Monkeys and teddy bears on the tombola stall at Balloch Highland Games.
By Democrat reporter
More evidence emerged this week that something is rotten – and has been rotten for some time – in West Dunbartonshire Council.
This is why the administration (the politicians) and management (the officials) are having such great difficulty with their reputation.
And why both the Council and the SNP as a party refuse to answer questions from The Dumbarton Democrat.
They want to cover up the fact that they are widely perceived as a basket case which makes significant mistakes in the way they handle millions of pounds of public money.
And are frequently forced into screeching U-turns in regard to their policies and practices.
To add to their problems, the SNP leader of the administration and his colleagues are thin-skinned and cannot take merited criticism.
Cllr Jonathan McColl conducts his business like a poor man’s Donald Trump without a twitter account.
He is an autocrat who thumbs his nose at democracy and resents public, press and media scrutiny of any kind.
This is why he has gone out of his way to make it as difficult as he possibly can to do business in the manner and custom which public bodies usually adopt in their relations with journalists.
The Council claims our editor is not a bona fide journalist, despite the fact that he has been in this trade for 55 years. And has won award after award.
He is now a Life Member of the NUJ, an editor emeritus in the Society of Editors and has been a special adviser on media matters to the First Minister.
One would imagine that Cllr McColl is enjoying the summer recess away from council work, although he has been consulting his lawyer about a number of false claims he made against us.
We hope he is not squandering public money on this.
And devoting his time to running events such as the SNP tombola stall at the Balloch Highland Games, which he was doing on Saturday with the SNP MP Martin Docherty-Hughes.
No better job for them both, one might say, although a whelk stall might be apposite.
The line from Shakespeare’s Hamlet that something is rotten in the state of Denmark comes to mind.
It means something is not right, seriously amiss, especially when leading to suspicion of motive.
If the authorities knew about the problems – and Chief Executive Joyce White told the Council they did – and chose not to prevent them, then clearly something is rotten
Especially the fact that they failed to call a halt to it before the police were called in.
This was in relation to another investigation into a complaint that three senior managers were wined, dined and golfed by a contractor who made enough money from his business to afford a luxury retirement in the South of France.
It was champagne, the best Rioja, T-bone steaks and double helpings of special fish dishes in fine dining establishments for these three men in suits.
No one mentioned food banks or holiday hunger amongst our children.
Something more prosaic came to mind when we saw Cllr McColl offering monkeys and teddy bears as tombola prizes to the crowds at Balloch.
According to a well-known expression, Rome’s emperor at the time, the decadent and unpopular Nero, “fiddled while Rome burned.”
That has a double meaning: Not only did Nero play music while his people suffered, but he was an ineffectual leader in a time of crisis.
The “time of crisis” for the Council and Cllr McColl is now, with the planning decision for Flamingo Land/Lomond Banks “holiday park” soon to be decided by the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park Authority.
It has been promoted as the most important local planning decision of our time. It could make or break Balloch.
This is yet another issue on which Cllr McColl and his SNP colleagues have done a U-turn.
They were all for it in the beginning, but now they are dead against it.
Would they not have been better employed in Balloch on Saturday campaigning against Flamingo Land when they had thousands of people to influence there instead of raising party funds giving away monkeys and teddy bears at the Highland Games?
And sneaking out a new, excessively redacted (50 pages blanked out) shock report in the middle of the summer recess?
The report grudgingly exposes the fact that the arms-length Leisure Trust were handing out contracts for equipment costing hundreds of thousands of pounds without following the proper procurement procedures.
And giving away free membership of places like the Meadow Centre, the Vale of Leven Swimming Pool and other leisure establishments to friends and family of the people who work there.