“In our recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic it is more important than ever that we put inclusive growth at the heart of all our work. Our next chapter must be that all our neighbourhoods and citizens now share in our prosperity. I believe that working with and learning from cities across the globe will help us write that chapter.”
– Councillor Susan Aitken
Susan Aitken became Council Leader and City Convener for Inclusive Economic Growth after elections in May 2017 which saw the SNP form a minority administration. She has been councillor for her home area of Langside since 2012, and has led the Council’s SNP group since 2014, having previously been spokesperson on health and social care. Before being elected, Susan worked in policy and research in the Scottish Parliament and third sector, and as a freelance writer and editor on health and social care. She grew up in Biggar, South Lanarkshire, and moved to Glasgow aged 17; she is a graduate of both Glasgow and Strathclyde Universities.
In response to the Covid-19 pandemic, Glasgow City Council established two groups to aid the city’s economic and social recovery, and renewal.
In April 2020, the Council Leader convened the Glasgow Economic Recovery Group (GERG), which harnesses expertise from the public, private, academic and other sectors. The group draws from the city’s well-established ‘Team Glasgow’ approach to the city economy, and its key role is to advise both the Scottish and UK governments on the required levers for recovery and to stimulate economic activity. GERG submitted several proposals to the Scottish government, including major investment in significant green infrastructure projects and the support required for specific key sectors within the city. Many of GERG’s early recommendations are included in both Scotland’s National Advisory Group on recovery and the Scottish Government’s 2020/2021 Programme For Government. Critically, both see the recovery of the Glasgow city region as pivotal to the national recovery.
Complementing GERG, in July 2020, Glasgow City Council established its Social Recovery Taskforce. The taskforce brings together representatives from community planning partners, third sector and voluntary organisations. It is supported by thematic working groups that ensure vulnerable groups, including those disproportionality affected by COVID-19, are included e.g. the elderly, women, ethnic minorities. It provides leadership, direction and responsibility for defining and co-ordinating actions to address the societal impact of the coronavirus beyond the recovery phase. Again, the Taskforce builds on existing networks, relationships and partnerships.
Glasgow works with seven neighbouring local authorities to deliver the UK’s largest city region deal, addressing significant challenges, including long-term unemployment, comparatively low survival of business start-ups, a legacy of vacant and derelict land, and gaps in transport infrastructure.
The Glasgow City Region City Deal will fund major infrastructure projects, create jobs and assist thousands of people back to work, improve public transport and connectivity, drive business innovation and growth, and generate billions of pounds of private sector investment.
The City Deal aims to improve infrastructure with a £1.13 billion fund to deliver an improved transport network, and key development and regeneration sites. The plan aims to establish world class research and development and commercialisation facilities, support business innovation by providing additional business incubator and grow-on space for entrepreneurs across the region enabling more small and medium enterprises to grow. It will also tackle unemployment through the establishment of programmes to provide targeted support to 16-24 year olds and vulnerable residents, and testing new ways of boosting the incomes of people on low wages to make them more self-reliant.
The independent Glasgow Connectivity Commission was established to generate bold, fresh ideas to transform Glasgow into a more liveable, breathable place that is more attractive to visitors, businesses and citizens. The commission focuses on recommendations to improve low-carbon sustainable mobility in and around the city including prioritising pedestrian and bicycle access, and accessible public transport. Glasgow has the UK’s lowest car ownership, with half of Glaswegians without access to a car. Good public transport is crucial for economic, social and cultural inclusion, and for the city’s vitality.
The commission’s report Connecting Glasgow outlines two phases. The first phase focuses on rejuvenating the city centre by improving transportation, creating vibrant, well-designed and people-friendly public spaces, encouraging cycling, growing and sustaining an urban population, and reducing traffic congestion. The second phase proposes the reshaping of strategic road and rail networks.
Glasgow City Council has a Poverty Leadership Panel consisting of people with direct experience of poverty, the Community Activist Panel, and representatives from local organisations and government departments. The panel developed the People Make Glasgow Fairer Strategy that focuses on four key priority areas: welfare reform, child poverty, housing and employment and training. Targets include increased community engagement to identify key issues and solutions, improved understanding in the community through poverty awareness programs, the inclusion of people living in poverty in local employability and volunteering opportunities, and improved take-up of social assistance by entitled individuals.
The Affordable Warmth programme was established to reduce fuel poverty in Glasgow by improving the energy efficiency of housing stock, both private and social rented, through the installation of wall insulation and other energy efficiency measures. The team works with external agencies to identify and implement projects, maximising the benefits to residents from external funding sources, provides an annual fuel contribution of £100 for elderly residents, and has delivered £60 million of energy efficiency measures in almost 9,000 homes. They have also worked in partnership with the council’s Private Sector and Housing Investment Teams to complement and maximise funding streams where opportunities arise. In 2019 – 2020 programme funding of £9.15 million was provided by the Scottish Government’s Energy Efficiency Programme for Scotland: Area Based Schemes funding. The scheme is complimented by a free energy advice service that helps people reduce their fuel bills.