In the last four years as Labour Councillor for Maryhill ward I see, day to day, the role of community groups and voluntary organisations in Maryhill.  The picture is so heartening in many ways but troubling in others.

Glasgow Times:

Early summer saw the formation of a great campaign group fighting for the opening of Maryhill library. I joined people on Saturdays making their case outside the library in dry and wet weather - seeking support from passers-bys, whether by signing a petition or through a toot of the horn.  There have been lots of both. All know that a library is not just about books but also about access to computers and to advice services.

At last there is some Scottish Government funding that will support opening from January to end March- with Glasgow Life having agreed to fund 12 months.  But, to protect all our community buildings and services, the council needs proper funding from Scottish Government. In Maryhill, the library will need repair if it is to have a longer life. For me this is vital if Maryhill Road is to be the attractive and community focused high street it should be.

This campaign is just one part of so much activity in Maryhill but much is less visible.

The North West Sector Voluntary Sector network helps a large number of individual organisations by spreading and sharing information.  A year or so ago, the Maryhill Together Network started and it has been great to keep in touch and help where I can. 

So many existing groups – like at Acre and North United Communities and G20 in the Wyndford – have been active on the ground all through the pandemic- finding out who needed support and until recently providing food parcels.  There may have been some Scottish Government or council funding but it was community groups who have the local knowledge and people to get support to where it is needed. Many – including Maryhill Integration Network and Home Start- managed to adapt their face-to-face support to new conditions.  

This effort was made despite many groups’ real concern about Council funding for voluntary and community groups. This is a troubling bit. Promises by the SNP to open up funding to new bodies went ahead with no increase in funding and limited thinking through about what this would mean. Some valuable groups rooted in their community, like Shakespeare Street youth club and the Maryhill mobile creche, lost funding.   The problems with the Fund are clear from a recent independent review so let’s hope for something better going forward.

Those who give their time to Community Councils deserve recognition too - but they often need new people to get involved to bring fresh perspectives.  I attend North Kelvin Community Council, which covers part of Maryhill ward, and Maryhill and Summerston Community Council. Unfortunately, there has not been sufficient local interest to have a Community Council for central Maryhill. 

I hope there will be in the future. Community councils can play a vital role in identifying local issues and pursuing them: through a two-way flow of information with local councillors; making representations, for example on planning applications; and – while still expecting good Council services- doing that bit extra on a cleaner, greener environment.       

But the final mention for the moment should go to Nicola McHendry who is leaving the Maryhill Burgh Halls. Alongside her wider role, she organised the competition for a flag for Maryhill involving young and old, across Maryhill and wider.  

Glasgow Times: