Jenny Marra MSP : Aberdeen's City Gardens Project                speech in the Scottish Parliament

8 March 2012 

I thank Nigel Don for his considered comments on the Dundee waterfront; however, I respectfully remind him that the plans for that project were laid before the SNP took control of the council in Dundee.

It was a Labour council that pushed those plans forward.

For those who live in Dyce, Kincorth and everywhere in between, the debate surrounding Union Terrace gardens has been the single most talked-about issue in Aberdeen.

Although the genuine concern this week has been about what is clearly a flawed referendum, I will talk about the true cost of the project.

The figures just do not add up.

Although the SNP-led council claims that the bulk of the £92 million that is being spent on the project will be returned in the future through business rates, the council’s TIF business team recognises that, if there is just a small increase in the cost of borrowing or a small shortfall in the projected income from business rates, Aberdeen City Council will be left with millions of pounds of additional debt but no contingency fund from which to repay it.

It also seems that the council’s finance staff do not have high hopes that the city’s revenues will increase.

In September, a spokesperson from Aberdeen City Council predicted

“a forecast £127 million reduction in income along with extra cost pressures between now and 2015/16”.

It is not just the council’s own staff who are telling the SNP that the project is financially unviable; it is Audit Scotland, too.

In the report that was released this week, Audit Scotland stated that the project represents a

“long-term risk for the council”,

which is unable to fund any shortfall in the new business rates.

 ark McDonald: Will the member take an intervention?

Jenny Marra: No, thank you.

Aberdeen City Council is currently £560 million in debt and predicts a further £127 million reduction in income over the next four years.

It is incredible that the SNP’s answer to that is to take on more debt now, in the hope that that will be paid off in the future but with no guarantee that that will happen and no way of coping if it does not.

That is an extraordinary risk to the people of Aberdeen, who are already suffering as a result of school closures, job losses and pay freezes.

The SNP administration in Aberdeen, endorsed by Alex Salmond, has reduced the education budget by a staggering £28 million.

Schools have closed: Victoria Road primary, St Machar primary and Causewayend school have all shut their doors under the SNP.

Pupil support assistants across the city have lost their jobs and essential social care providers such as Choices have gone.

Labour will continue to speak out against the administration’s reckless decisions and to stand up in the best interests of everybody in Aberdeen—not just those who have the deepest pockets.

 


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