Council leader dodges union members’ fury at budget cuts consultation
The packed trade union meeting in the Concord Centre at Dumbarton.
By Bill Heaney
Council leader Jonathan McColl was being branded a “big fearty” after he failed to turn up at a packed meeting of trade unionists in the Concord Centre at Dumbarton on Tuesday night.
The SNP man absented himself and failed to send anyone to represent him after saying there was no further need for public consultations before the monthly meeting of the Council.
That meeting will be held in the Council offices within Dumbarton Burgh Hall in Church Street at 2pm on March 27.
There were stirring contributions from the top table by Councillors Jim Bollan, pictured right, of the Community Party and Labour’s Martin Rooney.
Trade unionist Danielle Donnachie said: “Well done to all tonight. Strength in numbers, enough is enough [of cuts] in staff and services.”
Eileen Green Dorrian added: “Well done to all the speakers and everyone who attended tonight’s very informative meeting. It’s time for all residents and employees of WDC to stand together and fight the cuts.”
Margaret Mcmillan said: “What a great meeting, the atmosphere and questions were good.”
Cllr Jim Bollan called for a mass demonstration on March 27 – “We have to get our message home that we oppose any cuts and want no more.
“We must stand up against this council’s attack on council workers’ terms and conditions.”
Valerie Jennings of UNISON said it was “a fantastic meeting” and the trade union conveners were praised for their organisation of the meeting.
Richard O’Malley said: “This affects everyone from the cradle to the grave. So let’s be there on the 27th. The council leader couldn’t be there tonight, but can no one else from the party attend?
“This was a terrible slap down to the people who elected these councillors. We deserve better.”
Speakers drew tremendous support from the large attendance at the meeting.
Drew MacEoghainn of the Community Party was asked to draw up an open letter to Cllr McColl.
I write to you in order to give you an opportunity to respond to the questions posed below – “we would be obliged if you could answer these questions which have resulted from your non-attendance”.
The letter said: “When the previous administration introduced ‘management adjustments,’ you and your party, a party of opposition at the time, stated this was ‘just budget cuts in disguise.’
“Your party stated that this was misleading at best and another example of the council being run by officers.
“And that when and if your party took control of the council you would take back control from officers and run an open and transparent council.”
It added: “I am not here to argue the point of what management adjustments are or what you now believe they are, but the simple fact is that these management adjustments will result in over £2 million being taken from service provision and terms and conditions of your employees.
“With this in mind can you answer these questions in the order they are posed:
a) Out of courtesy to the members who were in attendance at the meeting on the 19th why did you not attend?
b) Out of courtesy to the members who were in attendance at the meeting on the 19th why did you not send a representative?
c) Can you explain why your view of management adjustments has changed from your insistence that they were “budget cuts in disguise” under a previous administration yet under your stewardship they are not?
d) Can you give assurances that the proposed management adjustments will not result in reduction of overtime and a reduction in terms and conditions of staff?
e) Will you give assurances that in the councils drive for equality that the management will not try to drive down pay and terms and conditions of some staff in order for their pay and terms and conditions to meet that of lower paid workers?
f) And that you will indeed ensure that if a member of staff wages and terms and conditions are not equal the council will increase them to meet the higher pay and terms and conditions?”
The trade unionists, who were drawn from all the unions with members employed by the Council, told Cllr McColl, pictured left :“I hope you still are of the opinion our workforce and council area has been under attack through austerity for over a decade now.
“We feel that councillors should be making budgetary decisions on behalf of West Dunbartonshire Council and residents and that management adjustments or as you deemed them ‘budget cuts in disguise’ cannot be allowed to continue.
“We elect councillors to set the budget and this must be reintroduced. We elect councillors to be accessible and to attend meetings.
“Unfortunately this week we are dismayed by your non-attendance at a meeting which was over a month in arranging.
“We do not accept it was due to you thinking it was cancelled due to only ‘budget cuts in disguise’ happening.
“We are requesting that you throw out all management adjustments and activate £2 million from our reserves; that you then set out a programme of meetings with unions to discuss 2020/21.
“And that you officially approach the Scottish Government and request that they provide West Dunbartonshire with a settlement that meets the needs of your council area.
“Your staff and residents of this area are under increasing pressure due to austerity.
“The only way to make things better is for us to fight Tory austerity together.
“We feel that taking back control of your council as you promised coupled with answering these questions openly and honestly and meeting our requests could be the first step in that fightback.”
There was no comment from Cllr McColl last night. He and the Council administration plus the SNP’s parliamentary representatives have banned and boycotted The Democrat.