By Alieu Ceesay
The election season is upon us with one of the first hustings being Govanhill and Crosshill Community Council`s event on Monday16 April at Samaritan House in Coplaw Street.
Prospective candidates – aiming for one of the four seats in Southside Central ward – were quizzed by the public. Among the issues raised were social care, crime, privatising of council services, fuel poverty, benefits and the local economy.
The meeting was chaired by Iain MacInnes the Community Council`s Secretary, who called on the candidates to fight for the local community and to oppose all forms of privatisation in the city. He said: ‘There is a national debt but the austerity crisis is contrived. The need for the punitive, austerity measures being imposed on communities across the country, is a fallacy.’ He also questioned why so few resisted the ‘unsound, illogical economic orthodoxy.’
Moira Crawford, Green Party candidate, said that if elected on Thursday 3 May she would campaign for a city-owned energy company which would sell its surplus to the National Grid and use it to improve the City’s housing for the benefit of people. She also promised to work with residents and community organisations.
Labour Candidate Dr Soryia Siddique said she would fight for the building and refurbishment of local primary schools and the provision of up to five months of additional care for all three years olds as well as the creation of 1000 jobs each year for young people.
Anne Marie Millar has served the area as a Labour councillor for nine years and is now standing as an Independent candidate. She claimed her efforts achieved an investment of £13 million in housing for Govanhill. She promised to continue to work with residents, community organisations and the police to make neighbourhoods and streets safer and address knife crime and domestic violence; anti social behaviour and the regulation of private landlords. Although the crime rate has fallen the fear of crime still remains, she said.
Jahangir Hanif, SNP, who is seeking re-election to the Council, said it was time for regime change at the City Chambers. He pointed to the SNP’s successful campaign which halved the cost of chauffeured cars for councillors. He berated Labour’s record on ‘the state of our roads’ and was sure his party, ‘as the new majority,’ would do much better on infrastructure.
He added: ‘We will be campaigning to keep council tax frozen to help hard pressed households and for the council to do more to help local businesses create new jobs for young people.’
Robert McIlroy, Conservative, who is standing in Newlands and Auldburn ward represented local candidate Thomas Connor. The Conservative party would fight for weekly bin collections instead of fortnightly ones. ‘Waste must not be left uncollected for a long time,’ he said. He also advocated investment in roads and pavements.
William Bonnor, Scottish Socialist Party, emphasised the democratic accountability of the Council. ‘Local people should be consulted on the issues affecting them,’ he contended.
David Jago, Liberal Democrat, said rules must be enforced to ensure that private landlords are better regulated. In addition, he called for more money for housing.
Gavin Mc Nae, local resident, highlighted that none of the candidates had given recognition to the Community Council for mounting a sustained campaign on slum housing in the area.
Iain MacInnes told this reporter that it was the Community Council’s efforts that led to the Scottish Government taking notice of the dire housing problem. In March 2010, Housing and Communities Minister, Alex Neil said ‘hit squads’ could be set up to tackle Govanhill’s poverty and housing issues. Iain said: ‘this was translated into a ‘task force’ by Labour’s then Councillor, Anne Marie Millar. Through that, a hub was created to coordinate acute housing problems. But this put the issue into the doldrums. After being treated as a political football, the hub seems to be back on track.’
Iain said that the Community Council would continue to: ‘Campaign on housing in particular and on other relevant issues brought to our notice.’
One person asked if the panel would join him in opposing the current care ‘personalisation’ plans being presented as choice when, in reality, they were being used, cynically, to create cuts to services for vulnerable people and their families.
A question relating to the Commonwealth Games was: ‘How do the candidates feel about Glasgow hosting the ‘public relations’ front line for some of the countries which have abysmal human rights records?’
A member of the public said that money could be saved by abandoning the opening and closing ceremonies at the Commonwealth Games. ‘The money could be used to reinstate services cut by the Council. She went on: ‘The ‘Games are really about land deals and building contracts; there is little by way of a sustainable legacy for the people of Glasgow.’
Southside communities, fearing they’ll be trapped when left without a bus service, turned out in force to a public meeting at Tinto Primary School, Hillpark on Thursday 8 March.
More than 160 people crowded into the school dining hall to hear Glasgow Cathcart MSP James Dornan, who had called the meeting, say he was hugely disappointed in First Bus for withdrawing the 29 bus route from 29 April. ‘My office has been innundated with people made anxious by this decision. I believe First Bus has a social responsibility to provide a service in areas like Hillpark and Mansewood which would be devastated if this goes ahead. I am hugely disappointed in First Bus for withdrawing this service without any consultation with the local community or passengers. Cutting off vital services to some of the most needy communities in Glasgow is not the way to respond to the tough economic background.’
In a civil but unswerving meeting, the two First Bus representatives heard the concerns of local residents.
Said 81-year-old David Boyd who lives in one of the Hillpark tower blocks: ‘I’ve no way of getting up the hill without a bus and there are 500 households in Hillpark to be considered.’
Lynn Campbell who works for Glasgow Old People’s Welfare Association and whose elderly father lives locally, asked: ‘Was a feasibility study done? Has the route made a profit in previous years? What about the families you rely on the bus to get to work?’ She also commented that there was no additional security by way of police presence or CCTV despite the high percentage of elderly people in the area. Addressing the bus company representatives she added: ‘What you are doing is WRONG! There is a bigger social picture than the economic picture you see.’
Glasgow City Councillor Colin Deans said from the floor of the hall: ‘the company should take a holistic approach. They could cut the number 38 bus service which has one bus every six minutes and serves an area with a much higher percentage of car ownership.’ He added that in fairness to First Bus, it wasn’t all their fault. ‘The fuel duty rebate will be going to rural bus companies now.’
One local resident told of an encounter with an elderly neighbour: ‘She can’t walk far and uses a walking stick. She told me she won’t be able to get out if the 29 bus is withdrawn. This is her only means of getting to the supermarket which is also her social outing. But she was prepared to wait an hour in a cold bus shelter to get a bus back as she couldn’t afford anything else.’
Two mothers also explained that the 29 was the only bus they could use to take their children from Shawlands where they lived, to Tinto Primary School which they attended and where the meeting was being held. ‘There is no other bus. So how do we get our children to school?’ said one mum.
Josephine Docherty of the Community Council, said there should have been a consultation meeting and that the Community Council should have been involved.
Emma Gillan, Labour candidate for Glasgow City Council commented that she was disappointed that no ideas were being presented at the meeting. ‘There is no reason why re-routing cannot be done.’
Councillor Stephen Curran who attended the meeting which was on his ‘patch’ urged the communities to ‘stick together’ to win the case: ‘We did this before when the ‘wee happy bus’ was removed. All parties need to work together on this through Glasgow City Council and the Scottish Parliament and we are willing to do that.’ He said that while one in five residents in Glasgow was elderly, there was a much higher proportion in the Hillpark and Mansewood areas. ‘There are also families to be considered. If the 29 bus service is withdrawn there will be an area of five miles left with no bus service.’ He said there had been no ‘joined up’ thinking because bus shelters had been erected only two weeks ago.
MSP James Dornan who chaired the meeting said in summing up: ‘I’ve been extremely encouraged by (SPT) Strathclyde Partnership for Transport’s willingness to recognise the impact of losing the 29 bus service. It may be possible to re-route another service.’ He emphasised that SPT considered it would be illegal for funding to be set aside for specific routes. ‘But we can lobby hard for a re-allocation of funding as SPT is keen to see a solution.’ He added that Glasgow City Council funding might be found to bridge the gap in service. At the end of the meeting he told this website: ‘I’m much more hopeful we will be able to arrange something to keep the 29 running through Hillpark and Mansewood. I’m also hoping to meet with First Glasgow’s managing director to take this forward.’
For First, Chris Carberry the company’s Network Planner said: ‘Never say never! We want to work in partnership and as a commercial company don’t want to be left behind.’ But he explained that there had been major changes in how the Scottish Government’s transport subsidy now had to be allocated and that there was competition from other companies which hadn’t been there before. He also emphasised that ‘for years the 29 route has not made money.’ In the past, revenue generating routes were able to subsidise loss making ones, but competition now made that impossible.
After the meeting he said that under company policy he was not permitted to speak to the press and a statement would be issued by the company. When that statement is received it will be put up on this website.
From 1 April this year the Scottish Government’s grant to bus companies will total £50 million for the year 2012-13 – a reduction of 17% on previous funding. This will be allocated on distance travelled in an attempt to help rural areas and to encourage fuel efficiency. Previously the funding allocation was based on fuel used. Funding for concessionary travel will be capped at £187million from now till 2014/15.
Eight of the twelve places on the newly formed Oatlands Community Council have been decided. They were people who were nominated. So, all eight were elected. This leaves one third of the seats on the new Community Council, vacant. The formal announcement will be made at a public meeting on Wednesday 21 December at 6pm in the Oatlands Community Resource Centre (OCRC) by the City’s independent returning Officer.
That meeting will also elect office bearers and nominate representatives to attend the Local Area Committee and the Community Planning meetings. The regulation funding to allow the Council to run its own affairs will be handed over then, too.
The new Community Councillors are: Jane Cawley; John Fallon; M. Lisa Gillen; Stuart Logue; Donna Motherwell; Tracy Noble; Marie Reilly; David Stewart.
One of the first things on their agenda could well be the allotments which are adjacent to the OCRC. ‘It is all doom and gloom here,’ says Margaret Kerr who is secretary of the Oatlands Leisure Gardens. ‘The new site is waterlogged. It was officially opened in September last year with lots of pomp and ceremony but this year we can’t get anyone to lay claim to it. The site was built on top of Wolseley Street and it has been admitted, verbally, that they only skimmed off the surface of the road and left the hard packed underlay intact. Plotholders have dug up potatoes which were water-logged and have lost fruit trees because they were growing in stagnant water. It looks like a very expensive job to fix as, I think, they would have to dig up the main path and instal deep drainage along the middle with drainage pipes leading to each plot. No one will take responsibility and we cannot even get a response from Glasgow City Council, the Department of the Regeneration Services, Bett Developments or local councillors who are responsible for the site.’
Added Margaret: ‘On top of this, the new site at Oatlands Gate, next to the Bowling Club,has ground to a halt. It was due to be completed in June 2011 but is still not open.’
By Stuart Maxwell and Elyas Hussain
An award winning Post Office in the heart of Glasgow’s Southside is poised to be shut down despite fierce community opposition who see the service as vital.
There are plans for Crosshill Post Office, Victoria Road, to be closed and relocated to 540 Cathcart Road- where it will be a hybrid service, integrated with another retail venture. This comes a little over a year after the branch was awarded ‘Best Town and City’ Post Office in Scotland.
Fiercely opposed to the relocation, Iain MacInnes, Govanhill and Crosshill Community Council secretary, has headed a local campaign. Said Iain: ‘We have nearly 700 signatures from the local community in opposition to this. People are showing great displeasure. Post Office provisions have cut heavily all over the Southside. All such cuts are morally bankrupt. It is an iconic building to all cultures. They see it as part of their community being taken away.’
Iain’s campaign has been supported by Nicola Sturgeon, local MSP and Government Minister. In a letter to Post Office Ltd. Nicola wrote: ‘Many in the area doubt the business viability of such a ‘dual purpose’ branch and fear that if it wasn’t successful, it would not be too long before a proposal was forthcoming to close the branch altogether.’
Govanhill resident Brian Rowinson is one of many angry at the proposed closure. The 39 year-old told LOCAL NEWS: ‘If they close this post office it will effect the elderly community because Crosshill is within walking distance. The new premises are smaller- how will they possibly accommodate all the customers? It’s horribly ironic that Crosshill Post Office won the Post Office of the Year and is being closed?
The LOCAL NEWS has been told by Post Office Ltd that the decision to advertise the franchise was taken after the business went in to receivership in December 2009, and that the sole applicant wants to move the service to Cathcart Road. Julie Morrison, Head of External Relations for Post Office Ltd said: ‘She (the applicant), wants to relocate to Cathcart Road. Rents and rates on Victoria Road make it an nonviable option. This is the best solution available to us.’
Iain MacInnes is not convinced: ‘As a community we have seen no evidence to show that there were proper procedures for other people to put their names forward to run this post office.’
The period for consultation, allowing the public to respond to the proposal, ended on October 26. Julie Morrison has pledged that Post Office Ltd ‘will take all all submissions into consideration before making a final decision.’ Patrick Harvie, Green MSP for Glasgow, who has presented a motion to the Scottish Parliament against the relocation, fears community views will be shelved
Said Patrick: ‘The decision to close and relocate has been taken too early.. I don’t think the Post Office have explored all options for maintaining the service on Victoria Road. The branch on Victoria Road is clearly more accessible for the local community. There have been many reductions to Post Office services in the Southside and there comes a time when you have to say enough is enough. The peoples’ wishes tend to be ignored but this decision has stirred enough reaction to make the Post Office think again.’
In 2007, David Meikle, Councillor for Pollokshields, led a protest against Post Office plans to close a branch on Kildrostin Street. 1300 signatures were gathered but the closure went ahead. David told LOCAL NEWS: ‘At the time, the Post Office cited a new service on Shields Road and Crosshill itself as alternatives. We were promised two counters in the Shields Road hybrid, but have only one. To now hear that Crosshill is to close is really a piece of nonsense. You get the impression there is no real consultation period and that it’s a done deal. This will be another nail in the coffin for the vitality of Victoria Road.’
Strident efforts by Crosshill/Govanhill Community Council have galvanised local agencies and finally delivered £1.8 million from the Scottish Government to revitalise the neighbourhood and get rid of slums and slum landlords. The plan was announced by Nicola Sturgeon Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing at Govanhill Housing Association’s headquarters on Friday 18 June.
Backcourt refurbishment and design will be done by local people who will gain skills and jobs from the tasks. And a property acquisition strategy by Glasgow City Council and Govanhill Housing Association will enable them to secure neglected or unsafe buildings. A multi-agency ‘hit squad’
will crack down on unregistered landlords and be able to enforce environmental health laws.
Speaking in the ‘hub’ where the hit squad has been pioneering the joint working techniques, the Minister said: ‘Govanhill has shown that people are willing to get to grips with the problems. The Community Council in its first public meeting some years ago, put the agencies on the spot and galvanised them to work together. Since then, together, the Housing Association, Police, Environmental Health, Community Health and all the other agencies have worked hard to find ways to re-act quickly to address the problems. This funding will help breathe new life into Govanhill.’
Rogue landlords who ‘traded in misery,’ will be pursued. The Housing Bill currently being considered by the Scottish Parliament, will strengthen existing powers for local authorities to oblige owners to look after their properties. And the landlord registration system will be improved, dramatically.
Gordon Matheson, Leader of Glasgow City Council said: ‘Considerable progress has already been made in the way the Council and all the partners respond to Govanhill’s problems with significent resources directed towards the area, particularly in relation to housing.’
Afterwards the Minister told the LOCAL NEWS GLASGOW: ‘People in Govanhill are not unique in having these problems. But the extent and concentration of them is on a scale not experienced in other places. The integrated approach is having a real impact. The early signs are good and this could be rolled out to other areas.’ She added: ‘Community Councils are a vital resource. In this area they forced the action.’
Part of the plan is that any landlord operating a House of Multiple Occupation (HMO) without a licence – a criminal offence – faces a maximum penalty of £5,000. Next year, changes to legislation will increase the fine to £20,000.
In May, Govanhill Housing Association petitioned the Scottish Parliament to highlight the worst of the problems and offer solutions. The Association submitted a proposal for an employability programme linked to the environmental sustainability of Govanhill. This has attracted £1.5 million over the next two years. It will enable unemployed people to be trained and given jobs which will improve the environment and fabric of the neighbourhood.
An enforcement team will strengthen the Council’s existing powers by reporting unregistered landlords to the Procurator Fiscal so suspending a tenant’s liability to pay rent. Where the landlord is found to be not fit and proper, registration will be refused. The ‘hub’ where the multi-agency approach is based, is within the Govanhill Housing Association premises and attracts £300,000 of the committed funding.
Glasgow Shettleston MSP Frank McAveety, who was present for the announcement, welcomed the measures. He said: ‘I led a delegation of MSPs who visited Govanhill and met local housing groups to discuss the particular housing challenges that this area presents. We then organised a special evidence session for the Housing Minister as a result of a petition to the Scottish Parliament submitted by residents. I am pleased that these residents have now been listened to.’
Newly elected Glasgow Central MP, Anas Sarwar added: ‘I welcome this much-needed funding which has been released following a period of concerted pressure from Govanhill residents and from local Labour Councillors and MSPs. Govanhill already receives £3 million of capital spending from Glasgow City Council to tackle problem housing and today’s cash boost will complement this – but it’s still a drop in the ocean compared to what Govanhill needs. I would like to see the Scottish Government match Glasgow City Council’s spending pound for pound.’
A report by Govanhill Housing Association to the Parliament’s Petitions Committee showed that £187 million was needed to restore almost 2000 homes to a tolerable standard.
Association Director, Anne Lear commented: ‘We are delighted at this Government recognition of the issues in this community. We really look forward to working with all our partners including Glasgow South East Regeneration Agency (GSERA), the Law Centre and Oxfam. The funding will provide local employment opportunities and will make a real difference to the area.’