Helensburgh Councillor James Robb has this morning tendered his resignation from the Board of the Helensburgh CHORD town centre regeneration project.
He has found it impossible to do his job on the Board for two reasons:
- the council’s pig-headedness in refusing to take a opportunity to redeem a serious and permanent mistake in its planning for the gracious Colquhoun Square, at the heart of this rare example of a planned town. It is determined to perform what is no less than an act of vandalism upon the deliberate architectural geometry of the square; and reduce its amenity space by curving one of the roads along its sides through its central area.
- the stance of a fellow councillor, who chairs the Helensburgh CHORD Board and is openly and improperly refusing to keep Councillor Robb in the loop on developments.
Councillor Robb’s resignation letter
Councillor Robb wrote earlier today to the beleaguered Chief Executive of Argyll and Bute Council, Mrs Sally Loudon, saying:
‘I tender my resignation from the Helensburgh CHORD Project Board. It has become impossible to carry out my duty on behalf of constituents to represent their views on the CHORD Project.
‘The Chair of the Helensburgh CHORD Project Board, Councillor Mulvaney, has publicly admitted he is excluding me from communications on CHORD progress. This is his response to my efforts to introduce some transparency and accountability on the recent tender failure. It appears on this Councillor Mulvaney is being supported by the other local members on CHORD Committees, Councillor Dance and Councillor Morton.
‘The public cannot understand why its call, supported by Helensburgh Community Council, for improvements to the CHORD design for Colquhoun Square continues to be disregarded. I was prepared to continue to do my best to continue to represent the town in the hope that basic democratic values and common sense would prevail. However, remaining part of this process now lends unwarranted credibility to decisions taken and leaves me unable to fulfil my duties as a member of this committee, so I resign with immediate effect.’
An ineffective CEO
Councillor Robb’s resignation demonstrates further the inability of the CEO to manage effectively the operation of the council. The organisational principles of how internal and external council business is conducted is the responsibility of the CEO – as it monitoring its observance.
Today we see an experienced councillor, who is manifestly committed to his place and is open to listening to the views of his constituents, forced to resign because he is unable to get any purchase on having issues of public importance and concern discussed and potentially revised while there really is still time.
We have described Mrs Loudon above as the beleaguered CEO’ of Argyll and Bute Council.
She has presided over the most blatant of functional failures of her senior officers, without intervention:
- from the successive failures of Executive Director Cleland Sneddon – whom she appointed from her own previous employer, Midlothian Council - to produce competent schools closure proposals;
- to the apparent failure of her internal competitor for the job as CEO, Executive Director Douglas Hendry. to provide the council with correct legal advice on the statutory security of Mr Sneddon’s school closure proposals;
- and on the internal management of the entire CHORD programme – covering Argyll and Bute’s five major and dilapidated towns, Campbeltown, Helensburgh, Oban, Rothesay and Dunoon – in a performance which does not begin to bear scrutiny in any respect.
Mrs Loudon has also just cack-handedly rammed the council back into prominence in the national media by suspending two senior members of the council press office.
This is a unit already in turmoil with the existing suspension of their manager, Jo Smith.
Ms Smith had publicly trumpeted, in her address to a professional conference, her internet spying activities on behalf of the council, targeted on council critics.
The two latest and foolish suspensions are said to have been made because Dinah Mackay and Janet West – capable, trusted, straightforward and respected staff – ‘criticised their bosses’ to each other on an internal messaging system.
We have been given to understand that ‘criticising their bosses’ amounted to a few shared jokes of the order of;
- ‘Has X looked in the mirror this morning?’
- ‘Did Y ask you if her bum looked big in what she’s got on?’
Ironically, these messages appear to have been uncovered in the process of the ‘independent’ investigation into Communications Manager, Jo Smith’s activities.
Instead of dealing with this at the minor level it deserved – or as the wise would do, ignoring it altogether, the CEO has flounced into foolish suspensions that have simply made the outside world imagine that the entire council press office is a nest of amoral surveillance monkeys.
Councillor Robb’s resignation in a matter he had continually and fruitlessly brought to the CEO’s attention – on occasion without the courtesy of acknowledgment – underlines the urgency of the reconsideration of her position by whichever administration comes to power after the local authority elections on 3rd May 2012.
This council needs to be pulled together by a CEO with the experience and authority to do so – and to be clear. there are no current internal candidates who would be sufficiently widely accepted in this job.
Argyll and Bute Council may have been made into a national joke by the current administration and by the demonstrable failure in their responsibilities of some of its current senior officers – but Argyll and the Isles is a sleeping giant that CAN move into economic sustainability:
- if it is led well in the interests of the area and not of its ruling groups – whichever they may be;
- if it is competently managed by someone with capability and flair;
- and if the west Highlands are supported by a government with a strategic and resourced plan for their infrastructural development and hence their growth.
Councillor Robb’s resignation highlights these imperatives on all counts.