Evening Times

Council leader’s expenses scandal shames Glasgow

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ANOTHER week and another scandal for what’s left of Susan Aitken’s sorry excuse for a council administra­tion. Not content with facing down allegation­s of corruption and bullying from departing members of her SNP group, it now emerges that the council leader has been taking the taxpayer for a ride in her extravagan­t lifestyle on our dime.

Everyone knows that during the course of conducting official business it may be necessary at times for the leader of a council to legitimate­ly charge transport expenses to the council account. Most councillor­s, for example, will use a taxi service to attend late-night community council meetings, surgeries or meetings with constituen­ts, and no doubt Councillor Aitken is invited to represent the city in her official capacity at a variety of events. None of these facts are in dispute. I will also say that for a period of three months in 2018 it is public knowledge that the chief executive of Glasgow City Council permitted Councillor Aitken to make greater use of publicly funded taxis for reasons of her own personal safety. Again, journeys made during this time are not under scrutiny here.

The recent allegation­s levelled against Susan Aitken have nothing to do with her conducting official business or the three-month period in 2018 where additional leeway could be granted. Expenses logs show that on August 3, 2017, Councillor Aitken was picked up from the Hilton Garden Inn, Finnieston Quay, at 6.16pm, and was taken to Cardonald Library by a council-funded taxi. As reported in this paper last week, that same day the SNP arranged a campaign session for a local by-election – meeting at Cardonald Library at 6.30pm. In addition, there is photograph­ic evidence of Susan Aitken in attendance at that campaign session. It is possible that the council leader used public money for party political purposes to campaign for the SNP in an election. This is unequivoca­lly not permissibl­e.

When confronted with the proof in black and white, Susan Aitken summoned her deputy to submit an infantile response calling on the opposition to put up or “shut up”. If ever we needed further evidence of the contempt with which Councillor Aitken holds the people of Glasgow, it’s that she couldn’t even be bothered to defend herself. Typical of her record in administra­tion, Susan Aitken’s first instinct is to avoid scrutiny in the arrogant belief that she is above being held accountabl­e.

A brief overview makes it easy to see why she’s so desperate to deflect attention – from her Provost resigning over designer shoes and pedicures and her deputy’s jet-set lifestyle at the taxpayers’ expense. That’s not even mentioning four of her councillor­s having resigned from her group in recent years amid allegation­s of bullying and harassment from her office. Scandal after scandal has exposed her complete failure of leadership at a time when this city needs it most.

Just imagine if we had a council leader as interested in working to make this city thrive as she is in her own selfpreser­vation. Imagine if we had a council leader who was actually serious about rooting out the corruption and decadence that has stained the reputation of Glasgow City Council for decades.

This is not her money, it is the taxpayers’ money, and they deserve an explanatio­n as to what value they were supposed to be getting from them paying for Susan Aitken to order a taxi at 10:30pm and not turn up. The only taxi that Councillor Aitken now needs should be taking her from the leader’s office upon her resignatio­n. And she can pay for it herself.

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