Former Labour election agent among candidates

A CHARTERED engineer, a trainee tax adviser and an international music conductor are among the candidates vying for Ian Murray's old seat in the City Chambers.

A by-election is set to take place in September for the Liberton/Gilmerton ward, following the Labour councillor's election to Westminster as MP for Edinburgh South in May.

The early favourite to win the seat is Labour candidate Bill Cook, 55, a veteran of council elections as a former election agent for ex-council leader Donald Anderson and ex-fire board convener Ken Harrold.

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He will have to defeat 23-year-old Conservative candidate Stephanie Murray, who graduated from Edinburgh University yesterday with a diploma in legal practice and is training to become a chartered tax adviser.

The SNP has chosen 39-year-old conductor Richard Lewis, an Oxford University graduate.

Mr Cook, a chartered engineer for defence firm Selex, has vowed to highlight the cuts and "mismanagement" of the Lib Dem/SNP administration. He said: "The administration are not up to the job and that manifests itself in the tram scheme and the cleansing dispute.

"They do not have a handle on how to run an administration and that will be an issue when it comes to the campaigning.

"People will also be concerned about the looming threat of cuts and about some of the cuts that have already taken place."

Mr Lewis, who is regularly on tour around Europe in his job as a freelance conductor, is standing for a second time after losing out in the 2007 election for the Meadows/Morningside ward. He said: "There are few people with an arts background on the council, so it is felt that could be good for the mix."

He said trams, public funding and powers for the Scottish Parliament were among the issues likely to dominate campaigning.

The youngest candidate will be Ms Murray. She said: "I think I would bring a different view to things.

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"There is such a big age group that is not represented and I want to shout for them."

Any swing away from Labour could have a dramatic impact on the balance of power at the City Chambers, where there are currently 29 Lib Dem/SNP administration councillors and 29 opposition members.

A candidate for the Lib Dems has not yet been confirmed.