Glasgow City Council needs to take a long hard look at itself. Each person elected to serve this great city is duty bound to honour its motto: Let Glasgow Flourish.
Flourish now means ‘What’s in it for me?’ There is no sign of the humanity or humbleness established by St Mungo, the City’s ancient Christian founder.
This lack of humanity was never more obvious than in the historic first ever hearing of a petition by the year-old petitions committee on Tuesday 7 May 2013.
A cogent and eloquent request was put forward by New Fossils Grandparents Support Group in Glasgow’s East quarter. These kinship carers – mostly grandparents looking after their own grandchildren – said that their children had exactly the same legal status as children taken into foster homes but were being treated very differently. They were asking for equality and justice for children and not for themselves.
Glasgow City Council’s Social Work department provides each foster child with a sizeable allowance to buy beds, clothes, food and treats or whatever that child needs. No similar supportive funding is provided for the children taken in by their own grandparents or other family members.
The situation was described by the Kinship Carers as ’apartheid’ One carer who has two of her own kin children in her household as well as two children placed with her as foster children, said it was ‘night and day’ the difference in what she was able to provide for each.
But what happened at the petitions committee, was simply party political posturing – especially from the Labour side. Five SNP councillors were heavily outnumbered by the Labour Group councillors – one of whom was out of the meeting room for most of the meeting- but returned in time to vote.
The kinship carers campaign is only one of several groups of people so concerned about the issues affecting them that they have taken to the streets to highlight the problems they face.
It is clear in Glasgow that more groups are having to take direct action to get attention paid to important inequalities. But even with that, where answers might lie in the hands of Glasgow City Council’s elected representatives, these campaigners are fighting a losing battle because of the party political imbalances within the council chambers.
Voters of this troubled city need to recognise that nothing will change for them until the people elected by them are truly of the mind to ‘Let Glasgow Flourish,’ by working together for the good of EVERY citizen, not just the partisan few.
Carers in Glasgow are banding together to challenge the city’s plan to cut day care services dramatically.
They are making official complaints to the Care Inspectorate – the body in Scotland responsible for overseeing care provision. And some individuals are actively considering legal action.
At a well-attended meeting of carers, care service users and workers and a variety of groups campaigning on care and personalisation issues, everyone was agreed – Glasgow City Council has got it wrong.
Said Brian Smith, Branch Secretary of Glasgow City UNISON trades union branch, who chaired the meeting: ‘These proposed changes have been implemented poorly and are being planned in order to make financial cuts. The people concerned have not got a voice.’
Currently three out of seven day centres used by people with a wide variety of learning difficulties and special needs, are to be closed by Glasgow City Council. They are – Berryknowes, Summerston and Hinshaw Street. Those remaining open will be – Riddrie, Carlton, the Wedge and Southbrae.
The Council estimates that around 200 people with the most complex disabilities would continue to be supported by the four day centres staying open. A further 320 people could be successfully supported within the community suggests the Council.
But people at the meeting said the figures didn’t stack up and that the people attending such day centres would suffer real trauma if their regular place was closed. Said one mother whose adult daughter attended a day centre that has already been closed: ‘The alternative suggested was not suitable for my daughter and the transport wasn’t sensible. She’s stayed at home with me. Now we’re both tearing our hair out. The only place we can go is a church hall one day a week where she has nothing to do and gets sandwiches and crisps for lunch for £5. Is that quality care?.’
Another mother in her pension years said: ‘There is nothing in our community centre to do on a daily basis. We’re left with shopping centres and libraries. But my son’s needs are so complex he can’t read a book. I’d like to invite Councillors to come and share my life for 24 hours to see what it is really like.’
Consultation on the major reforms planned by the Council, is under way with a deadline of 7 January 2013 for the submission of responses. These should go to Linda Gunn, Senior Officer, Adult Services, Centenary House, 100 Morrison Street, Glasgow G5 8 LN. or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Council plans to present the proposals and responses from the consultation to its Executive Committee on 24 January 2013, with the City’s Policy and Development Committee considering the issues the day before – January 23. However, both Committees are likely to be heavily lobbied and a campaign group of carers will also meet on 14 January 2013 at 10.30am in the Adelphi Centre, Gorbals, G5.
All families concerned in the changes were strongly advised to answer the questionnaire that some people have received as part of the consultation. ‘But be warned, the questions are flawed,’ said Ian Hood, Coordinator of the Learning Disability Alliance Scotland.
UNISON’s Brian Smith said the entire process was flawed. ‘The consultation is based on a plan that already predicts 55% of care service jobs will be lost and that the service provided will be based on 200 service users. Right now there are 520 service users.’
Later, a Glasgow City Council spokesman said: ‘We are listening to the view of all stakeholders. People are entitled to comment now. The Council will wait and see what views are expressed before coming to a conclusion.’
A sizeable crowd protested outside Glasgow City Chambers today (Thursday 17 May) at the eviction of asylum seekers from their homes in the city, leaving them to sleep on the streets.
Councillors from all parties spoke out, just before they attended the first full Council meeting of the new administration.
One of at least six people left destitute is Ako from Kurdistan. He explained how he returned to his accommodation provided by Ypeople, to find the lock had been changed without any warning. ‘This was a most stressful and dangerous situation for me,’ said the human rights activist and journalist. ‘I can never forget this. It has destroyed me. It is important to press the system and the government because this should not happen again.’ He says he was lucky and got to sleep in a church hall which is being used as a temporary night shelter for destitute asylum seekers.
A few days later, after long negotiations with Ypeople, he was given a key to the new lock and allowed back into the flat where all his possessions were. Others are not so lucky and still wait for their personal things to be returned to them.
Margaret Wood of the Glasgow Campaign to Welcome Refugees said: ‘Some of the most vulnerable should be eligible for help from the Social Work Department. It is indecent this is happening at all,’ she said. ‘We will continue to fight.’
A massive demonstration had been planned for Saturday 9 June but will be postponed as that is the day the Olympic torch is due to go through Glasgow. Said Margaret: ‘That is not a disaster. It gives us time to build and have a nationwide demonstration.’ She added: ‘We should be asking the serious question – is this the kind of society we want in Scotland? Do we want to provide a safe haven for people who have had to flee terrible treatment in their own country or do we want them to be treated like rubbish and dumped on the street? This has been a most disgraceful episode but we will fight on alongside the trade unions and the inspiring destitute asylum seekers themselves. We have to win for this society will not be worth living in until we do.’
Of the 21 people retiring as Councillors from Glasgow City Council, around ten attended a poignant farewell earlier this week. Hosted by Lord Provost Bob Winter, who is, himself, standing down, it brought closure to many of the participants.
Said Jean McFadden who represented Garscadden-Scotstounhill and has served the city for 41 years: ‘Everyone felt it was a really nice touch to honour those of us leaving. Each person was presented with a personalised plaque which has the city’s coat of arms and the dates they’ve served. I have similar plaques from Glasgow Corporation but this is the only one which has my name on it.’
She has no plans to retired. Among her many ongoing activities she is an official examiner for work submitted by honours law students at Strathclyde University; she will get back to studying Advanced Italian for herself; she will mentor girls in a secondary school to help them achieve their potential; and she might go for an HGV licence!
‘I’ve always fancied driving one of those heavy goods vehicles round a tight corner!’ she said quite seriously. These are all outwith her commitments serving on the Legal Services Clinic and the Scottish Planning and Environment Law’s editorial board among others. She has also set herself to correct fundamental errors in some newspaper archives about who did what and when in the revival of Glasgow. ‘I just want to put the record straight. I was council leader from 1979 to 1986. That is when the team decided to change the direction of the city to move it into the creative industries and the financial sector. The minutes are there so I want the facts to be known.’
One of her future students will be former Drumchapel- Anniesland Councillor Matt Kerr, who leaves the Council to read law at Strathclyde University. He was selected after the resignation of Steven Purcell. He also attended the Lord Provost’s farewell event and said it was a very pleasant occasion.
Councillor Alex Glass who represented Greater Pollok for 13 years, told this website: ‘The evening and the presentation of the plaques was a good way to close off my time as a Councillor.’ Latterly he had been business manager for the city, overseeing many of the negotiations which kept Glasgow’s coffers from being emptied. One of the ways he saved the city money was to recommend cutting the fresh flowers budget. ‘That saved £50,000,’ he said. ‘ Stopping newspapers for every Councillor saved another £30,000 and at least that was saved on print bills when we cut back on paperwork.’ Aged only 52, he said this will be the first time in his life he’s been made redundant and he has, so far, no job offer. ‘I’ve work to do at home which I’ve long promised to complete for my wife,’ he said with a smile. ‘So I’ll do that and wait and see what happens. Everything is in the hands of fate,’ he commented philosophically.
Latterly a Bailie, Councillor Catherine McMaster has served Glasgow North East for several terms and said: ‘The event was not an obituary! It was really important to have something to say you’ve been here. Our training records were also included for every Councillor was expected to have extensive training in many areas of the work we do. That is the kind of record that was ignored by the Labour Party and dismissed in our interviews with them,’ she said pointedly. She was one of the Labour Councillors who did not take it kindly that she was de-selected by the party. She admitted she was still angry with the party for deciding she was ‘past the sell by date’ – ‘that is pure ageism,’ she commented. Her plan is to re-commence her private practice as a psychotherapist. ‘I’ll update my accreditation first,’ she added. The leading thinker behind the celebration of Glasgow’s medieval history, which has excited much attention and creative talent, she plans to continue to use her history knowledge within her local community in Easterhouse where Provan Hall Trust operates a building considered to pre-date the Provand’s Lordship on High Street. She said that her community had been generous in their appreciation of her work for them. ‘It has been a great privilege to serve this community. I’ll leave the new team to get on with the job and hope they will work to ‘let Glasgow flourish.’ But that will depend on how many voters turn out on Thursday.’
With only days to go before voting for new local councillors (Thursday 3 May in case you’ve forgotten!) the campaigning seems slow in most places – unless you are actively involved. From the outside it is clear that knocking on doors and traditional hustings, while important, don’t make much of a dent in anyone’s thinking.
Lip service is being paid to the serious local concerns that citizens have. Personalisation is being sidelined expect by those who have to bear the brunt of sometimes as much as 50% of the care allowance they once had. Destitute asylum seekers don’t have a voice so prospective candidates can avoid that issue. It is a ‘no voter’. The cuts and how they impact on communities is only slowly being understoon. When the councillors are duly elected it will be too late to expect them to change their ways and keep election promises – not that anyone seems to be making any promises. Yes individuals are following their party’s line and reading the words from the script they have in their hand. But it is – for the most part – not being said from the heart. It will be a difficult choice for those who bother to vote, to work out how best to place their 1,2,3 and more numbers. And there will not be a result on Thursday night because counting won’t start till Friday morning. A simple hope is that enough people will actually go to their voting station and make their mark to make the results worthy of being called democratic.
In true Maryhill style, the official opening of the £9.6 million revamped Maryhill Burgh Halls, attracted protesters.
A crowd of local schoolboys, complete with bikes and skateboards, marched into the invitation only evening on Thursday 26 April. And the VIPs arriving had to walk past an array of banners held by determined grannies demanding justice for Kinship Carers.
They, and the official guests, were serenaded in proper Scottish style, by professional piper Chris Waite at the door. He was one of the Jim Jam Ceilidh Band musicians who entertained, later, inside.
The boys told this website reporter earnestly:’We should be allowed in,’ said Rhys McNally (14). ‘It’s discrimination that we are not.’ His pal Mitchell McGowan Ross (13) added: ‘We’re normal people. We deserve the right to go in. The place should be open to the whole public.’ They were politely, but firmly, shown the door by courteous door stewards and trundled back outside.
Choosing to remain outside with their placards and banners were the Kinship Carers. All local women who look after children – usually their own grandchildren – when the parents cannot; they had lobbied earlier in the day outside Glasgow City Chambers. ‘If we fostered a stranger’s child we’d get £300 a week to look after them. Because the children are family, we get £50 a week and none of the important psychological help,’ explained Liz Lynch. In a campaign co-ordinated across Scotland, Kinship Carers met candidates of all parties to demand they sign up for the Kinship Carers’ national manifesto.
It asks for pledges from incoming councillors to:- end the postcode lottery across Scotland for Kinship Care support to ensure that every child had a fair and equal chance.
To:- create a one-stop shop approach to the necessary financial, health, psychological, educational and social work support. ‘Getting any one of these can be a huge struggle for Kinship Carers,’ said supporter Miriam Rose of the Poverty Truth Commission.
To:- recognise the hard job Kinship Carers do and how well they do it and to support them with respite and legal advice among other issues.
Would be councillors were also called on to work with the Kinship Carers when making policy so that funds are used wisely to benefit the children.
On arrival, Lord Provost Bob Winter stood and chatted with them while he put on his chain of office and was happy to pose with them. ‘I saw them earlier today at the City Chambers and support them,’ he said.
The date of 26 April was chosen for the re-opening of the Maryhill Burgh Halls because it was on that date 134 years ago they were originally opened. Already major events have been held in the beautifully re-furbished suites of rooms which include a business centre, a nursery, a cafe a recording studio and exhibition and halls space. Performing the opening this time, was Culture Secretary MSP Fiona Hyslop.
Pride of place in the Halls are original stained glass windows which – uniquely – depict workers in Maryhill in those far off days. They show men working with wood and metal and women working with dyes. Descendants of glass artists Joseph Miller and of the Provost of Maryhill in 1878, were also present at the 2012 opening.
The beauties of the windows and the well-thought-out interior will be available for the public to enjoy on Saturday 28 April from 10am till 4pm. There will be free tours of the buildings, talks, entertainment and samples of what activities will be available, regularly, in the Maryhill Burgh Halls. The boys will be back! And the Kinship Carers might even bring their children too.
Arthur Gemmell believes Councillors at Glasgow City Council are having their mail and ingoing phone calls censored on the instruction of the Council’s Executive. He has taken legal action against the Executive and been granted an interdict to have the issue raised in court.
In a long running battle with Glasgow City Council, one strategy he used recently to inform Councillors of his position was to deliver 80 booklets outlining his claims so that each Councillor could read the details for themselves.
A city business man, in a long-running dispute with Glasgow City Council over property, has taken direct action to highlight his case. Arthur Gemmell has festooned his building with notices claiming corruption.
And recently he left a copy of his record of the circumstances in the City Chambers for each Councillor.
Over years of disappearing court documents, he alleges that his city centre property has been earmarked for demolition because an adjacent hotel building has been allocated his site for their car park.
‘This is my property and I can’t use it because the building of the hotel has damaged it,’ he told this website.
One aspect of his claim was to have been heard at Glasgow Sheriff Court at 10am one day this summer. Called for 10am, the case was not heard till just before lunchtime when a court room became available. Only minutes into the hearing, the Sheriff discovered a discrepancy in some of the court documents and the case was put back till October.
This was the umpteenth delay since 2006 and Arthur is taking a complaint to a higher court.
‘There was a lot of confusion in court,’ said Arthur afterwards.
But he is determined to continue till he receives justice.
Councillor Gordon Matheson, Leader of Glasgow City Council, has been appointed Chairman of Glasgow City Marketing Bureau (GCMB) with Bailie Hanzala Malik supporting him as Vice-Chair.
Councillor Matheson is a graduate of both Glasgow and Strathclyde Universities. He is a chartered member of the Institute of Personnel and Development and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. First elected to Glasgow City Council in 1999, he is a Councillor in Ward 10 (Anderston/City).
Previously, Councillor Matheson had been City Treasurer and Executive Member for Education and had served as a board member of a variety of organisations including the Royal Scottish National Orchestra and the Court of the University of Strathclyde.
Commenting on his appointment, Councillor Matheson, said: ‘I am delighted to be taking up the position as Chair of Glasgow City Marketing Bureau.
‘The economy remains at the heart of this administration’s strategy and the dynamic activity undertaken by GCMB in securing major events and conferences for the city helps support Glasgow’s tourism industry, which employs more than 30,000 people.
‘GCMB is known for punching well above its weight and it is vital that it continues to have the necessary support to continue this work.’
Bailie Malik is a Councillor in Ward 11 (Hillhead) and has been a Glasgow City Councillor for 15 years.
He has a BSc in computing with business administration and has served as Chair of Life Long Learning; Senior Vice Convener of Education; Convener of Development and Regeneration Services and was until recently Executive Member of International Affairs.
Bailie Malik, said: ‘As Vice-Chair of Glasgow City Marketing Bureau, I relish the opportunity to help drive leisure and business tourism into Glasgow and feel sure that my experience gained in international affairs will be useful in this regard.’