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Glasgow's missing millions

The SNP is disproportionately targeting Labour-run local authorities, a local councillor claims.

On Thursday Glasgow city council set its budget. Yet again it faces a real terms cut.

The SNP will, as they always do, naturally seek to blame Westminster, and it is true that funding reductions by the UK government have had an effect. But these have been intensified as the Nationalist government in Edinburgh has hacked away at Glasgow’s share of the overall local authority pot year after year.

Since the SNP minority government first allied with the Tories to set a budget in 2008, a habit they continued throughout their first term, Glasgow has lost £370,000,000, in total, and the pace has been accelerating. The Scottish government’s own figures show that if Glasgow got the same share of the pot as it did under Labour, it would have had an extra £96m this year. Glasgow city Council’s estimates for the coming year are that this gap will swell to £109m, as Scotland’s biggest city once again sees its share cut. We now know where at least a hefty piece of the SNP’s £444m underspend has come from. It is money that could have been spent on the people of Glasgow.

The Nationalists insist that they are helpless in the face of Westminster. Indeed this was the line dutifully parroted by Nationalist councillors in the budget debate. At no point were any of them prepared to diverge from the line they were given by Edinburgh and fight for their constituents’ interests.

These lines from Holyrood would be more believable, were it not for the fact that some areas seem to have been strangely shielded from the storm according to figures directly from the Scottish government.

Angus, the only council where the Nationalists have an outright majority, and which sends SNP MP Mike Weir to parliament, has seen its share of the pot actually increase, so that it has had an extra £3m this year than it would under the allocation when the SNP came to power.

Perth & Kinross, run by the SNP with Tory support and returning an SNP MP in Pete Wishart, has seen its share of the pot go up year on year, and had an additional £13m in its 2014-15 budget from these adjustments to funding shares.

Aberdeenshire, the local authority where Alex Salmond had his Westminster seat for many years and where he hopes to have one again, gets an extra £16m this year. Aberdeenshire has an unemployment rate a third of that of Glasgow.

Just as the Thatcher government tore down the democratic structures of the urban centres of England for daring to oppose her, so the Nationalists, similarly intolerant of dissent, are deliberately throttling Scotland’s greatest city.

The formula is simple. Slash a council’s revenue stream, bar it from raising money through the rates, let the difficult cases fall onto the social care roles and then watch as Labour councils are forced to do your dirty work of cuts for you, while you use every crisis to centralise power.

The Nationalists seek to lecture Labour on its roots, while their policies are socialism in reverse. Let us be clear. The redistribution away from areas of need is by definition regressive.  This is not “progressive politics”, it is the antithesis.

The Nationalist attacks on local democracy, most recently articulated by their MSP Joan McAlpine, argue that Scotland’s cities cannot go it alone. Holyrood thinks Glasgow is too feart to stand up to it, to demand that it gets its fair share. The people of this great city do not need to be protected from their decisions by the government in Edinburgh, and still less will they stand for being robbed so the Nationalists can buy votes in its heartlands.

Labour has an alternative. The party has pledged to give the cities of our island the resources to solve their own problems. We are one of the great industrial, cosmopolitan cities of Europe, and given our fair share of money and power there is so much more that could be done. Glasgow must not be denied this opportunity because of nation-building politicians in Edinburgh.

Matt Kerr is a Labour councillor in Glasgow. He tweets as @Cllr_Matt_Kerr.

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Five things Hillary Clinton’s released emails reveal about UK politics

The latest batch of the presidential hopeful’s emails provide insight into the 2010 Labour leadership contest, and the dying days of the Labour government.

The US State Department has released thousands of Hillary Clinton’s emails. This is part of an ongoing controversy regarding the presidential hopeful’s use of a private, non-governmental server and personal email account when conducting official business as Secretary of State.

More than a quarter of Clinton’s work emails have now been released, in monthly instalments under a Freedom of Information ruling, after she handed over 30,000 pages of documents last year. So what does this most recent batch – which consists of 4,368 emails (totalling 7,121 pages) – reveal?
 

David Miliband’s pain

There’s a lot of insight into the last Labour leadership election in Clinton’s correspondence. One email from September 2010 reveals David Miliband’s pain at being defeated by his brother. He writes: “Losing is tough. When you win the party members and MPs doubly so. (When it's your brother...).”


Reaction to Ed Miliband becoming Labour leader

Clinton’s reply to the above email isn’t available in the cache, but a message from an aide about Ed Miliband’s victory in the leadership election suggests they were taken aback – or at least intrigued – by the result. Forwarding the news of Ed’s win to Clinton, it simply reads: “Wow”.


Clinton’s take on it, written in an email to her long-time adviser, Sidney Blumenthal, is: “Clearly more about Tony that [sic] David or Ed”.

Blumenthal expresses regret about the “regression” Ed’s win suggests about the Labour party. He writes to Clinton: “David Miliband lost by less than 2 percent to his brother Ed. Ed is the new leader. David was marginally hurt by Tony's book but more by Mandelson's endorsement coupled with his harsh statements about the left. This is something of a regression.”


Peter Mandelson is “mad”

In fact, team Clinton is less than enthusiastic about the influence Mandelson has over British politics. One item in a long email from Blumenthal to Clinton, labelled “Mandelson Watch”, gives her the low-down on the former Business Secretary’s machinations, in scathing language. It refers to him as being “in a snit” for missing out on the EU Commissioner position, and claims those in Europe think of him as “mad”. In another email from Blumenthal – about Labour’s “halted” coup against Gordon Brown – he says of Mandelson: “No one trusts him, yet he's indispensable.”

That whole passage about the coup is worth reading – for the clear disappointment in David Miliband, and description of his brother as a “sterling fellow”:


Obsession with “Tudor” Labour plotting

Clinton appears to have been kept in the loop on every detail of Labour party infighting. While Mandelson is a constant source of suspicion among her aides, Clinton herself clearly has a lot of time for David Miliband, replying “very sorry to read this confirmation” to an email about his rumoured demotion.

A May 2009 email from Blumenthal to Clinton, which describes Labour politicians’ plots as “like the Tudors”, details Ed Balls’ role in continuing Tony Blair and Gordon Brown’s “bitter rivalry”:


“Disingenuous” Tories “offending” Europe

The Tories don’t get off lightly either. There is intense suspicion of David Cameron’s activities in Europe, even before he is Prime Minister. Blumenthal – whose email about a prospective Cameron government being “aristocratic” and “narrowly Etonian” was released in a previous batch of Clinton’s correspondence – writes:

Without passing "Go," David Cameron has seriously damaged his relations. with the European leaders. Sending a letter to Czech leader Vaclay Klaus encouraging him not to sign the Lisbon Treaty, as though Cameron were already Prime Minister, he has offended Sarkozy., Merkel and Zapatero.

He also accuses him of a “tilt to the Tory right on Europe”.

In the same email, Blumenthal tells Clinton that William Hague (then shadow foreign secretary), “has arduously pressured for an anti-EU stance, despite his assurances to you that Tory policy toward Europe would be marked by continuity”.

In the aftermath of the 2010 UK election, Blumenthal is apprehensive about Hague’s future as Foreign Secretary, emailing Clinton: “I would doubt you’ll see David again as foreign secretary. Prepare for hauge [sic, William Hague], who is deeply anti-European and will be disingenuous with you.”

Anoosh Chakelian is deputy web editor at the New Statesman.