The man they couldn’t gag

Now is not the time for a blame game, says West Dunbartonshire Council’s Labour leader.

The quote was attributed to Labour’s Martin Rooney during a so-called, “in-depth” interview in which he  is alleged to have “insisted he didn’t blame WDC’s former SNP administration”.

If this is true then someone should take Cllr Rooney by the lapels, give him a right good metaphorical shake and remind him he is a politician.

It’s his job to blame people, especially the opposition, when they make a mess of things at great cost to the community.

The SNP, aided and abetted by cack-handed, highly paid officials have done just that for years around here.

Of course, Cllr Rooney himself must take his share of the blame for the state we are in.

The powder puff opposition fielded by Labour to take on the SNP and a couple of eccentric Tories were never up to the job, not fit for purpose.

By describing what’s happening in the old Burgh Hall as the local authority faces its biggest ever financial crisis as some kind of a game is unforgivable.

Unless, of course, it is giving you a tidy a tidy income and pension to support you through your latter years.

It’s not footballers’ wages, but Martin and some of his “senior” colleagues are pocketing £50,000 a year with a few of their chief officials getting double that.

It’s a not inconsiderable reward for mediocrity and failure; for a sinecure in fact. A golden parachute beyond the dreams of avarice.

I have just had a sneak preview of what is being proposed to make the savings that will attempt to compensate for the budget black hole of £21 million left behind by the SNP.

Or at least make a dent in it of £14.5 million, leaving £7 million floating around in the Church Street ether. I’ll report on that later.

Martin Rooney, pictured left, is going around with the political equivalent of a begging bowl warning us that if the SNP government fails to dip into its sporran then this community will be living in local government penury.

Services will be slashed, jobs will go and West Dunbartonshire will decline into a pit of deprivation and despair, where mental illness figures are soaring.

My heart sank when I read this quote from him: “To be fair to the previous SNP administration they weren’t properly funded either. So it’s the council which has missed out and our citizens and communities who have lost out. It’s not a political thing where the Labour or SNP administrations are to blame. Because it’s our whole area that is impacted.”

Just what does that mean?

What followed was this plea in mitigation for the SNP: “Actions of the UK and Scottish Government have impacted us. But the main aspect for me is that the Scottish Government does not properly fund West Dunbartonshire.”

Now, that sounds like the blame game to me.

My political heart sunk further when he added: “And that was the same for the previous administration as it is for us.  The previous administration used reserves and kicked the can down the road. That’s acceptable. You build up reserves and then use them to help the council during difficult times.

“But when you become reliant on it to the extent that you leave a £13.8 million budget gap in the next year then you end up where we were in December. We used to set three-year budgets giving people stability and security. Now it’s a firefighting exercise every 12 months.”

What comes to mind is the ancient dictum that if you can’t stand the heat then stay out of the kitchen. In other words, Cllr Rooney should consider handing in his resignation.

Either that or he should get his act together and start thinking positive.

His recent address to the nation, the nation being West Dunbartonshire, was full of blame for others, which is an easy way out.

What he should be doing instead of offering comfort to the SNP, who have been found out just in time to stop Scotland exiting from the UK, is to start speaking in a language that the punters understand, not endlessly quoting £ millions which mean little to anyone.

If he thinks the man or woman on the Haldane bus understands local government finance then he is simply mistaken, cloud cuckoo land comes to mind.

Talk of core funding and cash shortfalls and cost of living uplifts are for the men and women in grey suits, council officials and the like.

It’s all away above the heads of a large percentage of the electorate who show their disinterest when the time to vote comes around and the poll figures show they couldn’t give a monkey’s.

That’s why we need leaders to get us out of the mess we are in, good leaders and officials who don’t waste our time flaunting their ego and making a misery of the lives of employees junior to them, as we have just seen in an employment tribunal decision.

West Dunbartonshire Council is crying out for change. We need brighter, more experienced intelligent councillors full of ideas to improve matters, not people in the blame game which Martin Rooney claims not to take part in, but does just that on an ongoing basis.

The SNP council here presided for five years over a festering sore of inefficiency and arrogance.

What we need now from Labour is what their Scottish leader Anas Sarwar asked of Nicola Sturgeon and her SNP colleagues in the Scottish parliament last week.

And that is to get off their backsides and get on with it.

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