Cluster burach in Bellsmyre as cack-handed council fails to cope with ice

Clockwise – OLSP secondary school; Cllr McColl; Councillors who claimed credit at the opening; Laurel and Hardy and the school logo.

By Bill Heaney

It doesn’t take snowy weather and icy pavements for West Dunbartonshire Council leader Jonathan McColl to fall on his ample backside.

He has a remarkable propensity for doing just that wherever he goes and no matter the weather.

Whether it’s rain or shine, our very own answer to Oliver Hardy seems to find trouble.

Last week, Cllr McColl was carrying the banner for Exxon, one of the biggest and richest companies in the world.

He was full on behind his officials’ recommendation to continue to invest millions of  pounds of council taxpayers’ money to clean up the old Esso tank farm at Bowling.

This is a site that Exxon polluted over 50 plus years and now want to see it cleaned up at public expense.

At which time they will be so good as to sell it back to us at a handsome profit, no doubt.

Like much that happens at West Dunbartonshire Council, this is all being done on the quiet and is wrapped up in a confidentiality clause.

Oliver and his pal Stan Laurel could probably make a full length feature film of it and call on the Council’s communications department to write the script for their silent movie. They are excellent at saying nothing.

Having 70 members of the public end up in hospital with broken bones and bruises on the first day of winter ice after showing off to the cameras your jeune gilets – yellow vests to those of you who have not been watching the scenes of Paris on fire – new lorries and a mountain of road salt was a remarkable achievement.

But then President Macron had the decency to apologise to the nation and admit his mistakes which had led to the civil unrest across France.

Not many people can get 70 casualties hirpling or being carried off to the Vale Hospital before the ink’s dry on the media release telling the electorate they will be safe in your SNP hands this winter.

That wasn’t funny and neither were the twists and turns in regard to budget reductions of grass cutting in parks, cemeteries and other public spaces.

Jonathan also made a gaff when he upset the trade unions by cutting the time allocated to their shop stewards for dealing with complaints and negotiations – and then changing his mind on that one too.

It was one Nationalist SNP cut after another supported by the two Conservative and Unionist members of the council – an unholy alliance that if ever there was one.

The were unseemly disputes over all the austerity cuts, including shutting libraries and paying off staff and taking subsidies for music lessons off school students.

Then the pantomime season opened early when Nicola Sturgeon sent a letter to a voter whom she told there was no need to make these cuts.

General Assembly of the Church of Scotland 2018

 “Oh yes there is,” said Jonathan. “Oh, no there’s not,” said Nicola, who says climate change is one of the most important issues she has to deal with.

Meanwhile, the SNP council leader here unbelievably promised a cool £5 million to a mega rich multinational, whose name is inextricably linked with pollution and global warming.

Not only are they not singing from the same hymn sheet, SNP First Minister Sturgeon, pictured left,  and Cllr McColl appear to be in different congregations. Let’s not go into details about the Greenlight debacle here then.  There are rules about intrusion into private grief.

Bad enough one would think to have hospitalised those 70 people – the number is probably higher now given how the frost and ice continues to bite – another major row is brewing over roads and pavements.

This is happening in high up Bellsmyre from where angry comments are flooding into social media.

Dismayed parents are asking how the cash-strapped council education department can afford to send letters round parents of children at the new Our Lady and St Patrick’s secondary and joint the campus of Aitkenbar and St Peter’s primaries.

“They’ve just posted letters to all the parents at Bellsmyre Campus [telling them] that they can’t park at the car park at OLSP because it’s for their use only. [This is] a car park that’s only ever half full and few OLSP parents use,” wrote one mother.

Others complained about the cost of postage and stationary attached to sending out the letters to hundreds of parents, and even about the possibility that the police might be called in.

Lisa McBride wrote: “This totally infuriates me. So basically the council have made an education campus in the one place with totally inadequate parking facilities. “[There is] a car park at the rear of the nursery with two flights of stairs to manoeuvre … it’s a total farce [since] the first space at the top of the stairs is a disability space. [Let’s have] a round of applause for the planners.”

She asked: “Are we just to throw our kids out as we drive by?”

There is also some angry swearing and allegations that the car park in question is full of “old bangers” which have nothing to do with the schools.

Connie Scott claims that the disabled space at the top of the stairs is for anyone who might be using the pitches and not for accessing the school.

She said: “I’ve complained since the school opened about inadequate parking and those stairs. I [even] reported them to Health & Safety.”

Lisa McBride added that what has been provided is a car park at the rear of the nursery with two flights of stairs to manoeuvre – even if you can even get parked.

This is, she states, to serve both primary schools and the nursery drop off and collection point as well as staff parking – “absolutely ridiculous”.

There are also comments about crossing the main road outside the school. One parents said: “Well played WDC. Well played again. They claim a crossing was painted for OLSP pupils to exit that gate and walk to the main road. Total rubbish, I’ve been asking for a crossing because people were driving too fast and it was hard to get across the road. I knew about this a month ago and asked if it was going to happen, [but I] didn’t get a

Lisa McBride said: “It’s shocking. Absolutely disgusting shows what they think of the next generation of voters.”

It seems that all the SNP’s chickens are coming home to roost on this project which, it mustn’t be forgotten, which Labour was responsible for on the rebound from Posties and the SNP wanted to take the credit for by officially opening it.

Bollan Jim 2Cllr Jim Bollan, of the Community Party, pictured right, said: “A constituent has raised this with me and I have written to Education seeking a review of the decision to refuse parents/carers the facility of parking in the OLSP car park, space permitting, at peak times.”

Trade union convener David Scott said the cluster-bourach in Bellsmyre is nothing to do with using parking facilities as the letter states it’s during icy weather.

He added: “This is because WDC winter maintenance plan doesn’t cover car parks being gritted due to “austerity cuts” and lack of frontline staff to carry out the task.

“A pavement was installed along with a zebra crossing in Allan Crescent so that staff parents and children can move about safely between Bellsmyre Campus and OLSP.

“If I have any reports of this gate being closed I will have no hesitation to bring it up at Corporate H&S and if necessary to H&S Executive.”

However, Jim Fraser said: “The gate was closed this morning, I drop my oldest boy off at that gate before dropping my daughter in the Campus car park and he couldn’t access the high school via his normal route.

“It was no big deal for me this morning, I just drove him down the road and dropped him at main gate. I think the main concern that people have here is that it’s a more than suitable over-spill car park and it appears the facility to use it as such is being taken away.

“As others have mentioned, the campus car park is very small for what it has to deal with and the high school car park is generally half full at best. “

Connie Scott said: “The high school car park is never more than half full so there are no space issues. In fact, some parents and a few teachers park on Bellsmyre Avenue.

“The campus car park is too small and it’s difficult to access the school because of a steep set of stairs which the steps are too narrow for most adults to walk down.

“And they’re never gritted. I understand one of the senior staff members fell down them last week. Teachers were out helping grit the paths.”

West Dunbartonshire Council refuses to take questions from The Democrat because we inquire into and publish stories such as this one, which appears not to reflect well on them.

This is censorship of the press and anti-democratic and should not be tolerated by our elected representatives and our officials who are stuck in the past when secrecy was the watchword in local government and legitimate news coverage was printed on paper and not on-line. They had better get used to it.

This is what open government and transparency means and if you can’t stand the heat then get out of the kitchen.

  • A cluster burach is a whole series of calamities happening at the same time.

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