It’s time to shout stop

Pictures by David Daniel and Michael Moffat

What kind of people are we? I don’t think many of us would like to be associated with a group that advocates the stopping of school milk or making music lessons more expensive for young people, cutting back on books or reducing library hours and paying off staff.

It’s time to shout stop, and there is no time like the present.

The green shoots of recovery of interest in politics appear to be coming through in the community but not in our parks and cemeteries.

West Dunbartonshire Council should be told to stuff their budget where the sun don’t shine and flowers never grow.

The SNP’s arrogant attempt to impose their vision of this community’s future through the implementation of a catalogue of misguided austerity cuts is a disgrace.

They have decided to make life more difficult for students by taking badly needed cash support off them.

And, amongst many other mean and curmudgeonly decisions, agreed to take the paid facility time away from trade union conveners, although they have now relented on that one.

This time is used by shop steward conveners to represent their members with problems, whose jobs are constantly under threat and whose pay and conditions of service are being relentlessly eroded.

Agnew DennisThe cuts package was approved by the SNP, a few Conservatives and the lone “independent” Bailie, Cllr Denis Agnew, pictured left, whose support for the administration was secured by political horse trading.

His purchase price was the gold chain of a non-existent office, an honour buried away alongside side the tri-corn hat and ermine robes that went with it in times past.

The cuts were plucked from an options document prepared by highly paid officials, six of them on salaries of  more than £100,000 a year, whose political savvy is sadly lacking in gravitas.

The SNP presented their self-harming or near suicide note amid wisecracks and jibes at shambles of a council meeting before and during which Provost William Hendrie was out of his depth.

SNP finance convener Ian Dickson presented the cuts as though were written on tablets of stone.

But it turns out they were based on a flawed survey which is destined to become known as West Dunbartonshire’s dodgy document.

There would be no turning back though, no U-turns here crowed his council leader colleague Cllr Jonathan McColl (pictured below, left)

McColl Jonathan

Labour’s response was far from inspiring, but then they are responsible for so many bad decisions which have resulted in millions of pounds of public money being wasted during their tenure in office.  Much of what they did was achieved with notorious PFI and PPP contracts which will put the community in debt for generations to come. They put out the street lights allegedly to save money and then lit up Dumbarton Bridge at considerable expense.  Other questionable projects included the decision to build a new OLSP at Posties Park, which again saw more than £1 million squandered.  Labour had to suffer an unedifying climb-down on that one, but it didn’t stop the SNP stupidly claiming ownership for them when they were elected.

Building the new OLSP in Bellsmyre and taking care of the elderly outwith their local communities and sticking our old folk up in the foothills at Crosslet may have pleased local taxi firms, but residents are unhappy that some relatives find it too expensive to visit them.

Crosslet House 2Crosslet House in Dumbarton – hardly a place you would like to call home.

Not to mention the fact that the new “super home” is less personal than the small community homes which it replaced. Out of sight, out of mind.  The SNP administration will regret these decisions in time when the shine goes off the over priced new buildings, the staffing in them is cut, the cleaning is reduced, and there is an accident on the A82 at the foot of Argyll Avenue or Bellsmyre Roundabout.

Even the police said moving their headquarters from Crosslet to another part of town was justifiable on the grounds that the entry and exit at Overtoun Lodge was dangerous.

The decision to build segregated primary schools in Bellsmyre and Balloch cannot be right, not in the 21st century.

Pope Francis himself has said more integration could be a solution to many of the world’s problems associated with segregation.

I take it that the Pope includes sectarianism along with xenophobia, racism and all the other isms most of us detest.

The Catholic Church has had a century of having its own schools, which were granted to it through the 1918 Education (Scotland) Act.

They were to be taxpayer funded until such times as Catholic Irish immigrants were fully integrated into the community.

Who would argue this is not now the case? That integration has unquestionably taken place despite claims from the Church that Catholics are still treated like black people were in the southern states of America.  For heaven’s sake, the Archbishop of Edinburgh recently celebrated Mass in the Scottish Parliament at Holyrood.

The fifth and even sixth generation Irish see themselves as Scots, first and foremost, and only the most committed of them would object to integration in education, which is the norm across Europe.

Given that this is the centenary of the 1918 Act, then we should have a debate on the floor of the Scottish Parliament about what is best for Scotland’s future.

Legislation that moved the teaching of faith formation outside school hours must be passed. This would respect the religious freedom of everyone and continue to allow children to receive faith formation at school should their parents and guardians so wish. Who could object to that?

Our council, health boards and quangos have to start listening to the electorate.

Sweeney Loch Lomond view with boats and Ben picture by Bill Heaney

Loch Lomond National Park – picture by Bill Heaney.

We don’t want our public parks and Loch Lomond national park ruined by poor decisions.

We don’t want the Flamjngoland fun park in Balloch and to continue to have a quiet stroll from time to time down Levengrove, in Dalmuir Park, Christie Park and Balloch Park.

It is obvious from angry postings on social media, which has replaced the High Street as the place where people meet and exchange views, that we don’t want our public parks stripped of flowers and our green spaces neglected.

This council, despite its delusional claims to political infallibility, has at last climbed down and will complete a U-turn on the trade union issue.

The SNP have come to realise in a most painful and uncomfortable way that what they were passing off as the people’s budget was anything but.

They should proceed now to  scrap all the cuts, the whole unpopular budget package, and reconsider their position while an inquiry is carried out into the flawed survey it is based on.

That is the only way any of them has a chance of emerging from this debacle smelling of roses or ever again being elected.


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