Edinburgh councillors exclude independents from crisis meeting in ‘Epic fail’ – Steve Cardownie

Tory councillor Iain Whyte and Gavin Barrie, of the Epic group, are right to complain about the way the new Leadership Advisory Panel is operating, writes Steve Cardownie.

By Steve Cardownie
Wednesday, 1st April 2020, 6:00 am
Gavin Barrie is fighting the Epic group's corner in the council

Edinburgh City Council has set up a Leadership Advisory Panel ostensibly to deal with urgent business whilst the current “lockdown” is in place, prohibiting the normal schedule of meetings.

It met yesterday and already evidence exists that council officials may try to take advantage of this hybrid system (with political support) to push through some business which could be regarded as controversial but in no way could be described as urgent. Tory Councillor Ian Whyte took to yesterday’s paper to bemoan the fact that the potential closure of part of The Mound to cars was being discussed, and quite right too.

Some 20 items were on the agenda, which must obviously cover a large tranche of council business. Council business which the councillors who make up the Epic group on the council have been excluded from discussing because a majority of councillors (democrats?) voted to demote them to second-tier councillors.

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The Epic Group submitted a motion for discussion to the panel seeking to defer licensing fees for taxi and private hire cars but have to rely on Conservative and Liberal Democrat support to ensure that it is debated.

Councillor Gavin Barrie told me that he has tried in vain to get representation on the panel but this has fallen on deaf ears. He said that: “In this time of crisis it is all the more important that there should be as much scrutiny as possible of council decisions and the current situation where some voices are frozen out should be unacceptable to anyone with a democratic bone in their body.”

As an ex-firefighter Gavin has had life-threatening issues to contend with so his desire to get due recognition for the Epic Group within the City Chambers is unlikely to diminish any time soon, despite the odd setback.