It is safe to say that the proposal for siting the new Our Lady and St. Patrick’s (OLSP) school is an area of very keen public interest in West Dunbartonshire, as barely a week goes by without the subject being mentioned in the local newspapers or on local radio. The vast majority of the press coverage and public correspondence relates to the public opposition to siting the new school on Posties Park.
The Save Posties Park campaign has gained very broad support within the citizenship, with over 1200 followers on our Facebook page, and well over 1700 names on our petitions. Even this wee blog has had over 5,000 hits.
The campaign, in recognition of the broad public interest and the depth of opposition to any re-development of Posties Park, has invited the membership to attend the Education Services Committee meeting on 8th January 2014. It is at this meeting that 14 of our elected members, along with three church representatives, two acting teachers and two parent representatives will be given the responsibility of deciding where the new OLSP school will go (pending subsequent planning and Scottish Government sign-off). In effect, they get to decide whether or not we all lose our public park.
Since the invitation to the membership went out on 26th November, 145 people have indicated that they plan to attend to witness the vote. This number is growing daily.
The proposed venue for the meeting on 8th January is the Council offices in Garshake – with the meeting to be held in the main chamber. There are public galleries in this chamber, but these hold a maximum of around 50 people.
Given the scale of the potential public attendance, representatives from the Save Posties Park campaign contacted both the Council leader, Martin Rooney and the Education Services Convener, Michelle McGinty, to request that the meeting be moved to another, larger Council venue, such as the Burgh Hall in Dumbarton. Both Mr Rooney and Mrs McGinty were advised of the numbers of people who wish to attend, and of the potential access issues that a meeting at Garshake might effect.
Staggeringly, both Mr Rooney and Mrs McGinty have refused to consider changing the venue to accommodate the public interest. You can see Mrs McGinty’s response below :
I would point out that members of the public have a right, enshrined in legislation, to attend Council committee meetings. The Local Government (Access to Information) Act 1985 has provisions to ensure greater transparency around Council decisions, and allowing public access to meetings is one such enactment. To be clear, our Council must, by law, allow the public to attend the Education Services Committee meeting on 8th January.
However, it would seem that Mrs McGinty and Mr Rooney are trying very hard to exclude members of the public access to this meeting by offering a venue with restricted capacity, and being disingenuous about the effects of this. This, it seems, is what passes for democracy in West Dunbartonshire.
If you don’t think that this is acceptable, please take some time to make your thoughts known by telephoning, emailing or writing to your local Councillor – or by attending one of their surgery meetings. The people who have made this decision, Martin Rooney and Michelle McGinty, can be emailed as follows :
The campaign has also written to Joyce White, the Chief Executive of the Council, to highlight this problem, and you may wish to do the same. Her email address is :
I’ve been truly disgusted by this decision, and I believe that there are real issues here around Councillors’ conduct – issues around integrity, openness, accountability and stewardship. You can read the Code of Conduct guidance here and see what you think yourself.
Whatever side of the fence you sit on regarding the siting of OLSP, please don’t accept this type of tactic from the people that YOU elected. Please let your Council know that the electorate is smart, active and aware and that nothing less than complete transparency around this Council decision will be accepted.