ABERDEEN has become the first city authority in Scotland to vote to break away from umbrella organisation the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (Cosla) in a growing row over government funding.
Last month, Dumfries and Galloway Council gave notice that it intends to terminate its £110,000-a-year membership of the convention at some point in the future.
Yesterday, Councillor Willie Young, Aberdeen City Council’s finance convener, claimed the breakaway notices served by the councils would signal a potential “mass exodus” of disgruntled local authorities leaving the representative organisation.
Aberdeen’s coalition administration voted to split from the convention at a meeting of the full council, where concerns were again raised about the
financial settlement the authority receives from the Scottish Government.
The members of the council’s rainbow coalition of Labour, Independent and Tory councillors were joined by the Liberal Democrats in voting for the breakaway move.
Councillor Barney Crockett, council leader, said: “Aberdeen certainly does feel that it is too often Scotland’s forgotten city, and in the financial settlement we are regularly at the bottom of the league. Last year, we got 79 per cent of the Scottish average and, given the kind of pressure that comes on a city, it was completely unacceptable to us.”
He claimed that concerns about the council’s continued membership of Cosla had also been raised because of proposed changes in the convention’s operations which would “even further diminish our voice there”.
Councillor Young argued that proposed changes to Cosla’s standing orders would only add to the “Central Scotland bias” within the convention.
“Cosla has failed to fight Aberdeen’s corner,” he said. “We are not the only local authority concerned about what is happening. I suspect many other authorities are on the verge of serving notice to quit.”
He added: “It is time for John Swinney, the finance minister, to stop hiding behind Cosla and make sure Aberdeen gets its fair share. We will negotiate directly with the minister so he can’t say it’s Cosla’s fault that Aberdeen isn’t getting enough money.”
A Cosla spokesman said he was not surprised by the city council’s decision. “This notice to quit is a member council following our procedures, which in itself is a good thing,” he said.
“The reason for it happening now is that, under our rules, a council has to give a full financial year’s notice of its intention.
“Indeed, this is why you could see more councils deciding to take a similar course of action in the coming days and weeks.”
A spokeswoman for local government minister Derek McKay denied the administration’s claims. She said: “This government’s unwavering commitment to Aberdeen is evidenced by the delivery of a world-class sports village, state-of-the-art dental school and community health facilities at Foresterhill and the ongoing construction of the £650 million Aberdeen western peripheral route.”