Labour, Tories & SNP Block Lib Dem Proposal For £2.5 Million on Roads Investment

pothole1Aberdeen’s Liberal Democrat councillors today called for the City Council to invest an extra £2.5 million in repairing the city’s crumbling roads and pavements.

The move came at the 6 May meeting of the council’s Finance, Policy and Resources Committee after the council’s Head of Finance reported that the council had a surplus of £5.9 million at the end of March.

Ian Yuill, Leader of the Liberal Democrats on Aberdeen City Council, said “Thanks to hard work and prudent management by council staff, the council had a surplus of £5.9 million at the end of March 2014. The Liberal Democrats believe £2.5 million of that should be invested in making long-term repairs to Aberdeen’s crumbling roads and pavements. We believe the balance of the surplus should be used to repay some of the council’s long-term ‘capital’ debt.

Local councillor Steve Delaney said, “Whilst I welcome the £0.5 Million additional investment which was agreed, our proposals would have added a further £2 Million, more than doubling this year’s inadequate budgetary provision for roads and pavements.”

“The extra £2 Million was certainly affordable. It was completely irresponsible of Labour, Conservative and SNP councillors to sit back and watch Aberdeen’s roads and pavements continue to crumble, given that they had the money to make a difference and they chose not to use it.”

No More Space At Kingswells School!

Parents1A further 46 properties have been approved for the eastern side of Fairley Road, bringing the total for the West Huxterstone site to 143 in stark contrast to the 120 approved in both the Aberdeen Local Development Plan and the West Huxterstone Masterplan.

Kingswell councillor Steve Delaney spoke at the Planning Committee and later wrote to committee members outlining his concerns about the impact of this development on Kingswells School. He had previously raised these same concerns at the masterplan stage in 2012 and asked that development of the site be phased in conjunction with the Education service to ensure the school had sufficient capacity for the additional children. This amendment was accepted but not followed through.

Steve said, “Capacity issues at Kingswells School were highlighted as early as November 2012 and were universally accepted at that time. The two planning applications relating to this site increased the number of units by 20% in full knowledge their was no more space at Kingswells School and no phasing was proposed when the planning applications came forward. These are arguably the worst planning decisions I’ve witnessed in the 12 years since I was first elected to Aberdeen City Council.”

Steve, a former Vice-Convenor of Planning, continued, “First we saw the committee’s request for a visit to the school refused by the Convenor of Education, Culture & Sport. Then the Planning Convenor attempted to block the visit by use of a “guillotine motion”, which thankfully he lost. Such behaviour is in my experience unprecedented. In the past if any local member requested a visit this was done as a matter of courtesy”.

Committee members were rightly concerned and did indeed visit the school, but they decided that delaying these 46 homes would make no difference as the school will be over-capacity whether or not they proceed. The number of primary age children attributable to these 46 homes would have been at least 13, possibly more so the approval has indeed exacerbated the capacity problem.

Steve said, “My proposal to Committee was to delay this development, not to scrap it. I remain unconvinced that Kingswells School can accommodate two additional classrooms without losing valuable general purpose space to the detriment of all children’s education.”

“The reasons the school will be over capacity relate to the increased number of properties, the decision not to phase delivery of the combined site and the failure to factor in any children coming from the West One development. It’s been one disastrous decision after another and the consequences of these decisions will impact on numerous children and their families living in Kingswells”.

“Regrettably the decision has been made and there is no appeal mechanism available. I ensured committee were made aware of all the facts with regard to both applications but regret that common sense did not prevail”.

In the event that additional children cannot be accommodated at Kingswells School, not all children zoned for Kingswells will be offered places and those who are not will require to be bussed to other schools where spare capacity exists.

Report Coming Back on A944 Bus Stops And Crossings

Bus Stop small Kingswells/Sheddocksley/Summerhill councillor Steve Delaney spoke at committee on 13th March 2013 on his motion for bus stops, lay-bys and pedestrian crossings on the A944 at the Five Mile Garage and Kingswells Church.

He said, “Committee members were very supportive of the reasoning behind this motion, both from a public transport and public safety point of view and I’d like to thank them for this. The parents of Ben Land who sadly lost his life crossing the A944 last summer have also expressed their support for this initiative and I am very grateful for this too.”

“It’s vital that we address the accessibility for all to public transport whilst retaining our primary focus on public safety on what is clearly a busy section of road”

The next stage in the process is a report back to committee on 3rd June 2014, which should come with a full report and a recommendation.

Newhills Expansion Out To Consultation

NewhillsThe Newhills expansion is currently at the Development Framework (pre Masterplan) stage. The proposals involve the building of 4400 homes between Bucksburn and Kingswells. The consultation runs from 17th March 2014 until 29th April 2014.

Kingswells/Sheddocksley/Summerhill councillor Steve Delaney spoke at the meeting. Whilst complimenting the proposals overall, he raised specific concerns about school capacity.

He said, “I’m particularly concerned that we’re asked to accept a figure of one secondary school child per 7 households as being reasonable. Unless we’re intending for this to be an area primarily for older people, the figure seems a bit low and I’d ask that we re-visit this as part of the Masterplanning process. A failure to recognise sufficient capacity will result in the loss of a developer funded new build school and over-crowding at existing schools, so we need to get this right.”

He continued, “Similarly there needs to be appropriate arrangements but in place for the adoption or ongoing management of open spaces to avoid the issues we see elsewhere across the city with some areas being badly neglected as a result of unenforceable provisions in this respect. I’d therefore ask that this requirement be fed into the Masterplanning process.”

A number of other committee members also echoed both concerns and it was agreed that these would be looked at further as the process goes forward.

Steve said, “This process remains at an early stage but it’s important we get things right as we only have one opportunity to do so, but getting it wrong will have long term consequences. I’m happy to see this go out for public consultation but will be keeping a close eye on these proposals as they go through the various stages. I would therefore encourage people to look at the document and make their views known.”

The consultation can be found here.

Countesswells Masterplan Out To Consultation

CountesswellsThe Countesswells Masterplan was approved as the basis for further consultation by councillors on 13th March 2014. The consultation will commence on 17th March 2014 and run for 6 weeks.This is the precursor for planning applications for 3000 homes to the south side of the A944 between the Lang Stracht roundabout and the Kingswells roundabout.

Local councillor Steve Delaney spoke on the Masterplan at committee. He commented on the well thought out design of the scheme itself but also raised two major concerns about the proposals.

His first concern related to the maintenance of open spaces, something which is often ignored in planning terms. The committee agreed with the need to address this but felt it would be more appropriately dealt with at at the next stage in the process.

Steve’s main concern related to the number of peak time vehicular movements which would go onto the Lang Stracht. He said, “The Lang Stracht is one of the poorest examples of road design in Aberdeen with traffic weaving in and out and the journey along its length currently taking about 15 minutes at busy times. There’s sufficient space to dual the road along most of its length and this was a lost opportunity in 1998 when the road layout was last changed.”

“When considering the full traffic impact we also need to look at the Maidencraig development and the cumulative impact on the Lang Stracht. We can’t look at this or indeed any other large scale development in isolation or we’ll gridlock large sections of our city, merely as a result of bad planning”.

“The Maidencraig Masterplan has reserved sufficient space along the Lang Stracht to allow for future dualling at that point. The previously approved and subsequently rescinded Morrisons application did likewise”.

“This Masterplan proposes no more than the widening of the road at the current roundabout and changing this from a roundabout to a signalised junction. No provision is made in respect of the huge increase in traffic volume using the Lang Stracht”.

“I have no issue with this development proceeding, as it’s a good development within its own boundaries, but this needs to be subject to essential infrastructure improvements being put in place. On that basis, I would ask Committee to include a requirement to dual the Lang Stracht into this Masterplan prior to any further progression.”

Concerns about the ability of the Lang Stracht were accepted by the committee, with much discussion on this point. However, it was felt that the traffic impact would be carefully considered as part of a future planning application, at which point appropriate mitigation could be more appropriately considered.

Steve said, “Although I was looking for a much stronger commitment at this stage in the process, there was certainly consensus amomgst members that there would be a significant volume of traffic emanating from this development and this would require further scrutiny at the next stage of the process.”

“I would urge local residents to have their say as part of the consultation process, which runs until 29th April 2014” The consultation can be accessed here.

Nightmare On Broad Street – The Soap Continues….

Town HouseEvents of the last few weeks have clearly demonstrated beyond the shadow of a doubt that Aberdeen City Council’s leaders are out of control with Cllrs Young and Crockett seemingly oblivious to the damage they are causing to the reputation of the city.

Former Prime Minister Harold Wilson once said, “a week is a long time in politics”. Perhaps Aberdeen’s Labour leadership should reflect on their former leader’s words as they look back on the damage they have inflicted on this city’s reputation over the past two or three weeks?

Finance Chief Refuses £7.5 Million!

    Last month at a meeting of the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA), Aberdeen’s Finance Convenor voted against uplifting the funding formula for local authorities to take account of population movement. This would not have addressed the fair funding deal we have been campaigning for over a number of years, but it would have resulted in Aberdeen gaining an additional £7.5 million per annum in Scottish Government funding under the current scheme. Instead Cllr Young voted with Labour colleagues in Glasgow who would have lost out if the changes had been approved.

    Local councillor Steve Delaney said, “This is worrying behaviour from the man who is in charge of the city’s finances. I agree with Cllr Young that Aberdeen is significantly under-funded and the funding formula needs to be revised, but turning down additional funding is pretty irresponsible. This was just an updating of the existing formula which would have, on this occasion, increased Aberdeen’s share.”

    “By voting for the status quo, Cllr Young has accepted that Glasgow should continue to get more than their fair share at our expense! Following on from that COSLA have decided to re-visit this decision in April. Hopefully this time Cllr Young will remember to take his calculator with him and vote in favour of a better deal for Aberdeen, rather than toe the central belt Labour line.”

    Council Leader & Finance Chief “Wrestle” Over Ministerial Ban!

Moving on from the somewhat bizarre funding row, we had the banning of Scottish Ministers from Aberdeen City Council property. This all arose from an unauthorised visit by the First Minister to a school during last year’s Donside by-election, where he entered the school by a side entrance. The Council had written to top civil servants asking for the First Minister’s conduct to be investigated. The process had concluded with a tightening up by the Council of protocols for visits to schools during election times and a definitive response from the Civil Service advising that the only person who can investigate a complaint against the First Minister is the First Minister!

This was followed by Cllr Young and Cllr Crockett insisting and then denying that Scottish Ministers were banned. It was sounding a bit like a Punch and Judy show! What eventually came before the Council was a watered down proposal which fell short of an outright ban, but created a split in the ruling coalition, with them only winning by one vote.

Steve Delaney said, “This debacle has clearly exposed tensions within the coalition and a failure of the Council Leader to keep his Finance Convenor in line. It’s absolute lunacy to exclude representatives of partner organisations from visiting Aberdeen. Although there a different politics involved, Aberdeen City Council needs to work with the Scottish Government, the UK Government, European Parliament and a host of local and national bodies in order to deliver the best services we can for our citizens.”

” Anything less is no more than playing politics to the detriment of the people we seek to represent. We need to work as grown ups with our partner organisations. Cllr Young has thrown the toys out of his pram big-time on this. He is embarrassing our city with his antics and I fear this may cause longer term reputational damage and risk future investment”

“What the First Minister did was wrong, make no mistake about that. However it was no different to what Cllr Young did himself during the by election when he made an unannounced visit on the coat tails of a Member of Parliament to a Sheltered Housing scheme without either asking permission from the Council, or being invited by the residents.”

“As I highlighted in the Chamber last week, the right way to put this one to bed is not to embark on childish gestures, it’s for all of us to draw the attention of our Scottish Parliamentarians to the need for reform of their own governance arrangements. It is not acceptable that any individual be the last “Court of Appeal” in a complaint against him/herself. This could be easily remedied by setting up an independent body to look impartially at any complaint brought against this and any future First Minister. It’s not exactly rocket science!”

Outrage As Labour Starts “Campaigning On The Rates”!

    Just as you thought it couldn’t get any worse, the Council Leader decides to send us all a letter promoting a political message, and charge us for the privilege! It is highly unusual for a Council Leader in Aberdeen to write to residents at public expense. This practice was introduced by Cllr Crocket last year, with previous Council Tax bills having gone out with a letter from the Chief Executive in order to avoid any political bias. Well, hasn’t Cllr Crockett really excelled himself this time with a message on the Scottish Independence Referendum promoting one side of the argument?

    Steve Delaney said, “I agree with Cllr Crockett that Scotland’s future is better served as part of a stronger United Kingdom, but this isn’t an appropriate way to convey that message. Where I have difficulties is that I do not believe Council resources should be used for promoting any political Party or political point of view. In other words, political campaigning should not be funded by YOU.”

    “There are lines that you don’t cross and clearly Cllr Crockett needs a new pair of glasses as he’s way over the line on this one. What are we going to see in the 2017 letter from Cllr Crockett? I suppose it will be a not so thinly veiled “vote Labour” message! Nothing would surprise we with the current leadership, nothing at all”.

    “If I want to get a message out to the public, I pay for the literature myself, I always have done. I have no issue with Cllr Crockett promoting the Better Together campaign and indeed I’d be happy to join him in doing so. My issue, and that of thousands of Aberdonians, including Labour voters, is expecting YOU to pay to read that message.”

    “The Better Together campaign could well do without Cllr Crockett’s unhelpful assistance. Nobody should be allowed to use public funds for political purposes, even if you agree with the message they are promoting. Otherwise, it’s the thin edge of the wedge and he who controls the Council, controls the distribution of information. The cumulation of this was when Cllr Crocket decided that a debate on his conduct over this issue would be held in private, excluding Press and members of the public. Surely this is how we would expect a dictator to behave, not a democratically elected politician?”

    So, What’s Next?

      The last two weeks in Broad Street Towers were certainly more entertaining than Eastenders, Coronation Street or Emmerdale. Soaps are meant to be a distraction from real life. Politics is meant to be about real people and doing the best we can for those we represent. Somehow our leaders appear to be confusing the two, making Aberdeen City Council a laughing stock. This does not bode well.

Delaney Calls on Castlegate Re-opening To Ease Congestion

Castlegate1940sKingswells/Sheddocksley/Summerhill councillor Steve Delaney has called for the Council to look into the possible benefits of re-opening the Castlegate to through traffic in order to support the pedestrianisation of Broad Street (from Queen Street to Upperkirkgate).

Steve raised this at a meeting of Aberdeen City Council on 5th March, along with a request for discussions to be opened with the developers of Marischal Square on substantially improving the views of Provost Skene’s House from Broad Street. In an otherwise tense meeting, both proposals were unanimously agreed with councillors calling for a further report to come back to a future meeting.

Steve said, “I’m very much in favour of full pedestrianisation of Broad Street to complement a new civic square, but not at any cost. We need to ensure that robust traffic management is in place and capable of handling any displacement of traffic resulting from these proposals, otherwise we’ll create gridlock in our city centre.”

“In order to ensure we get this right I’d like to see all options explored and that includes the re-opening of the Castlegate to through traffic. At present it’s a huge unused space and the current surface makes it very inaccessible, especially for people with disabilities. We need to model in the effect such a re-opening would make to the traffic impact in and around the city centre to establish whether or not this would help support the pedestrianisation plans”

Delaney Calls For Bus Lay-bys & Crossings On A944

Bus Stop smallKingswells/Sheddocksley/Summerhill councillor Steve Delaney has been contacted by a number of residents regarding Stagecoach’s decision to cease picking up or dropping off passengers on the A944.

Residents are up in arms about a decision taken by Stagecoach to cease stopping to pick up or drop off passengers on the A944 between Hazlehead and Westhill other than at the Prime Four Business Park. This recently resulted in a couple in their eighties having to walk a couple of miles to get home after the bus driver refused to let them off the bus near their home.

Another incident involved a lady from Westhill who has serious health problems dropping her car off at the Five Mile Garage only to find she had no bus service to get back home and needless to say, was unable to walk the distance from the garage back home.

An issue also exists in respect of the bus stop opposite Kingswells Church which was removed on safety grounds as a result of the widening of the A944. This has meant passengers could catch the X17 into town but can’t easily get home as the next bus stop is past the roundabout at the Prime Four Business Park.

Whilst appreciating their concerns for the safety of passengers boarding and lighting from their buses, it is totally unacceptable to leave local people without access to bus services.
Steve said, “The only place Stagecoach are willing to stop between Hazlehead and Westhill is Prime Four in both directions and Kingswells Church eastwards.”

There used to be stops at the Five Mile Garage and on both sides of the road beside Kingswells Church. Steve is campaigning for bus stops with lay-bys and pedestrian crossings to be put in place at both locations to ensure safety and access to public transport.

He said, “The bus stop at the Church was removed on safety grounds following the widening of the A944 to accommodate Prime Four traffic. The developer should have been obligated to install a pedestrian crossing at this location to mitigate the effect of the road widening on local residents. Instead they funded crossings elsewhere which are of no practical use to anybody.”

Steve has lodged a Notice of Motion to the 13th March meeting of the Environment, Strategic Planning & Infrastructure Committee calling for bus stops with lay-bys and pedestrian crossings in the vicinity of the Five Mile Garage and Kingswells Church to address the loss of bus services in a manner which is safe to both passengers and drivers.

Council Budget 2014/15

BudgetAberdeen City Council held its annual Budget meeting on 6th February 2014. The Priority Based Budgeting introduced when the Liberal Democrats were running the city has led to increased stability and improved strategic planning of the city’s finances. In excess of 90% of the proposals were common to all parties with an element of expenditure available for allocation to specific priorities. It was for each grouping to prioritise how this amount was spent.

The Liberal Democrats, as part of their balanced budget proposals, urged additional investment in education and repairing Aberdeen’s crumbling roads and pavements.

Liberal Democrat proposals would have seen £300,000 of Common Good funds spent enhancing Hazlehead Park and the area around it during 2014/15. Kingswells/Sheddocksley/Summerhill councillor Steve Delaney said, “Hazlehead Park is in need of some serious investment and £300,000 could have done much to upgrade this much loved park. Had the Council supported our proposals this would have seen major revamps of the Queen Mother Rose Garden and the poor quality roads around the park”.

The Liberal Democrats also proposed investing £125,000 for replacement or refurbishment of our childrens’ play parks. Although some improvements have been made, investing an additional £125,000 in play parks would have made a real difference by helping to refurbish and improve play parks across Aberdeen.

Turning towards education, Steve said “We believe investing in our children’s education is vital so we proposed giving an extra £100,000 to schools to buy additional books and equipment. That would have made a real difference to every school in the city. Sadly Labour and their Conservative sidekicks rejected this extra investment in Aberdeen’s children’s future.”

The Liberal Democrats also proposed investing a home safety initiative to help address carbon monoxide poisoning, which is still, sadly, responsible for a number of deaths each year. Commenting on this initiative, Steve said, “Investing £50,000 in this would have allowed the council to work with the Fire and Rescue Service and provide thousands of homes across Aberdeen with Carbon Monoxide detectors. This relatively modest amount of money would have made people across Aberdeen feel safer and quite possibly have saved lives.”

The most significant proposal from the Liberal Democrat Group was to nearly double investment in roads and pavements during 2014/15. Currently Aberdeen City Council has a budget of £2.2 million per annum for this which is clearly insufficient. Had these proposals been accepted, this would have resulted in a total of almost £22 million over the next five years being spent on repairing roads and pavements in Aberdeen

Steve Delaney said “Too many of our city’s roads and pavements are crumbling. What the council must do is invest more in the permanent repair and resurfacing of roads and pavements to bring them back to an acceptable standard. In the long-run that will reduce the cost of jet-patching and other less permanent repairs.”

“Sadly Aberdeen’s Labour and Conservative councillors rejected our carefully costed proposal to invest nearly £22 million in road and pavement repairs over the next five years.”

The Liberal Democrats also proposed abolishing “on street” Sunday parking charges and ending both on and off street parking charges on other days at 6.30pm, rather than the current 8pm.

Steve said, “The Liberal Democrats believe ending on street parking charges on Sunday and making on and off street parking free after 6.30pm would help bring more people back into our city centre on Sundays and weekday evenings. The council should be encouraging people to come into the city centre and not making it more expensive for people.”

As part of their revenue and capital budget proposals the Liberal Democrats also proposed investing:

– £50,000 in installing additional bus shelters

– £50,000 to fund a flood guard grant scheme to help households threatened by flood

– £50,000 in small scale environmental initiatives, providing dog waste bins and warning signs

Kingswells/Sheddocksley/Summerhill councillor Steve Delaney said,”Despite the rejection of this by Labour and Conservative councillors today we will continue to campaign for greater investment in our children’s future, action to repair our crumbling roads and pavements and more effort to improve Aberdeen’s environment.”

Lack Of Respect Highlighted By Auditors

ACCAudit Scotland’s report on Aberdeen City Council for 2012/13 was considered by the Council on 18th December 2013.

The report was fair and balanced highlighting where the Council is delivering good services as well as areas where the organisation could do better. Such reports are meant to be viewed constructively and organisations should learn from their findings, constantly be striving to do better.

Local councillor Steve Delaney felt there was one statement councillors should pay particular heed to.

To quote Audit Scotland, “Behaviours in the council chamber were regularly disrespectful with councillors being reminded of the existence of the Code of Conduct”.

In response to these concerns the Liberal Democrat Group proposed that the Council,

“Notes Audit Scotland’s observations relating to the conduct of Council meetings and refers them to the Group Leaders and Chief Executive for discussion, and instructs the Chief Executive to report back within two cycles on the outcome of those discussions”.

Speaking in support of this proposal Steve said, “It makes sense for Group Leaders to get round the table over a coffee to discuss this. Anything less is childish and a let down to the people who elected all 43 of us.

“When I was first elected in 2002 I was advised to be nice to people on the way up as I’d meet the same people on the way down. I’ve been on both sides of the escalator and it was sound advice which has paid off for me. It’s all about respect and there’s a distinct lack of respect by some members towards others.

“To challenge a point made a fellow member or an officer’s views is what we’re here for. We’re not nodding dogs! However, there’s a line not to cross and making personal attacks on opponents or being disrespectful to officers displays nothing more than contempt for the city we purport to serve. Such behaviour merely leads to escalation and increases distrust between members. We need to remember we are opponents, not enemies. There is a difference!”

Only one councillor rose to his feet in debate to speak against the points Steve had raised but the suggestion of sitting round the table to try to foster better relationships between councillors was defeated 38-4 by Labour, SNP. Conservative and independent members.

Labour Led Council Thows Away £50Million!

Halliday ProposalsFollowing on from the Labour led Council’s decision to kill off the City Gardens Project in August 2012, not much has happened. The project was supported by a majority of the public, came with £50 million from the Wood Family Trust and was to be funded through a Tax Increment Finance initiative (TIF) which would have allowed the Council to keep income generated from new business rates to pay off the loan. The business case demonstrated the proposal was expected to cover its costs or better and Sir Ian pledges to underwrite any deficit to a maximum of £35 million. Reluctantly, we’ve moved on from that position.

Sir Ian Wood offered the Council until August 2013 to come up with something transformational, then extended this to the end of this year. This summer local architect John Halliday came forward with an alternative scheme (illustrated above) which involved relocating the entrance to the railway station beside the King Edward VII statue and partially raising the gardens, something which was less costly and was “in danger” of gaining all Party support!

At the August 2013 Council meeting, following Sir Ian Wood’s decision to extend his deadline, Kingswells/Sheddocksley councillor Steve Delaney lodged an urgent motion requesting the Council enter into talks with Sir Ian to determine if there was a possible way forward. Labour’s Lord Provost refused to take the motion on the basis that it was not urgent.

In October the Administration revealed their Strategic Infrastructure Plan which merely detailed projects which were already agreed, were ongoing or were being delivered by other organisations in the city. It offered very little by way of new ideas. As part of the proposals a City Centre Regeneration Board was set up and the Liberal Democrats suggested that both Sir Ian Wood and John Halliday be invited to join the Board. The Council refused to accept this proposal.

Steve Delaney said, “It was obvious to me by that time the Administration would struggle to meet Sir Ian Wood’s extended deadline, if indeed it was ever their intention to do so, yet they saw no urgency to progress matters. There was no foreseeable outcome other than the loss of £50 million unless they took action to try to secure an agreed way forward and did so expediently. Sir Ian has definitely moved from his previous position in recent weeks, yet there has been no evidence of Labour trying to meet him half way for the good of the city.

“The Liberal Democrats have pledged to work with all Parties to deliver regeneration of the city centre and we will do so in a constructive manner. However, I find it difficult to comprehend how we can deliver any transformational change after walking away from a £50 million donation and a TIF scheme which effectively covered its costs. Instead we now find ourselves relying on public money and much less of it than was originally on the table”.

At the Council meeting of 18th December 2013, the Liberal Democrat Group put forward a proposal that the Council

“agrees that, to ensure the greatest possible level of support from Aberdeen’s communities, the Council will undertake comprehensive public consultation and engagement as part of the process of developing the city centre masterplan”.

This was defeated 38-4 with Labour, SNP, Conservative and independent councillors all refusing to take on board the suggested commitment to consult widely. No surprises there!

* Aberdeen City Council Housing Budget * 18 – 21% Increase In Heat With Rent Charge For Sheltered Housing Tenants

Steve at Lewis CourtOn Wednesday 18th December 2013 Lib Dem Housing Spokesman Steve Delaney presented his first Housing Budget, after all Parties had agreed common proposals last year.

It was a prudent budget but one that set out to ensure completion of the Scottish Housing Quality Standard for all Council owned properties by 2015, made provision to mitigate the negative effects of Welfare Reform and kept rent increases to a minimum amount without affecting the longer term viability of the programme which delivers the repairs, maintenance and upgrades to our properties.

The proposals detailed £43 million of capital expenditure, funded almost by new borrowing and from money raised through rental income. It also supported the use of receipts from “right to buy” sales being used towards repayment of housing debt.

There had been a level of political census on Housing Budgets for a number of years and Steve was hoping this would continue, but regrettably there was one sticking point on which the other Parties would not budge. This related to increases in fuel charges to properties in which people pay for their heating along with their rent. These properties are usually multi storeys, sheltered or amenity housing.

Steve told fellow councillors, “Rising energy bills is something that affects us all, but especially those households who are already living in fuel poverty and those who are in danger of slipping into this category. The recent astronomical rises in consumer energy prices shows how out of control this industry is and demonstrates their lack of responsibility towards their already hard pressed customers.

“As the vast majority of 1 bedroom flats which have heat with rent are in sheltered or amenity housing, the 18% – 21% increase proposed for these properties is going to hit some of our most vulnerable tenants, many of who may already be struggling with the rising cost of living.

“The Liberal Democrat Group propose that we ask officers to report back to the February Budget Meeting on how best to mitigate the effects of the heat with rent charge across the board, but with particular emphasis on assisting those in sheltered and amenity properties”.

The Liberal Democrat Budget was rejected by 38 votes to 4, as Labour, SNP, Conservative and independent councillors all voted to increase charges for those who pay for their heating with their rent by up to £156 per annum.

White Paper Fails To Answer Voters’ Questions

alison-mcinnes-msp-9You are unlikely to have missed the fact that the Scottish Government last month published its white paper on independence – its plan for a separate Scotland and the document that was supposed to answer all the voters’ questions.

It certainly fell a long way short of that. Instead, it was a wish list without a price list.

It fails to recognise that there might be even a single downside to independence. And it fails to recognise that all the organisations and countries with which an independent Scotland would have to negotiate will not simply lie down and accept the Scottish Government’s often unrealistic and brazen demands.

The SNP even has the affront to delay improving childcare until after they win the referendum. This despite the fact that Scotland already has the worst childcare arrangements in the UK and the Scottish Government already has the power to deliver better childcare now. Instead the SNPs message to our children is: you will not get what you need until we get what we want.

A vote to stay in the UK does not mean no to change as the SNP claim. Indeed, it is insulting for the Scottish Government to suggest that the UK is incapable of radical change. The Scottish Parliament was created in 1999 and the UK Government reaffirmed its commitment to devolution by transferring a wealth of financial powers through the Scotland Act last year.

The Liberal Democrats have set out how we believe Scotland can make the best of regional and national economic strengths through Home Rule – more powers for local communities within the UK partnership of nations. It avoids the leap into the dark that the SNP want voters to take on issues such as currency, EU, defence and foreign affairs.

Despite what the SNP tell you, a No vote can be a positive one and proud Scots can support the United Kingdom.

Alison McInnes OBE, Liberal Democrat MSP for North East Scotland

Independence White Paper Has Left People None The Wiser


Aberdeen’s Liberal Democrats today (Tuesday 26th November) said that the Scottish Government’s Independence White Paper has left people in Aberdeen none the wiser over what leaving the UK would mean after the document failed to address fundamental questions over currency and other issues.

Speaking after the First Minister launched the paper in Glasgow this morning, Councillor Ian Yuill, Leader of the Liberal Democrats on Aberdeen City Council, warned that by failing to give Scots the answers that had been promised the SNP are asking people to take a leap into the dark.

Commenting, Ian Yuill said “The SNP always promised that the White Paper would answer all the questions that people have over independence. But the today’s glitzy launch will have left people in Aberdeen none the wiser over what leaving the UK would mean for Aberdeen and for Scotland.

“We needed to see answers over the SNP’s ‘plan B’ on currency, on what it would mean for things like our place in Europe and our universities. What we got was a wish list that came without a price list and no recognition that the First Minister might not get everything his own way.”

Ian Yuill continued “And on their big childcare pledge, the SNP cannot escape from the fact that they could be helping families in Scotland with the cost of childcare right now by matching the steps that Liberal Democrats have taken in government to boost free care.

“Delaying childcare improvements until after the referendum is unnecessary and does families no favours. The message from the SNP seems to be that they will not give children the support they need until they get the result they want at the referendum.”

Risks Are Just Too High


Aberdeen City Council has approved plans to demolish the Aberdeen Exhibition and Conference Centre at Bridge of Don and build its replacement on a new site.

Aberdeen’s Lib Dem Group opposed the proposals on the basis that a full business plan was not available, the risks were too high and alternative options had not been fully explored.

The current venue is beginning to show its age and there have been difficulties attracting the larger exhibitions and concerts to the current venue, with some having moved to larger arenas elsewhere. The Council has decided to enter into a 35 year lease with Henry Boot Developments, who built the St Nicholas and Bon Accord Centres in the 1980s.

The deal is complex but in many ways similar to that for the redevelopment of the St Nicholas House site. The Council is exposed to a maximum liability per annum for the duration of the lease, which is not insignificant, then the asset will transfer to Council ownership. The actual liability is dependent upon external factors and will vary over the period of the lease.

Kingswells, Sheddocksley, Summerhill councillor Steve Delaney said, “The Council bears the full risk of this proposal and has to bring in income from external sources in order to balance the books. Unpredictable economic circumstances and competition from elsewhere makes the level of risk unquantifiable when taken over 35 years. Any shortfall will present a considerable burden on our already stretched finances”.

“Labour’s Finance Convenor spoke just a couple of days after the decision about the Council needing financial assistance, possibly from overseas investors, to reduce the risk to Council Tax payers. This has cast considerable doubt over the viability of the proposals which he was previously touting as being a good deal for Aberdeen”.

“We are certainly not against progress, but we need to be convinced that these proposals are affordable and indeed that there is not a more affordable option available to us. I believe we took the responsible position by voting against these proposals in their current form and in the absence of more detailed information. The risks were just too high”.

Labour’s Blueprint Offers Nothing New

Aberdeen’s Labour led Council has unveiled their blueprint for the city’s future growth and prosperity.

18 months on from forming an alliance of Labour, Tory and Independent councillors to run the city, their plans for Aberdeen have turned out to be no more than a damp squib.

Liberal Democrat councillor Steve Delaney said, “Pulling all the Council’s infrastructure projects together into one report is useful, but, with few exceptions, that’s all this is. Most of what’s in the report is already agreed, much of which was either started by the last Administration or is being delivered by external partner organisations”.

“I was able to count almost 40 pre-existing initiatives, which leaves me searching desperately for the Administration’s wonderful new ideas. They clearly have no ideas of their own so all we got was a collection of pre-existing projects rolled into one document”

“Looking specifically at Housing, during a recession, ideally we’d be building many more affordable houses to stimulate the economy and cater for the increasing number of people who now need affordable homes. In reality, the opposite is happening with less affordable homes being built than in recent years. The Administration’s plans to divert resources into mid market rent and houses for sale will do little to reduce our waiting lists and help those in greatest need”.

“Turning towards City Centre Regeneration, the £20 million allocated won’t scratch the surface of what’s needed. Already agreed renovations to the Art Gallery and Music Hall will eat up much of this allocation, given that this is not new money. The scope for doing much else just isn’t there. Let’s be clear, we will see nothing transformational happen in the lifetime of this Council”.

Labour Led Council Blocks Roads Spending

Aberdeen City Council has once again blocked Lib Dem proposals to increase spending on roads, pavements and lighting. This is the third time such proposals have been knocked back this year. Adding insult to injury, Labour and Conservative councillors referred to the initiative as a “pet project”, completely missing the need to invest more in our crumbling infrastructure.

The Finance, Policy and Resources Committee was informed of a predicted £4 million underspend this financial year. Kingswells, Sheddocksley, Summerhill councillor Steve Delaney proposed setting aside £1 million of the underspend for resurfacing of roads and pavements and the upgrading of street lighting.

Steve said, “We took a responsible view suggesting investment of £1 million in roads, pavements and street lighting, accepting there are competing demands on limited Council resources. Given that the annual roads and pavements budget is £2.1 million (and £20 million per annum is needed for 10 years to bring our infrastructure up to standard), this additional expenditure would have made a real difference”.

“To hear administration councillors describe these proposals as a ‘pet project’ clearly shows their lack of understanding of how to run this city. We need to continue to invest in our city to ensure its continuing prosperity”.

Labour Still Unwilling To Talk!

Town HouseThere must be few people in Aberdeen who have failed to notice architect John Halliday’s proposed way forward to regenerate our city centre, yet Labour’s leaders have taken no initiative to get things moving.

The plans, revealed in local newspapers on 29th August offer an alternative vision to the City Gardens Project, designed to unite people (and politicians!) on both sides of the divide. There are many questions to be answered, not least of which is how this would be funded, but the concept is interesting and deserving of much more in-depth analysis.

Steve Delaney said, “I was a firm supporter of the City Garden Project but am happy to say this latest idea from John Halliday has grabbed my attention. The initial soundings within the Town House have been positive and open minded on a cross-party basis, yet Labour Council Leader Barney Crocket continues to do nothing to move things along”.

Lib Dem Group Leader Ian Yuill tabled a motion calling on the Council to invite John Halliday to present his vision to councillors, but Cllr Crocket refused to accept the motion. Meantime he and Cllr Young continue to tell the local papers that they are not rushing to talk to Sir Ian Wood, without whose investment this latest scheme will be a non-starter.

Steve continued, “I honestly don’t think Barney Crocket and Willie Young live on the same planet as the rest of us. Someone needs to remind them when they’re in a hole they need to stop digging! They owe it to the City to fully explore this new proposal and to work with both John Halliday and Sir Ian Wood to establish whether or not it is deliverable. Myself and my Lib Dem colleagues will continue to press them to swallow their pride, work with people and deliver for Aberdeen”.

More Bickering Over Haudagain Upgrade

Haudagain_sThe need to address traffic congestion at the Haudagain is of major concern to everyone but it is turning into a political football between Labour and the SNP, with attacks firing across the bows from the Labour led Council and the SNP Scottish Government with increasing regularity, none of which is helping the situation.

Labour want to speed up the decanting of residents in the area which needs to be demolished for the road improvements. New housing is due to be built nearby, but will not be ready within the Council’s revised timescale. The SNP Scottish Government insists construction can’t begin until the Western Peripheral Route has been opened. Whether or not such works could be done in advance of the WPR but following completion of the Third Don Crossing is a question which remains unanswered.

Steve Delaney said, “The upgrade to the junction needs to be done as soon as possible, but shouting for it to be done quicker sort of misses the point. If we carry out works prior to necessary infrastructure being in place, traffic will gridlock during the works. Clearly a modicum of commonsense is needed here. There is also a need to accept that even if families in the affected area could be re-housed sooner, the upgrade won’t happen any faster as these works are the responsibility of the Scottish Government and they will run to their own timetable, like it or not”.

“If we progress along Labour’s chosen route have no doubts about it, the need to re-house 325 families in advance of new housing being built, can only be done by suspending the housing waiting lists and that means a longer wait for people in housing need, many of whom have already been waiting a considerable amount of time for an offer”.

“What we need is a pragmatic solution with Aberdeen City Council and the Scottish Government working together to deliver a real solution as soon as possible rather than the sound bite mentality which delivers nothing. My real concern is that works get delayed beyond currently envisaged timescales as a result of all this bickering”.

Why We Need A Street Begging Bye-Law

Town HouseThere has been much discussion about begging in recent months. A survey carried out by the Council revealed that in Aberdeen local beggars were begging to fund drug or alcohol misuse and migrant beggars saw begging as an easy way to maximise their income.

Local councillor Steve Delaney said, “None of the 31 beggars surveyed were found to be homeless. It is clear there is absolutely no reason to beg on Aberdeen’s streets. There is a wide range of support and assistance available to people from both public bodies and charities. It is paramount that people in genuine need must be supported and joint working with homeless support agencies continues”.

Aberdeen City Council Liberal Democrats backed a collaborative approach with Glasgow City Council and others to gather evidence to support a bye-law which would effectively ban begging in the city. The aim of this approach is to get those who prey on the generosity of the public off the streets whilst directing people in genuine need to organisations who can offer them support.

Steve added, “People who are genuinely homeless are best supported by donating to homeless charities. None of the people who regularly beg on Aberdeen’s streets are homeless and, incredibly, some of them come from as far away as Kirkcaldy to beg in Aberdeen. A byelaw will not be a cure all but it may well have a part to play in tackling the persistent problem of street begging in Aberdeen.”

Labour Refuses To Talk To Sir Ian Wood

Town HouseRegardless of differing views on the City Garden Project, almost everyone agrees that the city centre is in need of regeneration. Steve Delaney welcomed the recent announcement by Sir Ian Wood that his offer to invest £50 million on such a project would remain on the table until the end of the year, on the basis it had to be used for a project which was tranformational.

In response, Steve tabled a motion to Council requesting the Chief Executive enter into discussions with Sir Ian Wood and report back to Council. Labour’s Lord Provost refused to accept the item on the agenda on the basis that it was not urgent. On the basis that a year has passed and no firm alternative proposal has come forward, if this is not urgent, what is?

Steve said, “This was an attempt to unite the Council and the city, to heal old wounds. In common with most people my views have not changed, but I would rather see everyone come together to make something happen, rather than lose £50 million and the regeneration that could deliver to our somewhat tired looking city centre”.

The Labour leadership continues to refuse to talk with Sir Ian, insisting they will be revealing their own proposals for the city centre at the end of October. Steve fears this will be too late, given the end of year deadline and his lack of faith in the current council leadership to deliver meaningful change.

Steve said, “Labour have forced themselves into an ideological corner. Why else would you refuse to enter into talks with a potential benefactor? Given that it has taken them over a year to come up with no alternative to the City Garden Project, perhaps we shouldn’t hold our breath waiting while time and money runs out! When it does, the responsibility for short-changing this city will lie at their door”.

Labour Tries To Gag Lib Dems …. And Fails

Town HouseLiberal Democrat councillors in Aberdeen have pledged to continue to speak out despite a decision by the Labour led Council to remove half the Liberal Democrat councillors from Aberdeen City Council’s powerful Finance and Resources and Enterprise, Planning and Infrastructure Committees.

Local Lib Dem councillor Steve Delaney said “This punitive action suggests the Liberal Democrats have been getting under the skin of the Labour Party by having the temerity to disagree with them and hold them to account”.

“Trying to silence an opposition for scrutinising and holding those in power to account is an affront to democracy. Labour are clearly failing to win the arguments before they have seen fit to resort to such tactics. This is a sign of weakness and desperation”.

Steve continued, “Rest assured Liberal Democrats in Aberdeen will continue to challenge Labour and highlight their many, many failings at every possible opportunity. I will not be silenced, nor will my Lib Dem colleagues”.

Liberal Democrats announce candidate for Aberdeen Donside


The Liberal Democrats have announced Christine Jardine as their candidate for the Aberdeen Donside by-election on 20th June 2013. Commenting on the news, Kingswells/Sheddocksley councillor Steve Delaney said, “We have a strong candidate in Christine. She knows our area, she knows what matters to us and she will be a powerful voice for Aberdeen Donside in the Scottish Parliament”.

Scottish Lib Dems: Scottish Liberal Democrats announce candidate for Aberdeen Donside by-election.

SNP Opposes Byelaw For Unauthorised Encampments

Possible Gypsy/Traveller Halting Site on Springhill Road

Possible Gypsy/Traveller Halting Site on Springhill Road

At its meeting on 1st May 2013 Aberdeen City Council backed a proposal to draft a byelaw which seeks to prevent camping in sensitive areas (such as public parks). The initiative has come about as a response to the increasing number of unauthorised gypsy/traveller encampments in recent years.

Since 1st April 2013, there have been 8 unauthorised encampments. Over the previous two years, there have been 86 encampments within the city boundaries. Legal and clean up costs were in the region of £20,000 excluding staff time.

The byelaw, which would need to be approved by the Scottish Government, sets out to create a criminal offence of parking a caravan or camper van overnight at Lochinch Park, Westburn Park, Duthie Park, Stewart Park, Seaton Park, Calder Park, Bay of Nigg, Kingswells Park and Ride, Riverview Drive, Carnie Woods, Aberdeen Exhibition Centre, Queens Links, Kings Links, Alan Douglas Park and Eric Hendrie Park.

If approved, it would allow the Council to progress towards immediate eviction should an encampment set up at any of these locations. Persons found guilty of breaching the byelaw would also be subject to fines.

Kingswells/Sheddocksley councillor Steve Delaney said, “I was happy to support this proposed bye-law along with my Lib Dem colleagues. Unauthorised encampments at these locations prevent the public from making use of these areas and result in significant costs to the Council. This will not in itself resolve the issue of unauthorised encampments, but it is a step in the right direction”.

SNP councillors opposed the proposed bye-law, instead backing an amendment which sought to identify additional short term halting sites across the city. The proposal to progress with the drafting of a byelaw was approved with Lib Dem support.

“High Risk And Uninspiring”

MUSE3This is how Lib Dem Deputy Leader Steve Delaney described plans to replace St Nicholas House at the Council meeting on 1st May 2013. The plans are for a modern office development and hotel with a public square in Broad Street.

The funding mechanism works on a lease back system over 35 years and returns the site to the Council at the end of that time. It offers the Council a rental income but the Council, in leasing back the development, takes on all risks associated with this venture. It is of course impossible to say how buoyant the economy will be or indeed what the demand will be for specific types of office and/or retail space over a 35 year period.

Steve said, “All the designs before us were uninspiring and failed to respect the unique historic setting of Marischal College and Provost Skene’s House. I’m fully in favour of redeveloping this site, but it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity to regenerate our city centre and we need to get it right. We had the opportunity to see something iconic delivered in this unique location and instead the Council settled for a drab design, simply replacing one eyesore with another. This was the best of a bad bunch and the Council should have been visionary enough to ask for a better bunch”.

The Council had put this forward as being no more than the choice of a preferred bidder. Steve reminded councillors that “The authority to finalise this deal has been delegated to officers, so it need not come back to Council. Be clear about it, this is about much more than selecting a preferred bidder, it’s pretty much a done deal if you support the recommendation”. Other concerns raised in debate related to the practicality and deliverability of the pedestrianisation of Broad Street.

The Liberal Democrats opposed the proposals on a number of grounds. Councillors had been given insufficient time to digest the report, with some only having seen it the morning of the meeting. The public had been given no say in what was proposed for their city centre. The business case appeared weak and the designs uninspiring. Accordingly the Lib Dem Group proposed that the Council go back out to the market asking potential developers to come up with something better.

Steve continued, “This was a rushed decision where there was no requirement for expediency. Labour, Conservative and Independent councillors were determined to push this through regardless. Regardless of your opinion on the design, the risk to public finances is significant and they will have to answer to the public for their folly”.

Steve requested his dissent be recorded in the Council minute.

Lib Dems Propose More Spending On Roads

Liberal Democrat councillors in Aberdeen today urged the City Council to invest an extra £750,000 in repairs to Aberdeen’s roads, pavements and street lights. The move came at the Enterprise, Planning and Infrastructure Committee.

Liberal Democrat Enterprise, Planning and Infrastructure Spokesperson Councillor Ian Yuill said “Thanks to prudent management by council staff, the Council’s Enterprise, Planning and Infrastructure budget for 2012/13 is set to be underspent by £1.3 million. The Liberal Democrats believe it makes sense to invest part of that in repairing roads, pavements and street lights and in work to improve road safety.

“Sadly the Labour, Conservative and Independent councillors who run the council rejected the Liberal Democrat proposal to invest an extra £750,000 and go some way to tacking potholes and broken roads and pavements.”

Lib Dem Deputy Leader Steve Delaney said, “Lack of investment in our infrastructure is the single issue raised by the vast majority of my constituents. There’s a clear lack of prioritising under the current Labour led Administration when they can set aside £250,000 on a Hogmanay Party when our roads and pavements are crumbling. During previous Liberal Democrat led Councils, we used additional resources to fund additional infrastructure improvements. Please rest assured we will continue to press for increased investment in our city’s infrastructure at every possible opportunity”.

Lib Dems Oppose Halting Sites


Aberdeen City Council has decided to investigate the creation of permanent short term halting sites for travellers. The sites under consideration are the Scotstown Recycling Centre, Blackdog, Howes Road and the former Council Depot at Springhill Road (pictured).

Local authorities are under an obligation to ensure that travellers are treated fairly and equitably with regard to access to Council services, but there is no statutory duty to provide dedicated sites for them.

Local councillor Steve Delaney raised particular concerns over the Springhill site citing its unsuitability on road safety grounds and the potential for an encampment to overspill into either the disused lorry park or Eric Hendrie Park.

Currently the Council runs a site at Clinterty which offers a number of permanent pitches for travellers. The proposal before the Council was for short term halting sites where travellers can pitch for up to three months and then they need to move on. The site or sites would be permanent, there would just be an expected turnover of different travellers using them.

Steve Delaney, who is also Lib Dem Deputy Group Leader, said, “I feel that imposing halting sites on established communities, assuming they are used, has the potential to adversely affect the quality of life of people living there if things go wrong, as may happen from time to time, and this is not something I believe we should be doing. From what I’ve heard, travellers by the very nature of their lifestyle don’t want to be told where to pitch, so I’m unconvinced that the Council can ensure these sites will be used, putting aside their suitability or otherwise”.

He proposed that the Council implement its previous decision from 2008 which instructed officers to prepare details for upgrading Clinterty to include additional short term halting provision. He reminded the Council that there had been unanimous agreement on the way forward at that point in time.

Steve added, “More than four years on, this decision remains unimplemented, but the same issues remain with regard to the lack of provision and unauthorised encampments. I believe that by implementing that decision, we are taking steps towards addressing the needs of the travellers without alienating established communities”.

The Lib Dem proposal was defeated with Labour, SNP, Conservatives and Independents all backing further investigation on the suitability of these sites. It is expected a further report with recommendations on preferred site(s) will come back to the Council on 1st May 2013.

Council Budget 2013/14

BudgetToday saw the first Budget of the new Council administration since they took over in May 2012. To be honest, it was a bit of an anti-climax with everyone agreeing officer recommendations for about 95% of total spending and the different political Parties putting forward their own priorities for the city with the other 5%.

Liberal Democrat Deputy Leader Steve Delaney said, “What has come forward from all groups has been some changes to address our particular priorities for the city. Of course we could have done so much more if the SNP Goverment had honoured its pledge on the 85% funding floor, something which only survived an election year, and no more”.

“As was recently illustrated by Alison McInnes MSP, the actual funding for Aberdeen has dropped to 78% this year, effectively giving all Political Groups £5 million less to spend on priority services for our city. Successive Governments continue to short change this city, which is absolutely disgraceful”.

The Liberal Democrat Budget proposals were based around strengthening communities. They reflected the priorities identified by ordinary people over the past year. The proposals included an additional £150,000 on tree maintenance, £80,000 for leaf clearing and £129,000 to increase the frequency of grass cutting. These particular issues were strongly promoted by all Lib Dem members, along with increased investment in roads, pavements and street lighting. Following a campaign of sustained pressure on the Conservative Group by the Liberal Democrats, the Council has finally committed sufficient funds to deliver a Third Don Crossing.

During the debate, Steve highlighted two particular areas of concern in the Administration’s budget. With reference to their plans to pedestrianise Union Street, he said, “My Group cannot support a half baked idea. Yes, we do support the principle of full pedestrianisation but only when the supporting infrastructure is in place. However, part pedestrianisation is plain stupid, taking cars out but keeping buses in. It’s not just dangerous, it’s also a complete waste of public funds”.

The other waste of public money he referred to was the Administration’s pledge to spend £200,000 on a Hogmanay Party in Union Terrace Gardens, something which stopped many years ago as a result of safety concern raised by the Police. Steve remembered attending previous events with his wife and the stampede which ensued at the end of the event. He said, “Of course there’s always a daft idea in a Budget and the £200k for a Hogmanay party hits the high note this year. At a time when we should still be promoting sensible and prudent spending, it is being suggested that almost quarter of a million be blown on a party. This is typical of Labour’s wreckless approach to running this city”.

Needless to say, the Administration’s Budget won the day!

Council Opposes New School for Maidencraig

On 7th February 2013, the Education, Culture & Sport Committee decided not to provide a new school to serve the Maidencraig development. The recently approved Maidencraig Masterplan will result in 750 new homes being built on both sides to the Lang Stracht adjoining existing housing in Summerhill and Sheddocksley. The new development will run as far as Dobbies on the north side and as far as the roundabout which joins the Langstracht, A944 and B1119 at Green Hedges.

Kingswells/Sheddocksley Lib Dem Councillor Steve Delaney said, “Currently children are already walking more than a mile to Fernielea School on the Summerhill side. This would increase to about two miles for those living closest to the roundabout”.

“On the Sheddocksley side the distances to Kingsford School would increase from about half a mile to over a mile. A new school could have accommodated children from the whole Maidencraig development as well as the area from Rousay Drive westwards, making all three schools accessible to everyone. The decision not to even consider this is just plain stupidity”.

The Liberal Democrats put forward an amendment asking for the Committee to look at the feasibility of building a new school to serve this area. The move was opposed by Labour, Conservative and SNP councillors.

Mr Delaney said, “Our area has been denied a new school where a need clearly exists. Instead, we’re going to see children arriving at school soaked and frozen in cold weather as a result of the distances they will have to travel to school. In addition, the Labour, Conservative and SNP councillors who voted against this will be responsible for significantly increased traffic during school runs, which will affect all of us, and runs contrary to local and national transportation policy”.

Council Throws Out City Gardens Project

Today the Labour Group and others on Aberdeen City Council voted against the City Gardens Project by 22 votes to 20. Liberal Democrat Deputy Group Leader Steve Delaney, supported the proposals not just on the basis of a sound financial investment in the city for future generations but also on the basis that to disregard the outcome of the referendum would go against the main pillars of democracy.

He said, the message being sent out by this Labour led administration is that Aberdeen is closed for business and lacks the foresight to plan beyond the days of oil exploration and the prosperity it currently brings”.

The text of his speech in the Council Chamber follows:-

“I fully respect the diverse range of genuine views held by members of the public on what has become a divisive issue. However, I personally take the view that we cannot turn our backs on the economic benefits and inward investment this proposal offers.

Of course people are concerned about the cost, and rightly so, but that’s what the TIF business case is designed to address. This is a document which sets out a clear rationale as to why we need to progress this project and how it can be delivered financially.

Dundee, Edinburgh or Glasgow would have jumped at the chance, had such a generous private donation been offered to them. Instead Labour and their supporters are effectively saying “we cannae dae that”.

The decision we take today is not just about the City Gardens Project but also about the regeneration of the whole City Centre, much of which will fail to materialise without the TIF funding.

In opposition Labour fought tooth and nail against the Marischal College redevelopment, citing the Scottish Parliamemt building as reason why it would shoot over budget. As we know it came in £12 million under budget, clearly demonstrating that Aberdeen has the expertise to effectively project manage such a proposal.

In addition, Sir Ian Wood has agreed to effectively underwrite the project to the tune of an additional £35 million, should costs over-run. I suspect the Labour Group would still be opposing this project even if it was fully funded from private donations as their opposition is primarily ideological, rather than financial.

Make no mistake, our UK City of Culture bid is dead in the water if we support the motion today. I’ve visited Liverpool in recent years. I’ve seen how a city which was transformed as a result of a “City of Culture” title, awarded in 2008. This is what we are being asked to walk away from.

We need to approve this financially sound TIF business case in order to secure the City Of Culture title and the massive regeneration and inward investment that will bring. We need to look beyond the oil and make Aberdeen a desirable modern city which attracts people and major employers in the future. Otherwise this city will wither and die.

Today we are being asked by the Labour led administration to disregard the democratic process and cast aside the outcome of a public referendum just because it fails to fulfill their narrow minded political ideology. The last time that happened was 1979 when Margaret Thatcher choose to disregard the will of the Scottish people. The result of that ill considered decision has been the decimation of the Tories in Scotland. Perhaps Labour need to reflect on this before casting their votes.

The Labour Group were opposed to progress when in opposition and are, if nothing else, being consistent. Where the future of our city is at stake, we should all be working together to ensure the best possible outcome. Regrettably They have shown themselves to be lacking in vision and unable to portray a positive outlook for this city.

In conclusion members, when you cast your vote today, you do so in the full knowledge that you are being offered the opportunity to build a new future for this city after the oil has gone. This future will benefit generations to come. Whatever you decide, it’s your grandchildren and their children who will judge you for what you are about to do”.

Liberal Democrat Motion On Bus Services

Liberal Democrat Deputy Group Leader Steve Delaney has submitted a motion which seeks to change the current regulatory regime for Scottish bus operators to introduce a “public service obligation” on them in areas where there is little or no competition.

Councillor Delaney said, “The Traffic Commissioner for Scotland is very effective within her remit, but that remit is too narrow to address such fundamental issues as, amongst others, the frequency of bus services in any specific area. She can merely monitor the reliability of routes against registered timetables and any sanctions she can impose are limited to compliance with registered details. These details can be changed by bus operators at any time to meet their own needs”.

The motion, jointly submitted by Steve Delaney, Liberal Democrat Transport Spokesman Ian Yuill, and Group Leader Aileen Malone reads as follows:-

That this Council:

1. Deplores the cuts to services announced by First Aberdeen and expresses concern at the impact this will have on communities in Aberdeen.

2. Notes that these service changes confirm that First Aberdeen’s primary concern is its profitability and the interests of its shareholders rather than the interests of communities across Aberdeen.

3. Agrees to write to the Scottish Government and Aberdeen’s MSPs calling for a change in the regulatory regime for bus operators providing scheduled services to introduce a ‘public service obligation’ which would require any bus operator providing more than 50% of the bus services in a particular local authority area to provide a basic level of bus service (including in evenings and at weekends) to communities across that local authority area.

Mr Delaney continued, “First began its corporate life as an employee run service provider. Unfortunately they have lost their public service ethos, becoming entirely profit led, with no regard to what the public needs and expectations are”.

This motion seeks to ask the Scottish Government to alter the regulatory regime in order to ensure that in areas, like Aberdeen, where there is little or no effective competition, an agreed minimum frequency of services is provided by the main (or only) bus company.

He added, “FirstAberdeen were always pricey with their fares in comparison to other Scottish cities but they did run a good service. In recent years Aberdeen’s bus services have deteriorated and, whilst reliability is now improving, frequencies are still being reduced on some routes and others are being removed from service”.

Steve Delaney considers legislative changes to be the only way to address First’s determination to concentrate on only it’s most profitable routes and degrade the level of service on others. He will be speaking to the motion at the Council meeting on 22nd August.

It’s All About Democracy

As we head towards the Council meeting on 22nd August we are beginning to see the true colors of the new Labour led administration. They seem hell bent on blocking progress and dissuading investment into the city in order to fulfill the negative political dogma they have perpetuated in recent years.

Being a councillor is not a game, nor should it ever be treated as such. It involves making decisions which are in the best interests of the city and it’s citizens. There may be different ways to deliver this, but the underlying aim should always be the same, whatever your politics.

The Liberal Democrats, when in opposition, have always held the administration of the day to account, but we have never stood in the way of common sense proposals which would benefit the city and it’s citizens. We will continue to be a robust, yet constructive, opposition as we move forward in this current term.

At the very first Council meeting following the election, we saw the new administration award themselves a 5% pay rise as they took office. Then their leadership went on a power trip with Willie Young taking the Council Leader’s office and Barney Crocket moving into a former Chief Executive’s office in the old Town House. Why was it more appropriate for the incoming administration to demonstrate how “important” they were rather than formulate a policy statement outlining their aims and objectives for the next five years? Surely it should be about serving the public, rather than playing to their already inflated egos?

This was then followed by Willie Young stating he was going to remove the opposition convenor and vice-convenor of the Audit and Risk Committee, the body tasked with scrutinising the work of the Council. Had Labour carried out their threat, this would have been in direct conflict with a recommendation made by Audit Scotland.

Now Labour are seeking to turn down a generous gift from Sir Ian Wood to revitalise our City Centre. Such opportunities arise only once in a lifetime and you let them pass you by at your peril. Had such an offer been made to Edinburgh, Glasgow or Dundee, it would have been greeted with open arms.

It is fully accepted that people are concerned as to whether or not the city can afford this, and I, as a councillor, need to be satisfied that we can. That was of course the intended purpose of the business case, which we now have. Before anything can proceed this must first be scrutinised first by councillors, then by the Scottish Futures Trust and finally, by Scottish Ministers. It has to stack up or the funding will not be made available. Labour clearly seek to kill it off before it receives independent scrutiny by the Scottish Futures Trust. They are clearly afraid to do so as they know the business case makes sense.

I’ve read the TIF Business Case and I try believe it is financially sound and can be relied upon to deliver this project. It provides a solid framework for regenerating our city centre which will bring with it additional tourism and encourage people to want to move to Aberdeen to work here and add to the prosperity of the city. It is available to download from the Council’s website if you would like to read it yourself.

As you know, a ballot was held and the public voted. There was a clear division but there was also a clear outcome in favour of the City Garden Project. Whilst I can respect deeply held views by those who opposed the project, I cannot respect throwing the baby out with the bath water in order to adhere to political dogma, which is the approach advocated by Labour.

Labour made it clear from the outset that they intended to ignore the wishes of the people if they were in a position to form the Council’s administration. This clearly demonstrates their lack of respect for the citizens of Aberdeen. I personally made it clear from the outset that my personal viewpoint was irrelevant and I would support the majority view following the ballot. Whether or not you commit to such a project must be respectful of the views of the public, given that a free and fair democratic vote was held.

In recent weeks I have received representations both for and against this project and I know I will receive more. To date the vast majority have taken the same line as myself, even those who have openly stated they are Labour supporters and voted against the proposals.

This is no longer about whether or not the City Gardens goes ahead. It is purely and simply about democracy and the current administration’s belief that nothing matters as long as their will prevails.

Works At Greenfern School Site

Residents have raised concerns over works which have been ongoing at the site of the former Greenfern School in recent months. The site is currently surplus to the Council’s requirements and local people had thought some sort of development was about to commence on the site without their knowledge or input into the process.

Local councillor Steve Delaney said, “The site has been leased to Scottish Gas from April to December this year in order to carry out essential gas works in the surrounding area. It offers a sensible solution for storing equipment without damaging grassed areas as has often been the case with other maintenance works in recent years. It also keeps children away from potential dangers posed by their equipment and vehicles”.

Steve felt there was merit in using this site in the short term on safety grounds but was surprised that local residents in Maidencraig Place had not been made aware of what was going on. He said, “It would have avoided a lot of misunderstandings if people had been made aware of what was going to be happening outside their front doors”.

Aberdeen City Council has yet to decide what to do with the site. Councillor Delaney said he would be supportive of a range of uses which could compliment its location next to the existing houses and it proximity to Kingsford School. These could include community facilities, an all weather playing field for the school or sheltered housing. He said, “This is an important site in our area. It is vital that local residents, Kingsford School, the local Community Council and local councillors are consulted on its future.

Delaney Hits Out At Undemocratic Labour

Aberdeen City Council Liberal Democrat Deputy Leader Steve Delaney, was disgusted at Monday’s undemocratic decision by Labour to neuter the role of the Audit and Risk Committee by changing its remit to prevent it looking at anything other than decisions which have already been taken.

Labour’s Willie Young called for an Urgent Business Committee after opposition leaders decided to bring forward September’s meeting of the Audit and Risk Committee in order to scrutinise the Tax Increment Finance (TIF) business case for the City Garden Project and wider city centre regeneration.

The TIF business case for the City Garden Project is designed to set out the financial viability for the City Gardens Project, the renovation of the Art Gallery, and improvements to the Denburn Valley, and will determine the affordability of the scheme.

Cllr Young had already made it clear he would remove the opposition leaders (who head up this committee) unless they toed his Administration’s line and abandoned the meeting.

Clearly  Cllr Young has had his wings clipped as Labour backed away from the removal of Audit and Risk Committee office bearers and have now agreed to put the TIF case to a Finance and Resources meeting as should have happened in the first place. However, that does not detract from the undemocratic decision regarding the limits now imposed on the committee’s powers.

Councillor Delaney: said:

“The necessity to call an Audit & Risk Committee before the recess came after Cllr Young  withdrew the TIF report from the Finance & Resources Committee last week. We received no valid reason why the report had been withdrawn and this action raised a number of questions.

Audit and Risk is tasked to ensure good governance of the city and hold the Administration to account. Limiting the powers of this committee just because they choose to scrutinise the TIF business case in defiance of the ruling Administration completely undermines due process and reduces the effectiveness of this committee.

Labour’s approach is nothing short of Dictatorship. No administration should, when challenged, behave in this manner. It runs contrary to the spirit of Audit Scotland’s recommendations in 2008 and demonstrates how this Labour/Tory/Independent Administration intends to ‘bully’ the Council. Opposition members are there to contribute to debates and challenge the Administration, not to be silenced by those in power”.