Nicola says there’s no need for cuts, but SNP defy FM and go ahead anyway
By Bill Heaney
West Dunbartonshire Council is a pantomime horse with the SNP administration most definitely the rear end.
Bailie Denis Agnew, the so-called Independent from Clydebank, is the horse’s tail.
The tail has been wagging the horse since the SNP, in a deceitful piece of political horse-trading, secured his vote for a gold chain they hung round his neck.
Without the gilded bailie, an ancient title which means nothing today, the SNP would be one short of a majority to keep them in the saddle – and in charge of the steed.
SNP leader, Cllr Jonathan McColl, is allegedly the jockey, the person holding the reins.
But the portly councillor does not appear to know his way round the course.
He can’t make the weight and he acts like he banged his head when he fell off his mount at the very first fence.
Alas poor Jonathan, if the electorate only knew what he was up to this week, he would be off to the knacker’s yard and then despatched to the glue factory.
And if Nicola Sturgeon finds out, as she surely will, his place at the wages and expenses trough and access to the nosebag will be withdrawn.
Feisty Nicola will take the whip off him and administer a few well deserved strokes across his backside.
There will be one last look at the manger for Jonathan – but only so long as his large appetite extends to silage.
Let him eat grass, I heard people shout, along with calls for his resignation from the public benches during Thursday’s meeting at Garshake.
Jonathan certainly knows how to stirrup trouble for his party.
He has brought unprecedented public opprobrium down on the SNP by passing this widely unpopular budget.
And it turns out it was one he didn’t need to pass at all.
Grass cutting in open spaces and the maintenance of local cemeteries and parks have been slashed.
Flowers have ceased to be planted and flower beds have been turfed over.
Library hours have been reduced.
A means test for pupils who apply for support with their music lessons has been introduced.
Education maintenance grants for senior pupils have been taken away.
Whoa, whoa, however. Hold your horses or, in your case, half that pantomime horse, Jonathan.
Labour ringmaster David McBride has just cracked his his whip.
He is waving aloft a letter from the Scottish Government.
It is a reply to a woman, an SNP supporter, whose name was redacted (obliterated in a country where the political watchword is supposed to be transparency), who wrote to First Minister Nicola Sturgeon expressing dismay at the cuts in West Dunbartonshire.
Astonishingly the letter revealed that “the Scottish Government does NOT accept that budget cuts, as you have described, WERE AT ALL NECESSARY”.
Stirrup cups all round then, one would have thought. Tally ho! Good old Nicola!
It seemed certain that two strong men and one big lassie would be enough to help Jonathan back into the saddle and that the SNP administration would be off the hook.
Ah, no. This is Dumbarton and it is the SNP we are dealing with here.
It’s the political party whose policies and practices, since they took office a year ago, have had punters scratching their heads in puzzlement and shaking them with dismay.
Jonathan unbelievably says NO.
He makes matters worse by alleging that Labour are liars and bullies into the bargain.
He claims Labour got one of their own to do this dirty deed.
That they bullied the person into it and the Government’s letter wasn’t worth the paper it was written on.
He claimed it was the same as had happened with the Labour propaganda about the SNP climb down on taking money and time from the trade union conveners.
The lefties had put it about that the local SNP only withdrew on that issue because Nicola had personally intervened and pressured them into it.
That was not true either, Jonathan maintained.
It mattered not a jot what was contained in the Scottish Government’s letter (Nicola’s letter) stating that the contentious cuts being implemented in West Dunbartonshire were not necessary.
The bold Jonathan, who had removed his jacket and was sweating heavily by this time, said he was going to impose the cuts anyway.
It seemed a preposterous stance to take – and it was.
Without question this must be viewed by party bigwigs in Edinburgh as politically naive and incompetent.
It is a huge vote loser for the SNP.
What happens now then?
Given the complaints about the long, uncut grass becoming a home for rats and a place where dog owners can no longer find their waste to clean up after their pets, only one third of work previously done will now be carried out by the greenspace gardening squads.
There will be 31 jobs and job opportunities lost in the parks, some of them temporary posts. No new apprentices will be taken on.
Parents will continue to have to carry their children through long grass to avoid broken glass and jaggy nettles and discarded drug addicts’ needles.
It is surprising that the women on the SNP benches found reference to these and other serious matters funny, but they did did laugh a lot during the debate.
Acres of public land will be set aside for “biodiversity,” which Labour members and Community Party councillor Jim Bollan said was just another word for neglect.
The SNP’s Iain McLaren, in a long monologue on biodiversity – it ranged from the causes of world famine to attracting goldfinches and other birds and wildlife to the Clydeshore – summed up for the SNP, who won the vote by 12 votes to ten.
With Bailie Agnew’s support, of course.
The money for the grass and flowers, including a grant to replace equipment for the recently burned down Havoc Pavilion, a total of £270,000, will come from the Scottish Government, who had earmarked it for school uniform grants.
It was revealed during the meeting that the Council had plenty of money in reserve and could afford not to impose the cuts.
It was also revealed that they had £1.5 million floating in an account which was money which should have been paid out to low paid women workers under equal pay legislation.
Councillor Jim Bollan pleaded the women’s case and asked for a report from officials, but Cllr McColl said that would be too costly and take up too much of their valuable time.
And so the pantomime cum circus drew to a close. It was far from funny.
From where I was sitting, it looked like the electorate are being treated as clowns.
You can see it all for yourself soon when the council introduces live coverage of their meetings by videocam.
You will never believe it, but you had better, because you are paying for it through your council tax, which went up a cool three per cent this year.