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Lorraine McMillan should do the decent thing and resign Print E-mail

Published 4th July 2015

The latest ‘incident’ is more evidence that the Council's Chief Executive doesn’t seem to care about the rights of the public of East Renfrewshire. She should go.

lorraine-mcmillan-ciorstan-_2015-07-04.jpg

Chief Executive 
Lorraine McMillan


East Renfrewshire Council has lost almost a quarter of a million pounds of taxpayers’ money.

Lorraine McMillan East Renfrewshire Council's Chief Executive attempted to hide from public view the fact it has made more than £1.2 million in over payments to external companies, and has so far only managed to recover part of the cash.

It has now been forced to mark £213,658 of cash as “irrecoverable”.

A report was prepared for the elected members but a 'gagging' order was placed on them by Lorraine McMillan.

She used legislation that was created to protect disclosure of 'legal advice' when a council is considering legal action, or criminal action is being deliberated by the police. However neither of these apply in this instance.

This is not the first time that Lorraine McMillan has invoked this legislation in circumstances that many thought to be dubious to say the least.

On being questioned in the chamber, where the press and the public were excluded, the chief executive admitted that there was going to be no civil action and she was not going to involve the police.

Therefore the 'gagging' order was wholly inappropriate and could only have been put in place to prevent the public from becoming aware of the shortcomings of the council.

What Lorraine McMillan wished to conceal from the public was that ERC had overpaid £1.2 million pounds to three companies.

Now £213,658 of tax payers’ money has been required to be completely written off by ERC.

This is not the first time that Lorraine McMillan has been accused of disregarding the public of East Renfrewshire.

Refusing requests from an elected member, a community council and residents to instruct her staff to prosecute an individual who was operating an unlicensed house of multiple occupancy, giving rise to accusations of partiality.

Instructing staff not respond to or recognise a group of community councillors who set up, as per Scottish Government guidance, a community councillors forum.

Instigating actions that allegedly denied a resident their human rights.

It’s become tedious, this saga of Lorraine McMillan treating the public with apparent disdain.

The £110,612 salaried Chief Executive should do the decent thing, and resign.

 
ER Community Councils - Disbanded Print E-mail

At a full council meeting this evening after a vote of 12 to 5 the council agreed to disestablish Community Councils in August 2014 and to hold elections in September this year under the new scheme that they have approved. (New boundaries, new rules and a disciplinary code)

As CC's have all met already in June and most take July and August off in keeping with the council, the existing Ccllrs are in reality no more.

Those voting for the new scheme were

Proposed by Mary Montague

Seconded by Kenny Hay

Supported by Jim Fletcher

Supported by Vincent Waters

Supported by Tony Buchanan

Supported by Alistair Carmichael

Supported by Elaine Green

Supported by Danny Devlin

Supported by Tommy Reilly

Supported by Paul O'Kane

Supported by Alan Lafferty

Supported by Ian McAlpine

 

Those voting against

Ralph Robertson

Gordon McCaskill

Stewart Millar

Jim Swift

Charlie Gilbert

 
Is the chair of the ERC Audit and Scrutiny Committee - actually plugged in? Print E-mail

Published 6th June 2015

TRADITIONALLY in East Renfrewshire the position of Chair of Audit and Scrutiny Committee is reserved for the leader of the opposition party.

In this latest term the opposition party were the Conservatives and at the time of forming the council the leader of the opposition was Councillor Gordon Wallace.

Therefore he was appointed as the chair of the Audit Committee.

MANY would appear to be asking if he is fit for purpose due to recent comments, however before we delve into those matters we will explore his background.

Gordon Wallace, a Conservative Councillor for the Thornliebank and Giffnock ward. He has been an elected member for approximately eight years and the chair of East Renfrewshire Council Audit and Scrutiny Committee for the past three years.

He is a butcher to trade and currently lectures at Glasgow University to students of Morrisons and demonstrates to them the most cost effective way to cut up dead animals.

Having looked at the video of him in action he certain comes across as professional in the slicing of meat, however it is his skills with regards to holding the council to account that are being questioned by some.

DURING the May 2015 meeting of Thornliebank Community Council the elected member said that Council grants were relatively small amounts of money.

When asked if a group is given £1,000 for example, and the project did not go ahead would the Council check this?

Cllr Wallace said that can cost as much to check on the spending as the grant itself so the Council didn’t bother.

In relation to the allotments Cllr Wallace said that The Climate Change Fund, insist that invoices are submitted before any money is handed out.

AT the subsequent June 2015 TCC meeting whilst conceding that he did make those comments about grants, he then attempted to explain what he actually had meant to say.

This was prefaced with the comment "I did say that M'Lud, but that was not what I meant"

HE then went on to make the most astonishing comments and presented the secretary with a copy of the draft minutes, with the councillors suggested amendments to his comments in a different coloured text and asking that the entire minutes be re written as per his draft. Whilst he admitted that the minutes were correct, "he apparently wished them altered to make him not look as silly"

(NEWSLINE is aware that this is a tactic that was used previously by Cllr Montague and was kicked into touch by the CC concerned. We are also aware that Cllr Waters attempted to have the TCC minutes altered and that was also rejected.)

Cllr Wallace said, by way of explanation and in answer to questions -

The Audit committee is concerned that,

"Transparency is important"

"We have had a good look at them and how they are handed out".

"We have spoken with Jim Sneddon and most grants are for £500 or £600".

"Local people usually know if they have been used or not".

"They are all for a relatively small amount of money".

"We do not bother to go out and inspect every project".

"At the Audit Committee we are concerned with our reputation".

"We can ask for receipts and if they are not forthcoming we can do a bit more digging".

"I am concerned that volunteers who do not use the grant within the year have to hand the money back"

"We have now got a change in the wording about the pay back of unused funds"

"I don't know if Area Forum grants received and not used within a year require to be handed back, I will need to look at that".

"One thing that we have asked at Audit is what is to stop an unscrupulous 'serial' grant applicant from making multiple applications to different funds, there is no central info bank"

"I am aware that the Climate Change Fund is reasonably well managed and that they look for background information, targets and receipts before they hand any money over"

"The allotments are on a 19 year lease and it is an eyesore at present"

"We (ERC) have not given them any money (allotments), they have been given money for a wall, but that was from the Whitelee Wind Farm Fund".

NEWSLINE has provided Cllr Gordon Wallace with three opportunities to respond, however he has failed to do so.

There are a number of areas that require to be covered and we feel that a Chair of the Council Audit and Scrutiny he should be aware of, as basics to his role.

In addition we are aware that when Cllr Wallace stood down as leader of the East Renfrewshire Conservative Group he refused to stand down from the role of Chair of Audit in favour of the new leader of the opposition Cllr McCaskill.

No reason was provided, however it may have something to do with the additional £2,000 per year that the chair of Audit is provided with by way of allowance.

"We (ERC) have not given them any money (allotments), they have been given money for a wall, but that was from the Whitelee Wind Farm Fund".

Whitelee Wind Farm Fund can best be described as an arms length quango, the grants committee comprises of Chair - Cllr Carmichael and also members of East Renfrewshire Council Staff on the panel. They allocated £18,900 to the allotments.

East Renfrewshire Council purchased Heres fencing for the allotments at a cost of £14,000. It has been in situ not for over two years and at normal rental rates should have costs the allotments association approximately £34,000.

Gordon Wallace said "We (ERC) have not given them any money (allotments)"

"I am aware that the Climate Change Fund is reasonably well managed and that they look for background information, targets and receipts before they hand any money over"

The Chair of Audit cannot even get the title correct, it is the Climate Challenge Fund" He said it not once but three times.

"I am aware that the Climate Change Fund is reasonably well managed and that they look for background information, targets and receipts before they hand any money over"

NEWSLINE has shown that whilst they ask for background information and targets, which is very easy to write up to meet the application criteria, the request for receipts is somewhat suspect.

The Treasurer of the Allotments (ENAA) allegedly resigned as he had been requested to sign cheques that were not accounted for and the Climate Challenge Fund (CCF) allegedly refused to investigate.

£28,000 was paid from the CCF direct into the account of the Thornliebank Tenants and Residents Association Account for the ENAA, apparently without receipts.

To date there is no Greenhouse, water or electricity supply, no outreach worker, no outreach material, no engagement with local schools etc, and yet CCF paid out monies for this to be undertaken.

Cllr Wallace is well aware of this, as the local Cllr for the ward and he has also had these matters highlighted to him by Newsline.

Cllr Wallace said "I am aware that the Climate Change Fund is reasonably well managed and that they look for .......receipts before they hand any money over"

"One thing that we have asked at Audit is what is to stop an unscrupulous 'serial' grant applicant from making multiple applications to different funds, there is no central info bank"

WE use Mr Google and have highlighted that within 20 minutes you can bring up any serial applicants, in addition to multiple applications that we have highlighted concerning a few individuals to UK grant funding bodies, we are aware and have highlighted potential serial ERC grant applications.

If we can undertake this from outside the council why is the chair of ERC Audit and Scrutiny asking such a question.

The 'bank' surely is the internet and the councils own e system.

Cllr Wallace said "One thing that we have asked at Audit is what is to stop an unscrupulous 'serial' grant applicant from making multiple applications to different funds, there is no central info bank"

"I am concerned that volunteers who do not use the grant within the year have to hand the money back" "We have now got a change in the wording about the pay back of unused funds".

If you apply for a grant you require a project with an achievable time scale, however if you have not undertaken the project by the end of the financial year, then we would have to suggest that your plan was flawed. The money should be returned to the council, and as they say you can then re apply the following financial year, (one day later) and if granted you will have it for another year to complete your project.

This is clearly designed to prevent fraud, and rightly so.

If one person applies for a grant, does not provide a conclusion for one, two, three years, how will the council know where the money has gone.

"We have spoken with Jim Sneddon and most grants are for £500 or £600". "Local people usually know if they have been used or not". "They are all for a relatively small amount of money". "We do not bother to go out and inspect every project". "We can ask for receipts and if they are not forthcoming we can do a bit more digging".

We would have to suggest that 100 applications a year x £500 or £600 amounts to a lot of cash, when the council is looking to cut back a lot of services.

WE have examples on this site of Giffnock CC being requested to pay cash back to ERC in relation to their big lunch, the original grant was in the region of £500.

Should the residents and tax payers of East Renfrewshire not expect their council to be frugal with their monies, surely the chair of audit must understand that in these days of austerity every penny counts.

"At the Audit Committee we are concerned with our reputation".

Giving the foregoing is it not about time that the current chair of Audit should consider his position.

 

 

 
Is it time to call time on the quangoes? Print E-mail

Published 31st May 2015

THE Scottish Government runs a programme called 'The Climate Challenge Fund' (CCF) and to date £66.3 million has been issued via the Climate Challenge Fund by way of grants by Keep Scotland Beautiful.

Although it is a Scottish Government programme, it is managed and developed by Keep Scotland Beautiful, which is an arms length charity.

Over 500 communities across Scotland have been awarded Climate Challenge Fund grants to run community-led projects that reduce local carbon emissions, improve their local areas and help them adapt to the impacts of climate change, including three in East Renfrewshire.

The question is, are they accountable, and if not are they open to abuse?

THE three current projects on the CCF web site are:-

East Renfrewshire BME Community Climate Change and Low-Carbon Living Awareness Programme Woodfarm Educational Trust

£142,377

East Renfrewshire BME Community Climate Change and Low-Carbon Living Awareness Programme is a project run by Woodfarm Educational Trust that will work with the BME community in East Renfrewshire to reduce carbon emissions caused by home energy use and raise awareness of fuel poverty and climate change. The project will also decrease carbon emissions through installation of energy efficiency measures in the Woodfarm Education Centre while a decrease in car journeys will be targeted through promotion of healthy, lower carbon transport choices like cycling and walking.

Eastwood Nursery Allotments

Eastwood Nursery

£33,135

A local community driven project is converting a derelict site within Eastwood Park, East Renfrewshire into allotments and delivering food waste reduction programmes and gardening advice to local residents and schoolchildren. Thornliebank TRA, Giffnock and Thornliebank Community Councils and the Woodfarm residents group have joined forces to help clear an overgrown site to make vegetable plots, greenhouses and polytunnels and raised beds available to the local residents, schools and nurseries. Disadvantaged: people with disabilities.

Giffnock Recycling Bike & Food waste Reduction

Big Green Feet CiC

£54,142

Giffnock Recycling Bike & Food Waste Reduction is a project run by local Community Interest Company Big Green Feet in partnership with Giffnock Business Improvement District. The project will collect food waste from local shops, restaurants and cafes by cargo bike instead of lorry and transport it to a new anaerobic digester where it will be converted into compost. The project will also raise community awareness of food waste through Giffnock Business Improvement District events and a marketing programme developed with local shops and restaurants.

NEWSLINE submitted a Freedom of Information request (FOI) to the Scottish Government regarding the latest funding grant to Green Feet, however we have now been informed that the Scottish Government do not hold any information regarding this as it is devolved to the Keep Scotland Beautiful (KSB) Quango.

As they are a charity they are not subject to FOI therefore we would have to ask where is the accountability as to the spending of our taxpayers cash.

AS we have seen from our exploration of the grant to the allotments, receipts are something of a mystery as are the other 'requirements' for the grant.

AS can be seen we have also covered the story of the bike that will supposedly ride around local shops collecting waste, and ridden by volunteers taking the rubbish to an unknown location.

Without proper accountability just how can the public be satisfied that our money is being used responsibly.

One of the KSB criteria for the grant is to provide a before and after photograph, we have seen how well that worked at the allotments.

Perhaps on this occasion it will be a photograph of someone without a bike, and then standing with one.


 

 
Provost Carmichael took a 200-yard trip in a chauffeur-driven BMW - Paid by the public of East Ren Print E-mail

Published 9th April 2015

PROVOST Alastair Carmichael took a 200-yard trip in a chauffeur-driven BMW in order to attend an apparent activity that was not listed on the Provosts official Council engagements.

On Sunday 25th January 2015 Provost Carmichael had the Council chauffeur attend on his day off at Thornliebank Depot and uplift the council car, which is a BMW 520se, registration number HSO and meet him at Council Headquarters, Eastwood Park.

He then required to drive the Provost 200 yards to Giffnock South Parish Church where he attended a normal Sunday service and was driven back to Eastwood Park.

For those unfamiliar with the area the council headquarters is on the west side of Eastwood Toll and the church is on the east side.

This raises a number of questions;

Why in these days of apparent austerity would the Provost be authorising the use of the official council car and the overtime payment (day off rates) to the chauffeur when he could have just walked the 200 yards, or driven there himself in his own car.

Why was this not listed in his official list of engagements for January 2015?

Why was he there in the first place, what was his purpose?

LETS put to bed the falsehood that tends to be rolled out time and again by the Provost that his chain of office is valued at hundreds of thousands of pounds and he simply 'could not travel by bus', for fear of being robbed.

As a result of an FOI we have learnt that this chain is insured for £6,000.


We are also aware that the chain is made of tin plate and scrap value would be minimal, the insurance value would appear to reflect its status rather that its actual monetary value.

AT full council meetings there is a requirement for the Deputy Chief Executive to report of the Provosts engagements.

The following format is used "Since the last meeting of the Council, the Provost has attended a number of civic engagements on behalf of the Council and carried out a number of civic duties. Details are as follows:-"

However there is no listing of the visit to Giffnock South Parish Church as an official council engagement.

WHY would Alastair Carmichael role out the official car, chauffeur and his chain of office for a normal church service.

Could it have anything to do with this man.


Savio D'Souza and Cllr Carmichael

Much more to follow..........................

 
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