Sunday, 14 February 2010

Labour Chair of SPT forced to quit


News emerges today that Labour Councillor Alistair Watson, Chair of Strathclyde Partnership for Transport, is to quit the role following several weeks of expenses stories in the Sunday Times. These allegations have resulted in my colleague Cllr Hendry referring SPT to Audit Scotland.

The Times quotes a Labour source:

“What’s been coming out in recent weeks about SPT’s expenses has been damaging and it’s beginning to damage the council. There’s a pattern of SPT spending money, not illegally or immorally, but in a way that its usefulness is not entirely clear. As chairman he should have had a better grip on it.”

I have to admit, I find Cllr Watson very helpful on transport issues on a personal level. He has a great deal of knowledge and experience in these matters, and even very recently arranged for officials to talk me through works on Dalmarnock Station. It will be difficult for any incumbent (Labour, natch, given the composition of the board) to live up to that.

Watson's attitude to expenses and 'fact finding' trips on the public pound, however, is not acceptable - the culmination of this being a highly co-incidental and spurious trip to Manchester to meet with officials to fit in with Rangers playing in the UEFA cup final. I'm not quite sure of the morality of that - but it's certainly not appropriate.

This attitude seems to permeate what SPT does, with trips justifying wild plans and unrealistic ideas which are regularly sooked up by a supine and impressionable local media. SPT needs to stick to fixing the basics - keeping the subway running and protecting vital local services.


26 comments:

Bugger said...

What is your take on Eck going to the match also?

Just askin

Anonymous said...

shame the Sunday Times got the scoop on this one; looks as though the scottish dailies and sundays missed a trick.

Alec said...

Not at all sympathetic to him. Now time for an investigation into those public bodies whose CEOs earn more than their elected masters.

The very worst part of this expenses affair is not the shindig to the football... you can do that 'cos you can. It's the claim for £1 parking fees by a man who earns £129,000.

Just what level of a sense of entitlement, and derision for the public does this require?

>> Watson's attitude to expenses and 'fact finding' trips on the public pound,

What's your take on Salmond's hopes for a Maldives visit? Just askin'.

BellgroveBelle said...

Alec, I quite agree - claiming for such trivial stuff just seems ridiculous. I've never claimed for taxis, as it just doesn't seem right to do so. I take them on the odd occasion when I'm running late, and I don't see why anyone else should pay for that.

Fact finding trips - well, perhaps sometimes it can be useful to see things in the flesh, but in the case of SPT, they really did take the piss. I think the example I linked to - trip to Shanghai to see a maglev - is a stoater.

It's disappointing also to see that the Evening Times has buried this story - not on the front page of the website, never mind the printed copy. If it was an SNP story it would be a different matter!

Bugger said...

I've been to Shanghai and could have sent my photographs.

I would have charged less.

Bugger said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Alec said...

I remember a couple of years ago it emerged that MSPs, regardless of party regularly were claiming for taxis doon frae Waverly.

This is front page news with the Herald (albeit, less prominance than redunancy payments at Glasgow City Council). No doubt individual newspapers have their own agenda, but I've said elsewhere that reflexively attributing negative feelings towards the one's party to an opposing bias is derisive of public opinion.

The first concern of the public, who ain't as brainy as those of us who read broadsheets, is their own material comfort/security. If they ain't getting it, they will know without being told by the Scotsman or whatever.

Scottish print media is generally pants when it comes to discussing detailed political goings-on. I actually think one of the best newspapers is the Sunday Post!

As for Salmond's attempt to sun himself, it's up there with swanning into Copenhagen and being shuffled to a side-room.

Anonymous said...

There does not seem to be much difference between Labour and SNP.

Anonymous said...

except no one has yet found SNP abusing taxpayers money like Labour have been.

joe90 kane said...

There does not seem to be much difference between Labour and SNP.
- Apart from telling lies about Iraqi WMD to Westminster Parliament;
murdering a million Iraqis;
illegaly attacking, invading and occupying Iraq and Afghanistan;
supporting the violent racist apartheid regime of Israel;
a former chancellor of the exchanquer who supported Thatcherite neoliberalism which has cost the taxpayer £200 billion so far, and counting;
bent MPs like Jim Devine;
PFI rip-off of taxpayers;
etc etc

Alec said...

I'm managing to avoid flying into a rage here 'cos of Alison's pacifying decor, but the second last remark is a corker:

>> Except no one has yet found SNP abusing taxpayers money like Labour have been.

Considering the brief period they've had political control, they're making up for lost time with stuff like the Scottish-Islamic Foundation (requiring complex reporting, so maybe not suited for domestic reporting).

The previous remark is, of course, straight from the Orwellian nightmare of Socialist Unity.

Hi, Joe! D'you still think a genocide of Zionists would make a welcome change?

BellgroveBelle said...

Ahem. I don't see what any of the last few comments have to do with the topic of my post.

As I've said before, I welcome relevant and interesting comments; this blog is not the Scotsman comments section and please refrain from treating it as such!

joe90 kane said...

That's the trouble BB,
when it's the almost daily news stories of New Labour's corruption and criminal activity (buried almost as soon as they're published - cf torture of British people by the British Government) then it's important to discuss non-stories about the SNP. It's called British propaganda.

We even get subjected to what some unionist thinks about newspapers or what kinds of the emotional states they're going through on reading your blog comments section -

I'm managing to avoid flying into a rage...
- Really. Aren't we the lucky ones that you don't. Imagine if you did. Yawn.

Alec said...

I'm quite happy to refrain, Alison, and the Scotsman site really is a nasty place.

As you can probably tell, I 'know' Joe from elsewhere, so know precisely which path he's trying to direct this thread down.

Ted Harvey said...

Yes, back onto to subject in hand… I’m hoping that the current understandable focus on SPT(ex) chairperson Watson, does not distract too much from the activities of SPT Chief Executive Ron Culley.
After all, Ron is the man who did, and still does, 'manage the money' and advise the board.
Alastair Watson and Ron Culley’s 'connection' goes back a long way, of course. This was the case at the time of Ron Culley’s role as Chief Executive at Govan Initiative.

Ron left the GI in rather controversial circumstances I seem to recall (pensions severance deal or something? – made the front page of The Herald at the time). Interstingly, Watson remains as chair of the successor Govan organisation - the South West Glasgow Regeneration Agency.

I understand that that is Council supervised and possibly Council funded? In which case we must presume that Stephen as Council Leader will want to keep an eye on all that.
Ron, after Govan, also had what some people might have felt was a surprisingly short period working at Scottish Enterprise Glasgow before moving over to SPT... where Alistair was Chair.
Still, I’m sure that Audit Scotland will clear everything up on the staff side as well as the board side at SPT to everyone’s satisfaction. Some attention to the appointment of consultants might well pay dividends according to some speculation in the media.

joe90 kane said...

This attitude seems to permeate what SPT does, with trips justifying wild plans and unrealistic ideas which are regularly sooked up by a supine and impressionable local media.

- I notice that tribune of local democracy and accountability, The Herald, fails to mention Mr Watson is a member of the Scottish Labour Party and also a local councillor -
SPT chairman quits
The Herald
15 Feb 2010

ps
As you can probably tell, I 'know' Joe from elsewhere, so know precisely which path he's trying to direct this thread down.
- I have no idea who this internet nobody is, neither do I care -
- they pretend to know I am trying to direct matters away from Labour Party corruption and anti-democratic practices which is just more of their paranoid empty wafflings and quite funny too.

BellgroveBelle said...

Very interesting indeed Ted, thanks for that!

Alec said...

Yes, that was appreciated, Ted. I'll defer to your and Alison's knowledge on the local scene. My feeling is that it's part of the systemic rot with such quangos and their sense of unaccountability.

All the major parties promised a bonfire of the quangos, and it has not come.

>> I notice that tribune of local democracy and accountability, The Herald, fails to mention Mr Watson is a member of the Scottish Labour Party and also a local councillor.

That might mean something if you're looking for something as an animist sees patterns in clouds. Is it not to be assumed that a chairman of such quangos *are* councillors?, and Watson is hardly unknown for his party role.

>> - I have no idea who this internet nobody is, neither do I care -

Oh, you're just playing hard to get. One Internet user accusing another of frivolity is like one pub-goer accusing another of inebriation.

>> they pretend to know I am trying to direct matters away from Labour Party corruption

I do know, and my very first remark here was to pour scorn on Watson's involvement.

Ted Harvey said...

Belle apologies for a long extratc but The editorial team must have read this thread, but in todays Herald there is a virtual expose of our Ron's extra-cirricula travels. The Herald reports:
"Chief executive Ron Culley, who has been off work for six weeks with a heart condition, accepted 40items of hospitality over the same period including:
a France v Scotland match in Paris and a Neil Diamond concert.

Between 2006, when the body was set up to replace the Strathclyde Passenger Transport Executive, and last year, officials raked in more than £520,000 in expenses.

Of that £117,573 was spent on foreign trips by a handful of top officials including Mr Watson and Mr Culley. This included £49,195 to destinations including China, India, Italy and the United States.

Mr Culley, who is paid £129,000 a year, flew to New York at a cost of £2,450 where he stayed in the Algonquin Hotel, a favourite with film stars.

And while its officials have been globetrotting at the taxpayers’ expense, it asked the 700 staff it had in January last year to apply for redundancy and it is also cutting some services.
Last month it announced it would stop running the Renfrew Ferry to save £400,000 a year.
In September, figures showed the number of people using the Subway fell by 14% in the previous two months.
SPT says 96% of trains run on time but it is regularly criticised for trains running late or breaking down."

Also reported that; "Last spring Mr Culley said a £20 million improvement plan for the network was a case of 'fur coat and no knickers'…"
That’s very much Ron Culley’s style – using the Glasgae patter – whilst the above is all going on.

It's all at:
http://www.heraldscotland.com/news/transport-environment/mileage-claims-are-not-the-first-scandal-at-spt-1.1007101

Alec said...

That's fame for you.

Alongside this webpage, there was another link to vice-chairmen of SPT cheerfully using travel expenses:

http://www.heraldscotland.com/news/transport-environment/spt-chiefs-in-new-row-over-travel-expenses-1.1007083

They're identified as Labour councillors. Maybe Herald journalists read Joe's truth to their power, but I doubt it.

As an aside, I recall a short story (maybe William McIllvaney) about two boys who spent an afternoon hopping on and off the free ferry across the Clyde (the Paisley ferry?), only for the ferryman to finally notice and order them off on the other side.

When it was free.

Bugger said...

Well done Belle but why did the hacks of The Herald wait until you had unmasked the nonsense to wake up?

I wonder if they are not allowed or, their internal culture tells them, not to go there unless they have no alternative because it is out there in the public domain.

There is something very rotten in the state of Glasgow and its relationship with the 4th Estate.

Very very unhealthy

joe90 kane said...

I see The Herald is still keeping the Labour Pary name out of its headlines -
SPT chiefs in new row over travel expenses
Herald
17 Feb 2010

Inquiry demanded into travel expenses of senior SPT chiefs
16 Feb 2010

A real journalist story about real corruption in political public life in different local authorities and public bodies - I wonder what Tom Gordon at The Herald can dream up this week to remove his beloved Labour Party from his foreign-owned corporate newspaper's headlines?

Another bad week for the Herald.

Alec said...

>> I see The Herald is still keeping the Labour Pary name out of its headlines

Now, you're not even trying. There was a study discussed this week which had concluded that those who'd grown up with the Interweb were having their neuro-pathways and information gathering processes altered... but you're a bit too old.

Joey Grimlock said...

@Joe 90: are you saying that because one party does something wrong, any wrongdoings by another should be ignored?

Alec said...

Joey, in Joe's case, the pre-occupation with Zionism, the 'corporate media' and neoliberalism (sic) points to summat else.

Alison, I have to stress, does not show a sign of the political idiocy which sub-state nationalism always tends to [and cannot recognize what Joe represents]..

Joey Grimlock said...

I know Alec, I should have known better than to try to get any sense out of someone who can criticise the 'meeja' for printing and burying stories at the same time!

To wit: "when it's the almost daily news stories of New Labour's corruption and criminal activity (buried almost as soon as they're published - cf torture of British people by the British Government)"

Jeepers - it is surely unhealthy to demand newspapers only cover stories you agree with?