A VETERAN councillor has reportedly been suspended from Renfrewshire's Labour group after he quit as whip and finance spokesman.

In an email seen by the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS), group secretary John Hood announced that Jim Harte has been thrown out pending an investigation.

Councillor Harte, who represents Erskine and Inchinnan and was first elected in 2003, resigned as whip and finance spokesman last week, just moments before a crunch meeting to finalise the council’s budget.

As the main opposition to the SNP administration, Labour would normally table its own budget proposals but, following Councillor Harte’s sudden resignation, this didn’t happen.

With the spending plans sailing through unopposed, Labour members were ridiculed for a perceived lack of fight, as Independent councillor Andy Doig suggested the group was “no longer a serious force” in Renfrewshire.

When the LDRS asked Labour group leader Eddie Devine why Councillor Harte has been suspended, he merely stated that party business was "private and confidential."

In his resignation letter, 60-year-old Councillor Harte had claimed a split caused by five “dissidents” in Renfrewshire Labour was behind his decision.

He said he had been unable to use the whip, as they have been “protected by the leadership of the Scottish Labour Party.”

He also announced that, after 19 years as a councillor, he would not be standing in the election in May, as he did not “have the stomach for it.”

It will be impossible for Labour to seize overall control of Renfrewshire Council at that election, as it is only fielding 20 candidates – and would need 22 to gain a majority.

Councillor Harte said: “The cause of this split lies undoubtedly, in my view, in the hands of the five members who stopped attending group meetings and, thus, took themselves outside the group.

“It has left the group to be run by the remaining eight members.

“The resulting consequences were that those eight members were left to fulfil all the functions associated with being a group member.

“I am glad I have done the sensible thing in not standing for election and, to be honest, I wouldn’t be able to stomach it.”