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!