Thursday 9 February
The Labour administration in Glasgow City Chambers was nearly paid-off today when its budget scraped through by only two votes. Till recently, the Labour group had a comfortable majority of 15.
A stout defence of the Party’s record by the group Leader Councillor Gordon Matheson may have swayed the day. And bringing in sick Labour Councillors by taxi to increase the vote, was also effective. But opposition Councillors said the narrow win illustrated Matheson had lost the confidence of his colleagues and that he should resign.
Combined opposition parties of SNP, Scottish Lib Dems, Scottish Green Party, Independent Councillors and the solitary Conservative Party Councillor on the City Council presented their alternative budget. This included improving Council tax collection by 1.5% to bring in £1,250,000; capital expenditure of £58 million on education and roads and lighting infrastructure and a 10% reduction in parks maintenance budget saving £1,270,000
Rebel Labour councillors who defected on the eve of the vote included Southside Central Councillor Anne Marie Millar who said: ‘I’d been thinking of resigning for some time. Then at a meeting recently an item was removed from the agenda and I was told it would be discussed later among the others. I was made to feel like a second class citizen – isolated – and that I didn’t belong.’ At the end of the dramatic meeting, she freely told reporters that she had felt intimidated when another Labour Councillor was asking her to re-consider her decision in order to gain her vote for today’s vital budget meeting. ‘I asked him to give me a good reason why I should do that. He then talked about one of the programmes to get people into work and commented that my son had gone through that and was now working for City Building, where, incidently, that Councillor was on the Board. I stopped him there and asked him ‘Is my son being threatened with losing his job? I felt intimidated.’
Govan Councillor for 17 years, Stephen Dornan, formally resigned from the Labour Party a few days earlier. ‘I will always be a supporter of the labour movement,’ he said. ‘It is in my blood.’ But his reason for bowing out was that the Labour Party had not given his Govan branch their proper democratic right to select their own candidate for the May election. Despite an appeal, he was de-selected so he chose to vote against the Labour Administration’s budget. After the vote he said: ‘It is a sad day.’
Question marks were put against eight or nine Labour Councillors in advance of the budget debate. But Councillors Anne Marie Millar and Stephen Dornan were the only two who said openly what they had decided.
The SNP Business Manager, Councillor Graeme Hendry of Garscadden/Scotstounhill who helped co-ordinate the combined opposition parties’ budget said after the dramatic vote: ‘It was a great result for us. Labour got their budget through by the skin of their teeth. A week ago they had a huge majority. It shows that their Leader does not command the confidence of his own group.’ He added: ‘I’m really pleased with the outcome. The combined opposition groups worked well together. It shows what is possible.’
On exiting from the Council Chamber immediately after the historic two vote win for the Labour budget, Labour Group Leader Gordon Matheson said: ‘I’m thrilled. This is a dramatic win for Labour’s record, vision and policies. This has helped our renewal and healing.’ During his winding up speech at the end of the debate he accused the opposition parties of ‘exploiting the divisions within the Labour group in a calculated and shoddy way.’ He stridently proclaimed: ‘We stand
n our record.’
The City’s budget for the next financial year invests in jobs for young people, education, dealing with potholes and tackling dog fouling and litter.
Measures approved include an additional £2m to tackle youth unemployment and provide a new Glasgow Guarantee for all 16-24 year olds; £12m for road repairs; £200,000 for new Youth Enterprise Zones, and £0.71m for more enforcement officers to tackling littering and dog fouling.
Councillors also approved £0.5m to fund a 25% increase in Kinship Care payments, £0.8m for outdoor school play equipment and attainment initiatives, and £300,000 for new community bus routes.
The extra £2m to tackle youth unemployment will be allocated to the existing Commonwealth Jobs Fund to extend it to 16 and 17-year-olds. It will provide employers with a 50% wage subsidy and would also include targeted training support for under-18s.
Training would range from basic literacy and numeracy to more complex support and could include other transferable skills for young people, such as driving lessons.
The new £25m Glasgow Guarantee will include a guaranteed apprenticeship for all school leavers who qualify; £6m for employers who will receive a 50% wage subsidy for each unemployed 18-24 year old they recruit; £10m for employers as a 50% wage subsidy for each unemployed graduate they recruit.
Councillor Matheson added: ‘This is the fourth budget we have set in the shadow of a global economic crisis – and in a term that has seen £210m removed from our budgets. With the proportion of our revenues controlled by government rising and our funding falling harder and faster than the national average, we have had to struggle to protect front line services.
‘We have had to be bold, we have had to be innovative and we have only succeeded because years of effective and prudent stewardship have put Glasgow in the best possible shape to meet these challenges. This year alone, we need to bridge a funding gap of £42.9m. Despite, that, we remain committed to our key priorities, which we share with the people of this city – education, jobs and targeted support for our most vulnerable citizens. We are determined to build on the success we have had over the last five years; for the benefit of every community and every Glaswegian.’
Glasgow City Council has now approved measures to save a total of £42.9m in 2012/13. The majority of these savings – £34.9m – were approved a year ago. On Thursday councillors approved a further £8m in savings for 2012/13.