SCOTTISH LibDem leader Willie Rennie and the party’s under pressure UK deputy leader Jo Swinson have refused to get involved in a row over the party’s East Dunbartonshire councillors siding with the Tories to cut a redundancy scheme for employees.

Unison, GMB and Unite trade unions have suspended partnership working with the council and have launched a vigorous protest against the LibDems in particular. It was the LibDem group backed by Tory councillors who met behind closed doors last month and voted to defeat the SNP administration and Labour councillors in slashing the terms of the council’s voluntary severance arrangements, paving the way for compulsory redundancies.

Simon Macfarlane, Unison regional organiser, said: “The LibDems have been trying to detoxify their brand following their coalition with the Tories at a UK level. LibDem councillors in East Dunbartonshire have trashed that by colluding with the Tories to rip up industrial relations in the council. They have shown complete contempt for council workers and their trade unions.”

Unison called on local MP Swinson and Scottish party leader Rennie to intervene and “get this decision reversed”, but both have refused.

A Scottish LibDem spokesperson said: “Decisions such as these are for local council groups to take.”

The East Dunbartonshire LibDem leader, Councillor Vaughan Moody, said: “This measure is about protecting local services and jobs.

“East Dunbartonshire currently has one of the most generous redundancy packages amongst all of Scotland’s 32 councils, and this action simply takes them to around the average in Scotland.

“The current situation is unsustainable within the budgetary constraints continually being faced by the council in the light of a lack of adequate funding from the SNP Scottish Government.

“Out of a spending budget of around £240 million, the council currently contributes some £18m in pensions for all its employees, and the redundancy packages have to be paid for by the East Dunbartonshire taxpayer.

“I am sure local taxpayers want their money to be spent on local services and not on the most expensive packages in Scotland.

“If there are any future redundancies it is because the SNP council leader has failed to persuade the SNP Government to use its tax raising powers in order to protect public services.”

Council and SNP group leader Gordan Low said Moody was wrong about the redundancy packages and that the LibDem-Tory alliance will make matters worse for staff.

He told The National: “We have a budget process coming up and I would imagine that like most councils we will have to make savings.

“We need the good will of the trade unions and the workforce to be able to do that.

“We have never had to use compulsory redundancies in the past, and this move will make it harder, not easier, to make cuts – and they don’t put a figure on the savings, either.

“We are seeing a right-wing agenda being pursued by both the LibDem and the Conservative group and it’s very disappointing that the LibDems, who always talk about the need for consultation, have gone against their previous stance on this.

“Jo Swinson has never been backward in coming forward about local council issues in the past and her silence speaks volumes.

“Cllr Moody says the cuts take the package to the average, but we have figures showing it takes it to the bottom end of what’s available to council staff in Scotland.”