Monday, 2 March 2020

Glasgow - Higher Taxes, Fewer Services (2)

One of Glasgow's Home Care workers shares the human cost of gritting the roads but not the pavements - when the icy weather sets in.

Hi Mark

I was told you wanted to hear from Glasgow council workers who have fallen during the recent spell of awful weather. 

Last week I fell on a pavement making my way to cross the road to my car to go to work due to black ice and pavement had not been gritted.

I have broken my left ankle and  have a cast on from toe to knee which has to stay on for 6 weeks. I was given crutches to mobilise with hopping technique which I can’t do because I suffer from hip bursitis. 

I have had to hire a wheelchair to mobilise around the house and have been given an 8 week sick note.



Anyone council employee who suffers and injury on their way to work should report the incident to their trade union.

But it also goes to show that council services are getting worse while the Council Tax keeps going up.


Glasgow - Higher Taxes, Fewer Services (21/02/20)

The BBC reports that Glasgow's citizens face a big rise in their council tax bills with yet another inflation busting increase on top of the 3% hike we witnessed in 2019/20.

The background to this year's budget setting exercise is that the Scottish Government had £795.2 million to spend on its priorities in 2019/20 - while Scottish councils, collectively, had   £404.8 million less to spend on delivering local services. 

See post below dated 17 February 2020 - 'Holyrood Holds the Purse Strings'. 

Something is definitely wrong somewhere because the end result is that Glasgow's council taxpayers are paying far higher taxes for fewer and poorer local services.

Glasgow and Edinburgh council tax bills to increase by nearly 5%

Image copyrightGETTY IMAGESImage captionScotland's 32 councils run a range of services from schools to refuse collection

Scotland's two biggest councils have voted to increase domestic rates by nearly 5%.

In Glasgow, the SNP-administration set the rise at 4.64% while Edinburgh's SNP-Labour coalition agreed 4.79%.

Councils across Scotland have the power to raise council tax by up to 4.8% this year.

In the coming weeks, the country's 32 local authorities will be agreeing their budgets ahead of the new financial year on 1 April.

Glasgow's budget was passed after an amendment from the Scottish Greens was accepted. It included the following proposals:

  • The closure of its Blairvadach Outdoor Resource Centre in Argyll and Bute
  • The introduction of bulky uplift charges
  • An additional £1m for cleansing but a reduction in street sweeping services 
  • Under-utilised bowling greens across the city to be turned into allotments
City treasurer councillor Allan Gow said: "I regret the increase in council tax but I believe that there is no other option. It will hopefully mitigate some of the impact on our poorest people in Glasgow.

"We have sought to protect our most vulnerable people in our community. We will continue the holiday fund and universal free school meals to all children from P1 to P4."

Also agreed was a new £10m climate emergency action fund, ahead of Glasgow hosting the COP26 climate change summitlater this year, and work to identify a further £20m to invest in nature, green networks and food growing opportunities. 

GMB Scotland organiser Rhea Wolfson said the council was not providing adequate funding to tackle Glasgow's "waste crisis".

She added: "These proposals suggest we have a council that can't even keep the city clean yet thinks it can save the planet."

Image copyright - CITY OF EDINBURGH COUNCIL Image caption - Edinburgh has found money for a major redevelopment at Granton

Edinburgh 'key priorities'

In the capital, councillors were faced with the need to save £87m over the next three years.

The local authority said it would use the money from the council tax rise to invest in "key priorities" such as new schools.

The three-year City of Edinburgh council budget includes pledging £196m towards a redevelopment project on former industrial land at Grantonwhich will have 3,500 new homes, a school, medical centre, cycling and walking routes and sustainable transport hubs.

Elsewhere, other significant changes which have been approved include:

  • An extra £9.1m to address rising school rolls 
  • £123m towards improving roads and pavements 
  • Cuts to nursery teacher numbers and a review of senior management roles
  • A reduction in the council's contribution to community policing
Council leader Adam McVey said: "We've agreed a bold budget which protects the most vulnerable in society and guarantees a fairer quality of life for future generations. 

"It prioritises those council services which work to help those who are most in need of our support - protecting our young people, our communities and our planet in the process."

Part of this story was provided by local democracy reporter Catherine Hunter.

Holyrood Holds the Purse Strings (17/02/20)

The Times reports that the Scottish Government had an extra £795.2 million a year to spend on its annual 2019/20 budget whereas Scottish local government had a whopping £404.8 million less to spend on its own priorities.

In 2020/21 Scottish councils will receive a cash boost of £495 million, but according to COSLA because the Scottish Government 'ring-fences' and directs where £590 million of the Scottish local government budget has to be spent - this represents an actual reduction of £95 million in local council budgets.

As far as the fight for equal pay is concerned, Glasgow is now in the position of accepting the responsibility for putting everything right all on its own which is a political choice.

Alternatively, Scotland's largest council can show some leadership by calling on the Scottish Government to accept its share of what the Accounts Commission (Scotland's public spending watchdog) described as "a decade long failure of leadership of leadership by local and central government".

To govern is to choose, as they say, so let's hope that Glasgow makes the right choice.

Council funds fall despite Holyrood cash

Scotland’s local authorities have to fund services in their areas - TIMES PHOTOGRAPHER JAMES GLOSSOP

By Craig Paton - The Times

Funding for councils has dropped in the past seven years despite the Scottish government receiving more cash from Westminster, according to an analysis.

The Scottish Parliament Information Centre [Spice] has published its assessment of the draft Scottish Budget that was announced last week.

According to Spice, real terms funding for local authorities has dropped by £404.8 million — about 3.8 per cent — since 2013/14, sitting at £10.38 billion during 2019/20. During the same period, funding sent to the Scottish government by Westminster increased in real terms by £795.2 million, a rise of 2.6 per cent to £31.9 billion.

The figures have been adjusted to match 2019/20 levels of inflation.

Despite the drop in overall funding in previous years, Spice said there had been a 3 per cent real terms increase in funding for 2020/21 when compared to 2019/20, the equivalent of £303.2 million. The Convention of Scottish Local Authorities has said the increase — £495 million in cash terms — does not factor in ring-fenced Scottish government commitments of £590 million, meaning an actual drop of £95 million.

Leadership and Glasgow's Fight for Equal Pay (14/02/20)

The big question going forward in Glasgow's fight for equal pay is - should the city be left to itself to pick up the bill or should Glaswegians expect significant help from the Scottish Government?

Now in the previous settlement round the Council made a political decision to meet the costs itself - instead of lobbying hard and campaigning for the Scottish Parliament and Scottish Government to get involved.

Which is very odd if you ask me, since Scotland's public spending watchdog (the Accounts Commission) made it perfectly clear in 2017 that the scandal of unequal pay in Scotland's council was the result of "a decade long failure of leadership by both local and central government".

So why should the Scottish Parliament and/or Scottish Government be allowed to wash their hands of the whole affair?

After all public money has been found for the Calmac 'Ferry Fiasco' (£200 million or so) or, for example, to pay Scotland's schoolteachers an extra 3% on top of the annual 'cost of living' increase offered to other Scottish council workers (£100 million plus every year).

In my experience, fairness rarely determines 'Who gets what and why?' when it comes to public spending in Scotland - if it did, we would never have got ourselves into this mess over equal pay in the first place.

More often than not the answer to 'Who gets what and why?' comes down to the political choices made by the politicians holding the purse strings.

The politics of Glasgow at the moment mean that we have an SNP led council which is reluctant to rock the boat over equal pay with an SNP Scottish Government which has been in power since 2007.

But if you ask me, this is neither here nor there - as I can't be the only person to think that an SNP led council in Glasgow would have no trouble in rocking the boat over equal pay, if Labour or any other party were leading the Scottish Government in Edinburgh.   

So, for me, it all comes down to doing the right thing going forward as the fight for equal pay in Glasgow enters its next,  critical phase in 2020/21.

To paraphrase the Accounts Commission, Scotland's lowest paid council workers have indeed been treated as second class citizens for years and it's time face up to the all too obvious lack of leadership involved - from both local and national politicians.  


Glasgow - Decade Long Failure Of Leadership (12/02/20)

In September 2017 Scotland's public spending watchdog (the Accounts Commission) concluded after a special investigation that a 'decade long failure of leadership by local and central government' was responsible for the debacle over equal pay. 
Throughout those 10 long years Labour controlled Glasgow City Council and the SNP ran the Scottish Government.

And as regular readers know, I have been a fierce critic of Labour in the past, just as I've pointed out that the new SNP administration were wrong to try and overturn the decision that the Council's WPBR pay arrangements were 'unfit for purpose'. 

In December 2017 Glasgow City Council launched an appeal in the Court of Session which was also rejected unanimously by Scotland's highest civil court - finally paving the way for a negotiated settlement of GCC's outstanding equal pay claims with all party support.

So I think it's fair to say there are equal pay 'skeletons' in every political party's closet which brings me back to the business of 'leadership' at both local and national level.

The next phase of the fight for equal pay in Glasgow will focus on the period from April 2018 to April 2021 when the Council's 'unfit for purpose' WPBR pay arrangements are due to be replaced with a new, non-discriminatory job evaluation (JE) scheme.

As well as the potential higher cost of Glasgow's new pay arrangements going forward from April 2021 the Council faces a liability for employees working under the old WPBR regime from April 2018.

The big question is whether Glasgow City Council should pick up the bill on its own or whether the City should be entitled to expect some significant help from the Scottish Government.

I know what I think, but what do others have to say on the subject? - drop me a note, in confidence of course, to: 


'Get Behind Glasgow in 2020'

I've been thinking long and hard about the need for a big, popular campaign in 2020 aimed at restoring national pay bargaining for Scotland's local government workers.

Why is such a campaign needed?

Because Scotland's lowest paid council workers - carers, cleaners, catering staff, clerical workers, classroom assistants etc - have been treated as second class citizens for the past 20 years.

The fight for equal pay in Scotland's councils

In 1999 low paid council workers, in predominantly female jobs, were promised a new deal and new 'Single Status' pay arrangements based on the principle of 'equal pay for work of equal value'.

What happened next?

Council employers reneged on their promises and in 2017 Scotland's public spending watchdog, the Accounts Commission, issued a damning report which concluded that this landmark pay deal  represented a decade of failure on the part of of both central and local government.

By contrast Scotland's school teachers received their own landmark McCrone pay deal in 2000 which was fully funded to the tune of £800 million a year - or £16.8 billion by 2020.

Why focus on Glasgow?

Glasgow City Council's 'new' Single Status pay arrangements in 2007 were condemned as 'unfit for purpose by the Court of Session, Scotland's highest civil court, in 2017 after a long, costly battle in and out of the courts.

Scotland's largest council is now replacing its discriminatory WPBR pay arrangements in 2021 with a new Scottish Joint Council (Gauge) job evaluation (JE) scheme which was developed with public funds and recommended for use by all Scottish councils in 1999.

Glasgow's trade unions are fully involved in this process and are calling for the new pay arrangements in Glasgow to become a role model and set a new standard for all 32 Scottish councils.

Why is national leadership and national bargaining so important? 

Because it protects workers rights and prevents exploitation:
  • School teachers in Glasgow are paid the same as school teachers in Grangemouth and Galashiels.
  • MSPs in Glasgow are paid the same as MSPs in Grangemouth and Galashiels
  • MPs in Glasgow are paid the same as MPs in Grangemouth and Galashiels
  • Elected councillors in Glasgow are paid the same as elected councillors in Grangemouth and Galashiels  
So why should low paid council workers in Scotland - carers, cleaners, catering staff, clerical workers, classroom assistants - be treated any differently?

Get Behind Glasgow in 2020!

A high profile, public campaign to restore national bargaining needs to be led by the trade unions, but there is good reason to put this demand at the heart of  the ongoing campaign to deliver 'equal pay for work of equal value' in Glasgow - and in all Scottish councils.


Equal Pay - 'Decade Long Failure' (07/09/17)

The Herald's Tom Gordon reports on a special investigation by the Accounts Commission which concludes that a 'decade long failure of leadership by local and central government' is responsible for the continuing debacle over equal pay. 

Glasgow City Council, Scotland's largest, has been fighting a desperate battle against equal pay for the past ten years and its pay arrangements are still shrouded in secrecy - as opposed to being 'open, honest and transparent'.

The Court of Session recently judged Glasgow's revised pay arrangements and its in-house job evaluation scheme (JES), introduced in 2007 to be 'unfit for purpose' - as a result the number of equal pay claims in Glasgow is growing by the day.

If Scotland's largest council can't or won't get its act together, maybe the solution in Glasgow is to send in the Accounts Commission to uncover what has really been going on for the past 10 years.

Watchdog report exposes litany of failures behind £1bn equal pay bill

By Tom Gordon - Scottish Political Editor, The Herald

Glasgow City Chambers

A DECADE long failure of leadership by central and local government has left taxpayers with a bill of more than £1billion for equal pay claims from female council staff, it has emerged.

In a damning study of politicians stalling and ducking responsibilities, the Accounts Commission said around £750m had been spent settling pay claims since 2004.

However a further 27,000 claims are still live, including a recent one from more than 6000 workers in Glasgow which could cost the city £500m, pushing the final bill far higher.

The watchdog blamed “a lack of collective national leadership to overcome challenges and address equal pay issues in a timely way”, with ministers failing to give councils extra funds to help stave off challenges, and authorities in denial about the scale of the problem.

Male-dominated trade unions protecting the higher wages of male workers, often through spurious bonuses, were also a factor.

In order to fix pay anomalies a UK-wide deal, the Single Status Agreement, was established in 1999 to unify pay structures.

Councils were given until 2004 to carry out job evaluations so that women in roles such as caring, cleaning and catering were no longer paid less than men doing equivalent work such as gardening, gravedigging or bin collection.

However only one council met the deadline, and it was not until 2010 that all of Scotland’s councils had single status in place.

Without funds from central government to harmonise pay scales properly, councils failed to make the issue a priority and skimped on deals, sometimes adding to the discrimination by allowing bad practices to continue in order to avoid industrial action.

They also paid 50,000 women £232m in compromise deals to give up claims to back pay.

There were “often of a relatively low value” compared to what they were due.

Partly because many offers were inadequate, and partly because no-win no-fee lawyers became involved, around 70,500 equal pay claims were lodged against councils after 2004.

Of these around 27,000 are outstanding, and new claims are still being brought.

Highlighting the painfully slow progress, the report said: “Thousands of claims currently in the system in Scotland have been live for over a decade.”

The watchdog also complained it had faced “considerable difficulty” due to a lack of good quality data relating to the implementation of equal pay.

It recommended that councils ensure all pay arrangements are fair and transparent.

Commission member Pauline Weetman said: "Equal pay is an incredibly important issue and a legal duty for Scotland's councils to eliminate decades of inequality. However, implementation of equal pay has been a substantial challenge for local government."

The council umbrella body Cosla said it welcomed the report’s recognition that councils had faced “complex judicial processes and huge costs” as they tried to deliver equal pay.

“Councils have endeavoured to settle all legitimate claims as quickly as possible,” it said.

Equal pay campaigner Mark Irvine, who has helped many female workers bring claims against council bosses, said the issue remained a “national disgrace”.

He said: “The report hits the nail on the head. There was an agreement to end discrimination in 1999 and that it’s still happening in 2017 is a terrible indictment of Cosla. Major councils ganged up to prevent low-paid women getting what they were promised 20 years ago.”

The public sector union Unison said the report’s findings were “shocking”.

Scotland regional manager Peter Hunter said: “This study demonstrates the cost of delay and dereliction of duty. If this report compels those remaining councils to resolve outstanding claims... the Accounts Commission will have played a vital role.”

Scottish LibDem leader Willie Rennie added: “This is a complex process but far too many people, mainly women in low paid jobs, are waiting far too long for the money they are due.

"The Scottish Government needs to work with councils to seek a speedier solution.”

“It is time for this legacy of inequality to be resolved.”