Council Election - Roger Saxon - Labour & Co-operative Party - Thurso & North West Caithness
7th April 2017
I have been proud to represent Thurso as one of your local councillors since 1999, but in May, our ward boundaries are changing. The new ward of Thurso and Northwest Caithness stretches from Reay to Dunnet, Castletown, Bower and Scarfskerry; it includes Scrabster and Halkirk as well as Thurso. Representing this new enlarged ward will be a challenge that I am more than ready to take on.
I am very community minded, having been past chairman of HomeAid, running 3 shops, with a staff of 10, Vice-chairman of Caithness FM community radio, presenting a topical chat and music show, Chairman of Thurso Youth Cafe, Board of Caithness Horizons museum, chairman of Dounreay Stakeholder Group and member of the Caithness & North Sutherland Regeneration Partnership.
I fully support our community councils and provide them with a monthly report on items of interest coming from the council. I hold regular surgeries, where constituents can come with their concerns and have dealt with hundreds of cases over the last few years. This is perhaps the most rewarding part of being a councillor - helping people.
I have been part of the Caithness Redesign of Adult Services board with NHS Highland for the past 3 years. This allowed us to commission local services like befriending and dementia support workers. We moved on to redesign of Caithness General and Dunbar and recently took on maternity issues. It's clear we all have to get involved because funding, sustainability and recruitment will continue to be a problem. It will be my focus to ensure that proper community engagement/ consultation takes place so that people's voices can be heard.
The way Highland Council works is changing. Our new Caithness Area committee developed a county flag and pioneered participatory budgeting, "Your Cash, Your Caithness" where local people decide on grants to local causes. The Caithness committee has devolved budgets and decision making, £3.8m for roads and amenity services, £5.3m for Housing. My aim would be to bring ever more local control and decision-making back to Caithness, but not just decided by councillors. We need to find genuine ways of bringing democracy home. This could be by Ward Forums and/or a Caithness citizen's panel.
The council set up a local democracy commission which focusses on localism. The council is also redesigning its services, taking a critical look at every aspect and may well stop doing some of the things it does currently. This process also favours local solutions.
As Caithness area leader, I wrote the ‘Vision for Caithness'. It contains sections on the City/Region deal, Infrastructure for growth, Promoting our area, Town centres, health, transport, social equality and education. It is now part of council policy. Part of the City/ Region deal - Newton Rooms in Thurso and Wick for STEM/D education has already been agreed. And I’m confident we will have some hi-tech ‘Fit Homes’ for people who need support to live independently.
Our new Caithness Community Partnership is chaired by Highlands & Islands Enterprise (HIE). Community Partnerships require the Highland Council, HIE, NHS Highland, Police Scotland and Fire & Rescue Scotland and other public bodies to work together to produce common outcomes for the health and well-being of citizens. One of the main aims of the partnership will be to tackle social inequality. The partnership will produce adult and children's plans and build community development in Caithness. Parts of Thurso, Wick, Castletown, Lybster and Dunbeath are identified as areas to create a set of Local Outcome Improvement Plans.
I sit on the Caithness & North Sutherland Regeneration Partnership and on the Caithness Transport Forum. These partnerships bring together local businesses and agencies, all working together to enhance the economy and replace jobs lost as Dounreay decommissioning proceeds and the workforce reduces. At the Transport forum I successfully argued for a review of our transport Vision for Caithness.
SNP has failed us on council tax
Since 2011, the SNP have cut council funding by an incredible £1.5Bn. This year saw another £327m local government cut, forcing councils to slash more jobs and cut back on valued services. The SNP don't just pass on Tory cuts, they amplify them. Despite last year's job losses and economies, Highland had to find another £16.57m cuts, raise council tax by 3% for band D and 26% for Band H due to the SNP's escalator. This raised just £3.5m, or 15% of council spending. Around 60% of Scottish homes are in the wrong band - there hasn't been a revaluation since 1992. It is time for the hated council tax to go. The SNP promised to scrap it in 2007. Labour would introduce a fairer system where 80% of households across Scotland will pay less than they do today. Labour would use the powers that Scottish Government already have to invest in our children's future, stopping the damaging cuts and giving councils a 3-year rolling budget so they can plan ahead. Tory Brexit is a disaster for the Highlands and SNP plans for a second referendum mean that jobs and the economy are at risk. Their control freak, administrative approach to government has seen the centralising of Police and Fire services, emergency control rooms and most recently the emasculation of Highlands & Islands Enterprise. Direct funding of head teachers to try to fix the attainment gap caused by their policies and underfunding is seen by many as a precursor to 'nationalising' education. Local Government should mean just that - allowing councils to get on with the job and ensuring they are properly resourced.
You can contact me on my Campaign email address: RogerSaxon4Thurso@gmail.com
Also see my campaign website: www.thursolabour.org.uk
Facebook Page: @RogerSaxonLabour
Promoted by Roger Saxon of 73 Upper Burnside Drive, Thurso KW14 7XB
Full list of Candidates in Caithness