New EPIC political group on Edinburgh Council set to take seats from Greens

A new political group set up on Edinburgh City Council is set to take eight seats on different committees from Green councillors - who have labelled the proposals 'absurd'.

Tuesday, 19th November 2019, 6:00 am
City Chambers, Edinburgh

Green councillors are in line to lose seats on the council’s decision-making committees as three members of a newly-formed political group are set to be given a voice over council business.

Last month, Cllr Gavin Barrie tabled a motion at a meeting of Edinburgh City Council, calling for independent councillors to be given seats on certain committees. But he withdrew it after it became clear it would be rejected. The frustration led to Cllr Barrie along with Cllr Claire Bridgman and Cllr Lewis Ritchie, all former SNP councillors, deciding to form a new political group in order to be represented.

The Edinburgh Party of Independent Councillors (EPIC) is now set to be given one seat on eight of the authority’s committees with the Greens losing a place on each. The report, drawn up by council officers, also recommends that either one SNP or Conservative councillor loses their place on the over-arching policy and sustainability committee – but the EPIC group will propose taking their seat as an additional member of the committee.

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The SNP-Labour administration does not hold a majority on committees and often relies on Green support in order for their proposals to be approved.

Cllr Barrie will take on the role as secretariat of EPIC to deal with day-to-day issues and act as a point of contact.

He said: “It has been extremely frustrating that we’ve had to get to this point and would be the same for any other independent councillors going forward who will have to go through this. There’s now no excuse why the council would not support the terms of reference that were agreed earlier this year.

“We are very happy with the content within the report. It will now be up to members of the council whether they decide to support it.”

EPIC will put forward which of its three councillors will sit on each committee in a motion at Thursday’s full council meeting. With budget proposals set to be drawn up early next year, EPIC is expected to examine and scrutinise other group’s proposals – rather than table its own budget motion.

It is believed that political groups could question the validity of the changes at Thursday’s meeting due to EPIC not being a formal political party registered with the Electoral Commission.

Green councillors have labelled the proposals for EPIC to pinch eight of their committee seats as “absurd”.

Green Cllr Melanie Main said: “The new grouping of three independent councillors has no common ground other than that they were elected to represent the SNP and have all fallen out with their former colleagues. They have no manifesto and they did not stand for election as independents, in contrast to the hundreds of genuinely independent councillors across Scotland who take up office on that basis.

“So it is absurd to suggest that these three councillors should get same number of committee places as and at the expense of the eight Green councillors, all of whom were elected on a Green manifesto.”

She added: “It’s right that the councillors who have fallen out with their original political party should get all the support they need to support constituents who contact them. However, if they want political influence beyond that, the only proper thing to do is to resign and contest the subsequent by-election under whatever political group they choose, or as an independent with a manifesto and policies.

“In the meantime they should accept that there were consequences to their internal SNP squabbling.”

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