Jun 142012
 

Well away from the main commercial centre of Aberdeen, nestled in a lane just off Old Aberdeen’s High Street on the University campus, is beCyCle, a low-key community project dedicated to encouraging citizens to cycle. Voice’s David Innes popped in for a look and chatted with Benedict Poetz of beCyCle.

Benedikt is a member of beCyCle but explains that there is little formality.

“I just came along, took a bike out, got interested and continued participating. Now I help out here as much as I can.

“For example I built the work benches as a project with some other people.

“As a volunteer, I help maintain the workshop and help people out with repairs. I also repair my own bike, a hand-built lightweight Carlton from the 1980s.

“We get some funding from the University and from the Student Association. We get donations, but the most important thing is that we get bikes to fix. Today, for example, we picked up thirteen bikes from Cults and someone came past and dropped off another five bikes.”

These are not sold off for beCyCle funds as you might expect.

“We rent them out, but for free. BeCyCle’s for everyone, but mostly it’s university students who’ll take out a bike for six months or a year against a deposit of £40 – £60 which is returned to them when we get the bike back. All our services are free.”

All types of bike?

“Yes, whatever is donated, but mostly they’re hybrid type mountain bikes.”

“The idea is that volunteers are here to help people fix their own bikes, giving advice and a bit of tuition. Volunteers provide the tools, knowledge and advice and encourage people to do repairs themselves. It’s free and open for everyone in the community, not only students. We don’t offer any services, we just provide the space and help for people working on bikes. All the volunteers have a bit of knowledge, so between us we always manage to repair them.

“We’re here because the University has given us the space, rent-free – or for the symbolic one pound rental – and some funding. It was an empty shell, so we built the benches and painted it. We pay our own electricity bills and so on, but we don’t need too much money. We have no commercial sponsors.”

Do you buy parts and sell them on cheaply or do people have to supply their own?

“We get spares donated quite often, but some parts like cables and stuff like WD40 we buy in bulk from the money the University donates to us.”

There were around a dozen young people coming and going during the visit, but does it get quieter during the holiday period?

“It’s the beginning of summer, so this is about it for the moment.”

There’s a tangible community ethos about beCyCle.

“It provides a space for people to repair their bikes and exchange bike ideas and knowledge. The lending scheme makes bikes freely available for the community, to encourage cycling. We’re trying to get the wider community involved by making it more open to everyone, even beyond Old Aberdeen. We’d like to have some joint programmes, for example bike maintenance projects, with local community centres and have open days to encourage such projects.”

How many bikes does beCyCle have and manage?

“We’re never quite sure. At the moment we have maybe 100 bikes here with perhaps another 100 or 200 on loan, so a rough estimate of 300-400 bikes in circulation. We try to keep track but it gets difficult, although we are now using a laptop, spreadsheet and pictures of the bikes to improve this.”

Cycling continues to gain popularity as a healthy, quick, cheap and planet-friendly mode of transport. BeCyCle’s efforts are to be applauded in encouraging would-be cyclists to try it out affordably. If you like the sound of that, they’ll be delighted to hear from you.

Thanks also to Ferdy Binacchi.
info@becycle.org.uk
http://www.becycle.org.uk/

Feb 172012
 

Voice has learned that Aberdeen’s allotment holders may well be close to resolving their long- running dispute with Aberdeen City Council. The swingeing increases imposed in the Council’s 2008 and 2009 budgets have added 152% to bills in a 12 month period for some gardeners. With thanks to Frank Taylor.

Readers may recall that Finance Minister John Swinney confirmed to local MSP Dr Nanette Milne that a local authority would not be entitled to collect rent under regulations which had not been formally confirmed by Scottish Ministers in terms of the Allotment (Scotland) Act 1892.
Regulations made under this provision have no legal effect without ministerial confirmation.

Aberdeen City Council maintained that legally it can to choose whether or not to make regulations for its allotments. Allotment holders do not dispute this, but when the Council claims it has chosen not to make regulations, allotment holders do dispute this.

The allotment holders feel that irrespective of what the Council says it has chosen to do, it has in fact made regulations, but by choosing not to have them confirmed by ministers, the Council has no legal right to enforce these.

The dispute is now at the Sheriff Court as the Council has raised proceedings against Frank Taylor, secretary of Bucksburn Allotments Association. Mr Taylor eventually lost patience with the Council, withheld the rent for his allotments and challenged the Council to raise proceedings against him for recovery of rent and possession to allow the Court to clarify the issues.

Mr taylor told Voice that he did not encourage the Council to raise proceedings against him ‘without a great deal of thought and soul-searching’. There are extremely serious consequences for him should the Court find against him. He may have to surrender possession of his allotments and be found liable for the Council’s costs as well as his own.

He is, however, extremely confident in the merits of his arguments.

The term ‘regulations’ is not defined in the allotments legislation and it is a well-established legal principle in such circumstances, that an undefined word shall be interpreted according to its normal and ordinary meaning.

‘Regulation’ is defined in the Oxford English Dictionary as ‘a rule or directive made and maintained by an authority’. Aberdeen City Council is a local authority.  So, has ACC made any rules for the management of its allotments?

Before being granted tenancy, Aberdeen allotment holders are required to indicate their acceptance of a list of conditions in the Council’s ‘Conditions of Let’ letter. Mr Taylor has provided us with a copy and points out that ‘rule’ is a synonym of ‘Condition’ in the Oxford Thesaurus of English.

That seems to put the issue beyond doubt, especially since the Council in its own Condition 9, refers to that condition as ‘a rule’.
To reinforce his views, Mr Taylor says it is evident that the conditions imposed upon him are used to

  1. Set the rent payable in terms of the contract and the date on which the initial rent is payable
  2. Make a direction as to when the rent shall be reviewed and the dates on which future rents shall be payable
  3. Govern the circumstances under which the landlord is entitled to resume possession
  4. Direct who shall be entitled to assess compensation to a tenant on outgo and restrict the right of any other person to input into that process
  5. Direct how the tenancy may be terminated by a tenant
  6. Restrict the entitlement of a tenant to transfer the tenancy
  7. Limit the use to which a tenant may put an allotment and restrict him/her from keeping livestock
  8. Regulate the dimensions and type of hut that a tenant may seek to erect and control where it may be situated
  9. Direct that a tenant may be removed if he does not achieve the required standard of husbandry.

The terms used – ‘manage’, ‘administer’, ‘set’, ‘govern’, ‘restrict’, ‘limit’, ‘direct’ and ‘control’ – are all synonyms of ‘regulate’. There is no doubt that every condition in the Conditions of Let letters regulates, or has the effect of regulating, matters pertaining to the management and administration of allotments owned and let by a local authority.

So has Aberdeen City Council made regulations for its allotments? Has the Council made a regulation by setting a rent? Will a Court disagree with Mr Taylor? He is confident of winning the case..

The Council’s Court Action has been founded on Conditions or an alleged breach thereof.  If the Court decides that these Conditions are Regulations, then the local authority’s Court Action will automatically fail.

Nov 242011
 

Deliberately resisting the attraction of the undoubtedly arcane and twisted plots of this year’s Broons annual, David Innes evaluates Maggie Craig’s take on exciting revolutionary times on Clydeside a century ago.

When Lenin appointed John MacLean, perhaps Red Clydeside’s most-revered socialist son, Soviet Consul for Scotland in 1918, the reputation of Glasgow and its industrial satellite towns as the most likely crucible of any UK workers’ revolution was sealed.

In the aftermath of Bloody Friday in January 1919, the militia, backed up by tanks was in George Square, the Riot Act had been read to an assembly of tens of thousands of working people and Scotland’s own socialist revolution seemed inevitable.

When The Clyde Ran Red faithfully documents these tumultuous events which took place in what must have been life-enhancing times, but Maggie Craig achieves much more than re-documenting tales and phenomena well-known to historians and socialists.

In what might be regarded as a primer for the more in-depth and heavy duty histories and biographies listed in her book’s bibliography, she chronicles forty years of the people’s history through the experiences of those closely involved and those affected by events which showed that change was possible if the determination of the people was present and stout, resolute leadership given.

Not only are the iconic heroes of the struggle – Maxton, Muirhead, Kirkwood, Shinwell, Johnston and others – celebrated for their unstinting efforts as leaders in the battle for liberty, equality and fraternity, the lesser-known local heroes of rent strikes and trade disputes are also lauded. The little victories against oppression and exploitation, the author illustrates, are just as vital in changing lives as headline-grabbing larger scale changes.

There is obvious pride in her own Clydeside roots as Craig relates the day-to-day realities of struggles, defeats and wins for working people, describing the Singer dispute, the building, moth-balling and eventual launch of Cunard’s Queen Mary and the Nazis’ terrifying and murderous Clydebank Blitz in 1941.

Whilst these histories are well-known, the author brings new life to their re-telling from the perspective of residents, citizens and workers directly involved and affected.

Craig’s previous form as a novelist, with seven previous publications in this genre, is obvious and welcome as When The Clyde Ran Red is an immensely-readable social history of headily-exciting times and fiery, determined human spirit.

When The Clyde Ran Red
Maggie Craig
Mainstream Publishing
http://www.rbooks.co.uk/product.aspx?id=1845967356