Edinburgh council: Labour take control with more votes from Lib Dems than their own councillors
Labour have taken control of Edinburgh council in controversial circumstances after more Lib Dems voted them into power than members of their own party.
Two Labour rebels – Leith councillor Katrina Faccenda and Ross McKenzie who represents Sighthill/Gorgie – were cheered in the City Chambers by SNP and Green members as they abstained in the vote that put their own party into power.
The deal has proved controversial with Labour hardliners because it relied on the votes of Conservative councillors, as well as the Liberal Democrats, to create the majority that defeated a proposed SNP-Green coalition.
The laughter of Greens and nationalists echoed round the debating chamber as the council’s new leader Cammy Day declared that Labour ‘has no deal with any party and no coalition’.
The rebellion within its own ranks and the strength of response from its former coalition partners in the SNP underlines the challenge facing Cllr Day and his new – and largely inexperienced – leadership team as they attempt to push through their vision for the Capital over the next five years.
The new city leader has declared tackling the city’s affordable housing crisis, improving public transport and making the Capital more envionmentally sustainable its key priorities.
Councillors voted 32 votes to 29 in favour of the minority Labour administration as the proposal was backed unanimously by the Liberal Democrats and Conservatives at a full council meeting on Thursday.
Cllr Day, who steps up from his role as depute leader, added: “We will be a Labour group that stands up to Governments that do not support our capital city and work with those who support progressive policies for our city and I do hope we can have a new arrangement of cross-party politics.”
The three unionist parties say that no agreement has been made on voting future intentions despite two positions traditionally regarded as non-party political posts – convener of the licensing sub-committee and vice-convener of the Licensing Board – being handed to Conservatives as well as three similar posts and the role of Lord Provost going to Liberal Democrats.
The new Lord Provost Robert Aldridge had initially been proposed for the role by the SNP at a time when it was thought the Lib Dems might support the nationalists proposed coalition with the Greens.
But SNP group leader on Edinburgh Council Adam McVey said the agreement was a Labour-Lib Dem-Tory coalition – and any suggestion that this is not the case is “an insult to voters’ intelligence”.
Afterwards, he added: “The people of Edinburgh could be forgiven for expecting nothing more from this Labour-Tory-Lib Dem coalition than instability, indecision and inaction in the face of dramatic challenges facing our capital city.
“Even some of Labour’s own councillors can’t stomach the backroom deal their party is happily making with the Tories.”
Edinburgh Greens co-convenor Claire Miller said: “I’m disappointed that the Green-SNP programme for the council has not gone ahead as we had a clear vision with strong commitments particularly on housing , transport, equality and the climate emergency. But Green councillors will still seek to work constructively with councillors from all parties on these priorities.”
Applause came from the SNP and Green benches as two Labour councillors – Katrina Faccenda and Ross McKenzie – refused to support their party’s amendment.
Tory leader Iain Whyte said the group’s decision to throw their support behind Labour “took us some time and some thinking”.
He added: “There are areas where we disagree with the Labour party, but let me say this: there is a need for us to work together in this chamber in a way that hasn’t been seen for the last five years. And I’ve seen an approach from across some parties and a wish to do that.
“There’s an approach from the SNP in particular and some of their friends in the Greens that smacks of entitlement – entitlement to roles and to rule.
“We will push where we can to have what we wish implemented.”
Attacking the plans tabled by the SNP and Green groups, he described their coalition document as “an uncosted, undeliverable wish list of student politics and virtue signalling”.
Councillor Kevin Lang, Lib Dems said: “Today, the Liberal Democrats voted for change in our city. Labour have now been given a chance to lead in a minority administration. Where we agree with Labour councillors, we will vote with them. Where we disagree, we will say so and vote accordingly.
“I congratulate Cammy Day on his appointment as Council Leader. A key priority must be to argue strongly for proper funding for the city and against the savage SNP and Green cuts which risk the services our citizens depend on.”
The Lib Dem group also saw their leader Robert Aldridge appointed as the city’s new Lord Provost uncontested with support from all sides of the Chamber.
Cllr Aldridge said following his election to the role of civic leader: “I’d like to thank all of you in the chamber for putting your trust in me and giving me this enormous privilege and honour of being Lord Provost of the best capital city in the world and I promise that I shall to by very utmost to live up to the expectation and the trust you’ve placed in me.”
Furthermore, Labour’s Lezley Marion Cameron will serve as the new Depute Lord Provost after beating the Greens’ Susan Rae to the position by five votes.
And the final vote of the day saw Stephen Jenkinson, Labour, appointed to the board of NHS Lothian.