Aug 042016
 

With thanks to Gemma Setter, PR Account Executive, Frasermedia.

Lynx Juniors2

Lynx Juniors.

One of Aberdeen’s biggest sports clubs is looking for companies to support youth development in the city.
The Aberdeen Lynx Ice Hockey Club, which is the second most supported sports team in the city after Aberdeen Football Club, is looking for sponsorship from local businesses for the 2016-17 season, which starts in September.

As well as its SNL league team, the Lynx are also extremely focused on junior development, and have teams from ages 12 and up, as well as a Mini Lynx Learn to Play programme.

Securing sponsorship ensures that youngsters in the North-east have access to first-class coaching and facilities, providing them with the opportunity to pursue the sport as a hobby or a career in the future.

The Club – which recently lost its main sponsorship deal due to the slump in the oil and gas industry – is starting to think outside the box when it comes to funding and is introducing smaller sponsorship opportunities.

All the support from sponsors goes straight back into the club, which helps to keep costs down for junior players, fund equipment, and enables the team to travel around the country to play in SNL games.

Martin Hill, chair of the Aberdeen Lynx Ice Hockey Team, said:

“Unfortunately, we have just lost our main sponsorship deal due to the downturn in Aberdeen. We had anticipated it was going to happen and are sympathetic, but it still comes as a real blow to both our adult and junior teams.

“The Lynx are now on the lookout for new sponsorship deals. We completely understand that it’s currently a very difficult climate for businesses in Aberdeen, so we’re willing to negotiate, as we know how many companies are struggling.

“Since we were re-established in 2009, the club has grown to extraordinary heights and regularly sells out games. We often have around 1,100 people coming to watch the team at home, so sponsoring The Lynx is a really cost-effective way of advertising, as the exposure we’re able to give businesses is huge.

“Last season we won the SNL Play Off Final, which was a fantastic achievement for the club. We’re already beginning to see that demand for tickets is going to be high, so to thank the fans for their continued support, we’ve frozen our ticket prices.”

For more information about the Aberdeen Lynx and the SNL fixtures search Aberdeen Lynx Ice Hockey Team on Facebook, visit the website www.aberdeenlynx.com, or email contactus@aberdeenlynx.com.

 

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Jun 182011
 

Members of the City Square Board are currently scratching their heads as to a possible use for the large concourse space which will be created if Union Terrace Gardens is decked over. One possibility under consideration is that it could be used for a new conference centre. However, this does put into question the continuing viability of Aberdeen Exhibition and Conference Centre (AECC) at Bridge of Don and the major problems which will come about if the AECC is shut down as a result.

Mike Shepherd highlights the problems that the Council is having with the AECC and what could happen next.

The AECC was conceived as a joint venture between Grampian Regional Council and Spearhead Exhibitions Ltd. Aberdeen City Council became its sole owner on the demise of the regional council, and now holds all its shares.
It was opened in 1985 by the then Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher. The centre includes a 4800 seat arena, conference facilities and a hotel.

In 2003, the AECC was refurbished at a cost of £18m, with the conference facilities being completely re-built. A large viewing tower was also constructed, one of the tallest structures in Aberdeen.
The AECC is host to Offshore Europe, an event which brings millions of pounds into the local economy. Indeed, I have taken part in conferences and exhibitions there and there is no doubt that the AECC is a major boost to the local economy.

Three major conferences are planned for 2012 – the European Optical Society Annual Symposium 2012, The World Heavy Oil Congress 2012, and The Society of Core Analysts Symposium 2012. As a concert venue it has seen the likes of Bob Dylan and Neil Young play there.

However, the finances of the AECC are a mess.

Although the turnover is about £5M annually, The Press & Journal reported in November 2010 that the Council had provided loans of £28m to the centre in the last five years, as well as £8.85m in subsidies since 1998.
http://www.pressandjournal.co.uk/Article.aspx/2002662

Although the AECC has made losses, the Council justifies keeping it going on the basis that it brings a great deal of investment to the region.

Recent years have seen turmoil over audit reports, a restructuring of the Board and talk about receivership. One highly-controversial proposal was that the council should take over a project to build a four-star hotel on the site.

In February 2010 councillors approved plans to underwrite the construction of the hotel.

“AECC bosses have long believed the Centre cannot compete for important international conferences without such a hotel, and want one built in time for its flagship conference, Offshore Europe, next year. The hotel could then be sold for a net profit of between £14million and £20million, which would place the Centre on a firmer financial footing and help clear its debts.”
http://www.pressandjournal.co.uk/Article.aspx/1594201#ixzz1Og7YQrIC

Later in the year, they had second thoughts. The Council website reported:

“The full Council meeting accepted that the intended financial package to deliver AECC’s proposed hotel development carried too much risk for the Council because of the current economic climate – and voted by 24 votes to nine that alternative financial structures to deliver the facility should now be sought.

“Aberdeen City Council Leader Councillor John Stewart said: ‘The Full Council today reaffirmed its support for the region’s major conference centre and its commitment to secure a four-star hotel at the venue. However, it has been necessary to re-work the hotel project to minimise risk to the council’.

“The decision follows four months of strenuous efforts to negotiate a deal to create a hotel, involving the City Council, AECC, financial institutions, a construction company, a hotel operator, and legal and technical advisers. The negotiations were carried out following an instruction to Council officers at the February full Council meeting to continue to work with AECC on its hotel proposal, subject to any agreement being acceptable to the Council.”

Many considered the idea of the City Council getting involved in supporting and building a luxury hotel to be somewhat bizarre, one councillor bemoaning,

“The people of Aberdeen will be horrified we are now not only a local authority, but a hotelier as well”.

However, the hotel proposal collapsed as a proposition.

In December 2010, The Press & Journal revealed the conclusions of a secret audit report on the performance of the AECC. Describing its lack of accountability to taxpayers and the City Council as a “critical” risk, the report discovered an unauthorised £1.3m overspend of public money on the failed hotel project.

“The auditors found:

Monitoring of the hotel project by the AECC Board was “weak” – the directors approved £1million but £2.3million was spent.

Only £184,000 of the total was subjected to market testing to ensure best value for money, and no contracts were in place with key parties.

Overall control of the AECC was “weak” and lack of accountability to the Council a “critical” risk.

The report also warned a “significant improvement” in profitability was needed for the AECC to repay £27.7m in loans to the Council in 2017 and 2021.”
http://www.pressandjournal.co.uk/Article.aspx/2043746#ixzz1Og7Oq2RA

Since then, attempts have been made to try to recoup some of the debt. Parking charges at the AECC are now £5 per car and £10 per coach.

The agenda for a Council committee in January this year also mentioned a report which recommended transferring all property and land assets currently owned or leased by the AECC to the City Council.

This would allow the Council to assume full responsibility for the future development of these assets and investigate the potential for developing the land and property assets through the creation of a joint venture development company charged with developing the assets.

The future of the AECC is moot. The big problem is the £28m debt owed to the Council. If the AECC is shut down, this debt will need to be transferred directly to the Council and I’m told it would be allocated to the revenue budget. Given the severe strain currently on that budget, this would cause major financial problems for the Council.

It seems odd, therefore, that the City Square Board is considering building a convention centre under the City Square (John Stewart, Footdee Community Council meeting, 30/3/11). This could easily bring about the demise of the AECC with the debt problems that would ensue.

Old Susannah’s Dictionary No.24

 Aberdeen City, Articles, Creative Writing, Opinion, Satire and Humour  Comments Off on Old Susannah’s Dictionary No.24
Feb 182011
 

Voice’s Old Susannah comments on current events ducking under the radar as well as making the headlines,  and enlightens us with definitions of some tricky terms with a locally topical taste.

It seems the Ministry of Defence is in hot water again, although I don’t see what the fuss is all about.  The Armed Forces had to make budget cuts (probably because of all those planes they bought can’t actually fly), and are letting people go.

In keeping with their historically tight budget controls, people being made redundant were informed by email, thereby saving the expense of postage stamps and letters and avoiding the tedious exercise of telling people face-to-face they would soon be jobless.

What they probably should have done was to leave a portable computer on a train with the info in it – that seems to be how they usually prefer to release information.

I guess it might have been a bit inconvenient to the people on the front lines in Afghanistan getting these emails, but remember, these are professional soldiers.  No doubt they will read the email announcing their joblessness, and just get on with the war (or police action, or intervention, or whatever exactly we’re calling this one at the moment).  It’s not as if the thought of unemployment might prey on their minds when they are on the front lines trying to stay alive, and since the UK economy is in such rosy shape, no doubt these folks will have a choice of high-flying jobs at their fingertips when they get back home.

For those lucky unemployed ex-soldiers, if they’re coming home to Aberdeen, we’ll have a host of jobs related to the Community Arena.  Yes, Dr (of what I don’t know) Margaret Bochel has delivered a report following the Loirston hearing:  the Community Arena Stadium will be an iconic building that will attract people from all over the world and make us all rich.  Pollution, greenbelt and animal habitats pale into insignificance when compared to the importance of a new home for the Dons.

In case you didn’t know the people involved in this scheme include someone from the Cove Bay Rangers, who have a related scheme.
And yes, it is just a coincidence that Kate Dean’s husband is connected to CBR (STOP PRESS:  I have just received the following advice about Mr Dean’s connection to the CBR:  “…the information on the ACC website refers to Cove Rangers Supporters Club, which is very different from the Board of Cove Rangers.  As Mr Dean is also a referee, I was told that it is unlikely that the information on the website is correct as it would not be appropriate for him to be Chair of the Supporters Club”.  Old Susannah must apologise for thinking there would be some kind of link between the supporters club and the football team itself. Silly mistake.

I don’t think there can be much fun at Glencraft just now – it’s one obstacle after another.
Manager Andy Laing – who has given years to keeping the dream of Glencraft alive – has been given a little rent increase by our beloved City Council.  In the old days the rent was just £1, reflecting the social importance of the business.  And what was the rent increase our Council came up with for this historic factory which does so much for people with sight impairment or who face other ability challenges?

While the new rent fee wouldn’t even pay for a decent consultant, Glencraft now have to find £120,000. This isn’t a great deal of money after all; it’s only 1% of the £11 million the City wrote off the other year in bad debts.

it is plain to see that we’ve got the best trained councillors in the northern hemisphere solving our problems

Glencraft will manage no doubt; if not, then it is a dog-eat-dog economy after all.  But in case you want to show your support, get to Glencraft next time you need a piece of furniture however large or small (or even go and buy a scented candle).  Old Susannah bought a lovely wooden chest there recently, and will be back soon.  Glencraft is open evenings and Saturdays.

Finally a small complaint – the Post Office doesn’t seem to be running very smoothly at the moment.  I keep checking my letterbox, but still the Valentines cards from Dean and Milne haven’t arrived.  Posties – please check your bags; many thanks.

Words in the news this week…

Training

The sharpest City Council minds know they need to stay on top of the latest developments and trends, or they will be left behind, looking like old-fashioned throwbacks unaware of current best practice in a changing world.  Training is the answer.  To train (verb) is the ‘act of imparting or receiving information or skills’.  Last financial year, Aberdeen City Councillors only had £10,000 or so spent on their training needs (just slightly over the figure Ms Dean claimed in expenses that year), but this was money well spent.  The City’s web pages don’t readily show who went on the courses, where they were held or how long they lasted, but it is plain to see that we’ve got the best trained councillors in the northern hemisphere solving our problems.

We do know what the courses were called, and you will be impressed to hear that they included ‘Best Practice in Employment Services’ which will explain the recent smooth handling of the Council’s staffing / salary issues.  The employer/employee relationships at the Council don’t just happen by accident – it is all a matter of tact and diplomacy, fostered by a great training programme.

Another training course you and I pay for, ‘Equality is Essential for Elected Members’ springs to mind; I guess Councillors are told not to discriminate, and that would explain why men and women at the Council are paid equally.  This would also explain why Glencraft, recipient of a rent rise from £1 to £120,000 this year, are being treated just like everyone else.  I suppose that in these cash-strapped times, any councillor or dignitary receiving a peppercorn rent will have been handed a similar rent rise.

The more intellectual councillor can attend courses such as “Hot Topic – Granite City Grit”, “Access to Information”, and “Safe and Stronger”.    I can see the Grit being a hard issue to get a grip on, seeing as we can’t afford any and the ‘Access to Information’ course is not an easy matter either, seeing as they now want to close a half dozen libraries, so information will be harder to come by.  ‘Safer and Stronger’ might involve how to work out at the gym, but I suspect it refers to the safer and stronger economy we have because of the plans of our elected officials.

But the course that clearly has had the most impact?  The “Public Value Seminar” of course.

There also is something called a “Distributed Leadership Seminar”; perhaps this is where the Liberal Democrat / SNP ‘coalition’ learns how to share the leadership of the City in such a seamless fashion.  But the course that clearly has had the most impact?  The “Public Value Seminar” of course.

Association for Public Service Excellence (noun)

A federation set up to recognise outstanding performance throughout the UK by elected officials and local governments.

John Stewart will happily explain his role representing Aberdeen City Council on the Association for Public Service Excellence board to anyone who wants to know, but as he’s a busy man just now, I’ll give it a go.

The “Association for Public Service Excellence” or ‘APSE’ to its friends serves several useful functions in today’s society, keeping the public in the luxurious style it is accustomed to.  Community Councillors from across the UK get together for an Awards Ceremony, no doubt the taxpayer funds the trip and hotel out of gratitude.  I am pretty sure that the BAFTA and Oscar/Academy Awards were started as a reaction to the publicity and glamour that APSE award ceremonies attract.

You will in no way be surprised to hear that Aberdeen has nearly won some awards.  Did you know that in the 2010 APES awards, Aberdeen was a runner up in the Best Employee and Equality Initiative category – sponsored by Unison?  It is a strange thing that we didn’t win it.  After all, we have paid men and women equally for a few days now and Unison officials do work closely with the Council, even if it is in the context of Unison trying to save its members from job losses and salary cuts.

Other awards we nearly won were for our ‘Best community & Neighbourhood Initiatives” –  who else has the foresight to close every community and neighbourhood local service they can and replace them with a giant stadium out of town?  How did we lose that one?

I could not find any photographs of Nicole Kidman or Brad Pitt at the last APSE award ceremony, but there are lovely shots of local councillors from across the UK in their finest evening attire; just visit the APSE website for all the glamour you would expect.  Better luck next year!  Keep your award acceptance speech handy, Mr. Stewart:  You’ll be needing it one of these years.

Outsource (verb)

To outsource or privatise is to take an asset or service from the public sector (City Council for instance), and sell it off to a private company or invent a ‘private’ company to do what taxpayer money has paid local government to do in the first place.  The benefit is that the taxpayer is liberated from responsibility in future for the asset – this is also known as ‘selling off the family silver’.  We have seen for instance how much more efficient and affordable our trains became after privatisation.

If I can’t understand how this will save money in the long term, that’s just my lack of education

Pensioners in retirement homes in Aberdeen rejoice!  No doubt following consultation with you and your families, the City are considering putting your care in the hands of the Private Sector.  You see, the Council needs to save money, and it costs money to care for you.  So if we take the money the taxpayers contribute to the city, give it to a private company that is in business to make money, your homes will magically cost less to run.

To ensure everything goes smoothly, some councillors are suggesting councillors be on the board of the company that will run your homes.  Since private companies need to turn profits unlike (obviously) the city, there may be a few changes and a few corners cut, but seeing as how this would never happen without your agreement, congratulations on this wise business move.  If I can’t understand how this will save money in the long term, that’s just my lack of education.  Still, when has the Council ever steered us wrong?

Marks & Spencer Dine in for Two for a Tenner follow up:

Some time back I wrote about the Marks & Spencer ‘Dine in for 2 for £10’ offers, and how they were destroying the fabric and morals of our otherwise genteel society, and how the SNP were working to save us by getting the Scottish Parliament to ban M&S from making these offers.

Well, I need to confess:  I’ve done a deal with M&S. There I was last weekend in M&S, looking for sensible socks and radishes, when I heard a crowd of excited people.  When I looked up, all became clear.  In giant red and pink signs, Marks & Sparks was offering yet another deal involving alcohol.  But no £10 deal this time – no, the price had been doubled.

A man offered me a box of candy if I took the deal (I think this is referred to as a ‘sweetener’), and as a swarm of people of all ages around me fought over strawberries and mashed potato side dishes, I knew I had been sucked in.  So – I recklessly blew my entire food budget, and have nothing to show for it but two sirloin steaks, a bag of salad (‘leaf’ or ‘herb’ they call it), strawberries, scallops, chocolates – and of course booze – which is the real reason anyone buys into this scheme at all.  Yes, there are now two ‘Irish Coffees’ as they are known, sitting in my kitchen.   I  can think of nothing else – they came specially ‘prepared’ for me in glass containers which I can re-use – making it pretty certain I will be making more Irish Coffee in the future:  this is another insidious way M&S keep me coming back for more.

Will I keep both Irish Coffees for myself?  Share one?  Have one now and another another time?  Will I be able to handle it, or will I wake up days later in a police cell, holding an empty coffee glass and a half-eaten box of chocolates?  Don’t let this happen to you – tell the SNP you fully support their plan to stop Marks & Spencer. It’s too late for me – I’m used to eating decent pre-packaged food and nice steaks with wine. I hope you learn from my mistakes and save yourselves.

Coming soon:  statutory consultee, expert, ‘green spaces new places’ initiative; greed