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

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Our city’s not for sale

If you live in the Newington/Southside ward, you’ll have seen in my election leaflet that I wrote:

Who, in their right mind, would vote along party lines to spend £4 million pounds of council taxpayers money for a study into something that they had no intention of seeing through? That biblical incompetence and chronic misguided party political driven wastefulness means that the entire population of Hallhead Road (where I grew up) will be paying their Council Tax for the next 60 years just to fund that particular piece of party political shenanigans – this is unacceptable.

I’d seen the arguments about privatisation reported in the Scotsman and local blogs, with councillors slanging each other along party lines.

Fundamentally, I believe that core Council services should simply be delivered “in house” by a good, motivated, loyal workforce, an appreciated workforce, delivering the basic services within the community.

I am fond of the principle of a workforce dedicated to public service and appreciated for their efforts. To abandon something that pretty well works and go through a quagmire of term contracts, outplacement service contracts and monitoring – it would have been a difficult path and I don’t believe it would have saved any money.

Handing out wholesale service delivery to companies driven by profit would most likely end in tears and it would be a mammoth task to reverse when the experiment failed. And what would have happened to the families of the workforce of the council?

Certain pockets of necessary specialist expertise will always require to be “bought in” but I would prefer that to be the exception rather than the rule.

That would have been my starting point if I’d been on the council when the idea of “Alternative Business Model” was brought up.

As for this kind of treatment of council employees – shameful is the only word for it.

“The management put a notice up for 12 days’ overtime, which we had the option to work on our days off, but after two days they took it down and we found out Enterprise were going to be brought in.

“We actually had to find out from an agency worker rather than the management.

“The council is always on about saving money but surely it would be cheaper to pay us.”

The worker added: “The guys are thinking too much work is being handed over and the morale has really dropped because it would have boosted their wages.”

And it seems to me the campaign Edinburgh Against Privatisation was a real example of local democracy in action. A councillor should represent Edinburgh and the people of the ward that elected them – that’s what local democracy is about.

Vote for Gordon Murdie

Gordon Murdie for Southside/Newington

Dear fellow local resident,

I am privileged to have been asked to stand as your local independent candidate.

People died for the right to vote yet local elections bring out in many of us a torpid state of abject boredom with underlying symptoms of resigned apathy.

A periodic plethora of party politicians pressing the flesh, peppering us with their pamphlets and promising anything that they perceive may prove popular. Pretending things are perfect and blaming one (or all) of the other parties for anything that went slightly or even catastrophically wrong.

All this for a few years of “power” during which a number forget that they were actually elected to represent the people of Edinburgh, to ensure the best value delivery of a variety of important services to our community and to have a quality of vision commensurate with the local, national and international standing and aspirations of our wonderful Capital City.

As your elected Councillor, I promise to represent and serve the best interests of Southside/Newington, to listen to your local concerns, to share a vision for this great City of ours and to be your voice in the Council.

To do this, I need your help. Please take a look at this blog and if it ticks the boxes for you then please put a 1 in my box on 3rd May.

Thank you & kind regards

Gordon Murdie

Gordon Murdie - Independent

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Why I’m standing as an independent

Alastair Tibbett asks Gordon Murdie why he’s standing for Southside/Newington ward as an independent:

“Of course, just because I’m an independent doesn’t mean I don’t have political views. But when you see where the five parties and their 58 representatives have got us I think it’s time for independents.

“Power is not my meat and drink. Whatever role I would play would be a role driven by common sense and honesty and representing the people who hopefully will be kind enough to vote for me.

“I think being a councillor is a very personal relationship and I’ll be serving the people who elect me. I won’t be serving a political party.

“Once you think along common sense lines, the needs of the people are not what a party tells me to think.

“I’ve not been a great one ever for being told what to do, and doing it without question.”

Posted in Elections 2012. Tags: . Comments Off on Why I’m standing as an independent