This Notebook column comes with a mental health warning to stay away from Council meetings

A protest against the SNP administration’s Budget proposals took place outside the Burgh Hall in Church Street.

By Bill Heaney

Christmas cracker joke question:  How do you get 22 Numpties into one room?

Answer: Call a meeting of West Dunbartonshire Council.

Being present at their meeting in Dumbarton last night was equivalent to self-harming.

The Burgh Hall is now in direct competition with the Erskine Bridge as a place to end it all.

Do yourself a favour. Stay away from these meetings.

The Council might not kill you, but they’ll do their damnedest to see you off on Charon’s Barge.

Not only do they encourage people to go along to their meetings in person – only a handful ever turn up – the Council have introduced audio streaming so that the electorate can listen at home. And you “lucky people” are paying for it through your taxes.

If you catch your granny or grandpa listening in to this mince, take my advice and turn it off immediately.

Leave it on and you could find yourself appearing at the Sheriff Court charged with hastening their demise.

I am, as is my occasional wont, being harsh but fair here.  So let me retract just a little of what I have written above.

Not all of our councillors are Numpties, just the majority of them, the ones who support the SNP administration, which includes the Conservatives and the lone Independent.

My heart sinks when I witness those hundreds of thousands, possibly millions, of pounds worth, of chief officials sitting silent and bored at these meetings.

And this at a time when people are homeless, sleeping rough and being left with so little that they need to use food banks to feed themselves and their children.

The Council are wasting their time and squandering our money.

Only one of these officials spoke in the 90 minutes I was there, shown to a seat this week high in the public gallery with nowhere to put my papers and no desk on which to take notes.

Perhaps the Council don’t want any of what goes on there to get out into the public domain?  Who could blame them for that? Apart from the fact that it is undemocratic.

They appear never to have heard of human rights and have set themselves up to embrace censorship and oppose freedom of the press.

Journalists were placed so high up in the Gods that I asked my escort into the building (they don’t let me out of their sight for security purposes lest I should talk to anyone) that I asked if they provided opera glasses.

The Saudi Embassy could be their role model for dealing with the press. There was a Council van sitting at the back door waiting …

I said I would need the binoculars to see the name and designation plates on the desks in front of the participants in the meeting.

I could never have had a clear view of all the councillors though, and had there been a Jeremy Corbyn (stupid woman) moment, lip reading would have been impossible. It’s a skill I’ll have to learn though.

This week, I could actually hear some of what was going on down below in the dining hall (or could it be a gymnasium) that passes for a tastelessly furnished council chamber.

Apart from that, it was almost impossible to hear two of the main persons contributing to the debate on the Council’s budget for next year.

West Dunbarton Councellors 2017Cllr Ian Dickson, the SNP’s finance person, sounded as though he had left his false teeth in the house and nearly every word he uttered was inaudible.

The man from the Finance Department, Stephen West, who was asked to “take us through the figures” might as well have been out in Church Street with the sound of buses going by in the rain.

You could hardly make out a word he said never mind follow what he was “reporting” to the meeting. You could not hear him behind a bus ticket.

The figures are unlikely to matter though since the SNP leader Jonathan McColl will probably ditch them all when First Minister Nicola Sturgeon gets hold of him and puts a flea in his ear.

Never has any small group of persons, acting under an SNP banner, done so much damage to a political organisation as the SNP group on West Dunbartonshire Council.

They are a disaster waiting to happen, presiding over chaos and calamity month after month, and their lost Provost, who couldn’t conduct a child across the road never mind a Council meeting, is a disgrace to the chain of office he wears around his neck.

His take on open government is that when anything really “interesting” happen, he intends to switch off the audio system so that no one can hear what’s going on.

All you people who voted Tory out there should know that your views are not being represented by the two councillors you elected.

In Dumbarton it seems Unionists vote with Nationalists and never with other Unionists even when they agree with them.

Their contribution to the Budget meeting was nil, absolutely nothing. At least not while I was there.

But then I couldn’t take any more nonsense during which the SNP were rightly and accurately compared to dithering Prime Minister Theresa May.

This was because they kicked the budget can down the road into January and not to consult now with the public about the cuts they might impose (there is a list of them here if you scroll down the news pages of The Democrat) until the eleventh hour.

At least not until the SNP leader consults with Nicola Sturgeon who will have the whole of West Dunbartonshire toasting her for the New Year if she sticks a deserved thistle up Jonathan’s kilt.

This motley crew of councillors are a poor reflection on the thousands of decent, intelligent people who vote SNP at election time.

I am not making this up, Cllr McColl’s motion was that the whole budget process should be delayed until he had conferred with Herself in Edinburgh.

West Dunbarton Councellors 2017Labour members told him that he was free to do so at any time. Only problem for Jonathan though was that he had been offered this opportunity previously and refused to accept it. Indeed he and his SNP colleagues had also voted against it (and in a roll call vote). It was excruciatingly  embarrassing to watch as their names were read out at the meeting.

There were two long pauses during this meeting (silence really can be golden after all) and the first involved Cllr Dickson who lost the plot and couldn’t find his notes when it came to his turn to speak. That was embarrassing.

The second-long pause, much longer, came when Labour finance spokesperson David McBride said the SNP motion on the Budget was not competent because it was in breach of standing orders.

The legal officer was asked to confirm this but whether he did or not was lost completely in the gallimaufry of gobbledegook and back stabbing.

At this point I put on my jacket and left. I could take no more.

Just for the record, a trade union official had made the point before the meeting that Joyce White, the Chief Executive, was on £150,000 a year when you take her pension into account.

Again, just for the record, she too never uttered a word during the 90 minutes I was present, not on the standing orders question, not on anything.


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