Provost William Hendrie and the SNP’s unstinting pursuit of political popularity using public money.
INVESTIGATION by BILL HEANEY
Austerity. That’s the name of the game in West Dunbartonshire in 2020.
At least that’s what Council leader Jonathan McColl and his colleagues in the SNP administration would have you believe.
But if you believe Cllr McColl, you will believe anything.
While some of our children do not have enough to eat and can’t afford the clothes and shoes to go back to school decently and comfortably dressed, our public representatives have been good to themselves.
Not only do they receive a decent salary and expenses for the “sacrifice” they are making for being on the Council.
They receive a basketful of perks that would make a Tammany Hall free-loader blush.
It’s not just the members of the Council who have their snouts in the trough though.
Chief Executive Joyce White, who is so mean that she refused to let a journalist have a drink of water out of the same jug as the councillors, is often there too flanked by a handful of officials.
The members naively believe all this eating and drinking comes their way because they are worth it.
Which only goes to show they are living on a parallel universe to many of the families in the housing schemes.
These are the ones who use food banks and are thought so little of that their brightest children were recently marked down in their exams, a move which may deprive them of jobs and university and college places.
And for which disgraceful behaviour the SNP had to offer and abject apology.
Or our elderly, frail and vulnerable residents whom they neglected initially to assist in care homes where people who already had Covid-19were squeezed in on top of them.
Inevitably the death toll in these homes increased exponentially.
Local people lost their jobs. The “lucky” ones have been furloughed and many of them can expect their P45 through the post soon.
A second spike of Covid-19 will put the local economy flat on its back.
And our schoolchildren and their parents are worried to death that their children will suffer most in this maelstrom of maladministration which has accompanied the pandemic.
There has been much confusion and little clarity about anything, even though councils like West Dunbartonshire spend £500,000 a year on communications.
And this money has been topped up by an unending stream of expensive newspaper and television advertising, which cost more than £3 million in Scottish weekly newspapers alone at a time when it is essential to get messages out daily, if not hourly.
Someone should explain to the government (and local government) the difference between daily and weekly and emphasise the fact that their messages may be as old as tea before they reach the public.
Frankly, they’re not worth the money – our money.
As for the First Minister, whose star has risen dramatically – particularly in England, where her counterpart Boris Johnston is a joke – she appears to be suffering from short memory syndrome.
It was Nicola Sturgeon who told us in March that the country was prepared as never before to deal with Covid.
Hospital beds and personal protection equipment would not be a problem.
We know now that it was a huge problem. Count the coffins.
The SNP council don’t communicate with The Democrat for their own juvenile reasons.
Sometimes they won’t even let us in the door of their meetings.
Freedom of the Press has been defenestrated at the Burgh Hall in Church Street.
It’s not much better for members of the public who wish to see what’s being done in their name.
They are lined up in the foyer like sheep and cattle and escorted by bouncers to the public gallery where it’s almost impossible to see and hear what’s going on.
In Clydebank, there are two staircases leading to the council chamber, one for the public and one for the members and officials.
Only one of them has been painted recently. The one for the public.
I think that says it all.
On social media this week it was stated that West Dunbartonshire Council’s widely used abbreviation WDC stands for We Don’t Care.
I cannot disagree with that, especially when I look back at one of the ways the Council has been spending our money in recent years, which is on entertaining themselves and others.
Let’s have a look at some of them.
Going back to July 17, 2017, Provost Willie Hendrie laid on a Civic Reception in Clydebank for members and officials from Eibar City Council in the Spanish Basque County (sic) and a team of athletes who were participating in the Balloch Highland Games.
Since it cost a modest £401.17, we can take it the Spaniards were not as fond of Rioja as some of the council officers who took part in a dinner with at least one contractor (champagne, special fish dishes and T-bone steaks were on the menu too) during the procurement scandal which cost the council an inestimable amount of money. £ millions probably.
These figures are not out of date, by the way. There’s plenty more where they came from, right up to the start of the pandemic earlier this year.
The following month at the Kirkin’ of the Council in Dumbarton Riverside and St Margaret’s, Clydebank, £742.12 was spent. One kirkin’ was not enough obviously. The Catholics and Protestants have to be looked so there are no complaints about favouritism, a ridiculous thing to happen in this day and age. The council still think it’s necessary to keep Billy and Dan happy in the interests of ecumenism.
A flag-raising reception for the Merchant Navy; a British Empire Medal investiture; an unveiling ceremony for a memorial paving stone for a Dumbarton man who won the Victoria Cross; the presentation of a Queen’s Award and a reception for the Salvation Army and the International Staff Songsters cost a total of about £1,500 and entertaining Rotarians nearly £500. Clydebank Music Society were the recipients of a reception cost nearly £1,600.
Perhaps I am biased here, but much more hospitality appears to have been given to Clydebank than Dumbarton, and I have yet to come across the name Vale of Leven.
However, that may have something to do with the fact that the councillors were feathering their Burgh Hall nest to the tune of a cool £16 million by refurbishing the whole place, but making an arse of it at the same time. Whoever heard of a debating chamber where the audience couldn’t hear what was going on and couldn’t see the participants well enough to identify them?
If the drinks bill had anything to do with it, there must have been lots of thirsty soldiers around on Remembrance Sunday 2017 when Provost Hendrie entertained the military and the clergy of course to the tune of £2741.82. On the bagpipes no doubt.
The STUC Disabled Workers Conference had a quiet day with just £300 spent on them in the Golden Jubilee Hotel and then, unsurprisingly, the reception for Justices of the Peace cost the same. It was hosted by Deputy Provost Karen Conaghan.
December 2017 saw Clydebank Churches Together songsters clear their throats at the conclusion of a Christmas Carol Concert in the Town Hall. It cost £432.68. Civic Reception for the Clydebank Asbestos Group, Clydebank Town Hall.
Then there was the LGBT Rainbow Flag Raising Event, Garshake Road, Dumbarton. Reception thereafter in Council Offices. In March, Provost Hendrie hosted the 10th Clydebank Blitz Memorial Service, Old Dalnottar Cemetery, followed by wreath laying ceremony at Solidarity Plaza.
Reception thereafter in the Reception Hall, Clydebank Town Hallt cost £1,366.00, and a couple of days later, on the 12th, they had a ‘Fly a Flag for the Commonwealth’ Flag Raising Ceremony. I am certain none of you would have dreamed of missing that one.
There was a reception for SOLAR, which cost £295.00, and one for the Clydebank Musical Society production of ‘Guys & Dolls’ merited a reception which cost a thumping £1456.47.
In April, the 28th International Workers Memorial Day 2018 event in Truth and Justice Square next to the Asbestos Memorial in Hume Street, Clydebank. The reception thereafter cost just £120.00.
In June, Working 4U Volunteers, got a reception costing £1331.68. The STUC LGBT Workers’ Conference had another £360 spent on them, and then the military marched in again for £1,810 for the Armed Forces Day Parade and Service.
A civic reception for Money Advice Scotland ran up a bill for £1402.51 which was three times the price of an STUC Youth Conference in the Golden Jubilee Hotel. Clydebank Group Holidays were given civic approval by Provost Hendrie at a cost of 738.52.
I am rapidly coming to the conclusion that a lot of these groups and organisations could well afford to pay for their own receptions.
In October, the STUC’s delegates to a Black Workers’ Conference in the Golden Jubilee Hotel ran up a bill of £480 and the footballing achievements of Clydebank FC were marked at a cost of nearly £2,000.
A reception for the Palestinian Lajee Youth Group, Clydebank Town Hall cost a modest £120.00, while the Provost’s Civic Awards cost £6180.00. Yes, more than £6,000, although we will no doubt be told that’s much less than the Oscars cost.
Ask yourself how many loaves and fishes, tins of beans, toilet rolls and nappies that this money would have bought for POOR, struggling, said to be near starving families.
Cllr McColl, West Dunbartonshire coat of arms and Chief Executive Joyce White.
The SNP, are the party of 21st century poverty. Their 13 unlucky years in power have brought back “living on the parish”, which is just another name for food banks and clothing grants.
They appear to have ignored where we are while arranging a ‘Fly the Red Ensign’ event for Merchant Navy Day, outside the Burgh Hall in Church Street, Dumbarton, and offering good cheer to delegates at the NFLA Conference in Clydebank Town Hall cost £573.51. It cost nearly £1,000 to keep spirits up at more BEM Investitures.
Look around you. There are very few reasons to be cheerful around here.
The black workers were back again for more at a cost of £375 at the STUC Black Workers’ Conference in the Golden Jubilee Hotel, and then the Council paid out a tidy £2,034 for a reception for the Clydebank Music Society. In November, 2018, Remembrance Sunday, came round again at a cost of £3143.62.
There was a reception for STUC Disabled Workers Conference in the Golden Jubilee Hotel and another one for the annual JP Conference, Golden Jubilee Hotel, hosted by Depute Provost Karen Conaghan.
The West Dunbartonshire Instrumental Music Service Christmas Concert finished with a reception costing £608.96, and the Clydebank Churches Together Christmas Carol Event cost a remarkably similar £660.30.
The Council won’t comment to The Democrat and neither will the SNP. Perhaps the revelations here, and the promise of more to come, have left them once again speechless.
- This information was obtained with a Freedom of Information request which comes into play when a council or other public body doesn’t want to reveal to the press and public anything which may be an embarrassment to them.