THERE will be no SNP representation on Scottish Borders Council’s powerful executive committee, despite an impassioned plea yesterday (Thursday) from new Tweeddale West councillor Heather Anderson.
One of nine SNP members elected on May 4, Councillor Anderson from West Linton led her party’s assault on plans by the fledgling Conservative/Independent ruling coaltion to exclude opposition councillors from the executive.
This is a departure from the policy of the last SNP-led administration which made three executive places available to the Conservative opposition.
But with 15 councillors after the recent polls, the Tories and their seven Independent allies are now calling the shots.
And their plans for a new scheme of administration – with an 11-strong executive drawn exclusively from their number at its heart – were presented at yesterday’s first meeting of the council at Newtown.
“The executive committee is where all the action is in terms of policy and decision making, and for opposition voices to be silenced in this way is galling,” said Mrs Anderson.
“It does not augur well for this council that the first key decision it is being asked to make is to effectively diminish democracy.
“To the Conservatives I say: what are you afraid of? – given that, by including three members from the opposition, you will still have an inbuilt majority on the executive.
“And to the Independents I say you should respect the core values of this council, which include openness and accountability.”
Her plea was supported by fellow Tweeddale West councillor Kris Chapman, leader of the two Lib Dems who survived the election.
“As a youth worker, I know nothing of value can happen without partnership working and I urge the new administration to take this ethos forward,” said Councillor Chapman.
But Tory group leader Michelle Ballantyne defended the proposal.
“For this council to be effective – and reflect all the people who voted for change – there needs to be clarity between the administration and the opposition,” said Mrs Ballantyne.
“However, there will be places for opposition councillors on our committees and I can assure you their voices will be heard. When good ideas come forward, they will be listened to and considered by this administration.”
On a division, Mrs Anderson’s amendment to include opposition members on the executive was defeated by 19 votes to 10.
The SNP had better luck in amending a proposal for SBC’s watchdog scrutiny committee to be abolished and for its role to become an ad hoc sub-committee function of the audit and risk committee.
The council thus agreed that a combined audit and scrutiny committee should be formed.
Earlier, Shona Haslam (Con, Tweeddale East) was unanimously appointed leader of the council,
With her parents in the public benches, the 42-year-old told councillors: “I will work councillors of all parties to ensure the decisions we take are built on consensus.”
And David Parker, just one year Mrs Halslam’s senior, was the unanimous choice to take over the non-partisan role of council convener.