A demanding and responsible undertaking

I am a quantity surveyor. The fundamentals of my trade are delivering anything from a conservatory to a castle on time, on budget and to the correct quality. I have dealt with projects large and small – but had I been the quantity surveyor responsible for the Edinburgh Trams project, by this time I would have been sacked. It is unimaginable for a project to shrink in size yet double (at least) in cost.

I read in yesterday’s Evening News that four civil engineers (claiming a very respectable 150 years of experience) say that the council chiefs have made the trams situation worse in the past year:

“In our view, the tram project is even more out of control than it was under TIE. The risks that existed then continue to be critical and to impact the project.”

They claimed the design of the project was incomplete, although the original intention had been for it to be completed by the end of 2007; the project suffered from the absence of a single experienced individual; the diversion of underground utility pipes and cables was “still far from complete”; and the cost of taking the tramline from St Andrew Square into York Place was not included in the current £776 million budget.

(All those involved should hang their heads with shame. But the tram project can’t be scrapped now.)

What the Transport Minister said at the time was “A sustainable, integrated and effective transport network” and “a safe, environmental travel choice” and perhaps strangest of all to read five years later “The utilities agreement that has been put in place is the right approach. Allowing a single contractor to do all the work will minimise disruption in the Capital, save money and ensure the delivery of the project. That is welcome news for Edinburgh.”

If only. Councillors understanding the contract documentation for the trams fiasco could have saved Edinburgh becoming an international laughing stock. I wish I could have seen what the councillors saw five years ago. Not the glossy Edinburgh Transport Review but the contract and the estimates. Asking the right questions, challenging and analysing the answers, delivering the right solutions on budget… it’s what I do.

I was one of the two experts asked to look at the statutory repairs for a BBC Scotland Investigates programme, “Scotland’s Property Scandal“. (The other expert witness is John Addison, probably the most eminent structural engineer in the conservation field in Scotland.) A few weeks later the BBC broadcast “The Great Tram Disaster (great review here).

The reviewer, local blogger Tychy, also asked a few days ago:

Perhaps the tram was a dream? The disastrously unsupervised instalment of a single tramline, with projected costs now at a billion pounds, has virtually bankrupted Edinburgh’s council and made the city a national laugh stock. Yet with council elections in seven days, it seems that the plucky local press has together agreed to treat all of our motley politicians as if they were the Royal Family, by not asking too many unhelpful questions.

Being a Councillor is a demanding and responsible undertaking. I think all candidates set out with good intentions, wanting to do a bit of good along the way … but they also have political party advancement to think of.

Of recent years, no Independent candidate has won a seat on Edinburgh Council. The election campaign itself is a huge undertaking, with no party structure to help me – but if I win, then the real work starts.

Listening to the needs and concerns of local people comes naturally to many individuals. I’ve helped many people who were losing their way through the council statutory notices, faced with grossly inflated bills. Being able to fully understand a variety of issues and implement action is a skill too far for some.

It is all very well being selected by a party and to put your name under a party banner, but it is the skill and experience of the individual that matters.

The multi million pound statutory notices scandal – had a member of the public come to my “surgery” with a concern, I would have been on the case years ago and nipped it in the bud. Quantity surveyors have informed management skills, cost control and a breadth of understanding – these are inherent in my profession. We deal with building projects, yes – and perhaps more importantly, we deal with people – people who will live in, work in or use

  • Hospitals
  • Health Centres
  • Airports
  • Homes for the elderly
  • Schools
  • Town centre redevelopments (yes, including pothole repairs!)
  • Nurseries
  • Sports facilities
  • Church halls and community facilities
  • Recreation and leisure facilities
  • ….. and more.

As a correspondent observed “I have to say that your background makes you an ideal choice”.

I believe so. Otherwise I wouldn’t have got into this.

Robin McAlpine, author of a report on the state of democracy in Scotland, says

“At the local level in Scotland, the administration is basically fine, but the democracy is an absolute disaster. I don’t think anyone really believes they can use their vote to change their community any more. That just can’t be acceptable.”

I said it and I meant it: Make things go your way on 3rd May – I will not let you down.

Vote for Gordon Murdie

Advertisements

It’s not just the trams

Alan Cochrane (Telegraph, 16th April) calls it “the policy that dare not speak its name”, “the shambolic farce” – the trams. He asks

And so, with local elections looming who is to blame for this fiasco and who should be punished in the polling booth?

and his answer is:

If I know my local politicians they’ll all say, in relation to The Trams fiasco: “It wasnae me.” But it was them – all of them, who’ve served on that council in recent years. So let’s get rid of the lot.

Least culpable, I suppose, are the SNP representatives. That party has always been against the project and, to be fair to them, Alex Salmond and John Swinney, his finance minister, tried to axe it when they first came to power in 2007. However, in those days they were outvoted by Labour, Tories and Liberal Democrats.

Those three parties, in both Holyrood and the City Chambers, are most to blame and while they all now try to heap all the ordure on each other, the voters are entitled to apportion responsibility for the foul-up fairly evenly.

That said, 2007 also saw SNP councillors going into partnership to run Edinburgh – voluntarily, it must be said – with the Lib Dems and they must surely accept a share of the blame, therefore, for the appalling descent into even greater chaos.

Astonishingly, Labour, Tory, Lib Dem and SNP have all published Edinburgh council election “manifestoes” and none have even mentioned The Trams. Incredible. To me that is proof positive of their collective and individual guilt.

National politics played out in Edinburgh have brought national shame upon our City.  As far as the trams are concerned, a laughing stock rather than a rolling stock.  We are also lagging behind in delivery of basic, fundamental services  – take home care for the elderly as one example.  Edinburgh is in 7th place out of 10 Councils. Too much time spent by the present incumbents on vanity projects, embroidering party rosettes and climbing the greasy party political pole and not enough time representing the people of Edinburgh – time for a new broom to sweep health care for the elderly into perfect shape and sweep incompetent, scandalous waste into history.
Read the rest of this entry »