The Scottish Government and Cosla have been called on to intervene after allegations Moray Council is being run as an “undemocratic dictatorship”.
A furious row broke out in the chambers yesterday as councillors met to shake-up the political balance of decision-making committees following two shock resignations from the administration last year.
However, despite the ruling Conservative and independent group only comprising half the 26 elected members, it has maintained a majority on committees.
Yesterday, Tory leader Tim Eagle said “strength” was necessary to allow the administration to “sail Moray through turbulent times”.
Council leader George Alexander offered to quit – a week before the authority meets to debate up to £6million worth of budget cuts – if it would help bolster the administration numbers.
However, Elgin City South councillor John Divers, leader of the newly formed Moray Alliance group, hit out at Mr Alexander’s proposal have committees of six independent, four SNP and one Alliance member.
He cited guidelines from Cosla (Convention of Scottish Local Authorities) which suggest it should have a six, four and two structure.
He said: “There’s no democracy in that. I have letters from Cosla which state if that were to happen they and the Scottish Government will ensure that the Cosla guidelines are followed.
“It would appear that we have a group that don’t want to operate in a democratic way – they want to operate in a dictatorship.”
The council’s head of democratic services Alasdair McEachan explained there were no “black lines” to govern the make-up of committees.
A spokesman for Cosla said it was not a matter they would intervene in.
Councillors approved the administration’s proposals for committees by a single vote.
Mr Divers has been joined in the Alliance by independent councillors Walter Wilson and Ryan Edwards, who both quit the administration, and Derek Ross.
Mr Alexander said: “If they can work together as a group of four then why can’t they join the administration to make it a group of 17?
“The people of Moray deserve decisive leadership, not a fragmented and weakened administration that is dependent on the casting vote of the chair.”
Graham Leadbitter, co-leader of the SNP group, added: “The way to have all councillors play their part is to not diminish the role of democracy and push them out with a skewed calculation.”
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “It is for each local authority to establish its own rules of governance. The Scottish Government has no control over such matters.”