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Last Updated: Friday, 28 March 2008, 15:17 GMT

Labour 'must communicate better'

Pat Watters
Pat Watters, of Cosla, said Labour needed to move forward together

The man who struck a deal with the SNP over a council tax freeze for Scotland believes Labour must communicate better at all levels.

Pat Watters, president of the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities, made his plea at Scottish Labour's spring conference in Aviemore.

In a debate on local government, he said the party needed to move forward.

The session also heard former minister Andy Kerr attack the Nationalists proposed local income tax plan.

He said the SNP was taking Scotland back to the days of Margaret Thatcher through local government cuts.

Mr Kerr claimed the new party in power would need to set its income tax rate at 5p in the pound rather than 3p.

Had we listened a couple of years ago, we would have another 200 Labour councillors out there - and we don't have them
Jim McCabe
North Lanarkshire council leader

Earlier, the gathering was told by Mr Watters: "We need to work better with our colleagues in Westminster and Holyrood.

"We need a better understanding, better communications, and to move forward together."

The debate heard a list of complaints from Labour activists over what were said to amount to funding cuts in services.

The session also heard North Lanarkshire Council leader Jim McCabe blame some of Labour's losses in last May's elections on the departure of 200 experienced councillors through Labour's scrapping of the first-past-the-post voting system for local council elections.

Appealing for more attention to be paid to the views of Labour's rank-and-file, he said: "Listening is one thing, learning is another.

Council tax form
Cosla signed a deal to freeze council tax

"Had we listened a couple of years ago, we would have another 200 Labour councillors out there - and we don't have them.

"When you take the 200 Labour councillors' families and friends into the equation, that's 2,000 people who did not hit the streets to get us elected again.

"That was a serious mistake - we did not listen."

Mr McCabe also dismissed the Scottish Government's concordat with local government, in which councils got extra cash and greater freedom to spend it in return for a council tax freeze.

He said: "It's not a contract, it's an agreement in principle.

"From my point of view I will take out what I need and leave the rest behind."

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