Thanks to all the advice organisations and community groups that came along to support the Winter Advice Surgery that Jamie Hepburn MSP and I hosted yesterday.
There’s lots of support available to help everyone keep warm, financially secure and healthy over the winter.
Rona Mackay MSP and I joined Milton of Campsie Justice & Peace Group for its annual Amnesty International “Write for Rights” session.
Every December, Amnesty supporters across the globe write millions of letters for those whose basic human rights are being attacked.
Find out more at https://www.amnesty.org/en/get-involved/write-for-rights/
At the full meeting of North Lanarkshire Council on Thursday 20th December Councillor Alan Masterton, Cumbernauld North will be proposing a motion to Council in relation to the parking situation at Croy Station Car Park, which will be seconded by Councillor Mark John Kerr, Kilsyth & Villages Ward.
Mr Masterton has asked North Lanarkshire Council to recognise that Croy Train Station Car Park is now significantly over capacity and is struggling to meet the demand of those trying to park at the station, particularly during the working week.
The council is responsible for the operation of the large car park at the station, and Scotrail for the smaller.
He has also highlighted in the motion the negative impact that this situation is having on nearby residents as cars look to park elsewhere, in particularly on Strath Brennig Road in Smithstone and in the village of Croy.
Finally, he has asked that the Council work with Scotrail to consider how they can work together to alleviate both the parking pressures at Croy Station and the related issues caused by commuter parking in residential areas in Smithstone and in Croy.
Yesterday I met again with the Scottish Secretary and a representative from HMRC at Dover House to discuss the UK Government's plan to close Cumbernauld tax office. I highlighted, once again, the significant impact the closure of the Cumbernauld site would have on both the staff and the local community, and pointed out that Cumbernauld office has the skills, experience and location to operate successfully as an HMRC hub in its own right.
Regrettably, HMRC continue to pursue their programme of office closures and believe the new Glasgow hub is on schedule. That said, there is an acknowledgement that plans may have to change given uncertainty around Brexit - and there is the option of extending the lease of the Cumbernauld Office. I will continue to make the case that Cumbernauld Office should not be closed.
I also used the meeting to flag up concerns about travel times and costs, disabled parking spaces, accommodating workers with caring responsibilities and other issues that have been raised with me and I will continue to do that.
I know this is an uncertain and stressful time for workers at HMRC and if I can help in any way, please do not hesitate to contact me.
The Scottish Government's Pregnancy and Baby Payment will be launched on 10 December.
It will be a cash payment, to help the parents or carers of a baby cover some of the costs. It will be £600 for your first child, and £300 for other children.
To see if you are eligible, check out the link below with details of how to apply.
Along with the Scottish Government's popular Baby Boxes, this is a welcome boost to families struggling with the costs of having a baby.
The progressive work of the Scottish Government is also in stark contrast to the actions of the UK Government, who are penalising families and causing untold suffering through policies like Universal Credit, the two child cap and the rape clause.
We should be doing all we can to support families, and I'm delighted to see our Scottish Government leading the way with this work
Following last week's Winter Advice Surgery in Kirkintilloch, I have arranged another in Cumbernauld along with Jamie Hepburn MSP.
This will take place on Friday 30th November, 12.30 - 2.00pm in the Muirfield Centre.
Jamie and I will be on hand to offer assistance, along with a range of local and national organisations providing specialist advice and support - from energy efficiency and winter safety to help with welfare issues.
This event is free, and open to all. So please come along, and share details of the event, so that we can get help to as many people as possible this winter.
Organisations attending the Winter Advice Surgery are:
Home Energy Scotland
Citizens Advice Scotland
Cumbernauld & Kilsyth Unemployed Workers Centre
NLC Welfare Rights team
If you are in a position to help, we will also be accepting donations for local foodbanks at this event. So many families in our communities rely on local foodbanks, and they are really stretched at the moment, not least because of the time of year, but also because of the impact of Universal Credit. Anything you can donate will be a huge help. Thank you!
On Friday I visited the Co-op store in Milton of Campsie to support Respect for Shopworkers Week and discuss local community safety issues with store staff. I also heard more about the Co-op’s operational programme to help tackle crime.
There have been lots of problems and cuts to Universal Credit that have caused horrendous hardship for constituents, and people across the country.
Here's hoping that the Minister's response to this question does indeed see one of those problems fixed. For vulnerable people with high support needs it is essential that their representatives and advice workers are able to speak on their behalf with the DWP - "implicit consent" has worked well for legacy benefits, so must now be extended to UC. Otherwise vulnerable people will struggle to take forward their applications.
A small but welcome step - but lots of other reforms also urgently needed.
Congratulations to Abronhill Regeneration Forum and all involved in organising the Christmas Fayre and this amazing lantern procession yesterday. Lots of hard work - made for an amazing spectacle!
Thank you to everyone who came along to my joint Winter Advice Surgery with Rona Mackay MSP in Kirkintilloch today.
Huge thanks to Home Energy Scotland, Citizens Advice, Our Power, Scottish Gas, Age Scotland and our local community police officers for coming along to offer expert advice.
I'll be posting up more information on my facebook page from the organisations who took part, so please keep an eye out.