Moray Council’s leadership successfully won a battle in the Council chamber on Tuesday – but could yet lose the war.
Amid a highly charged atmosphere the ruling Tory/Independent administration group managed to press through a ‘job swap’ at the top, with the resigned Leader of the Council, Allan Wright, taking on the senior role of Convener – while the Convener, Stewart Cree, would step down and take on the role of Leader of the Council.
However, the vote was immediately followed by motions of dissent from SNP group opposition councillors, angered at what they believe was a misinterpretation of council standing orders that allowed the vote to take place in the first place.
The crisis for the Council leadership deepened after the meeting and insideMoray understands that another member of the administration group, Councillor James Allan, has tendered his resignation.
Now the administration face a further test in December when the SNP opposition will mount a motion of no confidence in their leadership.
SNP opposition group leader Pearl Paul told insideMoray last night: “Today’s Council meeting was nothing short of a farce with the Convener and the Leader playing musical chairs following what most people will view as a backroom deal to save face and retain financial allowances.
“Cllr Wright’s refusal to retract his ‘cowards’ description of the 16 Councillors who acted in support of their communities and constituents is disgraceful and leaves us with little option but to put forward a motion of no confidence in the leadership of the Council Administration.
“Whilst Cllr Cree and the other three Independent Councillors who were called cowards by Cllr Wright are now happy to support him as Convener the SNP group certainly are not.
“It is our intention to do this at the next meeting of the Council on December 17 and ensure that the Council’s Leader are held to account for their crass comments.”
With the loss of support from two of the three Tory councillors on the ruling group and a by-election looming in Elgin City North early next month the balance of power at the local authority is shifting.
Ill health forced Labour councillor Sean Morton to miss Tuesday’s drama – however, having watched it unfold from his sick bed he said that Moray Council now faced being led by someone who had “nothing but contempt” for fellow councillors.
Councillor Morton said: “Quite honestly, what went on today was nothing short of an embarrassment.
“We are used to Cllr Wright embarrassing us though. Whether it’s library closures, cuts to public transport, loss of classroom assistants or telling teachers to do their work at home if they can’t finish it in school hours, he excels at getting it wrong.
“He will now be the new face of Moray Council, representing all councillors from all parties, while he has nothing but contempt for us and calls us cowards for fighting school closures.
“He ignores the public at every turn. He is absolutely the wrong man for the job.”
See also: Fury as Moray Council force through leadership changes