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Monthly Archives: September 2012

Things could be better

Blogging will be restricted for the next week or so.

Last Thursday morning my Mother died so I have a lot of stuff to do etc.

I’ll be bak as they say.
Thanks for reading my blog.

 

TT

 

An Olympic legacy? (Part Two).

To their credit Edinburgh Council have started to webcast their Council Meetings. I just caught the tail-end of the segment which was about Waterworld.

All of the parties apart from the Conservatives voted to extend the decision date until the 31st of January. The cost will of course be £40,000 which is £2000 cost per week to maintain Waterworld as it stands presently. The time is being allowed so that Splashback can prove they have the funds which has to meet the mandated “value for money” requirement for the Council. Bear in mind this has to address the £1 Million pound price tag, the £155,000 startup cost and at least another £1 million over the next three years. Tall order?

The cost for the year of maintaining the site since it was closed, until the final, final decision, as it now stands will be £104.000. How can they justify this?

GVA stated in their report that a three month cooling off period would be required during which time alternative bidders would be identified and marketing of the site to carried out

The Councillors have voted for a four month period and either have not understood what the time should be used for or want the Splashback bid to succeed. Will this not open them up to claims of favouring a particular bidder? There is no likelihood that anyone else will pursue the site. Anyone else will know the history and will not waste time putting a proposal together until Splashback fails.

So the £40,000 cost is down to Splashback and no one else. I’m not suggesting that someone is just waiting for Splashback to fail and then they will leap in with a bid, but when the end of January 2013 deadline is reached and Splashback haven’t put together a real workable plan with the required financing a further three month period will have to be used for the marketing etc. again.

Are there any councillors in the Council Chambers who have run a business or even been involved as a senior manager in a business? It doesn’t sound like, certainly not from the coalition the Libdems and the Greens. Whilst there are other similar facilities in other areas of the country they are subsidised significantly and are still costing the local councils money.

Can you think of one swimming pool or leisure pool, which is run by a private business? No? Of course not. Hotels and gyms have them because they build the cost the water facilities represent into their overhead and charge accordingly. No one could possible make money in running just a private pool on it’s own.

Why should they have to make money you say? Because otherwise the taxpayer has to subsidise or cover the total costs incurred. The council provide swimming facilities 500 yards from Waterworld at either the local High School or another more traditional pool. Is that not enough for the community? What percentage of the community use it? not a high percentage that’s for sure but it’s fair for them to be provided.

I’ll post an update if anything happens of note between now and the 31st January.

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Posted by on September 24, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

An Olympic legacy?

At the bottom of Leith Walk on the right hand side is Waterworld. It’s closed. It was one of those leisure pools that became popular of few years ago, you know the sort of place? They had flumes, various different sizes and depths of small pools, chutes and other sorts of things you might have expected to see on a beach holiday.

It’s closed because it was costing the Council £400K in subsidies each and every year due in no small part to the lack of paying customers who wanted to partake of it’s facilities such as they were. Councils never, ever seem to make money out of pools and sports facilities and to a degree that’s expected and understood.

However, when the venue isn’t sporting and can’t be put under the Olympic legacy banner, is hidden away and has never been much of a success it becomes harder to justify. Waterworld only opened two of three days a week apart from school holidays when it opened pretty much everyday.

Anyway, Edinburgh Council decided that it was time to close it. Their strategy was that the money saved and the money they might receive from any potential purchaser of the site which they estimated in total at some £1.5 Million would go towards the refurbishment of the Royal Commonwealth Pool. The budget for the refurbishment reflected this.

Waterworld was to be closed at an agreed date and people using it were aware of this. A few weeks before the closing date a group suddenly came forward to try to stop the closure. The group is made up of people who live locally and are involved in the arts and various community projects.

They petitioned the Council to delay the closure and the sale of the site. The Greens supported them, which I find to be rather odd. A swimming pool requires significant heating, as does the building in general, which means it will emit a lot of CO2. But still the Greens support it being kept open?

The new coalition of Labour and the SNP on the Council agreed to put back the sale date to allow the group, calling themselves Splashback, time to produce a bid to take the site over.

Today, the 20th Sept 2012 the council are meeting to make a decision on a further extension to the sale date. The bid from Splashback does not provide a bid of at least £1 million for the site. It does contain an offer of £1 for the site, which would be rented from the council and then a plan to extend the opening hours, develop more activities and to refurbish and reopen Waterworld. They would aim to reduce the deficit to around £240K per year by year three. They would also try to obtain grants from various public charities, the Lottery etc. etc. They would not be putting their own money in and would really only be managing the site.

The Council meantime have had GVA the property specialists assess the site and they have stated that it is not viable, additional costs of some £155K will be required to reopen it and most damaging of all the potential purchasers have withdrawn their bids because of the delays and alterations made to the bidding process.

In other words Splashback has stopped the site being sold. Splashback has been costing the Council a minimum of £2000 per week for the continuing security and minimum maintenance of Waterworld. If the Councillors agree to give Splashback another three months or so to find the money needed the cost to the Council taxpayers of Edinburgh will be over £100,000.

Tom Farmer has, at the last minute, jumped on the bandwagon and given his support to Splashback. But has he got his chequebook out? Will he finance it? Of course not. Why? Because it is not financially viable! He knows this.

I’ll report tomorrow in a brief post on the outcome.

The bid makes no sense. It will never work. The Council will need to find at least £1 Million plus £155,000 plus at least another £1 Million over the next three years to keep Waterworld open. That would be less any grants Splashback might be awarded although they will probably never manage to get enough people through the doors to meet their own figures.

This is democracy apparently but not as we know it Jim.

 

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Just ordinary men.

I’ve used this title before. I last used it for a post I did on the soldiers of the First Word War who had had the temerity to instigate their own truce with the enemy. Having done so they shared photographs and details of their lives before the war. The soldiers of both sides were just the same. They were just ordinary men who wanted nothing more to live a life in peace, a life free of hunger, poverty and war. Ordinary men.

Now we have the nastiness of Afghanistan being reported nightly, or should I say those soldiers who have been killed being reported. The whole saga of conflict from the Iraq invasion onwards is utterly disgusting. Or should that be the Iran/Iraq war, which was the starting point? Countless thousands of serving men and women gone or horribly injured or mutilated if we take into account all of the armies involved regardless of friend or foe. To what end? Oil? One world governance? Arms sales? The drug trade? Religion?

The latest news from the “front” addresses three different issues. The first is, of course the killing of UK troops by Afghans, who are either dressed to look like Afghan troops or police.  That’s unfair as far as war is concerned but of course there are no rules for war, it’s barbaric and inhumane no matter how you consider it.

Trust? How? It’s not possible. There exists a cultural gulf, which is wider than a very wide thing indeed. The sensible thing to do would be to pack up and leave. What about those Afghans who have been loyal and played a part in the coalition forces? Give them an opportunity to leave the country along with the troops. Easy to say very difficult to deliver.

A more worrying part of the same news is of course the sudden increase in soldiers being killed in roadside explosions. The services hierarchy and the government allowed soldiers to go out on patrol etc. in snatch Land Rovers which worked well enough in Northern Ireland but which were totally unsuitable for a guerrilla war.

Eventually the troops were supplied with proper mine protection vehicles although it took far too long and more than one attempt to get it right. Does the increase in deaths from explosions mean the Afghans have found a way of overcoming the vehicles armour and design? That would be very bad news if they had and another reason to get out the troops of there.

Lastly we have the continuing saga of Harry Windsor. Here is a typical gung-ho young man desperate to get his hands on men’s toys, fly a helicopter and shoot things. The last report on his activities said that the attack on the large coalition base had resulted in Harry being moved to a secure area. He was not in any danger. Unlike the other soldiers.

Get him out of there. Not for his own protection but for those of the forces who are within his unit and the wider forces. What Harry wants is of no concern to anyone but his family. He can only ever play at being a pilot or a soldier.

Of course the media are incapable of reporting anything much apart from Harry getting his man parts out in Las Vegas or Kate getting her lady parts out in France. Outrage? By the container load but not because these “royal” people have not recognised their responsibilities. Oh no. It’s not their fault. The press is bad. We, in the UK are not to see the pics. The rest of the world can but not here.

I really don’t care one way or another about what the “royals” do or don’t do. As long as it does not cost the taxpayer a penny. They seem to have loads of holidays, loads of trips, loads of access to things that we can’t. In this day and age, why?

Because they are not ordinary people. By accident of birth or connection they are treated as if they are “royalty”. They are you say? There is no such thing nowadays. Their continued existence is purely a necessity for the, mainly, English establishment.

 
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Posted by on September 19, 2012 in General, Politics

 

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Guns and safety.

There have been a number of atrocities committed all around the world by people with guns. For one reason or another, or for none at all, people have taken their guns outside and turned them on innocent people. Some of these have been carried out in the UK.

Hungerford and Dunblane jump easily to mind. But we have a government who look after us legislatively and a Police force who do it on the ground. Their response has been to ban guns. Ban anything that might be a gun. Shotguns are licenced and are subject to various rules, which keep the ammunition away from the gun itself etc. etc.

The end result is that only the Police and the criminals now hold real guns. The unfortunate results of the legislation and the slow but obvious change to the status of the Police within our communities have come home to roost.

Two police officers were killed yesterday. Shot by a criminal who is above the law and will remain above the law. That this should happen at all is shameful, that it should happen in a planned manner and have escalated the level of violence through the use of hand grenades unfortunately confirms the failure of both the government and the Police in dealing with firearm legislation and control.

A few weeks ago, four men decided to burgle a house. In doing so they entered the building and were shot. They were not seriously injured although two of them required hospital treatment. The man and woman in the house ended up in Police cells for three days. They were charged. They will appear in court. They may end up in prison.

When the burglars decided to burgle that particular house they stepped outside of the law. They had intent. They were doing so with malice. Having stepped outside the law they had taken full responsibility for their actions and for whatever response they might have to face.

Being shot at and injured probably wasn’t included in their plans but what if it had been? Would they have carried the burglary out?

What will the response be to the killings yesterday? More body armour for police officers? They already wear stab protective armour which has made the police look like paramilitaries and which may have prejudiced the way in which we interact with the police. Do we want the police injured or killed? Of course not but neither do we want them to behave as if we are all criminals who haven’t been caught yet.

Retaining DNA samples, CCTV, web and mobile phone surveillance, kettling, armed Police at peaceful demonstrations, excessive force, providing information to the press, etc. etc. have not done and will continue not to do the Police any favours with the public. Hillsborough also raises questions and reduces the fait we have in them.

Yesterday a senior Police Officer reminded us that the Police are the public and the public are the Police. Really? Since when? How long ago is it since that was the case?

Don’t get me wrong here. The Police are vital in our society. They do a dangerous job. We need them to keep law and order when the occasion requires it. They are well paid, trained, pensioned and equipped from the public purse.

Having all guns owned by the Police and criminals is a recipe for disaster. It means that the criminals can buy guns and more as they see fit. Thankfully they tend to use them on each other rather than on the public and even less on the Police.

Loosening up the gun control laws and allowing licences for suitable people to carry concealed weapons might just actually help things. It might result in criminals buying even more guns? Maybe, but that cat is way, way, way out of the bag. It would make criminals think a bit harder before deciding to do something. In the States this is the case as it is in other countries.

At the same time we need a suitable response from the Police to start policing like they are the public and have, once more, the public being the police. It seems unlikely as things stand at the moment.

The politicians should stop and take note. Their first response will be to use their two favourite and only tools. They will toughen up the law, they will increase fines, they will criminalise us further and/or take our money, that’s all their intellect is capable of.

For the two Police officers who died yesterday we feel compassion and  sadness at their untimely and violent deaths. The newspapers will be full of anger as they will be when the criminal who is above the law is tried. Lots of words will be written.

No one will tackle the real reasons this human tragedy happened.

Why is he above the law? Because there is no sanction available beyond locking him up. He has to be shown the error of his ways and be able to re-join our society.  The European Court of human Rights says so or he can sue us if he is not rehabilitated.

Calls for the death penalty for the murder of Police officers have been. It should not matter who the murder victim is the penalty should be the same. No special cases whether it’s the death penalty or not.

 
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Posted by on September 19, 2012 in Justice, Politics

 

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An old school in Greenock encounters it’s own Waterloo (Road).

You know how it is, you’re bumbling along thinking everything is fine although maybe not quite ideal, but you’re reasonably comfortable with your lot. Then… then… Something huge comes along and everything changes, perhaps not for the best.

This has happened, just a few weeks ago on our TV screens. You’ll be aware of Waterloo Road, the BBC school drama that crams ten years of normal school incidents into every one-hour episode? It was filmed at a closed school in Rochdale, which was demolished leaving the production company to find an alternative location.

I’d imagine they would have looked for something local or close by the area they were already operating in. Empty schools are obviously assets, which the local authority will want to sell off to get the cash into their coffers, so the search may have been more difficult than perhaps the production company first thought.

I’d loved to have been a fly on the wall when the production company sat the cast down to announce where the new filming location would be. When they said Greenock, I’d imagine that there were blank looks all round apart from the actor who plays the Heiddie. Mind you the look on their faces at that point would be nothing compared to the looks on their faces when they actually arrived in Greenock.

Greenock used to be a huge flourishing town with a very busy harbour and lots of engineering and shipbuilding etc going on. It was a traditional Scottish working town with a population steeped in the Labour Party. Now, it’s down at heel. It has lots of problems with alcohol, drugs and far too many young people with little chance of employment. The Labour Party did little to reward these people who had supported them for years and years and years.

Things have improved, new housing is being built both privately and publicly and there are a few businesses that do provide employment such as IBM along with various call centres and what not. The whole area is down at heel and has been starved of funds for many years.

Greenock is not far, in miles at least, from Kilmacolm, which is a very popular upmarket area, resplendent with a completely original Mackintosh designed house – Windyhill. It’s also just across the water from Helensburgh which is also pretty nice and is resplendent with the best known and still original Mackintosh designed house – Hillhouse – owned by The National Trust for Scotland.

The exposure on TV could well help the area and might attract people to go and visit. It rains a lot though. It’s pretty hilly too. It has it’s very own daily newspaper! It also has a Lidls, a Tescos and a Greggs and it’s about half an hour from Glasgow by train.

I have a client down there so I go down occasionally. I’ll try to get more info on the filming and such like when I’m next down. I bet you can’t wait!

 
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Posted by on September 14, 2012 in BBC, Business & the economy, Politics

 

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The Police never tell lies? What about Hillsborough?

In the early 1990s I was stopped for speeding by an unmarked police car near Westfield between Linlithgow and Bathgate. I was driving south down a long curve, which became a short dual carriageway. The police car was parked on the opposite side of the road and did a “U” turn to follow me.

Never mind that in doing so the Police caused other drivers to brake hard and swerve, and never mind that a lorry pulled out right in front of me from a side road. They stopped me with their blue lights flashing away, hidden in the grill of the car they were in.

I was asked to take a seat in their car, which I of course did. They said I’d been doing 83 miles an hour, which sounded a bit high to me but I wasn’t in a position to argue. They also asked me to provide a breath test, which I felt was ridiculous given I didn’t drink at all but again I was in no position to argue.

A few days later a brown envelope came through the door and I opened it to find I’d been booked for doing 93 miles an hour. I phoned my lawyer and told him what had happened. He said It would be unwise to fight it in court. He said the magistrate or any sort of judge always relies on the Police telling the truth. The whole justice system relies on the Police telling the truth.

A few months later a work colleague was stopped on the same bit of road for speeding. When his envelope came through the door he was being done for 107 miles an hour not the 97 that the police had said at the time, which was bad enough but sounded high to him. In fact the car he was driving was not actually capable of doing 97 miles per hour and would only have reached 107 if it had been pushed off a very high cliff indeed.

He got an expert witness who was to speak on his behalf but before the case came to court he got a letter which stated “due to administration errors” the case against him would not be pursued. If he had been done for 107 he would have lost his licence. The two cops who regularly stopped speeding drivers were obviously inflating the speed. Why?

Since then I’ve always had a very deep unease about the police. I was brought up to respect them and to believe that they were there to protect and help people. It had become obvious that they were there for other reasons, which had little to do with truth.

The police at Hillsborough systematically altered their statements as required by senior officers. I’m sure a number of them didn’t want to do it but they did because if they hadn’t they might have suffered for it. Is this not the way that criminals carry on?

The fact that this happened also suggests that it happens when needs must. The problem with all of this is that if the police do it once and are caught their status as trustworthy and truthful goes out the window. It’s the old bad apple issue.

If this is is the case, which it surely is, then our justice system is not to be relied upon. Our justice system is undermined, it is not fit for purpose it no longer holds any real authority.

How can the police ever claim they live up to their oath of allegiance to carry out their duties? This is a huge question. It is fitting that those who altered their statements should be prosecuted and treated in the same way the police treat the public. They could start off by arresting them at an ungodly hour. Whisk them off alone with only the clothes they stand in and put them in a cell for at least three days without telling relatives where they are or allow the relatives to speak to them.

The Hillsborough tragedy was indeed made worse by the police cover up. No amount of apologising by politicians, police officers, the press or ambulance people will go anywhere near helping at all.

The BBC have some apologising to do also. On the news last night they took another opportunity to have a go at the Sun newspaper. Whilst representatives from the Sun also apologised for running the stories, which were inaccurate, they were inaccurate because the information had come from the police.  The Guardian are also following the BBC lead.

It is also time for the leaking of information to the press from the police to be stopped. It is also time that the BBC and the Guardian are taken to task for using their position to try to do down their competitors.

What will change though?

Nothing.

 

 
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Posted by on September 13, 2012 in BBC, Family, Justice, Politics

 

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Scottish Teachers holidays.

I intended to do another post on education but I got sort of bogged down on the one I was doing. No matter, BBC Scotland to the rescue.

A report has come out saying that Scottish teachers work the most hours of any other teachers in the known galaxy. The solution is that Scottish teachers should get more holidays.

Well first of all lets agree that teachers work longer hours than is sensible. Work life balance? Not balanced at all. Mrs TT is a teacher and I’ve worked with school previously and most of the teachers certainly worked much longer hours than you would think. They don’t start at 8.45 and finish at 3.30. Maybe some do but certainly not the majority.

Longer school holidays isn’t the solution, it needs a much wider approach and some serious re-inventing but not of the wheel, there’s been too much of that for years, which accounts for a lot of the additional hours of work for teachers.

I’d like to see a queue of pupils and teachers at every schools gates first thing every morning it is scheduled to open. That would show that the desire to learn and the enjoyment of teaching would be very evident.

First the opening hours for schools should be considered. The current model doesn’t work any more, it’s been out of date for a long time since mums started working and farmers no longer required people to help with the harvest etc.

I’d actually suggest a shift system. Open the schools from 7.00 PM and close them at 10.30 PM. Pupils/students/learners could then go to school at a time that suited the family needs. This would need more teachers of course and at the same time more teachers with much smaller classes could also be introduced. Like University to a degree (ha ha ha)! Classes would be repeated at different times and days during the week.

More teachers would cost more money, but the government has been training teachers in their droves so there would be plenty of new shiny teachers just ready to sign up. Opening until later at night could also restart the old evening class system so that people from the local community could get access to courses in various things.

The local community could also get access to the facilities that the school has such as swimming pools, IT stuff, music facilities, gyms, meals, etc. etc. That would be a good thing would it not?

Perhaps schools should open all year round and at weekends apart from Christmas and New Year? Then parents could book holidays whenever they wanted them and not just at the expensive “lets rip people off” times which are currently exploited by the travel firms.”

This could be the start of a new education system, which would meet the needs of everyone involved in it.  Utopia, and why not?

It would cost a lot more? Well, get the money back from the banks that they owe the taxpayers within a couple of weeks, stop fighting wars within a month, reduce MPs expenses, remove all climate change levies on energy bills and stop giving money to people who put up windmills and the like, greatly reduce all the silly regulations which costs a fortune to monitor, make all government, civil servants, councils, councillors and MPs accountable etc. etc. Oh, and I also meant to mention ending the need for a TV licence speaking of the BBC.

There that was easy.

 

What’s next?

 
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Posted by on September 13, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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