Friday, 24 February 2017

Cleaning-Up Glasgow



Isn't it strange that when Frank McAveety was first elected as the Labour leader of Glasgow City Council back in 1998 he thought that 'cleaning-up' the council was a great idea.

But now after scandals over equal pay, Arms Length Organisations (ALEOs) and allegations of cronyism the idea of a 'root and branch' review of the council's governance seems more like a threat to Councillor McAveety who is the Labour leader again almost 20 years on.

I was an external adviser to Frank McAveety's Public Standards Commission back in 1998 and that independent review helped the City Council clear up its act. 

If called upon to serve Glasgow again, I would do so gladly and as before (in 1998 when I was involved as Unison's Head of Local Government Scotland) my time and advice would come completely free of charge.

Read the following report from The Times which gives a good account of the current state of play.

  


http://www.thetimes.co.uk/edition/scotland/snp-inquiry-into-glasgow-council-dismissed-by-labour-as-gimmick-jkqh6hhkr

SNP pledges inquiry into Labour’s Glasgow ‘fiefdom’
By Marc Horne - The Times


Susan Aitken, leader of the opposition at Glasgow city council, has called for a review of the local authority’s conduct. Brian Devlin resigned from his £120,000-a-year position as the council’s executive director of land and environmental services

A “truth and reconciliation” investigation will be established in Scotland’s largest local authority if Labour loses power in May.

Opposition parties have called for an independent inquiry into claims of “institutional misconduct” within Glasgow city council.

Labour has held control of the city for almost 40 years, but polls suggest it is likely to be ousted by the nationalists in the forthcoming council elections.

The SNP’s call for an external inquiry — amid claims of a culture of cronyism, backroom deals and malpractice — has been backed by the Conservatives, Greens and Liberal Democrats.

Labour has described it as a “populist” pre-election stunt.

Susan Aitken, the opposition leader who would take control of the authority’s £2.5 billion budget and 20,000 staff in the event of an SNP victory, claimed that urgent action was needed to restore trust in the authority.

She said: “One of our first acts would be to appoint an independent expert, who would be mandated to look into the running of every department and speak to staff working at every level with no threat of political interference.

“It would be a root-and-branch review of how each department is run, how decisions have been made and how relations between officers and elected politicians are conducted.

“If outdated or inappropriate working practices have become embedded over the years we want to find out about them early, and address them, so that we could start with a clean slate. We would throw open the doors of the city chambers and let the light shine in.”

If elected, the party also plans to place the council’s senior management team and human resources procedures under immediate review.

A senior SNP figure added: “The model would be truth and reconciliation, although we don’t expect much in the way of reconciliation from Labour. The days when important decisions that affect hundreds of thousands of Glaswegians were taken behind closed doors by small groups of men are numbered.”

The Times understands that non-executive council employees would be offered the opportunity to “whistleblow” on bad practice with impunity.

An SNP source said: “There would be a bit of an amnesty for people who have genuinely been caught up in ways of working that aren’t acceptable.”

Calls for an investigation grew after The Times revealed that the council planned to pass on information on allegations of serious misconduct to Police Scotland.

It comes after Brian Devlin resigned from his £120,000-a-year position as the council’s executive director of land and environmental services.

Mr Devlin, who managed a capital budget of £500 million, had been suspended after an internal investigation into alleged “procurement irregularities” and other claims of misconduct.

Joan Parr, Mr Devlin’s assistant at the time, and John Docherty, a land and environment services employee, who has since resigned, were also questioned as part of the investigation.

Ms Parr is the partner of Steve Kelly, an executive with Mears Scotland, while Mr Docherty’s father, Willie, is the managing director of Mears and his mother is Sadie Docherty, the city’s lord provost and a Labour councillor.

Mears, a housing repairs company, strongly denied any wrongdoing yesterday and stressed it did not have any contracts with the council’s land and environment services department.

A spokesman said: “Mears operates across the whole of the UK and has extremely robust procurement practices in place for all of our contracts.”

“Mears has had it confirmed by both Police Scotland and Glasgow city council that there is no investigation under way that involves our company.

A council insider said that Mears was a name that “undoubtedly” would be raised and discussed by the council’s internal auditors.

Police Scotland confirmed yesterday that it had met senior figures in the council. A spokesman said: “A matter has been raised with police and inquiries are at an early stage to assess this information.”

David Meikle, leader of the Tory group on the council, said: “There should be a full independent review of the workings of Glasgow city council to address concerns.”

The Greens called for more transparency and an end to the council being run as a “Glasgow Labour fiefdom”.

Margot Clark, a Liberal Democrat councillor, added: “A group of financial auditors should be established, with one elected member from each party having the oversight of all commissioning of work contracts and the recruitment of all non-elected senior staff.”

A Labour figure said that SNP calls for a wider “root-and-branch” investigation was little more than a headline-grabbing gimmick. He said: “This is what populists do. It’s like Trump calling for the swamp to be drained.”

Annemarie O’ Donnell, Glasgow city council’s chief executive, said: “The council has robust governance and scrutiny procedures in place which are commended by Audit Scotland. We have an extensive programme of both internal and external audits carried out on an annual basis — and our audit and scrutiny committees are chaired by senior SNP councillors.”



Glasgow and Equal Pay (25/02/17)


The leader of the opposition in Glasgow City Council, Cllr Susan Aitken, issued a 'clean-up call' over the way in which the council has been run in recent years.

Here's an extract of what Councillor Aitken had to say:

“One of our first acts would be to appoint an independent expert, who would be mandated to look into the running of every department and speak to staff working at every level with no threat of political interference.

“It would be a root-and-branch review of how each department is run, how decisions have been made and how relations between officers and elected politicians are conducted.

“If outdated or inappropriate working practices have become embedded over the years we want to find out about them early, and address them, so that we could start with a clean slate. We would throw open the doors of the city chambers and let the light shine in.'


Now that's a welcome change if you ask me, but the move was airily dismissed by the City Council's chief executive Annemarie O'Donnell who said:

“The council has robust governance and scrutiny procedures in place which are commended by Audit Scotland. We have an extensive programme of both internal and external audits carried out on an annual basis — and our audit and scrutiny committees are chaired by senior SNP councillors.” 

Now the funny thing is that when Cllr Frank McAveety was elected Glasgow Labour leader back in 1998 leader one of the first thing he did was to set up the Glasgow City Council Public Standards Commission.

I should know because I was one of the commission's three independent, external advisers in my capacity as Unison's Head of Local Government and chief negotiator in Scotland. 

Almost 20 years on the SNP has taken a leaf out of Labour's book which is a smart move if you ask me. 


  



Glasgow and Equal Pay (10/01/17)


I said in a recent post that I know the Labour leader of Glasgow City Council, Frank McAveety, from 'way back' and I promised more details would follow. 

Well the connection goes back to 1998 when I was invited by the then Labour Leader of the City Council to act as one of three independent advisers to the Glasgow City Council Public Standards Commission.


At the time I was Unison's Head of Local Government in Scotland and the other two independent advisers were Endell Laird, retired editor of the Daily Record newspaper, and a chap named Alan Alexander, who was a well known academic and professor of local government. 

The Glasgow Public Standards Commission was set up because of a series of damaging scandals within the City Council involving the conduct of local councillors and our job was to help the Council clear up its act which we did by offering impartial (unpaid) advice and, in my case, by banging heads together in a series of very lively meetings attended by senior officials and the elected politicians.

The leader of the City Council back in those days was, of course, none other than Cllr Frank McAveety who left Glasgow the following year in 1999 after being elected as an MSP to the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh.

Frank McAveety subsequently lost his MSP seat, but has since made a political comeback, first as a local councillor and now as Council Leader once again, almost 20 years later.

So Cllr McAveety and I know each other, as they say, and while we're not the 'best of friends' l think he knows me well enough to appreciate that I'm determined to get the job done when it comes to Glasgow and the fight for equal pay. 
   

  


Glasgow and Equal Pay(08/01/17)


I sent a copy of my post about the fight for equal pay in Glasgow to the Leader of the City Council, Councillor Frank McAveety whom I know from way back (more on that subject to follow).

Now I didn't ask Councillor McAveety for a response, but I am interested in hearing from some of the thousands of equal pay claimants in Glasgow because the more people who get involved in the campaign the sooner this will all be over.

'People Make Glasgow' is the city's latest slogan and in this case 'people power' is going to make all the difference in persuading the Council to come to its senses.


  


Glasgow and Equal Pay (06/01/17)


Readers in Glasgow are in touch regularly to ask what kind of equal pay campaign will get underway in the weeks ahead.

Well that's something I will give detailed thought to over the festive season, but here is a 'starter for ten' as the say ion University Challenge:
  • Issue a detailed public statement explaining the basis of the dispute
  • Highlight Glasgow's position as the only major council in Scotland not to have reached agreement with A4ES over its post-job evaluation pay arrangements.
  • Arrange to brief the Leader of the Opposition Group on Glasgow City Council and individual councillors who may have been kept in the dark by the current council leadership.
  • Arrange to brief all MSPs and MPs within the boundaries of Glasgow City Council who are all SNP politicians 
  • Organise a series of local meetings across the city to encourage the 5,500 A4ES clients in Glasgow to get involved in the campaign
  • Assist equal pay claimants in Glasgow to get their message across by lobbying local councillors, Holyrood MSPs and Westminster MPs
  • Organise case studies for the local media including The Herald, Evening Times, Daily Record etc
  • Organise a major advertising campaign across Glasgow in the run-up to the May 2017 council elections
  • Consider standing an 'Equal Pay' candidate in one or more key Glasgow constituencies
  • Seek a meeting with Nicola Sturgeon (First Minister) as a Glasgow MSP to discuss how she and the SNP Government can help hold Glasgow to account
If readers have any ideas or suggestions to make, then fire away by dropping me a line at: markirvine@compuserve.com markirvine@compuserve.com 

Remember, 'many hands make light work' and the more people who get involved in the campaign the sooner this will all be over.