Council goes to war over who pays for poppy wreaths
Scenes from a Remembrance Sunday past in Dumbarton. Pictures by Bill Heaney
NOTEBOOK by BILL HEANEY
It seems a pity to sully Remembrance Sunday, which is rightly an important day for communities in West Dunbartonshire, with a political row.
However, that is what has happened here following a decision by the Council not to allocate funds for poppy wreaths to be laid in tribute by community councils at cenotaphs tomorrow.
Whether funds are allocated from public money for all the other wreaths that are laid by the Provost and other elected representatives, we cannot say since the Council refuses to comment to The Democrat.
That is the trouble with cover-ups and keeping things secret. They can work against you.
It often prevents people and organisations from giving the public their version of events.
What we can say though is that in this instance the Council has once again let the people of West Dunbartonshire down by their lack of diplomacy.
They could have told Milton and Bowling Community Council, which is the one that made the inquiry about the money, that if funds were available, they would be there on this occasion.
However, it would be a one off and discussions about making this custom and practice would take place at a future meeting of elected representatives.
The most junior public official should have known this was going to be a political hot potato.
And the Chief Executive too should have been made aware that the inquiry would be a source of expressed discontent.
Especially since she is engaged in an ongoing, very public row with the councillor it came from – Cllr Jim Bollan, who has accused the Chief Executive, Joyce White, of conducting a witch hunt against him.
He said today: “[It is] quite deplorable that the SNP Council have denied one of our Community Councils the right to buy a poppy wreath from the grant allocated by WDC, to lay a wreath at the local Remembrance Service tomorrow.
“This is an absurd decision and needs to be overturned immediately.”
The SNP leader of the Council, Jonathan McColl, should know that just because you are not enamoured of the source of the alleged embarrassment and injustice that does not mean you are obliged to ignore it.
It is never too late to change your mind, of course and Cllr McColl is an expert at U-turns.
If making funds available for poppy wreaths is the correct thing to do, then it should be done, especially when a refusal would reflect badly on the whole community responsible for electing the Council.
Chief Executive Joyce White, Cllr Bollan and a Remembrance Day service at Levengrove Park, Dumbarton.
Meanwhile, Peter Barry, a member of the Council management team, has written to Cllr Bollan with an official answer.
He said: “My team has looked into this issue, and I am reassured that the advice provided is correct on the basis of the guidance issued to community councils on spending their grant money.
“Advice from the Council’s Finance section is that the purchase of the wreath does not meet the criteria within the current guidance.
“There is currently an exercise underway to review Community Councils and the support provided to them by various council departments.
“This will include reviewing the guidance and consulting with community councils on this.
“We are seeking to make information more easily accessible on the council website and to ensure appropriate training for Community Councils on Finance and other subjects.”
The Democrat would have asked the SNP parliamentary candidate for the General Election on December 12, Martin Docherty Hughes, if he agreed with the Council decision, but he too is part of his local party’s boycott of our digital newspaper.
We would also have asked the SNP man if he considered it right that a community council, any community council, should be forced to have a whip round amongst its members for a poppy wreath to place on their local cenotaph on Remembrance Sunday?