I was also one of the members of …

Comment posted Angus Council just voted 15-14 in favour of secret hearing of proposal to take Education Secretary to Judicial Review by Fiona McClymont.

I was also one of the members of the public who was ‘ejected’ before the ‘secret meeting’. On 7 February I sent emails to Councillors expressing my concern about the fact that the public were to be excluded. The only reply from Councillor Nield was a standard ‘out of office’ reply.
Councillor Myles replied with an email addressed (strangely) ‘To all concerned’.

“Angus Alliance Councillors have been, and remain, committeed to debating the new school provision in Arbroath in public.It would allow us to scotch the ridiculous and misleading twisting of facts surrounding this case.However, the purpose of the report which is to be considered by the Council this Thursday is about the legal options available to the Council arising from the decision of Scottish Ministers to refuse consent to the closure of Muirfield and Timmegreens Primary Schools. Under local government law certain categories of information are exempt from publication and should be considered by the Council in private.”

I sent another email to Councillor Myles asking him to explain why this specific matter had to be discussed in private. He replied but did not answer the question.I persisted and sent two further emails seeking an answer.

When I arrived home, having been ‘ejected’ from the secret meeting I had recieved this reply from Councillor Myles dated 9 February (13:51):

“I have just picked up your latest e-mails as I have had many meetings this past few days as you could imagine.

I’m glad you are not speaking from a political point of view, as I have always said when it comes to operating at Local Council Level, National Political stances hinder rather than help the smooth running of a Council.

This Council has been very open and transparent through all this process and it is the decision of the Cabinet Secretary that lacks transparency and could be questioned.

How the council wishes to proceed be it legally or otherwise has to be decided in private.”

What do you think?

Still hasn’t answered the question….

For me his statement “Angus Alliance Councillors have been, and remain, committed to debating the new school provision in Arbroath in public” to be at best ludicrous!

Recent comments by Fiona McClymont

  • Social media has its limits: Angus Council Leader loses it in public following loss of Ewan Smith
    I too live in Angus. Not sure what you can find to stand up for people who have no idea of fairness, honesty and accountability. This is a Council that can uphold a formal grievance that senior education officials did not follow Angus Council policy to investigate the Council’s own failures to provide services to chilidren reported to be at risk of harm. The elected members did not then demand an investigation. I have been seeking an investigation of those complaints since 2008 – Stuart Hosie MP has been trying since 2011 – to obtain an explanation for this unacceptable situation. Guess what they keep avoiding the issue.
  • Seconder for Councillor Ewan Smith’s referral of Arbroath primary school estate decision to full Angus Council
    Ewan Smith is the only person on Angus Council who has presented an informed and intelligent proposal to the people of Angus. However, we have been denied all opportunity to benefit from his input. We have a Council Leader (Iain Gaul) who uses Facebook to make what has been described in the Courier as a ‘Foul Mouthed Rant’ attacking other Councillors. See http://www.facebook.com/pages/Councillor-Iain-Gaul/433761449989181 He does this while claiming that ‘Team Angus’ (his actual words) are working for the betterment of Angus! Angus Council has to be the most undemocratic local authority in the UK: they have what Iain Gaul has described as a ‘new & improved’Scrutiny & Audit’Committee who voted NOT to ‘scrutinise why Angus Council Officials previous proposals had to be called in by the Scottish Government. The Scottish Government criticised Angus Council because the proposals were not ‘fully transparent’ and were not ‘wholly accurate’. The people of Angus paid for that incompetent ‘proposal’ but Angus Council have decided not to find out what went wrong. Instead, they have given Council Officials another bite at the cherry and have excluded Councillor Smith from that process. The Director of Education, Neil Logue vigorously progressed the proposal that was described by Angus Council’s ‘Leader’ as ‘flawed’. Neil Logue leaves angus Council at the end of the month with an early retirement package that includes a generous ‘golden handshake’. The people of Angus will just have to trust that this time round he has not been progressing plans that are ‘not wholly accurate’- the fact that Councillor Smith’s question could not be answered does not bode well…. Never mind if these proposals (arranged at meetings attended by the non elected Mr Logue but excluding the elected Councillor Smith) hit the fan – Mr Logue will no longer be involved or indeed accountable.
  • Councillor Ewan Smith does battle alone at Angus education meeting
    I would also like to know what Mr Russell’s views are on how the SNP controlled Angus Council responded to the fact that the Scottish Government rejected the Angus Council proposals made last year. The SNP controlled parliament rejected those proposals on the grounds that they were not ‘fully transparent’ and that they were not ‘wholly accurate. The people of Angus paid for those proposals to be made, even although they had already rejected them. Employees (and possibly elected members) at Angus Council were responsible for the reasons that the Scottish Government severely criticised the rejected plans. Senior Council Officials are well paid in Angus but failed to deliver a competent proposal. After the local election when the SNP gained control of Angus. I complained to all members of the newly formed Angus Council that it was not acceptable for Angus Council to have made such a mess of the proposal that the Scottish Government was forced to reject. Councillor Gaul (SNP), Leader of the Council replied. He replied using the word ‘flawed’ three times to describe the proposals. He said that Angus Council’s ‘new and improved’ Scrutiny & Audit Committee would consider the matter as a ‘priority’. The Committee voted NOT to ‘scrutinise’ why the Council had been so severely criticised by the Scottish Government or to explain to the people of Angus why/how public money had been wasted on what the Leader of the Council himself called (3X in one email) a ‘flawed’ project! It is sickening that the SNP should have used the ‘Arbroath Schools Issue’ to gain control by clearly supporting Ewan Smith’s campaign against this specific proposal and then to ignore why this mess was allowed to be progressed by non elected Council Officials. The SNP Group in Angus are concealing serious issues that concern the honesty, transparency and competence of Senior Council Officials by failing to investigate or scrutinise their conduct. The SNP have lost any respect or trust I had for this party – they have also lost my vote.
  • Schools campaigner, Councillor Ewan Smith quits Angus Council SNP group and administration to go independent
    The Director of Education, Neil Logue used the Angus Council web site to publish his personal opinions about Ewan Smith’s opposition to the proposals. This was before Ewan was elected as a councillor. Logue’s letter to the Scottish Government complained that Ewan had been uncooperative by refusing to attend meetings ‘behind closed doors’. The proposals were rejected – lack of transparency on the part of the Council was one reason cited. The people in Angus are now expected, by the SNP ‘controlled’ council, to accept that Councillor Smith,Education Vice- Convenor and the Councillor repesenting the a ward that will be directly affected by proposals, can be excluded from Council meetings! This sums up what democracy means in Angus – is any wonder the turn out at local elections is so poor? I feel very badly let down by the Angus SNP group, not simply because they have become turncoats but because they are behaving in such an underhand and undemocratic manner. I was a supporter of Scottish Independence but this whole issue is making me reconsider that position; I will never trust the SNP again.
  • Martha Payne and NeverSeconds hit fund raising target: new kitchen for Mary’s Meals
    The poor dinner ladies are frontline workers. Someone much higher up the ‘food chain’(sorry)in the Council will sit in an office and be paid a promoted salary to ‘manage’ what the dinner ladies are able to provide. It is that person (possibly even persons) who is responsible for goes on prison trays in schools. It is their responsibility to ensure that dinner ladies have good quality ingredients, cooking equipment,facilities and training to produce good food.

    If there is a problem in doing this then it is THEIR responsibility to convey that to elected members so that THEY can address issues.

    Is the whole photograph debacle really down to the actions of a paid council official?

    Time for some clarity (not just in A&B but across Scotland)about who does what within a local authority. Councillors have been elected to make policies. Officials are paid to implement them.

    Lines have become blurred and no one is ever held accountable for their area of responsibility. Especially when it all hits the fan.

    The current system failures are mocking democracy.

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29 Responses to I was also one of the members of …

  1. From Kevin Barthorpe:
    Just not long got back from the meeting at the council. I have to say what a farce the same people that voted for the school voted against members of the public being allowed to stay in the meeting discussing the school & possible costly legal action. It was quite funny how our Provost didn’t even allow those against this measure to state their reasons for this. Not only that in the part we were able to sit in on they were talking about a fair democratic process what is democratic about excluding press & members of the public from something so important to our children & local community.
    I have to say I am not surprised at the councils inability to listen to the views of the public, but cannot understand what was achieved by our exclusion from the meeting after all as a spectator you are not allowed to speak.
    I look forward to the result about the decision as to whether or not they decide to take it to judicial review, but am very concious of the fact it it gets the go ahead it is quite obvious to me that those voting for it have no consideration to what the public want & I hope this will result in many of them losing their posts at the elections in May.

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  2. From a reliable source it has come to our attention that Angus Council has voted unanimously against judicial review. The result of the vote, which was cast in private, was 10 for and 19 against. It was also decided at same meeting that the £8m earmarked for the new super school will be spent outwith the Arbroath area.

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    • Very interesting. If this is true is will save the Angus taxpayer up to £40k.
      Is the decision to spend the £8m outside Arbroath a vindictively punitive one? Warddykes School, by all accounts, is certainly in serious need of attention and some modest upgrading would genuinely improve the school estate in the town?
      That said, we cannot understand why, since the £8million was to be borrrowed, it is still to be spent. Is this not an unnecessary expense?

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  3. I was at the meeting and quite frankly disgusted by what apparently paases for democracy, it saddens me to think that some have come far from the serving of the people road and are well along the self serving road instead.

    Really i wouldn’t mind so much but it is our money they want to play with!

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  4. Nothing surprises me with the majority of our council and wouldn’t be surprised if they take this all the way through the courts, but surely they can’t win!!!!

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    • Legal opinion has been taken on this and, while nothing is assured in law, none see anything but the strength of the case for the Education Secretary’s decision.

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  5. Is it my imagination, or is the behaviour of Angus Council beginning to show similarities to that of the Syrian government – not of course in terms of murderous violence, but in terms of vindictiveness and contempt for reasoned opposition – and democracy?

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  6. The decision not to spend the (possibly illusionary) £8M in Abroath does sound a bit like the child who is losing the game so decides to takes his football away.

    Petulance is the term I think we are looking for.

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    • I don’t know why i’m surprised at the decision after all Peter Neild/Nield/Nailed told us that was what would happen ages ago, seems his crystal ball does occasionally work…

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  7. “Local media sources are telling us that Angus Council has voted to go to Judicial Review.” – latest update from last night above as I type …

    It is now Friday morning. Do we know yet whether they voted for a judicial review or not?

    Why the confusion? (Answer to self: If the Council are in a state of confusion and in disarray then how can anyone else be clear about what they think they’re doing?)

    Is the result of the vote also being kept a secret?

    Or am I just being too dense this morning?

    Summary: Judicial review or not? I’m confused even if nobody else is!

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    • A press release was issued to local media last night for use this morning.
      Directly informing the electorate who will pay the bill for this does not seem to be a council priority.
      We have simply been told that the decision to go to Judicial Review is definite but obviously the local media have the press release and they need to have the story first so we do not know any detail, such as what the actual vote was.

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  8. Not only did they want a secret meeting it seems they want to keep the results secret too, do we the public really come this low down the chain for recieving information?

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  9. Peter Nield is (again) reported today in the Arbroath Herald as having said …

    “No one in Angus Council questions officers and strongly scrutinises them more than I do” (http://www.arbroathherald.co.uk/news/local-headlines/judicial_review_plan_1_2107373)

    That’s in stark contrast to what he wrote to me having (not) looked into my very serious complaint and discussed it with Neil Logue that, “we as as councillors must rely on the advice and work of our officers”.

    I think that the Arbroath schools fiasco is in such a mess because exactly the same incompetent crew are steering it as who I had to deal with.

    I won’t put the link in because it’s a different matter. But if you want to read more about what he wrote to me just google “peter nield is reported to have said”.

    I think it is relevant to this discussion but only because it’s the same people running the show with the same disregard to reality.

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  10. Nield’s rant in full – fair bet he voted ‘yes’ in the secret meeting.

    ANGUS Council’s convener of education, Peter Nield, was so confident of the case for a ‘superschool’ in Arbroath that as we went to press he planned to request at yesterday’s full council meeting a judicial review of Scottish education secretary Mike Russell’s reasons for calling in the project.

    As reported in last week’s Arbroath Herald, the Scottish Government has vetoed proposals to replace both Timmergreens and Muirfield primary schools with a new facility adjacent to the Westway.

    Councillor Nield said: “The Scottish Government Minister has accepted the two reasons for call in have been addressed. Indeed these were addressed in July of 2011 and are now no longer an issue for refusal. However, he asserts that the school condition report was not auditable and therefore not transparent. This is a completely different reason as to the two reasons for call in.

    “No one in Angus Council questions officers and strongly scrutinises them more than I do and I have found no evidence to suggest that the property department and its surveyors have been anything other than open, accountable, transparent and accurate.”

    Councillor Nield went on: “Angus Council is so confident that we are accountable that you will recall we opened this consultation to Audit Scotland, Tayside Police, the Fiscal Service and provided Mr Ewan Smith, of the Muirfield Action Group, with many thousands of pages of information that he asked for. Indeed Mr Smith has been asked to visit the education department and have explained to him all the processes involved. He has refused.

    “Education in Angus is well run, all our schools are well managed and we have increasing attainment levels, highest school meal up take in mainland Scotland, reducing exclusions, nationally recognised Devolved School Management, Early Years provisions, and leading Curriculum for Excellence initiatives. We have much more successes both from individuals, schools and teachers but this is not about closing a well run school.

    “This is about providing a better education provision for Arbroath and schools which have 21st century education capabilities and flexibility. Forfar, Carnoustie, Monifieth, Isla all have such schools, why not Arbroath?

    “Muirfield was chosen for phase one because it is the worst condition school. Phase two (2014/16) will be the next worse condition and at the moment that does look like Warddykes but we will have to see at the time.”

    Councillor Nield stressed: “The Minister has not in any way gone against the process used by Angus Council, the education case substantiated by Education Scotland, nor anything else that Mr Smith keeps quoting in the hope that he will indoctrinate his views into the listing public.

    He explained: “What the Minister has said is he did not accept the survey report.

    “Angus Council will be asked on Thursday for this to go to judicial review because we are so confident that we have been honest, open and accountable that we are willing to let the courts decide.

    “If the officers have erred, which I do not believe they have, then we will deal with that. If not, then the Minister’s decision will be overturned.

    “If people believe in true scrutiny then surely they will support this honest and open approach.”

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    • Just noticed the implication too that if the Minister’s decision is not overturned then, as far as he is concerned, it will be because “the officers have erred”. Nothing to do with him, then.

      “If the officers have erred, which I do not believe they have, then we will deal with that. If not, then the Minister’s decision will be overturned.”

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  11. Our other local paper has confrmed that the secret vote resulted in 16-13 for Judicial Review. It’s self-explanatory to work out who the first 15 are (will we ever be told?) but the 16th man (or woman) will have to be subject to a game of ‘guess who?’

    As this is now going to judicial review I will make this my last post and allow the courts to sort this out. My own feeling is it’s an incredible waste of time, flies smack in the face of public opinion and will only succeed in delaying to channel energies to properly improve the school estate while this runs its’ course. Who’s thinking of the children now?

    I’ll love you all and leave you. You may see me popping up with comments on other matters, but not this one.

    I’m sure our new friend Cougar (or Is that Simon?) will keep you all fully informed of developments in an accurate manner.

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  12. If cllr Nield as he states in his statement to the Arbroath Herald wants to be honest, open and accountable why did he not allow the press & members of the public to attend yesterdays decision on the judicial review. There is nothing open & transparent about excluding people from a process that was already made public. Although I am aware this decision was not cllr Nields alone it was him & his partner(cllr Fairweather) in all things wrong with this process that pushed it forward. Yet again 3 out the 4 councillors responsible for representing the views of the west end of the town have let us down. I have no doubt they will however state that they have been representing the silent majority(what a cop out).
    Please note like Ewan this will be my last statement on this subject I however have to hope that the court decision will support what has been said by the Scottish Government.

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  13. How soon is something like this likely to be heard? And what if there’s a change of administration ahead of that?

    In other words, once they’ve formally started the process with the court, can the Council change its mind?

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  14. In these times of severe budget constraint, the Angus Councillors, of all parties have shown a total disregard for their constituents. I am non-political and the Alliance members, in particular, appear to be hell bent on indulging in a political witch hunt regardless of the financial consequences.
    Councillor Nield is noted for showing a total lack of decency, good manners and consideration to those people, council staff included, who do not concur with his more often than not extravagant proposals. We are paying the bills, including his remuneration from the public purse, and his behaviour certainly cannot be viewed as delivering value for money.
    Time to revert to the old Rate Payers Association type of representation – local councils should be about serving the community and not about political point scoring.
    The constituents can sort this out at the next election and Nield should be the first one to be ‘booted out’ – we simply can’t afford him and those like him.

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  15. I was also one of the members of the public who was ‘ejected’ before the ‘secret meeting’. On 7 February I sent emails to Councillors expressing my concern about the fact that the public were to be excluded. The only reply from Councillor Nield was a standard ‘out of office’ reply.
    Councillor Myles replied with an email addressed (strangely) ‘To all concerned’.

    “Angus Alliance Councillors have been, and remain, committeed to debating the new school provision in Arbroath in public.It would allow us to scotch the ridiculous and misleading twisting of facts surrounding this case.However, the purpose of the report which is to be considered by the Council this Thursday is about the legal options available to the Council arising from the decision of Scottish Ministers to refuse consent to the closure of Muirfield and Timmegreens Primary Schools. Under local government law certain categories of information are exempt from publication and should be considered by the Council in private.”

    I sent another email to Councillor Myles asking him to explain why this specific matter had to be discussed in private. He replied but did not answer the question.I persisted and sent two further emails seeking an answer.

    When I arrived home, having been ‘ejected’ from the secret meeting I had recieved this reply from Councillor Myles dated 9 February (13:51):

    “I have just picked up your latest e-mails as I have had many meetings this past few days as you could imagine.

    I’m glad you are not speaking from a political point of view, as I have always said when it comes to operating at Local Council Level, National Political stances hinder rather than help the smooth running of a Council.

    This Council has been very open and transparent through all this process and it is the decision of the Cabinet Secretary that lacks transparency and could be questioned.

    How the council wishes to proceed be it legally or otherwise has to be decided in private.”

    What do you think?

    Still hasn’t answered the question….

    For me his statement “Angus Alliance Councillors have been, and remain, committed to debating the new school provision in Arbroath in public” to be at best ludicrous!

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