The former depute leader of North Lanarkshire Council has slammed the Labour Party for allowing a Motherwell councillor to take the job.
Jim Smith believes his former colleague Paul Kelly shouldn’t have been in the running to succeed him because of an inquiry into alleged financial irregularities.
Councillor Smith says Labour’s failure to take action against the Motherwell West councillor was the reason he quit the party earlier this month.
He dismissed new council leader Jim Logue’s claim that Councillor Smith and three colleagues resigned for “selfish, personal reasons” after missing out on top jobs during a reshuffle.
Councillor Kelly, who was elected by Labour colleagues as Councillor Logue’s depute, is a former chairman of Motherwell and Wishaw Constituency Labour Party.
An internal audit of accounts during his time in charge raised concerns about unexplained income and spending. Much of this related to last year’s general election campaign when Councillor Kelly was the agent for MP Frank Roy.
The matter has been passed to Scottish Labour officials.
Councillor Smith said the party had blundered by not preventing Councillor Kelly from standing for a senior council post while the investigation was taking place. He pointed out that the SNP suspended Coatbridge councillor Julie McAnulty pending an investigation into alleged racist remarks she made..
In a letter to the Times & Speaker, Councillor Smith wrote: “The Labour Party has been in freefall in Scotland for several years now and and it would seem to be gifting the opposition ammunition ahead of next year’s council elections.”
Councillor Smith denied quitting because he didn’t get a key post under Councillor Logue. He said the “sole reason” for his decision was the party’s “lack of integrity” in sanctioning Councillor Kelly as a candidate for depute leader.
A Labour source said there was “disbelief” that Councillor Kelly had not stood aside.
Councillor Kelly refused to be drawn on the comments, saying only: “I was pleased the Labour Party were assisting the CLP in this matter and I look forward to the report back to the CLP.”
Three other Labour councillors quit the party following the new leader’s reshuffle. Helen McKenna, Sam Love and Peter Nolan were all conveners under former leader Jim McCabe, but lost their posts.
See letters, page 22