James Robb resigned today as leader of Argyll and Bute Council as support ebbed away for his ‘consensus coalition’.
The news was greeted as ‘ sad day for democracy’ by one long-serving councillor and leaves the Lochgilphead-based council in unprecedented turmoil.
Last Thursday the Helensburgh SNP councillor announced that Liberal Democrat and Conservative members would be joining the administration he led after two SNP members resigned because of budget cuts.
Initially the new grouping was thought to have 25 of the council’s 36 seats, but the three-strong Argyll First group changed sides the next morning, sparking a bitter war of words.
Then on Friday evening the BBC reported that Argyll and Bute’s SNP group had been suspended by its National Executive because the new coalition had not received prior approval.
After a weekend of frenzied speculation Cllr Robb resigned as leader this evening – less than three months after taking control.
He said: “The SNP council group asked me to stand down as council leader. I was happy to do so.”
Lomond North councillors George Freeman and Robert G MacIntyre, who together form the Argyll & Bute Independent Councillors Group, had backed Cllr Robb’s new administration.
Cllr Freeman said they did not want to ‘rush into any decision’, adding: “A sad day for democracy. Robert and I will be discussing with others over the next few days how we now move forward.”
Today’s news means that with four years until the next elections the future political control of the council could hardly be less clear, although it is possible that Dick Walsh, current leader of the opposition, will try to form a new administration based around his Alliance of Independent Councillors.