City leader Jenny Dawe is preparing to stand down as leader of the Liberal Democrats in Edinburgh after more than a decade at the helm, the Evening News can reveal.
• Jenny Dawe
Councillor Dawe today admitted for the first time that she is considering handing over the reins of her group at the City Chambers to one of her colleagues following next year's election. It follows a turbulent five-year term as part of the coalition in charge of the city, which has seen the council face widespread criticism for its management of the tram project, the storm around The Gathering and cuts across all areas of its budget.
Opposition politicians today branded Cllr Dawe a "lame duck leader" and urged her "do the decent thing" and stand down right away.
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Cllr Dawe's announcement comes after growing signs of discontent within her group, with it today emerging that two more Lib Dem councillors are preparing to stand down before next year's council elections.
Conor Snowden and Gary Peacock would join education leader Marilyne MacLaren, Lord Provost George Grubb and finance leader Phil Wheeler in ending their time as a councillor, while Elaine Morris has also made a controversial switch to the SNP.
When asked whether she will seek to remain Lib Dem leader - and potentially council leader - Cllr Dawe, who will seek re-election in the Meadows/Morningside ward, said: "This is not something I have yet decided on but I think that five years of being (council] leader is probably enough.
"I have not taken a final decision, and it depends on the result of the election, but there are competent people in the group that would want to put themselves forward for that position. From a personal point of view - and again it is not a decision I have finally taken - I am aware there are others that can do the job I do. I intend to stand as a local councillor and take it from there.
"I have been group leader since 1999 and that is a long stretch of time so there may be an opportunity for somebody else to come in with fresh ideas."
Transport leader Gordon Mackenzie would be among the favourites to take on the role as group leader, although health and housing leader Paul Edie and group chairman Charles Dundas may also be among the candidates.
Cllr Peacock, who is also a locum for the Church of Scotland at Inverleith Parish Church, said employment and family concerns could mean he will not seek re-election, but insisted that he won't follow Cllr Morris to the SNP.
He said: "It is because of my other employment circumstances and I have family to think of. If I was to defect it would be to any party other than the SNP, but I won't be defecting."
Cllr Snowden, who represents the Liberton/Gilmerton ward, also confirmed he does not expect to seek re-election as he is looking at opportunities abroad with his employer, the British Council.Councillor Andrew Burns, leader of the Labour group on the council, said: "I'm astounded to hear Jenny Dawe is openly admiting she is a 'lame duck leader'. If she has no intention of leading the Lib Dems after next May's elections, then she should do the decent thing and stand down right now."