In the intricate dance of governance, few tasks are as fraught with complexity and moral weight as the allocation of funds. Picture this: you're elected to a position of authority, entrusted with the solemn duty of making tough decisions about where to allocate resources, knowing full well that every choice you make will have far-reaching consequences. This is the daily reality for councillors across the country, who grapple with the Herculean task of balancing budgets while striving to serve the best interests of the people they represent.

Last Thursday, at our Glasgow City Council meeting, the approval of the SNP's budget marked a pivotal moment in our city's trajectory. Crafted in collaboration with the Green group, this budget sets the course for the next three years, up to 2026/27. It outlines ambitious plans for savings amounting to £85 million, all while maintaining a freeze on council tax: a lifeline for many struggling households.

Yet, the path to this budget was not without its hurdles. Negotiations were intense, with crucial concessions made to safeguard essential services. The decision to spare Tollcross Children's Children's Farm and five community centres from closure is a testament to the delicate balance of priorities at play.

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In the face of unprecedented challenges - locally, nationally, and globally - it was disheartening but far from surprising to see the Tories shirk their responsibility by failing to present a budget of their own.

Under Tory governance, our economy languishes in a Tory-made cost of living crisis, and our climate action falters. Even Rishi Sunak’s former employers at Goldman Sachs recognise that the Brexit disaster has dragged down the UK economy by 5%. What we need, now more than ever, is a bold green industrial strategy: one that not only creates millions of jobs but also bolsters our economy, eases pressure on essential services like the NHS, and addresses the urgent climate crisis. The status quo is untenable; reform is imperative.

The public, businesses and investors are crying out for a bold green industrial strategy that will create millions of jobs, increase our energy independence, grow our failing economy, ease pressure on the NHS, improve our public transport and help people with the cost of living and climate crises.

What did we get from Glasgow’s Tories? Silence.

The other opposition party didn’t fare much better. The Labour Party approach offered little solace. Last year, they opted for inaction, choosing to abstain rather than present a viable budget. This year, its proposals can only be described as terrible, with cuts to vital services like education by outlining plans to cut teacher numbers. And, then there is its naive proposal to cut the children's holiday food programme; 22,000 children being denied a lifeline holiday food and activity support who are currently benefiting from this programme.

Labour councillors themselves seemed blindsided by their own oversight, failing to allocate the £1.5m necessary funds for the Children's Holiday Food Programme, a stark reminder of their disconnect from the needs of our communities in Scotland's largest city or their sheer incompetence.

And their Labour counterparts in North Lanarkshire, where they are leading the council’s administration in conjunction with the Tories Keir Starmer claims to oppose, only further highlighted that this might not have been just an oversight but the new policy being adopted by Scottish Labour by axing the programme altogether - a decision that defies comprehension in the face of child poverty in their communities.

It's time to confront the reality: Labour and the Tories have consistently failed to serve Glasgow as ambassadors. Their focus on short-term gains blinds them to the immense potential of our city. They overlook the economic windfall of events like UCI 2023, which brought nearly a million visitors to our city, raising £220m for our local economy and creating 5000 jobs.

The Herald: One of Glasgow's bin hubsOne of Glasgow's bin hubs (Image: Glasgow City Council)

They also continue to kick our communities and sought to cut our Neighbourhood Co-Ordinators, who have been vital in tackling issues at a community level by working with local groups to mobilise everything from Covid responses to community clean-ups. Don’t let Labour fool you. Its previous mismanagement and financial incompetence resulted in a huge bill for refusing to pay women workers equal pay, while they fought trade unions and their members in court, leaving the SNP to inherit the chaos. Its current offer is to slash essential community resources. It has consistently missed the mark and let down the people of Glasgow.

Contrast this with the SNP's forward-thinking approach, prioritising long-term prosperity over political expediency. By investing in infrastructure, implementing progressive revenue streams, and championing initiatives like the Glasgow Fuel Support Project, the SNP demonstrates a genuine commitment to uplifting our communities.

Of course, tough decisions lie ahead. Balancing the needs of a diverse populace against fiscal constraints is no small feat. But the SNP refuses to shy away from this challenge, advocating tirelessly for better-resourced local government and pursuing innovative solutions to complex problems.

Unlike our counterparts within the council, we seek ways we can improve what is on offer despite the fiscal challenges being faced.

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We hope to raise £720,000 by introducing a council tax premium for second homes. Our budget brings forward changes to non-domestic rates policy and will see empty building rates relief limited to 100% for just three months from April. This should raise £12.7m in 2024/25.

We are also accelerating the successful bin-hub pilot. This will improve the service, respond to workforce needs and give people back their backcourts. Capital spending plans include £7.2m for the roll-out of the bin hubs, and almost £9m investment to convert all remaining streetlights to LED. This means less reporting and work to repair our streetlights. Further we are investing in our roads, paths and open spaces with a fund supporting improvement to the fabric of the city.

We know that many families are cash-strapped, however, to ensure that we continue to provide children with the highest quality nutrition a small increase of 10p will be added to per pupil funding.  This will ensure that our award-winning school catering is fit for purpose and able to provide a range of healthy and ethical meals. Our commitment to ensuring no child in the city goes hungry is further underlined by our Holiday Food & Activity programme, cancelling of school meal debt and refreshed school meal debt policy updated.

It boils down to a fundamental question: Do we resign ourselves to the status quo of Labour and Tory mismanagement, or do we dare to envision a bolder, brighter future for Glasgow? The choice is clear. It's time to embrace a new vision: one that prioritises progress over partisanship, and community over complacency. Together, we can build a Glasgow that works for all its residents, where every voice is heard, and every need is met.

Roza Salih is an SNP councillor in the Greater Pollok ward in Glasgow