Council stalemate: attitude shifts and external leverage

In the continuing stalemate at Argyll and Bute Council, with no serious talking going on and the next council meeting the immediate hope of a material address to the situation, there is, as of this morning, still no June meeting of the council formally notified to the public on the Calendar of Meetings on the Council website. We have asked the council for clarification on this matter.

However, some interesting shifts of opinion are taking place amongst SNP activists.

There appear to be seven SNP branches in Argyll and Bute.

Five of these – Oban, Helensburgh, Dalriada, Mull and Campbeltown have now mandated their SNP councillors to work with any other councillors in the wider interests of Argyll and Bute.

The other two – Cowal and Bute and Holy Loch [also in Cowal] – are unlikely to follow suit, since their area is the storm source of the internal warfare that still rages, with no dawning of awareness of discipline and collective responsibility and a continuing absence of any political intelligence on the party’s own interests.

The five local mandates represent a growing awareness amongst SNP local activists of the depth of the damage the ongoing internal political farrago has done to their party’s prospects.

This is a situation which ought to be germane to the unhelpful perspectives subjectively applied to party instructions to its councillors by the SNP’s NEC.

The key issue now is what next?

Back to the Council Constitution

Argyll and Bute Council’s Constitution – as currently published online remains both out of date and seriously incomplete. We know that the Constitution was revised after the May 2012 council elections and that the former Executive Committee was abolished.

The detail of the revised Constitution, however, remains a matter from which the public is currently excluded – as it the case with any detail even of the outdated version, from page 21 onwards.

We would have thought it the responsibility of the CEO to ensure that public information of this sort was always compete and up to date. We have asked for a digital copy of the current Constitution.

From our analysis of the current situation from the out of date Constitution, there is no constitutional problem with the present governance of the council. There is an elected Council Leader and all councillors appointed by the council to senior responsibilities are continuing to carry out those functions.

However, the common sense that politicians ignore at their peril, demands a resolution of an obvious stalemate.

This may not be paralysing the functions of the council in terms of service delivery but the distractions generated are nevertheless impacting unhelpfully upon democratic debate.

For example, at the meeting of the Council’s Planning and Protective Services Licensing Committee on 28th May, 9 councillors tendered apologies for absence, with only 6 in attendance. Yet this agenda contained controversial applications from the Scottish Salmon Company for another salmon farm in Loch Striven, Sgian Dubh and a massive extension to the existing one in the same loch, at Strone Point – which would double its biomass.

There has got to be movement towards engaged stability in our local governance.

The question is what levers might be applied to knocking some sense of elected responsibility into the current situation – in which communication and discussion between members and groups is being actively obstructed, despite the pious claims of one councillor, as in yesterday’s Helensburgh Advertiser, that ‘We need to talk’. The quick answer to this is ‘So start talking.’

The issue of leverage

The obvious place from which leverage may be exerted on this unacceptable paralysis is the office of the Provost.

The Council Constitution – and this is unlikely to have been changed in the revised version – describes thus the Provost’s powers and duties – which are statutory:

‘The Provost’s functions are:
  • to promote involvement in the Council’s activities;
  • to act as the conscience of the Council;
  • to secure the rights of all Members to participate in the Council’s decision taking;
  • to act as a focal point for the whole Argyll and Bute community;
  • to carry out civic and ceremonial activities and act as an ambassador for the Council and Argyll and Bute.
 ’The Depute Provost deputises for the Provost across the full range of responsibilities and functions.’
As the civic head of the Council, it is clearly straightforward for the Provost, to summon all councillors to a meeting at which the necessary talking can be done – and to preside over that meeting.

This would require the Provost or Depute Provost to understand the objectivity of the authority with wncih they cat constitutionally in such situations.

The Provost and Depute Provost are elected councillors who are likely to have personal political affiliations to groups within the chamber.

Those affiliations must be utterly set aside in the conduct of their responsibilities as Provost or Depute Provost. When either acts in that capacity they are effectively translated to a different role and assume different responsibilities to different masters.

  • In that capacity, they are responsible for the process of governance and responsible and accountable to the electorate in whose interests they exercise their authority.
  • In that capacity, they may take objective procedural advice from council officers, who may not act ‘politically’; but they must not consult or take advice from any elected colleagues whose role remains ‘political’.

Do we have a Provost or a Depute Provost who can rise to this challenge?

External leverage

In a situation of this kind, which involves member-to-member relations and member-to-officer relations, Audit Scotland may step in and conduct an audit of the scenario.

Their descriptive and analytic intervention may lead to a resolution of the matter. If it does not, they may refer the issue to the Accounts Commissioners.

We spoke to Audit Scotland this morning and they have made it public that they are aware of the situation obtaining in Argyll and Bute Council and are now looking at making just such an intervention.

This has to be helpful but it does mean that an entirely avoidable chapter of willful and irresponsible self-destruction in one party group has left Argyll and Bute again the subject of national scrutiny for political management of a very low order.

An Audit Scotland spokesman says:

‘We publish assurance and improvement plans for all 32 councils based on risk assessments for the year ahead.  Argyll and Bute’s plan identifies planned work by auditors to review  the relationships between councillors, and between councillors and officers. This work is at an early stage.

‘As part of our annual audit on the council, we are also looking at the sale of two council-owned properties operated as outdoor education centres -  Castle Toward and Ardentinny. The annual audit report is due to be published in October this year.’

The Audit Scotland website shows paragraph 7 of Argyll and Bute Council’s Assurance and Improvement Plan as reading:

‘No risks were identified with the council’s corporate governance framework that requires risk based scrutiny work. However concerns have been raised with Audit Scotland, in relation to the council’s dealings with an external company. Whilst audit work will not be done to investigate all of the concerns raised, some targeted work is planned. Work is to be undertaken by the Audit Scotland team in collaboration with colleagues from Best Value and Scrutiny Improvement, to review member to member and member to officer relationships. This has been reflected in an additional risk assessment for leadership and culture in this AIP.’

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40 Responses to Council stalemate: attitude shifts and external leverage

  1. Frankly, Newsroom, I believe that the people of Argyll deserve much better. Waiting until October for a report with no teeth is not the answer.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 14 Thumb down 5

  2. Fair and balanced report, Newsie.I agree. The 9 SNP councillors must move on from this stalemate and give the people that they should be representing,good governance. Struan Lodge was the catalyst to a number being shamed and named. Let by-gones be by-gones and start genuinely working to save all elderly care provision in Argyll-Bute, especially Struan Lodge. Help the Heroes

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 12 Thumb down 6

  3. The needs of the many in Argyll and Bute outweigh the ego of the MSP. Sanity returns. Let the elected councillors make their own decisions.
    Lowry would surely want a thorough investigation- patience laddie!

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 11 Thumb down 9

  4. Well Short and Sweet does that make all these branch members across Argyll traitors as well surely not .Come on you and H2O and of course good old Fletcher will need to call for all these members to be expelled along with Roddy .
    You will need to come out of the closet now with all these members obviously being expelled your Cowal group will need to put up candidates across Argyll to challenge the other SNP group in the by-elections.
    Looking forward to seeing the ballot papers what heading will the different SNP groups use.
    This has got to make the national press. With Cowal declaring Independence J will Michael Russell be FIrst Minister.
    Suggestions for the cabinet please .
    Cheers Neil.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 7 Thumb down 8

    • You are fixated by bi-elections Neil. Canna wait to get a chance. You will wait a long time especially where you are, cause the councillors in Oban will no give up seats and loose the money Honey.
      What gives you the idea I am a nationalist? I just want open and transparent local government and that and the majority of the SNP councillors especially from Lorn and Isles are strangers.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 3

    • Nice to see Neil that you mention me in dispatches. Must be getting under Roddy’s skin right enough.
      Any truth that many of the folk that turned up the other night at the Oban branch had never been to a meeting in years. Some doubt over whether they were SNP paid up members but no doubt the minute secretary will have checked their membership cards and that they were paid up members and not just fly be nights. Hope they can produce the record for the constituency and HQ to check.

      Where you there?

      Having a chat in Oban today true that good hard working members of the branch have had enough of Roddy’s luv in with the tories of Helensburgh and and have resigned?

      Wrong people in my view.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 7

  5. You missed Strachur, and branches can’t mandate councillors. They can only indicate backing or dissent. Even if you called that a mandate, the roll call and numbers are wrong.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 9 Thumb down 6

    • We did not claim to know the full extent of the branch make up. We said ‘apparently’ there are seven. So there are eight.
      There are still five branches where there is realisation of the cul de sac into which the NEC has worked to drive the local SNP group.
      The sense of what we have said is quite correct – however it may or may not described in the arcane world of SNP party politics – where councillors resign… break Membership Rule 6.2 which declare that the consequences are automatic loss of party membership – yet, apparently, remain members of the party?

      Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 9 Thumb down 8

  6. What stalemate SNP and AL&I makes 21-15 majority.
    It is too late for me I was disgusted by the behaviour of SNP extremists locally.
    The NEC and the MSP can’t ignore the real grass roots. These are the people who do the canvassing, the leafleting and the funding. They are supporting their councillors not dictating to them as in Cowal. Some hope at last for Argyll & Bute and independence.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 9

    • If the SNP branch mandates are respected by the SNP group – including the two breakaways into the Argyll and Bute for Change group, and the four who indicated that they would back down if threatened by withdrawal of party membership – this would be the case.
      But those conditions – the return of the breakaway two and more courage from the folding four – can hardly be guaranteed.
      The breakaway two went astonishingly AWOL and appear to be dug in; and two of the the folding four were a genuine shock, so one has to assume that whatever deal went down – and there must have been one [it's the way the master puppeteers of this outfit do business] – presumably still stands.
      Party politics in Argyll and Bute will not recover from this officially licensed charade – which may be no bad thing. Individual councillors have a lot of navel gazing to do in the light of this situation. Any claimed ‘road to Damascus’ conversion to independent status at the start of the campaign for the next council elections in 2017 will be seen for what it is.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 3

    • The SNP problems only started when Helensburgh took over their leadership and they lost contact with their local folk. We all expected so much more from this bunch “A breath of Fresh air through the council” one of them said on my doorstep. What do we have same old same old . No change Loudon Sneddon and Henry still in place Sneddon with a promotion and more money. Robb and Roddy Mcuish being manipulated by him and no significant change this not what we who voted for them expected.

      Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 14 Thumb down 3

    • It would be helpful to know the specific route through the impermeable council website that took you to this particular document? This does not resemble the public Calendar – which is here:

      This – like so much else – is not accessible by any logical or coherent information management ‘system’ on the council website, but time spent searching found it via:
      Council and Government > Meetings, Agendas and Minutes > clicking the unsignalled but live word ‘Calendar’ on the first line of the second paragraph.

      And the council meeting is still not there.

      We know that, by custom, that this meeting should be on the last Thursday of the month but while a new meeting was added yesterday to the public Calendar of Meetings linked above [Thursday 13th June: 4:00 pm Special Committee for Adult Services], the full council meeting which ought to be on 27th June is still not noted here.
      We do not understand why this should be left missing form what is clearly a live public calendar.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 4

    • Thank you for this.
      It would be very helpful if you would let everyone know the access route to this document through the maze of the council website.
      We spent six hours trying to locate this – without success – and some councillors themselves, when we asked for help, tried to find it but were equally unable to do so.
      We have asked the Executive Director in charge of Governance and Law about both the status of the meeting date and for access to the revised Constitution – and have as yet had no response.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 8

  7. Today, at met Roddy McCuish in Glencruittene Drive. He was doing his surgery duties. He had the decency to give me the time of day and we did speak about Struan Lodge. I must say, with all of the above happening, he has not forgot his constituency work. Help the heroes Save Struan Lodge

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 3

    • Anne –close Struan Lodge–and you name call others as extremists!

      I could almost think you were Cllr Robb in drag but I am sure you said many weeks ago (if you are the same Anne) that you were resigning as a SNP member and were to be outed.

      I do hope that is the case.

      Save Struan Lodge for the residents sake!– go on call me an extremist.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 4

        • Thanks Short and Sweet–personally I thought Anne is Newsie!! but an earlier response by me has disappeared from the ether –obviously doesn’t like anyone being critical to the selfishness shown by “Anne” to the residents of Struan Lodge.

          There was an Anne from several weeks ago on the blogs saying they were being outed at an SNP meeting as they were resigning from the snp.

          Now if Anne and Campbell are one in the same what can I say …..!

          Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

    • Most posts refer to saving/protecting all elderly care provision. I certainly have. You are the exception. So please tell us who the “real heroes” are that you allude too. You are coming over as the wicked witch. Help the heroes! Save Struan Lodge

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 3

  8. H2O why are you up so late playing on your computer – where were the grown-ups.
    I was at Atlantis the other day and a wee wummin came up and said well done lassie, the SNP did a great job saving Atlantis from Duncan MacIntyre’s cuts. But why are some of you wanting to take half a million pounds away from our old folk in Oban to keep open Struan Lodge as its no required any more.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 8

  9. I am over 18 –and grown up but I am very lucky as I do not require beauty sleep but I also like to think I am not a selfish individual.
    Interesting that you do not care about the residents in Struan. I care for all elderly and infirm folk even from Oban and Helensburgh etc. In fact preventing new residents entering Struan is surely against their interests both socially and from a health perspective.
    I am not naive to believe the figures emanating from ABC HQ unlike the fellows from Oban and Helensburgh who were in charge currently or recently. Mind you they live in Helensburgh and Oban
    Noticed you did not answer my question if you are the same Anne that a few weeks back were resigning from the SNP. Are you not sure?
    Anyway onto important things like the issue of Struan Lodge. There is a need to review all of our elderly services but it would appear to me that the current officials will provide the answer based on what their Council Leader expects.
    Just for the record I do not believe per-se that residents of Oban etc are any more selfish and vindictive than anyone else just certain individuals who needed to use the SNP card to get elected then join up with the tories and lib dems.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

  10. Tell us Anne, what projects or services in Oban, is in line for one penny, let alone 500k. There is absolutely no funding for social inclusion regards pensioners. All parties should be ashamed of themselves for bleeding Oban dry. Fred Hall and Convenor Bob Allan should be praised for signalling “enough is enough”

    You, apparently seem quite content to accept the attacks on all elderly care provision. You are a small/petty minded apparatchick that cannot see by your own nose or the diktats of the “Great Oscillator” Mike Russell. Help the Heroes! Save Struan Lodge

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 2

  11. “From our analysis of the current situation from the out of date Constitution, there is no constitutional problem with the present governance of the council.”……..

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  12. I was very sorry to hear there were so many illegal SNP members at the meeting in Oban H2O but after the raid by the Imigration officials and the police a couple of weeks ago when a large number of people were caught they probably thought that it would be a safe place to hide for a couple of hours. I certainly think that DNA and fingerprint checks should be carried out before each meeting just in case any dodgy character from the Islands has sneaked in.
    Mairi and Jessie will be okay with it as long as you don,t ask there age.
    Cheers Neil.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 5

    • Neil
      They are not illegal snp members if they are not members !!
      BUT if they were people there who are not members of the snp then they have no right to vote as I am sure you will agree–just like a community council –some people are entitled to vote some are not. I know you are in Oban but Immigration officials is going too far.
      A simple check of membership cards will determine who is allowed to vote. How many were are the meeting without this? 70%?

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

        • And it certainly brought out the best in it’s record attendance and the opportunity to talk to people such as Councillor Louise Glen Lee who I had a little light banter in the charity shop Mary’s Meals. I recommend this charity.
          I spent nearly 2 hours with the Yes Campaign stall staffed by a mixture of supporters of different persuasions and non.
          Although I am totally opposed to the SNP being part of any administration that includes Tories and LibDems, I do realise the constituency association must work to find a representative administration, but not at any or all costs to all elderly care provision in Argyll and Bute. Enough is enough.

          Councillors have a duty to represent the needs of the most vulnerable In Argyll & Bute and not their own selfish interests when seeking or in leadership posts. That type of councillor are only lapdogs and are seen as the minions of Sally Loudon. Does the leading administration lackeys really need the money to the extent that so far they have rubber stamped anything her officers put to them without first investigating for alternatives. Sally Loudon sure does appreciate their ignorance and greed. The above newsroom article is “Old wine in a new bottle” I despair.

          Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  13. Campbell will need to shave his legs better if he wants to keep wearing these short dresses.
    He certainly kept that secret well but best of luck to him but I am not sure how Coll will react when he sees him.
    Cheers Neil.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

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