NOTEBOOK by Bill Heaney

West Dunbartonshire Council have failed to grasp the importance of digital newspapers as investment in traditional newsprint dries up rapidly.

The Church Street-based local authority and their SNP masters have demonstrated their inability to keep up with the times in the area of modern communications, as with most other things which come into their scope of influence.

They have been putting obstacles in our way to do our job since we launched the Dumbarton Democrat two years ago.

They insist, in the manner of Trump and Johnston, on putting Freedom of the Press to one side and acting like tin pot dictators.

Robert Burns had their measure when he described such people as a parcel of rogues in a nation. Or the Belfast poet Louis MacNiece who wrote of faceless bureaucrats: It’s no go the Government grants, it’s no go the elections, Sit on your arse for fifty years and hang your hat on a pension.

These shameless people have done so by refusing to respond to questions; making provision for us to hear and see properly their meetings in order to report them and even having us evicted and refused entry to their £15 million, award winning but not fit for purpose refurbished old Burgh Hall.

This is democracy in Dumbarton in the 21st century.

They also instructed their staff that we were to be supervised throughout our presence on council property – treated like shoplifters – and that we were not to have access to a glass of water during a meeting which lasted ten hours.

In one of their multiple austerity fits they banned refreshments but continued to traipse in and out of their own wee kitchen carrying cups of tea for themselves and spilling them on the desks and carpets.

Covering their meetings has been unpleasant and stressful, but we intend to stick with it – and remain part of the awkward squad, which they perceive us to be.

Lawyers letters and hostility from pompous politicians and their handmaidens are a badge of honour so far as we journalists are concerned.

This is because, on behalf of the public, we continually poke our noses into what they consider the taxpayers who fund them should not be allowed to see.

Bollan Jim 8
Councillor Jim Bollan

The fact that they have now turned on Councillor Jim Bollan, who with a former councillor, George Black, has exposed the council as an economic basket case which is up to its backside in unacceptable practices and cover-ups which underscores everything we know about them.

This Council is rotten to the core – and officers whose feet should not have touched the ground when it was discovered what they were up to have escaped without any sanctions whatsoever being taken against them.

How one of them departed with a golden commutation parachute and a handsome pension in quite incredible and should even now be challenged in light of what the auditors found out he and his colleagues were up to.

It’s been a slap on the wrist only for the individuals who ignored the procurement rules and the management code of conduct and went fine wining and dining and playing golf with contractors when they knew well that this was forbidden under their code of conduct.

It has also been revealed now that much of what was going on was known about by the Chief Executive Mrs Joyce White who has displayed faux anger and upset that not just the press but some elected representatives have chosen to embark on a campaign to clean up SNP-controlled West Dunbartonshire.

It was revealed on social media yesterday that Mrs White had celebrated or was about to celebrate her 60th birthday.

Perhaps she should consider retirement instead of continuing to preside over the shambles that makes West Dunbartonshire Council one of the worst local authorities in Scotland? Some kind soul wanted to “put a sheet round”  to buy the £140,000 per yer official a present. No, you couldn’t make it up.

Meanwhile, the digital editor of the UK’s largest newspaper website, Keith Poole of the Sun Online will join delegates at this year’s Society of Editors Conference to discuss The Digital Future: Building audience and future-proofing the newsroom.

Prominent voices of the digital media industry will be joining the discussion, including representatives from Twitter and Reuters Institute as well as The Yorkshire Post.

Keith Poole, the digital editor of the Sun Online, will speak from his experiences of managing two of the most high-profile international news platforms. Having spent time building the MailOnline’s digital brand in the US as its Managing Editor, Poole has managed the Sun’s free website since 2016.

Guiding the panel as chair will be Alison Gow, the digital editor-in-chief of Reach Plc’s regional division. Gow is currently leading Laudable, a Google-funded podcast collaboration with Reach and JPI media, which explores the scope for audio content and innovation in local news.

To explore the role of social media companies in this debate, Jo Kelly, Twitter’s Head of News and Sport Partnerships (EMEA) will be offering her views. Kelly’s team works with publishers and organisations which need support from Twitter to help grow their digital reach, revenue and develop online initiatives.

Perhaps we should apply for tickets for this mind-broadening event for Mrs White and the SNP council leader, Jonathan – Mr U-turn – McColl?

All here in favour, say Aye.

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