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.’
The politics of Maryhill took a twist in the favour of the Scottish Liberal Democrats this week when Councillor Alex Dingwall defected from the SNP.
This means the Maryhill-Kelvin ward is now made up of two Labour and two Liberal Democrat councillors.
Dingwall’s decision falls in the favour of candidate Katy Gordon, Lib Dem prospective candidate for Glasgow North, who aims to oust Labour’s sitting MP Ann McKechin at this spring’s General Election.
Councillor Dingwall had been an SNP member for 31 years.
He claimed his decision for leaving the party had nothing to do with the Glasgow Airport Rail Link or the cash for lunches scandal which is presently rocking the Scottish Government.
However, he cited reasons along the lines of over-centralisation by the SNP which was fundamental to making his move.
He said: ‘The Local Income Tax failure by the SNP (that it should not be set locally) was a key issue for me.
‘The SNP has gone backwards where the Scottish Liberal Democrats have progressed in terms of putting forward policies on what local government is all about.’
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Councillor Dingwall’s constitutional aspirations have not changed.
He added: ‘If it was to come to a referendum I would still vote in favour of an independent Scotland.’
James Dornan, Leader of the Opposition, in the city, admitted he was surprised to see an old colleague jump ship.
The SNP Glasgow leader said: ‘It came as a big surprise, we never expected he would end up with the Liberal Democrats.
‘However, he has been unhappy for a while now, and we did everything we could to keep him in the SNP group, but it wasn’t to be.’