SNP lose first vote at Falkirk Council

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Labour and Tory members of Falkirk Council closed ranks to ensure the minority SNP administration lost its first key vote.

On the first day of business on Wednesday, council leader Cecil Meiklejohn moved a change to standing orders that would have cut the number of top-earning portfolio posts.

The SNP claims the move would have saved around £30,000 a year, which they said could have been re-directed into front line services.

But Labour and the Tories demanded the status quo and joined forces with one of the council’s two Independents to win the vote 17-13.

Portfolio holders, senior councillors overseeing the performance of key services, earn £22,689 a year and councillors £16,927.

The proposal was to keep the positions of leader, economic development, housing, children’s services and health and social care as ‘promoted posts’ and scrap culture, leisure and tourism, the environment, public protection and resources.

The vote also ruled out a move to trim the Executive and Education Executive from 12 to ten members. The SNP claimed it would work in the opposition’s favour because each would be made up of six members of the administration and four members from the Labour and Tory Groups and two Independents.

SNP Group Leader Councillor Cecil Meiklejohn said: “I approached the Labour Group with a proposal to share power as we recognise no party has an absolute mandate, although the SNP as the largest party have a responsibility to lead.

“This was a genuine opportunity to work together for the benefit of the people of Falkirk and I am deeply disappointed that the Labour leaders blocked their members from participating in the administration of the Council.

“We were more than prepared to be both inclusive and constructive. The SNP group proposed saving money by paying senior councillors less and making the Executive of the Council more balanced.

“However, the antics of the Labour and Tory groups acting in unison over these proposals to save does not bode well for the future.

“The position Labour and the Tories put the council in for no other reason than seeking a division they knew they would win without assessing the impact was not acceptable and does their respective parties no favours whatsoever.

“Through the actions of Labour and the Tory groups the SNP were forced to scrap their slimmed down and less expensive structures.”

Bo’ness Labour councillor David Aitchison defended his party’s stance on the trimmed down wages for councillors, saying it was an “austerity” measure.

He said: “The Labour Group highlighted our stance as one that we are against the austerity measures being imposed by the Tories in Westminster and the way the Tartan Tories – the SNP – are passing this on to Scottish Local Authorities.

“The people of Falkirk will continue to suffer under an SNP Scottish Government. The SNP government budget priorities do not include council services.

“We will continue to fight for improvements for the people and communities of the Falkirk district.”