22 Jun 2017
The leadership of Glasgow is changing. Last week we held our first members’ session with the new Leader of Glasgow City Council, Susan Aitken.
Over 60 Chamber members came along to hear Susan’s plans and to ask questions about the new City Government’s priorities for the future of our city. This is, of course, a significant point in the city’s history with the SNP forming its first-ever Glasgow administration.
Any new administration brings with it fresh thinking, and we know a fair amount about what is involved from the SNP manifesto. The main priorities are set out there, and the Leader summarised them as securing inclusive economic growth, empowering local communities and delivering a programme of democratic renewal.
The Leader herself has taken on the convenership of inclusive economic growth, and so is taking the primary role in the portfolio that is closest to the interests of Chamber members.
She had some clear messages. The city economy will remain at the very heart of administration’s thinking. The changes the SNP wants to see in people’s lives cannot be delivered without a successful city economy. Well paid work is essential, and the City Government is committed to supporting economic growth as the means to achieving rewarding jobs for Glasgow citizens. The Leader’s decision to take on the convenorship for inclusive economic growth demonstrates that commitment.
The Leader also wants to set out fresh aspirations for Glasgow as a great European city. She wants Glasgow to become a much more attractive place, one that understands what makes a good city in which to live. A city that achieves the best conditions for its citizens will also be a city that attracts visitors.
She was asked to name her favourite cities from around the world and specifically emphasised Copenhagen as one example that has put living standards at the very centre of its strategy.
But there was also a recognition that the Council cannot deliver the SNP programme on its own. Working in partnership both with local neighbourhoods and communities of interest like business, the third sector and academic institutions remain critical.
The pressure on budgets for public services will continue to grow, so the Council must get more used to acting as a facilitator and must not assume that it will always necessarily be the direct deliverer of services and initiatives.
More specifically the Leader confirmed her support for the recent strategy plan for growing Glasgow’s economy, but suggested change in how that strategy would be delivered. There will be a new Glasgow Partnership for Economic Growth (GPEG) with a broad range of representation from all communities of interest and with a strict focus on turning strategy into practical delivery. The emphasis would always be on inclusiveness.
The City Government committed to establishing GPEG within the administration’s first hundred days, and the Leader is personally involved in its design.
One other change which we can expect is in the relationship between Glasgow City Council and the Scottish Government. It has not always been a cordial relationship, for obvious political reasons, and we can expect there to be a closer co-operation from now on.
The Chamber, as a firmly apolitical organisation, has long believed that forging a close working partnership with the city’s administration is essential to promoting economic growth and helping influence the issues that affect our members. It’s not just us that believe that. So too does the World Bank.
Strong strategic partnerships have real impacts on a city’s economic success. So, we will be firm allies to the administration in delivering inclusive economic growth.
We already believe Glasgow is one of the UK’s most robust economic powerhouses, but we know that a good relationship with the Council will make it that much stronger and more sustainable.