When Glasgow’s council election results start to come in on Friday, the Langside ward will be one to watch.
Council leader Susan Aitken is the only councillor seeking re-election in the area, and while the SNP picked up 43% of the first preference vote in 2017, Aitken, the party’s Glasgow group leader, has faced a huge amount of criticism.
In 2017, she was elected along with fellow SNP candidate Anna Richardson, the council’s outgoing sustainability and carbon reduction convener, as they took two of the council seats available. Labour and the Greens won the other two.
Over the five-year term, Aitken has been challenged over an industrial dispute which saw refuse workers strike and the state of the city under her leadership. She has acknowledged there were cleansing challenges during the pandemic, but said there had been improvements since the lockdown was lifted.
And rubbish collections are still one of the biggest issues for residents in the ward where she hopes to secure her council position.
The Langside ward stretches from the edge of Shawlands to Toryglen, skirting Queen’s Park but taking in its recreation grounds and Cathkin Park. Langside, Battlefield and Mount Florida, including Hampden Park, are within the ward, as are the northern parts of King’s Park and Cathcart.
Across the city, residents have raised concerns over rubbish and bin collections, and it is the same in Langside. On the streets of Mount Florida, Sean Cooper and Tom Gilpin were walking their dogs. Asked for their views on the key issues in the area, Sean said: “The bins, that’s probably been the thing we’ve noticed anyway.”
They moved into the area just before the covid lockdown and Tom admitted there has been an improvement since pandemic restrictions started to ease. In Battlefield, Colin and Margaret Houston raised the same issue. “Litter is the first thing,” Colin said. “A lot of the bins are overflowing.”
He also believes council cuts have affected grass cutting services provided by the council. “We’ve got a lot of older people in our avenue and they used to get their grass cut by the council,” he said. “They used to send a guy out twice a year and cut the hedges.”
But last year, the job wasn’t done until Colin reported it to the council, he said. Once he did, it was cut within a week, he added, but he didn’t need to report it previously, the work was completed regularly.
With Hampden Park in the ward, residents often have to deal with football fans, or gig attendees, flooding into the area when big events are held. Complaints have previously been made over anti-social behaviour or inconsiderate parking.
“We bought the house and Hampden was here so we can’t really complain, we knew the rules when we got here,” Colin said, but he admitted there is “a lot of urinating and bad behaviour on matchdays”. “They can park but you don’t want them coming in and out and using your garden as toilets.”
With the old Victoria Infirmary, and the new flats being erected in its grounds, rising up behind them, Colin and Margaret’s attention turns to the Sanctuary Scotland development, which could transform the area. There was disgust in February when sandstone cupolas on the 1888 building were demolished.
They are worried about the number of homes being built on the site. “I don’t know what it will be like when all these houses start to go up,” Margaret said.
Another woman, further along Battlefield Road, said she had a problem with buy-to-let housing, and its use for Airbnbs. She said a neighbour had moved out because she “couldn’t handle all the different people”.
Nine candidates are hoping to be elected in Langside, where Labour stalwart Archie Graham and Tanya Wisely, of the Greens, are joining Richardson in stepping down.
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What happened in 2017?
When Langside was a three-councillor ward, with different boundaries, in 2012, Labour’s Archie Graham, now council leader Susan Aitken, SNP, and Liam Hainey, Greens, all picked up a seat. When Hainey stepped down, a by-election was held in 2015 and Anna Richardson, SNP, was elected.
At the 2017 election, Aitken, Richardson and Graham all held on to their seats while Wisely was elected for the Greens in the new four-councillor Langside ward. Aitken secured the most first preference votes with 26.84%. There was a 45.4% turnout in the ward, with 10,749 valid votes.
Who is standing in 2022?
Aitken said a Langside ‘Liveable Neighbourhoods’ programme has “exciting projects for safer, more people-centred streets and public spaces”. She added: “Toryglen is an area that’s been through a difficult time. A big priority for me is continuing to work with the new housing association to ensure local residents can decide what happens in their community in future.”
The SNP candidate also said the cost of living crisis will be a “huge issue”. “Making sure my constituents can access as much support as possible is my immediate priority.”
Paul Leinster is the second SNP candidate for Langside and he has a “strong interest in planning and preserving our built environment”. “The high proportion of privately rented properties in the ward means that our plans on rent controls will help those struggling with the cost of living crisis,” he added.
Leinster said a publicly-owned bus service, plus a Clyde Metro, would “connect previously unconnected parts of the ward to the rest of the city”.
Aileen McKenzie , previously Labour councillor for Springburn and Robroyston, is now hoping to represent the party in Langside, where she has always lived. Stephen Docherty is the other Labour candidate in the ward.
McKenzie said: “I’ve always lived on the Southside and as a sitting councillor in the north of the city I was encouraged to stand in Langside ward by local residents who wanted to see an experienced councillor replace veteran Cllr Archie Graham OBE.
“Last year Langside ward had the highest number of missed bin collections in the city. I would fight to double bin collections and scrap bulk uplift charges. I am committed to protecting and maintaining local parks and green spaces, especially Cathkin Park and Mount Florida Bowling Green and improving community engagement with the council.
“Finally road safety is a major issue and I am focused on repairing potholes, improving surfaces, and I’ll prioritise pressing the council and Police Scotland to fully enforce Hampden event parking restrictions.”
Docherty said: “Over the last five years, Glasgow has declined under the SNP administration. I want to see investment in roads, resurfacing rather than a sticking plaster approach to repairs.
“The city’s cleansing services need serious attention. Parks and green spaces have declined over the years, they need investment as they are an invaluable amenity asset to local communities.”
Holly Bruce has replaced Wisely as the Greens candidate for the ward and wants to “bring my lived experience as a young LGBT woman to the city chambers”. She is “passionate” about helping the community solve “everyday issues”.
“On the doors, folk want to see better funding for street cleaning, more recycling opportunities, waste collections and ways of tackling fly-tipping. They want to see our streets redesigned to be safer by improving street lighting, pavement accessibility and road maintenance. As an avid cyclist, I will champion walking, wheeling and cycling by supporting school bike buses and free cycle storage.
“I’ll help bring rent controls to Langside as soon as possible. Local democracy is incredibly important, so I want to ensure that decisions are being made by the community and not to them by amplifying residents’ voices in planning proposals.”
Bruce Whyte , who lives in King’s Park, is the Conservative candidate for the ward. “As a local resident myself, I am aware of concerns regarding inappropriate parking around Hampden Stadium,” he has said. “If elected, I would want to investigate what further measures can be brought forward to alleviate the situation for local residents who live around the stadium.”
Glasgow’s Conservatives have said they would tackle the “waste crisis” in the city, including scrapping the bulk uplift charge and investing £10m in frontline services.
Michael Shields , a student and the Liberal Democrats candidate, has said he would be focused on repairing potholed roads, providing access to green spaces for all, better lighting at night in Queen’s Park and tackling fly-tipping.
Chigozie Osuchukwu is standing for Alba and has said the party’s five-point plan will tackle child and family poverty in Scotland. It includes an annual £500 payment to assist half a million low earning households, extending free school meals to all primary and secondary pupils and introducing universal access to sports facilities for all under 18s.
And Ronnie Stevenson , who also stood in 2017, is the Scottish Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition candidate. Stevenson said the coalition would “immediately move for all proposed cuts to be stopped”.
He wants to reintroduce a regular street and pavement cleaning service as well as regular emptying of all household bins. A safe, free integrated public transport network and reopening all leisure facilities are also among his priorities.
Full list of candidates:
Susan Aitken (SNP)
Holly Bruce (Greens)
Stephen Docherty (Labour)
Paul Leinster (SNP)
Aileen McKenzie (Labour)
Chigozie Osuchukwu (Alba)
Michael Shields (Liberal Democrats)
Ronnie Stevenson (STUSC)
Bruce Whyte (Conservative)