I have been unable until recently to make public the complaint against me and my defence to it. However, since the day of the first hearing in September, I have been free to do so but did not do so because I had assumed that the Standards Commission’s web site would have published all the case papers. I have been asking them why they haven’t done this. All they published was their version of events, a version I have some very big issues with. Publishing all the papers would have been a balanced way of reflecting the case for and the case against, but they have refused.
Their position is as follows:
By arrangement with the Standards Commission, the final report relevant to a public hearing is published on the Commissioner’s website on the first day of the hearing. No appendices are published. The statutory power to publish rests with the Standards Commission, with whom the matter would need to be pursued. Section 15 of the Ethical Standards in Public Life etc. (Scotland) Act 2000 allows the Commission to publish a report “in whatever way it thinks fit”.
Anyway, over the next week or so I plan to release all the papers. The starting point was the complaint from the four officers, Messrs Loudon, Sneddon, Milne and Hendry. This complaint, including the appendices, came close to 100 pages and was submitted in late May 2015. I wonder how much officer time was involved in compiling this complaint, at a direct cost to every citizen of Argyll & Bute.
For ease of reading, I have split the file into the body of the complaint and appendices. The first publication today is the body of the complaint and this can be downloaded from the link below. The appendices I am unable to publish at the moment due to the huge file size but if I can get these in a manageable form, I will publish them. Having said that, the summary is probably enough.
Since the complaint was made, Mrs Loudon has moved on to become the chief executive of Cosla and Mr Sneddon has replaced her as chief executive of the council.
I have been asked to try and summarise what the complaint is about. I’ll do my best:
- It’s to do with whether or not I showed officers due respect in my dealings with them. That is the nub of the matter
- The complaint centres on 3 issues:
- Castle Toward and the community buyout that never was.
- The scandal of the illegally low pay of care workers who worked for private companies used by the council to deliver care at home services.
- The long running saga in Rothesay Harbour that involved what to me was a vendetta waged against a Mr Calum McMillan and his vessel Seahorse 2. Associated with this were a number of safety issues.
- Castle Toward:
- I had taken up the concerns of the then tenants of the castle, Actual Reality, who claimed the council had tried to force them out of business in order to gain vacant possession of the property so they could sell it. I gave the then chief executive (now CEO of Cosla) a long list of questions in August 2012, none of which she ever answered. I believe this was the start of my troubles.
- When the property did become empty, I supported the community buyout, a proposed buyout that had huge local support in my ward. I felt that obstacles were put in the way of the buyout and took up the community’s case on a number of occasions.
- A search of this blog will find multiple articles on Castle Toward.
- Care Workers:
- In 2013 I became aware of care workers earning around £5 per hour, below the minimum wage. Around 30 to 35 workers approached me from various care companies with much the same issues.
- I took up the issue with officers and provided them with anonymised evidence of the scale of the problem. There was much correspondence on this over the 3 years to 2016.
- As of today, October 2016, I know of no progress with this. In April, I had a meeting with Mr Sneddon and other staff along with Cllr Horn and gave them a presentation on the issue. I left them with a pack of evidence, some of it evidence they had had before. There has been complete silence since that meeting.
- A search of this blog will find multiple articles on the care workers.
- Rothesay Harbour:
- As a member of the harbour board for Rothesay Harbour, I discovered that, as the “duty holder” I and my fellow councillors were “individually and collectively” responsible for marine safety. This places councillors in a much more direct role than normal.
- I became aware of this as an indirect result of asking a lot of questions of officers over the apparent vendetta waged against Mr McMillan, a vendetta that kept him out of his home port for several years.
- I raised many safety issues and in one email, written collectively by myself and 2 other councillors, we laid out clearly what these issues were. Despite the collective nature of the email, I was the only one complained about.
- Few of the safety issues have been addressed.
- I have written very little about this because, until recently, it involved a court action against the council. This has now been settled out of court.
- In summary, this is all about doing what I believe a councillor should do, ie look into matters, take up issues by constituents, raise them with officers etc. I was at all times polite and never used any inflammatory language. However, I did my own research if necessary, I was diligent in exploring the issues and I was persistent. These are all faults, apparently.
- It is my view that I was complained about wholly unjustifiably. That wasn’t the view of the Standards Commissioner and that is why there was a hearing last month with their decision coming at 1100 on Wednesday 19th in Edinburgh, details here.