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28 February 2005
Dundee Tory leader hits out at critic
Dundee Tory leader Bruce Mackie said today he made no apology for his group’s role in the city council in the wake of criticism that it was part of an “unholy amalgam” of a coalition administration, writes Andrew Argo,

Mr Mackie also turned on his critic, Independent Labour member Ian Borthwick, saying, “It is easy to dismantle something but much more difficult to build it.

“That’s why Mr Borthwick has been an opposition councillor for so long — he is always destructive and is never constructive.”

The Tory leader said his five-member group are not part of the Labour-Liberal Democrat coalition administration but they support it “on some issues” in the interests of the city of Dundee.

In return for their support, the Tories have been awarded three convenerships, but none of the posts are of a political nature. “At the last election, no group had an overall majority but a workable administration needed to be formed to run council services for the good of Dundee,” he explained.

“The SNP are the biggest single party but they said they wouldn’t work with us, yet they couldn’t work with any other group to form an administration.

“We were then approached by Labour and the Liberal Democrats and we said we would support them on some issues but not on others.

“Dundee has a Labour-Liberal Democrat coalition administration with Conservative support on some issues.

“The alternative would have been no workable administration with constant divisions. Would that have been good for Dundee? Is that what Mr Borthwick wanted? As for our achievements, well we’ve played a part in the budget-fixing process which this year in the city saw the level rise by less than 4% and which since 2001 has seen the level go up by 7.8%.

During those same four years, the level in Angus has gone up by 27.6% and in Perth and Kinross by over 30%.

“This is an example of our contribution to the council for the good of the people of Dundee. Dundee City Council started its life with one of the highest council tax levels in Scotland and that is still the case.

“This is because it had to inherit a large share of the £4.5 million deficit from the former regional council, because that council’s last SNP administration spent all of the reserves, and because of the high level of deprivation in Dundee and the high proportion of low property band houses in the city.”

Mr Mackie said Mr Borthwick and the SNP group can’t be too unhappy with the way the city council is being run as the overwhelming majority of decisions are approved unanimously.

As for Mr Borthwick’s criticism of the council’s handling of the education crisis in the city, Mr Mackie said, “The opposition and the SNP group requisitioned a special meeting of the council to discuss the issue.

“We had that meeting and the follow-up meeting to hear the director’s proposals for dealing with the situation. What great ideas did the opposition come up with that were different from what the director proposed and what we supported — nothing.”