Heaney’s Notebook


The shoddy workmanship at St Martin’s Primary School in Renton* is yet another example of austerity measures being employed by councils such as West Dunbartonshire, where the SNP administration is obsessed by “saving” money.

The uncut grass in our parks and cemeteries and roadside verges was yet another example of this.  Wherever you look, you see the harm that was being done and is ongoing.

Leaking school buildings, closed libraries, neglected parks and playgrounds, pot-holed roads, poor social housing and even the waste recycling services threatened with closure.

That is when you are not looking at food banks and children whose parents do not have the money to buy shoes for them to wear to school.

Child poverty is rising quickly here in one of the most deprived areas of Scotland.

And it will rise even faster as benefit freezes, job centres close, councils keep cutting back and rising prices far outweigh minimum wage increases

Unseen is the damage done to lost childhoods, skills never acquired, chances gone, physical and psychological scars, with soaring numbers of children in care, poverty itself a proven life-damager.

Too many children from broken families, many of them blighted by addiction and domestic violence, require foster care.

The Council is so pressed in this area that it is using money as a motivator to people to persuade them to consider taking a child or children into their home.

Old folk are ending their days without much social care, home alone with visits by hard-pressed caring staff limited to such short visits that they hardly have time to make a cup of tea.

Day centres and community centres where people gather to escape loneliness are under threat and in imminent danger of closure and people are ending up in overflowing A&E departments.

In this area, even the A&E department has been closed and the community old folk’s homes have been shut down and replaced by one large unit out of site (and out of mind?) up in the hills at Crosslet.

Old folk who don’t drive and wish to visit their relatives and friends are forced to use expensive taxis to get them up that hill.

Crossing the road for the elderly and infirm from the bus stops there on the A82 is to take your life in your hands.

Councils are said to be on the brink of insolvency yet a post in the new Health and Social Care Partnership was being advertised earlier this month at a salary in excess of £130,000 a year.

And our council leader, Jonathan McColl, thinks dealing with admin and paperwork is more important than going to represent us at Health Board meetings.

In West Dunbartonshire, we may not be cutting the grass, but we are reaping the harvest of poor decisions made by successive councils.

Let’s just take two of these – the building of the new Our Lady and St Patrick’s High School in Bellsmyre and the construction of the old people’s home at Crosslet.

Both of these establishments are already bursting at the seams and will soon be too small to accommodate the numbers who need to use them.

Austerity policies forced OLSP in the West End to close. The building was neglected for years. Had it been properly looked after and well maintained, it would have lasted for many more years.

Millions and more millions of public money has been squandered as a result and a huge debt has been undertaken which the next generation will still be paying in 40 years’ time.

The multi-deprived West End of Dumbarton has lost one of the very few places of employment, small shops left without vital business and low wage staff forced to fork out money to travel to work at the opposite end of town.

Children who were already struggling in impoverished families now have to get themselves up and out to Bellsmyre instead of walking to school in their own neighbourhood.

In West Dunbartonshire, we have the council we deserve. We voted them in. Some of these councillors do not have a clue what they are doing and vote slavishly for policies dictated to them by the political parties to which they belong.

The SNP are so politically naive around here that the mistakes that were made in regard to OLSP and Crosslet could have been laid at the door of the previous administration, the Labour Party.

But the SNP chose stupidly to claim credit for them at the opening ceremonies for both and, as any political novice will tell you, if you claim the credit then you must also be prepared to take the blame.

*Reported exclusively in The Democrat.




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