NOTEBOOK by BILL HEANEY

Democracy is being left to die in Dumbarton’s diversity meadows

Martin Rooney, Clearing the Havoc “jungle” and the not fit for purpose Burgh Hall.

Martin Rooney, who is a hard working Labour councillor, accused me recently of being too tough on the SNP administration in West Dunbartonshire Council.

That’s a bit like Jeremy Corbyn asking a Guardian columnist if he could go easy on Boris Johnston.

Boris is a balloon. Jonathan McColl, the SNP leader in Dumbarton is a balloon and both have a widely-held reputation for being economical with the truth.

Both are liars with the propensity of Pinocchio for smearing others unashamedly.

Martin Rooney, who once rightly styled himself as the Pensioners’ Champion, is not a bit like either of them.

In fact, I criticised him here recently for being too nice to the SNP and for failing to put the ball in the net when they presented him time and again with an open goal.

I was pleasantly surprised at a recent meeting that of the Council that Martin and the Labour Party had pulled their socks up and got stuck into the opposition.

And in a recent column for another local newspaper, he put the metaphorical knife in their chest with this:

It’s been a typical Scottish summer, a bit of sunshine here and there and the odd bit of rain. Apparently a bit of summer rain is good for the farmers but maybe not so much for the council’s bio-diversity areas where previously manicured grassed areas and well maintained open spaces have been replaced by litter strewn jungles – even though summer meadows full of flowers, bees and ladybirds were promised.

The council had some of its social work services inspected by the care inspectorate which showed that we had fallen well behind other Scottish councils on self-directed care.

This is about giving vulnerable people and carers a choice about the type of care they get and when they get it.

Unfortunately, we were ranked last out of 32 local authorities in Scotland on the percentage of social care clients who made an informed choice regarding self-directed care.

In 2015/16, the Scottish average implementation rate was 26 per cent, but by 2016/17 while the national average increased to 39 per cent, West Dunbartonshire was floundering at just three per cent.

We were also ranked 28 out of 32 Scottish local authorities on the percentage of adults that used direct payments or personalised managed budgets to meet their support needs and the Care Inspectorate identified that there was evidence of poor personal outcomes in 32 per cent of the case studies they read.

Hopefully we will see much greater progress over the coming years.

However, Martin just can’t help himself when it comes to being Mr Nice Guy.

He finished his column in The Reporter with this:

Finally, it was great to learn this week that two projects from the previous Labour administration are up for awards. The new council building in Church Street in Dumbarton has won a national award in Scotland and has now reached the UK finals.  It’s also good to see that Levengrove Park is in the running for a Green Flag award from Keep Scotland Beautiful.  We are all immensely proud of these and wish them the best of luck.

Whit? There is no question that the Levengrove project has been a success, but what started out as a cafe pavilion there has cost a fortune when tied in with an adult learning project.  The new £15 million Council building in Church Street is not fit for purpose. The public cannot hear or see the proceedings going on from the public gallery. The gallery cannot accommodate the numbers who wish to be present when contentious matters come before the Council. They have had to lock people out and then, in Boris-like fashion, tell lies about their staff being assaulted by pensioners. They have no respect for ancient customs and practices in relation to making provision for the media and care not a whit about Freedom of the Press. They have introduced bans and boycotts on The Democrat for a moment’s irritation shown by me at being interrupted while trying to make a case for correcting the faults in the “award-winning” chamber.

And giving not as much as a slap on the wrist to senior officials who for years ignored the Management Code of Conduct and breached procurement rules, costing the Council taxpayers a fortune by by-passing tendering rules for contracts.

These are the boys who did some fine dining on T-bone steaks and double helpings of fish washed down with Rioja grand cru and champagne.

Oh, and Martin, we have to yet to hear your voice or that of any of your follow councillors speaking up for democracy, which is a fragile flower being left to die here in your ill-conceived biodiversity meadows.


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