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This year I’ve once again had complaints from constituents who are missing out on the UK Government’s Cold weather Payments. In principle this is a good scheme. People on the basic state pension, or who get Universal Credit or certain other benefits, get an automatic £25 extra if there’s a seven day spell of cold weather in their area. The problem is that the DWP doesn’t take the temperature where people actually live; for the Glenrothes and Levenmouth areas they take the temperature at Leuchars where it’s often much milder than in places further inland and much higher up. I got the chance to raise this directly in parliament with the DWP secretary of state last week and was gobsmacked when she admitted she didn’t know what Cold Weather Payments were!

It was very disappointing to hear of the decision to close Glenrothes electronics firm TDK-Micronas with the possible loss of 83 jobs. The workers seem to have had no warning about the announcement and to have got little explanation as to what had gone wrong. I’ve been in touch with the parent company in Germany who have explained that all over Europe there’s been a big fall in sales of new cars and as their main business in in making and testing vehicle components they’ve had to reduce the size of their operation. I’m urging the company to engage fully with Fife Council’s Economic Development team to find alternative employment for as many of the workforce as possible.

I was encouraged by the news that NHS Fife are close to having given the covid vaccine to 100% of residents and staff in Fife’s care homes. I fully support their strategy of giving priority to care homes. It’s true they could have vaccinated more people quicker if they had started with people who were able to attend GP surgeries or vaccination centres but it’s been tragically clear how lethal the virus can be if it gets into a care home so it was right to get the vaccine in there first.

Last week on the anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi death camp at Auschwitz-Birkenau we marked Holocaust Memorial Day in memory of the six million people who were murdered for being Jewish, and those who were murdered for being black, gay, Romany, disabled, or in any way different. We also remember the victims of more recent genocides. Parts of the official memorial service made very difficult viewing, as did some of the TV programmes broadcast in the preceding days, but it’s important that we keep reminding ourselves what happens if we allow anti-Semitism or any other form of racism or intolerance to become acceptable.

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