CSB, we are obvioulsy thinking along the same …

Comment posted Council now deploys online ‘Spy Accounts’ in covert surveillance of local critics by Councillor George Freeman.

CSB, we are obvioulsy thinking along the same lines.

Councillor George Freeman also commented

  • Treble T, I do not have the actual figures but the norm would be two senior councillors (including Dick walsh) and one or two senior officials (including the CEO). An FOI request from any member of the public would provide this information.
  • Roddy, well said. I am with you. I have never seen a back hander in my life and would not wish to. If there is eveidence, then I say bring it forward so that those responsible can be dealt with ASAP. Some of us are there to do the best that we can for Argyll & Bute and its residents.
  • A brief initial response with (no doubt) more to follow.

    I am astounded but, unfortunately, not surprised. If “spying” is used by Argyll & Bute Council, the ConDemAll administration is clearly paranoid if any of them were aware of this practice and allowed it to go unchallenged. If they did not know about it, then this raises further serious concerns.

    Given my own well publicised position over the past 15 months, I am now wondering if I have been subject to spying? There are questions that now need to be asked about the legality of such practices. What is the difference between this and phone hacking?

    Many questions now need to be asked and I will be raising this with my opposition councillor colleagues at a meeting on Monday.

Recent comments by Councillor George Freeman

  • Pro-indy Sunday Herald seen utterly to concoct smear on Labour
    Neil, given the report in the Sunday Herald, it would appear that, in their opinion, you are now Leader of the Council? Either that, or it is down to the poor quality of the reporting in the Sunday Herald who obviously do not check their facts before running with a story.

    It is good to note how disciplined and united your Group is within the Council under your leadership.

  • Council by-election result: Labour takes first seat in Argyll and Bute Council since 1999
    Warmest congratulations to Neil MacIntyre for a successful campaign. I look forward to working constructively with him over the next three years.

    We will now have four MacIntyres on the Council which will no doubt cause a bit more confusion. I just wonder if we will have another MacIntyre standing in the upcoming by-election in Ward 5 – Oban North and Lorn to fill the vacancy created by the resignation of Louise Glen-Lee?

  • Will Argyll and Bute Council change its name?
    Question, on that basis, Argyll no longer exists so why are we using it and why are folk promoting it?
  • Will Argyll and Bute Council change its name?
    Graeme, most folk I speak to agree that at 32, there are already too many local authorities in Scotland. The number should certainly be reduced to approximately half that number. As an example, why should Ayrshire be split across three different local authority areas as it is at the moment?

    The biggest problem that local authorities face is the centralisation of powers by the Scottish Government in Edinburgh. We also see it with our Police Service, Fire & Rescue Service etc, etc.

    Are you suggesting that, in the unlikely event that Scotland was to vote for separation from the rest of the UK, that we would be going back to the old Burgh Council system? If so, they may have “real responsibilities and budgets” as you put it but for what? Street cleaning and litter collection with all the education, social work and roads services etc being centralised under the SNP in Ediburgh?

  • Will Argyll and Bute Council change its name?
    Question, if you are referring to the Argyll & Bute Council area, mail to the Helensburgh & Lomond area goes to a G82, G83 or G84 post code as it is not part of the county of Argyll which has PA post codes as it comes under the Paisley sorting office area.

    Unfortunately it is not as simple as most folk think because there is no direct correlation between the Argyll & Bute Council boundaries and the boundaries of the county of Argyll.

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99 Responses to CSB, we are obvioulsy thinking along the same …

  1. hehehehehehehehehehehehehehehehehehehehehehehehehehehehehehehehehehehehehehehehehehehehehehehehehehehehehehehehee

    Not surprised in the least they were spying, already knew that ;)

    Gobsmacked that its now being punted publically as Best Practice. Only Argyll & Bute Council could come out with something like that…

    or maybe Angus!

    Congratulation A&BC, yet again the laughing stock of Scotland!

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    • I think the evidence strongly suggests both.

      There is of course nothing wrong with a council making full use of social media – indeed this is to be applauded. However, as Ms Smith’s own slides emphasise a council must make it transparent and obvious that the “persona” being used is the Council. If council employees were using pseudonyms to allow them to covertly join the Facebook pages of campaign groups then this is serious stuff. If they were further using pseudonyms to comment on blog sites (such as FA) and these were trolling activities then this is very serious. As regulars on here will know I have previously aired concerns that the “Simon” troll may have been emanating from the Council.

      ARSN took spying by the Council very seriously and we vetted all e-mail addresses and used our own, non-public forum to ensure that our private discussions remained just that. I am sure, however, that many of the schools campaigners that used Facebook for their own school’s campaigns will be horrified to discover that the Council seem to have been monitoring their communications.

      The large pachyderm in the room revolves around what the Council used the information it gathered for. There may have not just been a breach of ethical standards here but also the possibility of criminal activity relating to the Data Protection Act.

      Yet again, I’m agog.

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      • The Data Protection Act places a number of obligations on local authorities when collecting information about individuals – in particular the UK Information Commissioner states:
        Organisations that hold your personal information must use it fairly, keep it secure, make sure the information is accurate and keep it up to date. You have the right to expect this from them.
        When organisations collect your information:
        they should usually be open about why they are collecting it;
        they should only use it in a reasonable way that you would expect; and
        they shouldn’t use it in a way that is unfair to you.
        In some cases organisations do not have to be open when they collect information, for example when the police collect information about a suspect during an ongoing investigation. Openness is the general rule though, whether you’re dealing with an official body or a private one.

        I suggest that anyone who has concerns about what information has been collected on them by ABC submits a demand for a copy of the data held to:
        Data Protection Officer
        Argyll & Bute Council
        Kilmory
        Lochgilphead
        PA31 8RT
        This has to be done in writing, but can be by email (iain.jackson~at~argyll-bute.gov.uk – you will need to change ~at~ to @) . The Council has the right to charge up to ten pounds – whether they will have the nerve to under these circumstances is an interesting point.
        This type of request is called a ‘subject access request’ and should provide enough information to identify who ‘you’ are. You can say if you want data about a particular subject, or just everything. The council are obliged to tell you where they have obtained the information they hold.
        Sample letter:
        ——————
        Your full address

        Data Protection Officer
        Argyll & Bute Council
        Kilmory
        Lochgilphead
        PA31 8RT

        XX February 2012

        Dear Sir or Madam
        Subject access request

        (Your full name and address and any other details to help identify you and the information you want.)
        Please supply the information about me I am entitled to under the Data Protection Act 1998 (optional: relating to ….).

        If you need any more information from me, or a fee, please let me know as soon as possible.
        Yours faithfully
        Signature
        ————–
        If it turns out that the council have collected information on you in a way that is unfair, for example by not telling you that it was doing so, you would have grounds for a complaint to the UK Information Commissioner – http://www.ico.gov.uk/complaints/data_protection.aspx.

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  2. Just a quick note for anyone concerned about their privacy on ForArgyll or its associated services. As far as we know we haven’t been subject to ‘covert’ spying, and we are certain that our commenters’ details are secure. ABC aren’t that good ;-)

    I am appalled at this breach of trust, regulation and statutory obligation — as a communications professional I can’t see how this so-called communications officer can stay in post.

    It is a filip however to see out material being used on the ‘It shouldn’t happen to a council’ slide. Superb!

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  3. A brief initial response with (no doubt) more to follow.

    I am astounded but, unfortunately, not surprised. If “spying” is used by Argyll & Bute Council, the ConDemAll administration is clearly paranoid if any of them were aware of this practice and allowed it to go unchallenged. If they did not know about it, then this raises further serious concerns.

    Given my own well publicised position over the past 15 months, I am now wondering if I have been subject to spying? There are questions that now need to be asked about the legality of such practices. What is the difference between this and phone hacking?

    Many questions now need to be asked and I will be raising this with my opposition councillor colleagues at a meeting on Monday.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  4. That this doesn’t even surprise me probably speaks volumes about the sorry state that A&BC have become. They have always experienced difficulties recruiting the highest calibre of staff due to the geography limiting the resource pool available and I think most can understand these difficulties and have some sympathy. Limited ability can be dealt with through training and development – what we are seeing now, and have been for a couple of years, is the emergence of something far more unpalatable.

    This is the development of an ugly culture where the people the Council are supposed to represent are graded with responses to them influenced by that grade. Notice in the presentation flowchart it advises to ‘Base response on circumstances, influence of blogger and prominence of stakeholder‘ before asking the question ‘Will you respond?’ It would appear that, once again, George Orwell got it right!

    Also note in the ‘Response Considerations’ section of the presentation it states ‘TONE – Make sure your tone reflects the council’s professional approach’ – well based on the media releases we have seen over the past two years throughout the school closure process right up to the rambling rant a few days ago it would appear this advise has been taken. The tone of them does indeed reflect the Council’s professional approach – it is just that the phrase would make more sense if the letters ‘u’ and ‘n’ were added before ‘professional’

    Very pleased to see Mike Russell’s letter and his understandable and justified anger. In particular I am pleased to see him enquire that if the story is true then who in the Council knew of it as that gets to the very heart of where this culture is stemming from. It is essential that any enquiry is carried out by an external party as there are clear suspicions that any inappropriate behaviour (if there is any – legal disclaimer!) is done with the authority of people near the top of the food chain and it is quite apparent that the mud rarely, if ever, sticks to them, where A&BC are involved.

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  5. Interesting to see how councils are reacting to the explosion of social media, seems we have a lot to be thankful for, those who are open and honest have nothing to fear, the rest should be running scared.

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  6. Well what a lovely development, this is the same lady that did all the dirty work for the Oban administration councillor to get George Berry sacked from his radio programme for telling the truth.Surely now the councillors will confirm his name or is it okay for decent people to be treated like garbage as long as we cover that rats back.
    Great ammunition folks lets go for the jugular.
    Power to the People.

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    • For Neil Macintyre” If you look at Slide 6 in Ms Smith’s powerpoint presentation you will see that, curiously, she herself displays the emails of hers leaked to us, published by us and showing that she had indeed intervened to get an established and popular volunteer presenter at Oban FM (George Berry, as you say) sacked because of his persistent criticism of the council.
      Amusingly, go to Google Images and search for ‘Cleland Sneddon’. You will find that already our illustration of this hapless Executive Director who drove two failed sets of school closure proposals – and reproduced also on Ms Smith’s Slide 6 – has now made its way to that gallery. It’s obviously caught the public imagination.

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  7. Pingback: Argyll News: Argyll First supports call for independent inquiry into council ‘spying’ | For Argyll

  8. The Dunoon Observer is now saying:

    The council would not say which groups or individuals it had spied on, saying: “The council does not, nor ever would, condone the covert use of social media.”

    Which is rather different from :

    Argyll and Bute Council does not use and does not condone the use of covert social media accounts that they said to the Herald.

    The observer quote goes on to say:
    “A full investigation is underway and a member of staff has been suspended.”

    http://www.dunoon-observer.com/index.php/news/1-news/3821-is-big-brother-watching-you

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      • Thanks for the prompt response … but I am obviously being a bit dim – I can see the link to the Herald article, but not the actual presentation that you grabbed before it was withdrawn. It@s probably staring me in the face, but I can’t see it! So a wee tip for a hint would be fab!

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        • Mairi

          Click on the text josmith in the paragraph at the end of the main story which reads

          Note: Here is Ms Smith’s back up powerpoint presentation for her appearance at the ‘Epic Social Media for Public Services Scotland’ conference in Glasgow on 28th September 2011, (josmith). Readers will note, as we did with some amusement, that Slide 6 is devoted solely to uncredited material from For Argyll under the heading ‘It shouldn’t happen to a Council’. No examples of negative media coverage from any other source are given. We take it as confirmation of our good judgment that we are of such singular concern to an administration and an officer whose reputations for probity of practice are now beyond recall.

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  9. Unbelievable
    Unethical

    Such a lapse of ethics is a Window into the present culture of AB&C. The CEO should have strong thoughts about the tendering of her resignation.

    If the outcome of this is that only a middle manager or memenernof staff is sacked then I will be appalled.

    As a professional in the oil industry I regularly operate in west African countries. Our CEO has transmitted the message both via communication channels and in person that our dealing have to have the highest ethical standards. No transgression no matter how small is acceptable.

    This is the sort of message that should be transmitted loud and clear within abc.

    I sleep well at night knowing that my businesss dealing are carried out with a straighter than straight bat.
    I wonder how many of the abc senior management will be sleeping well tonight?

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  10. I’m from Edinburgh, not Argyll, but I just wanted to offer my support and express my outrage at this behaviour by your council. And I thought Edinburgh Council was bad …

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    • For Fergus Smith: Good to have your support on this Fergus.
      If you read some of the other articles on the screen – with another coming up in an hour or so, you’ll find that a council nearer your perch – Angus – can give both your and our candidates a run for the No 1 spot as public sector jaw dropper.

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  11. Sorry about being late replying newsroom just finished work.
    Had a blether with George and will be contacting the Herald in the morning to give them our side of the story.Do you think the good old Oban Times will actually get its act in gear and follow this up. They have the councillor who was involved right on there doorstep well to be truthful he is beside the sea but with no sand to play with.

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  12. Newsroom:
    As a great believer in the Welsh rugby principle of “get your retaliation in first”, could I ask your assistance with the following -
    You have run extensively the report which Cleland made to the Rural Scools Forum “on behalf of A&BC” Do you have the full list of those n the Council who voted to have that document sent as the Council’s evidence? If so could you print the names please?
    I take it that that is the policy on which they will stand for election in May – and the policy which will guarantee their comprehensive defeat.

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  13. Aw gee whiz, I feel a wee bit left out ’cause I don’t use Facebook. My only claim to fame is in having a letter to the
    editor, addressed to the Squeak, censored, because I actually mentioned Clelland Sneddon during the school closure fiasco.

    Seriously, Newsroom, what would we do without you!

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  14. From this morning’s Herald, Ms Smith has admitted to using false identities to access social media sites that she would not have been “comfortable” using her real identity on. She claims that this was OK because it was on her own time.

    I’m afraid the latter excuse doesn’t wash. She talked about her activities at a conference in relation to the Council’s media activities so out of hours or not she was conducting Council business.

    Unless something else emerges to protect her, then I do not see that her position is tenable.

    The inquiry should have sufficient remit to look at all the online activity by ABC’s officers and not just focus on Ms Smith’s spy accounts.

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    • Dougie,

      Good to see you have been up nice and early and sent out to get the bread, milk and paper.

      I agree entirely that the enquiry should not be solely focused on what Ms Smith may or may not have done. Its focus should be far wider as you suggest, and also examine the extent to which Ms Smith was acting on her own or under the authority/guidance/request of others. This story is really just providing further evidence that A&B (whether that be the senior management team, administration or both) are ridiculously adverse to criticism and seemingly unable to deal with it in a professional and competent manner.

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  15. The last decade of history with News International included that company seeking to destroy electronic records through mass deletion of evidence. The Chief Executive of Argyll & Bute Council should be urgently asked to ensure that all of the relevant computers and their records should be removed from their current locations and securely stored, pending investigation by the independent enquiry

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  16. Im very suprised that the council has not released or indeed offered too say what the spy accounts where called. They will still be on friends lists and its only right that people should know if they have a spy account as a friend.

    Ive read the download presentation and was suprised even futher that the council actually pay for this rubbish in the first place. Ms Smith clerly does not understand what social media is about. Big suprise

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  17. Iain, I did look at that presentation and reckon ARSN could have done much better. ARSN would also have stuck to the rules of common decency.

    I have to say I’ve looked through the friends list on my own and two group accounts that I have admin rights for. I know who my own are but the groups lists now give me an eerie feeling even though the content is public and anyone can “Like” them.

    Still, I can identify genuine friends from all over Argyll and Bute, Scotland and as far off as Tasmania. The good people far outweigh the bad in number, and hopefully they’ll do that at the May elections too!

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  18. Enquiry:
    The questions that must be asked should include the following – to Ms Loudon our highly paid Chief Executive.
    Did you know that your Communications officer was conducting this unethical and possibly illegal activity?
    If the answer is Yes, then she is equally responsible and due for the chop.
    If No, then she is incompetent and must be held responsible and is therefore due for the chop.
    Either way the Leader of the Council who Ms Loudon reprts to for her actions and conduct should be, as they say, “considering his position”
    But just watch Mr Walsh, and the rest of the Executive and ruling group, try to escape from the ordure in which their hirings and defences in the past have dumped them.

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  19. The biggest surprise to me is that there is anybody in ABC staff that has the intelligence to think about using this tactic. I am sure it was “approved” by their line manager all involved should be sacked without trail.

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  20. Sadly, I don’t really see “The Oban Times” getting round to giving local people proper news or coverage of what acually is going on with this diabolical council.

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  21. How about finding out the facts before jumping to any conclusions about the council or any of its staff? So far we’ve got three different explanations of what’s been going on here and the truth may be something else entirely.

    Argyll and Bute Council has done a terrible job communicating its position here and it may turn out that it deserves every bit of condemnation that it’s currently getting. But until we know what actually happened that’s somewhat premature.

    I’ve written about this issue here.

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    • Adrian: As I said in an earlier post, innocent until found guilty but your comment has been superseded by the second story on this issue in the Herald. In it Ms Smith admits to setting up dummy “spy” accounts to access Facebook pages that she would have otherwise have been “uncomfortable” accessing using her Council identity. She excuses this by saying that she did this under her own volition and in her spare time – so this is all OK as there are “no rules” about such access.

      If we can put to one side the possibility that Ms Smith is being misreported in the second article, it seems to confirm that that Ms Smith was indulging in activities that were at least unethical The excuse that this was out of hours activity does not wash for a moment. The issue of what any information that Ms Smith gathered was used for will determine whether or not her activities were simply unethical or potentially illegal.

      What is without doubt is that she has brought the Council into disrepute – even if this is based on a misunderstanding (and her own words suggest otherwise).

      The fact that the Council is even under suspicion of spying on the citizens of Argyll is a major communication failure. Unless Ms Smith was acting under the direct instruction of her line manager or the CEO then I do not see how she has any course open to her except to resign.

      I agree with you on the necessity for ABC to immediately release a full list of what sites were “spied” upon and I repeat my earlier call for the independent enquiry to cover not just Ms Smith’s activities but to investigate if council staff or councillors were using pseudonyms on forums (such as FA) so they could attack opponents on line.

      The public’s trust in ABC had already been severely damaged by the Council’s approach to the schools closure proposals. This latest incident does nothing to reassure people that the Council has learnt anything about the fact that trust must be central to the relationship between the Council and the people it is supposed to serve.

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      • Douglas,

        Thanks for pointing me to the new story on the Herald. That does add some substance.

        As you say, much rests on the list of which sites/groups were visited, what information was recorded (if any) and how it was used.

        I’ll update my blog post accordingly.

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    • Adrian, the facts are irrefutable. I have a copy of the Powerpoint and it is pretty clear.

      Jo Smith’s presentation clearly says “spying” and a room full of people heard her say she set up dummy accounts to spy on people who were in opposition to the Council and being vocal about it.

      What we have seen since this kicked-off is numerous attempts to cloud the issue and protect Argyll & Bute Council and perhaps Local Authorities in general in case they all get tarred with the same brush, or worse and are guilty of the same practice.

      The truth is that no amount of back-pedalling or jumping on the grenade will change the facts. This Council spied on people. How far that practice went, is where the independent investigation needs to look.

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      • The powerpoint slide means very little in itself. “Spy” account could mean one of many things. There are currently four versions from different people about what it did mean.

        As for the conference, which was attended by 70 people:

        - one anonymous person says that the account was for spying on local groups
        - one named person says the account was for finding out more about how local groups use social media but not to collect information about them specifically
        - the conference organiser says: ” ‘spy accounts’ referred to other individuals reporting information back to the Comms team and that is the context in which it was used in the presentation.” By “other individuals” I presume he means non-council staff.

        No-one else at the conference has made any public comment in the five months since it took place.

        These are not “irrefutable facts”.

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  22. An obvious blunder by A&BC. But yet again, “for argyll” have to put in personal digs and rants into the story. The story speaks for its self without this, and, just makes the website look bitter.
    I notice a lot of stories on this site are personal rants instead of decent journalistic work which they could easily be. This is wholly unnecessary, especially a story such as this.

    Just a thought.

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  23. im more shocked that people are shocked about their under hand tactics! george berry and the oban fm debacle (swept under the carpet),spying on social networks and forums,planning permissions and school closures= abuse of power,bribery and corruption! they all reek of it!! said it before and will say it again,not one of them are fit for office! as long as they are lining each others pockets with backhanders and dodgy dealings they will never be fit for office! neil mcintyre do your town proud PLEASE!!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

    • Dear Obanite

      You say (they are all lining their pockets and are taking back handers )I can assure you i have done neither. Can you please post any evidence or indeed rumour that i have?

      Roddy

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      • Roddy, well said. I am with you. I have never seen a back hander in my life and would not wish to. If there is eveidence, then I say bring it forward so that those responsible can be dealt with ASAP. Some of us are there to do the best that we can for Argyll & Bute and its residents.

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    • We understand your anger but it is important to separate sheep from goats.
      To our knowledge, the majority of councillors at Argyll and Bute, administration and opposition, would not contemplate shady dealings of any kind.
      Many can be seen to have put even their legitimate personal interests aside in the greater interests of principle (as with Councillor George Freeman below); and of wider communitiy interests, as with the SNP group (which includes Councillor Roddy McCuish) who voluntarily walked out of power when they were unable to persuade their senior administration partner at the time – the Alliance of Independent Councillors – to abandon the unfit school closure proposals.
      We would also point to the Argyll First group of councillors – Donald Kelly, John McAlpine and Dougie Philand, whose conduct and integrity has been universally impeccable. It should be recognised that they have brought grace to public life in Argyll.
      There are, as is the case anywhere, exceptions to this honourable general rule. Local wisdom is usually well informed and where this exists, it will be up to voters to choose to support or reject it. As they say, we get what we pay for.
      There is a real will for change in Argyll now, for a clean up and a clean out.
      Voters who do not respect that general wish will have an additional responsibility should the consequences to Argyll be continuing with the discredited regime at whose hands we all suffer.

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      • I don’t know how much of a problem it is overall in Argyll, but there’s a distinct culture in at least one area that you should vote for the local councillor of very long standing because ‘they’re one of us’ – almost a sympathy vote, and there’s a chunk of the electorate that seems not really to care what that councillor has actually done.

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  24. @ adrian short. as a LOCAL resident i tend to err on the side thats NOT the council,they just blunder along from one scandal to the next bringing argyll down with it.

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  25. Completely agree with fruit salad – the news on here is so unbalanced, and sensationalised – while I don’t think stories like this should go unreported, I think I’ll stick to some more reliable sources than those from people that clearly have personal issues with A&BC.
    I remember a story a while ago, this time it was the Council’s procurement practices that were under fire, (I think it was about the tender for bus contracts), ForArgyll took one side of the story, probably from a disgruntled person that lost the tender and this formed the basis of their story – brilliant.
    It’s also quite unbelievable that a local website will not report on anything positive that the Council does. As a result, your website has no credibility and has turned into a forum for those that want to have a go at the Council, sometimes with good reason and other times not so – but your lack of research means that you will be the first port of call if someone wants their story out there.

    It’s clearly also become a forum for the disgruntled SNP…

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    • Is it just me, or do Black Jack and Fruit Salad not sound like they’re out of the same pack of sweeties? If you get my meaning LOL

      I’m not an SNP fan, but I use this forum to vent my displeasure. I know there are people from across the political spectrum here also doing the same.

      Do you actually have something to say about the Council admitting to spying? Or is it ok in your book?

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          • I am not suggesting that the Council did nothing wrong, or that nobody should be held to account. I also don’t necessarily disagree with a lot of comments on this thread – I am simply saying that I will not form opinions based on what I read on this website – as I said before, I don’t think the reporting is well researched.

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          • In this case Blackjack, the reporting on this site is just a follow-on from the story from the Herald.

            There are undeniable facts already in that Jo Smith used the word “spying” in her presentation and that she said to a room full of people that she set up dummy accounts to carry out this spying on dissenters of the council.

            Those facts have not been made up and now all we see is a lot of panicked back-pedalling from those desperately trying to cover their tracks.

            I used to work for another council and indeed with people still working in A&BC. The majority of which are fantastic, some doing really horrible, stressful jobs for not an awful lot of money either. What has turned me so cynical to the management of this Council is personal experience. I have never encountered a more duplicitous, manipulating, inept, bunch of out-right liars and what is sickening is their false claims that they’re doing all this for our own benefit.

            Wanted to go to uni myself when I was younger to study journalism, so with a wee bit of a green eyed monster, I wish you good luck with your studies.

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    • Blackjack may be an innocent member of the public protesting about unfair treatment of the Council but given the subject of this thread I suspect pretty much EVERYONE will be wondering if this is in fact coming from a team within the Council. Note the similarities to “Simon’s” modus operandi:

      1: Pseudonym
      2: Shoot the messenger
      3: Deflect attention from the subject matter
      4: Agree with another comment (possibly itself coming from someone else in the team) to give the appearance of a body of opinion
      5: Defend the Council (note the sly accusation that FA doesn’t cover good news stories about the Council – both suggesting bias AND suggesting that there is a lot of good news about the Council)
      6: Attack the SNP (even when the story has nothing to do with them).

      Being paranoid doesn’t mean that people are NOT out to get you and Ms Smith has raised the level of paranoia in Argyll to a whole new level.

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      • Dr Douglas McKenzie – My name is Samantha Hill, I DO NOT work for Agyll and Bute Council and am perfectly entitled to post under a pseudonym. It’s crazy that no-one believes you can possibly have some support for your own council unless you work there!

        I am a journalism student at napier (from Argyll and Bute) and hence have an interest in news!

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        • For blackjack/Samantha

          You have to allow for the fact that many of the people posting here have found it a blessing to have their views taken seriously. Whether it’s schools, radio stations or social services, their collective experience is that the council has been manipulative and underhand. Many of us could provide real evidence of this and For Argyll has published the evidence where possible. If it seems to lack balance, perhaps you should consider the possibility that it merely reflects a council in meltdown. What can you say that’s positive, for instance, about bankers’ bonuses?

          You will also find that while the council snipers added two and two and came up with SNP, the polarity sometimes seen on this website is entirely down to them. The schools campaign boasts cross-party membership and support. I happen to be a member of the SNP, but I’m working closely with people who are supporters/members of other parties, all of whom I trust implicitly.

          Finally, there is no implication that the majority of people working for our council are in any way suspect. The culture at the top is what is suspect and we know it’s as difficult for their employees as it is for us.

          I trust that you will also wait for the evidence before convicting For Argyll and its posters.

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          • For Anne Baird – I did not mean to “convict” those that have posted comments, I apologise if my comments seemed to do this – I welcome the fact that there is a forum on here – it does seem to be a little unwelcoming for those that disagree with the general consensus however!

            I also understand that it’s difficult to find something good to say in such a story, perhaps I didn’t use the right term when I said “balance” because I didn’t mean that bad needs to be balanced with good and vice versa – apologies. Balance in general terms would be good on the website though, I find it hard to believe that everything A&BC does is bad?!

            On the whole, some impartiality would give the news stories on here a little more credibility for me. The stories are opinionated, and as such they read more like a politician’s column in a newspaper than a news story. I think this can sometimes prevent people from forming their own opinions. I also think that it is misleading for the website to claim to be an online broadsheet.

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        • Samantha (AKA Blackjack):
          I’m pleased to find that you are a “real” person and not a troll. I have no problems with you defending the Council if you want to. My point in responding to your post was that the Council has lost so much trust that bogey men are seen everywhere. Thanks to Ms Jones I’m sure there are lots of people this weekend checking their Facebook accounts for suspicious “friends”.

          There is no point in criticising FA’s style – it is their blog. We don’t pay for it and they can say what they like. We can criticise what they say but not their right to say it. Do they advertise themselves as an online broadsheet? As to SNP bias, as we recently had an article suggesting that that the SNP was lurching towards fascism!

          Good luck with your studies.

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          • believe it or not, I am a supporter of freedom of speech – and a blog is the perfect forum for this. However, forargyll calls itself – “The online broadsheet for Argyll”, this has connations of a certain standard of journalism. Something I don’t believe is evident here.

            Thanks for the luck :)

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          • Blackjack, thanks for your comments today! Crazy She-Bat suggested we offer the opportunity of publishing on ForArgyll to you as a student of journalism. We think its a great idea. We’ve done so with the likes of Angela Haggerty from Bute (Bute Bites) and occasionally others. We’d be especially pleased to enable something specifically relevant to your course, remembering that you’ll be writing for an audience in excess of 3,000 unique visitors a day. If you’re interested let us know through the contact form above.

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  26. For George Freeman.
    How many Argyll & Bute Councillors go to the annual COSLA conference heldevery year at the 4 star Fairmount Hotel (formerly St Andrews Bay Hotel) in St Andrews at Argyll & Bute council taxpayers expense. The COSLA annual conference is held every year during the first week in March.

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  27. Treble T, I do not have the actual figures but the norm would be two senior councillors (including Dick walsh) and one or two senior officials (including the CEO). An FOI request from any member of the public would provide this information.

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  28. Rest assured folks this lady will not of been doing this of her own back.If she wanted a bit of the banter or to take part in the debates why not under her own name just like the councillors.
    She is just a patsy so the best she can do is come clean and save a bit of her reputation.Why carry the can for this useless mob.
    As for the glowing reputations of the councillors well they obviously think more of there colleague in Kilmory than they do of George Berry,the silence is deafening from Oban.

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  29. ha ha oh i forgot about you cllr mccuish. you ARE one of the better ones.SORRY. cllr freeman you seem to stand against the wrongs of the councill too. frank drummond..im just a working lad with no real understanding of local goverment buisness..BUT..if wee were to apply for a job we would need to have previous experience qualifacations for post and good work record and conduct. councillors get voted in to position. some of them do a fine job of standing up for the people of argyll..HOWEVER.. some of them seem to gather large egos and an “untouchable” mentallity. ie= ms smith types. this is at least the second time her name has croped up in a few short months.the 1st one being the oban fm sacking. she along with a never to be identified cllr were in the middle of this.now im sure that was abuse of power?? NOW what have the good cllrs done to get to the bottom of that fiasco? what are the good cllrs going to do about the “spy scandal”? so as an ordinary laymans view ie=me there has been a cover up? that i would say equals corruption? SO PLEASE good cllrs of argyll STAND UP FOR US AND GET IT SORTED!! as long as the bad ones are at the top they are bringing argyll down.

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    • Obanite, read through the other articles and you will see that most of the opposition have sent press releases indicating that they have all protested and requested that the Chief Executive properly investigate the spy scandal. I don’t think you can ask more at this stage.

      There are rules within which all of them must proceed and if Neil McIntyre succeeds in becoming a councillor he’ll have to work within them too. You can’t convict anyone without the evidence and this council is past master of withholding it.

      We need to focus on getting this administration out and we won’t do that by shooting at the councillors who are standing against them.

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  30. Just catching up with this story I decided to look at the blurb put out for the now notorious Epic Social Media for Public services Scotland conference and thought I must share the following gems: “delegates will hear from and pick up skills and tips from 6 Local Government Social Media All Stars, each responsible for running exceptional social media campaigns”.Jo Smith’s contribution is described as “A case study of how a council is improving its relationship with residents using social media” and “The council is now overcoming some negative experiences with social media and finding ways to use social media to its advantage”.

    Words fail me…..

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  31. Sorry Anne one of your SNP. councillors can tell us the whole story about Jo Smiths involvement with our local councillor. When he brought her into attack george using the council department the code of conduct goes out the window when you use it to cover up abuse of the system.
    The rules are nonsense and should be binned they are not relevant if we want to have open govt.What do elected officials have to hide?
    What is the problem with revealing his name,the story we will be giving the press will make this silence look very bad but thats not our problem.What happened to George did not matter to any of the councillors before but I can promise it will now.
    Power to the People.

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    • I think the suggested advice from Ann Baird and Cllr Freeman is sound.
      You’re principles are well established Neil, but it would be no use pursuing this outwith the rules, as no doubt there will be consequences for such ‘behaviour’, which could otherwise harm your councillor intentions in general, frustrating as that may seem.

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  32. I’m no fan of A&BC and a good gust of fresh air and a spring clean is long over due, and not just elected representatives if the culture is to change.
    However, I’m not all that surprised to find that they have a PR Dept. Nor am I surprised to find that when they are not checking the spelling of press releases they are keeping a weather eye on the telly, the radio and the newspapers. I’d be surprised and disappointed if they didn’t. I’m sure at one time the job involved taking press cuttings and gluing them in a book. These days it’s about twitter, facebook and websites aswell.
    So somebody, more to be pitied than scorned, sexed-up a power-point (sic) presentation to include the the “spy” word, and has made an Alistair Campbell wannabe twat of themselves by not so subtly implying ( nude nudge wink wink) they are engaged in covert ops and the black arts of media management.
    By all means lets have an enquiry, but I suspect at the end of it all we’ll have a “move along, nothing to see here” result, which of course is what the reinforcements of outsourced media management consultants that will be contracted will have been tasked to deliver, when all along what was required was for someone to get a dog and take it for long walks in the fresh air rather than spend their free time multi-tasking on facebook.

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  33. On The Herald’s article saying that Ms Smith has been suspended , an interesting comment from the organiser of the event in Glasgow, Mr Nick Hill:

    “It’s with increasing incredulity that I’ve followed your coverage of alleged comments made by a speaker at a very successful event in Glasgow five months ago.

    As organiser of the event allow me to comment since you failed to have the courtesy to approach me in order to cast some much-needed light and balance onto the subject.

    Jo Smith, of Argyll & Bute Council, was selected onto the panel because she has carved a sound reputation for her work with social media.

    Far from the storm of outrage your report suggests, there was not a single complaint about Ms Smith’s presentation or comment on the day nor since. Looking back at feedback forms she topped the list with the highest rated feedback.

    The phrase ‘spy accounts’ was featured in the presentation in speech marks deliberately as they referred informally to individuals referring back what they’d seen elsewhere voluntarily rather than some dastardly plot. The phrase was given deliberate context in the conference. This is reflected by the complete absence of a complaint from anyone in the audience.

    Believe me, with 12 years experience of running events across Britain let me assure you that delegates are not afraid of coming forward if they have a complaint.

    Such is my strength of feeling over this I’m volunteering to take part in any investigation by Argyll & Bute Council which I trust will be more fair minded and methodical that the Glasgow Herald piece.

    Against that we have a thus far unnamed source who I can’t confirm was even at the event, that never complained to me during or after the event, has all of a sudden decided to stop mulling it over and come forward now after five months. Strange also that your reporter never thought to contact those who organised it.

    In the interests of transparency, may I remind people that Ms Smith’s powerpoint presentation remains available to view at: ”

    He provides a link to The Public Sector Web website.

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      • It is the comment list at the foot of Saturday’s Herald story DDM.
        http://www.heraldscotland.com/news/home-news/council-chief-in-online-spy-accounts-row-is-suspended.16720638
        Not sure it tells us much more than we already know. I think most reasonable people agree that there is nothing wrong with Councils harvesting information from publicly available websites. Indeed it should be recommended that council officials take note of how the general public are reacting to their actions.
        As you rightly say it is the issues raised by Ms Smith’s reported quote which cause concern.
        Regardless of techroom’s assurances about FA I know many of us would never have expected a search of IP addresses to reveal a Council IP behind certain characters who have posted on FA. This is something the independent investigator will have to address.

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        • For Sandy Longmuir: We are reporting honestly that there is no detectable sign of covert surveillance from behind the council’s firewall.

          However, since the evidence of the powerpoint presentation makes For Argyll a clear focus of council attention, we are not naive enough to imagine that they have left us alone.

          We are also gathering together and analysing the specific contributions from some pseudonyms that have, almost from their initial appearance, been the subject of much amusement from other contributors and noted by us too as likely fleas on our openly available back.

          As with techroom’s analysis, although differently, this has been an unpleasant experience.

          Gathering and reviewing an ever more complete chain of sustained and deliberately manipulative material has been a strangely airless experience, physically choking. Single contributions from these sources, interspersed with comments from civvies, critical of For Argyll or not, were usually quite amusing. But en masse, it was relentlessly awful. I had to stop doing it last night and go for a walk in the small hours just to be able to sleep.
          Lynda

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          • Newsroom, never for one moment was suggesting that Techroom was not being honest about there being no covert surveillance from behind the Council firewall. Merely pointing out it was very unlikely that such a thing would be found. Kind of like finding an address at the foot of a poison pen letter.
            I know what you mean about seeing the contributions en masse though. I remember the ones from the time we were presenting the GAE. They were bad enough one at a time.

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          • Never thought you did.
            Just making it clear that we are doing a spectrum of checks and being open on results as we go. Some will require an external agency to determine sources.
            L

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  34. Neil, the council has abandoned the rules. If I abandon them too I’m no better than they are. The aim should be that ALL of us work within a framework that’s honest, transparent and accountable.

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  35. For Phil.
    Cheers but being a councillor is not the only game in town.
    Lifes to short.It would be enjoyable but with three grandaughters I think I will have plenty to fill my time.

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  36. George.
    Thank you for your reply. I know that I can obtain this information under a Freedom of Information request which I will be doing in late March 2012. As the council has 20 working days to provide this information I should have received it in sufficient time to forward it to the local press for publication before the local government elections in May 2012.
    I was only letting the users of the ForArgyll forum see that councillors and Senior council officials go on “jollys” at the council taxpayers expense. I only found out about the annual COSLA conference at St Andrews several years when there were complaints about senior officials of Fife Council staying at the St Andrews Bay Hotel (Fairmount Hotel) when they could easily travel on a daily basis as the article was published in the Dundee Courier. The Fairmount St Andrews Hotel also has two championship golf courses for delegates should they get bored with the conference.

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  37. @neil mcintyre.good luck with the herald neil. The oban times have rolled over like a good wee doggy for one particular councillor!.,,@ anne baird. Good ms smith was suspended, now that shouldve happened when they ousted george berry.now all we need now is to get the cllr who ousted george from oban fm Then tried to get him sacked from his paying job aswell. Where was your precious justice then? That is fact. That is abuse of power.

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    • @ the Obanite, I haven’t suggested that justice was done in the case of George Berry. I don’t know enough about it to pass any judgement but what I’ve read on here doesn’t seem unlikely to me given our own experience of the council. I very much hope the truth comes out and that justice is properly done. I’m just not sure it would be aided by one of the opposition councillors ending up in court for making accusations they don’t have the evidence for. Which takes us back to getting information from the council.

      It strikes me that the best hope for justice is voting intelligently and ensuring that enough of the councillors now in charge – the Independent Group led by Dick Walsh, the Lib Dems and the two Tories from Helensburgh – are seen off at the elections in May. Dick Walsh’s group have been in power for far too long.

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  38. For anne baird. Thank you for being the only one to explain this. The other councillors have been very quiet on this subject. Basically if cllr does wrong his job is safe.if one of the good cllrs reveals his name to us the voters he ends up in court! Well that is an eye opener! Meantime if this cllr in oban is not named before the elections he could be voted back in again! No wonder the mafia dont operate in argyll and bute!

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  39. For obanite.
    Bang on the money.George is not important to them, as for the court nonsense what is the good old councillor going to charge anybody with?defamation of character or maybe revealing personal details of a sensitive nature that makes the council look bad.Main witness for the prosecution will be Jo Smith a beacon of honesty and high standards.
    The present administration are rotten to the core if people are to believe our councillors want things to change step up and do the decent thing.
    The council have had there wee investigation on parking permits but the girls could not come forward which is understandable but that can change if the first move is made.
    We need things to change but that includes everyone doing there bit.
    Power to the People.

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  40. Well it should be very important to them! I can nearly understand their legal point of view. They dont understand they have let the voters down badly! I can assure you if i had been in georges shoes and this halfwit tried to sack me from my normal job he would have been very friendly with his dentist and it would be me in court! If this man stays elected how many more people will he try and sack? neil would i be right in thinking he has the cllrs of oban “dancing”to his tune?

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  41. for the obanite.
    Drumming along nicely sir.
    Nice wee bit in the Herald today from Moira Kerr.All our correspondence will be going to the inquiry when the paper gets the word also the way the parking permit complaint was handled in connection with this matter.Sadly the councillors silence when they knew the story and left George to fend for himself will be one of our main focal points in the run up to the elections. They had the chance to do the right thing but self preservation was more important.As for the court thing, been there before so this would be well worth another visit.
    Power to the People.

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  42. So many comments…so little time to read them all properly unfortunatly. Busy hoosem appauled if council ‘spying’. what exactly have they been doing…have they been looking at peoples private communications or is it things that are in the public domain anyway which isn’t really that bad??

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