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WATCH: Bitter argument erupts in Highland Council after Conservative leader posts video attacking local authority bosses over cuts

By Scott Maclennan

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Councillor Andrew Jarvie.
Councillor Andrew Jarvie.

One furious Inverness councillor has risked the ire of bosses at Highland Council by placing an attack ad on social media questioning their priorities over education during the coronavirus pandemic.

Conservative group leader Councillor Andrew Jarvie said he has responded the only way he can after claiming to be ignored by the leadership and officers.

The video features three top ranking members – council leader Margaret Davidson, deputy council leader Alasdair Christie and budget leader Alister Mackinnon – who all said they were “disgusted” with the video.

It shows them partially during the debate about what financial resources could be cut as the council faces a budget black hole of up to £97 million– plus the plan to dip into devolved school management (DSM) budgets.

Cllr Davidson said: “His video is a distortion and a disgrace, I have never seen anything so unpleasant in my political life.

“First thing this morning I rang Cllr Jarvie and asked him to apologise to me and apologise to my colleagues Cllrs Mackinnon and Christie and to remove his video – I will wait and see if there is any action.”

Cllr Christie said: “I am really disappointed and disgusted in Cllr Jarvie’s actions and I didn’t realise there was anyone in Highland who wanted to get down to that level of politics and quite frankly he should be ashamed.”

Cllr Mackinnon said: “Cllr Jarvie’s comments were petulant, amateurish, childish and I am taking personal legal advice.

“However, I find it deeply disappointing that he likes to play games and this is not a time for playing games, this is a time for every member of Highland Council to extricate ourselves from the effects of the pandemic.

“In selecting the comments he used in the video he seems to defeat his own argument about the proposals we made.”

Cllr Jarvie lost at a vote attempting to halt plans to use DSM money for alternative purposes, which he said would remove the incentive for head teachers to spend wisely and instead encourage the practice of using or losing entire budgets.

He said: “Highland Council leaders voted down my efforts against their plan to take every penny of school's cash reserves, instead hitting back and threatening our most vulnerable people.

“Operating in secret, this council did not furlough any staff, like other council's who furloughed a third of their staff to save cash. Now to cover up their financial mistakes, they threaten to sack people from vital support services and not the ones who made this awful mistake.

“These cuts and threats come before the council reviews the swathes of surplus funds or any proposal to use the vast council reserves.

“It's not good enough to cut this deep before any finance review and absolutely disgusting to threaten the people they did and raid school budgets when schools have never needed it more.”

Related article: School budgets will be raided to help plug Highland Council's coronavirus black hole

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