Councillor speaks directly on Castle Toward, Actual Reality and Argyll and Bute Council

[Updated in response to Comment 2 below] As a councillor for Dunoon, Michael Breslin is supportive of the contribution to the provision of outdoor activities, instruction and learning and of the local employment delivered by Actual Reality.

He has therefore been sympathetic to and concerned about what one can only describe as the tortured relationship between Actual Reality and Argyll and Bute Council – a relationship of which the council was the determinant, as the principal and senior partner.

As an elected member, Mr Breslin has been attempting for a considerable time to get information and responses to questions from the council – but has had no responses to some of his emails.

In frustration, he has written a report to For Argyll’s audience, to put in the public domain the nature of the issues woven into the razorwire the council has thrown up to block wider awareness and investigation.

We agree that this council conduct runs counter to democracy and to good governance – whether or not they have anything to hide.

We also support wholeheartedly the drive to have this complex mess forensically and objectively investigated without fear or favour of any kind – in any direction.

It is very much in the public interest that this rat is expertly dissected, the causes and consequences properly identified, conclusions drawn, any necessary actions taken and lessons learned.

We have taken the decision to publish this statement as it is, without commentary, since it is itself an authored narrative. It does, though contain information that we – and no doubt others – will refer to in the continuing pursuit of this matter until it is property investigated, as it must be.

Councillor Breslin: Castle Toward, Actual Reality and Argyll and Bute Council

Part 1

This report is a summary of my involvement since becoming a councillor in May 2012. I had absolutely no idea I would become involved with this, nor did I think I would still be involved at the start of 2014.

I was approached by Peter Wilson of Actual Reality (AR) shortly after the May 12 election because of his board’s concern about the lack of progress in purchasing Ardentinny Outdoor Centre from the council. Actual Reality had been operating at Castle Toward for a number of years but without a lease. The reason they did not have a lease is summarised in Christopher Mason’s words below.  The summary of his view is that Argyll & Bute Council welshed on what’s below so that the building could be sold.

‘…….the undertaking that ABC gave in 1996 to support the continuation of outdoor education in Castle Toward, the Council’s agreement with Glasgow and East Renfrewshire to form a Joint Management Committee, the agreement between the three councils that the JMC would be wound up and that Actual Reality would be granted a long lease to enable it to restore and maintain the property as an outdoor education centre, Scottish Ministers’ consent to that arrangement, and ABC’s subsequent refusal to conclude the lease negotiations.   The failure of the three-council regime allowed ABC in 2003 to set about the sale of Castle Toward.’

On many occasions I have heard both officials and elected members of the council speak in a derogatory manner about the fact that AR didn’t have a lease and didn’t pay rent. It is currently costing council tax payers of Argyll & Bute around £20k per month in security, heating and maintenance of the property now that AR have left so there is a strong case to be made that by being there AR actually saved this council a pile of money over all the years operating from the castle. But that fact is conveniently ignored by their detractors, of whom there are many.

So why was I concerned about the position AR found themselves in? Quite simply, AR’s business was being very badly affected by their insecurity over where they could operate from. Their business is one based on being able to sell outdoor education breaks to schools and others but for both them and their customers they need to plan all of this well in advance.

If you are unsure about where you can operate from, this has a very negative effect on your ability to plan your business.

Since the council decided to sell Castle Toward many years ago, and with AR not having a lease, their business was always insecure but it became even more so when Seasons Holidays agreed to buy the property. AR say that this increasing insecurity was badly affecting their business and that they had, as a direct result, lost over 20 FTE jobs. No part of Argyll & Bute can afford such a loss of jobs but it’s worse in many ways in this instance because they tended to employ young people, some of them incomers who might then settle here. We have a serious population decline in the area and we could ill afford to lose any of this kind of job.

Instead of being the most business friendly council (as we should have been) we appeared to be, at best, disinterested in AR’s business and possibly worse.

Before my first meeting with AR ( with Christopher Mason and Peter Wilson) I asked council officers for a briefing. This briefing, and other related matters, is referred to in the following list of written questions handed to the council chief executive in August 2012. I have had to remove names from the version you, the public, can now read because there are plenty of people who would like to make a complaint about me to the Commissioner for Ethical Standards in Public Life in Scotland and being publicly critical of officers (no matter what they do) is justification for such a complaint.

What you need to know is that the chief executive has never replied to any of these questions despite many reminders to do so. Readers can draw their own conclusions from this. I cannot comment other than to say it’s totally unacceptable for legitimate questions to be ignored for almost 17 months.

Readers may be interested to know that despite many requests, council officers are still refusing to say what legal impediments there were to offsetting security costs against the purchase price of Ardentinny, see questions below.

Readers may also be interested to know that the original version of the questions below was provided to Audit Scotland while they were investigating the officer to member relationships issue. Presumably since there is no mention of my evidence in their report, Audit Scotland think it’s perfectly acceptable to behave in the manner shown and then not to reply to legitimate questions. This is one of a number of reasons why I think the Audit Scotland report was seriously flawed.

Perhaps of most interest is that on the day I handed the chief executive these questions, 13 August 2012, she told me that the manner in which Actual Reality had been treated was one dictated by the previous administration of the council, ie the one in power before the May 2012 elections. Later that same month, Douglas Hendry told me much the same but added that officers had been told that Actual Reality were untrustworthy and that’s why they were treated as they were. Both of these seemed to me to be an attempts to invoke the Nuremberg Defence, ie we were  only doing what we’d been ordered to do. That defence didn’t wash at Nuremberg and it doesn’t wash now.

The questions below end part 1 of this saga, with more to follow over the coming weeks.

My questions

[Ed: Note that the names of council officers in the text that follows have been redacted by Councillor Breslin by replacement with the word BLANK in all cases. It should be on the record that we did not ask nor did the councillor tell us any of the names redacted.]

This paper was written for Sally Loudon, chief executive of the council. It asks questions of the approach taken to date by council officers in their dealings with Actual Reality (AR). The public perception of the council and its dealings with AR are very negative, reinforced the other evening by remarks made at the South Cowal Community Council meeting. In fact, negativity is probably the theme of this paper despite my loathing of it.

I was approached by AR in May this year because they felt that the relationship with the council was very poor and that a number of jobs were at risk. The company has already lost a large number of jobs because of the uncertainty over their future operations due to the council wishing to sell Castle Toward. No part of our area can afford to lose jobs, least of all Cowal, and retention of jobs was my main interest and remains as such. As part of that interest, I took the view that both the council and AR had to treat each other with respect and to be flexible in dealings with each other with a view to retaining AR as a successful business in the area.

I regret to say that my view is that negativity by council staff is all too evident and there are also other traits emerging, eg omitting information in a manner that could mislead others,  that greatly concern me. The sole reason for me raising these matters is to ensure we reach a rapid and fair (to both parties) solution to AR’s future operations so bringing up the behaviour and attitude of council staff is incidental to this, but essential if progress is to be made.

BLANK1’s email of 8 August has provoked me to write this. In the last few days, I have rarely seen behaviour of the kind displayed by BLANK1. His ability to leave key information out of what he says amounts to an attempt to mislead. If he is being aided to do this by others then it makes them as culpable as he is. The question is who are these others? There seems to be spin everywhere in what he says and that combined with what to me appears to be an extreme negativity towards AR has produced a situation that is shameful, and I will not be part of that.

Turning now to the email from BLANK1  of 9 August 12 and the  draft paper for the next council meeting, plus the events contained within the sorry tale, I have the following questions and comments. I also need to refer to an email that BLANK1 wrote to Roddy on 6 August, containing a draft email BLANK1 suggested  Roddy should write to me. That suggested email outrages me. There is no other way to put it.

I’d like answers to all questions in full please but it will be clear some of them merely require a yes or a no.

1: At the meeting with AR on  22 January 2010 in Kilmory, there was, I understand, an offer made by the council officials present to write off the debt that AR owed to the council. I understand that because of their lack of ability to trade while fire prevention work was being done, AR would have had no income to continue paying the £2k per month it was paying to the council but I am told they did NOT ask for the debt to be written off. Is it true that an offer to write off this debt was made, unsolicited, by council officers?

2: If the answer is yes to  question 1, then it begs another question. Why did BLANK1 not mention this in his draft e mail for Roddy to be sent to me?

3: If the answer is yes to question 1, why was the offer made and what motivated staff to make it?

4: AR say that they were told at the time that the question of the debt possibly being written off would be decided by elected members. Is this true?

5: If it’s not true, when was the decision made to rescind the offer, who was involved, when and was there a minute taken of any  meeting to discuss this?

6: Can I have a copy of the minutes of this meeting if they exist?

7: If there is no minute, can you explain what happened to change minds between the offer of writing the debt off and the decision to suspend the debt?

8: BLANK1 makes clear that the matter of writing off debt “of this nature” (in this case c£60k) is a matter delegated to officers. This raises a number of questions:

  • Is there a delegated limit below which officers can write off debts?
  • If yes, what is that delegated limit?
  • If yes, can I see the paper that approved this delegated limit?
  • If there is no delegated limit, is Audit Scotland aware of this?
  • If there is a delegated limit, are decisions within this limit notified to anyone formally?
  • If yes, to whom?
  • If a decision is made not to write off a debt, is this notified to anyone other than those involved?

9: Are you able to explain the logic that allows officials to write off a debt of £60,000 yet elected members on area committees have to deal with grants to 3rd sector organisations of less than £100?

10: There was a subsequent decision not to waive the debt. If the offer was made by officials present at the meeting with AR, which officials and/or elected members were involved in the decision not to waive it and what were the reasons for not waiving it?

11: Why was AR not told when repayments were to restart?

12: Was the debt still showing on the council accounts?

13: What was the finance department’s role in this?

14: What instructions were given to the finance department on how to handle this suspended debt?

15: Can I have a copy of these instructions please?

16: Was interest still being applied to the debt during the period of suspension?

17: If yes to 16, did anyone tell AR and confirm the rate being applied? If not, why not?

18: Was there any communication to AR after they were told the debt would be suspended?

19: Why did it take a letter in July this year from AR to remind the council of the debt that was owing?

20: Did the  council forget about the debt until AR’s letter and if so what systems failed?

21: If systems did fail, has this systems failure been reported to the council’s audit committee or will this be done?

22: Why is there no mention in paragraph 3.6 of the draft council paper about the fact that council staff have done nothing about reinstating the debt repayments from AR in favour of the council?

23: Why, in BLANK1’s suggested email to me from Roddy did he say that: This exchange of e-mails is not specifically referred to by Dr Mason in his most recent e-mails which is surprising as it clearly states the Council’s position then.    This seems to imply that Dr Mason is concealing from the council the fact that the debt wasn’t written off.  However, the council had done nothing about this debt until Dr Mason wrote to the council in July this year. Is BLANK1 implying Dr Mason is dishonest? If not, what does he mean?

24: In the same suggested email that BLANK1 wrote for Roddy, he states:   I think that Dr Mason and Actual Reality have now in fact asked that the Council again consider to write off the sum due   My clear understanding is that AR did not make such a request at all in the first place but your reply to question 1 is awaited.  Why use the word “again” if the answer to question 1 is yes? Is BLANK1 merely ill-informed and if so why is he doing what he is doing? Or,  is he trying to get the council leader to put his name to something that is wrong in fact?

If the answer to the preceding question is yes, this is a matter of the utmost gravity.

I am advised that AR does not wish to have the matter of the debt  connected with the sale of Ardentinny. I am also advised that AR is willing to pay off this debt if the council is minded not to waive it at the next council meeting, AR will discuss the way in which this is repaid with council officials.

25: If the answer to question 1 is yes, why does the draft council paper make no mention of the fact that the original suggestion to write off the debt came from council officials?

26: AR left Castle Toward to go to Ardentinny. Why did nobody speak to AR to ask if they would be willing to remain at Castle Toward to avoid these costs, offsetting the saved costs against the DV’s valuation for Ardentinny?

This suggestion appeared to me to be a blindingly obvious one when I met with AR for the first time on 18 June 12. In a prolonged telephone conversation with BLANK1 before that meeting, in an attempt to see if there was a way to unblock what looked like impasse, I started to understand why there was impasse. BLANK1’s whole attitude was negative in the extreme. Every suggestion I made was replied to in the negative and further problems were deemed to arise at every turn.

In particular, I made the suggestion of AR remaining in Castle Toward to negate the need for security costs, a suggestion that was rejected. I was dismayed at the  apparent unwillingness on his part to seek a solution, especially when there were local jobs on the line.

27: AR has already indicated that they would be willing to continue to operate until June 2013 but has anyone asked them if they would extend that until the end of 2013 in order to completely negate the security costs?

28: If the answer is no to 27, why not?

29: I am advised that at a public meeting in Innellan in, I think, early 2010, the then leader of the council stated that Castle Toward would never be allowed to stand empty. I also understand that BLANK2 was with Dick Walsh when this was said. In view of this, why is BLANK1 not actively seeking to ensure that Castle Toward does not lie empty by seeking AR’s agreement to extend their stay until end 2013 rather than spend funds on security costs?

30: The offsetting of the council’s security costs against the DV’s valuation is described in the draft paper for the next council meeting as an “in kind arrangement”. (Page 3) The paper further states that the council will “likely realise no real financial benefit from that”. This is astonishing on 2 counts. One is the description of this as “in kind” when what is being proposed will save the council real amounts of money, money that the paper elsewhere states will be “set off” against the eventual capital receipt from Seasons Holidays. So, the same security costs on one hand are “ in kind” and on the other will be “set off” . Why is there a difference between the two, other than, perhaps, to make one look less attractive than the other?

31: Why does the draft paper omit any mention of what the AR draft offer describes as “overage provision”, which would provide additional funds to the council in the event AR sold off the 2 houses on the Ardentinny site, the value of which is why AR disagrees with the DV’s valuation. This overage provision seems to me to be material to the AR offer so is this omission not misleading the council?

32: The paper makes a number of references to the council agreeing to a sale at less than “best consideration”.  Taking into account the real financial savings that would be made in security costs, off set against the DV’s valuation, plus the potential for overage provision if the 2 houses at Ardentinny are ever sold, it seems to me that any mention of less than best consideration is profoundly misleading. In total, the 3 elements of the offer from AR seem to me to significantly more than best consideration. Is my arithmetic incorrect or is there something I am missing?

33: There is also no mention in the draft paper on why AR disagree with the DV’s valuation and therefore why they have included an overage provision. Why are these 2 material issues missing?

34: The draft paper makes reference to the issues of water quality at Castle Toward. However, the paper makes no mention of the fact that AR does not use the water supply for cooking or drinking water, thereby significantly reducing any potential risk there may be.  I am told AR spend £2k per month on bottled water. Why is there no mention of this in the paper?

35: The draft paper also makes mention of legionella risk. The view from AR is that they maintain a very strict regime to ensure minimal risk to users from legionella. The question to be asked is this: have the measures identified in the paper been discussed with AR and if not, why not?

36: In the draft email that BLANK1 wrote for the leader of the council to send to me he stated the following:

‘Clearly Dr Mason and Actual Reality want the Council to consider issues that arise from Castle Toward to be considered in regard to the sale of Ardentinny when it appears this is to their benefit and to exclude issues at Castle Toward when it appears it doesn’t benefit them. That isn’t consistent or fair.’

Given than Dr Mason wrote to the council in July about the debt that may or may not have been forgotten about, this appears to be an attack on the integrity of Dr Mason, it leads to 2 questions:

  • Is this what BLANK1 intended to do?
  • Does he have evidence to support this attack on Dr Mason?
  • Is BLANK1 being consistent and fair?
  • More generally, which other officers of the council saw and/or advised BLANK1 on this e mail’s content before it was sent?

37: I understand that a comprehensive dossier of information on the way AR believe themselves to have been treated by the council over many years was provided to you in 2009. Can I see a copy of that dossier please because I am advised that some of what is in this suggests that not only has the council been behaving badly, it may have been acting illegally.

38: Lastly, the draft paper to the council has the names of BLANK2 and BLANK3 at the foot of it. I have to assume that they take full responsibility for this paper. However, I also assume that BLANK1 was involved in drafting it given that some of the same language is in other papers he has written on this subject. Can you confirm that these 3 officers take full responsibility for this draft paper?

There are many more questions that could legitimately be asked about the saga over Castle Toward, Ardentinny and Actual Reality but the above will suffice at this point.

Michael Breslin
Councillor, Ward 7, Dunoon
12 August 2012

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62 Responses to Councillor speaks directly on Castle Toward, Actual Reality and Argyll and Bute Council

  1. Very interesting it would be great to get some feedback on this from Roddy.
    As for blankety blank well the plot thickens.
    More power to you councillor Breslin nice to see someone who will rock the boat.
    Cheers Neil

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 22 Thumb down 12

      • Rubbish Larry as well you know you are harbouring some sort of personal animosity to Cllrt McCuish borne out of jealousy.

        Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 10 Thumb down 9

        • Phil, I, like most people seen the car crash pending when Roddy took on the role of leader. I appealed to him not to take the poisoned chalice. I am angry with him not jealous.
          I am 73 and chronically sick and disabled and capable to stand up to anything you throw at me. I know for a fact he is no friend of Michael B. It was not that long ago he was demanding Breslin apologise to him. You do have a short memory but Chris Mason and Michael B have not

          Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 10 Thumb down 9

    • Neil writes “Very interesting it would be great to get some feedback on this from Roddy”

      There is no way Roddy will give For Argyll any feed-back on his and the executive department’s abuse of power.

      I pointed out to him he was being led by the nose by Loudon, Hendry and Sneddon. His infantile response was I was an old time protester from a bygone age.

      At least this old turkey was trying to salvage some face for the SNP. A now difficult if not hopeless task.

      The only way forward is to come clean about the SNP strategy of acquiescence to the Executive Department in order that the national Yes campaign could be seen and debated in a creditable light. Saving services was kicked into the long grass in order that they could show the media, and the diktats of Westminster of carrying out to the letter 15% savings on budgets of our local authority.

      Roddy knows that’s what it was about. He had no fight in him other than bullying a nine year old.and having as many lead positions to have as much money as he could. What a ponce he and and other SNP Councillors turned out to be.

      I wish Chris Mason of Actual every success and I thank Michael Breslin for displaying the high standards we expect of our Councillors.

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

  2. That’s certainly a comprehensive list of questions there. Would have been helpful if the Blanks had been listed as Blank 1, Blank 2 and Blank 3.

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

    • You’ve got this.
      Councillor Breslin has now given us these number differentiations and we have amended the text accordingly.
      In short, all BLANKS are BLANK1 except:
      Question No 29, which has two BLANKS:
      The first is BLANK2 and the second BLANK1.
      Question No 38, the last one, with three BLANKS:
      The first is BLANK2; the second BLANK3; and the third BLANK1.

      Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 9 Thumb down 7

  3. 38 questions, from a councillor to his chief executive, 17 months ago, and no reply.
    The only positive aspect is that at least one councillor was concerned at apparent inconsistencies in the actions of the council, and was trying to establish the facts…but it seems to have been a wasted effort, so far.
    All the references to ‘blank’ and ‘blanks’ remind me of that notorious affair 50 years ago, featuring the local aristocracy, with a key ‘figure’ in a photograph cut off at the head – but perhaps a more appropriate analogy would be with ‘Yes Minister’.
    Unfortunately, the Argyll version is deadly serious – what are we electing councillors for, if they get the ‘runaround’ and are palmed off with prevarication and lies?

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 23 Thumb down 11

  4. @Robert W agree at least one councilor sticking his neck out, I wasn’t a big fan of Breslin after the Struan Lodge voting mess, however the more I read on here from him the more I’m turning towards him again.

    I’m glad he at least has the Balls to stick it on FA and show is all just what is actual reality in A&B wish the rest would now back him up and show us some value for the pound, well done Breslin your maybe getting my vote again.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 14 Thumb down 12

  5. I beg to differ on the view expressed about Roddy.

    Roddy demonstrated resolve during the period in question. It appears others were trying to get him to write and say misleading things. All councillors are supposed to trust the officials and officials are supposed to provide truthful and accurate information to councillors.

    Make up your own mind on whether my version of events demonstrates what is supposed to happen and then judge Roddy.

    I have not always agreed with Roddy but he was prepared to take on this very thorny issue.

    Cllr Michael Breslin

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 18 Thumb down 13

    • His tenure as leader was a disaster and Councillor Breslin, you know it.

      He will be judged on his overall performance and not just on “my version of events”, as you say in post 6.

      My posts is critical of him overall and not just AR. Anyone reading your above subject matter/script,will gather that.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 6

    • McCuish was running about on other things and counting the pennies and did not concentrate on running the council and was basically told by Cll Robb what to do.

      Considering both had ousted you out of the snp surprised you are so generous.

      Good on you

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 3

  6. Councillor Breslin should have the courage to name names. We know that Walsh and Louden will cover for each other.
    We know the leadership of ths council is a mattter of national concern.
    We know the officers are in charge and councillors just rubber stamp their decisions.
    But what can we do if our councillors are not prepared to challenge but write articles for blogs instead.
    Not a word from Argyll First for example.
    All this talk of money but were childrens lives put at risk by the Blanks – Walsh, Louden and Hendry? That would be criminal.

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

    • My understanding is the reason why Councillor Breslin is not naming names is the system could be used by the named persons to silence him. As another poster said “38 questions, from a councillor to his chief executive, 17 months ago, and no reply” this demonstrates Councillor Breslin has exhausted the normal channels. Councillor Breslin is now trying to lance the boil in public, is this the right course of action, personally I do not disagree with what he is trying to do. I am sure other councillors are taking a different road but they are all fellow travellers wanting to make our community a better place to live in.
      The health and safety issue can not be ignored and should be fully investigated, its like allowing a dangerous school bus to be kept in service.

      Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 13 Thumb down 11

    • As we understand it, what we have published was given to us only because repeated attempts by Councillor Breslin to challenge internally what was going on – were meeting a stone wall.
      [And a grin at your creation of 'The Blanks' - which may now become the currency of comedy.]

      Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 13 Thumb down 7

    • Anne, its pretty easy to figure out. The clue is googling the Innellan public meeting to see who was with Dick Walsh, as per question 29. That is Blank2. Then the rest just falls into place.

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

  7. “38 questions, from a councillor to his chief executive, 17 months ago, and no reply.” Why should people vote, when their elected councillor is ignored by the only person who the councillors can remove and replace. Take this one step forward, is the chief executive being manipulated by a group people who can remove her? There are many questions to be asked and FA has become the place to ask them.
    An other poster summed it up very well “Keep on digging Mr Breslin, you’ll get there in the end”. I hope his fellow councillors do not push him in it to the deep hole of deceit he is uncovering to silence the truth.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 9 Thumb down 10

  8. Michael is not clear what he wants to happen.
    Sally Loudon has cleared her staff of wrongdoing so the buck stops with her – councillors should insist on an external investigation and if found to be in breach of her contract of employment – Loudon should be sacked.
    Dick Walsh has been reported to some toothless body already by Actual Reality.
    Actual Reality are suing the Council. The Council will spend whatever it takes of tax payers money rather than admit it is in the wrong.
    The police should be called in to establsih as someone else has pointed out if children’s lives were criminally put at risk.
    Sally Loudon and Dick Walsh have enough councillor support to draw a line under this so nothing will happen.

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

    • Anyone that draws a line under this risks having the line drawn tight around their neck.
      ‘The council will spend whatever it takes of tax payers money rather than admit it is in the wrong’ – not this tax payers money, it won’t.

      Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 8 Thumb down 12

  9. Cllr Breslin

    It is interesting that, in all this time, you have never had an answer to your questions, or at least a response to explain that you won’t be getting one.

    In the ‘Protocol for Relations between Councillors and Employees in Scottish Councils’ formally adoptd by A&B through its constitution it states

    “Most Councils operate through a system of groups of councillors, many of them based on political affiliation. All employees must, in their dealings with political groups and individual members, treat them in a fair and even-handed manner. Employees must at all times, maintain
    political neutrality”

    I wonder if Cllr Walsh has ever had to wait as long as you have for his questions to ne answered – I very much doubt it. It reminds me of how hard Cllr Freeman had to pursue some of his questions during the school closure debacle.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 20 Thumb down 5

    • The information on this protocol is very helpful.
      Being aware of other councillors who have not had answers to questions, we had already asked for a view on this procedure from Audit Scotland and await a response.
      In the light of Councillor Breslin’s experience, continuing silence appears to be standard practice at Argyll and Bute Council in dealing with ‘awkward customers’ – yet in this, as in many such instances, it is the ‘awkward customers’ who make democracy viable.

      Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 13 Thumb down 8

      • The ‘awkward customer’ seems to me to be a councillor doing his job – as opposed to keeping his head well down and watching his councillor’s expenses and emoluments roll in.
        The late Iain Banks wrote a novel called ‘Complicity’ – just a story, but a very good one, and all those councillors who’ve opted for the ‘easy life’ rather than properly represent their constituents need to wake up, before it’s too late – and I suspect that naivety and stupidity (let alone cupidity) would prove inadequate defence in a court of law.

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

  10. I am very clear about what needs to happen: an independent and thorough investigation to establish all the facts.

    I intend asking Audit Scotland to change their minds but will they do this and risk self embarrassment? I think they should and demonstrate that they have both integrity and humility.

    The other advice to readers is to lobby your own councillors and get them to change their minds too.

    Cllr Michael Breslin

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

    • Putting my effort where my mouth is. [Sent this evening to Mid Argyll Councillor Dougie Philand].
      ‘Dougie – as your constituent, as someone who has always voted for you and as someone who sees you as an important member of Argyll and Bute Council – for your integrity – I am asking you, as my elected representative and as Depute Provost to work determinedly within the administration of which you are a key member to bring about a genuinely independent, full and proper investigation of all aspects of Argyll and Bute Council’s execution:
      - of its handling of its stewardship of Castle Toward and its estate;
      - of its primary responsibility to protect the public from risk in its management of known health and safety and electrical issues at Castle Toward;
      - of its management of its relationship with and responsibilities to Actual Reality Leadership and Learning Ltd – in relation to the closure and the attempt to dispose of this property; to the handling of its prolonged disposal of Ardentinny to Actual Reality; and to the sustainability of Actual Reality’s locally important business;
      - of its fiscal responsibilities to the constituents of Argyll and Bute in its stewardship of Castle Toward; in its attempted disposal of Castle Toward; in its prolonged disposal of Ardentinny to Actual Reality; and in getting itself into in a position where it may have to defend against a competent legal action from Actual Reality;
      - of providing competent and substantiated legal advice to elected members in any aspect of these matters;
      - of the accuracy and integrity of information provided at all times to elected members on these matters;
      - of its responses to elected members’ formal concerns on aspects of these matters.
      Taking the third from last point above as an example, it will be clear to you that I am not talking – and no one would now be satisfied with – any investigation that simply ticks procedural boxes – as in: ‘Was legal advice provided to elected members?’
      I am focusing, as is the public here, not on the integity of the envelope but on the integrity of its contents.
      If you feel you cannot internally – and indeed externally – press for such an investigation or for any particular aspect of what I have detailed; or if you feel you cannot support the public will for such an investigation, I would be glad to know and understand the reasons for your position.
      It seems worth saying that since the normal internal source of advice to you in responding to this request of mine is under question for his conduct in certain of the matters above, neither you nor we can have reason to see that person as a proper recourse in considering your response to me.
      Please know that I will make this request public, in order to stand behind the issues of concern I am asking you to act to have resolved – and to stand behind the value I place upon yourself.
      With best wishes, Lynda
      News Director
      For Argyll’

      Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 17 Thumb down 3

  11. I’m afraid I’ve rather lost the plot on this one. Whilst I fully appreciate that there should be an inviestigation to resolve complaints, what exactly are the complainants hoping to achieve? What does Cllr Breslin hope to get out of it?

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 7 Thumb down 10

  12. Robert, you have it spot on.

    I want openness, honesty, accuracy with information, the humility to swiftly acknowledge mistakes and rectify them and councillors who scrutinise effectively. Most of all I want the people of Argyll and Bute to be proud of their council.

    There are lots of things the council does very well and some of our staff are just stars. Look at the efforts in the past week by those who worked in the worst of weather to stem flooding and clear up. Don’t forget those backroom staff who support the folk on the front line.

    But, it has to be said that there are issues and that’s why paragraph 2 above has to be everyone’s aim.

    Cllr Michael Breslin

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 21 Thumb down 13

    • Our/my anger is directed at the Executive Department, carpetbagging consultants, and a rat pack of Councillors that continually go against our democratic franchise once elected.

      In all my years following “For Argyll” I have never been aware of posters attacking backroom/frontline staff. As an elderly recipient of care provision, I and a host of others depend on their quality and humanity in these trying times.God Bless Them.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 8

  13. I think it might be an idea to change into a higher gear by which I mean try and get the likes of Panorama interested. Otherwise we will still be muttering in our beards on here until the next LA election.

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

  14. To be frank, apart from Dr. Mason’s persual of his complaint, I can’t see that anyone else is going to achieve anything. As for “paragraph 2 above” let’s hope the council (Councillors and Council Officers) have learned something from this debarcle, and that in future they all operate with:

    “openness, honesty, accuracy with information, the humility to swiftly acknowledge mistakes and rectify them and councillors who scrutinise effectively”

    However, I won’t hold my breath. Does anyone know a council that is that perfect?

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 10 Thumb down 5

  15. Maybe the people who put a thumbs down to my post about the standards to which I would expect our council to operate to should identify themselves?

    Presumably you want the council to be secretive, dishonest, inaccurate etc etc?

    Identify yourselves please.

    Cllr Michael Breslin

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 16 Thumb down 14

    • There’s a disreputable string of ‘thumbsdowners’, covering every comment asking for integrity in the council. I can’t see any identifying themselves – if any are councillors or council officers they might get their just desserts in due course – scum floats to the surface.

      Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 16 Thumb down 12

  16. Well said Robert.

    It is also noticeable that there is one contributor missing from this debate. This missing contributor normally takes every opportunity to have a go at anything to do with Actual Reality or anyone who sticks up for them.

    Guess who?

    Cllr Michael Breslin

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 19 Thumb down 13

  17. There is another brainwashing session on the action plan required by Audit Scotland on Monday for the “problem” councillors.
    Councillors will have to rubber stamp it officially at a council meeting so will Michael Breslin be putting in a motion for an independent external investigation into the Chief Executive and a referral to the Procurator Fiscal for willful endangerment of children by the council.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 14 Thumb down 6

  18. Having read all 38 questions I am not surprised there has been no response – as I see it, answering any of those questions with the truth will firmly hammer home any nails left in the A&G councils coffin. When oh when will the truth finally emerge and the appropriate action taken to sort this mess out once and for all. We deserve better than this.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 10 Thumb down 9

    • Not until Holyrood wakes up to the ticking sound, or the heavyweight media flays the council alive, or – the ultimate sanction? – the peasants rebel in the event that the council starts squandering their council tax on settling the legal costs of council chicanery.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 8

  19. I think it’s fair and reasonable to give credit where it’s due. Roddy deserves credit for the way he handled this at the start and who knows where this whole issue might be if the SNP group had not imploded.

    However, the politics is a sideshow. The issue here is how we as a council behave. The thumbsdowners will no doubt disagree. They badly need a wee lesson in what constitutes ethical behaviour.

    Cllr Michael Breslin

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 12 Thumb down 10

    • Posters will say you are being very magnanimous with Roddy. Personally, your apparent laudable expression of good faith “at the start” will through time be shown as a bit over lenient, if not hasty. AR was to be covered up on his watch as well:everybody sees that, and the Walsh administration is continuing the cover up. It has nothing to do with the SNP imploding. And who knows where it would have ended if Roddy went with you, instead of being a flunkey for Hendry and Robb.

      Chris Mason and yourself since 2009 have tried to get natural justice and bring to book the malpractices and abuse of council authority by the executive department. Don’t weaken your integrity by attempting to go easy on Roddy.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 4

      • Roddy McCuish has always enjoyed great popularity, currently still does and from what i can gather, will continue to do so. He is well able to converse with the best and keep his feet firmly on the ground, and is a great councillor both in his ward and without.
        if as you keep alluding to Larry, he is such a scoundrel, then no doubt with your public conscience you will stand against him, and see who the public (remember them) trust.
        In the meantime you really need to dry your eyes and put your undoubted talents to more positive use instead of waging essentially a one man campaign against a highly thought of councillor.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 4

          • Wont respond to your name calling Sir, but my final comment on your stance on Cllr McCuish would be to note the lack of meaningful response to my previous comment.
            PS Im not a fake, and certainly wont ‘go away’ for any bully. Rather have meaningful debate as most do on here.
            Best wishes.

            Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 4

        • Phil the fake name,
          I do believe in proportional representation and that means a self serving communitarian like Roddy would get sufficient votes from his ward. So you are just making a noise. Grow up

          You apparently are happy with his right wing tendencies of being in bed with the tories, attacking elderly care provision, bullying infants and back stabber of one Michael Breslin.

          I do see some reconciliation going on between them. I can see a tale from Aesop fables being played out and Roddy will be the lamb to the slaughter.
          Councillor Breslin is a sharp tough cookie. And Chris Mason was the scourge of the Labour party in the GCC. It would be better for Roddy to Keep his head below the parapets and learn a bit of humility

          Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 6

          • Robert,
            Regional Councillors dubbed them the Glasgow Mafia.
            In sectarian circles, they were called the green mafia,
            Before that they were known as the lanarkshire mafia.
            With the SNP now in the ascendancy, they are not the ominous force they once were.

            Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 5

  20. 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?


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

    • - and there’s been a ‘surge’ of thumbsdowners on old posts this evening.
      The plot (or, perhaps, the conspiracy?) thickens, and it’s difficult to envisage any explanation other than your suspicions. Really quite nasty.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 7

  21. The challenge on all sides here is to come to understand the imperative for objective justice.
    It’s not – nor ought any issue to be – about who you like, who you don’t like or who your group or tribe like and do not like.
    It’s about straightforward right and wrong.
    People we like can do wrong. People we don’t like can be right. Good people can do wrong and troublemakers, even the malevolent, can do good.
    As soon as we start skewing judgments on right and wrong on the basis of who we do and no not like and on the basis of tribal affiliations, we are fostering primitive and not enlightened values.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 6

    • I take it from previous posts that you except AS and the SNP from the “imperative for objective justice”, and the rest, newsie? Either that or your understanding of the concepts above is seriously flawed.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 6

  22. The thumbs idea was great to start with, but I’m afraid it has descended into farce now. I got 5 thumbs down just for saying “thank you”.


    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 7 Thumb down 9

    • You are right CSB – now you have five thumbs-down for saying you have five thumbs-down.

      FA should eliminate the thumbs and substitute (I’m tempted to say two fingers, but, no) a five star icon instead – only positive voting allowed!

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 7

  23. The council is rotten to the core under Walsh and Loudon so will any councillor do anything about it? Folk have already laid down the challenge to Michael Breslin – put up or shut up. Does any councillor have a conscience?
    “Councillors will have to rubber stamp it officially at a council meeting so will Michael Breslin be putting in a motion for an independent external investigation into the Chief Executive and a referral to the Procurator Fiscal for willful endangerment of children by the council.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 2


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