IT’S been a freezing start to 2021. Like every other councillor, I have been inundated by complaints from residents that roads and pavements are like ice rinks. 

From press reports it is clear that A&E departments are dealing with a huge increase in broken bones and other injuries as a result of falls. Advice has gone out that people can “do their bit” and grit their own pavement using the numerous grit bins placed strategically across the city. The problem is, the grit bins are mostly empty.

I have no doubt that our roads people are working as hard as they can to keep us all safe. Equally, I recognise that freezing rain is one of the most difficult climatic conditions to deal with; just keeping the main travel routes open becomes a never-ending task.

Side streets and housing estates might not receive any attention for several days.

However, it simply cannot be denied that the cumulative effects of sub-zero temperatures, Covid and cuts has stretched the council’s capacity to virtual breaking point. Years of staff reductions and lack of investment means there is no longer the resilience or capacity to deal with seasonal problems in the way we once did.

Over the next few weeks, councillors will be preparing the budget for the next financial year. Since 2013/14, Glasgow City Council has had to make cuts significantly in excess of £300million. All current discussions are based on making even further cuts come February. 

The SNP government in Holyrood has been no friend to local government since they were first elected in 2007. They have denuded us of powers and, as Audit Scotland have confirmed, cut our budgets at four times the level of any cut to their own budget.

The impoverishment of local government has been an SNP political choice. Westminster or bad boys in London are not to blame, Nicola Sturgeon and Kate Forbes are.
Precisely how much we will have to cut services is, at the moment, somewhat vague.

Glasgow Times:

The rumour is a cash cut of around 1% plus additional saving to cover inflation and other costs. Strangely, in Wales, far greater clarity exists. The Welsh Government announced before Christmas that council funding would increase by 3.8%. They are also guaranteeing increases in capital funding. If this can be done in Wales, it has to be asked why it cannot happen in Scotland.

Call me cynical if you like, but I think there is little doubt that the Scottish Government is deliberately creating uncertainty to fuel their grievance agenda. Their priority is the May election and a referendum which most people do not want any time soon. If the cost of that is ungritted roads and crumbling facilities then so be it. 

Come February 18, when we set our budget for next year, councillors will once again face horrendous choices between the utterly unacceptable and the wholly unjustifiable. Given that some 2/3rd of our budget goes on education and Social Work, cuts will again fall dispropor-tionately on other services such as roads, parks and cleansing. Almost inevitably, there will be an increase in Council Tax to balance the books.

Glasgow Times: First Minister Nicola Sturgeon First Minister Nicola Sturgeon

So, if your pavement is still like an ice rink, ask yourself why and consider who is responsible. If you balk at the prospect of paying even more tax for poorer services and fewer libraries, don’t look to Westminster, look to Holyrood.