Fit of tantrums by ‘petty and vindictive’ Glasgow Labour

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Labour councillors are exacting their revenge on the city council’s SNP group after their complaint about Labour group leader Gordon Matheson’s misuse of a council newsletter to publish a politically-motivated attack on the SNP government.  SNP councillor James Dornan made the formal complaint to the Labour group leader, stating that the publication was illegal under the terms of the Local Government Act 1986 and a misuse of public funds.  The intervention forced the local authority to order the withdrawal of the publication which had cost the taxpayer £42,000.

In a move that many will see as an act of revenge, it was announced last night that Glasgow Labour councillors will now make a formal request to the management committee of the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre to remove Mr Dornan from his post on the board.  The SECC is a so-called ALEO, or arm’s length organisation.  The organisations were set up to allow council-run bodies to tender for work unrelated to their activities for the council.  

The Labour group also intends to press for the removal of two other SNP councillors from their positions on ALEOs.  According to a report in the Herald newspaper, SNP councillors are to be removed from two of the three seats they hold on the boards of council-owned companies.  The companies in question are believed to be City Building, City Property and Cordia, which provides cleaning, maintenance and care services to the council.

Uniquely amongst Scottish local authorities, Glasgow council pays councillors who sit on the management boards of ALEOs an ‘allowance’ of up to £20,000 per year.  The controversial system was introduced by the disgraced former council leader Steven Purcell and has been widely criticised as a blatant means of buying political support and dispensing patronage.  The overwhelming majority of ALEO payments made by Glasgow Council are made to Labour councillors.  

The Scottish Local Authorities Renumeration Committee, which reports directly to Holyrood, has strongly criticised the system of extra payments made to councillors in Glasgow.  In the first review of the system of payments since 2005, published on 10th March, the Parliamentary committee stated: “The present situation in Glasgow regarding payment for ALEO board membership in our view totally undermines the current remuneration scheme.”

Ian Livingstone, Chairman of SLARC, advised the government to act quickly on the issue, as the current set up meant that Glasgow was effectively spending an additional 41 per cent on councillor salaries on top of its budget allocation under the approved national scheme.

Mr Livingstone added: “The current practice of paying additional sums to councillors for serving on ALEOs, often for doing a similar job as they did on council committees, completely undermines the integrity of the national remuneration scheme.”

Cllr. Matheson has recently been under fire from discontented elements within his own Labour group.  Rumblings of discontent within the group continue in the aftermath of the suspension of Cllr. William O’Rourke for making inappropriate comments related to a sexual attack upon a young child.  Widespread reports claim that supporters of O’Rourke have been plotting to remove Matheson.  Faced with mounting opposition from Labour councillors, speculation had been growing that Cllr. Matheson would attempt to attack the SNP opposition as a means of rallying his own support within the ruling Labour group.

According to a report in the Herald newspaper, Mr Matheson addressed the SNP councillors during a council meeting on Thursday evening saying: “The SNP has had this coming for a long time. We’ve had quite enough of your [the SNP’s group’s] rank hypocrisy.  James Dornan should be removed from the SECC because we’ve no confidence in him. His behaviour is unacceptable.  You have only yourselves to blame for this.”

Labour insisted that the move was purely due to their ‘frustration at SNP hypocrisy’ and was not an attempt to increase their own control over the organisations.  Labour members of the council claim that they have been unhappy for some time that the SNP continues to oppose the controversial ALEO payments, yet some SNP members continue to sit on ALEO boards.  

The SNP claims its members only sit on ALEO boards in order to ensure that these bodies are not totally dominated by Labour councillors and that they would not be serving their constituents interests by refusing to take a role in managing bodies which provide vital council services.  In response to the latest moves the SNP group described the Labour party as “the most toxic brand in UK politics” and described Cllr. Matheson’s behaviour as “petty and vindictive”.