The administration of Argyll and Bute Council has a fight on its hands – to find some survivable way to keep essential services going in this massive territory with its small, ageing and widely dispersed population and its basket-case economy.
As with its 31 peers amongst the cohort of Scottish local authorities, this council finds itself facing a much deeper cut than anticipated in this ninth rotation of the Scottish Government’s austerity programme for local government. More jobs will be lost – adding to the 16,500 lost across Scotland in the last five years alone of this project, never mind those lost in its first thee years.
The cuts now enforced by Finance Secretary, John Swinney – an under open threat of swingeing financial penalties to be imposed on councils choosing not to comply – are estimated, should this ‘deal’ be agreed, to see another 15,000 jobs go this year. ‘It’s life, Jim. but not as we know it.’
One would have expected serious informed discussion – or at least mass head scratching – from the chamber at Kilmory, in the teeth of so serious a decision to be taken.
Pantomime is routinely the default diversion for all administrations at Argyll and Bute Council – it masks the absence of the capacity for intelligent scrutiny and the utter void of ideas.
So the Council administration chose instead to focus on paying back some very elderly scores they had previously ignored. They entertained each other and their various audiences in the press pack and Audit Scotland – by spending their time ousting members of the increasingly loose Argyll First group from the various post and committee memberships to which they had been appointed.
For disloyalty in having chosen to resign from the current administration – three months ago.
Now we know that Argyll and Bute Council is not the quickest out of the blocks – but taking three months to react in pettiness to behaviour that has been characteristic of this council and its plethora of ‘administrations’ since whenever, pretty well week in, week out – is close to a record breaking performance.
Did a single councillor in the chamber see fit to try to call the meeting to some sense of its pressing priorities?
Because this is the comfort zone for elected members. They don’t have to know anything, think anything or suggest anything. They just get into gangs and throw mudpies.
And why on earth did those belatedly removed from their positions feel ill used? Resigning is resigning. It is not about removing yourself from responsibility while continuing to enjoy the perks. The incomprehensible thing here is that the changes of post holder were so delayed.
None of this nonsense matters a jot. None of it is in any way new to this council – in any of its administrations. None of it enables anything.
The necessary response to genuine crisis remains inchoate.
When it comes to disloyalty, that disloyalty is shown by this entire council to those who voted for them. Vitually no one in this chamber has behaved properly for years.
It is hard to know whether turning out the lights, locking them in, walking away and leaving them to it might be the most constructive response to the latest folie de grandeur.