Tories have Christmas budget parcels all wrapped up under the Council tree

Tories Sally Page and Brian Walker are setting the budget agenda for SNP leader Jonathan McColl.

Silence from West Dunbartonshire Council leader Jonathan McColl is something most people should be eternally grateful for.

However, I note that members of the Labour group are angry about the SNP leader’s hush in relation to the council’s next budget.

I am delighted that something has made the Labour Group angry since they have had plenty to be angry about since the last election when they lost power to the unholy alliance of the SNP, the Tories and the lone Independent, Denis Agnew.

The problem with the Labour Group is that they resemble a boxer whose footwork is quite good but who can’t land a punch when the opposition drops its guard.

And in West Dunbartonshire Council, that happens often enough to expose the SNP to a series of uppercuts to the chin and a few blows to the solar plexus which, in normal circumstances, would leave them down and out on the canvas for a count of ten.

However, instead of delivering the telling blows that would lead to this happening, Labour lack the killer punch that would send a towel flying in from the SNP/Tory corner.

That’s what should be happening – and happening often.

The SNP does not have control of the council as they would have us all believe right now. They were stretchered off long ago.

The power in the council chamber lies with the Conservatives – and it shows.

Those two vital votes from Brian Walker and Sally Page shore up the SNP in much the same way as the DUP do for the Tories at Westminster.

The only difference is that unlike the fierce and fizz-faced Arlene Foster, neither could punch their way out of a political paper bag.

Why else though did we have all those hated austerity cuts and poor decisions when the council set their annual budget in April this year?

People in the public gallery – at least those who were able to gain entry to the public gallery – were heard to murmur softly towards the SNP benches: “Are you the Tories in disguise?”

But Labour didn’t hit back anywhere near hard enough to dissuade the SNP from implementing the least popular of their cuts.

These included a slashed budget for public parks, cemeteries and open spaces and reducing facility time for trade union conveners.

It was only an outcry from the press and public that brought that about.

Labour are now faking anger over McColl’s strategy for the next budget.

He has adopted a policy of “whatever you say, say nothing” and ordered his troops to a state of omerta.

David McBride 1Cllr David McBride, pictured right,  says Labour are totally in the dark about the council’s budget plans.

He has complained that this is the time of year when opposition councillors would expect to receive an indication of what the administration had in mind for the budget.

He fears substantial cuts – cuts, cuts and more cuts.

That will not happen however in light of the fact that Theresa May and Philip Hammond have announced that austerity is over.

And that Nicola Sturgeon is singing in the Holyrood chapel from the same Tory hymn sheet.

The Westminster chancellor has given us the impression in his Budget speech that three strangers bearing gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh are at the door.

And that everyone will benefit from this, apart from the families living in poverty and suffering serious deprivation.

In a manner to that little family in the Christmas story we are about to hear much about in the next two months.

These families will be placed on the Tories’ dreaded Universal Credit and have their annual income reduced by thousands of much-needed pounds.

However, the Scottish Government will be announcing their own budget soon.

Nicola has a nice Noel-linked name and we expect she will come bearing gifts, especially in light of her recent letter to West Dunbartonshire Council, which stated that their budget cuts were “unnecessary”.

Santa jumping up and downThe SNP leader Jonathan McColl, who shouted the word “liar” (at the Labour benches) when he was first informed of this, might not believe her, but the rest of us are absolutely convinced of the First Minister’s honesty, at least in this regard.

When Nicola says “unnecessary” she means “unnecessary” and when she falls in behind what her Downing Street friend, Theresa May, has to say about the end of austerity, there will be no maybes aye, maybes naw about it.

Jonathan McColl will, in light of this situation, have to dance to the Tory tune and get himself measured for a Santa suit.  Given his remarkable girth, he should be able to get one off the peg no bother.

Instead of Christmas pudding, Jonathan will have to eat humble pie at the reception Nicola is planning in Bute House for SNP council leaders.

I have the feeling that Jonathan will not be the person chosen to give the vote of thanks to Nicola for a year’s work well done at the end of the buffet.

He might not even be there for Old Lang Syne, although I could not find anyone to confirm or deny that the First Minister has arranged for Rudolph and a sturdy sleigh to stand by in Charlotte Square to whip him away early. Taxi for McColl.

Santa's reindeerSources close to the First Minister tell me she is none too pleased with Jonathan’s performance, and that she agrees with an ever-growing proportion of the SNP membership in Dumbarton and Vale of Leven that he has become a political liability and will have to go. The sound of jingle bells may well signal the end of Jonathan’s reign in West Dunbartonshire.

Indeed, I hear that local politicians are taking bets right now on whether Jonathan will be out of his brand new office in Church Street before Theresa May gets the heave from Downing Street.


Old Academy or Burgh Hall?

Congratulations to West Dunbartonshire Council on the opening of their new offices in Church Street. I will become more effusive than this if it turns out that the restoration and refurbishment has been carried out on budget which was initially set at around £15 million. One important matter continues to puzzle me about this project however. The Council keeps referring to the offices as being in “the old Academy building”. To most people in Dumbarton, the offices are in the old Burgh Hall in Church Street. If you don’t believe me ask them where the old Academy buildings are. They will tell you they overlook the Common at what is now Braehead Primary School. They should change this to avoid confusion amongst members of the public.


Castle helicopter pad for Harry and Meghan visit?

Activity on the green in front of Dumbarton Castle has led to speculation that the Earl and Countess of Dumbarton (Harry and Meghan to you and me) will be paying us a visit soon – even before the royal baby is born. I am sorry to have to inform you that this is not the case. One of the citizen journalists who sees what is going on around her and checks it out for The Democrat says Scottish National Heritage are building a helipad – “not a helipad for helicopters to land on, but one for them to land and lift off building materials, which will be used in the restoration and repairs currently going on at the Castle”.  Asked about the possibility of Harry and Meghan, pictured above,  gracing us with their presence, one of the workmen said: “I couldn’t really comment on that”. He must have been taking lessons in media relations from West Dunbartonshire Council’s Communications Department. I’ll give you a clue as to who the reporter was. She has a dog called Alfy, a newshound if ever there was one.  However, here is a sneak preview of what’s happening high up on the Rock at the French Prison, which will be one of the places of interest for the many visitors who are expected to explore the history of Dumbarton Castle once the helicopters have pulled out and the work is completed.

Prison pictures by Jim Crosthwaite

Bill Heaney


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