Professor Richard Kerley: So who runs this show?

Professor Richard Kerley, co-Chair of the CSPP, shares his thoughts on the dynamics that will impact Scottish councils following the local elections.


After the celebrations (and the commiserations) of Friday, for many of the newly elected and re-elected councillors the discussions will all have been about who runs the council and the counterpoint to that, who doesn't run the council. Of course, if you happen to be one of those 1200 + people elected Thursday and you have not been in such discussions then it's very clear you won't be one of those running the council. 

It is of course made much more complicated this time round by the absence of any majority party in any of the councils throughout Scotland. Of course in some councils - where Independent members (under many different labels) have dominated councils for years, this is not unusual, nor is the bargaining and haggling that goes with trying to determine who fills which office and what direction the council takes.

In some councils, this will be the first time in years, even decades, that there has not been a majority with a pretty clear idea of who is to be Provost or Lord Provost, who to chair Education and so on.

So this past weekend, and the next few days, will be busy with people phoning and talking, testing each other out and swapping options for which party nominates people to which office and whether there is a common agreed 'programme' of some kind or an ad hoc week by week, meeting by meeting discussion over what is decided and what the council does in respect of different areas of competence.

Of course all that is made more difficult by the various commitments by different parties not to work with some other parties, or reluctant to work with any others at all because of some worries about contamination, particularly with the Westminster elections just about a month away. So it is entirely possible that over the first couple of council meeting cycles in all councils during May we may see some apparently curious appointments of different councillors to different offices and positions.

The other aspect to look out for is the extent to which council decisions become less predictable in the short term. Minority administrations may become more common than we have been used to, with decisions and plans not made firm until the very last vote and some apparently agreed plans overturned at the last minute. 

So, watch out for an interesting couple of weeks in your local council, and then an interesting few years.



For more insights into local governance in Scotland, you can read previous posts on community ownership and the role of local authorities in tackling poverty on the CSPP blog.


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