The former deputy leader of Aberdeenshire Council launched a scathing attack on the “poisonous” administration yesterday.
Councillor Martin Kitts-Hayes quit the ruling Aberdeenshire Alliance, along with fellow Independent Sheena Lonchay, on Wednesday – just two days after the Labour group left.
The move means the administration – made up of the Tories, Liberal Democrats and nine Independents – is now in the minority in the chamber and speculation is growing the SNP could be poised to make a bid to seize control.
But despite losing four councillors in one week – including his deputy – council leader Jim Gifford insisted it was “business as usual”.
Yesterday Mr Kitts-Hayes accused Mr Gifford of “burying his head in a bucket of sand” and admitted that tensions had been mounting within the Conservative-led alliance over the last year.
In a candid interview, he said he got fed up of acting as a “referee” between the Tories and Labour.
“Fundamentally, the alliance was no longer an alliance,” he said.
“It’s essentially a Tory administration propped up by the rest of us. That’s not the basis on which we set up the alliance and it’s all come to a head.
“Labour were not being listened to, their concerns were not being addressed and out of frustration they have thrown in the towel.”
Mr Kitts-Hayes quit the Lib Dem group in April last year.
He claimed the four group leaders had not met for months to discuss their concerns, and that even after Labour’s Alison Evison and Raymond Christie publicly announced they had left the administration, nothing was done.
He said: “I have to say, what the leader of the council should have done is sat down with the group leaders and worked out the problems, instead of sticking his head in a bucket of sand and hoping the problem would go away.”
Mr Kitts-Hayes – whose future as the vice-chairman of the powerful policy and resources committee will be discussed at full council next month – added: “There’s a degree of intolerance which is a feature of the alliance, and it has just become poisonous.”
Last night Mr Gifford said he would not respond to the “tirade” but said he had discussed Labour’s departure with the group leaders.
Mr Gifford said: “The discussion from both groups of councillors that have left have said that this is a Tory-led administration, which cannot be further from the truth.
“There are three groups were more or less equal numbers. Even if we wanted to push through a Tory agenda, two-thirds of the group would have stopped it from happening.”
The council leader added: “The alliance was set up three years ago in order to provide a stable and robust administration for the council.
“With a collective mandate from a majority of Aberdeenshire voters, we left party politics at the door and agreed a joint manifesto that focussed entirely on our residents and businesses.
“We have been working hard during difficult financial times to deliver our commitments and are absolutely on target.
“It was not so long ago that it was claimed Aberdeenshire was ‘closed for business’ – we have reversed this and more.
“It has been suggested by the leader of the SNP that there have been ‘tensions’ within the alliance.
“Let me say that any internal tensions that may have existed have now ended.”
Last night Mr Kitts-Hayes laughed when the latter point was put him for a response, and added: “Let’s see if it’s the troublemaker or the glue that’s left the alliance.”