Council leader offers to resign after colleagues quit

David Fairweather said his leadership of Angus Council must be tested after claims the administration has an 'unhealthy culture'.

Council leader offers to resign after colleagues quit LDRSAngus Council

The leader of Angus Council has offered his resignation after two colleagues quit this week referencing an “unhealthy culture” in the administration.

Council leader David Fairweather, an Independent councillor, said it was “only right” that he test his administration’s faith in his leadership after fellow Independent Lois Speed and Liberal Democrat Ben Lawrie stepped down on Monday and Tuesday respectively.

In a statement, Cllr Fairweather – who intends to retire at the end of this council term next year – said he was “absolutely devastated” to lose the pair, whom he called “young, ambitious councillors”.

He said: “As this has happened on my watch I have offered an offer of resignation.

“I believe it is only right I give the administration the opportunity to say if they wish to see me continue as their leader.”

The Independent councillor added that he hoped neither resignation was “election-focused”. Cllr Lawrie is running for the Angus South constituency in May’s Scottish Parliament elections.

Cllr Fairweather concluded: “Given the success they have had in the administration I would be sad if this turns out to be political manoeuvres.

“I wish them both well and will always be there to give advice if they require.”

It is unclear when exactly Cllr Fairweather’s leadership will be voted on.

Prior to his latest statement, the council leader told the Courier newspaper that he didn’t understand Cllr Speed’s remarks on an “unhealthy culture”.

Speed, an Arbroath and East Lunan councillor and prolific disabilities campaigner, said that differences of opinion within the administration had left her in an uncomfortable situation.

 “I regret that as a councillor for Arbroath and East Lunan that I have had to submit my resignation from the administration of Angus Council with immediate effect,” she said in a written statement released on Monday.

“My commitment to my ward and Angus remains firm. However, it is no longer possible to work within what I perceive to be an unhealthy culture.

“In joining the administration it was stimulating to work with people of differing views and persuasions and I am grateful to those in the administration who have supported me.

“It has been rewarding to achieve positive results for the residents of Angus.

“It is my intention to continue being a strong voice, representing constituents as an independent Independent councillor.”

Monifieth and Sidlaws member Cllr Lawrie said the next day (Tuesday, March 16) that Cllr Speed had been “isolated and shouted down” by unnamed members of the administration.

“It is with regret that I have handed in my resignation as a member of the Angus Council administration,” he said.

“Having read Cllr Speed’s resignation and reflected on the concerns she has raised, I believe there were times when Cllr Speed felt isolated and shouted down for standing up for what she believes in, often disproportionately when compared with the treatment of other elected members.

“If Cllr Speed believes there is an unhealthy culture in the administration to the extent that she can no longer participate, then that that is not a culture or an administration that I can be a part of.

“I will continue to represent my constituents in Monifieth and Sidlaw and will work constructively with other elected members to achieve our shared aims.”

Tensions are believed to have escalated between Cllr Speed and other administration members after she broke ranks to support an opposition budget amendment nearly two weeks ago.

Cllr Speed sided with SNP Monifieth and Sidlaw member Sheila Hands after she called for £500,000 to support communities and looked-after children.

The SNP councillor’s budget amendment was defeated by a single vote.

Story by local democracy reporter Jon Brady