My Central Fife Times & Advertiser column for April 2014: Using parliamentary recess to visit some of the key organisations working in the Cowdenbeath Constituency.


 

‘THE Parliament has been in recess for two weeks and I have used this time to visit a number of organisations that impact on the constituency.”

 Dunfermline Food Bank

One such organisation is the Dunfermline Food Bank which has satellite centres in the constituency and is looking to open one in Benarty and Inverkeithing as well as Cowdenbeath, if they are able to recruit volunteers.

The food bank is run through the Trussell Trust and operates on the basis of providing emergency food parcels to people and families who are in crisis. They operate on the basis that you can only qualify for three crisis parcels in six months. The Trussell Trust report that the numbers of people helped by food banks in Scotland has risen from 14,318 in 2012-13 to 71,428 from April 2013 to the end of March this year including 22,387 children.

The rising cost of living and the fact that most people have had a wage freeze for the last four years is a major factor in people who are in work reaching crisis point with no money for food.

In our area changes to benefits and benefit delays are two big factors in people accessing the food bank. I recently spoke in a debate in the Parliament on welfare reform and I made clear that our ambition is not for more people on benefits but for skills and employment and whilst we need to reform welfare, I am afraid the current UK Government’s approach to this is flawed and is driving more people into deeper poverty. There needs to be jobs but as we are seeing, people also need to have access to the skills to be able to get the jobs and therefore any reform of welfare must address these fundamental issues and not simply remove the safety net as is currently happening for many individuals and families.

 

College budgets in Fife

This is also why I am highlighting the cuts in college budgets in Fife. At a time when we should have more people accessing courses and getting the chance to train and get skills that will lead to jobs, courses are being cut as a result of the Scottish Government’s priority for universities over colleges.

When Labour took over the running of Fife Council, two years ago, we made a decision that we would introduce the Living Wage which currently stands at £7.65 an hour, whereas the minimum wage is £6.31 an hour. Currently there are over 400,000 people in Scotland that are working for less than the living wage. I am now working with others in the Scottish Parliament making the case that the Procurement Reform (Scotland) Bill can and should be used to encourage the payment of the Living Wage by companies accessing public contracts. Scotland’s public sector spends approximately £10 billion on procurement. This spending power could and should be used to help transform workers’ rights including the payment of a living wage. This would make a significant difference for hard working people across Scotland facing a cost of living crisis, rising energy bills and child care costs. So far the Scottish Government has refused to include this in the Bill.

 

St Kenneth’s Primary School 

I had the pleasure this week of joining with Councillor Willie Clarke and Education executive member Bryan Poole on a visit to St Kenneth’s Primary School to thank everyone for all their hard work and the great inspection report they received.

The work of the school is very evident when speaking to pupils who are confident, enjoying their learning and there is just a total buzz around the school. Every child given the chance to achieve their potential must be our highest priority’.

 

– See more at: http://www.centralfifetimes.com/opinion/

Post Author: Alex Rowley

http://www.alexrowley.org/about/