Glasgow City Council has agreed to sell off flagship venues, including its Commonwealth Games velodrome, to raise £500m for equal pay claims made by thousands of female employees.
The council’s city administration committee gave officers the go-ahead to use property assets – mainly sporting facilities and arts venues - to secure loans meeting the cost of settling pay claims.
It means that workers should receive details of their compensation entitlements over the next few months with payments starting in the summer.
The sell-off echoes Birmingham City Council’s sale of the National Exhibition Centre and other venues in 2015 for £307m to the private equity arm of Lloyds Banking Group.
Under Glasgow’s plan, the council will sell a portfolio of operational buildings to City Property Glasgow Investments LLP, an arm’s length company owned by the council. The council will take out long-term loans against the value of the venues. City Property will then lease them back to the council at a commercial rate.
The arrangement means the buildings remain in the city’s ownership and users “will not see any difference in how they access them on a day-to-day basis”, the council says.
It follows an agreement in principle last month between the council and the equal pay claimant group for a package of payments worth at least £500 million.
The SNP administration inherited the liability for the equal pay claims when it took over from Labour in May 2017.
Council leader Susan Aitken (SNP) said: ”I’m delighted to have won backing for a deal that finally delivers pay justice for thousands of women in our workforce.”
Cllr Aitken added: “I’ve always been clear that, although settling equal pay has been about delivering justice for thousands of the women in our workforce, meeting the substantial cost of doing that must be fair for citizens. Releasing the potential of our property, while keeping it in the city’s ownership, protects services and the future of these valued assets.”
The deal is likely to result in a significant annual bill for decades to come. “It will be challenging and over time we may have to make some difficult decisions,” Cllr Aitken said on the BBC’S Good Morning Scotland. “But we are confident that we can balance our budget without having to make very drastic cuts.”
The council expects the following venues to become part of the City Property portfolio: the Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome (also known as the Emirates Arena), the Norman Foster-designed auditorium SEC Armadillo, Scotstoun Leisure Centre, the Riverside Museum, Tollcross International Swimming Centre, Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, Glasgow Museums Resource Centre, City Halls, Toryglen Football Centre, Gorbals Leisure Centre and Bellahouston Leisure Centre.