Our ideas have made this budget fairer and greener. It's time to break from the past and start investing in a sustainable future.Cllr Allan Young
Yesterday, Glasgow City Council passed its first budget under the SNP minority administration. For your Scottish Green Party councillors, this was the culmination of a long hard effort to ensure that Glasgow breaks from the legacy of decades of single party rule and starts to invest in a better, more equal and sustainable future.
With the SNP running a minority administration, they were always going to need the support of at least one other party to pass a budget. Greens are long practised at engaging constructively across party lines and we’ve done exactly that for the people of Glasgow, while sadly some other parties have contributed little but complaints from the sidelines.
Green politics is teamwork, and Glasgow’s finances already benefit from the wider Green team’s work and scrutiny. Thanks to the Green team of MSPs who won record concessions in successive Scottish national budgets, Glasgow faced a starting position for this budget more than £30 million better off than we could have been. That’s over £30 million extra that has already stopped cuts to services in areas such as education and social work.
The team of Green councillors in Glasgow worked hard to create budget proposals that were about delivering fairer, greener change – after all, that’s what Glasgow voted for last year. We’re very happy that the SNP group were prepared to listen and work constructively with us to find many areas of agreement.
In judging whether to support the budget, we applied three key tests: it had to be good for public services, good for workers, and good for a fairer, greener local economy. With our amendment accepted, all three tests were satisfied and so we could vote in favour of a progressive budget that signals a fresh start for our great city.
Here are some of the key areas where Green councillors have ensured change for Glasgow:
Protecting and investing in education staffing
The money that Greens won for Glasgow from Holyrood means that teacher numbers can be protected, and Glasgow Green councillors have won enhanced staffing and teacher training to help pupils with Additional Support Needs in mainstream schools.
We will continue to argue at national level for increases to ASN funding and the sustained rebuilding of education staffing.
£1 million more for homelessness services and emergency accommodation
We know we need to move towards a more sustainable model of longer-term accommodation for people who find themselves homeless. The Tory government in Westminster has reduced housing benefit subsidy for temporary accommodation and we need to ensure that nobody falls through the cracks while changes are put in place.
As we move towards people-centred models, such as Housing First, we must protect contingency, emergency and sheltered accommodation. It’s appalling that this is something we have to do to shield people from Tory austerity, but the extra money we’ve secured in this budget will at least help to protect some of the most vulnerable people in our society.
Greens are growing democracy – bringing ALEOs back under council control
For years, Greens have been pushing to make Arms-Length External Organisations transparent, fair and accountable. We’re glad to see eye to eye with the SNP on this - it's time to start bringing ALEOs back in house. Soon, thousands of Cordia staff – overwhelmingly women - will be able to enjoy the better pay and conditions that direct council control will enable.
Investing in community services - our streets, our parks, our libraries
Public services are the cornerstone of a decent society and yet they have suffered year on year in the squeeze of Tory austerity. We are leading the change. Now, Glasgow’s vital public services will be protected and start to see reinvestment – turning the tide after years of cuts. This budget ensures 150 permanent contracts created in Land and Environmental Services, keeping our streets clean and protecting our parks for everyone to enjoy. Our libraries will be able to serve more people with a boosted book budget that will include more materials in different languages for Glasgow's diverse population, and an adult literacy programme that will target areas of greatest need.
A bike for every child
We have ensured funding for a pilot project to create bike libraries in Glasgow’s schools. This will remove barriers to active travel for children by giving every child in Glasgow the opportunity to learn to cycle safely and then have a bike to get to school on. Active travel is just as important for children as it is for adults in enabling people to live healthy lives, reducing the burden on health services and alleviating congestion on our roads.
Alongside this measure, this budget sees investment in footways and roads to make streets safer, including bringing forward more 20mph limits in residential areas.
Empowering Glasgow’s Youth Council
We seek all Glaswegians to take part in shaping our city, and we recognise that some groups face more barriers to having their voices heard. To this end we are providing funds to better support Glasgow’s Youth Council, a key way of amplifying the voice of young people in our city. This will mean its members will no longer be expected to pay for their own travel to meetings, or to work hard on a manifesto but not have the means of getting it printed. The litmus test for empowering young people is whether they have money to spend on their own priorities. By ensuring financial support for GYC, Greens are empowering young people.
Empty homes premium
Green councillors have introduced an Empty Homes Premium to be charged on properties that have been unoccupied for 12 months or more. This measure will help to bring more empty properties back into active use; and raise much-needed cash to allow the Council to invest money where it is needed.
We believe that local government needs to have diverse powers to raise the bulk of funds it needs. Greens don’t believe Council Tax should be the only way to make up a local government funding shortfall. We want to see real progress in the year ahead on local tax reform. Greens have consistently and repeatedly proposed progressive alternatives to the Council Tax. We want to see new powers for councils to raise their own revenue, through measures such as local levies on vacant land and on overnight visitor stays. Green MSPs will be pressing the Scottish Government to introduce new powers for councils over the course of this parliament. In Glasgow, the new Empty Homes Premium is a step along this road, and we hope that in next year’s budget the council will have the powers to be able to deliver even more radical change.
Greens stand for politics that’s constructive, committed and, above all, about fairness. That’s why we are proud to have made this a budget that funds the public services Glasgow deserves.