Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Highland Council - full council agenda branded "Lightweight" by opposition

Politicking is continuing at Glenurquhart round with the Indy group making waves in their opposition role but the administration is robustly defending its position. 

The largest group on Highland Council has branded this Thursday's full council agenda “lightweight” and symptomatic of an administration fearing controversy in the run-up to the Euro election and September’s referendum.

Council leader Drew Hendry has dismissed as nonsense claims from independent councillors that the the SNP-led coalition is “fearty”.

But Carolyn Wilson, who leads the 34-member independent group, claims a substantial number of colleagues believe fear is the reason for the short agenda.

Speaking last night, she said: “A lot of councillors have been suggesting that it’s very light on content. If you compare it with past agendas for this time of year far more business was being discussed.

“There doesn’t seem to be any other explanation than business being held back until after the elections and referendum.”

She claimed party whipping now dictates council business and that the members’ contribution had been seriously diminished under the current SNP, Liberal Democrat and Labour administration.

Former SNP councillor Donnie Kerr, who now sits as an “Independent Nationalist”, shares her criticism of the agenda.

“Maybe I’m becoming cynical,” he said, “but political parties, especially when in administration, tend to tone down anything that could cause any ructions if there’s an election nearby.

“If you take out the Audit Scotland report and one other agenda item, I do wonder why we’re having this meeting.”

He claimed substantial changes to the composition of various committees proposed for Thursday’s meeting signified “chaos” in an administration he said was “railroading” its policy through.

Soundings from councillors in the wake of the agenda being published has revealed frustration that few – including SNP group members – had any prior knowledge of the content, adding weight to increasing complaints of “dictatorial” methods of the current regime.

One Inverness SNP councillor who did not wish to be named confirmed that he knew nothing of the content before receiving his agenda papers.

Inverness independent Jim Crawford said: “There’s little in this agenda in terms of substance. They’re clearly trying to keep anything remotely controversial out of reach until after the independence referendum.”

Asked why the agenda was so short, Cllr Hendry said: “That’s the business that’s coming before council, but we also have a lot of business that’s now devolved to the area committees.

“The other committees are picking up the type of substantive business they should have been doing and that means we can tackle stategic issues at the full council.

“We’ve got the budget consultation which deals with £60million of savings over four years – that’s an incredibly substantive item – and I don’t think there’s any hiding place, there.

“People who make these accusations should tell us what they think is missing. Everybody in the council has got the ability to raise a motion if there’s something not on the  paper that they think is important.”

Readers can see the Highland Council agenda for tomorrow's full council meeting on this webpage here. 


Anonymous said...

Ah - The times they are a-changin
Remember the "Good Old Days" when the Independent (Tory) Councillors raised Council Taxes, wanted to close Nairn Swimming Pool, sold off our Care Homes, privatised our Grass Cutting, centrailsed every single Council Committee in Inverness, paid below a living wage etc etc.
Carolyn Wilson and her colleagues can wish all they want for "exciting agendas".
Things are not perfect - but its a big improvement!

Anonymous said...

Colin might like to be reminded that it was the SNP in Hollyrood who put the Highland Council on a reduced budget, forcing a raft of cost-cutting measures.

Anonymous said...

I think that you will find that Holyrood has a "fixed" budget from Westminster. The SNP give a higher % of that fixed budget direct to Councils than any previous Holyrood administration.
The only - the only option would be to increase Council Tax - and given the pressure on Nairn households I don't believe that is an acceptable option.
A mansion tax would be useful - but I see that has been dropped by the LibTories.
Colin :-)