Labour stay in control in Edinburgh

Thursday May 4th 2023


Edinburgh City Chambers.

Written by Local Democracy Reporter, Donald Turvill

Labour will remain in control of Edinburgh City Council following a failed bid by opposition councillors to oust them from power.

The minority ruling group, who have been in administration for just under a year, were able to continue running the council thanks to support from the Tories and Lib Dems.

The SNP said there had been a “cataclysmic failure of leadership” in the capital in the last 12 months, and were backed by the Greens in a vote to dissolve the administration and form a new one next month.

Despite their support – and backing from Independent Cllr Ross McKenzie, who resigned from Labour in February – it failed to get across the line.

A senior Labour member said the plan to remove the leadership was negligent and would leave a “vacuum,” whilst a Tory councillor dismissed allegations her group was “the tail that was wagging the dog of this council”.

A motion on changes to appointments to committees and boards tabled by the SNP at a full council meeting held today sought to remove council leader and deputy leader, Cammy Day and Mandy Watt, from their roles “due to systemic failures of leadership and broken promises”.

It read: “Therefor (sic) agrees to hold these positions vacant until June Council to allow an Administration to be formed which can better deliver residents’ needs and aspirations and prioritise tackling climate change and fighting poverty.”

Proposing to keep the existing political arrangements, Cllr Day thanked his administration for their work over the past year. He said: “It’s not been without its challenges, I accept that.

“There are some huge challenges thrown to us as always every year. I think working cross-party with as many parties as will work with us is the best way forward.”

Councillor Adam McVey, SNP group leader and the council leader himself until Labour gained power, said: “The last year has been a cataclysmic failure of leadership.

“In poverty reduction we’ve seen no progress, on climate we’ve seen Edinburgh become a back of the pack player in terms of progress when just a year we were world leaders in what we were achieving and pushing forward.

“Right across the board, the politics of our city has changed.”

He accused the administration of “breaking promises” by supporting the Lib Dem budget in February which crossed their red lines on outsourcing and compulsory redundancies, adding their time in power has been “a year of missed opportunity for Edinburgh”.

Greens co-convenor Alys Mumford said the council found itself in a situation where an “extreme minority” ruling group attempts to “wrangle disparate parties”.

She said: “We are one year in from the election and one of the frustrations has been the difference in the conversations that happen behind closed doors and the conversations that happen here on the floor.”

Addressing the much-repeated claim that the Tories and Lib Dems are a part of the council administration, after they backed Labour taking control and subsequently took up paid committee roles, Conservative councillor Jo Mowat said: “Unfortunately we are not in control, we are in…a new situation that was gifted to us by the voters.

“If we really were the tail that was wagging the dog of this council, we would not be having as many of those votes where we go down in flames.”

And Labour transport convener Scott Arthur said removing the administration would create a “vacuum” and also put the final phase of the tram project at risk.

“It’s negligent,” he added. “[SNP] want everything to pause for another month or six weeks or so, and I find this absolutely incredible.

“Some people have never got over the fact that they’re no longer leading this council, never got over the fact so much that they had to get dragged out of their office.

“When I speak to people around this city in my capacity as a convener they see the change in culture.”

Councillors voted 33 to 29 to keep Labour in power with Labour, Lib Dems and Conservatives in favour and SNP, Greens and independent Ross McKenzie against.

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