Bill Heaney’s NOTEBOOK
It’s a bit early in the year or, if you look at it another way, a bit late to be talking about Christmas trees and Scrooge.
Step forward however Malcolm Bennie, one of the eight chief officers of West Dunbartonshire Council, who just received a six grand a year increase in his salary despite a freeze on public service pay.
The bold Malcolm whom I last set eyes on when he was squaring up to throw me out of a meeting in the not fit for purpose Burgh Hall for asking for the sound to be turned up, has just made a couple of suggestions for cuts in services to the public.
Around £100,000 a year seems an awful lot of money to pay for advice in regard what not to spend, but that’s what Malcolm earns from the public purse.
Malcolm is right up there with two crackers which he thinks will keep Cllr Jonathan McColl and the basket case SNP administration happy come council budget day.
Malcolm Bennie, taking the cheer out of Christmas; Cllr Jonathan McColl and Bailie Denis Agnew.
The first, wipe that rueful smile off your face this instant, is to stop switch-on events for the Council’s two Christmas trees.
The total saving would be £7,860 but the Council would still continue to provide Christmas light displays in both towns, but switch-on events would cease and placing trees in villages such as Renton
Malcolm doesn’t think too much of the weans, it seems for the next saving to come out of his sack is a proposal to halt the expansion of free school meals to all primary school-aged children.
The hungry children, whose hunger plight has been highlighted endlessly throughout this lockdown, would have to wait until 2020/21 before the free grub was dished out.
It would save the Council £1,038,000 and free up £300,000 earmarked for setting the free meals service up, but that’s nothing to the Council who have set aside £20,000 for one of Bailie Denis Agnew’s pals to write them a song (I kid you not).
When he is not annoying his neighbours in Clydebank, there is no telling what he will be up to next.
The supposedly Independent bailie deserves to have his projects like this song – and an upcoming wee jaunt to Ireland for a town twinning knees-up – since he uses his vote to keep the SNP in power and for running for cups of tea for the lady councillors during meetings.
Let’s hope the voters make him face the music when next he comes up for election.
Malcolm Bennie’s third suggestion involves dropping a telephone satisfaction which the Council claims is used “in order to monitor and improve performance across its services”.
It costs £8,500 to provide this service at present, but it could easily be replaced with council members getting off their backsides and walking along High Street and Main Street and actually talking to people about the way services are delivered.
The weans also get it in the neck from the Education … education … education director Laura Mason who thinks she can save £30,000 by withdrawing “the consortium model” whatever that is from West Dunbartonshire’s five secondary schools.
This could also make the life of teachers and pupils even tougher than it is now by cutting £100,000 from school budgets which are used to pay for services, supplies and ancillary items such as photocopying.
And when the weans finally leave school? West Dunbartonshire’s scheme to help them into a job by providing them with free driving lessons has been parked
Drawing up a budget in Dumbarton it seems is like taking sweeties off children, but it’s lollipops of a different kind the council wants to do away with to save just £45,000.
Lollipop patrol jobs are in jeopardy as West Dunbartonshire Council looks at budget cuts.
This is the first remarkable idea to come out of merging roads services with Inverclyde Council.
The proposal would bring the service in line with current national guidance by withdrawing crossing patrols – lollipop men and women – from 17 locations where there are controlled pedestrian crossings in place.
Gail MacFarlane, the woman now in charge of roads following the debacle over procurement and the awarding of contracts, comes away with this cracker: “Best practice guidance states states that school crossing patrollers should not be deployed at junctions where pedestrians crossings already exist because this duplication can be confusing for motorists.”
The lollipop personnel could be done without – “We could continue to work with pupils and parents to promote road safety.”
Bin collections and recycling centres are very important to residents of West Dunbartonshire. The council should know that from the number of calls they receive from the public when things go wrong.
Hours of opening may be cut from April 1 at Dalmoak and Old Kilpatrick.
Their decision on this vexed matter is to cut the opening hours of the centres at Dalmoak and Ferry Road in Old Kilpatrick to just seven hours a day and increase charges for special uplifts to £35 a time.
This would come into effect on April 1, but you will still be able to take your own household waste to the dumps free of charge.
Even God has to suffer under the SNP. Instead of getting free uplifts, local churches and charities would have to pay 50 per cent of the going rate. Pass the plate round Dixie.
And the poor old folk too – £50,000 is to be knocked off the budget for the Lomond Care and Repair service to carry out medical adaptation essential repairs to the homes of sick and needy persons.