West Lothian Council leadership to be decided on May 24

A decision over the leadership of the new council for West Lothian has been pushed back for almost two weeks to give all sides more time for negotiation.

By Stuart Sommerville, LDR
Friday, 13th May 2022, 10:43 am

The SNP group won 15 of the seats, and the largest share of the vote but no outright control, in last week’s election. Labour won 12, the Conservatives four, Independent one and Lib Dems one.

It was hoped a new administration would be formed when councillors met on Thursday morning to elect a Provost and deputy, as well as a leader and deputy.

The SNP approached Labour last weekend suggesting the two parties work together to “lock the Tories” out of local government. Labour has not responded to requests for comments.

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There was a similar delay in the formation of the last administration in 2017- a minority Labour-led with loose “confidence and supply” support from the Conservatives.

At the brief meeting chaired by the council’s chief executive, Graham Hope, Labour group leader Lawrence Fitzpatrick proposed an adjournment until 10am on Tuesday, May 24, the next scheduled date for a meeting of the full council.

Councillor Fitzpatrick said: “We’re in a situation where we seek to form an administration by the end of the month. In my estimation, given the pressure on us, the 24th would be appropriate because this is the day on which we normally meet.”

Councillor Janet Campbell, the group leader of the SNP, said she was in broad agreement but asked that if the date was set, could it be changed?

West Lothian Council chief executive Graham Hope. Photo by Lisa Ferguson.

James Millar, head of governance, told the meeting that if a date was agreed, it could not.

Of the 33 councillors, 31 voted in favour of adjournment. Independent Councillor Suart Borrowman abstained. Councillor Willie Boyle, SNP, voted against adjournment, suggesting that he was in favour of proposing a meeting for Friday May 20.

After the meeting, West Lothian Conservative group leader Damian Timson said: “Hopefully on May 24 the council will make the right decisions with the regards to the structure of the council and one that will stand up to the SNP Scottish Government and their deplorable underfunding of Local Government”.

The council’s meetings are still being held remotely, but broadcast. The first scheduled face to face meeting of the new council is at the end of the month when the council’s Education and Council Executive meet. These are the two main decision making bodies of the council and membership is weighted towards the governing group.

The council agreed a new hybrid style of meetings in January where each party would be represented by no more than two members in person. with others joining by Audio Visual access.