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A report by an influential think tank has criticised Glasgow City Council for failing to halt the ‘labour apartheid’ and economic stratification in neighbourhoods such as Govan.

A dear green place divided by the benefits of regeneration

STEPHEN MCGINTY

WHEN Sharon Burton stands on the doorstep of her close in Govan, she can see the futuristic city Glasgow is striving to be.The burnished steel of the science centre glints in the sunshine, while its neighbouring tower pierces the sky.

Yet, for Sharon, an unemployed single parent, the immediate view is of a doorway strewn with rubbish and the steel “curtains” that identify yet another abandoned flat. A short bus ride on the No 24 takes her past the new luxury apartments by the River Clyde, where BMWs sit in the car park and cocktails are sipped on the balconies.

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“You can’t help but look up and feel envious,” she said. “But that will never be me.”

According to a damning new report published today by an influential think-tank, Glasgow has become a tale of two cities where affluence and poverty too often sit side by side. According to the report by Demos, Glasgow City Council has put architectural projects such as Norman Foster’s striking concert hall and the demands of the tourist industry ahead of improving the quality of life of its citizens.

The report, which was compiled after an 18-month consultation process that involved speaking to more than 5,000 Glaswegians – including single parents, teenagers and asylum seekers – concluded that the city’s celebrated regeneration during the 1990s had ignored the views of its citizens and that instead of reducing social division it has led to an increase.

According to the report Glasgow has 1,076 millionaires, the fifth-highest number for a city in the UK, while at the same time it contains 226 neighbourhoods judged to be among the 5 per cent most deprived in Scotland.

The inequality in the city was not just tied to wealth but also to education, with a “labour apartheid” developing in which people employed in the knowledge and creative industries have pulled away from those who work in the service industries.

Govan was used as one example. The new media centre at Pacific Quay where the BBC and STV have relocated, sits in an area where 51 per cent of adults are unemployed.

Adults such as Andrew Flannery, 38, who has been on long-term income support, speak movingly of the docks across from his house where he and his father before him once worked.

“They are regenerating them, but I doubt there will be work for me.” he said, leaning against the bus stop. “It’s depressing; you can see how Glasgow is moving on, you see the fancy flats and the posh cars. I walk into the city centre past the new flats at Lancefield Quay, over the new squinty bridge and along the Broomielaw and it looks great, but I still have to go back to my wee flat. You can’t help but feel left behind.”

William McIlvanney famously described Glasgow as “the city of the stare” – granted it was to describe the particular danger of a Friday night. However, Demos found that there had been a breakdown of trust among people and that the vast increase in surveillance technology was a symptom of this distrust.

The traditional Glasgow “hard man” has also undergone a cultural shift in the city as a result of the decline in manufacturing, with women benefiting.

The report pointed out that while “Shettleston man”, lived to an average age of just 64, the worst rate in Scotland, “Shettleston woman”, who lived in the same environment, managed to last 11 years longer.

The results of The Dreaming City: Glasgow 2020 and the Power of Mass Imagination, as the report is titled, found that respondents wanted council leaders to address poverty, housing and unemployment as a priority.

Melissa Mean, the co-author of the report and head of Demos’ self-build cities programme said: “City leaders are running on empty in terms of ideas to sustain the urban renaissance. When every city has commissioned a celebrity architect and pedestrianised a cultural quarter, distinctiveness is reduced to a formula.

“Cities need to open up to the mass imagination of their citizens. People in Glasgow showed that they have the creativity to imagine better and more innovative futures. Councils need to listen.”

Those taking part in the 18-month Dreaming City pilot project put poverty, bad housing, inequality, poor health and education and unemployment as key priorities.

They also called for sectarianism and ethnic integration to be tackled, a reduction in crime, and a cleaner and greener city.

Among the suggestions made was that the city council develop the roof-top space. It said: “Roofs are one of the great unused and uncared-for land masses in cities” and should be reclaimed for “environmental uses with running tracks, green roofs, solar energy, art installations and gardens”.

The report promotes the idea of “assemblies of hope”, spaces where artists and entrepreneurs could interact.

The response from Glasgow City Council to Demos’ lengthy deconstruction of their role over the past 20 years was robust. A spokesman said: “This report is nothing less than an insult to the many Glaswegians who gave up their time to take part. Bizarre would be a charitable way to describe some of the report’s conclusions.

“What on earth is meaningless nonsense such as ‘assemblies of hope’, ‘alchemists’ or ‘mass imaginings’?

“Regeneration in Glasgow has meant new homes, schools and leisure facilities in every community. That’s something London-based academics who know nothing and care less about Glasgow may ignore, but means a huge amount to Glaswegians. Of course, there is still a lot of work to do in the city. However, this will be done by investing in education, getting more people into work, and continuing to regenerate local communities, including more new housing.”

A spokesman for COSLA said: “I am not going to get drawn on any report about an individual member council whether it be good or bad. What I would say however, is that Glasgow City Council has taken the city forward massively over the last 20 years.”

Yet the report was supported by Craig Dunlop, policy officer for Shelter Scotland. He said: “It is particularly interesting that survey respondents have highlighted the problems of poor housing as one of the most urgent priorities for the future of Glasgow. This is mirrored by the results of recent Shelter research which showed that eight out of ten people in Scotland believe that more investment is required to address shortfalls in good-quality, affordable rented housing across the country.

“These findings serve as a reminder of the problems Scottish local authorities face in housing people.

“In Scotland, over 200,000 people are on house waiting lists, while over 8,000 households are in temporary accommodation. In addition many first-time buyers are being priced out of the market by spiralling house prices leaving many without real choices in their housing options.”

Although not one of the 5,000 people who responded to Demos’ invitation to discuss the future of Glasgow, Ms Burton has no hesitation in explaining where she would like to be in 2020.

“In a nice wee, warm house of my own, that’ll do; I could live quite happily with that,” she said.

A quarter of children are living in poverty, claims Barnardo’s

ONE in four Scottish children are living in poverty, according to a new report by a leading children’s charity.

Barnardo’s Scotland said around 250,000 youngsters are currently living below the breadline.

The charity has called on the nation’s new First Minister, Alex Salmond, to give priority to helping those families it says are living on less than 60 per cent of the average household income.

It says there should be free school meals for children with parents on the maximum working tax credit. And it has asked for a special commission to be established that will identify the policies needed to meet the Scottish and UK government’s target of halving child poverty by 2010.

In the report It Doesn’t Happen Here Barnardo’s Scotland warns that without an investment of £3.8 billion, the country’s leaders are going to completely miss the target and that of eradicating the problem completely by 2020.

Director Martin Crewe said: “Today in Scotland, children are missing out on what most of us would consider essentials. Although the Scottish Executive has taken steps to reduce child poverty, we should be ashamed that one in four children are still living in poverty in Scotland today, when the UK is the fifth richest economy in the world.

“The Scottish and UK government must show their commitment and keep their promise to halve child poverty by 2010.”

Mr Crewe added: “This is a wonderful opportunity for the new First Minister, Alex Salmond, to create a real legacy for Scotland’s children.”

A poll of more than 2,000 people, commissioned by Barnardo’s, found that nearly three-quarters of Scots thought the number of children living in poverty was much lower than one in four. The survey also found that people are sceptical about whether the government will take action.

Barnardo’s defines children living in poverty as those being brought up on less than 60 per cent of the average income – less than £301 a week for a couple with two children and £223 for a lone parent with two children, after housing costs.

Stewart Maxwell, the minister for communities, said: “We are committed to eradicating child poverty and improving the life chances of all people across Scotland. We welcome this contribution to the debate on poverty in Scotland and we will carefully consider the recommendations contained within this new report.”

Meanwhile, official figures have shown that more Scottish pensioners are living in poverty than was previously thought. Errors in the figures have understated the number of pensioners on a relatively low income.

Official statistics published in March said this figure had fallen by 22 per cent since 1999 from 230,000 to 180,000 in 2006. But the actual reduction was 17 per cent, to 190,000, said statisticians.

RHIANNON EDWARD

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