SCOTLAND’S local authority body is set to lose another member after Inverclyde Council voted to quit the group over concerns that power is being heavily centralised.
Council leader Stephen McCabe told The Scotsman that the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (Cosla) could “destroy” itself after his authority yesterday became the latest member to vote to leave.
Aberdeen and Dumfries and Galloway councils have already given Cosla a statutory year’s notice to quit, amid concerns over how Scottish Government funding is distributed.
Labour-led Inverclyde council voted to leave by April 2015 to “protect” itself from a controversial shake-up of decision- making that Mr McCabe said could mean smaller authorities had no influence.
Scotland’s largest authority, Glasgow, is also understood to be considering leaving the body, with the Labour-led authority likely to look at its future membership next month.
A Cosla spokesman yesterday admitted there could be “more councils deciding to take a similar course of action” in the coming days and weeks.
Mr McCabe said a proposed review of Cosla’s constitution could see key decisions taken away from a monthly meeting of Scotland’s 32 council leaders, where each authority has an equal vote, and instead handed to a “convention” of 133 individual councillors that meets four times a year.
Some Labour councillors have indicated they believe Cosla has failed to stand up for them and is seen as being too close to the Scottish Government.
Mr McCabe, a Labour politician, said: “Our perspective is that we have to protect our interests in light of the constitutional review that could potentially reduce the influence of council leaders.
“We’re a small authority and if a significant decision is taken like this, we would have less influence.
“We’ve going through due process, but if they are hellbent on that course, they will destroy Cosla.
“There’s a difficulty in Cosla being effective as our hands have been tied for the last two or three years. SNP councillors find it very difficult to disagree with SNP ministers on anything and they are too close.”
Mr McCabe said the Cosla shake-up would turn the body into a “talking shop” but said there was a “way out” if a compromise was agreed.
But he said Inverclyde would go ahead with its decision to end its £60,000 annual membership of Cosla unless the organisation started to “see sense” on the issue. He said: “I hope they start to take notice as some other councils may withdraw. I hope they see sense.
“The leadership meeting should be the key decision making body. We are not going to pay £60,000 a year to be part of a talking shop.
“There is a way out if the potential groups come together.”
A Cosla spokesman said that authorities were considering their position as part of their response to the review of the body’s constitution.
The spokesman said: “This is not a surprise. Cosla, as a membership organisation, is governed by a set of rules. This notice to quit is a member council following our procedures which in itself is a good thing.
“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.
“The course of action adopted by councils reflects their response to a proposal to review those rules.”
Yesterday, First Minister Alex Salmond called on councils to consider the “implications” of a possible Cosla break-up but he accepted that there were “tensions” within the organisation.