Hopes were being raised last night on the possibility of real change in the way in which decisions are taken at Moray Council.
As calls were growing on Monday for a public protest ahead of the crunch Full Council meeting next Wednesday, more details over the proposals from Councillor Douglas Ross for a new method of governance at the local authority emerged – on insideMoray’s social media page.
The Fochabers/Lhanbryde councillor was at the centre of a split in the ruling administration group, controversially leading a successful rebellion against Sustainable Education Review plans that would have seen several Moray schools closing by supporting a motion from Labour councillor Sean Morton that a five-year moratorium on closures be put in place.
He was subsequently removed from the ruling Independent and Tory coalition group – and was closely followed by his Tory colleague, Councillor James Allan, who resigned from the group in protest.
Further turmoil followed in the council chamber with a controversial ‘job swap’ between council leader Allan Wright – who had resigned his post in a backlash to the schools decision – and convener Stewart Cree.
That prompted a SNP opposition group ‘vote of no confidence’ against Councillor Wright at next weeks meeting – however, speaking on insideMoray last week Councillor Ross revealed that he planned an alternative that would see an entirely new ‘Rainbow Alliance’ structure created.
Details of that move were questioned on insideMoray last night by SNP Councillor Aaron McLean, who challenged the insideMoray editor to a £5 charity bet that he would hear nothing more about the ‘Rainbow Alliance’ proposals ahead of the meeting.
In response, Councillor Ross responded personally – by inviting the SNP councillor to further discussions on the proposals, adding that talks had already taken place with the Labour opposition group.
Councillor Ross said: “I’ve had some initial contact with the Labour group over this already.
“I’m not keen on filling up these pages with comments from councillors so I never responded to an earlier suggestion from Barry Jarvis [the former Labour councillor for Elgin City North] that I didn’t support the Area Based Review (ABR) when it was set up – but I was in fact very much in favour of it.
“The difference with a Rainbow Alliance compared to ABR is it would include all Councillors not just the six on the ABR and would have decision making powers.”
When asked by Mr Jarvis if the proposals would be a removal of the formal grouping of structures and allegiances, Councillor Ross said: “That’s my proposal, removal of the groupings and having the best people as Chairs.
“It shouldn’t be just because you are not in Administration you’re not best placed to lead on a certain policy area or committee.
“I think it would mean more consensus policies with the chair discussing more with other members of the committee and using all the talents in the council, not just those who can cobble together a majority.
“I’m sure there will be pitfalls identified but I genuinely think it is a way forward and can’t be any worse than we have now.”
Councillor Ross was subsequently offered and accepted an invitation by Councillor McLean to speak to the SNP group on Monday about his plans.
If supported by all opposition parties the proposals being put forward by Councillor Ross could see a complete change in the way that Moray Council governs the region, with no ruling administration and cross-party consensus policies and decisions being adopted.