It was a great honour for me to be re-elected for the Lochs ward to serve on Fife Council. The ward starts from the west in Kingseat and takes in the villages of Kelty, Ballingry, Lochore, Crosshill and Glencraig as well as a large rural area around Loch Fitty, Loch Glow, Gask and Clentry.
I have worked with my fellow councillor, dear friend and comrade Willie Clarke in the Lochs ward over the last five years and we will both continue to work together to represent the villages and local people as best as we can. As Fifes only Communist councillor Willie is also Fifes longest serving councillor and a great mentor to me.
In these elections Labour put forward a radical agenda for change and a vision for Fife and its people, and was rewarded with the largest share of the votes and highest number of seats on the council gaining 11 news seats. In total we got 35 seats which left us 4 short of an outright majority. The SNP were on 26 followed by the Liberals on 10, the Independents on 4 and Conservatives on 3.
As leader of the Labour group I have held discussions with all parties and the independent councillors to discuss gaining support to move forward to form a minority administration in Fife Council. I set out a clear wish to form a minority administration in Fife as I believed this was and is the best way to bring about a more transparent and inclusive local government in Fife.
Both the SNP and Lib Dems asked us if we would look at coalition. The problem with coalition as we have seen from the SNP Lib Dem coalition of the last five years is that you have two parties who cobble together a deal based on sharing out positions and salaries and then they rule with an arrogance that in the end means they get it wrong, forget who they are there to serve and sadly ignore the very people who put them there in the first place. I reckoned Fife deserves better and indeed the people voted for better.
I also contacted all four independent councillors and the Conservative group. In my discussions with them they all made clear that they also thought Fife deserved better and that they would not support more of the same. At no point did any of them ask for any positions or anything for their groups, but did make clear they wanted change and that if Labour was to deliver a new inclusive approach, more local services and a more transparent form of local government for Fife then they would support us form an administration. They also supported the idea of a minority administration as opposed to a cobbled together coalition.
I am therefore pleased that with their support we were able to move forward today and form that minority administration.
This will be a more difficult way for Labour as unlike a cobbled together coalition where you are guaranteed the votes of the other party councillors once the deal is done, we will have to work to gain that support from other parties and independents, but this will bring a more inclusive and democratic local government in Fife and will mean more councillors being involved in the policy and decision making processes.
We were also able to table a new structure for the governance of Fife and I will write separately about how this will work in the coming days, but the key point I would make hear is that the system in place the last five years was broken beyond repair and without a clear and transparent system of governance it will be more difficult to deliver on the priorities of our communities.
I am therefore very proud to have been elected Leader of Fife Council and I will work hard to implement the Labour manifesto and to give all councillors who wish to bring about change and make things better both in their wards and across Fife the support to do so.
Whilst I did no deals with the Independents or the Conservatives I am grateful for their support to form the administration. These are honourable people who also want to drive change, work hard for the communities that elected them and this is a good starting point for us all to work together over the next five years standing up for Fife and putting people first.
I was also delighted to move Jim Leishman for Provost and I know that he is someone who is committed to Fife and someone who will work tirelessly to support the communities of Fife.
I believe we need a new inclusive politics that puts people first and I hope today was a step in that direction.