Local MSP calls for North Lanarkshire Leisure to ‘rule out’ reduction to opening hours
SNP MSP for Coatbridge & Chryston, Fulton MacGregor, has welcomed the announcement from the Leader of North Lanarkshire Council – Labour Councillor Jim Logue – that the administration would not support a reduction in hours at the Time Capsule in Coatbridge.
Responding to a question from SNP Councillor Fergus MacGregor at Thursday’s meeting of the council, Councillor Logue said:
‘There are no plans to change the opening hours of the Time Capsule…[following completion of refurbishment works, the facility] will fully reopen in time for the Spring Break’
The announcement from the Leader of the Council came after a petition to stop the change of hours was signed by over one thousand local people in just a few days.
With the decision lying in the hands of the North Lanarkshire Leisure (NLL) board, and not the council administration, Mr MacGregor has called on NLL to clarify its position in full.
Commenting, Fulton MacGregor said:
‘I welcome this announcement from the Council Leader that his administration will not support any move from NLL to reduce the opening hours of the Time Capsule.
‘While Labour claim that this campaign is based on speculation, it is clear from the letter sent to me by NLL that change is on their agenda. I made sure that people had access to the Managing Director’s response so they could draw their own conclusions. Labour need to stop treating the public with contempt and acknowledge that this is a very real threat to a treasured facility in Coatbridge.
‘Given the clear support for keeping the facility open seven days, both from the public and politicians, it is time for North Lanarkshire Leisure to once and for all rule out any change.’
Below is the response I received from NLL to my recent communication regarding concerns that the Waterpark is to be closed on week days.
Dear Mr MacGregor,
Thank you for your comments about the Time Capsule.
May I respond as follows.
The present situation is informed and driven solely by the planned capital works, management of emerging issues and the forward planning of works required to complete these works successfully. Additionally, a business continuity plan has been developed and implemented to provide access to services over this period. Allied to this a communications strategy was developed that has provided notice to staff and customers around service delivery and access, aspirations around the ambitious improvement plans and the benefits that will potentially be enjoyed by NLL customers, members and groups when these are complete.
I am unable to comment on the public speculation around the venue, suffice to say as I am sure you are also aware, that I along with the Board of Directors of NLL continue to review our operations and explore efficiency options internally in line with the current and very challenging funding constraints, overhead and operational cost pressures and the NLL trading position. These discussions and deliberations are ongoing to achieve a balanced budget for 2019/20.
All works have been based on customer and staff feedback to improve the customer experience. Upgrade and expansion and of the changing village and toilet facilities are required to improve the standards of cleaning and hygiene, child supervision and safety, staff supervision and reduce anti-social behavior. These works are essential to ensure NLL can continue to provide the local community with a first class health, fitness and social experience.
In terms of disability groups utilising the waterpark there are no specific groups bookings at present, however as mentioned there will be services provided in the Waterpark to support participation on an individual and pay as you go basis. Groups booking can also be discussed on request. Additionally, assisted support needs sessions are available for skating every Sunday 6.00pm – 7.30pm and for swimming every Wednesday from 8.15pm to 9.00pm.
All capital works in the Waterpark will be completed by March 2019.
Whilst we are aware that the planned closure will cause inconvenience to users, this action is necessary to ensure the works can be achieved safely, successfully and efficiently. The full venue will remain open during this period with the exception of the Waterworld, however an ambitious business contingency plan has been put in place to sustain services to meet local demand during the work period in line with anticipated seasonal trends for this time of the year. In this regard this, the Waterpark will be only be closed fully in November and December, with weekend operating being implemented in January, February & March in addition to the school break period. This constitutes a significant increase in operating days than was initially envisaged and will continue to cater for periods of high demand. As stated the rest of the venue including the 25m pool, Ice Rink, Gym & Fitness Studios will remain unaffected during this refurbishment period, allowing customers to participate and enjoy services as normal free from any disruption.
In terms of employee notification, staff had been informed about the imminent works which were planned to commence in November, but unfortunately due to the works time lines this has been extended beyond what was previously anticipated. NLL have put out a full communication plan to all staff in regards to the works and progress update as we go forward. Additionally, the Waterworld was closed during October for essential maintenance and reopened on the 2 November for 3 days which influenced the communication plan to casual staff, and from this date the casual staff were briefed by venue management in regarding to the planned operating periods from January to the end of March due to extension of the capital works. The casual staff resource are a valued and essential part of the a NLL workforce plan to ensure the quality, sustainability and reliability of service delivery and will continue to be treated in a fair and equitable basis within the prevailing policy and procedures provision within NLL. NLL also play a full and active part within a collective consultation agreement with the trade unions regarding employee relations within the organisation. NLL will progress a redeployment plan across all the venues for all full time, part time and variable staff to ensure employment hours are safeguarded during this time frame. It is also anticipated that we will still also require numerous casual employees who will be offered opportunities at the weekend at the Waterpark and also other venues throughout NLL
North Lanarkshire Leisure (NLL) operates as an ALEO (Arms-Length External Organisation) of North Lanarkshire Council. We work in close partnership with the Council, as its sports and leisure provider, sharing its vision to provide the highest quality services across the area. We are a not-for-profit organisation, limited by guarantee, and any surplus income is reinvested to improve facilities, services, programmes, activities and staff training in pursuit of NLL’s charitable objectives. In my role I truly and wholly recognise the value, benefits and contributions that NLL services deliver to local communities particularly and common to very challenging and deprived local environments. This is in regard to the execution of our charitable objectives to promote the advancement of public health ,the advancement of public participation in sport, the provision of recreational facilities to the community and the provision of social welfare. Please be assured that all decisions that I consider are founded and based on safeguarding the quality, stability and sustainability of the services we deliver. These services are delivered within a customer focused approach in order to meet the sport, physical activity, social and health needs of the communities within North Lanarkshire
Looking to the future and as you may be aware, NL Leisure faces significant financial pressures due to the increasingly difficult marketplace that it finds itself operating within. This, coupled with a reduction in management fee made available from NLC has found the organisation dealing with unprecedented financial pressures. The last 3 years have seen efficiency savings totalling £7.048m which represents 55% of the total efficiency savings the company has had to make since 2006. At the same time the management fee has also seen significant cuts, again with the highest proportion over the last three years. The management fee as a proportion of turnover has reduced from 57% in 2006/7 to 33% in 2018/19. Given the pressures on public sector finance, it seems likely that pressures to further reduce the management fee will remain. Based on the latest information from NLC and their anticipated budget settlement for 2019/20, NLL are already scenario planning for further reductions in the management fee allied to inflationary costs pressures impacting on the overall efficiency savings required to reach a balanced budget.
You may be aware that in order to avert cost pressures this year myself and the Board of Directors approved a programme of revised opening hours and local service agreements to mitigate current cost pressures and provide savings options for next year given the anticipated and forthcoming budget settlements. By implementing the efficiency savings this year it will ensure that the company will meet the breakeven budget set for this year as well as allowing the new operating models to be fully tested to allow for any amendments and to finalise likely annual savings for the 2019/20 financial year. These were very challenging decisions, however were required to provided sustainability in the current financial climate. To support and inform this NLL thoroughly completed due diligence and analysed usage, customer and club profiles at each of the venues, and tailored opening hours to meet demand in efforts to minimise the impact on customers.
Given these pressures, it is prudent for NLL to continue to explore all options and responsibly review the operational subsidies and investment requirements based on income generation opportunities of the individual facilities across the operational portfolio. This is imperative to mitigate against the budget cost pressures that NLL are facing to ensure the future financial sustainability of the organisation. In this situation no current services are protected and the review and due diligence on services and savings will continue moving forward and will be fulfilled in consultation with staff, customers and our trade unions partners. No further announcements on this are envisaged at the current time.
Based on the above approach the Time Capsule service plan and opening hours will be subject to ongoing review to support the 2019/20 budget plan and to best meet customer needs for services required. I would advise that the venue operates at a significant subsidy and is experiencing diminishing income returns year on year and against budget and increasing staffing costs and other operating costs which mean the status quo is not tenable. Within this approach I will be reviewing options to make the Waterpark more cost effective whilst also enhance the health & safety of the area through modern technology and the utilisation of cameras. This is carried out in conjunction and in association with external industry experts within the leisure industry.
I trust you find my response helpful.
Health services in Lanarkshire will receive a £43.2m boost next year, the Scottish Government unveiled in the budget.
The inflation busting increase will see NHS Lanarkshire funding increase 3.7% year on year.
The budget saw SNP Finance Secretary Derek Mackay increase total health and care funding by £729m, putting the future of the health service at the centre of the Scottish Government’s financial plan.
The Finance Secretary did however highlight the risk Brexit plays to this investment, with the potential for the Scottish Government to be forced to review the budget should the UK face a ‘No Deal’ scenario.
Commenting, SNP MSP Fulton MacGregor said:
“People across Lanarkshire will welcome the significant investment in our local NHS services, with a real-term increase in spending.
“The SNP value our NHS and are determined to ensure it stays fit for the future.
“In contrast, the budget exposed the Tory proposals as completely hollow – with their plan to hand high earners a tax cut leaving a £1 billion hole in our public spending.
“Meanwhile, even Labour insiders have admitted that their plans are a ‘shambles’ with the party failing to cost their spending demands.
“The SNP budget delivers for our NHS in Lanarkshire.”
SNP MSP FULTON MACGREGOR VOTES AGAINST DAMAGING BREXIT DEAL
The Scottish Parliament has overwhelmingly rejected Theresa May’s false choice of a bad Brexit or No Deal.
The joint motion agreed by the SNP, Labour, Greens and the Lib Dems stated that a better alternative must be found – leaving the Tories isolated in their support for Theresa May’s discredited proposals.
Commenting, local SNP MSP Fulton MacGregor said:
“Scotland voted overwhelmingly to remain in the EU, but our interests have been ignored by the UK government since day one.
“With the Scottish Parliament now overwhelmingly against the false choice of Theresa May’s deal or No Deal, it is time for the UK government to listen.
“Theresa May’s deal is at this point little more than a hypothetical exercise, with all sides of the House of Commons determined to defeat it on Tuesday.
“The clock is ticking. It’s time for a new approach and to look at the real alternatives which will protect jobs and livelihoods in Coatbridge & Chryston – whether that be a second referendum giving Scotland the opportunity to remain in the EU, or the compromise proposal of staying in the single-market that the Scottish Government unveiled two years ago.”
“I will be holding a surgery this Friday for EU nationals that will seek to make their voices heard at this time. The Brexit talks have worried many of my constituents – especially EU nationals who contribute so much to our communities – they deserve some answers.”
SNP MSP Fulton MacGregor has slammed the UK government’s cuts to welfare, after new figures revealed that foodbank use in North Lanarkshire has risen by 26% since last year.
Foodbank use in Scotland has risen by 15% between April and September compared to the same period in 2017. Foodbank providers have said the rise is largely due to the in-built minimum wait of five weeks for a first payment for those migrated to Universal Credit – with many more people forced to wait even longer than five weeks.
Britain’s biggest foodbank provider, the Trussell Trust, has called for ‘urgent changes’ to Universal Credit – while the SNP have consistently called for a halt to the roll-out of the scheme.
Last week, the United Nationals Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights visited the UK to investigate the impact of austerity.
Commenting on the figures, Fulton MacGregor said:
“These are truly heart-breaking figures for Coatbridge & Chryston, which bring into sharp focus the devastating impact the Tory government is having on our local community.
“The fact that foodbank use is growing across Scotland is a clearly damning indictment of UK government cuts to welfare, and the botched roll-out of Universal Credit.
“While sustained Tory cuts have created this problem, we can see that where Universal Credit has rolled out it has made things worse – which is why the roll out of UC must be halted, so the fundamental flaws can be addressed.
“I see the impact of Tory benefit cuts on a daily basis in my constituency, and the Tories have shown time and time again that they cannot be trusted with social security in Scotland.
“Only with full powers over social security can we begin to mitigate the effects of this disaster of a UK government, in order to make Scotland an equal country with a dignified and fair welfare system.”
SNP MSP Fulton MacGregor has criticised the UK Government for failing the people of Coatbridge & Chryston, following this year’s Budget announcement.
After promising to end austerity, the UK Government’s budget has in fact failed Scottish people, with Scotland’s resource block grant almost £2 billion lower in real terms next year than it was less than a decade ago.
The Budget does not deliver on the promises of a rise in public spending – Scotland’s NHS has been short-changed, the disastrous roll-out of Universal Credit has not been halted, and the richest 10% of the UK population will be the ones who benefit most from Tory tax cuts.
Fulton MacGregor said:
“This Tory Budget falls a long way short of delivering for the people of Scotland.
“Working people will be £1,600 worse off thanks to their mishandling of Brexit, and the changes in this year’s Budget do nothing to alleviate the untold damage this will do.
“The reality of this Budget is that the Tories have dug themselves a deeper hole, with no clue how to get out of it. People in Coatbridge & Chryston and across Scotland, are getting a bad deal with the Tories.
“The SNP will not support Tory tax cuts for the richest at the expense of the poor.
“Instead of ploughing on with more harmful austerity, the UK Government should commit to a realistic plan for investment in public services, to grow the economy and to boost jobs, incomes and living standards.
“This budget has exposed in stark terms the democratic deficit of the UK, and why we need full powers over Scotland’s finances to grow our economy and build a fairer country.”
The Scottish Parliament will today (Thursday) discuss the advantages of paternity leave in a debate led by Fulton MacGregor MSP.
Mr MacGregor will challenge the presumption that women are primarily responsible for raising children, and argue that paternity leave leads to a range of positive outcomes, including tackling wider societal inequality and a reduction in incidences of post-natal depression.
Mr MacGregor’s speech will call for more employers in Scotland to adopt practices which allow for enhanced paternity leave or pay beyond the two week statutory period.
All Scottish Government employees are entitled to four weeks’ paternity leave, which the Coatbridge and Chryston MSP wants other employers to match.
Speaking in the debate, Mr MacGregor will say;
“Just now in the UK and Scotland fathers get up to 2 weeks that the dad can take from the birth of the child. Some employers, including the Scottish Government, offer a bit more; up to 4 weeks but the general standard is 2 weeks.
“This lack of support and recognition for fathers – which is historical – only reflects and reinforces cultural assumptions about traditional gender roles where the father is the breadwinner and the mother is the primary carer.
“As parliamentarians, we have a duty to challenge that head on. We are way behind many other countries in doing so. For example Iceland, Slovenia, Sweden, Finland and Norway all offer between 10 and 12 weeks of paternity leave.
“We can call on the UK Government, local authorities, health boards, other public bodies and private companies to follow the Scottish Government and introduce 4 weeks paternity leave as a minimum. It’s another small step on the way to the Scotland we want to become.”
POSITIVE ECONOMIC GROWTH AS SCOTLAND MOVES AHEAD OF UK
SNP MSP Fulton MacGregor has praised new figures showing that Scotland’s economy has outperformed the UK’s in the second quarter of this year.
According to official figures, announced by Scotland’s Chief Statistician, the economy in Scotland grew by 0.5% in the second quarter of 2018 while growth in the UK was at 0.4%.
In the first half of this year, Scottish GDP grew by 0.8% – ahead of the UK at 0.6% over the same period, and already higher than the 0.7% growth forecast by the Scottish Fiscal Committee for 2018 as a whole.
The last year has seen the Scottish economy grow by a total of 1.7%, whilst the UK lags behind on 1.3%.
This growth in Scotland comes as concerns increase over the handling of Brexit negotiations, with Brexit potentially costing the Scottish economy £12.7billion a year – the equivalent of £2,300 for every person in the country.
Fulton MacGregor MSP said:
“It is extremely encouraging to see that economic growth in Scotland is exceeding expectations – benefitting people in Coatbridge & Chryston and across the country.
“These latest figures show the success of the Scottish Government’s approach, focused on building a strong economy, investing in business and enterprise and supporting the industries of the future.
“This success is welcome, but Brexit poses a real threat to Scottish jobs and household incomes – since the European single market is over eight times bigger than the UK market alone.
“Single market membership is absolutely crucial to protecting the jobs, incomes, and hard-won rights of millions of people across Scotland and the UK. The Tories must urgently commit to staying in the single market.”
This year’s SNP Programme for Government will help contribute to a successful and vibrant Coatbridge & Chryston, driving progress in health, social security, the environment and the economy, the SNP’s Fulton MacGregor has said.
Coatbridge & Chryston will benefit from ambitious action in a wide range of areas throughout 2018-19, including:
- Empowering head teachers to lead improvements to their schools with more power over their own budgets; developing ways for parents and pupils to ensure their voices are heard in decision-making; giving £10m to schools and councils to work together across regions; continuing to support teacher recruitment; and investing £33 million over three years to help children in care with education.
- A National Export plan ‘A Trading Nation’, backed by £20m, will boost the value of Scottish exports, help Scottish companies succeed in emerging markets, and provide additional help to those considering overseas trade.
- The National Infrastructure Mission, the most ambitious infrastructure spending plans yet, will invest £1.5 billion more infrastructure each year by 2025-26, including for faster broadband, improved transport and more low-carbon energy.
- £250m will be invested to reform the way we treat mental health in children and adults – delivering 430 new school, college and university counsellors, and fast-track specialist treatment systems for those with serious mental illness.
- A new Scottish Social Security System with dignity and respect at its heart will deliver 11 benefits, including the first Best Start Grant payments for low income families with young children by Christmas, 6 months earlier than planned; a 13% increase in the Carers’ Allowance – an extra £442 per person this year – as well as funeral expense assistance.
- New legislation to introduce a Scottish National Investment Bank.
- A major package of reforms in the justice system – with a new support system for victims, witnesses and families of those affected by crime, including a dedicated case worker for families of murder victims, improved information and support about prisoner release, as well as support for engagement between victims and offenders to help the victim and to prevent reoffending.
- £1bn investment a year including funding for low carbon transport solutions and to phase out new petrol and diesel cars and vans by 2032 – creating at least 20 electric towns across Scotland by 2025; adding 1500 new charge points in homes, businesses, and in public; investing £20 million to help people switch to electric vehicles; adding more than 1500 new ultra low emission vehicles to public sector fleets; and investing £1.7 million to add over 100 green buses.
SNP MSP Fulton MacGregor said:
“The SNP’s plan for Scotland signals a major boost for jobs and the economy in Coatbridge & Chryston, including an additional £7 billion infrastructure investment in schools, hospitals, transport and digital connectivity over the next five years.
“We are continuing the major reforms in our health, education and justice systems over the course of 2018-19 – with a significant £250 million extra funding for mental health services, increased support for teachers, head teachers, parents and pupils, as well as a major package of reforms for the justice system, increasing support for the victims of crime and their families.
“Despite Brexit, we will ensure Scotland remains an attractive place to live and work and provide advice and support for those EU citizens already living in Coatbridge & Chryston that are dealing with the Tory government’s unfair plans to charge them for the right to live and work here.
“And our global climate change ambition will continue to be matched by realistic action, with £1billion funding in low carbon and public transport over the next year.
“These bold and ambitious plans for the year ahead are just some of the reasons why the SNP is the second biggest party in the whole of the UK.”