by Councillor Lawrence O'Neill

ON Wednesday afternoon West Dunbartonshire’s corporate services committee considered the fate of our branch libraries, which, unless the administration pulled the proverbial rabbit out of a hat, will be decimated.

More than 5,000 hours – more than 100 per week – will be slashed. Faifley’s hours will be cut from 37½ per week to a paltry 15, despite a report claiming an additional 30 minutes following the public consultation, which my Labour colleagues and I fought to extend.

Duntocher Library, which provides an equally valued service, and despite the staff being highly commended at the recent West Dunbartonshire Council awards, will see their hours reduced by more than 30 per cent. Mary and Dochan, and their extremely dedicated and diligent colleagues, have driven the numbers of attendees at the library up continuously over the last few years. Is this their reward for providing an exemplary and innovative service?

Councillor Douglas McAllister and I, and many of our constituents, are greatly disturbed by this report to corporate services, which contains many inaccuracies and figures that don’t genuinely reflect what happens in our branch libraries.

How the consultation was undertaken also causes me great concern. As many people know, outwith my time as a West Dunbartonshire councillor I work as a community engagement officer with another council.

Most local authorities in Scotland operate within a regime called the National Standards for Community Engagement, which sets out what to do and what to avoid when taking on a genuine public consultation.

WDC also works with a group of councils in conjunction with What Works Scotland and our Scottish Government colleagues leading on good quality engagement with our communities, putting them at the heart of decisions that affect them. It’s almost as if those who undertook this sham exercise looked at these standards, then completely ignored them and constituents in Faifley and Duntocher.

It is now time for the administration, and in particular Councillor Jim Finn, to deliver for our ward and be stronger voices. Or will they, as I suspect, roll over and let officers win?