I am very glad to have been part of constructive budget discussions alongside other Green Councillors with the City Treasurer and the SNP Administration in the lead up to the budget meeting on 11th March 2021.
There are many challenges facing Glasgow in relation to cleansing, recycling and waste management. Greens have been clear that the way in which recent changes to bin collections have been made is unsatisfactory. In the era of climate crisis and increased public concern over the environment, changes to services around waste are most effectively achieved through supporting community activism at a local neighbourhood level. A top-down approach to provision of bins can create ill-will, rather than engendering a spirit of common action to recycle more.
We did not vote for the introduction of the kerbside collection on a three weekly basis, but we do not believe that a knee-jerk reversal of that direction is a sufficient response. This new collection arrangement is in line with other councils that have already implemented the standards set by Zero Waste Scotland’s Household Recycling Charter. The previous arrangements resulted in far too much waste that could easily be recycled going to landfill or not being reprocessed. That is financially wasteful and it undermines opportunities to improve on Glasgow’s shameful recycling performance.
With the advent of long overdue national deposit return schemes and new producer-led incentives to reduce waste, there will be a further need to adapt our council services in the years ahead.
The additional neighbourhoods ‘problem solving’ resource in the SNP budget is a good start, but it is not enough to bring about the transformation needed to become a zero waste city. We will need a strong commitment by the Council to engage with residents to design services that take up local ideas and improve ways of providing services at a street level.
We need a new recycling and waste strategy, which is a collaborative effort, and which is informed by dialogue at local waste summits. This approach must involve a wide range of people in solving the local environmental challenges we face. We are therefore proposing to allocate an additional £0.2m to this, ensuring £1 million total revenue investment in practical action to improve our cleansing services across neighbourhoods.
Green councillors support efforts to encourage people’s involvement in back lanes as a community asset and our budget provides access to the resources needed for maintenance of lanes across the city. We propose to reallocate the additional £0.7m general capital grant to a new Lanes and Back Courts Fund to support safer, cleaner back courts and lanes. This will promote shared responsibility for these assets, which have been valuable outdoor spaces for many through the pandemic. We expect that funding from this would help to improve security, address littering, encourage community growing and composting, or provide secure cycle storage or tool sharing schemes.
Our budget agreement last year made a significant down payment on action to tackle the climate emergency. We are pleased that, despite the challenges posed by the pandemic, proposals to allocate the first capital investments from the £10 million Climate Action Fund will come forward soon.
We also welcome the additional £0.25m revenue funding allocated in the SNP budget to support these ambitions.
Taken together, this will allow us to allocate £1.25 million this year to a range of climate action projects, including: a £0.6m Community Climate Action Fund, £0.12m for additional officer support to accelerate net zero ambition, the delivery of which we believe must be strengthened. £0.25m to support the Food Growing Strategy, including food growing in schools, £0.12m for 30 permanent car-free school zones; £0.12m to develop an investment plan for nature and biodiversity.
Combined, these investments will support a local legacy for Glasgow’s communities from hosting the COP26 climate summit and we expect action to commence on them without delay.
The SNP budget proposes one-off revenue investment in parks, to be allocated by Area Partnerships. We support this funding allocation, and the approach to localisation, but do want to ensure that resources provided for parks and greenspaces adhere to the recommendations of the Council’s Ecological Emergency Working Group which reported to committee in November 2020.
We want this funding to commit to enhanced wildflower and grassland management, operational planning to increase biodiversity, pollinator friendly planting, creation of wildlife habitat, and maximising connected green active travel routes. We would expect this to be explicit in project development criteria and for staff that are involved in assessing applications to have had appropriate training, before the programme begins.
A revenue and capital allocation is also retained for our previously agreed schools bike library pilot project. This project is targeted at reducing the cost of the school day, helping children and thereby families in some of our most disadvantaged areas, and encouraging healthy active travel for future generations. We expect this project will give pupils the opportunity to borrow a bike along with locks, and helmets. It may now be necessary to engage additional external funding and we expect a plan to be developed before the summer recess to ensure the project is in place for the new school year. Making it easier for children to travel healthy, needs to be a high priority of the Council, to improve the long-term health of our society and economy – in order to fight climate change, rising levels of congestion, toxic air, inactivity and social isolation.