Community alarms charges scrapped

North Lanarkshire Council has decided to scrap charges for community alarms less than a year after introducing the controversial fee.

Community alarms will be free in North Lanarkshire once again

In addition they will reimburse everyone who paid the weekly £5 fee and reinstall those alarms given up when it was introduced.

The charge was introduced for nearly 10,000 users last August, but in December over 1000 sheltered housing residents were told they no longer had to pay.

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In total it is expected to cost around £2.5 million to return the scheme to how it was.

Depute council leader and Motherwell West councillor Paul Kelly presented a motion to the recent full council meeting calling for the move, seconded by Labour’s business manager and Kilsyth councillor Heather McVey.

He said: “This administration is big enough to admit when a mistake has been paid so we are now rescinding the £5 community alarm charge.

“In additional we will refund all those who paid for the alarm as well as offering anyone who gave it up the chance to have it reinstalled.

“While all this will cost around £2.5 million it is part of the reason why we added an extra £16 million to the social work budget to ensure it would be covered.”

Cumbernauld North councillor Bob Chadha, himself a former social worker, backed the move.

He said: “One of our principles should be to help the vulnerable and elderly, and to make life a little better for them.

“I wasn’t the biggest fan of this charge, and clearly public opinion was against it so I’m glad the new leadership has listened.”

Strathkelvin councillor Frances McClinchey, an Independent, backed the Labour led move.

She said: “As a council we got it wrong on community alarms, now let’s see how we get it right for our vulnerable people.”

The SNP felt the £2.5 million costs should come from the Contingency Fund, but welcomed what it called a ‘belated U-turn’.

Opposition group leader and Airdrie Central councillor David Stocks said: “Labour has been all over the place with this issue. They introduced the charge and then dropped it for 1,177 people in sheltered housing in December, now, at last,they are dropping it for the other 8,800 alarm users.

“We opposed the imposition of a charge from the very beginning as we considered it to be a heartless charge on vulnerable, elderly people so welcome this belated U-turn by Labour.”