FEBRUARY is budget time in Glasgow City Council – and this year we’re even more in the dark than usual.

Normally we hear the UK Budget before Christmas, which gives parameters for the Scottish draft Budget, which in turn gives local government the figures for their own finances. But this year we had a General Election instead, and then the UK Government decided not to publish until March. For councils, which legally must set council tax and budgets this month, this means a whole lot of guesswork and stress.

That’s all on top of a process that has quite enough mystery already. In Glasgow, all parties make their own Budget – and for the past two years, the first time we’ve seen each other’s proposals is when we get to the debating chamber to find them printed on our seats. We then spend the meeting half-listening to speeches whilst trying to understand and scrutinise complex financial documents. This is ludicrous.

It’s also ludicrous that in Glasgow there’s been so little effort made for public engagement on such crucial decisions. Last year, results of the (tiny) public consultation were shown to councillors after the deadline for submitting proposals had passed. Greens have consistently highlighted how unacceptable it is that citizens of Glasgow are kept out of this process.

Since efforts to engage communities have been so poor, many people think that council tax provides enough money for our services. But the reality is that council tax is an outdated, regressive structure based on property values almost as old as I am. It makes barely a dent in the council budget gap.

Glaswegians should know the state of our local finances. It’s not sexy, but it is crucial – paying for social care, libraries, sports centres and teachers. These finances are under enormous pressure – people are living longer with multiple health conditions, which means more money is needed for health and social care services. Pay inflation goes up every year. And then there’s Tory austerity, which has pushed people to need more support from local services, while also ensuring those services have less funding to go around.

So we sit and wait for our allocations to be handed down from above, wondering how bad the news is going to be, and in turn which bits of bad news will be handed to communities. This is the opposite of local empowerment.

Now the indication from the draft Scottish Budget is yet again less money for local services. The Scottish Government would be profoundly disingenuous to trumpet an increase in funding

if the reality is that the extra

cash can only be spent on nationally agreed policies, ensuring cuts to the local services we all rely on.

Green MSPs won better support for councils last year, and steps towards more tax options at a local level. Progress on these is urgent.

Decisions should be made on local priorities locally, and therefore councils need to be able to raise our own money. Our local services are too precious to lose.