‘My Day In The Council Chambers’

Today was a massive day. Today was of significant importance to myself because I had helped these councillors in all types of weather. Leafleting , canvassing and even had the occasional coffee and a bite to eat. I put my family commitments on hold. My Girlfriend and kids saw less of me each night. Today meant more to me than anything. Today at 2pm I attended the statutory meeting for the council to decide who would be leader, provost, deputy provost and most importantly, who would be in power. I felt nervous and anxious at the same time. Knowing that SNP had 11 councillors and labour 11 also. It was neck and neck. I worked out all the probabilities in my head the night before and when I sat in the car in the car park outside the council building. If we get a couple of the independents on our side and the Tories abstain. If we form the best case for a minority administration. If it goes down to a deck of cards and we get the ace in the pack. These were all hypothetical but they kept racing through my mind. My heart was pounding.
For the past few months I have become really close to the SNP group in North Ayrshire. They’re a lovely bunch of people. They share an amazing vision that will help everyone in our area. They set out to help others. These people more than me deserve to get a good result today. I was praying for them. I crossed my fingers and hoped for the best outcome possible. When I read in the paper last week that Marie Burns – our leader of the group and Councillor in Irvine said that she reached out to Joe Cullinane (Labour Leader) to form a coalition.

Her proposal was simple, lets form administration together because that is what the people of North Ayrshire want. Now for me, that is one of a remarkable leader. Someone who despite their differences can put all of that aside to put the people first. When I first read it I was in my Dads. I shouted him over and told him to read it. You could see in his face as he read it that he was proud to have voted for her. He never knew Marie but I had spoken about her often. She’s wonderful, smart and very welcoming. This topped everything.

She was realistic enough to know that both parties had 11 each and she could quite easily of decided to form a minority administration. She chose to put the people first. I will always admire her for that. Unsurprisingly, Joe declined her offer. He refused to negotiate a coalition offer with SNP and try his hand at other negotiations. He would try and get the independents on board, that was a given. Negotiations went on all week and nobody really knew much else on the outside. I tried to ask a few questions here and there but didn’t want to pester anyone.
As I sat in my car outside the council building one and a half hours early. I went through everything in my head. I took the day off work for this and I was ready. I went inside and was the first person to be in the waiting area. I was greeted by the receptionist and was told I was “a little early”. So I decided to wait. Others started tricking in. A couple of labour members who were talking about tuition fees and how it was labours idea came in. A frequent narrative of theirs. I remained tight lipped and focused on the day ahead.

After half an hour Jim Tudhope and John Ferguson came in. I was relieved to see them as they were ‘one of us’. I stood and chatted to them for about ten more minutes when we saw Cllr Christina Larsen making her way into the chambers. This was it. It was finally here. The receptionist told us that we could now follow them in. We trickled in via a side door open to the public. The councillors were all seated in a curved seating pattern. They all had laptops and microphones. The chief executive of NAC Elma Murray took to the panel in front of them.

She announced who she was and asked the councillors if they would mind being filmed live on Facebook. They agreed that it was ok so they went on. A lady came round and handed us an agenda for today’s meeting. It was like a big book with lots of pages. Jim and I had a look through it while Elma was talking and introducing the councillors. The local press were over in the corner, taking notes and pressing play on their recorders. 11 labour councillors on the right of the room, 7 Tories in the middle, 4 independents just behind them and 11 SNP councillors on the left. If the Tories sat with labour it would be earmarked for a perfect political system of right vs left.
One of the first things on the agenda was nominating and voting for a provost and deputy provost. I had never seen this before so I was unsure about what it entailed. Everyone voted for the nominees and it was said that Cllr Ian Clarkson would be provost and Cllr Robert Barr would be deputy provost. The meeting went into a 5 minute recess so that the provost and his deputy could got for a picture and receive their chains. At this point in my mind I was trying to work out if a deal had been made. Pure speculation but my mind was running overtime. ‘So both of them are labour, does that mean we got in because we gave them provost roles’. Every hypothetical scenario was running through my mind.
Elma took to the microphone again and asked the question loud and clear. “Who do you vote for to me the leader and deputy leader of NAC?” The nominations were Cllr Marie Burns (SNP) and Deputy Cllr Alan Hill (SNP) or Cllr Joe Cullinane (Labour) and Deputy John Easdale (Labour). Elma asked for a vote of raising hands. The nominated leader and deputy leader with the most votes wins. She called out Marie and Alan first. All the SNP hands went up. That was 11 to them. I thought to myself at this stage that the Tories would abstain on both because they wouldn’t want to vote Labour in. Elma asked who votes for Joe and John. All of the Labour Councillors put their hands up so that made 11 also.

Then as I look over to the middle of the room I saw Cllr Angela Stephen, Cllr Scott Gallagher, Cllr Todd Ferguson and Cllr Timothy Billings raise their hands. Along with a former Tory councillor who is now an independent. It shouldn’t of shocked me, it shouldn’t of made me mad or upset. But it did. I shook my head in disdain. I had saw on the news just two hours before Kezia Dugdale saying she would suspend any Labour members going into coalition with the Tories. Now this was not the case. This was not a coalition between Labour and Tories. It may have well been though. This was a minority administration propped up by the Tories. It was deceiving, conniving and a massive faux pas from both of them.

It will come back to haunt them. I hope sooner rather than later. I turned to look at Jim and we both never said a word. We had a look of disbelief. It was now evident that Joe and his colleagues had infiltrated ranks with the Tories and they had put local issues aside to stop the SNP at every turn and to stop independence. A very transparent move but a move that sneakily got them to power. When the Chief executive confirmed that Joe Cullinane was now leader and that Labour had formed a minority administration by being propped up from the austerity ridden Tories. I looked over at him. He had a massive grin on his face. This man knows no bounds. He is an opportunistic, careerist. He will fling anyone under his municipal bus just to be the leader of the council. It doesn’t matter how he gets there or what route he has to take. As long as his career is first then the people of North Ayrshire will always come second.
As the meeting drew to a close. Elma was giving councillors opportunities to nominate for posts and duties. I saw Tory councillors reject nominations at every opportunity. It made me realise that they just didn’t care. They had no interest in today other than to stop SNP and effectively stop independence. But I have news for them. They won’t stop The SNP and they won’t stop independence. Because we don’t lie down to opportunistic careerists or part time councillors that just do enough to get by. We’re in this for the long run, we’re resilient in our vision for a fairer, more prosperous society for all. We will close the attainment gap for our kids.

We will shout from the rooftops that we will double childcare and oppose Tory cuts to our elderly and disabled. We got the most votes out of all the parties sitting in that chamber today. That is what keeps me going. We have amazing councillors in place to hold this Labour administration to account at every turn. We will keep going against the hatred towards us. We are SNP and this is our time!

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You can follow David Patterson on twitter at @DavidPee29 or at his webpage davesworld

But how does Vote till you Boak work?

I’ve been asked, so..

Imagine there was a ward with 12,000 electors and 10 candidates standing that will elect 4 council seats.

There’s obviously things like turnout  to consider, so say 60% go out and vote.

That’s 7,200 votes and say that all of them use their 1-10 voting options by voting until they boak.

Now, there’s a bar or a Quota to exceed to get elected. This explainer is from Moray Council’s website and I commend reading it.

STV vote explained

But to the Quota, Bar or Winning Lines:-


Got it? and in my example it’s 1,441 as the Quota.

1,441?

Yup, it’s a formula to get the Quota and that’s the number of valid votes cast divided by the number of seats plus one, then with one added.

So there’s 7,200 votes divided by 4 seats plus 1 and then add 1

7,200 divided by 5 then add 1

1,440 add 1

1,441.

The higher the number of voters, the higher the Quota will beand there could be fun and games in wards with high turnouts and only 3 seats.

Equally, a low turnout and Quota in a four seat ward could be interesting too.

So to the darkness of what could happen…

It could look like this..

Scenario One.


And it could be a straight enough fight between the two SNP candidates and two Labour.
The SNP get through in the first round of calculations with both candidates exceeding the Quota and Labour then get their candidates through on the second round by having enough next preference votes.

That situation reflects both parties fielding two candidates in a ward and recommending their 1 and 2 in different areas of the ward.

Clear enough?

The actual method employed in the count would remove the candidate with least votes and reallocate their next preferences until someone meets the Quota.

I’m oversimplifying things by showing all the rounds of voting and all the votes that each candidate gets through each round, but the process would work out pretty much the same.

The counting process would go through the preferences of the lowest independent, then the next lowest, then the SSP, then the Liberal Democrat and so on and so on.

The process is electronic and tabulates if you went SNP1, then Green or SNP2 then SSP and all the various permutations of the first and second preferences that are made.

With me this far?

Good, then let’s make it a bit more muddled as obviously SNP message, government and MPs MSPs are visible and people want change in the councils etc.

Scenario Two.


This time, there’s slightly more SNP votes and their candidates get through with a bigger lead.

Once the two SNP candidates get elected, the votes for them in the subsequent rounds don’t matter.

Two Councillors are elected at this point.

This is why in some areas SNP and Labour are saying on their electoral materials if you live in Areas A, B and C vote for Indy as 1 and Pendence as 2, and if you live in areas D, E and F vote for Pendence as 1 and Indy as 2.

The idea being that if there’s 3000 votes for the SNP, they aren’t piled onto one candidates and both candidates votes are balanced out in terms of first and second preferences.

Going back to our example and The Greens sneak a second round place by just beating the Quota over the first two rounds of preferences.

Again, their votes won’t carry beyond that round. We have three elected councillors at this point.

The Quota calculations keep looking at preferences and in this case, the first and second preferences are enough to get The Greens elected by the Second round after starting at the bottom and working out which votes transfer as each lowest placed candidate is knocked out or wont meet the Quota number.

In the third round, more candidates beat the bar of 1,441, but it’s the Liberal Democrats whose vote over the three rounds was greatest.

Now, their vote wasn’t higher than anyone else in the first two rounds but they secured enough votes over the three rounds to be elected.

That means all four seats are filled.

Other candidates also met the Quota in this round but didn’t get as great a number of votes as the Liberal Democrat.

It’s not simple, but it’s fairer as the votes in all three rounds are taken into account.

The preferences are added up until a winner is found from the list and it may be that getting a greater number of votes in later rounds is a fairer reflection once the candidates elected by the first three rounds are totalled.

Scenario Three.

This example is similar to Scenario Two, but the Greens need the third preference votes and it’s a run off between a number of candidates at that point as to who is elected and where the transfers of votes do matter.

I’ve been unrealistic in assuming that the 7,200 votes carry across on each round as some voters will simply express a 1 or express a 1 and 2 as they’ve been instructed on the leaflets they’ve received.

Not all voters will want to rank the list and there will be a drop off in numbers voting in each round.

Perhaps, this is a danger for some candidates if the first and second preferences have near level numbers and where others pick up greater transfers of third preferences.

Scenario Four.

In this scenario, I’ve deliberately dropped the number of votes in each voting round. I’ve also made SNP1 and SNP 2  have an easier time too.

But, As I said, there will be a movement in numbers of electors in each voting round.

There’s an importance and logic in voting through the candidates until the end.

With Ten rounds of voting preferences, there’s likely to be less votes to distribute through each round of preference as voters progressively drop out of the process.

Although the Green and LD candidates still get elected by the third round, the importance of vote transfers remains valid and there can be situations where electors voting just 1 or just 1 and 2 on their ballots drop out and won’t influence the third or fourth elected councillors in their wards.

That can leave a noticeable gap in numbers to those voting in round three and that can ease the way for candidates likely to be a third preference, no matter the combination of the first two votes made.

Therefore, matching your votes to the number of councillors elected in the ward is important.

Voting for 4 candidates if there is four seats or 3 candidates if there is three seats is the theory.

It also leads to question of parties only standing two candidates in a four seat ward.

A third candidate might be a risk and spread votes, but if on a long list of ten or perhaps more standing, it might be a valid way to ensure that the voters are motivated to vote beyond your 1 and 2.

The opportunity for some of the parties is in gaining third and fourth preferences. That is the focus for the Greens, SSP and Liberal Democrats.

No party can or will say who to vote for after the 1 and 2 votes, but Tories have been noticeable in saying to vote for union supporting candidates and there has at least been some reference made by writers on the pro-independence side for voting down through the full list.

Conclusion

I think there’s merit in voting until you boke.

The mid part of all these spreadsheets at rounds 3 to 5 would be difficult to guess, my assumptions are that the parties likely to get 1 and 2 preferences, the SNP and Labour will not get same amount of third or fourth preferences if they are standing two candidates in a field of ten.

There may be some danger if younger voters take a vote for green first preference and then go with either SNP or Labour. That brings a different dynamic.

Equally, there may be tactical voting, if there is an encouraged block ‘Unionist’ vote at play, but I think some traditional Labour voters might see voting Tory as going too far and vice versa.

Also a factor in the mix will be that there is some pick up of the second and third preferences by the Liberal Democrats and the Greens.

I think there will be a number of examples in wards across Scotland  of multiple parties reaching the Quota by the third and fourth preference stages of counting.

Although, how straightforward some seats might be for the SNP is open to question and in some wards or areas there could be interesting results if tactical voting or a block ‘Unionist’ or block ‘Nationalist’ voting is at play.

The system and need for at least one vote on the ballot paper may see a drop off by some voters who just wish to treat as first past the post.

Obviously, with the bar or Quota calculation in play, a high turnout might help in certain situations as it increases the Quota squeezing the pips through the rounds of voting preferences.

I cannot see widespread tactical voting affecting every seat, although I think there’s likely to be reasonable numbers thinking about voting through the list.

This may give interesting statistics in some wards as some voters will be taking seriously the chance to rank certain parties last. This makes a statement.

We know this is council election, but election materials from some parties are making it about having a view on a second independence referendum.

Clearly the thinking is not just on electing councillors, but in terms of sticking it to the other guy and I think there could be cawing over ‘look how many electors rejected them’.

Interesting times and an interesting use of the voting system to make positive AND negative statements.

you can follow Chic Gibson on twitter at @chicgibson or at his blog page ChicGibson

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Universal Credit is nothing to celebrate

We recently heard that on the anniversary of the introduction of Universal Credit the Dundee DWP office dressed in blue and had celebratory cake. The thought of celebrating something that has caused so many people so much misery ought to be enough to make any cake stick in the throat, but this sort of corporate bonding event is designed to instil everyone involved with the organisation’s values, and to break down the barriers that separate their private life from their work life and protect their moral compass.

Meanwhile, in the real world, Universal Credit continues to provide further nasty surprises. A few weeks back we were talking to someone who is on Universal Credit and waiting for a Work Capability Assessment to see if he is eligible for the Limited Capability for Work component – the equivalent of ESA for people who are in the Universal Credit system. He told us that he is having to sign monthly at the jobcentre. This didn’t seem right, as people in that position who have applied for ESA are left alone and simply have to supply regular doctor’s notes. However, when we checked with the nice people at the Child Poverty Action Group they explained that, under Universal Credit, someone waiting for their assessment can be given all sorts of things to do, including job search. It is the DWP that decides what is reasonable to expect in their circumstances, and they are subject to the full sanction regime if they don’t comply. (In this particular case the jobcentre weren’t demanding more than the regular signing – but that was just as well as our friend had already waited 15 months for his assessment and had still not been given a date.)

You can follow the Scottish Unemployed Workers Network on facebook and on there webpage click here

 

Inverclyde – A Labour Party Fiefdom – 50+ Years of Misrule – The Good People Of the Region Are Entitled to Good Governance- Seize the Day in May – Vote SNP

September 2000; Inverclyde – Death of Inverclyde Clyde Under the Labour Party

Inverclyde Council is officially Scotland’s poorest performing local authority. The Council, formerly a part of Strathclyde Region was created by a local government reorganisation.

Its first year’s accounts required 2500 adjustments resulting in a net asset reduction of £49 million, not a lot if you say it quickly, and only taxpayers’ money, not like real money.

Council officers could be forgiven a bit of confusion, after all, Inverclyde had been created by the Tories, who detested Strathclyde, which they also set up, and the reorganisation was to set right all the problems of the past. But not enough resources were allocated.

All very clever ploys by the Tories hoping to regain lost votes didn’t work, but the taxpayers footed the bill for the failure of their trickery. None the less, Inverclyde under Labour had four years to put things right (or should it be left?)

But, true to type they submitted late and poorly prepared accounts, which took some time to correct resulting in a much delayed audit that revealed a failure to achieve statutory targets. Fourteen months passed before the council met revised targets. A very bad year one.

 

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August 2003; People in the West of Scotland live much shorter lives

People living in Glasgow & the West of Scotland have the lowest life expectancy in the UK. The average lifespan of men in the city is more than a decade shorter than in North Dorset, which tops the list for longevity. Health officials blame poverty for the city’s bad record.

Figures relate to life expectancy at birth in 1999-2001:

North Dorset – 80.0
Glasgow – 68.7
Inverclyde – 70.3
West Dunbartonshire – 70.8
Renfrewshire – 71.7
Dundee – 71.8
North Lanarkshire – 71.8
Western Isles – 72.3

The life expectancy for women living in Glasgow & the West of Scotland is not that much better than the men. Scottish council areas accounted for six of the 10 areas with the lowest life expectancy for for women.

West Somerset – 83.5
Glasgow – 76.2
Manchester – 76.5
East Ayrshire – 76.7
West Dunbartonshire – 77.2
Inverclyde – 77.2
North Lanarkshire – 77.5
Renfrewshire – 77.7

The statistics are a national scandal They show that after six full years in power in Westminster and four years in the Scottish Parliament, Labour has completely failed to tackle the underlying problems of poverty and deprivation which lead to low life expectancy. Under Labour, the life expectancy gap between the top and bottom is widening. In reply a spokesman for the Labour party, Scottish Executive said there was “no short-term fix”. (news.bbc.co.uk)

 

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June 2005; Council urged to tackle failings

The Accounts Commission completed a two year study (2003-2005) of the financial performance of local councils in Scotland to assess whether councils were meeting their legal duty to improve services.

Subsequent findings concluded that the report was the most critical to date and identified management problems tracing back to 1996 following another bout of local government reorganisation which had created extensive and fundamental weaknesses in leadership and direction.

Primarily focused on elected members of councils. Senior management in Inverclyde was singled out for adverse comment that it was continuing to prevent the region from improving.

The Accounts Commission said Inverclyde Council required “urgent remedial action” to address weaknesses in its leadership and direction.

Senior managers were ordered to seek outside help to solve the Region’s problems. Then Inverclyde Council leader, Alan Blair said management had drawn up a recovery plan. (bbc.co.uk)

 

 

 

 

 

July 2007: Letter from Former Girls And Boys Abused of Quarrier Homes (FBGA) to Mr John Mundell, Chief Executive of Inverclyde Council

Mr Mundell. Further to my conversation with your office today. I am writing as the representative of Former Boys and Girls Abused in Quarriers Homes.

We are writing to ask why you as council leader of Inverclyde Council and the Inverclyde Council have failed in its duties to undertake any type of Enquiry into Quarriers Homes past abuse.

As the Quarriers organisation comes under your sphere of control and regulation. McBearty, Porteous, Wilson, Nicholson, Wallace, Climbie, Drummond, all ex-employees of the care home have all been recently convicted in the Scottish Courts of abusing children in-care either sexually or physically.

In addition a sibling (Gilmore) of a former ex-employee. No other care establishment in the UK has had as many ex-employees convicted of abusing children in its care.
Quarriers Charity are Scotland’s 3rd largest charity today and continue to care for vulnerable adults and children as such it is important that it is fit for purpose going forward and only a full Independent Inquiry will ensure that.

An independent Inquiry will also fully establish the facts and understand the causes and failures in the past care system of Quarriers Homes while ensuring that the current Charity’s organisation has robust care and protection systems in place today to prevent and minimise a repeat of the past.

There have been recent Independent Inquiries into past issues of abuse committed on children in-care by other Councils in Scotland such as Edinburgh and Fife 2002.

An Independent Inquiry or SWSI into Quarriers Homes residential abuses would enable a full understanding of all the abuse issues pertaining to the care home and its residents & ensure the following:

i. Would be able to consider what lessons could be learned from children in-care and any further changes that appear to be needed to minimise the risk to children and vulnerable adults in care in the future.

ii. To review the action of the former organisations senior management and others during the period when children were in the care of the care home.

iii. To identify what action was taken when children at the time reported abuse or made any complaints.

iv. An Independent Inquiry should review the internal Social work audit of measures to protect children and vulnerable adults from abuse in care are sufficient and robust enough and advise whether appropriate and effective safe guards are in place and to make recommendations as to future practice where appropriate.

It is unacceptable that Inverclyde Council and you personally have not initiated any such Independent Inquiry to date. We would like you to consider seriously our request for such an Independent Inquiry for the reasons outlined in our letter. There are many more compelling reasons why such an Inquiry should be undertaken with immediate effect. Signed; David Whelan.

Comment
There are numerous links exposing the scandal of the abuse of children in care in Quarrier homes. This is the most enlightening one. http://aangirfan.blogspot.co.uk/2009/05/child-abuse-suspected.html

 

Clune Park flats.

Clune Park

 

 

 

 

November 2008; Anger at Council’s Incompetence Failing to Apply for Health Funding

Stuart McMillan MSP, (SNP West of Scotland) reacted angrily to the news that Inverclyde Council had failed to apply for Government funding, allocated to local authorities for tackling health inequalities.

On the back of these reports Mr McMillan has tabled Freedom of Information questions to Inverclyde Council to get to the bottom of this debacle.

He said; “I have today submitted a Freedom of Information request to get to the bottom of this in order to determine whether or not we have witnessed a cover-up as well as a cock up from the Council.

I am extremely angered that Inverclyde Council did not apply for the funding made available by the Scottish Government to tackle health inequalities.

This display of incompetence might have meant that the people of Inverclyde would miss out in their share of vital funding which should have been used to tackle problems such as deprivation and substance abuse.

Thankfully, the Scottish Government have agreed to meet representatives from Inverclyde Council to discuss the matter and hopefully to consider their late submission. The Council must hang their heads in shame on this matter.

I am certain many constituents in Inverclyde will share my anger that Inverclyde Council has shown a lack of leadership over this situation which could prevent much needed support being brought to Inverclyde.”

 

 

 

 

 

May 2009; Council Goes Ahead with New Approach to Delivering Excellence in Services

Inverclyde Council has taken the important first step along the road to radically reorganising how it delivers services to its customers to offer excellence at best value for money.

The Future Operating Model reflects a root and branch shift for Inverclyde as it strives to operate more efficiently while giving customers the highest quality services where and when they need it.

Chief Executive John Mundell said: “This is not about our staff doing a bad job. On the contrary they do an incredible job but should be given the freedom to do even more. This is about enabling employees, giving them new skills and a better working environment. “This is all about our customers.

We have spent the past couple of years looking at how we operate as a business and it is clear we can and must change to maximise our resources into front line services and at the same time radically improving our customer service.”

Research identified areas where the Council could improve its operational effectiveness and efficiency at a corporate and service level. Key issues included:

i. Too many points of contact

ii. Too many premises

iii. Too many computer systems

iv. Customer has a different experience with each service and within services
The review was carried out in consultation with staff from a wide range of Council services through participation in workshops and focused discussion groups. Trade unions were also consulted. Research was also carried out through the experience of business transformation projects throughout the UK public sector, local authorities and other organisations.

The new Customer Contact Centre will be located on the ground floor of the Municipal Buildings in Clyde Square. The existing Contact Centre in Wallace Place will be modernised to meet the requirements as it the plan is phased in. The process should be completed by late 2012.

Inverclyde Council Leader Councillor Stephen McCabe said: “We would be failing our communities if we did not act now. Inverclyde’s needs are at the heart of the Future Operating Model. We are determined that our customers get the first class services they deserve from an organisation that is in tune with what they need.”

The six phrase project is funded through £1 million from Council reserves with any additional costs funded by savings created. It is anticipated that savings will cover the cost of loan charges, improving Council buildings, and further investment in frontline services.

Councillor McCabe added: “This really is a case of Spend to Save and is so much more than a shiny new call centre. This is a fundamental change in the way we deliver our services to the customer in a manner that will benefit the Council and the community in the long term.

This is a 10 year model and we expect it to deliver on our fundamental promise to provide excellence to our customers at value for money.” (inverclyde.gov.uk/news/2009/may/)

 

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May 2009; Inverclyde Council’s corporate director of education and social care, Ian Fraser, suspended

Inverclyde Council’s corporate director of education and social care, Ian Fraser, has been suspended by the authority’s chief executive, John Mundell pending an investigation into “a number of management and operational matters”.

The dramatic move followed a decision by the council’s education appeals committee to reverse a decision by the education directorate to refuse a place at Gourock High to a P7 pupil who lived in its catchment.

A council source suggested that the committee’s decision on the parental appeal had been the “final straw”, and not the main reason for Mr Fraser’s suspension.

However, other sources suggest the disciplinary action follows his alleged failure to communicate with the chief executive that the case was effectively a “ticking bomb”.

In Fraser’s defence, it is being pointed that this was a policy he inherited when he moved to the council from East Renfrewshire. As a result of Gourock High’s pending merger with Greenock Academy, the education department – with the backing of the council – had set a limit of 100 places for the S1 intake in August.

However, faced with 101 applications the council held a ballot to select which pupil would attend Greenock Academy. Kirstin Airlie, a pupil at Moorfoot Primary, lost.

The cap had been put at 100 pupils for S1, based on five classes of 20 for practical subjects: the council has now agreed to create another class.

A spokesman for the council said the 101 applications had included an unexpected 12 requests from St Ninian’s Primary – pupils who would normally have gone to St Columba’s High, which is being decanted to another building next year as part of the council’s school modernisation programme.

Education sources suggest Fraser and the council’s chief executive, Mundell, have been engaged in a “power struggle” – not so much over budgets per se but over management style and decision-making.

Some of Fraser’s decisions, such as moving the school holidays, have been controversial with parents. However, the education community regards him as a highly-effective, focused manager, albeit no shrinking violet. (tes.co.uk)

 

 

 

 

 

May 2009; Suspended education chief retires

Inverclyde council has granted early retirement to its £100,000 a year education chief after lifting a suspension against him.

The council took action against Ian Fraser two weeks ago as part of an investigation into “management and operational matters”. Now the local authority has announced the 59-year-old year is to retire in August – 10 months early.

He will not receive redundancy or an enhanced package but has not been disciplined. Inverclyde council said it was investigating several issues but Mr Fraser was not the focus.

He was recruited two years ago from the high performing education authority, East Renfrewshire. The council said his suspension, a fortnight ago, was not a direct result of the controversial decision to deny a girl a place at Gourock High School after drawing her name from a ballot.

The girl’s appeal against the decision was upheld by the council, as were the appeals of three other pupils who were denied placing requests at the school. The council has apologised to the families of the four pupils involved for any distress that had been caused.

An independent consultant has also been appointed by lnverclyde to conduct a review and prepare a report on the policies and procedures for school admissions and placing requests and their operational implementation.

John Mundell, chief executive of Inverclyde Council, said: “Inverclyde Council has historically had an excellent track record of high performing education and social care services and Ian contributed to the further development of these services over the last two and half years.” (news.bbc.co.uk)

 

 

 

 

 

August 2009; Council blamed for ‘serious mismanagement

Inverclyde promises changes following a hard-hitting inquiry and report into handling of school admissions.

An independent review of Inverclyde Council’s school placing requests policy found four different versions in circulation, with contradictory information contained in each document.

The council’s criteria for granting placing requests appeared to vary from one year to the next, and the admissions process lacked consistency and transparency.

Mr Mundell promised to take immediate action to create a more coherent policy on admissions and parental placing requests after a special meeting of the education and lifelong learning committee considered the report by Maggi Allan, former education director of South Lanarkshire.

Mr Mundell described the report’s findings as “obviously extremely disappointing”, as they had identified a number of serious management and operational issues in the education department.

Ian Fraser, Inverclyde’s former corporate director of education and social care, was suspended and subsequently took early retirement and has since taken up employment with the Scottish Centre for Studies in School Administration (SCSSA), which specialises in leadership and management training.

Ms Allan’s report, which was commissioned in May and cost £35,500, makes a series of recommendations – including the need to reduce the physical capacity of the council’s secondary schools .

This means, in effect, that some classrooms will be turned over to alternative uses, such as community learning and development or teachers’ continuing professional development, so that parents cannot argue that there is space for their children over and above the capping level set by the council.

The council had sought to reduce the S1 intakes for Gourock High and Greenock Academy, pending their merger in 2011 when they become Clydeview High.

Education officials tried to manage the intake by limiting placing requests to the existing two schools, but this was overruled in court.

A sheriff decided that, as Greenock Academy had admitted 160 pupils in 2007, it still had the capacity to admit the same number in 2008, rather than capping its intake at 80.

Ms Allan criticised the directorate for failing to appreciate and act upon the strategic impact of the sheriff’s decision.

The situation was further exacerbated when it was found there were 101 pupils in Gourock High’s catchment, but only 100 places available for 2009-10.

Parents then received a letter informing them that a ballot had taken place to determine which pupil would not be granted entry to Gourock High this month. Thirteen other families, whose placing requests had been rejected, also appealed successfully to the council’s education appeals committee.

Inverclyde also operated its admissions policy for secondary schools purely according to address, rather than simply giving priority to pupils in the associated primaries. That is expected to change, as a result of the review. (tes.co.uk)

 

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Mundell CEO

 

 

 

August 2010; Labour MSP refuses to apologise for ‘Riggi death slur’

Labour MSP Duncan McNeil has refused to apologise for remarks he made following the tragic deaths of the three Riggi children.

The Labour MSP for Greenock and Inverclyde had used the deaths in order to attack SNP politician Keith Brown by suggesting that ministerial inaction over home-schooling had left the children vulnerable.

The bodies of the three children were discovered by firemen who were investigating a gas explosion at the block of flats where they lived, the children had all suffered stab wounds.

Their mother, Theresa Riggi, was found seriously injured after jumping or falling from a second-floor balcony of the building in Edinburgh and has since been charged with their murder.

McNeil, the MSP for Greenock and Inverclyde, implied that home-schooling had left the children in danger and had accused the SNP’s Keith Brown of complacency.

Mr McNeil had questioned whether the home-schooling of the Riggi children may have led to delays in the authorities picking up on the danger they were in.

The Labour MSPs remarks provoked a furious reaction from the Scottish government who accused him of trying to make political capital out of the tragedy.
It also led to home-schooling organisation ‘Schoolhouse’ issuing a statement demanding an apology from the Labour MSP and labelling his remarks deplorable, and an attempt to peddle vile personal prejudice in order to score cheap political points and tantamount to ‘grave-robbing’.

However in a statement McNeil refused to apologise for the remarks suggesting that loopholes in the law could be exploited by some people that would lead to child welfare being compromised. More here; (newsnetscotland.scot)

 

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McCabe Council leader

 

 

 

September 2011; Inverclyde result was a draw. It’ll take more than an Irn-Bru re-branding to turn it round.

Ed Miliband may be relieved at last week’s by-election result in Inverclyde, but for Labour in Scotland, it was no better than a draw.

Labour held the seat with almost the same share as the late David Cairns in what was a good general election result for Labour locally and in Scotland.

That’s the good bit. The SNP almost doubled their vote, appearing to clean up on former Lib Dem voters and winning voters from all other parties.

Enough to say with justification that they’re still riding as high as in the May Holyrood elections.

Hence the importance of the review of the Scottish party led by leading Westminster Blairite Jim Murphy and MSP Sarah Boyack.

Scottish Labour, whose dominance was almost unchallenged for decades, has the fight of its life ahead of it. Full article here; (leftfutures.org/2011/07/)

 

 

 

 

March 2012; Inverclyde Council suspends four senior bosses because a scheme set up to save cash ended up costing hundreds of thousands of pounds.

Paul Wallace, Corporate Director of Organisational Improvement and Resources at Inverclyde Council, has been suspended by Chief Executive John Mundell along with John Arthur, Head of Safer and Inclusive Communities, Gordon McLoughlin, Head of Customer Service and Business Transformation and head of IT project management Arun Menon.

The four are understood to have been involved with establishing a money-saving drive known as the Future Operating Model, which was unveiled in February 2009, with the aim of helping the council hit an over-all savings target of £6.43 million in three years.

Instead the scheme cost the council £650,000 in fees to consultants Price Waterhouse Cooper, and delivered only £250,000 in savings, far short of the expected £2m target.

The scheme included a raft of efficiency measures and also the establishment of a new council customer contact centre in the Municipal Buildings in Greenock, which opened in October 2009.

But one senior council source said there had been doubts about the need for the new centre. The source said: “Social housing is no longer dealt with by the council, leisure’s not dealt with by the council, what’s this customer service centre for?
They’ve cut away a huge chunk of what a customer service centre is used for.

They’ve even detached the letting of halls to Inverclyde Leisure. In the short term, the expected budget cuts, almost promised savings, have not come to pass, with the result of a black hole in the budget.

The Future Operating Model involves ‘modernisation’. No-one’s prepared to challenge what’s meant by that, but in effect it means more technology, the aspiration to cut staff.

It’s been a budgetary mistake but I don’t think the spend has to be binned. However, the main justification for it was ‘efficiency’ and that has not been successful.”
Lib/Dem Councillor Alan Blair, a former leader of Inverclyde Council said: “It’s a very concerning situation. “It plainly means money is going to have to be found to fill a black hole.

That may well have to come from services important to the public. I think the administration should have been giving much more thought to important projects than recently they have been doing.”

In July 2010, a report by a collection of public watchdogs, including Audit Scotland, warned that the then Labour-run council needed to ensure that the Future Operating Model was going to deliver its projected savings.

The ‘Shared Risk Assessment’ Report’ on Inverclyde Council was co-compiled by the Social Work Inspection Agency, the Scottish Housing Regulator, the Care Commission, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Education and Audit Scotland.

It said: “The council has progressed to phase two of their Modernisation and Efficiency Programme which includes designing, building and implementing the council’s Future Operating Model (FOM).

The FOM is based on improvement to both corporate and service level efficiency opportunities through modernisation of current working practices.

The development of a new customer service centre which allows customers to access a range of council services in a single location is expected to deliver significant improvements to customers over the next two years.

The council need to ensure that the FOM delivers the projected efficiency savings and the intended improvements.”

That warning was in stark contrast to the words of Inverclyde Council Leader, Stephen McCabe who launched the plan in May 2009 saying: “This really is a case of spend to save and is so much more than a shiny new call centre.

This is a fundamental change in the way we deliver our services to the customer.

This is a 10-year model and we expect it to deliver on our fundamental promise to provide excellence to our customers at value for money.”

A spokesman for Inverclyde Council said: “Following a review of the council’s operating model, four officers have been suspended, as a precautionary measure, pending further investigation.

Whilst this investigation is being carried out it would be inappropriate to comment on the circumstances of the individuals involved.”

 

 

 

 

January 2011; PwC consultancy goes sour at Inverclyde

Based on the latest published figures, the FOM project spectacularly failed to do so. In spite of effectively producing an operational loss on this scheme, PwC won a further £300,000 consultancy contract that was not put out to tender, plus another later commission for a contract that did go out to tender. (accountingweb.co.uk/)

 

 

 

 

January 2011; Inverclyde Project Update

It is now accepted that the major service delivery and value for money project for which they were responsible, the Future Operating Model (FOM), has failed.

It had been intended to produce £1.9 million of savings. In fact all it has made is a loss.

It paid PricewaterhouseCoopers consultants £650,000 and has delivered savings totalling only £250,000.

The FMO project has now been binned and questions are being asked about the supervisory role of the CEO, John Mundell.

He went on sick leave last month (December? Hmmm) and is said to have begun looking at the performance of the FMO project when he came back.

In his defence, it is being said that he asked for a progress report back in October 2010.

That is proving something of a boomerang ploy, raising further questions as to why, if he had queries about FOM’s operations in October, he did not press his request and did not engage with the matter again for some considerable time.

There also appear to be issues around the probity of the council’s relationship with Pricewaterhouse Coopers.

The consultants are alleged to have been given an open contract for £300,000 by the suspended officers.

All of this adds to the pressure for radical reform of local government. (forargyll.com/2011/01)

 

 

 

 

August 2011; Top council official sacked over saving scheme fiasco

One of Scotland’s leading local government officials has been sacked and several others given final warnings for their role in the collapse of a money-saving scheme.

But cash-strapped Inverclyde Council is continuing to face criticism for taking seven months to complete its probe, during which time it paid out almost £200,000 to the four suspended officers.

The role of the chief executive John Mundell in the saga has also been criticised.

Paul Wallace, the authority’s £100,000-a-year-plus corporate director, was the only member under investigation to be fired for his role in the fiasco, which saw more than £650,000 paid to consultants and savings of barely £250,000 delivered.

The Herald can also reveal Mr Wallace has taken Inverclyde Council to the Court of Session over how it has handled the investigation.

It is understood his case will focus on claims of a lack of transparency in the probe and that chief executive John Mundell’s role in it breached any sense of natural justice.

Two other heads of service, John Arthur and Gordon McLoughlin, both on annual salaries of around £80,000, are on final warnings.

The fourth, Arun Menon, admitted culpability several weeks ago and has also been issued with a final warning.

The decision to sack Mr Wallace comes amid mounting speculation that the former leader of the council at the time the FOM fiasco came to light is to return to the post.

Labour’s Stephen McCabe quit several months ago citing family reasons, but he has been touted to return to the leader’s chair later this month after his successor, Iain McKenzie, was elected to Westminster at the Inverclyde by-election in June.

Last night, senior insiders said the investigation may have cost taxpayers double the amount paid to the four suspended officers as the probe took place and could approach the £500,000 mark.

They also said that despite the outcome there would still be questions about Mr Mundell’s role. (heraldscotland.com/news/home-news)
Comment; Hold on a min, these incompetents were employed by then Council Leader Mr McCabe, he quit because of this screw-up (but before the report that cost the taxpayer many hundreds of thousands (approx £700,000) had been published.)

McKenzie, (formally in McCabes job) lands a higher paid post as an MP at Westminster. McCabe decides to come out of retirement to take up his old job as Council Leader.

If correct the matter needs to be investigated, a professionally qualified person should be appointed not Mr Mccabe is clearly not fit for post.

 

 

 

 

December 2011; A Special meeting of Inverclyde Council is to be held as part of an inquiry into a failed money-saving scheme.

Councillors are to discuss the Future Operating Model – a project which was designed to save the council cash but ended up costing money – a year after problems came to light.

Four council officials – including a corporate director – were suspended in January this year amid an investigation into the scheme. All have since returned to work, with the last of the employee appeals following the disciplinary action concluded this week.

One senior councillor says that elected members and members of the public should now be told which costs have been associated with the saga.

Lib Dem Alan Blair yesterday told a meeting of Inverclyde Council: “The Lib Dem group are very concerned abut this being dealt with transparently. “We have to get a history of the Future Operating Model, what went wrong and what it has cost the taxpayer. It’s a year since this blew up and that’s too long.”

Council leader Stephen McCabe said the project would be debated in full as soon as a report on it is completed. He said, “The chief executive has given a commitment to the council to report back at the first opportunity.

The chief executive has called a full council meeting to give a detailed report and to allow members the opportunity to question him.” More on Councillor McCabe; http://subrosa-blonde.blogspot.co.uk/2011/02/west-of-scotlands-political-world.html

Council chief executive Mundell also gave an assurance that the meeting will be held in public, following a briefing for elected members.

He said: “Full details will be with members and we will try to optimise what will be heard in public.” http://www.itspublicknowledge.info/uploadedFiles/Decision081-2012.pdf

Councillor McCabe defends his record; http://councillorstephenmccabe.blogspot.co.uk/2011/10/setting-record-straight.html

 

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18. July 2013; ‘fails’ on jobs and investment targets

A publicly funded urban regeneration firm may face an overhaul over shortcomings in meeting targets on inward investment and job creation.

Riverside Inverclyde was set up in 2006 to create thousands of new jobs and homes and lever in private investment.

A mid-term review shows it has only achieved a small fraction of these targets for its £59m of public funding.

One of its partners, Inverclyde Council, is now proposing changes to the firm’s management structure. Riverside Inverclyde – key facts;
Aims and objectives of Riverside Inverclyde:

i. Launched in 2006 operating for 10 years

ii. Regenerate economically depressed parts of Inverclyde

iii. Create 2,600 jobs

iv. Build 2,285 homes

v. Attract £300m in private investment

vi. Secure £93m in public money

c. Achievements at 2014?

i. £59m of public money ploughed in so far

ii. 191 jobs created

iii. 121 new homes

iv. £3.6m of private investment secured

v. Development of Riverside Business Park:

vi. Enhancements to James Watt Dock

vii. Improvements to parts of Greenock and Port Glasgow town centres

A mid-term performance review was carried out on behalf of the council and Scottish Enterprise by external consultants.

The subsequent report found that Riverside Inverclyde had received about £59m of public funding so far but it had fallen well short in its original targets.

The report credits Riverside Inverclyde with the creation of just 191 jobs and 121 new homes.

It also shows that £3.6m of private investment has been levered in – just over 1% of the original 10-year target.

The report also highlighted some achievements by Riverside Inverclyde, such as the development of Riverside Business Park, enhancements to James Watt Dock and improvements to parts of Greenock and Port Glasgow town centres.

Inverclyde Council, a major financier of Riverside Inverclyde, is now proposing an overhaul of its operations.

If agreed, the board of the regeneration firm would be retained but discussions would take place on its future composition.

The management structure of the firm would also be reviewed and closer monitoring and reviews of it operations would be put in place.

The Council also proposed that both bodies develop a two-year regeneration plan and key economic staff work more closely together.

Inverclyde’s environment and regeneration convener, Councillor Michael McCormick, said: “This mid-term review gives all of the partners a chance to take stock and see what’s working well and what areas we need to change. “It’s clear that in some areas Riverside Inverclyde has worked well and also that we’ve faced some tough economic conditions. “We now wish to focus on delivering a single regeneration and economic development operating plan geared towards the opportunities and financial picture we face today. That way we can make sure that we work together to maximise the impact of our work.”

A spokesman for Scottish Enterprise said: “We remain committed to working with regeneration companies, including Riverside Inverclyde, to create economic opportunities in communities across Scotland.” (bbc.co.uk/news)

 

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July 2013; Agency paid £10m for land that is worth less than nothing

Riverside Inverclyde, the regeneration agency heavily criticised over its misuse of public cash spent in excess of £10 million on land it later emerged was worth less than nothing.

Riverside Inverclyde has so far spent almost £13m on its scheme at the waterfront in Greenock, the vast majority of which was the cost of buying James Watt Dock.

But the report into the seven years of progress of the agency found not only did Riverside Inverclyde pay real estate firm Peel Holdings over the odds for the land but the scale of the contamination on the site left it with a value of minus £6m.

It also claims many of those consulted as part of the review felt the agency lacked rigour in its dealings with Peel. Meanwhile, it has emerged Riverside Inverclyde will appear before the Scottish Parliament’s local government and regeneration committee after the summer recess.

Although the meeting had been scheduled long before it was revealed Riverside Inverclyde had dramatically failed to meet key targets on jobs, homes and investment despite being awarded £60m in public cash, sources insist the findings of the Midterm Review are likely to dominate.

The review of the arm’s-length Riverside Inverclyde found it had met only 7% of its 2600 job targets since 2006, working out at a cost per job cost per job of £321,000.

It built just 5% of the 2285 new homes promised, while also securing just 1% of the private sector investment targeted.

Two leading officials, chief executive Bill Nicol and implementation manager Garry Williamson, have either left or are due to leave.

Mr Nicol and Riverside Inverclyde’s chairman, journalist and commentator Alf Young, have been consulted on the findings of the Deloitte review.

The report found a survey of the James Watt Dock had been carried out across April and May of this year to check on contamination levels of the site, earmarked as the centrepiece of the regeneration of the upper Clyde, complete with prestigious flats and moorings for boats.

It found the extent of the decontamination and “abnormals” works “would indicate significant liabilities in terms of costs as the site is developed and requires an assessment of Riverside Inverclyde’s continuing involvement”.

The report also claimed “the net value of the site was a negative land value, not +£10million” as valued in 2008, adding a leading estate agent “identified no profits would be expected in the development proposal and, in the light of the information provided, indicate a residual negative value of -£5,998,035”.

It then proposed “putting the project on hold until such time as an agreed exit strategy can be developed”. Elsewhere it recommended it is “important to develop an effective partnership with Peel Holdings, allowing some progress to be made on some sites” but adds some feel Riverside Inverclyde could be more robust in its dealings with Peel to achieve better regeneration outcomes”.

Riverside Inverclyde have not returned calls to comment on the reports, while Mr Young said he could not discuss the review as it had not been before the agency’s board.

But one former board member took to social media platform twitter to discuss his four years with Riverside Inverclyde. Chris Osborne, a former SNP councillor, said officials from Inverclyde Council, which together with Scottish Enterprise is behind the body, had expressed concerns about the agency’s progress as far back as 2010.

He said councillors and local authority officers had noted the body “was slow to downsize staff wise when Government funds were reduced” and there were “rumours of tensions over bonuses and pay awards to the chief executive”.

Mr Osborne added: “By and large RI has done much good. More physical regeneration than actual job creation which is obviously disappointing. It must be remembered there was the most severe recession throughout most of it’s existence.

Lots of regeneration projects have suffered because of that. However, the number of jobs created most definitely is a scandal.” (heraldscotland.com/news/home-news)

 

 

 

 

January 2014; Councillors in Inverclyde to get a two per cent pay rise despite a continuing squeeze on local authority budgets.

The basic pay for all of Scotland’s councillors will go up in March 2014 by one per cent from the current £16,234 to £16,560, backdated to 1 April last year — in line with what has been awarded to staff and offered to teachers.

This will be followed by a further one per cent rise for councillors in April.

The Scottish Government said the move followed representations from councils’ umbrella body Cosla (Convention of Scottish Local Authorities).

Explaining the rise, a Scottish Government spokesman said: “Following representation from Councillors and Cosla, ministers took the decision to end the period of pay restraint and have awarded what they consider is a fair award in the current financial climate.”

The rises were defended today by Inverclyde’s Depute Provost David Wilson, who is Scotland’s representative on the National Association of Councillors. He said: “I will defend these rises until I’m blue in the face.

Councillors work extremely hard and their pay is poor compared with that given to list MSPs. I’ve never really understood what list MSPs actually do, but Councillors certainly deserve their pay rise.”

Mr Wilson also criticised the current level of responsibility payment given to council leaders, describing it as ‘a scandal’.

Inverclyde Council leader Stephen McCabe receives an overall total of £27,058, but Mr Wilson said: The leader is responsible for an enormous budget. It is a big responsibility for very little reward.”

News of the rise in pay, for councillors follows hot on the heels of plans to increase the amounts paid to politicians at Holyrood and Westminster.

The salary of MSPs has been linked to that of MPs since 2002, with politicians at the Scottish Parliament paid 87.5 per cent of an MP’s wage — meaning an MSP’s salary is currently £58,097 a year.

Now proposals are in place to scrap that connection and instead bring MSP rises into line with the public sector.

Meanwhile, MPs could get an 11 per cent increase of £7,600, taking their pay up to £74,000. Inverclyde MP Iain McKenzie has previously said he would refuse such a large rise.

 

 

 

 

September 2013; Town Hall Rich List-Clydebank
If I was an Inverclyde voter at local elections, I would be making my views quite clear about the disgusting siphoning of public funds towards a select group of individuals.

Is it acceptable for rates-payers money to be allocated away from public services to feather their nests? Surely not?

Chief Executive of Inverclyde council: £141,752
Corporate Dir. of Regeneration & Environment: £122,078
Corporate Dir. of Education & Communities: £122,078
Corporate Dir. of Community Care & Health Partnership: £122,078
Corporate Director of Organisational Improvement & Performance: £120,767
Head of Legal and Democratic Services: £107,513
Adding: “on costs” and associated expenses the total financial commitment to 6 individuals is around £1 million. (rongattway.blog.co.uk/2013/09/28/)

 

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November 2013: Hole Lot Of Bother — Council Way Behind On Pothole Repairs

Only one-in-10 high-risk potholes was made safe or repaired within the target time of seven days in Inverclyde during a six-month period this year, officials have admitted.

And just 14 per cent of less serious potholes were dealt with within the target time of 28 days during a 12-month period, according to an Inverclyde Council report.

Severe wet weather damaging the area’s roads is blamed for the problem and roads bosses are carrying out a review of the situation.

An extra £50,000 is being diverted to reduce backlogs.

The council aims to repair or make high-risk potholes safe within a week of them being identified but between April and September this year that happened for only 12 per cent of such potholes.

In the financial year 2012/3 a level of 26 per cent was achieved. The council’s target for 2013/14 is 80 per cent.

Less serious potholes should be sorted within four weeks of identification, according to council guidelines.

Between April and September this year that response was made in 46 per cent of cases but for the financial year 2012/13, the figure was only 14 per cent. (inverclydenow.com/today)

 

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October 2011; Riverside Inverclyde to build a Gourock Bypass

Riverside Inverclyde, with the support of Inverclyde Council, is to build a one-way bypass around Kempock Street.

Residents of of Gourock are concerned their views are not being taken into account.

Many are of the view that the development is a sticking plaster attempting to solve a more fundamental issue of an ever-increasing volume of traffic.

How creating two fairly busy roads out of one very busy one, creating an island of shops in the middle and alienating the waterfront can be seen as a good thing is beyond belief.

Reduction of traffic the flow has never featured in the options list.

Neither has any thought been given to how else £2.5million (although other reports suggest much much higher) could be spent within Gourock — one would be forgiven for thinking a by-pass was the only way to spend money! It will merely create longer journey times for east-bound traffic and make accessing the north side of Kempock Street more hazardous, as you are forced to cross a main trunk road. (inverclydenow)

 

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January 2014; Labour Councillor under fire after laughing at censorship of Yes campaign in local schools

A Labour Councillor caused anger after appearing to mock local people angered at the news the council was censoring the official “Yes” campaign in local schools despite allowing pupils to view the pro-Union rival site.

Councillor Stephen McCabe has come under fire after he treated the situation as a joke and suggested it would not be resolved until after the independence referendum.

The episode began when Caitlin Brannigan, a student at a local School, tweeted a picture showing that “Yes” Scotland’s site was blocked under content filtering from the Schools internal network but no such block was in place for Better Together.

On hearing this another tweeter Scott Gillan decided to raise the issue with the local Councillor. He tweeted: “How long will it take to resolve “Yes” Scotland page being blocked in our schools Councillor ?”

Inverclyde council leader McCabe responded by tweeting “7 months I’m told Lol”. In a later tweet Mr McCabe described people who had challenged him, “conspiracy theorists”.

However, the Labour Councillor’s response has caused outrage amongst users of social media who have accused the official of treating the matter as a joke and of condoning censorship.

The story provoked controversy in Inverclyde with the local newspaper, reporting that the Labour Councillor is at the centre of a “political storm”.

Speaking to the newspaper, Shona McQuarrie – who leads the “Yes” Inverclyde campaign – said: “This is inexcusable. Mr McCabe was asked a perfectly legitimate question and he chose to make a joke of a very serious matter. There’s been no hint of an apology for his flippancy, or a proper explanation as to what has actually been going on here. It would be different if both websites were blocked. We need to know why the Yes Scotland site was inaccessible, why it was so, and for how long.”
Mrs McQuarrie added: “This is a huge issue. Where is the consideration for what parents think? Pupils are not learning anything about the referendum in local schools if they are only being provided with one side of the debate. It is profoundly undemocratic and I have been told that loads of parents have been complaining.”

Newsnet Scotland spoke to one parent whose children attend local schools in the area. She said: “I wasn’t aware of this until I read the ‘Tully’ [Greenock Telegraph]. It isn’t fair to ban one side but let pupils read the other one. They should either ban both websites or allow both websites.” On the flippant response of the council leader, she said: “He should just fix it and say sorry.”

A spokesman for the local authority told the Greenock Telegraph: “Our IT service have sorted out the small glitch which appears to have caused this. There is absolutely no question of any site being deliberately blocked.” The spokesman added: “The first line of the council’s content filtering system is based on website categories.

The “Yes” Scotland website was categorised under ‘society and culture’, which is blocked by default for pupils in schools.

No-one at the council or school was involved in deciding the category of the website, which meant that it was not accessible.

As soon as we were alerted to this situation yesterday morning the site was unblocked by applying more detailed filtering rules, to ensure it could be accessed.” However the issue is unlikely to die down with some questioning why the pro-independence site had been placed in a category that was blocked.

In another twist, the Labour Councillor has now backtracked on an earlier announcement he would quit twitter over the issue. Last night McCabe told users of the social media platform, “I regret to announce the immediate closure of my account. I can no longer take the constant abuse from Cybernats and fellow travellers.”

However within hours, the Labour Councillor had reactivated his account and tweeted: “Following an overnight barrage from the Cybernats (when do these people sleep?) I’ve decided to resume tweeting with A manufactured “political storm. Didn’t someone think to call me?” (newsnetscotland.scot/index.php/scottish-politics)

 

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March 2014; Drug seizures up by 2,000 per cent in Inverclyde

Police in Inverclyde have recorded a 2,000% increase in drug seizures in just a year.

A massive 34 kilos of cannabis resin — with a potential value of around £150,000 — was taken off local streets last year.

The figure compares with 1.7 kilos of the drug being confiscated during 2012.

Other hauls landed by police during 2013 include nearly 13,000 illicit tablets, plus Class A narcotics crack cocaine, ecstasy and heroin.

Nearly 40 kilos of illegal substances were obtained by officers during stop searches and other drugs busts across the district.

Some of the most significant swoops of 2013 saw 12,929 diazepam and other pills being confiscated, as well as the large amount of cannabis resin.

Separate recoveries of 83 cannabis plants, worth more than £30,000, were also made, as well as smaller amounts of MDMA, ecstasy, black market methadone and temazepam.

Inspector Clare McGuckien said that drugs operations within Inverclyde are a ‘top priority’ for her. She said: “My officers will continue to target this blight on our communities and the misery it causes, which has been highlighted recently in the press.

These drugs are dangerous, there is no quality control in their manufacture.” She added: “I would encourage any member of the public who knows of any illegal activity regarding the sale or supply of controlled or unclassified drugs to contact the police.”

The figures were obtained by the Telegraph under Freedom of Information laws from Police Scotland.The data covers the period 1 January until 30 November 2013.
Quantities of so-called ‘date rape’ drug Rohypnol and herbal cannabis were also seized by police during the year.

Police have recorded a number of successes in recent months as they step up the war against dealers.

Class A substances worth an estimated £700,000 were recovered in February last year during a high profile swoop at Larkfield Industrial Estate.

The figures follow on from significant seizures during 2011, when drugs worth around £530,000 were recovered.

This included a huge haul of heroin with a street value of around £325,000 after a police swoop at a flat in Greenock town centre and the discovery of a cannabis factory in Port Glasgow’s Robert Street. (greenocktelegraph.co.uk/news)

 

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March 2014; 1,000 Inverclyde children living in severe hardship

Pat Burke, of Children in Poverty in Inverclyde, has vowed to do more to help them after his organisation was awarded official charity status.

The group was set up last October and since then, thanks to the local community, has helped provide new clothes for up to 80 youngsters.

The charity now hopes to expand its work by offering day trips to Millport and holidays to a lodge in Dunoon, plus arranging events like Christmas parties and pantomime visits. Pat says the latest research into poverty in Inverclyde shows just how much need there is for his group.

Recent figures show that 1,000 children in the area, 11 per cent, are suffering severe poverty, while the take up for school meals in Inverclyde stands at 28 per cent, significantly higher than the national average of 20 per cent.

Pat said: “It is evident that certain children in Inverclyde are in desperate need. The stigma of poverty has a real and lasting effect, and especially on the physical and emotional development of children.

Our organisation believes that through our main activities, children from families affected by poverty will be given opportunities to participate fully in educational, sporting and social activities in our community.

Children from poor families will, as a consequence of our organisation’s activities, feel valued and be empowered to participate — on an equal footing — with their more affluent peers, in all opportunities available to Inverclyde’s children.”

Pat says his group has been asked to provide all sorts of clothing, from anoraks and underwear to bedclothes, since it was set up. They have also encountered families who have been left destitute after fleeing their homes with only what they were standing in, through domestic violence.

The group recently secured cash from the council to help carry out its work but securing charitable status will mean they are able to do even more.

Pat said: “The recent Inverclyde Council grant award of £2,000 received earlier this month will assist us, but now having registered charity status it opens the way for us to make applications to the large external funders whose potential funding would make a real difference in that we will assist greater numbers.”

He also pledged to continue with fundraising and was swift to praise the community’s generosity. Pat added: “When it comes to supporting deserving causes, the people of Inverclyde have no equal. They won’t let us down.” (http://www.greenocktelegraph.co.uk/news)

 

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August 2014; Why are politicians among the few occupations that cannot be sacked for incompetence?

I make no bones about it: most of the politicians based in Inverclyde are either incompetent or corrupt.

There are, of course, exceptions. I know several personally on both sides of the independence referendum who are extremely hard-working, competent and genuine – but Inverclyde Council has a sordid recent history.

In the last decade alone, the Council has been brought to task by Audit Scotland for its gross incompetence, poor leadership, and generally considered the worst local authority in Scotland.

But while improvements have been made, there are still significant barriers to overcome.

The full article, excellent in it’s content and heavily influenced in it’s approach by a wealth of local knowledge is to found here: (wildernessofpeace.wordpress.com/2014/08/29)

 

 

 

 

 

March 2014; This is Greenock – A Video Record of progress
The State of Greenock: Webisode 1 – A Creative Greenock https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qr_qUGut4Jk
The State of Greenock: Webisode 2 – A Greener Greenock https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RE03v7u2zJ4
The State of Greenock: Webisode 3 – A Healthier Greenock https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jnTRNECn4o4
The State of Greenock: Webisode 4 – A Wealthier Greenock https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=739J0ezCZis
The State of Greenock: Webisode 5 – A Smarter Greenock https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Drx3XvNMCmY
The State of Greenock: Webisode 6 – A Better Greenock https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BGsh_X0jN0I

 

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June 2016: Outrage as fat cat council boss pockets £40k after just 15 Months in the job

Boss at one of Scotland’s most cash-strapped councils pocketed a £40,000 pay-off after just 15 months in a £105,000-a-year job which she chose to resign from. Patricia Cassidy got the remarkable compensation payment from Inverclyde Council, which is facing budget cuts of up to £40million in the next three years.

And just six months later Mrs Cassidy was back on the public sector gravy train in a highly coveted £100,000-a-year Scottish NHS job fifty miles away.

Politicians and campaigners hit out at the pay-off and called for more transparency about high-level public sector pay.

Mrs Cassidy was appointed corporate director of education, communities and organisational development at Greenock based Inverclyde in March 2014. (express.co.uk)

 

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You can follow Calton Jock at his webpage CaltonJock

A Conversation – Memories of Living in Glasgow’s Housing Under Sixty Years of the Labour Party – Take Off the Rose Tinted Glasses – Time For a Change – Give the SNP a Chance

High-rises of the 1960s and 70s built as a solution to slum conditions instead became a new form of slum housing that invited a fresh round of demolition. Who or what is to blame for the recurring housing failures? What has the experience been? Thoughts and memories of regeneration in a Labour Party run Glasgow:

 

 

Red StarTrout: The big problem with Scotland’s housing was the old rating system. Up to about 1960 the rates were split between the tenant and the landlord.

That extra cost to landlords meant there was no money to be made building houses to rent and no money available for repairs.

The result was overcrowded old buildings that were falling apart, and not much new building apart from council schemes after 1920.

The lack of building meant a lack of builders: why be a builder if you can’t get a job?

A lot of the old tenements could have been refurbished, but there weren’t enough skilled people and nowhere near enough money.

The only option was to flatten everything and put up the tower blocks. They could be built from factory produced concrete sections; low skill and low cost but also low quality, especially with low spending on maintenance and security.

If the rating system had been reformed earlier it might not have been so bad.

Labour represented the people in the slums, but by opposing any reform that would help landlords they only made things worse.

The Tory win in Scotland in 1955 finally got the Tories in Westminster to change the system but by then the only way out of the disaster was to flatten Glasgow and start again.

Both parties used housing for electoral gain, both helped cause the problem, neither did enough to solve it.

For what happens next, a question. If the Victorians and Georgians could build houses and flats that are still attractive places to live after a century or two, why do we find it so difficult? And why does Glasgow seem to find it impossible?

 

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inconsolable: Thatcherism was to blame. Industry was stripped out of Glasgow in the 80’s. Damp and despair pervaded the flats and schemes. Drugs arrived and found an unhappy home
That was the environment of hopelessness and fear which characterised the Thatcher era for what had been the working classes.

 

ID0384694: These buildings were the results of a power-grab by the Labour run council that ran throughout the 1960s and carried on well into the 70s.

At the end of WWII the plan to rebuild Glasgow involved depopulating the city moving people out of city slums into new towns build around, but not in, Glasgow (Cumbernauld, East Kilbride, Irvine

Pretty quickly Glasgow’s councillors realised this decrease in population was diminishing their standing within the UK, and they feared that Glasgow would drop out of that second-rung of British cities behind London that includes Manchester, Birmingham, etc.

Their response was to hastily increase the number of high-rise developments.

While the previous generation of high rises in Glasgow had been carefully planned, sited and designed, this new wave were thrown down anywhere there was space, and they were designed solely with the aim of increasing population density as quickly and as cheaply as possible.

 

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EckGuavera: The decline of the estates with the high rises coincided with mass unemployment. When the jobs were gone there was nothing in the outlying areas and no money spent to develop or maintain them.

 

Tim Gray: Unfortunately the class structure of our society meant those buildings were never cared for by the governments (local and national) that built them.

 

Johannes56: My grandmother moved to Peel St when they were built. They were good flats, but only bricks and concrete, people make the difference, and after a few years the area looked and actually felt unsafe.

 

 

PeterGriffin: People realised there was no future for them and the present was so horrible that the only way to deal with it was to escape via drugs or drink. I don’t think people actually realise just how much Thatcherism destroyed people in the 80s unless you lived through it.

 

Dangermaus: I grew up there at the end of the 70s, and let’s not get all rose tinted about it:

With the shipyards closing, the Thatcher years about to rise, sectarian issues and the propensity for bevvy, glue, jellies and the junk that seems inherent it was perhaps the older generation who had it best in the flats and the tenements as they had a network.

But fundamentally these flats could have been refurbished and saved, as could several of the estates like Rutherglen or Hamilton, and it’s down to the people that moved in who tore it down from the inside, taking it away from everyone.

The Parkhead and Anderson I remember are gone, and the new Glasgow is not the same. These could have been homes for people who need them, but what comes next.

 

EricthePenguin: The concept of the 1960s vertical village so beloved of those who eschewed traditional buildings for it has been shown for what it was: a failed social experiment.

 

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GerryT: beloved of photographers and architects, Bluevale and Whitevale icons,had another problem. I remember as a child walking down Millerston St with my pals aged 8 and 9 and watching these being built.

I lived in a tenement in Dennistoun and I looked forward to the prospect, with my pals, of playing on the lifts. It didn’t take us long to work out that these flats were going to be in the firing line of the most disgusting, smelly smoke that came out of a factory on the corner of Gallowgate and Millerston St.

Right enough, when they were opened and the wind blew from the south, this pongy, revolting coloured gas would drift up into the flats. How we, wee boys, laughed at the stupidity of the builders (we didn’t know much about planners and architects in those days).

 

DocR: Monuments to the failure of socialism in Scotland – massive clearance and replacement of housing that could have been rehabilitated in favour of inhuman blocks that would be at home in the outskirts of Bucharest. Typically Stalinist – but that was the old Scots Labour establishment.

 

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dolcevitamyarse2: Having grown up in Maisonettes in Glasgow here’s my take on it.

1. The materials used for the building were substandard and not fit for purpose this meant that repairs were required which would have cost a fortune and thus were never done. Our house was riddled with dampness. Wallpaper put on a wall in September would be peeling off the wall in November. There was no heating in these flats that you could actually afford to use and the metal framed windows froze on the inside

2. The council housing staff’s approach to residents complaints or requests for repairs or simply maintenance or cleaning of the streets was rebuffed and ignored. One council housing official when my mum a member of the tenants association requested the council cut the grass in the common areas was to say it’s only Springburn you people don;’t deserve it. The grass remained uncut for 6 months through summer

3. The council’s approach to housing people was to put trouble families in areas where the residents maintained and took pride in the area. From experience it only takes one bad family to ruin an entire street

4. Once the decline sets in the families who took pride in the area move out and problem families move in

5. Heroin. Heroin hit Glasgow’s housing schemes (housing estates) in the early 80s and proceeded to make a worsening situation catastrophic. An entire generation became addicts house breaking rocketed. our house was broken into 5 times in 18 months. in this period.

6. Thatcherism wiped out virtually all the local employment. An area where fathers worked now had 8 out of 10 fathers unemployed. A lack of money circulating led to a steady decline

7. Vandalism went up the new problem families allowed their dogs to crap everywhere the council refused to even fix the lifts or change the bulbs in the common stairwell lighting, perfect rape and mugging locations

8. the areas and people were abandoned. Those that could leave did. Those that couldn’t were stuck on an incomprehensible housing points system that left you waiting for a different council house for years if not decades

That was quite simply the reality of my family during the 80s. When my grandfather died they had to carry his coffin down dark stairs as the lift was out of order again and the lighting hadn’t been repaired. Scum families kids spat on people as they walked past, junkies broke into our houses, muggers jumped us in the street, vandals wrecked the environment, the Labour council simply didn’t give a damn and the Tory government did their best to destroy what was left. Just knocking down and rebuilding houses didn’t solve anything in the 60s and wont solve anything now. Actively maintaining an area controlling who gets housing in an area and support for areas who start to show problems may actually work if given a chance.

 

kittymcguire: Your memories of the 80s in Glasgow are similar to mine. I had forgotten about the dog ah it everywhere.

 

Carolan99: That’s exactly how I remember it too. I grew up for a few years in the Queen Elizabeth Square flats in the Gorbals. Most of the families were poor but decent.

Some however managed to make their own lives and everyone else’s worse. They were very selfish and didn’t even notice how badly their behaviour impacted on anyone else.

The Council’s attitude was callous and they just treated everyone as if we were scum that deserved no better. I remember the walls being covered in damp and my dad painting it over and over only for the damp to come back through a week later. The flat was freezing and we were overcrowded.

I had a friend two floors down that lived with her grandparents and her cousins because her mum and aunties were addicted to heroin.

The lift often broke down and we had to walk down the back stairs to get to school. We were greeted with drug addicts. I walked past while they stuck a needle somewhere, often with their trousers round their ankles, they would even inject their groin for a hit.

The stairs stunk of vinegar and the bottles lay around, they used this to clean the needles.

My dad struggled to get work and it got to the stage he gave up, after all where is the incentive to work hard all week to live like that.

The cupboards were often bare and free school meals were the only decent meal we got. I can still remember the free milk until Margaret Thatcher the milk snatcher took it away.
Social problems are the biggest factor in destroying housing estates, no matter the type of accommodation someone has.

 

foyherald: Replied to the main article before I had read your comment, I worked in and around the Gorbals area in early 1990s and remember how bad it could be.

I’ll never forget having to take the stairs down from one of the top flats on Caledonia Road because of broken lifts and having to squeeze by junkies on the stairs.

Other problems included vandalism, security entry systems constantly broken and in the high rises people setting fires in the fire escapes stairwells.

 

Carolan99: There was no security back then. The door to the back stairs was open to the public and made a great shelter for the drug addicts.

There was blood squirted on the walls from them pulling needles out of their veins. The council’s ingenious idea was to spray the walls with a type of speckled paint. It was brown and red and hid the blood splatter if you didn’t look too close.

My friends and I thinking we were being responsible one day picked up all the discarded needles and took them to the police station (just down the road from the flats) we were turned away with the needles. We were about 9 years old. Nobody cared, we were just children of the poor scum.

 

 

Carolan99: I forgot to mention people pishing in the lifts. How could I forget that always a good start to the day.

My dad would polish my school shoes and then I would stand in a puddle of pish.

Nightmare when the lifts broke down and often did, you could be trapped for an hour or more, so sometimes I would just take the back stairs on purpose.

I remember somehow managing to have fun too, the other people that lived there were good people.

I got invited to parties and sleepovers and the kids were friendly.

Large concrete legs held up the flats, they used to generate a powerful wind and we would turn our jackets inside out and try and fly.

There was a walkway that took you over Ballater Street where we used to play on our skateboards.

kittymcguire: I’m from Drumchapel. During the 80s, many parts of Drumchapel was a dump.

All the housing looked awful. I used to hate going up a lot of the closes as they were smelly, and intimidating.

I was lucky to live up a clean close (having lots of old ladies as neighbours was wonderful.) There are still lots of social problems in the area. I firmly believe that these were caused by the decline of decent jobs during the 80s.

 

rt09: Having lived in tower blocks in Glasgow, the major problems were people who did not know how to live with their neighbours in high rises and poor original construction.

The majority of inhabitants viewed these flats as temp accommodation, until they could get a much nicer flat. Housing associations did a pretty good job of getting rid of the anti-socials, but flooders and chronic noise makers could make life hell.

 

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foyherald: I had the pleasure of knowing Glasgow architect and author Frank Worsdall who was a campaigner for retaining the heritage of the Glasgow tenement. He and many others were quite vocal in their criticism of housing policy in post WWII years, some even saying that Glasgow City had dome more to destroy communities than the Luftwaffe.

It is now overwhelmingly acknowledged that the houses and high rise schemes built were sub-standard but not only from poor materials but also poor choice of design, building houses with flat roofs is not a good choice given the west of Scotland weather.

In the early 1990s I worked in and around the Gorbals area and the infamous Hutchesontown scheme, the now demolished Queen Elizabeth flats where almost deserted and generally the only tenants left were either extremely desperate and wanting to be re-housed, anti-social that could not be housed elsewhere or those with serious alcohol and/or drug problems.

Like many others I was not saddened to see them torn down. Many areas where the tenements were retained are now highly desirable, hopefully the housing being built to replace the high rises and surrounding schemes will not suffer the same problems that plagued those they have replaced or will be replacing.

 

plastikman2010: All this appalling planning and social decay happen when you have a one party state. In eastern Europe it was communism in Glasgow it was militant left wing labour!! Glasgow pre 90’s shared many features with East European cities.

 

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MacBeat: There was far too much demolition in Glasgow city centre and very little attempt to refurbish the traditional tenement houses; some of them were past it – masses of single ends and tenements where there had been little or no maintenance for generations – but where there was refurbishment it worked and communities were not destroyed.

The biggest source of destruction was the motorway which led to communities all round the city centre being devastated.

Thankfully not all the tenements in the centre were reduced to rubble but it is agonising to see what might have been with more sensible and careful planning.

Even in the Gorbals it would have been possible to refurbish more of the traditional buildings with a bit of effort and imagination.

As for what replaced the tenements well you just have to look at any of the council housing estates in and around Glasgow to see what happened – poor design and construction, poor materials, families dumped on the edge of nowhere with no social cohesion and then combined with the economic problems which followed the collapse of the heavy traditional industries endemic generation after generation unemployment; gangs and drugs thrived in that environment.

political responsibility – which political party was elected there – labour – many of whose members contributed to the problem with captive electorates, nepotism and pretty well corrupt dealings with favourite contractors/architects.

The workmanship was often so shoddy that there was no waterproofing in the walls of the new tenements and no drainage so that, as I experienced in the Auchenback scheme in Barrhead – four storey tenement houses built for Glasgow overspill – when it rained heavily, not unusual in that part of the world, the water poured in a torrent off the hill behind the houses through the stair well and down the front steps.

notangry: The problem wasn’t master planners or even planners. Glasgow Council’s Housing Department, at that time the largest in Europe, was allowed to do precisely what it wanted, unfettered by any planning concerns.

 

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You can follow the CaltonJock on his webpage Caltonjock

 

 

 

 

 

 

How Scotland Votes: A Guide to the Scottish Council Elections

Disclosure and Disclaimer: I am currently standing as a candidate in the council elections. Be assured however that this post shall be objective and party neutral. This is a guide as to how to vote, not to try to convince you to vote for or against any particular person or party.

A Guide to the Scottish Council Elections

One of the most read articles on this blog was a guide written in 2015 which tried to explain the mechanics behind how one votes in the Scottish Parliamentary Elections and how those votes translate into seats. With the voting age in Scotland being dropped to 16 and the upsurge in political interest in Scotland there will undoubtedly be a substantial number of people in the country who will be voting for the first time and will want to know how to do it. This article is for them and those who will be speaking to them in the days to come. As said in the disclaimer, this article will not be advocating any particular choice on who to vote for and will not be discussing options such as “tactical voting”. These are topics for other articles and other blogs.

Background

Scotland is presently organised into 32 regional authorities called councils (some call them “local” as they are currently the lowest level of effective government in Scotland but this would be erroneous as they are many times the size of actual local government in other comparable democracies)

These councils are elected every five years with the last election being held in 2012 under the proportional representation voting system known as Single Transferrable Vote, or STV. The next election is on May 4th 2017.

Council ward map vote share.png

Results of the 2012 elections by highest 1st preference vote in each ward. Yellow – SNP, Red – Labour, Blue – Conservative, Orange – Lib Dem, Green – Green, Grey – Independent

For the purposes of electing councilors, each regional council is split into multiple wards based on the population size of the council. Each ward then elects either 3 or 4 councilors. Due to the relatively small size of each ward and the proportional nature of the vote it is far easier for a non-party “independent” councilor to be elected (often based on either local popularity, past experience in council before leaving a previous party or by campaigning on a particular local issue) than is the case during either the Scottish Parliamentary elections or in the UK General Election.

First: Register To Vote

This is the most important thing. If you are not registered to vote, you cannot vote. There is no “on the day” registration in Scotland and the deadline for the Council elections is April 17th. If you are registered, you are likely to have received a polling card by now telling you where to vote. If you haven’t or if you know that you are not registered, then information on how to do so is here.

How To Vote

This is the easy bit of STV. Rather than the fairly opaque nature of the AMS system used in the Scottish elections where you are faced with two ballots which are both marked in the same way but are both calculated differently, STV presents you with a single ballot paper which will look a little like this:

ballot

The candidates will be listed in alphabetical order by surname with their home address* and their party affiliation, if any, underneath. Also present may be a party logo or a slogan representing a core issue of the candidate/party.

As with the Scottish election constituency vote and the UK General election (but unlike the Scottish Parliamentary Regional vote) you are not strictly voting for a party in these elections but for a person who may or may not be a member of a party. As there may be multiple people standing in a ward representing the same party, it is therefore important to consider the candidate as a person alongside their affiliations.

To actually vote is straight-forward. You do not simply mark one box with an X as with other elections, but instead RANK the candidates in order of preference using a discrete number for each 1,2,3 etc. You may not give two or more candidates “equal” rank. You do not need to rank every candidate. Once you get to the point where you’d prefer none of the remaining candidates to get elected, you may leave their boxes blank. This is sometimes known as “vote till ye boak”. Do not make any other marks on the ballot paper as this may result in your vote being invalidated and rejected.

And once you’ve dropped your completed ballot into the box or sent it away via your postal ballot, that’s it. Simple. The seats are then allocated out such that the candidates elected are the ones deemed highest ranked by the largest number of people

* To be eligible to stand in local elections, one of the requirements is that a candidate must live, own property or work within the council boundaries. Note that the requirement applies at a council level, not a ward level.

The Hard Bit: Counting the Votes

Here comes the tricky part. Counting the votes and translating them to seats. This is a far more mathematical exercise than the FPTP system used in the UK elections (which is trivial. Person with the most votes wins the seats, the party with the most seats wins the government) and more complicated even the d’Hondt system used in Scotland and the EU elections (which can be tabulated with a pen and paper if you have to). If you’re reading this on the front page and want to delve into this maths, then click below to unfold. If not, I hope this has been useful and good luck to your chosen candidate(s) in May.

Ok. Welcome. You’re the brave ones.

The first thing we do is count the number of seats in the ward (either 3 or 4) and count up the number of valid votes cast in a particular ward. We then calculate a Quota based on these two numbers and the following equation:

Quota
The reasons for this quota and comparisons with alternative quota calculations which give slightly different results can be read here.

The ballots are now counted in a series of rounds.

In the first next round, all of the ballots are placed in piles according to their 1st preference votes and the piles checked to see if any reach the quota (this is actually done electronically these days so that we don’t need to wait days to find out the results). If none do then the candidate who received the fewest 1st preference votes is eliminated and their ballots placed on piles according to their 2nd choice. If still no-one reaches the quota, this is repeated such that the next candidate is eliminated and their ballots placed on their 2nd choice (or, if that choice has already been eliminated, their 3rd preference etc). These ballots are fully counted so that your 2nd choice is given the full value of your vote. Once a candidate receives enough votes to reach the quota, they are elected.

If the quota is exceeded then something slightly different happens. Unlike other systems, your vote is not “wasted” if you vote for an already wildly popular candidate. The votes in excess of the quota are themselves distributed to your 2nd or next available choice of candidate but it is done in a slightly more complicated way than simply skimming the top chunk of papers off of the pile and moving them (as this could introduce bias depending on which ballot box was opened last).

Instead a statistical method is applied by which the number of votes in excess of the quota is calculated. Essentially the ratio is calculated of the number of votes cast over the quota and the total number of votes. If a candidate received, say, 1687 votes but the quota was 1159 then this ratio would be 0.31298 (ratios are rounded to five decimal places). The candidate is duly elected then ALL of their ballots are transferred to the next available choice but are given a weight of that ratio. This means that your individual 2nd choice vote might be worth less than a 1st preference vote given to a candidate or a 2nd choice vote transferred from an eliminated candidate but this is balanced by the fact that if the votes were just skimmed off the top of the pile, the votes underneath (which may have been yours if your box was opened first) would be worth zero. It all balances.

It’s a very complex and involved process to dissect in detail what happens at each round but what these transfers can mean is that someone who gets the most 1st preference votes may not win a seat and surprises can happen right to the very end. To take a real world example from 2012, consider the results from the four member ward of Avondale & Stonehouse in South Lanarkshire.

AnS

You can see here that the first candidate elected, from the SNP, did so by exceeding the quota but that all other candidates had to rely on transfers to do so. You can also see that multiple transfers were required for even the second candidate to get elected and that the final candidate elected, an independent, actually received fewer 1st preference votes than the Conservative candidate who was not elected at all.

What this means is that trying to predict (or even “game”) the STV system is particularly difficult as it often requires co-ordinating not just 1st preference votes but also 2nd, 3rd and other preferences. STV is remarkably resistant to “tactical voting” though – as stated earlier – this is a strategy best left to another article or blog. What STV is good at doing is working out which candidates are most liked, by the most number of people and ensuring that they are most likely to be elected. And that is, after all, the point of democracy.

Hopefully this has helped folk understand how the council elections work and how to make sure that your vote is counted. Good luck to everyone involved in May.

You can read more articles from Dr Craig Dalzell at The Common Green

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Tories Create a New Party Block (Think North) – It includes Scotland Which it Is Planned Will Be Phased Out as a Separate Entity Over Time – Read On McDuff – Independence Is your Only Option.

Scottish Local Elections 2017
You should be prepared to be subjected to a cacophony of English voices canvassing for your vote for the Conservative party in the days leading up to 4 May. loads of Tory supporters are being bussed from the North of England to Scotland to join with and boost local Tory activists in their campaigning efforts.

This is not a new event. The Tories have been dependent on their English supporters for many-a-year. What is new is the level of coordination which makes it difficult to see the join between the two groups. But the accent is the giveaway.

Also new is the 2016 creation of a new party group called “ThinkNorth” which joins Tories in the North of England with Scotland.

It is fully intended that, having concluded a successful Brexit and seen off a second Scottish independence referendum “Think North” will be formalised, operating under the control of Ruth Davidson, possibly out of Holyrood.

More on this group follows. Scot’s be warned If you get the chance to become independent within Europe grab you chance. You will never get another.

https://www.scer.scot/database/ident-1251

3DABA83C00000578-4260174-The_Tory_victory_over_Labour_in_the_Copeland_by_election_means_T-a-181_1488060418960

ThinkNorth” – A Centre-Right Policy Group Created Exclusively for the North and Scotland.

Founded in 2016, “ThinkNorth” was setup to develop a strong voice for the North of England, and Scotland (NE/S). We recognise that the NE/S has its own unique challenges and opportunities, and believe in you, its citizens are best placed to bring about long lasting positive change.

At “ThinkNorth” we have worked hard to develop a unique structure aimed at harnessing your collective knowledge, ideas, and creativity in order to strengthen the NE/S. The terms Connect – Shape – Empower guide our approach. We are continually striving to build the tools and offer the interactive events to enable you to connect with local politicians and decision makers. Our work has inspired over 18 individual MPs, MEPs, MSPs, and Councillors to join us as Patrons.

Our patrons (MP’s and MSP’s) want to hear your thoughts and opinions, offering you a unique opportunity to shape future policy of the North of England, and Scotland. As the “ThinkNorth” network grows, our collective voice will help empower the N/ES to address its challenges and meet its opportunities. If you believe in the potential of the NE/S and would like to share your ideas – connect with the “ThinkNorth” community, you could shape tomorrow’s politics and help us empower the North. ( http://www.thinknorthuk.com/)

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25 February 2017: The Scottish Conservative & Unionist candidate for Shettleston ward, Thomas Kerr benefits from the attendance of “ThinkNorth” activists on our first Scottish action day in the Shettleston – Mount Vernon ward today. Much more blanket canvassing to follow before 4 May.

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Statement Of Intent: Scottish Conservative Conference Demonstrates Confidence Of The Party North Of The Tweed – The 2017 Tory “ThinkNorth” Conference in Glasgow

A Scottish Conservative and Unionist administration, with Ruth Davidson as First Minister. That was the Scottish leader’s statement of intent when she strode on stage in blazing red for her keynote Address. Once more rejecting the notion of a referendum, she went on to give a strong indication of what that campaign would look like.

“Unlike the previous administration’s ‘Project Fear’, the PM realises that in the world of alternative facts and post the Leave EU campaign, the arguments will have to be emotional not just practical. May painted a picture of British patriotism, of “four nations but one people” and emphasised her role as UK Prime Minister. To an enthusiastic audience she hinted at more unified policies across the UK post Brexit, criticising previous Whitehall policy to “devolve and forget” and the need to “take this opportunity to bring our United Kingdom closer together.”

Of course, that is unlikely to become a reality with an SNP Government in Holyrood. Nicola Sturgeon had already called discussions on whether agricultural decision making coming from Brussels should remain at Westminster an “attack on the very foundations devolution”. So any moves, as suggested by the PM, for UK ministers to work more closely with Scottish ministers would likely only be workable under a Unionist administration.

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The Silent Majority Must Be Prepared To Stand Up To The SNP Who Seek To Divide Us

The thoughts of Robert Weir (Law student at the University of Edinburgh) and co-Director of Policy for Conservative Future Scotland:
“Nationalism, if not born through the love of one’s country, is born through the hatred of another. Scottish nationalism is just as ugly as the rest, and together we must stand up against it and put forward the positive case for the United Kingdom: united by a common culture, an impenetrable bond of friendship and a desire to say No to nationalism.”

Joe Porter deputy chaiman ThinkNorth

Deputy Chairman “ThinkNorth” with Ruth Davidson

“Think North”, Chairman, Richard Salt and Deputy Chairman (Scotland) Andrew Jarvie Attend This Year’s Scottish Conservatives Conference

The team had an amazing time at the Scottish Conservatives Conference. Fantastic meeting up with our Scottish patrons, Annie Wells MSP, Ross Thomson MSP, Donald Cameron MSP, Alexander Stewart MSP, Ian Duncan MEP, Oliver Mundell MSP and Adam Tomkins MSP.

Met separately with Adam Tomkins MSP, Douglas Ross MSP, Peter Chapman MSP and Donald Cameron MSP to discuss “ThinkNorth” future policy ideas formulated at our 1st Scottish Conference. Fantastic to see just how far the Scottish Conservatives have come and how they are determined to make sure that the North gets the best representation it can get. Check out Tomkins Blog: (https://notesfromnorthbritain.wordpress.com/author/conlawforum/)

 

 

 

 

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#Vote Till You Boke

 

I was going to write this last week but there’s been a few political distractions recently 😀

There’s now just over 6 weeks to the Council elections and due to the “quirkiness” of Scottish politics we have another voting system. (This blog is me trying to get my head around it)

  • UK General elections is First Past the Post.
  • Scottish Parliament uses the Additional Member System  (specifically d’Hondt) which results in smaller parties getting a proportion of seats when otherwise they wouldn’t with a FPTP system.
  • Council elections has the Single Transferable Vote system when candidates are ranked in order of preference.

Last Council elections I wasn’t sure what I was doing, and I think I only gave 4 preferences as there was 4 councillors being elected. I am now aware that I can rank as many as I wish

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Source: YourVoteMatters.co.uk

My initial response to this as a SNP member (this is not me saying you should vote the same way, it’s your vote so your choice) is to vote SNP first, followed by Greens, then any other pro-indy/socialist party/independents and then stop.

However I then read these two posts from James Kelly

For an example of why pro-independence voters should use their lower preferences in the local council elections, look to Northern Ireland

A bit more on the value of using all (or most) of your preferences in the local elections

It seems very counter intuitive to vote for any party you disagree with hence “vote till you boke” – the Irish are such a poetic people.  🙂

Part of me gets it though; I’ve always felt that when it comes down to it that voting when the choice is for the lesser of two evils it is better to vote for the least evil than lose the influence of your vote. Of course a “None of the Above” option might solve that problem.

I’ll admit when it comes to the UK main parties I find it easier ranking from the bottom up. Worst has to be UKIP/Tories, then Labour and finally being the least worst is the LibDems.  (I’ve also noticed that apart from UKIP I’ve ranked them opposite to their polling performance)

After May I’d like for Labour to no longer has their sticky paws on Glasgow City Council. I am concerned about the trend of Labour voters moving to the Tories as seen during Holyrood elections.

So when it comes to lower preference votes I think I’d rather have some input than leave it all to the Unionists and as a last resort I think I’d rather have a LibDem councillor. *goes off to eat soap*

Fingers crossed it doesn’t get that close.

Finally a quick reminder – make sure you are on the Electoral Register the deadline is April 17th

 

 

 

 

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you can follow Simone on twitter @cee4cat or Mewsing Out Loud