Aberdeenshire Labour 2017 Manifesto

Our Aberdeenshire Labour Manifesto 2017 CARING FOR SOCIETY

Aberdeenshire has a growing elderly population and more and more families are under increasing pressure to care for elderly relatives, with all the challenge that can bring. Without doubt the care sector is on the brink of crisis, as there is new demand on services which are under-resourced.

Financial cuts from the Scottish Government have made it difficult to help the most vulnerable.

The long council tax freeze crippled local government, depriving local services of vital funding. The 2017 local government settlement from the Scottish Government budget has cut another £170m from local government, putting further pressure on services to our communities.

The New Year started with news that 183 operations have been cancelled across the North East since November, due to shortage of nurses and other staff.

We hear that cuts across the region mean many people are having to travel to other centres in Scotland for scans and treatments which could be administered better in our own local hospitals.

We can’t let this continue.

Aberdeenshire Labour will keep up the campaign to increase awareness of this appalling situation and to end the Scottish Government’s underfunding of our health and social care services.

We will work with our parliamentary colleagues to improve staffing across NHS Grampian.

SOCIAL CARE

We believe it is right to invest in the social care necessary to deliver what people really need.

Our proposals to improve the sector are built on properly supporting staff and adopting in full the recommendations of UNISON’s Ethical Care Charter which will raise standards and reduce the turnover of staff.

We need to look after those who provide as well as receive care. We will ensure staff have time to care. Clients are not served well when staff are under pressure to fit in as many visits as possible. We will work towards longer care visits.

We will prioritise training for carer-workers and offer support to home-carers. And we will pay care workers a living wage.

Scottish Labour’s National Care Workers’ Guarantee will ensure that staff are paid for travel costs and travel time; that no staff are left on zero-hours contracts; and that proper training is given to all staff before they enter the workplace.
Better conditions for these vital workers, who look after our most vulnerable people, would mean lower turnover rates and so more consistency in care.

MENTAL HEALTH

We will ensure that mental health is given as much emphasis as physical health and acute services.

We will work positively with local providers and third sector groups to ensure there is support for mental health across our communities.

Every Academy will have access to a school counsellor to support young people’s mental health.

Young people will be able to take part in local groups and activities which improve their mental health.

TACKLING POVERTY AND INEQUALITY

The Warm Homes Act must be delivered. Too many households across Aberdeenshire are still living in fuel poverty.

We will encourage all organisations providing support services to people affected by unemployment and poverty across the region to work together to make sure that residents in our communities are not left behind. We will encourage a regular forum for groups from Social work and Advice Centres to GPs and schools to share ideas on how we can serve people in need better.

SUPPORTING PEOPLE TO LIVE IN OUR COMMUNITIES

Sheltered housing is in short supply considering our ageing population. Warden services at the complexes we already have are limited. We need to press the government to fund more sheltered housing and the support that goes with it.

In addition, we will look at schemes to help older people to stay in their own homes with support systems within the community. Helping older and disabled people to remain independent in this way, means less money spent on care homes and less unnecessary visits to hospitals.

Aberdeenshire Council has already started a great programme for making settlements Dementia Friendly, with particular advances in places like Portlethen. We need to build on this and encourage local communities and businesses to help us increase the number of dementia friendly villages and towns.

We will also continue to explore innovative ways in which adults with learning difficulties can be supported to play an active part in our communities

SUSTAINING OUR COMMUNITIES

Aberdeenshire Labour will continue to prioritise the council’s carbon budget.

We will focus on reducing energy use in council buildings and will look to develop renewable energy.
It is essential that the council work to ensure that its fleet of vehicles is as environmentally friendly as possible.

Aberdeenshire Labour will keep business travel to a minimum and support the use of information technology to conduct meetings wherever possible.

We will encourage the reuse and recycling of waste materials and support the development of a bottle return scheme. We will seek to develop practices to further the circular economy.

Aberdeenshire Labour believes that the council should set an example in its day to day practices and encourage our local communities to consider the environmental impact of local activities.

LET CHILDREN FLOURISH

We want to give every young person across Aberdeenshire the best start in life. Everyone should have the chance to develop the skills and knowledge they need to compete for the jobs of the future. This is essential for both our young people themselves and to support the changing economy in our area.

We know the vital importance of a child’s early years to their ability to learn and make progress throughout childhood and to their happiness in later life.

Children need a secure, poverty free, safe, stimulating and caring environment in order to thrive. We will therefore support parents in every way to provide this essential start in life for their child.

We aim in Aberdeenshire to relieve the negative effects of early inequality.

Investment in good quality childcare and early year’s education is vital to help children achieve their full potential. We value learning through play and out-door activity as excellent preparation for later study.

Aberdeenshire Labour will support schools as they continue to develop excellence in learning and teaching.

We know that children learn best when they have the right support in the right place and at the right time for them and we will aim to deliver this.

We continue to value the contribution made by our pupil support assistants and will work to secure the appropriate provision of these assistants in our schools.

We respect the terms and conditions of all council staff. We believe that pupil support assistants who are graduates and who would like to become teachers should be supported to train for that new role.

Links with our local universities to develop teacher training opportunities will be enhanced, as we continue to tackle the problem of teacher recruitment.

We also believe that library services offer inspiration, knowledge and enrichment for the wider community.

 
We want to protect them and help them to modernise with new technology and web- based learning. We will ask schools to partner with the local library service to give every child a chance to find out what they offer.

We want our young people to be involved in the decision making processes which influence their learning. We will continue to support the work of the Scottish Youth Parliament and pupil forums across Aberdeenshire.

Young people have been contributing to the work of the Education Committee through their representatives on the Aberdeenshire Youth Council, and we will ensure that young people’s opinions are heard at all stages of decision making.

We will continue to work with Aberdeenshire’s Looked After Children to make sure that their needs are recognised and that they are given support from the authority as Corporate Parents. We will continue to support them into work experience, further training and work.

Young people are enriched by a variety of additional experiences. We will support music education and cultural experiences within our communities. People from across the generations will be enabled to come together to explore arts and heritage.

We will promote opportunities for sports and physical activity across Aberdeenshire which are accessible and affordable.

It is important that the best use is made of the school estate and we will ensure that communities can use school facilities out of school hours.

We recognise the importance of youth clubs in our communities as places where young people can meet. We will work with our young people to identify particular areas where clubs are needed and will support their development,

We are pleased to see a range of strategies coming forward to develop the young work- force and will continue to work to help all our young people to develop their workplace skills.

We will seek to engage more with parents and carers to support children’s learning and development.

Aberdeenshire Labour will continue to campaign against the centralisation of education. Head teachers should be allowed to focus on their role as leaders of teachers and learning in their communities, supported with appropriate business services provided by the local authority.

Scottish Labour’s fairer tax policies would enable more money to be spent directly on education from nursery right through to higher education; investing in all-age, year- round, flexible and affordable childcare, increasing teacher numbers and classroom assistants, restoring bursaries for poorer students at university and fully-funding those for college students.

In the face of savage cuts, Aberdeenshire Labour will continue to prioritise and invest in our children and young people.
IMPROVING SERVICES, CREATING JOBS

Aberdeenshire has long been at the forefront of technological innovation and personal expertise in the Oil and Gas Industry. However, with the current experience of redundancies and closures, we need to build a sustainable and diverse future for Aberdeenshire.

This means supporting our life sciences, food and drink, agricultural and fishing, and tourism industries to encourage diversification of the economy and bring more people to visit some of the most beautiful parts of Scotland. This means working with Universities and Colleges in the North East to see how we can translate some of the greatest technological expertise in the country into new industrial opportunities.

We will work constructively with Opportunity North East and the private sector to maximise the economic potential of Aberdeenshire.

We have played an active part in delivering the City Region Deal across our area and we will continue to do so, while also contributing to the development of a second City Region Deal. We will ensure that support can be delivered not only to the Aberdeen Travel to Work Area, but also to all Aberdeenshire locations. We want to see the maximum local impact for money being brought into our region.

Aberdeenshire Labour has influenced the direction of Regeneration in our northern towns of Fraserburgh, Peterhead, Banff and Macduff, ensuring that jobs and economic growth are considered alongside social developments and education.

We have worked to establish a greater local voice in regeneration projects. We will continue to work with the local communities to develop effective and transformational regeneration projects.

We will also work to realise the benefits of ongoing economic development projects in the Energetica corridor.

We will support the development of locality planning in towns across Kincardine and Mearns, Marr and Garioch so that they are able to develop to meet the needs of the local communities.

We will consider the business case for the decriminalisation of car parking to help support the economy in our towns and larger settlements.

Aberdeenshire Labour will support skills transition programmes to encourage those who have recently found themselves out of work to retrain and join new vocations. We value the opportunities provided through life-long learning, and Aberdeenshire Labour will continue to support it vigorously in all its forms.

And this means ensuring that young people joining the workforce have good quality apprenticeships and job opportunities. We will work with local partners to give young workers the best possible induction to the workforce.

We continue to work for equality within the workplace so that nobody feels discriminated against.
We have seen the impact of recent business rate revaluations across the North-East and have actively worked to develop a scheme through which the Council can give temporary relief to local businesses meeting agreed criteria.

We are lobbying for a proper reassessment of the system of business rates through the Barclay Review so that a long-term solution can be found to support our business sector.

Labour has worked actively in Aberdeenshire to protect local government jobs, despite Scottish Government budget cuts. We are committed to no compulsory redundancies for council employees.

We will also continue to work alongside trade unions to protect the terms and conditions of workers ensuring dignity and respect in the workplace.

We will campaign to ensure that the terms of the Construction Charter are implemented by Aberdeenshire.

Aberdeenshire Labour will continue to fight for greater access to and rollout of broadband. This is crucial for both businesses and households in unlocking further economic potential.

The monopoly position which BT has here has led to poorer availability of business quality fibre optic cable. Businesses are suffering; often having to have office space in an area where there is poor or non-existent broadband connection.

Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire are both in the top 5 areas in Scotland for uptake of fibre broadband services provided as a result of the current upgrade – indicating demand for fibre based services is there.

Aberdeenshire Labour will campaign in May to ensure businesses, schools and homes in Aberdeenshire can fully benefit from existing technology fully deployed elsewhere.

INVESTING IN COMMUNITIES

Developing the health and wellbeing of our communities is essential.

Encouraging participation in sport and physical active by everyone is a key part of this. It is part of the prevention agenda, by which we can reduce demands on NHS services.

Aberdeenshire Labour will continue to work to make sports facilities more accessible to more people, by developing a charging policy which targets concessions where they are needed.

We appreciate the opportunities which sports clubs give to people to participate in sport at every level and encourage the council to work in partnership with them. We acknowledge the time and effort given by volunteers to ensure the smooth running of the clubs and the expert training available to them.

Aberdeenshire Labour will look creatively at ways to develop sport and physical activity, including in partnership with others.

 
We value the contribution that young people can make to sports development and we fully support the Young Sports Leader scheme.

We will work to ensure that residents across Aberdeenshire have access to good quality sports facilities.

COMMUNITY SAFETY

We will continue to work to prevent gender based violence in all its forms from our communities. We value partnership work with other public and voluntary organisations to achieve this.

We acknowledge that violence against women is a particular concern and we will contribute both to the prevention agenda and to the provision of support to those affected.

We will work to promote awareness of existing support groups for people affected by gender based violence.

We are aware of the growing dangers of internet crime and will work with the Police and others to develop programmes of awareness for our schools and wider community.

It is essential that road and water safety programmes continue to be prioritised.

We will develop the work done by the safe routes to school team to help pupils get to and from school in safety.

We support the Street Scape campaign to ensure that the streets in our towns are suitable for people of limited mobility or of visual impairment.

Aberdeenshire Labour will continue to scrutinise the local police service to ensure that numbers of police officers are maintained and that those in place liaise with the local communities.

BUILDING HOMES

Labour believes that everyone deserves a safe, warm, comfortable, affordable home. A good home is key to our wellbeing and life chances; it can help to reduce the attainment gap, improve our health, support our mental health and help Scotland achieve a fairer society.

Public sector house building is key to supporting the construction industry, providing jobs for young people, and regenerating our towns and cities.

There are approximately 10,000 households on the waiting list for social housing in Aberdeenshire – because there is simply not enough housing for people to rent at affordable prices.

In 1999, almost half of people under the age of 34 owned their own home. Now the figure has dropped to around a quarter.
And without new homes our young people are locked into the private rental sector with ever increasing rents and house prices. Young people must be supported with housing that meets their needs.

Aberdeenshire Labour wants a co-ordinated national house building plan, setting out its own vision of how government working with councils like Aberdeenshire can tackle Scotland’s housing crisis.

We plan to extend the housing building programme for 2016-20 in Aberdeenshire. These will include a minimum number built to wheelchair accessibility standards

We will ensure that money from Government for affordable housing is spent appropriately in Aberdeenshire.

In Aberdeenshire there is a particular problem due to the relatively high house prices making it very difficult to recruit key workers on mid-range salaries.

We will work to ensure that there is availability of housing at affordable prices to rent or buy within Aberdeenshire, in order to support the recruitment of key workers in education, health and emergency services.

We will improve consultation and engagement over the local development plan. We will promote greater collaboration between local communities and developers. While respecting the planning process, we will promote and support projects to build new houses led and managed cooperatively within our local communities.

As well as improving the supply of houses for sale and appropriate support for first-time buyers, a fair housing market needs both a healthy private rented sector and a supportive social housing sector.

There are around 10,000 households in private rented accommodation in Aberdeenshire. The 2015 Scottish House Condition Survey found that over half of the properties in the private rented sector across Scotland failed the Scottish Housing Quality Standard, while 5 per cent of the stock is below the tolerable standard –

indicating that the property’s state is so bad that no one should be expected to live in it. We will promote a fair deal for tenants and landlords.

We support an extension of the Housing Charter and improved quality standards for tenants in the private rented sector also. Tenants should feel that their accommodation is their home. In addition we believe that private rents should be regulated to stop unscrupulous landlords increasing rents without good justification.

Scotland still faces the challenge of homelessness. In recent months, we’ve seen a rise in the number of homeless children living in temporary accommodation and people sleeping rough. There were more than 1300 applications from households at risk of homelessness in Aberdeenshire in 2015. These included more than 500 children. Often there is a need for temporary accommodation for these families at risk.

We need to ensure that this accommodation is good quality and most of all, affordable, especially for working households, and that there is a clear plan for moving on from temporary accommodation for every household. Currently too many people are spending far too long in temporary accommodation.

 
The general homelessness services that are currently available cannot meet the needs of these clients in an effective way.

We will seek out innovative ways to improve our service to the homeless and those at risk of homelessness, working jointly with appropriate partner services and sharing best practice locally and nationally.

GETTING THE COUNTRY MOVING

Aberdeenshire Labour will campaign for the re-regulation of bus services – so they will serve the needs of local communities, not simply the private profit of a few wealthy individuals.

We want to see democratic control of transport and municipal ownership of buses as happens in Edinburgh and the Lothians, reinvesting profits back into local services. We will re-regulate Scotland’s buses to give local communities and councils greater say over the services they need and want.

The number of people travelling by bus has fallen by 15 per cent in the last decade, there are fewer routes and yet bus fares have risen by almost a fifth. Stagecoach, however, made £165m profit before tax in 2015. Yet if you are a jobseeker in rural Aberdeenshire you could pay as much as £9 for a bus ticket for your compulsory journey to a job centre.

We think this is a disgrace – and we will campaign to enable Aberdeenshire to offer an alternative to help increase equality of services, improve community links between towns, and encourage tourism across the region.

We will also continue to support community transport provision, which is often the lifeblood of communities – providing vital support for those who need it. It is essential that we safeguard the quality of life for those who use these services, and protect them

We will invest more in active travel, not just to improve people’s transport choices, but to improve people’s health and wellbeing and make our communities safer. We will promote the development of more walking and cycling routes within and between our communities.

Aberdeenshire Labour understand the issues that motorists face – particularly potholes, common on the frequently traversed rural roads during the winter months. We will prioritise an emergency fund for repairing potholes for especially bad winters, saving motorists money by preventing costly repairs.

Aberdeenshire Labour will press for the speedy development of the Laurencekirk junction. We will work to ensure that new roads built in Aberdeenshire meet local needs – economic, social and environmental.

We will lobby Transport Scotland to ensure that they take responsibility for many of the Aberdeenshire roads damaged during the construction of the AWPR.

Aberdeenshire Labour will continue to campaign for better train services. We have demanded a fares freeze for passengers who have been dealing with overcrowded, delayed and cancelled trains.
We will continue to campaign for a publicly-owned not-for-profit company be established to run ScotRail in the interests of passengers rather than profits.

PAYING FOR GOOD PUBLIC SERVICES

Aberdeenshire Labour does not believe that Tory austerity has to be pushed down to local services by the SNP government. We can stop the cuts.

Because of the different, fairer decisions Scottish Labour would make on tax, spending on public services in Scotland would increase in real terms. A 50p top rate of tax for those earning more than £150,000 a year would ensure we can invest extra resources in our services, particularly social care to help the most vulnerable and elderly in our communities.

With new income tax powers coming to the Scottish Parliament, Scottish Labour is committed to, and will continue to campaign for, a basic rate of income tax one pence higher than that set by the Tory UK government – though no-one earning £20,000 or less will be affected.

And we will use that extra income to massively improve our education system from nursery right through to higher education.

In Scotland we can and should make fairer, more progressive, choices to protect our public services and those who work to deliver them.

It is time for the hated council tax to go.

We would introduce a fairer system which will mean 80 per cent of households across Scotland will pay less than they do today.

Tourism taxes, devolution of the Crown Estate, and a land value tax could unlock over £150m for councils, and spur on economic growth, creating jobs and improving services.