Moray Council’s leadership has been thrown into chaos after Conservative councillors walked out of the administration in a row over job adverts.
The dispute comes as the authority faces being plunged into bankruptcy within the next two years.
Crunch talks were held at the end of last week in an attempt to keep the partnership between the Tories and five independents together.
However, yesterday morning it was announced the alliance had fallen apart after “deadlock” ensued.
Last night it emerged opposition members were already plotting a power grab within the chambers.
The development comes in the midst of a consultation intended to identify up to £14million worth of savings over the next two years.
The argument centred on job adverts for two corporate director positions, which both command salaries of more than £90,000.
Conservative leader Tim Eagle wanted the recruitment drive delayed until after a management review but council leader George Alexander believes the posts were essential to support staff.
Mr Eagle said: “We are unhappy about the lack of progress that has taken place in recent weeks to address the issues facing the council – we simply cannot allow the situation to drift any longer.
“Our door is always open but we will not participate in the administration unless there is a commitment to change and reform.”
A counter-proposal was drafted over the weekend which proposed Mr Alexander sharing a co-leader position on the authority with a Conservative member.
However, the independent member representative rejected the offer yesterday morning, believing it to be “re-writing” the initial agreement struck between the parties last year.
Mr Alexander said: “I take exception to the Conservatives saying we did not wish to make change. We have developed policies but it appears it was not fast enough for them.”
Yesterday, the council leader reached out to the SNP group and the Moray Alliance Group (MAG), which comprises a Labour member and three independents, in an attempt to broker a deal.
The shake-up has left the administration with five independents and convener James Allan as the only remaining Conservative, who explained it was important the civic head of the council did not get involved in “political arguments”.
Mr Alexander described the opportunity for the SNP to seize control as an “open goal”.
He said: “I’ve begun talks with the SNP and the MAG group. We tried last year but they set a red line on no compulsory redundancies. I don’t know if that has changed.
“The SNP is the largest group now so the ball is at their foot to take a shot at an open goal. They can see we are clearly in disarray so the opportunity is there for them if they wish to take it.”
Yesterday, the SNP opened talks with the MAG group in an attempt to put together an alternative administration.
SNP co-leader Graham Leadbitter said: “The lack of vision and strategy from the Tories has been apparent right from the start and they have now chosen to desert the council rather than produce a strategic plan.
“Following last year’s election , we put in a great deal of work in an effort to form a stable administration and we are committed to doing the same now.”
Mr Divers added: “I had come to an agreement with the SNP group last year when I was a Labour councillor. I’m in a group now though and at least three of us are prepared to meet with them and what’s left of the administration.”