Aberdeenshire Council’s Liberal Democrat deputy leader and a senior colleague have quit the party’s group on the local authority amid claims of back-stabbing and disloyalty.
Inverurie and District member Martin Kitts-Hayes and West Garioch councillor Sheena Lonchay will move to the Independent Group with immediate effect.
Both hope to remain part of the council’s ruling Aberdeenshire Alliance.
At yesterday’s meeting of the full local authority, two of the agenda items were decided by “free” votes to allow members to make decisions based on their personal views rather than along party lines.
But Councillor Kitts-Hayes alleges that certain councillors forced their colleagues to vote a certain way or register a no vote.
The former leader of the Liberal Democrat group at the council refused to be drawn on which individuals had caused the problems.
He said: “I have been very concerned, for a number of months, about the conduct of a number of members within the group both in relation to lack of loyalty and lack of respect.
“About three weeks ago I made it very clear that I was very unhappy about how they conducted their business – the back-stabbing, the undermining of senior members of this council – and that it had to stop.
“It is clear to me that it has not stopped.
“There is no respect for me as group leader and to try to change an agreed position is disloyal.”
Councillor Lonchay added: “We feel that some members of the group have no voice.
“I would be very happy to join the Independent Group – they are dedicated and I hope to add to that.”
Council leader Jim Gifford said the councillors’ decision to resign from the party was “entirely a matter for the Liberal Democrats”.
He said that Mr Kitts-Hayes’s position as deputy leader would be discussed at the next meeting of the Alliance Group.
He said: “That is something that we will discuss at our normal meeting on Monday with the Alliance Group.”
The administration is now made up of Conservative (14), Liberal Democrat (11), Labour (2) and eight Independents, with the overall majority unaffected by the resignation of Mr Kitts-Hayes and Mrs Lonchay.
Mr Kitts-Hayes said the mix of different parties worked because the focus was not on political stances.
“There are four political parties within the alliance and keeping all four groups together is tough, but the reason we are able to stay together is that we are not very political,” he explained.
“When we are considering an issue within the alliance we do so in an open, honest and straightforward manner. The decision was taken to have two free votes and it is the first time it has happened.
“The papers on the Aquatics Centre and Aikey Brae are fundamental issues to the alliance and in terms of democracy we do not want to be in a position where people are voting no against something they feel strongly about or voting against something they agree with.
“Some of my so-called colleagues who did not want to lose the vote were forcing members to no vote or to support the alliance’s position. It is disloyal.”
Lib Dem councillor for Banchory and Mid-Deeside Karen Clark said: “We have received no formal notification of any resignations.
“We appreciate the hard work that Martin Kitts-Hayes has done over the past two years as the group’s leader and all our elected members are really focused on doing the best for our constituents.”