Press Release: Armed Forces Day

Labour MP for Edinburgh East Sheila Gilmore, speaking ahead of Armed Forces Day on Saturday 28 June 2014, said:

This weekend people up and down the country will gather to recognise, remember and pay tribute to the sacrifices made by the British Armed Forces community.

Our Service personnel work around the world in some of the most dangerous situations to defend Britain’s interests and national security. Just like those before them, they do so with unequivocal commitment, enduring professionalism and resolute courage.

But the sacrifice associated with military life is rarely endured alone – we must not forget the impact on the friends and families of those who serve too. They provide invaluable support to loved ones away from home and the contribution they make to local communities should never be underestimated.

Labour is proud of Britain’s Armed Forces and we believe they deserve to be treated with the utmost respect. That is why Labour has pledged to outlaw discrimination against and abuse of members of the Armed Forces in the first year of a Labour Government. We are also committed to providing better support for veterans and those currently serving, along with those making the transition from military to civilian life.

For more information please contact Matt Brennan, Parliamentary Assistant to Sheila Gilmore MP, on 020 7219 7062, 07742 986 513 or matthew.brennan@parliament.uk.

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Press Release: MP sends Minister speech before debate on ‘Fit for Work’ test

  • Debate on Work Capability Assessment Mandatory Reconsideration Delays at 10.00pm on Monday 16 June 2014
  • Sheila Gilmore’s speech sent to Minister responsible this afternoon
  • Minister can have no excuses for not answering questions

In advance of a debate on the Government’s controversial ‘Fit for Work’ test, Work and Pensions Select Committee member Sheila Gilmore today took the unusual step of emailing an advance copy of her speech to the Minister due to respond, Mike Penning.

Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) provides support for people who cannot work due to a health condition or disability, but since it replaced Incapacity Benefit in 2008, many people have been incorrectly assessed as fit for work and refused benefit. A new two-part appeals process was introduced in October 2013, with claimants’ cases first having to go through ‘mandatory reconsideration’ by a DWP official before reaching a judge.

Sheila Gilmore said:

Today I have taken the unusual step of emailing a copy of my speech for an upcoming debate to Mike Penning, the Minister due to speak for the Government. Now he can have no excuse for not answering the important questions I intend to put to him.

Commenting on the issues raised in her speech, Sheila Gilmore said:

I regularly meet sick and disabled people who are unable to work but who have been declared fit to do so following a flawed ESA assessment.

In my debate I’m going to focus on the new mandatory reconsideration process, introduced in October last year. I’m going to highlight the fact many people are left without any benefits payments during this period, the regular ten week waits for decisions, and the lack of official statistics on outcomes.

ENDS

Notes to Editors:

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Press release: Jobs figures show Tories and SNP are letting down Edinburgh

Responding to today’s unemployment figures, Sheila Gilmore said:

Here in Edinburgh, 2200 people have been unemployed for a year or more, with 245 of these being aged under 25. Both the Conservative and SNP Governments are still letting down our city.

Furthermore, thousands of people in work are struggling to make ends meet because inflation is rising faster than pay.

Labour would combat this by restoring the value of the national minimum wage, getting more employers to pay a living wage, extending free childcare provision, freezing gas and electricity bills and getting the next generation into work with apprenticeships and a compulsory jobs guarantee.

ENDS

Notes to editors:

Here are the unemployment figures by constituency:

Constituency                                     Long-term unemployment          Long-term youth unemployment

Edinburgh East                                  550                                                         60

Edinburgh North and Leith                605                                                         60

Edinburgh South                               265                                                         25

Edinburgh South West                     455                                                         55

Edinburgh West                                325                                                         45

Total                                                      2,200                                                     245

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June 2014 Newsletter

Sheila Gilmore MP Header

Westminster Report

The final term of Parliament
A bit of parliamentary jargon to start with this month. The five year period between General Elections is described as a ‘parliament’, and each parliament is split into ‘sessions’. These start with all the fanfare of the ‘Queen’s Speech’, generally last a year, and end almost by stealth with a rather obscure ceremony called ‘prorogation’.

598welfare_povertyIt had been an open secret for weeks that the 2013/14 session would prorogue on 14 May, but there is a strange coyness about announcing this officially. Partly this is because it depends on whether and to what extent the House of Lords makes one final attempt to amend bills which have nearly completed all their parliamentary stages. But it leads to a strange last couple of days with MPs asking each other ‘do YOU know when we’ll be finishing up?’

The next session will be a short one, as parliament will be dissolved at the start of April 2015 – around a month in advance of the General Election. The Queen’s Speech happened on 4th June with its contents being much as anticipated a bill on the recall of MPs (with a campaign already building on its inadequacy), one on pensions following the announcements in the March budget, and a bill on modern slavery.

Generation Rent
Although housing policy is largely devolved to the Scottish Parliament, I still take a keen interest following my time as Housing Convenor for Edinburgh council, and of course it is hugely important for many constituents. Last year the SNP introduced the Housing (Scotland) Bill 2013, which makes a series of changes to the law in this area. I’ve written about this before.

One of these changes was to allow councils to rent some properties to people in specific age groups – an approach that helped Edinburgh turn around high-rise blocks previously plagued by anti-social behaviour. Unfortunately Housing Minister Margaret Burgess announced that she would seek to remove this from the bill following a campaign by Shelter suggested this would disadvantage younger and vulnerable people. While I’ve been a strong supporter of Shelter’s work for many years, I’m afraid their claims aren’t backed up by the facts. In a column for the Edinburgh Evening News I called for MSPs from all parties to vote for flexible renting of this type.

I was also pleased that Scottish Labour proposed a series of amendments to the bill that would limit increases in rent and encourage longer tenancies. These follow similar proposals put forward for England by my colleagues in Westminster, and show that we can change Scotland for the better using the powers the Scottish Parliament already has. Unfortunately the SNP voted down these changes, in my view because they are afraid to admit that independence isn’t the answer to everything. I issued a couple of press release on this here and here, and Scottish Labour’s James Kelly MSP has written for LabourList.
Zero-hours contracts and Universal Credit.

Zero-hours contracts and Jobseekers Allowance
Under Jobseekers Allowance, claimants are able to refuse job offers involving zero-hours contracts and avoid being sanctioned. However in March I received a letter from Tory Employment Minister Esther McVey confirming that this will change under Universal Credit (which will wrap six existing benefits including JSA into one monthly payment). I published this on my website and, following official figures that showed 1.4 million people are employed on zero-hours contract in the UK, this research was picked up by the Guardian and pretty much everyone else, including The Independent, Evening Standard, Huffington Post, BBC and ITV.

Despite my staff and I doing in-depth research into these sort of issues every day, it can be hard to get it recognised, so I strongly welcomed this interest. I am concerned about this policy change because of failings of the current sanctions regime and the abuse of zero hours contracts. I’ve spoken out about the former and just last month Ed Miliband set out a series of changes a future Labour Government would make to zero-hours contracts.

Universal Credit and… Universal Credit!
I also wrote for the think tank Progress on the ever-slowing roll-out of Universal Credit and its dysfunctional IT. Then came a report from the Government’s Major Projects Authority that explained how Universal Credit had now been ‘reset’ and was effectively a new project.

The response of DWP Secretary Iain Duncan Smith was that this was old news and all was now back on course, but this is exactly what the DWP said a year previously when there were similar issues. The Work and Pensions Select Committee – of which I’m a member – criticised Ministers for the way they keep brushing aside problems as ‘old ones and now solved’ in our April 2014 report. There is still little sign that they realise how complex a project this is, and even less that they are willing to be open about the problems.

Amnesty Campaign
Amnesty International are calling for MPs and MSPs to commit to defending human rights both at home and abroad after the independence referendum in September – regardless of the result. I was pleased to welcome Amnesty Campaigners to one of my monthly surgeries and give my backing to the campaign!

7e2802ef-99ff-456f-b1cf-7b61e81e55c2Parental Passport Campaign
The Parental Passport Campaign is calling for parents and legal guardians to be able to list their names in their children’s passports, to help prevent distress and delays at border control for families who do not share the same surname. At present, both parents and children can be subject to intense questioning when crossing borders to prove they are related. This is understandably distressing for all involved. As an increasing number of parents do not share the same name as their children, this type of scenario is expected to rise. On 14 May I pledged my support to the Parental Passport Campaign who are calling for a system where the names of parents and legal guardians are listed on children’s passports. If this sounds a good idea to you, please sign the campaign petition!

cf123c9f-66cc-44f8-a545-282dcc0e97c3High Speed Two
At the end of April the House of Commons debated and voted in favour of the High Speed Rail (London – West Midlands) Bill. If the bill becomes law, it will give the Government the power to construct the first phase of HS2 – the stretch from London to Birmingham. The bill isn’t expected to complete its progress through parliament until after the next General Election in May 2015, so this was only the start a very long process. I spoke in support of the bill, highlighting the economic benefits of the project for Scotland.

Salmond’s ‘admiration’ for Putin
Many of us will have been understandably concerned by Russia’s annexation of Crimea and its attempts to stir up unrest in eastern Ukraine, so I was shocked to hear Scotland’s First Minister talk of his ‘admiration’ for President Vladimir Putin. I raised this at Prime Minister’s Questions and this was subsequently covered on the BBC.

Constituency Report

Panicked Parent’s Passport Problems
Preparing for a break can ironically be a hectic process what with packing, finishing up at work and making sure travel arrangements go to plan. Since mid-April I’ve seen a real surge in problems with passport applications adding to this list of pre-break tasks. Panicked parents have been in touch because their child’s first passport hasn’t arrived with very just days to go before their first family holiday abroad. Based on the enquiries I’ve received, it appears there are problems processing first passports (for adults and children), and renewals submitted abroad. The Government’s own website still advises that most applications will be turned around within 3 weeks, but in most of the cases I’ve dealt with parents who have been waiting for upwards of two months. Thankfully, all but one constituent have been able to travel.

30129f3b-08a8-44ec-ab04-d6257f031b95The first three months of the year I had zero enquiries relating to passports so I intend to raise this issue in Parliament this week. If you are struggling to receive a response from the Passport Office and your departure date is fast approaching, please get in touch and I will ask for the application to be expedited.

Southside Planning Issues
In recent months I’ve kept you up to date with the news that the Lutton Court student accommodation plans were refused, but there was also news that similar proposals in Meadow Lane and Homebase were just around the corner. In the last couple of weeks there has been a deluge of planning developments across the Southside, including:

38ea177c-78ed-4b78-b44a-d82a3f04de35I have submitted my further comments on the Lutton Court appeal and these are now available on my website. If you have comments relating to the advertising hoarding appeal you must submit these to Christopher.Kennedy@scot.gov.uk no later than Sunday, 22 June 2014. For full details of the appeal click here.

For details of the Wetherspoon ‘super-pub’ application head to the Planning Portal and enter reference 14/01864/FUL before Friday 13th June. Finally, full details of the exhibition on the Unite/Homebase plans can be viewed at the Public exhibition at St Margaret’s & St Leonard’s Catholic Church, 110 St Leonards Street, 3.00pm-7.00pm on Wednesday 25th & Thursday 26th June.

Support Craigmillar Books for Babies at the Place to Eat cafe in John Lewis
Craigmillar Books for Babies has been selected as one of 3 projects to receive support from John Lewis through its Community Matters Scheme. Over the next coming weeks there will be a collection point in the Place to Eat café in John Lewis where customers can give tokens to the project and show their support. The donation received will be used to produce a booklet of nursery rhymes which will be gifted to every family with a child under the age of 4 living in Craigmillar, Niddrie, Magdalene and Bingham. If you’re in town and visiting the Place to Eat café please support the excellent work Books for Babies does!

And – the organisation’s parent body, the Craigmillar Literacy Trust, is also looking for board members. If you are interested, please see full details here.

Portobello Supermarket Plans Return
A short while ago Aldi was named as the successful bidder for the former Scottish Power site at Baileyfield. A few months later and the supermarket chain has now submitted its plans for a store and residential development (with Cruden homes) at the site. Some time has passed since the Tesco proposal was refused, but I am keen to hear your views on this latest proposal. If you have chance to pop along, the plans will be exhibited at Portobello Town Hall on Wednesday, 18th June between 12.00pm and 7.00pm.

Norton Park Post Office Move
The Post Office has published its proposals to move the Norton Park Post Office to Easter Road. In addition to being located in new premises, they propose extending opening hours until 6.00pm Monday-Saturday. Let me know if you have any views on this change.

Events in Park Manifesto Delay
In March I made my submission to the Events in Parks Manifesto consultation calling for changes to the frequent and intensive use of the Meadows. Residents and I had expected a report to be heard at last week’s Transport and Environment Committee, but unfortunately this has now been pushed back to August. While this is disappointing, I have been told that all events for 2014 have been given permission under the existing Manifesto. If approved the new Manifesto will be applied to 2015 event applications. I will let you know when the report does come to committee, however the delay allows residents to get in any further concerns they may want to raise, which can be built into the final report. The Friends of the Meadows and Bruntsfield Links are likely to discuss the issue at its upcoming AGM on 26th June.

446f8625-b961-4680-8659-f83b43d1987bBridgend Inspiring Growth Success
A huge congratulations goes out to Bridgend Inspiring Growth. After years of hard work creating a shared vision to transform Bridgend Farmhouse into a community owned and run Centre for Learning, the City of Edinburgh Council have formally agreed to lease the building to BIG for a 12 month period. The Council also authorised the sale of the property if BIG are successful in securing stage 2 lottery funding. Should the next stage go to plan, BIG aim to start renovations on the site at the end of the 12 month lease.

2badda3c-4086-4340-81a5-245901670238Dates for your Diary
Wednesday, 11th June – Craigmillar Town Centre PAN exhibition – The White House, 70 Niddrie Mains Road – 3.00pm-7.00pm.

Saturday 14th June – Leith Festival Gala Day – Leith Links – for the full festival programme head to www.leithfestival.com

Sunday 15th June – Castlegreen Care Home Summer Fete – 2.00pm-4.00pm – 160 Greendykes Road – Tombola, raffle. home baking – all welcome

Wednesday, 18th June – Aldi PAN Exhibition – 12.00pm and 7.00pm – Portobello Town Hall

Wednesday, 18th June – SPOKES Bike Breakfast – 7.45-9.45am – City Chambers Quadrangle, High Street, Edinburgh – full details listed here

Sunday 22nd June – Friends of Figgate Park for a Bug Walk (led by an expert from Bug Life) – from 1.00pm – see more details here

Wednesday, 25th June – Co-operatives Fortnight 2014 Third Sector Question Time – 6.30-8.00pm – Serenity Café – Public Affairs Co-op, Scotland’s first public affairs workers’ co-operative are organising the free Question Time style event for representatives of the third sector, social enterprises and co-ops on the independence referendum. Tickets are available to book now free of charge on Eventbrite.

Wednesday & Thursday 25th & 26th June – Unite/Hombase Student Accommodation PAN – 3.00pm-7.00pm – Margaret’s & St Leonard’s Catholic Church, 110 St Leonards Street

Thursday 26th June – FOMBL AGM – Croquet from 6.30pm, AGM from 7.30pm – Croquet Club, Leven Terrace

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Kate, Craigmillar has a proud community, you should look deeper and listen a lot harder.

Yesterday Kate Higgins posted her 100 day pledge as part of the Independence Referendum campaign build up.  In that post she referred to a discussion with an elderly Craigmillar resident and described the area.  I disagree with the disingenuous image she has portrayed.  Here is my response:

In your blog piece Kate you do a disservice to the community of Craigmillar by presenting not just a partial picture but in several respects an inaccurate picture of what is happening and the changes that have been made to the area with the community and the council working together.

Yes there is a new council office building which also houses the highly successful and vibrant new library. But did you take a real look around at the change that has happened? I would urge you to go there on any day of the week, but especially on the packed out ‘books for babies ‘ days, or weekday evenings when children play outside their new library. Then there is the White House, recently returned to its 1930s glories, but even more important being run as a community facility, including a cafe, by a locally based Community Development Trust. Love them or hate them, Tesco opened a brand new express store here two years ago, which they wouldn’t have done if they didn’t see a good business prospect by opening up in the area. And sorry Kate it is busy seven days a week, so the image you conjure up of the post office being the only busy shop is just not the reality. A new Deli has opened in the premises once occupied by Luca’s. In fact there aren’t a huge number of closed and boarded up shops, both a Barbers and a Hair & Beauty Salon recently opened, and they are packed with local residents who aren’t as down at heel you make out. Some of those shuttered in daytime are actually being evening opening takeaways. The biggest empty stretch is the building vacated by the council for its new offices, and certainly getting a good new use for this is essential.

There are two new primary schools in great buildings, and which are getting good inspection reports. The pace of building replacement housing has been slower than we hoped, but there are three new developments ready or virtually ready for occupation as I write. Previous phases of development are popular and high quality. Plans for further development in the centre of the area are being exhibited at the Whitehouse tomorrow – these include proposals for more retail, colony homes and a state of the art high school to replace the aging Castlebrae building.

Kate you will see all this if you indeed get out knocking on doors as I do all the year round. You will find that contrary to the stereotype many people won’t be home because they are working. There are still too many people having to juggle several jobs, and zero hour contracts, but that isn’t something only to be found in Craigmillar.

Craigmillar has a proud community spirit and it is wrong to see residents here as having practised the ‘effort of shrinkage’. The people I do speak to are pleased to see a politician at their door and are engaged with the campaign. Many are confidently making a positive decision to vote No.

It’s not that there are no remaining challenges, but it doesn’t help us to complete the task of regeneration to give the impression that nothing has been done and nothing has changed. It might suit the advocates of a Yes vote to present a dismal picture to try to boost their case, but it isn’t a picture residents would recognise. The recession slowed development, but the reduction of investment in affordable housing by the Scottish government in the last few years is not helping.

Regeneration was started with the powers and resources of devolution, and I look forward to it continuing even more rapidly with the devolution of housing benefit, proposed by my party, which will bring together all the current sources of funding for affordable housing locally. We don’t need independence to make progress.

Life shouldn’t be on hold waiting for the referendum and its aftermath, neither for Craigmillar nor for the rest of Scotland.

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