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’
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.