NOTEBOOK BY BILL HEANEY
Cllr Jonathan McColl, leader of West Dunbartonshire Council, broke cover this week to inform the electorate that “this is a critical stage in the course of this pandemic”.
The Tartan Pimpernel of local politics had this uplifting message, which he delivered in the tone of a national political figure.
He told the Dumbarton Reporter: “It’s important that each nation of the UK continues working together while still doing what’s right in each country based on medical and scientific data.
“As lockdown begins to ease slightly in England, it will be tempting to follow suit, but moving too quickly will cost lives.
“The council will continue to follow the Scottish Government’s lead, as we plan for the gradual return of services in a way that’s safe for the public and our staff.”
So far, so bad. This speech sounds like Dominic Cummings wrote it for him. It makes one wonder if McColl and Cummings met sightseeing near Barnard Castle?
He goes on: “I’ve met with the trade unions and senior management and I’m pleased to say that they are working constructively to facilitate this safe return of services.”
That’s not what we were told, however. Look at the statement from the EIS, which says teachers feel badly let down by the lack of consultation with councillors over proposals to return to school after the lockdown.
They are saying they found out about it on Facebook.
Truth of the matter is that the services, particularly care homes, have not been safe at all in West Dunbartonshire, and that more than 100 people (so far) have died here during the pandemic.
But Cllr McColl appears to be more concerned about the bins than the death count.
He added: “We are already seeing the gradual return of normal refuse collections, and agreement was reached between all 32 councils on Friday last week to start reopening our municipal waste and recycling centres from June 1; keep an eye on local press and council social media for details nearer the time.”
It took a wee while for the refuse collections to sort themselves out, but you have to get the messaging right for things like that (ask Boris Johnston about that).
So far as the re-opening of recycling centres goes then that looks like another bourach in the making.
Long queues all the way along the Renton Road are forecast as people try to work out the rules for access to the centre at Dalmoak.
Rather pompously, Cllr McColl goes on: “I’ve had several video/voice calls with Scottish Government ministers where schools have been discussed.”
None of these was over a pint in a hotel up country as was the one about the Council budget with the then Finance Minister Derek Mackay. Remember him?
Jonathan added: “I’m pleased to say that ministers agree with me, that we must be cautious in our approach to reopening schools, and that when this does eventually happen, it should be done in partnership with councils using the knowledge of local education professionals to enable the safe phased return of pupils.
“Teachers have done an amazing job educating pupils from home, and trade unions have been really proactive in working with management to resolve any issues and to plan for the future.”
Really, Jonathan. Come off it. That is what is commonly referred to here as mince. That’s not what the trade unions, the EIS and UNISON to name but two (see reports elsewhere on The Democrat), say about their relationship with this basket case council.
Then there’s “a big thank you to everyone out there doing their best to help our community through this crisis”.
This was to people who have been wondering where he was hiding since he gave Jackie Baillie MSP an ignorant shellacking about her drawing attention to the appalling situation in our care homes while Jonathan was under the bed.
It seems Cllr McColl was consulting with the police – so far as we know he wasn’t locked up while the rest of us were locked down – “On my recent call with the divisional commander, he told me that reports of domestic abuse are less than he would expect to see.
“Ending the scourge of domestic abuse in our communities and supporting survivors is a priority of the council, and I share his concern that people seem reluctant to call the police at this time.
“If you feel unsafe and you need help, do not hesitate; call 101 to speak to the police or dial 999 in an emergency.
“Your safety and well-being are important and coronavirus should not stop you from seeking help.”