Cllrs Ian Dickson and Sally Page and columnist Bill Heaney.
BY BILL HEANEY
It’s becoming increasingly difficult to accept that the SNP administration on West Dunbartonshire Council are not taking the electorate for fools.
The council are having an inquiry this weekend about Cllr Ian Dickson, the SNP finance spokesperson, allegedly using the F-word during a debate with the Conservative councillor, Sally Page, who represents Gartocharn and Balloch.
These meetings are recorded and Cllr Dickson, in response to Cllr Page’s contribution, can be heard saying “Further in f******g debt” in the official recording timed at 59.30 minutes, a few seconds less than an hour.
Exasperation at what the Tories have to say in these meetings is understandable – but the big question now will be this. Is it forgivable?
I am told that today Cllr Dickson was reported for his unacceptable language by a member of the public to that toothless quango, the Standards Commission for Public Life in Scotland.
There are, in Dumbarton, clandestine calls for Cllr Dickson to make a personal apology to Cllr Page – and even resign his seat on the Council.
Who knows what will happen though given the attitude of MP Margaret Ferrier who did the Michael Portillo on it and took a 750 mile train journey and spoke in parliament before having dinner there with a DUP MP after having tested positive and contracted coronavirus. Nicola Sturgeon was outraged again after a week of outraged outbursts at her colleagues demonstrations of just how politically naive so many of them are.
The fundamentalists in the pokey hats, the “hang ‘em, birch ‘em and boil them in oil” brigade, which is usually made up by members of Cllr Dickson’s own party, and Chief Executive Joyce White, who fronted up the recent Standards Commission case against Clr Jim Bollan, will be out to get him.
They are unlikely to obtain a result that satisfies them though. That won’t happen. The SNP have neither the guile nor the guts for that kind of stuff.
As we are now sadly witnessing at the Alex Salmond Inquiry at Holyrood, they are beyond sleekit.
If they had one political brain between them, it would be lonely.
They banned The Democrat, but that only served to backfire on them.
Sad person that I am, I was listening yesterday to a recording of the council’s monthly meeting – they don’t invite The Democrat or send us the agenda and committee papers anymore – when I heard the SNP leader, Cllr Jonathan McColl, state that we, the gullible public, should believe that they conducted their business (our business) in an open and transparent manner. Eh?
He should tell that to the Marines. There are plenty of them around this weekend for the Joint Military Maritime exercise at Faslane on the Gareloch.
The whales down the Firth and up the Loch are proof that we have a surfeit of whoppers around here already and that there’s no space any more – particularly in local government.
Joyce White, the community coat of arms and the £17 million headquarters in the Burgh Hall.
Council chief executive officer Mrs White is living a fantasy world if she believes that the public – or even the more astute councillors – are there any left here, one wonders? – will swallow that kind of plankton.
Everyone who cares about our council and our community now knows that she reported Cllr Bollan to the Standards Commission on 37 counts of breaking the rules. Only two of these were upheld.
The Community Party’s only councillor was banned for two meetings, a sentence which he now wears as a badge of honour. It made him the people’s champion, the advocate of the underdog.
This was for allowing the public insight of heavily redacted documents in relation to an inquiry into graft and corruption involving senior council officials and wealthy contractors.
It is estimated that £millions were lost to the public purse through their failure to implement procurement rules and adhere to the rules surrounding that process. How dare he do that?
The Democrat was banned and boycotted by the slippery SNP for reporting this stuff which is an affront to democracy. How dare we do that?
The message that sends out is that we, the citizens of West Dunbartonshire, are not permitted to speak truth to power. That we are not worthy.
That we are not fit to be trusted – and neither are you, our readers.
So we, out of our belief in the public’s right to know what is being done in their name, with their money, will herewith let you into another “secret” which Chief Executive Joyce White has made “private and confidential”.
This is that there has been another “senior management” shake-up in West Dunbartonshire Council.
This is despite the fact that we have only just had one in July.
Richard Cairns, Strategic Director for Regeneration, Environment and Growth, will take on a new seconded role to support the Scottish Government and City Region partners on the ‘Clyde Mission’ initiative.
This has been formed to deliver regeneration and economic recovery across the region, and on the development and implementation of the economic strategy for the City Region.
That’s a big job for Richard, who has served as an advisor to the Glasgow City Region City Deal group on regeneration.
Unfortunately, Mr Cairns had an advisory role to play in the Council’s Greenspace initiative, which went bust at an inconvenient moment, just before Christmas and New Year.
Mrs White has told managers to let others employed by the council who don’t have access to a computer know about the changes.
It is remarkable that if even council staff don’t have access to a computer, how does Mrs White think a large percentage of the public who live in West Dunbartonshire, which is amongst the poorest and most deprived parts of Scotland, get access to information from the Council?
The libraries could be an answer, but the facts are that the council has reduced their opening hours and redeployed staff.
Even children who were promised laptops to work at home when the schools were closed never received them.
And not all our residents are as well paid as her ever changing coterie of senior officials.
Mrs White added: “This new opportunity will ensure all City Region partners, including West Dunbartonshire Council, benefit from his (Mr Cairns’s) expertise in this area.
“Richard takes up his position as a Strategic Advisor today and will continue to support our Council on a part-time advisory basis.”
Will he be paid extra for this?
Council managers Jim McAloon, Ronald Dinnie and Raymond Walsh.
Some councillors feel that they should have been consulted about this change and others before they happened, not told about them it afterwards.
That councillors did not have a say in the Cairns appointment goes a long way to standing up remarks that it’s the management who make decisions in West Dunbartonshire while the councillors make tea.
In a further change in the senior management, Jim McAloon, Strategic Lead for Regeneration, will retire from the organisation on 31st December.
Jim, who formerly worked for Dunbartonshire Enterprise, has been on the staff with the Council for more than 12 years,
Mrs White said: “In that time Jim has been instrumental in some of our largest and most significant regeneration projects including several school rebuilds, the new Clydebank Leisure Centre, 16 Church Street and most recently, the redevelopment of Queens Quay and construction of the innovative District Heating Network.
“He has also just concluded the substantive negotiations for the acquisition of the Exxon site [at Bowling].”
The Exxon/Esso site at Bowling on the River Clyde.
This site purchase – it was rejected some years ago as a possible new home for Dumbarton FC – of around £6 million has been the subject of controversy in the Council for years.
It is now part of the regeneration project which Mr Cairns is being seconded to work on.
One councillor said: “This is saving Esso, part of one of the richest companies in the world, £millions and leaving us, a skint council in one of the country’s worst areas of deprivation, with what looks like a pig in a poke.”
Mrs White added: “These changes create an opportunity to further review our senior management structure to ensure it best serves the current and future needs of the organisation and our communities as we respond to and recover from the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Advanced planning is underway for the new structure and I will share this with you imminently.”
Haud me back. The new council headquarters at 16 Church Street, which cost almost £17 million, is not fit for purpose. The press and public cannot see or hear properly the business that’s being done in the chamber there.
“It looks more like a drill hall than a council chamber and they have had the cheek to put a portrait of a journalist on the wall.
“There is a question mark over the redevelopment of Queens Quay in the former John Brown’s shipyard; Clydebank Regeneration has folded for good; and construction of the “innovative” District Heating Network is an embarrassing £5 million overspent and counting.
Meanwhile, councillors are filling their boots with attendance allowances and expenses allowances while not having to get off their backsides to attend meetings.
After the Revolution, in the pipe dream that is the new independent Scotland, the SNP believe we all get jobs like that.
Before we end, let’s turn the town clock back to those summertime management changes which were, like those this week, never sanctioned by a committee or even a sub-committee of councillors.
These put Mrs White in an almost “presidential” position gathering more power and control to the centre and becoming less inclusive.
Legal director Angela Wilson and Mr Cairns were the two big losers in that reshuffle as their responsibility for various Strategic Leads and whole departments were culled and they had to answer directly to the CEO.
Ronald Dinnie, who retired recently with a “a golden parachute” commutation package headed up the Environment and Neighbourhood section, which no longer appears on the management chart.
He was a leading member of the golfing and fine dining set, who drank champagne and Rioja, ate T-bone steak and fancy fish dishes after completing 18 holes of golf with a well-heeled contractor on the greens and fairways of Loch Lomond’s upmarket golf course.
The Roads section is no longer directly under the remit of Raymond Walsh as this section will be the responsibility of the officer now jointly funded by WDC and Inverclyde Council under the shared services scheme which has never been agreed in any detail by the Council.
Does this mean the WDC coat of arms will have to be altered from “Strength in Community” to Communities to include Inverclyde?
Approval for that post was bullied through this week to accommodate a motion from SNP leader Jonathan McColl.
Councillors questioned and asked for it to be continued because there had been little or no consultation.
There was no more than a tentative nod in its direction from the trade unions.
However, CEO Joyce White told the meeting that if there was any delay the appointment would not go through. It would be an opportunity lost.
THIS WAS BECAUSE IT HAD BEEN AGREED THAT THE PERSON CHOSEN TO DO THE JOB WAS DUE TO START WORK THE NEXT MORNING.
All these changes at the basket case council are a cause for concern. Will they be successful?
My view is they will not and at least one of the main players will be toast in the not too distant future.
Now that they have dispensed with the D for democracy word in Dumbarton by failing to acknowledge there is such a thing as Freedom of the Press and replaced it with the F for F knows what word, it’s possible that we will now have yet another expensive inquiry. CEO Joyce White appears to swear by them.
Let me make a suggestion here. Why don’t the council just forgive and forget about Cllr Dickson’s clanger?
Would it not be better for all concerned if Cllr Dickson apologised publicly to Cllr Page for his ungentlemanly outburst?
And the SNP promised to confine themselves to doing as little further damage to the community’s reputation and well-being until the local government election next May when we can make our feelings known about these chancers and hit them where it hurts – at the ballot box