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Gordon Munro rebelled against the Labour whip and abstained on the crucial vote endorsing the 2021/22 spending plans proposed by the city’s SNP-Labour coalition. He claimed the SNP leadership had not done enough to press the Scottish Government for better funding for the city.
It was originally proposed Cllr Munro, who represents Leith, should be suspended for 12 months, which it is understood would have banned him from standing again at next year’s council elections. Discussions within the Labour group and the local party led to a reduction in the penalty, which removes the threatened ban, but three months’ suspension is still seen as a harsh move.
During that time Cllr Munro will still be expected to toe the party line and pay his dues but will lose his committee places and will not be able to take party in group policy meetings.
In a statement, the Labour group said: "With continued erosion of local government funding from the SNP government, and Edinburgh losing out on key funding for housing and homelessness to other cities, we continue to have to make difficult decisions in voting for a balanced budget each year. It’s important all councillors stand up to the SNP government and demand fair funding our capital city.”
Group leader Cammy Day said: “As part of our Labour Party rules, and by not supporting the budget proposals, an internal disciplinary process from Edinburgh Labour has agreed that the Labour whip will be removed from Cllr Munro until return of summer recess 2021. Gordon is a long standing, hard working councillor and a valued member of the Labour group.”
Cllr Munro said he accepted the decision taken by the party but he stood by his decision to abstain in the budget vote. "Edinburgh needs full and fair funding. It needs to prosecute its case forcefully which it commits to do in the coalition agreement.
"For the fourth year in a row Edinburgh has the lowest per capita settlement out of the major cities in Scotland; we need a 63 per cent increase in the strategic housing investment plan we’ve got but we’re not even arguing for these.”
Cllr Munro makes a point of asking SNP council leader Adam McVey at every full council meeting what he has done to lobby the Scottish Government for more funding. And at the last meeting he accused Cllr McVey of “supine servility”.
He said one of his main motivations in pursuing the issue of putting pressure on the government over cash was the poverty being experienced by too many people in Leith.
“The place of my birth needs real funding to make things change there. Last year official figures showed the Great Junction Street area was the most deprived part of Edinburgh and the 12th most deprived in the whole of Scotland. We have child poverty, in-work poverty and pensioner poverty in Leith. Without strong city intervention that is going to deteriorate.”