Central Fife Times Column for January 2015: Constituent questions, the cost of living and work ahead.

Over the last few weeks I have been putting a calendar through doors across the constituency and this has given me a good chance to meet and speak to people and pick up any local issues and concerns. In Cowdenbeath as in Kelty there is great anticipation about the new community facilities being built whilst the improvements to the Lochgelly community use school have been well received and in this year new cycling facilities at the ‘meedies’ will get underway, and proposals are being worked up for more training facilities at Bowhill Institute. Cllr Mark Hood is pushing the Fife sport and activity policies forward and tells me the Area Committee will be focussing on support for all groups in the area.

I also noted that a number of people had written into the Times online last week raising issues about my expenses after I had published the detail of these with explanations on my web site to encourage greater transparency something I support not just for politicians but for all public servants and all public money being spent in government but also the third sector and in the community. Specifically, last week John Alexander Davie and Tracey Smith raised questions about the office rental cost of £1750 a month but to clarify this is per quarter not per month and the first quarter we got free as the front office needed decorated, a new carpet, a counter put in and signage all of which was sourced locally. The office is very busy with two members of staff based there to support constituents and anyone is very welcome to pop in and see what the set up and running costs go on. And that would be the main point I would make to Mr Davie and Frankie Hodge who suggested giving the expenses to the local community, these are not expenses going into my pocket, they are expenses incurred to run the constituency office. The travel costs that would have gone into my pocket would be the cost for me getting between Kelty and Edinburgh and it is these I don’t claim.

What many people did talk to me about over these last few weeks is the increasing pressures on their finances with the cost of living continuing to rise whilst wages have remained pretty static over these last few years. I am doing more work to expose in work poverty and will campaign for increases to the minimum wage but also more support for the living wage. As leader of Fife Council I brought forward the budget that brought in the living wage but there are many workers in the private sector, in sectors such as care homes, cleaning services and retail being paid the minimum wage and struggling to meet the bills. I also support the policy of an energy freeze on gas and electricity bills given the kind of rises we have seen over the last few years and it is estimated this could save households £120 a year.

The other areas I will be focussing on in the early part of this year will be homelessness and a lack of affordable housing and the continued pressures on council budgets. I am keen to work with all political parties to find a more sustainable approach to local government finance. I have also published more information on my web site www.alexrowley.org/ttip/ about the proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) between Europe and the USA. Whilst all Parties in the Parliament with the exception of the Greens support the principle of this agreement being achieved, it remains controversial.

Post Author: Alex Rowley