Comment posted Voting by newsroom.
What happened with the first incarnation of what became CHORD is that it began as a competition with, as you say, a £10m prize pot. This was to go in major part to the winning proposal for a waterfront regeneration scheme, with a secondary amount to the next best entry.
This was astonishingly sexy and innovative for a council – at the level of an idea.
The trouble was that there was no ability to take it beyond an idea – to prepare the specification of practical guidelines to realise the idea. This was beyond the ability of the council – so they threw money at consultants whom they also did not know how to brief or monitor. The first set of proposals were too unable across the board to proceed so the timescale was extended and the consultants retained and tasked with helping the town teams to develop secure outline business cases.
As matters progressed towards a conclusion, the penny belatedly dropped.
A competition will produce a winner – but means losers and lost votes. Critically, the Dunoon bid was judged as the least capable so it was not going to win. Dunoon is of course Councillor Walsh’s own patch and that of his colleague James McQueen – there was no way lost votes were coming home to that particular roost.
So the Council Leader stood up with a flourish at a full council meeting at which we were present and pulled a long chain of linked money out of his sleeve. He announced that all the entries were great. It was impossible to choose between them. So they were raiding the reserves to the tune of a further £20 million or so, making a pot of over £30 million. All five towns would get all get the money they had costed for their projects. Hip, Hip…
We slammed that at the time for the fiscal irresponsibility, political cowardice and pork barrel lathering it was – and we were a lone voice amidst the universal celebrating of the prospect of the loot.
And what has happened since?
How many years is it exactly, from the start of the regeneration ‘competition’ to now: What has been produced in all that time? How much has this charade cost Argyll and Bute – and for exactly what – to date?
And while the airport may have started under a previous administration, the mess that was made of it was ramped up under successive administrations led by the Alliance.
Trying to spread blame around patently junior partners is itself an admission that blame is fully due.
We are identifying the primary source of the canker in Argyll – and while we have said that the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives have been greedy bottom feeders in supinely supporting Alliance decisions, we have said that they are not the primary predators.
When the SNP were minority partners in power, they were clearly asleep on watch. But when they woke up to the reality of what was going on, they tried to persuade their senior partners of the wisdom of binning the Sneddon proposals to close 26 rural primaries.
When they could not do so, they walked. They put the interests of rural communitiesm parents and children before their party’s role in power and before their own financial interest. In contrast, the LibDems and Conservatives have stayed in power and in the money at all costs – to others.
We have challenged anyone to come up with a list of stellar achievements of the Alliance led administrations to counter their disasters.
Let’s hear them. They are the only viable defence. So where are they?
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- Documents – and many of them – obtained under Freedom of Information and published by us at the time, showed that the then Education Spokesperson, SNP Councillor Isobel Strong, was deliberately kept out of the loop on what was going on for a considerable time.
This was done with the clear connivance of the Council Leader who was party to much of the correspondence in question. Had he been unaware of the manipulation, he would have expected to see the Education Spokesperson’s name on the circulation list and, properly, would have immediately insisted that she be party to the ongoing planning and discussion.
The correspondence from which she was excluded was from sources including external ‘consultant’ Keir Bloomer, Education Director Cleland Sneddon – and more junior members of staff who obviously followed the lead given.
This was disgracefully improper and undemocratic political manoeuvering.
So there is nothing remotely ‘kind’ about the way we have judged the SNP – and Councillor Strong’s performance in this. Had she been proactive, present, controlling – it would have been more difficult for them to succeed in their evidenced objective of keeping her in the dark as to the closure plans – and on the discussions on how to cook the cases to be presented.
And in case you object to that statement too, Simon – there is documentary evidence of it in the FoI documents.
The external consultant advised the internal staff – who went on to take the advice, to suppress the fact that Minard School, one listed to close (and again in the second (Morton/Sneddon) attempt)had the third best HMIE report in Scotland.
You may not like the picture you see above any more than we do – although for very different reasons – but it is the objective reality.
We have asked for a counter-list of substantial achievements to match the level of these multiple failures.
Perhaps you can produce something on that front?
- Bit vote independent Independent.
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- Iain McCallum: the human bridge between Campbeltown and Heroes Challenge UK
Alan – we’ll try to get a message to the team for you – and will pass on your email to them for dir3ect contact.
The communications side of things is a weak link – not just with wifi and mobile signal problems but with accurate information on ETAs and even destinations.
We spent the afternoon today chasing around unsuccessfully to find them at their stated destination in Campbeltown – confirmed before we set off to drive – when in fact they finished at The Putechan Hotel, which is on the west coast of Kintyre and well short of Campbeltown. Very frustrating.
We did see the team doing the hard stuff though – passing them on the way south. They were cycling in two clusters, impressively easily and very disciplined in the way they were dealing with traffic streams behind them.
You should know that we now understand that they will row tomorrow from Campbeltown to Glenarm and not to Ballycastle; and that it looks as if they will row back not form Newcastle but from Bangor to Portpatrick.
They’ll be delighted to see you mi-channel. Great idea.
- Argyll and Bute Council: Where are we now?
The difference is that the new ferry to Campbeltown had an arrival time and actually arrived.
A major part of what we work to do is to support initiatives at all levels that are focused on regeneration and are driven by positive, creative energies that make things happen.
Campbeltown wins hands down over Kilmory any minute of any day on these criteria – and we never spare ourselves travelling and hard work on a cause that has some hope of going somewhere.
And just in case you are implying that this was a jolly – which we never do: I myself drove to Campbeltown – 1 hr 30m – did the work and drove back again immediately.
- Argyll and Bute Council: Where are we now?
This amusing spin disguises the fact that there was no political ‘speculation’.
There was formally recorded political realignment and manoeuvering by all councillors – which was done in some urgency before the council meeting, yet appears to have stalled – for some reason and for the time time being at least.
Councillors do not seem to realise that this adds to the alienation of voters rather than assuage concerns.
- Big welcome at Campbeltown for new Ardrossan ferry
We understand she carried about 60 passengers and although, flying around to catch as much as possible, we didn’t have time to count the cars coming off, we did look out for this and there were a respectable number of them.
- Argyll and Bute Council: Councillor McCuish leads again
We appreciate that it is inconvenient for a light to be shone on doings your party would prefer to keep hidden in shady places from those it asks to vote for it.
That is a dishonourable contract.
As the former Alliance of Independent Councillors [which had nothing at all do with Michael Russell ] knows very well, when it was damaging Argyll and Bute by its conduct during the 2010-11 schools closure wars, we were even more vigilant in keeping them under scrutiny and publishing on their manoeuvres.
We had to be even more vigilant because they were skilled at keeping things under wraps – where the SNP has conducted its acts of political genocide en plein air. All anyone has had to do is draw up a chair.
It should be obvious from our stance in recent weeks that we have no ‘vendetta’ against Councillor Dick Walsh, whom we dealt with arguably more harshly than we have done with Mr Russell.
A central function of our role is to contribute to the holding to account of those elected to serve the people. We do our best to fulfil this fairly – and hard. But we have no vendetta against anyone.
In Mr Russell’s case we simply feel he is a hot air balloon who has imploded over Argyll and done a great deal of harm – profoundly so to his own party, which we used to support. The evidence for our view is in the public domain.
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