THE start of each year is always a fraught time for councils and councillors as we draw ever closer to setting our annual budgets.

Our responsibilities are to set a balanced budget, fully fund pay and pension contribution increases for staff and ensure that statutory frontline services are delivered without interruption. And we also have political priorities and ambitions for investment in our communities. All of that has been made much harder by the decade of austerity imposed on Scotland’s public services by successive Westminster governments.

In Glasgow, from this year, the City Government faces an additional challenge in setting our budget, one that is bigger than any previous administration has had to deal with: the hundreds of millions of pounds bill to settle historic equal pay claims and remove gender discrimination from our pay system.

We knew that the scale of this challenge meant that a new approach to budget-setting would be needed, which is why the SNP City Government invited the other political groups to discuss with us potential savings and investment options drawn up by Council officials, to interrogate these and see where there may be grounds for consensus on some options. All parties ultimately supported the SNP’s decision to bring years of pay discrimination to an end, so all of them have a right and a responsibility to understand the consequences of that.

That’s why it’s so frustrating that Labour has chosen not to engage in any discussion and instead opted to alarm communities about the future of local facilities for cheap political points. I rarely, if ever, use this column to comment on party political shenanigans but Labour has a responsibility to help financially resolve an issue which cannot be ignored. The discrimination, and significant challenges we face as a result, occurred under their watch. It is deeply disappointing that, rather than assist in finding a resolution, they have chosen to walk away, scaremonger and mislead.

As the party of community empowerment, the SNP in Glasgow is not in the business of stripping local services and amenities out of our neighbourhoods, or closing old facilities without a plan for replacement or renewal. The example of the Govanhill Baths saga was the Labour way of doing things. The SNP’s approach will be very different.

We are determined that Glaswegians – especially those that live in the poorest communities – should have access to local services and to high quality leisure and cultural facilities in buildings fit for their intended purpose.

That isn’t always the case just now. The SNP administration has inherited a number of Council-owned buildings in a state of dilapidation or which have had little more than sticking plaster maintenance for years. Many contain much loved facilities but the buildings themselves are reaching the end of their lives or are simply no longer suitable for their current use.

Along with equal pay, the condition of Council buildings is one of the biggest financial challenges we face. Glasgow City Council owns more than 1,000 operational properties. We want to ensure every one of them is contributing to enhancing our neighbourhoods, tackling poverty and improving health. That’s why the City Government will shortly be publishing a 10-year Property and Land Strategy – the first time any administration has taken a properly focused, long-term, strategic approach to ensuring that the land and buildings we own really deliver for the communities we serve.

Just as hospital and school estates have to be updated and renewed, so too do community centres and other local facilities. This may result in some changes but people will still be able to access services and amenities within their own communities.

The council’s property and land are the city’s assets. We want to work with local communities to deliver facilities that are fit for purpose, find solutions that protect the city’s heritage, bring derelict land back into productive use and open up ownership to communities. These are your local facilities – we want you to help us imagine their future.