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Lerwick councillor claims she was effectively frozen out from committee roles by colleagues

Amanda Westlake (second from right) alongside fellow Lerwick South councillors Peter Campbell, Cecil Smith and Beatrice Wishart following the election count at Clickimin earlier this month. Photo: Shetland News/Hans J. Marter.

LERWICK SOUTH councillor Amanda Westlake has denied suggestions she won’t be able to fully represent her ward after she was not appointed to any Shetland Islands Council committees this week.

Frankie Valente, who narrowly lost out to Westlake in the May local election, questioned in a letter on Friday how the councillor will be able to “defend her manifesto commitments” if she is unable to participate in any committees.

Westlake was only nominated for the education and families committee at the first meeting of the new council on Thursday, but she lost out in a ballot vote to fellow Lerwick South member Peter Campbell.

All of the other 21 councillors – including the ten new members – were selected for the various committees, which make decisions in areas such as development, transport and planning.

Frankie Valente is questioning how her election rival will be able to "defend her manifesto commitments" without sitting on any council committees.

Westlake, Campbell, new political leader Cecil Smith and Beatrice Wishart all won five-year terms in the Lerwick South ward.

A number of the main committees only appoint one member from each ward and Westlake suggested to Shetland News that her fellow Lerwick South councillors ended up putting themselves forward for roles despite some prior discussion about their preferences.

The councillor, who declined some nominations for minor roles towards the end of Thursday’s meeting, added that she “couldn’t go on as many committees this time because of conflict of interests with my personal business”.

Earlier that day – without any specific details – she posted on her personal Facebook page that she was “saddened beyond belief this morning”. 

“My ward agreed beforehand which committees we were interested in, and on the day they did not nominate me but themselves and took all the committees. There’s not anything I can do about that I’m afraid,” Westlake said.

“Unfortunately, education was the committee that I discussed with my ward and Peter Campbell and Beatrice Wishart also wanted that committee as well, as well as all the other committees, so I’m really, really happy for them to get on with it.”

Westlake, who will still take part in meetings of the full council, dismissed suggestions that she won’t be fully representing her electorate.

Westlake was narrowly re-elected for a second term ahead of Frankie Valente, who has criticised her for "squandering this opportunity that she has been given".

“I’m elected in by my constituents, I’m a councillor and I will be participating in all the council meetings,” she said. 

“I’ll be looking forward to seeing the reports and having input with it as I can.”

Westlake – who was first elected back in 2012 – also moved to praise the debutant councillors for their “initiative” in taking on committee roles and said she wished them well with their “really hard job” ahead.

Figures show that Valente ended up being the equivalent of three votes behind Westlake in the Lerwick South election, which selected four members from a choice of just five candidates.

Westlake was elected in the final stage of the single transferable vote process, which enabled voters to rank candidates in order of preference.

“I would be interested to know how [Westlake] thinks she is going to represent Lerwick South and to defend her manifesto commitments when she won’t be taking an active part,” Valente said.

“I was very disappointed to not be elected and so it is really annoying to find out that Amanda is squandering this opportunity that she has been given.”