Coun­cil's 120m cuts plan on hold

Coun­cil chief calls for bud­get to be de­layed Sup­port for new leader of coun­cil Break­away duo ac­cused of ‘be­trayal’

Evening Express (Extra Edition) - - FRONT PAGE - By Tim Sculthorpe

A FIVE-YEAR plan to slash £120 mil­lion from Aberdeen City Coun­cil’s bud­get was on hold to­day af­ter the chief ex­ec­u­tive de­layed the plan.

Va­lerie Watts, who joined the coun­cil in March, said she felt more con­sul­ta­tion was needed with staff and unions – and asked coun­cil­lors to de­fer the pro­posal.

There were un­der­stood to be con­cerns about de­ci­sions to out­source of­fice jobs, with the im­pli­ca­tions for pen­sions part of the prob­lem.

Trade unions to­day praised the de­lay to the plan, which is ex­pected to re­turn to the coun­cil in six weeks, and called for changes to be made.

The lo­cal au­thor­ity had been due to for­mally adopt the five-year busi­ness plan yes­terd a y, m o r e than a year af­ter it was launched by then-coun­cil leader Lib­eral Demo­crat John Ste­wart and his deputy Cllr Kevin Ste­wart, now an Aberdeen Cen­tral MSP.

On first day of a new ad­min­is­tra­tion, led by SNP coun­cil­lor Cal­lum McCaig, Mrs Watts in­ter­vened to halt the plan.

Af­ter ask­ing for a de­lay on the fi­nal draft of the plan, Mrs Watts said: “I just don’t feel it’s ready to go yet un­til I have had some fur­ther dis­cus­sions with the trade unions.

“It’s time that we change and start show­ing that we value the peo­ple in the or­gan­i­sa­tion.

“We are not go­ing to do that by be­ing at loggerheads with folk. I am the new chief ex­ec­u­tive and I am here to do things my way.”

Mrs Watts said the plan still stands and the op­tions for bud­get cuts still ap­ply. But she said staff mo­ti­va­tion was at a low ebb and they needed to be con­sulted more.

Mrs Watts added: “It’s a busi­ness plan that I mostly in­her­ited and, to be fair to mem­bers of the cor­po­rate man­age­ment team, there was some ster­ling work done, but I do need to put my stamp on that busi­ness plan. “I am the head of ser­vice and it’s my job to lead the em­ploy­ees along the direc­tion of travel the elected mem­bers have de­cided.”

Union lead­ers im­me­di­ately w e l c o me d the move and called for a U-turn on out­sourc­ing de­ci­sions taken at the bud­get in Fe­bru­ary.

Unite re­gional or­gan­iser Tommy Camp­bell said: “It means there will be a mean­ing­ful con­sul­ta­tion.

“We want to get around the ta­ble with the elected mem­bers of all par­ties, se­nior coun­cil of­fi­cials and full time trade union or­gan­is­ers so we can ex­am­ine the plan.

“The ev­i­dence is now there to show pri­vati­sa­tion pro­grammes over the past 25 years have not pro­vided any­thing good to lo­cal gov­ern­ment.

“The five year plan was rush­ing to put ser­vices out to the THE SNP lead­er­ship of Aberdeen City Coun­cil was of­fi­cially un­der way to­day. At a meet­ing of the full coun­cil, the Na­tion­al­ists Aberdeen group leader was unan­i­mously ac­cepted as new leader of the lo­cal au­thor­ity. As re­ported in later edi­tions of yes­ter­day’s Evening Ex­press, Cllr Cal­lum McCaig said he “hoped not to let any­one down” in his time run­ning the coun­cil’s pol­i­tics. And Lord Provost Peter Stephen said: “I would wish Cllr McCaig ev­ery suc­cess in the role over the next pe­riod and would con­grat­u­late him on be­com­ing one of the youngest lead­ers of a ma­jor oil and gas city.” For­mer coun­cil leader John Ste­wart of­fi­cially stepped down at the meet­ing and has be­come de­pute leader. pri­vate sec­tor with­out any due process for bench mark­ing.”

GMB spokesman Mike Mid­dle­ton said: “I wel­come the de­lay. There has not so far been the op­por­tu­nity to fully re­spond to the five year plan.”

The coun­cil’s po­lit­i­cal lead­er­ship in­sisted the de­lay would not change the in­tent of the busi­ness plan.

New leader Cllr McCaig said the de­lay would not THREE city coun­cil­lors have been ac­cused of “be­tray­ing” their con­stituents af­ter form­ing a new group. Tories Jim Far­quhar­son and Alan Milne broke away from party col­leagues Alan Don­nelly and Jill Wisely a year ago. It has now been re­vealed they had formed a new group, to be called the In­de­pen­dent Al­liance, un­der the lead­er­ship of Cllr Marie Boul­ton, with Cllr Far­quhar­son as deputy. But Cllr Don­nelly, who leads the re­main­ing pair of Con­ser­va­tives, said vot­ers would feel let down. He said: “They are no longer rep­re­sent­ing what they stood for ... they have be­trayed their con­stituents.“ But Cllr Boul­ton said: “As the fourth largest group on the coun­cil we need to make sure we have fair rep­re­sen­ta­tion on com­mit­tees.” “de­rail” the plan. “I would hope the ex­tended con­sul­ta­tion the unions are seek­ing will re­sult in a bet­ter plan com­ing for­ward,” he said.

“Ev­ery­thing which has been agreed will have to come back – we’ve not just said we are go­ing to out­source things.

“It would be fool­ish to say we are def­i­nitely go­ing to out­source – the ten­ders could show it is more ex­pen­sive.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.