A Motion of no confidence in the soon to be Convener of Moray Council has prompted an angry outburst between opposition groups.
Details of a motion of no confidence in the Convener-elect of the Moray Council has been released by the main SNP opposition at the local authority – but has prompted an angry outburst from the Tory councillor who was recently removed from the ruling administration group at the behest of the new Convener.
The moves follow a ‘job swap’ at the top forced through last month that will see the current Leader of the Council, Allan Wright, take over as Convener while the Convener, Stewart Cree, will become Leader from next month.
Councillor Wright had earlier announced his resignation because of a lack of support in the ruling administration over moves to restructure the school estate in Moray. Subsequently his Tory colleague, Douglas Ross, was removed from the administration group while a second Tory colleague, Councillor James Allan, later resigned from the ruling group.
Last weekend the Tory candidate in the forthcoming Elgin City North by-election also revealed that, if elected, he would not accept any invitation to join the administration group and would instead sit in opposition with Councillors Ross and Allan.
Following the meeting that saw the leadership changes narrowly forced through last month the main SNP opposition group said that they intended putting forward a vote of no confidence in the administration at the Full Council meeting on December 17. However, in the text of their motion released last night the opposition group have directed their no confidence vote firmly at the soon to be Convener rather than the entire administration group – and that has led to Councillor Ross hitting out at the move.
Last night the text of that motion was released, with the SNP revealing that it would be proposed by Buckie Councillor Gordon McDonald. He said: “The role of Convener is supposed to be a dignified one ensuring all councillors in Moray can fairly represent their communities and to also represent Moray as a whole in a civic capacity.
“How can someone who has described a large majority of Moray Councillors as cowards reasonably have that role. His position is totally untenable.
“The overwhelming view I am getting from the public is that they find it ridiculous that Councillor Wright has resigned his Council Leader role only to be appointed Convener in a game of musical chairs with the current Convener Councillor Cree.
“It is treating both the people of Moray and their elected Councillors with contempt.”
The motion is to be seconded by Elgin Councillor Graham Leadbitter, who added: “It is laughable that Councillor Wright, who as well as being current Council Leader is the Conservative Group Leader of a dysfunctional Conservative Group that are both in and out of the Council’s Administration at the same time, thinks that he is the person for this important Council role.
“Convener of the Council requires patience, diplomacy and understanding, qualities that seem sadly lacking for Councillor Wright after his recent comments on how councillors voted in the Education Review.”
Ross hits outDougls Ross – ‘Rainbow Coalition’ call
Following publication of the text of the no confidence vote the man at the centre of the controversy surrounding Moray Council hit out at the SNP’s motion.
Douglas Ross said that the motion was not against the administration, as he expected it would be, but against one man – and that was unacceptable, calling instead for a vote of no confidence in the entire administration and the creation of a ‘Rainbow Alliance’ in running the Council.
He said: “We were told immediately after the last Full Council meeting that the SNP group would be bringing forward a motion of no confidence in the current administration and that was something I would have considered, what they have put forward however is a motion attacking one individual and calling for only him to be removed.
“As someone who has recently received similar treatment I don’t think it’s fair to lay all the blame on one person.
“I’m certain from the many people I have spoken to across Moray that they don’t just want to see one person removed from office, they want to see a wholesale change in the political leadership of Moray Council and the SNP motion simply doesn’t do that.”
Councillor Ross questioned what the SNP group had to fear about removing the independent-led administration, adding: “As the biggest party in the council the resistance to remove the current administration shows either a lack of ambition by the SNP group to run the council – or a signal that they do not want to take on the responsibility of making difficult decisions and would prefer to criticise from opposition.
“I have had serious differences with Councillor Wright in recent weeks but I can’t support a motion that makes him a scapegoat for all the troubles the current administration have had.
“If we agree this SNP motion we are effectively saying the worst thing a councillor can do is name-calling fellow elected members. For me the worst thing is ill thought out policies such as closing Milne’s High and many primaries or not listening to the public and a committee of the Council when the Western Link Road was rejected only to be brought back as a proposal less than two weeks later.
“I believe we need a fresh approach to running this council and I’d like us to consider taking the Area Based Review group a step further. In an authority the size of Moray is there any need to have an administration and an opposition.
“Should we not have the best and most able people as chairs of the respective committees no matter their party or if they are an independent.
“We could then find a way forward by consensus rather than the divisive point scoring exercise we are going through just now. So called Rainbow coalitions work elsewhere and in Aberdeenshire the ruling administration also Chair the scrutiny committee so I see no barrier to the 26 Moray Councillors all working together.
“I’m sure some councillors will find fault with this proposal and criticise me for putting it forward but I’m past caring.
“I simply want the best deal for the people of Moray and I don’t think they are getting that with the current arrangements. The only winners are the highly paid officers who seem be able to manipulate some councillors to suit their own agenda.
“I plan to put this proposal forward at the Full Council meeting and I hope councillors will at least consider this alternative way of working.”
The formal text of the motion is to read:
“This Council wishes to record a statement of No Confidence in the current Leader of the Council and Convener-elect due to his comments on the 3rd 2014, when, in a broadcast television interview, he stated that the actions of the 16 Councillors who voted for the moratorium on rural school closures and the continuation of Milne’s High School was ‘cowardly’ and, in response to a question from the interviewer, who asked if he was saying that they were cowards and he answered “yes”.
“The Leader and Convener-elect has subsequently had the opportunity to retract these comments but chose not to do so.
“Council considers this language and refusal to retract it to be unacceptable, as both posts represent all Councillors in Moray. Council therefore considers the position of the current Council Leader and Convener-elect to be untenable and agrees to remove the Leader and rescind his appointment as Convener with immediate effect, under Standing Order 7.
“The following is presented as a material change in circumstances and justify overturning the decision taken by this Council at its special meeting on 18 November to appoint the Leader to the position of Convener:-
“Since the previous meeting on 18 November, the Proposers have verified what was said in the broadcast, which was not previously made available to the Council.”