THE forthcoming council budget is going to be “difficult” with not enough cash to fund pay rises and no guarantees for Glasgow Life venues, the city treasurer has said.

Richard Bell sets the budget for the city council based on how much cash is allocated from the Scottish Government and what he can raise in council tax and other fees and charges.

Income has been hit by the pandemic and other financial pressures mean balancing the budget will be a challenge once more.

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He said the key priorities are to tackle inequality and poverty in the city and help with the economic recovery from the pandemic.

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Bell said he hopes there will be more money coming to local government and that council leaders are making that case with Kate Forbes, the Finance Secretary.

He said: “Getting the budget sorted is the immediate priority. I’m hopeful that is not the end of the road.

“There are opportunities before the final reading. It’s going to be a difficult budget for Glasgow.

“It looks like flat cash, which doesn’t cover inflation which is predicted at 4%.

“If we have a new wave of the pandemic it leaves us in a difficult position.

“In the last two years negotiations with the Greens have led to more money for local government and as the Green support looks like it is secured it has to come down to Cosla and council leaders.”

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Much of the money from the Scottish Government is allocated for the delivery of national priorities around education and care that the council does not have the power to alter.

He said: “There is a lot of money for new teachers in the budget but we have numbers above the national ratio, so could we get that money and use it for other priorities?”

Whatever the settlement, it is not thought to be sufficient to cover existing services and rising costs.

Bell said that it is not expected there will be enough cash coming from the Scottish Government to cover all that is needed.

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He added. “With 4% inflation there’s no money for pay increases. They will have to be funded from our own reserves.

“Inflation of 4% will mean pay demands from unions. This will involve cuts for Glasgow.”

One of the challenges is re-opening Glasgow Life venues, like libraries, gyms and community facilities, that remain shut since the pandemic started.

There is cash from the Scottish Government to re-open libraries but the future is uncertain.

Bell said: “On libraries, the Scottish Government has given short-term money to re-open until the next budget.

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“It is our intention to keep them going, as long as we are allowed to have them open. It is our intention to keep them open.”

Glasgow Club facilities are another problem.

He added: “Glasgow Life made money from big events to subsidise loss-making clubs.

“The council has underwritten Glasgow Life with £20 million a year. We cannot go beyond that. There is a challenge to get them open.

“What else can we do? We were hopeful we would see figures go up. But with the Omicron variant we are starting to see numbers go down.

“Is that because people are afraid of going out again and are staying at home more?

“We can’t give a guarantee we will be able to open all non-library facilities.”

Covid recovery and the city centre economy has been giving the council and business owners a serious concern.

The return of the work from home message has once again hit shops and the hospitality sector in the city centre hard.

As well as looking to the Scottish Government, the man in charge of the council’s finances is looking to the UK Treasury for more business support.

Bell said: “The hard cash comes from the Scottish Government but we are working with businesses and the Chamber of Commerce on how we can support businesses.

“One way is how we get people back in the city centre. Saturdays in town are busy again but they are not getting the midweek trade because people are not back at work in the offices.

“We are continually working with the chamber and others on how to support a return to work once it is safe to do so.

“We need to lobby the Scottish and UK governments. It appears there is more money for Kate Forbes but the UK Government has stripped out the Covid support funding.

“That is a challenge and we need to lobby Rishi Sunak hard to give us additional money to support businesses in Glasgow.”