The Labour Party in Dunbartonshire – A lifetime of unfettered power – A local governance of corruption and abuse of the trust of the electorate. What follows provides a brief record of local political events, primarily in West Dunbartonshire from 1996. It is not comfortable reading but a “Yes” vote in the referendum and election of an SNP MP in the 2015 General Election gives hope that the voters have decided enough is enough and get the rest of the Labour acolytes out of office.
28 April 1996: Dumbartonshire – The Council of Cowards – Cameras near Murder Scene Removed after Drug Threats
On the morning of 24 August 1996, the severely battered body of 14 year old Caroline Glachan was found by a drug addict in the Leven river near Loch Lomond. She failed to return home after she had gone to meet a new boyfriend the previous night. She was not robbed or sexually assaulted. More than 14 years later, the apparently motiveless murder has still not been solved.
Surveillance cameras that could have trapped the killer of schoolgirl Caroline Glachan were removed only months before by the council because of threats from drug dealers. Caroline was last seen alive on Saturday night by friends at a small shopping centre in a Dunbartonshire housing estate which, until May, had been monitored by closed-circuit television cameras.
Her battered body was discovered the following afternoon semi-submerged in the River Leven where it runs through a known haunt of drug addicts. The cameras at the Ladyton shop row in Bonhill, where Caroline lived with her mother, were dismantled three weeks after being installed when a primary school janitor, who monitored the equipment, was theatened by drug dealers.
Unsolved Caroline Glachan part 1 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ENi0ZbJ9xFA
Unsolved Caroline Glachan part 2 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dVIVxdTDey0
Unsolved Caroline Glachan part 3 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=speyMOaNztU
27 September 1997: The O’Malley’s – Ten relatives linked with a Council sports complex under financial investigation
In The heart of a bleak Scottish housing estate a building meant to improve the lives of the community stands empty – a monument to local authority sleaze. Thousands of pounds have gone astray and, amid a raft of accusations of abuse of powers, councillors met this week to discuss how they came to lose control of a publicly funded project to one family. Meanwhile the head of the family, nine of whose relatives served on the staff and management committee, continued to protest his innocence in the face of an unexplained and irretrievable overspend of more than £46,000.
The case of the O’Malleys and West Dunbartonshire Council shows in miniature the problems Labour face in their efforts to tackle corruption all over Scotland. West Dumbarton Activity Centre will remain firmly shut as council, police, Inland Revenue and Department of Social Security investigations continue. This week the council revealed more findings of its continuing investigation into the running of the centre.
A report by Michael Watters, chief executive of West Dunbartonshire Council, alleges six relatives of unemployed painter and decorator John O’Malley served on the centre’s management committee at various times. They included his sisters Esther O’Malley and Mary Gregg, his son John O’Malley junior, son-in-law Ian Devlin, sister-in-law Yvonne Harrison and brother-in-law Gordon Casey. http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1G1-110768368.html
30 January 1998: Labour faced a fresh wave of sleaze accusations last night.
In West Dunbartonshire, chief executive Michael Watters wrote to the provost to complain about two senior councillors. And in Edinburgh, a councillor accused fellow members of exerting pressure on officials to secure extra funding for their wards. Mr Watters made a series of allegations against council leader Andrew White and Labour group secretary James McCallum. He accused them of trying to dismiss him, and of attempting to dig up dirt on his deputy, Ian Leitch. http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1G1-110684142.html
4 February 1998: West Dunbartonshire questions
The SNP group on West Dunbartonshire Council believes that there is a concerted effort being made by the Labour Party at all levels to cover up the doctoring of reports, intimidation, and dirty tricks being carried out by Labour councillors in West Dunbartonshire. A comparison of the final paragraph of the letter to The Herald from Angus Macleod of the Labour Party with the notice of motion submitted to the council by the Labour group reveals remarkable similarities (February3). “This council affirms that it requires an authority which is efficient, effective, and responsive to the community” (Labour group). “Our councils should be efficient, effective, and responsive to their local communities” (A Macleod). http://www.heraldscotland.com/sport/spl/aberdeen/the-temperature-of-in-council-fighting-can-be-gauged-by-two-letters-how-wattersgate-hit-boiling-point-1.345751 http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1P2-23675560.html
2 March 1998: SNP lead attack on ‘unjust’ Cosla inquiry
The controversy surrounding an inquiry into strife-ridden West Dunbartonshire Council deepened last night as the local SNP leader attacked the procedures as “flawed and contrary to the rules of natural justice”. The Cosla inquiry was called to investigate claims by the council chief executive, Mr Michael Watters, that two leading members of the ruling Labour Group, council leader Andrew White and group secretary James McCallum, connived to try to oust him and his deputy. It was revealed that Cosla representatives had met Mr Watters in advance of instituting the inquiry to advise him that his position was untenable and he should resign. This led to concerns being raised about the impartiality of the inquiry. http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1P2-23684929.html
7 March 1998: Wattersgate inquiry ‘a breach of justice.’ Councillors warned they would have to foot bill for ‘backstabbers’ charter’
Labour councillors at war with their chief executive and his deputy were warned last night that if they proceeded with an inquiry they would be “breaching natural justice” and faced having to pay for it out of their own pockets. Councillors in strife-torn West Dunbartonshire Council were confronted with the shock news four days before they are due to begin an inquiry into allegations by chief executive Michael Watters that two leading members of the council’s Labour group were conniving to try to get rid of him and his deputy, Mr Ian Leitch. http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1P2-23684395.html
7 March 1998: An investigation into a Scottish Council was scrapped yesterday.
A senior official at West Dunbartonshire Council blocked the investigation which was due to begin on Tuesday, saying it would be in breach of natural justice. In an astonishing report to councillors on the procedures to be adopted by the inquiry team, the legal manager, Stephen Brown, claimed the council would have to completely revise its inquiry guidelines. Problems have arisen out of one area of the inquiry, which was to focus on allegations from the chief executive, Michael Watters, that Andrew White, leader of the Labour-led council, and the group secretary, Jim McCallum, connived to get rid of him and his deputy, Ian Leitch. http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1P2-18653243.html
11 March 1998: Labour’s ‘natural justice’ flawed Yet again
So flexible is New Labour’s concept of natural justice that it should be sponsored by one of our leading latex manufacturers. In the case of the so-called Wattersgate scandal in West Dunbartonshire Council, the elastic was stretched so tight that the hold on credibility could not be sustained. The grip has given and the smack on Labour councillors’ faces, and on Cosla ones, will be no less painful for being figurative. But it will be no surprise that the Labour Party has once again been caught on the rebound in its crusade to sort out local government. http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1P2-23681222.html
11 March 1998: Panel ‘not appropriate’ – Council inquiry team quits
The Cosla investigation into the Wattersgate scandal gripping West Dunbartonshire Council was in tatters last night after the three- man inquiry team withdrew. The extraordinary turn of events followed a weekend council report that warned councillors they would be breaching natural justice if they went ahead with the flawed inquiry and could be surcharged for the £1100-a-day costs.
The man heading the inquiry, Professor John Fairley, initially expressed the hope it was “only a minor hiccup”. He said he had proposed “using tried and tested procedures” and hoped to get down to business soon. However, Professor Fairley, director of the Centre for Public Policy and Management at The Robert Gordon University, did a U-turn yesterday and told the council in a letter he was withdrawing from the inquiry, which was set up by Cosla to look at claims by chief executive Michael Watters that two leading Labour councillors, leader Andrew White and group secretary James McCallum, had connived to try to get rid of him and his deputy. http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1P2-23681235.html
24 April 1998: Court ban threat over bias claim; Labour hits back in Wattersgaterow
The Chief Executive at the centre of the “Wattersgate” scandal is preparing to go to the Court of Session over alleged bias on the part of two members of a grievance committee set up to investigate his complaints against two senior Labour councillors. Labour-controlled West Dunbartonshire Council will be given an ultimatum by Mr Michael Watters either to change the make-up of the investigating committee or face a legal challenge.
Mr Watters is prepared to bring forward written evidence of bias on the part of two members of the three-man committee – councillors Jim Flynn and Duncan Mills. They are due to start the inquiry next Wednesday into Mr Watters’ complaints that the leader of the council, Andrew White, and Labour group secretary Jim McCallum connived to try to get rid of him and his deputy, Ian Leitch.
1 July 1998: A Labour provost has been criticised by appeal judges over his handling of a shopkeeper’s application for an off-sales licence.
George Cairney, the recently installed provost of West Dunbartonshire Council, played a key role in having the request rejected. As chairman of the board, Councillor Cairney visited the next door shop run by the objector and had a private conversation with the owner before giving him a friendly wave as he left.
The judges at the Court of Session said Mr Cairney’s actions, as chairman of the licensing board, left him open to suspicions of bias. They stressed that, although there was no suggestion that Mr Cairney had tried to influence fellow board members, justice had not been seen to be done. The shopkeeper, Zafar Mahmood, will now be granted the licence, which councillors have voted twice to refuse.
26 October 1999: Minister backs scrapping Trident
A Minister in the Scottish Executive has admitted publicly to being in favour of scrapping Trident, it was confirmed last night as the Opposition SNP moved to exploit Government concern at the controversial judgment of a Greenock sheriff who ruled that Trident was illegal. In the wake of Sheriff Gimblett’s ruling that the nuclear deterrent based on the Clyde contravened the law as viewed by the International Court, the Opposition SNP last night asked if ministerial collective responsibility in Scotland applied to reserved as well as devolved areas. Ms Jackie Baillie, Deputy Minister for Communities, replied to a CND questionnaire posted on the Internet before the Scottish Parliament elections saying she supported the scrapping of Trident. http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1P2-23761938.html
15 May 2001: Erskine Bridge charges ‘Taking a Toll’ on the community
Scotland’s transport minister Sarah Boyack has been asked to remove toll charges on the Erskine Bridge because they are strangling the economy of a small local authority. People living in West Dunbartonshire are losing out on 500 new jobs, it is claimed, because firms are deterred from moving to the area by the high tolls on the bridge which crosses the Clyde. The council’s Labour leader, Andy White, wants the executive to scrap the 60p each-way toll to give the local economy, already damaged by the pull-out of Polaroid and closure of the J&B bottling plant, a chance to recover. Councillor White said yesterday that Ms Boyack has the opportunity to abolish charges when she reviews the operation of the bridge in July. http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1P2-18792779.html
Comment: Tolls were eventually dropped on 1 April 2006 (5 year’s after the urgent request submitted by the Dumbartonshire Council leader) hardly inspiring work by Jackie Baillie. But note the reason the tolls were stopped: TOLLS on the Erskine Bridge will be scrapped from April 1 to relieve congestion on the Kingston Bridge and Clyde Tunnel. Ending the 60p each way charge for cars is expected to cost the Scottish Executive, the owner, around £4m a year. But the cost is dwarfed by the GBP20m lost to the economy each year because of workers and hauliers being stuck in jams in the tunnel and on the Kingston bridge.
24 January 2002: West Dunbartonshire is officially Scotland’s worst council
Scotland’s least efficient council – with the lowest council tax collection and highest absenteeism rates – will be confirmed today as West Dunbartonshire. The unenviable title comes with new figures from the Accounts Commission, the spending watchdog. The findings come a week after West Dunbartonshire was revealed to have the country’s worst rent arrears, failing to collect almost a quarter of the money owed by its tenants. The new figures show that the council – which covers Clydebank, Dumbarton, Vale of Leven and west Loch Lomond – last year had the country’s worst council tax collection rate and its highest staff sickness level.
12 October 2006: Council in crisis set to face public hearing. Damning report of bullying and poor morale prompts inquiry
Leaders of a crisis-hit local authority are to face unprecedented scrutiny after the official Scottish council watchdog yesterday announced it is to hold a public hearing into the running of its affairs. The hearing, announced by the Accounts Commission for Scotland, followed a damning Audit Scotland report published last week which delivered a devastating assessment of poor management and political leadership at West Dunbartonshire Council. The local authority’s councillors and officials were heavily criticised in the report, carried out earlier this year, which identified a culture of bullying and poor staff morale. It also attacked decisions made in secret, unstable management, and in- fighting between councillors and officials.
30 November 2006: Leading Labour politicians yesterday launched a public broadside on their own party’s leadership of a Scottish council, with the local MP calling for Holyrood ministers to send in a hit squad to force change. A series of astonishing accusations flowed at Clydebank Town Hall during an unprecedented public hearing held by the Accounts Commission, the local authority watchdog. Last month it was handed a highly critical report on West Dunbartonshire Council by Audit Scotland and opted to air the issues in public. The hearing continues today. Jackie Baillie, Labour MSP for Dumbarton, alleged there had been repeated cases of bullying, while John McFall, MP for West Dunbartonshire and chairman of the Commons Finance Select Committee, claimed a cabal of councillors had allocated millions to favour their own wards. http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1P2-23642046.html
Comment: Funny how Baillie and McFall said nothing until the audit report identified failings. Clearly a move to distance themselves from the chaos and misappropriation of finance ongoing within the constituency.
2 December 2006: The long history of efforts to curb Labour misbehaviour on West Dunbartonshire Council
The Scottish Executive has warned it is prepared to take action against a local authority which has come under heavy criticism from watchdogs. Decision-making and leadership at West Dunbartonshire Council were found wanting by the Accounts Commission. A public hearing into the running of the local authority also raised concerns about a “culture of bullying”. But the council criticised the watchdog for its “negative” focus and insisted it was performing well in many areas. The executive’s warning comes five days after council leader Andy White announced his resignation after nine years in the job.
Local Government Minister Tom McCabe voiced concerns about the findings, which he described as “not good enough”. Mr McCabe said he would consider what action could be taken. “I expect the council to accept these findings in full and put in place a recovery process without delay,” he said. “If they do not, I will have to consider what further action may be necessary.” A written warning could be issued and, if the situation did not improve, the council could be taken under ministerial control. The council would have more than three months to implement a “comprehensive improvement plan”, during which the executive said it would monitor the situation.
The hearing, which took place earlier this year, highlighted “significant deficiencies” in corporate decision-making at the council, which was not as “open and transparent” as it should have been. There was concern that individuals were afraid to give evidence in public for fear of reprisals.
The commission also heard allegations of bullying and harassment from councillors and trade union representatives. It stated: “We are concerned by the assertion that individuals were afraid to give evidence in public for fear of reprisals. “This issue of a culture of bullying and harassment, whether real or perceived, must be addressed immediately.”
The authority was not in a position to deliver best value for residents and must accept outside help to push through improvements, according to the commission. Alastair MacNish, chair of the commission in Scotland, said there were “serious problems” at the council. “People in West Dunbartonshire deserve better and need to know that these problems are being addressed,” he said.
However, a council spokesperson said: “We believe that we made a well-evidenced case to the Accounts Commission and are very disappointed that – while they recognise some of the council’s strengths – their findings focus more on the negative parts of the Audit Scotland report.” The council said education and social work were performing well, despite deprivation in the area, and claimed the commission had also accepted there was effective working with community partners. The spokesman added: “The findings have chosen to focus negatively on issues of decision-making, leadership, scrutiny, relationships and morale. “We have recognised that, like all councils, we are not perfect, but we are far from being the worst performing council in Scotland.” The unprecedented step of holding the hearing took place after a critical Audit Scotland report on behalf of the commission.
11 December 2006: Deputy leader of crisis-torn council will not stand again
The deputy leader of a crisistorn council is set to quit his post, having just secured an £80,000 contract from the council for his graffiti-cleaning business. Councillor Jim Flynn, number two at West Dunbartonshire Council, told party colleagues at the weekend that he will not stand again at the May election. His announcement comes days ahead of a report by the council watchdog, the Accounts Commission, which is expected to be highly critical of the local authority’s political leadership. Those at the party meeting were surprised to hear Mr Flynn explain that his decision to quit came after the passage last week of the Adoption Bill at Holyrood, which has raised controversy because it gives gay couples the right to adopt.
12 December 2006: The leader of West Dunbartonshire Council is to resign next week.
Councillor Andy White said he could no longer tolerate the behaviour of two of his fellow Labour councillors and some Dumbarton Labour Party members. Cllr White alleged he had been subject to vindictive and personal abuse by some politicians after investing resources in schools in Clydebank. He will formally step down at a meeting next week when the local authority said a new leader would be appointed. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/glasgow_and_west/6173207.stm
16 December 2006: Council under fire after staff ‘too scared’ to give evIdence Minister threatens to take full control
The official council watchdog has raised fears about staff in a West of Scotland council being unwilling to raise their criticisms of the leadership for fear of reprisals. The Accounts Commission included concerns about the alleged culture of bullying and harassment at West Dunbartonshire Council among a series of damning findings into the local authority. The long-running battle between the Labour-run council and its watchdogs was stepped up yesterday, with the second devastating critique of poor leadership, inadequate scrutiny by councillors, poor morale, and lack of clarity behind the allocation of millions of pounds. The council responded it was “disappointed” that the Accounts Commission had been so negative in its findings. http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1P2-23642733.html
21 December 2006: Council chief suspended in Labour clampdown West Dunbartonshire faces tough action
Labour has suspended one of its most senior representatives in Scotland, blocking him from standing for the party at next year’s elections. Andy White, leader of West Dunbartonshire Council until he was replaced yesterday, faces unprecedented action from party headquarters, after months of growing pressure through political channels and the official council watchdog. His suspension by the party’s Local Government Governance Panel, came on the day Communities Minister Malcolm Chisholm decided to send a hit-squad in to the council’s housing department, another unprecedented move. The minister has imposed an external team in response to concerns raised by the Scottish Executive’s housing regulator, Communities Scotland. http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1P2-23646418.html
4 February 2007: Dunbartonshire council leader facing motion of no confidence
The leader of a Labour-run council faces dismissal by his colleagues next month, after an attempt at voting him out of office failed this week. Martin Rooney, who was voted leader of West Dunbartonshire Council less than two months ago following a party headquarters move against his predecessor, did not face a motion of no confidence on Monday night, but only because Labour rules ban decisions being revisited within three months. Jim Flynn, the group whip and housing convener who tabled the motion, was suspended by party headquarters only hours before the vote on Monday. That effectively blocks him from standing for Labour at the elections in May. He has faced criticism for the manner in which council contracts were placed with the graffiti-cleaning company he runs. http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1P2-23652016.html
1 March 2007: Council members bid to oust Jackie Baillie MSP
Labour councillors turned on their local MSP yesterday, demanding her resignation over local hospital services. Jackie Baillie, the Dumbarton Labour MSP and former communities minister, was attacked by four Labour members of West Dunbartonshire Council, including former leader Andy White. They sided with the Scottish National Party and independent councillors at a full council meeting which brought the ruling administration to the brink of collapse. Martin Rooney, who replaced Andy White after his forced resignation in December, could count on only six of the 16 people elected as Labour councillors in 2003. Several stayed away while four rebels voted against the Labour line and sought revenge on Ms Baillie for her public attacks on them. http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1P2-23649148.html
16 March 2007: Labour headquarters extends its purge of senior figures in West Dunbartonshire Council, while deciding to expel the former council leader and his deputy.
Andy White, who led the council until December, has been recommended for expulsion by the ruling National Executive Council (NEC) in London, and it is a formality for the disciplinary panel to oust him. The same is true for former deputy leader, Jim Flynn, the housing convener. Five other councillors who recently resigned can expect to have future membership applications blocked. That affects Denis Agnew, who was elected on Monday as the third leader of West Dunbartonshire Council in three months. His deputy, Jackie Maceira, resigned on Sunday, and is also not welcome to return. http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1P2-23649889.html
18 May 2007: Can the SNP tame Wild West Dunbartonshire? Labour has paid the price of corrosive tribal wars within the council
It should have come as no surprise – indeed, it was an outcome thoroughly predictable – that the night of the election count in West Dunbartonshire should have ended with a brawl outside a pub. It involved members of the Labour Party, and the former deputy provost and her husband left with bruised heads, arms and feet in the fracas. Welcome to Wild West Dunbartonshire, one of a number of former Labour strongholds now under SNP control. It is at local level, rather than Holyrood, where Labour’s reversal of fortune has been most dramatic. But the toppling of Labour in West Dunbartonshire is a particularly awesome fall. How could the unthinkable have happened here? http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1P2-13105211.html
21 December 2008: West Dunbartonshire Council in the news again – Labour Grandees, MP John McFall and MSP Jackie Baillie accused by Councillor and former colleague, (in a letter to the Labour Party General Secretary) of overseeing a “thuggish” clique within the Labour Party in Scotland. McFall is the chair of the powerful House of Commons Treasury select committee, while Baillie is a former minister and ex-chief of staff for Labour at Holyrood.
Marie McNair, who has served on West Dunbartonshire Council for five years, said the politicians, who ran her local party forced their will on party decisions quelling any opposition by intimidation. She also claimed to have suffered sexist abuse by a party member and that she was shouted down at meetings for challenging decisions. The allegations were contained in a letter of resignation sent by McNair to Colin Smith, the Scottish Labour general secretary, which said: “It fills me with despair that such thuggish and intimidatory behaviour has been tolerated and covered up by the Labour Party. The contents of McNair’s letter were read out in public at a meeting of the SNP-led council. http://www.thesundaytimes.co.uk/sto/news/uk_news/article139064.ece
18 January 2009: Councils bid to work together crumbles . . . and taxpayers are left to pick up the bill
Calls to reform Scotland’s councils were stepped up last night after three authorities wasted time and money trying to collaborate on a cost-saving IT project only to end up falling out over it. Inverclyde, West Dunbartonshire and Perth & Kinross started disagreeing within weeks of an initial deal to buy a new payroll and human resources system in 2007. Last month it emerged the trio had gone their separate ways, two after obtaining their own legal advice, and bought three systems instead of one at prices far higher than they expected. Critics of Scotland’s patchwork of 32 councils said the case illustrated the need for authorities to be made to co-operate. http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1P2-19766817.html
29 November 2012: Public meeting of the Clydebank Trades Union Council
The panel comprised Gil Paterson (SNP MSP for Clydebank and Milngavie), : Jackie Baillie (Labour MSP for Dumbarton), Chairman Tom Paterson (Secretary of Clydebank TUC), Stephen Boyd (Assistant Secretary of Scottish TUC) and Cathy Leach (Scottish Pensioners’ Forum). Baillie roasted by many of those present who outed her as a liar on many of the issues she sought to defend.