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Tories will not step down despite losing budget vote

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By Marc McLean, local democracy reporter
Tories will not step down despite losing budget vote

THE Conservatives have vowed to continue running Dumfries and Galloway Council for the year ahead — after clinging onto power by their fingernails.

The Tory administration suffered a major political blow at the annual budget meeting two weeks ago when their financial proposals for 2024/25 failed to get passed.

In a surprise move, Labour and some independent councillors backed the SNP budget plans, which forced those through on a 22-20 vote.

It was expected that the Conservatives councillors leading the key positions within the council would step down – rather than preside over the budget of their opposition rivals – but the defiant Tories are staying put.

Council leader Gail Macgregor said this week: “It would have been the easy option to resign en masse, as was the case with the SNP and Labour last year, however the knock on of that was to plunge the council and our staff into turmoil with commitments having to be cancelled and the council not represented at pivotal meetings.

“As the largest group on the council, alongside on a ‘vote by vote’ basis four sensible and experienced councillors, it is incumbent on us to continue to offer calm leadership and to deliver on our ambitious council plan. We will do so unless a stable alternative can be found.”

Councillor Macgregor, who represents the Annandale North ward, argued that it was important for the Conservatives to “continue to deliver calm, professional leadership”.

She continued: “Recent events have served as a timely reminder of the utter chaos that was the previous administration, in fighting and one-upmanship ahead of community representation. What we need are solid strategies and ultimately exceptional service delivery.”

However, Labour Councillor Linda Dorward, a former council co-leader, said: “As far as we are concerned, the SNP and Tories can have a petty fight over who goes into administration. We are here to fight for the people of Dumfries and Galloway.

“The Tories may be the administration, but they’re not actually in power. They have pushed through Labour policies over the last year. It’s the Labour tail wagging the dog.”

Councillor Stephen Thompson, SNP group leader, added: “Ultimately I’m glad that our budget is being taken forward – irrespective of when the Conservatives wake up to morality.

“We’ve tried to be an effective opposition over the last year and have won some key votes for the people of Dumfries and Galloway, such as the Whitesands Flood Protection Scheme and capital investment in the gypsy/traveller site.”

The Conservative group insisted that it still has “crucial work to do” in projects including the region’s roads investment programme, leading the Dumfries town centre regeneration through the UK Government’s levelling up funding, and the development of multi-million pound plans for the A75/A77 roads.


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