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West Dunbartonshire Council to gradually reopen offices after local complaints

A gradual reopening of council offices in West Dunbartonshire is due to begin over the next month.

The council confirmed the move following complaints from a local pensioner that they “aren’t accessible”.

And her views were backed up by Councillor Douglas McAllister who fumed to fellow members at a full council meeting last week that “the public have had enough”.

The woman, who wished to remain anonymous, told the Lennox Herald that she had bother speaking to someone over the phone following demands for council tax for a property she claims she no longer owns.

She fumed: “I need to speak to a person and not a machine. I can’t get them on the phone. It is saying on the letters to pay the money or they will get sheriff officers out.

“I just keep getting machines. The council aren’t accessible. Where are they?

“They shouldn’t be shut. I am really upset about this.”

The woman explained to us that when she had managed to get through to an operator on the phone she left her details and was told she would be called back but this didn’t happen.

She advises us that she continued to call over a series of days with the same result.

Last Friday, she travelled from Balloch to the council offices at Church Street in Dumbarton to find it was closed – as it has been for the duration of the pandemic.

She said: “There are no signs except one on the door saying they are open from 9.30am until 4pm.

“That’s the local council offices and there is nobody there. The doors are all shut.”

Since lockdown began in March 2020, the Scottish Government has continued to promote working from home where possible and have never committed to a date for office returns.

Councillor Douglas McAllister highlighted that Dumbarton Sheriff Court had returned to in-person working.

Councillor Douglas McAllister, who also works as a lawyer, said at a full council meeting last week: “The public are not with us. I understand that the Scottish Government guidance where if staff can work from home, they should work from home.

“We seem to be the only sector across Scotland who is adhering to that.

“Two or three days per week, I attend Dumbarton Sheriff Court operated by the Scottish Court Service which has been operating almost normally for a year.

“Yes, there are safety measures in place but, to clear the backlog, it has been up and running.

“It’s next door to our multimillion pound building that’s lying locked up.

“When I attend at court, I am mocked by other people in the profession wanting to know why next door is closed.

“It indicates where the Scottish Government’s priorities are.

“Everything else is open. Political parties can meet indoors, trade unions will be meeting indoors. The public have had enough.

“Anyone who thinks they are with us on this are deluded.

“We need to get back to our meetings. We need a reality check.”

Councillor David McBride complaining over the lack of pedestrian crossing on the A82
Councillor David McBride outlined his concerns.

His Labour colleague, David McBride added: “I can honestly say, every single constituent who has contacted me in the last six weeks, their opening line is ‘I can’t get through to the council’.”

West Dunbartonshire Council chief executive Joyce White responded to the concerns stressing: “The council is not closed.

“We are trying to prioritise where we utilise the staff that are required to make facilities safe.

“It’s about the cleaning regimes. It’s about ensuring we have safety of those buildings.

“Bridge Street has never been closed.”

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon recommended a hybrid-model with part home-working and part office-based days when Scotland moved beyond level zero earlier this month.

West Dunbartonshire Council confirmed to us that, during September, a phased-approach would be taken with regards to authority staff returning to the office.

But in the meantime enquiries would continue to be answered by workers from home although queues could be lengthy at peak times.

A spokeswoman said: “We are sorry to hear this resident has been unable to get in touch with us. Our council tax team can be contacted directly on 01389 838222, via our website or by emailing [email protected]

“In addition residents can also telephone our contact centre on 01389 737000.

“In line with the latest guidance, a phased and gradual reopening of offices will begin in

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