Olympic ceremonies will cost another £40m

The budget for the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic opening and closing ceremonies has been doubled to over £80 million, it was announced today.

Ministers blamed the increased cost of security on the recruitment of 23 700 security guards to work at more than 100 competition and training venues. This brings the taxpayer’s contribution to venue security to £533 million. With the policing bill set at £475 million, the overall cost of Olympic security is now £1 billion.

Delivering the Government’s quarterly Olympic budget update today, Olympics minister Hugh Robertson said: “This money will not be spent on fireworks, it will not be money going up in smoke, it will be an important investment in the economic future of the country.”


He continued by saying that a meeting of the Prime Minister, the Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt and himself had decided that they “needed to maximise and promote London to the four billion television viewers after being presented with a wide range of ceremonial components across the ceremonies.”

Robertson acknowledged the current economic conditions but said that the potential benefits that could flow through enhanced tourism numbers justified the increase.

The extra cash will come from the Olympic contingency fund and the London 2012 project remains on course to come in at around the budgeted £9.3 billion.

Putting on a great show is important but what’s even more important is creating a lasting legacy – other than debt. Surely they’d be able to put on a few good shows for the original £40 million budgeted and then they could have spent the additional £40 million on something that would benefit the people of Britain in the future?

This is where we’d normally add a sarcastic comments about broken calculators, but this time we’re just going to let the numbers speak for themselves…

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Your TV tonight: The undead Grey Men of Battersea Power Station

On ITV’s London Tonight and LBC radio you can watch or hear Ravi Govindia, the leader of Wandsworth Council who, as former cabinet member for “strategic planning and transportation”, is particularly responsible for the failed private-property owner led regeneration of the area,  trying to defend the borough’s pathetic policy towards the obviously flawed and greedy plans for Battersea Power Station.

Only a few days ago George Osborne and Boris Johnson were doing their best to puff the disastrous scheme which is now as all but dead and buried by the creditors calling in their loans.


For the Battersea Power Station Community Group (BPSCG) it is just another “new beginning” as the fourth developer limps off stage to boos and jeers.

Keith Garner is also interviewed calling for the whole site to be put into public ownership for a sensible, viable, gradual development of the historic and beautiful building and its surrounding site. An ideal exhibition for industrial power ( see our previous blogs). Keith cites the difference in the approach of Southwark to the other Gilbert-Scott designed river front power station, the highly successful Tate Modern. Through partnerships and a gradual, planned development it shows what Battersea residents could have had these past 30 years.

WATCH: ITV London Tonight on Battersea Power Station debt

Spectacle’s crew were there today too and will be posting soon the bits of the interviews the broadcaster left out. Including an hilarious episode where the owners try to stop ITV filming by shutting the gates. Perhaps their last act.

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Creditors call in Battersea Power Station debts

For Sale

 

NAMA and Lloyds  are owed 502 million pounds ($786 million) by the owners of Battersea Power Station and they want their money back. Now.

Despite REO’s attempt at positive spin (see below) their ridiculous plan is over and it is about time the heritage site was brought into public ownership and restored as a site for Industrial Power.

 

Real Estate Opportunities plc (the Company)
Battersea Power Station facilities:

The Company announces that certain subsidiaries (BPS Subsidiaries) of Battersea Power Station Shareholder Vehicle Limited, the holding company of Battersea Power Station formed for the purposes of the restructuring that was announced in April 2011 and which is 54% owned by the Company, have received demand for repayment from Bank of Scotland plc, as agent for the National Asset Management Agency (NAMA) and Lloyds Banking Group the (together the senior lenders), under the senior facilities advanced in respect of the Battersea Power Station site, aggregating approximately £324m, and from Oriental Property Limited under the facilities advanced by it to the BPS Subsidiaries, aggregating approximately £178m. The BPS Subsidiaries are currently not in a position to satisfy these demands for repayment.  The Company has also been advised that NAMA  and Lloyds Banking Group have applied to the English court for the appointment of administrators to certain of the BPS  Subsidiaries and that a hearing for this purpose is to be held on 12 December 2011.
The Company remains in discussions which may result in the disposal of the group’s interest in the Battersea Powerstation site and repayment of associated liabilities.  However, there is no certainty that any such transaction will be effected.
The Company’s other assets, which are situated in Ireland, are unaffected by the above developments. The Company has recently received term sheets from NAMA, the principal lender in respect of its Irish assets, indicating NAMA’s continued support for the Company’s business in Ireland.

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Why the Northern Line extension will never happen

The recent PR buff on Battersea Power Station has left us no closer to a solution to the issue. Chancellor George Osborne and Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, have been talking about the Northern Line extension and oligarch Roman Abramovich has received media attention by saying that he’s thinking about moving Chelsea Football Club‘s home ground South East of the site.

Extending the Northern line from Kennington to Battersea is one thing – funding the project is another. During the Autumn Statement in the Commons today, Osborne stated that the government will back the project – but did not mention with how much. He also called for “a developer” to contribute to the project and develop the power station site before a deadline of 2013.

The project is still heavily reliant on private funding and current owners Treasury Holdings is going to struggle. A scheme this size, roughly three times the size of Canary Wharf if you include Nine Elms, is always going to be difficult to get up and running at the best of times. But in a recession..?

Giving the Northern Line extension green light and talking up the moribund and equally fantastic Rafael Viñoly’s nightmare vision of gloomy glass canyons, is certainly invaluable property pump priming. And it’s hard to imagine why the Conservatives are so happy to collude in this theatre, given that they held their 2010 election campaign launch under the same chimneys which Battersea Power Station’s owner Richard Barrett, one of the co-founders of Treasury Holdings, once said “would fall in strong wind.”

Recently, Tory dominated Wandsworth Borough Council’s planning committee gave Treasury Holdings permission to demolish the power station’s chimneys on the grounds that they were unsafe. However, many experts disagree and local residents believe that, like the roof which was never replaced, the chimneys will never be re-built once they are gone. If Treasury Holdings really believe that the chimneys are precarious, it shows a very cavalier approach to the health and safety of Her Majesty’s Opposition, as there wasn’t a hard hat in sight.

The Battersea Power Station should become a World Heritage site for industrial power. The site has a unique Victorian Pumping Station with site of the biggest Cornish engine of its day. It also has spectacular gasometers dating from 1910 as well as, of course, the beautiful coal-powered art deco power station.

It would be nice to see Abramovich spend some of his heard-earned billions derived from oil, show some philanthropic decency and rescue the site from the clutches of the myopic grey men. They would simply turn the site into just another crass, desolated, windswept and empty river-front development along the banks of the Thames.

The Big Society was prime minister David Cameron’s flagship policy idea for the 2010 election campaign and has stated that it’s his “mission.” One may ask, if one of the world’s richest men isn’t going to chip in – then who will?

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Shaker Aamer: 10 Years on

 

The Independent has drawn attention today to the “decade in detention without trial” of Shaker Aamer, cleared for release in 2007. The article emphasised Shaker’s current declining health and concerns about the amount of time he has endured in solitary confinement.

As a British resident, Shaker looks to be spending his tenth year in Guantanamo Prison where his recent hunger strike draws ever more concern about just exactly what it means to have been “cleared for release” in the United States of America. While this is a case that has drawn minimum media attention in the past ten years, what seems to be lacking is not just a public awareness of the issue but an informed public response to it.

One reader’s comment on the Independent article, with more than 10 ‘likes’, has expressed hostility about the idea of British taxpayers money being used on “lawyers looking after his interests” with a reluctance to accept Shaker as a British resident. This kind of prejudice dominating the response to the Independent article is disconcerting, especially given that we know of the torture received by Shaker in Guantanamo Prison and the trauma that has befallen his family for ten years now, particularly his son, who has never seen him. Shaker was abducted while residing in Afghanistan to build wells and a school for children as a charitable act. The real issue here is one of humanity and a huge injustice in the legal system of America – not one to do with terrorism or a bigoted gripe about who is paying for Shaker’s lawyers, who he has only had very little contact with anyway. He is a British citizen, it must be remembered.

The article brings little more to light than a reminder and a vague description of a decline in Shaker’s situation. Perhaps more prominent are the superfical and racist comments brought about by the article from an audience that seem unaware of the plight of Shaker, Omar Khadr and others suffering the injustices of Guantanamo.

It is interesting that fifty years after Stanley Milgram‘s experiment into obedience to authority; there has been no shift in human development. We still believe in upholding the justice system even when it is killing innocent people and destroying lives. We need to stop putting our trust in Government actions simply because it is easier to ignore them. Progress comes with education, so if you want more information about the save Shaker Aamer campaign, spend just five minutes getting to know his case and just why we need to call for his release today.

Please join the Save Shaker Aamer Campaign

Watch video- Omar Deghayes, former Guantanamo Bay detainee, describes his interrogation by British Intelligence agent, “Andrew”, and others (MI5 and MI6) while held illegally in Pakistan.

Order Spectacle’s DVD Outside The Law: Stories from Guantánamo

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UK’s secret policy on torture: a threat to national security




Today the Guardian exclusively revealed  the UK’s secret policy on torture.
The document shows intelligence officers were instructed to “weigh the importance of information sought against the pain inflicted”.

One section states: “If […] that information will be or has been obtained through the mistreatment of detainees, the negative consequences may include […] adverse effects on national security if the fact […] were to be publicly revealed”

Not only does this document expose the UK’s complicity with torture, which it acknowledges is illegal under UK and international law, but it also attempts to justify the need for keeping the policy secret because it may increase the threat from terrorism. In other words it is not the illegal torture policy that is a problem- just people finding out about it.

In other words, as any criminal will surely agree, the real crime is being found out.  The document attempts to blame the messenger or whistle-blower for any potential negative “blow back” rather than the torture policy itself.

Behind this lies a remarkable confidence that both the victims and the perpetrators of torture will keep silent or will not be believed if they speak out.
This policy of secrecy would explain why credible witness and UK resident Shaker Aamer is still in Guantanamo. It would appear he will be held until tormented into insanity.

Please join the Save Shaker Aamer Campaign

Watch video- Omar Deghayes, former Guantanamo Bay detainee, describes his interrogation by British Intelligence agent, “Andrew”, and others (MI5 and MI6) while held illegally in Pakistan.

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MI5 implicated in new torture allegations

GuanGraphicLg

The British intelligence services have been implicated in fresh allegations of torture, the Guardian has revealed.

In spite of promises from the government to investigate the complicity of the Intelligence services in the use of torture against terror suspects, it is alleged that MI5 was involved in a case of  ‘rendition’ as late as July last year. Omar Awadh, a Kenyan businessman, was secretly captured and deported to Uganda (a practice referred to as ‘rendition’) in the wake of the July 2010 bombings in Kampala. He was subsequently held in prison where he claims that he was tortured by local security officials and interrogated by officers from MI5 and the FBI.

Previously, detainees from Guantanamo such as Omar Deghayes, have claimed that they were questioned by British intelligence officials during their time in detention. In July 2010, shortly before the bombings that lead to Awadh’s arrest, David Cameron announced plans for an inquiry into the complicity of MI5 in the outsourcing of torture to other countries and promised compensation if it was confirmed that British Intelligence had permitted the torture of UK citizens.

Although Mr Cameron was keen to investigate human rights breaches committed under the last government, he has yet to respond to the latest torture allegations in the Guardian.

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Government tried to prevent disclosure of detention manual

The government’s attempts to delay the current proceedings that have yielded highly classified documents for public consumption have received a rebuttal out of court. The failed attempt to suppress the information out of court, a ‘spin-off’ hope from the appeal court’s dismissal of the same case in May, has dented the coalition’s plans to restore confidence in the British Intelligence service who have been implicated in the torture of British citizens in Guantanamo and Afghanistan. It also follows previous failed efforts by David Miliband in October 2009 to prevent the disclosure of a CIA report that claimed that MI5 were fully aware that Binyam Mohamed was subject to ‘inhumane treatment’ during  interrogation in Morocco and Afghanistan, supplying information and questions to the Moroccans and Americans. Miliband was under pressure to protect the identities of those involved.

The inquiry, led by Sir Peter Gibson, will press ahead with raiding through the chest of 500,000 documents considered relevant to the judicial inquiry announced by David Cameron last week.  Among the documents that the government asked to remain undisclosed was the ‘Detainees and Detention Operations’ manual. The official document from MI6, which provides step-by-step guidelines that impressively manage to surf the boundaries of both legality and morality, contains a particularly chilling line regarding the jurisdiction of a particular detention that reads:

Is it clear that detention, rather than killing, is the objective of the operation?

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