Talks save city coalition from bust-up

The coalition running the Capital has been saved from the brink of collapse after the two warring political groups agreed to continue to work together.

Leaders of the Liberal Democrat group said last month that their partnership with the SNP may have reached “the end of the road” after a bust-up over the nationalists speaking out publicly against plans to outsource council services.

But a formal “conflict resolution” meeting between senior figures from the two groups has resulted in them patching up their differences and agreeing to continue together.

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A formal statement issued to members of the two groups after the meeting set down a series of new rules on the way they operate.

The dispute centred around the SNP group wanting to back an in-house alternative to the Lib Dem option of outsourcing a series of “environmental services” – including street cleaning and refuse collection.

The SNP then agreed to a Lib Dem request to delay a final decision for four weeks but Cllr Cardownie still insisted that “the SNP position is that we prefer the terms of the public sector comparator”.

In today’s statement, Cllr Dawe said her group had “accepted Cllr Cardownie’s assurances that it had not been his intention to embarrass the Liberal Democrat Group by his comments” and also accepted his claim that his comments had been “misconstrued”.

She said that, with local elections coming up in May, there would be an increase in the number of coalition co-ordination meetings to discuss “strategy, process and policy”.

It is understood that some Lib Dem councillors had claimed the SNP group had shared its position on privatisation with the Evening News before sharing it with their coalition partners. In the statement, Cllr Dawe said the groups had agreed “there would not be “off-the-record” or other briefings to the press, stating positions prior to joint coalition discussions.

And she confirmed that the Liberal Democrat/SNP coalition “remains in place”.

The crunch talks featured three Lib Dem councillors – Cllr Dawe, Robert Aldridge and Phil Wheeler – and two SNP councillors – Cllr Cardownie and Rob Munn.

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It remains unclear whether the SNP will continue to back the in-house alternative, which would effectively kill off the proposals to outsource the services to Enterprise.

Councillor Andrew Burns, leader of the Labour group on the city council, said: “I think there is very serious reputational damage to the council every time this happens, and it happens frequently.

“I am disinterested in the dying days of a failing administration and the Labour group is entirely focused on putting together positive ideas for the city going forward.”

Cllr Cardownie was not available to comment.