Falkirk Council: Former provost Billy Buchanan hits out at the ways roles were awarded

A former Provost has hit out at appointments made within the administration of Falkirk Council, saying Independent councillors were not consulted.

By Kirsty Paterson, Local Democracy Reporter
Monday, 27th June 2022, 5:23 pm
Updated Thursday, 30th June 2022, 9:13 pm

Councillor Billy Buchanan complained to members of Falkirk Council, at its second meeting of the new term, that he and other Independents did not know in advance about changes being made by the SNP group.

But the SNP group leader, Cecil Meiklejohn, told councillors that her door had been open to all parties while she was attempting to put an administration together.

The SNP, which formed another minority administration after May’s election, proposed a slightly different set-up this time, with fewer portfolio holders – councillors who act as spokespeople for the administration.

Councillor Billy Buchanan is unhappy about the changes made to the council structure

At the council’s first meeting, the SNP suggested that six portfolio holders – reduced from eight – should now receive £26,235 for the work that they do.

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There is also a salary of £23,514 for the conveners of Planning, Civic Licensing and the Licensing Board.

Councillor Buchanan demanded an explanation as to why portfolio holders – who are classed as senior councillors – included newly elected councillors, Iain Sinclair and Stacey Devine.

Councillor Buchanan said: “We were handed a sheet at the meeting with all these different changes and told that there were going to be these levels.

“We don’t feel that we had an opportunity for a fair discussion on the changes.”

He pointed out that he and another Independent councillor, Robert Spears, both have more than 30 years experience and challenged the leader of the council to explain her choices.

He said: “I would like if the leader of the council could maybe give a report at one of the next meetings where she could identify the justification for having these portfolio holders classified as senior councillors.”

But Councillor Meiklejohn replied: “I would refer him back to what he said about his long service and indeed Councillor Spears’ long service. You will certainly know how administrations and councils have worked previously and the way senior councillor positions have been allocated.

“I am confident that every one of my portfolio holders are there in a justified position – based on their knowledge, skills and experience.”

While there is no formal coalition between any parties this year, the SNP did step aside to allow Labour’s former group leader to be elected as Provost.

Councillor Meiklejohn added: “What I would say is that for the first time ever in the council – certainly in my time – there has been the opportunity to share the political and civic posts across the council rather than retain it all within a political administration.

“That’s what we sought to do and I was disappointed that none of the Independents came chapping on my door to speak to me during this process, because my door was always open.”

“It’s up to the council who it appoints and there was a fair and democratic vote.”

The four Independent councillors still have to decide between them who will take up their allocated places on several committees, including Education, Children & Young People Executive; Audit and Pensions.

And there may be another change as councillor Buchanan also offered to give up his place on Falkirk Council’s executive in favour of Grangemouth’s Independent councillor Robert Spears, who is now the longest serving elected member.