In his latest Post column, Scotstoun's Councillor Chris Cunningham shares his thoughts on a cash windfall for business...

It slipped out in the news over the last few days, with little fanfare, that Glasgow and around a dozen other local councils will soon be getting a bit of a cash windfall.

The Strathclyde Pension Fund, which covers all of these councils in the west of Scotland, is doing so well that fund managers have recommended employers significantly reduce their pension contributions over the next two years.

So what, you might ask?

Well, currently, employers pay 19.3% of staff salaries into the fund.

It has been proposed – and accepted – that this will go down to 6.5% over the next two financial years.

That is a lot of money that councils will save and, in the case of Glasgow, it is likely to amount to tens of millions of pounds over that period.

But here comes the big question...assuming the amounts coming from the Scottish Government remain roughly the same, what should Glasgow do with that extra money?

Well, let us start with what can’t be done.

Councils can’t simply reduce the pension contributions paid by staff. That’s fixed by central government across all of Scotland.

Nor can the council spend it on ‘capital’ expenditure, such as buildings.

Capital investment is normally funded by borrowing over the long term – and, remember, this extra money is only for two years.

Borrowing for major investment might be fine for a couple of years but, after that, the council would be worse off.

What about not having to make any cuts for two years?

Well, this is definitely possible and would come as a welcome relief after the last few years but, again, this would only last a couple of years and, after that, the drop in money might well bring us all back to where we started.

Perhaps a council tax freeze then?

Yes, it is tempting but the same applies as above. What happens after those two years? It might turn out to be all the more painful.

Which brings me neatly to my preferred but, at this stage, not quite clear plan.

Can we use this short-term gain to make serious changes to the way in which the council works, so that we improve service delivery that lasts for many years to come?

Change almost always costs money and this is perhaps the opportunity for the council to make those changes that we will benefit from long into the future.Surely that would be money well spent?