A Liberal Democrat councillor has labelled the latest spat between SNP and Labour councillors in Dundee as “unedifying”.
West End councillor Fraser Macpherson said the sort of “Punch and Judy politics” that took place last week over the upcoming council budget needs to be “put to one side”.
Council leader John Alexander accused Labour of “squawking from the sideline” after group-leader Kevin Keenan called on the local authority to confirm or deny his estimation that as many as 400 jobs are at risk as the council tries to make about £20 million of savings.
Mr Macpherson criticised Mr Keenan’s “back of the envelope” calculations but urged councillors to work together to prevent job cuts.
He said: “There’s nothing to be gained from council meetings degenerating into a party political hustings and, in any case, it is self evident that the budget problems facing Dundee City Council and all other Scottish local authorities this year are due to the thoroughly inadequate support from the Scottish Government.
“Indeed, the Lord Provost indicated it is the worst financial settlement he has seen in his nearly 56 years as a councillor. The situation is grave.
“Despite my plea about not making petty political points at committee last week, I was followed by a Labour member who could not help himself in turning what should have been a serious debate about tackling the budget challenge into an attack on the SNP, so predictably SNP members then attacked Labour’s position — a pointless waste of everybody’s time.
“We must do better than that.”
Mr Keenan said: “I was quite surprised at the reaction from the leader of the council and can fully understand that anyone would believe there is a political spat — perhaps I hit a raw nerve whilst seeking clarification.
“Our employees deserve to be treated well and it would be honest to spell out the situation at the earliest possible stage.
“I acknowledge that the budget being delivered by the Scottish Government leaves the council in a very difficult position and very difficult decisions will have to be made.
“Even at this late stage, I do hope that the government will have a change of heart and deliver a better settlement for Dundee. However, we only have a six week window before having to make the final decision.”
Mr Alexander said: “As I’ve said publicly and privately to all opposition leaders, I’d rather work with them to square off what is a very challenging budget. That’s why it is unhelpful for some members to criticise without offering suggestions or alternatives.
“In a recent meeting with opposition members, I offered to listen to their proposals and suggestions to work together in the interests of Dundee.
“I would echo Mr Machperson’s comments insofar as elected members of all political colours have a duty to help deliver a balanced budget.
“But my plea would be to discuss issues in a pragmatic way, rather than push out a pointless press release which achieves nothing other than give them an opportunity to criticise before the budget is even finalised.”