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SNP MP CALLS FOR POST OFFICE SUBSIDY EXTENSION AS SCOTLAND STILL HARDEST HIT BY POSMASTER CRISIS

Today, SNP MP Marion Fellows has called on the UK Government to continue providing public subsidy to Post Office Ltd after figures reveal Scotland is still being hit hardest by the Postmaster crisis.

Pre-Covid Post Office figures show that as of 31 March, Scotland had the highest number of temporarily closed Post Offices in the UK with 161.

This is a 17% increase since 2019 when Scotland also had the highest number of temporarily closed branches.

Speaking at Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy questions, Mrs Fellows called on the UK Government to maintain or increase the UK Government’s subsidy of Post Office Ltd to prevent Sub-Postmasters handing in their keys leaving more communities without vital Post Office services.

Post Office Ltd will receive a subsidy of £50m in 2020/21 to keep less profitable branches open. Ministers say that the continuation of the subsidy will be considered as part of the 2020 Spending Review.

Commenting, Mrs Fellows said:

“Communities across Scotland and the rest of the UK are losing access to Post Offices’ vital services as more Sub-Postmasters hand in their keys. The UK Government must take the Post Office off the pathway to privatisation and maintain or increase the public subsidy.

“During the Covid-19 pandemic, Sub-Postmasters have proven just how essential they are to communities. But many are resigning creating a Postmaster crisis. They must be supported.

“Scotland is being hit hardest by the Postmaster crisis. This means communities in Scotland – which are some of the most rural – are finding it the hardest to access postal, banking and government services.

“As well as maintaining the subsidy, the UK Government needs to quickly develop a long term and sustainable strategy for the Post Office where branches can be banking and government service hubs.”

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SNP CALLS FOR GUARANTEE OF RETURN OF SATURDAY DELIVERIES

ROYAL MAIL MUST PROVIDE CLARITY ON WHEN SERVICE WILL RETURN

In a letter to Royal Mail CEO, Rico Back, SNP MP, Marion Fellows, has called for the Royal Mail to review its decision to end Saturday deliveries and for a guarantee and clarity on when full service will return.

Ending Saturday deliveries goes against Royal Mail’s Universal Service Obligation. People will now have to wait at least three days for letters sent on a Friday.

Royal Mail said that ending Saturday deliveries is “temporary”, but have provided no clarity on when the service will return. They say the decision to end Saturday deliveries was made due to “high levels of coronavirus-related absences and necessary social distancing measures”.

On National Postal Workers Day on Wednesday, Mrs Fellows and the SNP called on the UK Government to renationalise Royal Mail to ensure workers welfare and services are maintained in the public interest.

Commenting, Mrs Fellows said:

“Royal Mail must bring Saturday deliveries back and commit to engaging constructively with the Communications Workers Union on any changes to service or conditions and find a mutually agreed solution.

“Royal Mail have provided no clarity on when Saturday deliveries will return. They must to commit to a date or criteria to give reassurances that it will in fact return and that this is not part of a long term plan to tear apart a valued service.

“The Universal Service Obligation is being undermined and both communities and the workforce will be adversely impacted by this decision.

“Royal Mail must be brought back into public ownership so its workforce and the public can oversee and achieve the service we expect.”

Mrs Fellows letter to Royal CEO, Rico Back

Dear Mr Back,

I am writing to you regarding Royal Mail’s announcement that Saturday deliveries for most items will now be ended.

While I understand now is an exceptionally busy time for Royal Mail and that absences will be affecting service, I am concerned that the decision to end Saturday deliveries is undermining the Universal Service Obligation.

This decision could have a negative impact on Postal Workers – despite Royal Mail’s stated intention. But it could also have a drastic impact on communities who not only rely on Royal Mail’s services, but also the community links that many Postal Workers provide. Royal Mail must be able to act in the interests of its workers and the communities it serves. I do not believe the decision to end Saturday deliveries reflects these obligations.

I was very concerned to hear that the Communications Workers Union was not consulted on this decision despite a Royal Mail statement saying that it had “listened to [your] hardworking colleagues”. It is essential and fair for the union to be consulted on any changes to service or conditions rather than decisions being made and passed down from management. Will you agree to continuing Saturday deliveries whilst a full and proper consultation is carried out with the CWU in order to find an alternative and mutually agreed solution?

I am concerned that the end of Saturday deliveries will continue past the covid-19 pandemic. Will you commit to bringing back Saturday deliveries as before; and will you provide clarity on a date or criteria for when Postal Workers and communities can expect this service to return if no alternative solution will be sought?

Sincerely,

Marion Fellows MP

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UK BUDGET ANNOUNCED

Despite the spin from the Tories in London, Scotland’s budget will be lower in real terms that it was when the Tories came to power. It does not reverse £13.9bn of cumulative cuts or provide our people and services with the full support they need.

I was pleased that SNP calls to act on the tampon tax was heeded, and also my own calls to end the 20% tax on digital publications. However, many of the UK Government’s abhorrent policies remain. The two-child Tax Credit cap is still affecting 8,500 Scottish families. The minimum wage is still set below the real Living Wage. And the £200bn immoral and financial blackhole, Trident, will remain on the Clyde while children live in poverty, people go homeless, and families go hungry.

There was once again no strategy for the steel sector; no protection of workers’ rights; and no commitment to match the Scottish Government’s efforts to achieve net zero carbon emissions.

Urgent action is needed to tackle the economic crisis coronavirus is causing: the UK Government should have matched the Scottish Government’s NHS spending. UK Statutory Sick Pay also lags behind the European average at £94 per week whereas Ireland is offering £266 – for all workers, including the self-employed.

The Scottish Government now needs clarity on what the UK Government’s coronavirus programme will means for spending here. Barnett consequentials must be passed on so we can effectively deal with the problem.

In summary, this year’s budget is a continuation of the budgets the Tories have been forcing on Scotland for ten years. Our economy is being undermined, our services are being hamstrung, and peoples’ incomes are being squeezed. With independence and all the powers at Scotland’s disposal, we could introduce a budget that meets the needs of people across Scotland to deliver for them and allow them to live a life of opportunity, prosperity and respect.

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UK BUDGET TODAY

Scotland – our people, communities and services – have suffered under a decade of Tory austerity. With today’s budget, it is expected that it will continue. The Scottish Government Budget 2020-21 is still 2.8% (£840 million) lower in real terms compared to 2010-11. The £1.2bn extra next financial year will not reverse the £13.9bn of cumulative cuts.

Despite these pressures, the Scottish Government has delivered record public investment. For the first time, the NHS in Scotland will have a budget of £15bn. £800 million will be invested to deliver 50,000 new homes this parliament. The £10 weekly Scottish Child Payment, which when fully rolled out from this year, will help 30,000 children out of poverty as part of £3.4 billion in social security.

This shows what Scotland can do with one hand tied behind our back. Imagine what we can do with all the powers over our economy and society. Scotland has demanded to choose its future. We can either continue with tax cuts for the richest and under investment, or we can be independent and invest in our people.

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TORIES MUST LAUNCH INDEPENDENT INQUIRY INTO POST OFFICE MISMANAGEMENT

Campaigning SNP MP Marion Fellows has renewed calls on the UK government to launch an independent inquiry into its mismanagement of the Post Office Limited network and the Horizon system scandal.Ahead of a Westminster Hall debate today, the SNP MP also urged the UK government to ensure that costs of the Horizon case did not hit those who work in local post offices financially.

Last month, the SNP’s Shadow BEIS spokesperson wrote to the UK government’s BEIS Secretary Alok Sharma calling for an inquiry, and greater oversight into Post Office Limited to prevent a repeat of past mistakes.

The Horizon scandal saw the Post Office Limited pay £58m in an out of court settlement over a faulty accounting system that led to fines, sackings, prosecutions, bankruptcies and jail sentences over the last decade.

Commenting ahead of the debate, SNP MP Marion Fellows said:

“The UK government’s mismanagement of the Post Office network, and its handling of the Horizon scandal, has raised serious concerns. It must now launch an independent inquiry into the Post Office network to protect vital local services and to prevent a repeat of past mistakes.

“The Horizon scandal has spanned decades and it has hit countless postmasters who have been plunged into hardship and faced financial difficulties and imprisonment. The government must right this grievous wrong.

“Boris Johnson seemingly promised an independent inquiry into Post Office Ltd’s handling of the Horizon scandal and is now backtracking on these workers who have been so grievously wronged.

“The Post Office network is vital for local communities, small businesses and rural regions – however services are closing at an alarming rate, with recent figures revealing that Scotland has suffered a net loss of 45 post offices since 2011.

“SNP MPs will continue to challenge the Tory government to live up to its role and responsibilities as the special shareholder of Post Office Ltd, and to protect our public services.

“The UK government can no longer sit on its hands – it must launch an independent investigation and ensure such miscarriages of justice can never happen again.”

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NLC BUDGET 2020/21

Due to the continued cuts from the Tory Government in London, the SNP Group in NLC did their best to create a budget which protects frontline jobs and services by listening to the concerns of local people.

Sadly, the Labour budget was passed leading to:
🚨 New charges for community alarms of £3.40 per week.
🍞 An increase in schools meals by 25% to £3.
🚧 An end to the Safe and Sustainable Travel Team which educates our young people on road safety.
👩‍⚕️ A removal of £1.8m from the adult social care fund for “remodelling” which is supposedly going to be reinvested a year later.

🚣‍♂️ SNP Councillors attempted to re-open the discussion on Kilbowie to save the centre. Despite a majority of the council voting to do so, Labour councillors voted against and the two-thirds majority required was not reached.

🥁 Thankfully, music tuition was saved. Our young musicians will be able to continue to access the education which makes them world-class.

However, the Scottish Government has today announced an extra £6m for North Lanarkshire Council. I therefore hope Councillors of all parties will meet soon to agree how local people and services can be protected from the relentless onslaught of Tory austerity.

Only with independence can Scotland end Tory rule and Tory austerity so our services can provide the full support our communities need.

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SCOTTISH BUDGET AGREEMENT REACHED

Agreement has been reached in the Scottish Parliament for the 2020/21 budget. As well as the original pledges, the SNP Scottish Government will deliver:

🚌 Free bus travel for under-18s.

🏢 An extra £95m for local authorities – including £6m for North Lanarkshire.

👮‍♀️ £13m for frontline Police and £5m capital.

🌅 £25m on energy efficiency and tackling fuel poverty.

🚲 An extra £5m on rail and £15m on active travel.

Given the increase in North Lanarkshire Council’s funding, I hope Councillors of all parties will meet soon to agree how local people and services can be protected from the relentless onslaught of Tory austerity.

These pledges are in addition to those made earlier this month:

🏥 Record funding of £15bn for Health and Social Care – including £117m in mental health.

🏠 £800m and an additional £300m to build more homes beyond the 50,000 target of this Parliament.

🧒 £3.4bn – part of which will be towards the new Scottish Child Payment which will lift 30,000 children out of poverty.

🚆 £270m in rail investment and an extra £16m on concessionary travel.

👮‍♀️ £37m extra for Policing.

🏢 A real terms increase of 4.3% for local authorities.

💵 For the third consecutive year, more than half of Scottish income tax payers will pay less tax than if they lived elsewhere in the UK.

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RURAL AREAS WORST HIT BY POST OFFICE CLOSURE

FULL STORY HERE.

The Tories are driving the Post Office – yet another valued public service – into the ground through a privatisation regime of managed decline. Post Offices must remain in public hands.

It isn’t surprising that branches remain closed for so long. We are in the midst of a Postmaster crisis. They are getting such a poor deal that many of them are looking to hand in their keys.

While staff suffer and communities go without, Post Office Ltd has been celebrating increased profits. As the Special Shareholder, the UK Government cannot simply allow the market to dictate the future of a valued public service. They must intervene.

So many communities rely on Post Offices. Vulnerable groups and rural communities especially rely on them for financial inclusion. The closure of larger, public Crown branches has undermined the Post Office as a community hub for services. Post Offices need investment so they can become a central point for government services and banking services for people and small businesses.

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NLC BIN CUTS LEADS TO RATS INFESTATION

SNP MP CALLS FOR INCREASED COLLECTIONS IN COUNCIL BUDGET AS RAT SIGHTINGS DOUBLE

Figures from North Lanarkshire Council (NLC) have revealed that the council’s decision to reduce general waste collections has doubled rat sightings in North Lanarkshire in the space of a year.

Changes backed by Labour Councillors, including NLC Leader, Cllr Jim Logue, came into effect in September 2017 resulting in general waste bins being collected every three weeks, instead of every week.

Rat sightings reported to NLC in 2017 rose from 624 to 1,238 in 2018, then to 1,657 in 2019.

Similarly, callouts reported rose from 443 in 2017 to 878 in 2018, then to 1,181 in 2019.

Motherwell and Wishaw MP, Marion Fellows, says that communities in Newarthill, Carfin, Muirhouse and Newmains have all required assistance dealing with rats and that there may be more communities affected across the local authority.

In 2018, Mrs Fellows hosted a townhall meeting between residents and council officers to resolve the issue. One was recently organised by Councillors in Newmains.

In March 2016, NLC introduced charges of £46.35 for pest control callouts for private residents – but not council tenants – resulting in a decrease in reported sightings of 720 in 2015 to 457 in 2016; and a drop in callouts from 720 to 372 respectively.

Mrs Fellows believes NLC has a duty to all residents and that private tenants are being forced to fend for themselves which may have allowed the problem to spiral out of control.

Mrs Fellows says that the problem is so large, that Councillors are failing their most basic duties to keep streets clean and that the Labour-Tory Coalition in NLC must face communities and reverse bin cuts.

Commenting, she said:

“Due to the Labour-Tory Coalition in North Lanarkshire Council, bin collections have been slashed and communities across the local authority are now facing a public health crisis with rat sightings doubling in the space of a year since the cuts were enforced. Cuts to uplifts must be reversed at the next budget before the infestation grows.

“I have written to North Lanarkshire Council leader, Cllr Jim Logue, about these issues and I have always received a response from a council officer. It is embarrassing that in the fourth largest Scottish local authority, they are hiding behind council officers. Council leaders must be publicly accountable and face communities.

“NLC has a duty to residents – whether they are private or social tenants – to ensure we are able to live in our homes free from rats. This is basic stuff and the Labour-Tory Coalition is failing people. When communities are facing a problem this large, the £46 charge must be seriously looked at. It has undoubtedly allowed the problem to escalate by deterring callouts.

“It’s time for Cllr Jim Logue to scurry out of the woodwork; face up to communities; and for the Labour-Tory Coalition to reverse cuts to bin uplifts in the upcoming budget.”

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SCOTS MPs BLOCKED ON NHS SPENDING BILL

Tonight, all Scottish MPs were blocked from voting on matters which would affect how much money Scotland would get in our block grant due to English Votes for English Laws (EVEL).

That means the Scottish people are being blocked from having their say over the decisions which affect our lives – again.

The UK is not a union of equals. With recent polling showing that support for independence has reached a majority, we must have our say so we can take control of all powers to build the country we want and not be treated as second class.