Argyll and Bute Council: the bickering goes on...

Members of the ‘Argyll and Bute for Change’ group on Argyll and Bute Council have hit out at the authority’s SNP group after losing a key vote on the political management of the council’s affairs.

The ‘ABFC’ group’s motion seeking to abolish all the senior positions on the council pending a political management review over the summer was defeated by an SNP-led amendment which keeps all the party’s senior councillors, including leader Roddy McCuish, in their present posts.

ABFC councillor Bruce Marshall (Independent, Cowal), issued the following statement on Monday on behalf of the group.

“Members of the united Argyll and Bute for Change Alliance remain steadfast in their determination to initiate real change in the way that Argyll and Bute Council is governed.

“At the council meeting on Thursday, in spite of all our efforts being rejected over many weeks by the other half of the divided council, the current leadership appears intent on preserving a system that maintains additional payments for their councillors.

“This, in turn, produces a group of so called leaders who have collectively and singularly failed the electorate of Argyll and Bute.

“Many requests for the SNP group to join in a twenty six member coalition, which would establish a stable administration for the first time since the May 2012 election, have been rejected and the leader of the council has been resolute in his blinkered approach to the current political meltdown in Argyll and Bute, doggedly refusing to meet with the largest political group in the council and do something other than pay lip service to the task of constructive leadership.

“It is a matter of fact that at no time since a meeting on May 21, when he left early to go to a pre-arranged meeting with the Liberals and the Tories, has Councillor McCuish ever met with the members of Argyll and Bute for Change.

“In an attempt to prompt discussion and meetings, Argyll and Bute for Change submitted their motion to the council which concentrated on their core principles, i.e. that a new way of involving a wider range of councillors must be found and the existing remuneration structure for senior councillors needs reform.

“Any additional payments should be based on merit, experience and competence and not on paying for votes as at present.

“Less than an hour before the council meeting was due to start, Councillor Semple asked to join the meeting of Argyll and Bute for Change members who were stunned by the non-negotiable offer he presented.

“He talked about a factional, disunited SNP group and tried to persuade Argyll and Bute for Change to withdraw their motion and go with his amendment because he had the votes to carry his amendment by a slim majority.

“There was no sense of the true spirit of inclusion after deals had already been done with their ‘king makers’, the Liberals and the Tories, who later failed in their attempts to be subtle as they could not hide the puppet strings as they blatantly controlled the leader during the whole of the council meeting.

“Speaking for the SNP group, Councillor Semple refused to consider the proposal from Argyll and Bute for Change that senior councillors, apart from the civic heads, would stand down over the summer recess and ALL members would work for the basic salary over the next few weeks, including working through the recess, to bring about a new governance system that worked for the electorate.

“And so the chaos continues with current senior councillors enjoying a recess and the additional payment to fund their break, as Audit Scotland prepares to write its report on the dysfunctional Argyll and Bute Council, dominated by elected members who appear to be driven by greed and not public service.

“The public is now firmly convinced that an election is what is needed as they despair of these shenanigans while they struggle to cope with reduced family incomes and threat to their own jobs.

“In the meantime Argyll and Bute for Change continues to plan its approach to the Short Life Work Group in which it will be the dominant player, being entitled to at least five members of the 12 on the group, and it will be unswerving in its determination to bring about real and lasting change, even though many will have to be led kicking and screaming about their reduced salary cheque to this new way of doing the business all councillors were elected to do.”

* For more reaction to the ongoing political wrangling in the council chamber, don’t miss the new issue of The Buteman - on sale from Thursday, July 4.