Glasgow council leader urges Boris Johnson to act on cost of living crisis

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Council leader Susan Aitken has urged Prime Minister Boris Johnson to take “immediate action” to help struggling households through the cost of living crisis.

The Glasgow council chief said one measure the UK Government could take would be to “adopt a much more generous public sector pay policy for staff working in local government, the NHS and elsewhere”.

This week it has been predicted that the average household fuel bill will hit £4,200 by January and Cllr Aitken said increasing costs would create “severe financial trauma for tens of thousands in Glasgow”.

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson.Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

She said the response to the crisis requires “similar levels of urgent intervention” as provided during the covid pandemic.

In a letter to the outgoing Prime Minister, the council leader said she recognised the UK Government is in transition but it might be “too late” by the time a successor to Mr Johnson has been appointed.

“Many families are already facing invidious choices between paying energy costs, paying rent or mortgages and buying food and essential items.

“Action must be taken before the cold weather sets in and the biggest bills arrive. While you remain Prime Minister, you have the opportunity and ability to act.”

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The council leader said assistance already announced was “significant and welcome” but the crisis has “escalated to the extent that it will fall very far short of the levels of support millions of households will require”.

Energy Action Scotland estimates over 35% of Glasgow households are already in fuel poverty, and many Glaswegians live in Victorian tenements which “do not hold heat well”, Cllr Aitken said. Plans for a mass retrofitting programme will take place over the next decade, she added.

“Your Government rightly demonstrated vital financial flexibility during the pandemic, with jobs and businesses saved and vulnerable households supported through that period as a result,” the council leader said.

“But the reality is that tens of millions of people across these islands find themselves facing even greater financial uncertainty now than they did two years ago. For these households and individuals, similar levels of urgent intervention are again required – and it is in your hands as Prime Minister to deliver.”

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The Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA) has been in local government pay negotiations with trade unions, with strikes threatened after a 2% increase was rejected.

The Scottish Government has said councils will get an extra £140m of recurring funding to provide a bigger pay rise, but unions have said there is no indication how this money will be used.

In her letter to Mr Johnson, Cllr Aitken said: “Scottish Local Government is committed to making a pay offer to our staff which, while not matching inflation, will at least be a more realistic response to the circumstances their households are facing.

“A pay increase of 5% or more for local government staff would provide direct assistance to tens of thousands of households at this crucial time.

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“The Scottish Government has already committed additional resources to partly enable that, however the constraints imposed by the UK Government consequently impact on the resources available to fund a realistic pay offer.

“This means that it will have to be funded from existing service budgets, including from our programmes to ease the cost of living crisis.”

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