Greens set out priorities for council budgets


Council budgets for Edinburgh and Glasgow set to be decided next week

THE SCOTTISH GREENS have set out their priorities for two of Scotland’s major city council budgets ahead of their finalisation next week.

In Glasgow, the SNP administration of Glasgow City Council (GCC) is currently preparing their first budget for the city. Recalling the concessions the Scottish Greens recently won in Holyrood from the Scottish Government in exchange for supporting this 2018/19 Scottish budget – including an additional £170m for local authorities, with £17.6m for Glasgow – Green councillors have outlined the key tests they will apply to decide if they can support the Glasgow budget.

Green councillors will seek to ensure that the additional funds won for Glasgow City Council in the Scottish budget be used to protect school funding, with specific emphasis on pupils with additional support needs (ASN).

READ MORE: Details revealed of budget deal between Greens and Scottish Government

The Scottish Greens have been consistent in their focus on meeting ASN needs in the face of previous funding cuts, with Scottish Green education spokesperson Ross Greer telling CommonSpace ahead of a Holyrood debate on the issue last year: “What caused so many of the challenges in Scottish education – whether it’s the issues of teacher working conditions, or the inclusion agenda not functioning well, kids with additional support needs being excluded from mainstream schools – these have been overwhelmingly caused by austerity.

“They’re the result of cuts – losing the 500 ASN teachers, the hundreds of assistants, the 4,000 classroom teachers, etc. The government won’t face up to that reality.”

Green councillors will also be seeking a “fair pay deal for workers”, demanding that the GCC’s minority SNP administration match the Scottish Government’s public sector pay deal, which included a pay-rise for 73,000 more public sector workers. Following the concessions secured by the Greens, the pay policy covers 75 per cent of public sector workers, rather than the 51 per cent covered in the original draft budget.

The final test applied to the GCC budget will be for any infrastructure spending to support a low-carbon future. This includes an expansion of 20mph speed limits on Glasgow streets, improvements in conditions for walking and cycling, and expanded connection of the city by public transport. Also covered by this policy is what the Greens describe as a strengthening of “democratic accountability”, resulting in community-led budgets which give a greater say to young Glaswegians.

READ MORE: Number of children with additional support needs rises while staff and spending levels fall

Meanwhile in Edinburgh, the Greens have outlined priorities – which will be expanded on next week ahead of the final budget on 22 February – that include an extra £1.5m to tackle homelessness in the capital, new support for care-leavers’ travel, the full funding of school clothing grants for low-income families, efforts to tackle high private rents and empty homes, and funding for school repairs and new schools.

In January of this year, analysis from the jobs site CV-Library revealed that Edinburgh was the third-most expensive place to rent in the UK, while in 2016, 17 Edinburgh schools were closed on safety concerns until repairs – some of which took months to complete – could be finished.

Picture courtesy of Michael D Beckwith

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