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Showing posts with label Glasgow East regeneration. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Glasgow East regeneration. Show all posts

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.

Friday, 17 June 2011

A gentleman of the press - Gerry Braiden

I received an email from Gerry Braiden of the Herald yesterday. It was clearly not intended for publication, as it carried the standard warning on Herald emails at the bottom, as follows -

This document is private and confidential.
All property, copyright and other rights in it and its contents belong to Newsquest Media Group Limited.
It must not be read, copied, disclosed or otherwise used without Newsquest’s authorisation. Newsquest may exercise its legal rights and remedies in the event of any such unauthorised use.
Newsquest Media Group Limited.
Registered in England, number 3105111.
Registered office: 58 Church Street, Weybridge, Surrey KT13 8DP

I am not sure of the legal validity of such a restriction, but I will respect it anyway, as I do with any email sent to me that is not specifically intended for publication or quotation.

I would, however, say to Gerry Braiden that if he wishes to submit the email as a comment, I will be happy to publish it verbatim in my blog. I commented on Wednesday on a report of his in the Herald, and if he wishes a right of reply to this, I will readily offer him that right.

Wednesday's blog on Jaconelli case and the Accord campaign

However, one statement he makes about a third party and the police does make me think I should seek a legal opinion before I do so, and I do feel free to raise this in confidence with the legal adviser of that third party.

If Gerry Braiden or Newsquest Media Group’s legal department have any reservations or queries about this approach and intention, they should contact me immediately.

Friday, 18 March 2011

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!)