With the permission of both councillors Donald Kelly and Mark Irvine, I reproduce below what they have sent today to all councillors and various other parties. It is good to see that over one weekend we have had the SNP Group (Link here) coming out with a clear statement of opposition to this madcap idea, and now these 2 independents:
Many thanks for your correspondence.
As a Councillor who has been involved in 2 Campaigns to save Rural Schools in the early 2000s which help to inform the legislation (the presumption against closure of Rural Schools Act)and subsequently have continued to oppose closures of viable Rural Schools you have my full support in your quest for answers to the current issue in hand.
In my opinion we are very unfortunate in Argyll and Bute as we have in many cases an Officer lead Council( in other words the tail wagging the dog).
In my 20 plus years as a local Councillor I have seen it time and time again when people are promoted into Policy Lead Area Chairs or even Council leaders for the simple objective of achieving a majority in the Council chambers.
I totally agree with you that a local Councillors first and foremost duty is to represent the Communities who elected them.
I have argued as recently as the first meeting of the new Council that we should be looking across the chamber and matching the most qualified people for the lead Councillors positions sadly again this fell on deaf ears and leaves us in my opinion with many people who are just not up to the job and this is doing a disservice to the community of Argyll and Bute.
Cllr Donald Kelly
Dear Donald & Tracy
I would like to state for the record my wholehearted support of Councillor Kelly’s’ remarks below – and to thank Tracy for the incredible energy and hard work she has put into fighting this proposal.
I very much look forward to seeing ALL of those councillors who campaigned in April & May ’22, regardless of their political party, sticking to their election promises. Many of them stated publicly they would oppose the Empowering Educators proposal as it was a major election issue for many residents across Argyll & Bute. I would hope that their consciences will remind them of their pledges to the electorate – but failing that I am sure that the various newspapers and online press outlets will have a record of their campaign ‘manifesto’ and will hold them all to a close examination of their promises should they vote in favour of this proposal.
In my opinion we have once again missed the opportunity to bring about real change in Argyll & Bute. The administration is allowing cronyism and self-serving motives to prevent the entire group of elected members making a meaningful contribution to the improvement of the lives of our residents. We have already seen ‘less-qualified’ or ‘agenda motivated’ appointments to various external bodies, most of which carry additional payments. The vast majority of these have gone to members of the coalition except where expressly stipulated that there should be a representative of the opposition group.
I also know that some members of the newly formed coalition were not happy when they found out, within minutes after the election results, that they were being forced to join the new administration (without prior consultation) and would be made to follow the ‘party’ guidelines when it came to voting on key issues. I can only hope that they are starting to realise that this is not in the best interests of their reputations, and their communities and that they will have to look into the eyes of the electorate and explain themselves. They also have to be able to face themselves each day when they look in the mirror and know that they have (or haven’t) upheld their promise to truly represent the local residents of their wards.
To those members of the coalition that are beginning to feel uncomfortable about what is being asked of them, I urge them to reconsider their position. The electorate will not forget if you get this wrong.
I was approached to join the new coalition within minutes of being elected – and even more recently was reminded that it was “never too late to join us”. It was also pointed out, in front of a busy Community Council meeting that I attended recently, by a high-ranking Councillor (in the administration) that being “in the administration was the only way to get things done”. That is such a sad indictment of the way this administration sees itself. You are either in their gang or you can sit in the wings and your voice will be heard but ignored. I will continue to stand as a true Independent and will work with all parties and groups to find the best outcomes and policies for the people of Argyll & Bute if the administration will let me.
Like many of my 17 colleagues in ‘opposition’ I see the fragility of this current administration of 19 Councillors and controversial policies like the Empowering Educators proposal will add to the strain and pressure they are under already. If you can’t stand the heat … get out of the kitchen. The leader of the council spoke of a collegiate and non-political approach to drafting and implementing policies – I, for one, am still waiting to see the evidence of that.
I look forward to working closely with you both to expose the flaws in this current proposal and the way in which the consultation was implemented.
Councillor Mark Irvine
I am pleased that these 2 councillors, and the SNP Group, have been so forthright. The fight continues.
Update at 1900 on 26 June.
A further email has just been sent by me to Cllr McNeilly, as follows:
I got an acknowledgement from a council officer on the 21st Yvonne but as yet no reply from you. Given that you have known about this proposal from the start, I’d have expected you to have been able to respond within a few days.
However, since then as you know, Mr Hendry issued a letter appointing Peter Bain to the permanent position of Executive Head Teacher of Oban HS and the 2 Tiree schools. Many will have seen this as a deliberately provocative pre-emptive strike to cement the model of executive head teachers into the council staffing structure. To do this in advance of agreement to the model, or otherwise, seems to be a major error of judgement. I have described this in my blog as the council giving 2 fingers to the public and councillors.
What I wish to know, in addition to the questions in my email of 18 June, are the following:
- Why this was done in advance of the decision on the model?
- Which officer took the decision to do this?
- Did you as policy lead give the decision taker the nod to proceed and/or were you aware of this in advance?