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Showing posts with label Commonwealth Games. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Commonwealth Games. Show all posts

Friday, 28 September 2012

ALEOs, externalisation and Glasgow City Council – a blog from 2010

In all the hoo-ha about how hard up GCC is because of the council tax freeze, remember this – a blog from 2010. Since then, of course, we’ve had the scandal of the commonwealth Games development and the astronomical profits of property speculators while small businesses and house owners were crushed and evicted by GCC, and there have been some egregious final settlements made to former employees of GCC. That’s where at least some of the council tax went …

EXTERNALISATION

Economists use the concept of externalities to describe the impact organisations make upon the society that they operate within. An organisation’s responsibility is to itself and to its own objectives but in the process of discharging this responsibility, it creates an impact on others, positive or negative. If that impact and effect was part of the organisation’s intention – part of its business strategy – that’s fine, but if it was simply an unintended consequence of its pursuit of its objectives, then problems can arise.

An externality is the effect of a transaction between two individuals and a third party who has not consented to, or played any role in the carrying out of that transaction. MILTON FRIEDMAN

For example, a mining company has an environmental impact, a chemical company may pollute the rivers or the atmosphere, a growing company may force smaller companies out of business – the negative examples can be multiplied along familiar lines.

The negative impact of organisations on people and communities can be considerable. A large company that becomes the dominant employer in an area can destroy the entire community if it pulls out. A dominant company can drive down the price of the goods and services it procures, forcing small suppliers into reducing their margins to dangerous levels.

An organisations can engage in practices and processes that are actively dangerous to the health and safety of those it employs and to the external community. Such effects were common in the early stages of the industrial revolution, and they were still occurring in the late 20th century, and will still occur in the 21st century, especially in third world or economically vulnerable communities. (The disaster at the Union Carbide plant in Bhopal in India is still one of the worst examples, and of course, Chernobyl.)

Entrepreneurs have two major concerns – one is to be able to take commercial risks without destroying entirely their own security and economic viability, and the other is to be allowed to focus on the central purpose of the venture without being deflected by external consequences that are not central to the business purpose, especially those that relate to morality, legal compliance and social values.

Business is essentially amoral – morality and legality are constraints imposed on it by a society that it of necessity must operate within, and the dynamic balance of these forces is the essence of capitalism in a free society. Organised crime is simply a business that elects to ignore these constraints.

That is not to say that entrepreneurs, business managers and directors of companies are amoral, or lack a moral compass, but that the very nature of business is without malice or pity, and the moral individual must operate within that context. All too often the individual moral conscience becomes subordinate to, or is crushed by the demands of the organisation.

When businesses are small, and a sole proprietor or family dominates, the business activities can and usually will reflect their personal ethics and morality, and concepts of equity and justice can prevail. In rare cases, that ethical basis can survive the growth of the company if the values of the founder or founders – or indeed the founders themselves – are still present, and some great British companies managed to preserve such an ethos until comparatively recent times. Altruism has existed and does exist in business, but it often has a hard time …

HOW BUSINESS PROTECTS ITSELF

Entrepreneurs protected themselves against the first risk - destroying entirely their own security and economic viability in commercial ventures – by getting the concept of the limited company on to the statute books. The company or corporation became a legal person, distinct from its owners and directors, with almost all of the legal protections an individual person has under law, and a limit set to its liabilities – the limited liability corporation.

Without that legal protection, there can be little doubt that we would not have had the industrialised world that we know today. An entrepreneur could set up a venture and take risks, supported by investors in the company - the shareholders and venture capitalists – and fail occasionally without destroying his or her own capital and financial security, going into personal bankruptcy and losing everything. Legal safeguards were set up to prevent abuse of this immunity by entrepreneurs.

Entrepreneurs protected themselves against the second risk - being deflected by external consequences that were not central to the business purpose, especially those that relate to morality, legal compliance and social values, and not being allowed to focus on the central purpose of the venture – by insisting that it was the job of government and society to impose morality and social values upon them by legislation and regulation. This was the first externalisation, releasing the organisation from the need to establish its own morality and values and leaving them free, within the regulatory constraints, to pursue their business objectives. Thus was the balance to be maintained between the legal protection of the limited liability company and the needs of the society it operated within.

The company, in essence, could be amoral but have its morality imposed by society and be constrained within limits acceptable to that society.

But this ideal rested on an assumption that proved naive and false from the very start, namely that the limited liability company would not be able to influence the legislative constraints that they operated within. In fact, from the earliest days, companies have sought to influence, and in an increasing number of instances, subvert the very legislative process that was meant to constrain them.

The most spectacular example of this has been the insidious, relentless and inexorable growth of the military/industrial complex, a threat defined and named by President Eisenhower in 1961.
This has proved to be a cancerous growth that has perverted our values, our politicians, our democracy and our world.

THE IMPACT OF EXTERNALISATION ON THE UNITED KINGDOM

The results of externalisation in America have been evident for well over a century – explosive industrial and commercial expansion delivering enormous wealth and prosperity to some and utter misery, poverty, sickness and death to others. Initially, the exploited were the immigrant population and the ill-educated lower classes, but then, faced with the growth of organised labour and labour protection legislation at home, exploitation tended to shift to America’s colonies (which of course it always denies having) in Latin America, in its offshore islands, and in many other parts of the world. In this, they were simply following the brutally exploitative model of British imperialism, whilst coyly rejecting the idea of an American empire.

(The continuing American hatred of Castro’s Cuba stems, not only from  real ideological or strategic beliefs, but also significantly from the burning resentment of American big business and American organised crime at losing a population that could be exploited with minimal risk and effort.)

But closer to home, the events leading up to the financial meltdown that followed the near-collapse of Northern Rock had already signalled that all was not well with our notional democracy, and the regulation of big business.

Maggie Thatcher began the process in the 1980s that involved widespread deregulation, externalisation and outsourcing of business, and we entered the era of the short-time temporary contract, of cleaning contractors who didn’t clean - killing hospital patients while their directors grew fat on the proceeds - of railways where the left hand didn’t know what the right hand was doing and trains crashed with alarming regularity, of an exploding housing market where essential workers couldn’t afford to live within commuting distance of their place of work, of the destruction of entire mining communities – the list goes on.

Industry, notable the financial sector, were allowed to lobby, bribe and bully the Westminster government and our elected representatives, and to negate or at least emasculate the regulatory authorities designed to keep each industry in check. A government and the regulators turned a blind eye while the banks and the financial industry gambled with the security and the lives and hope of millions of ordinary citizens. The concentration of power – by acquisition – in the newspaper industry and the media also led to distortion of objective journalistic values and to the impotence of government in the face new Citizen Kane’s in their Xanadus.

Revolving doors carried senior civil servants into top jobs in the industries they had been so recently responsible for controlling. Regulatory bodies were – and are - packed with industry representatives, neutering attempts to limit the worst excesses. Our own elected representative were either lobbying themselves or acting as pimps for the professional lobbyists. And of course they were also ripping off the taxpayer by inflating their expenses or actively falsifying them.

A new generation of politicians, drawn at a much younger age from the offices of the party machines and from PR companies, or straight from university, saw politics as a career and a route to enrichment rather than a calling.

They knew nothing, had done nothing, had achieved nothing  and were, figuratively speaking, nubile adolescents eagerly awaiting their imminent ravishment and reward by the hard-eyed men and women of big business.

And so we come to Scotland, and to the great city of Glasgow

EXTERNALISATION’S IMPACT ON SCOTLAND

Scotland, a little nation of over five million people at the northern end of Europe, had nonetheless punched well above its weight for centuries, in culture, in learning, in innovation and invention and had made a crucial contribution to the industrial revolution. It was no stranger to the huge forces of industrial and commercial change that swept across the globe: it had experienced the cruel impact of the shift from the land to the city, from an agrarian society to a mechanised one, and its people had felt the iron hand of capitalism.

The abandonment of personal responsibility by their leaders, in very early forms of externalisation – an externalisation of responsibility and values - driven as always by rampant greed, from the Highland clearances to the dispossession of the lowland cottars had brought misery to hundreds of thousands, and the great workshops of Empire in the ancient city of Glasgow exacted a terrible price from the ordinary people, producing amongst other evils disease, death and malnutrition in the worst slums in Europe.

The clan chiefs unforgivably broke the bonds of faith, blood and absolute trust to enrich themselves (with a few honourable exceptions) and most of them reap the benefits of their ill-gotten gains to this day. The lowland landowners were little better, and both highland and lowlands leaders were prepared to ruthlessly suppress any attempts by the people they were exploiting and oppressing to obtain justice.

(The ‘Big Factor’, John Campbell, Chamberlain of the Duke of Argyll’s estates in Mull and Tiree, was so hated by his former tenants that emigrant communities in America and Canada celebrated his death (1872) in ‘uninhibited style’ with singing, bonfires and drinking.)

We must never forget that this, in the main, was done by Scots to Scots. There are those who are still doing it to this day, and their betrayal is all the greater because they know their history. They still see their noblest prospect as the high road to England, specifically Westminster, and once there, Scotland becomes almost an embarrassing memory.

In our own time, Scotland was devastated by Maggie Thatcher’s destruction of large parts of our industrial heritage. Her cynical and ill-judged attempt to pilot the hated poll tax in Scotland cost her party dear, and ultimately brought her down as Prime Minister. The Tory Party has been a negligible force in Scotland since that time.

But of course Scotland had been, for over half a century, a Labour fiefdom, nowhere more powerful than in Glasgow, one that was propped up by the ineffectual Scottish Liberal Democrats, whose utter betrayal of the ideals and principles of liberalism continues under Tavish Scott, in the name of unionism.

The  revelations followed Steven Purcell’s tragic collapse and resignation show something deeply suspect in the heart of the administration of Gleschu - the dear green place - by the Labour-dominated City Council.

ALEOs and Glasgow City Council

The responsibilities of Glasgow City Council are as extensive and complex as one would expect from the requirements of governance of one of the major cities of the United Kingdom, a city of 620,000 souls. The governance of this great city is entrusted by its electorate to elected councillors, and they represent the democratic will and control of the people of Glasgow over how their city is run.

Ideally, those running for office would see the role of councillor as a vocation, not as a career ladders nor as a route to personal wealth. Power would be sought unselfishly to serve the people.

But life – and politicians – ain’t always like that …

An elected councillor can expect to earn a minimum of £16,234 per annum, and has pension rights in addition to this. This is about two thirds of the average wage and in itself is unlikely to attract an ambitious and able person who is not driven by an altruistic wish to serve his or her fellow citizens, and is even less likely to persuade someone to give up a higher rate of remuneration to seek election.

However, anyone who was driven by money and career considerations would already be highly aware that the potential earnings are very much higher. The great British public were duly shocked when the Telegraph exposed the true level of earnings of honourable and right honourable members of Parliament, made up of expenses, expenses fiddles and extra-curricular activities of various kinds, including directorships, consulting, and other nice little earners too numerous to name.

The Glasgow electorate – not easily shockable after generations of corrupt administration – might just be beginning to see what is going on by the light that the Herald (belatedly, but God bless them for doing it now!) has been mercilessly shining into the earnings activities of their councillors.

And they may be coming to grips with the acronym that represents a nice little earner – the ALEO, or Arms Length External Organisation, which should really be ALEGO, Arms Length Governance External Organisation. I suppose ALEGO was too close to A LEG OVER, with its related concept of screwing the electorate. Or is it related to that old Glasgow chant about the Eely Aleo?

So what are the ALEOs? They are external organisations set up by Glasgow City Council to run departments and functions and deliver services to the people of Glasgow that were formerly run by Glasgow City Council. They are given a considerable degree of freedom of decision and action, but have at least one board member who is also a councillor, to ensure that they remember to whom they are ultimately accountable – the people of Glasgow.

Here’s what Glasgow City Council says about the principles of governance in a paper relating to ALEOs by its External Governance Committee on 26th May 2009.

EXTRACT

1.1

Governance has been defined as the means by which an organisation ensures that the level of direction and management of the affairs of the organisation are satisfactory, aligns corporate behaviour with the expectations of  the public and maintains accountability. The process of governance therefore involves the clear identification of responsibilities, accountabilities and adequate systems of supervision, control and communication. Fundamentally, governance is about how the organisation ensures that it is doing the right things, in the right way, for the right people, in a timely, inclusive, open, honest and accountable manner.  

1.2

The Council has statutory responsibility for the delivery of a range of services and it meets
this through its operating structures and its governance arrangements.

END OF EXTRACT

ALEOs are therefore a manifestation of externalisation – outsourcing – and of shuffling off the inconvenient need to run departments, deal with real people and with trades unions - in other words, of reducing, if not avoiding real responsibility for doing what Glasgow City Council is elected to do. A fig-leaf of residual control and accountability is provided by the external director or directors appointed from the ranks of councillors – and perhaps friends of the Labour Party.

It goes without saying that the above is not the rationale used by Glasgow City Council to justify the helter-skelter multiplication of ALEOs.

It was, of course, no part of justification for the setting up of the ALEOs to provide a nice little earner for councillors or others, nor to regard the ability of the new external directors, in the City Council’s own words (from the extract above) to

… ensure that the level of direction and management of the affairs of the organisation are satisfactory

… align corporate behaviour with the expectations of  the public and maintains accountability

(provide) … clear identification of responsibilities, accountabilities and adequate systems of supervision, control and communication

… ensure that it (the ALEO) is doing the right things, in the right way, for the right people, in a timely, inclusive, open, honest and accountable manner

as rather likely to be compromised by their need to protect a healthy supplement to their council salaries and to stay on the right side of their new board members. The eternal question cui bono? always has a familiar answer in Glasgow – Who dae ye think, Jimmy?

The potential of corruption in government is ever-present, and it is not McCarthyite to say that the facts revealed by the Herald give grounds for grave disquiet.

Whit’s goin’ on Jimmy, eh? There’s somethin’ no’ right here, ah can smell it fae here …

Friday, 10 February 2012

A message to Glasgow Labour councillors – don’t be part of the death of Labour – be part of the future of Scotland

The Glasgow Labour ship is aground, holed below the waterline, but may float until May.

To Labour councillors - I have this to say - you can't avoid risk either way, so make the smart bet - move to the SNP. You'll be welcomed, and your constituents will understand - but only if you do it now, and spend the next ten weeks or so explaining and convincing them. If you truly believe in Glasgow, you MUST do it - and you can.

Don't be part of the collapse of Glasgow Labour - be part of the future of Scotland!


Glasgow City Labour – three wheels on their wagon – excited squeals from Gordon Matheson



Municipal politics often present an ugly, sordid spectacle, one that is mercilessly depicted in Private Eye’s Rotten Boroughs feature. Few present one as sordid as Glasgow City Council, which over decades has honed the traditional script elements of cronyism, petty nepotism, influence-peddling, individual venality and payoffs allied to huge profits to the external vultures -the beneficiaries of contract placements, insider information and land deals. And of course, bullying and intimidation, both within the hallowed precincts of the City Chambers, and among the deprived communities that suffer under such a regime when they make their brave individual protests.

We only have to remember the victims of the Dalmarnock Commonwealth Games development and regeneration project – were ever two words so misused? – the families made homeless, the small businesses wiped out, the disabled children and their families callously deprived of their Accord Centre.

When their voices were raised, the full force of the law, plus police (80 of them plus 15 riot vans) and masked council workers with sledgehammers was deployed against them, in one of the most shameful episodes in municipal history. The “rich got rich and the poor got poorer”, but the property developers, the lawyers and the councillors? “Ain’t we got fun?”

But a rotten wagon travelling on rough terrain begins to rock: people fall off – or get pushed – the axles give out and the wheels begin to come off. Yesterday in the council chamber we saw unprecedented scenes, or at least got the flavour of them. Glasgow City Council’s Labour hegemony came perilously close to the edge of the ravine.

But Labour ‘won’ the vote – 40-38 – and a flushed and excitedly squealing Gordon Matheson  bounced out of the chamber in a state of euphoria, emitting breathless gasps about passionate ideals and values, labouring under the delusion that he had won a victory rather than narrowly averted a humiliating defeat – a Pyrrhic little victory that presages an inevitable end in May.

I said a bit last year (see blogs below) about the implications of corruption in local government and the GCC Labour policy of clearing ‘deadwood’ from the rotten Labour tree, a futile exercise, since the great axe of the democratic voice of the electors of Glasgow is going to bring it down in the May elections.

And when the light shines on the fallen trunk, some strange thing will be seen scurrying away into the undergrowth.



BLOG EXTRACTS – 2011

Blog - Friday, 16 September 2011

What happens when the wheels come off the Glasgow Labour machine?

Back in May of this year, I asked the following question -

What happens when any political machine loses power at the local level anywhere in the United Kingdom, indeed in any city in the democratic world?

The City of Glasgow, my native city, was not far from my mind when I asked the question. (see blog extract below). I was thinking ahead to the local elections of 2012. The wheels have begun to come off the Glasgow Labour machine even earlier than I thought they would.

First we had The Scotsman on 13th September, with the headline Labour split over plan to ‘devolve’ the party with a sub-header of Angry backlash as Westminster accuse Murphy and Boyack of ‘selling out’ to the Nationalists. (That could as well have been worded as UK nationalists accuse Murphy and Boyack of ‘selling out’ to the Scottish Nationalists.)

Then on the 15th of September, The Herald carried the headline Labour faces backlash over shake-up of councillors.

(Among those being ‘cleared-out’ are former City Treasurer James McNally and former licensing chief Stephen Dornan.)

Their attempts to clear out what they see as deadwood councillors has understandably not been received well by the dead wood. I’m a dog man myself – I have two Westies, Angus and Dougal – and I was interested to see that the Deadwood Clearer-in-Chief, aka Brodie the Beagle Jamie Mallan, also seems to be a dog man, at least according to The Herald.

The idea that some elected officials in Glasgow City Council are deadwood seems to be either an affront to democracy, or a recognition of what some have always alleged, that the Glasgow voters would vote for the equivalent of the Hartlepool Monkey if it ran on a Labour ticket. Hartlepool notoriously hanged the monkey, but so far Glasgow Labour have not proposed such a draconian penalty. However, I conceive of other possibilities. In my blog (below) of May 2011, I identified the possible categories that could exist within a rotten borough, which of course, post-Purcell, Glasgow may not be …

Within the central structure of a rotten borough there are three groups -

honest employees and politicians

dishonest employees and politicians who are up to their necks in the corrupt practices

those who are all too aware of what has been going on, but who have not participated in, or profited by it, but who have remained silent rather than blow the whistle.

Now, assuming that those conducting a clearout of alleged deadwood – such as that being carried out in Glasgow - had insider knowledge of which group each councillor was in, and assuming that the possibility exists, however remote, that they were not all as honest, public-spirited and dedicated to those who elected them as I hope all Glasgow City Councillors are, the $64,000 question is then – which group would they target?

Logically, it would be the dishonest ones, but for that to be true, those conducting the clearout evaluations would have to belong to the third group, those who were aware of what was going on, but had not blown the whistle. Since by definition, apparent incompetence and corruption go hand-in-hand, the reason for clearout can then safely be advanced as incompetence.

However, if those conducting a clearout in this imaginary rotten borough (there is no current evidence that GCC is a rotten borough, at least since Purcell) were in fact complicit in dodgy goings-on, the logical strategy would be to clear out the honest politicians who were not aware of what was going on, but not those who knew, but didn’t participate, since this might induce them to blow the whistle belatedly.

I fervently hope that Glasgow is not, and even allowing for Purcell, never has been a rotten borough, but in a city council and administration of the size and complexity of Glasgow, with all the temptations inevitably involved in the placing of lucrative contracts, the granting or withholding of planning permission and licenses, the insider knowledge of large-scale development projects such as the Glasgow East Regeneration and the Commonwealth Games projects, it would be nothing short of miraculous if no elected official or salaried employee had ever yielded to such temptations.

In their position, I would be as angry and apprehensive as the group of Glasgow councillors who have been categorised as ‘deadwood’ clearly are under these circumstances, because of the inevitable potential damage to their reputations and because not only their competence is being impugned, but a dark cloud of suspicion will inevitably accompany them if they go quietly. In their place, I certainly wouldn’t …

Colin Smyth, Labour’s Scottish General Secretary, has a job and a half on his hands. Perhaps Tom Harris, MP can help.

MORIDURA BLOG 26th MAY 2011

WHAT HAPPENS WHEN AN ENTRENCHED REGIME LOOKS LIKE LOSING POLITICAL POWER?

Let’s look away from Glasgow for a moment, and consider what happens when any political machine loses power at the local level anywhere in the United Kingdom, indeed in any city in the democratic world.

I will use the term used by Private Eye, that indispensable publication that covers the ground that mainstream media are either too lazy, too complacent or too scared to address - rotten boroughs. Private Eye regularly publishes the sordid details of such rotten boroughs across the UK, where blatant corruption, the self-interest and the personal profit of councillors reign supreme over any concern for the people who have the misfortune to be dependent on them.

The mechanics of such corruption of local democracy across the UK are always the same - the award of contracts in disregard of best practice, failure to declare interest by councillors, nepotism, insider knowledge of land development, so-called consultancy and training contracts, lucrative sinecures for councillors on quasi-independent bodies, revolving door appointments to organisations that have benefited from council largesse. The necessary links with external organisations created by the giant budgets controlled by councils creates a potential for influence that should work for the good of the people, but all to often operates against their interests.

But like all political power, when the continuity of the hegemony is threatened, those external organisations whose relationship with the political power brokers  has been less than transparent begin to get jittery, and a process of disengagement begins that is deeply worrying to the politicians involved.

And within the central structure there are three groups - honest employees and politicians, dishonest employees and politicians who are up to their necks in the corrupt practices, and a crucial third group, those who are all too aware of what has been going on, have not participated in, or profited by it, but who have remained silent rather than blow the whistle.

It is this group who begin to break their silence when the power structure begins to look shaky, anxious not to be caught up in a scandal that they have never profited from. Once those first cracks appear, the honest group, often comprising senior professionals, becomes uneasily aware of what has been going on under their noses, and begins to probe the weakest parts of the edifice of corruption.

Soon thereafter, panic sets in among the truly corrupt. Having no allegiance to any person or principle other than that of expedient self-interest, they begin to try to distance themselves from what may be coming their way. At that point, the dam begins to burst- auditing bodies, professional organisations, the police, national government and the media acquire a sudden interest.

SUMMARY

I make the above points as general observations about corrupt organisations. Glasgow City Council may be entirely free of corruption, especially since the end of the Purcell era, which may itself just have been the personal failings and the personal tragedy of one man. If this is so, then in the Dalmarnock case, they have been simply deeply misguided in the way they pursued otherwise laudable objectives in relation to the regeneration of the East End of Glasgow and the huge opportunity presented by the Commonwealth Games,  displaying professional callousness and a total lack of empathy towards an entire community of ordinary working people, and a highly selective view of the law as it relates to compulsory purchase and the acquisition of land for development purposes.


Monday, 16 January 2012

The Glasgow East Regeneration Agency and the Deals, settlement and payoffs

Peter Curran

UNHAPPY TWEETING TIME

A necessary reminder – click link

The Sun's report on the horrifying forced eviction of the Jaconelli's by 80 police, masked council workers, with 15 riot vans

moridura Peter Curran

The fight for justice for Dalmarnock families against the injustice of GCC goes on with Mike Dailly Govan Law Centre dealing with legalities

moridura Peter Curran

The Glasgow East Regeneration Agency epitomises Labour rule in Glasgow for over half a century. But there's the Games. Aye, political games!

moridura Peter Curran

All Labour Glasgow East Regeneration Agency directors and property developers have done well financially. Most families have done very badly

moridura Peter Curran

GERA made Dalmarnock families homeless and destroyed small businesses. For almost all, no settlement in sight. Law grinds on slowly.

moridura Peter Curran

GERA - Glasgow East Regeneration Agency that destroyed the property of residents? FACT. Go and look at the rubble that once was a community.

moridura Peter Curran

GERA - Glasgow East Regeneration Agency that destroyed the property of residents and small businesses of Dalmarnock. Property developers OK!

moridura Peter Curran

3 of the 5 GERA directors who approved Saez deal were Labour councillors. After leaving GERA, Saez went into business with Frank McAveety, former Labour MSP

moridura Peter Curran

John Mason SNP calls the Saez payoff 'morally unacceptable'. Deal signed off by George Redmond - Labour councillor. Mason says OSCR should investigate.

moridura Peter Curran

#GCC Jaconelli's brutally evicted from home - still no settlement.

 Ronnie Saez gets £500k payoff. Job? CEO - Glasgow East Regeneration Agency

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Dalmarnock property deals - the polis - and some links to remind you of what was done in the name of The Commonwealth Games by GCC

If you think it’s over, Glasgow Labour City Council – think again …

http://newsnetscotland.com/index.php/scottish-news/4019-glasgow-council-facing-police-probe-over-commonwealth-games-property-deals#comment-106368

http://www.thescottishsun.co.uk/scotsol/homepage/news/4037068/Cops-probe-Commonwealth-Games-deals.html

http://www.heraldscotland.com/owner-of-2014-games-village-site-could-have-made-more-1.874567

MORIDURA BLOG LINKS

http://moridura.blogspot.com/2011/01/tale-of-two-newspapers-herald-and.html

http://moridura.blogspot.com/2011/01/great-bulwarks-against-corruption-in.html

http://moridura.blogspot.com/2011/01/margaret-jaconelli-fair-compensation-or.html

http://moridura.blogspot.com/2011/01/glasgow-city-council-and-glasgow-press.html

http://moridura.blogspot.com/2011/01/snp-must-act-now-on-margaret-jaconelli.html

http://moridura.blogspot.com/2011/01/margaret-jaconelli-and-glasgow-city.html

http://moridura.blogspot.com/2011/01/unhappy-tweeting-time-margaret.html

http://moridura.blogspot.com/2010/11/margaret-jaconelli-caseanother-crichel.html

http://moridura.blogspot.com/2010/11/margaret-jaconelli-case-injustice-in.html

http://moridura.blogspot.com/2010/10/donald-trump-glesca-granny-and-scope.html

Thursday, 31 March 2011

Among the Dalmarnock victims of Big Sport

Reprinted from Facebook -

Demanding a replacement for soon to close Accord centre

For over 20 years the Accord Centre has been a well loved day centre for people with learning disabilities in the East End of Glasgow. Due to the Commonwealth Games the Accord Centre, situated in Dalmarnock, is to make way for a new road to the Games site.

We are told that due to the 'economic climate' there will be no new day centre and instead we are being offered a hired room in a yet unspecified community centre.

"The Accord centre means everything to me, all my friends are there, we get a good laugh there...I don't want to be in a community centre...I don't know who will be coming in or out...I want a safe environment" ..Cheryl McArthur, service user

We feel very strongly that this is completely unacceptable, and demand that, from the millions being invested into these Games, a new day centre is the minimum that the people of Dalmarnock and the East End deserve from these Games, otherwise what is the benefit of this big international spectacle to the people of Glasgow?

Please help us spread the word and raise awareness of this fight which may seem David & Goliath, but is one which we the Accord service users, parents, carers, determined to fight and win as common decency and justice are on our side.

Glad to be of some little help, Accord Campaign!

regards,

Peter Curran

Saturday, 26 March 2011

The desperation of Glasgow City Council’s shills

One factoid stands out from all the others in the distortions, spin and outright lies that have characterised the anti-Jaconelli media coverage for most of the life of this sad case - the alleged £360,000 ‘demand’ for the Ardenlea Street flat.

I have explained this on numberless occasions, as have the Jaconelli’s and their lawyer, but it keeps rising to the surface, like a turd in a pond, because it serves the purpose of Glasgow City Council and those who post anonymously on their behalf.

So let me say this as clearly as I can, in the almost certainly vain hope that it will penetrate the minds of those shallow, hostile posters who cannot see beyond it - Margaret Jaconelli never asked for £360,000, never authorised such a claim, and has made it abundantly clear that it did not represent her expectations of compensation for the loss of her home.

What happened was that an illustrative figure was used to show the gross disparity between what she had been offered and the settlement made with one developer in relation to his investment. The Jaconellis invested £30k in her home, a buy-back in 1998 based on a 1990 valuation, and a developer invested £45k .

The developer accepted £5.5 million pounds - yes, million pounds - and proportionate to investment, this represented £3.5 million, and for example if the Jaconellis had got even a tenth or so of this, a figure of around £350,000 was theoretically relevant. No one for a moment intended to make such a claim, but the Sun ran a headline £3.5m Gran. Some confusion existed after this calculation was mentioned to Glasgow City Council, a confusion that they and their compliant media partners have exploited ever since.

Had they ever negotiated with Margaret Jaconelli - as they did with the developers - the true gap between the parties could easily have been identified.

Had mediation (ADR) been accepted by GCC, the realistic gap to be bridged would quickly have been brought out by the mediator. But Glasgow City Council were now determined to bludgeon the Jaconellis into submission by legal processes where there was, to quote Mike Dailly’s legal term “a gross inequality of arms”, i.e. GCC were represented by expensive and heavyweight lawyers and a QC, including during a critical court appearance where Margaret was unrepresented.

They rejected Margaret’s formal written request for mediation: they rejected two offers of mediation by the Scottish Government. Finally they tried to bully Margaret at the 11th hour by an offer of mediation only if she first gave up her flat, an ultimatum which she rejected.

The anonymous posters who for reasons best known to themselves have aligned with GCC against the Jaconellis on this dispute keep asking What about all the others?

The answer to that is that, far from going meekly and amicably, others have been equally badly treated, including tenants, house owners and the owners of small businesses. Many have understandably given up the unequal battle, but others have not. Most of them were among those forcibly cleared from the street by heavy-handed  policing in the dawn raid on Ardenlea Street, some sleeping in their cars overnight in the hope of  offering some kind of moral support to the woman who has become their champion.

So to those posters such as ‘observer’, who keeps coming back with his or her bad song and tired factoids, I have this to say -

If you are too numerically challenged to understand the fact of this case as set  out by me and others, or too verbally challenged to read and understand a complex argument, or too devoid of a social conscience or common humanity to recognise where the right lies, then please don’t take up my time with the same same tired old rubbish.

Friday, 25 March 2011

Reflections on the brutal end to the Siege of Ardenlea Street

Margaret and Jack Jaconelli’s 35-year life in their family home ended yesterday under a brutal assault by over 80 police officers, council workers and 20 riot vans, initiated by Labour-controlled Glasgow City Council.

The Jaconellis are now homeless, but this indomitable, archetypal Glasgow working class family won’t be for long - they will pick themselves up and start again, finding a new home, and making a new life. But one thing is certain - they won’t give up their fight for justice, aided by their lawyer, Mike Dailly of the Govan Law Centre.

THE SCOTTISH PRESS

The coverage of this story by the Scottish media can be characterised in general as belated, inaccurate and in some case, deliberately and consciously biased in favour of Glasgow City Council. Journalists, if some can even be dignified by this honourable appellation, were lazy and incurious, accepting at face value the many distorted misrepresentations fed to them by GCC’s publicity mill and rumour machine, cooperating supinely in the Council’s attempts to present the Jaconelli’s as greedy and unreasonable.

These people would not have recognised a significant human interest story and the dubious political dealings that surrounded it if it reared up and bit them on the arse. That is the most charitable explanation of their behaviour: there are others.

I suppose if your journalistic instincts begin and end with scanning a press release by the powerful and well-resourced, or having cosy lunches and briefings from their minions, instead of taking a trip to the heart of the problem - 10 Ardenlea Street - and talking to those directly involved, then this is the kind of lazy copy you will deliver to equally uninterested editors.

But many of these news outlets had another agenda - they were Labour-supporting organs, unionist to their core, and an election was coming up. A story that showed a relentless and unfeeling persecution of ordinary Glaswegians did not sit well with the image of the People’s Party, Labour - the party of John MacLean and Keir Hardie, of  Red Clydeside, champions of the under-privileged. Such a story might bring home to Scottish voters that Scottish Labour, the puppet regime of Blair/Mandelson'/Brown’s New Labour, in the run-up to May 5th, had been hiding for decades behind the corpse of the old Labour Party, trotting it out, decaying and rotten, but covered in bright paint , to fool the people of Scotland.

This could not be allowed to happen. Bluntly, they hoped to bury the story, and when the Jaconellis inconveniently and bravely put their heads above the parapet to shout that the Labour emperor had no clothes, to shoot them down with a volley of lies, distortions and unfounded accusations.

But not even such a feeble excuse for a democratic press could not ignore a story when it got legs, and they were reluctantly forced into correcting some of their inaccuracies by events.

THE SCOTTISH SUN

It must be said that there have been honourable exceptions to this behaviour, notably in the form of the Scottish Sun’s coverage of the Jaconellis, significantly attributable to a freelance journalist, Paul Drury, who did what real journalists do - went to the source, went to the locations, got to know the people involved, asked real questions, checked and cross checked facts.

Of course the Sun sensationalised the coverage a bit - after all, they are the tabloid’s tabloid and that’s what they do. Unfortunately, in their attempts to point up the egregious disparity of treatment between that meted out to the Jaconellis and the enrichment of the developers who swarmed over the Commonwealth Games site, they may have at times unintentionally harmed the Jaconelli’s interest with their ‘£3.5 million pound Gran’ headlines, unwittingly feeding the Glasgow City Council lie that Margaret Jaconelli was pursuing a huge and unrealistic settlement figure, something that was never true.

But on overwhelming balance, the Jaconellis and their supporters are grateful to Paul Drury and the Sun for acting as virtually the only real counterbalance to the hostile and biased coverage of the rest.

TELEVISION

The Scottish television coverage, although not visibly biased, was belated and superficial, and predictably only interested when the saga entered its last, more sensational stages. Newsnight Scotland, often a byword for leaden, dull coverage of Scottish affairs, with occasional flashes of brilliance - usually when Isabel Fraser is in the interviewer’s seat - never touched the story.

Even in the last few days, they have given a much higher profile to the Glasgow University student protest evictions than to the much more significant brutal and over-the-top storming of the Jaconelli’s home. But then that’s the West End, much closer to the hearts of Scottish media types than the forgotten ghettos and people of Glasgow East.

Television, of course, completely missed Margaret Jaconelli’s confrontation, first with Gordon Matheson, Leader of the GCC Labour Group, then with Ed Miliband, Leader of the Labour Party outside the Scottish Labour Party Conference on Saturday last. Only the Sunday Post, as far as I know, ran this story and published the photograph of Margaret and Ed Miliband.

THE POLITICAL PARTIES

Labour in Scotland maintained a deathly silence on this, as well they might have, since Labour-controlled Glasgow City Council under Gordon Matheson are the villains of this sordid piece. The Tories were predictably absent - after all, they are the party of money, privilege and exploitation of working people: Why would they speak? The pathetic Scottish LibDems don’t have their troubles to seek, and stayed well below the parapet.

But the strange behaviour of the Scottish National Party over the Jaconelli case deserves some examination. After a couple of statements  of concern by the First Minister some considerable time ago, a brief visit by Alison Thewliss, GCC SNP councillor for the Jaconelli’s, and one or two minor expressions of concern by others, a great blanket of silence fell over the issue.

Using such limited resources as I have, I repeatedly and persistently tried to secure some level of involvement from the Party at all levels. The responses to this have, in the main, been to ignore me completely (the SNP have been terrified of bloggers since the University of Cheese scandal, although they recognise their value) or to offer feeble excuses such as “Well, Margaret hasn’t come to my constituency surgery”, prompting the irascible response from me that this vulnerable, overstretched woman, struggling with her problem, with the terminal illness of her brother in England, the abandonment of her virtually at the door of the courtroom by her previous lawyer, and facing the full weight of QCs, District Valuers, et al, needed her elected representatives to visit her, not the other way around.

The Jaconellis are - or at least were - SNP supporters. Much bloody good it did them, at least up to the eleventh hour, when two offers offers to mediate in the dispute came from the Scottish Government,  a fact little reported anywhere in the media. (GCC declined both offers, as they had refused Margaret’s formal request for mediation and ADR.)

I repeatedly told the SNP that this story would get bigger, and eventually break into the media when the inevitable confrontation occurred. I had secured tentative interest from Jon Snow and Channel Four News, but then world events of staggering implications took over their whole agenda. (I have also kept Ken Loach informed through his film production company.)

The SNP should have been publicly and vocally on the right side of this dispute since the start, because it is a uniquely Scottish dispute in the Labour heartland that they need so badly to capture. Doing the right things was clearly the right thing to do here - but they didn’t, displaying all too often the rather uncertain grasp of new media - an occasionally old media - and its significance that too often characterises the Party’s approach.

They are going to have to do a damned sight better if they are to remain in power after May 5th. They still have my full and committed support, but, I regret, my faith is a liitle dented after the Jaconelli failure.

Friday, 11 March 2011

St.Patrick’s Day 2011 - but forced eviction day for the Jaconellis? Less than one week from today!

Discussion of the Margaret Jaconelli case - online, email and direct - with a wide range of people, sadly indicates that the press and Glasgow City Council campaign of misinformation about the real nature of this case has had its negative impact. Trying to cut through that has been dispiriting, but for Margaret and Jack Jaconelli and their family, I must try again.

And so we come to an ordinary family in the east end of Glasgow in the year 2006 - the Jaconellis, of Ardenlea Street, Dalmarnock.

THE JACONELLIS in 2006 - and in March 2011

Margaret Jaconelli has lived at 10 Ardenlea Street, Dalmarnock since she was 17  - since 1976. She and her husband owned their two-bedroom, substantial and comfortable red sandstone flat on the ground floor of the tenement building. The house had been owned by them, then sold to Bridgeton and Dalmarnock housing association in 1981, then bought back in 1998 for £30,000. (The terms of the initial sale and buyback from the housing association were that 10 years had to elapse before a buyback was possible.)

Although the Jaconellis bought the house back in 1998, the purchase price was based on a 1990 valuation of £30,000, when in fact property prices had risen substantially in the period 1990-1998, and the Jaconellis, in common with anyone who bought a rented property from a housing association or council, felt that this was a good deal and they now owned,  free and clear, a property that was worth considerably more.

This point is vital to considering the equity of the valuation and offer made in 2006 by GCC. £30,000 was a 1990 valuation, and property prices had risen substantially in that 16 year period, even in Glasgow East. Because of hard work and thrift all of their lives they were financially stable, and enjoyed their community in Dalmarnock, surrounded by friends, neighbours and friendly local shops and businesses.

All that was about to change - the storm clouds were gathering for Margaret, her family and their friends and neighbours.

They had been well aware of the Glasgow East regeneration plan, for the very good reason that those all around them who did not own their homes had been forced out of their rented accommodation by GCC, who announced their intentions in 2001/2002 to pull the building down.

Developers had purchased plots of land near them years before, clearly in the hope that something big was coming, and in the expectancy that they could sell at a profit. That’s what developers do. Nobody seemed, however, to be developing anything - they appeared to be waiting for GCC to make its move.

And move they did, in the form of compulsory purchase orders in March 2006 for both housing, shops, businesses - and vacant plots of land owned by developers.

The law relating to compulsory purchase legislation is confused, sometime contradictory and of mind-bending complexity, even to lawyers. (I have spoken informally to a number of lawyers, and every one of them said that lawyers quailed before the legislation, and that it was an area for narrowly-focused experts - and there were few of them.) Since the Crichel Down scandal of the 1950s, this has been a scary, but vital area of the law.

What is certain is that the individual without unlimited private means has no chance against the formidable legal teams and tactics that can be deployed against them by the authority making the compulsory purchase.

I am a layman - I have no chance of understanding this legislation. But I have the duty, and the right as a citizen to form a judgement on when a gross injustice is likely to visited on ordinary people by the necessary process of compulsory purchase. Unlike a number of politicians and intelligent individuals who should know better, I don’t hide behind the facile excuse that it is best left to the law and lawyers, especially when the dice are heavily loaded and the game, if not quite fixed, usually has a pre-determined outcome.

Fortunately, Margaret Jaconelli has now got a fine, committed lawyer with a deeply-rooted concern for equity and justice - Mike Dailly of  Govan Law Centre.

Put as simply as I can, the facts as I understand them are these -

In 2006, Margaret Jaconelli’s home effectively became the property of Glasgow City Council. Their only duty at law was to value the property and offer compensation.

Margaret Jaconelli accepted - and still accepts (unlike the property owners in Aberdeen in the Trump dispute) that the Glasgow East Development was a good thing, and that it was inevitable that she and her family must vacate their home.

All she wanted was an offer of compensation that would

allow her to buy a new freehold property comparable to her own in an area of her choice

meet her legal costs of buying and moving

offer some financial recognition of the major disruption caused to her and her family.

In 2006, when GCC announced the compulsory purchases, two-bedroom red sandstone flats were selling in the wider area of the East of Glasgow for a media price of about £85,000/£90,000. Of course, property values in Ardenlea Street had already been adversely affect by the very Glasgow East Development blight that caused the compulsory purchase in the first place.

Margaret did not have the option of buying a property in Dalmarnock because it would no longer exist in its present form, and would become a vacant lot as the bulldozers moved in.

She therefore reasonably expected an offer somewhere in excess of £90,000 for all of the reasons set out above.

 She received instead, in March 2006, an offer of £30,000 - the price at which she had bought the house several years earlier, a price the same as the 1990 valuation - an offer that, after legal and moving costs were met, would effectively destroy her investment in her home, and throw her to the very bottom end of the housing market.

Her only legal remedy - and even that is questionable - was to accept the offer, move out and then fight her case for compensation to the Land Tribunal, a process that can take 7 to 10 years, with an uncertain outcome at the end of it, and major legal costs incurred.

But as if this was not bad enough, all around her, developers who had speculatively bought vacant plots of land or created them by demolishing what had previously stood upon the land, in spite of being subject to the same legislation, were making profits of millions - in one case selling land to GCC that they had bought for £45,000 for £5.5 million pounds.

How could this be? Simply because Glasgow City Council applied a valuation procedure apparently based on the now inflated potential value of the land based on future development, and then negotiated with the developers above that figure!

Margaret Jaconelli, in stark contrast, was valued based on the depressed value of properties in the area caused by GCC’s development plans, and was refused any chance to negotiate a fair settlement.

If this is not injustice, I don’t know what is, and if the law says this is equitable, then the law is not only an ass, it is bad, bad law.

Margaret, faced with this gross inequity of treatment, used the only bargaining chip she had - she refused to move out until a reasonable offer was made. I have to say that I would have done the same, and anyone in their right mind would have done the same.

Of course, with the award of the 2014 Commonwealth Games to Glasgow some time after 2006, the game changed dramatically, and Dalmarnock will now be the site of the Athlete’s Village. Margaret’s area will however be private housing built by Mactaggart and Mickel - in what is now described as “the highly-desirable riverside area in Dalmarnock”.

During the seven long, lonely years for Margaret and her family since 2004, the £30,000 offer stood as the only offer made by GCC. In that period, Margaret and her family have seen the flats above and around them vacated, the windows remove and boarded up, the area becoming a wasteland, and her heating bill consequentially soaring in one of the worst winter’s in living memory.

ALTERNATIVE ACCOMMODATION

A fundamental misunderstanding about the alternative accommodation offered to the Jaconellis by GCC exists, and has been kept alive by the press, and GCC. The facts are that Margaret Jaconelli has only ever been offered temporary rented accommodation, at rents of around £400 per month, and there has never been any firm offer of permanent rented accommodation. These offer were made just before a court appearance last year, and on very recently, then immediately withdrawn. No one in their right mind would have accepted such an offer under the circumstances, leaving aside the suitability of such rented accommodation.

END OF 2010 - THE FIRST REVISED OFFER

But at the end of last year, in November 2010, GCC upped the offer to £85,000, in settlement of all claims, an offer  that Margaret might well have accepted in 2006. But in 2010/2011, this offer, which took no recognition of her costs, her nightmare years as the only resident in the tenement block, and the rise in property values elsewhere, was not nearly enough to buy a two-bedroom red sandstone equivalent property in an area of her choice. Again she would have been forced to the lower end of the market.

Earlier this year, a verbal offer slightly above the £85,000 offer was made informally and verbally by telephone, to Margaret and to her lawyer. In spite of a request to have it confirmed in writing in order that the conditions attached could be evaluate, this was refused.

Margaret has requested mediation, now a well-established method of dispute resolution. This too has been refused by GCC.

Next Thursday, Margaret will face an appalling choice, one I don’t have to spell out, as her long fight comes near to its end, and the authorities arrive to evict her, by force if necessary. No one can advise her on how to make that choice but her family, and the end result is inevitable, given the law.

Margaret’s last hope in the very few days left to her, is her lawyer Mike Dailly’s appeal against the eviction. If anyone can secure justice against such a concentration of money, power and big city politics, it is Mike.

But these are worrying days for the Jaconellis.

GLASGOW EAST REGENERATION, AND MY COMMENT

Here is an extract from a factsheet about the Glasgow East regeneration project (see link for full report)

Welcome to Glasgow - online factsheet 2010

In 2004, following the Cities Review, The Scottish Executive (now Scottish Government), recognising the extent of Glasgow’s vacant land problem, allocated £10 million to Glasgow, for the reclamation of vacant and derelict land for the period 2004-2006. A subsequent allocation of £10m was made for the period 2006-2008. Programmes of projects were devised and implemented in partnership with Scottish Enterprise Glasgow and Communities Scotland, with approximately 180 ha of sites being treated and/or investigated. A further allocation of £13 million has been made for the period 2009-2011. This will focus upon delivering sites for the Commonwealth Games and supporting the Council’s key regeneration priorities.

There is a great silence about what led to the vacant and derelict land in the East End of Glasgow - it was not caused by a meteor strike or bombing by unseen enemies - it resulted from decades of neglect of their people by the Labour-dominated Glasgow City Council, coupled with a helluva lot of land being acquired by hard-eyed and expert developers at knock-down prices, with an eye to a future prosperity that only they could see, either because they were extraordinarily prescient, or because they acted upon hard information received from a variety of sources.

That is a developer’s job - to gather facts, both hard facts and rumours, to maintain solid links with politicians, to monitor the freely available minutes of council and governmental minutes and meetings, and to cultivate contacts who might have relevant information about which way the wind of change is blowing.

There’s nothing wrong with that - developers are not gamblers, and although they take financial risks, they are carefully calculated risks.

The record of urban development throughout the world is a record of entrepreneurial initiative, but it is also a record of sordid municipal and governmental corruption, of the trading of insider information for profit. This unsavoury record is documented in the press, in the records of the courts, in legal judgments, in prosecutions, and, significantly in films, drama, television and books. (The recent South Riding series on BBC, based on the book and set in the 1930s, was one such example of municipal corruption, even though the outcomes were desirable.)

How much of the development speculation associated with the Glasgow East regeneration project was legitimate, legal and ethical entrepreneurship, and how much - if any - was corrupt, we may never know. What we do know is the appalling record of the City of Glasgow over recent years. I need only mention the Purcell Affair - Purcell's gangster links - and its ramifications, the ALEO's- the cosy gravy  train, and other scandals involving expenses and complex links between media, PR firms, etc. to make the point that Glasgow City Council has never been the cleanest or most transparent of local authorities.

I have blogged extensively  on many of these matters - a couple of links -

The insidious corruption of democracy, ALEOs and GCC

Question in commons about Purcell and possible corruption in Glasgow

(My closing remarks in the Purcell blog seem hollow now, in that there was a Tory win and a hung Parliament, but we got something as bad or worse!)

Saturday, 29 January 2011

Tweeting time: social media - Celtic, and party indifference in Glasgow East

Peter Curran

moridura Peter Curran

@hspolitics Solidarity, like Tommy, is committed to Scotland's independence - George Galloway is committed to the rotten UK dependency.

Peter Curran

moridura Peter Curran

@alisonthewliss Pop round to 10 Ardenlea Street, Alison - Margaret Jaconelli would love to see her councillor before 16th Feb court hearing.

Peter Curran

moridura Peter Curran

Disenchanted Labour voters and trades unionists have few real choices in England - but in Scotland, they do - the SNP. May 5th is critical.

Peter Curran

moridura Peter Curran

The Labour Party at the top is rotten to the core, fatally compromised. But Labour people - and TUs - are not - they're in the wrong party.

Peter Curran

@Michael_Grieve I read it, Michael, and I care. But Labour put us in this mess and the ConLibs are compounding it. But I know you care too

Peter Curran

moridura Peter Curran

#SNP Margaret Jaconelli goes to court on 16th Feb to face GCC and the Glasgow Labour political machine. If the SNP won't help, who will?

Peter Curran

moridura Peter Curran

#SNP Big statements, bid ideas, vision and hope are needed, SNP. 96 days left - no time for trivial social media messages. Scotland waits -

Peter Curran

moridura Peter Curran

Mubarak's leadership is threatened by social media and democracy. Take a hint from the SNP - tweet about musical preferences. That'll do it!

Peter Curran

moridura Peter Curran

Glasgow Eastenders look after their own. Well, they did when I lived there - but not any more. Ardenlea Street? Margaret Jaconelli?

Peter Curran

moridura Peter Curran

Exactly what community do you think you're in, Celtic? Could a persecuted family in Dalmarnock be part of it? Persecuted over Big Sport. ???

Peter Curran

moridura Peter Curran

Celtic Football Club has Celtic in the Community, but ignores all appeals over Margaret Jaconelli and GCC. Who is the Chairman? John Reid...

Peter Curran

moridura Peter Curran

The Arab countries use social media to break the power of power elites. A critical election in Scotland imminent - social media are vital >>

Peter Curran

moridura Peter Curran

>> but we tweet trivia about Desert Island Disks. The UK is controlled by a privileged elite, the nuclear threat is latent - big messages???

Friday, 21 January 2011

A tale of two newspapers - The Herald and the Scottish Sun: The Margaret Jaconelli Case

Margaret Jaconelli appeared at the Sheriff Court, Glasgow yesterday in pursuit of her case for fair compensation for her wholly-owned tenement flat in Ardenlea Street, Dalmarnock.

The purpose of the hearing was to consider the eviction order Glasgow City Council is attempting to enforce against her, and to hear Margaret’s claim that GCC had not followed due process of law in previous hearings. She was unrepresented because her solicitor had withdrawn from the case, and she therefore secured a new hearing date of 16th February to permit her to find and brief a new solicitor.

In court were two newspaper reporters, Gerry Braiden of the Herald and Paul Drury, a freelance reporter acting for the Scottish Sun newspaper. Paul Drury has been in contact with Margaret by telephone and had direct contact and dialogue with her in the court. Gerry Braiden has had no contact with Margaret since the Herald’s and Evening Times’ previous hostile and pejorative coverage of her case, and made no attempt to speak to her, before or after the court proceedings or by telephone.

The Herald and the Scottish Sun today both ran significant stories about the case, but from very different perspectives - see links below

The 'story' in today's 'Herald'

The story in today's Scottish 'Sun'

The Sun focused on the massive profits made by Grantly Developments on two plots of land bought for a total of £45k in 1988/89 very close to Margaret Jaconelli’s home in Ardenlea Street, and the analysis made by a Glasgow University lecturer, published author and expert on urban regeneration and development, Dr. Libby Porter of the the two valuations made by Glasgow City Council of two plots of land under the compulsory purchase legislation.

The Sun used these calculations to run under the headline

£3.6m - THAT’LL BE JUST GRAN

Expert’s price tag on £30k pad

Exclusive by Paul Drury

The Herald, in contrast, with no recent contact with Margaret Jaconelli and no contact with Dr. Libby Porter, chose to run under the headline

 

Four-week eviction delay for woman on Games site

Grandmother secures reprieve after being dropped by solicitor

Gerry Braiden

 

The headline and sub-header are not too bad, but the story that follows is mainly pejorative in tone and content, consistent with the Herald and Gerry Braiden’s previous coverage of the MJ case.

But there are disturbing aspects in this story relating to the facts presented by Gerry Braiden. He refers to the meeting between Margaret Jaconelli and her solicitor, Mr. Carmichael with the Glasgow City Council District Valuer, Mr. Davidson. No other person was present. No offer of any kind was made to Margaret Jaconelli and her solicitor at that meeting.

But Gerry Braiden says (last para column two) in his report today -

“The Herald understands that at the meeting, Mrs. Jaconelli was offered around £90,000, which included money for the flat, upheaval and compensation. Mrs. Jaconelli is understood to have have rejected this, and although she is no longer demanding £360,000 for the two-bedroom tenement property, she is now believed to be holding out for a figure of about £250,000”

Every word of this is either untrue or a distortion of the facts, and certain very disturbing questions are raised about the Herald’s sources of information, their accuracy and their motivation.

1. No offer of any kind was made at the meeting on Tuesday 18th of January by the Glasgow City Council District Valuer.

2. A verbal offer was made at a later point in time verbally to Margaret Jaconelli’s solicitor, of £90,000, which he relayed verbally to Margaret Jaconelli by telephone, and no terms and conditions were specified in these verbal exchanges.

3. Margaret Jaconelli neither accepted nor rejected the verbal offer - her position was - and is - that she will give full consideration to any offer made to her in writing with all terms and conditions detailed in the offer.

4. Margaret Jaconelli has never ‘demanded’ £360,000 for her flat. Such a figure was quoted as an example of how various interpretations of value could be posited if the huge settlements made with various developers - The Grantly figures - were applied to MJ’s property, assuming some form of proportionality were applied to the relative sizes of the plots of land involved. (The Sun’s £3.6m illustrates the most extreme comparison.)

5. In the discussions with the District Valuer, MJ and her solicitor stated what her aspirations were - to achieve an agreed settlement that permitted her to buy a similar two-bedroomed, red sandstone flat in an area of her choice and have all her legal, conveyancing and moving costs met, plus some recognition of the excessive heating costs she has sustained over many years as as result of being forced to live in a tenement block where every other tenant or owner had left, and have some compensation for the disruption to her life caused by GCC.

Some discussion and speculation ensued as to what this figure might be, but no specific demand was made. The District Valuer made a reference to two-bedroom flat being on the market for around £63k. Since this represented the bottom of the market, MJ and her solicitor rejected such a figure.

The disturbing questions raised by Gerry Braiden and the Herald’s article are these -

From whom did Gerry Braiden and the Herald learn of an offer of £90,000 being made which was known only to MJ and her solicitor? On the face of it, it can only have been from a source within Glasgow City Council, since neither Braiden nor the Herald spoke to MJ or her solicitor?

Why was the offer misrepresented as being made at the meeting with the District Valuer, when no offer was made at that meeting?

Why did the Herald report there being highly specific terms and conditions to the offer, when no such terms and conditions have been specified, either verbally or in writing by GCC?

Why did Gerry Braiden inaccurately report that MJ had rejected such an offer, without interviewing her or her solicitor, when her clear position is that she will give full consideration to any offer properly made in writing with all terms and conditions detailed?

The $64,000 question - or perhaps the £3.5 million question is - Why has the Herald consistently presented a highly pejorative and one-sided view of Margaret Jaconelli’s case, one that at every stage has been selective in the facts presented, effectively only giving a platform to Glasgow City Council’s version of events, and leaving an impression of the vulnerable, ordinary - but extraordinary - Glasgow grandmother as a greedy, obstructive woman making unreasonable claims?

Nothing could be further from the truth, as anyone who has spoken to Margaret Jaconelli will testify. I came across Margaret’s case by accident, and have only known her since she contacted me following my first blog on the subject. We have never met, yet I will now stay with her to the end of her persecution by powerful forces in Glasgow, and until she reaches what she regards as an equitable settlement.

Why did Chris Leslie, a  Glasgow photographer and filmmaker, engage with Margaret’s case, champion her cause, and make a very moving film of her plight for YouTube?

Why did Dr. Libby Porter, a respected academic and expert on urban regenerations projects and planning law at Glasgow University’s Department of Urban Studies become interested in the facts of this strange and disturbing case?

The answer is that Margaret Jaconelli is an extraordinary woman, resilient and determined to put her life together in the face of an onslaught from powerful forces in Glasgow society. She supports the development, supports and welcomes the Commonwealth Games, and is perfectly willing to move - but only if basic principles of justice and equity prevail, and she receives a settlement that enables her and her husband to resume their lives as hard-working Scots, typical of the very best in the Glasgow and specifically the Glasgow East end character.

And during Margaret’s long fight, where the hell have the Labour Party been? Where has Anas Sarwar,MP been? Where has Frank McAveety, MSP been? The thing that used to be the People’s Party has been conspicuous by its absence and its silence, as a City council controlled by their party attempts to destroy Margaret Jaconelli.

And what of my own party, the Scottish National Party?

They have been aware of the case, they have expressed interest and concern, and Councillor Billy McAllister - that rare beast, a Glasgow Councillor with a deep concern for equity and justice, always willing to confront corruption in the city -  has been working hard behind the scenes for justice for Margaret.

But, SNP, you have not yet done enough or said enough publicly! Now is the time to show where you stand, clearly and unequivocally. A helluva lots of Glasgow voters will have your stance in mind when they go to the polls in May, in about 100 days or so.

Thursday, 20 January 2011

A great bulwark against corruption - the Glasgow Councillors Declaration of Interests document

Born and bred in Glasgow, I feel a surge of understandable civic pride when I see how the law protects the citizens of Glasgow from corruption and venality among their elected officials. (see Declaration of Councillors Interest document, reproduced below)

Secure in the knowledge that the legislation on Ethical Standards in Public Life and the Register of Interests Regulations requires every Glasgow city councillor to complete such a comprehensive declaration of interests, I can relax. Democracy is safe, in Glasgow at least. (I am certain that Edinburgh has a similar document, but corruption among elected officials in Edinburgh has not been at the forefront of my civic concerns in recent years.)

Corruption among elected officials strikes at the very heart of democracy, opening up the certainty of involvement of organised crime, perversion of journalistic values and a free press, with not even the processes of law and policing being exempt from the spreading cancer.

When corruption exists in government, commercial dealings are insidiously influenced: ethical procurement practices, tendering processes, contractual processes are all subject to its poisonous effects.

The information controlled by elected politicians, instead of being a force for openness, consultation and engagement with the electorate and the people, becomes something to be traded for profit. Insider information, say on the timing of a major city development project, if leaked to speculators could yield enormous unearned profits.

No one, no person, no institution, however venerable, is immune from political corruption. The levers of power have a hidden hand at their base: the framing and enactment of legislation is perverted by considerations of private greed, patronage and profit. And since corruption and organised crime know no local or national boundaries, forces and interests far beyond the democratic structures of constituencies, regions and countries exert insidious influences, invisible to the people.

The law-abiding, moral, ethical citizen become the victim of corruption, and is even obliged to be compliant, or at least silent in the face of it, by subtle mix of appeals to self-interest, to career prospects and advancement, to misplaced loyalties to party, religion and social group.

When this approach fails, and the most resilient individuals resist it, then an escalating process of intimidation, smear, manipulation of legal processes and where necessary, threats and violence come into play.

So it is with a feeling of relief and civic pride that I look at the great bulwarks that protect us from corruption - the law, a free press and media, and of course, a little declaration of interest, of which the Glasgow City Council form, reproduced below, is a fine example.

Let Glasgow flourish!

REGISTER OF COUNCILLORS’ INTERESTS
The Ethical Standards in Public Life etc. (
Scotland) Act 2000
(Register of Interests) Regulations 2003
Last updated 6 May 2009

I, (name of councillor), a member of Glasgow City Council give notice that I have set out in the attached form, my interests as required to be declared under the Ethical Standards in Public Life etc. (Scotland) Act 2000 (Register of Interests) Regulations 2003. I have also ensured that where I have no applicable interest I have stated “none” in the relevant section(s).
I further understand that it is my responsibility to notify the Chief Executive, in writing, of any applicable change(s) in circumstances within one month of that/those changes occurring.
Please complete this form in conjunction with reading the relevant paragraphs as detailed at each section (extracted from the Councillors’ Code of Conduct) together with the list of definitions included within the register. Please note the paragraph numbering relates to the sequence within the Code.
If you have any doubts as to whether or not you should declare a particular interest, it is wiser to supply the information rather than omit something which you should have declared.

1 REMUNERATION.
4.3 You have a registerable interest where you receive remuneration by virtue of being:
 employed;
 self-employed;
 the holder of an office;
 a director of an undertaking;
 a partner in a firm; or
 undertaking a trade, profession or vocation, or other work.
4.4 You do not have a registerable interest simply because you are a councillor.
4.5 If a position is not remunerated it does not need to be registered under this category. However, unremunerated directorships may need to be registered under category 2 “Related Undertakings”.
4.6 If you receive any allowances in relation to membership of any organisation the fact that you receive such an allowance must be registered.
4.7 When registering employment, you must give the name of the employer, the nature of its business and the nature of the post held in the organisation.
4.8 When registering self-employment, you must provide the name and give details of the nature of the business. When registering an interest in a partnership, you must give the name of the partnership and the nature of its business.
4.9 Where you otherwise undertake a trade, profession or vocation, or any other work, the detail to be given is the nature of the work and its regularity. For example, if you write for a newspaper, you must give the name of the publication and the frequency of articles for which you are paid.
4.10 When registering a directorship, it is necessary to provide the registered name of the undertaking in which the directorship is held and detail the nature of its business.
4.11 Registration of a pension is not required as this falls outside the scope of the category.

(a) Give particulars of all paid employment specifying name(s) of employer(s), nature of business and title(s) of position(s) held. If self-employed give name and nature of business.

(b) If you are a partner in a business give name of partnership and nature of its business.

(c) Give details of any office/membership held by you (outwith Glasgow City Council) for which you receive payment – eg Trade Union or professional
body. (Do not include any office/membership for which you do not receive remuneration, this is dealt with at Section 7).

(d) Give details of any directorship(s) held by you (as specified at 4.10 above).

(e) Give details of other paid work (as specified at 4.9 above).

2 RELATED UNDERTAKINGS.
4.12 You must register any directorships held which are themselves not remunerated but where the company (or other undertaking) in question is a subsidiary of, or a parent of, a company (or other undertaking) in which you hold a remunerated directorship.
4.13 You must register the name of the subsidiary or parent company or other undertaking and the nature of its business, and its relationship to the company or other undertaking in which you are a director and from which you receive remuneration.
4.14 The situations to which the above paragraphs apply are as follows:
you are a director of a board of an undertaking and receive remuneration – declared under Category one – and
you are a director of a parent or subsidiary undertaking but do not receive remuneration in that capacity.


Give details of any directorships held by you, as specified above.

3 CONTRACTS.
4.15 You have a registerable interest where you (or a firm in which you are a partner, or an undertaking in which you are a director or in which you have shares of a value as described in paragraph 4.20 below) have made a contract with the Council of which you are a member:
(i)
under which goods or services are to be provided, or works are to be
executed; and
(ii) which has not been fully discharged.
4.16 You must register a description of the contract, including its duration, but excluding the consideration.

Give details, as specified above, in relation to contracts with Glasgow City Council which have not been fully discharged, including description of that/those contract(s) and duration.

4 ELECTION EXPENSES.
4.17 You must register a statement of any assistance towards election expenses received within the last twelve months.
Give details of any assistance received over the last 12 months as specified above.

5 HOUSES, LAND AND BUILDINGS.
4.18 You have a registerable interest where you own or have any other right or interest in houses, land and buildings, such as being an owner or a tenant, including council tenant.
4.19 You are required to give the address of the property, or otherwise give a description sufficient to identify it.


Give details of houses, land and buildings as specified above.

6 SHARES AND SECURITIES.
4.20 You have a registerable interest where you have an interest in shares comprised in the share capital of a company or other body and the nominal value of the shares is:
(i)
greater than 1% of the issued share capital of the company or other
body; or
(ii) greater than £25,000.


Give details of any shares and securities held by you as specified above.

7 NON FINANCIAL INTERESTS.
4.21 Councillors may also have significant non-financial interests and it is equally important that relevant interests such as membership or holding office in public bodies, companies, clubs, societies and organisations such as trades unions and voluntary organisations, are registered and described. In this context, non-financial interests are those which members of the public might reasonably think could influence your actions, speeches or votes in the Council.


Give details of any office/membership held by you (outwith Glasgow City Council), for which you do not receive remuneration, as specified above.

8 GIFTS AND HOSPITALITY.
3.6 You must never ask for gifts or hospitality.
3.7 You are personally responsible for all decisions connected with the acceptance of gifts or hospitality offered to you and for avoiding the risk of damage to public confidence in your Council and in local government.
As a general guide, it is usually appropriate to refuse offers except:
(a) isolated gifts of a trivial character or inexpensive seasonal gifts such as a calendar or diary or other simple items of office equipment of modest value;
(b) normal hospitality associated with your duties and which would reasonably be regarded as appropriate; or
(c) civic gifts received on behalf of the Counc
il.