Worldwide, more and more people are becoming city dwellers for economic, environmental and social reasons. For reasons of social justice and equity, it is vital therefore that cities are designed and governed to ensure the welfare and the wellbeing of all of their residents. This requires resources for a range of needs; for homes, for education, for health and social care, for transport, for childcare and play, for cleansing, for cultural enrichment and for the jobs that build and sustain these sectors.
Glasgow is no different from any other city, yet, as the result of political and economic decisions taken at a UK, a Scottish and at a local level, the organisations responsible for both the strategic and practical delivery of a just city have been progressively underfunded for years. This month, Glasgow City Council was forced into a position of making further cuts to services on the back of a £50 million shortfall in its budget. It has been estimated that around half a billion pounds have been wiped from the Council budget over the past 10 years. This has been well documented in the press and by commentators but in short, there will inevitably be a further hollowing out of services, opportunities and jobs for Glasgow residents as well as an increase in costs.
A summary of this year’s cuts and charges can be found here:
Glasgow Times: Glasgow Council budget details: What’s going up to plug £50m deficit
Underfunding of local authorities and other public institutions affects us all, although the greatest impact falls inevitably on those who are already struggling from austerity and the rise in prices. Successive budget shortfalls translate into a reduced workforce in key services, pay restrictions for those that remain and a lack of resources for infrastructure.
There are visible signs everywhere; litter bins that are left overflowing, parks that are barely tended, roads that are full of potholes. The running down of the People’s Palace is undermining our history and culture. Social work services, essential for the welfare of our children, older people and disabled people amongst others, are said to be at a tipping point, overstretched and staff burnt out. Voluntary sector services and community initiatives which can be both a lifeline and means of enriching our lives have also been seriously hollowed out, even those successful in receiving funding being allocated less than they require.
A full list of projects not recommended for funding from the Communities Fund is here:
Glasgow City Council: Applications NOT recommended for funding from the Glasgow Communities Fund
Those that have been recommended for funding are here:
Glasgow City Council: Funding recommendations from the Glasgow Communities Fund 2023-26
There are many reasons why local services have been underfunded, often purported by national government to be economic but in reality, highly political. Power in Scotland is highly centralised, the ability of local authorities to make decisions curtailed by the ring-fencing of certain allocations regardless of local need, and powers to raise local taxes similarly restricted by national policy. Glasgow is particularly affected by being a hub for a network of smaller councils which surround it, providing sporting, leisure and cultural opportunities for their populations which they themselves feel no need to offer because of the proximity of the city, but for which there is no additional funding. But, we are also concerned about the decisions that are being made by Glasgow City Council on how the funding that it does have at its disposal is actually used.
We end this month’s short blog by drawing attention to a longer report on the way that it chooses to use some of its allocation on developing the local economy. Rather than develop the economy to address the needs which are not met as the result of underfunding, this report highlights the emphasis on greenwashing, gentrification and the gatekeeping of public funds for private subsidies.