Circumnavigate? Council shambles will drive taxpayers round the bend
By Bill Heaney reporting from the Burgh Hall
Circumnavigated is the word for the week. There has been so much of this going on at West Dunbartonshire Council that I am almost sea sick.
Old salts amongst you will know that circumnavigation means to move around something – usually in a boat – in order to avoid hitting it.
Or to avoid something by taking a particular course of action; to sail around the world from west to east, or to travel all the way around something, especially the earth.
In West Dunbartonshire Council’s case it was the rules and regulations in regard to the officers’ code of conduct and the procurement of contracts rules which forbid doing deals with your friends and associates.
What the Council was trying to circumnavigate today was the fact that its shambolic financial affairs in relation to contract procurement have been ignored for years – and that its Code of Conduct for officials is not fit for purpose.
And to give the impression that there was nothing out of order to see at the Council for people such as investigative journalists, who should be giving them a wide berth and keeping their noses out of their grubby affairs.
But the facts will out, and with the Senior Management Team asleep at the wheel, the window opened gradually to to widespread malpractice that has cost the Council taxpayers an “incalculable” sum of money.
And brought with it a reputation that could lead to West Dunbartonshire being known henceforth as Scotland’s corrupt council.
This is the Council that has banned The Democrat from asking question and the same SNP that has boycotted our 21st century FREE digital newspaper.
What an absolute shower of arrogant, ignorant chancers.
The circumnavigation word was liberally used in the documents for the latest council meeting.
I take it this was stupidly supposed to divert attention from the facts that plain, straightforward language would have revealed immediately.
Why not just use get around? Dumbarton Rock is a major obstruction but – but even that you can circumnavigate eventually. It’s time they sought out a new author for their reports.
The emergency council meeting had been called to discuss allegations of graft and corruption against three senior council officials with large appetites for the good life – big eaters, comic singers and simultaneous dancers by the sound of them.
Men with a passion for golf, apres golf, Spanish wine, T-bone steaks, prime cuts of fish and champagne.
Their wives and partners weren’t shy either about coming forward to join in the feasts and the fun.
And the negligent practices of almost every other official involved with the procurement of contracts for lucrative work with the Council, which was seemingly handed out on no more than a nod and a wink.
Nearly every member of the public, who was given a spectacular view of the proceedings from the crow’s nest that is the public gallery, while seats in the chamber sat vacant, was expecting to see someone walk the plank or be keel-hauled at the very least.
The press was stuck up there too in order that reporters and other plebs might not rub shoulders with the elitist council members and officials, but they ignored the new press signs on the seats and sat where they liked.
There is now speculation about how the procurement process for the new press signs was handled. I jest, but it was yet another case of public money wasted.
The press and public were barred from their place in the chamber lest anyone of them had the temerity (as I had and was banned for) to ask the Provost during the interval to turn up the volume, so that everyone could hear what was going on in their name.
That we could hear most things this month was a mixed blessing since we had to share in the shame these incompetent people have brought to Dunbartonshire.
Some of these members of the public made it plain they thought the cat o’nine tails would not be good enough punishment for the councillors and officials who let them down.
But no one got as much as a day off the rum for it.
As things turned out, after a tortuous three hours of rancorous exchanges, everyone slung their hammock with matters still unresolved.
The SNP administration made a cack handed attempt to rescue their own reputation with some pathetic contributions, mainly from their leader, Cllr Jonathan McColl, who should have been – as Labour’s Martin Rooney did – apologising to the public for letting them down so badly.
I can only take it that Cllr McColl must be doing his babysitter for someone in high places in the SNP or how else would he be holding on to his job?
Cllr McColl, Joyce White and Cllr Bollan
Cllr McColl cannot be looking forward to the next council elections, and Chief Executive Joyce White must be ruing the day she ever crossed the Erskine Bridge to come and work in Dumbarton.
It was painful watching her squirm in her seat as Cllr Bollan launched attack after attack in her direction, but I am certain I detected some schadenfreude in the febrile atmosphere.
Where are we now then?
West Dunbartonshire Council still looking for a safe harbour where it can hide its blushes and finally get its act together.
Cllr Jim Bollan, who has to take the credit for bringing this scandal into the public domain, accused the assembled council officials of “circling the wagons” to defend their errant colleagues.
It was a coming together of the Council establishment to defend their fellow officers, a golfing three-ball of shankers.
What West Dunbartonshire needed was a public inquiry in a court to get some real justice, which would not only be done but be seen to be done.
He said the fact that sufficient evidence for the graft and corruption allegations had not been uncovered by the police didn’t mean that this, and another allegation that a tender document had been altered by a council official to the financial benefit of his pal, weren’t true.
The name of the contractor who was said to have benefited from this deal was Ian Cherry, of Paisley firm JRB, which has since gone into liquidation.
Mr Cherry is now enjoying a comfortable retirement in the South of France.
The still un-named council official who is his friend, and with whom he is alleged to have shared the tab for all those fancy dinners, is said to be struggling healthwise.
There is still plenty to see here unfortunately for the good name of Dunbartonshire.
Maybe the next step is to have this matter raised in the Scottish Parliament?
The Democrat has the reports of the review documents in this issue. SEARCH the words Audit Scotland