Let’s hope the education convener isn’t in charge of teaching children manners
Councillors Karen Conaghan, Martin Rooney and John Mooney.
BILL HEANEY’S NOTEBOOK
The arrogance of West Dunbartonshire’s Depute Provost Karen Conaghan is breath-taking.
I have watched her and some of her SNP colleagues giggle their way through council meetings, where her party’s austerity policies have been implemented with a heavy hand.
And to utter under her breath supposedly why The Dumbarton Democrat’s representative should be allowed into the council chambers to cover meetings.
But her self-important superciliousness, which involved switching off the microphones of two senior Labour councillors and preventing them from asking perfectly legitimate questions about a delayed report on the future of West Dunbartonshire schools, is intolerable.
The SNP claim to be a democratic party, but their actions in the council chambers do not support their arguments.
And to add to the irony and injustice, the educational services committee chairwoman ,Councillor Karen Conaghan, read a prepared speech and cut off a Labour councillor’s microphone as she appealed for them to work together.
This leads me to ask two questions: Is there anyone in the SNP who can make a speech on anything important without having to read their contribution off notes?
And has the education committee chairwoman any role in teaching manners to the pupils and students in local schools?
According to an excellent report by Tristan Stewart-Robertson, one of the journalists who is actually allowed into West Dunbartonshire Council meetings, Mrs Conaghan also insisted the schools were safe and the estates report would be brought to the committee when it was ready – and not before.
November’s Council meeting had heard that the long-awaited schools’ estate management plan would not be submitted to last week’s education group.
As councillors were asked to approve the minutes from the last committee meeting in September, both councillors Martin Rooney from Vale of Leven and John Mooney from Clydebank tried to raise the issue of the report.
Cllr Conaghan said: “Obviously we’d like to do something sooner rather than later, but we also need to take the time to get things right.
“All of us here in this committee are very aware of the financial constraints we operate under.
“Therefore, it’s all the more important, in terms of best value but getting it right for every child, to explore all potential funding streams and to make the most of what’s available.”
In a comment related to concerns raised by parents at Edinbarnet Primary, but not at the education committee, Cllr Conaghan continued: “I will also say, just because some of our buildings are older doesn’t mean that they are unsuitable, it doesn’t mean that any building is unsafe. That was clearly stated at last Wednesday’s council meeting.
“We do not send our children and young people into buildings that we know to be unsafe, nor would we do that with any of our employees.
“Teachers and others staff working in education and other supporting disciplines are used to being imaginative in their approaches and making the best uses of the buildings and resources that we currently do have.
“I would also remind you, Cllr Rooney, in November 2017 if I’m correct, at the council’s annual review, I said something I absolutely believe to be true: the best work that this council does is done by consensus and cross-party working.
“Let us all remember we are elected to represent people in West Dunbartonshire as best we can. In my opinion we do this best when we set party politics to the side.
“This education committee is the best example – a committee of elected members of almost all parties, teachers, parents and church reps working together for the best for the citizens and most importantly for the young people of West Dunbartonshire.”
It may not have been legitimate to discuss a report that had not been released but it was perfectly legitimate to ask questions in relation to Cllr Conaghan’s statement at the committee.
Cllr Rooney tried to point out he hadn’t raised party politics but Cllr Conaghan cut off his microphone and said: “I said no.”
After his mic was turned off, Cllr Mooney, said: “Don’t turn off my microphone – that’s rude. I don’t agree with your ruling. It should be on the agenda that this report has not been brought. I don’t know where you get off saying it was party political when it wasn’t.”
Cllr Conaghan fired back: “I didn’t say it was party political. I said the best work that we do is when we leave party politics to the side.”
She then cut off Cllr Mooney’s microphone again and the meeting continued.
So, there we have it. The SNP will brook no questioning of their policies or decisions, and certainly not by representatives of the public or members of the press.
It doesn’t half make you wonder what Scotland would be like if we were ever to become independent under the SNP.