Leonard seeks so­lu­tion in coun­cil­lors dis­pute

The Press and Journal (North-East) - - NEWS -

Richard Leonard yes­ter­day said he was look­ing to re­solve the bust-up with Aberdeen’s sus­pended Labour coun­cil­lors and had au­tho­rised Alex Row­ley to in­ter­vene in the dis­pute.

At a lunch with the Scot­tish Par­lia­men­tary Jour­nal­ists’ As­so­ci­a­tion, Mr Leonard said he was “look­ing for a way for­ward” in the fall­out be­tween Scot­tish Labour and nine Aberdeen coun­cil­lors.

This week it emerged that Scot­tish Labour’s for­mer deputy leader Alex Row­ley had gone to the city in an at­tempt to find a so­lu­tion.

The nine coun­cil­lors were sus­pended by Mr Leonard’s pre­de­ces­sor, Kezia Dug­dale, for form­ing an ad­min­is­tra­tion with the Tories against her wishes.

Mr Leonard said: “If there is a way to avoid ex­pelling peo­ple we will seek to find it.

“That was the rea­son why Alex, as the newly ap­pointed lo­cal gov­ern­ment and com­mu­ni­ties spokesper­son, de­cided, with my agree­ment, to go and speak to the Labour group in Aberdeen.”

He also said he would have to “fight” to get the Labour Party to op­pose a sec­ond in­de­pen­dence ref­er­en­dum af­ter shadow Chan­cel­lor John McDon­nell said he would con­sider a re­quest for an­other vote.

“I will fight ev­ery step of the way to make sure that the next Labour man­i­festo go­ing into the next gen­eral elec­tion will con­tain the same com­mit­ment that was in the Labour man­i­festo go­ing into the 2017 gen­eral elec­tion and that is a state­ment of clear op­po­si­tion to sec­ond in­de­pen­dence ref­er­en­dum,” he said. Aberdeen by­pass con­trac­tors have been urged to stop “squab­bling” over money amid re­ports they are at­tempt­ing to claim £350 mil­lion from the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment.

North East MSP Lewis Mac­don­ald said Aberdeen Roads Ltd and the gov­ern­ment must stop ar­gu­ing and con­cen­trate on fin­ish­ing the road.

The con­trac­tors Aberdeen Roads Ltd (ARL) this week told MSPs that they had lost “hun­dreds of mil­lions” on the project which now had a to­tal cost of £1 bil­lion.

De­spite the project hav­ing a fixed con­tract of £745m, the con­trac­tors are de­mand­ing com­pen­sa­tion from Trans­port Scot­land.

Yes­ter­day, it was re­ported that ARL was seek­ing an ad­di­tional £350m.

Mr Mac­don­ald said: “The con­trac­tors and the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment must fo­cus on get­ting the job fin­ished first.

“When the road is fi­nally open, there will be ques­tions for both the con­trac­tors and the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment, about both the costs of the project and the con­tract min­is­ters put in place.”

A Trans­port Scot­land spokesper­son said the AWPR cost re­mained £745m and ARL went into the project with “eyes open”.

“The Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment is not will­ing to pay over the odds for the road on ac­count of mis­takes or mis­cal­cu­la­tions that are of the con­trac­tors’ mak­ing,” he added.

Mean­while, thou­sands of homes in Aberdeen had to go with­out wa­ter for hours on Wed­nes­day af­ter a pipe de­vel­oped an 18in crack due to work on the by­pass.

Scot­tish Labour leader Richard Leonard

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