I noted Cllr Robb’s reference to the council …

Comment posted Opposition evaluations of three year council budget by Integrity? Not in the ConDemAll.

I noted Cllr Robb’s reference to the council selling common good owned assets with the capital receipts being ‘invested’ outwith the Helensburgh area.

It would be interesting to know specifically which of the assets referred to are common good owned and what, if any, restrictions there are regarding the Council’s use of them, or any income they generate.

Integrity? Not in the ConDemAll also commented

  • Simon’s scattergun approach to threads trying to catch a fish regarding the support of the administration budget is almost childlike in its disregard for the crux of the matter. I dare say if there was evidence that opposition councillors voted against an administration policy purely because they are in opposition, and despite being in agreement with it, then he would be one of the first to criticise.

    As stated by others (in other threads) the role of opposition is not to blanket oppose but to challenge when appropriate. In an ideal situation key policy decisions would be debated maturely and fully by all councillors, with assistance provided by experienced, and impartial, council officers. Theoretically A&B is in the ideal position to provide this model of local government because, at least in name, the administration is run by a group of independents. However in A&B theory and practice are ships that pass in the night – the alliance of independents have shown themselves time and time again, to be a political party with an internal whip just as much as any other political party. The impartiality, and independence, of the higher ranking council officers is also very much open to challenge as evidenced by the manner in which the administration repeatedly voted through appallingly drafted school closure proposals rather than sending them back for rework and challenging the officers to ‘do better’.

    The bottom line is that it is essential to ensure there is appropriate democratic representation of communities in the council’s decision making process. For this to happen it is vital that the Council adopt a governance model which ensures there is an effective role for ALL councillors, not just those in ‘power’. It is due to this that there is a need to increases the effectiveness of the scrutiny role (and support for that scrutiny) played by those members in opposition. In terms of the support role I refer to the part played by Council officers and I would be interested in whether the current opposition councillors feel that this is appropriately provided by A&B. There should always be clarity within a Council about the rules and about council staff and the support they provide to the role of elected members. However rules are one thing (and easy to implement – I am 100% sure A&B will have all this in place) but attitude is another. It is the attitude which sets the culture and determines whether sufficient support is afforded to all councillors.

    Getting back to the specific issue of agreeing the budget (leaving aside the obvious fact that the details of the budget are kept under lock and key to a ridiculously late hour) there also needed to be consideration of the role of an elected member. Yes they are elected as representatives of a ward but they also have to give consideration to the entire council area when it comes to decisions which have a council wide strategic impact. This can result in what might appear to be contradictory behaviour. It is the need to find a balance between advocating local policy an council wide policy that makes it even more important that budgets are prepared in an open and cooperative manner. We can only live in hope that one day A&B sees this happen.

Recent comments by Integrity? Not in the ConDemAll

  • Stuart Hill challenges Supreme Court to test security of jurisdiction for Shetland
    You may well be correct Thorfinn. It was a little while ago I read about it so there may well have been a subsequent council decision since.

    Thanks for taking the time to respond.

  • Stuart Hill challenges Supreme Court to test security of jurisdiction for Shetland
    Thorfinn

    My apologies for going totally off track with this post but I was wondering whether you might be able to provide a little insight into how the people of the Shetland Isles are reacting to the council’s consideration of selling off Sella Ness.

    No worries if you don’t want to respond. I’m just curious, no hidden agenda.

  • Russell writes to councillors on Castle Toward decision tomorrow as some are denied a vote
    Oban Worthy

    Apologies for the delay responding, I only just noticed your response. You are correct that there is some flexibility which is why I said predominantly. There are always gray areas over whether an item is revenue expenditure or capital expenditure and I would wager there isn’t a council in the country who don’t have some revenue expenditure funded from capital.

    The classic example used in old accountancy days is replacement windows. If you replace like for like it is arguable revenue expenditure as it is maintenance but if you replace single glazed for double glazed then it is an enhancement therefore capital. However the argument for it being revenue falls down a bit if new windows extend the useful life of the building (which they would do if they old ones were in such disrepair).

    However the extent to which it can be done is limited and I don’t see dumping a £750k capital receipt into delivery of services as something which could be classified as being ‘around the margins’

    Sokay, in answer to your question about Mike Russell’s statement I certainly wouldn’t be minded to make a call on reasoning for it. Only he could answer that. As far as I know he doesn’t have an extensive background in finance/accountancy and the restrictions on capital receipts and accountancy rules about revenue and capital budgets are a bit of a nerdy techie thing!!

    Anyway this is all a bit after the lord mayor’s show now as the decision has been made (the wrong one in my opinion). Whilst I say the wrong one I say so based on the arguments put forward on here by people who are far closer to it than I am (and also people who I have respect for). It would be a better scenario if those councillors who opposed the sale would be forthcoming about their counter arguments. However as we have seen many times in the past elected members ed by the nose by Cllr Walsh are rarely forthcoming in their opinions

  • Russell writes to councillors on Castle Toward decision tomorrow as some are denied a vote
    It is maybe worth highlighting that the sale of the asset and the money received (whether it be £750k, £1.75m or something in between) has no impact on the revenue budget as has been suggested on here. Councils are restricted in the way they spend receipts from the sale of assets.
    Predominantly they are only allowed to use capital receipts on further capital expenditure and not for routine revenue expenditure – the revenue and capital budgets are very distinct (albeit with some overlap due to the need for the revenue budget to take account of incurred interest costs and ongoing maintenance of capital assets).

    So the £1m ‘discount’ will not impact on the revenue budget of any area. What does impact the revenue budget right now is the ongoing maintenance costs which have been mentioned many times.

    Whether it is a paper transaction or not is debatable. I am assuming the valuation of £1.75m is based on open market value however that might not be the case. If it was available for sale on the open market would it realistically fetch £1.75m and would there be potential buyers? If the answer to either of those questions is ‘no’ then it isn’t really a £1m discount.

    Someone else suggested a risk that a buyer could get future planning permission on the land and turn round a tidy profit. As far as I know there would be nothing preventing the council putting a clawback clause into the sale contract which would protect them against such an event. Some sort of sliding clawback (i.e. if the buyer resells the asset for a profit within 3 years then 70% of any profit goes back to the council, between 3 and 6 years, 40%, 10 years 20% etc etc). Such a clawback has been used by Scottish Ministers in the past so I assume it would be an option open to the council.

  • Outright win for John Armour and SNP in South Kintyre
    The low turnout doesn’t surprise me. I think the referendum has exhausted people of politics temporarily and whilst I do think there will be a short term increase in the support for SNP candidates in local elections as a show of support this is slightly tempered in A&B because, quite frankly, the local SNP in A&B have been something of a shambles.

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25 Responses to I noted Cllr Robb’s reference to the council …

  1. I noted Cllr Robb’s reference to the council selling common good owned assets with the capital receipts being ‘invested’ outwith the Helensburgh area.

    It would be interesting to know specifically which of the assets referred to are common good owned and what, if any, restrictions there are regarding the Council’s use of them, or any income they generate.

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  2. In the comments made about the Council’s budget proposals, there appear to be lots of positive comment about the allocations for education, roads and leisure facilities, but virtually no reference to social care and support services, which are being dramatically cut. In particular, it appears that £12.8 million, which was reinstated by the Scottish Government in line with a COSLA agreement, has not been reallocated to those services from which it was previously cut by the Council, i.e. support services for older people, including those with dementia, from people with learning disabilities, physical disabilities and mental health problems, from those with addictions, from homeless people and from young people leaving care. These are all groups of people who may well have difficulties communicating their needs and lobbying for a reinstatement of services which were funded by a budget, previously cut, but now reinstated, and apparently to be used for pre-election sweeteners and other non-care/support purposes. I take it that this is the implication of the response made by Councillor Robb, when he identifies the “sources that made this such an easy budget” and says:
    “There was an extra £12.8m from the Scottish Government through Supporting People funding replacing funding previously given away by the Council Leader at COSLA. This was incorporated into the draft budget and accounts for the net revenue budget surplus of £4.454m.”
    How much of this extra £12.5 million was reinstated to fund care and support services which had previously been cut by more than this amount?

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    • Andrew. Your fears mirror my own. It is becoming clearer where the ruling group will seek cuts to pay for the sweeties.

      Last year we saw the end of the contract with the excellent Neighbourhood Networks take away a pillar of support for many vulnerable adults.

      Before 2010 Argyll and Bute had some of the highest Social Care charges in Scotland. In late 2010 a new charging system for Social Care was introduced. The threshold for payments was reduced. This caused many vulnerable adults to have to make substantial contributions to their support for the first time.
      Its implementation was delayed because the system was throwing up errors. It was finally brought in last April and one is still hearing reports of problems.

      If this cynical treatment of the vulnerable is, even in the smallest part, contributing to the sweeties in the election “Goodie Bag” then they will indeed have a bitter taste.

      Dick Walsh’s statement says that they have a £750k fund for “preventative spend”. He tells us that this includes social care but doesn’t offer any detail. Is it 750k per year or is it spread over 3 years? How does this fit in with the Scottish Government’s new initiative to integrate Health and Social care? Is the money in addition to any funds which the Scottish Government will provide? Will it be used to alleviate the cost of social care to those who need it but can ill afford it? Will it be used to extend social care to those who lost out last year?

      All political budgets tend to be slanted towards the positive stuff in them but this one is unbelievable, and will remain so until we can see the full figures setting out the detailed 3 year spend.

      If it’s anything like last year’s budget then the devil in the detail will only be dragged out, kicking and screaming, well after the May elections.

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  3. All a bit disappointing. It’s clearly a headline grabbing budget with little substance behind it and the opposition have let it pass without much challenge.
    Councillor Robb appears to be the only one that has seen it for what it is, but it would of been better had he been more direct.

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  4. The current administration may well be voted out in May and the opposition councillors face wrestling with this budget for years to come. It’s appalling that they haven’t had sight of it before the vote.

    A council budget is a massive thing and while these groups have all commented on their initial impression I don’t doubt they’ll be finding the devils in the detail for some weeks.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  5. Not just appalling – incomprehensible that there’s no established Scotland-wide code of practice to ensure this sort of petty, vindictive and damaging ‘politicking’ is outlawed. It gives democracy a bad name, and it’s a great pity that Executive Director Douglas Hendry and Head of Governance & Law Charles Reppke don’t have the duty to advise the ruling cabal to behave more responsibly – or do they?

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  6. What a hoot. With a typical FA Nelsonian eye Newsie makes NO comment on the real stories of the budget.
    Is it not true that that the much-maligned budget was passed almost unanimously?
    Did only three voted against it – Geo Freeman, Strong and whatever the name erstwhile leader of the SNP is called?
    Did the SNP Group overwhelmingly reject their erstwhile leader’s advice and voted with Dick Walsh and the Coalition?
    Is Anne Baird (above) part of the rumoured split in the SNP Group and lack of confidence in their lkeader just a few months ahead of the elections?
    Why no commment on all this from FA?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  7. Agree with Simon and others on this.
    Disarray, resignation from leader of SNP locally, yet SNP members maintain they persuaded Clr walsh to change budget to their suiting. That was announced of course the rest wasnt.
    Spygate only rears it head 4 months after event, but by coincidence only weeks away from elections

    Also rumour has it that CHORD projects have been “suspended”

    So come on newsroom, lets have truth, whole truth, and nothing but the truth

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  8. Well, despite dire predictions, sniping from the sidelines and the rubbing of FA’s hands after yet another budget article – guess what??
    The Council’s much-maligned budget was passed almost unanimously. Only Geo Freeman ‘Im my own man’ and big Robert McIntyre and ‘I didn’t know anytthing school closures when I was Education Spokesperson’ Isobel Strong voted against Tricky Dicky and his pals’ budget.
    The SNP group? Well they voted with Tricky.
    Argyll 1st? – well they too voted with Tricky.
    Robb ? he voted with Tricky.
    And as Geo Freeman’s ‘group’ don’t opersate a whip system Geo’s vice-president, vice- leader thingy also voted for Tricky.
    Did no one tell these clowns the purpose of opposition is to oppose?? Or come up with better proposals?
    ps Mike Russell also agreed to shut yet another school under the SNP s ‘flawed legislation’

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  9. Simon – you appear to have a somewhat outdated view of politics and the role of the opposition.
    I was personally disappointed by the response that most opposition Councillors offered as I felt, as a matter of principal, they should of voted against it due to the lack of time they had to scrutinise the budget. But why are you making such a big thing about how different members voted within their own groups, I actually found that very refreshing.
    Especially when you currently have a group of so called ‘independent’ councillors that aren’t allowed to have a voice of their own because they are ‘whipped’ by Dick Walsh. This is much more damning to the local political system than anything the opposition are doing.
    Independent Councillors should be exactly that, independent, not some tinpot group of individuals led by a dictator and his henchmen/women.
    We currently have an administration that is overseeing a Council in complete disarray. The only objective that appears to be driving them is the quest for complete centralisation/urbanisation of all services. The outcome of which, if they are allowed to succeed, is the decimation of rural Argyll. You may agree with this, I most certainly do not.

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  10. Simon’s scattergun approach to threads trying to catch a fish regarding the support of the administration budget is almost childlike in its disregard for the crux of the matter. I dare say if there was evidence that opposition councillors voted against an administration policy purely because they are in opposition, and despite being in agreement with it, then he would be one of the first to criticise.

    As stated by others (in other threads) the role of opposition is not to blanket oppose but to challenge when appropriate. In an ideal situation key policy decisions would be debated maturely and fully by all councillors, with assistance provided by experienced, and impartial, council officers. Theoretically A&B is in the ideal position to provide this model of local government because, at least in name, the administration is run by a group of independents. However in A&B theory and practice are ships that pass in the night – the alliance of independents have shown themselves time and time again, to be a political party with an internal whip just as much as any other political party. The impartiality, and independence, of the higher ranking council officers is also very much open to challenge as evidenced by the manner in which the administration repeatedly voted through appallingly drafted school closure proposals rather than sending them back for rework and challenging the officers to ‘do better’.

    The bottom line is that it is essential to ensure there is appropriate democratic representation of communities in the council’s decision making process. For this to happen it is vital that the Council adopt a governance model which ensures there is an effective role for ALL councillors, not just those in ‘power’. It is due to this that there is a need to increases the effectiveness of the scrutiny role (and support for that scrutiny) played by those members in opposition. In terms of the support role I refer to the part played by Council officers and I would be interested in whether the current opposition councillors feel that this is appropriately provided by A&B. There should always be clarity within a Council about the rules and about council staff and the support they provide to the role of elected members. However rules are one thing (and easy to implement – I am 100% sure A&B will have all this in place) but attitude is another. It is the attitude which sets the culture and determines whether sufficient support is afforded to all councillors.

    Getting back to the specific issue of agreeing the budget (leaving aside the obvious fact that the details of the budget are kept under lock and key to a ridiculously late hour) there also needed to be consideration of the role of an elected member. Yes they are elected as representatives of a ward but they also have to give consideration to the entire council area when it comes to decisions which have a council wide strategic impact. This can result in what might appear to be contradictory behaviour. It is the need to find a balance between advocating local policy an council wide policy that makes it even more important that budgets are prepared in an open and cooperative manner. We can only live in hope that one day A&B sees this happen.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  11. If you are not sure of the detail why vote for it.
    Councillor MacIntyre said potential job losses in his area were the reason why he voted no.Understandable but does that mean he would have voted yes if the job losses were solely on the mainland.The small libraries around Helensborough were given a stay of execution due to the councillors pressure because of the elections. They will go after May.So what are we left with? A shambles, what are we supposed to make of the so called budget when councillors of the same parties can,t even agree.And please don,t bring out the nonsense that it,s great to see the opposition councillors being independent with their views on how to vote. I am sure Dick will be delighted.If you think this council are as bad as you tell us, don,t vote with them and give the people of Argyll a joined up alternative instead of trying to protect yourself in the elections.

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  12. Fairly lengthy but predictable post from Integrity.
    If it’s clarity you’re after Integrity here’s some; “details of the budget are kept under lock and key to a ridiculously late hour” – this happens at UK Govt level, Scottish Govt level and as far as I’m aware in every other Council throughout Scotland. You might argue it shouldn’t but it does.
    The opposition and their lap dogs – and I do incloude Newsie in this – have been banging on about the budget, how important it is and the significant impact it will have have on the area. And??? Words, just words. Empty, rhetoric from a bunch on sheep bereft of any cogent, comprehensive alternative to Tricky’s proposals.
    Where IS the Leadership amongst this rag-bag collection pathetic collection of supposed opposition?? Where is the forensic ( :) ) anaylsis that brings forwards a radical alternative budget?? Mmmm???
    Well there WAS McIntyre/Strong with their childish-pathetic-token-gesture-politicking to Bute….but apart for that – Pffftttttt.
    Gawd help us all if these muppets ever actually managed to actually get into power.

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  13. Simon – ““details of the budget are kept under lock and key to a ridiculously late hour” – this happens at UK Govt level, Scottish Govt level…” – quite right, but that’s then followed by several days/weeks of debate on the proposed budget before it’s finally agreed. According to Councillor Philand’s tweet the opposition were given 30 minutes to debate it, not quite the same.
    Initially, I felt the opposition should have voted against it but in reality, given the current restraints on time, no one could seriously argue with the increased investment in the roads etc. A good move by Councillor Walsh politically, plus the figure looks good in print.
    But was it done in the best interests of Argyll and Bute or was it done for his own political and personal gain? In reality it probably won’t make a vast difference to the overall road network as it’s in such a terrible state already through lack of investment by… Councillor Walsh!
    The part of the budget that made me chortle was the trumpeting of the investment in education. This coming from the person who said it was absolutely imperative the Council made £millions in savings from the education budget. Remember how it was essential changes were made to primary education in Argyll & Bute. And of course, the only way that this could possibly have happened was by closing one third of all the schools!!!
    What was that all about? How can he possibly say one minute ‘we’re all doomed’ by not closing primary schools and the next minute ‘magic up’ £squillions even although the schools haven’t closed. As you say, a bit ‘Tricky’ but certainly not admirable or honourable.
    Where I do agree is, apart from one or two exceptions, the opposition Councillors do not appear to be putting up as much of a fight on all the other issue’s as they possibly should be. The current administration has put the ‘noose’ around its own neck (on several occasions), but for some reason the opposition appears reluctant to pull the lever. Hopefully they are just waiting for the right moment and not relying on others to do it for them!
    So ‘Simon’ what do you think, will the people of Argyll and Bute continue to fall for his ‘Tricky’ handling of finances? I suppose we’ll find out in May!

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  14. Council taxpayers living around Helensburgh are lucky to still have small libraries. Council taxpayers in other parts of Argyll & Bute who pay the same council tax as those in the Helensburgh area have to make do with a mobile library. The sooner every council taxpayer receives the same services (good or bad) from Argyll & Bute Council the better.

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  15. Scruff – interesting post and therefore quite removed from the stuff the ‘usual uspects’* normally post on here.
    “The current administration has put the ‘noose’ around its own neck” – whilst I’m not best placed to make any kind of political prediction that covers Argyll and bute as I’m not a member of any political party – I’m not convinced that apart from the ‘usual suspects’** many people in Argyll and Bute give a monkeys about rural schools!

    It’s never the main point of discussion in the circles I frequent and on the odd time it does arise most people are of the view that some of these expensive schools are little more than private education on the rates and that they should be closed.

    I think the ARSN folks might get one Councillor in. But, I also think that the electorate are too mature to be fooled by a vociferous but essentially single-issue self-interest clique.

    As to who will the elections – well, we’ll see what we’ll see. Let’s be honest here is no real leader in the ranks of the mongrel opposition who has done any real damage to Dick’s coalition – they whine, mump and moan about him – and then the numpties end up voting with him!!!.

    But at a very local level perhaps ARSN should put up a candidate against Dick Walsh and then watch their candidate lose their deposit. :)
    * copywright Mike Russell
    ** copywright Mike Russell

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    • Simon – you say the folks in the ‘circles you frequent’ may not give a monkeys about rural schools – perhaps they don’t know much about rural schools or communities and haven’t had any reason to seek out any factual information on which to base their opinions.

      However, we might hope that councillors who are elected to represent our interests DO take the trouble to learn about the issues facing all the communities, large and small, urban and rural, throughout Argyll. That way they can make considered and intelligent decisions rather than just nodding along in blissfully ignorant approval to the claptrap purveyed by their leaders and some of their own officers.

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  16. Simon – I wasn’t thinking solely about the schools episode but I think you are probably right. A large proportion of the population, on a day-to-day basis, don’t give a monkey’s if a rural school in a place they’ve only vaguely heard of closes or not. If you live in Helensburgh, Dunoon etc., you would have your own concerns relating to your own area.
    However, what I think everyone was interested in was the way the Council handled the whole situation. I can honestly say I haven’t spoken to a single person who said the Council dealt with it competently, and that includes people who were in favour of school closures.
    The idea of closing one third of all primary schools at the same time was such a ridiculous idea that I’m surprised it was even suggested, but to then take it to the stage they did was plain stupidity. If for no other reason than it demonstrated to everyone that the administration had a very cavalier approach towards rural education and was evidently out of touch with a large proportion of its electorate. People of all political persuasions sit-up and take notice of that and it was a gifted goal to the opposition.
    And what were the Liberal Democrats thinking about? Once again, personal motives driving political decisions, not clever and definitely not what I would look for in one of my local Councillors.
    The most telling thing for me though is the apparent mentality of this administration. They got absolutely stuffed in the first round of closures and withdrew them, fair enough and good thinking. But they then came back with almost exactly the same material and appeared to genuinely expect people to accept it the second time round. How bizarre is that?
    You think the opposition are clown’s, they appear to be mere apprentices compared to the clowns currently running the circus.

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  17. For the benefit of Treble T, (who has just shown a red rag to a bull) I can confirm that most of the libraries in our rural communities in the Helensburgh & Lomond area have already been closed. At Garelochhead, all we have is an empty unused building.

    I certainly agree with Treble T that every Council tax payer should receive the same services. That would certainly benefit the Council Tax payer in the Helensburgh & Lomond area.

    The trouble is that the Council tax payer in the Helensburgh & Lomond area subsidises the Council tax payer in most other parts of Argyll & Bute. Just take a look at who is paying for the CHORD projects.

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  18. George.
    Thank you for your comments.
    Neil Macintyre should get his facts right before giving “duff” information regarding rural libraries in the Helensburgh and Lomond area being open for business.
    I would like to know when the remainder of Argyll & Bute will be getting their general waste (domestic) bins emptied on a fortnightly basis as they currently are in Islay, Mull and Helensburgh.
    I am sure you can see the trend, “out of site out of mind” as far as Kilmory is concerned!

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