A NEW Highland councillor who was surprisingly elected as the authority’s transport chief has described political opposition to his nomination as “ham-fisted”.
But a Ross-shire councillor who tried to block the appointment has again questioned Graham Phillip’s suitability for the high profile role which carries huge responsibilities for roads, recycling and refuse collection.
SNP Sutherland councillor Phillips is the new chairman of the local authority’s transport, environmental and community services committee (TECS), despite a surprise attempt by Independent Alasdair Rhind to block the appointment.
Councillor Phillips’s nomination was among a raft of new office bearers proposed by the new Nationalist, Liberal Democrat and Labour coalition at a meeting in Inverness last week.
But it raised eyebrows given his short time in office as he was only elected last month and it was the only one the opposition group of Independent councillors tried to block.
Councillor Rhind (Tain and Easter Ross) instead proposed another SNP councillor Maxine Smith, who had been the party’s respected TECS spokeswoman in the last council term.
He claimed the political newcomer did not have enough experience for the high profile role.
However, Councillor Smith (Cromarty Firth) rejected the surprise nomination amid some embarrassment and red faces and will instead chair the Highland licensing board and committee.
Councillor Phillips said he did not take the snub personally and had the utmost respect for Councillor Smith’s abilities.
“I know it caused a little bit of surprise on the opposition benches,” he said.
“It is the opposition’s job to oppose but I wished they had spoken to me directly first - it was rather ham fisted. Maxine has been very supportive to me. It might have been good if they had listened to her in the last five years.”
However, Councillor Rhind hit back and said there had been little opportunity to speak to him beforehand and predicted it was a very tough job for a newly elected Highland councillor.
“I wish the gentleman well and this is my own personal opinion but you have to find your feet as a councillor, it takes a long time to do and you start by representing your community first,” he said.
Councillor Rhind also called for an overhaul of the TECS management structure and said it needed stronger leadership.
The Tain and Easter Ross councillor said there were a number of issues in his own ward like “appalling” pothole repairs and the standard of grass cutting which needed to be addressed.
The new TECS chairman, who represents the Edderton and East Sutherland ward, previously served on a district authority in England in the 1970s and 1980s. He is an experienced business consultant and runs his own firm from his Golspie home.