In an act of shameful contempt for the principle of openness and transparency within local government Labour, who secured only 37% o the first preference votes in last years elections compared to the SNP’s 40%, have grabbed total control in what was described as a “Soviet style power grab.”
At present policy decisions are taken by committees made up of Councillors on a proportional basis with the ability to refer areas of division to the full council where all Councillors have a say in the issue.
However, decisions will now be taken by an Executive Committee of 12 Councillors with a skewed political balance of 9 Labour, 2 SNP and 1 Non Aligned Independent. The Executive Committee will also have absolute power with no right of opposition members to call contentious items into full council.
A Scrutiny Committee is proposed as a counter balance to hold the Executive to account with the normal practice of the Scrutiny Committee being controlled by the opposition and having a measure of power but not in Falkirk. The body set up to hold the Executive Committee to account will have a 6 – 4 majority in favour of the Executive party. In other words Labour will scrutinise Labour.
This means 10 elected Councillors, 8 of whom are SNP will not be part of either the Executive or Scrutiny Committees and therefore have no role within the council.
The meeting began with SNP leader, Cllr Cecil Meiklejohn, pointing out that the proposal was not only in breach of the 1989 Act of Parliament that guaranteed proportionality and therefore a breach of Falkirk Council’s own Standing Orders, the rules in which the council operate.
Bizarrely Falkirk Council Chief Executive, Mary Pitcaithly, ruled that the report indicates an intention to change the Standing Orders at the April meeting it is therefore OK to ignore the current rules. A ruling which brings into question the role of senior officers in the process of change.
Speaking after the meeting which ended at 11pm, Councillor Meiklejohn said,
“This is a bad day for democracy within Falkirk with the local authority being run by a Polit Bureau that scrutinises itself and excludes the democratically elected opposition.
Absolute power corrupts absolutely and Labour and their Tory partners desire to control all has corrupted the political process within the council the detriment of democracy,”
The SNP Group will meet early next week to decide whether or not to take this matter to third party authorities such as Audit Scotland or directly to the Scottish Government.