HUNDREDS of fire safety violations have been found in schools and public buildings across Dumbarton and the Vale, the Reporter can reveal.

The damning assessments carried out in recent months show alarms and detectors dangling from walls, exposed wiring, and incomplete evacuation notices.

A whistleblower approached the Reporter with concerns that the surveys have been buried within West Dunbartonshire Council, hidden from councillors and even head teachers of the schools.

In-depth reports were prepared into 33 West Dunbartonshire buildings, most of them schools, but also community centres and libraries.

Faults that don’t meet standards include front doors that have magnetic locks installed which “do not release on a fire alarm activation”, lack of detection in staff and pupil toilets, or in some boiler houses or electrical cupboards. Some of the standards have to do with how wiring is clipped together or contained in PVC casing.

In total, there are 812 faults in 33 West Dunbartonshire buildings – including 438 in Dumbarton and the Vale.

Council bosses insist buildings are safe and the reports were part of a “procurement exercise”.

But their exposure by the Reporter and our sister paper the Clydebank Post have prompted urgent questions by councillors, MP Martin Doherty-Hughes and MSPs.

Council leader Jonathan McColl said: “Council officers have been absolutely clear with me that our schools are safe and I want to give that reassurance to parents and staff.

“Internal audit are investigating the whistleblowing report and I will be discussing this further with senior officers this week with a view to providing more assurance.

“Children’s’ safety is my primary concern and the council is focussed on providing that reassurance.”

A West Dunbartonshire Council spokesperson added: “All council buildings, including schools, are subject to regular fire and electrical inspections, and all fire systems routinely maintained. All of our properties comply with the Fire Scotland Act 2005 and are regularly audited by the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS), which is the enforcing authority for fire safety in Scotland.

“The reports referred to were compiled by an external alarm and fire system maintenance firm as part of a procurement exercise for fire system installations and maintenance in the future.”

At last month’s WDC audit committee meeting, Cllr McColl specifically asked whether a report referring to “concerns raised about fire alarms in WDC primary schools” was a safety issue.

He was twice assured by Angela Wilson, strategic director of transformation and public service reform, that it was a procurement issue.

The council whistleblower told the Reporter an anonymous letter to chief executive Joyce White alleged ongoing issues with faults and non-compliance with fire alarm systems.

That prompted an independent “asset register and system condition survey” on all council properties, prompting the 33 in-depth surveys.

Our whistleblower said: “This exercise has been a total eye opener.

“These reports have not been issued to the head teachers and they are not aware of the issues.

“Some of our children attend the schools that have been highlighted and we can’t understand why these issues haven’t been dealt with in an open and timely manner.

“Everything seems to be kept secretive.”

Audit committee chairman Councillor John Mooney said he raised the concerns with Ms Wilson. He said: “It was my understanding from the discussion of this matter at the audit committee recently, that the concerns did not relate to safety.

“However, the fire alarm reports from last year do raise safety concerns. I am awaiting a report from the schools estate manager.

“I trust that our officers have already or are currently addressing these concerns. Safety is our paramount concern, and I will be scrutinising this matter intently. I expect robust assurances in early course.”

MP Martin Docherty-Hughes said he would be meeting with Ms White this week over the reports.

He said: “Fire safety in schools and public buildings must be a priority and I commend the whistleblower for bringing these concerns forward.

“I will be seeking assurances that fire alarm systems in all council buildings, including schools, are being properly maintained in accordance with legislation.

“I expect the council to work with the fire service and head teachers to ensure that fire safety measures meet the highest possible standards.”

Dumbarton MSP Jackie Baillie said the reports were “alarming” and sought assurances the council had acted on the concerns.

Lomond councillor Martin Rooney said he had requested briefings on the matter as a “matter of urgency”.

He said: “It’s vital that we get all the facts and take necessary action to protect pupils, staff and the public from harm.

“Workplace inspections and fire safety inspections are statutory requirements to ensure that public buildings are safe.

“This involves proactive inspections and appropriate action plans to ensure that health and safety risks are removed or minimised and that appropriate safeguards are put in place to minimise the risk of injury.

“Given that some of the inspection reports date back to 2017 it would be my expectation that remedial action will have been taken and if not then I will be seeking an explanation why.”

Leven councillor Jim Bollan the number of buildings in the leaked reports from his ward were “extremely concerning”.

He said: “These documents appear to have been kept secret. I have not seen the documents or any remedial plan to make these buildings as safe as they should be.

“I will be seeking immediate assurances these faults and deficiencies in these buildings are rectified urgently.”

The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) pointed to the most recent figures of audits in West Dunbartonshire, with 121 carried out, including two public buildings and three schools. They found no issues.

There were no enforcement or prohibition notices for any schools in Scotland that year and none in West Dunbartonshire at all.

Assistant chief officer David McGown, SFRS’s director of prevention and protection, said: “While local authorities and duty holders have responsibility for the provision of fire safety measures in their premises, specialist SFRS officers work in partnership with local authority staff to provide appropriate support to this process.

“The SFRS exists to save lives and our firefighters, and fire safety officers, are available to support communities wherever possible.”

Our whistleblower, speaking after the first reports were published by the Clydebank Post last week, said the rest of the council’s building portfolio should have similar in-depth reports and staff were glad these were in the open.

They said: “Some members of staff were unaware of these reports and are thankful that they have been brought to light. Others who were aware of these feel the pressure is off and want these issues dealt with in an open and quick manner.”