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Angus Council leader offers resignation over ‘unhealthy culture’ claims

Angus Council Leader David Fairweather.
Angus Council Leader David Fairweather.

The leader of Angus Council has offered his resignation after a second member of his administration walked out over its “unhealthy culture”.

Council leader David Fairweather said the remaining members of the ruling group would now meet to consider his future.

The group have been left reeling after Monifieth and Sidlaw councillor Ben Lawrie, Liberal Democrat, became the second member to walk away in only two days, citing problems with behaviour in the top team.

His resignation followed that of Arbroath East and Lunan councillor Lois Speed, Independent, who quit on Monday. She said there was an “unhealthy culture” among the ruling group.

Councillor Ben Lawrie.

Councillor Lawrie, a mental health campaigner and his party’s candidate for Angus South in the upcoming Scottish Parliament elections, said: “Cllr Speed felt isolated and shouted down for standing up for what she believes in.”

Independent councillor Fairweather, Arbroath West, Letham and Friockheim, said: “I am absolutely devastated that I have lost two young, ambitious councillors.

“Given this has happened on my watch, I also believe it’s only right I give the other members of the administration the opportunity of my offer of resignation.

“To see if they want me to continue as their leader.”

Cllr David Fairweather, top far left, signs the terms of agreement for the Tay Cities Deal.

‘Isolated and shouted down’

Councillor Fairweather said on Monday that he did not recognise the claims of an “unhealthy culture” within his administration.

He added: “I was asked yesterday if the departure of councillor Speed, and now councillor Lawrie, could be election focused.

“Given the success they have both had within the administration, it would be sad if this just turns out to be political manoeuvres. I wish them both all the best.”

Councillor Lawrie issued a statement explaining his decision to resign from the ruling group on Tuesday

He said: “It is with regret that I have handed in my resignation as a member of the Angus Council administration.

“Having read Cllr Speed’s resignation and reflected on the concerns she has raised, I believe there were times when Cllr Speed felt isolated and shouted down for standing up for what she believes in, often disproportionately when compared with the treatment of other elected members.”

Angus Council rocked after councillor quits amid claims of ‘unhealthy culture’ at the top

Councillor Lawrie said he valued cross party cooperation and working with people of different views on areas of common interest.

“However, if Cllr Speed believes there is an unhealthy culture in the administration to the extent that she can no longer participate, then that that is not a culture or an administration that I can be a part of.

“I will continue to represent my constituents in Monifieth and Sidlaw and will work constructively with other elected members to achieve our shared aims,” he added.

‘Toxic culture’

It is understood tensions spilled over between councillor Speed and her former administration colleagues after she backed an opposition amendment during the council’s budget setting meeting earlier this month.

Councillor Speed backed SNP Monifieth and Sidlaw councillor Shiela Hands’ ultimately unsuccessful plans to spend £500,000 Covid-19 contingency funding to help looked-after children and on a community resilience fund.

One source close to the councillors said the “aggressive” fall out from the budget meeting had highlighted a “toxic culture” perpetuated by a small group of councillors at the heart of the ruling group.

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