North Lanarkshire District Council Meltdown
North Lanarkshire is the fourth largest Scottish local authority, located in west central Scotland, between Edinburgh and Glasgow. It covers an area of 47,358 and serves a population of 328,000 people. Party insiders are on record as saying that: “if Labour lose North Lanarkshire then it would be fair to say in Scotland the party’s over.”
But one party domination of the politics of a region for many decades invariably ends in disaster and this is the case in North Lanarkshire where in fighting has destroyed the party. Old inter-region rivalries have resurfaced together with accompanying allegations of intimidation and a pervading and intense climate of fear and allegations of wrong doing has diverted councillors away from the business of service provision.
The foregoing is compounded by recently announced police investigations into criminal reported to involve a number of councillors and businessmen the scale of criminality of which, if it leads to prosecutions is so widespread that it could bring down the Labour party in Scotland. The report that follows provides evidence in support of my advice that the electorate should abandon the Labour Party and transfer their votes to the SNP.
29 Feb 2016: Labour HQ asked to probe unexplained income and spending at Motherwell & Wishaw branch
Scottish Labour officials are being urged to investigate alleged financial irregularities in one of the party’s most marginal seats. A recent internal audit raised a series of concerns about the records of the Motherwell & Wishaw Constituency Labour Party (CLP) in North Lanarkshire.At a CLP meeting last week, activists heard around £4500 of unexplained income entered the branch’s account in 2015 and £2100 of unexplained spending left it. (The Herald Scotland)
6 Mar 2016: Scottish Labour general secretary Brian Roy and father, ex-MP Frank Roy, in party cash row
Kezia Dugdale’s top official is at the centre of a cash row that has split one of Labour’s most marginal seats. Scottish Labour general secretary Brian Roy is facing questions over how his dad Frank Roy spent around £1400 owed to Scottish Labour HQ on his own re-election campaign. The money represented two years of affiliation fees owed to Labour HQ by Frank Roy’s constituency Labour party (CLP) in Motherwell & Wishaw.
First elected an MP in 1997, Frank Roy stood again in the seat again last May. At the time, Brian Roy had newly taken over as Scottish general secretary and treasurer. However a leaked internal audit shows the Motherwell & Wishaw CLP hadn’t paid its annual subscription to Labour HQ since 2013, despite having funds to do so. The report states: “No Labour affiliation fees have been paid since 2013 despite having a balance of £8737.70 in the CLP account in 2013. This leaves the CLP in debt of around £2000. The balance of the CLP account on 28/9/15 was £109.48.”
Although failing to pay the fees to HQ didn’t disqualify Frank Roy from standing, it did leave more in the CLP account to spend on the election. The fall-out from the audit is now dividing the CLP and the Labour administration on North Lanarkshire Council, with many members furious at Frank Roy’s election agent Paul Kelly, who has been accused of failing to explain the state of the CLP’s finances.
Kelly, last week elected the council’s deputy leader, was CLP chair during the election. The audit report says that in early 2014, the CLP’s general purpose bank account of around £3200 was merged with a previously separate election account of £2800. “There are no minutes recording that this change of policy was agreed by the CLP,” it says.
The resulting single account was then cleaned out in the election – again without any minutes of the CLP agreeing to it – as Roy defended his 16,800-vote majority. The report states: “There are no minutes of the CLP agreeing to the level of expenditure to be used on the General Election.” Roy’s campaign cost £13,701, compared to £6,852 for the SNP’s Marion Fellows, who nevertheless won by 11,900 votes.
Roy got £4703 worth of staff support from Scottish Labour HQ, but the bulk of his campaign money, around £8600, came from draining the CLP account. The total outlay was twice that of the 2010 election, when Roy’s campaign cost £6766. The political co-ordinator of Better Together, Roy is now campaign director of the Scottish arm of Britain Stronger in Europe.
The failure to pay affiliation fees emerged last week after an audit into Motherwell & Wishaw CLP, which found “total unknown deposits” of £4474 were paid into its bank account last year without explanation, and “total unknown expenditure” of £2108 left it.
The auditor noted: “These matters were raised by CLP members on several occasions from July 2015 and as far as I am aware the issues have not been properly addressed.” A senior Labour source said the draining of the CLP account in election, including affiliation fees, had left the local party struggling going into the Holyrood election,
When Labour MSP John Pentland is defending a 587-vote majority in Motherwell & Wishaw. The insider said: “There are very unhappy people here. The council Labour group is very fractious. We can’t even pay our bills far less run an election campaign.” (The Herald Scotland)
29 Mar 2016: Labour slammed for backing candidate
The former depute leader of North Lanarkshire Council has slammed the Labour Party for allowing a Motherwell councillor to take the job. Jim Smith believes his former colleague Paul Kelly shouldn’t have been in the running to succeed him because of an inquiry into alleged financial irregularities. Councillor Smith says Labour’s failure to take action against the Motherwell West councillor was the reason he quit the party earlier this month. He dismissed new council leader Jim Logue’s claim that Councillor Smith and three colleagues resigned for “selfish, personal reasons” after missing out on top jobs during a reshuffle. Councillor Kelly, who was elected by Labour colleagues as Councillor Logue’s depute, is a former chairman of Motherwell and Wishaw Constituency Labour Party.
An internal audit of accounts during his time in charge raised concerns about unexplained income and spending. Much of this related to last year’s general election campaign when Councillor Kelly was the agent for MP Frank Roy. The matter was passed to Scottish Labour officials. Councillor Smith said the party had blundered by not preventing Councillor Kelly from standing for a senior council post while the investigation was taking place. He pointed out that the SNP suspended Coatbridge councillor Julie McAnulty pending an investigation into alleged racist remarks she made.
In his letter, Councillor Smith wrote: “The Labour Party has been in free-fall in Scotland for several years now and and it would seem to be gifting the opposition ammunition ahead of next year’s council elections.” Councillor Smith denied quitting because he didn’t get a key post under Councillor Logue. He said the “sole reason” for his decision was the party’s “lack of integrity” in sanctioning Councillor Kelly as a candidate for depute leader.
A Labour source said there was “disbelief” that Councillor Kelly had not stood aside. Councillor Kelly refused to be drawn on the comments, saying only: “I was pleased the Labour Party were assisting the CLP in this matter and I look forward to the report back to the CLP.” Three other Labour councillors quit the party following the new leader’s reshuffle. Helen McKenna, Sam Love and Peter Nolan were all conveners under former leader Jim McCabe, but lost their posts. ( Motherwell Times)
16 Apr 2016: Labour kingpin fears scandal over accounts
One of the giants of Scottish Labour has warned that claims of “electoral irregularities” in last year’s General Election could bring his party in to disrepute. Lanarkshire kingpin Jim McCabe is one of more than a dozen party stalwarts to warn the Labour leadership of the finances of a local constituency group in what some insiders describe as a “smear”.
The former North Lanarkshire Council leader – who stood down in February after 18 years in post – is one of several councillors to sign a letter to his party’s Scottish HQ flagging up concerns over discrepancies in the accounts of the Motherwell and Wishaw Constituency Labour Party (CLP).
The letter, written by Councillor Frank McKay last month, refers to reports that there were nearly £4,500 of donations to the CLP during the General Election year that it could not account for. That has sparked fears in the party that Labour could have breached spending limits as it fought, unsuccessfully, to save the seat of its MP, Frank Roy. However, an investigation ordered by the party’s Scottish general secretary, (who also happens to be Mr Roy’s son Brian) found no problem with election expenses.
Party sources, nevertheless, stress the the very fact a figure as prominent as Mr McCabe signed the letter reveals the “sheer depth of animosity” inside North Lanarkshire Labour. The main targets of the letter are Mr McCabe’s successor, Jim Logue, and his deputy leader, Paul Kelly, a previous chairman of the Motherwell and Wishaw CLP.
It accuses the new administration of “hypocrisy, aggression and cynical self-interest”. The letter, dated March 15, adds: “We are of the opinion that there are very serious question marks around the depute leader. We believe that the severity of these threatens to bring the party in Scotland in to disrepute. “As you are aware the Motherwell and Wishaw CLP has raised questions about the conduct of the accounts while he was election agent. “While we do not allege misappropriation, we do allege severe incompetence. “We are concerned that the deputy leader was allowed to stand… at a time when opposition colleagues are speculating on the possibility of electoral irregularities.”
This letter came after Mr Logue carried out a radical reshuffle of the council’s leadership, prompting four councillors to quit the party. Sources close to the administration described the allegations about the CLP finances as a “smear” by some of those who had lost out in fractional infighting. Asked about the allegations, Paul Kelly said “I was happy that the Labour Party offered to assist the CLP in this matter and I look forward to the report back to the CLP. “Understandably, a number of colleagues were unhappy at the radical but necessary changes within the council, however our number one priority must be to our local communities.”
Brian Roy, in a response to Mr McKay’s letter, also seen by The Herald, offers to mediate between the two sides in the North Lanarkshire party. Mr Roy said he had already verbally assured the new chairwoman of the CLP that he was “confident that once all expenditure and income was reconciled… that the accounts would be accepted”. The local party, however, had not been able to pay affiliation fees to the national party, Mr Roy confirmed. The CLP, he said, had therefore agreed to forego payments it would have expected to receive from HQ to make up the shortfall.(The Herald Scotland)
27 Apr 2016: North Lanarkshire Council – Labour split over ‘corruption’ claim
Deep divisions within Labour have emerged again after an investigation began into alleged corruption at North Lanarkshire Council. Claims that councillors and officials benefited when authority contracts were being awarded to companies have been made in an anonymous letter. Council leader Jim Logue said the “detailed allegations, if true, are extremely serious”. He added: “An investigation, led by the council’s internal audit team, is already underway. Should the auditors find anything which substantiates these allegations that evidence will immediately be handed over to police. “It is essential the people of North Lanarkshire have full confidence in the way the council conducts its business and I am determined that we are transparent at all times.”
However, the decision by Councillor Logue to go public with the allegations was slammed by a Labour colleague who branded it “unprofessional”. The councillor, who claimed many Labour members are unhappy at the way the situation has been handled, said: “I’m disgusted. It’s crazy to give an anonymous letter such credence. People’s credibility is being sullied by an unnamed individual without any investigation having been done.”
The councillor said the position was in stark contrast to what happened two years ago when a member of staff made detailed allegations of misconduct within NL Leisure, the body which runs sports facilities for the council. The council dismissed those as “unsubstantiated and defamatory” and said it wasn’t policy to comment on anonymous claims. A Motherwell Labour councillor said any probe into the corruption claims should be carried out by an external agency and not “in-house”.
Councillor Logue has had a difficult start to his term as council leader after succeeding Jim McCabe. Last month four senior Labour councillors quit after his reshuffle of committee chairmen. A senior council source supportive of the leader said: “There was a great deal of animosity towards Jim Logue and Paul Kelly becoming the new leadership team by certain individuals. This was because people knew they would be very pro active in dealing with any serious allegations regarding the council and no stone would be left unturned. “Staff are no longer afraid to come forward with concerns.” (Motherwell Times)
6 Oct 2016: North Lanarkshire Labour party District Council accused of cover-up over child porn charge councillor
Labour has been accused of hushing up a child pornography charge against one of its councillors ahead of a high-profile by-election. Airdrie councillor David Fagan was arrested over alleged child images on September 7, while his party was fighting a close-run by-election in neighbouring Coatbridge. North Lanarkshire Council last night said its chief executive learned of the arrest and “broad nature” of the alleged offences on September 8 and then informed council leader Jim Logue. Mr Logue then informed deputy council leader Paul Kelly, the council said.
Scottish Labour General Secretary Brian Roy was also told about Cllr Fagan’s arrest and the seizure of computer equipment – but not specific charges – on September 8, and wrote to Police Scotland for more information. However Labour did not suspend Cllr Fagan for another three weeks, until September 29, after the party had won the by-election on September 22.
The SNP last night said the sequence of events was “staggering”. The contest in Coatbridge North and Glenboig was a trailblazer for Labour, as its strategy was to defeat the SNP using local health cuts – a trial run for the 2017 council elections. Labour candidate Alex McVey gained the seat from the Nationalists by less than 200 votes. A North Lanarkshire Labour source said most councillors were kept in the dark until this week. “There was nothing said at all about David Fagan to the Labour Group. If that had come out before the by-election, the SNP would have won it hundreds of votes.”
The win was seized on by Labour as evidence of a revival against the SNP. UK leader Jeremy Corbyn, who posed for campaign pictures with Mr McVey in Lanarkshire a week after Cllr Fagan’s arrest, tweeted his congratulations following the victory. Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale cited it in her UK Labour conference speech. “When people say that the Scottish Labour Party can’t win elections, I say look to our victories in Coatbridge, in Fife and in Ayrshire this summer,” she told delegates in Liverpool. .” (Greenock Telegraph)
19 Oct 2016: The leaders of North Lanarkshire Council have been told to quit over the alleged cover-up of a child pornography charge against a Labour councillor on the eve of a by-election
Labour boss Jim Logue and his deputy Paul Kelly are the subject of a no confidence motion promoted by one of their former party colleagues, Councillor Sam Love. It was recently revealed how David Fagan, a councillor in Airdrie, was arrested over alleged child images on September 7, but not suspended by Labour until September 29. At the time of the arrest, Labour was fighting a bitter by-election in neighbouring Coatbridge.
The council chief executive learned of the arrest and “broad nature” of the alleged offences on September 8, then told Mr Logue, who in turn told Mr Kelly. However most Labour councillors were not informed for another three weeks, when Mr Fagan was suspended by Labour HQ, fuelling speculation that the matter was kept quiet until after Labour had won the by-election in Coatbridge North on September 22.
The ward fight was a high-profile one for Labour, with Jeremy Corbyn appearing with the candidate and Scottish leader Kezia Dugdale boasting about the win in her UK conference speech as evidence of Labour’s ability to defeat the SNP. Labour beat the SNP by fewer than 200 votes – a margin that would have been wiped out by bad publicity over Mr Fagan if his arrest been widely known, opposition parties claim.
Cllr Love, a former housing convener who resigned from the Labour group in March, is now asking other councillors to sign a no confidence motion in Mr Logue and Mr Kelly. It calls for their “immediate resignation… for a wilful breach of trust and for failing to act in the best interests” of the council, and claims they “withheld information” given to them by the chief executive “regarding charges brought against a North Lanarkshire councillor”. It goes on: “It is entirely wrong that a serious disciplinary decision appears to have been delayed in an attempt to gain political advantage. As elected representatives we have a duty to be open and transparent. We therefore request that an emergency council meeting is called immediately and [Cllrs Logue and Kelly] should resign from their council positions forthwith.”
The council Labour group is due to discuss the situation next Monday. A Labour source said: “Monday is going to be a big day for the group. It’s going to be volatile. None of us came into public service for this kind of nonsense.” In a leaked statement, Cllr Kelly told other Labour councillors that Cllr Love’s motion was “pathetic” and “disgraceful”, and urged them not to respond. He said the statute under which Cllr Fagan was charged was not known until September 29, adding: “Even now, we are still not aware of the precise allegations against him. When we were informed that he had been charged – but not what he had been charged with – on September 8, both myself and the Council Leader sought assurances from the Chief Executive that he had taken all necessary measures. We were assured that this was the case. “David Fagan is subject to live legal proceedings.
It is pathetic that some would seek political opportunity when those proceedings are ongoing. It is disgraceful that those same people would suggest that either the council leader or myself would seek political advantage in the actions we have taken.” A Crown Office spokesman said: “The Procurator Fiscal has received a report concerning a 52 year old male in connection with alleged incidents said to have occurred between 25 and 30 June 2016. The report remains under consideration.” The council declined to comment. (The Herald Scotland)
24 Oct 2016: Row brews as Labour ends careers of senior councillors
Labour has pulled the plug on the political careers of some of its longest standing front-line figures as it bids to retain power in the former stronghold of North Lanarkshire. Jim Brooks has not been selected as a candidate for next year’s local government elections. He has served as a councillor since 1974, led Monklands Council at the time of its 1990s cronyism scandal and been a kingpin in North Lanarkshire since it was formed.
Brooks was one of eight sitting members who were due to be informed at the weekend that they had been deselected. In a highly symbolic move, Jim McCabe, who led the council for almost two decades until standing down in February, has failed the party’s selection process, even though he had already decided to quit politics. His former chief whip, Tommy Curley, another who is standing down, has also failed. The others deselected include Cumbernauld’s Bob Chadha, John Higgins who represents Coatbridge, Wishaw’s Frank McKay, Peter Sullivan of Airdrie and John McLaren of Strathkelvin.
A senior source said the decisions were taken by a local forum of officials and factored in local ward work, adding most of those axed were “malcontents” and “lieutenants” of Mr McCabe during his time as leader. But Brooks said the decision had the “grubby hands” of council leader Jim Logue “all over the decision”, and that he had not yet been informed it. It will almost certainly intensify the deep political and factional divisions within North Lanarkshire.
Earlier this year, six other Labour councillors in North Lanarkshire, including ex-deputy leader Jim Smith, left the party after being demoted by Logue when he took the reins in March. The move comes amid more turbulence at the authority. Both Logue and his deputy Paul Kelly have faced calls to quit in recent days over the alleged cover-up of a child pornography charge against fellow Labour councillor David Fagan on the eve of a by-election.
The no confidence motion is being promoted by former colleagues Sam Love, one of those who quit in March. Kelly has described the move as “pathetic” and “disgraceful”. Earlier this month three officials were suspended as part of a corruption probe instigated after Logue received a whistle-blowing letter detailing a string of allegations. The letter named also McCabe, the 75-year-old telling The Herald: “Under no circumstances am I corrupt and I have never been corrupt. No way.”
A senior source said: “You’re talking people who’ve treaded water for too long and when they do have an input its to agitate against the leadership. We won an important by-election last month, the SNP are all over the place in Lanarkshire and we have a chance of winning. That’s only if we’re all pulling in the same direction.”
Another source said: “This will make things fraught internally, but it was always going to be anyway. It probably does Logue, Kelly and Labour in the area more good than harm if they’ve any chance of holding on to flush this out now.” But Brooks said: “This is like the old German show trials. It has Logue’s grubby hands all over it. He’s Airdrie and there’s always that enmity with Coatbridge. “He’s already made a statement that ‘yesterday’s men are finished’. “But I need to find out what’s going on.”
A spokesman for Labour’s local campaign forum in North Lanarkshire said: “Whilst some will, of course, be disappointed not to have made it through the initial selection panel of local party members, being a councillor is a privilege and not a right. “All unsuccessful candidates will be given the chance to appeal the decision.” (The Herald)
27 Nov 2016: Revealed: £20 Million Corruption Report at Scandal Hit Labour Controlled Lanarkshire District Council
North Lanarkshire’s auditors reveal the sheer scale of multi-million-pound unsanctioned overspend at the authority, through massively inflated public contracts. One contractor was paid more than £9m on a contract valued at £1.5m. These contracts were awarded under the previous leadership of Jim McCabe and his deputy Jim Smith, who were ousted earlier this year. The authority is now led by Airdrie councillor Jim Logue. (The Herald)
4 December 2016: Rebel Labour MP’s fail to bring down North Lanarkshire Labour Council in “no confidence” motion
Calls have been made for SNP Group leader David Stocks to resign after he opposed a motion to bring down the Labour administration in North Lanarkshire.
Independent councillors including former Labour members Sam Love, Gary O’Rorke and Frank McKay were set to back a motion of no confidence against council leader Jim Logue and his deputy Paul Kelly. But in a sensational twist at the SNP’s Group meeting last Monday night, SNP councillors led by David Stock voted 12 to six against the motion with one abstention. It is understood that Wishaw SNP members Rosa Zambonini and Jim Hume voted for the motion.
Former SNP councillor John Taggart, who became an independent last year, has called for Councillor Stocks’ to quit. He added: “David Stocks should resign as the leader. “The SNP had the opportunity to bring down the regime in North Lanarkshire by supporting a motion of no confidence and they didn’t do it. “The vote would have been carried by a maximum of four and minimum of two. I am afraid this time they bottled it. The reason came out with is they couldn’t trust the independents. “I don’t know why. It is an excuse. “The SNP have been saying for years they want to take over the administration in North Lanarkshire. They had an opportunity and bottled it.”
Councillor Sam Love also called on Stocks to stand down as leader. He said: “David Stocks’ own members in the SNP are telling me he is not up to the job and that he is a lackey for Labour leader Jim Logue. “His own people say that he is not fit to be leader of the opposition. “He should resign. “The SNP had the numbers with a four or five majority to take over the running of the council. “They had a chance to reverse decisions like the £5 per week community alarms charge and the huge hikes in the Garden Assistance Scheme which has gone up from £40 per year to £140.”
SNP leader David Stocks insists they do not want the support of ‘malcontented’ former Labour councillors.
Now the SNP are targeting a new administration in May next year. Councillor Stocks said: “The SNP Group on North Lanarkshire Council has no confidence in the current, ramshackle, Labour administration. “Every week they are in crisis, whether it be the sudden imposition of up to £15 on community alarms and day services for vulnerable pensioners, the 60 per cent cut in support for Citizens’ Advice Bureaus, the heartless closure of the One Stop Shop for autism or the cuts in four libraries and seven community halls. “However, the SNP decided not to push an actual ‘no confidence’ vote because we would have been relying on support from rebel Labour councillors who have themselves let North Lanarkshire down in the past.
“The SNP Group hope to form a stable administration serving the people of North Lanarkshire after May 2017 and running an efficient council. And 22 SNP councillors running a 70 member council would be numerically challenging at this time. “We would have to rely on 14 malcontented Labour councillors – the same people who have let down the people of North Lanarkshire over these past five years. “Labour are in a complete mess – six resignations, others threatening to stand as independents next May and accusations of corruption and police investigations. “They are no longer fit to run this council. There’s a complete breakdown in trust. “We want a clean break for the residents of North Lanarkshire,with a clear SNP administration coming in after May next year. The fresh-start prospects are good. “Back in 2012, the SNP took 40 per cent of the North Lanarkshire local election first preference vote. The dramatic rise of the SNP nationally over the last two years and Labour’s decline all points to big SNP gains next May.” (Daily Record)