Royal Mail – Not For Sale!

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Feb 182011

Members of the Communication Workers Union will be holding a demonstration outside the St Nicholas Centre on Saturday February 26th to raise awareness of proposals put forward by the Government to privatise Royal Mail. Voice’s Stephen Davy-Osborne reports.

The proposal, set out earlier this year, sees the link between Royal Mail and the Post Office Ltd severed as Royal Mail becomes a privatised company, while the Post Office remains in public ownership under a partnership similar to that of the John Lewis Group.  These proposals have caused a great deal of concern to those employed by both organisations.

Once privatised, there would be no guarantee of Royal Mail making use of the Post Office network; which is already facing 900 closures up and down the country.   Once a vital amenity for any village, town or city; the Post Office has faced increased competition from other companies offering similar services resulting in decline in footfall, and therefore closures.

Alan Robertson, Secretary of the Grampian & Shetland branch of the CWU, is hopeful that further closures and subsequent job losses can be avoided:

“The future of the Post Office Ltd does not have to be gloomy.  If the Government stuck to its election promise of putting a fully-blown bank within the Post Office, then it would help secure its future. Last year alone 150 Post Offices shut down.  If privatised and not given banking services, then Post Offices will simply wither on the vine and the people who suffer the most will be the elderly, those in remote areas, and the most vulnerable in society.”

people think either it will never happen or it’s a ‘done deal’ – neither of which is true

Demonstrations and marches have been taking place up and down the country over the last few months, with many more yet to come.  Just last month following  the announcement of the proposed changes, the CWU marched on the constituencies of both David Cameron and Minister for Postal Affairs, Ed Davey, to highlight that privatisation is not in the best interests of Royal Mail or its users.

Members of the Grampian & Shetland branch of the CWU will also be journeying down to London at the end of March to join a march against cuts being organised by the TUC.

Royal Mail has attracted a lot of media attention over the past couple of years, with reports of inefficiencies and huge job losses on the horizon as it sought to compete in a modern market.  Despite the bad press, Mr Robertson is confident that things were starting to look up for Royal Mail:

“The long-term problems we have had are already being addressed.   Last April our membership ratified a three-year deal that accounts for things like the decline in mail, new machinery and ways of working.  This will lead to a significant drop in headcount for our members, but it has been done on a proper basis that will see a more efficient Royal Mail at the end of the three years.”

However, all of these agreed changes, which saw heavy campaigning from the unions to secure a fair outcome for all, could be put in jeopardy by privatisation.

The demonstration outside the St Nicholas Centre will therefore try and raise public awareness and let people know what the results of privatisation would mean to them.

“I believe that most people think either it will never happen or it’s a ‘done deal’ – neither of which is true.” adds Mr Robertson.

For further information and to show your support for one of the nation’s most vital public services, head along to the CWU’s demonstration outside Marks and Spencer, St Nicholas Centre between 11:00 and 13:00 on Saturday February 26th.

Feb 112011

By Cllr Martin Ford, Aberdeenshire Council.

I said last week I did not expect Aberdeenshire Council’s budget setting meeting, which took place yesterday (10 February), to be either lengthy or out of the ordinary (see: Aberdeenshire Budget Day Looms, Aberdeen Voice 4 February 2011).

I was only half right. The meeting lasted less than two hours.

Normally, budget meetings are extremely predictable. The Council’s ruling administration proposes its budget. The opposition parties each propose an alternative package of measures.

There is a debate in which speakers from each party say why they believe what their party has put forward should be supported. There is a vote in which each party votes for its own set of proposals. The administration’s budget receives the most votes and thus becomes the Council’s budget.

Yesterday’s budget meeting was different in one key respect. The Democratic Independent group of councillors, of which I am a member, was not allowed to put forward its alternative to the administration’s budget.

As reported in previous articles, Aberdeenshire Council’s Liberal Democrat/Conservative administration, with SNP support, voted through nearly £27 million of cuts and savings at the full council meeting on 25 November.

At yesterday’s budget meeting, further savings of £1.461 million had to be approved to balance the Council’s revenue budget for 2011/12. As expected, the Liberal Democrat/Conservative administration accepted the recommendation from Council officers to close the budget gap by bringing forward planned cuts and savings from 2012/13 into 2011/12.

So, for example, the administration proposed changing the cut in spending on Community School Networks it had decided in November, increasing it from £107,000 to £137,000 in 2011/12 by bringing forward some of the cut planned for 2012/13.

Council officers advised that it was not competent to propose no cut to these staff, even though we had put forward an alternative

Amongst the accelerated cuts in education spending proposed by the administration was an increase in the cut for 2011/12 to spending on primary school classroom assistants, from £88,000 to £100,000.

In their budget proposals, the SNP councillors left unchanged the planned £88,000 cut in the 2011/12 budget for primary school classroom assistants.

This year it fell to me to formally move the Democratic Independent group’s budget proposals. We saw it as a priority to maintain spending on primary school classroom assistants and visiting specialist teachers – so we proposed making no cut to either in 2011/12. We proposed making a saving instead by cutting the budget allocated to repairing unadopted roads, as these roads are not, by definition, a Council responsibility and the budget for repairing them has mostly not been spent.

Once it became clear I was proposing no cut to primary school classroom assistants or visiting specialists, I was stopped from speaking by the provost. Council officers advised that it was not competent to propose no cut to these staff, even though we had put forward an alternative way of balancing the budget.

The Council operates a general policy that it cannot reconsider its decisions within six months, unless there is a two-thirds majority in favour of doing so. But when the administration, and then the SNP councillors, proposed increased spending cuts in 2011/12, by bringing forward cuts from 2012/13, it was ruled this did not constitute a change to a previous decision, so the two-thirds rule did not apply.

But when I proposed the opposite, not to proceed with cuts, this was deemed a change that could only be debated if a two-thirds majority agreed.

A show of hands was called by the provost. Just six councillors voted to allow us to put forward our budget proposals.

The provost ruled the Democratic Independent group budget proposals out of order.

Faced with a debate between the administration’s and the SNP’s very similar budget proposals, both of which opted for staff cuts in primary schools, there was no point in staying. None of the Democratic Independent group councillors was going to vote for either of the proposals we had to choose from. We all walked out in protest.

I have never walked out of a Council meeting before. It is not something I would normally consider and not something to do without very good reason.

I did it yesterday because the budget debate had become pointless, and because of the manifestly unfair way the meeting was being conducted. It was not that our proposals were voted down – it was that we were not even allowed to put them forward for consideration and debate. That is undemocratic and wrong.

I am appalled at the Council’s refusal to allow open debate. Apparently it is perfectly acceptable to propose further cuts in classroom assistants – but seeking to stop the cuts is not allowed.

That is completely one-sided.

The two budget proposals that were voted on by Aberdeenshire councillors yesterday both accepted the primary school staff cuts the Democratic Independent group had sought to avert.

It was, of course, the administration’s budget proposals that were approved. The cuts to classroom assistants and visiting specialist teachers – and many others – will go ahead.

Feb 112011

For thousands of years the world’s great civilisations have understood the importance of libraries:  storehouses of knowledge, exchanges for ideas and philosophies and essential developing technologies, social centres, and sources of inspiration. However, as Voice’s Suzanne Kelly reports,  our libraries may yet again be facing the threat of cuts and closures.

The great library at Alexandria housed the factual and philosophical literatures of all the cultures of the times. There is historical evidence to suggest that any ship docking in the Alexandrian port had to declare the books it had aboard, and any that the Alexandrian library did not have were ”borrowed”, copied and translated, and the original returned to the ship in due course.

The importance of storing and sharing knowledge in various languages was paramount in the Classical world.  It was a major loss to civilisation when this great library was burnt, but the concept of libraries was entrenched in civilisation, and the storage and sharing of knowledge has been central to all of mankind’s great advances.

The great European libraries, including the world-famous British Library are looked upon with pride and respect by scholars, researchers, writers, and those who seek both knowledge and entertainment.  However, this view of the library’s importance is under threat throughout Europe, as governments look for soft targets for budget cuts.

Library hours have been cut, book buying budgets slashed, and library buildings – some of which are of considerable historical and architectural value – are being converted to other use or even destroyed in the pursuit of valuable development real estate.  Books are often sold to raise funds and swept aside to make space for newer media, unfortunately this has meant important collections being split up or sent to storage.

Elaine Fulton, Director of CILIP in Scotland:
“Contrary to what is widely reported in the press, Scottish libraries are not experiencing a decline in demand for services. In fact, the past two years have seen the number of visits to our public libraries rise by 2.4 million. This is a clear indication of the support that exists for libraries and the value that people place on our services within communities across Scotland.”

Along with the out-and-out direct attacks on libraries, the insidious attacks are just as damaging.  Libraries have quite rightly branched out into lending music and DVDs, and the advent of Internet access available to all via library computers is likewise welcome.

But rather than expanding the importance and diversity of the library, many local governments are deciding that books and other printed works are of secondary importance. An offer Councils frequently make is that libraries can stay open if non-professional ‘volunteers’ are willing to staff them. As a professional librarian would tell you, there is more to running a library than just putting books on shelves.

The management of vast stocks of printed works, the ability to find information quickly and efficiently, the understanding of the cataloguing numerical system, and best practice are but a few issues which need professional attention.

Some years back Aberdeen City ordered its library services to cut £100,000 out of its budget, from any area it chose

A volunteer staff could not be expected to show the same commitment to professional development, and would doubtless fall short of offering the reliable, consistent service that library users are accustomed to. Furthermore, there are perhaps risks associated with the limited accountability of volunteers – the worst case scenario is that this could give rise to stock depletion, whether through mismanagement, under valuation and subsequent disposal or even theft.

It is emerging that a museum in Glasgow has suffered numerous thefts over the years, which are only now coming to light, largely due to low staffing levels and poor stock management. In fact the British Library itself was the victim of vandalising theft:  a library user was removing extremely valuable pages from ancient books and whole books in some cases – removing knowledge from common access, and destroying volumes of books in the process. If professional librarians had not been operational, who knows how long this could have gone on and how much more damage would have been done.

Alan Reid, President of CILIP in Scotland:
“All support for libraries and recognition of the need for professional and well trained staff is welcome. It highlights the passion which many in Scotland share for their libraries and the rising tide of concern at what the current public service financial cuts will mean. I am sure there will be many more protests of this nature in the next few months.”

Some years back Aberdeen City ordered its library services to cut £100,000 out of its budget, from any area it chose.

Rather than losing jobs or cutting down the annual book budget, opening hours were cut. This had an immediate detrimental effect on resource availability for the elderly, children, people who do not have English as a first language, students, and young people with either family or financial issues who depended on the libraries for so very much more than books.

Any of the options open to the library services would have been detrimental, but there was no choice than to make this cut.  This Aberdeen City Council has spent millions on consultants in the past, and has written off millions of pounds in bad debts. Surely funding services such as libraries should be seen as both possible and desirable.

There are countries which deny their citizens this important asset, and people who would desperately love to have libraries

On Saturday 5th February I visited Aberdeen’s Central Library. I was trying to research ‘Urban Sprawl’, a topic for which many associated books, articles and pamphlets have been written by scientists and EU officials. Our library had nothing.   However, the librarian’s assistance was invaluable, and it is planned to get some items in on the subject – budget allowing.

One of the benefits of being in the library was the physical access to the collection:  it was possible to spend an hour or so wandering the well categorised shelves, and finding titles that were of interest to me which otherwise I might never have known existed. I also found information on community events that I hadn’t known of, posted on a bulletin board.

I had no sooner left the library than I ran into a group of pro-library protesters belonging to  ‘Cilips’ – the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals in Scotland.  As their leaflet and their spokeswoman explained:

“Not only do libraries make a valuable contribution to our society, they stand for important values in our society including intellectual freedom, equality of opportunity, engaged citizenship, informed democracy and a society in which people have the chance to achieve their potential.”

There are countries which deny their citizens this important asset, and people who would desperately love to have libraries.  Let’s ensure they are not taken for granted or worse, taken down.  It is an amazing arrogance on the part of the budget-cutters to think they know better than all of the past societies and conclude that libraries are a luxury.

Let’s not let them get away with closing our libraries.

Feb 042011

By Cllr Martin Ford, Aberdeenshire Council

Next Thursday (10 February), Aberdeenshire Council will formally set its revenue budget for the financial year starting in April. Despite Aberdeenshire Council facing the worst budget cuts in its history, I do not expect the budget meeting to be especially lengthy or dramatic.

This is because the bulk of the cuts the Council will make in 2011/12 were voted through by the ruling Liberal Democrat/Conservative coalition – with SNP support – at the full council meeting on 25 November.
(see: Council Tax Freeze and Many Cuts Decided, Aberdeen Voice, 26 November 2010).

The cuts the Council will decide on next Thursday will be small in comparison to the cuts already voted through. What the Council has to do is to agree some further budget reductions to balance its planned revenue expenditure with its expected income – an income that has effectively been decided for it by the Scottish Government (see: Horrific Scale Of Council Cuts Becomes Clearer, Aberdeen Voice, 19 November 2010).

The position immediately after Christmas was that the Council needed to identify further savings of over £4 million to balance its revenue budget for 2011/12 (see: Grim Reality Of Aberdeenshire Budget Cuts, Aberdeen Voice, 31 December 2010).

Since then, Council officials have reviewed some of the budget provisions made for increased expenditure arising from changes in government policy. Finance officers are now advising that only £4.01 million need be included in the budget to address these pressures, instead of the £7 million originally estimated.

The amounts Aberdeenshire Council will be paying towards the funding of Grampian Police, Grampian Fire and Rescue Service and Grampian Valuation Joint Board have also been set at less than expected – by a total of £1.13 million.

On the other hand, it has become clear some new responsibilities given to the Council by the Scottish Government need an additional budget allocation of £1.335 million.

The net result of these various developments is that Aberdeenshire’s budget gap has come down to £1.461 million. Further spending reductions totalling that amount will need to be approved on 10 February to produce a balanced revenue budget for 2011/12.

Council officers are recommending the 2011/12 budget is brought into balance by bringing forward savings and service cuts planned for financial year 2012/13 into 2011/12. While it is always risky making predictions – and a week is a long time in politics – I expect the Council’s coalition administration to accept the officers’ recommendation.

Jan 282011

By Stephen Osborne with thanks to Lesley Dunbar.

In just under a fortnight, councillors from across the city will come together to decide how the forthcoming budget cuts should be distributed throughout its infrastructure.

The cuts have been long forewarned, with the Council gathering local opinions late last year from residents in the form of a short questionnaire, asking which services they felt should be prioritised. Unsurprisingly, education fared considerably well in these results, making it into the top six of the Council’s priorities for spending over the next five years.

Despite this, Aberdeen City Council is proposing to slash the number of Pupil Support Assistants (PSAs) within both primary and secondary schools. Pupil support assistants help children with learning difficulties and disabilities with their class work at school, but the council has not consulted with parents on the effect these cuts will have on student’s education.

By implementing this cut, the Council will be going against not only one, but two of its six main priorities for the next five years: to “help ensure that all schoolchildren reach their full potential” and to “provide for the needs of the most vulnerable people”.

The Aberdeen branch of the union Unison is urging residents to contact their local councilor, showing their support for pupil support assistants and enquiring as to why public consultation on this matter has not taken place.

Further details of Unisons campaign can be found at or by calling 01224 620624

There will be a demonstration outside the Town House on the 10th of February between 12-2pm against these proposals.


If you wish to add your voice to this issue, you can find out who your local councillors are here and adapt/send the following letter.

Dear Councillor

As a parent in Aberdeen I am opposed to the budget proposals to drastically cut the number of Pupil Support Assistants in all city primary and secondary schools at the Council Budget setting meeting on 10th February 2011.I have never been consulted about the effect this proposal will have on my child(ren)’s education.

Pupil Support Assistants provide a vital service which must be sustained to ensure all children in Aberdeen are supported and encouraged to fulfill their potential.  Cutting the numbers of Pupil Support Assistants will ultimately exclude some children from education, which is their right.  It will also affect the quality of education that all children receive.

I would be obliged if you would send me the Equality Impact assessment that must have been prepared prior to the decision to propose any cuts in Pupil Support Assistants numbers.  I am urging you as my Councillor to vote against this particular budget cut on Thursday 10th February.

I would also be grateful if you could confirm you have received this letter and let me know how you intend to vote.

Yours sincerely

Jan 282011

Earlier this week Aberdeen Voice readers along with Aberdeen City Council staff heard the news that 900 jobs were to go at the Council. Lesley Dunbar, Vice Chair of the Aberdeen City Branch of Unison writes.

The current administration says there is a shortfall of £3 million pounds in the costs of introducing an Early Retirement/Vountary Severance scheme again this year, and because the staff won’t take a 5% cut in their wages to pay for the ERVS scheme the current administration claims it has no alternative but to make 900 staff compulsorily redundant.

Leader of the Council John Stewart said in the local press:

“There is no alternative as Council staff being paid over £21, 000 per year have refused to accept a 5% cut in their wages”.

This proposed cut in wages was supposedly to help finance an Early Retirement/Voluntary Severance scheme (ER/VS for short).  This scheme is where staff can put themselves forward to give up their posts which are then up for consideration by management about which posts can be made redundant and therefore which people can go.

In the last two years of the so called Council ‘savings’ most, but not all, of the jobs that have gone have been under an Early Retirement Voluntary Severance Scheme, ER/VS for short.  This ER/VS schemes cost more money than compulsory redundancies and last year the Scottish Government helped to pay for some of Aberdeen City Council’s one.

Meanwhile, since last June the Council has undertaken a five year Priority Based Budget plan to try and put its financial house in order which has led to the need to offload 900 Full Time Equivalent (FTE) posts to get the books to balance.  And that’s without the plan to ‘outsource’ or privatise all of the Corporate Governance service of the Council…and more.  At the same time the Council has consulted its citizens to ask us what our priorities for services in the city are.  £150 Million pounds of savings are proposed over the next five years.

A red herring?

I believe the issue of the 5% wage cut for staff is a red herring –  a very big and political red herring. 

They claim that the unions have given them no choice

The real issue here is the loss of 900 Full time equivalent jobs and the impact of the loss of those jobs on local services and subsequently on local people and the local economy.

So what’s really at stake here?

It is not only the 900 posts that are up for grabs.  It is the future of our city – its services, our local democracy and social justice that are at stake.  The loss of 900 jobs will have a massive impact on local services and the quality of local peoples’ and their families’ lives. The cuts in pupil support alone will have a massive impact  ( See Article ‘City Council Set To Slash  Pupil support’ ).

Our Council is proposing to cut 300 FTE jobs.  That’s going to be around 400 Pupil Support Assistants jobs that are up to go.  It’s a very clear example of how cuts in jobs impact on services and then impact on all those who receive these services, in this case children.  In this situation, all school age children will be affected – not just those receiving support from Pupil Support Assistants.

So what’s really going on?

In December, Scottish Finance Minister John Swinney said that no Scottish local authority should need to make any compulsory redundancies.  Following this statement Councillor Kevin Stewart, SNP Vice Convener of the Council in the Lib Dem/ SNP coalition, proposed the 5% staff pay cut at the Council meeting.  Now with the unions rejecting the 5% pay cut the current administration says it HAS to go for 900 compulsory redundancies. They claim that the unions have given them no choice.

But some of us remember back in November, before staff were offered the 5% pay cut, unions were notified then that there would be 900 FTE posts at risk of compulsory redundancy.

The current administration also believes it needs to leave its financial reserves at the same level it inherited when it came into power  – at around  £21 Million. If they were to pay the £3 Million shortfall for ERVS then that wouldn’t happen. And when it comes to the run up to the local elections next year any opposition could say that the current administration have mismanaged the Council’s finances.  (As if…!)

now is time for us to really look at how our local government can use this power for the benefit and the wellbeing of all

I don’t need to remind readers that this is the same Council who also advocate borrowing around £150 million to pay for the shortfall in the Union Terrace Gardens scheme.

Local authorities, Social Justice and Citizens’ well-being.

Local authorities traditionally in Scotland throughout the twentieth century have had a crucial role to play in ensuring that those of us and our families, who need and rely on decent public services and who can’t afford to buy these services in the private market, receive them.

This means that local authorities have a fundamental role to play in ensuring the well being of its citizens.  This role was enshrined in legislation introduced by the Scottish Parliament in the Local Government in Scotland Act 2003 – Power to Advance Well-being.

Maybe now is time for us to really look at how our local government can use this power for the benefit and the wellbeing of all citizens in Aberdeen.

There is an Alternative

Staff have also been suggesting alternatives to management which are being ignored. These have included saving on agencies staff and expensive consultancies.  The unions have all said that our door is always open and that we are willing to meet to talk and consider any proposals that will avoid compulsory redundancies and subsequent cuts in services.  But, says Councillor John Stewart, Council staff will just have to accept the inevitable as there will be staff redundancies across all local authorities in Scotland.

I’m proud to say I belong to a union that does believe there is an alternative.

So what’s next?


Tell them what you think about their cuts to our services.

Anyone who is a citizen in Aberdeen and anyone who uses the services provided by Aberdeen City Council is welcome to come and join us at a lobby outside the Town House on Broad Street on Thursday 10 February from 12noon to 2pm before the Budget setting meeting.

I look forward to seeing Aberdeen Voice readers there on Thursday 10th.

The future is bright?

Every citizen of the city of Aberdeen, including staff have a vote and can choose how they use it at the next elections.  This won’t have escaped local councillors’ attention. And of course some of the leaders of our Council also have further political ambitions in the bigger pond of Scottish Government and have put themselves forward as candidates for the May elections…

Jan 282011

With thanks to Aberdeen Against Austerity and Uk Uncut.

Join a national day of action.

Monday 31st of January is the deadline for ordinary people around the country to return their self-assessment tax return forms. There are fines waiting for those who miss it.

But whilst we rush to complete our forms, rich corporations and individuals are getting away with shirking £25bn of tax every year. For Vodafone, Philip Green, HSBC, Grolsch, HMV, Boots, Barclays, KPMG and others there is no fear of being fined by the government. Instead they can employ armies of lawyers and accountants to exploit legal loopholes and dodge billions in tax they owe to us.

The government insists that drastic public spending cuts and a hike to VAT are essential. They claim that we’re all in this together. But both the cuts and the VAT increase will hit the poor and most vulnerable hardest, whilst the richest in our society dodge tax with virtual impunity.

The action in Aberdeen on Sunday 30th of January will be NHS themed to highlight the damage these unnecessary cuts will cause to our health system. The effects are already becoming apparent. NHS Grampian are set to axe 500 ‘backroom’ jobs by the end of April.

This will inevitably affect frontline services in hospitals across the North East as Doctors and Nurses are forced to cover the roles of their support staff instead of spending time with patients. The VAT increase will cost NHS Grampian £2 million which means a smaller hospital budget. There will be 12% or 5760 less nurses in Scotland in 2011/12 meaning thousands of nursing graduates, their education financed by the tax payer, will be going straight into the arms of the private sector.

On the day before the tax return deadline, UK Uncut’s Big Society Revenue and Customs will be taking to the streets again to make sure corporate tax avoiders pay. It will be our biggest day of action yet. Yesterday, False Economy, PCS and War on Want began a campaign to ask you to vote for your favourite tax dodger.

On Sunday 30th, UK Uncut and Aberdeen Against Austerity are asking you to vote with your feet. Who do you think has got away lightly so far?

The meeting point for Sunday’s action is outside Aberdeen Art Gallery at 12.45pm.

Jan 282011

Its been a ‘trying’ week for Old Susannah as two former political party leaders are ‘court’ up in controversy. As one faces a lengthy term indoors, and the other attempts to shake off the ‘terminator’ tag, Old Suz tackles some tricky terminology.


(noun) an expression of regret, acknowledging some form of mistake, error or wrong doing..  Examples:  I gave my granny an apology for breaking a piece of her china years ago.  I apologised when I was late for an appointment last week.

Tony Blair has now apologised to everyone at the Chilcot Enquiry into the Iraq War.  He said that he is sorry tens of thousands of people – soldiers, civilian men, women, children, innocent bystanders in short – got killed in the war.  He could not have foreseen that war would lead to any of that.  The one million strong protestors who marched to Hyde Park to protest the war clearly did not have all the facts, and did not know what was really at stake like Tony did; so he was right to ignore them.

This is a democracy after all; he was elected and was able to do what he wanted.  Hans Blix, and other weapons inspectors likewise, were wrong to conclude that Saddam did not have stores of ‘weapons of mass destruction’ (as compared to ‘weapons of mass irritation’ or ‘weapons of a tiny bit of destruction’) and could not attack us in 45 minutes.  Blair had the dossier to prove it, so fair dues.

The UN likewise was misguided: not having any of Blair’s intelligence and intuition.  Blair had promised President Bush ‘we were with you all the way’ some 8 months before the war started, and as we all know, it is important not to break a promise.  Good on you Tony.  Now that is what I call foresight and planning ahead.  I guess if you needed expert guidance at the time, you couldn’t have done any better than listening to Bush, Cheney , Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz and the rest of the American experts, who waged this war with no fear of the personal sacrifice it would cost each and every one of them.  To those who say that there are things that are beyond an apology, they are wrong:  this apology will immediately heal all physical and emotional wounds.   The soldier in rehab, the widow, the orphans, those left destitute will find Tony’s ‘sorry’ all the tonic they need.  Apology accepted.


(noun) To genuinely regret an action, even to the point of feeling guilt and sadness.

It should be noted that Tony Blair’s apology over the Iraq War has absolutely no remorse in it, and even less sincerity.  He is ‘glad we removed Saddam’.  He would ‘do it again’.  It could be Old Susannah, but I don’t see the remorse in that attitude.  Why this one particular dictator was more important to ‘remove’ than the hundreds of others who blight this world, particularly in Africa and Asia, is in no way connected to then President Bush’s determination to avenge his daddy, whose own war on Iraq was not a great success.

Those who pushed this war on us were not interested in making a profit; any sudden enrichment to their bank balances was coincidental.  A certain former US Chief of Defence might have had a teeny connection to a certain oil company; it could happen to anyone.  He was just in the right place at the right time.  We must remember how the war instantly brought peace, stability, equality and human rights to the region.

For some bizarre reason the jury failed to see that Mr Sheridan is the victim of a massive conspiracy reminiscent of the Davinci Code’s plot

Another important power couple are not feeling much in the way of remorse or regret either:  Mr and Mrs Sheridan, who are having a tough time of it.  For some bizarre reason the jury failed to see that Mr Sheridan is the victim of a massive conspiracy reminiscent of the Davinci Code’s plot.  He angrily denied any wrongdoing; his lovely wife stood by him – and yet somehow people think he might not be telling the truth, and he has cruelly been found him guilty of perjury.  Mrs Sheridan is a model to all us ladies – stand by your man no matter what.  What a lovely woman she must be, and if she’s single-handedly set women’s rights and independence back by 7 to 10 years, so what.  After his angry protestations of innocence and being set up, Mr Sheridan is now pleading for mercy in his sentencing.  I wonder if he is feeling remorse for having brought the lawsuit to ‘clear his name’ which led directly to where he is now.  What’s wrong with a man in power cheating on his wife in sleazy sex clubs then suing newspapers that print the tale?  I guess a shared interest in perjury helps keep this power couple together.

Trade Union

(noun) A Trade Union is a bad, bad thing that costs people jobs, ruins the global economy, and cuts into everyone’s pockets.  Believe it or not, the Unions representing Aberdeen City Council workers have actually rejected the kindly offer of taking a 5% pay cut for its members, who the Council now has no choice but to sack 900 people.

Unions came about to protect the rights of the workers, but things have now moved on, and it’s the poor employer that is suffering.  Through no fault of its own, Aberdeen City Council is being forced to cut jobs by the greedy unions.

The Council might own more real estate, buildings, offices and land than your average king.  The City might have written off millions of pounds in bad debts over the years.  They even might have sold land for a fraction of its value to a few lucky developers.  They could even have introduced a sliding scale for these proposed salary cuts, with the overpaid – I mean higher paid – managers taking a larger than 5% cut, and had smaller cuts for the lower-paid.   But Aberdeen’s not a charity.  If you’re going to work for the City, count yourselves lucky.  Take the cut.  You’ll be getting a brand new desk and chair when you move to Marischal College!  And if you still feel unfairly treated, do keep your stories coming to Old Susannah.   They are getting juicy!

Jan 212011

By Aberdeen Against Austerity.

We need a change in direction, not a return to business as usual.

Since the election, the Tory-led coalition Government has launched the most serious assault on the lives of ordinary people that we have seen in the UK since the 1930s. These cuts will decimate jobs and services across the country and will devastate the lives of untold millions of people. We are not only being made to foot the bill of debts run up by reckless bankers, we are being made to fund their offensively lavish lifestyles.

You could be forgiven for thinking that the austerity agenda is unavoidable or even economically sound, as this is the mantra of much of the mainstream, corporate media. This is, however, simply not the case. The Government’s cuts are ideological and unnecessary, and it is becoming increasingly clear that, far from putting us back on the road to recovery, we are being hurled, blindly and arrogantly, towards disaster.

It is for these reasons that citizens from across the North East of Scotland came together on the 15th of December to found Aberdeen Against Austerity.

We continue to see the financial crisis as an opportunity to change the world. We will not accept our lives and communities being destroyed in order to return to a ‘business as usual’ under which wages stagnate while the cost of living increases, under which the gap between the rich and poor – both within and between countries – reaches ever greater proportions, and under which services which represent a lifeline to millions of people are handed over to faceless, profit-driven corporations.

This crash – the latest in a long line of such crises – should prove for the last time that no system that puts the whim and will of international finance before human need is sustainable. We have the ideas and the numbers; let’s create a better alternative.

Jan 142011

By Gordon Maloney.

Cutting foster carer allowances is a “false economy”.
In October 2010 the Fostering Network recommended an increase of 5.1% in 2011/2012 to the allowances given to foster carers. These allowances are meant to cover food and clothing, as well as, for example; the costs involved in having and maintaining a larger car and house.

This increase was calculated in line with the revised Retail Prices Index (RPI) from 2010/2011 and the Treasury’s predicted RPI for 2011/2012.

This recommendation has, however, been met with concern from local authorities and independent fostering providers, such as the children’s charity Barnardos. With some local councils facing cuts of up to 8.9% being forced upon them, despite the illusion of choice in letting them choose where the axe should fall.

Cuts will exacerbate the already very serious problems in recruitment and retention of foster carers. This will in turn lead to poorer outcomes, with more children being put into unsuitable homes and, ultimately, it will cost the Government more. Leading charity the Fostering Network has warned that the shortage of foster carers may mean that more children end up placed in residential care, despite being the poorer option for meeting many of their needs and costing local authorities three or four times as much in the long run.

The damage that will be caused to people’s lives by this failure to support vital state services – of which this is only one example – will be devastating. With youth unemployment nearing a million, it is not melodramatic to speak of a ‘lost generation’. The human misery caused by these cuts and belt-tightening could, perhaps in some warped neo-liberal mind, be justified if it would, as we are constantly told, improve the economy. It will, however, do no such thing.

It will cost us more.

David Cameron argued in his New Year’s message that the Coalition’s cuts will put the “country on the right path.” He claims optimistically that 2011 will be “the year that Britain gets back on its feet.” A failure to properly cover the costs of foster care, however, will prove to be one of many examples of short-sighted cuts that will only do damage. Far from putting Britain back on its feet, these reckless cuts will do untold damage to the most vulnerable in society, and will even prove to be economically illiterate as well.