Dec 232016

With thanks to Martin Ford.

Aberdeenshire’s Democratic Independent and Green Group (DIGG) councillors – Paul Johnston and Martin Ford – have made clear their belief that Aberdeenshire Council needs to do all it can to protect vital public services.
That includes raising additional income by putting up the Council Tax next year by three per cent.

The decision on Aberdeenshire Council’s 2017/18 revenue budget will be made against a background of rising demand for key Council services, in particular adult social care and an increasing school pupil population – with the inevitable attendant budget pressures.

The Council Tax rate has not increased since 2007, a freeze now lasting nine years.

A very preliminary analysis of the Scottish Government’s budget statement last Thursday (15 December) suggests the cut in Government funding to Aberdeenshire Council next year is in line with expectations or possibly slightly more than anticipated. A full analysis of the overall effect on Aberdeenshire Council of the various measures announced by the Scottish Government will be available early in January.

Cllr Martin Ford said:

“In the context of a cut in Aberdeenshire Council’s grant funding from the Scottish Government, rising demand for Council services and a nine-year freeze in the Council Tax, a Council Tax increase is necessary next year.”

The DIGG draft budget proposals for Aberdeenshire Council (published in November) included a three per cent rise in the Council Tax as one measure to help close the forecast funding gap in 2017/18.

Cllr Paul Johnston said:

“Given inflation, the freeze in the Council Tax was a real-terms tax cut. And it’s lasted now for nine years. Clearly services have to be paid for, so the freeze can’t just go on.

“For the DIGG, protecting essential services is the priority. For every one per cent increase in the Council Tax, the Council can avoid cutting a million pounds from its spending on services.”

For the benchmark Band D property, the current Council Tax in Aberdeenshire is £1,141.00. So a one per cent increase is an additional £11.41 on the annual Council Tax bill (or just under 22p per week, just over 3p per day).

A three per cent rise next year is just 66p extra per week for a Band D property.

Even if that increase is made, spread over the ten years 2008 to 2017, the Council Tax will have risen by only £3.42 per year in that decade.

“After many years of cuts, the priority has to be protecting the services people need,” said Cllr Martin Ford.

“The Council must do everything in its power to maintain the range of essential services it provides for residents.”

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Oct 042013

Somewhat surprisingly, the humble tea trolley is still available at a high street outlet or an online store near you, writes Duncan Harley. For readers under 25 years old this fact will perhaps mean little, but the Cambridge Dictionary Online is helpful as always and defines a tea trolley ‘as a small table on wheels, sometimes with an upper and a lower shelf, for serving drinks and food’.

Mr TrolleyCambridge Dictionary Online uses cookies and invites the casual enquirer requiring more information to read its Privacy and Cookies Policy.

The irony of using cookies may be lost on those who have never encountered the tea trolley first hand.

Suffice it to say that no tea party was ever complete without cakes, currant buns and
indeed cherry-topped cookies gracing the lower shelf.

The US definition is seemingly ‘a tea wagon or cart’ which seems more laidback given the pinkie-raised image of the afternoon tea trolley-equipped brigade of mid-20th century Scottish middle class suburbia.

All of this, however, meant little to HG Wells. Indeed he may never have used or even seen a tea trolley.

A prolific writer and former drapery assistant, Wells penned hundreds of stories, ranging from War of the Worlds to The Time Machine, during his lifetime. Born in 1866 during the reign of Queen Victoria, many of his books are still in print and his stories remain in the popular imagination as cultural icons.

A key figure in scientific and popular fiction, Wells wrote about rockets, submarines and amazing discoveries. He gathered a readership that, in the main, could never have imagined such impossible ideas as time travel and the invasion of earth from outer space. Aliens and monsters of the deep were his currency and his readers could not get enough of the stuff!

Cremated at Golders Green Crematorium on August 16 1946, he lived just long enough to see the end of the second war to end all wars and indeed the beginnings of space travel, as Hitler’s rocket scientists were feted and recruited into the US Space Programme. This was just months after they had been working on the so called Wonder Weapons which the German military believed would turn the tide of defeat into a victory surge for the Nazi regime.

But The History of Mr Trolley must surely be Wells’s greatest and lasting literary achievement.

According to some sources, Mr Trolley is based on the author’s early experiences in the drapery trade. Alfred Trolley is a bumbling and directionless young man with an innate sense of epithet. He uses phrases like ‘dejected angelosity’ when referring to the stone carving on a cathedral and ‘the shoveacious cult’ when referring to youth.

The tea trolley remains one of the great cultural icons of the 20th Century

George Orwell, in Coming Up For Air, portrays a man breaking out of the mould, just for the one day.

Wells writes about Mr Trolley in a similar vein.

Mr Trolley hates his wife, hates his shop and in general hates ‘that vast mass of useless, uneducated, and altogether pitiable people that we contemplate when we use the term, Lower Middle Class’.

The comments leave no doubt at all about Mr Trolley’s views on humanity.

The novel is perhaps a parody of Wells’s own life. Encouraged into the drapery business by a devoted father, Wells had failed academically. His numerous affairs and failed marriages are testament to his unrest.

In 1934 he wrote ‘I was never a great amorist, though I have loved several people very deeply’.

The tea trolley remains one of the great cultural icons of the 20th Century as indeed it should. Cakes and high tea are a part of the true Scottish heritage.

Mr Trolley may, of course, be an anachronism in the 21st Century.

However, it does seem somehow reassuring that Argos, Ikea and Tesco Direct still offer the aficionados of pinkie-raised taking of tea the option to use the things.

Available at £39.99 or below, and in various shades of grey, the tea trolley continues to amaze and delight those who still take tea of an afternoon.

A quick search on Google failed to return any useful results regarding how many tea trolleys are being manufactured in the UK these days, but there is little doubt that in some factory, in some god- forsaken district in China, there are lines of workers diligently assembling the ‘small table on wheels’ at the rate of dozens per hour.

As for Wells, he would have taken tea with the best of us.

With grateful thanks to HG Wells, Michael Rayne, Ikea and Golders Green Crematorium.
Photo credit: Janice Rayne

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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.


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