Written by Scott Campbell.
Published at 16:12 GMT on Tuesday, 13th November 2012.
North Lanarkshire’s SNP Leader hits out at Council’s consultation as audit is called into the delivery process

AFTER weeks of embarrassment for North Lanarkshire Council over the poor response rate to its ‘Way Ahead’, budget consultation document, North Lanarkshire’s SNP Group Leader has said he is “weary” of the responses and wants the delivery company’s failings to be “looked into”.


Councillor Stocks, who is the leader of the SNP group at North Lanarkshire Council has said that questions over the handling and effectiveness of a public consultation into £73m of cuts at the local authority need to be looked into, although the ruling Labour group have hailed the process a "success".


With feedback from around 3000 people, the task of wading through the returns has already begun to see which of the £105m of proposed cutbacks should be put forward.


Yet with 148,000 households in the area, opposition politicians have criticised the effectiveness of the and are awaiting an audit report into the delivery process amid allegations that not every home was included in the mass mail-drop.


SNP councillor David Stocks said he is aggrieved at the booklets, which were meant to be sent to every one of the 148,000 households in the council area, and claims constituents have never received the pamphlets.


He said: “I am not too sure about the consultation at the moment and I am a bit wary. I have had complaints from different members of my group across North Lanarkshire that some of their constituents had not received their booklets. That was right up till Friday.


“The council has certainly been sending them out. I haven’t had any discussions at the moment to what people are saying in the returns from the whole consultation.


“I am a bit doubtful if it was a useful exercise.”


The council ended the six-week public consultation exercise last Friday, but comments received over the next few days will still be considered.


Some of the options which are being considered are increases in cemetery fees, Abronhill High School in Cumbernauld, the merger of eight primary schools into four, the closure of two care homes, the loss of Christmas lights and the introduction of a £20 fee for successful Blue Badge applications.


Councillor Stocks added: “We have been promised we will have access to these comments quite soon.


“We thought the booklets were a good idea. Initially, the chief executive didn’t think they were going to go through with it as it would cost between £19,000 and £20,000, but we thought it was a good idea and we were happy when they decided to go ahead with it.


“What has concerned me is the company who have delivered them have got their money and we don’t know where the leaflets have gone.


“I don’t know who this company is, but we need to look into it.”


Last Friday, a spokesman from the local authority said councillors will receive a report on an audit of the independent contractor who carried out the deliveries of the booklet. This will determine how many, if any, of the 148,000 households missed out.


Council leader Jim McCabe hailed the public consultation as a “success for local democracy”, but his SNP counterpart was not in agreement.


Councillor Stocks said: “I don’t particularly think this has been good for democracy. They (the council) made a good attempt but I am afraid, from what I have seen so far, I can’t see how it is when the vast majority of people, I suggest, didn’t receive these booklets.


“Hopefully we will find out more information about the company who delivered them and what happened to deliveries.


“I don’t know if we would have used a company at all. It might have been better to call more public meetings, but even for things this important people are not interested in attending.


“I live in Gartlea, Airdrie, and I haven’t received the booklet through my door. I have spoken to constituents in my scheme, and they haven’t received it either.


“I have spoken to councillors across Airdrie, Wishaw and Bellshill and again - I can’t say these areas didn’t get any at all, but there are people who say they didn’t get it.”


The SNP leader also contends the booklet itself was “misleading”, stating the leaflet did not contain all the information about the Scottish Government’s contribution in the area or the consequences to the local authority if it was to go against the SNP administration in Holyrood and raise council tax.


Mr Stocks refused to outline his party’s own savings plans at the moment, saying he will unveil his arguments in time for councillors to consider them ahead of meetings next month which are scheduled to conclude which savings will be made.


He added: “We have a lead member and deputy lead member for every committee like Learning and Leisure, Housing and Social Work, and Environmental Services.


"They are having a look at the proposals in each area.


“Some of the ones in Learning and Leisure for schools - there is no way we could agree to them. We have other ideas for savings as well but we can’t reveal that at the moment.”

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