Dec 212012
 

How Sir Ian Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Suz (with apologies)

T’was the night before Christmas in old Aberdeen
Or should I say Whoodville, yes, that’s what I mean
Every Whoodie in Whood-ville
Liked Christmas a lot…
But Sir Ian Grinch
Did not like it one jot!

The town settled down for a long winter’s nap
Except for this one crinkly, creaky old chap
Sir Grinch hated Christmas! It might be because
He didn’t believe in a Sanity Clause

The children were nestled all snug in their beds
But Sir Ian Grinch was pacing instead.
Perhaps Ian’s head wasn’t screwed on quite right.
It could also be he was simply just tight.
But I think that the most likely reason of all
Was the Whoodies in Whoodville said no to his mall.

Out on the lawn there arose such a clatter
When Grinch said the ancient great trees didn’t matter
“Let’s cut them down and let’s build some parking!”
But the Whoodies thought Grinch was really quite barking.
Now this Grinch wanted granite – a web of it really
With shopping and theatres and parking, ideally.
But the Whoodies said ‘No’ to his project ‘It’s crass!’
We want our trees and our wildlife and grass.

It was his way or no way, he’d not give an inch
So the web was abandoned; this angered the Grinch

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave Whoodville a vibrant and dynamic glow.
“If there’s no web for me then I’ll make very sure
“My money will go and help Africa’s poor”
“That will fill all the Whoodies with remorse
(“And I’ll avoid being taxed at the source”).

Ian was grouchy and grinchy, indeed
The size of his heart was no match for his greed
He stood there on Christmas Eve, hating the Whoodies,
And envied their happiness and all their goodies

On Christmas day all of the Whoodies would gather
Down in their Gardens for coffee and blather

Whoodies, young and old, would sit down to a feast.
And they’d feast! And they’d feast!
And they’d FEAST! FEAST! FEAST! FEAST!
They would start on Whood-pudding, and rare Whood-roast-beast
Which was something Sir Grinch couldn’t stand in the least!
And THEN
They’d do something he liked least of all!

Every Whoodie in Whoodville, the tall and the small,
Would stand close together, with Christmas bells ringing.
They’d stand hand-in-hand. And the Whoods would start singing!
They’d sing! And they’d sing!
AND they’d SING! SING! SING! SING!

The more that Sir Grinch thought of the Whood-Christmas-Sing
The more Ian thought, “I must stop this whole thing!
“Why, for seventy years I’ve put up with it now!
I MUST stop Christmas from coming!
…But HOW?”

Then he got an idea!
An awful idea!
THE GRINCH
GOT A WONDERFUL, ACSEF IDEA!

“I know just what to do!” Sir Grinch said with a sneer
“I’ll steal every trace of their Christmas this year.
“I’ll threaten to take my web money once more
“And threaten to give it to Africa’s poor.”

“And while I’m at it I’ll steal all their stuff”
(It seems being a billionaire wasn’t enough)
Sir Grinch owned most Whoodville it’s certainly true
His wealth would have satisfied both me and you
But when the old Grinch couldn’t get his own way
And get his Web built, then he vowed they would pay

He made a quick Santy Claus hat and a coat.
And he chuckled, and clucked, “Why you handsome old goat!”
“With this coat and this hat, I’ll look just like Saint Nick!”
“All I need are some reindeer…”
The Grinch looked around.
But since reindeer were scarce, there was none to be found.

(The reason that no deer were found in the town
Is Grinch’s friend Aileen had had them shot down
Her cruelty and greed caused a Whoodville petition
The people agreed there will be no repetition)

Did that stop the old Grinch…?
No! Not one little bit
“I’ll just need to call on a couple old gits
“If I can’t find some reindeer, I’ll make some instead!”
(I think the poor man must be oot of his head)
So he called lackeys Tommy and Colin to come
Which they quickly did, those poor dears were quite dumb.
And he tied great big horns on top of their heads.
(It seems that these lapdogs were easily led).

He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
The old Grinch couldn’t wait ta get oot and aboot.
THEN
He loaded some bags
And some old empty sacks
On a ramshackle sleigh
And he hitched up dogs Tommy and Colin, whey hey!

Then the Grinch said, “Giddyap!”
And the sleigh started down
Toward the homes where the Whoodies
Lay asleep in their town.

All their windows were dark. Quiet snow filled the air.
All the Whoodies were dreaming sweet dreams without care
When he came to the first house near to Union Square.
“This is stop number one,” The old Grinchy was there.

His eyes-how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, probably had too much sherry.
And he climbed to the roof, empty bags in his fist.
Then he slid down the chimney. A rather tight pinch.
But if Santa could do it, then so could the Grinch.
He got stuck only once, for a moment or two.
Then he stuck his head out of the fireplace flue
Where wee Whoodie stockings all hung in a row.

He stole left, right and centre; he got on his knees
He swiped BrewDogs, Glenfiddich and Zeppelin CDs
And just to increase the Whoodies distress
He left unsold copies of Evening Express.
And he stuffed all their gifts in his sacks and then nimbly,
Stuffed all the bags, one by one, up the chimney!

The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.
Then he slunk to the icebox. He took the Whoods’ feast!
He took the Whood-pudding! He took the roast beast!
He cleaned out that icebox as quick as a flash.
Why, that Grinch even took their last can of Whood-hash!

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And stole all the stockings, he was such a jerk!
Then he stuffed all the food up the chimney with glee.
“And NOW!” grinned Sir Ian, “I will stuff up the tree!”
“I’ll have theatre seats carved from it, just wait and see
“Down with the trees, turn their wood into chip
“For my web and its theatre” (he was quite a dip)
Then he heard a small sound “This can’t be good!”
He turned around fast, and he saw a small Whood!

Twas Marie-Lou Whood, who was not more than two.
The Grinch had been caught by this little Whood daughter
Who’d got out of bed for a cup of cold water.
She stared at Sir Ian and said, “Santy, why,
“Why are you taking our Christmas tree? WHY?”

But, you know, that old Grinch was so smart and so slick
He thought up a Whood lie, and he thought it up quick!
In that he had practice, his cunning renown
A cunning which had torn Whood businesses down

“Why, my sweet little tot,” the fake Santy Claus lied,
“There’s a light on this tree that won’t light on one side.
“So I’m taking it home to my workshop, my dear.
“I’ll fix it up there. Then I’ll bring it back here.”

So he fobbed off the child with yet more of his lies
The master of false promises, spin, alibis
And he got her a drink and he sent her to bed.
And when Marie-Lou Whood went to bed with her cup,
He went to the chimney and stuffed the tree up!
Then the last thing he took was the fireplace wood.
His hatred of trees and his greed were no good.

He did the same thing
To the other Whoods’ houses
Leaving crumbs
Much too small
For the other Whoods’ mouses!

His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the hair of his head was as white as the snow.
When he packed up his sled he was most ecstatic,
(By this time the Grinch was extremely erratic)
He had all of their presents! The ribbons! The wrappings!
The tags! And the tinsel! The trimmings! The trappings!

“I’ll just head to the Gramps and on old Tullos Hill
“I’ll fly-tip these presents” (so much for good will)

“Pooh-pooh to the Whoodies!” the old Grinch was singing
“This year they’ll be no Christmas bells ringing.
“They’re finding out now that Christmas was snatched
“Oh what a brilliant idea I have hatched.
“They’re just waking up! I know just what they’ll do!
“Their mouths will hang open a minute or two
“The all the Whoods down in Whood-ville will all cry BOO-HOO!”
“They’ll say ‘Give us a web for we now need it more
“Then food, clothes and shelter would help Africa’s poor’.
“Give us more malls, and give us more shopping!
“They’ll beg for my web – oh those Whoods will be hopping!”

“That’s a noise,” grinned the Grinch,
“That I simply must hear!”
So Sir Ian Grinch put his hand to his ear.
And he did hear a sound rising over the snow.
It started in low. Then it started to grow…
But the sound wasn’t sad!
Why, this sound sounded merry!
It couldn’t be so!
But it WAS merry! VERY!

He stared down at Whood-ville!
Ian could not believe
Despite all of his efforts to plunder and thieve
What met his eyes was a shocking surprise
Each Whoodie in Whood-ville, the rich and the poor
Was singing! He shook to the core.
He HADN’T stopped Christmas from coming!
IT CAME!

Somehow or other, Christmas survived!
In fact you could even say Christmas had thrived.
He stood puzzling and puzzling: “How could it be so?”

“It came without ribbons! It came without tags!
“It came without packages, boxes or bags!”
It was as if shopping was not the reason
For people to celebrate during this season.
Even without lots of designer gear
Somehow Christmas had still made it here.

And he puzzled three hours, `till his puzzler was sore.
Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before!
“Maybe Christmas,” he thought, “doesn’t come from a store.
“Maybe Christmas…perhaps…means a little bit more!”
And what happened then…?
Well…in Whood-ville some of them say
That the Grinch’s small heart
Grew three sizes that day!

And the minute his heart didn’t feel quite so tight,
He whizzed with his load through the bright morning light
He said “Look what I just found when passing through Torry
“Nicked presents, which fell off the back of a lorry”
And he brought back the toys! And the food for the feast!
And he…
…HE HIMSELF…!
Ian Grinch carved the roast beast!
Merry Christmas to All, and to All a good night!

Well if you are reading this dear Mr Wood
You still have a chance to make everything good
Why not help the poor both here and abroad?
Doing so would be the greatest reward.

We need our green space, clean water and air
Even the finest web could not compare.
We’ve things in this town nowhere else to be found
So lay off our gardens, our common good ground.

If you want gratitude you’d get it indeed
By helping the helpless, the people in need.
So many things you could do with your money
The difference you’d make – it’s not even funny.

Next time please ask us, don’t dictate your plan
People are asking what kind of a man
Would cause such division, pitting friend against friend
Ian your web plans have come to an end.

Give up the ghost, take up some other cause
That’s all I’m saying – goodnight –

- Santa Claus

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Nov 092012
 

Voice’s Old Susannah takes a look over the past week’s event’s in the ‘Deen and beyond. By Suzanne Kelly. 

Tally Ho!  This past week has been an exciting one on several counts.  The fireworks were amazing – when Nick Clegg tried to handle Question Time in Parliament, the poor man could not open his mouth without the Opposition attacking him.  Sadly, his friend(s) must have been confused, because they jeered him just as much as Labour did.

The speaker tried to calm the explosive situation to little avail.  Alas, going down in history for being heckled by both sides is possibly not what Mr Clegg intended.  (I recall he was helping Kate Dean with her image; that doesn’t seem to have worked out as intended, either).

It’s almost as if breaking one or two election pledges is not doing the LibDems any favours.  If things get any worse for Clegg, he’ll have to ask Kate to give him some popularity pointers.

On Sunday I ran into someone from the Scottish SPCA; there had been reports of an injured seal near Torry Harbour.  The Scottish SPCA couldn’t find the seal, nor could I.

Still, if anyone comes across any animals in distress, do call the Scottish SPCA on 03000 999 999.  (The leaflet to combat dog fighting will be ready for distribution from Saturday, and anyone who wants to help give these out should get in touch with Aberdeen Voice).

There were delicious canapés at Malmaison, lots of delicious eats at Café 52, and BrewDog has some particularly gorgeous craft beers on tap.  Moreover, the Dog has re-released ‘Ghost Deer’ – a strong, amazing beer in brilliant packaging. Perhaps I’m drawn to the Deer-themed artwork for some inexplicable reason.

I’m told a t-shirt will be produced soon; it seems a chief BrewDog artist works in the Aberdeen BrewDog bar – do check out the shirts on offer; they are a good example of locally-created, wearable artwork.

This Friday night I look forward to some pampering at Lush, and then heading to the Masked Ball in Union Terrace Gardens.  It sounds like a very creative and elegant affair, and the Balmoral Group organisers are holding this event in aid of Friends of Anchor.  This charity seeks to buy equipment and improve things at the ARI for cancer patients; a most worthy cause.  Pictures to follow.

Also this week artist Nicky Cairney got in touch to share some haunting artwork on the theme of Tullos Hill; she found the Hill’s story very moving and inspired this artwork.  More of her work can be found at www.nickycairney.co.uk.

I am sure that despite the rocky ground, visible waste everywhere, ploughed up gorse, resultant smaller wildlife numbers, dead deer and a fraction of the 89,000 trees planted, this great project alone will help our eventual city of culture bid.

Perhaps the Turners and Constables of the future will flock to the hill to paint pictures of rusty metal and tainted earth.

Limousine Bull is re-grouping.  If you weren’t aware, this art resource was forced to leave its premises in Torry a few months back over a funding crisis – a crisis that any one of our great and good self-proclaimed patrons of the arts or culture-loving former city administration could have stepped in and solved for a four-figure sum.

I guess they had more important things to fund instead of supporting a gallery space, a teaching space, and affordable studios for up-and-coming artists in Aberdeen to work in, which brought people to Torry, and brought artists together.  After all, we have to prove we’re a city of culture.

Closer to home, despite non-stop editorialising in the City Garden Project Press, aka ‘The Aberdeen Press & Journal’, Labour are sticking to their election pledge and aren’t going to build the web.

Never a news organ to let beautiful artwork sit idle, the P&J have trotted out the luridly coloured concept drawings from the doomed CGP several times this week.  (I really must start forcing myself to look at all the old P&Js, and seeing if there has been a single issue over the past 2 years which didn’t have a web story on the first few pages – but I just can’t bear the thought of it).

Granite web supporters (i.e. Scottish Enterprise and its sprog ‘Visit Scotland’, ACSEF, and the construction industry) would have you believe that the web should still be the salvation of Aberdeen and the reason no one wants to lead our city of culture bid is that we didn’t turn our only city centre green space into a granite-clad spaghetti junction and we didn’t mulch our ancient trees.

Perhaps by building the theatre in front of the theatre they were trying to do for performing arts what they did for high street shops by building Union Square Mall?

What kind of youth culture exactly is going on here?

Should we be the City of Culture?  While I did address this with a definition a while ago, it seems timely to do it again.   As people try to make a living in the Arts in Aberdeen with or without government support (such as Limousine Bull), let’s take another look at the great expense – sorry – benefits of becoming a City of Culture..

Youth Culture: (compound noun; English) A given collection of style, behavioural, ideological characteristics shared by a given group of young adults.

Well, we do have youth culture in Aberdeen, and not just the long-running international youth festival.  During Bonfire events, a group of young people in Seaton decided to throw burning pieces of wood at fire-fighters, and shoot fireworks in the firemen’s directions.  A group of young people assaulted two men as well.  What kind of youth culture exactly is going on here?

I think the problem lies in there not being a granite web.  You build your web, create 6,500 jobs, and then there will be no further problems.

Skateboarding, graffiti, hanging around smoking  and underage drinking can all be centralised in the web, perhaps in a ‘youth culture zone’.  This will please everyone who insists Union Terrace Gardens are filled with old drunks and druggies – we’ll get in a better class of sub-culture.  Younger drunks.  This indeed will help our city of culture bid.

Perhaps these violent outbursts are because we have too many affordable, exciting things for young people to do, too many arts and music programmes, too many places for them to socialise and have fun.  I think there is room for further cuts to library opening hours, music tuition, art and craft provision and so on.

City of Culture: (compound noun, English)  A European designation given to a city for one year; the city is meant to then put out a varied programme of performing and visual arts.

Right, we are all agreed (apparently) – we want to bid for and win the coveted (?) City of Culture title.  As described in Old Susannah No. 82, this might mean spending a few million here and there on things like giant spiders (nice fit with the web) which Liverpool spent £2 million on.  It will definitely mean building lots of new structures!  Result!

The unhappy millionaire builders we have locally will get to give us more ground breaking (probably greenbelt breaking) glass box buildings, malls and parking spaces.

Of course we have lots of buildings in the public and private sectors which we could put back into use (via tax incentives, improvement notices, discount rents to arts groups and social projects), but there’s little in it on the building front, and that’s what the City of Culture is all about – building new stuff.

Since the City of Culture bid for Aberdeen is being linked to the web, it is in the news nearly as much as those lovely drawings of the flower-covered, sunny web design.  It is prompting much discussion and speculation.

A friend of mine asked me:

 “why can’t we just have lots of events like we do anyway, and give more support to our local up-and-coming artists without spending money on the City of Culture Bid?”

I guess some people just can’t grasp the concept.

Unexpected: (adjective) An event or result which could not have reasonably been projected or forseen.

Here’s a coincidence for you.  Liverpool spent millions on its 2008 bid to successfully become the City of Culture.  Then there was a little coincidence in 2009, totally unrelated to this wonderful honour.

According to the Liverpool Echo newspaper of 29 December 2009:-

“Row brewing over £11m budget cuts proposal by Liverpool city council

“SCRAPPING school uniform grants for needy children, closing children’s respite homes and swimming baths and slashing culture spending are among cuts proposed by cash-strapped city bosses.

 “They have also put forward the closure of the Park Road swimming baths in Toxteth and cutting culture funding by £400,000.

“The options have been put forward by officers as they try to plug an unexpected £11m gap in next year’s budget.”

http://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/liverpool-news/local-news/2009/12/29/row-brewing-over-11m-budget-cuts-proposal-by-liverpool-city-council-100252-25484325/

I suppose you couldn’t have expected that spending £2,000,000 on a giant spider, and spending  hundreds of thousands of pounds on the culture bid, and unknown quantities on management companies, events, building projects and so on in 2008 could have led to any financial hardships in 2009.  Who could have seen that coming??

The City of Culture was supposed to make everyone rich after all.  This promise of wealth has a bit of a familiar ring to it; I’m sure I’ve heard about some project somewhere in Aberdeen like that.

Old Susannah must write to Liverpool and ask them if they use the services of PriceWaterhouse Cooper when they make their financial forecasts.

Synthetic: (Adjective) something which has been artificially fabricated, as opposed to something that naturally grows.

Whether or not we get the City of Culture award, we can be glad we’re in a city which nurtures local talent, allows creative movements to grow, and encourages experimentation within the arts to occur organically.

Sure, there may not be any money for school music, arts programmes like Limousine Bull are being allowed to die, and talented fashion designers and video artists (like the unique Fraser Denholm) are leaving the city at an alarming pace to live and work elsewhere (heaven knows why they head to London and Glasgow).

Furthermore, the more cynical are asking whether no one wanted to take on the role of City of Culture director because we don’t retain our talent, because we don’t support the artists we do have enough, because we kicked Peacock in the teeth, because we don’t encourage children to take up art and music in school to a greater degree, and because there is no natural flowering of art in all the unused shops we have – which other cities manage to rent to artists on affordable bases.

No – the reason no one wanted the job is because we didn’t build the web.

But more importantly, we’ve got a couple of city council suits who are helping to sort our culture out.

These people have decided what ‘quarters’ parts of Aberdeen are.  We have the ‘merchant quarter’ on the green.  Sure, half of the shops are closed or closing, crippled by business rates, but we’ve put up signs saying ‘merchant quarter’ – so merchant quarter it is.

We must all rejoice in the arbitrary designating of ‘cultural quarters’, ‘merchant quarters’ ‘civic quarters’ and so on.  You can practically feel the difference when you step from the civic quarter into the merchant quarter can’t you?

In case you doubt Aberdeen City’s and ACSEF’s abilities to create awe-inspiring artwork and prose, here is a little something to keep you going until next week:   http://www.aberdeencity.gov.uk/nmsruntime/saveasdialog.asp?lID=38444&sID=14302

As you can appreciate, if you just let things happen, you wind up with places like Notting Hill Gate, Brick Lane and so on – areas that are a bit edgy and filled with unwashed artist and musician types.  Down with that sort of thing.  Remember to know what quarter of the city you’re in, and be glad someone more creative than you or I thought to slap labels on them.

Next week:  No quarter.

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Oct 182012
 

Voice’s Old Susannah looks back on the week that was, complete with Zeppelins, BrewDogs, and a bad smell coming not from the Torry sewage plant, but a whiff of scandal from Edinburgh. By  Suzanne Kelly

Tally  Ho!  By the time you read this, I’ll have been to the Led Zeppelin film ‘Celebration Day’ at the Belmont.  Am counting the minutes.  Another major highlight of this week was  BrewDog Aberdeen’s second birthday party.  I celebrated with great people, great beers, food and a lovely cake.  Happy Birthday to Brew.

I also took in a bread-making course at Nick Nairn Cookery school; it was a great course, not least because of the lovely breads I got to take home (including the tutor’s lovely white loaf).

On the down side of this week, a dog has disappeared from its garden on Holburn Street.  Grampian police downplayed earlier Facebook posts warning of potential dog thieves in our area. 

The police issued a Facebook post about a week ago, saying dog-napping worries were just rumour-mongering, and several FB posters chimed in to ridicule the people worried about potential thefts.

The cops categorically claimed no such thing was going on. Fast-forward to 16 October, and a dog has mysteriously disappeared from its back garden in Holburn Street.

Unless the small dog, not tall enough on its hind legs to reach the lock, undid the lock, went away, and decided never to return again for food or shelter, it looks like theft is a possibility.  However, the police refuse to treat this as a theft.  There is no evidence you see.

Perhaps they had expected a smoking gun, guys in striped shirts wearing masks holding bags of swag?  I wonder whether they even checked the gate for fingerprints – they certainly could have done so.  The moral is – keep an eye on your pets as much as possible, and report anything like thefts or suspicions straight away to the Scottish SPCA – and/or email stop.dogfights@yahoo.co.uk.  PS – dogs, cats, handbags, Led Zeppelin CDs , etc. are not safe left alone in cars for any length of time, either.

Common Good Aberdeen reached its financial target of £15K for a children’s play area in Union Terrace Gardens with ease, expect a play area in UTG sometime soon, hopefully with a volunteer-run, cafe, too (with all profits going directly on UTG).  No one could object to putting a play area in a city centre park, could they?

But perhaps best of all this week was sharing joyful commuting stories with fellow bus travellers.  To a man we’re all thrilled to bits at the reduction in routes.  We are of course waiting for the corresponding reduction in bus fares, which must be just ‘round the corner‘.  How wonderful that the No. 21 bus is no more, just as those wonderful Milne homes are going up in Cove.

  I’m wondering  exactly what kind of ‘independence’ Alex is actually offering

It must have been my imagination (and the imaginations of a few dozen other people), but it seemed as if quite a number of scheduled buses (no. 3s, 1s, etc) didn’t actually materialise when they should have.  I got to learn a few more new words from fellow travellers while waiting for a No. 1 bus on Monday evening.

In the wider Scottish environment, this was the week that Cameron and Salmond signed up to a yes/no referendum (wish we’d done so over the gardens –  but never mind).  Alex smiled from the covers of most newspapers this past week, and he told the press:-

 “I didn’t want to look too triumphant.” 

Don’t worry about that, Alex, you didn’t.

In fact, Alex is starting to look like a man with Ninety-Nine Problems.

Old Susannah is looking at some of these minor worries.  All things considered, I’m wondering  exactly what kind of ‘independence’ Alex is actually offering.  For openers, once you consider some of Alex’s  pals, you come to one inescapable question:  How independent exactly is Alex himself?

Is he offering Scots independence or perhaps a form of government that is just a little bit older?

Feudalism: (Eng. noun) – A system of governance/land steward ship prevalent in the middle ages in Europe where a small minority of wealthy property holders wielded power over those with less money, and a great gap existed between the haves and have-nots.

Believe it or not, it was not only the English who were oppressing the Scottish people throughout history, many Scottish nobles did so, too.  Clan warfare, theft, battles, treachery, wife-stealing, drunkenness, cruelty – these are not just part of the daily grind at Holyrood.  Indeed, there were many forms of Scot on Scot violence in the bad old days, too.

In the feudal societies of the past, a rich man owned everything in his territory and all those below him fell in line in accordance with his wishes.  If this ‘lord’ (or sometimes the noble was given the title ‘Sir’, as in ‘Sir Ian Wood’) wanted a castle, a bit of land, or say a granite web, his lackeys ensured he got what he wanted by hook or crook, or compulsory purchase order or by an arm’s length management company or Aberdeen City Gardens Trust.

Thankfully, the days of the rich man dictating the future of the land to the common man are gone.

Alex Salmond will ensure that no rich men can possibly dictate policy, seize land (or public parks), bend Quangos to their will, shield their gold from the taxman via offshore schemes, etc.  No, Alex won’t in any way favour the rich or help them gain unfair advantage.

If he did do so, say for a Murdoch (to whom he seems to have offered his services at one point), a Wood (whose web he favoured) or a Trump (who got permission to ruin the only moveable sand dune system on the UK mainland), then we would not have a free republic.  We would have feudalism.

Intervention: (Eng. noun) to take action in a situation to try and prevent an undesirable outcome.  Interventions can be legal or not.  In Scottish politics – usually not.

When Aberdeenshire Council said no to Donald Trump, Alex’s Government weighed in and  said ‘we’re open for business; c’mon over’.  Thanks for the intervention!

But now it looks as if when Scottish Futures Trust (SFT) didn’t give the beautiful, sparkly granite web the thumbs up, Alex intervened again.

The cat is out of the bag, the chickens have come home to roost, and so on.  No doubt with the best interests of Aberdonians at heart, Alex seems to have put the £140 million web into position to get TIF funding.  Where would we have been without him?

This little intervention raises just one or two questions.  Firstly, I wonder what first attracted politician Alex Salmond to Billionaire tycoon Sir Ian Wood and his Wood-Wide-Web?

How could Scottish Futures Trust (SFT) criticised Wood’s wonderful web?  Well, for openers here is how it scored ( click on table to enlarge ):-


http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Topics/Government/Finance/18232/FOI/TIFScoring

“…further detail / clarity could have been added in relation to:

  • The potential level of private sector activity created (in terms of NDR creation) and its likelihood
  • The underlying enabling nature of the assets themselves – i.e. why are these the right assets
  • The potential level of retail activity in comparison to the overall activity enabled by the TIF
  • The rationale for the redline
  • The key milestones of the project
  • The consideration of risk and risks beyond those detailed in the submission”
    http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Topics/Government/Finance/18232/FOI/TIFComments

The SFT/Government fought tooth and nail (whatever that means) against Steve Vass of the Herald getting this information made public.  For one thing, the SFT claimed people weren’t smart enough to understand their findings.  Quite right.  They argued people would not understand  that Scottish Futures Trust and its reports were only meant to guide the Government, which was then free to ignore the report and do whatever it chose to do.  Funny, this method of government consultation seems perfectly obvious to me.

You are of course as surprised and disappointed as I am that our web didn’t get higher scores.  It’s hard to imagine SFT deciding there were some financial and risk elements.

We should have sent them some of those lovely glossy brochures from Vote for the City Gardens Trust -  you know, the ones that promised 6,500 permanent jobs and £122 million flowing into Aberdeen every year if we got us a web.  That would have swung the balance.

Some  voters may well wonder why this SFT  information wasn’t  shared in advance of any referendum vote.  I’m sure it was for our own good and not to confuse us with facts.  However, if you  are angry we had a referendum with crucial facts withheld deliberately, Go Ask Alex.  Just drop him a line to find out who was playing at what, and why anyone thought we weren’t clever enough to understand a short report.

  No doubt Alex is confident that an independent Scotland will demand a granite web

Perhaps this is all too complicated for us non-Government mortals after all.  I’m so confused I’m thinking the Government wanted a trial run of the referendum system to see what the pros and cons were in advance of the Independence Referendum.

The pros?  You can put anything you want to in a glossy brochure, true or not as long as you remain anonymous.  Result!   You can also hide the voting record from any scrutiny, as was done in Aberdeen.

The Cons?  I think there were plenty of ‘cons’ involved, don’t  you?  In fact, I’m fighting the urge to list the cons by name.

You could also be forgiven for wondering  why the SFT report was prepared in the first place, if the Government had its own ideas about what should or shouldn’t be given a TIF loan.  (Old Susannah heard an unconfirmed rumour that Alex told Sir Ian to ‘leave his money on the table’ for a year.  No doubt Alex is confident that an independent Scotland will demand a granite web.  We could put it on the back of the new Scottish Banknotes).

So, Alex is going to try not to look too triumphant.  If it helps, Alex, just think back to some of your finer moments:-

  • Testifying to the Leveson Inquiry – Alex claimed the Observer had hacked his banking account in 1999 (no evidence was found) – almost as if he were trying to deflect attention from the revelation that Mr Salmond’s adviser (Aberdein) – had agreed that the first minister would call Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt “whenever we need him to” on Murdoch’s behalf.
  • intervening in Aberdeenshire planning permission and giving Trump carte blanche to bulldoze the SSI, make life a misery for the existing residents, and run the area with heavy-handed security
  • Asking Donald Trump to back the return of Megrahi to Libya
  • Spending c. £48,000 to go to the premier of the film ‘Brave’ with an entourage
  • Claiming a sum adjacent to £1,800 per week for food and drink (four year period May 2007 onward)
  • Meddling in the future of the Granite Web, and elevating it over other areas’ projects
  • Cutting money to charities while allowing unelected quangos to thrive…..

It might not amount to quite 99 problems, Alex, but you’re getting there.  Give it a week.

Teflon: (mod Eng.noun) a non-stick coating often applied to pots and pans.

Bill Clinton lurched from sex scandal to Whitewater financial scandal and back to sex scandal again, yet he escaped relatively unscathed.  People called him ‘the Teflon President’:  nothing stuck to him.

Not that our First Minister would ever do anything untoward of course, but it is almost like he’s using deflection techniques – sorry to even think it!  Just because he showed up at Leveson with counter claims that he had been hacked when he was there to testify as to his relationship with Murdoch is no reason to think he’s a slippery character.

In fact I’ve  written to Salmond to ask for his comments on some of these little trifling issues.  As soon as he answers, I’ll let you know.  Until then, just keep waving the Saltire, chant ‘Freedom!’ and believe everything you’re being promised.  Would Alex ever steer you wrong?

Just one little thing to remember:  sooner or later that non-stick pan stops working, and it gets thrown out.

Next week:  A wee update on council finances, and an old FOI of mine updated.

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Sep 232012
 

After a long build-up, vitriolic postings on FaceBook, and a call to the media to attend a protest by hundreds of people, a group of approximately 70-80 stood outside Marischal College today for three quarters of an hour.  Aberdeen Voice’s Suzanne Kelly attended.

Background: Aberdeen has been split over a controversial plan to build a £140 million pound series of arches over Union Terrace Gardens called ‘the granite web’.
The city is far from financially sound, and would need to borrow some £70 million minimum to build the scheme, which would also see the felling of ancient trees – some of the few trees in the city centre.

Those against the scheme point out the city has vast areas of disused brownfield, some of which are becoming arson hotspots which could be the site of any futuristic architectural projects.

The web’s opposition also cite that simple improvements to the gardens are affordable and would be sympathetic to the existing area, and that money should be spent on other projects and restoring services cut under the previous LibDem/SNP coalition.

Proponents of the granite web cite projections made by PriceWaterhouse Coopers, which was paid some £44,000 pounds to create projections for the scheme and research the TIF scheme by scheme supporting agency, ACSEF.  These projected benefits included 6,500 permanent new jobs and no cost to the taxpayer.

It has been shown the taxpayer has already picked up a substantial tab for furthering this project (see http://aberdeenvoice.com/2012/02/the-great-city-gardens-project-gravy-train/ ).

An advisory referendum was held; the Labour Party stated from the start it would not be bound by this referendum, which saw the pro-web side narrowly win.
Various issues arose with the referendum, and an anonymous group placed hundreds of radio adverts via the BiG Partnership which were found in breach of code by OFCOM.

PwC refused to say whether or not the ads’ use of its projections as fact was appropriate, as a ‘private company’ (actually  the PwC invoices are made out to Scottish Enterprise) had commissioned the work (which the taxpayer paid for).

Labour’s election pledges included stopping the granite web, and Labour wound up with a majority in the council at last May’s elections.

The Protest:  A Whimper not a Bang
The organisers included Chad West-MacGregor (who resides in the USA according to his FaceBook page, but who now says he will stay in Aberdeen); they had told the assembled media before the event that hundreds would be in attendance.

A video of the speech can be found at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u57XTEus84

This proved optimistic in the extreme.  The weather was dry and sunny; the date selected was apparently the most convenient date for those who wanted to attend, even if there would be no one in the City Council’s Marischal College to protest to.

This lack of relevant audience did not bother the organisers, who posted on their FaceBook page:-

“Providing hundreds of us make an effort to attend, we will have several media photographers and journalist’s [sic] there to show the entire country that we were there and we were loud. Barney’s back hair will be sticking up when he opens the front page of the EE or the P&J and sees his council building swamped with protesters.”

STV reported:-

“More than 400 people had said they would attend the event on Saturday outside Marischal College to vent their fury at the decision to axe the plans to transform Union Terrace Gardens.  In reality, it was probably only around 60 people who turned up to the demonstration but the organisers felt the small band of protesters made their point.”
http://local.stv.tv/aberdeen/news/local-democracy/191410-city-garden-project-supporters-hold-demonstration-outside-councils-hq/

Organisers have made different representations as to the number of protestors; the FaceBook page linked to the protest has posts from organisers saying there were less than 100 present, but a different post says the organisers had more than 100.

This Aberdeen Voice reporter and her friend were present and counted approximately 70-80 people (more than STV counted) – but there was some fluctuation as people left.  There were about ten media professionals covering the event – 1 for every 8 protestors by my account, or 1 for every 6 by STV’s figures.

The two higher-profile attendees were former councillor Kate Dean and Aileen Malone.  Dean held a Cove Bay Supporters Club banner and wore leggings and the club’s shirt.

Aileen Malone’s presence was something of an oddity. The protest was against the council she is elected to, and she had made it plain that the remaining five Liberal Democrats on the council were not subject to a party whip when the vote on the granite web was held.  Precisely why she felt the need to protest against her own party members – who did not all vote for continuing with the granite web – is a mystery.

The Facebook Pages
A page using Barney Crockett’s photo to represent the organiser (for some odd reason), and an ‘event’ page were launched.  The FaceBook pages caused controversy with a wide range of offensive posts.

After one person, ‘Sasha Molyneux’ mocked someone who had been abused as a child, one person who planned to go on the protest said he now would not.  This person was then attacked for being ‘an anarchist plant’ by Molyneux.

Many posters asked the web pages’ administrator(s) to step in and stop the abuse, but the posts are still there (as at 17:30 22 September 2012).

The web ironically was supposed to attract talent from outwith Aberdeen.  Non-Aberdonians and Aberdonians alike were put off by more posts from Molyneux, who wrote:

“Isn’t it strange that inabootcomers like Suzanne Kelly from New York USA (got a current Visa I hope), Alasdair Johnston from Ayrshire, Richard Baker from Edinburgh, Lewis MacDonald from Lewis via Insch, Willie Young from Stonehaven (we’ll let him off with that) and countless other dissidents seem to think they know what’s best for Aberdeen and it’s [sic] citizens. All the while there are others who can trace their ancestory [sic] back hundreds of years to people who have hewn the very rock from the ground that Aberdeen is built from, taught in the schools that were built with that rock, employed generations in factories run by local entrepenuers [sic] and generally built this city from the ground up and afforded others a lifestyle that they enjoy today. The abuse and disrespect coming from the above mentioned individuals is absolutely disgusting and an extreme isult [sic] to our history and heritage and really if they are not happy they should go elsewhere and learn some decorum and basic manners.”

Most of those mentioned above had not even posted on this page.  Brian Scott then countered with:-

“I can hardly believe my eyes. Has some one actually posted a comment about incomers not having a right to have their say on issues because they cannot trace their roots to Aberdeen despite them setting up home here? Isn’t that racist and reminiscent of a certain political party that takes their mandate from a 1930′s movement originated in central Europe?”

Voice’s Suzanne Kelly quoted Sasha’s earlier anti-incomer post (above) and Sasha replied:-

“I know what I said and i’m glad it is on record because it is the truth. As Annie Lennox once said a North East of Scotland upbringing puts a rod of iron in your soul so just remember that. Your Bully Boy tactics and general disrespect for the people in general don’t go down too well with the people up here and if you think you are being smart and clever just consider this we are a pretty stoical bunch up here and we will break you in the long run.”

 The subjects brought up by pro web factions also included one man’s assertion that the English Defence League is a “peace loving group”, and its leader ‘inspirational’.

There was heated debate back and forth between the two camps, but the radical extremist posts of Molyneux and others from the pro web side were considered by many to be highly inflammatory and seem to constitute what is called ‘trolling.’

It is clear that these extremists do not represent the views of all of the pro granite web faction, but it is clear that the FaceBook page administrators, the organisers of this event, gave tacit support to these posts by allowing them to remain and by not banning the posters.

The organisers seem to indicate they will hold more such events.  Aberdeen Voice will keep you posted of any further developments.

Sep 212012
 

Voice’s Old Susannah  takes a look over the past week’s events in the ‘Deen and further beyond ( including the murky depths of ‘local’ cyberspace ). By Suzanne Kelly.

Across Aberdeen this past week most of us have enjoyed the last warm(ish) days of summer, and the sunny days and early evenings. Others have been glued to their computers waging a curious battle over a protest planned for tomorrow (Saturday 22nd September).

In the quest to win new friends and influence people, the ‘Protest Against Aberdeen City Council’ Facebook pages have entertained a wide variety of opinions, and a wide spectrum of humour (I am using the term ‘humour’ loosely).

Somewhere between 12 and 500 people will appear at 1pm tomorrow in front of the Marischal College  building (which will be deserted, as it’s Saturday), to protest against Aberdeen City Council, Labour, and the death of the granite web.

An interesting report is to go before the Audit Committee soon; it is by an independent reporter who finds that both the councillors and the officers of Aberdeen City Council need to think about how they interact.

Anyone who read about this report in the Press & Journal would have been shedding tears, assuming this bullying was 100% by mean councillors against poor but honest officers.   Indeed. More on that later.

But the real talk of the whole country is around the most fundamental question of all, which is dividing the Scottish nation, setting brother against brother, and causing an affa bother:  is the deep-fried Mars bar a national treasure or not?  Earlier on, the Mars company reportedly disowned the creation;  other sources later claimed the Mars business had embraced the calorific snack.

This crucial question will no doubt be the subject of several independent consultations, a referendum, Holyrood debate, health & safety analysis, a PR campaign by the BiG partnership featuring Morris the Monkey, and more than a few bar room fights.

Some people claim that the original, unadorned Mars bar was good enough as it was, and should be retained.  Others claimed it wasn’t 21st century enough unless it was covered with a web of deep fried flour and grease.  Not since Culloden has such bickering been seen in this part of the world.  Old Susannah hopes resolution is possible.

There have been a few amusing news stories across the UK as well.

  Just tell that to your boss next time you need a few grand on your company’s credit card; I’m sure they won’t mind

Seems some of those nice people at Scottish Enterprise have been very enterprising indeed.  Old Susannah never realised what a generous employer SE was, but it is kindly allowing staff to take SE credit cards and take out nice big, fat juicy cash advances (in a variety of currencies), and paying the amounts back as and when.

As a taxpayer, I’m so pleased we can help out the less fortunate SE employee with the odd £10K loan or two.  It’s alright though, as the employees always intended to pay the money back.  Just tell that to your boss next time you need a few grand on your company’s credit card; I’m sure they won’t mind.

It’s almost as if proper financial controls were not working 100% at SE – which is a bit unfortunate in such a tiny organisation; they still operate on a mere £750,000,000 or so per annum (much of which is salary – which Old Susannah finds difficult to reconcile with the cash advances the cash-strapped staff seem to need).

And in England, a woman has been sentenced for hijacking a ferry boat, telling her pursuers ‘I’m Jack Sparrow!’ and sailing away until finally caught.

Readers will find it hard to believe, but she was high on drink and belladonna (deadly nightshade to you and me, which is quite poisonous).  I prefer the odd BrewDog and crisps, myself.  After two days of drink and hallucinogens, she felt ill for some reason or other, and called the paramedics.

When they arrived she was, naturally enough, on a moored ferry boat, as you do.  She ‘didn’t mean to untie the craft, but the ropes kept getting under her feet’.  Fair enough – could have been any of us really.  The ferry boat’s owner told the BBC this incident was a:-

“total one-off bizarre incident which we have never experienced before”.

Old Susannah should hope so, too.

I’m afraid the definitions this week do involve the web; don’t worry – this too shall pass.

Carrot or the Stick: (English saying) to offer an inducement – reward and/or sanction to gain support or agreement.

Any movement needs to recruit new members.  Those nice Scientology people give out free books on  Oxford Street, and tell you how clever you are.  Next thing you know, you’re married to Tom Cruise and waiting for the mothership.  The Moonies used to give out flowers; various missionaries would trade a square meal in exchange for preaching at you.

The Friends of Union Terrace Gardens and Common Good Aberdeen – two forces with the same ultimate goal of saving UTG from development have web presences, hold meetings, and hold the odd demo or two.  New members and the curious are welcome.

Speaking of odd demos, there is a group called ‘Protest against Aberdeen City Council’ holding the demonstration I mentioned before, taking place tomorrow.  They too have a web page and embrace open debate.  And what a debate it has been.

The finest minds in all of Scotland’s past pale into insignificance against the rhetoric, logic, self-restraint and persuasive skills of a small number of the posters on this page.  I’m surprised we’ve not all been convinced the web’s the way to go by this bunch.

The page’s administrator, who apparently lives in the United States, has allowed a wide raft of comments to go unmoderated, which I’m sure doesn’t mean they are encouraging trolls at all.

Usually when you want someone to come around to your way of thinking, you offer them some reason to do so – the proverbial  carrot and the stick.  The Big Partnership, recently rendered silent on the topic of the web, used both the carrot and the stick to get us to join the granite web fanclub.

  There is an explanation of why the English Defence League has nothing to do with hate or violence

The carrots were ‘build the web and 6,500 new jobs appear’, ‘two hundred million pounds will magically flow into the city annually until the year 2023 (not 2022 or 2024 – 2023) AND the added incentive that Morris the Monkey and Jake the Ghost want the web convinced us in the thousands.

The sticks used to try and beat us into submission?

‘No one will come to Aberdeen’, ‘we’ll look silly if we don’t take Ian’s £50 million and do what he says with it’ and ‘people will think Aberdeen is ‘closed for business.’

I always liked this last ‘closed for business’ argument.  It was supposed to make me think of a vibrant and dynamic shopping mall, doing lots of business.  Instead, it made me think of an indiscriminate callgirl who would do anything with anyone if the price was right.

How are the ‘Protest against Aberdeen’s’ members and posters winning hearts and minds?  Reasoned argument?  Supplying facts and figures?  Welcoming newcomers?  Parrying dissent with rapier-like wit and friendly banter?  Absolutely!

Please do go and visit this page yourself – it has all the relevant facts you need to know to make an informed decision to support the web.  These include colourful postings such as the following:-

*  There is an explanation of why the English Defence League has nothing to do with hate or violence;

*  there is a woman being insulted because of her looks;

*  there is a man who says he’s no longer onside with the protest because of the abusive comments made by protest supporters – so he’s attacked as being a ‘plant’;

*  a man who was abused as a child is asked if he was ‘a little sh*t who deserved a clip ‘round the ears’;

*  there is a woman who ‘has it on good authority’ that all the bills the taxpayer has already picked up for the web were really somehow not paid by the city council (who the invoices were made out to), but Sir Ian really picked them up; and

*  a hilarious joke about building a mosque on UTG (alas; Old Susannah is unable to appreciate the witticism or the point being made)

People against the web have in several instances risen to the bait and argued back.  But whatever side of this issue you are on, have a look at the comments made by people like Sandy M, George S and others.  They’ll have won you over with their carrots and sticks before you know it.

Readers of a sensitive disposition may, however, wish to stay well clear.  https://www.facebook.com/events/456202784419418/

Cautionary Tale: (compound noun; English) A story intended to impart advice by showing someone else’s error.

This new Information Commissioner is taking no prisoners – well, actually she might be, as the police have been called in to enforce the law.

This kind of development in Aberdeenshire is extremely worrying!  The local authority seems to have accidentally denied it had information and accidentally deleted the information it denied having.  It was almost as if there was something to hide, and as if the law came second to what the local government mandarins wanted.

This story, covered in this past week’s Press & Journal (really) implies that Freedom of Information requests have to be answered with the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.  Old Susannah is reassured that there won’t be any such issues here in our city.

Even if the Information Commissioner’s office is reportedly auditing the work our FOI office does, it’s not as if information has ever been withheld from me, or anyone else, is it?  (Unless of course you count requests about Mr S Milne, the deer cull, cost of Marischal college…)

Pre-emptive strike: (compound noun; English) a form of defence or deflecting attention  by attacking one’s opponent first.

Well, a report going to the Audit Committee next week seems to imply that councillors had in the recent past not been treating officers courteously and had asked difficult questions.  Naughty!

No real naming and shaming was done.  I hope no councillors asked awkward questions of Pete Leonard for instance.  Mean councillors in the past may have asked him why he kept representing that the deer-culling, tree-planting scheme was completely cost neutral, even though he knew for months that phase one failed, and ACC had to repay £43,800 for the dead trees.

He recently tried to deflect this irritating fact by reportedly saying £43,800 referred to something in the 1990s.  Just because the money was paid in March 2011, when he was saying the great scheme was cost neutral to the Housing Committee, is no reason to think he wasn’t accurate or completely open, is it?

A cynic could think this report’s suggestions that councillors should show more deference to officers like Leonard is a pre-emptive strike.  Did the report authors know about all the assorted little machinations of Leonard and his ilk?  I’d love to know.  At least one person must have come out of this untarnished:  the softly-spoken, always calm and rational Gerry Brough, kindly volunteer to the City Gardens Project.

Now that this report has come out, I hope city councillors will be warned by this pre-emptive strike not to ask any tough questions!  Hope that’s settled then.

And there we leave it for now.

Next week:  I will attempt again to escape from the granite web – unless Zoe finally writes back about those CGP radio ads, promising us the web for free.  Will keep you posted.

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Sep 132012
 

By Bob Smith. 

Baith sides claim they are richt
Fowk snarlin’s nae a bonnie sicht
The jaw aboot UTG nivver eyns
Aneuch tae fair blaw fowk’s myns

Some cooncillors rail aboot democracy
Ithers say we’re nae gyaan tae dee
Fit business billies they did ask
The TIF scheme wis teen tae task

Politics played oot in cooncil chambers
As the local papers stoke the embers
Scottish Parlimint stick in the knife
Tae cause Labour a wee bit strife

Fit’s happenin noo is tit fer tat
Labour an SNP are haein a spat
Fowk staun aroon fair bemused
Lots o them are nae amused

Tam Smith o Acsef is diggin in
“We’ll nae gie up till we win
Tae the suit brigade jist aa kowtow
An the CGP  ye maun allow”

Awa Tam ging an bile yer heid
The Granite Web we dinna need
Tae restore city cinter tae former glory
Needs common sense nae some fairy story

Oor toon cinter wis left tae rot
Fin aa the shoppin malls we got
Raisin the gairdens winna help ae bit
City planners hiv left us in the shit

Tae bring back pride in oor city
Disna need ideas fae a Walter Mitty
Restore the fabric o oor bonnie toon
Dinna aye bliddy teer things doon

©Bob Smith “The Poetry Mannie” 2012

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Aug 172012
 

As crucial Aberdeen City  Council votes loom large for the future of Union Terrace Gardens, Mike Shepherd considers the TIF business case and finds it lacking.

Just imagine you are the managing director of a big business.  An opportunity has come up to build a new development.

Private investors have promised you £70 million, but it means that you have to borrow £92 million and the government have said they could find £20 million of grant to fund the rest.
Half the shareholders are revolting as they think the venture looks far too risky and the existing company debt is humongous.

The time comes to make a decision on the investment and submit a business case for borrowing to the board of directors.  It turns out that the private investors can only come up with £55 million and now the grant funding has fallen through because the funds never existed in the first place.  

Calamity – the project now has a shortfall of £35 million.  What do you do?  The sensible thing would be to walk away.

Not Aberdeen Council.  I refer of course to the TIF business case written by council officials recommending that the council borrow £92 million for the redevelopment of Union Terrace Gardens and other city centre projects.

The final business case for TIF has been made public and will be voted on at the finance committee on Friday 17th August.
(The agenda for this meeting can be seen at http://committees.aberdeencity.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=146&MId=2668 )

A critical reading of the report makes one thing obvious - they haven’t got all the money!

Yet, it hasn’t stopped council officials from producing a business case where the critical points are buried in waffle and padded out to 187 pages.

Out of the badly argued case (with assumptions, inconsistencies and dodgy data) emerges this conclusion on page 141:

Underpinning the TIF business case is the requirement for £182 million of investment in enabling infrastructure.  At present the business case shows that there is a commitment for £90 million of investment from the private sector and the need for £92 million of public sector investment.

However, there is a shortfall of £35 million on the public sector funding required for the project.

£70 million is recognised as the private sector investment in the quote above, yet they are £15 million short.  As page 46 notes:

This includes £55 million that has already been pledged to the City Garden Project by private donors and a further £15 million still to be raised.”

So where is this extra £15 million supposed to come from?  Page 50 records that:

“Aberdeen City Garden Trust will provide capital funding, act as developer for the City Garden project …  ACGT have also undertaken to raise a further £15 million of philanthropic donations, to supplement the £55 million already pledged to this project from philanthropic donations.”

The begging bowl is going out for £15 million.  Chaps, you have less than a week to get the money.

The remaining £20 million of, “investment from the private sector” comprises “potentially £20 million of grant funding” for an Art Gallery extension.   But does this money exist?

Further reference to page 50 shows that:

The remaining £20 million of grants is attached to the Aberdeen Art Gallery Project.  Officers will pursue a variety of grants to secure the required funds.”

Note the use of the future tense, “will pursue” here.

Council reports show that officers have yet to apply for any funding and, with the exception of a possible £4 million of Scottish Heritage Lottery funding, no other sources of money appear to have been identified.

So what happens if they don’t get the £20 million grant funding for the Art Gallery?

To page 50 again:

Should there be a funding gap officers will need to consider how additional funds will be attracted, generated or secured via other fiscal arrangements.

Anybody fancy a Monet, Turner or a Cezanne?  Going cheap …

This isn’t a business case, it’s a bankruptcy case.

Last year, in a discussion with a council official, I mentioned the possibility of the City Garden Project proving a financial disaster and bankrupting the council.  I was cheerfully told that a public body can’t, technically, go bankrupt although it can end up in a state that closely resembles it (Greece comes to mind).

But make no mistake, Aberdeen Council are going to get burnt here.  Councillors are being asked to vote on borrowing £92 million for a project where there is a very large shortfall on external funding and no guarantee that any of this money will ever turn up.

It would of course be sensible to delay the vote until the money does actually appear.  Yet there is an insanely mad rush to progress with this project, even if it doesn’t make any sense to do so.

What is not discussed anywhere is the mechanism by which Aberdeen Council will guarantee the loan

Another problem with the report is that no detailed costings for the various projects are given.  For example, the £140 million cost for the City Garden Project is a nominal cost from the original technical feasibility study written over three years ago. It is certainly not the final costing.

This means that councillors could be committing to a multi-million basket of projects with no clear provision of accurate costs.  I find this situation alarming and hope for our sake that they do so too.

So who takes the risk on the borrowing?  This is made clear on page 50:

“Aberdeen City Council also recognise that the risk sits with them.”

The report mentions that the borrowing would be from the Public Works Loan Board.  What is not discussed anywhere is the mechanism by which Aberdeen Council will guarantee the loan.

The Scottish Futures Trust, operating on behalf of the Scottish Government, have provided guidance as to how a TIF business case should be submitted to them.
See http://www.facebook.com/l/QAQE16FGI/scottishfutures.ehclientsTIF

In Section 4.4 it is stated that:

“Economic assessments to be carried out:

  • By an objective economist with a recognised track-record of economic assessment for public bodies”

On page 72 we find that Aberdeen City Gardens Trust is identified as providing:

“Core expertise to assist in a robust TIF business case in order to support ACC’s efforts.”

Let’s remind ourselves who Aberdeen City Gardens Trust are again by referring to page 46:

“ACGT will provide capital funding, act as developer for the City Garden Project …”

An earlier draft makes it clear that the advisors to the ACGT were also involved in providing critical input on economic uplift that is supposed to result from building the City Garden Project and related schemes.

Thus a private company seeking to take over a lease and operatorship of council property have been allowed to influence a report justifying the case for Aberdeen Council borrowing £70 million to fund a project that the company has a direct interest in.

In a statement published by the Press and Journal last Monday I wrote:

“The Council would most certainly not allow developers to provide direct input into a report recommending planning acceptance; so why is it appropriate to allow developers to provide economic advice to councillors when the outcome could clearly act in their favour?”

I have complained vigorously to the Chief Executive of the Council on this matter.  It is very bad governance.  I have also drawn this matter to the attention of the Council Monitoring Officer and asked her to investigate this.

Councillors will vote on Friday as to whether this business case is approved or not.

It would be sensible to delay the vote until the business case can be proved to be robust.  Aberdeen Council also needs to find an objective economist, someone who is not directly involved in the project, to give advice.

Otherwise madness would lie in approving the business case and exposing Aberdeen Council to financial disaster.

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Aug 172012
 

By Bob Smith.

Noo a hunner business billies
Faa support  City Gairdens Trust
Tae destroy Union Terrace Gairdens
They aa think iss is a must

They’re aa the usual suspects
Faa stan tae mak a killin
An ding doon ony cooncillor
Faa disna show ony willin

Ye hiv the likes o Martin Gilbert
Twa Stewarties, Milne an Spence
An woe betide ony business chiel
Faa micht sit upon the fence

A letter tae oor  toon council
Wis sint wingin on its wye
If ye vote agin the plans
We micht hing ye oot tae dry

Think o the bigger picter here
Is their affa mournfu plea
An Sir Ian he’ll jist waak awa
If oor biddin ye dinna dee

Their PR machine is gearin up
Wi  helpfu freens at the P&J
Faa canna say onything naistie
Advertisin revenue cums intae play

Fit richt hiv aa thae buggers
Tae tell us fit’s best fer oor toon?
An try tae dictate tae oor council
Fit they can or canna vote doon

We wull sin fin oot fit’s fit
The cooncil’s back is tae the wa
Can they haud faist agin the critics
An a hunner “snipers” an aa an aa? 

© Bob Smith “The PoetryMannie” 2012

 

Aug 172012
 

Old Susannah takes a look recent events in the ‘Deen, and tackles tricky terms with a locally topical taste. By Suzanne Kelly.

Tally Ho!  Once again future of our Union Terrace Gardens with its green field, 250-year-old elms, other trees, and wildlife is in the spotlight. The vote of the full council next week on 22 August will be significant to our getting our £140,000,000 granite web, which will fit in situ so naturally that we’ll think the Victorians built it in time.

Sadly, some anti-progress, anti-referendum, nimby tree-huggers are suggesting that the more suitable place for a public square is the St Nicholas site, and our only city centre park should be left as, well, a park. Three independent councillors will suggest an alternative to the web at the 22/8 meeting.

However, Sir Ian has much more money than they do, and will take his ball home if anyone suggests not doing the plan he wants.

We know he’ll give up as he’s said as much four or five times already (but failed to do so).  Sir Ian and Valerie Watts say without a web, we cannot be the City of Culture in 2017!  Well, that’s the argument for the web settled then.  What good are clean air, a healthy environment, heritage, common good land and existing culture when we can try to win an award?

Not surprisingly this issue of Aberdeen Voice will be filled with articles concerning our city’s future, and reasons to keep our common good land out of the hands of the usual suspects (Smith, Crosby, Milne, Wood of course, and the rest of the ACSEF acolytes).  Old Susannah is keen to redress the balance, and ensure that the selfless, apolitical philanthropists behind the £140,000,000 project get the consideration they deserve.

To that end, here are some relevant definitions.

Intellectual property: (modern English phrase) principle that the ownership of an original idea rests with the idea’s creators, and should be protected by law.

Peacock Visual Arts had come up with the original idea of building a new arts centre inside UTG; they were helped by Scottish Enterprise and ACSEF with their original scheme.  This help was kind of like the help that the Fox gave to Jemima Puddleduck.

Magically, the Peacock idea was hijacked (with Scottish Enterprise help) and transformed into the transformational 8th wonder of the world, The Granite Web.  After all their expense and groundwork, Peacock was left out in the cold, irrespective of their moral right to their intellectual property of putting a cultural venue in UTG.

Just as well this wasn’t going on in America; it would still be being fought in the courts now.

Thankfully, such hijackings of intellectual property concerning UTG are very rare, except for the most recent one.  Common Good Aberdeen, a group of people who simply want the gardens enhanced and protected from developers, recently came up with an original idea which they pitched to the City.

They proposed serving drinks and snacks from a temporary structure inside one of the disused central arches in UTG for a year. ALL profits, if the scheme survives a vote to be held today (17/08), are to be diverted to improving UTG.

Thus volunteers will take an unused space, encourage people to use the gardens, and generate money for the gardens’ improvement.  Obviously, we can’t have this kind of thing going on.

While some of the City’s administration and councillors are supporting this fresh, original scheme, other powers that be (one Mr Gordon McIntosh) has written a report saying that the Council must ensure that it gets ‘Value for Money’ for the disused arch if it is put to use.  Good man!  Mind the pennies, and the hundreds of millions of pounds will take care of themselves.

It is almost as if MacIntosh didn’t want the gardens used for social purposes

Gordon wants to take Common Good’s idea, clearly their intellectual property, and turn it into a commercial bidding exercise (which of course will cost the City money to put out to tender and evaluate incoming bids), and presumably charge whomever would want to rent the empty arch out.

If an organisation has to pay rent on the empty space, it is not that likely that they will plough 100% of their profits into fixing the gardens, which is what Common Good Aberdeen proposed.

It is almost as if MacIntosh didn’t want the gardens used for social purposes or for means to be found to generate UTG improvement funds at no cost to the City.  We have an empty space that is making no money, which volunteers want to use as a means of raising money to fix the gardens, while adding a social amenity to the area at no cost to the city.  If I were as clever as he, it would make sense I’m sure.

Much better that the City spend time and money on a bidding exercise to see if anyone wants to steal CGA’s idea for profit rather than any genuine philanthropy happening.  So, if after we spend taxpayer money on a bid to run a small café, some private company comes along to do so, then it’s profit to them and not the gardens.  Result!

That’s the kind of thinking that got us the city administration we’ve been enjoying these past several years.  If any of the councillors who have a chance to vote on the CGA proposal today are reading this column, I am sure they will do the right thing.

Let’s look at this principle Gordon wants to nobly uphold of ensuring Aberdeen City gets ‘Value for Money’.  Since we’ve seen that we can’t let people use a tiny arch for one year to sell snacks for generating improvement funds for the gardens without proper scrutiny, no doubt this important principle would have to apply to any and all schemes, great and small….

Value for Money:  (mod. English phrase) phrase used in public administration to describe the principle of ensuring that any services or products being sourced by government are obtained by the best qualified suppliers at the lowest possible prices.  European Law also dictates that any public services or goods contracts of substantial value be awarded by fair, open tender processes. 

They might even be expected to give the city a performance bond or guarantee

Let’s imagine just for one moment that a big city, somewhere has a park filled with trees, wildlife, and open spaces for people to enjoy.

Such a space might even be owned by the people outright.

Let’s imagine one step further that after years of mismanagement this hypothetical city wants to make a quick buck or two, and decides to develop this park, despite environmental concerns and public outcry.

The city in question would be expected tofirst write up a tender document, describing what it would want a management company to deliver in the gardens in question.  The tender document would describe in detail exactly what structures were to be created, what activities would take place, what everything would cost, and exactly what the management company’s role would be.

Advertisements asking for bidders with sufficient experience would be placed around the world, and the companies with sufficient experience of project management and venue operations would compete in a tender exercise.  If any would-be management companies had existing personal and business ties with any of the city’s officials or entities (maybe like ACSEF), these would have to be declared and scrutinised:  no one with power over the decision-making process would be permitted to be involved in evaluating tenders or giving work out.

Each bid would be evaluated by the city – without the name of the individual bidders being known – based on the company’s experience, financial health, submitted detailed operation and building budgets and so on.  A shortlist of the best companies would then be evaluated, and the best ‘Value for Money’ bidder would be awarded a contract.

They successful bidder might even be expected to give the city a performance bond or guarantee, and a parent company guarantee to ensure they would not simply disappear or sell the contract on to a third party.

Strict performance benchmarks would be drawn up, and the winning bidder would only be paid for each phase of the detailed project as they successfully delivered it.

Crucially, the entire process would be available for public scrutiny after the sensitive pricing and tendering exercise was completed – before any final contracts were signed.

OR, if the city was Aberdeen….

Members of various interlinked public and/or private entities such as ACSEF would talk to their pals, find out how to make money out of the public’s common good land, ‘transform’ an idea from an arts group into a money-spinner for friends in the construction and development sectors, and use their public and private muscle to get the city leaders to bend to their will.

Some of their number would set up a small private, limited ‘charity’ company, perhaps calling it Aberdeen City Gardens Trust.  This company would automatically be appointed by the city to run the multimillion pound construction scheme without any ‘value for money’ tendering exercise, scrutiny or competition.

Audit Scotland might wonder which companies were paid to carry out the expensive PR / advertising jobs

The newly formed Trust would actively influence decisions such as whether to build theatres next to theatres (Brilliant!),  chop down ancient trees and remove habit for protected EU species which live in said park and promise to plant fir trees (which can’t thrive in a city centre – even more brilliant!).

In the process taxpayer money would be spent to convince the city that building an unspecific project based on a few illogical, unworkable architectural flights of fancy was worth the taxpayer borrowing £90,000,000.

The project would be pushed ahead with this Trust at the head of delivering services, without a project scope defined, without a time frame for construction, and crucially without a budget open to public scrutiny.

It is a very good thing that the EU will never want to look into the manner in which the Granite Web is being foisted on the population or what procurement rules may be being ever so slightly bent.

Similarly, Audit Scotland would never decide to look at precisely how ACSEF and Scottish Enterprise ordered tens of thousands of pounds worth of PR, advertising, and ’stakeholder’ events’, then had the Chamber of Commerce submit invoices to the City Council to pay with public funds.

Audit Scotland will not wonder which companies were paid to carry out the expensive PR / advertising jobs – and why these companies did not get named on the Chamber of Commerce invoices, which cover several years. If that happened, then the elected councillors might start to question whether the entire proceedings were valid, examine the role of ACSEF and its members, and whether the EU, UK or Scottish regulatory agencies would come around asking questions.

Other firms with relevant project delivery experience might get slightly cross at the absence of a tender exercise for such a aluable public project; some of these companies might even know as much about multimillion pound schemes and public amenities as Tom Smith does.   It could all get just a little awkward, sticky, embarrassing and litigious.

I’d best keep these potential problems to myself.  I would hate it if any councillor having doubts about the project were to worry unduly about supporting the web on my account.

Final: (Eng adjective) The last of something; the end of something.

Old Susannah is so old that she went to The Who’s ‘farewell’ concert at Shea Stadium, NY, with the Clash as opening act (was it 1981?  Wish I could see The Clash again especially). The Who played, said it was their final tour, and that was that.  Since then, The Who have had about 57 other final tours.

ACGT were given custody of the ballot papers, even though the taxpayer had paid for the vote.

Sir Ian seems to be a fan of finality as well.  Those of us with memories longer than a goldfish’s will remember the first ‘consultation’ – you know, the one in which the voters rejected the garden scheme.  Sir Ian was going to go walk away then if the concept failed to win the public’s hearts and minds.

Well, we did say ‘no’ but as is often the case, ‘no’ must have really meant ‘yes’.  The official line was that those who were against the scheme simply didn’t understand it.  Fair enough.  So Ian didn’t say ‘farewell’ after all, and resurrected the scheme.

The public were going to be given a chance to vote against developing the gardens when the shortlisted 6 were on view.  This option was what councillors on some of the ‘City Garden Project’ committees had asked for.  However, in the end Gerry Brough is quoted in meeting minutes as saying this was not after all ‘appropriate’ during the design show after all.

People most definitely used the exhibition to write on the ballot papers they wanted no part of destroying UTG, which was very naughty of them indeed.

Thankfully, to avoid any embarrassment for Sir Ian, Tom Smith and Colin Crosby of ACGT were given custody of the ballot papers, even though the taxpayer had paid for the vote.

Campaign groups demanded sight of the papers; but brave ACGT held fast.  We will never know for certain what the real public vote was during the shortlist as to scrapping the scheme or not.  We do know however that the giant glass worm, the public’s choice, was turned down by Wood.

When things started looking bad for the scheme yet again, Wood churned out press releases saying he would draw a final line under the project, and walk away and give his £50,000,000 to the third world instead.

When the three independent councillors said they were working on an alternative idea, Wood said he would not compromise.  And that is his final word.  Well, for this week anyway.

Word arrives that early next week Sir Ian will AGAIN meet with individual councillors to make his ‘final’ plea.  Old Susannah is starting to get deja vu.  I do wonder though why Sir Ian gets to make continued visits to the councillors, sit in the ‘press’ box when he attends council meetings and so on.  Anyone would think he were rich or something.  Thankfully this is a democracy.  Word also reaches me that these continuous pleas from Sir Ian are beginning to grate on more than a few councillors’ patience.

What Woody will do if the vote goes against the scheme will be, of course, to make a final farewell, take his money and spend it in Africa….

And if you believe that….

Next week:  a look at who voted how, what’s next, and if common sense and Common Good Aberdeen prevail, lots of Champagne and lots of BrewDog.

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Jul 092012
 

Mike Shepherd has  lodged a complaint in a letter to Aberdeen City Council Chief Executive Valerie Watts regarding the recently published TIF business case. Mike shares the content of the letter with Aberdeen Voice readers.

To The Chief Executive, Aberdeen Council

I am lodging a complaint about the TIF Business Case “Aberdeen City Centre Regeneration Scheme” which has been written as a report to inform a council vote in August. This document should be a disinterested analysis of the case, or otherwise, for Aberdeen Council borrowing £92 million through Tax Incremental Financing (TIF).

It is not. The report is a constructed narrative that contains major factual mistakes, errors of omission, false statements and flawed data. It is not credible.

The key argument of the report is based on input by private developers and their advisors who have a clear interest in a positive outcome to the council vote.  The conclusions of the report are therefore incompetent.

I request that Aberdeen Council withdraw the TIF business case as unfit for purpose.
http://www.aberdeencity.gov.uk/TIF_business_case

The details of my complaint are as follows:

  • The TIF business case contains a major factual mistake concerning funding for the Art Gallery:

On page 11 it is stated: 

It is expected that a further £20 million of funding will be secured via Grants and other funding mechanisms to enable the City Art Gallery Redevelopment.”

In a table on page 42, it is stated that:

“The City Art Gallery redevelopment:  Funding identified from existing sources – £20 million”

This is incorrect. There is no identified £20 million funding for the Art Gallery. Council minutes show that the appropriate figure is £4 million.

The £20 million figure stems from an unrealistic aspiration to apply for funding from the Scottish Heritage Lottery Fund (SHLF):

“Both the Art Gallery redevelopment and a Museums Collection Centre would be eligible to apply for Heritage Fund Lottery grants, although the value the City Council would wish is beyond the annual allocation, which for all of Scotland is currently £20 million.”
http://committees.aberdeencity.gov.uk/mgConvert2PDF.aspx?ID=7314

The Council have yet to apply for funding from the SHLF and intend to do so later this year, in November. They have approached the SHLF:

“Officers have also discussed the current status of the project with the Scottish office of the Heritage Lottery Fund; the Fund advises that if matched funding can be raised within the City, then their Board would accept this as the Council’s contribution to the project within the application.

“The Art Gallery redevelopment is also included as one of the projects within the Tax Incremental Fund BID to the Scottish Government and if this is successful, that funding can be counted as part of the city’s contribution.”
http://committees.aberdeencity.gov.uk/mgConvert2PDF.aspx?ID=18050

The Art Gallery component of the TIF application is for £4 million (Ref: Table on page 42).  Matched funding from the SLHF for the TIF sum would be £4 million, not £20 million.

In the table on page 42 it is also stated:  

“The TIF Scheme creates the opportunity to invest in the City Art Gallery and even if after this investment the City of Culture bid is unsuccessful, the City will still have a state of the art asset for future generations to enjoy, as a result of the TIF mechanism.”

This is misleading. The Art Gallery redevelopment costings are as follows:

“The Development Study was fully funded by the Marguerite McBey Trust. Gareth Hoskins Architects provided an options appraisal in 2010 outlining 5 schemes ranging in scale and costs from £15.7m to £24.3m [2010 prices].”

TIF plus matched funding from the SHLF would only account for £8 million of the total sum required. The conclusion that “the City will still have a state of the art asset for future generations to enjoy, as a result of the TIF mechanism” is false and incompetent.

  • The TIF business case is misleading about funding from the private sector:

On page 11 there is a statement concerning private funding for the City Garden Project:  

“This includes £55 million that has already been pledged to the City Garden Project by private donors and a further £15 million to be raised”.

It is also mentioned that Aberdeen Council are confident that the extra £15 million can be found even though that this has been an unfulfilled aspiration for the last two years. Although the full £70 million has not been pledged, this figure has been assumed as valid for the rest of the report.

By page 42 this has become “funding identified from existing sources: £70 million.” This is incorrect, only £55 million has been identified.

On page 89 the conclusion states:

“The estimated total cost of the assets and enabling infrastructure for the TIF Scheme is £182 million.

“Pledged donations towards the City Garden Project of £70 million and potential grants for the City Art Gallery of £20 million creates a public sector investment requirement of £92 million, or marginally over 50% of the total cost, which will be borrowed by ACC as part of the proposed TIF Scheme.”

This conclusion is incompetent. The sums are wrong.  A consequence of this blunder is that Aberdeen Council may be required to borrow more than £92 million to ensure that the ‘city centre regeneration project’ is enabled.

  • An overlooked detail of critical importance to the business case: 

The report quotes extensively from the conditions voted through at the January 25th Council meeting. However, I have failed to find the following information mentioned.

From the report to Council of 25th January and voted through:

“Instructs officers to enter into negotiations with a view to putting in place a development agreement with Aberdeen City Garden Trust (ACGT) and/or their representatives, which sets out the terms upon which Aberdeen City Council (ACC) would be prepared to make necessary Council owned land available, to realise the proposed development described in Appendix 1 of this report after 1st March subject to;

“(x) Requires ACGT to confirm, in a legally binding form, that they have access to at least £70 million of private sector funds to invest in the CGP, prior to the signing of;

“a. An appropriate Development Agreement, and

“b. A TIF agreement confirming ACC’s ability to invest at least £70 million in enabling infrastructure related to the CGP. “

http://committees.aberdeencity.gov.uk/mgConvert2PDF.aspx?ID=18252

In other words, councillors have already decided that if the extra £15 million of private investment is not guaranteed, they are not going to apply for TIF funding. This should have been stated in the business case.

  • Flawed data:

Part of the justification for the City Garden Project is based on a questionnaire that was sent out to two selected groups in Aberdeen. This covers several pages of the report. One ‘cohort’ was a small group of 35 developers, landowners and agents in the City Centre area; the second comprised

“four hundred local private, public and third-sector organisations, representing a wide range of views.”

They got no replies from the first group (“a small response”), and later tried to phone them to get any views at all. Eventually seven people replied and several pages of analysis ensues in the report based on the comments of only seven individuals. There was a bit more interest from the second group, a group that included me.

I found that the questions were framed in such a way that it was virtually impossible to register any negative opinions about the City Garden Project. By dint of answering almost all the questions you ended up agreeing that the project was worthwhile.

This is typical:

“Considering each of the development schemes, which of the following benefits do you envisage they might deliver to the wider Aberdeen City economy?”

There is a clear intentional bias to the questionnaire that looks designed to elicit positive statements in favour of the City Garden Project. My opinion is that this is propaganda not data, and it should have no place in what should have been a dispassionate report informing councillors regarding the decision they have to make about the TIF business case.

  • Inappropriate input from the Aberdeen City Garden Trust:

The bottom line of the business case is that the City Garden Project will “will act as a catalyst for regeneration and economic growth” in Aberdeen and gives “The potential to unlock significant private sector investment and generate up to 8121 jobs and an average of £142.0 million per annum of economic growth over 25 years.”

The business justification is that take up of commercial space in two large business parks being built in the north of the city will be significantly under-subscribed unless the City Garden Project is built. An additional assumption concerns extra business activity in the city centre.

There is no discussion concerning how these assumptions have been made, yet this is the crux of the business case. We are being asked to trust that these assumptions are valid without any cogent analysis provided.

Yet, trust is a major issue concerning these assumptions. On page 74 under the section ASSESSMENT OF NEW DEVELOPMENT AND BUSINESS RATES UPLIFT” we read that:

In undertaking this assessment of development uplift ACC has received specialist research support from property advisors CB Richard Ellis as well as input from ACGT and PwC.”

(ACGT –Aberdeen City Garden Trust, PwC – Price Waterhouse Coopers, CBRE – CB Richard Ellis)

The relationship between CB Richard Ellis, PwC and the Aberdeen City Garden Trust is made clear on page 52:

 “ACC, with support from ACGT Enterprises and their advisers (PwC and CBRE)”

Thus it appears that major input has been provided to the critical argument in the business case by Aberdeen City Garden Trust and their advisors. A private company seeking to take over a lease and operatorship of council property, has been allowed to dictate input to a report recommending that  Aberdeen Council borrow £92 million for a project in which the company has a direct interest. This is entirely inappropriate.

The Aberdeen City Garden Trust has a clear interest in a positive outcome for the City Garden Project. They and their advisors should not have been allowed to have input into this report.

  • Conclusion:

Aberdeen Council operates at both a corporate and political level. Politicians make policy while key council officials provide a detailed examination of the background that commonly informs the decision making process.

In this regard, it is important that council officials provide a rigorous and dispassionate analysis, with any recommendations based on logic and a clear basis for the arguments that have been set out to justify these recommendations. In the report detailing the business case for the City Garden Project and other ancillary schemes, they have failed abysmally.

The most recent version of the business case is a travesty of synthesis and thesis. Rather than setting out a well argued case leading from careful marshalling of data towards a conclusion, the report appears to proceed from conclusion (the City Garden Project is a good thing) via a constructed narrative that includes mistakes, flawed data and wishful thinking.

Given that a consequence of this report is that Aberdeen Council could end up borrowing £92 million on the basis of ‘economic regeneration’, this may result in major reputational and financial damage for the council. The vote to approve submitting the business case to the Scottish Government is likely to take place in August this year.

  • The outcome I would like to see:

The TIF business case should be withdrawn immediately as incompetent and unfit for purpose.

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