MSP accuses councillors of ‘wasting money’

Tom Johnston House, Kirkintilloch
Tom Johnston House, Kirkintilloch

An MSP has accused local councillors of ‘‘squandering money’’ then trying to blame the SNP government for not having enough cash.

Milngavie MSP Gil Paterson, a nationalist member at Holyrood, has criticised the Labour council leader Rhondda Geekie and her fellow councillors for ‘‘squandering money on the wrong things’’.

He said: “Her administration is foisting a Bearsden Hub on the community that few people want and without consultation, selling off our local library and it proposes to spend millions on a primary school merger that no-one wants.

“In addition, the former Council HQ Tom Johnston House was vacated two years ago and it is still lying empty, resulting in half a million pounds being mothballed.

“Remember, this is a council leader who voted to give away £4million of East Dunbartonshire’s money at a COSLA meeting to please her Labour paymasters, then pleaded to have it returned when she realised what she had done.

“Despite drastic cuts to Scotland’s budget from the Westminster Tory/Lib Dem coalition, a Government she campaigned for in the referendum, the Scottish Government has given more to local authorities than Labour ever did.

“It’s time this administration started exercising democracy and consulting with the public to find out what they want, before taking decisions behind closed doors.”

But Councillor Geekie responded robustly, and challenged the MSP to fight for more funding for the local authority ‘‘rather than deny there is any underfunding’’.

The Labour leader, who heads a coalition administration which is having to make massive cuts, said: ‘‘It is disappointing to be attacked by Mr. Paterson who obviously has little understanding of the fact that much of the investment we are instigating is in line with his government’s policy.

‘‘The closing of Tom Johnston House saved thousands of pounds, building new schools is surely a good thing, bringing services into town centres in upgraded buildings is again a positive step. I do recognise people might not always agree with us but neither do we agree that freezing the council tax for years while every council area is desperate for more funding to retain their services.

‘‘The point about a vote on distribution was actually changed by my motion at COSLA when figures were announced by the finance minister so I actually gained money for East Dunbartonshire.

‘‘I campaigned for a united country and certainly not the present UK Government but again this is being twisted.

‘‘I challenge Gil Paterson once again to seek more funding for local government rather than deny there is any underfunding.’’