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New figures show real impact of benefit cuts on Renfrewshire residents

New figures reveal that Renfrewshire residents are struggling to cope with the UK Government’s benefit cuts, with more than 600 local people receiving help from local food banks since the ‘Bedroom Tax’ was introduced in April.

renfrewshire council logo .JPGA total of 601 people were supported by food banks between April and June – while the figure for the first three months of 2013 was 228 people.

And Discretionary Housing Payment awards – a crucial fund to help residents who are struggling to meet their housing costs – are also up for April, May and June compared to the same time last year.

The council has given out a total of 1,094 Crisis Grants since April 1 and an additional 800 council households have fallen into rent arrears since the Under Occupancy Rule was introduced.

Councillor Mike Holmes, Renfrewshire Council’s Deputy Leader, said: “We warned the UK Government when their ‘Bedroom Tax’ was looming that many communities were already pushed to breaking point and would struggle to cope.

“Three months on and we can now see the harsh reality. More people need help from food banks to feed their families, more people are struggling to meet their housing costs, and more people are falling into arrears.

“Figures from the Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research say that as part of the overall programme of benefit cuts Renfrewshire will eventually lose £60m a year. That’s a staggering amount of money.

“We’re doing all we can to support our hard-pressed residents through these difficult cuts and dealing with welfare reform is one of this council’s top priorities.

“We will not evict our tenants who fall into arrears as a direct result of the ‘bedroom tax’ as long as they continue to work with us. And on top of that our tenants can also now apply to have their homes reclassified to stop them being penalised by the ‘bedroom tax’ for having a bedroom that can’t be used because of disability or medical reasons.

“We’re also increasing capacity of our Customer Contact Centre to cope with residents increased need for advice. And we’ve established a 45-strong team to help alleviate the problems caused by the changes to housing benefit, disability living allowance, debt and legal problems and employability issues.

“On top of that we will continue with our £4.5m Invest in Renfrewshire programme to boost our economy and create job opportunities for local people.”

The number of council tenants facing the Under Occupancy Rule at the end of March who were in rent arrears was 587. The number of tenants affected by Under Occupancy and in arrears has risen to 1,387 at the end of June. So 800 of our tenants affected by ‘bedroom tax’ have fallen into arrears since the start of April.

The council gave out 613 Discretionary Housing Payments during April, May and June 2013, compared to 155 for the same period in 2012.

Councillor Holmes added: “Unfortunately we’re still facing years of UK Government benefit cuts. It plans to slash its spend on DLA by 20%; will continue with its freeze on Child Benefit; will replace six key benefits with a new benefit called Universal Credit; and will continue to move claimants off Incapacity Benefit onto the new Employment Support Allowance – so we may only be seeing a glimpse of what’s to come in terms of people needing help.

“The reality for Renfrewshire is that as local people continue to struggle, the Government is taking £60m out of the pockets of the area’s poorest families and that, quite frankly, is shameful.

“I’d urge anyone who is worried about the benefit changes and struggling to cope to please call our help line for support.”

The Scottish Government contribution to Renfrewshire’s DHP fund for 2012/13 was £251,714. Renfrewshire council Council topped up the fund by £150,000.

For more information on benefit changes, including advice and support, please call our benefit change helpline on 0300 300 0288 or visit www.renfrewshire.gov.uk/benefitchanges

PlayTalkRead bus back in Paisley

The PlayTalkRead bus returns to Renfrewshire during July, encouraging families to get creative, sing songs, clap hands and tell stories.

The big purple bus will be calling at County Square in Paisley on Tuesday 9th and Wednesday 10th July before touring Renfrewshire for a week from Monday 22nd July.

Funded by the Scottish Government, the PlayTalkRead bus travels the length and breadth of the country demonstrating the positive impact of play and introducing parents and carers to fun activities they can try at home with their child.
Linda Stevenson, Renfrewshire Council’s Childcare Information Officer said, “Often the best play ideas are simple and don’t cost a penny – a bottle can be transformed into a rocket, add some rice and it becomes a musical shaker. Kids love using their imagination!

“Admission to the bus is free for Renfrewshire families and there’s no need to book. Whenever and wherever parents and carers see the bus they can hop on board with their wee ones to discover a world of fun and engaging activities to do together”.

The PlayTalkRead bus offers parents and children the opportunity to join in with BookBug storytelling, rhymes and songs sessions with young passengers also receiving a free book or playcube to take home.

Details of the tour can be found at www.renfrewshire.gov.uk and for hundreds of playtime ideas visit: www.playtalkread.org

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Council’s new measures to support tenants facing benefit cuts

Renfrewshire Council is so concerned about the impact of benefit changes that it will now consider reclassifying homes where tenants are penalised by Under Occupancy Rules for having a bedroom which can’t be used because of disability or medical requirements.

This means tenants can apply to have their properties re-classified so that an extra bedroom wouldn’t be classed as a ‘spare’ but judged as necessary where no suitable alternative accommodation was available.

renfrewshire council logo .JPGThey would then not face reductions to their benefits as part of the Under Occupancy Rules – dubbed the ‘bedroom tax’.

The move is part of a package of measures that Renfrewshire Council has approved to manage the impact of benefit changes on its housing service and tenants.

There will also now be increased priority in housing allocations for tenants who are worst affected by the bedroom tax.

Renfrewshire Council has already agreed that, where tenants are engaging with the Council, it will not resort to eviction to collect rent due to bedroom tax.

The council has now gone further and has agreed that tenants with bedroom tax debt can still be considered for a move to downsize to a property with no spare bedroom, which will improve their financial circumstances.

Consideration will also be given to ending the right to buy for one-bedroom council properties.  The council’s housing stock is now mainly consists of flats as a result of right to buy and so the restriction may be applied to any houses the council has left which are in short supply.

That would enable greater flexibility in allowing tenants to move to properties that are more suitable for their particular circumstances.

Councillor Tommy Williams, Convener of Renfrewshire Council’s Housing and Community Safety Policy Board, said:  “Welfare Reform is one the biggest issues to impact upon our area and Renfrewshire Council is generally regarded as being at the forefront of the approach councils are taking to try to help tenants, families and communities deal with the severe impact of the UK Government’s cuts.

“We are prepared to work with other social housing organisations and tenants’ groups to do all we can to give our tenants the help they need in these difficult times.

“I am pleased we taking steps to help those who are caught in the trap of the ill-informed Under Occupancy Rules.   These measures that we are now taking forward can make a real difference to those of our tenants who are on housing benefit and who are in an increasingly difficult position as a result of the benefit change programme.”

The proposals were agreed at a meeting of Renfrewshire Council on Thursday June 27.

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Renfrewshire Council plans new measures to support tenants facing welfare cuts

Renfrewshire Council is so concerned about the impact of welfare changes that it is looking at reclassifying homes where tenants on benefits are being financially penalised for having a bedroom which cannot be used because of disability or medical requirements.

The change would mean that tenants wouldn’t be hit by under-occupancy restrictions.  The second bedroom would no longer be classed as a spare bedroom but would be judged as necessary where no suitable alternative accommodation was available.

renfrewshire council logo .JPGThe move is part of a package of measures that Renfrewshire Council is looking at to manage the current and future impact of welfare changes on its housing service and tenants.

There would also be increased priority in housing allocations for tenants who are worst affected by the bedroom tax.

Renfrewshire Council has already agreed that, where tenants are engaging with the Council, it will not resort to eviction to collect rent due to bedroom tax.  The council has now gone further and may allow tenants with bedroom tax debt to still be considered for a housing exchange move to a property with no spare bedroom, which will improve their financial circumstances.

Consideration will also be given to ending the right to buy for one-bedroom council properties.  The council’s housing stock is now mainly consists of flats as a result of right to buy and so the restriction may be applied to any houses the council has left which are in short supply.

That would enable greater flexibility in allowing tenants to move to properties that are more suitable for their particular circumstances.

Councillor Tommy Williams, Convener of Renfrewshire Council’s Housing and Community Safety Policy Board, said:  “Renfrewshire Council is generally regarded as being at the forefront of the approach that local authorities are taking to try to help tenants, families and communities deal with the severe impact of the UK Government’s welfare cuts.

“We have prioritised this issue and are working with everyone involved to put in place practical measures to provide support on benefit, debt and welfare issues.

“Regarding the council’s housing service, we are bringing forward what we believe are practical and achievable proposals which could make a real difference for those of our tenants who are on welfare and who are in an increasingly difficult position.”

“We are prepared to work with other social housing organisations and tenants’ groups to do all we can to give our tenants the help they need in these difficult times.

“We want our housing service to be best placed to meet the continuing challenges it faces through the impact of welfare changes.  I believe these proposals are a positive step in that process.”

A report on the proposals will be considered at a meeting of Renfrewshire Council on Thursday 27 June.

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Paisley Museum’s Lunchtime Talk: ‘Wings over the Heather’

Paisley poet and weaver Alexander Wilson was known as the ‘Father of American Ornithology’. To celebrate his contribution to the study of birds, Clyde Muirshiel Regional Park Ranger Service will be at Paisley Museum next Wednesday to tell us about their own work and study of the Hen Harrier, one of the UK’s rarest raptors.

The Lunchtime Talk, ‘Wings over the Heather’, will take place at Paisley Museum on Wednesday 26 June at 12.30pm. Admission is free and open to all.

For more information on Lunchtime Talks, future performances or events please visit www.renfrewshire.gov.uk/events or follow us on Facebook www.facebook.com/renfrewshirearts 

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Area’s land-use plan reaches key milestone

The planning overview which will govern how Renfrewshire’s land can be used for the next five years has reached another key milestone.

The Local Development Plan is the council’s view of how land should be used for different purposes – such as housing, industrial or retail use. Once agreed, it will be used as the basis for all future planning decisions.

renfrewshire council logo .JPGLast year, the council approved new version of the plan, which was published and advertised in January, giving the Renfrewshire public six weeks to have its say on the contents.

All representations received have been compiled into a single report, which has now been published on the council’s website and was this week circulated around councillors on the Planning and Property Policy Board.

Around 1,780 parties responded to the consultation, and their comments have been grouped into 46 issues.

The next stage is for the council to pass the proposed plan, the objections made to it, and the council’s response to those objections, to Scottish Ministers.

They will review all the material and will report back early next year with a decision on any changes that should be made to the plan.

Councillor Terry Kelly, Convener of the Planning and Property Policy Board, said: “We want to ensure Renfrewshire continues to be an attractive place to live, visit and do business.

“The Local Development Plan is a vital part of that, as it lays down guidelines designed to ensure the right developments take place in the right place at the right time.

“We have to strike a balance between using the area’s land in a way which encourages economic growth, while also protecting our communities and the environment.

“The area of the plan which has attracted the most comment is land for housing. The local economy cannot grow without some degree of expansion for new homes.

“The strategy laid out in the plan is for the vast majority – 88% – of future housing development to be contained within brownfield sites.

“Provision has been made for some limited release of greenbelt land, but residents should be assured this will only happen in areas where we feel any development would be sustainable and appropriate.”

For further information, or to view the summary of representations, visit www.renfrewshire.gov.uk/localdevelopmentplan

Over 1,000 children take part in Renfrewshire’s Gateway to the Games Week

Over 1,000 children took part in Renfrewshire Council’s Gateway to the Games activity week which included the seventh annual Special Games for children with physical, sensory and learning disabilities.

Pupils from a total of 17 primary, secondary and special schools are took part representing: Bishopton, Castelhead High, Clippens, Corseford, Heriot, Houston, Johnston Hish, Kersland, Langcraigs, Lindwood High, Mary Russell, Mossvale, St Andrew’s Academy, St Anthony’s, St Benedict’s, St Paul’s and Trinity High.

The children enjoyed some of the following: athletics, boccia (a special type of indoor bowls), bowling, curling, football, golf, hockey, karate, rugby and tennis.

A range of partners have come together to make the games a success including volunteers and students from: Renfrewshire Council’s Active Schools Team, James Watt College, sports leaders from Parkmains High, Johnstone High, Glennifer High, students from the Renfrewshire School of Sport Education, St Mirren and Sports Development.

All Photographs taken for Paisley on the web by Tom Chittick.

Glasgow Airport MD awarded OBE

Glasgow Airport’s managing director, Amanda McMillan, has been recognised by the Queen for her services to business and tourism by being named on the 2013 Birthday Honours List.

Ms McMillan, who was appointed managing director of Glasgow Airport in 2008, has received an OBE (Order of the British Empire) in recognition of her success in steering it through the worst downturn in aviation history.

During this time she has succeeded in growing passenger numbers and fostering positive relationships with the airport’s city and national partners, with whom she has worked to further strengthen Scotland’s connectivity. This has included the introduction in June 2012 of Emirates’ second daily Glasgow to Dubai service.

Commenting on her achievement, Ms McMillan said: “Not only is receiving an OBE a tremendous honour, it is both humbling and wholly unexpected. To be recognised by the Queen in this way is a source of great personal pride but I truly believe it is in recognition of my team, who work tirelessly to ensure Glasgow Airport continues to deliver for the city and for Scotland.”

Earlier this year, Ms McMillan unveiled details of an ambitious £17 million investment programme which will see key parts of the main terminal building undergo a major makeover in 2013. This includes international arrivals which for many will be the gateway to the 2014 Commonwealth Games.

http://www.glasgowairport.com/

Paisley Museum’s Lunchtime Talk: Renfrewshire’s Frontier Poet.

This year is the 200th anniversary of the death of Alexander Wilson. Born in Paisley, Wilson immigrated to the United States as a young man. Poet, artist, scientist and social commentator, he rose to become one of the towering figures in the history and science of ornithology.

This Wednesday, June 19, local historian Alan Steel will survey the astonishing range of achievements Alexander Wilson has made and the lasting impact he has had on American identity.

The Lunchtime Talk, ‘Renfrewshire’s Frontier Poet’, will take place at Paisley Museum on June 19 at 12.30pm. Admission is free and open to all.

For more information on Lunchtime Talks, future performances or events please visit www.renfrewshire.gov.uk/events or follow us on Facebook www.facebook.com/renfrewshirearts

Some Other Mother – Half price theatre at Paisley Arts Centre

Part of Refugee Week Scotland, Some Other Mother is just one event taking place from 17 – 23 June that celebrates the diversity of Scottish culture and raises awareness of refugee issues. 

Some Other Mother is a new play by AJ Taudevin produced in association with The Tron, the Scottish Refugee Council and support from Stellar Quines. Set high up in a Glasgow tower block, ten-year old Star and her mother await the outcome of their claim for asylum. As Mama’s mind fragments under the pressure of their unknown future, Star constructs a poetic and fantastical world of her own. Some Other Mother is a story of loss and survival which explores the traumatising impact of the asylum system, regardless of the outcome.

Some Other Mother (part of Refugee Week Scotland)

Paisley Arts Centre

Thursday 20th June, 7.30pm

£5 (£3 conc)

Booking: Call the Box Office on 0300 300 1210 or go online to www.renfrewshire.gov.uk/onlinebooking