We are used to councillor’s dodgy sums

West Lothian Council Civic Centre HQ
West Lothian Council Civic Centre HQ

West Lothian Council’s SNP group councillors Peter Johnston, Frank Anderson and Jim Walker have claimed it will cost the council nearly £418,000 to quit umbrella group COSLA.

Councillor PeterJohnston, leader of the SNP minority group claimed the decision is wrong and will cost ratepayers dearly.

He said: “Labour’s flawed decision to take West Lothian Council out of COSLA, without even bothering to work out what this will cost, is now coming back with a vengeance to bite us!

‘‘The COSLA constitution makes it absolutely clear that any council leaving the organisation will have to bear its share of joint liabilities and for West Lothian this means a bill for £417,836.”

COSLA’s constitution states; ‘Any member council shall, upon ceasing to be a member of the Association, pay such amount representing the member council’s share of responsibility towards liabilities incurred by the Association on behalf of member councils’.

The SNP group has said the quantification of those costs equates to 3.2 per cent based on the current share of total levy and totals £417,836.

A spokesman for COSLA said: “Our constitution is clear regarding the processes in place should a council choose to resign its membership of COSLA including the issue of any potential liabilities.

Councillor Johnston said: “With local government facing difficult financial choices, it must be absolute nonsense to choose to waste £417,836 as Labour plan to do.

“Labour has forced vulnerable elderly people into paying charges for vital telecare services, telling us the council cannot afford to keep these free.

“But now Labour want to throw away the best part of half a million pounds to remove our council from our only local government organisation. It is unbelievable!”

Councillor John McGinty leader of the West Lothian Council Labour group told the Journal and Gazette: ‘‘If Councillor Johnston was really interested in cuts to the council budget he would be speaking out against the £14 million worth of cuts that the council has suffered because of an SNP Scottish Government underfunding over the last two years and £30m worth of SNP cuts to come in the next three years.

‘‘The reality is that COSLA is an organisation in some difficulty.

‘‘Around a quarter of its members have given notice to quit in 2015 and in this light the council judged that it was best to take a precautionary approach in the hope that COSLA would work through its difficulties.

“Councillor Johnston knows about leaving COSLA as the last time this was considered it was proposed by himself.

“We are used to Councillor Johnston and his dodgy sums but I think most reasonable people would find the suggestion that you are still expected to pay for an organisation even after you have left it a bit odd.

“In any event, it costs the Council money to be a member of COSLA, around £100,000 a year and if the council were to leave COSLA, over the term of a council administration the council would actually save money.”