Time for council administration to think about where it’s going

Its nine months of office to date seem to have brought the new coalition administration at Argyll and Bute Council less to the birth of a confident team than to the kind of upheaval where they would be advised to take serious time to consider who they are, what they’re doing and where they’re going.

Argyll needed a change at the council, with the former administration presiding over what had become a diseased corporate culture that needed to be swept away.

The new lot are just that – new, in any real way, to the job they have to do and, as a coalition, completely new as a team.

There are always going to be some mistakes in the first phase of such a situation and those mistakes have come.

Beginnings

The major initial failure was in not immediately stamping their authority on council officers, with the CEO and the Executive Director of Community Services having, through spectacular incompetence and complacency, exposed the council to serious financial and reputational loss.

This was most marked in the entirely avoidable and fearfully damaging fight-to-the-finish with the electorate that these officers provoked in their gross proposals to close no fewer than 26 primary schools in the area in a single tabula rasa.

For the most senior professionals in the council to fail twice to present legally competent school closure proposal parers and twice to be forced to withdraw them – at a total cost that has never been adequately tabulated but which was topped up with a series of substantial fees to consultants – was clearly a necessary sacking matter.

It didn’t happen and that failure to address one of the most serious failures in council history for some time made the new administration look weak and in thrall to the officers in what remains an officer-led administration.

Then – very quickly – came the Martha Payne child-school-meal-blog affair, with the same Executive Director of Community Services issuing a press release off his own bat, which replicated the stalinism of the stance of the former administration and badly tarred the new one.

Nothing was done about that either. He remains in post.

The failure to act in these matters was undoubtedly damaging.

Another long running issue from the outset is that the new administration are being regularly coached by the local SNP MSP, Michael Russell.

This is happening despite the fact that the administration is a coalition of 21 councillors of which 13 are members of the SNP; and that the Argyll and Bute MSP does not, in any case, represent all of the area.

The most populous of the four areas in Argyll and Bute – Helensburg and Lomond, is represented by Labour’s Jackie Baillie, MSP for Dumbarton, falling within her constituency boundary.

The fact that Mr Russell has more or less taken ownership of the administration is a continuing source of internal discomfort, not to say alienation, across the administration, including within his ‘home’ team.

The paternalistic interventionism is reductive of responsible and elected adult councillors. In the context of a coalition administration and the shared political responsibility at the Scottish parliament for the local authority area, it is of questionable propriety.

It also means that this coalition team – which must learn to act as a team if it is to be successful for Argyll – has not been given the room to grow itself as a coherent unit.

Set against these issues are the strengths of real efforts to create a different working culture in the chamber.

Argyll First established a very effective campaign to have the unreliability of the landslide prone A83 addressed. All councillors signed up to that – a welcome collaboration in a common cause.

A current and major example of the move to create a new political culture is the provision, for the first time, of the full detailed budget proposal papers to all councillors and three weeks in advance of the meeting where the decisions on this will be taken.

This is an admirable attempt to bring the council to serious professional working practices in a gesture of respect.

An unexpected but worrying canary

We have largely left the new administration alone since they took office, to give them time to find their feet. We would have done the same for any new administration. Anything else is pulling the wings off butterflies.

From the start, we characterised the Argyl First  group, members of the administration, as the canaries in the mine; with any evidence of political discomfort amongst them being evidence of political ill health in the coalition.

But over the last few days there have been rumours, confirmed today, of discomfort in a centrally significant canary – the Leader of the Council, the SNP’s and Oban’s Councillor Roddy McCuish.

Councillor McCuish has made it known that he has not yet come to a decision but that his position, however it resolves itself, will be clarified at the council’s budget meeting this day week, Thursday 14th February.

Following the stepping down of the former SNP group leader, Bute’s Councillor Robert McIntyre, Roddy McCuish was made the SNP group’s Leader-elect in the run up to the May 2012 local authority elections.

In these elections. the SNP group won some additional seats, but not as many as they had hoped and needed if they were to be a majority administration.

Roddy McCuish, re-elected as a councillor, then, as leader of the largest group in the resulting coalition, became Leader of the Council.

Not only was this a new administration with many untried members, it had a leader who was himself new to both roles – as leader of his political group and as leader of a council.

Roddy McCuish has an incomparable asset for a politician – he is an honest and straightforward man.

He may well feel insecure in his lack of experience – but every leader begins as an inexperienced leader. It takes time.

We said, at the time of his appointment, that he was – and is – the ideal person to play a very specific leader’s role – as the leader of a team, which is, above all things, what this coalition must become.

That means fostering internal trust, working collaboratively, not molecularly and working together, on their own, to create an agreed identity for their joint administration. We don’t yet know who they are as a unified team, what they’re for and what they’re against.

Councillor McCuish is the ideal person, left alone to do it as he himself sees fit in his own judgment, to bring this disparate group together as a genuine and cohesive team. He is not troubled by ego or by ambition. He was made leader because people liked and trusted him and found his honesty refreshing.

None of that has changed – but he has not been given the chance to find his own way and he may well be under pressure from ambitious colleagues who fancy themselves in his role.

If this is the case, such colleagues may usefully reflect on the ‘cover’ that Councillor McCuish, as leader, provides for them. None of them, as front man, could command the popular trust and affection that Roddy McCuish attracts.

He needs never to lose sight of that, never to allow his integrity – or the integrity of his administration – to be compromised and to assert the authority his own unfettered  judgment will direct.

They need to realise that, were they to be leader, their lesser popularity and the lesser trust they enjoy would bring a far higher level of scrutiny of the work of a fledgling administration than is currently the case.

Consequences

If, next Thursday, Council Leader McCuish stands down, it will show that the administration has been unable to coalesce, unable to put the interests of Argyll first in working together energetically as a creative and engaged team.

They need to play to their real strengths – which exist – and to be supportive of each other.

If they cannot do this, it will be time to be sent home when the opportunity comes.

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62 Responses to Time for council administration to think about where it’s going

  1. So Newsie, as I read your disorientated and somewhat incoherent,rambling article:
    the administration, led by McCuish, was wrong not to sack the Chief Executive and the Executive Director of Community Services – albeit both would have won an unfair dismissal case hands down.
    That Mike Russell should not regard Argyll and Bute Council as his fiefdom.
    Argyll First are still your ‘blue eyed boys’ and
    Roddy McCuish remains your “ideal person” and still the best hope.

    Seriously Newsie as someone who has even the slightest pretensions to be a political commentator can I say that you really are pretty clueless. Or, in the words of Monty Python you are ‘bereft of ideas’.

    The old-fashioned (your words) ‘print media’ ie the Oban Times beat you to this story about McCuish hands down while you were still getting excited and salivating about your hero Jamie McGrigor being at the launch of rugby’s Highland Cathedral!!!

    The truth is ‘For Argyll’ has become a repository either of press releases, or your invented stories, ie the, ‘we understand the council are going to shut rural schools’ type of keech)

    Now Newsie, as a favour, let me tell you (from the inside ;)) the knives aimed at McCuish are neither from the CEO nor from the Executive Director of Community Services and, though it hurts me to say so, not even from Mikeyboy Russell and certainly not from the opposition.

    No. Those knives come from within the SNP group itself, (Semple and Breslin are the names I keep hearing…) and, from their erstwhile coalition ‘partners’.

    However, that’s just informed speculation.

    But, here’s a real hint – if you really want to be ahead of the game and beat the Oban Times in future Newsie: shut up, stop pontificating – and try listening. :)

    Have a nice day. :)

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    • If you actually read the piece, you will see that there was absolutely no suggestion that any officers were making trouble for Council Leader McCuish.
      Nor did we suggest any trouble from coalition partners but indicated the likehood of powerplays from inside his party group.
      There are no ‘ideal’ leaders anywhere – until they have proved that this is what they are.
      We feel that honesty and integrity are a good start for any emerging leader and tit will be both disappointing for the electorate and damaging for the administration if Councillor McCuish proves not to have been given the opportunity to be his own man and to grow into the job.
      On the matter of wrongful dismissal challenges – there was plenty of hard objective evidence of incompetence in the admission by complete withdrawal of the unable school papers; and of serious errors and willful distortions of facts and figures in those papers – publicly documented from the researches of the respected Scottish Rural Schools Network.

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    • The truth is nobody really gives a hoot what ForArgyll think as nobody reads it, or if they do, like me they read so far and give up and then go do something useful.

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    • How much gravitas do you think your purile drivel loses when three out of four of your references to Council Leader, Councillor, Mr Roddy McCuish refer to him as just “McCuish”.I don’t think that at any public meetings or hustings you would be addressing anyone in such a disrespectfull manner would you? You’re entitled to you views and observations and I’m not taking sides (don’t know enough about situation) but common courtesy costs nothing!Do you work nightshift? or are you a bat, vampire or just some poor insomniac troll. Get some sleep and wake up and learn some decent manners.It’s a wonder newsdesk only delete or modify your posts, you wouldn’t last on other sites let alone the real world and I’m not trying to be hard,just honest.

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      • PS Simon I think you’ll find the bereft quote credited to Monty Python by you is wrong find it here “He’s not pining, he’s passed on. This parrot is no more. He has ceased to be. He’s expired and gone to meet his maker. He’s a stiff, BEREFT OF LIFE, he rests in peace. If you hadn’t have nailed him to the perch he’d be pushing up the daisies. He’s rung down the curtain and joined the choir invisible. This is an ex-parrot!” and to both Phil and Simon there is a difference ‘tween “under” and “awaiting”?

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  2. I posted my previous contribution in the ‘wee early hours of the morning’. But still, despite nobody else posting at this time – my previous contribution (glad I have a copy), is ‘under moderation’.
    Anybody else see their posts as being ‘under moderation’???

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    • I have seen this and have just checked the log. Your previous post was submitted at 02.45 and your complaint about its non appearance at 03.02.
      Both had been moderated by one of our team before I looked at the log at 08.30.
      Lynda

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  3. So Communications manager was fired for bringing council into disrepute.

    Cleland Sneddon’s decision and press release on Martha Payne brings 4000 official complaints and makes Argyll and Bute Council the laughing stock The of the world but doesn’t get fired for bringing council into disrepute.

    Unfair dismissal my foot.

    Bob

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  4. It would not surprise me in the slightest that someone as utterly decent and hard-working as Roddy McCuish might be tempted to be able to spend more time on work as an elected member working for his ward than in political bickering.

    I would be very sorry to see him go, but I rather suspect he will. I would in his shoes.

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  5. Very sad affair for Roddy who will oviously do the decent thing and try to deflect what is going on with his fellow SNP.councillors.I totally agree with Catherine about Roddy,s character he,s to good for some of the crackers he has to work with.He will still be the main councillor for Oban but he should let rip about what he has had to put up with but he won,t due to his loyalty to his party that tells you what kind of person he is.
    The writing,s on the wall for the others they won,t last long.
    Plenty crack about the budget to come.
    Cheers Neil.

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    • Totally agree that Roddy McCuish is the best, but will be slightly disillusioned about the politics within politics.
      You dont have to be SNP to admire his qualities in fighting for fairness and accountability. Cant see an obvious replacement to be honest.

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  6. Roddy can’t go, he’s probably the only one in that group with a level head on his shoulders, and probably the smallest ego. Glen-lee and hall at daggers drawn. Breslin at war with the rest of the group, if he is still in the group! James Robb as next leader? God help us in Argyll, remember this is the man flung out not that long ago, bet Sally and Dick are loving this. Last one to leave the administration please turn off the lights.

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  7. I think anyone who has followed the council workings over a number of years can identify the principal problem with the operation of Argyll & Bute Council.

    It’s the councillors who make policy based on the information officials provide them with and the councillors judge the success of that policy by the results the officials again provide them with, you can see where it all goes wrong. A fault with the councillors of all persuasions is their lack of scrutiny of the information that is put before them – even when there is clear evidence that official’s reports are, at best, deficient in providing the whole picture.

    Most of the people at the top of the full time officers’ structure are not very competent but tend to survive and cover their position by putting a constant stream of inaccurate reports to councillors generally to cover incompetence or inefficiency in their departments. The Director of Community Services is not the only one to do this as the Director for Development and Infrastructure and his managers have become masters at the art of disinformation to councillors.

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    • The fact that the budget document to be discussed at the meeting next Thursday is 641 pages tends to support this. Have a look at it, a lot of it is managementspeak babble and padding. It doesn’t clearly state where £40m of savings are actually going to come from although our attention was drawn to a couple of paragraphs on page 434 by an earlier post on this site. Para 2.57 Severance Costs.

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    • A reasonable decription of what nearly happens. The reason I say nearly is that I think you under estimate the extent to which the content of reports written by officers for elected members can be influenced by the administration before it is finalised.

      This is the case across all Councils, I am not bieng specific to A&B.

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    • Paul summarises very succinctly a problem which pervades probably all of our public institutions. There seems to be a tendency, wittingly or otherwise, for the executive to saturate the governing groups with paperwork to the extent that it is not humanly possible for them to be on top of it. Much is taken on trust, too often and too much. Whilst the power of cheap computing, word processing, spreadsheets, etc., can be blamed for the propensity to generate professional looking bumff by the tonne, so the power of the interweb now enables the public to engage in much closer scrutiny of the facts. And the facts quite often prove to be depressing, even shocking.

      Many years ago, when George Mathewson took over the SDA/Scottish Enterprise, he recognised an organisation literally out of control. He instigated an interesting concept – a Policy Impact Evaluation Unit – whose composition was entirely of outsiders. This compact unit, comprising no more than a handful of highly qualified professionals, served as a feedback loop, monitoring outgoings and the results which flowed from them, reporting their findings to the top thereby closing the control loop and enabling much more informed decision making to take place. Hitherto, the practice had been to make a case, spend the money, move on. It goes without saying that, being the antithesis of the lazy, glib, incompetent and cosy, this unit was unpopular with many staffers. I expect that with Mathewson’s departure, things would have reverted to the public organisational norm, but his idea, powerful, professional control feedback units, may have merit across the public sector.

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  8. I would certainly agree with Paul Keegan about the Directors and the management structure in the council.The problem you have in my mind is how do we as ordinary punters break open the real costs and waste that are covered up.The councillors don,t seem to be able to do that so where do we go?Hopefully with the current cuts and the need for more in the coming years people will come forward to expose more of what is going on.Sadly with the latest NHS.scandal it seems to be one rule for the bosses who are not found culpable but pick up the nice big salaries and pensions.
    My favourite has always been the Oban Chord Project which highlights MR.Keegan,s point.Our local councillors and the Director Robert Pollock quite happily confirmed at the Chord meeting that nearly £7million of development money had not been used in nearly 6 years.Sadly that is not isolated but the mentally seems to be that they are untouchable.It,s Time to bring that attitude to an end but it is only ourselves that can do it.
    I hope to have some nice details to start the ball rolling when the budget is finalised but if anyone can help with any information please give me a shout.
    Cheers Neil.

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    • Neil, you have hit the nail firmly on the head. The Council’s management structure really does need a serious review.

      I have always found it hard to understand why there is a Chief exec with 3 Executive Directors answering to them. Why does that highly paid level of management exist at all?

      Surely it would be far more effective to have the heads of service answering directly to a Chief Exec. Getting rid of the “Executive Director” tier of management would save a few hundred grand in salaries in the long term (after golden handshakes are accounted for). However, in the short term, it would streamline decision making and keep the Chief Exec more directly involved with the provision of the services that she is paid to manage.

      The school closures fiasco showed how expensive the manipulations of these senior officers can be when they want to push through a poor policy decision against all reasonable expert opinion.

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  9. Folks wanting a decent online newsheet should try Newsnet Scotland.

    Professional quality articles by by well kent and respected journos it gives good commentary and the quwlity of blog is good.

    Well worth a try.

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    • Very little of Newsnet’s content is about Argyll so it’s of little interest. At least this covers local content better than our local paper and with less partiality; the partiality can be accommodated as it is consistent.

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    • Willie-surely you wrote that comment with your tongue firmly planted in your cheek and a cheeky wee smile flourishing on your blue and white painted visage.

      Newsnet Scotland has been, and is, a great servant of Nationalist politics. Admittedly it is well written and presented but it is undoubtedly an organ, throbbing enthusiastically, for the seperatist cause.

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      • Bob, your comment about Newsnet Scotland being well written and well presented is a very welcome and objective comment.

        I do think the team at Newsnet Scotland try hard to deliver on quality. And yes, NNS does tend to favour the benefits of independence, but when it does so, it does so on the basis of well researched articles. That said, it doesn’t slavishly support the SNP.

        NNS also lets folks see other sides of arguements which all too often are smothered in bias, prejudice and down right truth mis-telling.

        So, delighted to hear your positive comments,and maybe you are one of the many in the ranks of the Labour party who are both pro the Scottish Parliament and open to the opportunity that independence could bring.

        Folks can agree to disagree, but it should always be on the basis of rigorous and honest debate.

        That aside Newsnet Scotland is free, it’s online and it’s no a bad read at all – even if you don’t agree.

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  10. Phil, that’s the point I was trying to make. This moderation thingy never happened until very recently. And I certainly never saw anything indicating they were bringing it in.

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  11. Phil, I agree with you 100% re Councill leader Coucnillor McCuish. A decent honest man. Perhaps too decent.
    What I’m hearing is that his deputy Semple is ambitious and flexing his muscles, whilst breslin cannot deal with being over-ruled. And interestingly, Argyll 1st cllrs are not innocent in all this.
    More in-fighting than love-in for this relatively new adminstration.
    And more to come by all accounts.

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    • Dont know much about Semple, Robb, but i would have thought they would all stand firm on this latest uncertainty in which the only winners appear to be be opposition/old guard, ironically.
      Its a bit like the last days of the likes of Craig Levein but without the initial mandatory ‘vote of confidence’.

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  12. If the council want to save money I suggest that they get rid of the call centre in Campbeltown and let the staff at the local Service Points deal with the calls from their own area.
    Argyll & Bute Council have published a booklet headed “Putting You First”.
    On Page 4 of this booklet it states that “If you call us, we will answer your call quickly usually within 20 seconds”.
    I do not know who produced this booklet but they obviously have never tried phoning the call centre in Campbeltown where you are lucky if you get your call answered after Three Minutes. Even if you dial your local Service Point phone number your are asked to push buttons 1,2,3 or 4 depending on the type of your query.
    I suspect that this booklet has been produced by Aygyll & Bute Council to tick the necessary boxes that are required by COSLA and the Scottish Government.

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  13. I have just noticed that the booklet headed “Putting you first” is an EasyRead version of the Argyll & Bute Council Customer Service Charter.
    As far as I can see Argyll & Bute Council are not interested in providing a service for their council taxpayers. All they are interested in is Empire building in Campbeltown!

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    • Treble T – I don’t think that “Empire building” in Campbeltown is a reasonable way of describing the provision of extra jobs in an area with some of the worst unemployment stats in the UK.

      I too find the buffer of a call centre between me and the person I really want to talk to a pain. However both private sector businesses and public bodies seem to find them a more cost-effective way of servicing high volumes of callers.

      If this is the case then it makes sense to site the centre somewhere where those jobs will bring most benefit to the local community. I can’t think of a more deserving place than the ‘Wee Toon’.

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  14. Hi all, On moderation: we have an intermittent problem with spam filters. This is a third party provision which is not under our control, and which is used by WordPress installations all over the world. What tends to happen is that these fail, and then we have maybe 400 comments come onto the system in a five minute period. If your comment gets caught in this maelstrom it is also held for moderation and we get to it as fast as possible. The editorial policy on comments hasn’t changed nor will it. At some point I will post more on this, yours, Techroom

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  15. Bob Chicken.
    I certainly do NOT agree with your comments.
    When members of the public phone the Argyll & Bute call centre they expect their problems to be actioned as soon as possible and not have to wait for weeks to have them carried out.
    Previously if they phoned their local Service Point the problem was resolved very quickly but with the call centre the problem gets lost in the queue.
    If you are determined to have a council call centre in Argyll & Bute there are other areas of Argyll & Bute that are more deserving than Campbeltown. After all the finance department of Argyll & Bute Council is based in Campbeltown.

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  16. Robert Wakeham.
    As Bob Chicken stood as a Labour candidate in the Kintyre and the Islands ward in the May 2012 council elections I would have thought that he would have been keen for an un-necessary call centre to situated in his ward.
    You can do the geography.

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    • That’s not what your previous comment says – you’re quite clearly telling Bob Chicken that you think there are other areas more deserving than Campbeltown of a call centre.

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  17. Treble T. Quite correct. I was proud to stamd for the Scottish Labour Party in Kintyre and the Islands. The ward includes Islay, Jura, Colonsay and North Kintyre as far South as Muasdale. Sadly it doesn’t include either South Kintyre or Campbeltown

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  18. Bob Chicken
    I typed your name into my search engine dee4life.easysearch.org.uk as I thought you had something to do with the Labour Party.

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  19. Robert Wakeham.
    I will give you a list of places that are more deserving than Campbeltown of a call centre.
    1. Isle of Islay
    2. Isle of Mull
    3. Dunoon
    4. Isle of Tiree
    5. Rothesay
    6. Tarbert

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    • TTT how can you say Islay is more deserving than Campbeltown when you would have trouble finding staff for a call centre? How many people do you know are without a job here(at least those that could be employed)?

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    • Tiree ? why do we need a call center ? seems a bit of a bad call given the quality of our phone lines…I think the area with the highest un-employment would be the obvious choice.

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  20. All council’s including Argyll and Bute should make their council official’s do the following.
    -Start their budget at £0
    -They then must justify the benefit to every council tax payer or the populace as a whole eg why there is Director’s for this and that as opposed to janitor, cleaner, social worker, primary school teacher, road worker, cleansing staff etc.
    - All councilors must stop being duped by imaginary stat’s etc as all it happens is that the Senior council officials sit back watching the politicians argue with each other. The officials main aim is to sit out until the next election
    So can we get the various department’s justify why we need to pay them?

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    • Surely they’d have to start with themselves otherwise they wouldn’t be there to carry out the task? Seriously though, this is a process that Council departments have been going through over recent years ad nauseam. Review after review after review. What it means is that managers haven’t had time to manage because they’ve been spending too much time reviewing. An exception to this is the huge number of people who are tasked with reviewing the reviews and dreaming up the next one. Strangely, they always seem to be exempt when it comes to cuts. Nobody seems to question whether it’s actually all worth it and how much would be released to spend on “front-line” services if they were disbanded and managers just left to manage.

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      • Novel idea about managers being allowed to manage— let’s not bother with democraticc control !
        Problem is with any small authority everybody knows someone and soon they are managing for themselves and not the wider community.

        I don’t see the problem about asking the officials to justify themselves in spending our monies.

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  21. keith stanger.
    You have hit the nail on the head.
    People carry out reviews but nothing ever seems to be an inprovement.
    Goodness knows who dreamt up the idea of the contact centre (call centre) in Campbeltown. They probably thought it was a good idea because other organisations have done likewise having call centres in both the UK and India.
    Most people do not like waiting in a queue at their expense and speaking to call centres. They prefer to be able to phone their local Service Point where they know the staff and their request will be carried out promptly and efficiently.
    If Argyll & Bute Council decide to close all their local Service Points how are the staff going to manage in the contact centre when they are unable to provide an answer to the customer. The Contact Centre staff will not have the option to send the call back to the customer’s local Service Point for help and advice.
    No doubt the powers that be in Kilmory and Campbeltown have not considered that possibility.

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  22. James Walsh.
    Despite what you may think I am sure that there are plenty suitable people on Islay who would rather work full time in a call centre rather than be dependent on seasonal work.
    For your information several years ago a small call centre was in operation in the Customs House in Bowmore.

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  23. James Walsh.
    From memory you are the HGV driver who says that the sides of the main roads on Islay are not broken by drivers of HGV lorries. Perhaps you think that the grass verges are also part of the carriageway.
    The next time you are on Islay I suggest that you get out of your cab and walk along the main road between Bruichladdich and Port Charlotte. Then you will see that the sides of the road are broken and the verges next to the carriageway are churned up by HGV’s.

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    • TTT:

      a) you need to read what people say before you quote them, rather than make it up.

      b) rat-eaten tarmac edges to roads in Argyll are little to do with driving behaviour and everything to do with substandard road widths – never mind the A847, the A83 trunk road between Ardrishaig and Tarbert shows ample evidence of large vehicles having to clip the verges.

      Would you rather that oncoming vehicles collided with each other?

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    • TTT I drive 7 days a week on the Islay roads so what makes you think I don’t know what the roads are like? Car drivers, especially non local ones are our biggest hazard and we sometimes need to give them extra room.

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  24. Robert Wakeham.
    Perhaps it requires a few accidents before the MSPs in Holyrood take a tumble and decide to do something about the A83 trunk road between Tarbert and Ardrishaig.
    The politicians have finally decided to do something about the A9 between Perth and Inverness after numerous bad accidents. Most of the bad accidents have been caused either danagerous driving or driver fatigue. At a court case in November 2012 an HGV lorry driver admitted failing to take sufficient rest and causing an accident on 23rd December 2010 at Ballinliug. The HGV lorry driver fell asleep at the wheel and crashed into another lorry on the opposite lane of the carriageway killing the driver.
    In my opinion there is nothing wrong with the A9 as long as drivers use a bit of common sense and do not overtake on blind corners.

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  25. I have just received my itemised monthly phone bill from Tesco Talk.
    On 24th January 2013 I telephoned the Argyll & Bute contact centre (call centre) to report a metal covering plate which had fallen off a lamp standard exposing the wiring.
    I had been on the phone for over 3 minutes before someone at the call centre answered the call and the total call lasted exactly 7 minutes as the operator required my personal details name, address, post code and contact telephone number. At no time was I given a reference number or work number should the temporary repair not be carried out.
    In the event the temporary repair was done but over two weeks later a permanent repair has not been done.
    My call to the contact centre in Campbeltown cost me 54p plus VAT at 20% which resulted in a total cost of 65p.
    If I had phoned my local Service Point in Bowmore my call would have been answered within 20 seconds and the cost of the phone call would have been a lot less.
    More importantly the staff at the Bowmore Service Point would have ensured that the repair to the lamp standard was carried out promptly and they would certainly not take two weeks to carry out a permanent repair.
    It will be interesting to see how long it takes the person in Kilmory who is in charge of authorising permanent repairs to street lighting in Argyll & Bute to ensure that the work is done. I will not hold my breath waiting!
    In future I will not be wasting my money on a phone call to the contact centre in Campbeltown to report street lighting faults. I know who is in charge of street lighting repairs in Argyll & Bute and I will send them an email direct. If you have one email address in Argyll & Bute Council you have them all.
    Otherwise I will do what the majority of people in Islay do. I will do nothing and wait for someone else to report it.
    There is currently a street light on the main road in Bruichladdich which has not been lit since last summer (2012) but as it does not affect me I do not see why I should bother reporting it.

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    • TTT – may I suggest that – living in Islay – you should find that informal local ‘networking’ (ie popping into the appropriate office next time you’re in Bowmore) is far more cost-effective, and productive, than going through the formal procedure.

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  26. Simon.
    Thank you for the information regarding the free on-line contact form which I will use in the future.
    I feel sorry for people who do not have internet access and have to run up a phone bill reporting faults to the contact centre.
    If Argyll & Bute Council are determined to make all residents use the contact centre then a Freephone number should be available. It is not “rocket science”!

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