A split rainbow coalition is hanging onto power on Dumfries and Galloway Council – however opposition councillors insist that the arrangement is in “disarray”.
Cracks have appeared in the SNP-Labour-Lib Dems-independent collective which has run the council administration for the last eight months and this led to a reshuffle of the power positions at a specially-called meeting on Friday.
With Labour and SNP being fierce rivals at national level, the local Labour group appear to be distancing themselves from their coalition partners when it comes to local government leadership.
At Friday’s meeting, Labour group head Linda Dorward stepped down as council co-leader and instead took on the position of chairwoman of the communities committee.
Meanwhile, her Labour colleague Archie Dryburgh was appointed civic head.
SNP group leader Stephen Thompson has since become sole council leader with Lib Dems Councillor Richard Brodie appointed as his new deputy.
The arrangement keeps the largest political party, the Conservatives, out of power.
The Tories did put forward an alternative as Councillor Ian Blake proposed that their group leader Gail Macgregor be appointed new council leader, with colleague Malcolm Johnstone as civic head. This move lost out 26-16 in a vote.
Councillor Macgregor said: “I’d like to express my full surprise that only seven months into the term of this council that the rainbow coalition has thunderclouds surrounding it.
“If we think back to May, my group were proposing a fully inclusive council which would have involved all groups.
“It sought to respect that we are significantly the largest group and that all groups mattered.”
Councillor Macgregor had previously joined panels on leadership, budget and business/economy with the leaders of the other political groups to foster joint, collaborative working aside from party politics.
She’s now removing herself from these groups and added: “We’ve ended up with a rainbow coalition that’s shut out the largest party on this council – and is doing a huge disservice to our electorate; a coalition that now seems to be in disarray.”
Councillor Dorward suggested that nothing has changed when it comes to running the council, apart from a few positions being shifted around.
She said: “The single transferable vote, or STV process that underpins local democracy means that no single party or group in Dumfries and Galloway Council has the required majority to form an administration.
“It therefore falls to every group to look to work with others to make an administration work and to deliver the changes we have promised to those who elected us.
“In May, 2022, 27 elected members opted to work together via a formal agreement process to achieve this. Today, 26 of us are still doing this successfully.”