Sarah Boyack MSP

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Meeting of the Parliament 26 November 2014 : Wednesday, November 26, 2014
Sarah Boyack

The scale of the challenge means that we need more than is in the programme, but I welcome the fact that we will have a cross-party commission. We all need to engage in that process and make it work.

16:41  

Meeting of the Parliament 26 November 2014 : Wednesday, November 26, 2014
Sarah Boyack

We have a crisis in social care. It is interesting that local government will have to pay extra into the pot to tackle the social care crisis. We have an urgent problem regarding resources at local level for providing for the range of vulnerable adults and older people. That is not just a problem to be dealt with in the future; it is a current problem. Unison’s time to care campaign makes that clear.



Meeting of the Parliament 26 November 2014 : Wednesday, November 26, 2014
Sarah Boyack

No, Kevin Stewart has already come in.



Meeting of the Parliament 26 November 2014 : Wednesday, November 26, 2014
Sarah Boyack

The key thing is that the number of people who have gone from local government means an impact on strategic thinking and the delivery of services, not just the output of service delivery. Many councils no longer have the expertise to take up the challenging and innovative opportunities that we need them to take up.

It is clear that the concordat is dead, if not buried. It was not mentioned in this year’s budget, so as the new First Minister takes office, it is important that we move on from the past. I thought that Kevin Stewart’s intervention was going to be about his committee’s recommendation for cross-party talks, which many of us support. It is important because a new council tax system must have buy-in across the chamber and in council chambers throughout the country. If we look at the range of political involvement we can see that we all need to be part of the buy-in. I welcome the cross-party nature of the commission and the timescale. If we are looking at designing an effective replacement for council tax, it is important to get it right.

I welcome the lack of detail about the type of system signalled by the Scottish Government. I hope that that means that the Scottish Government is prepared to take a wider view and go beyond its previous support for local income tax. Many of us have criticisms of it. It is not local. The rate would have to be significantly higher than previously suggested by the Scottish Government, and that would hit young people in particular. I hope that that means that we can move on.

Reports made during the past couple of years have suggested potential ways forward. I was keen for the Labour Party’s devolution commission to look at a property tax and at widening the tax base for local government in general. As the Scottish Government gets more tax powers and accountability, surely that should also be on the agenda for our local government colleagues. That is unfinished business.

The work that has been done by our commission and the strengthening local democracy commission points in the direction of new property taxes. We can all agree that the current council tax is not fair or effective, that it is well out of date and that property needs to be on the agenda if we are designing a new tax system. Across Europe, it is the most regularly used system to provide a key part of local government finance.

We must also broaden the range of resource that comes to local government. Notwithstanding the council tax freeze, the amount that local government raises by its own hand is 18 per cent, which presents a big challenge. We need to look not only at the council tax but at fair funding across the country—the issue of pooling and sharing—and, critically, at funding national priorities, which are set out in national legislation, but which are also local priorities, as councils might want to deliver services in different ways, according to geography and social need.

It is important that the new commission does not look at the council tax in isolation. We must make sure that there is robust funding for local government. Members only need to look at the announcements over the past couple of weeks: the hits on class sizes, the teacher number drops, the suggested library closures—



Meeting of the Parliament 26 November 2014 : Wednesday, November 26, 2014
Sarah Boyack

Lovely. I was predicting that Mr Stewart’s intervention would come within two minutes.



Meeting of the Parliament 26 November 2014 : Wednesday, November 26, 2014
Sarah Boyack (Lothian) (Lab)

I welcome the First Minister’s commitment to reviewing the council tax and looking at new ways of funding local government. That is long overdue and hugely welcome, especially given the massive pressures on our local services, particularly schools and care services, and councils’ lack of capacity to act in the civic leadership role that we expect of them in community renewables or town centres, for example. The council tax is a critical issue and I welcome the fact that we have a statement in front of us that puts it centre stage.

The First Minister said that the council tax freeze would continue. In effect, that means that it will continue next year and the year after, so I would like her to review the issue of fully funding that council tax freeze because that is a key issue that comes back to me from local government colleagues.

The challenge is that the council tax freeze has not benefited those who are on the lowest incomes, particularly those who rely on council tax benefit to survive. The freeze also impacts other vulnerable adults, particularly older people and people who have disabilities, whose support services are being cut back or rationed, or who are having to pay for services that used to be free. The current situation has a financial cost.

Jackie Baillie mentioned how the loss of 70,000 jobs in local government since 2008 has impacted on local government’s capacity to deliver the range of services. There is scope for more efficiency, but after the prolonged—



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 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 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 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.

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—
>> Show more
NoDefeated

S4M-11507 Angela Constance: Progressive Workplace Policies to Boost Productivity, Growth and Jobs—Th
>> Show more
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
>> Show more
Not VotedDefeated

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

S4M-11484.1 Jackson Carlaw: Human Rights—As an amendment to motion S4M-11484 in the name of Roseanna
>> Show more
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 S4O-03783: Sarah Boyack, Lothian, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 26/11/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-23144: Sarah Boyack, Lothian, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 13/11/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-23005: 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 S4W-23007: Sarah Boyack, Lothian, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 04/11/2014 Show Full Question >>
Question S4W-23004: 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 >>

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