Scottish Budget: Biggest council 'jumping up and down and asking for money'
Scotland's biggest council is "jumping up and down and asking for as much money as they can possibly give us" ahead of today's Scottish Budget, Holyrood has been told.
Glasgow City Council faces a deficit of £120m, the equivalent of 10 per cent of its entire budget. City Treasurer, Councillor Ricky Bell, says job cuts are "almost inevitable".
He told Holyrood: "Noone is talking about doing this, but we could close the entire [leisure and culture ALEO] Glasgow Life, which would mean every library, every museum, and we would still only have found half the deficit.
"The big question is what is John Swinney going to do, but the reality is, whatever he does, he's not going to give me £120m. We still have to find a way of closing that gap.
"To take 10 per cent out of your budget, you are going to have to reduce your head count, you don't have any option. We also have a policy of no compulsory redundancies, so that's a really difficult circle to square."
A motion presented by Labour's Philip Braat to the full council on the budget won cross-party backing, with Braat declaring that "enough is enough" after the local authority had been "forced to make savings of more £300m" since 2013-14.
It faces a shortfall of £119.4m next year, plus a further £77m over the next two years.
Costs include a £770m pay out to women workers after the settlement of a historic equal pay claim. Under a strategy agreed in September, several council properties will be sold to a council-owned property firm then leased back in a move worth £200m. These include the city chambers and award-winning Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum.
Bell says that while core services "still stand up", the council "can't afford to keep doing everything" and is calling for a "radical rethink of how local government is financed".
Ahead of the Budget, councils body Cosla has issued an "SOS" to the Scottish Government, while the Fraser of Allander Institute has suggested that Swinney use the parliament's tax powers to "ease the path" for Scotland.
Bell backs the introduction of tourist tax and congestion tax powers for local government, saying these would provide "a consistent revenue stream that is not dependent on what Westminster gives Edinburgh, or what Edinburgh can afford to give us".
Council tax should also be replaced, he says, and while this can be raised to generate more tax, it would take an uplift of 48 per cent to fill Glasgow's budget gap and "there is no politician going to put their hand up to do that".
The city counts First Minister Nicola Sturgeon amongst its local MSPs and Bell says that the SNP-led authority gets "very good access" to the Scottish Government: "We get a very good hearing from ministers, there's no doubt about that.
"We also understand that they are in a very difficult position. John Swinney has said himself this is the most challenging budget since devolution started. We could be – we are – jumping up and down as asking for as much money as they can possibly give us, but they don't have that money to give us."