ONE of the most disturbing reports about Glasgow and its people to emerge in recent years was published last week by the Centre for Population Health and Glasgow University.

It found that austerity is the biggest reason why premature death rates among Glaswegians are failing to improve, a situation the authors fear will be made even worse by the cost-of-living crisis.

Responsibility for this grim and unnecessary situation lies with the Westminster Government. So too do most of the solutions. After all, the Tories have the levers to reverse cuts to social security and public spending. They just won’t.

So, although we can’t do everything we’d like, where we can assist affected citizens, the city council steps up.

Supporting the individuals, households and communities most vulnerable to the effects of the cost-of-living crisis is an urgent priority for us.

We must take every opportunity, using the limited powers and resources we have, to mitigate its financial impact, to prevent people from falling into severe consequences like homelessness and also to support Glaswegians to permanently improve their financial circumstances.

Next week I will bring forward a motion to full council calling on all parties to support efforts to do just that. 

Glasgow Times readers will recall that before the local elections, the joint SNP and Green budget set aside £3m to begin making inroads on the cost-of-living crisis.

That funding is tackling fuel poverty for those worst affected, helping one-parent families and disabled citizens with debt and accessing employment, and providing essential household items.

I will be asking senior officers to report back on how that cash is having an impact and how pilot schemes to increase household incomes are making a difference.

Many of the recommendations made in the Centre for Population Health report are already happening here in Glasgow. But next week I’ll call for cross party support to really ramp that activity up.

Part of that will be rolling out citywide high-quality money advice and welfare rights services to ensure people receive all the benefits and entitlements they’re eligible for. Tens, maybe even hundreds of thousands of Glaswegians are not claiming everything they are entitled to and experts on the frontline tell us these services are essential in addressing that.

We want to expand the work we’ve been doing to create and grow wealth in Glasgow’s communities and to create a Fair Work City, using our business support and procurement policies to encourage employers to ensure that, at the very least workers are paid the Glasgow Living Wage.

And the council’s Centre for Civic Innovation has been doing some really exciting work in Greater Pollok and elsewhere, enabling local people to co-design local services that work for them, an approach we want to embed in communities right across the city.

And with the cost of public transport a significant drain on those in poverty, especially people living in outlying areas, we want to help address this in the short to medium term.

In a context where fuel costs are in danger of impacting on fares, we’ve got to be realistic about what we can do with the powers, resources and relationships we have right now. But accessibility to transport has to be significantly improved so those on low incomes can take up opportunities to education, employment and public services.

Whilst the Tories heap misery on the most vulnerable, Scotland is committing hundreds of millions of pounds annually to lift people out of poverty. We in Glasgow have a duty to strengthen the safety nets and protect our citizens from the excesses of this crisis. I’m calling on every councillor to back this work.

Glasgow Times:

Spotlight on the city

The Glasgow Times has addressed an issue of real importance this week by highlighting the impact on our city centre of vacant buildings and sites.

What struck but didn’t surprise me was the refusal or unavailability of the owners when asked to explain why they were allowing their properties to create such a blight.

These owners are often based hundreds or even thousands of miles away from Glasgow and have tenuous links with the city at best, but for the good of Glasgow’s recovery, they really do need to take responsibility for the state of their properties.

The council of course has our part to play and work such as deep cleans, graffiti removal and the deployment of additional community enforcement officers is already under way.

Along with improving eyesore sites and encouraging more outdoor dining, £2m funding has been dedicated to a range of activities to support city centre recovery.

The cash will also fund work to secure a long-term future for the city centre, including identifying new and additional powers that the council needs to better deliver recovery and regeneration as well as acting now to support the refurbishment and conversion of vacant properties.

Glasgow city centre is a critically important economic and social asset going through profound change.

It’s vital that all of us with an interest in its wellbeing are pulling in the same direction.

Back to business

After the elections there’s a real sense of us getting back to business at the council. 

Last week’s City Administration Committee saw us approve around £1.5m for over 50 groups to provide the summer’s Holiday Food Programme, real progress in the rebirth of the inner East End with hundreds of new homes for the Meat Market site and creating 22 new local nature reserves.

On top of this £5.5m was distributed to a number of really worthwhile regeneration projects, including Elderpark Learning and Community Centre, Possilpark Family and Community Centre and exciting arts, food and drink plans for the A-listed Briggait.

I was particularly pleased to see £2m support for Govanhill Baths. 

The Baths are a symbol of all that was wrong with how decisions used to be made in this city. A much-loved building and cherished facility simply shut down by Labour, who ignored the appeals for a reprieve by diverse communities.

The community took matters into its own hands and fought a long, hard and successful campaign to restore and re-open Govanhill Baths. 

I’m delighted the SNP has helped facilitate that. This is what supporting community empowerment looks like on the ground, real people, real projects and real progress. 

It’s what we’ll see much more of in Glasgow in the years ahead.