Alexandria Town Centre – is Mitchell Way the worst, dirtiest, dowdiest, unattractive, crumbling, neglected shopping street in Scotland? Picture by Bill Heaney
Council neglects to take down the Christmas lights at the Fountain
The SNP’s Bob Doris, Jonathan McColl, Derek Mackay, the Fountain and Burgh Hall.
By Bill Heaney
Valeman Bob Doris, the MSP for Glasgow Maryhill and Springburn, has asked the Scottish Government how the proposals in the draft Scottish budget could support town centres in his constituency.
Good for Bob. I just wish Jonathan McColl and his SNP colleagues on West Dunbartonshire Council were as proactive when it comes to our town centres.
Bob asked Finance Secretary Derek Mackay, who announced a wide package of measures in the draft budget, to support town centres.
This struck me immediately because I had just returned from a visit to Alexandria, which is being badly neglected by the SNP administration on the local council.
Believe it or not, the Christmas lights are still clinging to the landmark Fountain in Main Street and other decorations have been left to gather dirt.
Have any of the SNP councillors checked today’s date or have they all fallen asleep during their two months Christmas and New Year holiday?
The Council will not be having another full meeting until February 14, which is St Valentine’s Day.
Desperately looking for love then, are they? If so, it will take more than red roses and cards to dispel the huff which followed their budget proposals which are sure to bring about a domestic if not a divorce between them and the electorate.
Some shop fronts in the Vale are desperately in need of maintenance and refurbishment, something which can also be said about Dumbarton High Street.
Derek Mackay said that the SNP’s proposed town centre package includes maintaining competitive business rates that cap the increase in rate poundage below inflation and ensures that 90 per cent of properties in Scotland pay a lower poundage than other parts of the United Kingdom.
And supporting small businesses through the small business bonus scheme that lifts them out of rates altogether.
There is almost certain to be a new £50 million town centre fund to drive local economic activity and support town centres to become more diverse and thriving places.
Bob Doris wants his cut for his constituency which “suffers from the pull of Glasgow city centre as well as poor amenities and significant deprivation factors. That is why I was pleased to see the return of the town centre regeneration fund in the Scottish Government’s draft budget”.
Would the Minister agree that it was important for applicants to the new town centre fund to demonstrate a strategic but community-led approach to regeneration initiatives, Bob asked.
Derek Mackay, the man in charge of the SNP sporran, said: “I absolutely agree with that kind of community involvement and support.
“I want to deliver the town centre fund in partnership with local authorities. I will engage with the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities on how we distribute and allocate the investment.
“We want the fund to be transformational and to deliver it in partnership with local government, which of course means in partnership with local communities too.”
HUMAN RIGHTS: Article 10 Freedom of expression. … This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers. West Dunbartonshire Council please note.
The parking nightmare that is Dumbarton High Street. Picture by Tom Gardiner
One of the down sides to creating the new council offices in the Burgh Hall at Dumbarton and has been that the parking situation has gone from bad to worse.
Nearly every car park is full to over-flowing from Castle Street to Artizan, and the High Street is just a nightmare from dawn to dusk.
It’s surprising then to learn that West Dunbartonshire Council doesn’t bother its backside to collect the money for unpaid parking tickets. I can’t say how much that is, but it was revealed this week that is £1.5 million in Glasgow.
The sum will be considerable here and could make a difference to the council cash shortage that Caroline McAlister, deputy leader of the SNP administration, is forever complaining about.
Putting the poor mouth on it appears to be one of her strategies, most recently for complaining that the Council cannot afford a pay rise for its workforce.
Not a few projects facing proposed budget cuts in West Dunbartonshire could be saved if the uncollected cash from unpaid parking and litter fines were invested in them.
However, the SNP government and the local authorities have got themselves in a fankle with the revelation that although councils are indeed receiving more money from central government, it is ring fenced.
This means it can only be spent on those services that central government decides are priorities.
This makes a nonsense of the stated intention that decisions about services and how they are financed and run should be taken at grass roots level.
Subsidiarity was the fancy name given to this when it was handed down from the EU.
West Dunbartonshire is being run from Holyrood, which is being run from Westminster, which is being run from Europe.
When they do anything worthwhile each of these organisations claims it’s their initiative; that they should receive the credit for it and when something goes wrong or is neglected, they blame each other.
It is crazy that so much taxpayers’ money is spent on spin, which is designed to fool the public into thinking that despite whatever amounts of money is allocated to them, each of these levels of government can do no wrong.
That is not democratic. It is duplicitous.
While we are on the subject of the Burgh Hall, can we return for a moment to the reason why £15.4 million (and counting) of public money was spent on the refurb.
The spin there was that it would revitalise the High Street. That council workers transferred from the old County Buildings and Municipal Buildings and satellite offices would shop there.
The business owners I have spoken to tell me that this hasn’t happened. That the footfall is much the same as it was before the Burgh Hall opened a few months ago.
And the amount of money passing over the counters of the few surviving shops in the High Street has not increased either.