Sleekit. The Labour Group on West Dunbartonshire Council can only be described as such after their decision last night to carry on with the politically suicidal decision to close Balloch Library.
They put politics before people and left the residents of Haldane, Jamestown, Levenvale and Balloch dismayed and angry about their decision NOT to invest a meagre £50,000 in this vital community hub.
This was despite the fact that they have a “slush fund” of more than £1 million in the bank, saved from cuts they didn’t need to make,  which could have been used to do the decent thing and cancel their plan to bring down the axe on this well used and highly appreciated facility, which does so much more than lend out books.
The way the Labour Group did this brought shame on the Labour Party at a time when nationally they had shown they were at last emerging from 14 years of Conservative government at Westminster and a similar period of SNP rule in the Scottish Parliament at Holyrood.
And when they had taken on and beaten soundly the SNP who had been in charge at West Dunbartonshire Council until last May when they promised to give the electorate here real power to influence decisions after proper consultation.
The protesters had to listen to long, read out rants from Labour councillors David McBride and Michelle McGinty, both of which would have passed for party political broadcasts for the Labour Party and had really nothing to do with the matter at hand.
Cllr McBride’s warning about the possibility of a bankrupt council if they voted not to close the library was nonsense.
Labour got Cllr Danny Lennon from Clydebank – I genuinely believed he was better than to agree to this – to move the closure in order that Labour leader Martin Rooney would be able to come up with a pathetic “it wisnae me” when the Lomond community he represents next goes to the polls. I have the feeling the electors in the Lomond ward will remember this though.

Labour’s Martin Rooney, Provost Douglas McAllister, Cllrs David McBride and Michelle McGinty.

The truth is that there was no consultation about the Balloch Library decision and the chief official who prepared the closure report had only been five minutes in the job and had been employed as a spin doctor until mysteriously emerging in this promoted post.  The communication with the public about what was about to happen was non existent.

The official in question could not even answer the basic question as to how many computer terminals there were and would be for the young people who use them for their school work and the teenagers and others who use them to make job applications and to see what employment is available. Newspapers which carry job ads cost can cost more than £2 each.

However, this parcel of rogues unashamedly strutted their stuff in the regenerated – at a cost of £16 million, no less – Burgh Hall in Dumbarton, arrogantly ensuring that the 30 or so members of the public present were made to feel like second class citizens.

Provost Douglas McAllister, who was supposed to be in charge of the proceedings, grudgingly invited two women, Hannah Redford and Cara Thom, who were more articulate than his councillor colleagues, to come down from the gallery into the hall and address West Dunbartonshire’s very own gaulieters.
Hannah Redford and Cara Thom and her daughter at the meeting. Also in the picture Cllrs Lawrence O’Neill, Danny Lennon and Hazel Sorrell. Picture by Bill Heaney
They said they were angry and dismayed as were a host of people from children to young mothers to pensioners that the library, which is the only public space suitable and available, had been taken from them without any consultation whatsoever.
Especially since £100,000 had not long before been spent on refurbishing the library using public money.
When they had finished their excellent speeches, they were quickly shunted back up to the public gallery to spend the rest of the meeting with the ordinary folk who expressed the view that they felt unwelcome and had been treated like riff raff.
Provost McAllister, who told them pompously that photographs were not to be taken from the gallery, despite the fact that the meeting was being filmed and recorded for public consumption, is the prospective Labour candidate for West Dunbartonshire at the upcoming General Election.
The odds on him beating fellow Bankie, the SNP’s Martin Docherty-Hughes, must have lengthened considerably after last night’s performance. The SNP will be delighted.
Free Press? Freedom of  Speech? Not on the agenda on this Provost’s watch.
Most, if not all of the Labour Group members present, were wearing poppies at the meeting in remembrance of the fallen in two world wars.
These people made the ultimate sacrifice to give this generation the privilege of living in a democracy where there is freedom of speech for everyone, not just those approved by the establishment.
The protesters at this meeting certainly did not feel there was freedom of speech and were of the view that democracy has died in West Dunbartonshire.


Social media and mobile telephones were exceedingly active in Balloch today. Residents of the community around Haldane are raging that West Dunbartonshire Council have come to a decision to close their local library and community hub.  It is very clear that they will not forget this when they next go to the polls to vote. Since Provost McAllister refused to allow only two objectors to speak at the meeting I considered I would be doing a public service to report something of what others had to say.

Gillian Bell told Facebook friends that she was “shocked” by what had happened. And by the spin and  economy with the truth that spilled from the mouths of officials and members of the Labour Group in a vain attempt to excuse themselves from blame for this appalling decision.

The misinformation and propaganda poured out for nearly two hours was shameful. Balloch Primary was seemingly only running at 69% capacity so the Council believes that there’s more than enough space for the library.

Gillian Bell wrote:”I wonder if this was purely a paper exercise and no one visited the school during a school day, as the 2 schools are struggling for space and already juggling classes like gym and music. Outwith school hours, the library would use other space inside the school for group activities, as it’s a Council building that is available for letting hires. So, who gets priority for this?

“Between Parents Nights for 2 schools and the nursery; 3 Parent Councils running fundraising activities; Haldane Youth Trust running after school activities, etc the school is already well used. They have categorically said from the initial letter in September that the library would be totally separate from the school, so the public wouldn’t go into the school at all.”

It is the public’s view that there is not enough space in the campus to accommodate a library and that the school would not be safe given that men, possibly suspect men, would be mixing with pupils.

Fiona Dickinson wrote: “It’s absolutely ridiculous, if it wasn’t for Bookbug when Jamie was a baby I’d have no social life. Parents need these groups and older people need interactions with the staff and others at other groups. They [the councillors] clearly don’t care about the community at all.”

And Danii McKellar added: “I wouldn’t be wanting people coming onto the campus where my kid was. But maybe that’s just me thinking it’s really weird to put public libraries that everyone can use…. Inside a school. Ye that’s my issue ! They’re rushing this through and safety issues r not being addressed at all. It’s wrong. It’s bad enough that they house pedos near schools, now they’re putting public libraries in them. So does that mean pedos can’t use the library because they’re not allowed near children? Or is this an exception to the rule?”

Gillian Bell responded: “Danii McKellar exactly! Or adults that aren’t allowed near kids can go in as staff can’t vet anyone going in! Plus it’s gonna be small compared to the building they have the now so loads of groups who use it need to find somewhere else to go ! They will just close it altogether after few years as it won’t get used.”

Danii McKellar said: “I hope it gets blocked. I don’t have kids, but I was a child who was abused, and I would absolutely freaking hate for children to not have a safe space, when school is meant to be a safe space for every single child.”


Much more will be reported on this important matter here over the weekend, but that will not include the contributions from Labour and the SNP who made a political football out of a very important local issue. The people of Haldane are concerned to keep this matter in the public eye before the library is imposed on these schools without consultation. The Council has the money, so there is no reason why this can’t happen. All they need is the acumen and the courage to do this. Labour has to show they are not cowards and to stop exaggerating about the consequences. There is no chance of the Council being made bankrupt if they impose this closure. There is a very good chance though that they will lose their seats if they do so. What should happen is that the Council should be put into special measures and members should have their salaries suspended.

Labour Group members Martin Rooney, Michelle McGinty, David McBride, Clare Steel, June McKay, Gurpreet Singh Johal and Hazel Sorrell. They voted No.

One comment

  1. another community resource closed without consultation the so called Alexandria Leisure Centre has lost most of its small and medium meeting rooms for office spaces leaving only three areas for community lets which is games hall the cafe area and a Disco room. Small groups young and old find it hard to get meeting places these days.

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