General Election 2024: West Dunbartonshire candidates on tackling poverty

Polling stations in Dunbartonshire area
Saint Kessogs Church Hall, Balloch
-Credit: (Image: Lennox Herald)

More than one in four children in West Dunbartonshire are living in poverty.

Soaring inflation has led to a cost of living crisis, with the least well off in society once again bearing the brunt of sky-high costs.

West Dunbartonshire Community Foodshare’s Christmas Toybank appeal received more than 1000 referrals last year, and the number of people supported by the charity has risen by 1500 percent over the last decade. Throughout 2023 the demand for emergency food parcels soared - with foodbanks across the area all reporting a rise.

WDCF delivered more than 21,000 parcels in the last financial year. When they were first set up a decade ago that figure sat at just 1,300.

Linked to this is the rising cost of housing - leaving families stuck in unsuitable homes, with the cost of staying there rising, and many giving up any hope of ever owning their own property.

More than 6,000 people are already on West Dunbartonshire Council’s housing waiting list - with the local authority declaring a housing emergency.

Each week in the lead up the vote on July 4 the Lennox is giving all eight candidates for the West Dunbartonshire seat their chance to outline their position on the biggest issues in our area.

This week our focus is on poverty - and what can be done to prevent more families locally being forced to live below the breadline.

The Liberal Democrat candidate Paul Kennedy failed to respond prior to our deadline.

West Dunbartonshire MP Martin Docherty-Hughes
West Dunbartonshire SNP candidate Martin Docherty-Hughes -Credit:Lennox Herald

Martin Docherty-Hughes (SNP)

In energy-rich Scotland, nobody should have to choose between eating and heating. But that’s the grim reality facing far too many households in West Dunbartonshire due to decades of neglect by successive UK governments.

People are crying out for change, but both Labour and the Tories only offer more of the same.

Sir Keir Starmer - who proudly states his admiration for Margaret Thatcher - is wedded to the same Tory austerity measures which have been so damaging to our local communities.

The British Labour party isn’t being honest about the billions of pounds of cuts they’ve planned for after the election. An eye-watering £18 billion cuts to public spending still to come according to the IFS – which will only push millions of more families and children into poverty.

By contrast, here in Scotland, the SNP is taking an ambitious and progressive approach to tackling poverty – including the introduction of the Scottish Child Payment which will lift an estimated 100,000 kids out of poverty.

There’s only one party you can trust to oppose UK austerity and fight Scotland’s corner. Vote SNP to get rid of the Tories, protect our public services, and deliver real change for Scotland with independence.

Douglas McAllister Labour candidate for West Dunbartonshire 2024 election
Labour candidate Douglas McAllister. -Credit:Lennox Herald

Douglas McAllister (Labour)

It is shocking that more than one in four children in West Dunbartonshire are now living in poverty. The SNP have broken all their promises to the young people of Scotland presiding over static rates for children living in poverty.

Right across Scotland children are paying the price for 14 years of Tory failure and 17 years of SNP failure. It’s time for change.

This election is a chance to tackle poverty and boost pay by electing a Labour government that Scotland and West Dunbartonshire cannot afford to miss.

There are over 200,000 Scots currently not paid the Real Living Wage, many in West Dunbartonshire. Labour will deliver a new deal for working people with our plan to lift the minimum wage to a wage people can live on and a pay rise for those in West Dunbartonshire living on the breadline.

I live here in West Dunbartonshire and I see at first hand that local families are struggling with household bills.

Labour will set up GB Energy, a publicly owned clean power company headquartered in Scotland to cut fuel bills for good paid for by a windfall tax on energy giants.

There is a choice ahead of us, more of the same under the Tories and the SNP or change with Scottish Labour.

Conservative candidate for West Dunbartonshire Maurice Corry.
Conservative candidate for West Dunbartonshire Maurice Corry. -Credit:Andrew Neil

Maurice Corry (Conservative)

Poverty continues to blight too many families and communities across West Dunbartonshire.

Having represented this area for five years in the Scottish Parliament and now as a councillor for the neighbouring Lomond North ward, I have sadly seen first-hand what a devastating impact deprivation can have on people.

In far too many cases, poverty is linked to people living in unsuitable housing or being unable to afford suitable homes for themselves or their family.

As your MP, fighting for West Dunbartonshire to get its fair share when it comes to housing funding will be one of my top priorities.

It is shocking that the local council has recently had to declare a housing emergency due to the SNP’s savage and sustained cuts to the council’s budget, meaning the resources simply are not there to deliver the homes our communities need.

Millions have been slashed from our share of the affordable housing supply programme and over 5,000 households locally are languishing on a waiting list.

One of the key routes out of poverty is to ensure everyone is living in affordable homes and ones that are fit for purpose.

A vote for me on July 4 will ensure you have a local champion as MP pushing for more funding in relation to housing and not a SNP MP who will be too focused on independence to deliver the homes we need.

Reform candidate David Smith.
Reform candidate David Smith. -Credit:Lennox Herald

David Smith (Reform UK)

Many families have really struggled with the cost of living in recent years.

Both the UK and Scottish Governments have been complacent in failing to adequately address this.

Reform will tackle this by raising the basic rate at which tax is paid from £12,570 to £20,000 which will help every family in Scotland.

Environmental levies and VAT on energy bills will be scrapped and fuel duty will be lowered from 52.95p to 20p.

We have bold plans for social housing reform, new housing development projects and incentives to encourage private landlords back into the sector to diversify the housing market.

No other party is tackling the low pay and high tax system.

In Scotland we pay more tax than every other part of the UK.

We are no better off for it.

Only the Reform Party has the policies to lower the tax burden, make work pay and in doing so, lift families out of poverty.

To properly address child poverty the whole family needs to be lifted out of the current unfair taxation system which is exactly what Reform policies will do.

I strongly encourage everyone to read ‘Our Contract with You’ before casting your vote on July 4.

Paula Baker Scottish Greens candidate for West Dunbartonshire.
Paula Baker Scottish Greens candidate for West Dunbartonshire. -Credit:Lennox Herald

Paula Baker (Scottish Greens)

Nothing shows how people in West Dunbartonshire have been let down by Government like the shocking levels of poverty.

It should be the job of every politician and each Government to make sure nobody struggles to feed a child or to keep a roof over their head, especially when the richest people are more comfortable than ever.

I’m proud that Scottish Greens MSPs have made real progress, increasing the Scottish Child Payment, lifting 50,000 children in Scotland out of relative poverty this year.

All Government contractors must now pay a real living wage. And there’s huge investment in making homes greener and cheaper to heat. Peak train fares have been scrapped and under 22s now have free bus travel.

But we must do much more.

Most of the levers that need to be pulled are at Westminster and the money we need to solve the problem is in the hands of the obscenely rich.

A wealth tax on the richest one percent of people would fund services that support the poorest people, create jobs and build skills.

The UK Government must take action to stop eye-watering energy costs that often go straight into energy company profits. And a real living wage must be for all.

Sovereignty candidate Kelly Wilson.
Sovereignty candidate Kelly Wilson. -Credit:Lennox Herald

Kelly Wilson (Sovereignty)

The growing poverty rate in Scotland should make everybody think before casting their vote.

Scotland has witnessed a sharp rise in poverty, especially since Covid. By now every fourth child in Scotland lives in poverty, minimum wage employees and pensioners are also affected.

This has been made worse by, not only Scotland’s political parties providing only lip service, but the UK Government in general.

The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office published spending plans for 2024/25 total £8.3 billion, this excludes other aid providing departments who push the aid into the double digit of billions, a rise of 1.4 billion from 2022/23.

This aid goes to countries who by now have become accustomed to this financial aid without showing any progress whilst far too many Scots are being pushed, sometimes permanently, into poverty.

Sovereignty’s solution to Scotland’s growing poverty is to cut the foreign aid and relocate those funds to the following:

The gap between the minimum wage and benefits will be reset so working families on a low income will not be worse off than anybody living on benefits.

Free milk and school meals for every Scottish school child.

Education, apprenticeships and university places.

Scottish businesses, agriculture and infrastructure.

Affordable social housing.

Andrew Muir, the candidate for the Dumbarton constituency
Andrew Muir of the Scottish Family Party. -Credit:Lennox Herald

Andrew Muir (Scottish Family Party)

In the short term there should be a minimum income guarantee so that no-one is homeless or starving. We should build more houses.

There are some empty properties in the area which should be filled.

In the long term we need a fundamental change of culture in West Dunbartonshire.

People with creative ideas who are not from the major parties are routinely criticised or banned. West Dunbartonshire Council is full of nepotism and block votes.

There is a freedom of speech problem. There is an honesty problem. If someone whistleblows to show that a large amount of money is being wasted on a particular project they should be applauded not told to be quiet about the matter.

The Public Finance Initiatives (PFIs) have been very badly managed leaving the area in long-term debt for decades.

There seems to be a desire to close libraries but this is very short-sighted. Education is the key to bettering yourself. We are too dependent on the NHS which is the derelict Artizan centre’s only new named tenant. We should look at Helensburgh for entrepreneurship.