Nov 122010

Voice’s Old Susannah tackles more tricky terms with a locally topical taste.

Surfboard, Boogieboard, Waterboard.
All just harmless fun really.  No less a person than the former US President, George ‘Dubya’ Bush has explained in his new book that without waterboarding (which really isn’t so bad apparently – it can’t kill you – usually), lives would have been lost*.  Sometimes little things like the Geneva Convention, the Bill of Rights, the EU Convention, etc. have to be put to one side.  A little torture can be a good thing; and after all, there is a long history supporting its use.

If we hadn’t tortured people in the past, how would we have know for certain that witches flew on broomsticks to meet Satan at black masses, ruined crops and turned people into newts?  After just a little torture, thousands confessed to the truth of devil worship.  Of course whether or not torture is OK all depends on who is doing the torture:  Western torturers good; Eastern ones bad.  Glad to have cleared that up.  Two mysteries remain:  How come no one cracked under (judicious and necessary) torture and said where all those Weapons of Mass Destruction were hidden?  Secondly, I’d love to find out how Dubya, who from most accounts can barely read, managed to write a book.  This is the man who complained in a speech that more and more of America’s imports were coming from abroad.

*I wonder how else lives could have been saved in this situation.  Give the UK troops equipment that worked and matched the conditions?  Not go to war in the first place?  No, can’t think of a thing but torture.

Brief maths quiz:
If you start with a deficit of 52 million pounds, then fail to collect over £15 million owed to you, then start a project for £80 million pounds and contemplate a £140 million pound car park, don’t pay staff correctly by £X million, and announce you want to go into the concert business by buying an exhibition centre which you’ve already spent a minimun of £36 million on,  while cutting millions formerly used to support vulnerable, schools and parks then what is the result?  The answer, according to a recent Aberdeen City Council is a £9 million pound surplus.  That is according to outgoing Sue Bruce in a recent ACC press release.

Press Release.
A press release is a piece of writing sent to newspapers and television, used to call attention to what a wonderful job you are doing.  Press Releases are sent in the hope that the media will run your story.  Of course accuracy in Press releases is managed by seasoned professionals who take great care to get the facts correct.

The Aberdeen City Council writes press releases religiously – and quite rightly so, with the calibre of their accomplishments.  Sadly, the Press and Journal printed (per standard practice) one of the City’s  releases which concerned the amount of unpaid council tax.  There was a City press release which claimed around £43 million was unclaimed and that one in three households had to be taken to court over unpaid council tax.

The P&J printed these figures, relying on the accuracy of the press release.  Naturally, this was a mistake.  The higher-ups in the Council read the figures in the news, went ballistic, and went into action.  Instead of issuing a new press release stating their mistake, they decided to publicly blame the P&J for getting its sums wrong.  This resulted in an editorial by the P&J accusing the Council of being less than generous with the truth.  It ended with words along the lines of “… we (the P&J) will accept the blame for our mistakes – Brazen attempts to shift the blame (by the City) we can’t.”  Thankfully, it is only about £30 million that the City is owed in Council tax.  Easy to misplace the odd £14 million or so; Old Susannah does it all the time.  But then again, expect this figure to change in a day or two.

Budget Cuts.
Even though we are rich, everyone needs budget cuts.   A budget cut is what you to to preserve what is essential, or in Council-speak, what is a ‘core service’.  Core services include running concerts at a loss, making Olympic swimmers, and taking trips.

We all have to budget – how many tens of thousands of pounds do you spend on outfits to wear to important events per year, how much to spend on travel, how much to spend on propping up white elephants (like the AECC).  In order to meet our budgets, hard choices must be made.  Do you cut grandma’s care support?  Junior’s school?  Close the backyard swimming pool?  Stop giving to the poor?  Stop feeding the birds?  Of course you do.  And our Council budgets wisely as well.

You will be very happy to hear that Sue Bruce announced a £9 million surplus.  No doubt this money will be earmarked for the vitally- important Olympic pool:  what could be more important than Aberdeen winning an Olympic medal for swimming ?  – which seems an absolute certainty.  Millions will be saved by closing all the regional swimming pools (particularly the ones which have recently beeen refurbished).  One giant Olympic pool is all you and the family need.  You’ll also get your exercise just by getting to it – now that the bus fares have risen above inflation rates.

But don’t expect to exercise in the parks any longer – they are getting the axe – possibly literally.  All that money spent in the past on blue skies, green grass, clean air, biodiversity, play areas has been done away with.  If the parks can’t make money as they are, the sooner they are turned into something profitable the better.

We will not, however face the loss of a single pounds worth of our real estate portfolio, which we cherish and which is the envy of the civilised world.  All those boarded up buildings are safe.  Rest easy.

Thankfully there is money towards a regional ‘super prison’ – presumably for those who can’t – or won’t pay their council tax.  The level of tax has been frozen for a few years – so have many people’s salaries.  However, our services such as police, libraries, teachers, services for people with special needs and the elderly have halved.  I wonder if we should all apply for a refund, as we’re not getting one half of what we   paid for to start with.  Just a thought.

At least at the end of it, we have preserved Marischal College.  Since its entire interior has been scrapped (including books seen thrown into skips), our brand of ‘preservation’ is akin to the preservation of the taxidermist.

Next week:

No mention of the 9-0 Celtic/Aberdeen Result – that would be unkind.  Some people believe the management (S Milne, proprietor) is not investing in the club sufficiently.  However, once we have a football/community stadium twice the size of the present AFC home, the crowds will fill it up completely, and the club’s morale will be so boosted it wins lots of silverware.