Labour pair ‘broke rules’

Councillor Michael Ross
Councillor Michael Ross

two Motherwell councillors have been reported to the country’s local government watchdog after claims they acted improperly in relation to a planning application.

Michael Ross and Paul Kelly could be banned from council meetings or even stripped of office if allegations are upheld by the Standards Commission for Scotland.

However, as they prepared to stand for re-election in the Motherwell West ward tomorrow (Thursday) both councillors insisted they have done nothing wrong and will fight any case against them.

The move follows a decision by North Lanarkshire Council’s planning committee earlier this year to reject a bid by Holy Trinity Episcopal Church to demolish its dilapidated hall in Crawford Street and build flats.

Although council planners recommended approval of the plans, Councillor Kelly moved that they be turned down and a subsequent vote went in his favour.

Nearby residents who objected to the plans included Councillor Ross’s father, Patrick.

Councillor Ross is not on the planning committee, but he admitted speaking to Councillor Kelly on the issue before the meeting. However, they both denied that Councillor Ross had breached the strict code of conduct for councillors by lobbying his colleague.

Rev Alan Wylie, of Holy Trinity, branded the pair’s behaviour ‘suspicious and disturbing’, and this week after taking legal advice submitted a formal complaint to the Standards Commission.

His letter accuses Councillor Ross, who as group whip is in charge of Labour councillors’ discipline, of trying to influence the committee’s decision.

Mr Wylie said Councillor Kelly should have refused to discuss the matter with his colleague ahead of the committee meeting.

The churchman has also lodged a complaint over a letter written by Councillor Kelly which was published in the Motherwell Times. This branded Mr Wylie’s remarks about the councillors ‘completely un-Christian’.

Full story in this week’s Motherwell Times, out now.