As it voted to increase council tax for the first time since 2005, Glasgow’s Labour administration used its budget to announce more than £20million for environmental and cleansing schemes as well as road improvements.
The cash-strapped authority, which is being forced to make cuts of £53m, has also unveiled a generous plan to provide an extra 200 hours of nursery care to families earning less than £25,000 a year.
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Billed as “A People’s Budget”, it has been seen as Labour at last mounting a last-ditch bid to hold Glasgow amid predictions it will fall to the SNP for the first time in 40 years.
As part of its plans to wow the electorate, Labour said it would spend £6m on street cleaning and environmental enforcement, with 140 new frontline staff tasked with dealing with fly tipping and littering.
A further £6.5m has also been promised to replace old-fashioned back court bins at tenement properties, while £8m has been pledged to resurfacing 80kms of roads and repairing pavements and paths.
Labour’s environmental strategy echoes its decade-old Clean Glasgow project, in which thousands of fines were meted out to those who dropped litter or allowed their dogs to foul the pavement.
Amid protests from unions at the scale of the cuts being proposed, the last budget meeting of the current council term was an acrimonious encounter, despite remarkable similarities in Labour and the SNP’s financial plans for the city.
However, the Nationalists pointed to Labour’s stewardship of the city over decades of deprivation, claiming the lack of progress was further evidence for a change of regime at City Chambers.
Council leader Frank McAveety, a Labour party veteran, said budgets were “under extreme pressure” but the authority had “people’s budget” that delivers on priorities.
He said: “Glasgow’s budget also delivers new investment in cleansing, childcare and infrastructure in our communities – with money for cleaner streets, improved refuse collection and investment in roads and footways.”
But SNP leader Susan Aitken said: “Today’s budget proposals from the SNP showed we are ready and willing to lead Glasgow. “We will prioritise investment in the physical fabric of long neglected communities. We will work to rebuild the trust between Glasgow’s citizens with more money for breakfast clubs, nurture classes as well as getting a grip of the cleansing shambles Labour have caused. We have shown how it is possible to raise income without hurting the most vulnerable in our city whilst labour continue to lack ideas or even the desire to take Glasgow forward.”
Meanwhile, three Labour-run councils in Scotland are to voluntarily freeze the basic rate of council tax.
South Lanarkshire confirmed that it would not be increasing bills, despite an opportunity to raise them by up to three per cent.
Inverclyde and Renfrewshire Councils are expected to do the same later.