As part of our Beat the Squeeze campaign we speak with the four political parties at Glasgow City Council to see what changes they would make if they won in the upcoming election in May.

Glasgow Times:

Susan Aitken - SNP

The cost-of-living crisis may be affecting all our lives but it is those who are hardest-pressed financially who again bear the brunt. 

Compounded by the pandemic, which has devastated communities and our economy and hit public services hard, more and more Glaswegians are facing stark choices on a daily basis. 

I congratulate the Glasgow Times on its Beat The Squeeze campaign, which is a really thorough and hugely relevant series.

I’ve often said in my column in this paper that politics is about choices. 

The Tories in their latest time in power at Westminster have chosen policies of austerity and callous cuts to benefits, revelled in the catastrophe of Brexit, and failed to protect consumers from soaring energy costs.

In Scotland, we have a strong record of attempting to lift people out of poverty along with hundreds of millions of pounds spent annually mitigating the 
Tory attacks on our most vulnerable. Later this year for example, the Scottish Government will increase the Child Payment to £25-per-week. 

Also by the end of this year, Scotland’s package of family benefits for low income families will be worth £10,000 by the time a first child turns six, compared to £1800 in England and Wales.

And here in Glasgow, we’ve pioneered ways to address deep-rooted poverty, be that through our holiday food programmes or expanding free school meals and nursery care well ahead of other council areas.

In February, all parties in Glasgow faced the responsibility of delivering a city budget that addressed these rapidly emerging challenges. One of the SNP’s central proposals was our Cost-of-Living Crisis Fund.

Using council cash reserves to help protect low-income households, our budget provides £1 million to help vulnerable residents struggling to heat their homes. 
Fuel poverty affects many different types of households and this fund targets those who need it most. 

A further £2m will help residents to access all the incomes and benefits they’re entitled to, support one-parent families and disabled citizens with issues around debt and entering employment, and help provide essential household items to formerly homeless people to make their house a home.

Given the urgency of the cost-of-living crisis right across Glasgow, it came as something of a surprise that both Labour and Tory budgets all but ignored it, with neither coming up with any new ideas to help struggling households. Clearly, it’s simply not a priority for them.

One of the SNP’s last acts of the current council term was to commit around £9m to provide more than 80,000 Glasgow households with gift cards valued at £110 to spend in city businesses, providing a much-needed boost to a local economy badly hit by the pandemic as well as extra spending power for lower income households.

And what will we do if re-elected? The SNP will continue to address the needs of Glaswegians neglected by Labour for decades and now made more urgent than ever by Boris and his Brexiteer billionaires in London.

Glasgow Times:

Malcolm Cunning - Labour

The Glasgow Times’ campaign to Beat The Squeeze is a fantastic initiative, and one that I want to pay tribute to. 

It is a great example of community institutions – of which this paper is one – rallying around in times of need. It joins the ranks of foodbanks, baby banks and other charities and community groups. 

All institutions that put their arms around people who are buffeted by the vicious waves of change. Change that is entirely outwith their control.  

But while this campaign is admirable – sharing meaningful tips and advice to tackle rising energy costs and enormous inflation – it is one that should not be necessary. 

It is the role of governments to protect our citizens from these changes, and to provide them with the tools and resources they need to thrive and prosper.  But we find ourselves in Glasgow stuck in a quagmire. 

Expert analysis shows that Tory policy is helping the wealthiest. Indeed, the Resolution Foundation reveals that for every £3 of new help the Tories are offering, £2 goes to the richest half of households. 

Meanwhile families and households that are in the greatest need are to be saddled with debt, and left to deal with the increases to the cost of living by themselves.

We also have an SNP government in Holyrood that is aghast that they should be expected to use their powers to do things differently. 
An attitude that appears to have trickled down to the SNP administration in Glasgow. 

We all know that the energy price cap has increased by 54%. We’ve known for some time – even predating the invasion of Ukraine – that energy prices were on the rise. 
And in the face of that, this SNP administration here in Glasgow chose to scrap – again – the affordable warmth payment. A £100 payment to every single person over 80 in the city to help pay their bills. 

A payment that a Labour administration would reinstate permanently. 

And we would go further. Unlike the SNP – whose response to this current crisis is one-off funding – we would commit to support for the long-term. 

That is why we proposed to increase the levels of School Clothing Grant by an additional £30 - putting £800,000 directly into the hands of 30,000 families across the city. It is a commitment that we would fulfil as an administration. 

There is a myriad of ways that we can support families and households, including by supporting the community groups that already do so much work to support them. 

That’s why a Labour administration would freeze charges for the use of community and sports facilities, that so many organisations rely on to deliver their services. 

And, in the long-term, we know that the cost of getting around this city is a huge barrier to securing well-paid and secure employment. 

That’s why we are committed to bringing our buses into public control – to help access vital community facilities, education or work in an affordable way. 

The effects of this current crisis will continue to be felt for years afterwards, and it demands politicians in Council Chambers who listen and respond. In short, politicians that will put you first. 
Glasgow Times:

Thomas Kerr - Tories

Glasgow has always been blighted with pockets of poverty and people struggling to pay day-to-day bills. 
But the current cost-of-living crisis is biting hard and we cannot stand back and do nothing. 

I warmly welcome the Glasgow Times’ current campaign and the way this paper is shining a light on the reality for many people in the city. 

This won’t be a crisis we solve overnight but we must be bold and ambitious if we 
are to mitigate 
many of the effects of it. 

That was the attitude we took, as the Glasgow Conservatives, ahead of the Budget earlier this year.

Our fully costed proposals would have given hard-pressed residents a council tax freeze, kept the affordable warmth payment of £100 for our pensioners and delivered a 3% increase in payments for our foster and kinship carers who work tirelessly every single day. 

Add in scrapping bulk uplift charges – which were so disgracefully imposed by the SNP – and the people of our city could see that Glasgow Conservatives are on their side. Sadly, our plans were voted down by other parties in Glasgow City Chambers, including the SNP, Labour and the Greens. 

Party politics sound trivial when some people are choosing between heating and eating, but I make no apologies for calling out the voting record of fellow councillors in the chamber. 

Our communities are being further harmed during this cost-of-living crisis by the fact that our council simply doesn’t get sufficient resources from the SNP government. 
Year after year, Nicola Sturgeon’s party – backed up by their now-coalition partners, the Scottish Greens – have made savage cuts to local authority budgets. That has forced councils’ hands and it is residents who have suffered through policies such as council tax rises and hikes in nursery fees. 

Nobody is pretending that the current financial climate means we can get everything we want, but it was a political choice by the SNP government to cut local authority budgets, forcing councils to 
reduce services and/or increase council tax. 

If you elect more Glasgow Conservative councillors in May, we will fight tooth and nail for a fair funding deal for our city to deliver on the needs of our communities. 

I have experienced hardship before, so helping those most in need is the top priority for myself and my fellow Glasgow Conservative candidates at next month’s election. I’ve been there to help out at the soup kitchen at Glasgow Central. It is sad that it is even required in 2022. 

We can and must do better for our communities. We must empower them to make decisions that will have a positive impact on their own areas during this crisis. 
I am ready for the challenges ahead. I only wish rival candidates were too.

Glasgow Times:

Jon Molyneux – Greens

Scottish Greens are pleased to support the Glasgow Times’ Beat The Squeeze campaign. This cost-of-living crisis is devastating.

The UK Government must do more, and we want to see a windfall tax on the huge profits of energy companies to help reduce soaring energy bills. 

With the powers we have in Scotland, Greens are already getting more money into people’s pockets – now – as well as helping to reduce their outgoings.

We are also making sure people can access help and advice, and delivering more efficient homes. 
Nationally, we’re more than doubling the Scottish Child Payment to £25 a week. We’ve mitigated the cruel 

Tory benefit cap and ensured Scottish social security payments rise with inflation. Contrast this with Westminster, which has cut Universal Credit by £20 a week and is forcing energy debt onto people. 

Greens have also introduced free bus travel for under 22s and expanded universal free school meals. In Glasgow, we’re spending £5 million on targeted anti-poverty work. Impacts of crises like this are never felt evenly, so Green budgets have ensured extra help for women, disabled people and black and minority ethnic communities who are hit harder. Previously, we reversed cuts to Citizens’ Advice.

But we must do more. Here are some of the measures in our local manifesto to make Glasgow greener and fairer.

Boosting incomes
We will:

  • Settle the council’s equal pay liabilities and implement fairer pay.
  • Support “cash first” approaches to helping people, alongside longer-term income-boosting support.
  • Pilot a Universal Basic Income, with support from national governments; and use the council’s influence to ensure more businesses pay a living wage.

Fairer tax
We will:

  • Use the review secured by Green MSPs to end the regressive council tax and replace it with a fairer system of property taxation.
  • Balance the need to keep bills low with investing in public services and help for those in greatest need.

We will: 

  • Build more social housing.
  • Support the introduction of rent controls.
  • Improve existing help for renters, and work with housing associations to keep their rents low.

Schools and young people 
We will:

  • Implement an affordable school uniform policy.
  • Ensure all children can access warm jackets, outdoor clothing and bikes.
  • Continue to support holiday food programmes and expand family income teams attached to schools and nurseries.

We will:

  • Continue to campaign for foster and kinship carers to get the pay they deserve.
  • Support unpaid carers with income advice and concessionary travel.
  • Develop local financial support for young carers.

We will:

  • Continue to champion affordable public transport and deliver a free public transport pilot.
  • Back public ownership of buses.
  • Lobby the Scottish Government to extend free U22s bus travel to the Subway.