By Graham Sharp, Chair of the Accounts Commission
The complex challenges facing Glasgow are unique in Scotland.
Roughly half of all Glaswegians, around 286,000 people, live in some of the most deprived areas of the country. Unemployment remains high and the city’s healthy life expectancy is the lowest in Scotland.
As Scotland’s local authority watchdog, the Accounts Commission’s role is to give citizens an independent take on the council’s progress and performance.
The equal pay claims issue has recently grabbed headlines. And our latest best value report is clear that the council should include the potential impact of any deal in its financial planning. It’s a serious concern for anyone with an interest in the city and the services provided to its citizens.
But the scale of the challenge shouldn’t obscure the steady progress the council and its partners are making.
There are encouraging signs on the health of Glaswegians, young and old. Healthy birth weights have increased, for example, as has life expectancy.
Exam passes from teens living in areas of deprivation are also up, while school attendance levels are rising. And we’re seeing more pupils going on to work or further study.
It’s important that momentum continues.
Major challenges remain, of course.
A budget gap of £129m is a natural concern, although the council has demonstrated effective leadership and shown it can deliver substantial savings through its transformation programme. What’s not been clear enough to date is the wider, non-financial benefits of that activity.
More, too, could be done to develop the good work started on empowering local communities. And there is real opportunity to strengthen relationships with the third sector.
But the council and its partners are ambitious for the city and, we believe, have a clear plan to realise their vision.