Glasgow City Council budget passes amid Labour revolt

George Square The budget meeting drama unfolded at the city council chamber in Glasgow

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Glasgow City Council's budget has been passed by just two votes, despite a number of resignations from within the ruling Labour party group.

The ruling Labour administration won the knife edge vote by 40 to 38, after bringing sick councillors to the city chambers by taxi, to secure victory.

Council leader Gordon Matheson insisted the budget would boost youth employment and education.

The SNP claimed the authority's Labour group was "in meltdown".

The revolt came amid the resignation of three Labour members - Stephen Dornan, Tommy Morrison and Anne Marie Millar - who were de-selected by the party from standing in May's local authority elections.

A spokesman for Scottish Labour said a further three of the party's councillors had voted against their budget and therefore would be suspended from the Labour group.

Ultimately, the council administration saw off the possibility of opposition parties combining to vote down the budget plans, who said they were acting in the best interests of the city.

Analysis

After a day of turmoil on Glasgow City Council, the ruling Labour group is in a precarious position but remains in overall charge.

Three resignations from the Labour group, a defection last week to the SNP and the withdrawal of the Labour whip from three more councillors who voted against Thursday's budget have changed the arithmetic on the council - but Labour should still be able to outvote everyone else.

Labour won the budget vote by 40 votes to 38.

Officially Labour now has 43 councillors, but this includes the three who have had the whip withdrawn. The other parties and the independents have 36 between them: this includes 20 SNP councillors, 6 Liberal Democrats, 5 Greens, 4 independents and a single Conservative.

If the three Labour councillors who have had the whip withdrawn side with the others and every councillor votes, Labour can muster 40 votes to 39.

Since the introduction of proportional representation for council elections in 2007, the bulk of councils have been run by either coalitions or minority administrations. Glasgow was unusual as just one party could outvote everyone else.

Edinburgh and Aberdeen councils are both run by coalitions made up of the Liberal Democrats and the SNP.

Generally, coalitions act with unity and agree joint programmes.

But, as with national politics, tensions can emerge.

In Edinburgh last autumn, a move by opposition councillors to stop the city's tram network at Haymarket went through after the SNP abstained. This decision was later reversed.

Mr Matheson said budget measures for the year ahead included £2m to tackle youth unemployment, £12m for road repairs and £200,000 for new youth enterprise zones.

This came, he said, against a £42.9m funding gap, adding: "With the proportion of our revenues controlled by government rising and our funding falling harder and faster than the national average, we have had to struggle to protect frontline services.

"We have had to be bold, we have had to be innovative and we have only succeeded because years of effective and prudent stewardship have put Glasgow in the best possible shape to meet these challenges."

Scottish Labour said it had not received resignation letters from the three named councillors who resigned the Labour whip.

A spokesman said: "Local Labour members in Glasgow took difficult decisions to deselect some sitting councillors in recent months, but being a Labour councillor is not a job for life."

Labour councillor Irfan Rabbani, who defected to the SNP last week, had also been de-selected.

The SNP has made winning control of Glasgow City Council a top priority in the forthcoming elections.

Following the resignations, SNP MSP James Dornan called on Mr Matheson to resign.

The loss of the councillors from the Labour group means that Labour now run a minority regime at the council.

Mr Dornan said: "Gordon Matheson has lost control of the Labour group and the last remaining shreds of his credibility as a leader.

"There is no confidence in his leadership and he must now resign."

Meanwhile North Lanarkshire Council decided to boost spending on capital projects by an extra £16.5m in 2012/13, bringing the total to be spent on major projects for the year to more than £66m.

The announcement comes after the council agreed to spend £64m on housing, taking the total invested in capital in 2012/13 to £130m which it said would provide a substantial boost to the local economy.

And education and social and economic regeneration are at the heart of a £135m funding package agreed by Inverclyde Council as part of its 2012/13 budget.

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