NOTEBOOK

Bill Heaney for Scottish ReviewBy Bill Heaney, Editor of The Democrat

With a Social Work strike imminent, old folk outraged over hikes in community safety alarm charges, impending fury and walk-outs over the imposition of a reduction in their blue collar workforce’s terms and conditions and so much more, concern is growing about the way the SNP/Tory West Dunbartonshire Council is mismanaging this local authority area.

Having been subjected to the exposure of widespread abuse by officers of the contract procurement process and unbelievable ignorance of the officers’ Code of Conduct, local taxpayers have now sussed a sleekit move to continue to reduce grass-cutting and flower planting in sensitive public places, including Levengrove Park which was recently revived with lottery money.

The chip, chip chipping away of jobs by the Council means that West Dunbartonshire has contributed more than its share of 28,000 council jobs which have been slashed across Scotland in the past seven years, according to new figures.

The figures show a total of 28,142 full-time equivalent jobs have been axed by cash-strapped councils since 2010.

Trade unions said local services were “bearing the brunt of austerity” and branded the new figures as “staggering”, amid fears authorities were poised to shrink even further.

West Dunbartonshire is already sharing its much criticised roads services with Inverclyde, and there is speculation about further mergers with East Dunbartonshire and Renfrewshire.

The data shows wide variances between authorities.

Dave Watson, head of policy and public affairs at trade union Unison Scotland, said: “These job losses highlight the extent of cuts on local government, which impact on both services to the public and the local economy.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “While the recruitment of staff is clearly a matter for local authorities, council workers continue to benefit from the Scottish Government’s no compulsory redundancy policy – and we are the only government in the UK to give that guarantee.”

However, the actuality is very different on the ground, although the number who have taken voluntary redundancy in that same period and the value of commutation payments is being kept secret.

At least, the Council will not answer any questions from The Democrat on this, which makes us believe their answers would reflect badly on the local authority.

Local people who enjoy a walk – and who like to walk their dogs – rebelled when the SNP administration leader Jonathan McColl first announced the plan literally to let the grass grow under his feet and allocate the savings to squaring the Council’s accounts.

The SNP/Tory/Independents who have done more U-turns than ever before witnessed here – and even looped the loop in defiance of SNP climate change policies – have stopped cutting the grass and planting flowers in areas where they committed to do so in the wake of public protest.

Council taxpayer Danielle Donnachie told social media that she wanted to highlight the fact that all around the West Dunbartonshire area, grass has been left uncut, and there has also been an increase in the number of areas where it will be left to grow.

She said: “I would suggest that everyone contact their councillors to let them know that we are not happy to have another three per cent added to our council tax this year for them to cut another service.”

She pointed out a number of areas of neglect, including the football area at Bellsmyre “where dog owners can only use the football park to let their dog do their business”.

Braehead Primary School, Barloan roundabout, the central reservation on the Boulevard at Clydebank, areas of Bonhill, West Bridgend, and the grounds of the St Kessog’s/Balloch campus in Balloch.

Danielle added: “I’m sure there are other areas that have been left in the hope that no one noticed.”

How right she was, and the proof started immediately to roll in over the WIFI.

 

Patrick Murray said: “I was over in Levengrove Park last night the Fountain looks great, but half the flower beds were empty.”

Richard O’Malley advised residents to go to the Councillors’ surgeries- “It’s the only way to get things done.”

The Council switchboard appears uncontactable for long periods at a time, presumably with people complaining about all manner of things.

Chris Guy told social media: “What’s happening with the switchboard 737000? Not been able to get hold of anyone and getting a recorded message saying minimum wait is 20 minutes. I wouldn’t class a Wednesday morning at 10am a peak time to call. More cutbacks?”

Community councillor Linda Speir said: “The grassed area at the top of Dumbarton New Cemetery looks awful. If any place should be cared for it should surely be areas surrounding cemeteries.

“I feel so sorry for the staff who are trying hard to make places look good but, through no fault of their own, are fighting a losing battle. They’re also getting a lot of flak for something which isn’t of their doing.”

Elaine Neeson said she had been told that West Bridgend near the high flats was for a biodegradable site for daffodils but “parts of West Bridgend didn’t have daffodils and the grass is still not being cut”.

Community Party councillor Jim Bollan said: “The Council calls the areas that are left uncut ‘SNP Biodiversity Meadows’.”

Róisín Áine Kelly said: “Everywhere is left a mess, yet the gardens at the Municipal Buildings remain pristine.

Sharon McIver urged residents to telephone and complain – “I’m in Old Kilpatrick and it’s a mess.”

Elizabeth Mullen says the corner on Main Street, Alexandria at Davie Graham’s car showroom “looks scruffy” – “They cut about two feet into it and left the rest dog shit all through it as you can’t see it for the long grass. It’s a bloody disgrace.”

Simeon Maurer asked what the Council “doing with the money if all the services are being cut?”.

And Euan Fraser said they were “trying to fool the public at every turn … still!”

What do I think?

I believe we live in an area of great natural beauty which is being ruined by neglect and inefficiency by the people in charge of our public services.

When you see what is happening in West Dunbartonshire Council, especially the way it treats its workforce, many of whom claim to bullied, overworked and underpaid, it is little wonder that illness and depression causes them to become ill and take sick leave.

It appears to me that the workforce is getting the blame for the failure of managers to run public services in West Dunbartonshire.

The biggest culprits, of course, are the councillors who make up the administration and the Scottish Government who should not be allowed to continue blaming the Westminster Government for turning West Dunbartonshire into a poor, multiply deprived, high unemployment, stressed out, drugs and alcohol dependent, poorly housed basket case.

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