in hours of Montrose Minor Injuries Unit

By davidmay

IMG_2287

I was informed about the cut in hours of Montrose Minor Injuries Unit which I which is I hope is only going to be temporary as the health board have had difficulties in recruiting appropriately trained and skilled staff. It is disappointing that this cut in hours is necessary as people will now have to travel much further to get the help they need, but I do appreciate why the board are having to do this. However it is a worry that this decision has had to be made as shortage of staff seem to be an issue for the health board as we have seen not only with this decision but also with the recent GPs problem in Brechin.

Shortages of staffing in the NHS seem to be an increasing problem and I urge the Health Minster to make this a key priority as services are been cut and the losers are the people in our county.

From:: David May

Apr/16

2

Concerns about Tayside Health Board openness

By davidmay

I was asked about the Angus Health and Social Care Partnership as I had previously raised my concerns, when the shadow board was in operation, about the need for the work of the partnership when it was legally established, that they would report, like we do at council committees, in an open and transparent way with the public and press being in attendance.

The reason I was urging this was due to the fact that Tayside Health Board do not seem to to have meetings in such an open and transparent way, and the current situation involving the future of the Mulberry Unit is a perfect example of this. It is important that people can ask questions of their councillor and for those to be raised at partnership meetings so that everyone can see how decisions are made. However, I have been assured, that unlike the way the Tayside Health Board operate, the partnership will be held in public.

The new Angus Health and Social Care Partnership, is very important as it will take responsibility for the health and social care services in Angus with the aim of improving the wellbeing of all those who use the services. It means that GPs, hospitals, social care staff, the voluntary and independent sectors will increasingly closer together for the ultimate benefit of the all the people in Angus and the partnership oversees this work.

From:: David May

Yesterday marked the one-year anniversary of me going public about my mental health for the first time. On the 30th of March 2015 I made a blog post on the Angus & Mearns Liberal Democrats website highlighting my experiences living with depression and seeking help. I can’t tell you how I scared I was after publishing it, there’s a lot of stigma surrounding mental illness and I had family and friends who would have known nothing about my depression prior to reading the blog.
Those fears couldn’t have been more unfounded. Within a fortnight, over 6,000 people had read my blog and I was receiving messages from local journalists asking to write about my story in the newspapers.

I received dozens of messages from strangers thanking me for coming out with my story, saying that they thought they were the only ones in the world feeling that way, from parents who thanked me for helping them to understand what their son or daughter was going through and from friends and family telling me how proud they were. A year has gone past and I still get the odd message from someone who has stumbled across the blog online, including a Canadian mental health magazine that has just published my story!

My story featured in Canadian "HERE Magazine"

My story featured in Canadian “HERE Magazine”

Me speaking at a Student Minds mental health awareness event.

Me speaking at a Student Minds mental health awareness event.

Depression has been something that’s dragged me down my whole life but for once I managed to take it and turn it into something positive. Being open about my experiences hasn’t made me subject to the ridicule I feared it would but has actually opened doors for me.
Shortly after posting my story online, somebody from the charity Student Minds contacted me and asked if I’d like to talk about my experiences alongside other people at a mental health awareness event, it was so comforting to have such a supportive platform to talk about such a sensitive topic and to see other people doing the same thing too and I’ve recently had the pleasure of talking for Student Minds again.

In the months following my blog release I quickly found myself becoming a committed mental health activist and decided to run in a by-election for the Scottish Youth Parliament with a manifesto based on raising awareness of mental illness and improving support for young people in North-East Fife. Whilst I didn’t win, I spoke  to lots of young people in Fife and managed  to spread the message that mental illness can happen to anyone and is nothing to be ashamed of.

One of my Scottish Youth Parliament Campaign posters displayed at Madras College.

One of my Scottish Youth Parliament Campaign posters displayed at Madras College.

My defeat in the Scottish Youth Parliament by-election didn’t deter me from being involved in the world of politics however. Getting involved in politics has been a really liberating experience for me, it has really given me a voice and without the support of my local party, none of my success to date in raising mental health awareness would have been possible. I’ve never been under the illusion that life is fair but being so involved in politics has really made me feel empowered and able to make positive changes in the world. I’m hoping to be a candidate for the council elections in Angus next year and with any luck I’ll be able to continue increasing awareness and support for mental health as a Councillor. Through politics I managed to meet the former Minister of State for Care and Support Norman Lamb who was very impressed by the work I’ve been doing, saying:

“I’m really impressed by Ben’s campaigning on mental health. He has brilliantly led by example. Openness about mental ill health is incredibly important if we are to combat stigma. He is a star!”

Norman has been a champion for raising awareness of mental health issues and to have his support was absolutely amazing.

Norm

Me with former Minister of State for Care and Support Norman Lamb.

Me being interviewed for the upcoming documentary; "A Confession of Depression."

Me being interviewed for the upcoming documentary; “A Confession of Depression.”

Currently I’m working on a documentary about my experience of depression with local film-maker (and my former high school teacher) Stuart Burns. Whilst the documentary is based on the blog I wrote last year, we’ve managed to involve some fantastic charities like Student Minds and Nightline to raise awareness of the work they do and the services that they provide. We even filmed an interview with the leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats Willie Rennie who spoke about the importance of treating mental health with the same priority as physical health and the role that politicians play in improving mental health services. The documentary is called “A Confession of Depression” and will hopefully be finished by the end of May.

Talking to Leader of the Scottish LibDems Willie Renne about mental health services in Scotland.

Talking to Leader of the Scottish LibDems Willie Rennie about mental health services in Scotland.

Whilst I still struggle with depression and anxiety, the work I’ve been doing to help other people going through similar problems has been a great source of strength for me. There still is a great deal of stigma attached to mental illness and I firmly believe that the best way to tackle this is to keep talking about it.
If you’re struggling with mental illness, you don’t need to man up, just open up. Trust me; people are nicer than you think.

Mar/16

29

Fence post at Hillside Park

By davidmay

IMG_2270

I noticed that the fence post at the park at Hillside was broken and youngsters could easily get onto the nearby road. In the past the fence had been re-inforced due to concerns that had been expressed to me that especially some of the younger children could easily access the road and as a result there were considerable safety issues.

I have made contact with a council officer and he has indicated that action will be taken to get a repair done.

From:: David May

Mar/16

25

Council motion on the Mulberry Unit.

By davidmay

I seconded the motion at the council yesterday about the Mulberry unit and the need for it to be retained and I heavily criticised Tayside Health Board for not only the decision to close the unit but also the total lack of openness and transparency in the way they made the decision on 10 March.

I backed the motion calling on the Chief Executive expressing the councils concerns to the SNP Health Minister, but following the council meeting I do not believe this goes far enough. I call on the SNP health Minister Shona Robison to stop the closure and call in the decision for her to look at in detail.

It is clear to me that the decision was rushed through before the Health and Social Care Integration Board was formally established on April 1st. It is also clear that their so called consultation was a sham and furthermore they did not even present the board with evidence of the cost and implications of their decision not only for the patients, Angus residents and staff but also the implications for the Susan Carnegie, which was built at a cost of £20 million and only opened just over 4 years ago, centre as the Mulberry unit takes up 1/3 of the building.

The Mulberry unit is a facility which plays a key role in serving Angus people with mental health problems on their doorstep. It now seems that NHS Tayside intend to close one of their 3 centres and it appears that the Mulberry unit is the favourite to be closed with its services likely to be transferred to the other centres in Dundee and Perth. So much for equality of access to Angus residents.

If one centre has to be closed why not the Dundee one as Dundee East residents could come to the Angus unit and the Dundee West units to the Perth one. Was this considered by the board ? Did the board at the cost implication in any detail?

AS a Lib Dem it is our parties position, which I fully support, that there is a need to expand mental health provision and this is the opposite to this. At a time when the Scottish Health minister makes comment that mental health provision is a priority, how can she say this and enable the opposite to happen.

This obsession with centralising services is a disaster for Angus as we have lost out time and time again and we need to put a halt to this. If the unit is closed it means that there will no longer be a facility for those with mental problems available locally. There also appears to be no doubt that this would have impact on crisis help which is also vital, as well as community-based care, in this our rural county which presently has enough problems giving timely, quality care and support.

Furthermore, it is obvious that closure will mean additional travel and costs for many staff, and support from family and friends to patients will be more difficult and this I believe is very important to recovery.

From:: David May

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