By a Newsnet reporter
Concerns have been raised after Glasgow City Council leader Gordon Matheson (pictured) gave the strongest indication yet that the Labour run local authority will quit local government umbrella group Cosla over a power dispute.
Five local authorities – Aberdeen, Dumfries and Galloway, Renfrewshire, Inverclyde and South Lanarkshire – have already announced plans to quit in April next year, raising concerns over the organisation’s ability to speak collectively on behalf of local authorities in Scotland.
According to BBC Scotland sources, there is “little doubt” that the Labour run Glasgow City Council’s executive committee will make the decision officially at a meeting next Thursday.
The dispute with Cosla comes amid a review of internal structures that could leave council leaders with less power. The row came to a head over how government money should be distributed between Scotland’s 32 councils.
In September, council leaders gave their backing to a deal that would see councils receive the same amount of their budget from the Scottish Government this year as they did last, roughly around 80p in the pound. However, three months later a group was created to examine the power structures within Cosla after some opposition to the deal.
A report for Glasgow City Council’s executive committee warned against the move, stating: “It is considered that this would not be in Glasgow’s interests and would seriously undermine the democratic legitimacy of Cosla.”
However, the SNP’s leader of the opposition in Glasgow City Council, Councillor Graeme Hendry, warned that the council’s decision could put as much as £17.141m of revenue and capital funding at risk, and exclude Glasgow from discussions and partnership with Scotland’s other councils.
“News of Labour’s decision to rip Glasgow out of Cosla is disappointing, if not unexpected,” said Mr Hendry who criticised the council’s Labour leader Gordon Matheson for refusing to answer questions on the issue. “Three times I asked him about our place in Cosla at the last full council, and three times he refused to answer.
“Cosla is about councils working together to get the best result for local government, but once again Glasgow Labour just ups and leaves when things don’t go their way. We have seen this across the city over the years, from links with the Third Sector to the collapse of the city’s Community Health and Care Partnerships with health colleagues.
“Labour across Scotland are a mess on the issue of Cosla and council funding – Labour-run Aberdeen cry wolf about Glasgow’s funding settlement, while Glasgow Labour claim there is an east coast bias: which is it, and in the meantime, what is Gordon Matheson doing to secure Glasgow’s at-risk millions? Gordon Matheson’s strop could prove very costly for Glasgow.”
The latest dispute follows a fall out in 2001 which saw Glasgow City Council left out of Cosla for two years after the administration called it a “waste of money”. At the time, the GMB union warned of the impact the decision could have on workers’ pay and conditions.
“Labour’s choice is deeply regrettable, but what might the cost be to Glasgow?” Mr Hendry continued. “We know potentially the financial impact, but what of the broken relationships in local government, the lost contacts, the increased confusion and lack of insight for Glasgow’s councillors and officers? The last time Labour threw their toys out of the pram – in 2001 – there were real fears for worker’s terms and conditions. Have Labour really thought this through?”
He added: “Once again, Glasgow Labour’s inability to work in partnership puts services, jobs and investment at risk. The people of Glasgow deserve better than this from their political leaders – we will be voting to stay within Cosla and fight for Glasgow from within.”
Labour currently runs 16 of Scotland’s 32 councils.