Broke Glasgow pours money down the river

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The Independent Online
Labour-dominated Glasgow council has given pounds 500,000 of public money towards centenary celebrations for the Scottish TUC, which include dyeing the River Clyde red.

The use of council taxpayers' money to provide a visual reminder of Red Clydeside has created a storm in the city, with opponents of the Labour- run authority claiming it is a misuse of public funds.

Critics claim it is merely another example of a body that is a throwback to the bad old days of spendthrift Labour town halls. Two investigations are under way into the council's spending on foreign trips for its members. One inquiry is being conducted by the official Scottish watchdog the Accounts Commission, the other by Labour, concerned about allegations that overseas visits were offered as rewards for votes in the council chamber.

Meanwhile, the city is in financial crisis, with 15,000 teachers, parents and schoolchildren demonstrating against possible staffing cuts and about 1,500 municipal workers being told they face redundancy in an pounds 80m budget- trimming package.

Despite those cuts, the council has continued to spend in other areas. At the New Year, it spent pounds 75,000 on a giant public Hogmanay party and pounds 130,000 has gone on a city publicity brochure.

This week, councillors will meet to discuss another item of expenditure, a study commissioned from Strathclyde University about non-sexist language on council premises. It recommends the replacing of words like "mankind" and "man-made", with "human beings"and "hand-made". "Manpower" should become "workers" and "manning the office", "staffing the office".

So far this financial year, according to a written parliamentary answer from George Kynoch, the Scottish Office minister, the council has spent pounds 79,656 on sending members to overseas events, including "a cultural symposium in St Petersburg, the international rose trials exhibition in Rome and a meeting of the International Badminton Federation in Hong Kong".

The Accounts Commission is looking at official overseas trips by all Scottish councillors. Glasgow is central to that inquiry. More embarrassingly for Labour, a councillor has claimed he was offered political support in return for sending colleagues on overseas jaunts. The "votes for junkets" scandal - or, as Glasgow Tories call it, "Travelgate" - has led to the dispatching of a senior national official to Keir Hardie House, Labour's Glasgow HQ.

The Tories, not surprisingly, are cock-a-hoop. Bill Aitken, the deputy Tory leader, said he found the decision to back the colouring of the Clyde red deplorable: "It is absolutely appalling that at times of economic hardship money is being thrown away on events of this nature. "

But a council spokesman said all the expenditure was justified and he accused the Tories of trying to create "a very inadequate smokescreen for the cuts the Government has forced us into".