Labour face ‘meltdown’ after Glasgow Council budget vote

THE bitter political battle to control Glasgow has exploded into public after Labour won a knife-edge vote to pass its budget for the city, amid SNP claims that a raft of resignations showed its rival was “in meltdown”.

Amid angry exchanges and claims of backroom bullying, the ruling Labour group squeezed through its spending plans by 40 votes to 38.

The vote came after a slew of Labour councillors who have been deselected prior to May’s council elections resigned prior to the vote yesterday in protest.

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In a dramatic afternoon, it appeared initially that there would be enough of them to inflict a defeat on Labour, as the SNP, Tories and Lib Dems united behind alternative budget plans.

One of the rebels, Anne Marie Millar, claimed the future of her own son’s apprenticeship was raised by one Labour councillor as he sought to convince her to back the budget.

She continued to vote against the budget plans, but said that she had felt “intimidated and bullied”.

Councillor Gordon Matheson, the Labour leader of the council, expressed “delight” last night that he had come through the day, after admitting earlier that there was “pain and hurt and division” within the group.

However, one of those who has quit, Pollok councillor Tommy Morrison, said “it’s the start of the death throes” of the city council administration. Meanwhile, the SNP said Mr Matheson should resign.

The bitter divisions stem from a decision by Labour to deselect a number of their councillors ahead of May’s local government elections.

Those elections are expected to see a close contest between Labour and the SNP for control of the city, with the Nationalists hoping to repeat last year’s Holyrood success in the city.

In total, seven former Labour councillors decided to oppose the budget yesterday. But with other councillors reportedly being brought in by taxi in as the scale of the rebellion became clear, Labour managed to get the votes in, narrowly beating the coalition of Labour rebels, SNP, Lib Dems and the sole Tory councillor.

Last night, Mr Matheson accused his opponents of seeking to “cobble together” a budget for “narrow political interests and vanity”.

“They even wanted to cut back on the maintenance of our cherished parks at a time when we are working hard to help them recover from a season of wild storms,” he claimed.

But, in what promises to be the opening of a fierce political battle over the coming months, the SNP said Mr Matheson had been humiliated by the Labour rebellion.

James Dornon, an SNP MSP and Glasgow councillor, said: “It is a desperate result for Gordon Matheson. He should be considering his position, and if I were him I would be resigning from the position.”

Mrs Millar claimed she had acted over the deselection decision which, she claimed, was made by a “clique” of party officials in London and Glasgow.

Speaking after the debate, she said that she had been approached during the afternoon by one of her former colleagues.

“I said give me a good reason to vote and he raised the education programmes we have,” she said.

“He mentioned the apprenticeship programme [run by arm’s-length company City Building] and he said, ‘Your son has come through that’. Then he said, ‘I am on the board’. I said, ‘Wait a minute, are you making a threat?’ He said, ‘Oh no’. But I felt threatened and intimidated.”

Conservative member David Meikle added: “This result is a major setback for Labour and ensures that May’s election could see the end of Labour rule in Glasgow.”