Competent? !!

Yesterday’s area committee touched a new low as far as I was concerned. Not only did we hear a very good argument from the public about getting a move on to resurface the Dunoon 5 a side cages, we also got the usual arguments from the council leader as to why we could not do things faster. Things move at Walsh’s pace or not at all, and to hang with local opinion.

However, the worst part was at the end. There is a piece of ground at Graham’s Point in Kilmun which was mistakenly transferred to the housing association ACHA when the council house stock was transferred in 2006. A few months ago this mistake seems to have come to the fore and Cllr Marshall was told that since ACHA owned the land, the council would no longer cut the grass. ACHA neither want the land nor the job of maintaining it as I understand matters.

At the business day in January the issue came up and although I wasn’t there, Cllr Marshall told me that Cllr Walsh opposed any move to rectify the error and take the land back into council ownership thereby unblocking any reason for the council not cutting the grass.

Bruce asked me some weeks ago if I would second a motion asking the council to take the land back into our ownership. It was a very simple and non contentious motion I thought but little did I know what was to come. The motion was accepted by council governance staff and by the chair, Cllr MacNaughton, one of the nodding heads to everything Cllr Walsh wants done. That normally means it’s passed any test of competence. It appeared in the published papers a week ago on Tuesday. You can see it for yourself here:

https://www.argyll-bute.gov.uk/moderngov/documents/g7250/Public%20reports%20pack%20Tuesday%2007-Feb-2017%2009.30%20Bute%20and%20Cowal%20Area%20Committee.pdf?T=10

On Monday, Bruce got an email from a council officer suggesting there might be a conflict of interest since he is on the board of ACHA. For the life of me I could not see why there was any conflict, nor did Bruce. Bruce promptly replied saying so but a few hours later he got another reminder quoting from the code of conduct, but Bruce held his ground. At no point in these 2 emails was there any mention of competence of the motion, nor had there been any mention when it was lodged.

However, out of the blue yesterday when we got to the motion on the agenda, the governance officer advised the chair that it wasn’t competent. A bit of a debate broke out at this but the chair ruled it was incompetent based on the officer’s advice.

Given that this was the first mention of competency, did someone put pressure on governance officers to try the conflict of interest argument first and then, when that failed, were they put under more pressure to ensure the motion wasn’t voted on? Who knows but the people of Kilmun won’t be at all happy.

I think what happened yesterday raises major questions about the governance of the council and I submitted a complaint to the chief executive yesterday afternoon. This has all the hallmarks of a blatant piece of behind the scenes shenanigans that is undemocratic and unacceptable. The smirk on Walsh’s face, directed very deliberately at me when he left the meeting, makes me think he just might be involved. Surely not!

Explain this please!

Here is the text of an email sent this afternoon to the other councillors, the press and the 4 complainants. I need say no more.

I had hoped that I could update you to say that a line could now be drawn under the complaint against me by Messrs Loudon, Sneddon, Hendry and Milne. This was clearly a case of optimism triumphing over reality.

On 22 January I asked the four officers if they would agree to a) sign up to a neutral statement agreeing to the facts and b) refunding me the residual costs I had to incur in fighting the complaint they made. Yesterday they said they would not agree to discussing a) unless I withdrew b). They failed to even indicate if the statement was acceptable. I reproduce that statement below for your information.

You can draw your own conclusions but instead of drawing a line under things, their intransigent position means this will drag on. You will recall they refused 4 offers to end the matter before the hearing and now they won’t do a equitable deal to conclude matters.

They have also continued to say they made the complaint in their own time and therefore it cost the council nothing. I have done my own arithmetic on this based on what I know and, at a conservative estimate, they spent some £25k of council funds on making this complaint. I am basing this on a modest 2 days of time for the corporate management structure as a whole. This, of course, is as open to challenge as their assertion that it cost nothing.

My proposed agreement was as follows, but it now won’t happen I regret to say. You might well ask yourself why.

Regards

This is a statement issued on behalf of Cllr Breslin and the 4 officers who submitted the complaint against him, namely Mrs Sally Loudon (now of Cosla), Mr Sneddon, Mrs Milne and Mr Hendry.

THIS JOINT STATEMENT:

1 REPLACES the statement read out by Mr Sneddon on behalf of the 4 complainants at the council meeting on 24 November 2016, and issued in writing some days later.

2 REPLACES the counter statement issued by Cllr Breslin on 12 December 2016.

3 ACCEPTS in full the written judgement issued by the Standards Commissioners dated 26 December 2016 relative to complaint reference LA/AB/1758.

4 ACCEPTS that of the 15 elements to complaint LA/AB/1758, 14 elements were deemed not to be a breach due to the protection afforded elected councillors (and others) under Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

5 ACCEPTS the one finding of breach of the code of conduct for enabling an email to get into the public domain, relative to complaint LA/AB/1758.

6 ACCEPTS in full the decision of the Commissioner for Ethical Standards in Public Life dated 26 February 2016 to the effect that Cllr Breslin had not breached the code of conduct relative to complaint LA/AB/1663 made by Cllrs Walsh, E Morton and Scoullar.

7 AGREES that this new statement on behalf of all five individuals brings this unhappy and prolonged matter to an end.

8 CONFIRMS there will be no further public statements on the complaint by any of the five individuals involved.