Councillors still able to hold two political jobs

Hugh Gaffney at Juniper Park in Viewpark which his council salary helped pay for
Hugh Gaffney at Juniper Park in Viewpark which his council salary helped pay for

North Lanarkshire Council has debated whether parliamentarians should also be permitted to serve on local councils.

At last week’s full council meeting Thorniewood councillor Steven Bonnar proposed that North Lanarkshire should require any members, who are also elected to serve in the Scottish, Westminster or European Parliaments, to stand down from their local authority roles.

Currently there is one North Lanarkshire councillor in such a dual role – Councillor Bonnar’s fellow Thorniewood councillor Hugh Gaffney, who won the Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill seat in the 2017 General Election.

Councillor Bonnar claimed Councillor Gaffney was not fully performing the duties of a local councillor, saying: “He serves on no committees whatsoever and is instead carried by his Labour colleagues.”

However, Mr Bonnar added that his motion was not intended as a personal attack.

He said: “This is not about what colour of rosette a candidate wears, it is about ensuring constituents are fully represented.”

It was noted that Mr Gaffney donates his council salary to good causes within his constituency.

The motion was opposed by Airdrie South councillor Ian McNeil, who pointed out that it was relatively commonplace for councillors to hold more than one elected office and also to have other careers outside politics.

In last year’s local authority elections, North Lanarkshire’s allocation of councillors was increased from 70 to 77.

Opposition group depute leader Tom Johnston said that this fact reflected the level of economic deprivation in North Lanarkshire and the need for each post to be properly filled

“Areas such as Thorniewood have significant levels of social need and it is morally wrong to deprive these areas of one of these posts,” he said.

Councillor Gaffney left the chamber during the debate, his fellow Thorniewood councillor Bob Burrows said: “If Councillor Gaffney was not fulfilling his duties as a councillor the Labour Party would take action to correct that. The branch would say it was time to act. That is not the case.

“In addition, by donating his salary to the people of Thorniewood he has ensured that playparks are being built in the ward that would otherwise not exist.”