Wheelhouse Comments on Council Tax Reform

4th March 2016

SNP South Scotland MSP, Paul Wheelhouse, has welcomed the Scottish Government’s plans for an ambitious, progressive set of reforms to the Council Tax – which will see the council tax charges paid by those in the highest bands pay more, with the money raised invested in schools across the Scottish Borders.

As announced by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon this week, council tax charges paid by those in Bands E, F, G and H will be adjusted – in a move which will generate £100 million to be invested in education, while leaving 75 per cent of households unaffected.

The planned reforms will also provide additional support for those on low incomes – with low income families with children across all bands seeing an extension of the council tax reduction scheme, benefiting 77,000 families by an average of £173 per year

There will also be additional support for 54,000 low income households – more than one third of which are pensioner households – living in higher band properties, who will be entitled to an exemption from the changes through the Council Tax Reduction scheme.

The SNP Scottish Government has also been clear that if it is re-elected in May, would consult with councils on the assignment of a portion of devolved income tax raised in Scotland amounting to around £3bn. This would reduce local authorities’ reliance on grant-in-aid funding from central government, make councils more accountable to local people and incentivise the local authorities across Scotland to develop policies that increase prosperity and economic activity locally to grow their own revenue base. It is estimated that when the planned changes take effect, 75 per cent of local government funding will be locally determined.

Commenting, Paul said:

“The reform to council tax announced by the First Minister this week meets the key tests of making the system fairer, more progressive and empowering of local democracy, in line with the principles agreed by all the parties on the Commission on Local Tax Reform.

“The progressive plans will see three quarters of households in the Scottish Borders paying the same as they do now or even less, while those who can better afford to will pay a bit more in order to fund a major new investment in our local schools. 
“We’ll also see new support for low-income families – supporting 140,000 children and their families to the tune of an average of £173 per year – and additional protection for low-income households in higher bands, many of whom are pensioners.

“While Labour and the Lib Dems are planning to hike taxes across the board, hurting even the lowest-income workers in the Scottish Borders and the Tories are planning to reintroduce tuition fees for higher education students, the SNP in government has chosen to take a different approach – asking those who have the broadest shoulders to pay a bit more, while providing additional financial relief to low income families. This isn’t just the right approach to take – but the only progressive option and other parties claiming to favour fair taxation should back these plans.

“I also welcome the move to consult with councils on a bold plan to assign a portion of devolved income tax – which would be a welcome move in empowering Scotland’s local authorities, incentivising councils to support economic growth and in making Scottish Borders Council more accountable to local people.

“Overall, these plans will protect the vast majority of household incomes in the Scottish Borders, support investment in local schools and make local taxation both fairer and with a more explicit incentive in the new model for local authorities to stimulate employment and prosperity.”

Further details on the reform to council tax can be found here:http://www.snp.org/council_tax_reform_explained


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Scotland £7 Billion Poorer Under Lamont and Mundell, Claims Salmond

29th February 2016

BORDERS Tory politicians John Lamont and David Mundell would have signed away £7 billion of Scotland’s finances – enough money to build the Borders Railway 20 times over – had they been involved in negotiations with the UK Treasury on Holyrood’s fiscal framework, according to former First Minister Alex Salmond.

Addressing Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire SNP candidate Paul Wheelhouse's adoption meeting in Kelso, Mr Salmond told his audience how his successor Nicola Sturgeon and Deputy First Minister John Swinney had refused to give ground until the Westminster Government’s proposal to cut the Scottish budget by £7 billion was revised downwards to £3 billion, then £2 billion and eventually to zero.

But Mr Salmond warned there would have been an entirely different outcome had Mr Mundell, the Secretary of State for Scotland been conducting the financial bargaining on Scotland’s behalf. He would have accepted the £7 billion deduction, and Mr Lamont, the MSP for Ettrick, Roxburgh & Berwickshire would have signed up for it too.

Mr Salmond was speaking in support of Scottish Government Minister MrWheelhouse, who hopes to oust Mr Lamont at the parliamentary elections in May.

"Only the SNP was capable of standing up for Scotland in negotiations with the UK Government", claimed Mr Salmond.

He also lambasted Mr Lamont for steadfastly opposing the Scottish Government’s decision to invest £350 million on reinstating the Borders Railway, a project which had already proven to be an unqualified success.

Mr Salmond said:

"Now that the railway is doing so well John is claiming the credit for it even though he said at one time he wouldn’t be seen dead on the railway”.

Mr Salmond urged the Borders to grasp the opportunity provided by the reinstatement of the railway to recover the local economy by attracting up to 250,000 visitors to the region’s many splendid attractions on top of the million passengers a year who would use the train services to travel betweenTweedbank and Edinburgh. He was convinced the line should be extended all the way to Carlisle and said local SNP politicians would campaign for that to happen.

Paul Wheelhouse MSP added:

“As a Minister in Nicola Sturgeon’s team I have gained valuable experience and have been able to champion the cause of the Borders at the heart of Government in Scotland. If the voters of my home patch, Ettrick, Roxburgh & Berwickshire, put their trust in me on May 5th, then I will make sure my experience, contacts and influence are deployed in the best interests of the constituency.

"But to achieve that end, we must ensure the SNP wins this seat for the first time by defeating my Tory opponent, John Lamont, just as my colleague Calum Kerr MP did last year. In voting for me, local people can be sure they are electing someone who is ambitious for the area and actually wants to serve as their constituency MSP, rather than use the role as a platform to seek a seat in Westminster.”

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Wheelhouse Supports Parkinson’s UK Campaign

18th February 2016

Paul Wheelhouse MSP (SNP, South Scotland) is highlighting support for the Parkinson’s UK campaign Get it on Time, which aims to ensure people with Parkinson’s get their medication on time every time when receiving care.

After recently meeting with local health professionals in the Scottish Parliament Paul said:

“There are thought to be 228 people living with Parkinson’s in the Scottish Borders at the moment. What we heard was that those individuals are at risk of becoming seriously unwell if they don’t receive their medication precisely on time when they are in hospital, or when receiving social care at home or in a care home.

“I recently met local healthcare professionals from the region at a Parkinson's UK event in the Scottish Parliament and was concerned to learn that people can often receive their Parkinson’s medication at the wrong times – perhaps where there are inflexible timings for medicine rounds in a ward - despite the fact that, in particular, this can make people with Parkinson’s very unwell. I heard that for patients with advanced symptoms this is particularly important.

“Hospitals and care homes must be capable of being seen as safe havens for people with Parkinson’s and I have written to NHS Borders to ask what procedures and practices they have in place to ensure that people with Parkinson’s get their medication on time, every time and also to enquire as to any plans to invest further in specialist nursing provision, given I was told Borders has growing numbers of people being diagnosed with Parkinson's as a result of improvements in life expectancy."

Katherine Crawford, Scotland Director of Parkinson’s UK, commented:

“I am delighted that Paul Wheelhouse MSP is supporting our ‘Get it on time’ campaign. Medication is the main treatment for Parkinson’s. It can help to manage symptoms but does not stop the progression of the condition. And the medication only works if it is administered at the right time and dose for each individual. Timing is everything, and when people with Parkinson’s don't get their medication at the right time and dose, their symptoms become unmanaged and they can quickly become very ill. Even a 10-minute delay can affect people, and could lead to people being unable to move, speak, eat or swallow, or have uncontrolled movements and hallucinations. It can take weeks to stabilise someone’s symptoms. Sadly, some people never recover.

“Parkinson’s UK is calling for the NHS and nursing homes to put people first by dispensing medication to meet people’s individual needs. We also want assurances that action is being taken to ensure all nursing and related staff understand the consequences of delaying medication. Delays should be treated as a ‘drug failure’ and given the same serious attention as dispensing the wrong dose or the wrong medicine.”


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