Talk about spin-doctoring. This media release (below) was published on West Dunbartonshire Council’s website in August last year. At that time the Council was in crisis, the same crisis that has now been exposed in the wake of an inquiry into graft and corruption by senior managers. Although Audit Scotland accepted there was no criminality in its most recent review, they must have missed an awful lot in their inquiries. They have turned out to be a watchdog with no teeth. Or maybe the full facts of what was going on were never revealed to them? Otherwise the Council would not have been blowing their trumpet about how wonderful they were in a media release which was economical with the truth. It certainly does not bear much resemblance to the reality we have now heard about – but only after considerable pressure was placed on council officials. Strong performance? A Code of Conduct for officers that was not fit for purpose was operating at that time. One wonders if Audit Scotland was ever given sight of that. Or how about procurement and managers dishing out contracts for around £9 million to a company whose managing director was a golfing pal who wined and dined with Council officials? And, having gone into liquidation and retired to the South of France. We suggest you read this media release below and then read the various reports in The Democrat over the weeks and months since a whistle-blower drew attention to the malpractices which were going on – and had been going on for years. The SNP Council’s SNP/Tory/Independent administration denied most of the allegations and voted to accept an internal report and an Audit Scotland review of it at their monthly meeting on Tuesday. But they would do that, wouldn’t they? It let them off the hook. Nothing to see here, move on, move on. The Community Party were the only ones (one) to pursue this extremely serious matter vigorously. The Accounts Commissioners should be called into Dumbarton to investigate this further and instigate a full public inquiry before a judge in Dumbarton Sheriff Court next door to the Council Offices in Church Street. Meanwhile, a number of people should consider their position and possibly even resign, not least the Council leader, whose statement below illustrates just how out of touch he has been. West Dunbartonshire Council has been a basket case for far too long. And the council taxpayers of this community have paid an “incalculable” sum for it.
Key strengths included vision, leadership and strategic direction
August 31, 2018
Scotland’s public spending watchdog has highlighted the strong performance and significant progress made by West Dunbartonshire Council.
A representative from Audit Scotland spoke at a Council meeting on Wednesday where the results of the Accounts Commission’s Best Value audit of the local authority were presented to councillors.
Audit Scotland conducted the review on behalf of the watchdog and their Audit Director Fiona Mitchell-Knight echoed the comments made in the report which found that effective and improved leadership from councillors and officers had been critical to the progress made in West Dunbartonshire.
Ms Mitchell-Knight also highlighted the clear and steady improvement in service performance – particularly in the Council’s priority areas of housing and advancing educational attainment.
The key strengths identified in the report included:
- The vision, leadership and strategic direction of the Council
- A steady improvement in performance and use of resources, including finances and staffing
- Effective financial management
- Partnership working including with community planning partners and other local authorities
- Future plans which reflects the needs of the communities in West Dunbartonshire
Council leader Councillor Jonathan McColl said: “This is an excellent report for West Dunbartonshire and evidences the significant efforts to transform this Council over the past decade. It is an endorsement of the commitment of all of our staff from our Chief Executive to frontline workers. We are not complacent and there are areas where we can continue to develop. There is now a strong platform in place on which we can build, we are clear on our vision for the future and both elected members and officers will do everything they can to ensure we deliver for every resident in West Dunbartonshire.”
Councillor Martin Rooney, Leader of the opposition added: “This report confirms the significant improvements made by the Council since 2007. All Councillors are committed to ensuring progress continues over the coming years and services for residents are maintained and enhanced.”
The Commission published its findings in June following a significant review of the Council conducted over several months in 2017/18. The latest Best Value publication marks a significant turnaround for West Dunbartonshire since audit reports in the mid-2000s.
Work is already underway on the areas identified by the Accounts Commission for continued improvements:
- Review project management processes for capital projects
- Further develop workforce plans to include forecasts of numbers and costs
- Continue efforts to address employee absence and support employees through change
- Continue to support the development of the Community Alliance and help it reach its full potential
- Consideration be given by councillors to establishing a cross-party groups to address the financial challenges which exist and the important decisions required in the future
Audit Scotland undertook the review on behalf of the Accounts Commission.