"CHAOTIC, to say the least.” That description of the current administration of Angus Council is, if anything, putting it lightly.

In 2021, the ruling coalition saw two of its members – independent Lois Speed and LibDem Ben Lawrie – step down amid suggestions of a bullying culture. The resignations meant the ruling group numbered 14 councillors – one short of a majority on the 28-seat council.

In order to cling to power, the now all-male Conservative-independent coalition welcomed in former LibDem Richard Moore who had been suspended by his party after being found guilty of inappropriately touching four different women, two of whom – Speed and the SNP’s Julie Bell – also sit on the council.

Led by independent David Fairweather, the ruling group now numbers eight Tories and seven independents. But their hold on power is about as fragile as can be.

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One of those Tory councillors – Derek Wann – was unmasked as the anonymous Twitter troll “Lady Whistledown”. Named after a character from the Netflix show Bridgerton, the account was accused of writing “misogynistic and transphobic” messages.

Fairweather, who told The National he believed it would not be “appropriate” for him to comment due to the upcoming elections, is propped up by more Tory allies who made headlines for all the wrong reasons.

One, David Lumgair, was given an official police warning after an altercation with one of the local binmen.

Another, Braden Davy (below), was faced with a potential police probe after it emerged he may have broken election rules with his own anonymous anti-SNP troll account.

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“Scandals, resignations, changes of leadership. The last five years there’s been a Tory-dominated coalition in place in Angus and it’s been chaotic to say the least,” Beth Whiteside, the SNP’s group leader told The National.

“There’s been a lot of petty politics and there’s really no place for that. In local politics it really doesn’t achieve very much. We’re looking to bring a much more grown-up approach to the politics here, a more collaborative approach.”

Whiteside claims that the current administration has been “adversarial”, seemingly bringing the attitude of an anonymous anti-SNP internet troll to the running of the council.

“They would vote against sensible ideas not because they didn’t like them but because they were proposed by the SNP,” she says. “Going forward, we need to get away from that adversarial approach. It doesn’t do anybody any good.”

Whiteside's SNP group are standing 14 candidates, meaning that they would be one short of a council majority even if every single one of them wins a seat.

While her party may fancy their chances of forming an administration after May 5, rumours suggest the Tories – in an effort to stop the SNP in their tracks – have been convincing the slew of their independent allies who had been planning to stand down to run again.

Council leader Fairweather was one of those who had planned to step down, but has since had a change of heart.

Marley Hunter, a Greens candidate for Forfar and District, said that many on the council seemed to have lost touch with the people they are supposed to be representing, and questioned how a ruling administration composed entirely of white, generally older, men could truly be representative at all.

She further said that while the council might not have the tools necessary to address key issues such as skyrocketing energy bills and the cost-of-living crisis, it could help people in other ways – if they knew how to reach out.

“It’s really important that people who are disenfranchised have a voice,” she says. “I grew up in poverty and I know that you don’t think to get in touch with these important people who don’t know where you’re coming from. It’s hard to know what to do.”

The SNP also pointed to a need to engage communities more in the council’s work, with Whiteside saying that ideas such as “participatory budgeting” – where locals have more say in how council money is spent – could help bring “the people who know best” into the decision-making process.

The ruling group will need to pay close attention to its spending and the impact of the cost of living crisis. The May 5 vote will fall a matter of days after many households receive their first energy bill since the price cap rose by a massive 54% at the start of April.

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Speed, the independent who quit the administration claiming a toxic culture existed in the ruling group, previously told STV the Tory-independent coalition would often greet talk of the deprivation and inequality in Angus “with tuts and sighs”.

She claimed she was “often shut out, isolated and given the silent treatment” for raising concerns about the worst off in society.

Whiteside says that the impact of rising fuel costs will also be acutely felt in the area as many of the smaller villages are not connected to the gas mains and so have to rely on oil – which has tripled in price in recent months.

The Greens, who have never stood a candidate in Angus before, have people in almost every ward this time around. Despite how new it is to the area, the party thinks it has a real chance of returning some councillors and helping to tackle the crisis.

“Small changes can have big impacts, and it is things like improving insulation, helping with community gardens, trying to get food security, things like that,” Hunter says. “Even one Green councillor can have a huge impact by putting those issues to the front.”

Retrofitting social housing with improved insulation to help people stay warm while spending less is a policy also being looked at by the SNP, suggesting at least one area in which the two parties could find common ground to enact policy if the current choatic administration were to be toppled.

The National: Angus Council is currently run by a coalition of Tories and independentsAngus Council is currently run by a coalition of Tories and independents

Away from skyrocketing bills, people in Angus are also concerned that the infrastructure currently in place won’t be enough to handle an influx of new residents expected once several currently under construction housing developments are finished.

These worries are only compounded by news such as the closing of the medical centre in Friockheim, which is expected to directly impact on 3500 people in the area.

Hunter, who runs a community Facebook group, says these infrastructure issues have been consistently one of the largest for people in the area. “The infrastructure’s ability to deal with more housing being built [has] a lot of people concerned. The doctor’s are full, the schools are close to capacity. That’s a similar story across Angus.”

Whoever manages to form an administration after May 5 – and like all local elections Angus is hard to predict – will have a multitude of issues to tackle, not least the rebuilding of the council’s reputation.