Edinburgh Council: Labour's suspended rebels, Katrina Faccenda and Ross McKenzie, must ditch Poundshop revolutionaries act and get to work – Susan Dalgety

I have some sympathy with council leader Cammy Day who took to Twitter last weekend to vent his anger about his local supermarket’s alarm waking him up at 7.40am.

Edinburgh councillors Ross McKenzie and Katrina Faccenda have been suspended from the Labour group for eight weeks
Edinburgh councillors Ross McKenzie and Katrina Faccenda have been suspended from the Labour group for eight weeks

After a long week running the city, I am sure Councillor Day was looking forward to a well-deserved lie-in, only to be rudely awakened by a broken alarm. Even so, his ungentlemanly language – calling Lidl “tw*ts” – was inappropriate for a man in his position.

I have been known to use the odd swear word myself, but Tory Group leader, Iain Whyte, was right when he gently chided his council colleague.

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“In public life, regardless of how frustrating a situation might be, we all have to be careful about the language we use,” he told this newspaper, with just a hint of sanctimony.

Councillor Day later apologised, and Lidl bosses have promised to investigate their rogue alarm system, so let’s hope the council leader can enjoy a peaceful Sunday morning from now on.

He will need all the downtime he can grab, because he has one of the toughest jobs in the country. Years of budget cuts by the Scottish Government, to say nothing of a global pandemic and a rocky economic landscape, have left councils floundering.

According to Councillor Day, Edinburgh is the lowest funded council in the country, and councillors will have to make sweeping cuts next year to balance the books. The council leader admitted last month that basic services like fixing potholes and emptying bins urgently need to improve.

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And he is running the city as a minority administration. Labour only won 13 out of 63 seats, so it is dependent on support from the opposition parties to get things done.

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As if that were not enough, two of Labour’s newest councillors have just been kicked out of the Labour group for eight weeks.

Leith councillor Katrina Faccenda and her comrade Ross McKenzie, who represents Sighthill/Gorgie, were punished for refusing to support their party’s move to become the city’s new administration.

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Both are known for their hard-left views. “Rebels looking for a cause” is how one veteran Labour activist described them to me.

Councillors Faccenda and McKenzie may have sincerely held views about working with other parties, but they were elected, not as individuals, but as representatives of the Labour Party. Most people who voted for them will never have met them.

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Crucially, they are in the City Chambers to do a job on behalf of their area – and our city – not to use it as a platform for gesture politics.

Let’s hope the councillors spend their time in the political wilderness wisely, reflecting on what it means to be an elected politician.

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As Cammy Day found out last Sunday, the job requires self-discipline. Councillors Faccenda and McKenzie have been elected for a five-year term. No doubt there will be many more occasions when they disagree with their colleagues, but they cannot storm off in a huff every time.

If they are serious about making a difference, they must be willing to compromise. Edinburgh needs councillors who will keep the streets clean, not Poundshop revolutionaries.