Principles of Governance
- The Labour Party believes in real local self-sufficiency and community empowerment, not centralised control in Holyrood or Westminster.
- Decision-making in the Council should be open and transparent.
- Local communities and groups should be involved in Council decision-making.
- The Council administration should seek to build cross-party consensus for every decision.
- Councillors who join the administration should be bound to collective decision making.
- Strengthening and maintaining the Council’s committee structure.
- Restoration of external representation to Council committees.
- Representatives of frontline Council services will be involved in every decision that affects service provision.
- Re-invigoration of Community Councils.
In the past five years the Council’s governance structures have been tested to destruction. We have seen a shambolic coalition of Independents and Conservatives being replaced by a minority SNP administration. The behaviour of the Conservatives, in particular, throughout these past five years has been nothing short of disgraceful, with attempts to replace the Council’s existing scheme of administration with a leader-and-cabinet model. This was clearly designed to ensure that a Tory-led administration could take over despite the fact that some of their councillors frequently missed meetings. We believe that the committee-based governance structure should be maintained and strengthened, including by expanding the number of all-member committees.
A number of steps have been taken in recent years to expand public participation in Council decision-making. It appears, however, that such open consultation is used to provide cover for unpopular decisions. At the same time, the Council has removed lay members from a number of Council committees. We believe that decision-making in the Council should be open and inclusive. Labour Councillors will move to expand Committee memberships to include non-voting lay members such as young people, frontline workers, and local community groups.
Furthermore, we believe that decisions relating to frontline services are better made when frontline workers are involved. Labour Councillors will ensure that representatives of frontline workers are fully involved in all decisions affecting the provision of frontline services.
Labour believes that Community Councils are a vital part of our local democracy. Most Community Councils in Moray are nowhere close to their full membership, indeed, the majority have little more than the minimum to be established. In the most recent elections to Elgin Community Council every single returned member was a man. Labour will review the Scheme for Moray’s Community Councils to ensure that they reflect local communities and identities. While some Community Councils are vibrant and diverse, others recognise that they are in need of new members – particularly women and younger people. Labour will work with all Community Councils to improve their diversity by actively reaching-out to unrepresented groups and co-opting members.
Local boards and committees are similarly lacking in diversity. While we should always be grateful to anyone who gives up their time to improve their community, the dominance of middle-aged businessmen and landed gentry in our public life in Moray is off-putting to many. It is also counter-productive, as many such boards and committees suffer as a consequence of the lack of alternative perspectives. Labour will insist that more ordinary working people and younger people are represented on boards and committees in Moray.
The role of a councillor goes far beyond statutory meetings. Good councillors engage with local schools and community groups to hear the views of local residents and make representations on their behalf. We believe that recording and reporting councillors’ attendance at Council business has greatly improved accountability of local representatives. Labour Councillors will seek to expand reporting of members’ attendance to include Community Council meetings and other relevant community meetings.
Moray Labour believes that ad hoc decision-making, dependent upon ever-shifting political allegiances, has badly failed the people of Moray. Moray has not elected a single-party majority to the Council since 1995, and it is unlikely to do so again. We believe that the Council would be best run by a cross-party administration working on the basis of consensus. The Labour group on the Moray Council has long been regarded as the most constructive and consensual. Labour will, therefore, seek to reform Moray’s scheme of administration to a committee-focused, consensus-based administration. Whatever the composition of the next Council administration, all members of the administration should be bound by decisions taken collectively, and vote accordingly. Members of the administration who cannot support a collective decision should resign and should not be readmitted to the ruling group. Only then will voters be able to see clearly who bears responsibility for Council decisions. Moray Labour will vote against any administration that does not include a binding commitment by its members to stand by collective decisions. This means an end to leading Councillors taking credit for the popular decisions while publicly disowning the difficult ones.
The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of data in public decision-making. Public bodies are, almost uniformly, resistant to providing data in a form that can be utilised by third parties. For example, while the Council publishes its live register of Council contracts, it does so in PDF format, rather than in formats that can easily be sorted, filtered, and computed by commonly used and widely available software. Labour Councillors will implement an Open Data Policy, ensuring that all data published by the Council is published in accessible, open-source formats. This will improve democratic accountability for Council decisions and policies.