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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?
- 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?
Recent comments by newsroom
- Huge consultancy costs to date on CHORD scheme
The £32k+ for Oban is not about consultancy but refers to what has already been spent to date on the Oban project itself.
We have also published earlier that AECOM were given a subsequent consultancy contract of around £600k from CHORD – but at that time, a few years ago, understood that contract to relate to other CHORD projects as well as Oban’s.
This means that, of the around £1.9 million spend so far on consultants fees for CHORD, AECOM have had, in total, a very large portion of it.
It means that, for Oban, which is your interest – the amount spent on consultancy fees in the years that this initiative has been running, far outweighs the money spent on the Oban CHORD initiative itself.
- SRSN Chair raises issue of Argyll evidence with Holyrood Education Committee
Your Education Director has, however, delivered himself of a ‘clarification’ to the Holyrood Education Committee. Article published here earlier today:
- Sneddon runs white flag to half mast on council deception of parliamentary Education Committee
Mr Sneddon is no one’s whipping boy.
He has been a prime mover since he arrived; and has acted on his own initiative in some matters that have brought the council as a whole into national disrepute – as when he sent out a dreadfully stalinist Press Release in the name of the Council on the revived Martha Payne excursion on school dinners just as the fledgling SNP administration was trying to find its feet.
He has also been given charge of progressing the sale of Castle Toward – a matter hung about with controversy – which is supported by a substantial evidence base.
It is a worrying signal of values at the council – and of its grasp of the realities – that a man like Mr Sneddon, with so whimsical a relationship with facts, has been chosen to keep the disposal of the property under way.
- Huge consultancy costs to date on CHORD scheme
That particular cost breakdown list [from the total given above it] is for the various spends on actual project works.
A question here relates to the Campbeltown all-weather sports pitch.
THis was not part of the Campbeltown CHORD project but money was vired from the townl;s CHORD budget to pay for the AWP.
The question now is whether the council is trying to make the Campbeltown CHORD project look better than it is by including the vired AWP spend as if it were a completed CHORD initiative.
The positive side of this is that the AWP was badly needed in Campbeltown and has done a lot of good there in many ways.
CHORD money is also being vired to the Town Hall project – a signature and joyful Campbeltown building.
Neither, though, were any part of the Campbeltown CHORD ‘vision’.
- Grangemouth admission of intention to import shale gas confirms For Argyll situation analysis
You are mistaken.
Petrochemical feedstock form tne Orth Sea is fie – the problem is that, like the other UK refineries, Grangenouoth is not geared up to handle the cheaper heavy crudes which are the future of the refining industry and of North Sea production.
This is a serious limitation on their lifespan.
Our eight-part series is a seriously researched exercise.
You would have found this information in its pieces on refining and on Grangemouth.
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