Labour plans minority administration in East Renfrewshire

Labour is set to run East Renfrewshire as a minority administration with the support of two independent councillors.
Owen O’Donnell (right) is set to replace fellow Newton Mearns North and Neilston councillor Tony Buchanan (left) as council leaderOwen O’Donnell (right) is set to replace fellow Newton Mearns North and Neilston councillor Tony Buchanan (left) as council leader
Owen O’Donnell (right) is set to replace fellow Newton Mearns North and Neilston councillor Tony Buchanan (left) as council leader

The council had been controlled by a coalition of SNP, Labour and independent councillor Danny Devlin going into the election, where the SNP became the largest party, returning six councillors.

However, Labour, which has five councillors, is planning to work with Danny Devlin and David Macdonald, the two independents, in a minority administration. New Labour councillor Owen O’Donnell, representing Newton Mearns North and Neilston, would be the council leader.

The SNP has urged Labour to get back around the negotiating table and wants to form a “progressive alliance” to lock the Tories out. Councillors will vote on proposals to form a new administration at the first meeting of the new council term on Wednesday, May 25.

After the election, Tony Buchanan, SNP, who has been the council leader for the past five years, said his group would be entering talks over a coalition after a “historic result.”

However, Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar had ruled out coalitions with the SNP or the Tories ahead of the vote.

No party had stood enough candidates to secure a majority, with 10 needed on the 18-seat council. There are seven Labour and independent councillors, six SNP and five Tories on the council.

Councillor O’Donnell said his group’s proposals would “deliver on Labour’s manifesto of hope in difficult times.”

“We have been talking to all parties and we will be working with all parties on a vote by vote basis. There will be no formal agreement or pact with any other party.”

Labour and the SNP have worked together for 15 years in East Renfrewshire and Councillor O’Donnell said it was a “very difficult decision” to end that partnership.

“The reality is the Labour group has worked very well with the SNP. It was never on constitutional issues, it was on local issues.”

He said the East Renfrewshire Labour group had “no choice in the matter given the guidance that has come from Anas, Jackie (Baillie, deputy Scottish Labour leader) and the NEC (National Executive Committee).”

He said: “We are respectful of that decision and will be complying with that to the letter.”

Councillor O’Donnell added his group would use its manifesto as a base for discussions with other parties and is particularly keen to address the cost of living crisis.

Councillor O’Donnell said: “We will sit down with all parties, run through the manifesto and work out where we have agreement.

“Historically, it has been a very collaborative council. There’s no reason that cannot continue if we can put politics aside.”

The SNP has blamed Sarwar and Baillie for “ruling out progressive alliances in local authorities nationally” and said it feared Labour was in talks to form an administration supported by the Tories.

A spokesman said the Scottish Labour leadership is “out of step with the mature, grown-up politics residents expect from their council.”

“East Renfrewshire is one of the best-performing councils in Scotland, because we have put aside party differences before to work together for the benefit of local residents.”