Two previous Audit Scotland reports into Argyll and Bute Council have criticised poor working relationships in the local authority
AUDIT SCOTLAND, the public spending watchdog, has launched a new probe into Argll and Bute Council in what has become an ongoing saga over the management of the local authority.
The furore centres around the future of Castle Toward, the former residential school which was subject to an attempt at a community takeover by the South Cowal Community Development Company (SCCDC) earlier this year. The bid was backed by local MPs, MSPs and the Scottish Government, but locals were dismayed by the attitude of council leaders towards the bid and its eventual rejection in favour of a private bidder.
Since then, a series of allegations about misconduct at the council, some of them covered exclusively by CommonSpace , have come to light.
Two previous Audit Scotland reports have called for improvements to the management of the council, but The National reported on Friday that the allegations have now broken out into councillor v councillor, leading to the latest investigation.
Local MSP Mike Russell has backed a public petition calling for “an investigation of, among other things, a culture of bullying and intimidation of staff, past and present within Argyll and Bute Council.”
Russell said of the petition: “The allegations of bullying and intimidation surrounding Argyll and Bute Council are of a very serious nature.
“The dysfunctional relationships between Council management and their hard-working and long-suffering staff, highlighted by Common Space, require thorough and serious examination.
“I have a particular concern about the issue because I receive regular complaints from employees about these matters.”
“The dysfunctional relationships between Council management and their hard-working and long-suffering staff, highlighted by Common Space, require thorough and serious examination.” Mike Russell MSP
The petition currently has 2,240 signatories.
Audit Scotland’s investigation comes on top of an existing set of appointments to interview councillors over alleged misconduct by councillor Michael Breslin, who campaigned for SCCDC’s bid to takeover Castle Toward.
In an article for CommonSpace in February, Breslin called for an independent inquiry into how the council had handles the Castle Toward takeover bid, and said change was needed at a mangement level .
An Audit Scotland spokesperson said: “We are continuing to closely monitor wider issues in Argyll and Bute. Audit work will shortly be under way for a progress report by the Controller of Audit which is due by the end of this year.”
Council Leader Dick Walsh said: “Audit Scotland representatives are making a follow-up visit to the council to find out more about the wide-ranging improvement action we have been taking as part of our ongoing Best Value audit. We look forward to a productive visit and any additional opportunities our work together brings.”
Picture courtesy of Ewan McIntosh