Saturday, 31 December 2011

What future for local government?

I discovered that there is a Commission on Local Government gathering evidence on various issues relating to Civic Enterprise. Today, I submitted my comments highlighting some examples of collaboration between the Council, the Private Sector and the Third Sector.

In the year ahead, Local Government services have to adapt to scale of the bank bailouts, the economic impact of the recession, increasing demand for social housing, falling public revenues and rising government debt. Cost reduction strategies and cost management of services require to be addressed.

Decision-making on reducing the cost of services can be participative based on principles of disclosure, openness and transparency. Different perspectives can be gained from people across the private and voluntary sectors, service users, professional experts, trade unions, Glasgow's citizens and taxpayers, and politicians. This can unlock the development of smarter working between people who are stakeholders in the services, better coordination of resources, and innovation to bring efficiencies and more effective service provision.

New services and investments should fit with an economic strategy based on the transition to a low-carbon economic model. This work is led by the various groups including the Transition Town Movement, New Economic Foundation and the Green New Deal. Developments in energy efficiency and renewable energy production are the key to success. A warm homes agenda is required with investment in the social rented housing sector to provide affordable places to live for young people and families.  Public transport infrastructure (railway stations and rail network, buses, existing roadways) require to be improved. Low emissions and/or electric vehicles, which are fully accessible and affordable, can support sustainable travel choices. Further investment is required in dedicated cycle paths and footways through our towns and cities to promote active living and relieve congestion.

Over the festive break, I have read "Re-imagining Government - public leadership and management in challenging times" by Barry Quirk. This book gives helpful insights and promotes Local Government's role in encouraging the emergence of cooperation. 

The main message I have gained is that Local Government should be able to govern by facilitating public discussion, mediating between different interests, building common goals and assisting people from different sectors to come together to address their common concerns. Local politicians have to seek to help their citizens to be self-reliant, resilient and resourceful by building their capabilities and confidence in face of rapid change.

Useful Link:

Commission into the Future of Local Government -

Thursday, 29 December 2011

Tax chiefs accused of bending rules for big firms.

During the last year, the public have been seeking reassurance that big business has been paying tax due to the HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC).

In Glasgow, activists from UKUncut have been raising awareness of some of the businesses in our shopping streets which they believe are tax dodging.

Recently, an Inquiry by the Public Accounts Committee gathered evidence from David Hartnett, Head of the HMRC. Commenting on the committee findings, the chairwoman, Labour MP Margaret Hodge stated, "This report is a damning indictment of HMRC and the way its senior officials handle tax disputes with large corporations.”

I have submitted a letter of complaint to the HMRC seeking action in response to the committee findings.

Useful links:-

Public Accounts Committee - Report Findings -

38 Degrees -

Street lights at Kelvinbridge in need of repair

There are street lighting problems on the bridge across the River Kelvin between Lansdowne Church and the Glasgow Academy. Council staff have managed to ensure the bridge remains lit but some of the lamplights are not in working order. The Council has advised that,"This is due to the deterioration of the cabling infrastructure as a result of water ingress and traffic vibration".

Streetlighting at Kelvinbridge requiring repairs to cabling.

To complete the repairs to the cabling, a specific access platform would require to be built and lighting would need to lifted via a crane. This would have to funded from the Council's Lighting Programme and information about funding will not be available until April 2012.

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Future plans for 261 West Princes Street

There is a proposal to use the former Ballet school building as a student residential accommodation including demolition of rear buildings, external alterations and repairs, erection of two student residential blocks with associated landscaping and alterations to boundary treatments.

Further to receiving representations from neighbours, I have highlighted my objection to the proposal for two new built residential blocks. It is my understanding that the proposal would contravene the planning policy DES 3 - Protecting and enhancing the City's Historic Environment - as the proposed blocks do not respect the architectural heritage and the historic context.

The proposed new blocks will detract from the former Scottish Ballet building which is a tenement sandstone designed and built between 1895-97.

View of the former Scottish Ballet Building at 261 West Princes Street, Woodlands

Also, with reference to the City Plan, the proposal does not appear to fit with the policy DES 2 - Sustainable Design and Construction as it has features which are not in keeping with the conservation area status of the site. The provision of a terrace using a glass balustrade in Block C and  Juliet style balconies for each apartment are flawed design features as they are not acceptable within this tenement area. These features will compromise the character of the former Scottish Ballet building. The terrace and balconies are not acceptable as they will overlook the existing neighbours and the balconies / upper rooms will directly look in to windows of adjacent properties.The design of the new blocks will create a visual intrusion which diminishes the design quality and privacy of neighbouring tenement properties.

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Medical help for survivors of Bhopal Disasters

During 2011, I received a copy of the newsletter for The Bhopal Medical Appeal which brought back my memories of horror of the Bhopal Disaster on 2-3rd December 1984. This was when a cloud of gas  five hundred times more toxic than cyanide leaked from a factory in Bhopal belonging to the Union Carbide Corporation, a subsidiary of Dow Chemicals, resulting in thousands of deathes and ongoing suffering for the survivors and their children.

Currently, in Bhopal, there are over 100,000 people who are experiencing chronic illnesses due to the effects of the cloud of toxic gas. In addition, there are about 30,000 more suffering from consumption of water polluting by the derelict plant which is still to be cleaned up. This is a terrible injustice.The site remediation has not been progressed because Dow Chemicals are refusing to accept legal responsibility.

Green MSP Alison Johnstone has written to the Minister for the Commonwealth Games, asking for assurances that companies with poor social and environmental records will not be able to sponsor the 2014 Games.

Organisers of the London Olympics faced controversy this week when the Indian Olympic Association have protested over the involvement of Dow Chemicals, the company implicated in the 1984 Bhopal disaster, as a major sponsor. Greens have specifically asked that the Minister rules out sponsorship by Dow Chemicals, as well as any other company responsible for human rights abuses, serious environmental damage or tax avoidance.

Useful Links:-

Documentary about the Bhopal Disasters -

The Bhopal Medical Appeal -

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Getting grit

You should have noticed yellow grit bins located on streets across the Hillhead area. I have received requests for additional bins from local residents and the Council has agreed to provide the grit bins in the majority of cases.

Grit bin on Southpark Avenue.

Local residents have become involved as volunteer snow wardens, this winter. This volunteer scheme organised by Glasgow Community Safety Services is helping to ensure that local people are provided with the equipment, grit and advice to be able to grit the pavements if necessary. 

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Restoration plans for the bandstand and amphitheatre

There are plans in place to secure funds to restore the Bandstand and Amphitheatre in Kelvingrove Park before the Commonwealth Games in 2014.

Photo of the bandstand on 17th December 2011

Through partnership working between the Council, Glasgow Life and Glasgow Building Preservation Trust, there is a fundraising strategy in place. 

It is a very special place for many Glaswegians. As a member of Friends of Kelvingrove Park, I have supported its restoration for many years.  I have great memories of Radio Clyde events and Woodlands Fun Days, there, during the 1980s and 1990s. I look forward to a variety of events and activities taking place once again.

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Electricians in pay campaign

Electricians supported by their trade union, Unite, gathered outside the BBC in Glasgow on 17th December to highlight their campaign to halt the downgrading  of their pay by up to 35 percent and  stop the introduction of a new grade of semi-skilled worker on construction sites.  The campaign targets seven building contractors who want to impose the Building Engineering Services National Agreement (Besna) leading to de-skilling of electrical work and massive cuts in wages and terms and conditions.

Electricians gather outside the BBC.

I joined the rally in support of electricians and she called for building contractors to adhere to the existing Joint Industry Board (JIB) national agreement. It is unacceptable to try to force electricians to sign up to a 35 percent cut in their wages. The current electrician’s JIB rate of £16.25 per hour should be preserved, along with working hours split into 7.5 hour days, across Monday to Friday.
I am aware that Balfour Beattie, one of the construction companies seeking to impose the new agreement, has made massive pre - tax profits last year totaling £50.5 million. The current approach being taken by senior management within the construction industry seems to be only concerned with increasing these profit margins. As a result of management actions, electricians and their families are faced with financial hardship and it is not surprising that they organise protests and walkouts at construction sites across the country. The construction companies must withdraw the threat of imposing Besna terms to avoid further disruption within the industry.

Monday, 12 December 2011

Taking part in the Santa Dash

I helped raise funds for Glasgow Women's Aid at yesterday's Santa Dash. It was really good fun and the weather was fine for jogging around the city centre streets of Glasgow.

Useful links:

The Glaswegian -

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Time for a tea party

Today, the 10th of December, is human rights day! I backed up the initiative to support refugees by hosting a tea party for some of my close friends. 

 Booklet produced by the Refugee Council.

We helped raise funds for the refugee council and their work with refugees and asylum seekers.

Useful links:

Refugee Council -

Casting vote approves plans for Pewter Pot site

On Tuesday 6th December, I supported the objectors in efforts to stop plans for a 7 storey flatted development at current Pewter Pot site on North Woodside Road. There was a site visit and hearing on this planning application held by the Council's Planning Committee.

Residents gather to object to the proposed flatted development on Tuesday 6th December.

At the planning committee's hearing, I spoke against the proposals on the basis that they are an over development of the site and are not in keeping with the existing architecture or streetscape. The committee was evenly split on the proposal and the casting vote of the chair led to it being approved.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Save BBC's Introducing in Scotland

I am supporting the efforts to save the radio 1 programme, BBC Introducing in Scotland with Ally McCrae. 

Virtually all up and coming Scottish acts who have gone on to gain fame and fortune, have enjoyed airplays or recorded sessions on shows hosted by Ally McCrae or his predecessor Vic Galloway while still unsigned – from Biffy Clyro, Franz Ferdinand and Mylo to Frightened Rabbit, Twin Atlantic and We Were Promised Jetpacks. 

Please note that at the meeting of Glasgow City Council on 8th December, I am proposing the following motion:- 

“Council notes that as part of its operational restructuring plans – titled ‘Delivering Quality First’ – the BBC has proposed the scrapping of the Introducing in Scotland radio show which has been the only outlet provided by Radio 1 to showcase up-and-coming bands and solo artists from Scotland to a Scottish audience.

Council agrees to submit a response to the consultation by 21st December 2011 to demand that the BBC reverse its plans to scrap the Introducing in Scotland show and, to instead, protect and promote this unique programme.”

Useful link:

Sign the petition -

Monday, 5 December 2011

Stitch up and reuse

On Friday, I met up with people interested in creative reuse and repair projects. We discussed the various groups that are promoting reuse of second hand materials and clothing to reduce the amount of landfill as well as develop craft skills. It is a growing area of activity for many people in Glasgow. At this festive time, it is worth checking out the various craft fairs selling handmade good made from recycled materials. 

Useful link:-