The new Labour leader of City of Edinburgh Council has said there will be “no dodgy deals with the Conservatives” during his premiership.
Cammy Day faced a backlash and dissent from two Labour members following a decision to offer two committee posts to the Conservatives to take Labour’s plan to form a minority administration over the line.
Councillors voted 34 to 29 in favour of Labour taking control of the council on Thursday as an amendment tabled by the group was backed by Tories and the Lib Dems, who will also see members take-up paid convener roles as part of the agreement, which Cllr Day stressed is not a coalition, nor a deal.
“We’ve got a Labour administration in the capital city,” he said, when asked what his message would be to Labour voters frustrated at the idea of the group relying on votes from Tory councillors.
“Labour are running the council now and we’ll work pro-actively across all the political divides,” he added.
“What we got today is an offer from Labour to say ‘here is our proposal’ and any other party in the council can vote for that to get across the line and form a minority administration – and two of the parties voted for us.
“We had to give some positions to get that through but they are quasi judicial vice-convener type roles, they have no politics. Edinburgh Labour has taken control of every policy committee in the council and every one of my conveners will work with all the spokespersons across education, transport, health and social care to make sure we can build a rainbow coalition of talents to get the best deal for the city.”
Councillor Day comes into the role with experience in a senior political position, having served as depute to ex-SNP council leader Adam McVey from 2017 to this year. He said it’s “an absolute honour and privilege” to get the top job, which along with new responsibilities, comes with a £20,000 pay rise.
In his first day in office, he pondered on a question likely to be on many voter’s minds: “How do we make sure the minority Labour administration will deliver the best for the city?”
The answer? “By working with the Greens, SNP, Lib Dems and the Tories,” he said.
“Of course there needs to be compromise on all sides but I think that’s the way forward for the council. We don’t have any one party in control of the council and we will need at least three parties to make a decision and I know from experience in the last five years how working across the political boundaries gets you the best results.”
He said it was “disappointing” that two Labour councillors – Katrina Faccenda and Ross McKenzie – abstained from voting for Labour’s administration proposal, accusing the pair of “not supporting the democratic decision of the group”.
“But that will be dealt with through our internal processes,” Cllr Day added. “It will be my job to help bring these people on board and I will be working tirelessly to get the whole Labour group and Labour movement in Edinburgh working together.”
Tory councillor Jo Mowat, who is set to take-on the job of Licensing Sub Committee convener as part of the agreement settled with Labour, said parties will be forced to “improve working across the council” by the nature of the new administration.
She added: “I find councillor Day’s rainbow coalition quite attractive. Unfortunately, there can be no rainbow coalition in this council when two groups refuse to work with one of the other groups, however many seats they have.”
Whilst Conservative and Lib Dems in the chamber have communicated a willingness to work with Labour over the next term, getting the same level of co-operation from the SNP and Greens, who look set to continue their partnership in opposition, could prove difficult.
SNP group leader Adam McVey said: “The SNP group and our Green partners will work constructively to take forward elements of our shared progressive programme where possible. And this regressive coalition should be in no doubt that we will hold them to account when they fail to deliver for the people of Edinburgh.”
Elsewhere, Councillor Day has faced attacks for getting the Tories on side and ditching his previous coalition partner, with Glasgow City Council’s SNP leader Susan Aitken tweeting: “Labour aren’t really in ‘control’ in Edinburgh though. They’ve bagged the senior positions but they now have to rely on right wing Tories for every. single. vote. The Tories are basically now a major shareholder in Scottish Labour.”
Humza Yousaf, the Scottish Government’s cabinet secretary for health and social care, said: “Labour handing paid jobs to Tories to run Edinburgh City Council as opposed to joining with progressive parties to lock Tories out of power, I thought Scottish Labour couldn’t sink any lower, but they’ve found the bottom of the barrel. People won’t forget & certainly won’t forgive.”