Enough

I have been following the unsurprising news that the V&A is going to be massively over budget. Dundee will have its Holyrood or Edinburgh Trams shambles, why leave Dundee out of the annoying fact in this country that we can’t seem to get any sort of large capital projects right and on budget. But this just highlights the wider issue of local democracy and how this does and does not work.

I have started to think more about this issue, and have found myself getting more and more annoyed that local democracy is pretty much non-existent or certainly is beginning to feel that way due to a real lack of meaningful consultation with local people on most things but certainly on the big things like borrowing.

Now I accept that some local councillors want local people to engage with them about what is going on in the city and my local Liberal Democrat Councillor does a newsletter that comes out monthly and highlights the work that he does in the area, and is actually a good Councillor. However, it is just not good enough anymore in the modern world.

National and local government really need to consider how they involve local people in decision-making. We all lead very busy lives and the days of attending meetings in many cases are gone.

Now I don’t want to go on about the mechanics of the wider decision-making too much but rather on certain decisions reached in Dundee costing vast sums of public money.

Recently in Dundee we have seen the new Olympia being built-in possibly the worst location imaginable in Dundee, situated at one of the busiest road sections in the city. This cost £31.2 million pounds to build with around £7 million from the Scottish Government. Dundee City Council is building a new Harris Academy at a cost of around £32 million pounds with the Scottish Government contributing around £20 million to the project and again within a questionable location. Add in the V&A and what we have is a very large bill coming to the Council Tax payer in Dundee.

Now the common dominator here is that I can’t remember anyone from Dundee City Council asking me or anyone else if we agreed with the spending of millions of pounds of public money for these projects, let alone the terrible location of the projects. It feels a bit like they only consult when it suits them.

So here is a really radical idea. Lets change the rules and make it mandatory that a local council must consult with the electorate if it wishes to spend, lets say anything over £5 million pounds, of local tax payers money on capital projects without consulting with local people on the spend and that all results of public consultation be publicly available in local papers, websites and libraries and that if local people are against then the project cannot go ahead.

It is no longer good enough for big local decisions to be made on what are essentially public services and public assets, paid for by the public, to be made without extensive and very public consultation. It is also no longer acceptable to use the excuse that people don’t turn up to meetings, they don’t reply, we live in the digital age, make the effort.

The more I learn the more I understand that having a vote does not mean that I live in a democracy.

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10 comments

  1. Sod the system

    Your liberal democrat councillor does more than the leaflet, there’s a daily blog he updates and he replies to all emails within 2 days as well as 3 surgeries a week (other councillors are 1) and happy for home visits and phone calls

    • Anonymous

      Sod
      Agree he does, just a pity he is a member of a party that lied to the Scottish people and who don’t know what home rule actually means.

      Thanks for commenting.

      Bruce

  2. hektorsmum

    My Husband had an argument with the lecturer about the lack of Project Management for the Scottish Parliament. His take was that it was a Political position that there was none. Donald Dewar was giving the Scots their Parliament Building with as little grace as he could devise. Similar with the Trams, all the Unionist parties wanted to waste money which would have been better used dualling the A9 ergo the mess that got in.
    Who is in charge of the V&A, it is not something I am sure about?

    • Anonymous

      As far as I understand it’s a partnership between the V and A, Scottish Government and DCC.

      I just think the days of these decisions getting made without consent of the majority of people has to be over. I think the museum will be good for the city but not at any cost. Dundee also needs real jobs not just service jobs plus the V and A staff team don’t have any local people in it and the architect has his office for the project in Edinburgh, none of that is good and I don’t like it.

      Thanks for commenting.

      Bruce

      • Peter

        As the team grows, there will be increasing opportunities for locals, while the majority of those working on the construction site are local. I have lived in the city for ten years and many others on the team are born and bred Dundonians, but it is only natural that a project such as this also attracts a wide range of people from across the county. With regards to the architects, V&A Dundee is being delivered with local architects who have offices in Glamis: http://www.jfsa.co.uk/news/

  3. bjsalba

    As I understand it, the art of project management is getting the initial contract right. So when was the original contract set up and how good are its terms? And just as importantly who was in power when the contracts were set up? From what I understand, many councils still struggle with being tied in to horrible contracts that were given out decades ago – and there is very little they can do about them.

    • grumpyscottishman

      bjsalba

      Totally, PFI has left our future grandchildren with debt but the V&A is a recent one and it would appear that the planners have got this one totally wrong and that again will leave the council tax payers with a huge bill for generations to come. I just think that the days of not consulting with local people when spending huge sums of money are over, it’s bad enough that local authorities are bad at consulting but we need to no longer turn a blin eye on what is being done in our name.

      Thanks for commenting.

      Bruce

  4. hektorsmum

    I definitely think that local people should be consulted, and that seems to be the problem with much these days. If the Tax payer is just expected to put their hands in their pockets without being allowed a voice. I think though that both Dundee Council and the Scottish Government wanted people employed but we need to look at what these jobs will ultimately cost. No point in Minimum or even Living wage if they cost millions per person employed, and we have had enough of that with the Westminster lot.

    • Anonymous

      Hektorsmum

      I am all for the V&A and do think it will be a welcome addition to Dundee. I am not so sure about the jobs boost that the city council are saying but then they always over estimate these things anyway. I also don’t think that anyone would deliberately want to go over budget either but for me this project has not had the best of starts and without the consent and engagement of local people it will just be a big building that people from outwith Dundee come to see and Dundee’s communities are indifferent to it. There has to be more consultation with local people, esp around huge capital expenditure, as I said before I really think the days of talking to people are over, you have to discuss with people or all the engagement that was done for the referendum was just a waste of time.

      Thanks for commenting.

      Bruce

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