Election 2022: Fife Tories aim for bigger say in council decision making

Fife Council’s leader of the opposition hopes 2022 will not only bring an increase in Conservative councillors via May’s elections but will also see the party have a bigger say in the decision-making process.

By Craig Smith, Local Democracy Reporting Service
Friday, 7th January 2022, 3:20 pm
Updated Friday, 7th January 2022, 3:20 pm

Looking ahead to what will no doubt be another challenging year, Tory leader Councillor Dave Dempsey would love to see further progress on the electoral front after 2017’s local elections saw the Conservatives win a fifth of the seats on the council.

But whatever happens in 2022’s all-important vote, Mr Dempsey is keen to see consensus where it is possible - and more power given to the region’s seven local area committees.

“My main hope for 2022 is for the Fife Conservative Group to get involved in shaping the policy and delivery of services by Fife Council, rather than, as now, sitting on the outside and being voted down even when the ruling coalition agrees with us,” he noted.

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Dave Dempsey on the campaign trail in 2017 with Ruth Davidson, former Scottish party leader and fellow Fifer

“Obviously, that’ll be easier the more of us are elected in May.

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“I hope to see much more decentralisation of control from Glenrothes to Fife’s seven areas, so that decisions can be made by those who better understand the effects those decisions will have.

“And I hope to see Fife Council more focussed on what the public wants and less on what it thinks they ought to want.”

Dave Dempsey who in Kirkcaldy Town Square

Fife’s ruling SNP/Labour administration has already suggested that council tax is likely to rise when budgets are set in February, with local authorities given free rein this year by the Scottish Government to do so.

Co-leader David Alexander stressed earlier this week that any rise was likely to be no more than 3%, and that would minimise the need for cutbacks across a range of services.

With regard to council tax and the February budget, Mr Dempsey said the Conservatives were in “quite an unusual position” this year.

“Ordinarily, we’d have been working on a list of potential savings put together by council officers but this time there’s no such list,” he explained.

“Instead, we’re told that the budget can be more or less balanced provided the council tax goes up by 3%, so that’ll be our starting point.

“If we can get that 3% to a lower figure we will, but there’s so much uncertainty, not least around what will or won’t be needed to continue coping with COVID.

“We really do live in interesting times, as the curse says.”

Indeed, Mr Dempsey questioned the need for the likes of the Conservatives or the Liberal Democrats to come up with alternative budget proposals when the numbers mean the administration budget will likely be nodded through.

“It’s a mystery why council oppositions present budgets at all,” he said.

“It doesn’t happen in Parliament and it wouldn’t happen in Fife if I had my way.

“Instead, we’d debate the individual measures and come to the best mix.

“Perhaps that last bit sums up my hope for 2022 – that we come to the best mix with the Fife Conservatives able to properly contribute.”

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