Broadband Report

I welcome the news from Ofcom that more consumers in Inverclyde are receiving faster broadband speeds.  The quality of the product being provided is continuing to improve and I look forward to further developments.

This year’s report outlines progress on the availability and take-up of broadband and mobile services, which are crucial to people’s personal and working lives.  The average download speed in Inverclyde has increased to 62.1(Mbit/s) from a previous 52.3 (Mb/s).  The combined superfast and ultra-fast broadband availability in Inverclyde is now 93% from a previous 86.3%

This comes on the welcome announcement during the Scottish Budget that every home and business will have access to superfast broadband by 2021, as a result of a £600 million investment.

 

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Young People & Gambling Statistics

It’s deeply worrying to learn that young people in Scotland are experiencing gambling in situations where the risks are not always explained.  Only last week, the GambleAware conference highlighted that over half a million in the UK are gambling each week.

The smart-phone generation have ready access to gambling, something which has not previously been available and the statistics from the Gambling Commission highlights that 11% of 11-16 year olds have played free gambling-style social games online. 

Loot boxes within computer games, such as Star Wars Battlefront, is increasing the opportunities for young people to inadvertently gamble and we must provide more education on the dangers of gaming and gambling.  Therefore, my office has contacted Inverclyde HSCP to make them aware of this information.

 

Consultation on Inverclyde Constituency Boundary Changes

I have lodged an objection with the Boundary Commission in response to plans that would see the Inverclyde constituency enlarged to include Bishopton, Langbank, Bridge of Weir, Erskine and Inchinnan.

The UK Government tasked the Boundary Commission with re-examining existing constituency boundaries with a view to reducing the number of seats across the UK from 650 to 600. Under the most recent plans a new seat, ‘Inverclyde and Erskine’, would be established.

The latest boundary proposals would increase this size of the seat by 19,000 people, a rise of 32% without any associated rise in staff wages or resources for my office.

My four staff already have a high volume of constituency cases, a problem exacerbated by Inverclyde’s lack of a Citizen’s Advice Bureau and the closure of the Port Glasgow Job Centre. Inverclyde also generates a high number of complex cases because of on-going problems with social deprivation, unemployment and poverty.

My concern is that increasing the size of the constituency by almost a third will put a heavy burden on my staff and greatly reduce the service my office, and that of any future MP for the area, is able to offer constituents. I am strongly opposed to any proposal that would reduce the quality of service any MP can offer their constituents.

I would encourage constituents to make their views known by responding to the Boundary Commission Consultation before the 11th of December.

Notes

To view my full response to the consultation please click here.

 

Support for Basic Income

The support of Reform Scotland on the proposal and debate around the basic income is welcome and comes at a time when the idea is now receiving widespread attention.

This is one of the reasons the Scottish Government have committed funding to support the four local authorities as they aim to design a pilot scheme.

There is a growing awareness and interest in the idea of a basic income, so any debate we can contribute to is worthwhile – we will continue to discuss the concept of a basic income and working with those who also wish to do so.

We should be hugely proud that Scotland is leading the way in the evolution of this important debate.

Reform Scotland Briefing https://reformscotland.com/2017/12/basic-income-guarantee-nows-right-time-big-idea

Christmas Food Collection

From Thursday, November 30 to Saturday, December 2, more than 2,600 Tesco stores across the UK are taking part in the annual Food Collection, which encourages shoppers to donate long-life foods to help charities FareShare and The Trussell Trust’s foodbank network to give food and support to people who might otherwise go hungry this Christmas.

The food donated to foodbanks in The Trussell Trust’s network is given in emergency food parcels to people referred because they cannot afford to feed themselves and their families. Food donated to FareShare is distributed to charities and community groups who use it to provide meals for vulnerable groups such as isolated older people and those in homeless shelters.

 

 

 

Action on FOBTs

The Campaign for Fairer Gambling estimate that in Inverclyde cash inserted into FOBTs in 2016 was £11,527,602.  This led to loses of just under £3m for that year alone. 

Through the work of the All-party parliamentary group we’ve taken evidence from a number of organisations and individuals who’ve been affected by gambling related harm and in-particular FOBTs.   The call for a £2 maximum stake on FOBTs is echoed by Members from all mainstream parties.

Gambling related harm is an issue which is rightly receiving more attention and it’s vital the Government listen to the many people who are highlighting how FOBTs are having a detrimental effect on society.

I urge people to respond to the Government’s consultation on ‘Gaming Machines and Social Responsibility Measures’ and ensure they know that the maximum unit stake on FOBTs must be reduced to £2.  This will be a step in the right direction and help ensure less individuals and their families lives are ruined by these machines.

Consultation on proposals for changes to Gaming Machines and Social Responsibility Measures – https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/consultation-on-proposals-for-changes-to-gaming-machines-and-social-responsibility-measures

 

UK Budget

It’s disappointing, yet unsurprising, that both the Chancellor and the Secretary of State for Scotland turned down invitations to visit Inverclyde to discuss the UK Budget.  This would have been an opportunity for them to see how their decisions to cut the Scottish block grant will have a direct impact on people’s lives here in Inverclyde.

As we know, the biggest threat to Scotland’s economy is the continuation of austerity and a hard Tory Brexit.  Scotland’s budget is expected to fall by 9.2% (£2.9 billion) in real terms over the 10 years to 2019-20.  These cuts from the UK Budget will have a detrimental effect on the most disadvantaged individuals in society and a large portion of my Inverclyde constituents.

Nevertheless, Scotland has strong economy, and compares favourably with the UK and internationally on key economic indicators.

I note the Government are starting to listen to my concerns and those from MP’s across the Chamber that Universal Credit (UC) needs drastic changes and welcome the removal of the 7 day grace period when initially applying for UC.  However, more needs to be done to ensure the system is fair and supports my Inverclyde constituents who are claiming welfare support.

 

UK Govt Response to Basic Income

It’s disappointing but not surprising that the UK Government have completely dismissed basic income before even undertaking any research on the subject.  The contrasts dramatically to the Scottish Government’s approach to look into the feasibility of a basic income by undertaking research and also working with local authorities who wish to pilot such a scheme.

Only last week, I chaired a discussion at Westminster where the University of London City, through the European Social Survey, highlighted the growing awareness and support for basic income, throughout the world and across the political spectrum.

Basic income is an idea which has been around for centuries but is becoming more prevalent with the increase in people working in the gig economy.  It’s time the Chancellor listened to the growing support for introducing a basic income and ensure the Government take action.

 

‘Flaws’ in Universal Credit

I have been contacted by dozens of constituents regarding Universal Credit, many of whom have highlighted the flaws in the current system.

It is worth reminding that in 2016 the Money Advice Service found that more than 16 million people in the UK had less than £100 in savings.

Universal Credit is not working and the roll-out must be halted.  Take that time to reform the fundamental flaws in Universal Credit and then implement a system that truly offer applicants the stability in which they can build their lives.

 

Ofcom announcement on consumer support

I welcome the news from Ofcom that consumers will receive money back from their providers for slow repairs, missed appointments and delayed installations, without having to claim it. 

My constituents continue to raise concerns regarding a perceived lack of support from the deliverer of broadband and they want improved service and faster speeds from their provider.

I look forward to these rules taking effect and hope it will provide people in Inverclyde with better broadband and telecoms.

https://www.ofcom.org.uk/about-ofcom/latest/media/media-releases/2017/automatic-compensation?utm_source=updates&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=autocomp