This week, Glasgow City Council passed a budget for the next financial year which invests in jobs, education, dealing with potholes and improving services for vulnerable children and the homeless. But the occasion in the City Chambers was the excuse for all parties to launch party political broadsides as people line up for the May elections.
By 42 votes – Labour has a majority of 47 in the chambers which has 79 elected members – the Labour budget was passed. The SNP amendment – calling for the budget process to be ‘open and transparent’ but not offering any details of ways they’d choose to do that, received 18 votes. There are 19 SNP members including Councillor Alison Thewliss whose baby was with her in the chambers for the debate.
A Lib-Dem amendment – with pages of detailed ways to apportion the funds – received 6 votes which was the full party complement.
The Green Party with 5 members, got 5 votes for their proposals which included letting grass grow longer to save money on the number of times it has to be cut.
Sole Conservative David Meikle did not have a seconder till Independent Colin Deans seconded the Tory proposals which included a 10% reduction in the Chief Executive’s salary.
While he’d seconded the Tory amendement, Deans disagreed with most of it. He also forecast that ‘the worst is still to come. People losing jobs, spending power down.’
Budget measures approved include trebling the planned roads maintenance budget from £4m to £12m to deal with the potholes caused by the winter weather damage.
For the second year running, the Council will now provide an increase in the classroom supply budget for every school in this city. It is also redirecting £5 million of funding to Social Work Services to protect the city’s most vulnerable children and homeless people. One of Labour Group Leader Bailie Gordon Matheson’s special projects of nurture groups for pre-school children, will have further investment.
Said Matheson,: “We have been leading Scotland with the use of nurture groups to meet the needs of the most vulnerable children in our primary schools. Despite the huge financial challenges facing the council, I want that work to expand. In other areas, we have had to make extra cuts because the Scottish Government has given us less money than they promised.”
The Council will now spend £4m on creating 1000 jobs for the long-term unemployed through the Commonwealth Jobs Fund and the Commonwealth Apprenticeship Initiative for school leavers.
Commented Council Leader Matheson: “This year John Swinney offered Scottish local government a 2.6 per cent funding cut – but threatened to withhold an extra £50m from our city unless we agreed to a list of demands designed to win his party votes in May. He held his gun to Glasgow’s head and showed he was quite prepared to pull the trigger.
“Even though we signed up to his tawdry deal, without drawing breath, Mr Swinney broke his promise to Glasgow and cut our budget by 3.6 per cent anyway – forcing us to find millions in additional savings this year.
“The money we have been given to freeze Council Tax has had little impact on the choices we have had to make. But had we said no to this funding, we would have been punished with retaliatory cuts of an unimaginable scale.”
The council, which has now approved measures to save a total of £58.5m in 2011/12, has already taken steps to reduce spending and deliver services more efficiently.
These steps include:
Setting up a series of Arm’s-Length External Organisations (ALEOs) to run a range of council services including sport and leisure, community safety and IT and property services. This has delivered one-off income of £160 million and recurring annual savings of £23 million
Agreeing to allow more than 2600 staff to leave the council through voluntary redundancy and early retirement over the next three years
Freezing pay for all staff for the next two years
Reducing the number of city centre offices occupied by the Council from 19 to six over the next three years
Since 2008, the Council has saved £11 million from improving attendance at work – £6m in the last nine months alone. Meanwhile, pay for council staff, and councillors, has been frozen for the next two years.
Councillors approved setting a zero rise in the Council Tax rate. The level for B and D properties in 2011/12 will remain at £1,213 (excluding water and sewage charges), which is now unchanged since 2005.
The vast majority of Council Tax payers in Glasgow live in Band A and B properties – next year, their Council Tax payments (excluding water and sewage charges) will be £808.67 and £943.44 respectively.
More information on the budget is available at: www.glasgow.gov.uk/en/YourCouncil/Finance/Budgetproposals/
For more information on the Commonwealth Jobs Fund: www.glasgow.gov.uk/en/Residents/LearningEmployment_Training/CommonwealthJobsFund/
Details of the Commonwealth Apprenticeship Initiative are at: www.glasgow.gov.uk/en/Residents/LearningEmployment_Training/CommonwealthApprenticeshipsInitiative
by Stuart Maxwell and Colin Mackie
Timid hearts beware, Creepy Crawly Towers is open and the bugs are out to get you!
On Tuesday 8 June, London Road Nursery School in Bridgeton formally opened the Creepy Crawly Towers bug house to enable children to view insect life up-close and personal. The opening of the bug house puts the shine on a remarkable Eco year for the nursery.
Staff, parents and children have worked together for the past year creating an outdoor play area aimed at encouraging learning. Local community groups chipped in, supplying logs and tyres for the play area which also includes a fitness trail, music trail, planting and growing area and, of course, the bug house.
Kids from the nursery have also been cleaning up areas surrounding their nursery, as part of the Clean Glasgow campaign. This is to encourage them to be responsible and tidy citizens.
Councillor Alison Thewliss was given the honour of formally naming the bug house, having assisted the children in their litter pick. Councillor Thewliss remarked: ‘I’m greatly encouraged by the enthusiasm of all the nursery children, who were keen to see their local area kept clean and tidy. They worked very hard, picking up every piece of litter they saw! The children know that dropping litter spoils the area, and that it’s up to all of us to keep the East End looking good.’
London Road Nursery’s efforts have not gone unnoticed. They have received a silver Eco award and are now concocting more environmental friendly plans as they chase a Green Flag. You can be sure there will be no white flag!