Falkirk Labour Provost, Pat Reid, has come in for heavy criticism following the first meeting of Falkirk Council under the new decision making set up that gives the Provost swingeing new powers.
The council’s opposition SNP are particularly angry at the handling of two areas of the agenda and have accused the Provost of “failing to meet his responsibilities as the chair of the council”.
Under draconian changes to council rules introduced recently Provost Reid was able to deny debate on a statutory report brought to the council by the Chief Executive. The report informed council of a formal censure by the Ethical Standards Commission against Billy Buchanan, the Independent Councillor who has aligned himself to Labour along with the council’s two Tories.
By changing the running order and refusing an SNP motion to continue the matter Provost Reid was able to have the report against Councillor Buchanan dropped without opposition members having the opportunity to scrutinise the findings of the Ethical Standards Commission or propose their own sanctions.
The SNP are angry that just days after the maverick Bonnybridge Councillor was found guilty of breaching the National Code of Conduct by the local government watchdog he was made a Bailie by the council’s ruling Labour / Tory coalition. The SNP believe this could be interpreted as rewarding bad or inappropriate behaviour and had intended seeking a reversal of the award of Bailie status.
However,, the report on Councillor Buchanan’s guilty verdict, which originally was placed 12th in a 20 item agenda, yet was the only item that fell victim of the controversial guillotine mechanism introduced by the current Administration to shorten council meetings.
An angry SNP leader, Councillor Cecil Meiklejohn blasted fellow Falkirk North Councillor, Provost Reid whom she accused of “abusing his position as Provost”. She went on to say,
“The additional powers Provost Reid has accumulated for himself over his period of office are unprecedented making him the most powerful politician in the history of local government in Falkirk.
With power comes responsibility and on this occasion Provost Reid failed to live up to that responsibility and abused his position by seeking to scupper any scrutiny what so ever on the actions of Billy Buchanan.
Whether the tail is wagging the dog in the coalition Administration or not we don’t know but as Provost, Pat Reid’s first priority has to be upholding openness and transparency within the council chambers.
What message does this as well as the rewarding of Billy Buchanan over his breach of the Councillor’s Code of Conduct?
Perhaps if we had been allowed to make comment we could asked the question.”
The SNP also criticised the slot allocated to questions directed at the Administration’s 9 portfolio holders after only 18 of the 33 questions submitted.
The SNP point to the fact each portfolio holder will face an average of only 6 minutes questioning every three months and have challenged the Administration to open themselves up to proper levels of scrutiny.