New bid to form council coalition

Any attempt to prop up a Tory-led council in Dumfries and Galloway would be “an affront to democracy”, according to the opposition Labour group.

The comments came as “negotiations” started on the future of the council coalition after seven members of its Conservative group resigned, leaving just eight members of the group.

Council leader Ivor Hyslop has said the current Tory-SNP alliance should continue. However, this would reduce the coalition from 25 to a minority administration of just 18 members. As the council currently has 47 councillors, 24 are required to achieve a majority. Labour believes this would lead to “murky behind the scenes” agreements with independents to achieve a majority for every vote – a position Labour has described as “unsustainable”.

Labour group Leader Ronnie Nicholson said: “The decision of seven members of the Conservative group to resign leaves the current coalition as unsustainable. Any suggestion that a council of 47 members should continue to be led by a group of just eight Tory members would be an affront to democracy.

“The Tory group should do the honourable thing and step aside but take a key role in opposition by chairing the council’s Scrutiny Committee and holding the administration to account, instead of trying to cling on to power.

“The public would rightly be angry if the SNP group voted to prop up a Tory council, when even half its own members had lost confidence in their own group. It would simply lead to murky behind the scenes deals with independents everytime there was a vote.

“The Labour group has put a clear proposal to the SNP to form a progressive coalition that would give us strong and decisive leadership, but with the current leader of the Conservative group chairing the Scrutiny Committee. It has been a long-standing policy of the Labour group that the Scrutiny Committee should be made up of only opposition councillors, holding the administration to account. The ball is now very much in the SNP’s court.

”Although this would be a Labour-SNP coalition, it would an inclusive administration drawing on the views of every one of the 47 councillors by seeking a consensus on the council’s priorities and policy programme.

“We would not repeat the current practice of the administration simply voting down ideas because they come from an opposition group. There are huge challenges facing this council and no one or two or even three groups have a monopoly on good ideas. The public want to see all councilors working together to meet those challenges.”