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A composite motion of proposals by Conservative councillor Peter Heggie and Labour’s Lawrence Fitzpatrick suggested delaying the deadline for a full year: “as it would be unacceptable to leave many in our community without effective insurance cover and in the meantime requests that appropriate financial assistance be made available by the Scottish Government for people on low incomes to enable them to meet the cost of required installation.”
The motion defeated an amendment proposed by the SNP group which rejected the call for a delay, arguing lives could be put at risk. Insurance cover was not, said SNP councillors, an issue the council or the Scottish Government could address.
SNP group depute leader councillor Frank Anderson said this was a sticking point, otherwise the group could have supported the motion. He told the meeting he did not believe that not having interlinked alarms would void any insurances.
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Councillor Heggie had tried to table a motion at a previous meeting and been barred. The new motion agreed with Labour said that in addition to writing to the First Minister: “Council agrees that the council enhances its website page with links to advice and guidance supplied by the Scottish Government.”
Councillor Heggie told a meeting of West Lothian Council fears had been raised by dozens of constituents about fitting the alarms, which cost up to £220 to fit. Many people were being duped by scams.
“While we welcome legislation that has the potential to make people safer, I’m very concerned about people understanding what is required and people being able to afford these upgrades.”
He added: “It’s a problem that’s going to become very very real in the next few weeks.”
Councillor Fitzpatrick warned about the implications of not being covered by insurance , and shortages of trades “Many people could find themselves in a distressed state because of this.”
He added: “I phoned about 20 people about this, eight of whom knew nothing about it. Several were trying to get a tradesperson to do the work but diaries are blocked out by trades already doing work.”
Councillor Anderson had planned to raise a motion of his own at the meeting suggesting that the council use some of its cash reserves to fund the installation of alarms in the homes of those struggling to pay for it. This was presented as an amendment which was defeated by 19 votes to 12.