NOTEBOOK by BILL HEANEY
Bailie Denis Agnew is truly an enigma. Indeed, the alleged thespian with the so-last-century gold chain around his neck is in close competition with Councillor Jonathan McColl, the council leader.
Agnew is supposed to be promoting Clydebank Town Hall as a wedding venue which would raise much-needed funds for West Dunbartonshire Council.
McColl is supposed to be embarked on a campaign to save trees to protect the planet from the worst effects of climate change, whilst presiding over a local authority which regularly gives planning permission to have them cut down.
Hundreds of thousands of pounds have been spent on upgrading and refurbishing Clydebank Town Hall as a venue for concerts and, functions and other community events.
A nice little clawback of some of that money was expected to come as a tranche of £300,000 from events such as wedding receptions.
However, this will not now happen because the bumptious Bailie Agnew has demanded an end to wedding bookings at what’s supposed to be the Council’s flagship venue.
The local authority-run wedding suite at the Town Hall cannot now be secured for functions until at least December.
Three Stooges – Bailie Denis Agnew, Provost Willie Hendrie and Council leader McColl.
Anyway, Bailie Agnew’s colleague, Provost Willie Hendrie, who had no problem hosting a major civic reception for fellow bowlers there in the not so distant past, infuriated staff by claiming the place is “boggin”.
He said parts of the previously prestigious building looked as if they were something out of the Second World War. In other words, in local parlance, it looked like a bomb had hit it.
Curiously, Bailie Agnew moved the weddings ban at the B-Listed venue which has been advertised as “the council’s premier events venue, providing bespoke space for a range of corporate, civic and cultural events”.
His comments came despite warnings at the Culture Committee, of which he is the convener, a job he was given along with the gold chain in the post election political horse trading for his support for the SNP, that the council will lose out on income after it budgeted for the £300,000.
However, a number of weddings are already booked to take place in what remains of this summer. They will be allowed to go ahead after the non-elected officials present warned that the council is under a legal obligation to couples who have already booked their wedding.
Therefore, that much-needed income will be lost along with the attendance fees and expenses for the special meeting that was called by Agnew to discuss the matter, despite the authority being in a summer recess.
The Independent cum SNP councillor, convener of communications, museums and cultural development, asked for a suspension of bookings for the hall, claiming they could interfere with scheduled works there.
He also expressed concerns over the Covid pandemic and claimed he had personally seen people failing to observe regulations surrounding the wearing of face masks at events in the Town Hall, where three weddings have already taken place between June and July – despite the pandemic.
Clydebank Musical Society have also booked an October run for their twice-yearly show – reserved two years ago when they staged their last performance.
Obviously a stranger to forward planning, Bailie Agnew questioned why the events had been booked so far ahead, only to be told that weddings are always booked in advance.
Perhaps he believes everyone falls in love at first sight.
I am told that Bailie Agnew and Provost Hendrie are miffed at the fact that they are not allowed to use their offices in the town hall during the current closure of the premises, and that their noses are out of joint because weddings guests are allowed in.
Hubris is never far from the council chambers in West Dunbartonshire.
The voice of reason and common sense came in a contribution from Amanda Graham, pictured left, the authority’s strategic communications, culture and performance manager.
She told Bailie Agnew: “Obviously, these weddings were scheduled some time ago. We don’t have a current programme of work, as in dates finalised.
“We do obviously have a period of six months where we don’t have any activity in the Town Hall, in which I would hope that the works could progress and, in terms of bookings, because we’ve not been open and we’ve been unable to take those calls – we have had a significant number of enquiries but we haven’t taken any further bookings. Next year is very, very light in terms of bookings.”
Unlike a traditional Scottish scramble, it took a long time for the penny to drop, however.
Bailie Agnew was insistent: “I’m still concerned, considering the level of debate we have had over the last three years, or three and a half years, regarding the impending works in the Town Hall.”
The works in question are the refurbishment, decoration and upgrading of the reception area, gallery and the Clyde Room, as well as the maritime gallery.
Gardens at the back also face “reshaping” with West Dunbartonshire Council’s own tradesmen expected to carry out most of the works.
It was confirmed that some of the works cannot go ahead until a building warrant is received from planners, who are the Council’s own members and officials, and that anyway they would not have any impact on the main hall, where the wedding receptions are held.
Talk about a waste of time and public money, West Dunbartonshire Council’s SNP administration aided and abetted by “Bailie” Agnew could open a consultancy on that.
Thespians? The Three Stooges would have a job on their hands competing with Councillors Hendrie, Agnew and McColl.