Labour brokers deal with Tories

Fife House in Glenrothes.
Fife House in Glenrothes.

LABOUR looks to have reeled in enough support this week to lead Fife Council in a new minority administration.

Over the next two Thursdays, at council meetings, the party hopes to present its proposals and then put the structure in place for governance of the local authority.

Declarations of support last week from Independent members, and then Conservative councillors, swayed the necessary numbers in Labour’s favour and strengthened its claim of a “democratic legitimacy” to head the council, following its strong showing at the May 3 election.

Group leader Councillor Alex Rowley said Labour believed a minority administration was a better way forward for Fife – adding that all the parties had talked to each other over the last few days.

Among Labour’s hopes were more transparency, constructive working with all parties and greater powers for decision-making at local level.

Conservative group leader Cllr Dave Dempsey, and Levenmouth Independent Cllr Andrew Rodger, said neither group would enter a coalition with Labour but both were impressed by its desire for more openness and local control.

Fife Labour group secretary David Ross said: “Our wish is to provide Fife with stable and progressive local government over the next five years and, to that end, we have sought the support of all parties to make progress.

“We are pleased the four Independent councillors and the Conservative group have agreed to support our vision of the way forward.”

Stressing no coalition with the Tories or Independents had been offered, or requested, Mr Ross said there were clearly “significant differences” between Labour and the Tories on many policy issues.

“But, in regard to Fife Council, they share our view, as set out in our manifesto, that decision making within the council should be more transparent and inclusive, that more power should be devolved to local level, and that the council should take consultation more seriously and have real engagement with local communities, businesses and other stakeholders,” he added.

Labour also hoped to give all parties and individual councillors a greater chance for constructive roles in decision-making and policy development.

Cllr Andrew Rodger said he and his fellow Independents wanted greater sustainability in the council and better consultation on health and social care.

More scrutiny and openness would help people to see decisions being made for the benefit of their communities.

THE SNP, which previously led Fife Council in a pact with the Liberal Democrats, believed Labour must have been “desperate” to allow the Conservatives to side with them.

Group leader Cllr Peter Grant said: “The administration won’t be formed by press statements over the weekend, but by a decision of all 78 councillors tomorrow (Thursday).”

However, it appeared “Labour’s enthusiasm for Tory policies” might be enough to secure votes from the few Conservatives still left standing after the election, he added.

“The news that Labour and the Tories have done a deal is disappointing but not surprising.

“Labour has always given the impression it would offer anything to anyone to get back into power, while the Tories seemed to be looking for any excuse to join it.

Cllr Grant added: “The worrying thing is neither Labour nor the Tories are at all keen to tell us exactly which Tory policies Labour will now impose on Fife, in direct contradiction of what the people voted for. But no doubt we’ll all know once the decisions have been made.

“Only the SNP can now protect the people of Fife from this back-door Toryism.

“The SNP is in a strong position and we will continue to work tirelessly, whether in administration or opposition, to make sure the improvements we’ve delivered in the last five years are not squandered.”

Levenmouth SNP councillor Ally Hunter added Labour’s deal with Tories must feel like “a slap in the face” to Labour supporters.

He added: “It’s a worry that Labour and the Tories have embraced each others’ ideas so much, so soon.”

TAY Bridgehead councillor Tim Brett has been chosen to lead Fife’s Liberal Democrat group, succeeding long-serving East Neuk member Elizabeth Riches.

First elected in 1990, Cllr Riches announced her intention at the May 3 poll to step down after 10 years as group leader.

She was also deputy leader of Fife Council for the last five years.

Cllr Brett said: “We are looking forward to serving the people of Fife over the next five years, either as part of the new administration or in opposition.

“We have an experienced and talented group of councillors, a number of whom have held senior positions in the council.

“We are proud of our record of achievement in the last administration, where progress was made in many areas and, in particular, are handing on the council in a strong financial position.”