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NLC Councillors Resign
Four senior councillors have resigned from the ruling Labour group on North Lanarkshire Council. They left on the new council leader Jim Logue's first day in charge of the administration.
The four are Motherwell North members Helen McKenna and Peter Nolan, Wishaw councillor Sam Love, the convener of housing, and Coatbridge West councillor Jim Smith, the former deputy leader.
They are expected to stay on as independents.
Councillor Smith says he stood down after learning that he would be replaced as chair of the health and social care joint integration board, which comes into operation next month, and queried the replacement of the experienced conveners.
He said of his resignation: “I’m heartbroken – I’ve been a Labour member for 40 years and a trade union man all my days.”
The changes affecting Airdrie and Coatbridge councillors include Michael McPake stepping up from vice-convener of environmental services to succeed Helen McKenna, with Coatbridge North colleague Bill Shields as his deputy.
Jim Brooks, the Coatbridge South councillor, has been succeeded by Pat O’Rourke as chair of the scrutiny panel, while Airdrie’s Peter Sullivan and Andrew Spowart are moving on from their respective posts as vice-conveners of housing and social work and finance and customer services.
Airdrie South councillor David Fagan will be vice-convener of a new committee to monitor arms-length external organisations and external bodies – one of three new groups to be set up in the reshuffle.
Mr Logue criticised the four councillors' actions which came after they failed to secure senior positions.
"It was always going to be the case that some were unhappy with the necessary changes as we move to refresh and re-energise," he said.
"Their stance is undignified, uninspiring and unappealing. I'm not going to waste time on people who are concerned only about themselves and their own petty agendas and they are not my focus.
"I'm delighted with the team I have around me and we're moving on. My responsibility is to put people in place who can drive forward services and deliver for the people of North Lanarkshire and that's what I've done."
Labour still has a substantial majority on the council.
The ruling Labour Group unanimously elected Councillor Logue to replace outgoing council leader Jim McCabe.
Councillor Logue insisted that reshuffles are a feature of a change of leadership.
He said: “What I’ve tried to do is adopt a balanced approach between continuity and change.
“Some of the best members we have are newer councillors who’ve clearly showed their ability and are being given that chance, in terms of succession planning.
“We have 14 months to the council elections, in very challenging political and financial circumstances, and we need to focus on the future, not the past.
“There are four conveners [remaining in post] and some [appointees] have been conveners before.
“Everyone knows that new leaders bring in their own teams, some people will move on and step down to the back benches.”
The new leader has also given the convenership of the important audit and governance panel to an opposition member, nominating group leader and Airdrie Central SNP councillor David Stocks.
Meanwhile, an independent will become vice-chair of the scrutiny panel.
Councillor Logue said: “This is the first time there’s been an opposition convener in North Lanarkshire and they’ll have places on Cosla and the joint integration board.
“I want to have more consensus. All councillors have a contribution to make and will have increased opportunity to articulate the concerns of their constituents on committees.
“There are three new committees including a transformation panel. There’s a new chief executive in place and I want political buy-in, which is important.”