Lets Save Govanhill! 22 March 2015

On Sunday 22 March over 200 people united to ‘save Govanhill’ from the failure of Glasgow city council and local agencies to deal with the problems of crime, rubbish and slum landlords. Marchers won support from the ethnically diverse community as they passed through the streets with pots and pans and chants sounding. During the march a petition calling for the Scottish Government to intervene was accepted by local MSP and First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. One of the march organisers Fiona summed up the feelings of marchers 'we have a vote of no confidence in Glasgow city council to make sure Govanhill is made clean and safe so we are asking the First Minister to step in and sort this out'. She said the mechanism by which these issues were to be addressed had failed. This included the Govanhill Action Plan, the Govanhill Partnership and the Govanhill Hub (which is made up of various agencies in the area including Govanhill Housing Association, Glasgow city council and Police Scotland).

Instead of increasing local services and amenities on 19 February Glasgow's Labour run city council (GCC) passed a budget of £29.5mn of service cuts. This will be felt across Glasgow's communities. We must unite and defend the services under attack and push for their expansion. Combating the divide and rule lies, distortions and racism of those in power, and challenging the influence these ideas hold in our communities, will be key to defending everyone's rights. Here are some of the views we heard on the march.

Local resident Billy said 'we want Govanhill cleaned up. The Commonwealth Games showcase is over and now the council is not interested in this area'. Billy also highlighted police stop and searches of youth in the area. In light of the Sunday Herald revelations that Police Scotland has been carrying out a record breaking number of stop and searches throughout Glasgow, without legal basis, and then storing peoples phone numbers in a database, without legal basis, the demand must be for Police Scotland to ‘“keep your sleazy hands off our kids!” as Unite union leader Len McCluskey stated in support of the Glasgow Defence Campaign in 2011. Reports that sports participation in Glasgow has fallen in the aftermath of the Commonwealth Games confirms what we already knew; the Games were used as a shiny cover to hide the widening impoverishment and inequality between the rich and poor in Glasgow.

A steward on the march Beth said decaying structures, rubbish, rats, bed bugs and cockroaches had become common in areas of Govanhill where buildings were not maintained and cleaned. A resident of Bowman street said that bins needed more clean ups and that he had to contact three political parties in the area before some rubbish in his backcourt was finally dealt with. A young and older resident of Seath Street, who had stayed in Govanhill all their lives, described how local people didn't feel safe with fear of muggings and stabbings stopping residents from going out at night. They described poor and broken street lighting. In their view the council was using Govanhill as a 'dumping ground' for troublesome residents and had allowed private landlords to take over housing in parts of Govanhill. We must demand that GCC's £9.3mn to buy up four blocks in poor condition is the start and not the end of getting slum landlords out of our area. Slum landlords out! Good housing for all!

History tells us that poverty, unemployment and under resourcing of services and amenities is the chief cause of crime. The high turnover of residents – in private, poorly conditioned, overpriced and often short term housing provides for the constant stream of rubbish. One former resident of Dixon Avenue described how the letting agency took over £1,000 a month in rent from the five rooms rented out. ‘We kept asking the letting agency to properly repair a cracked window that looked like it could have fallen off into the backcourt and the kitchen ceiling looked like it was going to cave in but they didn't’. If the letting agencies don’t take action our communities will have to – against them.

The challenge for Govanhill is fundamentally no different to the challenges for all Glasgow's communities. That is to unite and fight to defend their collective interests. Given Govanhill's big mix of nationalities education and understanding will be needed to overcome language barriers and cultural differences in order to hold the powers in charge to account for their neglect and indifference.

 

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