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Bid to seize control of Moray Council from the SNP

By Alistair Whitfield

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A bid is being made to wrest control of Moray Council away from the SNP.

Moray Council Chambers. Picture: Daniel Forsyth.
Moray Council Chambers. Picture: Daniel Forsyth.

The Conservative group has combined with the Moray Alliance Group (MAG) led by councillor Derek Ross (Speyside/Glenlivet, Independent) to offer a change of administration.

They state that following the resignation of one of its councillor last month, the SNP now has too few elected members to properly give democratic representation in administration.

The move comes ahead of the council's budget which will determine how £200million is spent across Moray.

Tim Eagle (|Buckie), the leader of the Conservative group on Moray Council, said: "Despite there only being six months left of this council before the elections in 2022 we have perhaps one of the most important budgets ever for Moray.

Councillor Tim Eagle. Picture: Daniel Forsyth.
Councillor Tim Eagle. Picture: Daniel Forsyth.

"As we approach the final agreements of the huge Moray Growth Deal and battle the challenges presented by Covid-19 we recognise a need for a truly strong budget which works for all of Moray – its businesses, its people and its communities.

"With the resignation of a former SNP councillor a couple of weeks ago the group are now holding a minority administration of just seven councillors.

"That represents less than a third of all the councillors in Moray and creates a risk in ensuring key documents are passed.

"The current group being proposed would offer at least 11, and we will continue to reach out to other groups to see if we can form some form of connection for the remaining days in office."

The resignation of Paula Coy from the Elgin ward means there are now currently seven SNP councillors, nine Conservatives, one Labour and eight Independents.

Cllr Eagle continued: "I want to stress that we are not looking to challenge current work streams in the council.

"We continue to support the growth deal, the modernisation and improvement programme and the recovery and renewal plans in place following outbreak of Covid last year.

"But we think there needs to be a strong focus on a united budget which works for all in Moray this next year. Protecting businesses and employment and ensuring that staff across council services are given the support they need.

"We recognise the stresses and strains that our staff, communities and businesses have been under and we must find a way to be brave in our support for them with some real noticeable action.

"We hope other councillors will recognise the benefit of having a larger group in administration. I am ready to lead the council for the remaining months with a renewed and improved focus on Moray and the services the council delivers."

The MAG group was formed in February 2018 and comprises cllr Ross and another Independent councillor.

Councillor Derek Ross
Councillor Derek Ross

Cllr Ross said: "I have always recognised the importance of a strong administration that will work as hard as possible for the people of Moray.

"I want to stand up and help support those in education, social care and other front line and backroom services having heard their stories over the last 18 months.

"With just seven members the SNP have a huge amount of pressure on them and I am not convinced they will be bold enough in this years budget."

"That's why if successful my group will work with the Conservative group to put in place a truly strong budget which will last well into 2023, and give new councillors coming in during the election in May 2022 the best possible foundations for a successful council term.

"I want nothing more than to show the people of Moray that we know the strain of the last two years and that this is a council that will work with all, and be bold and strong in putting in place what’s needed for a positive future and recovery."

Graham Leadbitter, the leader of Moray Council. Picture: Daniel Forsyth.
Graham Leadbitter, the leader of Moray Council. Picture: Daniel Forsyth.

In response, Graham Leadbitter, Moray's council leader, criticised the Conservative and MAG group's bid to take control, labelling it as "disruptive".

Cllr Leadbitter (Elgin South, SNP) said: "The Conservative group walked away from the previous administration they were involved in, leaving their coalition partners carrying the can.

"The SNP administration Group subsequently took the reins in Moray as a minority administration and we have successfully worked with others, including Independent councillors involved in the previous administration to put key strategies and policies in place and deliver balanced budgets.

"This is an incredibly disruptive action by the Tories, just over four months out from the council elections.

"Council officers are dealing with major challenges with the threat of the new Covid variant already causing serious issues for our services.

"Allied to this are winter weather emergencies, which are coming one after another and just weeks away from the council’s budget meeting.

"Unlike the SNP in Moray, they have not proven that they can constructively work with others.

"We will robustly defend our record in office and we are actively seeking the support of others to provide continuity through to the elections in May."

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