Calls to remove Labour councillors who sanctioned £1/2m payoff after concerns raised by Lotto funder

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  By Martin Kelly
 
Glasgow City Council has come under pressure to remove two Labour councillors from boards and trusts after a major community funding organisation expressed concerns over the two.
 
According to the Herald newspaper, the Big Lottery Fund has asked if either Councillor Jim Coleman or Councillor George Redmond are on the board of the Glasgow Regeneration Agency after the organisation submitted an application for funding.

Coleman and Redmond caused fury after it emerged that they, and another former Labour Councillor Catherine McMaster, had sanctioned a half million pound payoff to a former charity boss.

The three councillors were found guilty of “misconduct” after they each voted in favour of awarding the lucrative payoff to former Chief Executive of Glasgow East Regeneration Agency, Ronnie Saez Ronnie Saez.

After an investigation by the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR), the regulator ruled that their actions had been “wholly unsatisfactory”.

The regulator’s report said: “We consider the actions of the charity trustees in this instance constituted misconduct in the administration of the charity.

“However, the payment has already been made and the charity is in the final stages of being dissolved.  We find this position wholly unacceptable but, unfortunately, have no powers to recoup the funds for use in the charitable sector.”

Ronnie Saez landed a package worth around six times his salary after being made redundant from his post as chief executive of Glasgow East Regeneration Agency (GERA).  His golden goodbye comprised a “severance payment” of £42,000 and a £470,000 boost to his pension, which included a discretionary £232,708.

The pension top-up was paid for using reserves intended for the redevelopment of a school in Dalmarnock, a deprivation blackspot.

On leaving GERA, Saez set himself up as a consultant, and according the the Herald, briefly went into business with former Labour MSP Frank McAveety – according to the firm’s website one of its clients was Glasgow City Council.  Mr McAveety left the partnership and is now a Glasgow Labour Councillor.

SNP MSP John Mason has called on the Labour administration to remove councillors Redmond and Coleman from all boards and trusts. Mr Mason has insisted that the action needs to be taken in order to ensure that Glasgow does not risk losing out on any public money.

Commenting, Mr Mason said:

“Sadly it comes as absolutely no surprise to hear that the Big Lottery Fund – or any organisation handling public money for that matter – have serious concerns about Coleman and Redmond’s financial misconduct.

“As we expected, the financial misconduct by these Labour councillors’ is now beginning to reflect badly upon our Council, our city and our communities, and I would be extremely angry if organisations missed out on funding purely because the Council hasn’t removed these two councillors from charities and trusts.

“Glasgow City Council must act immediately to remove Redmond and Coleman from all boards and trusts on which they represent Glasgow City Council.”

The Labour run local authority has been hit by a series of controversies recently.  Leader of the ruling Labour group Gordon Matheson was recently accused of pulling the plug on plans to redevelop George Square because the winning bid in a competition did not meet with his own views.

Mr Matheson was also forced to issue an embarrassing apology after being reported to the Procurator Fiscal for allegedly committing an indecent act in a Glasgow car park.