Calls for Scottish Labour to rein in local councillors over Cosla health-hijack plot


  By G.A.Ponsonby
The Scottish Labour party is facing calls to rein in local party councillors after newspaper reports suggested they were planning to hijack local authority umbrella group Cosla in order to attack the Scottish government’s health and social care plans.
According to the Herald newspaper, Labour councillors at today’s meeting of the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (Cosla), plan to use the body to launch an attack on plans for new legislation aimed at creating new bodies to provide community care.

The article claims that Labour leader of North Lanarkshire council, Jim McCabe, who is also leader of Cosla’s majority Labour group, is planning to use the body in order to halt plans for Health and Social Care Partnerships.

However the SNP has pointed out that Scottish Labour supported the plans for mergers of social work and health in their 2011 Scottish election campaign.  One person who also voiced support for closer working was McCabe himself.

The nationalists have now called on Scottish Labour health spokesperson Jackie Baillie to rein in the councillors and to clarify just who is in charge in Scotland. 

Speaking in the Scottish Parliament in December last year Ms Baillie said she: “welcomes the Scottish Government’s acceptance of the need for legislative underpinning.”  And pledged that Labour would “work with it to ensure that any future system of social care is fair and robust”.

According to the SNP, Ms Baillie’s party in councils across the West of Scotland are now at odds with her promised spirit of cooperation.

According to the Herald newspaper, senior Labour figures acknowledged that the Labour group were “cutting off our noses to spite their faces” but insisted that there was genuine concern at the plans.

Responding to the revelations, SNP MSP Bob Doris, Deputy Convener of the Health Committee, said:

“The Labour Party is shamelessly politicking on this matter.  The admission that they are “cutting off their nose to spite their face” is shocking – it is up to their Health Spokesperson Jackie Baillie to rein in these councillors and make clear exactly who is in charge.

“Labour contradict themselves by saying there is no need for prescriptive legislation and then calling for greater clarity on detail.  They are at sixes and sevens and can’t even work out what their own policy is.

“Prominent Labour councillors including Bill Butler, Frank McAveety and Stephen Curran stood in 2011 Scottish Parliamentary elections on the ticket of supporting a National Care Service – much of which has been integrated into Scottish Government policy – but now as councillors they are opposed to it.

“The opposition have a responsibility to contribute to policy implementation which will help move Scotland Forward but now Labour hypocrisy is being used to hamper that very progress the country needs.”

Another who has attacked the Scottish government’s social care plans, despite Labour campaigning in favour in 2011, is Labour’s Glasgow Council Leader, Gordon Matheson.  Mr Matheson described the SNP’s plans as fundamentally flawed.

However Mr Matheson himself has already come in for criticism after breaking social care manifesto pledges he made in the lead up to the local elections in May this year.

UNISON attacked Mr Matheson’s ruling Labour group claiming they had breached the pledges within days of the local elections.  The union criticised the council for forcing through redundancies and pay cuts to workers who provide services and support to the most vulnerable in the city.

Commenting on May 22nd, Simon Macfarlane, UNISON’s Regional Organiser, said:

“We are seeing a wholesale onslaught against our members working in social care in Glasgow with jobs, pay and conditions all being cut.

“The situation has been grim for a while, but the last few weeks have seen this deteriorate markedly due to the council’s overt pressure on providers to cut hourly rates.  The whole sector is being demoralised and deskilled and our members are at breaking point, they want to maintain the quality of care and support but in this climate it is not possible.

“Our members are committed to providing service users and their families with the best possible service and they are not willing to be exploited any longer.  If the Labour council doesn’t act on its new mandate to stop these cuts then they are going to see significant unrest and disruption in social care and the blame for this will be laid squarely where it belongs – at their feet.”

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