POLITICAL feuds and infighting between rival councillors on Aberdeen City Council are having a negative impact on decision making at the city authority, Scotland’s local government watchdog has warned.
An Audit Scotland report on the council, run by a rainbow coalition of Labour, Independent and Tory councillors, has blasted members of the council for being “regularly disrespectful” to each other during debates
And the watchdog is calling on councillors to bury the hatchet to “support the constructive working of the council.”
The annual report on the council by Audit Scotland will go before councillors at a meeting next Wednesday of the authority’s Audit and Risk Committee.
The report states:”As part the audit process we observed council meetings and these were mainly held in public. These meetings are often long, lasting up to eight hours excluding breaks. In many cases this
is due to the number of amendments proposed in response to reports on the agenda.
“Meetings are well attended and most councillors engage in debate. However, in many instances points have already been made by other councillors which leads to long discussions that add little to the considerations overall.
“Behaviours in the council chamber were regularly disrespectful with councillors being reminded of the existence of the Code of Conduct. A number of local issues over the last year have been particularly challenging and added to the political tensions.”
The report continues: “Politics is an integral part of local government leadership, however it is important that they can be set aside to support the constructive working of the council. We observed political tensions
among councillors in several council meetings which have impacted on the effectiveness of decision making processes. “
The report adds that the council has developed 47 local performance indicators. And, based on an analysis of these indicators, there has been a deterioration in performance during the year, with almost half of
the indicators showing a decline.
And Audit Scotland warns: “Scotland’s public bodies will continue to face increasing demand and cost pressures for their services in the foreseeable future. Although the council has been able to agree balanced
budgets in the last few years, the longer term situation forecasts increasing budget shortfalls. The council will have to continue to review its priorities and make increasingly difficult decisions about services to be provided to balance the budgets in future years. “
Councillor Willie Young, the council’s finance convener, defended the authority’s performance. And he declared: “A good, healthy robust debate is important for local democracy.”
He added: “What is more important is the fact that the SNP and Liberal Democrats should - and must - look into what this administration is doing. They must hold us to account. That is what opposition is all about.”
Councillor Graham Dickson, the spokesman for the opposition SNP Group, claimed the Audit Scotland report had shown the administration leadership was “not engaged” with the business of the authority.
He said: “Audit Scotland has clearly pointed out that we are returning to the bad old days of financial mismanagement that this city has seen from the Labour Party before.They will have to address these very serious concerns now to avoid having to deal with real crises that will come up in the future.”