Labour denies minority deal with Tories in West Lothian

WEST Lothian's new council leader has denied doing any deal with the Tories to establish Labour as a minority administration while the SNP '“ the biggest party '“ is left out in the cold.

Saturday, 27th May 2017, 6:30 am
Updated Sunday, 4th June 2017, 7:56 pm
West Lothian Labour group leader, Lawrence Fitzpatrick. Picture: Contributd

The seven Conservative councillors voted with Labour for all the convener appointments, which saw Labour take the nine executive posts, from education to the environment, while Tories were elected to chair the audit and planning committees.

But Lawrence Fitzpatrick, who heads the 12-strong Labour group, insisted: “It was not a deal, the way parties vote is up to them.”

Labour’s Scottish executive last week ruled out a coalition deal between Labour and the Tories in West Lothian.

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SNP group leader Peter Johnston said that ruling had been treated with “utter contempt” by Labour’s West Lothian councillors.

He said: “The Tories and Labour voted together on every single appointment.”

Cllr Johnston said the SNP, who have 13 councillors, offered Labour a joint administration, sharing posts “right down the middle”.

He said: “We had a discussion with them that went nowhere. At the same time they were talking to the Tories behind our backs.

“We could have brought together an anti-austerity agenda base on both our manifestos that would have served West Lothian well. It would also have reflected the views of 67 per cent of the electorate who voted for our parties.”

But Cllr Fitzpatrick said a coalition with the SNP would have been “very, very difficult”.

He said: “Their focus is always on independence – you can see it in the motions that keep coming up at the council.”

And on Labour’s relationship with the Tories he said: “There’s no coalition, there’s nothing. We will look for a constructive relationship with all.”

He continued: “We’ve got a big challenge and we’re getting on with the job. We have a manifesto to deliver. The first thing we will get rolling is a jobs task force because we’ve lost too many jobs in West Lothian.

“And we’re going to have an anti-austerity task force to look at how we can ameliorate the effect that’s having on people.”

Tory group leader Damian Timson also shied away from acknowledging any deal.

He said: “I’m not sure if deal is the correct word. The voting on the evening went the way the voting went and the result is what it is. I wouldn’t say things were necessarily set in stone beforehand.

“The vote was to put together a structure that would be stable for the council. There is no quid pro quo.

“There is no diktat that we will vote for x if you vote for y.

“The Scottish Conservative group on West Lothian Council will do what we see best for West Lothian.”

Tory Tom Kerr was re-elected Provost last week and Labour’s Dave King has now been reappointed Depute Provost. New Labour councillor Kirsteen Sullivan was voted in as depute council leader.