Glasgow City Council indicates Cosla departure

Council services Cosla helps local councils make collective decisions on public service policies

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Scotland's largest council is set to leave the local government group Cosla.

Glasgow City Council will be the sixth authority in recent weeks to say it will quit the organisation.

The decision is due to be taken by the council's executive committee next Thursday but sources have told the BBC that the outcome is in little doubt.

Cosla is the local authority umbrella group and represents the collective interests of the country's 32 councils.

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

Five other councils have already given notice that they plan to leave Cosla in April 2015: Aberdeen, Dumfries and Galloway, Renfrewshire, Inverclyde and South Lanarkshire.

Complicated dispute

Some other Labour-led authorities are watching the situation closely.

The row centres on a complicated dispute over where power should lie within the organisation.

It was brought to the boil by a row over how government cash should be distributed between Scotland's 32 councils.

A report for Glasgow City Council's executive committee questions the effectiveness of the organisation.

The report states: "A number of councils have recently served notice to quit, citing the long-term ineffectiveness of Cosla in advancing the interests of local government in Scotland and the democratic inadequacies of the body."

Labour leads 16 of Scotland's 32 councils but power is more subtly distributed within the organisation.

A review of Cosla's internal structures could see the council leaders get less power.

If Glasgow left Cosla, the council could save more than £300,000 a year.

The report also asks the council's chief executive to look at ways of making sure some of the potential risks of leaving the council umbrella body are minimised - in particular the risk to national pay deals.

It reaffirms Glasgow's commitment to national collective bargaining over pay.

It also asks the chief executive to look at bringing forward proposals on how councils might operate after leaving Cosla - in particular how the west of Scotland councils - which may leave might work in partnership.

Cash row

Tensions at Cosla came into the open over how government cash should be split between councils.

Typically councils get about 80p of every pound in their budget from the Scottish government.

In September, council leaders backed a so-called flat cash deal - basically meaning councils would get the same amount from the government this year as last.

Three months later, a motion from a council that opposed this deal, created a group to look at the way power lies with Cosla. This could move power away from the council leaders.

The Glasgow report reads: "It is considered that this would not be in Glasgow's interests and would seriously undermine the democratic legitimacy of Cosla."

'Deeply regrettable'

The plan by Glasgow to leave Cosla has been criticised by opposition councillors.

Graeme Hendry, who leads the SNP group on the council, said: "Labour's choice is deeply regrettable, but what might the cost be to Glasgow?

"We know potentially the financial impact, but what of the broken relationships in local government, the lost contacts, the increased confusion and lack of insight for Glasgow's councillors and officers?"

Last week, Finance Secretary John Swinney wrote to councils giving estimates of how much money they might get from the government in 2015.

The Glasgow report says this move "risks creating additional tensions among councils".

Council leaders from across Scotland are due at Cosla on Friday for their regular monthly meeting.

There is likely to be some discussion over whether to look again at the funding deal.

The rules of Cosla require councils that want to leave to give one financial year's notice.

If any other councils want to consider leaving in April 2015, they will have to hand in their notice by the end of March.

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