North Bute Parent Council on Councillor Michael Breslin and their school

We have just received this statement from the Parent Council of North Bute Primary School.

‘North Bute Parent Council are very concerned about the recent resignation of Michael Breslin, Lead Councillor for Education and Lifelong Learning.  Michael has been working closely with us to secure the future of North Bute Primary School.

‘In a recent dialogue with Mr Breslin, he agreed to broker a meeting with council officials to ‘hammer out a solution’ to the long running issue of the refurbishment of the school, following our feedback about a recent review.

‘We have been disappointed by approach taken by council officials in reviewing refurbishment proposals.  It was our understanding that that review of refurbishment proposals would include our viable alternative to the gold plated refurbishment proposed by the council.

‘We thought a report produced at Parent Council expense by Brown & Wallace would be given due consideration. It hasn’t!

‘We also believed that there was a genuine willingness for the council to work with the community and not regard the generous offer of local business and people as “sweat labour” as described by one senior official.

‘The response we had received made it clear that council officials see no value in investing in the fabric of North Bute and subsequently our children’s education in a unique rural school and therefore continue to back a proposal that looks preposterously expensive and therefore easy to dismiss.

‘We do not accept that the refurbishment proposal set forth is required to provide solution to accommodation issues identified in the Education Services Review 2009. We believe that the alternative we put forward would achieve this at a much reduced cost. Why has this not been considered?

‘We proposed innovative and local procurement methods and suggested potential funding sources to increase the budget available.

‘We asked that the focus should be on our viable alternative or at the very least the crucial fabric repairs and should not include the list of largely cosmetic items such as top of the range doors furnishing and carpet tiles.

‘A budget of just under £300,000 had been allocated and is being frittered away on process and emergency repairs that wouldn’t be needed if the building was properly maintained – the budget now stands at £200,000.

‘North Bute Parents have been consistent and determined that North Bute Primary School remains open, despite the time that has passed, we remain so determined.

‘We hope that whoever is appointed to the role of Lead Councillor of Education and Lifelong Learning carries on the work started by Michael Breslin without delay and in the same spirit.’

North Bute Parent Council might hope for better

Rural primary schools and their parent councils are in a doubly vulnerable position – constantly under threat and treated with disdain by council officers, as has been the case here and in spite of the clear calibre of the parent council’s energies, ideas and proposals.

Their vulnerability makes them unnecessarily grateful, even for the appearance of assistance.

In this case, the ‘assistance’ they were given does not appear to have advanced their cause as a more confidently engaged position with  the Lead Councillor’s own officials might have done.

Councilor Breslin does not appear to have understood that, as Lead Councillor for Education, he had authority. He was not in a position where he had to ‘broker a meeting’ with council officer’s to hammer out anything.

To present the situation in this way to a parent council is an abdication of responsibility. It also sits uneasily with the very different – and unfounded – authority Councillor Breslin assumed in the imperious emails he sent to the Leader of the administration in which he served. In those, published here, the councillor presented himself as the leader of a pack, issuing an astonishing and threatening ultimatum.

Perhaps the membership of a ‘gang’ gave him a courage he could not assume on his own? He appears to have been unwilling or unable to inhabit his genuine authority with senior council officers.

We see this as a key passage in tonight’s statement from North Bute School’s Parent Council:

‘We have been disappointed by approach taken by council officials in reviewing refurbishment proposals.  It was our understanding that that review of refurbishment proposals would include our viable alternative to the gold plated refurbishment proposed by the council.

‘We thought a report produced at Parent Council expense by Brown & Wallace would be given due consideration. It hasn’t!

‘We also believed that there was a genuine willingness for the council to work with the community and not regard the generous offer of local business and people as “sweat labour” as described by one senior official.’

Since the Parent Council has been in discussion with Councillor Breslin, it is inconceivable that they have not made him aware of these specific matters:

  • the dismissal by officers of the viable alternatives they had put forwards;
  • the failure to consider the report they had commissioned at their own expense;
  • the impossibly sneering description of serious voluntary effort offered to the parent council.

Councillor Breslin was in a position where every one of these things was part of his responsibility to see addressed properly.

He appears to have shrugged off this obligation and left the parent council to continue to hold the officers to blame.

They were, of course, culpable – but the higher authority to remind them of their duty and bring them into proper line appears to have remained unused.

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7 Responses to North Bute Parent Council on Councillor Michael Breslin and their school

  1. This is getting ridiculous. It`s pretty obvious what is going on here. If you`re going to act as mouthpiece for Cnclr Robb and do his bidding in trying to smear, either be discreet, or just come out with it! Know what i`m saying?

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  2. Anyone who imagines we do anyone’s bidding on anything has paid no attention whatsoever to our track record.
    We call it as we genuinely see it, whatever it is and without disguise or equivocation.
    And if you’re tapping the side of your nose with a wink as you say: ‘Know what I mean?’, the answer is ‘No’ – and we will never know what you or anyone means in that vein.

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  3. Forgive me if i`ve misconstrued all the overt and covert `anti Breslin` content published recently as being a concerted effort, whilst seemingly missing things that could be seen as more important. Have you found resource to pull the Struan Lodge `savings` apart yet?! Don`t worry, it`s our wee joke, i know you won`t have :-P have a good evening.

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  4. Well politics aside (as I am already totally fed up hearing about them) it sounds to me as if the leopards have not changed their spots.

    Not giving due consideration to Viable Alternatives again? tut tut Snedders. Still, well done to all at North Bute for keeping the momentum going to retain their school.

    I hope you are FOI-ing the life out of them now.

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    • Well said – the underlying issues as opposed to the political point-scoring, smoke-generation and hay-making that seems to be an end in itself for so many commentators.

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  5. On the schools issue the political seesaw started after Sneddon was able to do what he liked as Isobel Strong the SNP’s council education spokesperson was asleep at the wheel.Any reference from Bute would have more clout with me if that lady had been doing her job properly at the time.
    The officials were culpable and very poor at there job but if councillors of all colours and the so called independents
    are not upto the job we see what a shambles we are left with. If our communities all over Argyll are to get the quality we deserve the crap officials and councillors have to go.The SNP are in the firing line and deservedly so but don,t think for one minute they would not be doing the same if the shoe was on the other foot.Russell manipulated and ordered the SNP on the school closures debate I would have more respect for there councillors if they had done it of there own back and that takes us back to councillor Strong.
    So if we are to help our elderly,rural schools and every other part of the community our councillors have to start getting stuck into the officials at every level.
    I hope to provide our community council with the background and figures to some major disasters with the managment of the roads department and the links with the private sector we then will be in a position to challenge the council’s performance.But we need to have the workers to come forward across the whole spectrum or we will get nowhere.Senior management will fight tooth and nail to protect there gravy train so we can’t do it with out the workers input.
    With the SNP administration we have had some financial help form Edinburgh don’t kid yourself that would have happened if it was an Independent led administration.
    Take the political garbage out of the game and lets get Argyll as good as we can under the financial mess we are in.
    Cheers Neil.

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  6. Are the educational requirements for Bute markedly different from the rest of A and B?

    If so, in what way and is there a special case for

    a different approach based on Bute as a whole?

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