We understand, on good authority, that the proposed new administration for Argyll and Bute Council has not emerged from a sound or indeed, a proper, decision taking process.
Two Conservative Councillors, Corry and Kinniburgh, appear not to have been consulted by their group leader, Councillor Mulvaney, before he did the deal with Council Leader Robb to commit the Conservative group to the coalition.
The existing coalition partners – who dug in and quietly supported the administration they had agreed to join, despite the serial chaos in the leading SNP group – were not consulted on or informed by the Council Leader about the engineering of the proposed replacement coalition.
They were not party to the decision to sound out the Liberal Democrat group or the Conservative group; nor did they know that a deal had been done.
Despite this exclusion, their automatic support was assumed for whatever deal was put together and they were counted in the numbers of seats claimed for the new administration.
We understand that three members of the former coalition voted against the proposed new coalition at a meeting yesterday. They are SNP Councillors Gordon Blair and Robert McIntyre [Bute] and Independent Councillor, Iain Angus Macdonald.
SNP Councillor and current Provost, Isobel Strong is currently undergoing serious surgery and was not present.
When the new coalition was announced, Argyll First withdrew from it. The Argyll and Bute Independent Councillors’ group stayed in.
Argyll First has now responded to the Council Leader’s statement on their departure. saying:
‘Contrary to the statement issued by the Council Leader James Robb regarding Argyll First’s decision to leave the Administration of Argyll & Bute Council, please see below:
‘Since the 2012 elections, Argyll First have worked tirelessly in an effort to make the current administration a success. On many occasions, we have gone above and beyond the call of duty despite being undermined on a number of occasions by some of our SNP Administration colleagues. Last week when realising that the Administration was going into free-fall, Argyll First along with others decided to present the idea of a new innovative model in Council working to the Council Leader in an attempt to put the current Administration back on track. This was dismissed out of hand by James Robb. We were unaware at that time he had already agreed a deal with the Liberal Democrats and Conservatives to join the coalition.
‘The underhand manner in which the current Council Leader conducts business made the Argyll First position within the current administration untenable.’
In what could have been an exciting development, we understand that the following group of councillors worked together to produce a new model for the political management of local authorities – in alphabetical order:
- Councillor Michael Breslin [Independent, ex SNP]
- Councillor Fred Hall [Independent, ex SNP]
- Councillor Donald Kelly [Argyll First]
- Councillor John McAlpine [Argyll First]
- Councillor Iain Angus Macdonald [Indepedendent]
- Councillor Dougie Philand [Argyll First].
This model, a work-in-progress, was an inclusive one, based on choosing the best councillors for each post, regardless of whether they were personally in administration or in opposition.
It also proposed a re-examination of the way that councillors are paid – with real concern that the decisions of some councillors on who or what they support continue, [perhaps inevitably, to be made on the grounds of hoped for or offered preferment.
The group producing this draft proposal had not only – commendably – been engaged in thinking newly about how local government is delivered but had the ambition to see what finally emerged as a template that could be applied across Scottish local authorities.
Many people will be interested in knowing more about this proposal and contributing to its evolution. There is widespread consensus that the way local government is done is over ripe for reform.
Councillor Iain Angus Macdonald took this proposal to Council Leader Robb on behalf of the group. It was evidently dismissed out of hand.
What the group did not know – and which will have contributed to this reception of new thinking was that the deal with the Lib Dems and Conservatives had already been done; and that means that we are likely to see pork-barrel politics back in the driving seat. All will be revealed when the allocation of posts is announced.
This is what Argyll emphatically does not need.
None of this is a comforting augury for the prospects of the new administration.