Shock announcement: Cleland Sneddon new CEO of Argyll & Bute Council

Update 19.30 below] While it was widely rumoured from the outset that Argyll and Bute Council’s endlessly controversial Director of Customer Services, Cleland Sneddon, had come to Argyll and Bute Council at the invitation of departing CEO, Sally Loudon and on the promise that he would succeed her, most folk hoped that, for the sake of this benighted area, somehow this plan would not come to pass.

But it has.

Mr Sneddon has been made CEO of the Council, opening his game with a well earned bottom-scraping public trust factor.

This is man whose conduct has shown him to be:

  • routinely and strategically deceiving of elected members;
  • casual – to say the least – about the accuracy and integrity of important reports upon which major decisions affecting lives in Argyll and Bute were to be made;
  • and to operate with acolytes whose own practice has not been supportable.

The first two behaviours noted above were serially manifest – and proven – during this man’s management of the shocking attempt in 2009-10 to close 26 rural primary schools across Argyll  and the isles –  at a stroke; and with the justification papers for every single one of these proposed closures shown to be factually incorrect in fundamentally important points – and legally non-compliant with the governing legislation.

The closure proposal papers were so incompetent that they were not even acceptable as instruments to support the formal closure of two schools which had already been physically closed.

All 26 closure proposals had to be abandoned – at a very late stage and at an undisclosed – but very substantial – cost to the council.

The reputational cost to Argyll and Bute Council of this pantomimic caper  – which became a national joke – was also way up the scale and has taken at least as long to recover as the financial loss.

That episode galvanised and distressed parents and children right across Argyll and the Isles. It was followed by a second attempt on school closures – this time on twelve rural primaries, Some of these were new to the list, underlining the absence of any coherent set of criteria for closure.

That set of proposals failed as well and had to be abandoned – again with undisclosed cost to the council.

In the process, M Sneddon was proven by the Scottish Rural Schools Network leadership to have manipulated evidence by selective editing, to make it appear the opposite of what it represented – in order to mislead elected members whose decision taking traditionally relies unquestioningly on objective briefings from their senior officers.

Two years ago, Mr Sneddon voluntarily gave written evidence on Argyll  and Bute’s school closure procedures to the Scottish Parliament’s Education Committee, which was wholly misleading and deceptive. When For Argyll demonstrated the facts of this deception, Mr Sneddon was forced to issue the Committee with a ‘clarification’ of  his meanings in his written evidence to them. This shoddy saga may be tracked here:

The third characteristic of Mr Sneddon’s routine modus operandi, noted above, can be seen in his professional closeness to and encouragement of a third sector manager of an addiction services supplier in Dunoon. This operative as shown to have manipulated events around the controversial and disputed award of an Argyll-wide contract for addiction services to an outside supplier – to the substantial material benefit of that manager’s own outfit and their jobs – and at the expense of their peers across Argyll and the Isles.

During the process that led to this contract, the national expert in addiction remediation, Professor Neil McKeganey, was commissioned to report on the situation of addiction recovery provision  in Argyll and Bute and found Mr Sneddon to tricky to work with that he resigned the commission at a late stage and refused his fee. Mr Sneddon had refused to accept Professor McKeganey’s draft report – because it laid bare inconvenient truths about the incoherent provision in Argyll and Bute.  Mr Sneddon had also harrassed and attempted to ridicule Professor McKeganey as part of his effort to undermine the credibility of the report he disputed. This matte can be tracked via, amongst others,  the following article:

All of the matters referred to above are on the record in the archives of For Argyll. All were supported by documentary evidence from official papers and documents released under Freedom of Information.

And this man is now CEO of Argyll and Bute.

For Argyll is hearing news that as the information on his appointment becomes more widely known, there is already a body of horrified members of the public discussing whether to mount an online petition for the suspension of the appointment.

Who knows whether or not this will come to fruition – but the prospect itself is testimony to the degree of scandalised public recoil from the action of appointing someone already known and proven to be routinely and strategically ‘economical with the truth’.

This appointment is certainly a signal of disturbingly pragmatic values at Argyll and Bute Council –  a signal sent to an area which badly needs to see signs of a renewed commitment to probity in its council, after some markedly fallow years.

19.30 update:

For Argyll has heard from some councillors who report that their phones have literally not stopped ringing since this news broke. They are taking calls from angry members of the public – and from angry and deeply concerned members of council staff.

A proportion of staff concern apparently relates to alarm at the potential consequences for education in Argyll and Bute if the current Head of Education, a Sneddon crony, were to be promoted to fill the position he will vacate as one of the three Executive Directors at the Council.

There are said to be a large number of complaints from headteachers across Argyll and Bute relating to this officer, with concerns centred on an control freakery focus on administration and an absence of any inspirational capacity in rather important issue of the education of young people.

For Argyll too has had a lot of phone calls today, some in relation to the education sector here – a couple of which related an incident which perfectly portrays the mindset that is the cause of concern.

A headteacher apparently signed up, with consent, for a course at Stirling University School of Management. When she went online to book her place, she was offered – as is standard practice – campus accommodation at a discount to course participants. She signed up for that as well.

She was later contacted by the Head of Education saying that she would not pay for the headteacher’s accommodation at the Stirling course – because the headteacher had not used the council’s own booking system.

We understand that booking accommodation through the council system would have been more expensive because it would not have been able to access the course-participant discount on offer from the University.

This sort of carry on is not even management. It is obsessive petty bureaucracy unable to see the big picture. If education is about anything, it is about enabling young people to see the bigger picture and learn to operate in it competently and confidently.

It is all too easy to see what such a mindset would do with the overpromoted responsibilities for the council’s full suite of what are laughingly called ‘customer services’.

The current incumbent, Cleland Sneddon, now to be elevated on target, drove through the council’s privatisation of elderly care, allegedly well aware that contractors were paying carers around £5 an hour – which is illegal but hard to police in a privatised set up.

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Related Articles & Comments

  • It would be interesting to know which councillors were involved in the decision to ‘elect’ Mr Sneddon – either a lot of them have reached the age of incomprehension (already demonstrable in one case) or they’re behaving like lemmings – or, somehow, they see the decision to be to their personal advantage.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 36 Thumb down 3

    Robert Wakeham April 20, 2016 4:42 pm Reply
    • It’s quite a score of fiascos this man has had a hand in; not much has gone wrong at A&BC without assistance from Mr Sneddon.

      Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 24 Thumb down 3

      db April 20, 2016 9:04 pm Reply
    • get him out and get someone who has come up the ranks in a&b council and knows what the area needs instead of what the ceo needs.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 1

      alice bell April 22, 2016 9:18 am Reply
    • A protest outside Kilmory on the day Bellend Snedden takes up office could be on the horizon , protest against the cabal of councillors and this twat taking on the job!

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

      Mabawsa Richie April 24, 2016 12:18 pm Reply
  • Councillors McCuish, McNaughton, E Morton, Mulvaney, Trail, Taylor. Dick Walsh Chairman of the panel.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 16 Thumb down 2

    keith stanger April 20, 2016 6:18 pm Reply
    • Councillor McCuish, seriously??

      The Executive Director responsible for causing a worldwide social media meltdown.

      The Executive director whose irresponsible actions forced Councillor McCuish, as Leader of the Council, to go on national and international news outlets and publically humiliate and override the said Executive Director. After all he had brought the LA in to disrepute.

      Jeez, it’s a funny old world.

      Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 23 Thumb down 1

      John M April 20, 2016 7:57 pm Reply
        • Puppets, one and all! One day the people of Ah, But Confused (A&BC) will awaken and realise that it is they, the people of Argyll, who put these clowns in such a position of controlling our lives. Why must we wait a further year to make drastic changes?

          Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 26 Thumb down 2

          Alistair April 21, 2016 7:05 am Reply
          • This scumbag hasn’t been elected so there is know way of kicking him out until he either retires or gets caught doing something with a child that he shouldn’t. Add to that, he’s now a member of the greedy bastard club earning something in the rejoin of £146K a year. Yes! it really is £146,000 a year of Argyll & Bute council tax payers money.

            Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 19 Thumb down 6

            Oban4me April 21, 2016 10:48 am
          • An uncooperative Chief Executive can be sacked by the council; they serve us, the CEO serves them, or at least that is what is supposed to happen.

            Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 0

            db April 22, 2016 2:29 am
      • Thank you for this important additional reminder that it was Cleland Sneddon who ratcheted up what became the worldwide viral storm on social media over an Argyll pupil’s blog on school dinners – Never Seconds. This exposed the appalling cheapskate and largely nutrition-free ‘meals’ Argyll & Bute Council was providing to young people.
        Mr Sneddon chose to take it upon himself to attack the young child concerned and himself to issue, directly and without recourse to the council’s official communications team, a ranting defensive press release that again – as a powerful adult, targeted the child – and which went out on BBC Scotland news.
        The reputational damage to Argyll and Bute Council from this episode was immense – and it could be seen to derail at the very start the stability of the brand new SNP-led coalition which, sadly and undisciplinedly, went on to make a national panto of itself.
        Then Council Leader, Roddy McCuish, was televised on Lochgilphead ‘beach’ reading from a damagingly fascist printed statement on the school dinners issue – clearly scripted for him by Mr Sneddon and fully at odds with Mr McCuish’s own conciliatory nature.
        It’s worth noting that Mr Sneddon had plenty of form in issuing his own unofficial press releases under the council’s aegis.
        Before issuing an apparently official attack on the child concerned in the school dinners blog, during the school closure saga of 2009-1010, he issued another late night solo effort in which he chose, in quite hysterical terms, to attack the parents campaign organisation, Argyll Rural Schools Network [ARSN] – which was a great deal smarter than he was.
        Supported by the national parent body, the Scottish Rural Schools Network [SRSN] this organisation succeeded in seeing off both of his sets of ineptly founded closure proposals.
        This is the man now in command on the bridge deck of the struggling puffer that is Argyll & Bute Council.

        Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 18 Thumb down 2

        newsroom April 22, 2016 6:36 pm Reply
        • A bit of an insult to puffers.

          Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 1

          Robert Wakeham April 23, 2016 10:47 am Reply
  • Unbelievable.
    Will the last person to leave Argyll please turn out the lights.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 38 Thumb down 4

    Simon April 20, 2016 7:29 pm Reply
    • The one thumbs down for my post above has to be from Cleland!

      Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 20 Thumb down 2

      Simon April 21, 2016 7:41 pm Reply
      • Simon. Perhaps the ‘negative’ came from one of the not so Magnificent Seven’ who elected Sneddon. Sneddon is another example of an A&BC employee being awarded promotion for failure.

        Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 19 Thumb down 1

        Alistair April 21, 2016 8:42 pm Reply
  • What fresh lunacy is this?

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 26 Thumb down 1

    db April 20, 2016 7:31 pm Reply
  • Bahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha!

    Seriously? Shock to whom? Do you think there will be a queue at the bookies tomorrow?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

    Crazy She-Bat April 20, 2016 8:38 pm Reply
  • That story about the course at Stirling University reminds me of something that happened to a good friend of mine – a teacher – very many years ago in Argyll.
    She went off on sabbatical leave for specialist courses to gain the skills for a new post involving the teaching of deaf children in Argyll.
    On her return she found that someone else had been appointed to the post – a lady who was ‘extremely close’ to the then Director of Education.
    Qualification for a job in the Council is clearly sometimes a far from transparent process.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 20 Thumb down 3

    Robert Wakeham April 20, 2016 10:10 pm Reply
  • Has the man no humility?

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 20 Thumb down 2

    Graeme McCormick April 20, 2016 10:16 pm Reply
  • Ah – if this is the result of an interview process what on earth was the quality of the other candidates?

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 24 Thumb down 1

    Lowry April 20, 2016 10:24 pm Reply
  • The further away he is from a real school or child the better. So from that point of view everyone can sleep more soundly tonight.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 18 Thumb down 3

    Citizen M April 20, 2016 11:28 pm Reply
  • Anyone have knowledge of who else was short-listed and interviewed?

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 14 Thumb down 2

    Ian Sanderson April 21, 2016 8:58 am Reply
  • I am shocked at this appointment but I am not surprised as this is another case of “job’s for the boys”.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 22 Thumb down 1

    Treble T April 21, 2016 12:28 pm Reply
  • Aaaaaaaaaaargh!

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 16 Thumb down 1

    Jean Moffat April 21, 2016 1:07 pm Reply
  • A&B Council( if there is one) requires dismantling.
    I include the peabrained Councillors in that statement.
    A new way must be possible. They have ruined A&B!!!

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 18 Thumb down 3

    Hugh Jazz April 21, 2016 6:52 pm Reply
  • We have been told by a source inside Kilmory that:
    – the candidate placed second was Mr Sneddon’s fellow Executive Director, Douglas Hendry, who apparently had a hair cut and beard trim for the interview sessions [we do not know if there were any other candidates];
    – that Councillors Sandy Taylor and Richard Trail voted for Mr Sneddon;
    – and that the decision on who to appoint was substantially influenced by the results of the psychometric testing of candidates.
    The reliability of these tests depends on the accuracy of the understanding of the behaviours, skills, aptitudes and knowledge required by the job in question; on the calibre of expertise of the compiler of the particular test set to discover the match of a candidate to the desired template; and of the level of subtlety of interpretation of the candidates responses.
    Psychometric testing is an instrument that has become devalued by less than highly skilled usage, too often carried out on the basis of elementary training.
    We have emailed Councilor Taylor to ask if there is or is not any validity in the story of how he cast his vote.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 19 Thumb down 2

    newsroom April 21, 2016 11:18 pm Reply
    • It took me less than a minute to find this Newsy…

      6 candidates. Can you find anything about them?

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

      RichieMac April 22, 2016 11:38 am Reply
      • We’ll see if we can get any information.
        Do not expect any overlooked stars to have been on the interview list.
        If this was, as it is widely assumed to have been, a done deal before the event, it would be unusual to find any genuinely challenging candidates included in the list.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

        newsroom April 22, 2016 2:49 pm Reply
    • We have had no reply whatsoever from Councillor Taylor ln the validity of the inside story from Kilmory that he [and his SNP colleague, Councillor Richard Trail] voted for Cleland Sneddon.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0

      newsroom April 22, 2016 6:05 pm Reply
  • What’s needed is someone from the private sector to kick arse! All these public sector folk haven’t got a clue
    about running anything!!

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 25 Thumb down 7

    Neilfie April 22, 2016 12:00 am Reply
    • neilfie

      private sector–

      ppi, endowment mortgages, private pensions, bank collapse, newspaper tapping phone calls, offshore funds, helpdesks from somewhere on planet earth, the roofer and plumber that never turn up, war production procurement,payment in kind –nudge nudge etcetera……….

      Not so much kick arse but lick arse

      Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 10 Thumb down 6

      No Cheese Here April 22, 2016 1:27 pm Reply
      • NCH – I have experience of working in both sectors. The public sector have absolutely no commercial appreciation. It’s not their money!!
        Make the Council a business and it would be bust in no time. People who are good at their job are in the minority and it’s very difficult to get rid of the ones who aren’t. There are plenty of examples of good business people who can turn around companies from poor to excellent performance. These are the kind of people who should be running councils.

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

        Neilfie April 22, 2016 11:52 pm Reply
  • Councillor Dick Walsh, Leader of Argyll and Bute Council, said: “We are delighted to welcome Cleland to the role of chief executive of Argyll and Bute Council.

    “Cleland brings a wealth of experience and insight that will serve Argyll and Bute well.

    Is anyone really surprised that the Leader of the Council is happy that CS is CE or that he was appointed? It is just replacing like for like with the old scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours mentality in place. This is a Council going nowhere fast due to the people in charge of the elected group and the appointed group.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 23 Thumb down 0

    Integrity? April 22, 2016 12:56 pm Reply
    • If Cllr Dish Wash stands again for election in 2017, his sidekick, E Morton, will not be amused as she is waiting in the wings and chomping at the bit to become the new Head Honcho of Argyll.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

      Alistair April 22, 2016 1:36 pm Reply
      • Thanks for the grin at ‘Cllr Dish Wash’.
        Don’t forget that Councillor Ellen Morton took personal responsibility, in support of Mr Sneddon, for the second attempt at school closures in 2010, describing the then twelve targets as ‘my list’; standing over closure proposals that were no more competent second time around; and attempting yet again to railroad through closures which remained unjustified by the requirement of the law in question.
        These people were content to force some communities through two immediately successive closure threats to their children’s schools, to extend the intolerable levels of stress the effort to defend against the power of the council brought about.
        The eventual inquiry into the conduct of that round of school closures across Scotland saw, here, a public meeting for the Argyll capers held by the Commission in Lochgilphead High School – seeing some parents break down in tears – around a year later = at the very memory of the endless anxieties and pain of that objectively dreadful period.
        If the closure proposals had had the integrity of competence to support them, the judgment of the behaviour of both councillors and senior officers involved would have been different.
        But they knew quite well that the proposals were unsound and even in their second attempt made no effort fundamentally to revise them.
        This speaks for a mindset that has no care for fairness or for probity of process. It speaks of a cynically awareness that it has no need of the proprieties since whatever it wants to do can be brought about simply by force majeure.
        This was a shocking and prolonged episode in the corporate life of Argyll and Bute Council.
        And today, the man at the heart of it – for whom we and many others feel nothing but ineradicable contempt – richly rules the roost.
        And if what you predict comes to pass, and Councillor Morton takes the succession on the elected member side of the see-saw, no one in possession of their faculties will have any reason to trust the integrity of Argyll and Bute Council into the future.

        Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 21 Thumb down 0

        newsroom April 22, 2016 3:19 pm Reply
        • Newsroom. Am I correct in thinking that Sneddon lives in Edinburgh but, as part of his contract with A&BC, has a house in Argyll subsidised by A&BC? Perhaps now that he’s CEO and been awarded a salary increase to £146,000 he’ll pay for his own accommodation.

          Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 18 Thumb down 0

          Alistair April 23, 2016 10:05 am Reply
  • interesting that Psychometric testing was used in defining the candidate most worthy of the post (according to a previous post) my experience of Psychometric testing depends on who sets the tests and who analyses the date gained from such tests. When in industry the results gained were rarely accurate and promotions were based on some flawed analysing of the data. Not until some way down the line did it become apparent that the successful candidate was not suited to the roll. I wonder what the tests given gave what results – I guess we will never know but one thing is certain the wrong candidate got the job and it didn’t need Psychometric testing to find that out – whatever happened to common sense (oh I know forgot this is A&B)

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 15 Thumb down 0

    mike April 22, 2016 5:46 pm Reply
    • I wonder what psychometric testing of our councillors might throw up?

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

      Robert Wakeham April 23, 2016 10:36 am Reply
  • Every one of those counsillers in the Kilmory chambers should hang their heads in shame, every one that I have spoken to over the last few years have privately slated Bellend Snedden, A clear out off ALL the counsillers is long over due… Starting with Wee Dick Walsh….out now!!

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 16 Thumb down 0

    Mabawsa Richie April 22, 2016 6:08 pm Reply
    • Whilst I agree with you on a large number of the A&BC Councillors, I will stand up for the very few who are more than willing and do, stick their heads above the parapet and buck the trend of the kowtowing majority by fighting their corner for their electorate. There’s a great deal of dead wood that needs cutting out.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 0

      Alistair April 22, 2016 8:04 pm Reply
  • Yes to many are under the spell of Cleland Sneddon. Sally Loudon never ran the council, Sneddon always pulled all the strings. Needs to be more open to other people’s opinions. Dick Walsh, Morton, Scoullar has also been carried away with him and forgot to look at the track record since 2010 in community services.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 1

    Citizen M April 23, 2016 4:48 pm Reply
  • Psychometric testing and voodoo are blood brothers.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 12 Thumb down 7

    Cllr Michael Breslin April 23, 2016 6:06 pm Reply
  • Again for forget the pschycovoodoo and check the track record. We all know people that can carry an interview but can’t do the job….as he has clearly demonstrated. Mind you if lying is a personal quality for a CE then yes head and shoulders above most people.
    Councillor Breslin how do you propose to work with someone who has made an allegation against you?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 0

    Citizen M April 23, 2016 8:50 pm Reply
  • I would like to give an honest opinion but I don’t have the resources to fight a legal case

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 1

    Steve April 24, 2016 4:31 pm Reply
  • You watch….Ann Marie Know it all or Mark Spines will be put in charge of community services….two of the people with least actual interest in children and most likely to a love in with Cleland , so perfectly qualified according the the Argyll and Bute way.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 1

    Citizen M April 24, 2016 6:16 pm Reply

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