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:
- Sneddon at it again
- Sneddon runs white flag to half mast on council deception of parliamentary Education Committee
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:
- ADP: Professor McKeganey’s 2011 report said it all – and highlighted still failing external responsibilities
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.
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.