Council leader left seeing red

GORDON Matheson is angry.

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Indeed, it would be fair to say the leader of Glasgow City Council is spitting chips.

The atmosphere in his office in the City Chambers may be serene with classical music playing quietly in the background.

But Mr Matheson's frustration at what he describes as a "rip-off" sends a charge of electricity bouncing off the walls of the wood panelled room.

Since he took over as leader of Scotland's largest council in May 2010, the Labour councillor for the city centre has had to cope with the council's budget being steadily cut by Holyrood.

In the past few years, the local authority has shed around 3000 jobs through early retirement and voluntary redundancies.

Efficiencies have been made across all council departments but still our MSPs in Edinburgh want more. And Mr Matheson has had enough.

He points out that if Glasgow had the same share of the council budget as it did when the SNP took power, the city would have had an extra £153million to spend.

That would have allowed it to wipe out the backlog of road repairs, replace all the street lights, build two new care homes for the elderly, employ 100 extra social workers and 300 extra teachers, provide 600 hours of childcare for vulnerable two-year-olds, cut youth unemployment by 1500, extend winter fuel payments to 70-year-olds and build 640 new homes for social rent.

Instead the cash has been handed over to other parts of Scotland leaving Mr Matheson seeing red.

"It is unforgiveable and I believe the people of Glasgow will be shocked at this rip-off," he storms.

Despite the council cash shortage, there was good news last week for its low paid staff with a decision to increase the minimum living wage from £7.50 and hour to £7.65.

The rise will benefit several hundred council workers but could increase the pay packets of thousands of staff across the city.

The majority of council workers in line for a rise will be women working in care services who are employed by Cordia, the council's arm's length organisation.

But around 150 employers across the city have followed the council's lead and introduced similar rates for their 50,000 staff.

Glasgow was the first council in Scotland to adopt a minimum wage for its staff and has introduced annual increases.

Meanwhile, the UK government's national minimum wage rate currently stands at £6.31 - substantially below Glasgow's new figure and an indication of the success of the city's policy.

Money may be tight, but the council has been able to find cash to provide free WiFi in its 31 community centres and public halls.

And thousands of punters managed to find £5 entry fee before the Jack Vettriano exhibition in Kelvingrove closed at the weekend.

Local government

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