Sarah Boyack MSP

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Meeting of the Parliament 04 November 2014 : Tuesday, November 04, 2014
Sarah Boyack (Lothian) (Lab)

What analysis has been carried out on the impact of the legislation on empty properties? What pre and post-legislative analysis does the minister have in place to show what difference it will make?



Meeting of the Parliament 04 November 2014 : Tuesday, November 04, 2014
Sarah Boyack (Lothian) (Lab)

We, too, welcome the chance to hear the update from the minister on progress. We are absolutely clear that we support the principles underpinning the town centre first policy, but the key for us is implementation. There is a role for a critique of the fiscal mechanisms that the Scottish Government has used thus far. I would also argue that local authorities have to have more financial tools and more financial capability to make the cultural and infrastructure changes that are needed.

Our local authorities have a key role in civic leadership. Business improvement districts have been incredibly important in enabling town centre businesses and retailers to come together, especially in relation to management and marketing. The civic role of councils in pulling together businesses and local communities to regenerate, revitalise and support town centres to make them places that people want to visit is crucial.

Over the past two summers I have visited a range of town centres to see best practice at first hand and to hear about the challenges. I have held a series of meetings with key stakeholders, community activists and town centre management specialists to draw on their expertise. There is a lot of best practice out there and some really good work is happening, such as Glasgow City Council’s support for cultural enterprises; the work that the minister referred to on payday loan shops and controls on gambling shops; the work that Renfrew has done on town centre management and public realm investment; and Falkirk’s business hub and support for training opportunities. However, I heard concerns in Lanark about how to get housing above shops to repopulate our high streets; indeed, I heard that key message in several local authority areas.

I was particularly impressed when I visited Dunfermline this summer to look at its town centre improvements in the High Street, such as its work on signage, which links to tourism opportunities. A clear leadership decision had been taken to bring about that investment. Given that there are 32 towns in Fife, the focus on Dunfermline means that other towns have to wait. We can see that challenge across Scotland. Our big local authorities have many town centres and some staffing resource, but they do not have the cash resources, and the smaller authorities have neither the staff nor the cash. There is a real challenge there. Alex Rowley will close the debate for Labour. It was really interesting to see that the strategic decision to invest money to prioritise that investment made a real difference.

The Scottish Government can do a lot more. The policy has been in place, but the Scottish Government has been exposed as not always implementing it. In East Kilbride, the major issue was that the opportunity to bring new NHS investment to the town centre—and to bring thousands of trips to the town centre by NHS staff—had been missed.

Compulsory purchase orders are still mentioned by authority after authority as an issue. Local authorities are prevented from getting to grips with properties that are owned by private landowners who sit on them for years without making any investment, sometimes because they, too, do not have the investment capital available.

We need to have a rethink on planning capacity. Most planning authorities do not have the scope, and authorities certainly do not have the financial capacity, to carry out the big planning projects that we might have seen 10 or 20 years ago. That is a real challenge. At the moment, planning is more about regulating and looking at proposals that have come in. There are many town centres where, with more scope and more staff resource, it would be easier to bring forward major projects such as those that we see in Edinburgh and Glasgow, where transformative investment is taking place. That investment is not available for our out-of-town authorities and it is certainly not available for our smaller authorities.

The work of pulling together with housing associations, taking on land assembly, buying up properties and investing in refurbishing ground-floor properties for retail use and looking at compatible use, such as housing, on the upper floors is simply not possible within the current framework. The Scottish Government needs to look at that. We need to make sure that local authorities can use their democratic civic leadership role. They need to work to support businesses, but there are also times when market failure means that they have to take a lead, set out a vision and a plan, resource it and bring the business community and local communities with them.

There needs to be more capacity to borrow on the strength of new housing in our town centres and more scope to use CPO powers to enable much-needed investment to take place. The powers that we identified in our devolution commission document, “Powers for a purpose—Strengthening Accountability and Empowering People”, would give authorities the chance to take the lead that is so clearly needed. Local authorities need the capacity to develop a vision, they need the finance and they need the staff resources.

Although we welcome the report, much more needs to be done.

16:30  

Meeting of the Parliament 28 October 2014 : Tuesday, October 28, 2014
Sarah Boyack (Lothian) (Lab)

Drew Smith made a powerful speech about the need to ensure that Governments work together and the need for real devolution for the Scottish Parliament. The argument about getting the best of both worlds, with a strong Scottish Parliament that is backed by pooling and sharing across the UK, underpinned the recent referendum debate. The Smith commission now has the task of delivering consensus on modernising our devolution settlement.

Much of our focus has rightly been on strengthening the Scottish Parliament; we also need to focus on new powers for local government. Double devolution needs to be on the Smith commission’s agenda and is a key part of our submission, as Drew Smith said. We need to create the political space in which we can discuss the devolution of powers from the UK Government and the Scottish Government to local councils and communities.

We need to challenge the Scottish Government to engage in that debate, just as it demands that we look at the debate that is needed in the Smith commission. Not one reference to the issue was made in the first two speeches that we heard from the SNP benches. It is a key part of the proposals in our “Powers for a purpose” report. Local government services have a huge influence on our lives and we need to think about how local authorities can work together and have more resources. The commission on strengthening local democracy in Scotland put it well when it talked about

“spheres not tiers of governance”.



Meeting of the Parliament 28 October 2014 : Tuesday, October 28, 2014
Sarah Boyack

We will never be able to make Nicola Sturgeon happy with our submission. We know that. [Interruption.]



Meeting of the Parliament 28 October 2014 : Tuesday, October 28, 2014
Sarah Boyack

If we are having a proper discussion, let us put double devolution—local devolution—firmly at the centre.



Meeting of the Parliament 28 October 2014 : Tuesday, October 28, 2014
Sarah Boyack

No, thank you. The member has already spoken at length.

Our vision for local government is one in which decisions about local communities are taken locally. In our devolution commission we argued for double devolution and the reversal of the trend under the SNP Government towards centralising local services and controlling funding. Nicola Sturgeon talked about the importance of fiscal accountability. What fiscal accountability do our local councils have? What independence do they have to set the revenues that come to them?

The debate on the Smith commission focuses on greater accountability on funding and new funding streams for the Scottish Parliament, but it is vital that we also focus on devolving power from the UK Parliament and the Scottish Parliament to local government level.



Meeting of the Parliament 28 October 2014 : Tuesday, October 28, 2014
Sarah Boyack

First, that is a moot point. [Interruption.] The finance minister might like to talk to my constituents, whose flood mitigation measures have been delayed for years because his colleague Mike Russell completely changed the funding mechanisms and devolved the opportunity to local government so that, instead of getting support through an 80:20 per cent arrangement, it has to fund the measures itself. Communities are experiencing the outcome of Government policy—never mind the billions of pounds that have been taken out of spending on social justice programmes across the Government, which is also important for local government—[Interruption.]



Meeting of the Parliament 28 October 2014 : Tuesday, October 28, 2014
Sarah Boyack

We need devolution from the Scottish Parliament and UK levels. Although English councils face even bigger cuts than councils in Scotland face, they are getting city deals, new initiatives and opportunities, and new resources and fiscal levers to enable them to work together to promote investment, infrastructure, jobs and training. We can see the impact that the approach is beginning to have, particularly in big cities such as Manchester and Leeds. There is an ambition for such an approach in Scotland, too.



Meeting of the Parliament 28 October 2014 : Tuesday, October 28, 2014
Sarah Boyack

With respect, I did answer that question. In particular, the local government recommendations were welcomed by many organisations as being a breath of fresh air and real powers being devolved to our local communities. The Deputy First Minister would do well to look at those comments.

We recommended significant devolution of financial resources in relation to employability programmes, training provision and housing benefit. We want our local authorities to have real resources and to be able to shape and support our local communities. We want higher-quality training programmes that are appropriate to the needs of social and economic priorities, and we want to increase the capacity of local authorities to deliver better value in housing support and to significantly increase the capacity of affordable local housing. Currently, £1.7 billion comes through housing benefit, and that money needs to be used by local government to much better effect.

We also argued that the agenda needs to take on the idea that the Orkney, Shetland and Western Isles councils, and other councils that have island communities, must have more opportunities and that we need to devolve responsibility for the Crown estate.

There are lots of ideas in our report. I hope that, rather than complain about our not going far enough, SNP members will take the opportunity to look at new powers for local government, look at the opportunities that come through the Smith commission and support Labour’s proposals in “Powers for a purpose”. Our communities urgently need those extra fiscal levers, that extra financial support and the extra opportunities to regenerate our communities. Let us make sure that we focus on double devolution as well as strengthening our own Scottish Parliament.

15:37  

Meeting of the Parliament 09 October 2014 : Thursday, October 09, 2014
Sarah Boyack (Lothian) (Lab)

According to the Scottish Government’s own statistics, which were published this weekend, 70,000 posts have disappeared from local authorities since 2008. Is the minister able to tell the chamber how many of those jobs were related to community safety initiatives?

Vote DetailMSP VoteResult

Selection of the Parliament's Nominee for First Minister
Not VotedCarried

Selection of the Parliament's Nominee for First Minister
Not VotedCarried

Selection of the Parliament's Nominee for First Minister
YesCarried

S4M-11567.2 Margaret Mitchell: Lowering the Drink Drive Limit—As an amendment to motion S4M-11567 in
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Not VotedCarried

S4M-11507.1 Cameron Buchanan: Progressive Workplace Policies to Boost Productivity, Growth and Jobs—
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NoDefeated

S4M-11507 Angela Constance: Progressive Workplace Policies to Boost Productivity, Growth and Jobs—Th
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YesCarried

S4M-11494.3 Jackie Baillie: Welfare Benefits for People Living with Disabilities—As an amendment to
>> Show more
Not VotedDefeated

S4M-11494.2 Alex Johnstone: Welfare Benefits for People Living with Disabilities—As an amendment to
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Not VotedDefeated

S4M-11494 Margaret Burgess: Welfare Benefits for People Living with Disabilities—That the Parliament
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Not VotedCarried

S4M-11484.1 Jackson Carlaw: Human Rights—As an amendment to motion S4M-11484 in the name of Roseanna
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NoDefeated

Search for other Motions lodged by Sarah Boyack
EventIdTypeSub TypeMSP NameParty NameConstituencyRegionTitleItemTextFormattedAnswer DateAnswerStatusIdExpectedAnswerDateAnsweredByMspApprovedDateSubmissionDateMeetingDateProductionStatusIdRecordStatusIdStatus DateOnBehalfOfConsideredForMembersBusinessCrossPartySupportRegisteredInterestSupportCountSupportDateIsEventLinkCurrentMinister
Motion S4M-11655: Sarah Boyack, Lothian, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 21/11/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11592: Sarah Boyack, Lothian, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 18/11/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11357: Sarah Boyack, Lothian, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 29/10/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11302: Sarah Boyack, Lothian, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 27/10/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-11033: Sarah Boyack, Lothian, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 30/09/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-10989: Sarah Boyack, Lothian, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 24/09/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-10903: Sarah Boyack, Lothian, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 01/09/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-10847: Sarah Boyack, Lothian, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 20/08/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-10511: Sarah Boyack, Lothian, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 30/06/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Motion S4M-10315: Sarah Boyack, Lothian, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 12/06/2014 Show Full Motion >>
Search for other Questions asked by Sarah Boyack
EventIdTypeSub TypeMSP NameParty NameConstituencyRegionTitleItemTextFormattedAnswer DateAnswerStatusIdExpectedAnswerDateAnsweredByMspApprovedDateSubmissionDateMeetingDateProductionStatusIdRecordStatusIdStatus DateOnBehalfOfConsideredForMembersBusinessCrossPartySupportRegisteredInterestSupportCountSupportDateIsEventLinkCurrentMinister
Question S4W-23144: Sarah Boyack, Lothian, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 13/11/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-23004: Sarah Boyack, Lothian, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 04/11/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-23005: Sarah Boyack, Lothian, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 04/11/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-23007: Sarah Boyack, Lothian, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 04/11/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-23006: Sarah Boyack, Lothian, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 04/11/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4O-03692: Sarah Boyack, Lothian, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 03/11/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-22888: Sarah Boyack, Lothian, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 17/10/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4O-03587: Sarah Boyack, Lothian, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 01/10/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4O-03515: Sarah Boyack, Lothian, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 15/09/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-22380: Sarah Boyack, Lothian, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 15/08/2014 Show Full Question >>

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