Shettleston’s Tory Renaissance

According to the BBC reportage of the shock triumph of the Conservatives in Shettleston the people of Scotland can’t get enough of good ol’ Westminster rule – the social deprivation, the sanctions, and the foodbanks.


Shettleston in Glasgow has a 20 year old Tory councillor. It seems almost appropriate to leave this statement hanging here without further comment or analysis like in the late night ‘No Comment’ segment on Euro News. Thomas Kerr, a PR student at the City of Glasgow College, whose greatest achievement so far has been leaving secondary school, has become the posterchild of Scotland’s Conservative and Unionist revival, with the BBC proudly announcing that he managed to “nudge SNP candidates Laura Doherty and Michelle Ferns into third and fourth place.” Indeed he did, but the report failed to mention the inconvenient fact the both Doherty and Ferns exceeded the 1,512 vote quota before him – barring them from picking up transfers all the way to the eleventh count, as Kerr did.r

View image on Twitter

Oh look at that. Shettleston has a foodbank. Interesting fact.

 

Ballots that didn’t employ the tactic of “vote ’til you boke” made it possible for unallocated votes – unnumbered options on the ballot paper – to be redistributed over eleven count stages, ultimately securing a Shettleston seat for this remarkably mediocre young Tory. With no more than 1,368 first preference votes – just 17 per cent of the vote – the Tory “surge” arrived in Glasgow. Speaking to Nichola Rutherford of BBC Scotland Kerr said that his family were SNP supporters, that his friends – who knew he was “right-wing” – were “shocked” that he had joined the Conservative Party, and that his grandparents “were in tears when the results were announced” – I bet they were.

Toryism is not the first thing that springs to mind when we think of Shettleston. It is true that there are a few affluent areas in the ward; a fact that would help to account for a significant proportion of that less-than-whopping 17 per cent support, but in the main this is an area marked by serious social and economic disadvantage. It has the dubious distinction of being the only area in the whole of the United Kingdom where life expectancy is actually falling. Unemployment, poor mental and physical health, depression, and suicide are ranked among the highest in Scotland – not exactly the profile of a plummy Tory heartland.

Residents of Ferguslie Park in Paisley – another instance of this “Tory surge,” named Scotland’s poorest housing area last year, are far more likely to face benefits sanctions then to see Ruth Davidson and Theresa May campaigning on their doorsteps for the cameras. Its foodbank on Broomlands Street certainly does a roaring trade, one of the many foodbanks all over Scotland reporting increased demand on its services and frequent shortages. What a place to have a Tory councillor, given the record this Conservative government has in aggravating the income and attainment gap in every part of the UK. How fortunate the people of Shettleston are to have Thomas Kerr giving them “a hand up, not a hand out.” He’s going to need those PR qualifications he’s working towards in college, because God knows how long his constituents are going to put up with this crap.

 


Ken Loach: life in austerity Britain is ‘consciously cruel’


You can follow Jason Michael at his twitter page @Jeggit or at his webpage The Random Public Journal
Jason Michael is a  Scottish journalist and blogger based in Dublin. Writing on politics and society. Columnist for iScot Magazine and author of the Random Public Journal.

Damned Lies and Statistics

Scotland’s local council elections went just as we had all expected. Unionism never increased while support for the pro-independence parties did, but the shift in the unionist vote to the Tories is all the BBC can talk about.


According to the spin from BBC Scotland Nicola Sturgeon should now be reflecting on the lesson her Scottish National Party has been taught from a “Tory surge” in Scotland. We have been told that the SNP have lost 7 councillors and that the dubiously victorious Conservatives have swept the board, picking up a staggering 164 extra seats as Labour collapsed across the country. Certainly, when the ever biased unionist state broadcaster puts it like this, we have to concede that the SNP were utterly and humiliatingly trounced in the Scottish local elections. There is, however, a fly in the ointment of the British propaganda.

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Kezia Dugdale apparently delighted with her party’s humiliating defeat. Picture by @carrolce

Yes, the Tories did gain those 164 extra seats – giving the Conservative and Unionist Party 276 Scottish council seats, but when we factor in the loses sustained by the other unionist parties and ‘independents,’ and the changes to the electoral boundaries since 2012, it becomes clear that on the whole the unionists have lost rather than gained ground. In 2012 the SNP won a total of 425 seats and today won 431 – a difference between then and now the BBC count as a loss of 7 seats. I’m no genius, but we can be pretty sure that is a gain of 6 seats. Much the same can be said of the SNP share of first preference votes. In 2012 it won a 32.3 per cent share, and has now increased that to 35.4 percent – compared to the measly 22 per cent won by the Tories. Add to this the pro-independence support of the Greens and things for the independence movement are looking rather rosy.

So where did this “surge” for the Conservatives come from? Well, to begin with – as this blog said yesterday – this was not a vote for the Tories. This was the consolidation of unionism, and the numbers bear this out. Labour, now in actual freefall over the whole of the United Kingdom – lost a whopping 133 Scottish council seats, the Liberal Democrats lost 3, and independents are down 26 – bringing the total loses across the other unionist factions to 162 seats. The Tories gained 164 seats. Uncanny, isn’t it? What we see is a total unionist gain of 2 seats, an anomaly that has to be explained by the shifting of electoral boundaries – as the total pro-independence vote increased.

It turns out that there has indeed been a Tory surge in Scotland, with traditional Labour voters the length and breadth of Scotland more than delighted to trade in their socialist values to support the party of austerity and the rape clause in their vain hope of saving the Union. None of this is any skin off the National Party’s nose, and everyone in Scotland hoping for independence can take courage in this result. It was a win. With the general election next – in a first past the post voting system – things are looking set for another astounding victory for the SNP. Once we have that out of the way we can turn our attention to securing another independence referendum.

 


Local Elections 2017 Nicola on BBC News


You can follow Jason Michael at his twitter page @Jeggit or at his webpage The Random Public Journal
Jason Michael is a  Scottish journalist and blogger based in Dublin. Writing on politics and society. Columnist for iScot Magazine and author of the Random Public Journal.

So what happened?

Being a nerd, I wanted to see how STV played out.

I started by looking at my own ward Newlands – Auldburn. Unfortunately the top 3 first preferences were “eventually” elected, but I’m working through it so I can see how a straight-forward ward works.

Warning: this is a lot of screenshots and not much swearing, so probably low on entertainment value.

All data from Glasgow City Council.

I am writing this up as I go, so please bear with me, this is a case of me mewsing out loud.

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A turnout of 7,514 (42.3%) which is higher than the 38.98% in 2012 but to be honest I m disappointed.  Everyone complains about their local council. Nothing changes if you don’t get off your arse & vote!

In 2012 for the same ward the percentage turnout was 38.98%, with 6,921 valid papers & 199 rejected.

251 spoiled papers (3.3%) as comparable to 199 (2.9%) in 2012.

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It looks like some still aren’t clear on ranking candidates. The polling clerks were clear at my polling place that you had to number in order of preference. Maybe there needs to be more information independent of parties being sent out to the public on how the system works?

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Stage 1: Josephine Dochety (SNP) sailed through, beating the quota of 1816. Her surplus votes are then spread across the remaining candidates.

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The majority of these go to the second SNP candidate, but some do go to the other parties, and 3 are non-transferable out of the 63 (about 4.8%) – so I guess some only voted for her.

Next Stage 3 – removal of the lowest polling candidate Rebecca Cole-Bennett (Lib-Dem)

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This lead to increases for the Charles Gay (Green), Curran (Labour) & Thornton (Tory) with smaller gains for the second candidates for both Labour and the SNP. But still no-one making the quota.

I’m guessing the non-transferable votes from here on include votes for candidates already eliminated as well as those who didn’t rank further. 38 out of 260 (14.6%)

This is a pity because I would love to have known how many did or didn’t rank.

Stage 4 was the loss of Fay Graham, the second Labour party candidate.

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Obviously, her second preferences mainly went to Stephen Curran which pushed him over the quota, with Greens, Tories and then SNP second candidate. She had 58 non-transferable votes, from her 390 (14.9%)

Stage 5: Stephen Curran’s surplus.

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It is easy to assume the majority of non-transferable votes 115 out of 227 (50.7%) would have been intended for Fay Graham, the second Labour candidate. The next highest transfer was to the green then the Tories & lastly the SNP.

It definitely appears that the Tories are more favoured as second choice than the SNP in Scottish Labour. It is a relief how many do chose Greens.

Next stage is the exclusion of the Green candidate, Charles Gay

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I’m relieved to see the majority 270 out of 569 went to the SNP especially as the Greens do target SNP to “lend their vote”. However 232 votes went elsewhere and 66 went to the Tory.

And the last stage, when we’re down to 2 candidates the lowest one is excluded and the next one gets in by default.

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The interesting thing is that the Tories were probably better served by only fielding one candidate and focusing their votes. When you look at votes on a party basis for first preferences it works out as.

Conservative 1,496 (19.9%)
“Glasgow” Labour 2,075 (28.6%)
Lib Dems 259 (3.4%)
Scottish Greens 422 (5.6%)
SNP 2,911 (40%)

I’m not complacent over the Tory “revival” but at the same time I know damn well it’s not as forceful as the media are trying to make out.

Image: Pixabay

You can follow Simone Charlesworth on twitter @cee4cat and at Mewsing Out Loud

And breathe…

I’ve now mostly worked through my “What the actual FUCK” reaction to Tory gains in the council elections.

It’s understandable though, I mean there’s a Tory in Ravenscraig now. The last impact they made there looked like this:

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So seeing as the BBC can’t work out that 425 to 431 is a gain of 6 not a loss of 7, I’m going with the results reported by  Scotland Elects.

2012 2017
SNP 425 (+62) 431 (+6)
Labour 394 (+46) 262 (-132)
Conservative 115 (-28) 276 (+161)
LibDem 71 (-95) 67 (-4)
Green 14 (+6) 19 (+5)
Other 196 172 (-24)

(If I get time tomorrow I am going to satisfy my inner nerd and collate the actual votes)

The last Scottish Council elections were 2 years into the Tory/LibDem coalition, and it looks like the LibDems in Scotland lost seats for that (as they did UK wide) Their much vaunted “fight-back” still does not seem to have materialised.

Since then we’ve had IndyRef and Labour went into coalition with the Tories (along with the LibDems, UKIP, Orange Order, NF etc), now I don’t know about you but I’m seeing a pattern here. You work with the Tories and they vacuum up your votes.

In the meanwhile someone needs to take Kezia’s drugs away from her. I’m not sure what she’s smoking but the woman is delusional.

She lost 30% of her councillors and says there’s a backlash against the SNP!

The Tories have had an increase, but still are a distant second, 155 seats behind the SNP. Yet listening to the media spin you’d think Ruth Davidson was about to be crowned Queen of Scots….oh.

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The Greens got an increase. I would have hoped for more; for them to have taken more progressive voters from Labour but maybe there aren’t that many left.

So an increase in seats and also increase in the number of “largest party” for the SNP. Not bad for a party 10 years in government and under the Single Transferable Vote system, which unlike First Past The Post makes it difficult to get an overall majority.

Yet the media is portraying this as a bad day for the SNP. Honestly I think the party leadership will be quite happy with this level of “failure.”

It’s amazing how coming second in Scotland is seen as amazing, but first meh – not so much.

We won’t know who gets to run the councils for the next few days, there’s bargaining to be done.  SNP have said categorically that they won’t work with the Tories and I’m hoping for our sake (and theirs to be frank) that Labour will do the same.

It appears that the trend in Scotland has been for Tory gains to come from Labour voters, which is strange because in England it was UKIP that was absorbed. I suppose it’s served its purpose down there, normalising extreme policies that the Tories couldn’t risk pushing themselves. Farage has swanned off, Nuttal will be the fall guy and eventually all the sheep will return to their Tory fold to be rewarded.

So, who are some of these shites reptiles Tories who have been voted in? (Hat tip to David Aitchison who did an excellent – if scary – thread highlighting these now elected councillors.)

Firstly there’s Kathleen Leslie from Fife, who works with children with special needs (no I don’t understand how someone in that field could be a Tory either) She called the First Minister a “drooling hag” so presumably is okay with similar “banter” in return. (That doesn’t mean you should do it – higher moral ground etc)

Then there’s Ron McKail who posted Britain First & Islamaphobic posts. Lovely chap.

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Ian James in Perthshire praised Enoch Powell and called the First Minister a “poison dwarf” He also thinks “African-American” is a “stupid politically correct euphemism”.

I found a picture of him – he’s the looker on the left.

 

Next up is Neill Graham, he called Nelson Mandela a terrorist and was named in a BNP members list, which could happen to anybody I suppose. O.o

Todd Ferguson doesn’t appear to think EU nationals should have an opinion or be candidates. Maybe this is Tory policy? Ex-MSP Christian Allard faced “casual racism” after querying Alexander Burnett MSP financial interests.

Following him is David Wilson who asked gay councillors to ‘out’ themselves during a debate to  consider a £500 donation supporting the local LGBT group for International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia. He believed that flying a flag on an annual basis was ‘plenty’.

Then there is ex-Ukipper Donald Gatt, in Moray, said that poor people shouldn’t have kids. He especially didn’t like the policy of free school meals for P1 – 3.

And finally another ex-Kipper Euan Blockley who only moved to the Tories because UKIP wouldn’t put him top of their regional list for Holyrood. Well, that’s mature.

Lovely people each and every one, I’m sure they’ll be great representatives in their respective local areas. In fact I hope their constituents visit them with every problem they get.

You can follow Simone Charlesworth on twitter @cee4cat and at Mewsing Out Loud

“My First Polling and Count Day’ By David Patterson.  

 

May 4th 2017. Local Election Day! Most people are at work, some have the day off getting their shopping in for the week ahead. Others will be getting ready to go to their local polling stations to vote. A vote that will determine who will be in charge of your council. A vote that ensures your voice is heard and that you can hold the people to account should they not fulfill their role they previously bigged themselves up for.
I was nervous. Not because I thought the party that I love would do bad or lose. I was nervous because this was my first time helping out at such an integral part of history that can shape our future.
It was warm, the heat battering off my face intertwined with the little bit of wind that was continuous throughout the day. That didn’t matter. As I stood proudly outside the polling station in Kilwinning wearing my SNP lapel on the left side of my chest and 3 or 4 SNP badges on the right. I had a smile on my face. It wasn’t because it was sunny. It was because I knew in my heart that I was doing the right thing. I never thought I would be here, doing this. It never crossed my mind even two years ago.
There was one person the full day that had a negative word to me. Everyone was brilliant, friendly, chatty and even after they had voted came back out to have a little debate. Which I love doing anyway but it was never in a cynical way. People would toot their horns and wave, shouting “cmon SNP. ” I loved this. It showed me a different side to the world. To politics. It showed me the value of going out to vote. I saw young and old going in and out to cast their votes and it really made me feel proud. These people, like me want change. Whether it be for better or worse it doesn’t matter. What matters is that they follow their heads, and most importantly their hearts when they number the ballot papers. Every now and again I would text my Girlfriend Jodie, my Mum and my Sister and her husband Stephen and ask them if they had voted yet. I knew my Dad had sent away his postal vote weeks prior while in hospital from suffering two heart attacks. Of course it was still really early and they hadn’t but I made sure to remind them throughout the day. Scott Davidson the newly elected Councillor for Kilwinning and a good friend of mine was at another polling station in Kilwinning so we kept messaging each other the turn out percentages throughout the day.
If I’m being honest I never knew what to expect. I never knew how the day would go but as it drawn to a close my feet and head were both needing vital rest. I would check Twitter now and again to see smiling faces across North Ayrshire. All my friends and Cunninghame South members taking selfies and really enjoying the day, coupled up with a few nerves. It’s great to have such an amazing team around you. Robin Sturgeon and his wife Joan who had been provost for North Ayrshire for a number of years. Lovely welcoming people that are always there if you need them. Susan Johnson, Christina Larsen, Shaun McAuley, Val, Jim Tudhope, Maria limonci, Scott Davidson, Lorna Davidson, Marie Burns, Ruth McGuire, Hugh Wilson, Robert Buntin, Jacqueline Ferguson and John Ferguson. All really lovely amazing people that have been through it all and seen it all and to be there on a day like this with all of them truly is for me, amazing. It’s these people more than anything that deserve to have their chance to project their views on the council boardroom because I know they will fight tooth and nail for the people of North Ayrshire and make it a fairer society for all. I’m new to all of this but these people have been fighting continually for years, but it is coming, small steps at a time. The momentum is there and we’re getting stronger.

After standing at the polling station for a few hours a nice lady called Anne came over to relieve me of my duties as she was going to take over for a few hours. I would then head over to meet Scott, Lorna and John Ferguson to go for a well deserved lunch. We arrived at a Cafe in Kilwinning. One I had never been to before. As we arrived it was instantaneous to everyone there that we were SNP people and today was a big day for us. We sat down and could feel people staring at us. Then people started chatting to Scott and their views on the town were clear. All SNP supporters. Shaking Scott’s hand and wishing him all the best. It was like dining with a celebrity. Truly a remarkable experience. It’s no surprise to me about the welcoming nature of the people of Kilwinning but that was a different level.
With confidence and a touch of nerves we got on to the task in hand. We traveled around Kilwinning polling stations checking the turnout percentages and putting our own anecdotes on what the results were looking like. Just sheer speculation but a way of finding comfort. “It’s looking good”. We would say now and again but knowing that complacency is a distant cousin. We knew we couldn’t assume. But we did anyway.
A colder breeze started to infiltrate my cheeks and the sun started fading away. It was now 8pm and I still hadn’t voted myself. With only two hours left, Scott told me he would cover until 10pm. A testament to how he thinks. He never gives up and works till the very last second. I drove to my nearest polling station in Elderbank, Irvine. Noticing a gentleman standing outside with an SNP lapel on. A very frequent sight throughout the day. I chatted to him for a couple of minutes and then entered the polling station. The agent there explained the numbering process and then handed me my ballot paper. As I walked into the booth I looked and studied each and every candidate to make sure I didn’t get it wrong. I knew who and what I was voting for so it took me less than thirty seconds. I picked the two SNP candidates that I knew would be perfect in my ward and then slipped the ballot paper into the ballot box.
As I got home and sat on my couch, I realised the full impact of my day. My legs buckled and my head was red and sunburnt all over. I looked in the mirror and said “worth it!” As long as we helped get our candidates over the line they could have me standing in a sunbed for 24 hours and I wouldn’t care.
The next morning was a different feel of emotion. I knew that no stone was left unturned, no letterbox was left without a leaflet. I knew all the candidates running were strong minded but I thought about them all morning. I thought about the nerves they would be enduring. I was working at 1pm so I had to be at the Portal in Irvine sharp. When I got there I never really knew what to expect. I walked through the door, I got my wristband which allowed me to go into the room where you could help yourself to coffee, tea, sandwiches etc. There were two televisions in the room. Both with the news on. I glanced over at the seating area and I saw each party candidates and activists in different parts. Not wanting to make eye contact with each other. The Tories over at the back of the room, labour on the right. A few handshakes here and there. I saw ‘The SNP’ table so I walked over and sat down. I spoke with John Ferguson for a while listening to his amazing views on Kilwinning and stories of the past. His vast wealth of knowledge is invaluable. The rest of the candidates started to trickle in. It was show time.
Emotions were sporadic, up and down, all over the place. My Mum and Dad would text me to see if any results were in yet. It was too early. Then a gentleman came through the door and gave us word that the first preference votes were being displayed on the screens in the counting hall. We all got up and walked through. There were televisions placed at all corners of the hall and tables strategically designed for counting agents to do there work uninterrupted. As I walked around to the other side of the hall I spotted Jim Tudhope. Someone I’ve became really close too through our passion to be active members of The SNP. He is very funny and very smart and can spot someone talking rubbish a mile away so he debunks many labour and Tory views at the drop of a hat. He was standing next to a screen that was being analysed for void ballots. Each one would be manually scrutinised to see if the vote preferences could be made out. There were another two men sitting in front of the screen. One from labour and one with an Snp lapel on who I’d never saw before. The labour gentleman was appealing and pointed at every opportunity. Jim and I decided to get involved as the snp gentleman never said a word. No one was there to appeal or question anything before Jim and I got there. Just the labour fellow. We soon picked up the hang of it and got involved. There were a very faded ballot with numbers on it but to the naked eye would look like scribbles. It had our Kilwinning candidates at a 1 and 2 vote preference and the rest 3,4,5 etc. The Labour supporter wanted it to go through as void but myself and Jim appealed strongly against that decision. Upon further investigation we won the appeal and got our candidates the vote. A small victory for us both but one I’ll remember for a long time.
The votes had been counted and verified and the results were in. Announcements had been made on stage and it was a hung council. The SNP had 11 councillors, Labour also had 11, Conservatives 7, Greens 0 and Independent 5. It was not in any shape or form the result we had hoped for and we lost some great candidates but it was a result we can build on. It wasn’t the worst and I know our new councillors will do a great job. You could see how much it meant to them. Even the candidates that won from our party had their colleagues in their minds at a time when they had won. This shows you the way we are. We always put others first. This is a strong, vibrant group of people. A group of people I hope will have me around for many years to come. As I went to my work I checked the internet at my desk. I couldn’t take my mind off the count. News came in that as a whole The SNP won outright +6 seats more than they had in 2012. A victory that saw Glasgow council hold an SNP majority in over 40 years. I felt pride. I felt jubilation. When I looked at various headlines from right wing tabloids it didn’t matter when I saw ‘Tory surge’ or ‘Tories are back’ because I was there. I was on the ground. I saw what happened. The Tories did surge but they surged on the back of the Labour voters switching dramatically from middle to right. It’s says a lot about them. The Tories finished second. There were no ‘victory’, there were no need to celebrate because I know that the people of Scotland will never have Tories as first. Not then. Not now. Not ever. You will always be second to The SNP! This was my first time being involved in an election and it won’t be my last.

featured image Polling station

 

Ungagged: Scottish Elections

The daft fools lovely people at Ungagged weren’t put off with my first attempt at a podcast and asked me to do a second.  Link here to listen to the talented contributors, my piece is only 5 minutes.

I’ve been to my local polling station so often in the last few years I’m half expecting to get a bill from Glasgow City Council for room rent.  Between moving here at the end of 2012 and June 8th I will have made my mark for two General, 1 Scottish Parliament, 1 European Parliament, 1 council and 2 referenda.

And to make it that little more interesting, we also have 3 distinct voting systems; first past the post for Westminster, d’Hondt for Holyrood & European and finally Single Transferable for Councils. Which latter two means there is always a discussion on the ability to tactically vote.

Is it any wonder the Scottish electorate is considered to be the most politically aware in the UK? And you know what? We are still beginners when compared to the Swiss. They had 13 propositions put forward for referenda in 2016 and plan another 7 for this year.

People talk as though going to vote is so difficult, that it’s such a hassle. I have to say that putting a cross or ranking candidates is far from being the most onerous task I have been asked to do. But of course that’s not what they mean. What they are on about is that they don’t want to have to weigh up the options. Making an informed choice means thinking, and taking responsibility for the results of your choice.

Any Leaver who complains about having to pay to visit Europe after Brexit is an idiot. You can’t expect there to be exceptions just for you.

A third of UK registered voters don’t even bother, presumably because they think their vote won’t change anything. People say politicians are “all the same” and “nothing changes.” Well it won’t if you don’t do something about it.

The Conservatives got a majority in 2015 with 37% of votes cast, this equals only 24% of the UK registered voters. This is a disgrace not a democracy.

Many politicians want a compliant electorate; they want you to think it has nothing to do with you, that it should be left to professionals.

Politics is not for an “elite,” it impacts us all. Saying you don’t do politics is stupid because politics “does” you. It encompasses everything from bins being emptied, pot-holes being filled, the food on your table, the water in your taps, young people being sent to fight in foreign lands.

You can’t wait until issues directly effect you, you have to get in there first. Call out representatives on their policies. Petitions, emails & protests may seem pointless, but the “noise” adds up. Pressure can be applied. Doing nothing never changes anything.

But I digress.

Until I moved here I had no idea of Scottish politics apart from it being – at that time – a Labour stronghold. I was fairly politically aware, but it’s not like Holyrood ever featured much (if ever) in the UK national six o’clock news.

I wonder how much coverage the “suspect packages” delivered to SNP offices earlier this week is getting? It feels like terrorism in Scotland isn’t newsworthy unless it involves someone getting kicked in the baws or an egg thrown at Jim Murphy.

It’s not normally as extreme as that, usually disagreements don’t get past inventive name-calling on social media and you have to take into consideration that swearing is taken to a level that is almost an art form.

You get some saying that Scottish politics have become divisive but to be honest, I don’t remember the 80s being all peaceful what with the poll tax, miners strike, Toxteth riots etc. What they mean is shut up, don’t rock the boat and do as we tell you.

It’s an exciting time in Scotland, there has been a lot of change and the upcoming Council elections could be an indicator of the changes to come. The unionist parties seem to be running solely on a No Referendum line, which is strange as I’m pretty sure none of the Councils are thinking of striking off on their own.

To put it bluntly, Labour up here have been totally screwed over by the Tories. They happily took they money and fronted the No campaign in the 2014 referendum and then wondered why so many left-wing people stopped voting for them. There are alternative up here, the SNP, Greens, and smaller socialist parties.

And yet, they don’t learn. Despite only keeping one MP in 2015, coming third in Holyrood and repeated “listening exercises” they still don’t hear many of their ex-supporters calling for change.  They’re seen as Tory-lite. And unfortunately for them, Ruth Davidson, with media backing, has stood up and declared herself defender of the union.

You can never out-Tory a Tory. They are so much better at being it. Whether “it” is wrapping themselves in a Union flag or being heartless bastards.

It feels like it is the unionist parties who go on and on about referendums the most, which is seen a distraction from their policies, or lack thereof. When the leader of the Scottish Tories response to cruel cuts to benefits is to suggest that the Scottish Government mitigate them, you know the current system cannot continue.

The commentariate talk as though the upcoming council and general elections are there to judge whether or not the Scottish Government have a mandate for a referendum. They forget they already have it. That was delivered in the Holyrood election.

Scotland as a whole voted 62% to Remain in EU, much higher than the 52% Leave for the UK which Theresa May says gives her a strong mandate. Right now it looks like it will be her own party which will be the main architect for breaking her “precious union.”

Right I’m off now to see if anyone has managed to get her to say something that isn’t a slogan.

 Image by: Red Raiph
You can follow Simone Charlesworth on twitter @cee4cat and at Mewsing Out Loud

Highs and lows

Council election results day & I have mixed feelings. It didn’t help that the first tweet I saw this morning was this:

Honestly, look at that blue. I know it’s not UKIP but when the Tories have swung so far right that Farage can brag what’s the fucking difference? People voting for what is essentially as 12 year old BNP manifesto.

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I have to say if you know me on Facebook and voted for those fuckers (or UKIP) unfriend me now because I don’t want anything to do with you from now on. This isn’t me trying to make a point, I mean it. You have voted for policies that hurt people I care about, you have risked my daughter’s future and that of her friends and I don’t want to associate with selfish, ignorant bastards.

Yes, I am angry and I feel sick at what England is turning into.

And if you didn’t vote, what the fuck are you playing at? Not voting is not an abdication of responsibility.  As Burke said, “‘The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” How many in the US do you think are regretting not voting now they have Trump as President? The alternative may be shite, but it’s still better. You’ve got a second chance, make sure you are on the electoral register and vote on the 8th June.

Rant over

Our Scottish counts started this morning. On the plus side Willie Young is out of Aberdeen but unfortunately McAveety is still in Glasgow. Though he’s probably not as smug as normal because when I got home Friday lunchtime I was greeted with:

Historic despite Sarwar whining about being underdogs.

LABOUR WAS IN CHARGE FOR FORTY YEARS! If you are an underdog it’s because of your colossal sense of entitlement, you bellend. Fuck sake you practically inherited your Westminster seat.

As I write I still don’t know as yet whether the swing is enough for a SNP majority, whether it requires a SNP/Green alliance or if Labour will continue its descent into irrelevancy and go into coalition with the Tories again.

Rational people would think; hmm voters who have left us keep calling us red Tories. Maybe we should put some distance between us?”

No, not Scottish Labour. Fucking Blairites, they keep plodding rightwards. Scottish Labour branding is getting so toxic here they ran as Glasgow Labour. What next? Ibrox Labour? Fuck sake they will never out Tory the Tories.

They have been well and truly played by the Tory Party up here. Started off bragging that they were spending Tory money as they fronted the Better Together campaign & then they wondered why their left-wing support abandon them. Next they dithered over whether they should allow a free vote in the party re indy which #RapeClause Ruth to declare she is the one true voice of unionism. They swing back to no to a second referendum, but then it’s too late and their uber-Yoons have moved on to the Tories.

I honestly wonder at what point they would think it’s a good idea to get out of this union and the foreseeable never-ending Tory rule? Sacrifice of the firstborn, the country on zero-hours contracts, mass deportation of anyone who isn’t the correct shade of white?

Current state of play is this:

Capture

No matter how much the Tories try to spin it, all they have done so far is mop up unionist Labour votes.

And as for those who switched their vote from Labour to Tory, I hope you never have to look yourself in the mirror when family or friends need support from the state. I hope you never fall ill, or need care, I hope none of your friends are European because you have voted for them to be deported. This Tory government is fucking insane. and you have said you support it.

The unionist media have got what they wanted, Scottish politics now appears to be fully unionist vs independence supporters. I’m not sure that this will work out for them. What point now (if ever there was one) in dragging Brown out for future interventions?

May prides herself on being a difficult woman, her style of know-your-place leadership is not going to go down well. Davidson is also losing her shine amongst moderates with her continual shouting & finger-pointing.

Going on HIGNFY is not going to shine off the tarnish of being the Tory face up here. Surely even the most fervent Shettleston unionist will eventually find a Union Flag doesn’t make up for trips to a food bank and weans going hungry.

We keep being told you can’t eat a fleg. That works both ways.

featured image depressed man

You can follow Simone Charlesworth on twitter @cee4cat and at Mewsing Out Loud

 

May the Fourth be with You

We are being informed over all frequencies that the empire is striking back, but when we take a cool and collected look at the data we see that this is a bluff. On the whole unionism is on the decline and a new hope awaits.


Britain’s media propaganda machine would have us believe that in the local council elections today and in the June 8 general election we’re going to see an unbelievable Tory revival in Scotland. The only thing it has right in this assessment of Scotland’s political reality is that this prediction is unbelievable. It’s a fiction that says more about the nature of polls in modern democracy than it does of reality on the ground. That some in the Tory press are able to write of a “swing from the SNP to the Tories” merely underlines our mainstream media’s embrace of post-truth politics.

Twitter

View image on Twitter

An absolutely mad total lie from the Express today. Literally completely made up.

 

 


Ruth Davidson’s Scottish Conservatives have gained in the polls and this will be reflected in the number of local council and Westminster seats they gain over both elections, but to claim this as a revival completely misses what is actually happening in Scottish politics. The Tories, Labour, and the Liberal Democrats have campaigned in these local elections on a platform of preventing another independence referendum and saying “No” to independence, questions wholly beyond the brief of local councils. Other than being completely irrelevant, this tactic demonstrates the extent to which our country is divided on the constitutional question.

What we learn from this is that party affiliation itself has become irrelevant – at both local and national level, bringing to the fore two political blocs rather than numerous parties; the nationalist and unionist blocs to which the parties are aligned. In this analysis a vote for the Conservatives in Scotland is not a vote for UK-wide Tory policy – that remains as toxic as ever. Scottish unionists will be voting for the Tories because unionism has consolidated itself around the Tory Party at the cost of Labour and the Liberal Democrats. In no way has the unionist bloc – the aggregate of the votes for all the unionist parties – increased. The polls show that this is well and truly on the decline. It is only understood among unionists – not just Tories – that voting Labour or Liberal Democrat splits the unionist vote. This is far from a Conservative resurgence. This is the phase of national polarisation where unionism is being consolidated around a single party.

014

Scotland’s pro-independence bloc (SNP and the Green Party) are already over 50 per cent.

Of course this process – which is entirely natural and to be expected – will benefit the Scottish Conservatives, but this is not the desired goal. The objective of unionism is to increase its support across Scotland, but this is clearly not happening. When we count the vote share of the two blocs we see that the pro-independence bloc is in a steady upward trajectory – showing in all polls more than a 50 per cent share of the vote. What this means is that we are now well and truly in the end game. Scotland will become more clearly split between the Scottish National Party and the Conservatives as Labour and the Liberal Democrats retreat into practical non-existence. This will continue to be the case until the next independence referendum, where it is more likely than not that we will decide to leave the United Kingdom.

 


What Voting Tory Really Means


You can follow Jason Michael at his twitter page @Jeggit or at his webpage The Random Public Journal
Jason Michael is a  Scottish journalist and blogger based in Dublin. Writing on politics and society. Columnist for iScot Magazine and author of the Random Public Journal.

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

featured image polling

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.

 

6-Clune-Park-Street-005-

 

 

 

 

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)

 

inverclyde-byelection-007

 

 

 

 

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/)

 

inverclyde8

 

 

 

 

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)

 

Mundell.jpg.gallery

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