Aberdeen councillors have delayed making a decision on whether to fund a popular youth festival until early next year.
There has been an outpouring of support for the Aberdeen International Youth Festival (AIYF) since last month, when the city council’s education committee agreed it would no longer make a financial contribution.
Opposition councillors in the SNP and Liberal Democrat groups later called for funding to be committed until at least 2019/20, in a move branded a “dramatic U-turn” by the ruling administration.
Members gathered at the Town House yesterday to make a decision on the funding, but the meeting was eventually suspended at around 4pm, before a decision had been reached.
The local authority’s standing orders require two-thirds of councillors to approve a meeting going beyond four hours long, but this was not reached, drawing the stormy session to a close.
Jenny Laing, Labour co-leader of Aberdeen City Council, criticised SNP councillors for failing to vote in favour of continuing with the meeting.
She said: “I think it’s disappointing because we still had a number of items on the agenda and it’s important that we get through that.
“It’s quite clear that the SNP have an agenda where they want to hold things up.
“They want to defer decisions and stop the council from actually making decisions and moving forward.
“The fact that when you look at how our time has been spent, we dealt with two items that have been at previous committees and have been referred here, one of which has been discussed three times in connection with the funding for the new Year of Young People fund.”
Administration councillors want to pull funding from the AIYF and instead spend £100,000 on the new fund.
This would be created for one year only in recognition of the Year of Young People and would be open to youth groups and individuals between 16 and 25.
During the meeting, Conservative councillor Ryan Houghton raised two procedural motions, which were supported by the majority of councillors.
It meant that the debate must go straight to the summing up, cutting short discussions on the AIYF funding and another on business rates relief.
SNP group leader Stephen Flynn said he was “astonished” by the move.
He added: “We were more than happy to go well beyond the four-hour period, as we often do, and this is the first time we have ever invoked the standing order.
“But we invoked it in response to the fact that democratically elected members were being prevented from partaking in debate.
“What is the point of having 45 councillors if 37 aren’t going to be allowed to speak? I have absolutely no idea why the administration chose to take the tact they have but the people of Aberdeen will look on this and think what on earth is happening?
“It was a complete and utter circus today.”
Cllr Flynn said the decision to rearrange the remainder of the meeting rests with Lord Provost Barney Crockett, who told members it would wait until the new year.
Cllr Laing said: “I’ve sat in the chamber for 10 years and this is certainly not the first time this has happened.
“There comes a point where you have to expedite business. We are conscious our staff are here for long hours.
“It is within the standing orders to do that.
“I really do feel if we are to make sure that the council works as efficiently as possible we really have to cut through all that filibustering.”
Lord Provost Crockett, Labour, said he would have “preferred” to discuss the issues yesterday.
He added: “Instead Cllr Flynn made that impossible.
“Almost every time full council goes beyond the four hours and if he wanted them discussed, he could have done it yesterday.
“I’m Lord Provost, it’s coming up to Christmas and it’s a crowded diary.”
Cllr Laing added that if the SNP “truly believed” in their arguments for funding AIYF, they would have brought that to the education committee where the proposals were first mooted.
She added: “They chose to vote unanimously with the committee.
“They had a lot of information at their disposal at that time, including the business plan, and they raised none of these issues then.
“It shows they are not interested in trying to make sure the council works efficiently, makes decisions that the people are reliant on, and they just want to make sure they are as disruptive as possible.
“I feel the public will ask why are they doing that.
“We’ve been elected here to represent the people of Aberdeen. That involves us taking difficult decisions sometimes but also making sure that council business is pushed along.”
During the debate Cllr Flynn said opposition councillors had been “criticised” by their administration counterparts for “listening to the views of the public”.
He added: “We can’t have a further kick in the cultural teeth of Aberdeen.”
Administration councillors Sarah Duncan, Claire Imrie and Alan Donnelly told the chamber they had chosen to step down from the board of AIYF in order to take part in yesterday’s debate.
SNP councillor Alex Nicoll said: “I’m disappointed that other members of the administration have chosen to resign trusteeship to perhaps vote in a decision that may well see the end of the AIYF as we know it.”
Councillors will meet again in the new year to make a decision on both the AIYF and Year of Young People fund, at a date still to be determined.