Glasgow Tory and SNP councillors row over poverty funding

A payment of £130 will go to 96,000 people. A payment of £130 will go to 96,000 people.
A payment of £130 will go to 96,000 people. | JC
A Glasgow Tory councillor has been told to ‘hide his head in shame’ after suggesting planned financial support for the city’s most vulnerable citizens would not be as effective as increasing wages.

Members of the city council’s administration committee have agreed to pay a one-off low income pandemic payment of £130 to more than 96,000 people by October 31.

More than £1.8 million will also be awarded to services across Glasgow to provide further help to the most vulnerable citizens and tackle pandemic-related poverty particularly amongst disabled people, lone parent families and women affected by domestic violence.

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While he agreed to support the extra funding, Conservative councillor Robert Connelly said that a report presented to the council failed to acknowledge the implications schemes like this would have on the labour market.

He said that wage growth was the best way to support family rather than maintaining emergency crisis measures “indefinitely”.

Councillor Connelly said: “I would note that the claims made in this report fail to acknowledge the implications of the furlough scheme on our Labour market.

“Wage growth is now increasing at a much faster rate than inflation with the average weekly earnings at the end of June rising to 8.8 per cent compared to the year before.

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“That is the highest reading there has been since records began. I believe that wage growth is the best way to support families and economic recovery rather than maintaining emergency crisis measures that cannot persist indefinitely.”

This sparked anger from SNP councillors who, following the meeting, said that the Tories in Glasgow showed a “shocking disregard” for the most disadvantaged in the city.

Glasgow City treasurer Ricky Bell said: “It’s a disgrace that any councillor in this city could defend such an appalling act of cruelty.

“Glaswegians of a certain generation were appalled when, in the dark days of the early 1980s, Norman Tebbit warned the unemployed to get on their bikes and find work.

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“Now, councillor Connelly is telling people facing hardship in the most turbulent time in our modern history to just sort themselves out. He should hide his head in shame.”

SNP councillor Jen Layden, who shares a ward with Cllr Connelly, said: “Bridgeton and Dalmarnock has some of the highest levels of poverty in our city and experienced some of the worst impacts of the pandemic.

“Supporting a UK government that is cutting the £20 uplift in universal credit and cuts to pensions shows exactly the regard he has for his constituents.

“The people of the east end can see the Tories true colours. They own this.”

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In response, Cllr Connelly said his comments on wage growth related to statistics from the ONS pay figures and Bank of England analysis on unemployment, and were made in reference to the furlough scheme and nothing else.

And he said: “This is typical of the SNP. They would rather spend their time attacking the Conservatives rather than standing up for the people of Glasgow they represent.

“If they are so dedicated to standing up for our most vulnerable and disadvantaged, perhaps these councillors can tell their constituents why they’ve taken money off pensioners and kept vital services closed. They’ve failed to stand up to their bosses in Edinburgh and demand a fair funding deal for our council.

“As we recover from the pandemic, it is crucial that we support Glaswegians back into well paid work, rather than spending time debating UK Government policy in council committees.

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“The biggest risk to Scotland’s welfare system is the SNP not using the significant welfare powers they have and pursuing their dream of independence which would leave a £36 billion black hole in our finances.”

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