North Lanarkshire Council has a new Labour provost and a Conservative depute for the first time in its history following a second special meeting completing its political power switch.
Labour member Kenny Duffy is the new provost – and will be assisted by Bob Burgess, the Wishaw Conservative member after two knife-edge roll calls in the council chamber, respectively decided by two votes and one vote.
The new Labour administration has also installed its own new team of conveners, to replace the SNP team which was ousted from the helm of the local authority after just 12 weeks, in a series of events following the resignation of leader Jordan Linden.
SNP councillor Sophia Coyle voted against her own party in two of the three votes, supporting the Labour provost ahead of her own party nominee of Anne Thomas and backing the new administration’s switch of conveners.
Her surprise votes came just two weeks after her father, neighbouring Airdrie councillor Michael Coyle, defected from the SNP and provided Labour with what proved to be the single decisive vote which saw them wrest control of the council away from its largest party.
Opposition leader Tracy Carragher called the latest events in the council chamber “absolutely ridiculous”.
She told Lanarkshire Live: “The people of North Lanarkshire are being completely disrespected by this Westminster-supporting union and I am disgusted – you should all hang your heads in shame.”
This afternoon’s meeting was originally called after provost Agnes Magowan stood down from the civic role for family health reasons; but the new administration added to the agenda the replacement of incumbent depute Anne Thomas of the SNP as well as changing the leadership of each council committee.
Motherwell South-East & Ravenscraig member Councillor Duffy won 38-36 in the election for provost, ahead of SNP nominee Councillor Thomas.
Conservative leader Sandy Watson proposed Wishaw party representative Bob Burgess for the depute role, which he won 37-36 with the votes of his party plus Labour and Michael Coyle, defeating the SNP’s bid to retain Councillor Thomas in the role.
Airdrie representative Sophia Coyle did not vote on the installation of the Conservative depute provost, but supported Labour’s other two motions; independent Alan Beveridge abstained on all three votes, while Labour member Bill Shields and British Unionist councillor John Jo Leckie were both absent from the hybrid meeting.
New provost Duffy said: “On taking this chair I become the youngest and first openly LGBT+ civic head in North Lanarkshire – and although I am the first, this belongs to us all.
“Elected office is for everyone and it’s incumbent on all of us to remove the barriers that many still face; we all have a responsibility in this chamber to represent our communities.”
He also paid tribute to his predecessor after receiving the chain of office, saying: “Councillor Magowan has been my ward colleague since 2017; I know she’ll continue to work hard for her community and I wish her and her family all the very best.”
Ahead of the vote for North Lanarkshire’s new “first citizen”, Councillor Thomas said: “It has been my privilege to serve the people of North Lanarkshire as depute provost, with honesty, accountability and the required impartiality of this civic role.
“I will continue to serve the people of North Lanarkshire and the residents of my ward, and will continue to perform my duties and hold all parties – including those who disrespect the people of North Lanarkshire’s desire for change – accountable to the constituents they are meant to serve.”
She had been part of an SNP administration with three women in the top four council roles, along with the former provost and deposed depute council leader Carragher, and tweeted after the half-hour meeting: “The patriarchal system is alive and well in North Lanarkshire Council; four men at the top; no change there.”
Councillor Carragher criticised the North Lanarkshire power switch, coming less than four months after the SNP was elected as the largest party in the local government election with 36 seats on polling day compared to Labour’s 32, saying: “I and my colleagues are proud to have been what the people of North Lanarkshire voted for.”
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