Our first branch meeting since the pairing of the council then General Elections was held at the Golden Lion in Stirling last night.
Craig Anderson of Stirling CAB
A good turn out to hear guest Craig Anderson, Manager of Stirling Citizens Advice give a very interesting talk on the work of CAB in Stirling council area and the issues they find themselves dealing with.
He said the last 5 or 6 years had seen a large increase in issues with poverty, destitution and vulnerabilities, driven by many factors but the Welfare Reform Act being the biggest cause of issues.
These present significant and worrying challenges to the CAB Movement. The Stirling CAB has a total of 70 volunteers, 40 on the front line of offering advice, and 10 working on social policy research to proactively try and lobby both Council, Scottish Government and UK Government rather than just be solely reacting to issues people present to them. CAB is a charity and welcomes donations from the public to support its work in helping the often the poorest and most vulnerable clients of the service.
Issues dealt with by CAB range from consumer issues through to welfare, housing, benefits, and domestic abuse. 6000 people came to S-CAB in the last year, with over 14,000 issues. Having visited CAB the recorded gain to citizens by having attended SCAB was in the order of £1.3Million but this should be seen as the tip of an iceberg due to recording methods. CAB are involved with helping clients access food banks when confronted with issues with benefit suspensions, poverty and debt, they support veterans having issues integrating back into civilian life after serving in the armed forces, a criminal justice advice project, mental health outreach funded by the Robertson Trust, and it was stated that the Welfare reform changes were having a significant and disproportionate effect on people with mental health issues. An interesting statistic was that under the incapacity benefit rules, 38% of claimants failed assessment, under employment support allowance 68% fail assessment and at the review, only 4% of the appeals succeed in overturning the decision. If every one of those citizens had representation at tribunal it was stated that all would win their cases.
There is a patient advice service in dealing with health service related issues and a rural fuel poverty advice project. Of all referrals to foodbanks in the area S-CAB is referring 75% of the case sin the area. The digitalisation of government and welfare is leading to a significant part of society who have difficulty accessing their rights and benefits.
Craig also mentioned that S-CAB had access to a rich seam of data on statistics for the local area, that was available to anyone researching social issues. Other services provided was a pension wise service for people reaching 55 plus, a free legal advice service for domestic abuse victims and families, and S-CAB is discussing with Stirling Council over rural access to legal services for people in the outlying places of the area.
Craig took questions from the Branch after his very informative talk.
Review of the two election campaigns
First Cllr Scott Farmer Leader of Stirling Council gave an outline of the arrangements with the Labour Party to run Stirling Council as a viable majority administration, and the situation around the two suspended Tory Councillors Majury and Davies, around which he has written to Tory Leader Ruth Davidson to ask for decisive action on this pair following the revelations that arose after they were elected as councillors. Scott praised the Labour group for rising to the challenges of a joint administration that is felt will work to the benefit of all the people of Stirling. The recent period had been a rollercoaster of events and emotions and on the narrow loss of Steven Paterson in the general election. Scott said he had been approached by many people in the constituency to pass on their thanks to Steven for being such an effective MP for the area. Scott urged branch to get back on a footing to be able to fight another election in the near future as it was unlikely the situation with the minority Tory Government would last a long time and we could be fighting to return Steven as MP again in the near future.
Following this, Steven Paterson, in an at times, emotional talk, our narrowly defeated former MP spoke to the branch about the results and tactical position. The defeat has given us a lot to mull over and there is to be a meeting of branch members from throughout the constituency over a future campaign which might come very quickly. We need to look at campaign methods, fund raising and getting our members and supporters out to vote.
We can and will win back Stirling!
The meeting (open to all members) is to be in the Allan Park Hotel a week on Sunday ( 25th June) from 1600- 1800, Steven’s on the tab…. ( OK, no he isn’t!). We want to hear the thoughts and ideas of all our members.
Resolution for Conference
Lee Robb put a resolution before Branch regarding the ability of 16-18 year olds who cannot stand for positions in elections in which they are allowed to vote, and that this needs looking at. The resolution was supported by Branch.
Our next meeting is to be on the 12th July and we will have Paul Kavanagh (Wee Ginger Dug) along to talk.