Feb 042011

Aberdeen Voice’s Old Susannah tackles some more tricky terms with a locally topical taste, just as soon as she gets a few things off her chest which have apparently been ‘makin her bleed bile’.

Many thanks to people for sending in stories from our war-torn City Council; – some of them beggar belief.  You might recall the very sad story in the news last week of a pensioner – a frail, elderly woman in Ireland – who was starved to death.

Her ‘carer’ has been caught on video eating the food the poor woman was meant to eat:  the patient died of starvation in a hospital.

Thankfully there is no one in all of Aberdeen who would steal food meant for the elderly or infirm.  Therefore, I am discounting the story sent to me of Council people taking butter and other staples a few years back that had been meant for the elderly:  it simply would not happen here.

Otherwise, keep your true stories of council (mis)deeds rolling in.

It looks as if there is trouble in Paradise – the dream team Lib Dem/SNP coalition, responsible for the smooth and successful Aberdeen we have today, is on the rocks.  This is disappointing asI was personally starting to think of Kate Dean as Juliet, and Kevin Stewart as Romeo.  First we hear that Council staff earning the massive sum of twenty one thousand or more per year were asked to take a mere 5% paycut.  This was rejected for some mysterious reason.

Next the Lib-Dems say they’ll take the cut themselves – a noble gesture if ever there was one.  The Unions still wouldn’t agree to the 5% cut, so the Lib Dems announced nine hundred jobs will go.  Following this, John Swinney steps in to say that this might be a bit of an extreme swing; he somehow thinks that some kind of dialogue and negotiation might have been useful first (I guess he doesn’t deal with Lib Dems very much).

‘NO ALTERNATIVE’ was the Lib Dem comment on the nine hundred job losses; they also accused their SNP partners of making the counter-proposals without Lib Dem permission as being ‘politically motivated’.  Next thing we knew, the SNP Group Leader/City Council Deputy Leader Kevin Stewart suggested the possibility of six hundred voluntary redundancies, and making the pay cut apply to those earning fifty thousand per year or better”.  This did not go down well with his Lib Dem counterpart council leader, Lib Dem John Stewart, who was ‘disappointed’ and is told that the Lib Dems would not support the new SNP plan.  (Exactly why there is ‘no alternative’ to sacking nine hundred people is something many of us would like explained; we probably aren’t clever enough to understand it without Lib Dem help).

The Council insists it needs to save £120 million over the next few years; and at the same time it wants to be a ‘partner’ in turning the greenbelt tranquillity of Loirston Loch into a glowing red elephant, and filling in Union Terrace Gardens for much-needed car parking space.  These great projects are obviously going to cost us but clearly these two multimillion pound ‘modern’ projects and how they will make Aberdeen ‘look’ to the rest of the envious world are more important than helping local people whose services have been eradicated or slashed, whose local sports facilities are closed, whose schools are closing and whose roads are crumbling.  Yes, we will look amazingly impressive to the rest of the world if we carry on as we are.  Let’s hope the Lib Dem/SNP lovebirds kiss and make up soon.

For this week’s dictionary definitions I am surprised that so many of you want clarification on two simple, easy-to-understand phrases.  Never look ignorant again:  by popular request, here we go…

Aberdeen Arena: (noun) A community stadium to be created jointly by Aberdeen Football Club, and Aberdeen City.  It will ensure prosperity, truth and justice for all.  The Hanging Gardens of Babylon, the Great Pyramids, the Colossus at Rhodes will all be long forgotten when the world turns its eye on our glowing pink/red stadium, where once only endangered species flew and fed.

The City  Council paid for a one hundred and forty-four page ‘Aberdeen Arena Environmental Appraisal’, which compared two sites for this wonder, Kings Links and Loirston Loch.  For a variety of brilliant, scientific reasons, the conclusion was to keep the cricket pitch and golf driving range at Kings, and get rid of (or rather ‘incorporate’) the Rangers Service, and build on the greenbelt site.  This despite “…Increases in traffic flow in the area would lead to increases in local pollutant concentrations” at Loirston – where we already know Wellington Road has pollution hotspots.  Funny, the land at Loirston is relatively clean; this is in no way related to the fact it is currently green fields, and no doubt will stay just as clean once a twenty-one thousand seat stadium, eighty buses and fourteen hundred cars are on it.  My favourite scientific reason supporting the Loirston site is :

“The proposed construction activities are likely to be of a moderate to major scale and duration; therefore, according to the assessment criteria listed in Error! Reference source not found., significant effects may be encountered up to 200-500 metres from the construction areas”.

How can we possibly argue with that?

Mysteriously, this ‘Aberdeen Arena Environmental Appraisal’ could once be found readily on the Council’s website.  Perhaps Old Susannah is just getting too old to find info, but she can’t find it now.  Pity, as its sound arguments prove conclusively that getting rid of the Rangers, otters, bats, birds and plants is much more sensible than rebuilding Pittodrie or going to Kings Links.  Happily, Old Susannah has a copy – if you want it, do let me know.

Community Stadium: (noun) An Aberdeen Arena to be created jointly by Aberdeen Football Club, and Aberdeen City.  Having a  Community Stadium is “… Aberdeen City Council’s firm view on what should be included in the adopted Aberdeen Local Development Plan…..The Plan proposes 1,500 houses, 11 hectares of employment land and a new community stadium on a site at Loirston. A neighbouring site at Calder Park is identified for a smaller sports facility”.

This should of course not be confused with the Aberdeen Arena.  If you started calling something a ‘community stadium’ at one point and then an ‘Aberdeen Arena’ at another point, it might look like you:

a)  didn’t know what  you were talking about or

b)  like you deliberately wanted to confuse others.

Only the worst kind of cynic might suggest that if someone were on the board of an ‘Aberdeen Arena’ project, that they wanted an arena to be built.  Obviously no one on the City Council would be involved on such a board or committee and still sit in judgement at a hearing on having a stadium at the Loirston site (identified as a brilliant place for it by the Appraisal).

It would be more cynical yet to suggest that if the Local Development Plan is ‘Aberdeen City Council’s firm view on what should happen’ and that a community stadium is part of it, there was some kind of bias on the part of the City to build one.  That kind of thinking is instantly disproved by the City’s holding an open hearing on 14 January at which it displayed just how open minded it was on the subject.

Employment Opportunities: (modern phrase, noun) A situation occurring in prosperous areas for highly-skilled persons to be given financial reward in exchange for using their abilities.  A highly-educated, greatly experienced person might, for example, find herself sitting on a City Council, convening important meetings, sitting on various Executive Boards and being rewarded for her incisive grasp of crucial points, intellect, financial acumen and management skills.

Employment opportunities will soon be sought locally by highly-skilled people find themselves thrown out of work, usually due to their unions wanting them to be suitably paid for their work.  Once out of work these people will soon find that employment opportunities are popping up in the lucrative catering, hotel, and sports sectors:  the growth areas of the future.  Career prospects as hot dog vendors, bathroom cleaners, ticket checkers, waitresses, parking attendants and bar staff will provide hours of highly-paid, stimulating, rewarding work where these individuals might have previously languished in dead-end jobs helping the homeless, elderly, or those with special needs.  City Council employees take note:  you will soon find yourself working at the universe’s greatest golf course, a community stadium or Aberdeen arena.  Polish your CV now!

Next weekUrban Sprawl, and hopefully news on my 3rd of December Freedom of Information Request, asking how much land the Council sold to Stewart Milne, any of his companies, what the selling price was, and what the market value was.