West Dunbartonshire councillors and officials have absolutely no confidence in this area’s future.

How do I know this? Because members of their Infrastructure, Regeneration and Economic Development committee have voted to approve the transfer of the lease for Napier Hall in Old Kilpatrick for a food bank. For a 10 year period.

As John McEnroe, the tennis player and pundit currently featuring large at Wimbledon, would say: You cannot be serious!

This incredible decision would imply that that elected members and officials, who occupy the £16 million white elephant headquarters in Church Street, believe that this whole community will still require foodbanks to feed poor and hard-pressed families for the next ten years.

Surely they can’t be trying to save what amounts to a pittance in Old Kilpatrick while giving away £millions of public money to one of the world’s richest oil companies to clean up the pollution they left behind just around the corner at the old Esso tank farm in Bowling?

Will the 600 people who the Council expect to get jobs in Bowling still be needing food banks?

Any politician of whatever party who believes this to be the case should defenestrate now.

The future of a community hall in Old Kilpatrick has been a source of discontent in the village for months now.

And councillors have been warned time and again that transferring the lease to Old Kilpatrick Food Parcels, the only such group, so far as we know, to receive a civic reception hosted by Provost Douglas McAllister, whose electoral ward includes OK, could create “significant bad feeling” in the village. It has.

However, the Labour chairman of the committee, Councillor David McBride, believes he knows better than the villagers themselves do.

He said OKFP’s bid of £10,200 a year made more sense for the council – and for the community. Me? I can’t help feeling puzzled as to where a food bank gets £10,000 a year from.

However fears were raised over the future of a playgroup currently using the hall, with the SNP’s Cllr Lauren Oxley calling for a decision to be delayed until later in the year. It wasn’t.

The playgroup are already in situ but OKFP plan to relocate from their existing Station Road Industrial Estate Unit to the hall.

Four groups had applied to take on the running of Napier Hall, which was one of seven council owned facilities the local authority had earmarked for a move into community ownership, or closure, in their budget earlier this year. This was another SNP cut being imposed by Labour.

Another community centre being earmarked for sale or closure – again unbelievably – was at Brucehill, one of the most socially deprived areas of Dumbarton.

When they heard that changes to the hall situation were in the air, Old Kilpatrick Community Council, Napier Hall Community Group and Saint Patrick Lodge all applied to become key holders, initially on a short-term basis, whilst Old Kilpatrick Food Parcels made a bid for a ten-year lease.

Julie Hunter, a member of Napier Hall Community Group, also runs the Old Kilpatrick Playgroup.

She fears now that that the playgroup will be forced to leave the village if the food group moves in and presented evidence from the Care Inspectorate that said they wouldn’t  expect a children’s playgroup “to share a hall with such an operation’.

Julie told one journalist: “Our charity has been serving the families of Old Kilpatrick and the surrounding areas for 55 years.

“Our out-of-school club is now the only club for children at Gavinburn Primary, and we have very close links with the primary and nursery.

“If you choose to vote through the transfer to OKFP then we will be forced to close. We cannot operate in the same building as we cannot guarantee the children’s safety.

“We have also been contacted by people worried about local businesses, car parking and their house prices if a foodbank is placed in such a busy, central location.

“OKFP have adequate premises that they have shaped to fit their needs. I don’t understand the logic of giving that up for a hall that needs a lot of work done to it, and would cost them more each month.”

Michelle Lynn, WDC’s assets co-ordinator, said that there were already examples of playgroups running in the same building as foodbanks – including at Skypoint in Faifley, and previously at Alexandria Community Centre.

However the fears led to calls from the SNP for a pause on plans, with village councillor Lauren Oxley warning that approving them now could lead to ill-feeling between OKFP and other community groups.

If a decision is taken today  then significant bad feeling would be felt within the community, which will not benefit Old Kilpatrick Food Parcels, West Dunbartonshire Council nor the community of the village as a whole, she pleaded.

“Julie added: “OKFP is a viable and worthwhile community group that has helped so many in their hour of need.  We are not questioning their importance.

“Clarity has to be found however for the viability and practicality of current user groups to use the hall. With this in mind we are calling for the matter to be continued until August 16.”

However, Cllr McBride and six of his Labour colleagues stuck to their guns and played the sympathy card.

Cllr McBride refuted the idea of any further discussion, saying: “I fully understand that this has been a difficult period of time for everyone involved.

“Every community group can be accommodated. The hall can continue to operate, and hopefully thrive.  I urge everyone to unite and accept that this hall has a future for all.  The tone of the debate has not been pleasant online.

“But we need to be honest. We have a better bid from OKFP for the council and for the community. We need to all work together to make sure that it now thrives.”

Labour’s motion to approve the transfer to the foodbank was successful by seven votes to five.

However, The Dumbarton Democrat, after seeing the Council minutes prior to the meeting to discuss this last Friday had some reservations about the matter.

And so we decided to ask them some questions:

Can you give me names for the people involved in OKFP?

Can you say why the lease is for ten years?

Does the Council really believe the that food banks are going to continue operating for the next ten years?

Why didn’t the Council give the names when we asked them for that information for a caption to a picture of the OKFP people, one of them dressed in a dinner suit,  who received the civic reception from Provost McAllister?

Did anyone declare an interest at the committee meeting where this lease was approved?

Does having been in existence since 2020 really merit being described as “long established”?

There is a rent free period to this lease. How long will the rent free period last for? Is there an agreement (document) on this?

Needless to say the Council Communications department refused to communicate with us so that we could let our readers know the details behind this decision which was made in their name.

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