Councillors without politics

Tuesday August 6th 2019

Brian Small

Written by Local Democracy Reporter, Marie Sharp

A former councillor is calling for party politics to be taken out of local government to allow more scrutiny of the work being carried out.

Brian Small was elected to East Lothian Council in 2017 and appointed leader of the Conservative opposition group.

But after a life-threatening battle with sepsis, he stepped down as leader and in February this year resigned from his role and the Conservative party.

Now he says his experiences as an elected member have convinced him of the need to replace councillors who have a political party allegiance with independent “business-minded” people.

Mr Small, who lives in Pencaitland and is a retired businessman, said: “I have come to the conclusion that actually local government is no place for having councillors with party political connections as their first priority.

“Unlikely as it is ever to be we really need high quality, business experienced, independent councillors who put the needs of local people above all else.”

Mr Small, who resigned after accusing fellow Conservative councillors of forming an “unofficial coalition” with the council’s minority Labour administration, claimed he was ostracised when he was opposition leader for being seen talking to the SNP group leader.

East Lothian Council post the 2017 election has been made up of nine Labour councillors, seven Conservative and six SNP councillors.

Mr Small said: “To me party allegiances were not the most important thing, making the best decisions for the people who elected us was.

“I was a voice in the wilderness.”

His call for independent councillors is, he says, a way to allow elected members to provide the governance and scrutiny needed to serve local residents.

He said councillors spend too much time fighting each other over political decisions instead of looking at how their local authority is being run.

He added: “The real problem is not enough tough questions being asked in key committees.

“We are the ones who have to foot the bill time and again from all of this lack of focus on the really important issues in local government administration.

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