A vote of no confidence in South Lanarkshire council’s leader has been defeated.

At a full council meeting on Wednesday (August 23), the SNP group moved a vote of no confidence in councillor Joe Fagan after he was suspended in June.  Councillor Fagan was suspended from his duties for a period of two months from July 7 due to being found in breach of the Standards Commission’s Councillors’ Code of Conduct.

The commission found that he broke the Councillors’ Code of Conduct by disclosing confidential information about potential leisure centre closures to the press on April 30, 2021, before he was the leader of the council.

He was then suspend for breaching the confidentiality code.

Although the SNP group expressed a vote of no confidence in the suspended council leader, the Labour group supported him as well as the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats.

Only 21 councillors voted in favour of the call, compared to the 34 who voted against and one who abstained.

SNP group leader Councillor John Ross (Hamilton South) proposed the motion, which was seconded by councillor Maureen Chalmers (Blantyre).

He said: “As one of the originators of the complaint made against councillor Fagan to the Ethical Standards Commission, I feel vindicated but sad that the individual who is the leader of this council is someone who has been sanctioned by the commission.”

He added: “The commission’s decision was sobering. I think I’m correct to say that this was the first time a council  leader in Scotland has been suspended for breaches of the code.”  In response to the decision made by the Standards Commission, councillor Fagan previosuly said he disclosed the information in ‘good faith’ and that his conscience was clear.

He said: “ I did what I believed to be right and that’s why I got into local government in the first place.

“My accusers said I leaked information and yet I openly disclosed it in good faith.

“I believe the Standards framework in Scotland should go after real wrongdoing in local government, it should not tie the hands of those working to expose it.”

Councillor Ross criticised councillor Fagan’s ‘brash and dismissive’ approach and questioned his role as council leader.

He added: “Is councillor Fagan the right person to lead South Lanarkshire Council? Do members of the Labour group stand united behind him and what about the administration’s coalition partners, do you still have confidence in his leadership?  “The SNP group do not have confidence in councillor Fagan, many of South Lanarkshire’s residents do not have confidence in him.”

He added that councillor Fagan’s return as leader was “untenable”.

Councillor Kirsten Robb (East Kilbride East), also condoned the actions of councillor Fagan.

She said: “The public expects a high standard of behaviour from the people they elect and all councillors sign up to the Code of Conduct which sets out these high standards.

“I imagine now that Labour is in charge, if another party was to leak some of the information in this year’s budget working group just before an election then the shoe would be on the other foot. I do understand election fever, but we’ve all signed the code, to get better results we need to stick to the standards we all stand up to.  “Councillor Fagan did not uphold this in this case and the Standards Commission has rightfully sanctioned him. I hope this action is a reminder to all councillors to renew their commitment to renewing high standards in public life.”

Depute council leader and depute leader of the Labour group Gerry Convery (East Kilbride Central South) came to councillor Fagan’s defence and declared his full support for the East Kilbride councillor.

He said: “Just for the record, yes, the Labour group totally supports councillor Fagan, and he’ll be back in his role in a couple of weeks.”

Conservative councillor Richard Nelson (Larkhall) also shot down calls for the council leader to stand down.

He said:  “Whilst I don’t condone anything that councillor Fagan has done, I think the relevant procedures and protocols have been dealt with.”  And Liberal Democrat councillor Robert Brown (Rutherglen South) also declared his confidence in the administration and the council leader.  He said: “The Standards Commission’s reasoning, the decision is there, the appropriate course of action is to note the decision, reflect on how we approach such in the future and move on, the SNP’s opposition trying to make more of it than that.

“This is a wrap on the knuckles matter and it’s not something that justified these extravagant demands for resignation.

 “I have full confidence in the leader of the administration.”

 Councillor Fagan will return on September 7.