The ongoing restoration of Glasgow’s historic Citizen’s Theatre is at risk unless additional funding can be found, according to recently released council documents.

A report prepared for a forthcoming council session admits that the work faces “significant funding challenges” and that it is “unlikely that the project will be able to be concluded under the terms of the agreed contract".

As a result, officials are requesting that an additional £2m is allocated to the project – a 33% increase for Glasgow’s cash-strapped administration.

The Citizen’s Theatre, a B-listed building first opened in 1878, is owned by the council but operated under a 99-year lease agreement by Citizen’s Theatre Limited. However, the much-loved landmark had fallen into disrepair and required a “comprehensive redevelopment”.

A report by George Gillespie, the Executive Director of Neighbourhoods, Regeneration and Sustainability at Glasgow City Council, notes that “funding in excess of £25m has been secured to date”, with more than 50% of the total provided by the council (22.65%) and the Heritage Lottery Fund (29.39%).

Table showing funding sources for the redevelopment of the Citizen's Theatre.Table showing funding sources for the redevelopment of the Citizen's Theatre. (Image: Glasgow City Council / The Herald)

However, it adds that “Covid had a significant negative impact on this project both in terms of delay and cost,” specifically highlighting “unprecedented levels of inflation.” This, along with what are described as “more ‘normal’ challenges associated with large scale redevelopment of an old, listed building,” mean that the project is now at risk.

Mr Gillespie warns that “it is unlikely that the project will be able to be concluded under the terms of the agreed contract” and that a “‘commercial settlement’ or some other form of contract resolution will be required.” However, he goes on to state that it “would not be appropriate” to provided additional detail of the “totality of available budget or current commercial situation”, citing concerns that this could “prejudice negotiations.”

Nonetheless, in a section entitled ‘Closing the Funding Gap’, Mr Gillespie requests that the council allocate a further £2m to the project. The cash would be sourced from the council’s “common good fund”, which owns property across the city and generates incomes either from rental rates and increasing capital values. As the Citizen’s Theatre is regarded as an asset of the fund, the paper argues that it is appropriate to fund the works in this way.

This funding would, however, be “subject to other funders also contributing additional capital”, and the report states that the only sources of “any substantive additional funding” alongside the council are the Scottish and UK governments. This raises the possibility of the redevelopment collapsing even with a council promise of more money.

A spokesperson for the Citizen's Theatre said: “The Citizens Theatre has long been regarded as a vital part of the cultural life of Glasgow and the redevelopment is a transformative project that will benefit communities across the city.

"The project is in the final stages of completion and will enable an even greater number and broader range of audiences and artists to benefit from its accessible and modern facilities while protecting its unique and iconic heritage.

"This is a complex project to turn a historic and ageing building into a fit for purpose and vibrant cultural hub at the heart of the Gorbals. It has had the support of a range of funders and the request for additional funding from Glasgow City Council is made alongside conversations with the Scottish Government and other stakeholders who are all working together to ensure the completion of this project.

"We are on track to reopen in 2025, with many areas of the building close to completion this summer. This is a once in a lifetime moment to ensure one of Glasgow’s cultural icons can stand in the Gorbals for another 100 years delivering inspiring creative experiences for new generations of audiences and artists.”

A spokesman for Glasgow City Council said: “The Citizen’s Theatre has huge cultural significance for Glasgow and the Gorbals and Laurieston communities and is central to efforts to regenerate the local area.

“The council has provided substantial support to the Citizen’s Theatre over the years, including for this most recent refurbishment and renovation project.

“However, the sharp rise in construction costs experienced since Covid, along with other global contextual factors  have negatively affected the project.

“The Citizen’s Theatre is a common good asset of Glasgow and so it is appropriate to seek capital funding from the Common Good Fund to support the completion of renovation works.

“This capital contribution from the Common Good Fund would be conditional on financial assistance coming other funders as well.

“Work is underway to identify additional sources of financial support.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said:

"We are aware of the situation regarding the redevelopment of the Citizens Theatre. We are liaising with the Theatre to discuss the future of the project."