Scotland politics

Council group threatens court action against government

Clockwise from top left, Glasgow City Council, Aberdeen City Council, Renfrewshire Council and South Lanarkshire Council Image copyright Getty Images/BBC/Gordon McKinlay/Google
Image caption The four councils want to be included in funding talks

A group of councils is threatening to take the Scottish government to court if ministers continue to freeze them out of funding talks.

The Scottish Local Government Partnership (SLGP) wants to be brought into negotiations on the cash given to local authorities.

The SLGP comprises Aberdeen, Glasgow, Renfrewshire and South Lanarkshire councils.

The government will only negotiate with local government body Cosla.

However, it said it had a statutory responsibility to consult all 32 councils on the terms of the local government finance settlement.

The SLGP, which broke away from Cosla last year, wants equal recognition.

It has now issued an ultimatum that if the government refuses to back down, the partnership will take it to court to challenge the decision.

Budget cuts

The partnership said it had taken legal advice and believed it had grounds for a judicial review in the Court of Session.

Glasgow City Council leader Frank McAveety said: "The four members of the SLGP generate 47% of our country's economic output which is why the first minister's refusal to negotiate with us simply cannot be allowed to continue.

"The government's talks on the next funding settlement have already begun without us and in these we expect some of the biggest budget cuts ever seen.

"If she maintains her current plan to pass down these cuts to Aberdeen, Glasgow, Renfrewshire and South Lanarkshire without one single meaningful conversation, she is effectively turning her back on 25% of the population, including those in her own constituency.

Image caption The group believes it has grounds for a judicial review in the Court of Session

"This is why we have sought independent legal advice and after careful consideration we have grounds to serve the first minister and her government with a judicial review writ at the Court of Session in Edinburgh."

He added: "We have sent clear warning of our intention to pursue such action if Nicola Sturgeon does not back down on this matter."

Mark MacMillan, the leader of Renfrewshire Council told BBC Radio's Good Morning Scotland programme: "We made the decision to break away from Cosla because one size doesn't fit all.

"There's so much change in local government, with the finance settlement and just the way government operates so the decision to come away from Cosla was one that was democratically taken by the four councils.

"We represent just short of a quarter of the population so it's vitally important, especially at this time of cuts."

'Extensive dialogue'

SGLP convener, Aberdeen Council leader Jenny Laing, put the intention in writing to Ms Sturgeon.

She said: "The Scottish government gathers more power from Westminster but will not even discuss with the partnership, which includes two of Scotland's three biggest cities, the fundamental bread and butter issues which matter to the lives of ordinary people."

She said it would be "unseemly to drag this matter through the courts" but accused the government of acting in an "unacceptable" manner and said if there was no satisfactory response within 14 days the option of legal action would be "seriously considered".

A Scottish government spokesman said: "Scottish ministers will always talk to individual councils on matters that concern them. Indeed, ministers and officials have regular and extensive dialogue with a full range of stakeholders from local government as part of and alongside our formal partnership arrangements with Cosla.

"We will only negotiate on the final settlement with Cosla, the representative body for Scotland's local authorities. However, we have a statutory responsibility to consult all 32 councils on the terms of the local government finance settlement."

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