Comment posted Misleading journalism from Dunoon Observer by Sandy Longmuir.
New revelations this morning. The Cowal Courier are now quoting Mr Walsh as saying “In 2009 the Council was invited to submit a bid – whether it be for new build or refurbishment.”
If the Cowal Courier is accurate in its quote it would appear that Mr Walsh was clear all along that the SFT supported refurbishments. He goes on to claim that they submitted two options in the bid (both for joint campuses) and that the Scottish Government chose the larger school option of the two proposals.
I find this questionable as none of the other successful grant applications have been set in stone. The links I have provided above show that other authorities are still developing their plans for the schools to this day. Orkney are quoted as saying after they had been successful in the grant application that they still had not made up their mind about whether to refurbish or rebuild Evie Primary. Moray even changed the school to be refurbished in their application because of the impending closure of Kinloss.
It is also remarkable that a plan should be cast in stone ahead of a public consultation process which had yet to take place in Dunoon. This would result in only one fixed option being in place ahead of a public consultation process. I suppose a consultation process where the outcome had been preordained should not come as a shock to us but this would be rather blatant, even in our experience.
In reality the funding approved was outline approval with the projects to be developed over time. This is clear in the way other authorities have engaged with the process.
In Angus the council tried to impose a superschool on the public without allowing proper consideration of the alternatives. The sitting councillor who was behind this polled less than 200 first preference votes last week and lost his seat in spectacular fashion.
Sandy Longmuir also commented
- It seems a few more rural authorities managed to get the memo that said they could apply for refurbishment funding
Perth & Kinross
I do not know what else I can do to convince people that Councils were fully aware of refurbishment possibilities back in 2009. I was absolutely clear on this at the time and I am not being paid a 6 figure salary to keep up to date with this stuff. I could equally list dozens of press articles from the time which made the refurbishment option clear.
I fully accept that A&BC made a complete hash of the Schools (Consultation) Act. I am further aware that they lost complete sight of the impact of the Special Island Needs Allowance and the Supporting People Grants. It is clear that other local authorities understood this and benefited from that understanding at A&BC’s expense. I also have in my possession copies of letters sent by Mr Walsh to John Swinney asking for more cash through GAE to make it easier for him to close rural schools and hostels. The requests show a degree of ignorance about how the funding mechanism worked and why it operates the way it does.
It may be that newsroom is correct and that A&BC require a special explanation of their own to encourage them to come up to the standards that others manage with the information currently available. Personally I think it would be preferable to have people in charge who can keep up.
- Shetland Council managed to work it out and applied for refurbishment funding. Cannot be that difficult to find the information…
- “Is it reasonable to expect senior officers and council leaders to hear all minister’s speeches to parliament and to be au fait with specialist magazines?”
No it is not. Is it reasonable to expect officials and elected members to be aware of speeches where your success or failure for capital grants in relation to your application for funding of £6.745million for your home town are being announced? I would say so.
- Councils had to apply for the funding back in 2009. Councillors had to approve which schools were put forward and on what terms. I do not know Mr Walsh but everything I have read about him would indicate that he is very hands on with this kind of thing. If he did not make himself aware of the terms and conditions attached to committing near £7million of Argyll & Bute’s money to this project then this would appear to be a major oversight. It is possible he had bad advice from officers but this is a major item in the capital budget and I would expect a good leader to be aware of the detail. I would expect that level of detail to be even more acute when the major investment is in his ward and home town.
As for the “horse’s mouth” – A&BC have been in direct contact with the officers of SFT since their application was accepted. Rather than look at a website why on earth would you not just pick up the phone and ask?
- Mick, I posted on another thread that the £6.745 million allocated to A&BC in November 2009 is being administered by the Scottish Futures Trust. The actual details of the project is down to negotiation between SFT and A&BC. SFT are aiming to deliver cost effective capital projects which meet the required building standards for schools. If A&BC take a cost effective proposal to SFT which meets the required building standards there is absolutely no reason to think SFT would not support that. Current experience would indicate that any problem is more likely to arise when the cost of any project exceeds what SFT consider to be best value. The situation in Wick is currently unclear as SFT have refused to assist in funding the project until costs are brought under control.
I have no idea what was said at the meeting but I would have found it ridiculous if anyone had suggested that the joint campus was set in stone and the project could not be varied at this stage.
Recent comments by Sandy Longmuir
- Audit Scotland ‘Action Plan’ for Argyll and Bute Council a flawed document
Could not agree more with Mike Breslin above. From my communications with Audit Scotland and the Accounts Commission it is pretty clear that they just want all of this to go away. The Argyll fiasco has been a feature of the last 3 Accounts Commission meetings. The agenda for the next meeting this Thursday coming should be published tomorrow. It will be interesting to see if the discussion is to be continued this week or if the broom and carpet approach is to be taken.
Anybody interested can keep an eye on this link to see if any of the multiple complaints the Accounts Commission have received are being treated in any way seriously….. http://www.audit-scotland.gov.uk/about/ac/papers.php
- FOI documents on Castle Toward support Actual Reality’s allegations against Argyll and Bute Council
“In fact it manages to mislead its readers on every important issue that it covers, mainly by omitting relevant facts.” Dr Chris Mason.
Am I alone in seeing similarities to other actions taken by this Council? Did the Council’s timeline of the schools debacle they submitted to the Scottish Parliament not suffer from exactly the same disease that Chris Mason so aptly describes the symptoms? In this case the incompetent and farcical 25 school consultation of late 2010 was expunged from history when it was the most relevant thing of all to a Parliamentary Committee discussing changes required to the current legislation.
The minimisation in accurately reporting facts to Audit Scotland is also nothing new. In their Audit Report, Audit Scotland refer to work done on identifying misinformation in the consultation process by the Scottish Rural Schools Network as having been established to be “untrue”. I wonder where Audit Scotland could possibly have received the information that our work was a pile of complete and utter b*****ks?
The shame here in this case is on Audit Scotland as they did not take the care to investigate properly the complete garbage that Argyll & Bute officials spew out on a regular basis.
Audit Scotland have been found to be all too ready to accept the word of people who have been completely discredited on a local, national and international basis. They have identified the serial problems of Castle Toward, the schools fiasco, the schools meals blog and the care homes shambles and yet they find time to praise a CE who is presiding over a shambolic meltdown of a Council. At the same time they find pages of space to criticise elected members for their mistrust of the same officials.
While Audit Scotland are right that blame does lie at the door of elected members they have only been superficial in their investigation of where many of the problems really lie. Had they done a more thorough job on Castle Toward, involved Dr Mason and others. Had they contacted us before printing that our work was all b*****ks. Had they listened to some of the radio interviews given by officials at the height of the school meals blog fiasco. Had they done any of the above, people like Dr Mason would not have to be considering expensive legal action to achieve a result that a national watchdog should really be there to do.
Audit Scotland may claim, possibly correctly, that this is not in their remit. If it is not then Scotland needs a body whose remit it is. Cllr Breslin is right, this Council needs to be investigated and that investigation must be thorough and carry public confidence. What we cannot have is a national watchdog which inhibits councillors from scrutinising and questioning the information they are provided with. At this moment we are perilously close to that.
- SRSN Chair raises issue of Argyll evidence with Holyrood Education Committee
A prediction for you Michael. At the December meeting officers will launch on a diatribe on why I am the devil incarnate and should be cast into a pit of darkness for all eternity. They will deny point blank that they have made any misrepresentations of information, ever, without producing a single shred of evidence to support that view. They will already have convinced a bunch of shameless, numpty, single figure IQ councillors that it is best all round if they vote to support officers in this endeavour. Some ridiculous motion will be trumped up which blames the Scottish Government, me, SRSN, leprechauns or dancing fairies and which everybody on the planet knows is nonsense The vote will be won and officers will report to Audit Scotland that all is well and the devil has been slain. Audit Scotland will then include in their audit report a paragraph which summarises the above and all will be well. Officers will continue to pass “Go” every month and will continue to collect their £8,000 to £10,000. Audit Scotland will continue to fail in their very purpose for existence and the world will continue to rotate on its axis.
How can I be confident in my predictions? It has all happened before, it will happen again and it appears nobody has any will to change the culture..
The one good thing, as stated in another post, is that Parliament does have people capable of analysing these events and A&BC will have damaged Cosla’s aims in trying to undermine changes to the legislation.
- School closures: Russell commits to centrality of educational benefit – without clarifying the current meaning of the term
Perhaps I can help here. Coll and Tiree are lumped together for datazone purposes but I can confirm that Karl is correct about a mini boom in the two islands. In 2010 15 births were registered to parents on those two islands with 10 and 12 births in the previous two years – a total of 37 for the three year period. This is far higher than has been experienced in the immediate past with only 20 being registered in the first 3 years of the millennium.
Such local fluctuations are why Cleland Sneddon was warned off by the General Register Office for Scotland (GROS)from using their Local Authority based projections in individual school consultations.
Bute had a recent high birth rate of 52 in 2010 with 46 and 50 in the previous two years – again the highest 3 year total this millenium.
Islay, Jura and Colonsay had a high birth rate peak in 2008 (35) but have since seen a decline which , depending on migration figures, may result in a fall in school rolls by 10% or so in around 4 years time.
It is worth noting that Argyll overall has had a dip in births since the school closures fiasco in 2010. This is more marked than almost anywhere else in Scotland. This may be down to numerous factors such as the recession hitting a tourism and public sector based economy harder than other areas. It may also be, in some small part, due to the closure publicity, the school meals blog debacle, spygate and other PR disasters making Argyll a very unattractive place to have kids at this moment in time.
- Scottish Rural Schools Network’s response to Rural Education Commission report
Touch a raw nerve did I Simon?
Is it only you that cannot see the contradiction in saying you are not an advocate in closing rural schools when you have spent the last couple of years singling out schools like Luss for just that very action?
I agree that your course of action would be sensible and is the same as I would take but that was not what you were advocating I should do. You were pushing me for a number or a list of school names (as you have done with others in the past) without that process having taken place.
How could I have carried out community impact assessments, travel times and distances, assessments of economic activity, future rolls, birth rates etc on those 35 schools without consulting with each individual community in the way this report recommends? But you were pushing me as you have pushed others to create some sort of arbitrary list while now admitting that is not the way to do it.
I do not need to misrepresent you – you do an excellent job of that yourself. Are you sure you are not Cleland Sneddon?
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