EXCLUSIVE by BILL HEANEY
News is coming in from whistleblowers that Malcolm Bennie, the £100,000 a year person in charge of Communications at basket case West Dunbartonshire Council, has resigned and will soon be leaving Church Street.
That’s not all – 445 staff, around nine per cent of the total, have resigned since April, 2020. Out of a staff compliment of 25 in the council planning department, where there have been unconscionable delays in processing some applications for planning permission, 22 people have resigned alleging a bullying environment exists there.
Mr Bennie, pictured left, whose remit is (was) Citizen, Culture and Facilities at the Council, was one of the senior officers of the Council lined up to eject me from a council meeting. This was when I asked Provost William Hendrie [politely] to turn up the volume in order that the press and public could hear the business that was being conducted in their name.
He was (is) also the Communications boss who refuses to communicate with The Democrat unless we first join IPSO (Independent Press Scrutiny Organisation), although there is nothing in his job description to indicate that it was his role to be a recruitment officer for outside organisations such as IPSO or anyone else.
He may also be unhappy that we reported a large number of stories which no PR boss for any organisation would ever hope to see, such as the fact that the Burgh Hall in Dumbarton which was refurbished at the extortionate cost of £16 million to local taxpayers was not fit for purpose.
He was too the person in charge of facilities, but had to face stern criticism that that there were no facilities for the Press at council meetings, not even as much as a desk to take notes at or a glass of water to tide us through the boredom.
The provision of facilities provided for the public to witness council meetings was equally dire from a gallery where they could hardly hear what was going on and had only a view of the backs of the heads of councillors and officials, which made it almost impossible to identify who was speaking.
As for culture, I don’t suppose it was Bennie’s fault that his committee convener was the abrasive, Bailie Denis Agnew, who traded his Independent vote to the SNP for a bailieship and gold chain to guarantee the SNP a majority on the council.
And that Agnew, a former Provost when Labour was in power, didn’t know who Charles Rennie Mackintosh, internationally recognised designer of buildings such as the School of Art in Glasgow and Hill House in Helensburgh, was and didn’t think it should be publicly recognised that Mackintosh and his artist wife married at St Augustine’s Scottish Episcopal Church in the High Street.
Culture? We don’t even have a bingo hall never mind a cinema in Dumbarton, while hundreds of thousands of pounds have been channeled in the direction of library and museum projects in Bailie Agnew’s beloved Clydebank.
It’s no surprise then to learn that Stephen West, the Chief Finance Officer, is also departing the scene in Dumbarton, but no one can blame him for the cack-handed way the Council has handled much of its business.
That tree in the picture of the Burgh Hall above, across the road from the Church Street offices, was sadly not a money tree, although that is not to say that every public service in West Dunbartonshire could not have been improved if the SNP government in Edinburgh had not been so tight with its money.
And the Cllr Jonathan McColl led SNP council in Dumbarton had not been a forelock tugger who meekly went along with the cuts imposed by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and her Edinburgh-based colleagues.
The Democrat has no official confirmation of the information in this report because the Council refuse to speak to us and do not reply to our e-mails.
We are banned and boycotted by them – and we wear that as a badge of honour, a clear sign that we are holding power to account.