Friday, 9 July 2010

ACSEF Clypes to Labour Party Bosses - UPDATED

I really, really, don't want to turn this blog into a campaign vehicle, but the pychogeographical comedy content of ACSEF's actions are well worth following. Their fancy dress surreal buffoonery is one of the things which makes Aberdeen a great place to stay! Never a dull moment!

It seems that, unhappy with the opposition to the City Square Gardens Project expressed by the likes of Labour Party members Anne Begg MP and Cllr Scott Cassie, ACSEF's board petulantly decided to write to their bosses clype...

Press and Journal

Plea to Mandelson over city gardens

Published: 08/07/2010

LORD Mandelson and other senior Labour Party figures were asked to intervene in the row over plans to transform the centre of Aberdeen, it has emerged.

Aberdeen City and Shire Economic Future (Acsef) wrote to key Labour members “expressing concern” at the party’s local opposition to a proposed development at Union Terrace Gardens.

Labour councillors in the city were left “stunned” last night after details of the letter emerged in a minute of an Acsef board meeting on April 20.

As ACSEF continue to gather power to themselves, as their abitrary use of public funds to gain political influence continues unchecked and as our elected representatives continue to express surprise that this is how ACSEF behave, we can sit back and watch the comedy unfold.

The board’s chairman, Tom Smith, said: “Acsef is a public-private-sector partnership that is wholly non-political.

“Our sole remit is to help drive the economic development of our region.

“We wrote to members of the government in power at that time to make a strong case about the benefits of the city gardens project and the consequences to our local economy if this investment was lost.

“We will continue to approach any public-sector organisation including governments, local authorities and enterprise organisations that can assist us to deliver our vision for the north-east and to help ensure that Aberdeen city and shire remain a priority for investment.”

The minute of the meeting shows the letters were agreed by the private-sector representatives of the board.

They just can't see something if it doesn't make money, can they? They have mistaken money for value and they have confused affluence with wealth. The two things are quite different. It's amazing (disingenuous?) that Tom Smith asserts that his actions are not political.

In Paul Theroux's psychogeographical oddessy The Kingdom by the Sea, he describes the typical Aberdonian as the type of "person who would gladly pick a penny out of a dunghill with his teeth".

We owe ACSEF a debt of thanks for helping to confirm this long standing and stereotypical view of us!


Other Aberdeen has obtained the text of the letter in question...

c/o Nessco Group Holdings Ltd
Nessco House
Discovery Drive
Arnhall Business Park
AB32 6FG

Tel: 01224 252000
Fax: 01224 213417

Mr Jim Murphy, MP
Secretary of State for Scotland
Scotland Office 
Dover House

14 April 2010

Dear Mr Murphy,

I am contacting you as chairman of ACSEF (Aberdeen City and Shire Economic Future) to express our concern over Labour’s approach to a major investment opportunity for the region.

ACSEF is a public private sector partnership which drives economic development in the region by bringing all the key players together to have a cohesive, consistent strategy to growing the economy and enhancing quality of life.

Towards the end of 2008, Sir Ian Wood announced his intention to pledge £50 million of his private fortune into a radical transformation of a strategic central location in Aberdeen city.

ACSEF took the lead in what has now become a £140 million investment project to make our city centre more attractive, greener, better connected and safer, stimulating the regeneration of Union Street and the surrounding areas which have suffered as a result of under-investment.

The City Square Project aims to create a new five acre civic space and gardens at street-level in the heart of our city with a further two acre all-weather concourse underneath by raising the under-used Union Terrace Gardens and covering over the unsightly Denburn dual carriageway and adjacent railway line.

To secure our economic future, safe-guard and create jobs for future generations, we must see a radical transformation of this region’s city centre.

This opportunity to significantly improve our city centre is a fundamental plank of what we need to deliver if we are to succeed in transforming our economy over the next five to ten years.

Over the past 35 years, we have built a very successful economy, with low unemployment, and a large portion of the jobs being skilled, with high average earnings. We have one of the best workforces in the whole of Europe in terms of skills, capabilities, and attitude. The major changes that have taken place to a great extent have been driven by North Sea oil. In the coming years, this will start to change drastically.

Right now we have a window of opportunity and if we let it close on us, we risk a downward spiral that will see a serious decline in our economy, the gradual loss of businesses and consequently jobs and quality of life.

In the next few years, companies who are serving UK and international markets will be asking themselves where they need to be located in order to best serve their markets in the future.

With many regions in the UK and Europe aggressively vying to attract inward investment, we can only compete if we have a city with a centre that serves our community well and can play a major part in helping us build a profile as being one of the top European Cities.

Despite the economic success of the region and its significant contribution to both the Scottish and UK economies there has been a lack of investment in the city centre and surrounding infrastructure by successive governments which has led to its deterioration.

Over 1,500 businesses, who helped shape ACSEF’s manifesto, cited the paucity of our city centre as a major barrier to attracting investment and people. Re-development and regeneration of the city centre is now one of our key priorities.

Recent research revealed that Aberdeen’s city centre was a “strategic weakness” in the city region’s competitiveness.

We have been surprised and concerned that the approach taken by our local Labour politicians particularly at MSP and MP level has been very unsupportive. It would appear that they have mis-judged the importance of the scheme to the long-term sustainability of the region and chosen to support what is perceived as being the more popular option.

We are now in serious danger of losing this £140 million investment. The damage that this could do to our reputation nationally and internationally and the potential negative impact on other investment opportunities in the region could be significant.

For various reasons, which we would be happy to outline to you, the City Square project has divided the public who have participated in a recent public consultation.

There is over-whelming support from the business community and its representative bodies (Chamber of Commerce, FSB, IoD and CBI) for this project and we would have expected a more measured and supportive approach from our Labour politicians, rather than what appears to be purely electioneering.

While public opinion has been divided over this project, the business community believes that we cannot be denied this significant opportunity because the real issues have been clouded by mis-information, some of which has been promoted by Labour, or influenced by vociferous opposition groups.

It is highly unlikely that we will ever again be in a position to secure £70 million of private sector investment for a civic project. We must be under no illusion that this money is available for other projects or piece-meal developments. Sir Ian Wood’s donation is the catalyst for a further £20 million of private sector investment which makes the possibility of £70 million of public sector funding much more realistic.

The region’s business community would like your assurance that the Labour Government is and would continue to be, if re-elected, supportive of jobs and prosperity and committed to investment in ensuring Scotland’s third city, which contributes significantly to the Scottish and UK economies, becomes a world energy city.

Yours sincerely

Tom Smith

c.c. Lord Mandelson
c.c. Iain Gray, MSP

Oh dear. My amusement has turned to embarrassment.


Mick Miller said...

Tom Smith's absurd attempts to describe ACSEF as "wholly non political" is a complete nonsense! Socialists to the core the lot of them eh? Of course ACSEF are a political organisation as exemplified by their attempts to move what is public land (Union Terrace Gardens) into private hands via their land-grab tactics. The letter is an appallingly biased vision of the centre of Aberdeen and the fact that the vision is backed by the commercial sector illustrates clearly where ACSEF's real intentions lie. The business community want the City Square project - no one else does.

David said...

I'm not really seeing how concreting over one of the few green spaces in central Aberdeen makes it greener? More retail space in a city that has a surplus of vacant shops(even in the brand new Union Square over 10% of the units are empty). Ian Wood should be invited to take his geld and poke it. The gardens could do with a bit of money spent on them, but concreting them over or building an art gallery isn't winning my vote. Knocking down one or other(or both?) of the older shopping centres and building something in their place which doesn't resemble a dungeon on the inside and an abattoir on the outside would be of more benefit to Aberdeen and to the populace.