Remembering Margaret

Last week the significant case review into the circumstances that led to the death of Margaret Fleming was published.

What happened to Margaret at the hands of the very people who were supposed to be looking after her is shocking and heartbreaking.

The purpose of the review was to examine the role of all agencies who were involved in Margaret’s life to see what lessons can be learned to try and prevent a tragedy like this happening again.

A series of recommendations have been made and these will now be considered by all agencies involved, including the council and health and social care partnership, to see what can be done differently.

Another key element of the review, called ‘Remember My Name’, was to remember Margaret and through the work of author Professor Jean MacLellan OBE, we have a comprehensive picture of Margaret’s life.

That will now help towards the creation of a memorial in line with another of the recommendations and ensure Margaret is appropriately remembered and that will be taken forward by the council.

For me, the one thing that’s abundantly clear from the review is that we all – individually and collectively – have a responsibility to look out for our fellow citizens and if something doesn’t seem right, it probably isn’t.

If you see something, say something.

Waste not, want not

I was delighted to support Inverclyde Community Development Trust (The Trust) with the launch of their breakfast initiative providing free cereal and milk through the two zero waste food pantries in Grieve Road, Greenock, and John Wood Street, Port Glasgow, during Challenge Poverty Week.

I revisited The Pantry in Grieve Road to catch up with manager Andy and volunteer Veronica.

They had just recently had their busiest day since opening in December 2020 with over 130 people through the doors on one Saturday alone.

The Greenock pantry was the first of its kind in Scotland to open outside of Glasgow and now has 1,100 members.

Port Glasgow followed in July last year and is also growing in popularity with 738 members.

These are not foodbanks but low-cost, community-led, shops, providing a wide range of good quality food at greatly reduced prices.

Membership is £1 a year and then it’s £2.50 for a weekly shop, covering around £15-worth of goods.

Based on the £2.50 weekly shop, both pantries have generated community savings to date of approximately £850,000.

That’s an extraordinary saving for people, especially in these financially challenging times.

It is also an extraordinary amount of perfectly good, excess produce that would have otherwise gone to waste winding up in the welcoming fridges and cupboards of members.

The pantries also offer advice and support with money, debt, benefits and housing. Both pantries are supported by the council and rightly so as they are fantastic community assets.

Council tax freeze

It seems that every councillor in Scotland was shocked to hear the First Minister announce at the SNP Conference in Aberdeen last week that council tax will be frozen for all households in Scotland next year, not least because the Scottish Government does not have the legislative power to bring this about.

The announcement flies in the face of the Verity House Agreement the First Minister signed in June this year with COSLA in which he committed to a new deal for local government and respect for local democracy.

Irrespective of anyone’s views on the merits or otherwise of a council tax freeze, it simply isn’t right that the First Minister is seeking to impose his policy priority on Councillors who were democratically elected to take this decision.