CAMPAIGNERS fighting for libraries to be reopened in their communities said they were baffled those in the more affluent areas of Glasgow had opened ahead of those in needier areas of

the city.

At a highly-impassioned meeting yesterday, several local community groups were invited to address the Wellbeing, Empowerment, Community and Citizen Engagement City Policy Committee of Glasgow City Council to air concerns that facilities in their areas had not reopened following closure due to lockdown.

Read more: Who will step up to help fund Glasgow treasures and services?

A report had been submitted to the committee on the arms-length organisation Glasgow Life, which operates culture and leisure for Scotland’s largest city. It predicted an estimated annual income of

£6.4 million for the coming year, but the organisation lost £38m due to closures in lockdown.

HeraldScotland: Campaigners made their case at a meeting yesterdayCampaigners made their case at a meeting yesterday

An agreement was reachedIt was agreed earlier this year that Glasgow City Council would provide Glasgow Life with a guaranteed minimum income of £100m over the next four years. This is made up of the service fee of £72.8m plus an earned income target of £27.2m. The budget has allowed them to open more than 90 facilities and was an increase from the estimation last year of just 61.

Colin McGeoch, a campaigner fighting for Whiteinch Library, questioned why facilities in Hillhead and Partick had reopened ahead of theirs.

Mr McGeoch said: “It is baffling that Hillhead and Partick have reopened in the more affluent areas of the west end and yet Whiteinch has not reopened.”

Southside campaigner Helen Pope, of Save Glasgow Libraries, called on the committee to ensure that the council reopens all of Glasgow’s 33 libraries and the buildings that house them.

She said 34 per cent of Glasgow’s children live in poverty and access to books may only be at school or the library, and added campaigners felt there had been a lack of meaningful engagement with authorities.

“Covid-19 has been used a convenient way to keep libraries shut,” she added.

HeraldScotland: Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum is run by Glasgow LifeKelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum is run by Glasgow Life

Martin Booth, the council’s executive director for finance, said there had been significant challenges in the past 15 months, which the council and wider family have not been immune to.

He said they had been subject to significant additional costs in providing support at a time when some of their earned income, in particular with Glasgow Life and parking income, “dropped off a cliff”.

Mr Booth added: “There has been significant financial pressure which at the beginning of March this year was sitting at a risk of £80m across the council family.”

He said additional Scottish Government funding allowed them to cover those costs and the gap for 2020-21, but added that income recovery may take several years. Mr Booth said Glasgow Life had reopened the facilities it could within the £100m, but without significant additional funding “we cannot guarantee when any additional venues will open”.

Carolyn Lochhead, of Save the Couper Library in Cathcart, asked how much it would cost to reopen the library and the others currently closed, were other funding avenues explored and if there was a timeframe for reopening of the Couper. The estimation was £1.2m for all remaining libraries and £400,000 for the Couper.

Conservative Councillor Robert Connelly asked what discussions had taken place between the Scottish and UK governments.

Dr Bridget McConnell, chief executive of Glasgow Life, explained it had been engaging with the UK Government on the basis that the devolution settlement does allow for them to be involved in economic development issues and this is undoubtedly a regeneration issue around services and with the Scottish Government primarily around the health and wellbeing. She said discussions were ongoing and they had been meeting with other agencies.

The Herald’s coverage of an open letter from Councillor David McDonald, chairman of Glasgow Life, that now is the time to work together with the Scottish Government and the NHS to agree new ways to fund services which benefit physical, mental and economic health, was also highlighted at the meeting.

Labour Councillor Malcolm Cunning welcomed the efforts being made to raise additional funding particularly around the health issue.

He added he “didn’t care how the cat was skinned as long as we are pursuing the issue”.