As the new leader of the council I am delighted to write to residents through Clydebank Live. Since the voters elected Labour in May, the new administration has been working hard to address the issues that are most important to people across West Dunbartonshire.
In just seven weeks Labour has made the Care of Gardens scheme free, invested £3.2 million in our roads, protected jobs and committed £95 million to housing. We gave £56,000 to our schools’ parent councils, invested in the Antonine Sports Centre, cut the budget gap by £2.7 million, set aside £1 million for future projects and committed a massive £43.3 million to capital projects.
This investment includes £4.1 million for flooding projects, £3.2 million on roads and £1.5 million on economic development. I am proud to say we also spent three-quarters-of-a-million pounds on special needs adaptations, half a million pounds on both care homes and sport and recreation facilities, and almost the same again on Clydebank Crematorium. These initiatives will make a big difference to people in Clydebank, but SNP councillors voted against all of them.
Instead of supporting the people’s priorities, opposition councillors criticised the change to quarterly meetings. However, our system of representative democracy elects individuals to make policy and to scrutinise its implementation. Therefore, claims that the change of frequency and location of meetings is undemocratic are simply wrong.
Elected representatives should take an active part in the business of democracy, not just turn up at meetings and nod through reports. Incredibly, there are still some SNP councillors who – after five and a half years in office – have never spoken in a single Council debate.
It is time for all councillors to think and act constructively in the interests of the people we represent. The process was wrong so we changed it to focus councillors on decision making and scrutiny of performance.
We have a jobs crisis in West Dunbartonshire and things are particularly bad for our young people. The Scottish Government recently allocated almost £9 million to local government to tackle this issue, but gave nothing to our area.
The SNP government allocated the money based on two things: Areas with the highest actual number of unemployed young people and those with the highest rate of youth unemployment. Despite Clydebank having one of the highest youth unemployment rates in Scotland, we did not get any extra help from the Scottish Government.
In September the Council will consider issues that really matter to local people, such as the corporate plan, new schools and a revised employability programme to help people into work. I hope the SNP Councillors will break their self-imposed silence, join us in speaking out against rising unemployment in Clydebank and support our plans for new schools.