War of words over openness of the council
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