Tele column – 30th September 2016

Greenock was named as one of Scotland’s most affordable commuter towns. I have mixed feelings about this. It’s good that people living in Inverclyde are gainfully employed, regardless of where they work, but at the same time I would much rather the employment opportunities existed within Inverclyde and people don’t have to commute. I have worked in Inverclyde and all around the UK. It is much easier to get the work life balance correct if you are not required to commute far. Our first priority must always be to bring jobs to Inverclyde.

The Woman Against State Pension Inequality (WASPI) campaign continues to hold the UK Government to account. This remarkable citizens driven campaign continues with a petition that states “ as a result of the way in which the 1995 and 2011 pension acts were implemented, woman born in the 1950s ( on or after 6th April 1951 ) have unfairly borne the burden of the increase to the state pension age.” If you wish to sign this petition, which shall be presented in the House of Commons on the 11th of October, then you can do so in my office at 20 Crawfurd Street Greenock ( along from the Telegraph offices ). In Inverclyde alone over 3,900 woman are affected by this poorly managed legislation.

It was great to be at Cappielow to see Morton progress to the semi-final of the league cup. I hope everyone involved with the club enjoys the day and I am looking forward to the final already. Finally, congratulations to the Greenock Morton Community Trust for winning the “Best Professional Club in the Community” award at the Grassroots Awards 2016. It is a terrific achievement in a field that they have been pioneers in for some years now.

 

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WASPI Report

Today, the SNP Westminster Group published an independent report on the impact of changes to pension arrangements for women born in the 1950s from the 2011 Act.

The Pensions Act 2011 accelerated the timetable for increases in women’s State Pension Age (SPA) in the UK. Women’s SPA will rise from 63 to 65 between April 2016 and November 2018, and from 65 to 66 by October 2020.

Around 3,900 women in Inverclyde affected by these changes.

The Scottish National Party has commissioned Landman Economics to undertake an analysis of the costs and distributional impacts of a number of potential changes to pension arrangements for women born in the 1950s who will lose out from these changes.

The UK Government have ducked their responsibility to the WASPI women for too long.  It’s time for action to be taken to support the women of Inverclyde and Scotland as a whole.

It is utterly shameful, that it is up-to the SNP to roll up our sleeves while the Tories recklessly abandon their obligations to pensioners.

It’s hoped that this report will be welcomed by the UK Government and now, at last, they end this inequality.

People’s Postcode Lottery funding

Environmental groups in Inverclyde with exciting projects that need funding to get off the ground are being urged to apply for a share of a £1.5 million funding pot.  The kind of projects that are likely to be funded will improve local ecology and habitats, encourage bio-diversity and benefit the wider environment. Groups can apply for funding ranging from £500 – £20,000.

Postcode Local Trust – a grant-giving charity funded by players of People’s Postcode Lottery – has opened its latest funding round and the deadline for applications is Friday, 30 September at 5pm.

Applying for this fund could just be the catalyst for getting your project off the ground.

This is an exciting prospect for any local environmental groups that are in need of an extra funding boost and I’d urge them to get their applications in before the deadline.

Postcode Local Trust will open for applications from now until 5pm on 30 September, 2016.

As a charity lottery, a minimum of 30% goes directly to good causes. Players of People’s Postcode Lottery have raised £142 million to date for over 2000 charities across Great Britain and internationally.

For more information on Postcode Local Trust and to find out how to apply for funding, please visit www.postcodelocaltrust.org.uk.

 

Parliament Week 2016

Parliament Week 2016 begins on 14 November and will see schools, museums, charities and businesses around the country join in a week long programme of activities and events which explore what the UK Parliament means to them and their community.

UK Parliament Week is a great opportunity for organisations here in Inverclyde to engage their audiences or members in this national programme.

There are many ways you can get involved – put on an event such as a debate, exhibition, or online event or visit the UK Parliament Week website for more ideas. Become a UK Parliament Week partner and, along with organisations from across the UK, add your voice to this exciting project.

Founded in 2011, Parliament Week 2016 takes place between 14-20 November and is an annual series of events and activities, co-ordinated by the House of Commons with support from the House of Lords, which aim to raise awareness of Parliament and encourage people to engage with the UK’s democratic system and its institutions. A number of organisations, such as the UK Youth Parliament and the Hansard Society, are joining with Parliament Week to host events about democracy and political engagement.

Schools are also invited to take part in Parliament Week. For more information, please visit the schools page on the Parliament Week website.

For more details about the events and activities taking place during Parliament Week 2015, how to register an interest or how to participate, please visit www.ukparliamentweek.org

Follow Parliament Week on twitter.

Clyde Life Article – The Role of an MP

It may come as a surprise to learn that there is no job description for a Member of Parliament. The remit is wide and varied. It is entirely up to each one of the 650 MPs as to how they approach their job. It is important to get the balance right between problems that require an immediate fix and also the long term strategy to improve your constituency.

Casework is self-generating. Constituents contact my office with their issues and we take it from there. We record all cases and can report them in such a fashion that I can see if we have clusters of similar cases and can monitor the volume per category. Sometimes that develops into a contribution at Westminster on a specific issue. That can be a written or oral question, it may be a speech or an intervention on a speech. I do whatever is required to highlight the issue and bring the solution closer.

Beyond the day to day issues we also have short and long term projects that my team and I are working on. Fixed odds betting terminals with a stake of £100 a spin has been an issue we have pursued from day one. The U.K. government, under Tracey Crouch, is now going to investigate this matter. I have had dealings with Tracey and found her to be grounded and rational in her approach. I believe we can address this issue but the gambling companies have a huge lobbying presence and will use it. Fortunately we also have a very strong and well organised all party parliamentary group on FOBTs. We also have projects regarding drug reform, unexploded ordnance in the Clyde and improving broadband connectivity.

We may not resolve all these issues during my time as your MP but we are moving them all along and ensuring that we are going in the right direction.

We have two long term projects that are solely Inverclyde focused. I want Inverclyde to become a centre of excellence for sustainable renewable energy. I have written a paper on this and approached a number of local stakeholders. The aim is to meet stakeholders, facilitate the exchange of ideas and develop solutions. This is an ongoing process and I am glad to say that we have a dialogue with Scottish Renewables, Riverside Inverclyde and the larger renewables sector. We have planted the seeds and hope to see them grow. The entire paper is on my website www.ronniecowan.com . On a similar theme of collaborative working I am keen to see the Glebe building put to good use. I have engaged with locals that wish to see a creative arts centre in Inverclyde. Shamefully we do not have one building that is deemed suitable to display works of art that currently languish in the store rooms of the large galleries and museums. I would like to see a facility that could host Stanley Spencer’s Atlantic convoy paintings and those inspired by the Port Glasgow cemetery. And we need a facility that can house a permanent George Wylie display. The Glebe building has space for this and more. It could contain studio space for artists and a retail outlet to sell their wares, while the rooftop lends itself to a restaurant and coffee shop (with a glass ceiling as it can get windy up there). The Glebe has 69 arched windows and is a beautiful stone built work of art in its own right. We should be taking care of it. Again discussions are on-going.

On the whiteboard in the meeting room in my constituency office in Greenock and in my office at Westminster is written the phrase “the only thing that matters, is everything we do”.  Sometimes the variety is challenging but mostly it’s inspiring and motivational. Knowing that we are making progress and helping the lives of the people of Inverclyde is the most important thing for me and my team.

To view the Clyde Life website and to find out about the magazine, please click here.

Westminster diary w/b 12th September

Monday

I was on the order papers with a question to the Secretary of State for defence but unfortunately the last question taken was number 14 and I was question 15. So we are none the wiser regarding the safety audit at the atomic weapons establishment. A frustrating start to the week. Later I attended a briefing from legal and constitutional experts, Professor Bernard, Dr Hunt and Professor Anand Menonon, on the legal and political ramifications of the UK voting to leave the EU and how Scotland can protect its interests. I have to say it was a heavy session and I got the feeling that we are heading towards a “hard brexit” which will be painful for all involved.

I was pleased to see that the Panorama programme on Monday evening about the damage caused by Fixed Odds Betting Terminals got such good coverage. I missed it as I was in the chamber when it was broadcast but caught up with it the following day.

Tuesday

Started with a session from the Blue New Deal which focused on regeneration of the coastal communities in Scotland.

I had a meeting with David Mundell, Secretary of State for Scotland, at Dover House and we discussed all things related to Inverclyde. He promised to pursue my concerns with the MOD regarding unexploded ordnance.

Attended the Scottish constitution group meeting and listened to Professor Philip Booth talk about federalism. It’s an interesting concept which may suit the rest of the U.K. once Scotland becomes independent.

Attended the all-party group meeting on Scottish sport and the internal SNP group meeting.

Wednesday

I met with representatives of Virgin Media to get an update on their installation in Kilmacolm. I took the opportunity to promote Inverkip as their next port of call. It is now on the agenda. Prime Ministers Question time must have served a purpose at some time but for the life of me I can’t see what purpose it serves now. The Prime Minister resorted to supercilious sneering at the leader of the opposition. Other countries must look at us and wonder what century we inhabit.

My select committee took evidence or to be more precise extracted evidence from Sir Jeremy Heywood (Cabinet Secretary and Head of the Civil Service) regarding the Chilcot report and the EU referendum. I had the pleasure of hosting a debate in Westminster House on the Universal Basic Income. As the first speaker I have no time constraint and therefore it is much more relaxing and I can take interventions at leisure. In the evening I did an interview for the internal Westminster magazine ‘House’.

Thursday

Was a slow day as we are heading in to conference recess. I had a meeting with the Institute of Fundraisers regarding fundraising on the charitable sector. I quick meeting regarding media and another about boundary changes to electoral constituencies. I rush to the airport only to be delayed. The time spent hanging around is put to good use reading copious briefing papers and writing articles including this one.

Friday

Was spent back in the constituency office hosting a range of meetings with local businesses and individuals. I now have three weeks of recess and expect to be talking, and more importantly listening a lot of over that time.