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Lord Advocate opens new law centre

19 November 2008

A new law centre offering free legal advice in an area of Glasgow with unique social problems will work with the local community to root out slum landlords, gangmasters and organised criminals, organisers promise on its official opening today.

The Govanhill Law Centre is officially opened by the Lord Advocate, Elish Angiolini, who grew up in nearby Govan. The centre, which claims to be the first new law centre in Scotland in a decade, is funded by the Scottish Government, Govanhill Housing Association, Govanhill Community Development Trust, Oxfam, and the trade unions UNISON and USDAW.

Govanhill has some of the most severe housing problems in the UK, with an estimated 750 slum flats. The local population is ethnically mixed and has the biggest concentration of Roma families in Scotland. Many of those living in the area are particularly vulnerable to rogue landlords and organised crime. The law centre will serve all sections of the mixed ethnic population.

Principal solicitor Mike Dailly revealed that work was already under way to tackle the area’s housing problems. He said: “The Glasgow City Council leader, Steven Purcell, has asked us to provide him with independent advice on this complex issue and we will do so.

“Our first case will be to instruct one of Scotland’s top QCs, Roy Martin, to provide a legal opinion on how compulsory purchase legislation can be used to eradicate substandard private rented accommodation in Govanhill.

“I am not aware of compulsory purchase powers being used on such a scale for tenement flats in the private rented sector, but we must explore every option. We are grateful that Councillor Purcell has made a personal commitment to do all that he can to tackle the problems facing Govanhill."

Ms Angiolini said: “Govanhill Law Centre provides a very valuable rights based facility for some of the most vulnerable members of our community.

“As a young woman growing up in Glasgow, I was struck by the inequality of opportunity which existed for people who did not have proper access to clear information, and as a result could miss out on services and advice which were available to them. I am proud to be asked to open this centre and tremendously supportive of its work.”

Janice McEwan, chairperson of Govanhill Housing Association, said: “We are delighted and excited at the prospect of the new law centre working in partnership with us to improve the slum housing conditions I thought we would never see here again.

“For us, it is about supporting our community and making sure they are not exploited by private landlords who don’t care how we live. We have shown that working in partnership is the best way forward. This is about making the community work.”

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