IN two weeks’ time Glasgow councillors will gather in front of their computer screens to take part in what is the most important council meeting of the year. This will be the first, and hopefully last, time that our annual budget setting meeting will be held virtually rather than in person.

Councillors must agree two things. Firstly, what the level of council tax will be for the coming year and secondly the amount of money that will be available for all the services and facilities run by the council. I am not looking forward to our debate on February 18 because, whatever decisions we make, I can guarantee they will not be good for Glasgow.

Holyrood has been cutting our funding consistently and unremittingly for the last decade. Since 2013, Glasgow has been forced to find savings of nearly £350 million as a result of decisions made in Edinburgh by a government that does not appear to care about Glasgow.

I appreciate that the Scottish Government itself has faced financial pressures and funding from Westminster has reduced, but cuts to local government have been running at roughly four times the level of any cut that Holyrood has had to deal with. Edinburgh has set other priorities and the state of the streets in Govanhill, bin collections in Drumchapel or social services in Baillieston are not among them.

What is even more disappointing is that the current administration here in Glasgow seem happy to go along with all this. Instead of standing up for Glasgow they meekly accept the dictats of their Edinburgh bosses while the people of Glasgow pay the price. Despite Covid, Brexit and the consequent threat of a long-term economic downturn nothing must derail the headlong charge towards another referendum which only the seriously deluded actually believe will happen anytime soon.

The Scottish budget last week was the usual exercise in smoke and mirrors. If you were to accept the word of Kate Forbes, the Finance Minister, you might be left with the impression that we were about to get all sorts of new money. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Come budget day here in Glasgow we will still have to find some £30 million in cuts for next year alone, as well as deal with the tens of millions in lost income and extra costs because of the pandemic. £7 million of what should be our share of funding will be held back and only be made available if we agree not to increase Council Tax. For a government that keeps harping on about freedom they are not very good at allowing Glasgow the freedom to make our own decisions.

The government restrictions on other significant pots of money further restricts councillors’ ability to make independent decisions here in Glasgow that best reflect the needs of the city.

Labour councillors have been grappling with the numbers and the horrendous realities of further cuts to our city since well before Christmas. Trying to put our budget proposals together to produce something that is in any way palatable is impossible. It is an exercise in attempting to identify the least worst options.

Our priorities will be protecting front line services as best as possible. That gets harder every year.

Whatever budget we agree, I am telling you now: there will be no good news for Glasgow.