Missed Opportunity & A Waste of Money

ABERDEENSHIRE Council continues its campaign of silence on questions surrounding last year’s £1.8 million participatory budgeting process. Meanwhile, Jackie Bruce has written about her experience as a member of the reference group that was supposed to help steer the selection of projects offered for the vote.

Dear Bellman

As vice chairperson of Stonehaven Community Sports Hub, I was a member of the participatory budget, PB, reference group established to develop and support the project.

As an active member of the Sports Hub for over eight years, I am very aware of the challenges faced by our local sports groups. My experience and knowledge provided a unique opportunity to speak to these issues on behalf of our local sports groups, I had assumed this information and knowledge would be valuable to the PB process. 

Most Stonehaven sport and leisure groups experience the same issues specifically a dearth of appropriate facilities and equipment storage. As was clear from the start, the PB funds were to be spent on built facilities and physical infrastructure, I was therefore quite encouraged that options put forward for public vote would help our local clubs and groups. How wrong was I.

From the first mention by Aberdeenshire Council/LLA of upgrades to the Stonehaven Leisure Centre, and at every opportunity thereafter, the Sports Hub representatives challenged how these upgrades would in any way tackle or improve the main issues faced by our clubs and groups. 

September 2021: I along with the other Sports Hub representative constantly raised concerns with the Leisure Centre upgrade option, as we believed it did not comply with the PB budget principles. We insisted that this option should not be included in the vote, however all other members of the reference group disagreed. Then six months later, votes all counted, interpreted by Aberdeenshire Council/LLA in isolation, and our worst fears had come true!

A railroaded agenda

March 2022, After the disappointing result of the PB voting, I felt utterly drained. I was painfully aware that the community of Stonehaven were going to be disappointed with this “winning” option.  I felt we had been used as participants by Aberdeenshire Council/LLA to give credibility to the PB process, when in actual fact they railroaded through their own agenda.

So off I go, back to my many hours volunteering for basketball and local clubs, to deal with a 50% increase in hall let charges, coaches having to clean halls before sessions can start (because the floors are covered in dirt), oh and to try and fix the ongoing issues with (lack of) storage not to mention the chaos that is the on-line booking system for lets to name but a few!

Forward to 2nd March 2023. LLA called a meeting to discuss storage at Stonehaven Leisure Centre…. but wait a minute there wasn’t any additional storage for user groups. The meeting was actually to confirm the location of a storage container!  On looking at the detailed planned “upgrades” I was shocked to see how little we were getting for £1.4M. On closer inspection of the plans (that unbeknown to me had been up for comment in December 2022) I became aware that a new 1.8m wide corridor was going to run the entire length of the newly formed Dance Studio and Fitness Gym, yet the extension to the front of these rooms was only 3.2m wide (3.2–1.8 = 1.4m of extra space)! A basic knowledge of home improvements would suggest a simple partition wall in the current leisure centre seating/reception area would provide the same space at a fraction of the cost!

How do we stop this waste of money?

Questions still need to be answered: Given that the changing room refurbishments are funded from a separate budget and the PAMIS room is a mandatory requirement, what are we really getting for our money?  After investing so much time on the PB project, why did LLA not listen to the views and feedback from the Sports Hub members who were part of the Reference Group?  Why has there not been a feedback loop to the reference group and more importantly the Stonehaven community to sense check the final delivery of the winning option?

And now most importantly, what can be done to STOP this absolute waste of money?

Yours etc

Jackie Bruce


Pat Stewart - April 4, 2023

How about demanding a public meeting with the Chief Executive of Aberdeenshire Council?

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