Jackie Baillie MSP, Cllr Martin Rooney and SNP council leader Jonathan McColl.
By Democrat reporter
A Freedom of Information request made by Jackie Baillie MSP has revealed that West Dunbartonshire Council and Argyll and Bute Council are among the highest charging local authorities for community alarms in Scotland, coming second and third to Edinburgh City Council.
Argyll and Bute Council are charging residents a whopping £275.60 in 2019/20 to have community alarms in their homes with West Dunbartonshire charging £260 for the same financial year.
West Dunbartonshire’s community alarm charge was first introduced in 2014/15 with an annual charge of £122.
The charge increased by £9 between 2014/15 and 2016/17. It then went on to increase by an astonishing £134 between 2017/18 and 2019/20, under the SNP administration, bringing the charge to £260 a year.
The increase makes West Dunbartonshire the local authority with the greatest price increase in Scotland.
Twenty five local uuthorities have significantly increased the amount that they charge for community alarms for elderly residents over the last ten years with only one local authority, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, having not increased the charge since 2009/10.
Jackie Baillie MSP said: “It is outrageous that West Dunbartonshire and Argyll and Bute councils are amongst the highest charging local authorities in Scotland for community alarms. It is even harder to stomach when you consider that West Dunbartonshire, in particular, has some of the most deprived communities in Scotland.
“Both councils are charging elderly and vulnerable residents, on low and fixed incomes, unmanageable costs to have alarms in their homes.
“These alarms are a vital addition to many homes across my constituency and there have been hundreds of cancellations from local people who feel they simply can no longer afford to pay the charge.
“The scale of the increase in charges in SNP controlled West Dunbartonshire is completely unacceptable.
“Both West Dunbartonshire and Argyll and Bute have some serious questions to answer when avoidable accidents start to happen due to people no longer being able to afford alarms.
“There needs to be an urgent review of the increase in charging for community alarms and I hope to see action dry soon.”
Councillor Martin Rooney, leader of the Labour Group in West Dunbartonshire Council, said: “At this year’s budget meeting, I made a point of drawing attention to the SNP inflation busting charges being imposed on our most vulnerable citizens.
“I warned the SNP against this but they chose to ignore it and instead they placed an unacceptable burden on our elderly and disabled citizens, many of whom have now been forced to withdraw from the service and have placed themselves at risk.
“I was shocked to learn that one of the poorest areas of Scotland now had one of the highest charges for community alarms. I don’t remember seeing that in the SNP leaflets at the last election.”
Cllr Jonathan McColl, leader of the SNP administration, was not available for comment.