Councillors clash over ‘invitation’ to join COSLA rebels

Moray’s Council leaders have been challenged over why they did not pass on details to all members of an invitation to join the four local authorities who have broken away from COSLA.

Glasgow, Renfrewshire, South Lanarkshire and Aberdeen all announced their intention to leave the confederation at the end of last year following disagreements over how government funding was being distributed around Scotland’s 32 local authorities.

Although Moray Council voted unanimously last year to remain in the umbrella organisation, at Tuesday’s meeting of the policy and resources committee Fochabers/Lhanbryde councillor Douglas Ross asked if Councillors should not be given an opportunity to look again at the situation.

His challenge came in the light of an emailed “invitation” from the breakaway local authorities, which he said he believed had been received from Aberdeen Council.

It emerged that what council leader Stewart Cree described as a ‘circular’ had been received by the local authority and that may have included an invitation for Moray Council to consider joining the new breakaway organisation.

After being told during the meeting that the communication had not been regarded as an invitation as such – and even if it had been it would need to be put forward as a motion at a meeting of the Full Council, Councillor Ross told insideMoray: “With Aberdeen City agreeing to leave COSLA and offering to enter into discussions with other North East council’s which might want to take a similar step I thought it was an appropriate time to ask about Moray’s membership of COSLA.

“I think few taxpayers in Moray will be aware of what it does for our £60,000 per annum fee to be a member, and I’m not surprised.

“Since 2007 I have believed that COSLA are more interested in themselves rather than trying to aid the councils they serve. Their plush offices in the heart of Edinburgh and the fact that two brothers are Chief Executives of both COSLA and its partner, the Improvement Service, only reinforces this view.

“I’m sure we will now get a long line of councillors saying how great the organisation is and how much Moray has benefited, but I struggle to believe the money’s we receive through COSLA negotiations wouldn’t have come to Moray anyway if a need has been identified.

“COSLA like to say they speak for all council’s in Scotland but that is no longer the case. Given we have another authority close to Moray which has already left and wants other council’s to join them, then I think this is a proposal we should seriously consider.

“I’m very concerned that the Leader and Chief Executive both admitted they had received correspondence to join a breakaway group but didn’t feel that merited discussion with other councillors.

“The Chief Executive in particular has to take a neutral role with any issue such as this and I have concerns that information is being held back from all councillors because they don’t suit the agenda of the administration or senior officers at the council.”

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