Glasgow Citizens Theatre could 'struggle to reopen' if extra cash for renovation not found

Glasgow's historic Citizens Theatre faces a danger of failing to reopen despite a renovation costing millions as extra cash is needed to finish building work.

With hopes the refurbishment could finish around December 20 this year, the council agreed to grant the theatre project another £2 million yesterday.

The theatre's refurbishment is the first in 140 years and is being hailed as a regeneration boost to the Gorbals. It aims to secure the future of the building, which had fallen into disrepair.

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But additional funds must be sourced for the remaining work. The council has already granted the makeover bid £6 million. The council won't release its share of the funding until the other money is secured. Labour councillors raised a number of concerns including whether common good funding is appropriate for the grant at a meeting yesterday.

The B-listed Victorian property is owned by the council but is leased to firm Citizens Theatre Ltd.

Speaking at the city administration committee, treasurer councillor Ricky Bell, SNP, said: "If the theatre is not able to raise the appropriate amount of money it needs to finish the project it is going to struggle to reopen."

The councillor said the local authority has a decision to make involving whether to invest the £2 million on "strict conditions" that the additionally needed funds are found.

Plans to refurbish the building started in 2018 with a budget of £23 million - but due to the impact of the pandemic on the construction sector costs have soared.

A council official said the project has faced financial challenges following Covid.

The official added: "Whilst it is unlikely that this £2 million on its own is enough to complete the project, positive discussions are ongoing with the UK and Scottish Governments in order to secure a total funding package within which a commercial settlement can be reached with the contractor and enable the theatre to be completed around December 20 this year."

Among a number of queries, Labour councillor Elaine McDougall questioned if the "use of common good monies is appropriate given the lease agreement in place."

The official said the building is a common good asset, which is why it was put forward as a funding source.

The meeting heard details that the final cost can't be revealed due to commercial negotiations.

Labour Councillor Cecilia O'Lone asked about the levels of staff time invested.

The politician also questioned why a loan could not be granted.

The council officer said staff time had been devoted to the theatre project but said it was well spent to look after the asset.

He also said a loan was not preferred as the council did not want to put the theatre under undue pressure financially when it reopens.

Other funders of the project include Heritage Lottery Fund, Creative Scotland and the Scottish Government.

The theatre's website said plans include preserving the Victorian auditorium, creating welcoming social spaces and new rehearsal and studio spaces.

The City Administration Committee approved the £2million in principle subject to conditions.

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