As reported by the Local Democracy Reporting Service last week, former Liberal Democrat Richard Moore has rejoined the ruling group of Conservative and independent councillors despite stepping down in shame in 2018 after being found to have harassed several women.
Mr Moore was suspended for three months after behaving inappropriately towards four women, including elected councillors Lois Speed and Julie Bell, in a single day at a social care event in 2017. He now gives the administration a majority of one.
The group, led by independent David Fairweather, had governed the region with a minority after Speed and Lib Dem Ben Lawrie quit in March, citing an “unhealthy culture” within the corridors of power.
Cllr Fairweather denied this was the case and survived a test of his leadership after offering his resignation. Last week, he stripped Cllrs Speed and Lawrie of a number of their appointments, including the former’s vice-convenership of the health and social care integrated joint board, a role for which she had been widely praised.
However, despite quitting the administration in disgrace in 2018, Mr Moore remained vice-convener of Angus Council’s licensing board and civic licensing committee. He was paid an additional £2,974 in 2018/19, rising to £3,127 in 2019/20, for the role, on top of his standard councillor’s allowance of around £17,000.
David Cheape, an independent opposition councillor, says a “jobs for the boys” environment is endemic in Angus Council, where those who are looked upon favourably are given better treatment.
Cllr Cheape, who was also stripped of convenership posts when he left the administration in 2018, said: “When Richard Moore came off of the administration they kept him in a couple of vice-convener roles – that did not happen with Lois Speed and Ben Lawrie,” he said.
“Simply the administration has realised that they were sitting 14-14 with the opposition and needed one person to help them win votes.
“What other reason could there possibly be to readmit him?”
Cllr Julie Bell, who was made to feel “disgusted, uncomfortable and angry” by Moore’s conduct, said last week that the administration had shown its “true colours” by appointing a man with a track record of harassment into an all-male council administration.
Cllr Speed has declined to comment on the issues, says she is “finding it hard” to speak out about the issues at present.
Cllr Fairweather has repeatedly declined to answer questions on his decisions.
Following repeated requests for comment, the council leader has broken his silence after three days.
He said: “Delighted that Cllr Moore has re-joined the Administration.
“As with his outside roles as Vice Convener of Licensing, his role in Development Standards and the Development Management Review Committee his contribution brings valuable experience back.”
However, campaign groups and elected members from elsewhere in Scotland have expressed outrage and disgust in response to the decision. It is also understood that Cllr
Moore’s behaviour did not form part of the discussions prior to his readmission to the administration.
Change The Chat, a pressure group aiming to fight back against misogyny in politics, says accepting Cllr Moore back shows contempt for the women who were subjected to what watchdogs described as “humiliating and degrading” behaviour.
Emma Walker, chief executive, said: “The appalling decision taken by Angus Council’s administration is an excellent example of how Scottish politics continues to fail women.
“Whilst the recent increase in women MSPs is to be celebrated, it is not an indication that we are heading towards gender equality.
“Their party allegiances may differ but women who report have one thing in common – they remain unheard and are always punished for speaking up.
“We stand in support of the four women who have suffered at the hands of failing leadership, and we invite women to work with us to disrupt the current political system that places higher value on a man than a woman.”
Mhairi Hunter, an SNP councillor in Glasgow, branded the appointment “simply ridiculous and completely unacceptable” on social media, while East Lothian SNP leader Stuart Currie said it was “beyond belief”.
He added: “I realise that no individual can be forced to resign, but for any administration to accept someone back with this record is a disgrace.”
Cllr Moore has refused to discuss how he came to rejoin the administration, or why he left the Liberal Democrats at the end of March.
The Liberal Democrats have been contacted for comment.