Comment posted Opposition evaluations of three year council budget by Councillor George Freeman.
For the benefit of Treble T, (who has just shown a red rag to a bull) I can confirm that most of the libraries in our rural communities in the Helensburgh & Lomond area have already been closed. At Garelochhead, all we have is an empty unused building.
I certainly agree with Treble T that every Council tax payer should receive the same services. That would certainly benefit the Council Tax payer in the Helensburgh & Lomond area.
The trouble is that the Council tax payer in the Helensburgh & Lomond area subsidises the Council tax payer in most other parts of Argyll & Bute. Just take a look at who is paying for the CHORD projects.
Recent comments by Councillor George Freeman
- General Election part of the political Gallipoli of indy versus union
RitchieMac, as you will be aware, the number of submarines changes as new Astute Class boats come into service and boats go out of service. Although it is irrelevant as to whether there are 14, 15, 16, 17 or 18 submarines, the point I was making is that the SNP will insist on referring to the 4 Trident boats only so as to try and down play the number of jobs that are at risk and the massive loss to the Argyll & Bute economy.
Although the jobs numbers quoted may be a few hundred or so either way, it is noted that you have not challenged the approximate figures quoted and you have not tried to say that only 550 jobs are at risk if the SNP get their way which is the official line that the SNP continues to quote. You have also failed to comment on the line Brendan O’Hara argues “that the site could remain a base for existing submarines”. This is certainly NOT SNP policy.
Do you agree with Brendan O’Hara that “Faslane and its current capacity is there and will stay”? How can this be? This is just a comment to try and gain a few extra votes.
As part of the Maritime Change Programme, all of the UK’s submarine fleet is due to be based at Faslane. That is the reason for the additional jobs that are due to be created. As far as submarine numbers are concerned, there currently 4 Trident Class boats, 4 Trafalgar Class boats (was 5 but Tireless has just been laid-up), including the new boats in the pipeline, there will be 6 Astute Class boats and there are 7 boats laid-up at Rosyth. We can then add on to that the DSRV (Deep Submergence Rescue Vehicle). At no stage did I say that there would be 17 submarines at any given time.
If you want to play with numbers as the SNP continually do, then based on the above numbers, there are 20 (if you only include 2 Trafalgar Class boats) that are currently based in Scotland or are due to be based in Scotland (excluding Tireless which is now laid-up in Devonport) that the SNP do not want here.
From what Brendan O’Hara now says, nothing will change and these will all remain in Scotland? Can this man be believed?
- General Election part of the political Gallipoli of indy versus union
INFORMATION ON FASLANE & TRIDENT
I note that some of For Argyll’s contributors were recently taking my name in vain and trying to attribute a number of comments on FA to me. Some of your contributors assumed that as information on Trident and Faslane had been placed on FA, this information must have come from me. Not so. I do have a wide range of information on this subject that I provide to many people and organisations so as to try and counter the misinformation that comes from the SNP and others who are opposed to Trident.
I note that Brendan O’Hara, the SNP candidate for Argyll & Bute, has been quoted in the Press and Journal (P&J) on their Complete Guide to Voting report where he is trying to mislead the electorate. When referring to Trident and Faslane, the P&J reports that: “SNP candidate Brendan O’Hara, lives in Helensburgh and is well aware of the issues. He argues that the site could remain a base for existing submarines without the need to spend £100 billion on replacing Trident” “There is a common misconception that that the SNP will close Faslane, which is not the case at all” he said. “As much as I personally would like to see all nuclear weapons removed from Scottish soil, that is not on the agenda. So Faslane and its current capacity is there and will stay” he said.
Although they do not like it being discussed in public, the SNP and Scottish CND have confirmed that they want all nuclear powered submarines removed from Scotland and not just the 4 Trident boats. Taking into account the new Astute Class boats, we are talking about a total of 17 submarines and not just the 4 that the SNP would have us believe.
On Jobs, a Scottish Enterprise ECOS Study confirmed that a total of 10,598 jobs were dependent on Faslane. That figure does not include the additional 2,000 that are due to be created as a result of the Maritime Change Programme which would bring the total up to approximately 12,500 jobs. Dr Philips O’Brien of the University of Glasgow confirmed that compared with other similar sized countries, if Scotland was to get rid of Trident and have its own conventional forces, the total number of jobs that would be left would be 2,000. These would be split with 1,000 based on the east coast and 1,000 at Faslane. A loss of over 11,000 jobs in Argyll & Bute.
The SNP are keen to highlight that the Trident replacement would cost £100 billion. What they do not say is that figure would be spread over the next 40 years (£2.5 billion per year). What they also keep quiet is that the welfare budget over the same period will be £10,380 billion (£260 billion per year). The cost of the Trident replacement is therefore less than 1% of the estimated welfare budget over the same period.
Apart from the jobs that would be lost within Argyll & Bute if the SNP were to get their way, Argyll & Bute Council would potentially lose massive sums of Non Domestic Rates (NDR) and Council Tax income. The rateable value of MoD properties at Faslane, Coulport etc is over £17 million. Based on the current poundage rate, this would generate a potential annual loss of over £7.5 million in NDR to Argyll & Bute Council. If we then include the Council Tax or Contribution in Lieu of Rates that the Council receives from the living accommodation within Faslane, that financial loss is pushed up to approximately £8.5 million per year.
These losses do not take into account the massive losses / costs that would be generated as a result of the massive redundancies that would result from the removal of all submarines from Faslane.
I believe that these facts must be taken into account when people cast their votes tomorrow.
- Castle Toward a gone deal
Firstly I should say that I agree with much of what John Semple and Integrity say above (but not all). I should also say that some of the comments from individuals above are totally misguided and/or misinformed. As far as yesterday’s Council meeting is concerned, I believe that it is worthwhile clarifying a few issues.
I have produced many motions and amendments for Council and Committee meetings over the years, both as an opposition councillor and as an administration councillor. Many of these were straight forward and did not require advice from Council officers. Where an issue is even slightly complicated, sensitive or very important such as the Castle Toward issue, I would always take advice from Council officers on the competency of my draft motion/amendment well in advance of the meeting. Officers are always willing to give such advice to any councillor, be they part of the administration or not. I would never take the risk of turning up at a meeting with a motion or amendment that could be ruled incompetent. That would be a waste of everybody’s time and would not help me to achieve the result I was looking for.
It should be remembered that it is the Provost who rules on the competency of any motion or amendment. Advice will always be provided by the appropriate officers but the final decision is the Provosts. As far as yesterday is concerned, the view of the Legal Manager was provided before officers gave final advice on the competency of Cllr Breslin’s amendment to the Provost. Clear reasons were given as to why officers considered that the amendment was not competent. The Provost is in a no win situation whatever his decision. It would be a brave Provost or Chair of a Committee who would go against the advice of officers as they would have difficulty in justifying their decision.
I was most surprised to discover that Cllr Breslin had not taken advice from officers on the competency of his proposed amendment long before yesterday’s meeting. That is a massive risk to take, especially on such an important and controversial issue. Personally, I would never have taken that risk and would have obtained advice from officers so that I was confident that my motion / amendment was not going to be ruled as incompetent at the Council meeting. Even if I was to lose the vote, it would ensure that the issue was debated and that I managed to get my views across in public. If Cllr Breslin did consider seeking advice from officers, I can appreciate why he may have decided not to do that.
As Alan Stewart of SCCDC and many councillors (including Cllr Breslin) and Council officers will be aware, I spent a great deal of time working on Business Plans and valuations in the lead up to yesterday’s meeting and had prepared a wide range of questions/comments that I intended raising at the meeting. Unfortunately, because there was no competent amendment, I did not get the opportunity to raise any of these issues.
After the Provost had ruled Cllr Breslin’s amendment not to be competent, he asked if there were any other amendments. I was surprised that at that stage, none of those councillors (such as Cllr Marshall, Cllr Blair, Cllr Strong, Cllr Dance or Cllr Breslin), some with years of experience, who had clearly expressed support in the past for the sale of Castle Toward to SCCDC at the reduced price, did not bring forward another amendment. There was no need for them to provide a detailed amendment. All they had to do was to move that the matter be continued to another day. Although they may still have lost the vote, that would have allowed the matter to be debated in public and would have given them the opportunity to have a roll call vote which would have recorded the names of every councillor and how they voted. Unfortunately, they did not take that opportunity.
My understanding is that the record will now show that the decision taken by the Council yesterday on Castle Toward was a unanimous decision of the Council.
I hope that this helps to clarify a number of issues with regards to yesterday’s Council meeting.
- Castle Toward: the smoking gun
Newsroom states in her report that: “It is being said that members of the council’s administration were told by senior officers only last week that they had no option but to sell at the District Valuer’s price”.
For the avoidance of any doubt, as a current member of the Council’s Administration, I can categorically state that no such statement has ever been made by any Council officer or Member of the Council at any meeting that I have attended.
- Council Planning Committee meeting on 21st January promises to be lively – as 2 MSPs call for postponement
Integrity, I agree. When dealing with any planning application, especially those such as wind farms, fish farms and nuclear facilities that tend to attract a large number of representations (often from out with the UK), councillors are reminded that it is up to them to decide how much weight they apply to individual representations.
I would normally give much more weight to an objection or letter of support from someone who lives next to a proposed development and will see it on a daily basis than one from someone living at the other end of the country or in another country who is unlikely ever to see the development. I can only speak for myself but I am sure that the same applies with most councillors.
Many of the objections that were received against this planning application were clearly “political comment” and were highlighted as such by Planning Officers in their report to Committee and were certainly not material to the determination of the application. All the objections and the Planning Officer’s report are available on the Council website for anyone to view.
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