War of words over open­ness of the coun­cil

East Kilbride News - - POVERTY - Jonathan Ged­des

An East Kil­bride coun­cil­lor has ac­cused the rul­ing SNP Group at South La­nark­shire Coun­cil of “naked cyn­i­cism”.

Joe Fagan’s re­marks came as a war of words erupted over the open­ness of coun­cil af­fairs.

The Labour Group leader, who rep­re­sents East Kil­bride Cen­tral North, hit out dur­ing a dis­pute which cen­tred on a mo­tion that would have seen the lo­cal au­thor­ity’s bud­get de­cided upon by all coun­cil­lors at the full coun­cil meet­ing, rather than by se­nior rep­re­sen­ta­tives in the ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee.

It was backed by Labour, the Tories and the Lib­eral Democrats, with the SNP and in­de­pen­dent coun­cil­lors op­pos­ing.

The mo­tion’s fail­ure to pass sparked a an­gry back­lash.

How­ever, coun­cil leader John Ross this week fired back by telling op­po­si­tion politi­cians to “stop bleat­ing”.

Coun­cil­lor Fagan had jointly put for­ward the mo­tion with the Lib­eral Democrats.

He said: “This mo­tion would have started the process of mod­ernising stand­ing or­ders, strength­en­ing the role of coun­cil­lors and mak­ing the coun­cil it­self more demo­crat­i­cally ac­count­able.

“That’s why it was so dis­ap­point­ing to see the rul­ing SNP ad­min­is­tra­tion break with con­sen­sus and vote down a sim­ple, mea­sured pro­posal for re­form. It was an act of naked cyn­i­cism de­signed to sti­fle de­bate.

“The SNP in South La­nark­shire promised open­ness and trans­parency when they were elected but only pay lip ser­vice to those prin­ci­ples now.

“They are shut­ting care homes, block­ing scru­tiny and be­tray­ing the prin­ci­ples on which they were elected.

“It’s been less than 18 months since the SNP took con­trol and in that time they have made it abun­dantly clear that they sim­ply can­not be trusted.”

Robert Brown (Ruther­glen South), the sole Lib­eral Demo­crat on the coun­cil, added: “Most peo­ple would ex­pect key de­ci­sions, not least about the bud­get, to be taken by the full coun­cil in the cham­ber after a de­cent de­bate about the dif­fer­ent op­tions.

“In­stead many full coun­cil meet­ings are a for­mal­ity where the roll call of at­ten­dance is taken, the min­utes are for­mally ap­proved and noth­ing much else of sig­nif­i­cance hap­pens.

“The key de­ci­sions are made in­stead at com­mit­tees. The re­sult is that there is lit­tle pub­lic in­ter­est in the coun­cil, no aware­ness of the dif­fer­ent views of the po­lit­i­cal par­ties or of dif­fer­ent coun­cil­lors and far less demo­cratic scru­tiny than there need be.

“My view is that the full coun­cil should make the fi­nal de­ci­sion on key mat­ters – whether it be the bud­get, the clo­sure of care homes, the shape of nurs­ery pro­vi­sion or other ma­jor de­ci­sions.”

Coun­cil­lor Brown said he would like to see a ques­tion time for­mat in­tro­duced whereby com­mit­tee con­ven­ers could be held to ac­count.

He added: “The SNP Group have talked about the need for greater trans­parency but they have let peo­ple down badly by this par­ti­san closed­shop ap­proach.”

Coun­cil­lor Alex Al­li­son, of the Con­ser­va­tives, claimed the mo­tion’s fail­ure was a blow for trans­parency.

He said:“It is sadly now ob­vi­ous that this mi­nor­ity SNP ad­min­is­tra­tion has no in­ten­tion of ac­tu­ally de­liv­er­ing the trans­par­ent and demo­cratic ap­proach it promised be­fore last year’s elec­tion.”

How­ever, Coun­cil­lor Ross blasted the claims – and ac­cused the other par­ties of sour grapes.

He said: “It is re­ally a bit rich that some op­po­si­tion politi­cians are com­plain­ing about a lack of demo­cratic ac­count­abil­ity when what hap­pened is that they lost an open and demo­cratic vote.

“That’s how democ­racy works and they re­ally should un­der­stand and ac­cept that rather than bleat­ing about it af­ter­wards.

“The fact is that a ma­jor­ity of coun­cil­lors at the full coun­cil meet­ing backed my sug­ges­tion that a re­view should be car­ried out into the terms of ref­er­ence and the pro­ce­dures of our com­mit­tees and fo­rums.

“This is part of our ad­min­is­tra­tion’s com­mit­ment to en­sur­ing not only that we are ef­fi­cient and fit for pur­pose, but also that the coun­cil is open and trans­par­ent.

“When they were in ad­min­is­tra­tion for 18 years the Labour Group re­jected any at­tempts to look again at stand­ing or­ders and pro­ce­dures. I am sure it is just a re­mark­able co­in­ci­dence that they fi­nally think one is nec­es­sary, now that they have been kicked into op­po­si­tion by lo­cal vot­ers.”

Dis­ap­pointed Robert Brown

Re­sponse John Ross has claimed the other par­ties should re­spect democ­racy

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.