Audit Scotland ‘Action Plan’ for Argyll and Bute Council a flawed document

[Updated below with list of actions proposed.] Below is the Action Plan for Audit Scotland, laid out to guide progress towards the light at Argyll and Bute Council.

While some of what it says is incontrovertible – as with its analysis of the structural and operational weaknesses in the political management arrangements at the council – its factual basis is often incorrect. Moreover:

  • Its perspective – which has to include Audit Scotland’s own role in troubled local authorities like Argyll and Bute – is far from the 360 degree one it needs to be.
  • Its grasp of philosophical issues – which shape the work and the relationships today between elected members, council officers and the helpless general public – is anachronistic and fails those who have no other recourse to redress than Audit Scotland itself.

It’s all the fault of the information providers?

This Action Plan states, in an early paragraph: ‘Part of the lack of mutual trust is because of the amount of discussion about council issues and derogatory remarks about councillors and officers made in local press and online forums. Councillors expressed their concern that this includes contributions from other councillors and includes apparent leaking of private papers and emails. ‘

Echoing Mandy Rice Davies’s celebrated remark in the Profumo trial – we would pick on this item, wouldn’t we?

But what is the alternative?

Would Audit Scotland really advocate a culture of governance where wrongs are done, where poor or worse decisions are taken for questionable reasons and where plans are implemented badly or improperly – and the public must be kept ignorant of all of this and more – in the interests of what exactly? Good government?

The internet and social media today have lifted the lid on the Pandora’s  Box of public information. Like it or not, the public now expect information. They do have a right to it.  There is no supportable argument why they should be kept in ignorance.

The answer to the sort of disease prevailing in Argyll and Bute Council is not to close down information and gag the media platforms. It is to clean up the culture of local government; and, specifically, to clean up Argyll and Bute Council in its political and executive functioning.

The best way to neuter scrutiny and criticism is to be transparent and competent. Don’t club the awkward squad. Give us nothing to complain about.

Never forget that the primary duty of elected members is to the public whom they are elected to serve. If they find themselves unable internally to get a purchase on a serious problem, they are bound in duty to the voters to do whatever else they can to get that purchase.

The best way to keep elected members discreet is to inform them properly; respond to their concerns as seriously and fully as they are entitled to expect; and try to grow a culture of inclusive team work.

Fairy tales teach us that the Bad Fairy not invited to the christening is the one who will make trouble; and versions of Greek mythology see The Furies translated into The Kindly Ones.

It’s all the fault of the councillors?

This Action Plan for Audit Scotland shows repeatedly that, as an organisation, while it is willing to accept that some elected members can – and do – behave badly and to reprove them for it, it is assumed to be unwilling to contemplate the possibility that officers can be at least equally responsible.

There is not even a tacit acknowledgment that officers can deliberately mislead and misinform councillors – yet there is documented evidence in the public domain that this happens routinely in Argyll and Bute.

It has been publicly revealed that senior council officers had in their possession official documented evidence that electrical and other safety matters at Castle Toward were so faulty they were an immediate hazard to users of the building – yet not only did nothing for seven months – during which the building remained in use, but actively prevented the operators of the building, Actual Reality, from addressing the matters.

Yet senior officers, in defending against serious questions on the appropriateness of their conduct have assured elected members – while disguising the telling timeline – that the council’s priority in later closing the building was the health and safety of its users.

Chief Executive, Sally Loudon, in her briefing for Audit Scotland on Actual Reality, Castle Toward, Ardentinny and Argyll and Bute Council – which For Argyll acquired under Freedom of Information and recently published here – spent much time in this document piously intoning the council’s overarching concern for public safety in closing the building.

However in this demonstrably selective narrative, she neglected to provide the timeline showing that they had deliberately left in public use for a period of seven months a building they formally knew to be a serious safety hazard.

In this same exemplary matter, officers neglected to inform elected members fully on aspects of the financial arrangements they were operating.

Once again, using this single incident – which of course has not been a solitary one – as an example of the diseases Audit Scotland has preferred not to see or to address, officers and senior councillors have routinely refused to respond to members requests for information and documentation on substantive issues.

Whatever councillors do and did – and much of that has been, across serial administrations, below basic acceptability – their conduct can be seen to be as much a response to a culture of deception and manipulation by the officer class of the council as it is culturally inherent.

Where some members may feel no loyalty to some officers, the evidence suggests that there may be very good reason for such distrust.

It ought not to be forgotten that, in the ;School Wars’, the most senior officers in the council brought low the reputation of the council itself, the reputations of some elected members – and their very careers.

They did this, for example:

  • in their  exclusion of the Education Spokesperson of the day, Councllor Strong, from meetings with consultants, minutes and information during their demonstrably secretive working up of their proposals;
  • in the utter shambles of their collective failure to prepare competent school closure papers; to advise elected members competently of the legal compliance of these proposals; and to advise members correctly on the accuracy of financial calculations presented to support those closure proposals.

The officers directly responsible here were:

  • the Executive Director for Community Services and Education Director, Cleland Sneddon – whose closure proposals were shown to be serially and unforgivably error strewn, often at an elementary level of fact and were, on occasion, consciously manipulative of evidence to disguise an unsound case;
  • the Executive Director for Customer Services, Douglas Hendry, who assured members on more than one occasion that the closure proposals were legally compliant with the 2010 Schools Act- where we, SRSN and ARSN showed on evidence that they patently were not;
  • the Director of Strategic Finance, Bruce West, who persisted in assuring members of the accuracy of the financial figures on the savings to be gained from the proposed closures – when the reverse was the case. Mr West’s failure to grasp the Grant Aided Expenditure [GAE] formula by which local authority revenues are calculated, meant that in some instances the proposed closures would have lost the council revenue. SRSN finally demonstrated this beyond denial.
  • the Chief Executive, who seemed adrift of understanding of most of the issues throughout this catastrophically damaging conflict; and who was manifestly unable to interrogate and verify or challenge the claims of her senior officers, resorting simply to accepting them as valid and assuring members – wrongly – of their soundness.

Here are a couple of examples from our own first hand experience in attending, note taking and reporting on council meetings during that prolonged and conflicted episode. These are indicative of the prevailing modus operandi in providing competent information to members – even in public.

  • At a meeting of the council on 2nd November 2010,  an issue of concern to parent councils and  several councillors was the six week period allocated for statutory public consultation on 26 proposals to close rural primary school across Argyll’s mainland and islands. An elected member, suggesting that this period be extended, asked the Education Director, Cleland Sneddon, if this was a viable length of time for so many meetings in so many communities on so many schools under threat of closure. Mr Sneddon replied, verbatim, that he could assure members that ‘This is the statutory period‘. We reported on this at the time, pointing out its intrinsic and deliberate deception of members – most of whom, frankly never know the time of day. The fact is that, according to the governing 2010 Schools Act, six weeks is the statutory minimum period for statutory consultation on school closure proposals. It is specifically open to councils to extend this period as they see fit. This option was withheld from members, who accepted without further question Mr Sneddon’s assurance that six weeks was ‘the statutory period‘.
  • At the same meeting, where a few members, briefed by the Scottish Rural School Network [SRSN], questioned some of the figures quoted in Mr Sneddon’s papers to support the  closure proposals, they met with the officer’s jovial admission that he had ‘never heard of Scottish Neighbourhood Statistics [SNS]‘ but he nevertheless knew that the facts quoted in his papers were accurate. Members accepted this – they have little other option. Yet the facts challenged were indeed incorrect – and the Scottish Neighbourhood Statistics are the datazone within which officers are required to operate. Mr Sneddon, in seeking to reassure members of his authority in the matters under consideration, had just mentioned in passing that, at Argyll and Bute, he was ‘on his seventh local authority’. This made – and makes – it even more incomprehensible that he could have remained unaware of the Scottish Neighbourhood Statistics. But Mr Cleland’s working process, as we have often noted, is driven by impetuosity and pragmatism, untroubled by exposure to accurate and considered research.

Elected members as victims

Some councillors in Argyll and Bute who have trusted officers implicitly and stood in blind support of them in 2010-11 against their own constituents and communities faced with the loss of their schools, paid a terminal price for their trust at the May 2012 local authority elections.

The highest profile casualty was administration councillor, Alison Hay of the Liberal Democrat Group, a former council leader.

Stoutly defending the officers proposal to close Minard School in her own village – against powerful evidence of the unsound foundation for this proposal, Councillor Hay not only lost her seat but, as her party’s credible candidate for the Argyll and Bute seat in the 2011 Scottish Elections, she achieved the Lib Dem’s highest percentage vote loss [memory says 18%] across Scotland – on a night where they suffered a general rout.

So quite what ought to be the basis of trust by elected members of Argyll and Bute Council in their officers?

Are they supposed to take the sort of abuse outlined in the cases above, take the punishment and the loss and keep on trusting?

Such an expectation runs as counter to psychology as it does to experiential learning – once bitten?

Where to start?

In a sick culture, it has to be more effective to address the embedded permanent diseases rather than the potentially recurring ones.

Yes, councillors are often treacherous – as are all politicians.

Yes, councillors can safely be expected to abandon the needs of area-wide strategic planning in favour of  ladling out to their own ward constituents the contents of the pork barrell to which they are generically addicted. This pattern of behaviour was the case in the proposed closure of the Struan Lodge Care Home in Dunoon.

Yes, this inherent instability, indiscipline and irresponsibility must, more often than not, depress and infuriate the responsible officers – who do exist.

But councillors are temporary enough. They come and go. Support for political parties waxes and wanes.

Officers and the culture they pass on down the generations are a fixed element of the operational culture in local authorities.

This is where change has to start; and even then it will have a tough time in gaining purchase in Argyll and Bute.

It could not be more damaging for the pursuit of  change for the better – and equally for its own credibility with the public – that Audit Scotland seems systemically unable to confront this formative element of the cultural problem here.

Note: A reader notified us in the comments chain below that the previous link to the document in question didn’t work. Apologies. Please try this one: Action Plan for Audit Scotland.

[Update 14.15 12th January]
CEO’s proposed actions to reassure Audit Scotland on its concerns.

The document we had did not at first let us access Page 1 and we had therefore assumed it was blank.

However, we have now solved the conundrum and here is the Chief Executive’s list of proposed actions by the Council to reassure Audit Scotland in relation to its erratic conclusions on the cultural health of Argyll and Bute Council.

It has to be said that much of this is the stuff of comedy, given that everyone is aware of the reality of the situation.

Which councillor will be the first to get a Red Card for refusing to accept a Yellow one? Will they get sin-binned and banned from council meetings for a due period?

And: ‘Reinforce the role of officers as professional advisors – Members recognise and understand the role of officers as professional advisors.’

Well, it’s nowhere near as straightforward as that, is it?

To put it in another context, would anyone submit to surgery from a professional practitioner with a track record of wrong diagnoses and of sending out of theatre a series of damagingly mishandled procedures?

This set of proposals for ‘action’ ignores the parallel central problem of the conduct of senior officers and it therefore of little use.

ACTION PLAN

1. Refresh Standards Commission training with input from Commissioners Office -Refresh training on standards and behaviour input from Commissioner’s office.

2. Monitoring Officer revised operating protocol – Develop protocol for Monitoring Officer / Elected Members adhere to Code of Conduct.

3. Revised guidance to officers on responding to unacceptable behaviours -Yellow card process to warn of breach of “reasonable behaviour” and Councillor Code of conduct.

4.  Reinforce the roles and responsibilities of Elected Members – All elected members understand their roles and responsibilities as a member, in line with Code of Conduct.

5. Reinforce the processes/procedures for dealing with private and confidential correspondence – All elected members deal appropriately with correspondence and do not release to the press/ others.

6. Group discipline and leadership – Group leaders ensure proper conduct of members within their respective groups.

7.  Reinforce the role of officers as professional advisors – Members recognise and understand the role of officers as professional advisors.

8. Revised guidance from Monitoring Officer for Senior Officers on managing expectations – Senior Officers are better informed and clearly understand their role and responsibilities.

9. Review progress, assess impact and identify further improvements.

10. Revise PMA to improve scrutiny and decision making – Committee structure set out by SLWG.

11. Clarity on roles of area committees and central committees and clear statement on terms of reference for each.

12. Align members’ knowledge, experience, and interests with senior members’ roles – Develop criteria and introduce process for nominations to senior roles and committees.

13. Establish staffing resources and operating procedures to support new PMA.

14. Development day for membership of each committee.

15. Develop work plan / forward agenda planning to try and identify key issues to be dealt with by each committee – Work plan agreed and actioned.

16. Development day for PRS Committee members.

17. PRS Committee Work plan agreed and implementation – Work plan agreed and actioned.

18. Revise report format to address Members feedback – Extend executive summary in report to assist Members understanding.

19. Chief Executive Appraisal process annualised – Appraisal completed annually.

20. Monitor impact on staff morale via staff survey – Maintain/improve current levels of staff morale.

21. Explore opportunities to broaden/improve engagement with local communities, via media platforms.

22. Further scrutiny/review of local community planning processes and area community planning groups/ partnerships.

23. Review progress, assess impact and identify further improvements.

24. Implement Elected Member Development Programme – 75% of Members engaged in EMD.

25. Establish an appropriate Peer Mentoring Programme for Members – involving external and internal peers – Development of a peer mentoring programme, involving both internal and external peers.

26. Establish a medium term programme of training to develop key skills and competencies based on members’ needs and output from committee development days.

27. Training for members on scrutiny role -75% of members completed scrutiny training.

28. Establish a medium term programme of master classes on key leadership issues and strategic issues.

29. Review progress, assess impact and identify further improvements.

30. Seminar programme to address key policy areas – Deliver seminar programme with 75% attendance.

31. Create working groups to examine long term challenges and strategic issues facing Argyll and Bute.

32. SOA Development Plans to be finalised – Clear Strategic planning/direction.

33. Align resources and services to SOA outcomes and delivery plans.

34. Corporate priorities and service plans updated to reflect alignment of resources and service to SOA outcomes and delivery plans.

35. Chief Executive Leaders Briefing – Meeting with Leader/Depute Leader and Opposition Leader.

36. Review progress, assess impact and identify further improvements.

ENDS

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45 Responses to Audit Scotland ‘Action Plan’ for Argyll and Bute Council a flawed document

  1. It’s a bit like waking up in a jet airliner which is steadily losing altitude, some of the cabin crew have been wondering for a while what’s going on, but the captain’s been regularly appraising everyone of an uneventful flight with forecast arrival on time; the flight deck door is of course locked – and the flight deck crew are in fact getting ready to bail out.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 27 Thumb down 3

  2. Newsie “The best way to neuter scrutiny and criticism is to be transparent and competent.”

    What risible rubbish!

    If you are such an advocate of transparency and competence why don’t you practice what you preach and tell us who, when they finally realised after several hours they had made a total tool of themselves, added the word ‘alleged’ to the second paragraph of this article http://forargyll.com/2014/01/council-chat-and-a-new-head-of-economic-development/#comment-2631835

    Mmmm?

    Any ideas Newsie?

    Someone with editing rights that for sure.

    Someone trying to avoid transparency

    Sure you don’t want to share it with us? After all your the one proclaiming above “Like it or not, the public now expect information. They do have a right to it”.

    So come on – how about you respect our rights and tell us who sneakily changed the article, hoped no one would notice and still has to ‘fess up???

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 5 Thumb down 19

  3. I cannot publicly comment on the criticism of individual officials in this article but other than that, this is a very worthwhile piece.

    One of my councillor colleagues said the Audit Scotland report was “written by bureaucrats to defend other bureaucrats”. This was spot on. There are major issues with the lack of proper scrutiny by elected members in Argyll and Bute, of that there is no doubt, and it’s been a long standing issue.

    But the Audit Scotland report ignored the evidence they got about the manner in which some officers operate. They ignored the evidence that clearly demonstrated misleading information was given to councillors and they ignored the issue of a culture that badly needs changed. They also pointed the finger at the newer councillors like me without having the guts to come out and name us.

    Scotland and Argyll and Bute deserve better than this.

    Cllr Michael Breslin

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 33 Thumb down 10

    • For them, It is about taking 2 steps back and another 2 steps back repeatedly. Our horizon becomes more distant.

      For us, it is about flagging this up to our Councillor and using the media and press. I believe it is worth repeating this as you have said it previously

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 3

  4. Cllr Breslin, the quote from the Audit Scotland report include in the above article reads
    “Part of the lack of mutual trust is because of the amount of discussion about council issues and derogatory remarks about councillors and officers made in local press and online forums”.

    Do you feel any personal responsibility for this “lack of mutual trust”?

    After all you do make derogatory remarks about the Council and have on another post remarked “I am now fairly sure some of these thumbsdowners are people who have a vested interest in closing this issue down. I suspect some are officials and some are councillors. Who are these cretins who are too feart to identify themselves?”.

    Do attacks like this contribute to “the lack of mutual trust’ identified by Audit Scotland?

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 6 Thumb down 26

    • Trust you, Simon, to pick on one outspoken (but not, in fact, unjustified) remark to try and discredit someone whose overall comments seem to me – given his experiences as a councillor – to have been really quite measured, given the way that he’s been frustrated by the executive.
      I think that it is your type of mindset that contributes to the way in which councillors have been given the runaround – and not just recently.
      Before you get too pleased with yourself, I’d point out that there are other elements in Argyll & Bute (and doubtless elsewhere) that have a rotting effect on local government in Scotland – tribalism is a traditional festering sore, exemplified by many a Glasgow city administration and, sadly, still alive & well in Mid Argyll. Blatant corruption is another, and affairs in Helensburgh point to that.
      Add misplaced and ridiculous preoccupation with national politics by some local councillors, and the ability of any manipulative and unscrupulous council leader to disburse favours in return for ‘obedience’, and it’s rather surprising that local government works at all – but it does explain widespread cynicism in the electorate, and low turnouts at elections.
      What do all the bloggers so preoccupied with the national way forward think of the mess under their noses – business as usual after September?

      Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 19 Thumb down 7

      • Right on, Robert. I would hope that after independence a new Scottish government would be able to take a close look at all local government workings and make local councils have no choice but to be transparent and accountable.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 1

  5. Simon’s comments shows the Council is back to Spygate with Comms team working over the weekend to influence on-line discussions.
    The Action Plan is not from Audit Scotland but was written by Sally Loudon to get rid of Audit Scotland. What has it got to do with my concerns over Actual Reality the reason Roddy was persuaded to bring them in.
    The Audit Scotland investigation ignored council malpractice at the highest levels and focussed on malicious gossip to allow a change of administration. The “right” councillors now get the fancy titles and big salaries but without any responsibility or accountability. Officers are in charge in a culture of secrecy, no scrutiny and a box ticking mentality.
    Any response from Argyll First or any of the previously very public independents?
    The major criticism of the lack of effective leadership by Sally Loudon and Dick Walsh has been ignored.
    We deserve better than this.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 21 Thumb down 4

    • This Action Plan shows clearly that the Argyll and Bute Council Chief Executive knows well that Audit Scotland is susceptible to the view that fault lies always with elected members and is conveniently resistant to applying due scrutiny and evidenced judgment to the conduct of officers. The CEO has skewed the plan to coincide – conveniently – with that world view.
      We are not saying that Audit Scotland consciously works to defend its public sector colleagues in local authorities – although this is a possibility.
      The likelihood is that, since many Audit Scotland officers come to it from a local authority background – in much the same way as many teachers end up in the Inspectorate – this very evident culture of tribal affinity between Audit Scotland and local authority officers is organic and systemic.
      Audit Scotland may have no or little conscious awareness that its corporate perspectives are dangerously unbalanced.
      Whether or not they do it deliberately and whether or not they are even aware of this skew, Audit Scotland must, as a matter of urgency, address the issue. This body – arguably more than any other – must be effective and above suspicion.
      They might start by taking a close look at the Statue of Justice at the Old Bailey . She is blind. She sees no favourite or no opponent. She has only the scales to weigh the evidence; and the sword to deliver judgment.
      When someone joins Audit Scotland or any similar body in authority, they ‘forsake all others’. They must be sure they do and they must be be required to do so.
      The Audit Commission would do well to make its start on this refocusing by investigating the conduct as well as the procedures in Argyll and Bute Council’s performance in the Actual Reality / Castle Towarrd / Ardentinny affair.
      There is far too much difficult documented evidence in the public domain for them to find reason not to do this,

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 4

      • The Old Bailley statue isn’t blindfolded or blind.
        The Chief Executive hasn’t had her annual performance assessment for years because Roddy wouldn’t let her have one of her pals as her chosen external assessor. Back in charge with Dick as council leader she can write her own assessment

        Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 13 Thumb down 3

      • I Accuse!

        Audit Scotland know find well who the real culprits are, but true to form they attempt to place blame far away from the executive department.

        The officers must be exonerated no matter what the damage is to their credibility. The bureaucrats must appear correct in all their dealings even when they know they are wrong.

        How can any honest Councillor not seek redress and prefer to see the executive dept to walk free from the dock of fair and balanced public scrutiny and honest judgement.

        Like Dreyfus we are the victims of the Executive Department’s discrimination and ignorance

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 3

  6. Lynda
    The link to the action plan doesn’t work so only councillors or staff can be commenting. Can you print the action plan for the public.
    Councillors have been ordered to Kilmory tomorrow to approve this in secret. No dissent and no public comment allowed from Dick’s.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 11 Thumb down 6

    • Thank you for spotting this failed link.
      We have replaced it with a new one that DOES work.
      [Our format makes it impossible to publish large tabular material in a viewable scale to we make such documents downloadable.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 3

  7. Could not agree more with Mike Breslin above. From my communications with Audit Scotland and the Accounts Commission it is pretty clear that they just want all of this to go away. The Argyll fiasco has been a feature of the last 3 Accounts Commission meetings. The agenda for the next meeting this Thursday coming should be published tomorrow. It will be interesting to see if the discussion is to be continued this week or if the broom and carpet approach is to be taken.
    Anybody interested can keep an eye on this link to see if any of the multiple complaints the Accounts Commission have received are being treated in any way seriously….. http://www.audit-scotland.gov.uk/about/ac/papers.php

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 19 Thumb down 3

  8. “Simon’s comments shows the Council is back to Spygate with Comms team working over the weekend to influence on-line discussions.”

    When I posted:
    “There appears to be no accountability to the people and if the council was fully audited by a body not made up of government appointed officials would there be criminal proceedings against any senior officials.”

    http://forargyll.com/2013/12/2014-the-year-the-debate-will-end

    A reply I got was:
    “Your allegations, without one shred of evidence, that council officials are guilty some unnamed criminal activities and protected somehow by a corrupt external audit body is wild conspiracy theory gone mad. It is either preposterous, childish and/or deliberately mischievous.”

    Followed with:
    “You simply will not be taken seriously going around claiming that senior officers are guilty of criminal activities and expect others to believe you unless you prepared to produce some evidence. If you keep this nonsense up ranting, raving and making baseless accusations you’ll either step too far one day and name someone who will then sue you”
    I only asked a question “would there be criminal proceedings”.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 1

  9. So where does this leave tweedledee and tweedledum our illustrious MSP and MP are they just so busy this shambles has passed them by.
    Have you tried to get a comment from them newsie.
    Cheers Neil.

    Cheers Neil.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 4

  10. I laughed and laughed especially Diktat 5 in the action plan as as I read this on For Argyll. Which councillor is getting a yellow card for whistle blowing.
    Some of the points are so stupid, some are unworkable, some are basic and happening anyway. But it ticks all the boxes for Audit Scotland. We are supposed to believe that the council have only just discovered it should be doing these things. It is a confession of failure of effective leadership over many years by Council Leader, Councillor Walsh and Chief Executive, Sally Loudon.
    Things are actually getting worse in this secretive and chaotic council but Audit Scotland just want out of this mess.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 16 Thumb down 6

    • if they want out of this mess as you say then they should get off their backsides and sort it out!! then they can sit back with a clear conscience and mull over the next debacle to hit Scottish councils.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 2

  11. I wonder if the problem with local government in general and not just A & B is that the councillors and bureaucracy it serves are the local council. What if the council, ie councillors and the Council clerk and chamberlain were the only council departments and all the other bureaucracy and services were detached and separate?

    If we move to a model of local government based loosely on Sweden then councils would be much smaller but receive most income tax receipts instead of them going to central government. These council would be responsible for funding most personal welfare, housing, educational services, etc.

    The bureaucracy as required would be bought in from public service units ( not the private sector) specifically created to provide the professional expertise council would require.

    I don’t intend this to be an internal Market like the disastrous NHS one but let’s face it Councillors get the political heat for decisions rightly but they have little means of off loading the under performing bureaucrats if they are directly employed by the council.

    This proposals detaches the bureaucracy from the political.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 2

    • I would close all politically based councils, create limited companies to run the so called services and any profits straight back in for the good of the area they serve. Should this not be viable make them co-operative with the paying public shareholders with the right to vote out under performing individuals. At least this way there would be no influences with the currently elected Government.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 6

  12. This is certainly one option Graeme and one well worth considering.

    It could be taken further by allowing Argyll and Bute to operate at a much more local level where decisions made locally have an effect locally. This would hugely increase direct accountability and councillors could not hide behind “Kilmory”.

    But don’t hold your breath; change will come slowly, if at all.

    Cllr Michael Breslin

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 12 Thumb down 11

  13. 6.Group leaders ensure proper conduct of members within their respective groups.
    Bambi Taylor and Sneaky Semple HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA
    Breslin – SNP Group imploded HA HA HA HA HA HA
    Russell blew it apart with your help and all the other turncoats – MacIntyre, McCuish, Strong, Blair, Hall, Devon. Now all working for the Tories.HA ha a a ah aah aAH AAH

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 6 Thumb down 30

  14. No cheese here still telling lies ha ha?!
    In fairness can I suggest a good doctor for you who can discuss you malicious comments and why you have a fixation on certain individuals. It is noticeable who you miss out! Are you one of the others?
    For Argyll you keep allowing this numpty online despite blocking them for defamatory comments in the past. Should you not have 3 strikes and your out?
    Lol

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 29 Thumb down 6

      • Robert

        Just to let you know that H from H20 is the initial from my name the number is a number. I quoted it last year but was obviously missed by others. Having said that
        Cheesy is an example of why I would not wish to place my full name on the system.

        But he is telling lies about certain individuals ( I am not one of them just in case they are wondering) and this has gone on since last year. I think the behaviour is predictive and worrying and has no value in any debate be it on Argyll governance issues for or against independence.

        I have said cheesy is a bully and my view has not changed. There is malice a forethought in what they do.

        Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 30 Thumb down 2

        • Hi H2O
          I use my full name, that’s the choice I have made and at times when I do post here it may be that it was a poor decision on my part. There are bullies on this site and many others, what I have notice that when some of them are well out of order they get pulled up by many individuals who can see them for what they are. As you say “There is malice a forethought in what they do.” I do not know what the solution is, apart from confronting them and not giving in.

          Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 25 Thumb down 1

  15. Nope the others are useless as well. No lies.
    The deserters: Breslin, MacIntyre, McCuish, Devon and Hall. Elected on SNP votes but cheated the electorate.
    The traitors: Blair and Strong who joined Walsh’s Group but were let back into the SNP.
    Michael Russell and Bob Allan – who have destroyed the Argyll SNP.
    H2O and all the other SNP trolls whose comments are helping the NO campaign in Argyll.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 8 Thumb down 28

    • And your rants represent a lot of what’s wrong with local politics in Argyll – an obsession with national party politics and you clearly aren’t interested in the real issues that should be concerning all of us – the lack of integrity in the council leadership.
      Your backbiting nonsense reminds me of the sort of bitter, self serving, polarised politicking that has caused so much damage in Glasgow over the years.

      Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 27 Thumb down 3

  16. I have always said that senior officers such as CE, Directors, should have to also stand for re-election every few years.
    I was once told that during the 1st year a councillor will receive attention from senior officers, 2nd year they will be given excuses by same officers as to why the councillors ideas cannot be put into operation, 3rd year Officers sit back relaxed with hands behind head and feet up, in the knowledge that the councillor will probably not be re-elected in 4th year due to apparent non actions on behalf of their constituents.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 5

  17. Oban Area committee meeting on Wed to discuss Action Plan and Chord.
    No public questions on the agenda.
    Nice to see the councillors are embracing all these new ideas.
    Cheers Neil.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 8

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