Yesterday I submitted my nomination papers for election as the new Leader of Glasgow City Labour Group and, consequently, as Leader of Glasgow City Council. I did so clear as to the enormity of the task and the huge responsibility I am asking my colleagues to entrust in me.
In 2012 Glasgow Labour won a convincing victory when many thought all was lost. Given our record of genuine success, we previously would have some grounds for confidence that the people of Glasgow would return a Labour led council in 2017. But times have changed, voter loyalties have shifted and we have to start, as if from scratch, to win once again the confidence and support of the people of Glasgow.
In Glasgow, and across Scotland, we all recognise the real possibility that if we do not succeed in that task we will let the SNP dominate every level of representation in Scotland. I will not let that happen in Glasgow. I will take the fight to the SNP and take our values and our vision out to the electorate.
If elected next Wednesday I will have two core priorities.
- Firstly we must build a united Group committed to campaigning in our communities over the next 20 months. Councillors are more important than ever in providing example and inspiration to local activists whose enthusiasm and commitment are crucial in our fight-back.
- Secondly, we must jointly agree a new manifesto even more radical and unashamedly political than that in 2012. It must be clear beyond challenge that only the Labour Party has the eradication of poverty at the very heart of our ambitions. Only Labour will use the powers of local government to do all in our power to mitigate both Tory austerity and challenge an SNP government which has constantly, and deliberately, under-resourced this city.
I have ideas for our manifesto which I will offer for discussion immediately.
I want a Labour Group that is inclusive and political; not just efficient administrators. That means developing a strong political cabinet, including both senior Executive members and representative backbenchers. The political cabinet would be tasked with developing policies and effectively holding Executive members to account for their areas of responsibility and will report regularly to the Group.
We have made considerable progress through the Poverty Leadership Panel in bringing together public sector, third sector, community and business representatives to develop anti-poverty initiatives. We must build on that work and make anti-poverty and tackling austerity a touchstone of all our work. I want all policy proposals to be rigorously assessed against their contribution to our wider anti-poverty strategy.
We cannot deliver for the people of Glasgow without the hard work and dedication of our staff. For years they have been asked to work ever harder in exchange for a frozen pay packet. Even the 1% on offer for the next financial year will make little difference to our lower paid staff who are, by some margin, disproportionately women. I will engage with the trades unions to discuss how we can target resources towards the lowest paid staff. That means we look at a flat cash pay rise for lower paid staff rather than a percentage pay rise for all staff. This might not be popular with those on higher salaries, but focusing our resources on low paid staff is a redistributive measure which fits with what Labour should be doing
Education and Social Work have rightly been protected from the worst of the cuts. However the issues that clog our in-boxes when we open our e-mails in the morning are littering, dog fouling, and the state of the pavements and open spaces. These are basic issues which affect all our citizens. I would want to set a target that the whole of Glasgow should be as tidy and presentable as core areas were during the Commonwealth Games. That does not only involve the council in picking up litter but it also requires a community based campaign centred on making sure that the public take some responsibility and don’t drop litter in the first place. I want to ‘Clean up Glasgow’ and I think Glaswegians want that too.
I have been involved in working alongside people with disabilities since I was a teenager. In the intervening years there has been huge improvements but so much still needs to be done. The number of people with disabilities excluded from the workplace remains at shockingly high levels. I would want to build on the work of the Independent Living Strategy and set fixed targets to increase the numbers entering the workforce. That would include both physical and intellectual disabilities and be a target for the whole city not just the Council. We can show the lead but every employer must be encouraged to step up to the plate.
For the past two years I have been the political lead for Social Work, one of the largest and most challenging departments in GCC. It has taught me the need to concentrate on the quality and effectiveness of our services and asking the hard questions as to whether we are making the best use of our resources to help those most in need. It has also taught me that, from time to time, hard decisions need to be made.
These lessons hold true for the whole council. I can bring the same skills to the role of Leader. Equally importantly, I want to work with all my colleagues to deliver the best for Glasgow and win another majority in 2017.