I was clearing out paperwork today and I came across a few things that may be of interest.
When I was asked to stand as a councillor in 2012, the big issue in Dunoon was the proposal to build an enormous super school in Kirn to house Dunoon, St Mun’s and Kirn primaries. The associated nurseries were also to go into the new build school. If I recall correctly, it would have had about 900 or so pupils and there was a huge campaign under way to try and reverse the decision to build this super campus.
What I found was that most people wanted their existing schools brought up to current standards through refurbishment and I campaigned for the May election on that basis. The problem was that everyone said they were told that the funds from the Scottish Government could only be used for a new build. I spoke to parents, teachers, non teaching staff and loads of other interested parties, all of whom said that was what they had been told.
To my surprise, after being elected, I was asked if I would take on the role of education lead councillor so the first thing I did was ask to meet with officials to see what work had been done to establish if the 3 schools could be refurbished. I found out that no such work had been done so I then asked to see the letter from the Scottish Government that offered funding for new schools. There were lots of glances between the people present but eventually I got a copy of the letter. This had been sent to the council on October 2009.
On the 1st page, I saw what I had been looking for. The government was offering 50% of the costs and the letter stated: “whether new build or refurbishment“. To be fair, they were only offering funds for one primary school at that point but the public was completely unaware of the funding being available for refurbishment.
So who took the decision to try and foist an unwanted super campus on the people of Dunoon? Who managed to misread the letter or, worse, ignore the word refurbishment? These questions will forever be unanswered but the furore this super campus caused means the way this was handled will also be unforgiven.
The other matter of interest was something from the induction pack I got as a new councillor. There was one page with advice on it, one section of which was printed in very large type. I need say no more on this I guess:
If you stood and were elected on a party ticket, it was the party who endorsed you as a candidate, but it was the community who elected you. Your primary duty and accountability is therefore to the local community.