The DEMOCRAT

19 January 2018

SNP councillors misled public on cuts, including school milk for pupils

McColl, Baillie and Rooney in council cuts row.

Labour has accused the SNP Leader of West Dunbartonshire Council of misleading the public as new information reveals senior councillors have already taken decisions behind closed doors to cut local services.

Free school milk at lunchtime will be scrapped, funding for the out-of-hours noise complaints service withdrawn and schoolchildren forced to clean their own classrooms under plans signed off by SNP leader Jonathan McColl.

Cllr Jonathan McColl tried to distance himself from these decisions at the full council meeting in December by claiming that council officers had taken the decisions under delegated powers.

At the full council meeting the SNP leader Cllr McColl said: “It is wrong to say we have accepted management adjustments. There will be an opportunity for them to be changed in March. They are not consulted on as they are decisions taken under delegated authority by officers.”

However a Freedom of Information request by Labour shows that he and two other senior SNP councillors, Ian Dickson and Caroline McAllister, are members of the group which signed off the cuts.

The Members/Officers Working Group has met four times since September to draw up the list of savings options and management adjustments and the final list of cuts was agreed on 6 December 2017.

The SNP administration is already under fire for its lack of transparency by failing to publish the full list of cuts in the papers for the council meeting and not including the decisions in the public consultation.

Labour has called for a no-cuts budget to invest in local services and protect jobs in Dumbarton, Vale of Leven and Clydebank.

Leader of the Oppposition, Martin Rooney said: “The SNP Leader tried to brush these cuts under the carpet and cover his tracks at the full council meeting by blaming unelected council officials. Now we know that he and senior SNP colleagues have signed off on these decisions in private meetings with officials. This sums up the complete lack of transparency in the whole budget process.

Cutting free school milk, slashing funding to tackle anti-social behaviour and forcing schoolkids to clean their own classrooms are decisions for elected representatives who are accountable to the public. They should be included in the public consultation so people can have a say.”

Local MSP Jackie Baillie said:  “The Council Leader has been caught red-handed trying to get council officers to take responsibility for SNP cuts and he should apologise for misleading the public.

“It’s bad enough that Cllr McColl wants to go a step further than Margaret Thatcher by scrapping free lunchtime milk but getting pupils to take over the jobs of school cleaners is beyond the pale. However the fact that the SNP thought they could get away with making these cuts under the radar without proper scrutiny is quite simply shocking.

“Instead of cutting vital services, West Dunbartonshire Council should demand a better funding deal from the SNP Government and deliver a no-cuts budget which invests in local services.”

ENDS

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