SNP accuse Labour of ‘power grab’ claims on Falkirk Council committees

Residents of Falkirk are being let down by elected officials as a result of a political struggle to claim control of the council, the council leader has warned.

By Kirsty Paterson, Local Democracy Reporting Service
Monday, 13th December 2021, 8:06 am

A recent full council meeting saw extraordinary scenes as the SNP accused Labour and Conservative councillors of a “power grab” over the make-up of council committees.

And they challenged their opposition to form an official coalition and take responsibility for the decisions they made.

The Labour group’s refusal to accept proposed changes to the number of places they would have on two powerful committees sparked anger in the SNP ranks.

Sign up to our daily The Falkirk Herald Today newsletter

Councillor Paul Garner

The proposals would have seen the SNP, as the largest party, get six seats on both the executive and the Education, Children & Young Person executive, while Labour and the Conservative would have three each.

But Labour group leader Robert Bissett felt that the changes would give the SNP group overall control, which did not reflect that it is still a minority administration.

Read More

Read More
Police take action against children after anti-social behaviour in Grangemouth

Instead, they proposed that the committees should reduce in size, leaving the SNP with five members and the other groups with three.

The changes was proposed after Labour lost two of its nine councillors – firstly when Pat Reid resigned his Falkirk South seat and the other when Dennis Goldie resigned from the Labour group to sit as an independent.

SNP councillor Paul Garner said it was time that the opposition took a bit of responsibility.

He said: “It’s quite easy to blame the SNP at every turn for decisions we haven’t made.

“Here’s a novel idea – why don’t Labour and their Conservative pals join together, which I’m sure they’re planning to do after the election, and form the administration now, so they would take responsibility for these decisions!”

The leader of the council, Cecil Meiklejohn, agreed with her colleague.

She said: “This is a power grab – the Labour party have lost two members but they still want to have the balance of power.

“They don’t want to recognise that the SNP are still the biggest party and we stepped up to take on administration and they have tried to hold the council back at every turn, every vote.

“It’s about thwarting the SNP, it’s not about Falkirk Council – it’s about sniping from the sidelines.

“I truly hope the public see this and come the next election they’ll be able to make a difference and see Falkirk thrive because right now the opposition are holding this back.”

The vote showed just how evenly the council is now split.

As independent councillor Dennis Goldie voted against his former party, the tally was tied at 15 votes each – leaving the Provost to use his casting vote, supporting the Labour amendment.

That in turn sparked anger from SNP Councillor David Alexander who demanded to know the last time that the Provost had voted with the SNP.

The Provost replied: “I’m an independent councillor and I’m not aligned to any party!”

There was yet more frustration for the SNP administration when they tried to put forward some changes to the council’s Standing Orders.

The Labour group said they wanted more detail and asked for it to be continued to a further meeting.

But Cllr Meiklejohn said she couldn’t understand why this was necessary.

She said: “It’s further obstructions, yet again – it seems petty not to agree and move on.

“This council now has a reputation of not taking decisions and that is really frustrating.

“It’s become a farce the way we go about our business – we need to just step up to the mark and recognise that we should be moving on with this.”

Thank you for reading this article on our free-to-read website. We're more reliant on your support than ever as the shift in consumer habits brought about by Coronavirus impacts our advertisers.

Please consider purchasing a subscription to our print newspaper to help fund our trusted, fact-checked journalism.