Scottish Government, Glasgow City Council and Police Scotland have become experts in spreading myths, lies and alibis when asked to account for the continuing spiral of decline to be found in Govanhill according to the survey results of the Let’s Save Govanhill poll conducted in May 2016.
Almost 70% of respondents were not aware that the population of Govanhill had doubled in a decade and that there are concerns that the current census data for Govanhill may provide an underestimation of the actual population living within the 1 square mile of the neighbourhood. Questions were raised as to why these perplexing set of circumstances had not been addressed. Have the powers that be lost the capacity to govern the district effectively?
Within Govanhill it has been acknowledged that for more than a decade the private rented sector needs overhauled and regulated, so why has there not been the necessary intervention to prevent such large scale overcrowding in privately rented properties which has left many owner occupiers and other tenants feeling powerless, under siege and desperate to flee the area? The tenements of Govanhill should have been afforded historic importance and treated with respect rather than left to slum landlords to destroy through sheer greed and neglect.
Compulsory purchase orders and enforcement orders should have been used to drive these rogue landlords out of Govanhill. Scottish Government and Glasgow City Council are heavily criticized for their failure to enact and implement legislation to properly tackle rogue landlords, instead they have chosen to stick their collective heads in the sand whilst these slum landlords callously continue to profit from the misery which prevails for so many due to the filthy and squalid housing conditions.
There was agreement that Govanhill needs a cohesive mixed tenure housing strategy. Affordable good quality homes should be the priority whether in the private or public sectors. However, many respondents commented that they lacked the faith and confidence they once had in Govanhill Housing Association as the main drivers of change in improving the quality of housing stock.
Many tenants of Govanhill Housing Association commented that their performance standards have dropped and that as an organisation they should “stick to the knitting”. Their core function should be to manage their existing housing stock providing a quality housing service. Their expansion over this past decade into other areas such as heavily taxpayer funded social enterprise is viewed as ineffective and leads to criticism that they are taking on the roles and responsibilities which should remain with the statutory bodies such as Glasgow City Council. Statutory Bodies are accountable and can be scrutinised through freedom of information requests, organisations afforded charitable status such as Govanhill Housing Association are not.
Almost 88% of respondents agree that Glasgow City Council has failed to deal with squalid sanitation problems in Govanhill. Streets and back courts are a disgrace and the Council despite their claims of increased levels of service provision have failed to tackle illegal fly tipping and discarded rubbish. The problems with rats, mice, cockroaches and bedbugs is spreading throughout the area with alarming speed. Residents commented that they are being asked to accept filthy sanitation conditions that others in Glasgow and the rest of Scotland would not tolerate.
Residents further commented that there are no real consequences for rubbish dumpers and fly tippers and this needs to change. Offenders need to be prosecuted or evicted and this public health hazard needs to be brought under control. Radical thinking and action is required from Glasgow City Council and a clear message sent out to all residents and business owners.
According to the survey results, Community Safety Glasgow are not providing Govanhill residents with a safer, cleaner and better living environment. Enforcement Officers have avoided the real issues of fly tipping and illegal dumping and are considered a waste of time and money. However comments suggested that littering fines for dropping cigarette ends or bus tickets handed out by these enforcement officers is providing Glasgow City Council with a steady stream of much needed revenue.
Police Scotland have stated that fear of crime is exaggerated in Govanhill and yet almost 80% of survey respondents disagree with this statement. Respondents stated that they were disgusted and appalled that Police Scotland would attempt to make such a statement regarding crime in Govanhill and that their spin doctors should hang their heads in shame.
Some commented that the area is a ticking time bomb. Due to political correctness the truth is being suppressed, indeed people are frightened to walk the streets either alone or after dark. Housebreaking and theft occurs on a daily basis and large numbers of youths and males roam the streets on a daily basis leaving people feeling vulnerable and intimidated. There is a fear among local residents that Govanhill is fast becoming a no-go area.
During her recent election campaign, Nicola Sturgeon the First minister for Scotland and sitting constituency MSP stated often that activities and financial investment over these past 4 years has led to an improved Govanhill. She often cited the Govanhill Baths Community Development Trust as an example of success. However, 67% of survey respondents disagreed with her statement. They do not believe that nearly enough is being done to combat the ghetto like conditions to be found in Govanhill.
Despite millions of pounds of taxpayer’s money being spent in Govanhill, the results or outcomes do not visibly demonstrate improvement in terms of housing and sanitation conditions. Comments included millions of pounds being spent with nothing to show for it. Govanhill Housing Association has been given millions of pounds in public funded grants, what they spent it on should be investigated.
People wanted to know how long they will have to wait to see these so called improvements that Sturgeon talks of. There was a growing lack of faith and confidence that First Minister Sturgeon actually cared enough about Govanhill after she had gotten the electorate’s vote.
Finally, a staggering 90% of survey respondents agreed that Scottish Government, Glasgow City Council and Police Scotland must work in partnership to improve Govanhill. The area must be given regeneration status and declared a zero tolerance crime zone.
The time for myths, lies and alibis to explain away the continuing spiral of decline in Govanhill must come to an end. First Minister for Scotland Nicola Sturgeon, Leader of Glasgow City Council Frank McAveety and Chief Constable Philip Gormley must come together and acknowledge that whatever measures have been taken and money spent in Govanhill over these past 6 years has not led to the desired changes and improvements.
Govanhill is now Scotland’s ghetto. Sturgeon, McAveety and Gormley must show leadership and demonstrate honesty and integrity instead of regurgitating myths, lies and alibis. They need to save Govanhill before it is too late.