Council will brook no criticism of not fit for purpose Burgh Hall and refuse to make better provision there for the electorate.
By Bill Heaney
There had to be a reason why the members of West Dunbartonshire Council would never agree with criticism that their refurbished premises in the Burgh Hall – the work cost £15 million and counting – was not fit for purpose.
And why they never fessed up to this until their monthly meeting on Wednesday in Clydebank Town Hall, and even then did so only grudgingly.
The reason was simple. The members had participated in and approved the interior design themselves, and not one of them had a word of complaint or suggested any correction when the opening date arrived.
The fact that members of the Press and public were unable to see or hear what was happening in the chamber from just 30 seats in public gallery was neither here nor there. It didn’t matter that the population was 90,000. Public opinion was ignored.
The fact that people were locked out of the public galleries in both Dumbarton and Clydebank didn’t concern them either really.
They refused to do anything about it, despite the fact it was drawn to their attention.
The SNP says No.
I was smeared by the Council’s very own Trump figure, the dictatorial Cllr Jonathan McColl, who accused me of assaulting two women for having the temerity to raise the matter with Provost William Hendrie.
He should think black, burning shame of himself for being a bigger liar than Cut the Bag.
Then they tried to ban me from the press benches, or would have done so had they bothered to provided one, which they still haven’t.
Was it something I wrote? Welcome to West Dunbartonshire Council. Not.
Subsequently the Council locked out into the street elderly residents who wished to attend their meeting on the controversial matter of the Flamingo Land planning application.
Then made more spurious claims that their staff had been manhandled.
The Council turned a deaf ear to all criticism and refused to listen – until Labour representative, Cllr David McBride, under pressure from the public, took the matter up this week.
He expressed concern that the Civic Space in Church Street couldn’t cope with the numbers who wished to spectate.
Cllr McBride said: “While this provides sufficient seating for most meetings, depending on the agenda item this will not accommodate the capacity required if there is a contentious issue being considered, or for the annual budget setting meeting.
“We note the many interested members of the public were locked out of the June meeting when the Flamingoland development was being considered.”
And he asked them to endorse his motion because “public interest in local democracy should be encouraged and, if possible, we should attempt to satisfy demand for people to attend meetings if they wish.
“Therefore, we call on the Chief Executive to arrange space planning to maximise public attendance in the Church Street Civic Space when demand is required.
“If a large attendance of the public is anticipated for a Council Meeting the seating could be arranged in a similar manner to committee meetings, possibly at one side of the Civic Space and not dissimilar to the arrangement in the Council Chamber in Clydebank Town Hall.
“This could allow additional seating and increase capacity to attend Council Meetings. In addition, a temporary barrier could be procured to ensure there is a suitable defined space for elected members, Officers and members of the public.”
He said the Chief Executive, Joyce White, should be asked to report back to the next Council meeting with options and costs of proposals which could also include live visual streaming to the large screen in the Council Staff area.
In addition, Cllr McBride said he would wish the Council to consider holding meetings if required in the Lesser Town Hall when the Clydebank Council Chamber proves unable to accommodate the public.
Therefore, we also wanted to know what the cost of these changes would mean since they wanted to ensure the changes would ensure support the live streaming of meetings.
This service, much favoured by the SNP leader Jonathan McColl and his team, but the truth is that the figures for listeners are dire.
Cllr McColl tried to spin the fact that the number of listeners for this had been a few hundred, but after checking a recent report, they turn out to have been as low as 72.
His SNP colleague, Cllr Karen Conaghan – she of the remarkable statement that blocked roads helped to get people to know each other better – moved that the Council should take no action, which is what is to happen following a narrow victory for the administration.
The Democrat has questions for the Council about the cost of the Burgh Hall refurbishments and whether the project was completed on time and within budget, but they refuse point blank to answer anything from us.