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Leaders to hold first meeting...
Leaders to hold first meeting

By Mark Smulian

Scotland's new council leaders were due to hold their first meeting tomorrow as coalition building looked set to end Labour's control of the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities.

The change came as local government shifted into the new Ministry of Finance &

Sustainable Growth.

This will be headed by former Scottish National Party leader John Swinney.

He stressed the SNP minority administration's intention to abolish the housing and regeneration quango Communities Scotland and pass most of its powers to local government.

A COSLA spokesman said: 'We are keen to see these powers come under councils' control.'

The Department for Communities & Local Government is, ironically, in the process of creating a similar housing and regeneration quango, Communities England, which will merge the Housing Corporation and English Partnerships.

But English Partnerships chair Baroness Ford told LGC: 'Communities Scotland is a very much narrower organisation than Communities England will be. Its powers are not the same and it bears very little resemblance to [our] plans.'

Nick Fletcher, policy officer at the Chartered Institute of Housing Scotland, said: 'If they go down the route of abolishing quangos they need to make sure expertise is not lost.

'At the moment it is all top-down, and moving powers to local authorities might give

a better balance.'

The SNP is also expected to try to abolish council tax and replace it with a 3% local

income tax rate, a move which would need support from other parties.

More coalition administrations formed last week. So far the SNP is involved in running 11 councils, independents in nine, Liberal Democrats in eight, Labour in five and Conservatives in three. Ten councils were still to decide.

The most unusual is East Dunbartonshire Council's joint Labour and Conservative administration, whose founding statement was largely devoted to the restoration of weekly refuse collections.

A report by the Electoral Reform Society concluded the public understood the single transferable vote system used for Scotland's council elections, and there were far

fewer spoiled ballot papers than in the simultaneous parliamentary election.

It said turnout rose and, unlike at past elections, no councillor was elected unopposed.

'The contrast between voters' successful use of STV on its first outing, with the problems that surrounded the Scottish Parliament election are inescapable,' the society said.

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