Tuesday, 24 May 2016

North Lanarkshire Update

A kind reader has sent me a copy of a confidential report from a body known as the Joint Integration Board (JIB) of North Lanarkshire's Health & Social Care Partnership.

The JIB is just a fancy name for a big committee made up of very senior officials from North Lanarkshire Council and Lanarkshire NHS who have been charged with the task of getting social care (council-run) services and NHS services to work more closely together and more effectively, with a view to reducing 'bed-blocking' for example.

The report is dated 4 May 2016 which is important because the article below from The Motherwell Times with the banner headline "Home support staff are staying in-house" is dated 29 April 2016.

Yet the JIB report (dated a week later) says in Appendix 3:

4. Home Support

"Currently, around 77% of this service is provided in house, with 23% purchased from commissioned providers. The savings option was based on increasing the proportion the service purchased to 60%, although it would have remained the Service's intention to provide as much re-ablement and complex care as possible in-house whilst buying in more support overall."  

Now the JIB statement directly contradicts a previous decision of North Lanarkshire Council and I find it hard to believe that such senior officials were not aware of the Council's new policy stance.

So why is the Health & Social Care Partnership still pressing head with plans to out-source much of North Lanarkshire Council's home care service?

If you ask me, the Home Care workforce deserves some urgent answers because this JIB business just doesn't sound right.


Home support staff are staying in-house

Friday 29 April 2016

Home support workers sent a clear message they wanted to remain as council employees

Home support workers employed by North Lanarkshire Council will not see their contracts being transferred to the private sector.

The council currently employs around 1,400 care staff who provide vital services to local people.

Following budget cuts, one of the proposals to save £3.6 million being considered was to ‘TUPE transfer’ around 400 staff to a third party private provider.

During a public consultation about potential savings the public told the council this was the sixth least palatable option of the 98 listed.

The workers themselves also submitted over 15,000 letters they had collected from the public calling on the council not to take this action.

At the Housing and Social Work Services Committee yesterday (Thursday) convener Barry McCulloch announced this proposal will not be going ahead.

Councillor McCulloch said: “I am glad to announce our home care support will be remaining in-house. This was always our preferred option.

“Everyone knows what a vital job these people do to support those in need in our local communities, and I’m glad this has now been dropped.

“This has been made possible by relocating people in some of our care facilities and by vacancies arising within the service.

“We look forward to our home support staff continuing to provide an excellent service in our communities.”

**Stop Press**

Here's a great way to start the week - news of another big victory in the fight for equal pay in Labour-run North Lanarkshire Council!

The Scottish Public Pensions Agency (SSPA) has upheld the appeal brought by A4ES and  overturned the decision of North Lanarkshire Council that equal pay settlements are not pensionable.

Now that's a very big deal for the individuals affected by the decision and here is a copy of a letter from the SSPA to Sarah Gilzean of HBJ Gateley, the solicitors who have been acting very ably for A4ES clients in this long-running dispute.

If I were running North Lanarkshire Council, I'd be asking some searching questions about the 'quality' of advice the Council has been receiving lately because, yet again, the Labour-run administration has been left with egg all over its face.

I think it's also worth mentioning that A4ES has been fighting this particular battle all on its own without any support from the trade unions whose attitude has been little, if any, different from the employers.

I'll have more to say on this subject in the days ahead, so watch this space.


Ms Sarah Gilzean Associate
HBJ Gately 

Exchange Tower 
19 Canning Street Edinburgh

Your ref: SG/ACT0010.00006/CM Our ref: LGT/05/400/10

20 May 2016

Dear Ms Gilzean


1. I refer to your letter of 14 March 2016 in which you applied to the Scottish Ministers under stage 2 of the Local Government pension Scheme's Internal Disputes Resolution Procedure (IDRP2) against North Lanarkshire Council's decision not to treat `settlement payments', paid to appellants in respect of the `second wave' of their successful equal pay claims, as pensionable.

2. At stage 1 of the IDRP process June Murray, Head of Executive Services (on behalf of North Lanarkshire Council), was appointed to review the Council's decision and she provided her determination on the 2 February 2016. Ms Murray dismissed your appeal on the grounds that the regulations had been applied correctly, as set out in Regulation 73 of The Local Government Pension Scheme (LGPS) (Scotland) regulations 2014.

3. It may be helpful to note that the LGPS (Scotland) is governed by regulations made by the Scottish Ministers, whilst the responsibility for administering the scheme rests with Local Authorities, who must comply with the regulations and cannot act outside their terms. The question for determination by the SPPA, on behalf of the Scottish Ministers, is whether North Lanarkshire Council have acted in a way other than that as set out in, and required under, the relevant Local Government Pension Scheme (Scotland) Regulations.

4. In considering an application, the role of the Scottish Ministers is not simply to consider the case presented to the Appointed Person, and their determination, but to decide which facts are relevant to their consideration of the case. I have reviewed the information provided to me, in order to inform my decision, on behalf of Scottish Ministers.

5. In 2014 an amendment was made to the LGPS (Scotland) regulations to clarify the policy intent that a back-payment of arrears of pay, made in respect of an equal pay claim, should be treated as pensionable. It is only an amount paid to members in respect of `compensation for hardship' caused by the lower pay that should be non-pensionable.

6.- The reasoning behind this policy was that, if it was decided by an employer that a payment in respect of an equal pay claim ruling in favour of the member should not be pensionable, there would remain pension cost implications in the longer term. If the employee's rate of pay is increased as a result of the equal pay claim, his or her pensionable pay will also increase. When the employee leaves, his / her final salary benefits are calculated on their current pensionable pay and the whole period of membership in the Scheme.

7. Therefore the resulting pensionable pay upon which the benefits are payable increases, as a result of the equal pay claim, but no employer or employee contributions will have been paid to the Pension Fund on these payments. This shortfall in contributions to the Fund would be met by scheme employers via an increase in the employer's contribution rate in successive Fund valuations.

8. At paragraph (7) of her determination, Ms Murray accepts that the Employment Tribunal Award constitutes a retrospective payment that comes within the definition of pensionable pay that requires North Lanarkshire Council to make these payments to Strathclyde pension fund. Ms Murray contends that this is because the Council paid this compensation after the deduction of income tax and national insurance contributions which was then paid to Her Majesty's Revenue & Customs (HMRC).

9. Ms Murray then states that the `second wave' of `settlement payments' do not fall under this definition, because the Council considers that a "settlement which compensates for arrears of pay" is not pensionable. This, she says, is backed up by North Lanarkshire's decision not to pay income tax or national insurance contributions on it.

10. Ms Murray's response at paragraph (14) states that; "The Council has not informed Strathclyde pension fund (SPF) that the compensation payment is not pensionable. The Council cannot, however, confirm that the compensation payment is pensionable as it is not an award of compensation and has had no income tax liability determined on it" (my underlining). Scottish Ministers find this statement to be confused and an obstruction to finding an equitable solution to the disagreement.

11. In my judgement Ms Murray has misconstrued the LGPS (Scotland) regulations. Regulation (20) the 'Meaning of pensionable pay' states:

"20.—(1) Subject to regulation 21 (assumed pensionable pay), an employee's pensionable pay is the total of—

(a) all the salary, wages, fees and other payments paid to the employee; and
(b) any benefit specified in the employee's contract of employment as being a pensionable emolument.

(2) But an employee's pensionable pay does not include –
(h) any award of compensation (excluding any sum representing arrears of pay] for the
purpose of achieving equal pay in relation to other employees" (my underlining).

This in effect means that any sum representing arrears of pay, for the purposes of achieving equal pay, must be treated as pensionable.

12. In the view of Scottish Ministers, the regulations require that remuneration paid to persons for loss of past earnings should put those persons the position they would have been, had they been paid the correct amount in the first instance; and therefore should be recognised for pension purposes.

13. The Scottish Ministers uphold this appeal. In this case Lanarkshire Council is required to pay the income tax and national insurance liabilities on these settlement' amounts and also the requisite employer contributions on behalf of the members. Members will be required to pay their own contributions based on the settlement amounts.

14. As you will be aware, the Pensions Ombudsman may investigate and determine any complaint or dispute of fact or law in relation to the Local Government Pension Scheme made or referred in accordance with the Pension Schemes Act 1993. In cases of alleged maladministration, the Pensions Ombudsman has the powers to award compensation to the appellant.

15. Before reviewing a case, the Ombudsman would normally expect TPAS to have considered it before an approach is made to him. The Pensions Advisory Service (TPAS) is available to assist members of occupational pension schemes in connection with any difficulty with the scheme that is unresolved following the scheme's Internal Disputes Resolution Procedure (IDRP). The address of TPAS is 11 Belgrave Road, London, SW1V 1 RB. The Pensions Ombudsman's address is the same as that of TPAS.

16. You also have the right to ask the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman at Freepost SPSO, to consider complaints which relate to the administrative actions of SPPA and not matters which relate to decisions relating to the pension regulations.

17. A copy of this letter will be provided to June Murray, the Appointed Person, and Linda Welsh, Strathclyde Pension Fund, for their respective action.

Yours sincerely

Kimberly Linge

Policy Manager, LGPS 

Pensions and Equal Pay (20/04/16)

HBJ Gateley are the lawyers representing A4ES clients in the ongoing dispute with North Lanarkshire Council over pensions and equal pay - and they've done a great job if you ask me, in setting out the employees' case in a formal appeal to Scottish Ministers which is now underway.

Here's an extract of the appeal letter which explains the scale of the financial loss being suffered by former NLC employees (mainly women) who are not being allowed by the Council to retire on the same basis as their male colleagues doing traditional jobs, such as refuse workers and gardeners.

"21 The following example illustrates the scale of the loss to the Appellants:

"Mrs A has been in service for 20 years and has made a contribution to her pension for the full period of her employment. Prior to the settlement offer Mrs A received £3,838 pension per year with a non-taxable lump sum payment of £11,512. After taking into account the additional earnings that Mrs A received in the settlement and contributing £960 in additional contributions, Mrs A would receive an increased pension of £5,375.00 per year with a non-taxable lump sum payment of £16,125. Mrs A would therefore have a gain of £1,537 extra in her pension per year and an additional £4,613 as a lump sum. Over her lifetime Mrs A would stand to gain an additional £43,800 from her increased pension entitlement." 

I can't even begin to understand how Labour-run North Lanarkshire can claim to be an equal opportunities employer when the Council is arguing that a retiring woman worker can be treated so much less favourably than a comparable male employee.

In fact, it's a complete disgrace if you ask me and I only hope that Scottish Ministers have the sense to uphold the appeal from A4ES clients.

I'll be writing shortly to all MSPs and MPs in North Lanarkshire with a copy of the appeal letter and will be urging them to support their local constituents by making representations to the Scottish Government.

Looney Tune President

Wyre Davies puts the point succinctly in the first paragraph of this post for the BBC - either President Maduro is delusional or he really does believe that President Obama is about to authorise an invasion of Venezuela.

Now President Maduro has form in this area, as regular readers know, because in the past the Venezuelan leader has claimed that his mentor and predecessor (Hugo Chavez) appeared to him in the form of a 'little bird' during his presidential election campaign.

Just imagine the headlines, if Donald Trump had said something like that - the media at home and abroad would be having a field day.

But to make matters worse President Maduro went on to claim that a miraculous image of Hugo Chavez subsequently appeared on a construction site wall, as if endorsing his new government which was, by that time, already in big trouble. 

The men in white coats can't be too far away. 

Venezuela: Maduro evokes spectre of foreign threat

Wyre Davies - Rio de Janeiro correspondent

BBC Latin America & Caribbean

Image copyright - REUTERS Image caption - President Maduro said the country's armed forces and militia were prepared to meet any threat

Either President Nicolas Maduro genuinely believes there is a credible threat to Venezuela's national security from an unspecified foreign power, or he is delusional.

In what were described as the biggest ever military exercises to have taken place on Venezuelan soil, President Maduro proudly declared that more than 500,000 troops from the armed forces and civilian militias loyal to the government participated in "Operation Independence 2016" over the weekend.

"We have never been more prepared than this," barked the president in a speech evoking Venezuela's military heroes of the past, none more important than Mr Maduro's predecessor in office, Hugo Chavez.

Prepared for what exactly? There is no threat of invasion from Venezuela's neighbours and, while clearly keeping a close eye on developments, Washington is highly unlikely to make any direct intervention.

Full alert

Appearing alongside President Maduro, Minister of Defence Gen Vladimir Padrino Lopez said US "spy planes" had been detected violating Venezuelan airspace on two occasions this month.

Image copyright - REUTERS Image caption - Gen Vladimir Padrino (right) stood shoulder to shoulder with President Maduro

Proof, suggested the general, that Washington was planning an invasion and that Venezuela's armed forces should be placed on full alert.

President Maduro frequently blames the country's many crises on "economic warfare" promulgated by internal business elites and hostile foreign governments.

But by raising the spectre of a foreign invasion, many commentators suggest, the embattled president is showing signs of desperation, using an old but tired tactic to divert attention from what is really happening.

One might respectfully counter that the root cause for Venezuela's many problems lies much closer to President Maduro's front door.

Venezuelans are certainly suffering, as I saw in a large regional hospital in the provincial city of Maracay, to the west of Caracas.

Concerned doctors, at the end of their tether, told me how the healthcare system is on the verge of breakdown.

Image copyright - EPAImage caption - Pharmacies are running low on stocks of essential medicines; many shelves are empty

They showed me wards, crammed full of patients but without basic medical equipment. I spoke to patient after patient whose operations could only proceed after they themselves had bought the appropriate medical supplies - splints, dressings, antibiotics etc.

With wards full, many people were forced to lie on gurneys or on the floor in filthy, dark corridors as the daily national blackout affected the most critically important sectors of society.

I spoke to the parents of a baby, severely ill with acute respiratory complications. They had to dig deep into their own pockets for an ill-fitting mask and respirator to keep her alive.

In another makeshift emergency room, as a young girl was undergoing an operation for a broken arm, there was an open drain full of filthy waste water with flies and mosquitoes everywhere.

'Patients are dying'

Most doctors are fearful of speaking on the record because of potential reprisals by loyal pro-government officials attempting to conceal the chronic crisis in Venezuela's health system.

But one junior doctor who did not mind speaking out was Emmanuel Torres.

Image caption - Dr Torres says he sometimes pays for medical supplies himself

"Patients are dying because they can't get basic drugs," he told me, having just had to refuse a desperate mother ventilation treatment for her acutely asthmatic child because of an extended power cut.

"I've even had to pay for supplies myself to ensure that routine medical procedures can take place." added Dr Torres.

Reluctantly, he is contemplating a move abroad to work, along with as many as 40% of the country's doctors. 

Image copyright- REUTERS Image caption - Venezuelans often have to queue for hours outside supermarkets to get the basics

But the shortages go much further than medicines. Venezuela has become a nation of queues.

Food, basic ingredients and household goods are all scarce in a country that became so dependent on oil revenues, it could not cope when the price crashed.

Outside supermarkets and pharmacies across Venezuela, people queue for hours on end, often not even knowing if they will get what they need once inside.

Babies' nappies, flour, sugar, milk and shampoo were just some of the items I heard being repeatedly listed by desperate but stoical shoppers.

You have to admire the resilience and patience of Venezuelans. This situation has persisted, indeed worsened, for the last two years.

Many of those I spoke to in a long queue near the sprawling Petare shantytown would have once regarded themselves as "Chavistas", supporters of the revolution promoted by the late President Chavez.

Recall plans

These are the people who, in last December's Congressional elections switched their allegiance to the opposition coalition.

Emboldened by that victory, opposition supporters have repeatedly challenged the government of Nicolas Maduro.

Their aim is to gather enough signatures to force a recall referendum against the increasingly unpopular leader.

Image copyright -EPAImage caption - Opposition politicians say they have collected 1.85 million signatures backing a petition in favour of a recall referendum

Mr Maduro, in turn, appears more autocratic and entrenched.

He recently declared a state of "economic emergency" and extended, for 90 days, his powers of decree.

He has also publically contemplated using those powers to dissolve a Congress which he regards as hostile and a threat to Hugo Chavez's socialist revolution.

Thus far, President Maduro has been able to count on the support and loyalty of the Venezuelan armed forces that he has vowed to use against opposition protesters "in defence of the revolution".

Perhaps, say observers, that is the real reason behind all the talk of "imminent invasion" and "foreign aggression": to create the emergency conditions that would enable the armed forces to deal with internal dissent.

These are dangerous days in Latin America's most unstable nation. Both government and opposition leaders have recklessly hinted at military intervention in the crisis.

International mediators have urged dialogue before it is too late but it is an appeal that has thus far fallen on deaf ears.

Spitting Image (12/11/13)

Anyone looking for confirmation that Venezuelan President, Nicolas Maduro, is nothing more that a political snake-oil salesman should consider his latest crazy antics - his claim, for example, that a 'miraculous' image of Hugo Chavez (his mentor and predecessor) appeared on the wall of an underground construction site.

Now I've posted the 'miraculous' image with this post and have to say that I can't see this as the 'spitting image' of Hugo Chavez - no matter how hard I try.

In fact it looks at best to me like one of those misshapen vegetables that attract publicity from time-to-time as loosely resemble a human face - good for a laugh perhaps, but that's all.

Yet Nicolas is keen on interpreting this as another miracle, a sign that Hugo Chavez is somehow watching over his country and giving his blessing from beyond the grave to the increasingly wacky Maduro administration - which has price inflation running at an astonishing 50%. 

Now Nicolas is a 'socialist' politician of course, but he seems more than happy to inject a little voodoo into his pitch to the voters - many of whom are deeply religious.  

Which is a load of old bollix, if you ask me - and while you would think that no socialist worth their salt would indulge in this kind of mumbo jumbo, President Maduro appears unabashed.

So, I would not be in the least surprised if he is carted off by men in white coats any day now - or perhaps even the military - because there seems little doubt that the President is losing the plot.   

Here's a report on the 'Chavez is everywhere' story from the Telegraph newspaper - which made me laugh out loud. 

Hugo Chavez 'appears' on construction site wall

President Nicolas Maduro claims marks on a wall are the image of late Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez

Stories of Chavez appearances draw mockery from the roughly half of Venezuelans who do not support Mr Maduro Photo: Reuters

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said an image of his political idol and predecessor, the late socialist leader Hugo Chavez, had appeared miraculously in the wall of an underground construction site.

Since his death from cancer earlier this year, Chavez has taken on mythical proportions for supporters, and Mr Maduro has spoken of seeing his former mentor's spirit several times, including in the shape of a bird.

In the latest incident, Mr Maduro said Chavez's face briefly appeared to workers building a subway line in Caracas in the middle of the night.

"My hair stands on end just telling you about it," Mr Maduro said on state TV late, showing a photo of a white-plaster wall with marks that appear like eyes and a nose.

"Who is that face? That gaze is the gaze of the fatherland that is everywhere around us, including in inexplicable phenomena," added Mr Maduro, who won an April election to replace Chavez after his 14-year presidency.

Mr Maduro's reverence for Chavez plays well with government supporters, who treat the charismatic former leader's memory with religious adoration. The 50-year-old Maduro, who mixes Catholic beliefs with a penchant for Asian spirituality, has been a devoted personal follower of Chavez since first meeting him at a jail in 1993.

Workers took the photo with a mobile phone during the image's brief appearance, the president added.

"Just as it appeared, so it disappeared. So you see, what you say is right, Chavez is everywhere, we are Chavez, you are Chavez," Mr Maduro said during an event on live TV.

Stories of Chavez appearances draw mockery, however, from the roughly half of Venezuelans who do not support Mr Maduro. Many of them regard him as a buffoon riding on Chavez's image and causing embarrassment for Venezuela's international standing.

Both sides are gearing up for local elections in December that will be a major test of Mr Maduro's standing in the OPEC nation of 29 million people. Rampant violent crime and economic problems are the main issues taxing voters.

The president's first six months in office have been characterized by dozens of accusations ranging from assassination and coup plots to sabotage of the power grid. Critics say that is a smokescreen to cover up domestic problems.

Edited by Bonnie Malkin

Sleep Disorder (19 October 2013)

I've been taking a keen interest in what's going on in Venezuela these days as I'm fascinated by the rise to power of President Nicolas Maduro to power - because I'm convinced he's a political panhandler, a phoney or as we might say here in Scotland a complete chancer.

My reason for saying this is that the Venezuelan Maduro sees 'dead people' when it suits his purpose and one in particular - his predecessor Hugo Chavez who appeared to him in the form of a little bird at the height of the presidential election.  

But this kind of shameless behaviour has continued with the new President letting it be known that he beds down frequently in the mausoleum where Hugo Chavez's remains have been paid to rest - in the Mountain Barracks which is a 19th century fort in a run-down areas of Caracas.  

Apparently, the 'Great Leader's' tomb is housed in the ornate central atrium of the military barracks and is now guarded - around the clock - by soldiers replete with red and yellow hussars uniforms and swords, although what Hugo Chavez is being protected from is anyone's guess. 

President Maduro 'slipped out' this revelation, quite deliberately of course,  and announced portentously to his people

"I sometimes come at night. At times, many times, I sleep here. We enter at night and we stay to sleep. At night we reflect on things here."

The royal 'we' in this case is the president's entourage who join him in the mausoleum, but it's all clearly just a silly political stunt designed to reinforce the personality cult that grew up around Hugo Chavez - in the hope that some of this will rub off on Maduro.

The latest wheeze from the new President is to ask parliament to grant him special powers - so that Nicolas can govern by Presidential decree for up to three years - allegedly to tackle corruption and economic sabotage.   

Yet the language used by President Maduro in seeking these new powers is very revealing and in a three-hour speech to the Parliament  he reportedly called it a "matter of life or death" for the country's socialist revolution, before adding:

"If corruption keeps expanding and perpetuating its destructive capitalist logic, there will be no socialism here."

Now the problem with this kind of overblown rhetoric is that it's empty-headed, rabble-rousing nonsense of course - since all kinds of people around the world will tell you that 'capitalist' countries have no monopoly on political corruption.

If politics has taught me anything, it's that people with 'left' or 'right' wing views are both very  capable of behaving very badly - and that by and large it's bad for democracy and the body politic for any one person or party to remain in power for too long - because as the saying goes 'Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts, absolutely'.  

Looney Tunes (7 May 2013)

A few weeks ago, the acting President of Venezuela - Nicolas Maduro - told the world that the former President of Venezuela - Hugo Chavez - had appeared to him during the presidential election campaign in the form of a little bird.

Now at the time I said Nicolas was either bonkers or a complete charlatan - and evidence in support of my statement continues to pile up as the Venezuelan leader sees plots around every corner.

Is the President paranoid?, seems a fair question to ask in the circumstances - but I think not, I suspect it's all just a cynical political act.

The latest claim from Nicolas Maduro is that he is the target of an alleged Colombian plot to  assassinate the Venezuelan President - an incendiary charge to make towards a neighbour and one for which Nicolas has not a shred of evidence to back up his claim.

Just like Hugo Chavez appearing to him in the form of a little bird - it's an emotional appeal that's designed to exploit people's feelings - their sense of loss over Chavez and now their sense of resentment towards a neighbouring country, Colombia.

So the newly elected President Maduro has accused former Colombian leader - Alvaro Uribe - of plotting to assassinate him - and Nicolas has alleged other conspiracies against him since taking over from the late Hugo Chavez - and winning disputed elections last month.

The BBC reported Maduro as saying last week:

"Uribe is behind a plot to kill me. Uribe is a killer. I have enough evidence of who is conspiring, and there are sectors of the Venezuelan right involved."

Yet, conveniently, no evidence has been produced - and this latest outburst seems like yet another inflammatory attempt by Maduro to portray his critics variously as  killers, traitors, fascists and bogeymen.

Meanwhile, Mr Uribe responded by describing President Maduro as 'immature' - which seems an very apt description to me of a new President who appears to be way, way out of his depth. 

Glasgow City Council Update

The Evening Times reports that the jobs of school janitors in Glasgow are to be 'reformed' in a bid to save the City Council money, but reading between the lines this would also be a way of justifying a pay increase for this particular group of staff.

Now I don't know enough about the dispute to say whether this might provide a fair solution, but what I do know is that there must be lots of other groups within the City Council who feel they've been short-changed as a result of Glasgow's Workforce Pay and Benefits Review (WPBR), which is just a fancy name for a local job evaluation scheme (JES).

Which begs the question: Why aren't the  unions fighting and campaigning for these groups of staff as well?


Jannies jobs to be 'reformed" in a bid to save Cordia £11m

Glasgow janitors who work for Cordia protest outside its headquarters in Glasgow

Hannah Rodger - Evening Times

CALLS have been made for a review of school janitors duties in a bid to end their dispute over pay.

As reported by the Evening Times, dozens of primary school janitors have been on strike all week in a row over extra pay for unpleasant duties.

Yesterday we told of how a school's gates were left unopened during the strike and two children with additional support needs left.

The jannies, employed by arms-length Glasgow City Council firm Cordia and members of trade union Unison, argue their colleagues receive additional pay for duties involving physical demand, working outdoors or in unpleasant conditions of up to £1000 a year.

Malcolm Balfour, SNP councillor, has now written to education bosses Maureen McKenna and Liz Cameron, as well as Cordia chief Andy Clark asking for a review of their duties.

In the letter, he said: "I am writing with regards to the ongoing janitorial dispute.

"I would like to call on the Education Department to have a full review of all janitorial duties.

"I would like this review to be concluded before the school summer holidays begin so that this gives a true reflection of all the duties the janitors undertake- inside and outside."

He added: "Given that Cordia is a member of the council family and is in fact fully funded by this council it is my belief that all department that deal with or are contracted to this council have a duty of care to all who use our educational facilities, and therefore urge all of them to work with the janitors and their representatives."

In response, he was told by Ms Mckenna and Councillor Cameron that the janitors were employed by Cordia, and the company was carrying out a review of their service.

Janitors roles and duties are understood to be subject to a "janitorial reform" by Cordia bosses in a but to save almost £11million in the next two years.

The review aims to find out how the janitorial service can be "delivered more efficiently" and how it can mean the requirements within the budget.

A note by Cordia boss Andy Clark, seen by the Evening Times, states: "The Janitorial Reform will have a number of objectives including how the Janitorial Service can be delivered more efficiently and how it will meet the needs of our customers within their budget.

"Once this is all determined then Cordia will, given such a significant change in the role of a Janitor, assess the new role and assign an appropriate Role Profile which outlines the key role and responsibilities of each job and the core pay that goes with that job.

"Furthermore, a reassessment of the Working Context and Demands and Non Standard Working Pattern will be made in line with these new roles."

"A Cordia spokesman said: “At a meeting on Tuesday of this week, Cordia invited representation from each of the trade unions to take part in the forthcoming janitorial review.

“This review is part of the Transforming Glasgow programme, of which Cordia must deliver £11 million in savings over the next two years.

“We have encouraged active participation from all trade unions in the review, which will be comprehensive and cover every aspect of the janitorial role.

“The first meeting will take place in June.”

Fallout Continues

Some things just don't add up.

Take, for example, Stewart Hosie's resignation letter to Nicola Sturgeon in which he cited health reasons for his decision to stand down as deputy leader the SNP.

Now if that were the real reason for Mr Hosie deciding to fall on his sword, then you would think that the self-same logic ought to apply to his role as deputy leader of the SNP group of MPs at Westminster.

But according to this report in The Scotsman, Mr Hosie is in rude, good health as far as the Westminster bubble is concerned, even if he has to take things easier in other parts of the country. 


Sturgeon: No need for Stewart Hosie to quit as Westminster deputy

Stewart Hosie could remain on as deputy leader of the SNP's Westminster group. Picture: Greg Macvean

FIRST Minister Nicola Sturgeon has insisted there is no need for an SNP MP at the centre of love triangle allegations to quit as deputy leader of the party’s Westminster group.

Ms Sturgeon praised Stuart Hosie for doing the “right thing in difficult circumstance” by standing down as deputy leader of the party nationally, but said there was no reason for him to leave the same post in London.

He is alleged to have had an affair with Westminster journalist Serena Cowdy, who was previously said to have been involved with Angus MacNeil, who represents Na h-Eileanan an Iar in the UK Parliament.

Dumb and Dumber (23/05/16)

Stewart Hosie, on the left, is standing down as the SNP deputy leader unwisely citing his health and 'intrusive' media scrutiny as the reason, rather than his own foolish behaviour.

Court of Public Opinion (20/05/16)

Stewart Hosie (left) and Angus MacNei (right) with Alex Salmond at the entrance to the House of Commons
Stewart Hosie, Alex Salmond and Angus MacNeil in 2005

I enjoyed the fact that senior SNP sources resisted the temptation to make excuses for Stewart Hosie and Angus MacNeil, the two party MPs caught up in a tawdry Westminster sex scandal.

While Mr MacNeil whined about his treatment at the hands of the 'tabloid' press, senior sources in the SNP  described him as a "dirty shagging bastard" and a "cock of the north".

Now Mr MacNeil has 'form' in the area so perhaps it's not surprising that the SNP hierarchy had no sympathy for his plight, but the party's wrath also descended on SNP deputy leader, Stewart Hosie, with one female MP saying:

“This always happens with men. A woman pushes their buttons and they fall for it every time. Stewart fell for it just like every other.”

So far, so good, but then along came Alex Salmond who when asked about the call for an investigation into Angus MacNeil's hotel expenses (on his LBC radio phone-in) answered:

"If it is investigated it will be flung out. There is no expenses issue here whatsoever, none whatsoever."

As I said the other day, expenses are about assisting MPs in the 'better performance of their duties" - they are not intended to help MPs cheat on their wives, husbands or partners.

So while Mr MacNeil owns a property in nearby Westminster which the taxpayer helped to buy, he chooses not to stay there but to stay instead in London hotels which he can charge to the public purse.

Now that can't be right if you ask me, even if it is within the 'rules'.

Defending the Indefensible (19/05/16)

The SNP is apparently giving its full backing to Angus MacNeil MP who, along with his older colleague, Stewart Hosie, is caught up in a good, old-fashioned Westminster sex scandal.

Now these two middle aged men look extremely arrogant and stupid if you ask me, and, of course, Mr MacNeil is a 'repeat offender' after the Sunday Mail reported in 2007 that he had been involved in a 'drunken romp' with two teenage girls in a hotel room while his pregnant wife was in hospital expecting his third child.

But the real interest for me lies in the fact that Mr MacNeil owns a property in London and yet still bills the public purse for staying in hotels while on official Westminster business.

I assume Mr MacNeil bought the property soon after entering the House of Commons in 2005 and that he did so with mortgage that was paid for under the MPs' housing allowance scheme, part of the now discreditedMPs' expenses regime which was in place at the time.

Now this housing allowance scheme was abolished as a result the great MPs' expenses scandal, but Mr MacNeil (along with many others) benefited from the scheme until it was replaced in 2010 - and from the huge increase in London property prices. 

The media report that Mr MacNeil earns £10,000 a year in rent from the property (which sounds very cheap for London) and that he claimed £16,665 in expenses for overnight hotel stays in 2014-15.

So the real question is how can an MP justify running up these huge hotel bills when he owns a property that was, in part at least, purchased with public money from the taxpayer? 

Mr MacNeil may be operating 'within the rules', but in the court of public opinion I would say he's just another two-timing hypocrite.


SNP backs Angus MacNeil over hotel expenses claims

BBC Scotland politics

Image captionThe SNP says Angus MacNeil (left) has not broken any financial rules

The SNP has insisted it was "totally wrong" to suggest that an MP at the centre of sex claims had committed financial impropriety.

Angus MacNeil is said to stayed with journalist Serena Cowdy at the Park Plaza hotel in London, and then claimed for the room on expenses.

Ms Cowdy is reported to have later been involved in a relationship with the SNP's deputy leader, Stewart Hosie.

Mr Hosie recently separated from his wife, SNP MSP Shona Robison.
London area

Mr MacNeil, the MP for Na h-Eileanan an Iar (Western Isles), has claimed about £90,000 in accommodation expenses since 2010/11, including £17,823.97 in 2014/15 - the period in which he was said to have been having an affair with Ms Cowdy.

The vast majority of the claims have been for hotels in the London area.

This is despite Mr MacNeil owning a flat in Lambeth, which is about a 15-minute walk from the House of Commons.
Image caption - Ms Cowdy was said to have been involved in an affair with Mr Hosie as well as Mr MacNeil

Mr MacNeil, who separated from his wife last year, is understood to have bought the flat under previous Westminster expenses rules, which allowed him to charge mortgage interest payments to his parliamentary expenses.

But when the rules changed following the MPs' expenses scandal, Mr MacNeil became one of several MPs who chose to rent out their properties and instead claim expenses for staying in hotels or rented accommodation when in London. There is no suggestion that the practice is against Westminster expenses rules.

Front pages

Mr MacNeil has previously said that the new expenses rules were to blame, and that MPs should be allowed to claim for flats they own, as they did in the past.

Both Labour and the Conservatives have called for an investigation into any "potential misuse" of taxpayers' money by Mr MacNeil.

But a spokeswoman for the SNP said: "Angus MacNeil's accommodation has nothing to do with it. To suggest any financial impropriety is totally wrong."

Allegations of Ms Cowdy's affairs with the two SNP MPs have dominated the front pages of Scotland's newspapers over the past two days. 

Image copyright - PAImage caption - Nicola Sturgeon embraced Mr Hosie's wife, Shona Robison, after being re-elected as first minister on Tuesday

SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon - who was re-elected as Scotland's first minister on Tuesday - was asked several times by journalists whether she still had confidence in Mr Hosie, who is due to lead the party's new independence drive over the summer.

Ms Sturgeon said only that it was a "private matter", that Mr Hosie was "elected as deputy leader of the party" and that she had no further comment to make.

The first minister was photographed in the Holyrood chamber embracing Ms Robison - who served as her health secretary until the recent election, and who has been married to Dundee East MP Mr Hosie for nearly 20 years. 

Pants to Politics (19/05/16)

The SNP is getting a terrible press over the sexual shenanigans of two senior Westminster MPs which is only fair, I suppose, given the pasting handed out to Labour, Conservative and Lib Dem politicians over the years.

The political journalist in the eye of the storm, Serena Cowdy, apparently told friends that she is “madly in love” with the SNP's deputy leader, Stewart Hosie. 

While one of these 'friends' is reported as telling The Sun newspaper: 

“She was bragging about Stewart Hosie’s white Marks & Spencer Y-fronts. Within her circle, she was quite open about it. She wanted people to know that it was more than a casual thing.”

Now that is funny and it just goes to show that you can't be too careful when it comes to dealing with The Sun.