NOTEBOOK by BILL HEANEY
West Dunbartonshire is a dump – and the Council services are shockingly bad.
The Council can’t blame and ban me for this statement, at least not again they can’t.
They only have to look at their own on-line complaints column which they foolishly continue to publish.
They should scrap it. It’s a form of masochism. Not just because it damages their reputation, but for the fact that it underscores their naivety.
I had a look at it earlier this week when 125 people had vented their spleen about all those things which lead to the Council attracting the unflattering publicity that it does.
When I looked at it again the comments had disappeared. How swiftly the Labour administration has adopted the policies of the basket case SNP who preceded them. Secret Scotland indeed.
These columns frequently attract the question: What are they there for?
The questions generally are about the state of the place. The overgrown footpaths and grass verges and bin collection services.
Sometimes they touch on much more serious matters, such as the ability of our care homes to cope with the ever increasing number of elderly and vulnerable people, about children’s services and education and social work.
And why did so many people die in council homes during the Covid pandemic.
About our dystopian town centres in Dumbarton and the Vale, the shambles of the withdrawal of grass cutting services and the pot holes in the roads.
Then there is the desperate lack of social housing and the failure to repair and make wind and water tight the houses they have built. The dampness problems that have been with us since time immemorial.
Empty shops and dangerous dereliction at Dumbarton and Vale of Leven town centres.
All too often the people who have taken the trouble to e-mail their complaints do not receive answers and are simply referred elsewhere.
Naturally, they become angry at that piece of nonsense which involves writing to one complaint line only to be referred to another.
Why does the walkway along the banks of the River Leven from the Quay to the football stadium have that unfinished look about it?
Why is the council failing to come up with a plan for the future of the Castle area and even considering a planning application for new houses in the car park there?
We almost had hundreds of children having to walk to school in all weathers while councillors drove around in their expenses subsidised motor cars.
And the Provost, pictured right, on a nice little earner plus expenses, driving to his next engagement with a council officer in tow and wearing a gold chain as if everything in the garden was rosy. It’s rosy for him, of course, Two Jobs McAllister. He could even be our next MP.
The Labour council claimed victory for having fought off the despicable SNP buses cut for the school pupils which they had earlier insisted they had to implement.
However, they were being economical with the truth. If they had the powers to ignore the SNP government instructions to take the transport away from poor children in deprived areas then they also had the power but not the savvy to ignore all the other Nationalist cuts.
The truth about this is that their planning on this matter was awful and their public “consultation” meetings an utter shambles. I should know. Unlike the councillors, I was there and was embarrassed that this was being allowed to happen in my home town.
I had a visitor at the weekend. She was brought up in Dumbarton but had moved to Paris when she married a Frenchman. She was utterly dismayed when she looked around this place.
Her heart sunk when she saw that the best view in the town, from the old distillery site in Castle Street across the river to Dumbarton Castle and Levengrove Park, had been turned into a supermarket car park.
Could Dumbarton Rock have become a visitor attraction such as Mont Saint-Michel?
In any French town, the most would have been made of this view and of the history of the place to which visitors would have been attracted.
“It could have been another Mont Saint-Michel,” she said. “Dumbarton would have been a key reception place for people travelling to Loch Lomond and Oban, Glencoe and the West Highlands and Islands.”
However, there is no vision in the town hall here, where some people earn remuneration packages of up to £150,000 a year, and dullards who achieved little or nothing for this community in the past have gone off elsewhere with “golden parachute” retirement packages.
Before I close this Notebook, I really should explain to readers why my coverage of the Council’s decision to invest £millions of our money in the polluted ExxonMobil tank farm site at Bowling was so circumspect.
This is not something for the council to be proud of. Indeed many people will consider that they have got into bed with the Devil.
Unite the union confirmed just yesterday (17 August) that around 200 members have withdrawn their labour over health and safety concerns at ExxonMobil’s petrochemical plant in Mossmorran.
Unite revealed that workers have downed tools over health and safety warning signals and procedures not being in full working operation across the plant and the workforce not being informed of this, or any procedures put in place to protect them.
The trade union says it has received reports from workers citing repeated examples over a year that alarm systems are not working in areas at the petrochemical plant and workers not being notified.
This is legally required in the event of any leakages, blasts or exposure to hazardous materials and chemicals at the plant.
Unite’s members have accordingly withdrawn their labour under the terms of UK legislation, Employment Rights Act 1996 Section 44 and 100.
This legislation states that workers have the ‘right’ to withdraw from, and to refuse to return to, a workplace that is unsafe, without being subject to any detriment including the loss of wages.
Shockingly, the Council’s new pals, ExxonMobil, and the contractors are to date, refusing to pay the workers following the withdrawal of labour under the legislation’s terms.
Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “Unite will robustly defend the legal right of our members to withdraw their labour over health and safety concerns.
“It is completely unacceptable that the company and the various contractors on site are refusing to pay our members their wages. This is a legal duty and not open to interpretation. Our members will be receiving their union’s unflinching support.”
Unite’s members at ExxonMobil’s plant are employed on construction engineering maintenance contracts and they are split between different contractors at the plant.
The trade union is also calling on the Health and Safety Executive to immediately investigate due to the seriousness of the claims raised by the workforce. There have been various recorded incidents at the plant over safety, the risk of pollution and environmental damage.
Bob MacGregor, Unite industrial officer, added: “Unite’s members working for Altrad, Bilfinger, and Kaefer at the Mossmorran plant are rightly furious at potentially being exposed to dangerous chemicals due to failings in the plant’s safety procedures.”
“To add insult to injury, ExxonMobil and the contractors are refusing to pay the wages of the workers following the withdrawal of labour on health and safety grounds.
“This is not an isolated incident, these safety breaches and failings have been ongoing for around a year and nothing to date has been resolved.
“That’s why Unite is calling for the Health and Safety Executive to urgently intervene due to the seriousness of the claims, and the chequered history of the plant.”
Oh, and finally, just to close this column, I should point out that in my view the talk of 1,000 new jobs being created at Bowling is preposterous, pure pie in the sky.
Someone should tell Martin Rooney, the Labour leader, and his colleagues that this would be the equivalent of bringing back Burroughs, Polaroid and Westclox to Vale of Leven and re-opening Strathleven Bonded Warehouses in Dumbarton. It’s nonsensical.
Our politicians – Labour and SNP – are being led down the garden path, and it’s not a very tidy garden either. It could do with a complete makeover and with the grass cut too, of course.
PS: The Lucy Letby case of the killer nurse and the arrogance and hubris of the health board officials who refused to review the case even after senior medical staff alerted them to the fact that something was seriously wrong should be a wake-up call to public officials everywhere, West Dunbartonshire included, that they should pay attention to whistle blowers and media people who raise matters which should be treated with serious concern. One would think that West Dunbartonshire Council would have learned from the downfall of both Nicola Sturgeon and Boris Johnston that refusing to listen to alerts of this nature will make them sit up and listen. But hubris is seeping out from the under the doors of the Council offices in Church Street in Dumbarton and Hall Street in Clydebank. Their ‘We know best’ and ‘It wisnae us’ attitude will not sustain for much longer. It’s plain for all to see that any plan they claim to have to take West Dunbartonshire forward is not working. It’s time they had a long, hard look in the mirror and asked themselves if what they are doing is good enough or if they are taking the public for a very expensive ride. Someone should shout stop — and shout it now.