West Lothian Council quits COSLA over row

West Lothian Council is the latest authority to leave COSLA. Picture: Greg Macvean
West Lothian Council is the latest authority to leave COSLA. Picture: Greg Macvean
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THE crisis engulfing local government group COSLA appears to be deepening after West Lothian Council became the seventh authority to announce its intention to leave the beleagured body.

It comes as several Scottish councils - including Glasgow - said they would quit the umbrella group that represents the country’s 32 local authorities amid a complicated dispute over where power should lie within the organisation.

Tensions arose over how government money should be distributed between member councils and a review of Cosla’s internal structures could see council leaders get less power.

The loss of several councils risks undermining Cosla’s ability to claim to speak for the whole of Scottish local government.

Today, West Lothian Council said they were giving the required year’s notice of their departure which is set for April 2015 but would retain the right to change their position at any point throughout that period.

Council Leader John McGinty said there was a “huge amount of uncertainty and instability” surrounding the organisation.

“In 2015/16, West Lothian Council faces a significant funding gap of nearly £12 million as funding received by the Scottish Government is not sufficient to meet the needs of local people,” he said.

“Significant challenges lie ahead and the decision today shows that we are reserving our right to take the appropriate precautionary measures which we firmly believe are in the best interests of local people.”

Depute Council leader Cathy Muldoon said: “These are uncertain times at COSLA and all councils face budget pressures. We believe that our approach to notify COSLA of our intention to leave is a sensible approach.

“It is also very important that we fully examine how national collective bargaining will continue to provide benefits to West Lothian in the future.”

Five other councils have already given notice that they plan to leave Cosla in April 2015: Aberdeen, Dumfries and Galloway, Renfrewshire, Inverclyde, South Lanarkshire. Glasgow is also expected to quit the organisation but has yet to make a formal announcement.