Headlines: May 29th, 2003

The leader of Scotland’s local councils is to meet ministers on Friday after criticising what he called “the obvious wilful disregard for Local Government” in the new Legislative Programme for the Scottish Parliament.Pat Watters, the President of the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities, said whatever it looked like, the programme had huge implications for local government but councils were still facing threats. Calls for a realistic partnership between authorities and the Scottish Executive had gone unheeded.

Mr. Watters said he had spoken to the First Minister on Tuesday evening, before the publication of the programme, but apart from the proposed legislation on a single correctional agency, no other matters were mentioned to him.

“I have been promised another Ministerial meeting on Friday before our leaders’ meeting and I will be pressing the point that patience within local government is wearing extremely thin at the moment,” he said. “Our call to develop a realistic partnership would appear to have fallen on deaf ears and this is something I will be stressing to council leaders on Friday,” Mr. Watters added.

He said that at the COSLA annual conference in March ministers had told delegates that local government was the best place for service delivery and that there would be no centralisation. Now some services were being removed from local government and the Scottish Executive was giving itself the power to intervene directly in others.

Councils, he said, were not claiming everything they did was perfect but if there were problems the way forward was to discuss them and for the authorities and the Executive to solve them and not for one partner to remove something from the other without evidence to back up that action.