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The truths they don't want you to read....

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Business seminar

I was supposed to be attending the Business Seminar at the Comhairle tonight, but unfortunately unexpected client business unfortunately kept me away.

The rationale of the meeting was:
  • To help fully understand the present and future outlook for local businesses
  • To identify appropriate actions we can take collectively to try and mitigate against further negative impacts arising from the downturn
I think that the Comhairle should be applauded for holding such a seminar in an effort to get in touch with the private sector, and I would be very glad to hear from others who were actually able to attend.

Had I been present, the key points I would have raised were:
  • Is this just a Comhairle initiative, or are the Health Board involved too?
  • We mustn't overestimate what the Comhairle can achieve, as they can only manage a small (but significant) part of the economy
  • Put services out to tender with local businesses, even if that means local business have the opportunity to compete with the status quo of providing the service within the Council.
  • Buy local, and take account of the local multiplier impact of buying local in taking decisions - £1,000 quote from the mainland might be worse than a £1,500 quote from local suppliers if it supports local jobs and generates £3,000 of economic activity on the islands
  • Ensure Comhairle suppliers pay their suppliers promptly - this is especially important in the construction industry where one locally based contractor has unilaterally extended terms from 30 days to 90
The Scottish Government budget is claimed to generate ("support"?) 4,000 (or is it "nearly 5,000" jobs?) - which is possibly 25 jobs here. That doesn't even cover the loses at Arnish, never mind all the other losses....


Anonymous said...


Both the Council and the Health Board are obliged to follow the directives from the Government and the EU about tendering. Neither body is allowed to discriminate either positively or negatively in the tendering process. All that they can do is give some assistance to the local firms in compiling their tender (without discriminating against other tenderees). Both organisations have a duty to ensure that they obtain the best value for the public money as is possible. Don't forget that the multiplier effect that you talk about would also apply to an area on the mainland should they be awarded a contract.

Anonymous said...

Many civil servants 'deserve axe'

Let's start the process at the white house....

Angus said...

Anon 9:22

The procurement limits are very high - see the EU requirements here - and below those limits Councils can almost do as these please with issuing tenders.

It is the small, exempt, tenders which will be of most interest to businesses on the islands.

I completely agree about 'best value' being important, but you also need to ensure that the definitions are correct - if NOT tendering the buses is considered best value, then why cannot an evaluation of the local multiplier effect be used to target contracts locally?

Anonymous said...

Hi Angus,

The multiplier can't be used because the rules don't permit it. Rightly or wrongly that's the way the rules have been set up.
As for the buses; I wouldn't be surprised to see more legal action here.

Yes it is the small tenders which will be of interest to the islands. The SG still require the Council & HB to advertise these tenders and not to discriminate in their being awarded.

Equally, the NHS and the LAs have, I believe, a series of national contracts to purchase items and they are obliged to follow these national purchasing contracts. As greater compliance with these contracts is achieved, I can foresee local companies being adversely affected by them.

Anonymous said...


Just back from the same seminar which was held at the Dark Island hotel in Benbecula.

The usual mumbo jumbo about initiatives,Cal Mac, Schools etc.

Two interesting points though; first, James Peterana of UB raised the question as to the current status of the port of entry scheme with Huw Francis who is CEO of Storas Uibhist. Francis wittered on - as Welsh gits are wont to do - about feasibility studies and consultants and then let slip that £2.5 million had been allocated to take it forward to the next step. "We hope to be able to apply for planning consent in about eighteen months to two years time". With the breathtaking speed now being displayed by aforementioned Welshman we'll be all right then.
Unfortunately, by a strange coincidence, the funding for his salary, currently being met by the taxpayer, will have come to an end by then.
AS a CEO he has nothing to show for his time in office other than being a massive drain on the publi purse and the public face of an oppresive and intrusive management body.

If the money that has been squandered on legal and acounting fees - lets just leave the consultants to one side - had been spent on the local economy then we would not have the need to waste our time on a meeting to discuss its plight. ( Note to self: get a job as a consultant, there's no money in burying dead sheep in January)

A few in the audience mentioned affordable land for housing being released to locals but the debate was effectively stifled by the presence of said Welshman and his ginger sidekick. Currently the biggest single inhibitor to development in Uist is Taffy and his band.

The Comhairle can mince around the edges of the local economy, and WIE can do some muted handwringing but until the community can regain control of its destiny then we are sliding down the plughole.

Second point that was raised was to make more effective use of the ferries. In specific, rather than have the lochmaddy / Uig ferry tied up all night, why not have a dedicated freight run which left late evening. The hauliers would be able to get to and from the island in one day without the need for an overnight stay. Is this too much like a simple solution to be even considered?

Anonymous said...


Hmm, not very PC are you, is Taffy a crap CEO because he's welsh? and I didn't know hair colour was linked to ability.

Don't understand "until the community can regain control of its destiny then we are sliding down the plughole." Isn't that what land reform is all about? Or is it that pesky Taff ruining things again?

Why doesn't S.Uist lead the way and have a vote of no confidence in the Storas?

Anonymous said...

Ten twenty six here again, have to get up early to check the remaining woolly backs.

Destiny - in South Uist - was seen to be taken out of the hands of the community at the last AGM. Despite receiving £4.2m from the public purse and promoting hare brained schemes which would require a further minimum of £20m, Taffy was unable to bring current minutes to the table. Neither were consolidated accounts produced. I understand that an examination of the recent accounts appear to reveal that the show is technically bust. Taffy will hang on and bluster as he is well paid to do so.

This is a remarkable level of arrogance and incompetence apparantly condoned by WIE.

However, to compound the shambles of an AGM, what was more worrying was that any challenges from the floor were rubbished or simply ignored. The big cheeses from WIE were present, their rep took the stance of "it is only early days yet", we are actually entering year three with nothing to show other than acrimony and division.

There were two assistant development officers appointed at the same time as Taffy. Given that the single biggest entry in Taffy's cv was 6 years spent as a babysitter (Google Huw Francis and check for yourself).It was also no surprise that neither dev officer had any relevant experience or qualification. Blackie was sacked a couple of weeks ago, which only leaves ginger in place.

Last night saw attendance from development officers employed by WIIC, WIE and Storas Uibhist, combined salaries would be in excess of £250,000 per annum!
Sack the lot and get a development fund to the value of the saved money set up, would achieve more.

Finally, in South Uist there is no mechanism to take any complaint or grievance forward and have it effectively addressed. Mugabe could take a few lessons from the current lot. Simple estate management appears to be completely beyond (beneath?)Taffy and his band. WIE and the political thugs behind the land reform policies appear to need the 'spectacular' before a buyout can be judged to be successful. Just let the locals get on with their work and give them support where needed. Islanders are hardworking and entrepreneurial, give them the tools and the space to get on with their lives.

Must go, the sun arises shortly.

Anonymous said...

interesting order, those last two; was it seen within the same office? (probably on the same road as you Angus!)

Anonymous said...

same old bile about storas uibhist as was so magnanimously "suspended" three weeks ago. same old story - anyone who actually does anything is subject to abuse and innuendo by the terminally unelectable

Anonymous said...

10.26: As it is public money it is all open to FOI. Storas must comply, if not give Kevin Dunion a bell. He is a good egg.

Then compile a list of all your grievances and send to all Scottish MP and MSPs showing the squandering of cash. The Scotsman and Times etc will be very interested, especially as Urras are heading down a similar cash drain closely followed by North Harris and the soon to be bought out South Harris. You need to take this out the Hebridean goldfish bowl and raise it nationally.

Hacks love a bit of juicy scandal.

Anonymous said...

Community buy-outs suck! So much for empowering communities. What I see across the islands are the same old professional wingers exploiting the public purse, mainly to their benefit even if that is just the ego.

The real community is locked out of the proceedings as the funding agencies treat the Trusts like sacred cows. As 10.26 points out there is no redress for ordinary people.

How are these areas meant to prosper when the very structure of the community companies sets them up to be in direct conflict and competition with 'real people' who actually live on the estates and are trying to make a go of things.

Maybe some policy makers should take off their rose tinted specs, get their head out of Jim Hunter and go and actually talk to the anonymous folk who are having to live through this crap.