Dec 132013
 

unison grampianWith thanks to Hall Hamilton Harper.

Due to the high cost of living in the Grampian Region, health union UNISON are campaigning for pay equality in the area to help alleviate recruitment and retention issues in the oil capital of Europe and provide local NHS workers with a reasonable living wage.

The matter of a High Cost Area Supplement for NHS staff in Grampian was raised during Portfolio Questions in the Scottish Parliament on Wednesday 11th December (question number 8).

In response, Health Secretary Alex Neil said:

 “I do not believe that a High Cost Area Supplement would be appropriate.

“I think that when you get into that you have to look at other parts of the country, for example one of the major shortages in the Western Isles is finding a maintenance engineer because of the renewable energy’s success in the Western Isles.

“Do we then introduce a high cost living supplement or a skills shortage supplement for the Western Isles?”

Responding to Mr Neil’s comments Laura McDonald, Branch Secretary for UNISON Grampian Health Branch commented:

“Our claim is for our members in the Grampian region who are struggling to make ends meet due to the very high costs associated with living in the area”

Ruaraidh MacKinnon, Branch Treasurer for UNISON Grampian Health Branch added:

“The Western Isles was a great example for Mr. Neil to use as it already has an allowance that is paid to all Western Isles staff – it’s called a Scottish distant islands allowance.

“The High Cost Area Supplement for Grampian is about much more than an isolated incidence of a difficult to recruit post, it is about the huge difference in the general costs of living within the Grampian area when compared to neighbouring boards.”

The figures produced by UNISON show that low paid NHS employees in Aberdeen only have, on average, £76.64 per month left to live on after deductions for rent, council tax and ‘bus travel compared with their counterparts in Dundee and Inverness who are left with £483.67 and £396.33 respectively.

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Nov 082013
 

By Duncan Harley

clock changing177

Aberdeen Voice is not currently considering teaming up with Home Energy Scotland to reflect on the situation of the 8000 or so citizens receiving the now abolished Incapacity Benefit in and around Scotland’s Granite City.
ESA, or Employment Support Allowance, seems to be the current title and seemingly:

“Claimants already receiving Incapacity Benefit, Income Support paid because of an illness or disability or Severe Disablement Allowance (SDA) continued to receive those benefits as long as they remained eligible. However, the government announced in 2010 that these claimants would all be migrated to ESA between spring 2011 and 2014.”

Hopefully this migration has taken place since fuel bills are going up yet again by another 8% or so, and with that in mind it is time to consider energy saving measures. You may feel disempowered, you may be on benefits or you may simply feel overwhelmed by the problem of how to keep warm this winter.

With those clocks changing and the outside temperature sliding downwards, it’s time to take control and manage your energy use in the 21st Century.

Top tips include:

  • Home Heating: Did you know that by just turning down your home thermostat by just 1 degree you can cut your home heating bill by 10%?  Great news for your bank balance.
  • Your floor: Did you know that by insulating an under floor space and sealing those pesky gaps around your skirting boards you could save 1% of your annual spend on household heating? Great news for your bank balance.
  • Loft insulation: Did you know that most heat is lost via the roof? By making sure you have the recommended 270mm of insulation recommended by the government you could save around 30% on your annual bills for home heating. Great news for your bank balance.
  • Cremation: Did you know that the average cremation consumes around £200 of carbon rich resources. Many families choose cremation because it’s seen as a more environmentally friendly route than a traditional burial.  Embalming, expensive sealed caskets and burial vaults are not required by law and although traditional memorial parks may require them, a green cemetery or memorial nature preserve does not.  The simplicity of a green burial is in tune with nature and need not be expensive. Great news for your bank balance.

A green burial can relieve your loved ones of the distress that comes in having to make difficult, and often costly, decisions after your passing.  Involve your friends and family now, so difficult decisions do not need to be made in a time of grief. Great news for your bank balance.

frond177A green burial is a cremation alternative, and a viable alternative to traditional burial practices in the UK.  It is an eco-earth friendly option when considering burial vs cremation.

Home Energy Scotland?  Seems it’s at http://www.kennymacaskill.co.uk/news/home-energy-scotland/

It is apparently a one stop shop for people looking to save energy and lower fuel bills during the winter months.

Measures include offering free energy saving gadgets worth £50 in the form of a digital electricity monitor and a stand-by plug which will help households to save, on average, £47 a year on fuel bills and CO2 that would fill 361 wheelie bins.

Great news for your bank balance.

Kenny MacAskill MSP says:

“The range of help available through the Home Energy Hotline includes free or discounted insulation, central heating, help to switch to cheaper tariffs and help to ensure people are claiming their full pension and benefit support.

“By offering this help the Scottish Government are once again ensuring people are able to stay warm and keep their bills down this winter. If we see a winter similar to last year this will be a very welcome measure. The free energy-saving devices and other help will assist households in saving money at a time when everyone is counting the pennies.

“I would encourage anyone in Edinburgh East & Musselburgh who is unsure of what they can do to call the Home Energy Hotline on 0800 512 012.”

Great news for your bank balance.

The government and the energy companies wish you well this winter but advise you to remember to turn down your thermostat.

They also would like to take this opportunity to remind you that a warm home is a privilege not a right.

Great news for your bank balance.

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Aug 092013
 

Mike Shepherd examines social and economic changes which can been seen to have a wide reaching environmental impact from the rain forest of Borneo to the toads of Bishops Loch.

In May this year I returned from Borneo after working there for nine months.

I was living in a city slightly larger than Aberdeen, and although located in Malaysia, over half the inhabitants there are ethnic Chinese.

My hotel apartment was in the Chinese district and I found myself one of only a handful of westerners living there.

The Malaysian people pride themselves on their scrupulous racial tolerance and never at any time did I feel uncomfortable living among them.

I soon made several Chinese friends and found myself quickly immersed in their way of life. I’ve been told that the Chinese of Borneo have preserved more of their age-old culture than is the case on the Chinese mainland, where modernisation and globalisation are changing things rapidly.

I felt a lot like a modern age Marco Polo as I learnt with great interest about subjects such as Taoism, Feng Shui and numerology. My Malaysian Chinese friends were pragmatic, extremely business focussed, and yet the most superstitious people I’d ever come across.

One morning in Borneo, I woke up smelling wood smoke. I looked out from the 17th floor of the apartment block where I lived, and saw smoke billowing over the low ridges to the east of the city. Billowing smoke is a common sight in this part of the world, and is the result of scrubland being burnt off in preparation for the laying out of palm oil plantations, or land for crops.

The scrubland is what remains after tropical rain forest has been chopped down. The tropical forest is disappearing in Borneo: one estimate puts the rain forest cover at less than 50%. The tropical hard wood is sold to countries such as India, and it’s a highly profitable business.

The sight and smell of the wood smoke upset me greatly. It’s a sign of how the tropical rain forest is dwindling and it’s also a health hazard. The smoke is carcinogenic, yet none of the authorities would do anything to stop it from drifting over the city. A taxi driver told me that on occasions the smoke in the city would become so dense that it would be almost impossible to drive safely.

Singapore was similarly  affected in June this year.

On the day that I first smelled wood smoke, I mentioned this to my Chinese friends over a beer in the evening. I made some comment about how sad it was that we should have to tolerate the toxic smoke, in the full knowledge of the loss to humanity of such a valuable resource as the tropical rain forest.

Not only were our lungs being assaulted but the “lung” that provided oxygen to the world was being destroyed piecemeal.

The biodiversity catastrophe taking place would impoverish the whole of humanity and not just the people in Borneo.

These comments were received in stunned silence.

Then one of my friends spoke in an angry tone:

“YOU PEOPLE. How can you come here and say things like that?” 

I was immediately alarmed, a subject of extreme sensitivity had clearly been broached. Not only that, the vehemence of the reply was totally out of place in a culture where there is a taboo against displaying strong emotions in public.

What followed was an explanation of what had upset them so much and I write here the gist of what they said to me.

The logging industry and palm oil plantations are major sources of employment in the area, together with the oil industry and a little bit of tourism. There is no manufacturing industry in Borneo; it’s too far off the shipping lanes to have got caught up in the tiger economy of Southeast Asia. Jobs in logging and palm oil provide income for the locals.

The alternative is the poverty that is all too visible in parts of the city. Although Malaysia is relatively prosperous, you can still find illegal shanty towns or ‘kampungs’, which are typically where immigrants from Indonesia and the Philippines live. The week after I arrived, an epidemic of cholera had broken out in a kampung in the neighbouring city; a sign of the very poor sanitary conditions in these places.

My friends had told me on other occasions about poverty in Southeast Asia. For example, the poor of Indonesia sustain themselves with what they call “second-hand rice”. This is boiled rice left over from cafes and restaurants which is treated by being left to dry in the sun. The rice is then broken up and bagged, ready to be sold very cheaply to those who can’t even afford fresh rice.

perhaps both sides of the argument are perfectly reasonable

As we sat drinking Tiger Beer in the local Chinese café, they asked me “Would you want us to be that poor by denying us jobs?” The subject was quickly changed and we found something a lot more jolly to talk about. Social harmony is highly valued in that part of the world.

In the final analysis, most people reading this in Aberdeen, I would guess, will probably agree with me; whereas most people in Borneo would take the opposing view. My take on this is that perhaps both sides of the argument are perfectly reasonable. It’s an example of how you can frame two distinct and opposing statements that are both equally valid and show impeccable internal logic.

I would still strongly concur with what I said, and yet I would also agree with my Chinese friends. I wouldn’t want them to suffer the deprivations of Asian poverty. Not them, not anybody.

How do you solve this dilemma? The region of Borneo I was working in, Sarawak, has a population of only 2.4 million. This is less than half the population of Scotland, yet Sarawak covers a large area. Perhaps it might be possible to achieve a sustainable economy that would provide work for the local population and still preserve what is left of the tropical rain forest?

Alas, this was not a topic for serious conversation in the Chinese café, it was just too naïve a suggestion to make in that part of the world. Rich and powerful people are making big money out of logging and they couldn’t care less about the environment. The mentality of exploiting any resources you can, to make money, is at any rate embedded in the local way of life at all levels, and few see any problem with that.

The threat of ever-present poverty is a big driver for this attitude.  Borneo is a simple case history that shows that without international effort to achieve a sustainable solution for the world’s environmental problems, the situation will only carry on until everything is gone.

What’s happening in Borneo is a story that is being repeated all over the tropics and elsewhere in the world. Let’s not be too smug: closer to home, it’s not too difficult to find similar examples of catastrophic loss of biodiversity.

One example I know about comes from the Bishops Loch in Parkhill near Dyce. Bishops Loch is about 9 acres in area and is named after the now ruined Bishop’s Palace located on the north bank of the loch. The Palace, in reality a small house- sized building, was owned by the medieval Bishop of Aberdeen.

The loch used to be well known for its large population of toads which could be heard croaking on a summer’s evening.  However, the introduction of the oil industry inadvertently wiped out the entire toad population.

The toads would overwinter in Parkhill Wood, a behaviour that involved migrating from the loch and crossing the adjacent B997 road.

This was not that hazardous a trip in the 1960s, but when oil company offices and warehouses opened up in Dyce in the 1970s, the B997 became a much busier road. It was being used as a popular rat run to get from the Bridge of Don to Dyce. The toad population started to plummet as more and more were run over by cars during their winter migration across the road.

A local resident contacted the then Grampian Council at the end of the 1970s and asked for a tunnel to be built under the road as a means of preserving the toad population. This was not taken seriously. No doubt the council officials felt they had better things to spend ratepayers’ money on than an escape route for toads. Economics tends to win out over the environment most of the time.

The world is living an unsustainable ‘jam today, bread tomorrow’ way of life. Our current standard of living is at the expense of an indeterminate future.  Here in Scotland, our municipal authorities have a combined debt of £11 billion and it is increasing fast, year-on-year. Loading debt is the only way they can manage their budget obligations.

It will be an unwelcome legacy to our children and grandchildren, who will just have to cope with it if they can. Likewise, we are unsustainably exploiting the environment and for those of us who don’t eat second-hand rice, we are doing reasonably comfortably out of it so far.

The wild things are going fast, be it in Borneo or Bishops Loch. Academic biologists actively discuss the idea that we are currently heading for a man-made mass extinction event.

There are too many people in the world. Our planet has coped with 7 billion people on the planet so far, and the numbers are increasing fast. Four babies are being born every second: 200,000 additional people are being added to the world’s population every day.

Modern technology and transport have allowed humans to cope with these enormous numbers; they would be impossible otherwise.  As a species we are coping after a fashion, albeit with enormous stress on an environment that hasn’t quite collapsed totally, not yet anyway. However, we are on our way to eating everything that can be eaten and stripping everything else bare too.

The biodiversity catastrophe in the world today is very real and it could easily lead to human catastrophe as well. Without awareness of the issue, and concerted action, we could all share the fate of the toads in Bishops Loch.

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Jul 022013
 

By Duncan Harley.

It’s not often that I am gob smacked. The two recent Iraqi wars and the invasion of Afghanistan by the so called coalition forces are in some eyes mad events, but in a strange sort of way seem understandable if you know anything much about the Great Game or Afghan history.

The resultant Twin Towers revenge attack, despite the awfulness of the event and the aftermath, were also understandable from some world perspectives. Not that I am defending the perpetrators of any these acts of course.

However the invasion of Aberdeen by IKEA is perhaps a step too far.

I have of course, recently moved house and have suffered from the complete collapse of most of my bedroom furniture during the removal.

The moving company did warn me in advance and also helpfully advised that the Nordic manufacturer’s products were unlikely to survive the moving of things. In fact they told me that the best way to re-flat pack the items was to chuck them up in the air to destroy them on landing prior to taking the wrecked items to a re-cycling centre, thus saving any potential litigation issues.

One of my removal men also claimed that IKEA is actually the manufacturer of most of the flat pack pine furniture available in B and Q and Homebase but that the multinational produces the non IKEA products to a lower specification in order to protect their market position. IKEA have unfortunately yet to respond to my questions regarding the validity of this claim.

Today a spokesperson for “Bring IKEA to Aberdeen” has told me that a new Scottish IKEA warehouse might be opening a in the shire or even a bit further north very soon. I have of course some mixed feelings about this given my recent experiences but I do understand that the brand fulfils a need at a price which many can afford. According to the pressure group:

“Plenty of people have told us they would like one further north to increase their choices as consumers, to avoid the lengthy and costly travel to the current sites in Edinburgh and Glasgow.”

Another member of “Bring IKEA to Aberdeen” said:

“We are hoping they just realise the potential of a BIG store up here, and go for it… however if smaller was the only option, we would accept that grudgingly as well… the population of Aberdeen, the shire, the highlands AND the islands is pretty high – so we hope they see that Aberdeen or the shire, is a very viable option…. the north of Scotland has been left out for FAR too long.”

I spoke to the groups local representative Jan who rightly commented that there are plenty of other “Multi’s” all over Aberdeen and the Shire, so why not IKEA? Their furniture may be cheap, she said, but it lasts. It’s quite stylish Jan told me, plus their “knick-knacks” are amazing. It would bring jobs and some furniture competition to the local market.

The groups Facebook site proclaims:

“Let’s get this page up and running – and then let Ikea know JUST how popular a store would be in Aberdeen, Scotland”

A spokesperson by the name of Lou told me that Job wise if you consider day and night shift, catering, cleaning crew, back of store crew, tills, management there could be a significant jobs gain for the region. “After all,” she commented “it’s not a corner shop we are talking about here.”

The “Bring IKEA to Aberdeen” is currently awaiting an announcement from the retail giant regarding the future plans of IKEA in Aberdeenshire and I wish them well. However I seem to recall a man by the name of Donald Trump promising all and delivering very little to the North East recently.

Let’s trust and hope that IKEA‘s forthcoming announcement pleases all those flat pack fans amongst us and also creates a few decently paid jobs in the process.

 Sources:

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May 092013
 

With thanks to Robin Li Laing, Marketing & Events Manager.

The next Monthly Aberdeen Jack & Jill Market will be at the Hilton Treetops Hotel, Aberdeen on Sunday 12th of May, 10.30am to 1.30pm. This community organisation was set up to help Scottish families with the rising cost of raising children.

Faced with the ever-rising cost of bringing up a child, Aberdeenshire parents are selling and bartering in a bid to reduce the cost of raising children.

The last monthly Aberdeen Jack & Jill Market saw 415 savvy shoppers bagging some spectacular jaw-dropping prices on quality baby & kids gear.

53% of sellers made £100-£200, 21% made £200-£350, with the top selling stall making over £330

It costs £90,000 to raise a child up to age 11, an increase of 15% over the past 5 years, according to new figures released by Halifax, whose economist, Martin Ellis, says the figures have “added to the already considerable strain on household finances during the economic downturn”.

But, when the going gets tough, the tough get going. As the cost of raising children soars, an increasing number of smart money mums have beefed up their selling and bartering skills to make and save money.

A trend is emerging where mums and dads are now much happier to choose selling and shopping at local car-boot sales and market days, as a cost-effective alternative to the high street for what their children need. Over a third of parents are now choosing to buy and sell second-hand, according to recent figures.

One organisation Aberdeenshire parents have turned to is The Jack & Jill Market which runs monthly nearly-new baby & children’s markets in Perth and across Scotland  for families, with the emphasis on quality goods.

The Jack & Jill Market is so swamped with demand from mums wanting to make and save money, that new locations are being set-up all the time in an effort to meet this demand.

Recent research has shown that UK adults can have up to £581 worth of useable but unused items; for a two-parent family this can add up to more than £1000, much of it locked up in buggies, bikes, cots, clothes, toys, all the all the rest that still have plenty of life left in them, so it makes smart money sense to release this money into the family budget.

Several of these community events are now fully-booked up to 3-4 months in advance for sellers, and are now seeing up to 1000 mums and families through the doors in a 3-hour period, looking for high quality items, at a fraction of the retail price.

There has definitely been a cultural shift in attitude. Thrift is the new cool as mums look for ways to reduce the cost of raising children. The change is especially obvious in first-time mums who have traditionally opted for predominantly new items when setting up for their new baby but are now looking for a smarter alternative.

The next monthly Aberdeen Jack & Jill Community Market will be held on Sunday 12th May, at the Hilton Treetops Hotel, Springfield Road, Aberdeen 10.30am – 1.30pm. Then again on Sunday 16th of June.

For further details, visit: www.jackandjillmarket.co.uk

Apr 122013
 

With thanks to Robin Li Laing.

Faced with the ever-rising cost of bringing up a child, Aberdeen parents are selling and bartering in a bid to reduce the cost of raising children.

At last month’s Aberdeen Jack & Jill Market, 423 savvy shoppers saved hundreds of pounds.

39% of sellers made £100-£200, 35% made £200-£350 and 8% made over £350,  with the top selling stall making a fabulous £519.50!

According to new figures released by Halifax, it costs £90,000 to raise a child up to age 11, an increase of 15% over the past 5 years which their economist, Martin Ellis, says have added to the already considerable strain on household finances during the economic downturn.

But just as the tough get going when the going gets tough, so an increasing number of smart money mums have beefed up their selling and bartering skills to make and save money as the cost of raising children soars.

A trend is emerging where mums and dads are now much happier to choose selling and shopping at local car boot sales and market days, as a cost-effective alternative to the high street for what their children need.  Over a third of parents now choose to buy and sell second-hand, according to recent figures.

One organisation Aberdeen parents have turned to is The Jack & Jill Market which runs monthly nearly-new baby & children’s markets in Aberdeen and across Scotland, solely for local families, with the emphasis on quality goods.

The Jack & Jill Market is so swamped with demand from mums wanting to make and save money, that new locations are being set-up all the time in an effort to meet this demand.

Recent research has shown that UK adults can have up to £581 worth of useable but unused items.

For a two-parent family, for example, this can add up to more than £1000, with much of it locked up in buggies, bikes, cots, clothes, toys, all the all the rest that still have plenty of life left in them, so it makes smart money sense to release this money into the family budget.

80% of mums and families selling at the markets make £100-£350 in 3-hours of selling, with a significant number of mums making up to £550 and our top selling mum to date making £800.  This is money that can then be re-invested back into the family budget to help with the on-going costs of raising a family.

Many baby and kids items are barely, or never, used and are on offer at the markets at up to 90% off the retail price snd with over 13 million toys still ending up in landfill each year, it makes perfect sense to recycle and save money.

Commenting on the markets a couple of local mums said:

“We had a great time!  Hoping to do another one early next year. – Laura Letts

 “I got some great bargains that I am over the moon with” – Charlene McConnachie

The next two local Jack & Jill Markets will be held from 10.30am to 1.30pm on Sunday 14th April and Sunday 12th May, at the Hilton Treetops Hotel, Aberdeen.

For further details, visit: www.jackandjillmarket.co.uk

Mar 152013
 

Since Donald Trump first applied for planning permission to build ‘the world’s greatest golf course’ on the Menie Estate, regular Aberdeen Voice contributor Suzanne Kelly has followed events closely.

Today Ms Kelly publishes a report on the Menie Estate outlining eleven major areas of concern. In each of those areas, various incidents, documents and decisions are examined, and recommendations made.

The yola web page will also have relevant links to Tripping Up Trump, the documentary You’ve Been Trumped, a petition calling for an inquiry, and more.

Kelly says,

“Putting aside my own personal feelings for the ostentatious Donald Trump, I could not understand why the idea of overturning the SSSI protection afforded to the dune system at Menie to allow construction of a golf course and housing complex – particularly with the housing needed to fund the golf course – got the go-ahead.  Like thousands of others, I wrote to Aberdeenshire Council to voice my objections. 

“Learning that the course would go ahead was disappointing, but seeing how the environment, people and due processes were treated was staggering.  I decided to collect together most of the worrying aspects of events at Menie with the goal of having relevant regulatory bodies, both public and private sector, investigate. What is going on here must not be allowed to set any precedents, and I believe some people and institutions should be called to account.

“It is wonderful that David Milne’s petition for an inquiry has over 14000 signatures to date. Milne and the petitioners are asking the Scottish Parliament, through the Public Petitions Committee, to hold a public inquiry into the way local government, Scottish Ministers and other relevant public bodies conducted themselves when considering the Menie project.

“The Trump camp continually asserts that this was the most scrutinised application in Scotland, but the reality of the situation is that a range of past and present actions have escaped any meaningful scrutiny whatsoever.”

The petition, at http://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/public-inquiry-into-handling-of-the-trump-resort is still gathering signatures.

“I believe that some QUANGOs, private entities, and environmental bodies must be called to account for their actions – or inactions – regarding this development. The Government, Aberdeenshire Council Planning, and Grampian Police in particular, feature prominently in my report.”

Kelly’s report will be sent to a range of stakeholders, regulatory bodies and to the national media in the coming days. Advance copies have been sent by request to researchers.

“I think it’s time to take off the rose-coloured glasses. Are we really getting thousands of jobs and great economic and social benefits out of this scheme? How much have we paid for policing the area so far? One cancelled Trump visit to our area alone cost the police around £2000.

“Let’s re-evaluate the optimistic projections on which this castle in the sand is being built. Trump is forever threatening to leave if we build wind farms. Perhaps our institutions should take a similarly-assertive position in forcing the Trump Organisation to stick to approved plans without deviation. I heartily welcome reactions from those institutions and individuals mentioned in my report.”

Kelly has previously submitted a series of articles for publication in Aberdeen Voice highlighting a range of aspects of Trump International’s operations at Menie, from the collapse of a culvert on the course to the marriage of Trump’s Vice-President Sarah Malone to Press & Journal editor, Damian Bates.

“The relationship between the pair just might explain the P&J’s stance on this development, which certainly has not harmed Sarah Malone’s position with Trump. This relationship, and any financial implications arising from it, might be a matter for Aberdeen Journals Ltd, if not the Press Complaints Commission, to investigate.

“I have met such wonderful people from visiting the estate and from attending screenings of You’ve Been Trumped, that I felt it necessary to try to help somehow. I just hope some good may come from my report.”

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Mar 142013
 

With thanks to Robin Li Laing.

Faced with the ever-rising cost of bringing up a child, Aberdeen parents are selling and bartering in a bid to reduce the cost of raising children.

At last month’s Aberdeen Jack & Jill Market, 574 savvy shoppers saved hundreds of pounds.

31% of sellers made £100-£200, 44% made £200-£350 and 23% made over £350 with the top-selling stall making a fabulous £583!

This month’s local Aberdeen Jack & Jill event will be on Sunday 17th March at the Hilton Treetops Hotel in Aberdeen.

It costs £90,000 to raise a child up to age 11, an increase of 15% over the past five years, according to new figures released by Halifax, whose economist, Martin Ellis, says the figures have,

“added to the already considerable strain on household finances during the economic downturn”.

But, when the going gets tough, the tough get going. As the cost of raising children soars, an increasing number of smart money mums have beefed up their selling and bartering skills to make and save money.

A trend is emerging where mums and dads are now much happier to choose selling and shopping at local car-boot sales and market days, as a cost-effective alternative to the high street for what their children need. Over a third of parents are now choosing to buy and sell second-hand, according to recent figures.

One organisation Aberdeen parents have turned to is The Jack & Jill Market which runs monthly nearly-new baby & children’s markets in Aberdeen and across Scotland, solely for local families, with the emphasis on quality goods.

The Jack & Jill Market is so swamped with demand from mums wanting to make and save money that new locations are being set up all the time in an effort to meet this demand.

Recent research has shown that UK adults can have up to £581 worth of useable but unused items; for a two-parent family this can add up to more than £1000, much of it locked up in buggies, bikes, cots, clothes, toys, and all the rest that still have plenty of life left in them.

It makes sense to release this money into the family budget.

80% of mums and families selling at the markets make £100-£350 in three hours of selling, with a significant number of mums having made up to £550 and our top selling mum to date making £800.

This is money that can then be re-invested back into the family budget to help with the ongoing costs of raising a family.

Many baby and kids items are barely used, or never used, and on offer at the markets for up to 90% off the retail price. And with over 13 million toys still ending up in landfill each year, it makes perfect sense to recycle and save money.

Local Mum Laura Letts said,

“We had a great time! Hoping to do another one early next year

Charlene McConnachie said,

“I got some great bargains that I am over the moon with”

Jack & Jill Community Market
Sunday 17th March,
Hilton Treetops Hotel,
Aberdeen,
from 10.30am – 1.30pm.
( Then again on Sunday 14th April. )

For further details, visit: www.jackandjillmarket.co.uk

Jun 142012
 

Well away from the main commercial centre of Aberdeen, nestled in a lane just off Old Aberdeen’s High Street on the University campus, is beCyCle, a low-key community project dedicated to encouraging citizens to cycle. Voice’s David Innes popped in for a look and chatted with Benedict Poetz of beCyCle.

Benedikt is a member of beCyCle but explains that there is little formality.

“I just came along, took a bike out, got interested and continued participating. Now I help out here as much as I can.

“For example I built the work benches as a project with some other people.

“As a volunteer, I help maintain the workshop and help people out with repairs. I also repair my own bike, a hand-built lightweight Carlton from the 1980s.

“We get some funding from the University and from the Student Association. We get donations, but the most important thing is that we get bikes to fix. Today, for example, we picked up thirteen bikes from Cults and someone came past and dropped off another five bikes.”

These are not sold off for beCyCle funds as you might expect.

“We rent them out, but for free. BeCyCle’s for everyone, but mostly it’s university students who’ll take out a bike for six months or a year against a deposit of £40 – £60 which is returned to them when we get the bike back. All our services are free.”

All types of bike?

“Yes, whatever is donated, but mostly they’re hybrid type mountain bikes.”

“The idea is that volunteers are here to help people fix their own bikes, giving advice and a bit of tuition. Volunteers provide the tools, knowledge and advice and encourage people to do repairs themselves. It’s free and open for everyone in the community, not only students. We don’t offer any services, we just provide the space and help for people working on bikes. All the volunteers have a bit of knowledge, so between us we always manage to repair them.

“We’re here because the University has given us the space, rent-free – or for the symbolic one pound rental – and some funding. It was an empty shell, so we built the benches and painted it. We pay our own electricity bills and so on, but we don’t need too much money. We have no commercial sponsors.”

Do you buy parts and sell them on cheaply or do people have to supply their own?

“We get spares donated quite often, but some parts like cables and stuff like WD40 we buy in bulk from the money the University donates to us.”

There were around a dozen young people coming and going during the visit, but does it get quieter during the holiday period?

“It’s the beginning of summer, so this is about it for the moment.”

There’s a tangible community ethos about beCyCle.

“It provides a space for people to repair their bikes and exchange bike ideas and knowledge. The lending scheme makes bikes freely available for the community, to encourage cycling. We’re trying to get the wider community involved by making it more open to everyone, even beyond Old Aberdeen. We’d like to have some joint programmes, for example bike maintenance projects, with local community centres and have open days to encourage such projects.”

How many bikes does beCyCle have and manage?

“We’re never quite sure. At the moment we have maybe 100 bikes here with perhaps another 100 or 200 on loan, so a rough estimate of 300-400 bikes in circulation. We try to keep track but it gets difficult, although we are now using a laptop, spreadsheet and pictures of the bikes to improve this.”

Cycling continues to gain popularity as a healthy, quick, cheap and planet-friendly mode of transport. BeCyCle’s efforts are to be applauded in encouraging would-be cyclists to try it out affordably. If you like the sound of that, they’ll be delighted to hear from you.

Thanks also to Ferdy Binacchi.
info@becycle.org.uk
http://www.becycle.org.uk/

May 242012
 

Voice’s Old Susannah comments on current events and enlightens us with definitions of some tricky terms with a locally topical taste. By Suzanne Kelly.

Tally Ho!  What was that great seismic shake, that sonic boom that was felt all up and down the coast this week?   The police were flooded with calls, so I’m sure the matter is all in hand and the usual suspects have been rounded up (I have an alibi, by the way).

I suspect it must be something to do either with wind farms, unsold copies of the P&J falling off a container ship, construction at the World’s Greatest Golf course, or a stampede of people leaving the Liberal Democrats.  Your theories are welcome.

And welcome to the Age of Austerity.

We’ve done the Stone Age (Isn’t that right Mr Wood – you might remember it, or am I thinking of the Granite Age?).  We’ve done Bronze, Iron and even a Golden Age (a mythical time when reason and the arts as well as science and exploration flourished).  Most recently we’ve had an Information Age (if not much of a ‘Freedom of Information’ Age as we’d been promised).  But here we are, ‘all of us in this together’, you know – it’s the Age of Austerity.

Our local millionaires are starting to feel the pinch, which is unacceptable.  It’s getting so a man can’t build houses on any greenbelt field he wants or even run a football club without people butting in, looking for tax.  It’s clearly getting harder for the Vodaphones and Oil barons to shelter money offshore in tax havens.

In yet more startling economic developments, Aberdeen Football Fans are threatening a boycott!

This is over whether or not Mr Milne acts a particular way over the fallen Rangers FC.  I would hate to think of the economic consequences of an AFC boycott – the stand might start looking a bit empty during games.  Let’s hope this never happens.  Could the remaining 31 fans keep buying tickets?  Many thanks – the economy depends on you!

But there is even more hope.  We have the talent and skills right here in Aberdeen to weather this storm.  It is just as well we can call on taxpayer-funded, unelected ACSEF and Scottish Enterprise to continue coming up with money-spinning schemes.

It’s taken years for our local business organisations and lobbyists to get Aberdeen to the shape it’s in today – another few years of more of the same is what we all want, I’m sure.  That and a granite web.

If we’re still paying Scottish Enterprise a mere £750 million per year to protect us (with a third of that going on their wages), perhaps we should have a whip-round and get them some more money?  Just a thought.

  I’m going to write to my MEP (whoever that is), and suggest they call in ACSEF

How exactly did we go from having a thriving Scotland to our current dismal position?  Old Susannah takes a look and makes some recommendations.

So  tighten those belts, re-use those tea bags, and settle down for some Austerity definitions.

European Union: (proper noun; English) the economic and social union of several European countries for the purpose of economic security, creation of a politically stable Europe, creation of a powerful economic entity, and for the guarantee of human rights.

You would have thought with the UK paying millions to the EU, (which still hasn’t managed to submit a set of independently audited accounts) we’d be nearly as successful financially as the economies of Greece, Spain and Italy.  I say give it a few more years and we will be.

Sadly, while the EU has given us peace throughout Europe, equality and human rights, it’s possibly not doing as well with the economy of Europe as it might.  In fact, I’m going to write to my MEP (whoever that is), and suggest they call in ACSEF.  ACSEF could no doubt fix whatever’s wrong with Europe.

If we just build a giant granite web linking Greece to Italy to Spain to Aberdeen, just think of the jobs creation and tourism that would mean!

Old Susannah recommends:  staying in the EU, scrapping the pound for the Euro (or maybe bring back the Greek drachma), giving more money to Greece and Italy, who have used their agricultural subsidies so well over the past decade that no one even knows how much they got or where the money went.

Special Kitty: (compound  noun) A fund set up for a certain purpose into which a variety of people or groups contribute.

Well, here comes the City Garden Project to help lift us out of austerity, raise our spirits, and raise the Denburn Valley to shopping mall street level.  Hooray!  The Evening Express tells us that no less a financial supremo than Colin Crosby says a special kitty is to be set up!  Wow!

I have two special kitties; they are Molly and Sasha, which I adopted from Cats Protection.  However Mr Crosby’s special kitty will find at least £15 million of the £140 million needed to bring us all the web of our dreams.

You know, it’s really surprising how easy it is to find some spare cash when you really need it.  If you’re not able to come up with £15 million in a pinch, then you probably deserve any austerity you’re experiencing.  I got about £0.37 from the back of my sofa, and expect there must be a spare million or two round the flat somewhere, perhaps in an old suit jacket.  I’ll keep looking.

In the meantime, Mr Crosby alludes to yet another great financial idea in the Evening Express story we all enjoyed reading.  And that is…

Endowment Fund: (compound noun; mod English) An endowment policy is a life insurance contract which would pay a lump sum after a specified period of time  – when it matures – or on death, or possibly on critical illness.

To make it even simpler, there are (according to Wikipedia) 1 Traditional With Profits Endowments , 2 Unit-linked endowment , 3 Full endowments , 4 Low cost endowment (LCE)5 Traded endowments 6 Modified endowments (U.S.).

Yes, the latest plan is to set up an endowment.  Clearly this is a great idea, as so many home-buyers who used this great scheme can tell you.  As well as the special kitty, we’re going to somehow take out an endowment.

Exactly how this will help build the granite dream of Mr Wood is abundantly clear, I’m sure. but if the scheme dies a death who gets the money? Who will fund this endowment?  Who will own the fund?  Who will manage it?

  I hear that a PR company exec is considering even more exciting funding schemes

All these are mere trivialities on the way to our economic recovery, so don’t worry about it.  If we needed to know, Colin Crosby would have told us in the Evening Express.

This endowment and special kitty are news and were worthy of a story in the Evening Express.

The City Garden Project plan has been kicking around for years, but this is news after all.  You see, the Wonder Web will cost a minimum of £140 million, and needs a £92 loan taken out by the taxpayer and yet is still short £15 million.  This is in no way related to the £15 million that we’ve been talking about for the past year and a bit – it’s a different, newsworthy £15 million.

But back to the endowment business and the Evening Express piece:

“The cash would be on top of £15 million of private money to be used to help bridge the £140 million project’s funding gap.  Colin Crosby, a director of Aberdeen City Gardens Trust, said: “Early indications reveal that the additional £15m donations will be forthcoming.” By creating an endowment fund, we will be securing the project’s long-term sustainability and ability to develop cultural programmes.”

Well, that’s good enough for me.  I am sure it’s as illuminating a piece of news and financial wizardry as we could have hoped for.

I hear that a PR company exec is considering even more exciting funding schemes..  I can only hope there is an opportunity to donate a few thousand and get your name carved in granite, or have a tree turned into mulch for a ton.  If not, I know a few graffiti artists who would paint your name on the web for a small fee.

Old Susannah recommends:  importing granite for the web from the third world, taking out an insured, index-linked modified endowment with Jennifer Claw as beneficiary, with Bling Crosby as administrator and executor, funding it via an increase in business rates amortised over time offset by a loan taken as an advance on the £122,000,000 which the web will bring to the local economy every year until 2023.

And that, as they say, is that.  Job done.

Next week:  A look at the A to Z of Aberdeen City Council.

PS:  To Dame Anne – I hope you’re on the mend!

PPS: Summer is here:  austerity or not, don’t scrimp on sunscreen, especially for your children.
Always get a nice high protection number for children, and at the start of the season for adults.  Reapply it every few hours – even if you are only going to be outside for quarter of an hour, you can still be damaged.  Old Susannah has already seen two crying toddlers who have been sunburnt, with baffled parents who had no idea why their child was upset.
Children burn far faster than we do and need lots of sunscreen all over, especially their faces (mind the eyes!!!).  The only reason I’m not more of  a wrinkled, grizzled old hag than I am is because of sunscreen.   And probably BrewDog.   To the man I saw in a beer garden who had turned beetroot red – no, you didn’t look tanned, you looked burnt (and I bet it hurt a lot when you were less lubricated).
If you want to look tanned, get there gradually (or get a spray job – it’s safer – but avoid the tango orange colour).  But if you want wrinkles, rashes, and potential skin cancer, then carry on without sunscreen. And another thing – if you are going to drag your dog all over town and/or the pub, please make sure it gets loads of water to drink frequently.  For the one or two dog owners every year who forget – don’t leave your dog alone in a car.  At all.  Ever.  That’s the official word from animal charities. Forget a dog for even a tiny amount of time in a hot, sealed car (because you’ve run into your pal, are trying on clothes in some exciting shopping mall, whatever) – and you’ve killed it. They don’t sweat.  Water won’t help – only cool.  Another reason for not leaving your dog in a car include the massive increase in pet thefts.  Sadly, most people who steal animals are not going to treat them well.  Thanks for paying attention to this stuff – it isn’t as important or as exciting, vibrant or dynamic as ACSEF – but it is important nonetheless.