Argyll and Bute chief’s departure ‘chance for radical change’ - MSP

Argyll and Bute MSP Michael Russell.
Argyll and Bute MSP Michael Russell.

Argyll and Bute’s MSP says the surprise departure of the local council’s chief executive offers the chance to consider “radical new solutions” to the way the authority is run.

Michael Russell was reacting to the announcement on Wednesday that Sally Loudon is to take up a post as chief executive of the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities in May.

“The potential effect of this unexpected change on Argyll and Bute is one that the council needs to consider carefully,” he said.

“I would urge the council leader not to drive forward a quick new appointment but instead to work across the council to seek radical new solutions to improve local democracy and save money.

“I would be happy to work with him to draw up appropriate proposals for different management structures and decentralisation which have been the subject of local discussion across Argyll and Bute for some considerable time and which will also help the council to meet the budgetary challenges with which it is presently struggling and about the effects of which there is huge public disquiet and concern.”

Mr Russell, who won the Argyll and Bute constituency for the SNP in 2011 and will defend the seat in this May’s Holyrood election, has been a persistent critic for some time of the way the council is run.

In recent months he has been particularly scathing of the approach the authority, which is led by a coalition of independent, Conservative and Liberal Democrat councillors, has taken to its 2016-17 budget-setting plans, which saw the public asked to rate more than 140 ‘savings options’ in a two-month consultation process entitled ‘Service Choices’.

Decentralisation was one of the key features of an alternative budget plan put forward last week by the three opposition councillors who comprise the ‘Reform Group’ - Michael Breslin, Vivien Dance and Bruce Marshall.

“The way forward does not lie in implementing the so-called ‘Service Choices’ agenda, which is seriously weakening the council and the area, but instead in reforming the council itself and how it delivers services,” Mr Russell added.

“There is now a new chance to do so. It is not to be missed.”

The ruling administration’s own budget proposals are expected to be made public when papers for a forthcoming meeting of the authority’s powerful policy and resources committee are uploaded to the council’s website this Friday, January 29.