The race to secure the biggest prize in Scottish local government is on. Today, Labour launched its manifesto for Glasgow. It contains 100 pledges which the party promises to deliver for the people of Glasgow, if re-elected, with the focus on jobs, children and young people, and regeneration. The manifesto also sets out twenty achievements of its last four years in power (though one or two, such as housing stock transfer actually happened before 2007) and at least one of the supposed achievements – the M74 extension – more properly belongs to the Scottish Government. Still, it’s not a bad track record but will it be enough to save Labour from a mauling by the electorate?
But no matter how Labour dresses things up, Glasgow’s problems remain deep-seated. Venture out of the city centre and away from the development along the Clyde and into outlying areas – the ones twixt centre and suburbs especially – and the streets are resolutely rundown. The evidence of poverty all around is pervasive. Glasgow looks just as tired and forlorn as it ever did, with the pockets of growth overshadowed by the level of decay. It’s almost as though the boom years have passed many communities by – and actually, they have.
And there is a sense abroad that people have had enough. Labour has had years, nay decades in charge of Glasgow – more than enough time to do some of the things it is promising in the next four years. Labour appears to have woken up at last to not being able to take its bedrock vote for granted. In the 2011 election, a lifetime’s habit of voting Labour was broken. This year, as last, there is a real whiff of change in the air.
Folk – despite what politicians and parties sometimes think – aren’t stupid. For every achievement cited by Labour, they can point to a failure. Just in case they can’t, here’s ten things lurking in Scottish government statistics that Labour won’t want the people of Glasgow to know before 3 May.
1. Between 2000 and 2010, Glasgow has had the highest prevalence of problem drug users of any local authority in Scotland
Not just in actual numbers but in percentage terms. Throughout the last ten years, the level of problem drug use has remained stubbornly high, with little evidence of improvement.
2. Glasgow has the highest average class size in primary school in all of Scotland
According to the 2011 pupil census, the average primary school class size in Glasgow is 24.6. In primary one, the average class size is 22.1 and in primary two and three, it is over 25 – over the statutory limit, in fact.
3. It also has one of the lowest rates in Scotland of pupils who stay on beyond fifth year at school
While Glasgow does relatively well at encouraging young people to stay on until fifth year, the drop-out rate at sixth year is one of the worst. In neighbouring East Renfrewshire, the staying-on rate for S3 – S6 is 82.2%, while in Glasgow it is only 47.5%.
4. The council has the highest number of primary school teachers and second highest number of secondary school teachers on temporary contracts
In the last teacher census, there were 390 primary teachers on temporary contracts – nearly 9% of the total in Scotland. And it has 297 secondary teachers on temporary contracts, second only to North Lanarkshire – another local authority where Labour’s dominance is threatened. Over 14% of Glasgow’s secondary teachers are temporary – and only 38 of these are probationary, newly qualified teachers.
5. Despite having relatively high numbers of children with additional support needs, Glasgow has fewer ASN auxiliary staff and classroom assistants in secondary schools (147) than Fife does (183)
6. Glasgow spent less on repairing, altering and maintaining schools last year than Argyll and Bute, Edinburgh, Fife and Stirling did
Yet, Glasgow has significantly more schools than any of these other local authorities. Of course, a smaller repair bill might be a good thing – and all of Glasgow’s secondary schools were rebuilt or refurbished putting them in the “good” category – but there are significant numbers of primary and special schools in the poor or bad categories.
7. By contrast, Glasgow has one of the largest bills for PFI payments and charges – amounting to over £46m in 2010-11
This is the cost of all that refurbishment and new build under the old Scottish Executive’s PFI and PPP model. Every year, over £46 million goes out of Glasgow’s budget into the pockets of private sector firms.
8. Glasgow had the lowest rate of council tax collection in Scotland in 2010-11
After years of languishing far behind other local authorities, Glasgow has made significant progress in the last few years but it still lags behind other councils, and last year only collected just over 92% of the council tax due in its area. Even increasing the rate of collection by one or two per cent would provide substantial, additional revenue for expenditure – and perhaps stave off some cuts in services.
9. The number of dependent children in temporary homeless accommodation in Glasgow has not reduced over the last four years – and accounts for a quarter of all children in Scotland in temporary accommodation
Over 1300 children spent Christmas last year in temporary accommodation in Glasgow. The numbers have come down slightly, particularly from 2008 and 2009, back to 2007 levels. Thankfully, very few families are being housed temporarily in bed and breakfast accommodation, but high levels of homelessness among families with children in Glasgow persists.
10. Glasgow is more employment AND income deprived than any other local authority
According to the SIMD data for 2009, Glasgow had a higher proportion of working age population unemployed (“employment deprived”) than any other local authority (19.2%), had the largest number of areas classified as most employment deprived 41% (taking over this top position again from Inverclyde). It also had the largest proportion of its population classified as income derived (26.4%).
Poor and workless – and more of the most poor and most workless areas and communities within its boundaries than any other council. It’s definitely not a legacy to be proud of.