Argyll and Bute Council agrees new coalition

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Argyll and Bute Council has formed a new ruling coalition after a row with the SNP over planned school closures.

The council is now being run by a partnership between independent, Lib Dem and Tory councillors, replacing the previous independent-SNP pact.

Nationalist members walked out on the ruling coalition in opposition to cutting primaries from 80 to 55.

Dick Walsh, who remains council leader, said he would focus on the future, rather than score "political points".

The school closure plans have been hugely controversial, and have resulted in local protests.

Argyll and Bute Council said 59% of all its primaries were less than half full, and proposals were needed to save £15m by 2014.

'Tough times'

Mr Walsh said: "We have a significant task ahead in ensuring the sustainability of long-term service delivery to our residents, and we will ensure we focus on doing what is right in the long-term, rather than trying to score any short-term political points.

"There are tough times ahead, and difficult choices are going to have to be made which require firm and steady leadership.

"I'd like to reassure the people of Argyll and Bute that leadership is in place and ready to strive for the best possible outcomes for the people it represents."

Lib Dem councillor Ellen Morton, who has been named as the new deputy leader, said: "We have clearly joined the administration at a very difficult time, given the national economic situation.

"But we will do our very best to work positively and in partnership with our fellow councillors and communities to ensure the best results for our residents."

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