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Showing posts with label Glasgow City Council. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Glasgow City Council. Show all posts

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Extracts from a poem - read it, Glasgow Labour-controlled City Council - persecutors of the Jaconellis, betrayers of the Glasgow people


I commend these excerpts from MacDiarmid’s poem to Labour-controlled Glasgow City Council, to the Glasgow Labour Party, to Michael Kelly (for his facile Scotsman article today) and to all those shallow, complacent journalists who could not find the facts other than the ones fed to them by Glasgow City Council’s PR handouts, and who would not have recognised a true human interest story - and tragedy in the making - if it had reared up and bit them.

John Maclean would have recoiled in utter disbelief and revulsion from the thing the Labour Party has become in the country of its birth, Scotland, and notoriously, in the City of Glasgow.

And I pay tribute to those who did recognise the truth and the facts, and who offered objective reporting to the Jaconellis, and their wholehearted support.

(I am indebted to my friend Gordon Cowell, a true Scot living in Spain, for immediately seeing the relevance of the poem and telling me about it. Thanks Gordon!)

JOHN MACLEAN (1879-1923)

All the buildings in Glasgow are grey

With cruelty and meanness of spirit,

But once in a while one greyer than the rest

A song shall merit

Since a miracle of true courage is seen

For a moment its walls between.

Look at it, you fools, with unseeing eyes

And deny it with lying lips!

----------

And ‘justice’ may well do its filthy work

Behind walls as filthy as these

And congratulate itself blindly and never know

The prisoner takes the light with him as he goes below.

Stand close, stand close, and block out the light

As long as you can, you ministers and lawyers,

-----

the light of truth in on the base pretence

Of Justice that sentenced him behind these grey walls.

All law is the contemptible fraud he declared it.

Like a lightning-bolt at last the workers’ wrath falls

On all such castles of cowards whether they be

Uniformed in ermine, or blue, or khaki.

Royal honours for murderers and fools! The ‘fount of honour’

Is poisoned and spreads its corruption all through,

But Scotland will think yet of the broken body

And unbreakable spirit …

Hugh MacDiarmid (1934)




POSTSCRIPT AND CORRECTION

Gordon Cowell - who sent me the poem, offers this valuable correction -

In today’s blog you say:



“Labour - the party of John MacLean and Keir Hardie”



Well, John MacLean never in fact belonged to the Labour Party. He considered it an inadequate vehicle for the profound social change he sought and dedicated his life to (indeed gave his life for).

He was, beyond doubt, one of Scotland’s greats. Here’s Matt McGinn’s tribute to him:

Keir Hardie, as every schoolboy knows (?), was a founder of the Labour Party and he made damn sure that in the first “manifesto” Home Rule for Scotland (and Ireland) was well up on the list of demands (see attached photo of a leaflet where Home Rule takes pride of place – top left-hand corner!).

This demand was, of course, swiftly kicked under the carpet by the trough-swillers who hi-jacked the Party, realising that the pickings would be much grander at Westminster. Scottish Labour should never be allowed to forget this and should be reminded at every opportunity that in this too they are betraying constantly their own roots. For them it is just one more piece of ballast to be jettisoned in order to keep their hot-air balloon wafting above the heads of the people.

MATT McGINN

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Margaret Jaconelli walks taller and has had an idea …

Margaret Jaconelli has announced her candidacy as an independent for the Scottish Parliament today. Her campaign HQ will be 10 Ardenlea Street Dalmarnock, her threatened home of 35 years, under siege by Labour-controlled Glasgow City Council.

Last Saturday, Margaret confronted Glasgow City Council Labour leader, Gordon Matheson outside the Labour Party Conference. Her persecutor-in-chief hastily ran away, refusing to talk when he realised who he had by the hand.

Undeterred, Margaret went on to confront Ed Miliband, who did listen, took her phone number and promised to act. (reported in the Sunday Post with picture.)

Margaret exhibits fully the qualities and hopes that Jack McConnell, former Scottish First Minister, expressed in his farewell speech at Holyrood today -

… will walk a little taller, cringe a little less and have ideas above their station.”


Saturday, 19 March 2011

GCC Jaconelli misinformation

The Herald report today by Helen McArdle was much more balanced, fair and accurate - and human - than most of the Herald’s previous coverage has been. Some misconceptions have been corrected - the GCC lie on the offer of accommodation, for instance. (They have never offered permanent rented accommodation to Margaret, and in any case such an offer was irrelevant to a house owner seeking financial compensation for having her house taken away from her.)

But Helen McArdle accepted at face value GCC’s deliberate misrepresentation, with partial information, of the facts of the mediation offer.

This ready acceptance of one side of an argument from the powerful without checking the other side from the vulnerable is dangerous, especially when the facts are readily available, and have already been reported by other news media.

The facts, Helen, are these -

1. Glasgow City Council rejected a formal written request by Margaret Jaconelli for mediation, a fact stated by her lawyer subsequently at a court hearing.

2. On Thursday evening, a representative of the Scottish Government made an offer to GCC to supply a mediator in the dispute. GCC rejected this offer out of hand.

3. On Friday, faced with a glare of publicity and media interest in the Jaconellis, and the widely publicised news of the Scottish Government offer, GCC suddenly gave the Jaconellis an time-limited ultimatum - vacate the property immediately and we will accept mediation, a bullying tactic that this vulnerable family, playing the only card they have in the face of the might of Glasgow City Council, the Labour Party, the law and law enforcement agencies, refused.

These are the facts. But perhaps it was too much to expect the Herald to report that an SNP Government had offered to help resolve this needless and damaging dispute, which is casting a dark stain over the Commonwealth Games, especially when the Labour-controlled GCC are rolling like a juggernaut over the lives, hope and dreams of an ordinary Glasgow family.

Another fact worthy of mention is that although the Jaconelli’s home is immediately adjacent to the Athlete’s Village site, in fact their land will be used to build private housing for sale by the developer Mactaggart & Mickel.

I don’t want to be grudging, Helen McArdle - this was the fairest Herald account of the Jaconelli’s long purgatory that has been given so far, and it captured some of the human reality of their plight. Just a little more fact checking and attention to detail, and you and the Herald will be almost there.

Thanks, Helen and the Herald!

Friday, 18 March 2011

Margaret Jaconelli–the ultimatum from GCC late this afternoon

(SEE END OF BLOG FOR EVENING UPDATE AND BBC VIDEO)

My understanding (by telephone 4.20 today) is that Glasgow City Council, having originally rejected the offer from the Scottish Government to mediate in the dispute, this afternoon offered to accept mediation if Margaret first vacated her home, i.e. mediation will only be accepted by GCC if the Jaconelli’s give up their sole bargaining chip in the fight against a rich, powerful adversary, with all the resources of the law, law enforcement and Labour political clout on their side.

Margaret has rejected this – it was her decision in consultation with her husband. I have no first hand knowledge of what her lawyer Mike Dailly’s advice was, but I have no doubt that, whatever his advice was, he will still fully support his client in the new situation.

As a professional negotiator by background and training, I have only this to say -

Mediation is the process of an independent third party attempting to assist parties facing deadlock and conflict to reach an amicable resolution to their dispute. A mediator is not a arbitrator – he or she does not offer a preferred solution or binding decisions, and the parties are free to resume their previous courses of action if the mediation process fails.

But an essential pre-requirement of mediation is that the parties have defined their settlement points and identified the gap that separates them, and crucially, that they are willing to indicate their willingness to enter the mediation with an open mind and to vary their positions if the mediation process is successful.

This is the bargaining gap that must be bridged by the parties, assisted by the mediator.

Margaret has always been willing to do this. GCC has not, and gave no such indication today. The gap between her and Glasgow City Council is money and money only, and it is the distance between her target settlement figure (unknown to me) and Glasgow City Council’s last offer of £90,000.

If Margaret has not yet identified her target settlement point, she must do so now, and there must be no suggestion by either party that an easy option of splitting that difference is the right solution.

If this is done, both parties – Glasgow City Council and Margaret – then know exactly what separates them, and can assess the costs to themselves of remaining intransigent or accepting mediation to assist a compromise solution.

More importantly, the people of Glasgow and the wider Scottish public must know what this money gap is, and assess the behaviour of the parties in relation to it.




EVENING POSTSCRIPT
Tonight's BBC news carried a report on the Siege of Ardenlea Street, and also a written statement from Glasgow City Council. The misinformation continues - GCC say that Margaret Jaconelli has been offered £90,000 and alternative accommodation. No such detailed joint offer has been made or formalised in writing.

Temporary rented accommodation was offered last year - I emphasise, TEMPORARY accommodation, and the £90,000 offer was only made at the 11th hour this year by telephone, with no written details.

£90k and PERMANENT rented accommodation have never been offered, but in any case, rented accommodation is NOT appropriate.

The Jaconelli's home of almost 35 years is being taken from them by GCC - they wholly own it, and the only appropriate offer is full compensation permitting the purchase of a comparable new home in an area of their choice. Glasgow City Council have destroyed Dalmarnock.

How Glasgow City Council have misrepresented Margaret Jaconelli’s situation to the press

The following points have been repeated ad nauseam in the media and press about the Margaret Jaconelli case, fed by Glasgow City Council’s publicity machine. They are either untrue or highly partial and distorted versions of the truth. They are, in the true original sense of the word coined by Norman Mailer - factoids: things which everybody thinks are true except they ain’t.

Let’s nail them one by one …

Factoid 1. Margaret Jaconelli is refusing to give up her home, thus holding up the development of the Athlete’s Village for the Commonwealth Games, a desirable and necessary part of the regeneration of Glasgow’s East end.

Untrue: Margaret Jaconelli supports the regeneration project, recognises the inevitability of giving up her home, but has refused to do so until she is adequately compensated for its loss, her costs and the disruption to her life.

The Athlete’s Village is not being built on the site of MJ’s home - it is being built nearby. MJ’s home is required to allow Mactaggart & Mickel, a private developer and housebuilder, to build private housing for sale on the site.

Factoid 2. Margaret Jaconelli demanded £320,00 compensation for her home from Glasgow City Council, (GCC and media subtext: “…and is therefore greedy and unrealistic”)

Untrue: In one instance, a calculation was made contrasting two investment decisions - MJ’s decision to buy her house back  from Bridgeton and Dalmarnock Housing Association in 1998 for a sum of £30k (a 1990 valuation) and a developer’s decision to buy two parcels of land of vacant land between 1988 and 1989 for £45k. It showed that GCC, armed with the same compulsory purchase legislation and legal rights to acquire both, freely negotiated a price with the developer, Grantly, of £5.5 million pounds, yielding a profit of almost £5.5.m, yet offered MJ the 1990 valuation of £3ok, and refused to negotiate or use Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) to resolve the dispute.

As an illustration of the gross inequity of these two approaches by GCC, a calculation was made showing that, on an investment versus investment basis, an argument could be advanced that MJ should have been offered £3.5m , but even taking a realistic fraction of this because of the difference in land occupied by MJs home and the developer’s plots, a figure of £320,00 could be advanced as a figure.

This figure was never intended as anything other than an illustration of the gross inequity of treatment being meted out by GCC, but somewhere along the line, the figure appeared as a negotiating demand on GCC, without MJs knowledge or express authorisation, and was seized upon by GCC, the tabloids and the media. MJ would have happily settled in 2006 for a figure of £90,00 - a figure ultimately and belatedly only offered verbally this year - 2011 - by GCC, and never formalised in writing. (An earlier formal offer of £85,000 was made late last year, 2010.) Between 2006 and late 2010, no offers were made by GCC, contrary to a statement made yesterday by GCC and reported in today’s ‘Sun’ that “we have been negotiating with her since 2007 over mutually agreeable compensation terms and a new home for the family.”

Factoid 3: Glasgow City Council  offered permanent alternative accommodation to Margaret Jaconelli and negotiated on the the location and nature of that accommodation.

Untrue: MJ was only offered temporary accommodation, on a take-it-or-leave-it basis and was expected to pay rental of around £400 per month to GCC for such temporary accommodation. Leaving aside the suitability of such temporary accommodation and its location, this offered no financial solution to a house owner who owned her property free and clear.

Factoid 4: Margaret Jaconelli is being unreasonable in rejecting a verbal offer of £90,000 for her home (which has never been formalised in writing with terms and conditions) in full and final settlement of all her claims, an offer that would have satisfied her in 2006.

Untrue: Since 2006, Margaret Jaconelli has been forced to pit her slender resources of money, time and energy against a giant City Council, one of the largest in the UK, with formidable resources of money, political influence, and able to call on the services of highly-paid professional, and legal advisors, including QCs.

She has incurred legal fees that she cannot afford, and heating and electricity bills way in excess of normal because of GCC’s actions in the vacant flats that surround her, actions that turned her once bustling, lively neighbourhood into a grim wasteland.

MJ could have bought a comparable property to the one she is losing in the middle of the price range for such properties in 2006 for £90,000, but she cannot do so now, because, prices have risen in that period, even in the face of the property slowdown after the crash.

Margaret Jaconelli’s settlement figure, which is a matter for her and her new, highly-capable lawyer, Mike Dailly of Govan Law Centre, must now reflect those changes and her costs if she is to put her life back the way it was before Glasgow City Council, the law and the media attempted to roll over her little family life like a Juggernaut, to a shameful and deafening silence from every political party in Scotland.

That settlement figure must be separated from GCC’s last offer of £90,000 by a sum that is tiny in relation to GCC’s resources and the millions they have put into the pockets of speculative property developers. It probably represents a few months’ wages for a professional footballer, including those of Celtic Football Club, a stone’s throw away from 10 Ardenlea Street, a club that has maintained an equally shameful deafening silence over this Glasgow granny’s plight, in spite of their boast to be ‘Celtic in the Community’.

The outcome of today will be a sordid and depressing spectacle as this little Glasgow family have their doors broken down and are forcibly evicted from their home of 34 years.

But even at this eleventh hour, the great City of Glasgow could show some humanity. This needn’t happen!

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, 5 February 2011

Margaret Jaconelli faces eviction after 16th February unless she gets help - legal, political and media help

Peter Curran

moridura Peter Curran

#MargaretJaconelli Celtic in the Community has failed MJ. Why? Ask John Reid, Chairman, former Labour Minister. He used to care about people.

Peter Curran

moridura Peter Curran

#MargaretJaconelli Celtic in the Community has failed MJ. What community are they in? The one of wealth, celebrity & huge developer profits?

Peter Curran

moridura Peter Curran

#MargaretJaconelli Where are the human values of Glasgow's Valuations Department? How do they value the life of a Glasgow grandmother?

Peter Curran

moridura Peter Curran

#MargaretJaconelli One developer alone made profit of £5.5m on a plot 200 yards from her home. Mactaggart & Mickel will profit from building

Peter Curran

moridura Peter Curran

#MargaretJaconelli Lived in her home since 1976 - her home, her neighbourhood, her finances destroyed by GCC. All she wants is a fair price

Peter Curran

moridura Peter Curran

Compulsory purchase law - a legal maze of conflicting, outmoded legislation. Ordinary Glaswegians destroyed by it, developers make millions

Peter Curran

moridura Peter Curran

#MargaretJaconelli She's not refusing to move, nor to negotiate - she only wants a fair price. The developers have made millions from GCC.

Peter Curran

moridura Peter Curran

#MargaretJaconelli Predictably failed by Labour, ConLibs, The Herald, The Record - failed by Glasgow City Councillors. But surely not deserted by SNP???

Peter Curran

moridura Peter Curran

#MargaretJaconelli If ever there was a case for MEDIATION, this is it. Can someone act NOW before 16th Feb court eviction appearance?

Peter Curran

moridura Peter Curran

@David_Mc_Donald Thanks for that David - the family are alone, vulnerable, without legal representation. They need help now from their party

Peter Curran

moridura Peter Curran

#SNP Margaret Jaconelli faces eviction in 11 days. Labour, LibDems and Tories predictably silent. But the SNP? John Mason? Alison Thewliss?

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.

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Margaret Jaconelli - fair compensation or brutal eviction?

A link to a very moving and pertinent YouTube video made some time ago about MJ's situation, by Chris Leslie, a supporter.



Margaret met with the District Valuer yesterday and presented her claim for what she sees as an equitable settlement - a broadly comparable 2-bedroom flat to her present home, which she owns free and clear. I know the standard of such homes - my first flat when I got married in 1960 was just such a tenement flat, substantial, with generously proportioned rooms.

GCC seems to think she can be fobbed off with a 2-bedroom flat at the bottom end of the price range in relevant districts, roughly £63k to £140k plus. The top end is represented by exactly the kind of flat MJ now lives in, before the area and environs were vandalised by GCC and the development process. Margaret also wants her legal and conveyancing purchase fees paid and has a claim for excessive heating and lighting bills caused by the emptying and boarding up of all the flats surrounding her in the Ardenlea Street tenement.

No resolution was reached, and no offer was made by the valuer at yesterdays meeting. MJ now faces a hearing at the Sheriff Court in Glasgow at 10.00 am tomorrow, Thursday 20th, which will consider whether due process has been followed. It is essentially an eviction hearing, and an eviction order could be confirmed tomorrow morning and action to evict would follow swiftly thereafter.

The Scottish National Party has been kept fully apprised of the case, SNP councillors on the GCC are actively pursuing aspects of her case: Billy McAllister, SNP Glasgow City councillor is in active discussion with Margaret about her case. The SNP Communications Director, Peter Murrell is also closely monitoring the case, and reporting to the highest levels in the Scottish Government.

At the court hearing tomorrow, MJ will be accompanied by friends at court, and the freelance reporter Paul Dury, who placed the sympathetic Scottish Sun coverage of the case, will also be present. The Scottish Daily Express have been in touch with Margaret.

There has been a predictable, shameful and deafening silence from the Herald, the Evening Times and the Daily Record, all Labour-supporting papers, with a disgraceful representation for bias in what should be objective news reporting.

The Herald, which as the Glasgow Herald can lay claim to be the oldest newspaper in continuous publication in the world, has fallen a long way from its formerly high standards of journalism and editorial objectivity, almost as fast as its circulation has over recent years.

If  individual don't matter enough to get their voices heard in this tortured world of ours, what does matter?

A last word - Glasgow Sheriff Court is in the old Gorbals district of Glasgow, famous and infamous in turn for its slums, its old Glasgow gangs and the seminal 1930s novel No Mean City.

But today's Glasgow, under Labour and the GCC can be a very mean city, and a brutal injustice is being done to an archetypal Glaswegian family here by the very people and party that claims to be their champions.

Saturday, 15 January 2011

The SNP must act now on the Margaret Jaconelli case

Peter Curran

moridura Peter Curran

@jonsnowC4 Jon, an injustice is being done by Glasgow City Council, in the name of the Commonwealth Games, to a grandmother losing her home.

Peter Curran

moridura Peter Curran

If the SNP isn't' about justice for the little people of Scotland what is it about? Labour, Glasgow media & GCC don't care but the SNP must.

Peter Curran

moridura Peter Curran

SNP and Alex Salmond - show Glasgow that you care about individuals, not just big money developers and Big Sport. Labour doesn't give a damn

Peter Curran

moridura Peter Curran

All you SNP politicians, tweeting happily about your cosy Saturday night - any room in your thoughts for a lone woman fighting for her home?

Peter Curran

moridura Peter Curran

Where are all the socially-aware Glasgow intelligentsia, highly vocal on big issues, when a real injustice exists over Margaret Jaconelli?

Peter Curran

moridura Peter Curran

@Michaels_Dad Thanks. anything you can do - letters, tweets, contacting SNP - will be very welcome. http://gamesmonitor2014.wordpress.com/

Peter Curran

moridura Peter Curran

Margaret Jaconelli: a lone grandmother fighting GCC, Herald, Evening Tmes, Glasgow Labour Party. SNP??? moridura.blogspot.com/2011/01/margar… via @moridura,

Peter Curran

moridura Peter Curran

@alisonthewliss She's a lone woman under major stress.Why don't you contact her, Alison? moridura.blogspot.com/2011/01/margar… via @moridura

Peter Curran

moridura Peter Curran

@alisonthewliss Have you anything to say about the Jaconelli case, Alison - now in the last chance saloon?

Peter Curran

moridura Peter Curran

Margaret Jaconelli and Glasgow City Council - last chance saloon to avert an injustice and a tragedy. moridura.blogspot.com/2011/01/margar… via @moridura

Margaret Jaconelli and Glasgow City Council - last chance saloon

This is the text of a letter to the Herald, which they have not published. There may be many reasons, including legal ones for that editorial decision, and it is one they have a right to make.

UNPUBLISHED LETTER TO THE HERALD

Next week (20th January) Margaret Jaconelli's final appeal against Glasgow City Council's compulsory purchase of her home and eviction order to clear the way for the development of the Commonwealth Games site is scheduled to go to a Court hearing. It will be preceded by a meeting with Glasgow City Council on the 18th, presumably to attempt to reach a last minute settlement before the Court hearing

If this decision goes against Margaret, a Scottish grandmother simply trying to get an equitable price for her tenement home, she will be faced with crippling legal costs which will destroy her economically and emotionally.

Her basic position as I understand it is to get a price that will enable her to buy a roughly comparable property in an area of her choice, and to have all legal costs of that purchase met.

Meanwhile, developers have reaped rich rewards from land purchase and re-sale deals with Glasgow Corporation, by a process of negotiation - exactly what Margaret appears to be being denied .

A gross inequity and perhaps a tragedy for an ordinary Glaswegian is in the making here, and it will leave a sad legacy hanging over the Commonwealth Games.

Where are the rich Glasgow firms, the entrepreneurs and the sports personalities who will reap rich benefits from the Games while the interests of the little people are threatened in this way?

Do the Scottish Government and the Labour Party want to enter their Holyrood election campaigns with this injustice hanging over them?

What are the elected representatives of Margaret Jaconelli and the others four claimants doing while this juggernaut of big business and celebrity sport rolls over ordinary, vulnerable people?

Make no mistake, this will be some politician's Crichel Down, indeed the Crichel Down scandal brought down a government minister and almost a government, leading to the Crichel Down rules, now probably outdated half a century on, in this brutal, uncaring, greedy society.

This case should be the subject of mediation, not cold, unfeeling legalistic procedures, with all the aces in the hands of Glasgow City Council and the developers. The amount of money required to settle is minuscule in relation to the huge budgets and profits of the Games.

For God's sake, Glasgow - doing the right thing is the right thing to do!

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Unhappy tweeting time - Margaret Jaconelli, Glasgow City Council and the Commonwealth Games

Time is running out - this appeal is scheduled for 20th January. The outcome could destroy Margaret Jaconelli financially and emotionally. If you care about ordinary people, for God's sake do something!

Peter Curran

moridura Peter Curran

#MargaretJaconelli Are the Commonweath Games in Glasgow going ahead, while burying the hope and dreams and lives of ordinary Glaswegians?

Peter Curran

moridura Peter Curran

#MargaretJaconelli A tragedy for the little people is unfolding while money, celebrity sport and naked greed roll over them, uncaring.

Peter Curran

moridura Peter Curran

#MargaretJaconelli Do the Labour Party and SNP want to enter a Holyrood electoral campaign with a brutal injustice on their consciences?

Peter Curran

moridura Peter Curran

#MargaretJaconelli Where are the rich sporting personalities who will profit hugely from the Games when ordinary Scots need their help?

Peter Curran

moridura Peter Curran

#MargaretJaconelli What in God's name is the SNP doing for these ordinary Glaswegians? Does big money roll over the little people?

Peter Curran

moridura Peter Curran

#MargaretJaconelli The profit made by a developer on 1 deal (£1m), courtesy of Glasgow City Council, could have settled with all 5 claimants

Peter Curran

moridura Peter Curran

#MargaretJaconelli She may get crippling costs awarded against her by GCC. If this is the price of Commonwealth Games, it is too high

Saturday, 3 April 2010

Externalisation – the insidious corruption of democracy – and Glasgow City Council




Preamble

I intend to get to Glasgow and the reverberations from the Purcell Affair under the above heading, but I must develop a rather lengthy argument to do so. If you find extended argument tiresome, and prefer the light touch and brevity of the traditional blog – or even Twitter – leave now! You have been warned!

(An alternative is to dive down the blog to the heading ALEOs and Glasgow City Council.)

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 amoralmorality 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 election of the Scottish Nationalist government in 2007 and the great SNP breakthrough in Glasgow East brought a ray of hope to the people of Glasgow, and in my desperate attempts to find hope for the future for the city of my birth, I saw Steven Purcell as an honest politician who placed the interests of Glasgow first, despite his Labour allegiance. Whatever the truth of that wishful assessment, the revelations following his 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?

Doctor Christopher Mason, a LibDem councillor, who has some responsibility for looking at these things, got very testy with Gordon Brewer on Newsnight Scotland when he was asked about an inquiry into ALEOs and Doctor Mason’s view of them. In his rather aloof and patrician style, Councillor Mason curtly dismissed the questions, saying that there was no evidence of wrongdoing, therefore why have an inquiry?

He muttered about ‘witch hunts’, and appeared ignorant of the old dictum that absence of evidence is not evidence of absence, and that the confidence of the people of Glasgow had been severely shaken by the news coverage following the departure of Steven Purcell.

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 …