Depute Argyl & Bute Council leader survives calls to quit

Depute leader Gary Mulvaney.
Depute leader Gary Mulvaney.

Argyll and Bute Council’s depute leader will face no further action after being censured for breaking the code of conduct and has survived calls to consider his post.

Councillor Gary Mulvaney was subject to the reprimand by the Standards Commission for Scotland last month after failing to declare a non-financial interest in plans to introduce parking limits near a housing development in Cardross.

The breach arose after the authority’s Helensburgh and Lomond area committee, including Cllr Mulvaney, discussed parking restrictions at the Scott Gardens sheltered housing unit – run by Dunbritton Housing Association, of which Cllr Mulvaney is a board member – in December 2017.

The censure was discussed at the full council meeting on February 21, with Cllr Mulvaney leaving the chamber while talks took place.

Members agreed to take no further action in respect of the commission’s findings beyond noting its report.

Councillors George Freeman and Donald Kelly suggested that Cllr Mulvaney should apologise or consider his position – but other members leapt to his defence.

Councillor Freeman said: “Looking at the statements, Cllr Mulvaney says ‘I agree I had a finely balanced judgement to make’. I don’t see how he can believe he acted in a proper manner.

“Going back to a previous council leader, who had a similar incident about 18 years ago, I believe he apologised to the council that time.”

Councillor Kelly added: “I feel it does bring the council into disrepute. I think that Cllr Mulvaney should, in the best interests of Argyll and Bute, consider his position.”

But Councillor Ellen Morton, who is chair of the area committee, responded: “I am astonished at these remarks.

“They [the Standards Commission] have imposed the minimum sanction that they could under legislation. They have made it clear it was a finely balanced judgement.

“This particular item did not come from Dunbritton; it came from council officers on road safety grounds arising from complaints.

“It never crossed my mind at that meeting that Cllr Mulvaney had any interest to declare. It was entirely a road safety matter on the A814.

“He has nothing to be ashamed of, nothing to apologise for, and I am bitterly disappointed in the remarks made.”

SNP councillor Richard Trail added: “The Standards Commission, in censuring, have gone over the top. I believe this was a trivial issue and I was sorry to see Cllr Mulvaney censured.”

Other members also spoke warmly in Cllr Mulvaney’s favour, with leader Cllr Aileen Morton saying: “I have been aware for six and a half years that he was a Dunbritton board member and I didn’t think he had to declare an interest. I think calls for him to apologise are ridiculous. I would ask that the council notes the detail of the report, notes that Cllr Mulvaney has not sought to appeal and there is no need for any further action.”

Cllr Mulvaney then returned to the chamber to take part in the rest of the meeting.