By Peter Curran
What can I say that I haven’t already said or which has already been said better by others, e.g. Mike Dailly, the Jaconelli’s lawyer? Trying to cut through my impotent fury at what has been done to this archetypal Glasgow family, I will try ..
First, the essential facts -
Margaret lived in 10 Ardenlea Street, Dalmarnock since she was a teenage bride, 35 years ago in 1976. She and her husband Jack – a builder – struggled to buy their house, a solid, well-appointed flat in a red sandstone building. (It almost exactly matches the flat in Agamemnon Street, Dalmuir where I spent the first nine years of my married life, a wonderful home.)
The Jaconellis owned their home outright, but in common with their friends and neighbours, sold it to Bridgeton and Dalmarnock and Housing Association in 1981, with a right to buy it back within 10 years. They did so in 1998 at the favourable price of £30,000, based on a 1990 valuation.
Just after the millennium, owners and tenants in Dalmarnock began to come under pressure in relation to the Glasgow East Regeneration project, and were gradually forced out, one way or another by Glasgow City Council who announced their intention in 2001/2002 to pull the housing down.
A vital point – developers had begun to purchase property and vacant lots in Dalmarnock, some well before the regeneration project was announced – make what you will of that fact, and whether it was prescience or inside information.
In 2006, having effectively deliberately blighted the area – planning blight – Labour-controlled Glasgow City Council acted, with compulsory purchase orders for homes and businesses and for vacant plots of land owned by developers.
They offered Margaret Jaconelli and her family £30,000 for their home – a figure equivalent to the 1990 valuation and 1998 purchase price, a figure that could not possibly have bought comparable accommodation in another area (Dalmarnock had effectively been destroyed), never mind paid for the legal, removal and associated costs of purchase.
Margaret and her husband had no choice but to reject the offer and attempt to negotiate a fair price and compensation for the disruption to their lives, hoping that a fundamental principle of justice would be observed, namely that someone affected by a decision such as this should not suffer loss, and, insofar as is humanly possible, should be able to restore the situation to what it was before it was made.
To have accepted the £30,000 offer would have destroyed them economically and emotionally, since they could not possibly have bought anything comparable in an area of their choice with that money. (It goes without saying that the Jaconellis were not seeking to buy in the leafy West End of Glasgow among the young media professionals, nor in Bearsden, or Newton Mearns or other affluent and expensive suburbs where the professional classes and politicians who were gearing up to destroy their lives lived. They want to find a tight-knit working class community of the kind that Ardenlea Street and Dalmarnock had once been for them.)
But Glasgow City Council, for almost six long years refused to negotiate, reiterating their £30,000 valuation and demanding that the Jaconellis move out. During this period, every other owner and tenant was forced out of the Ardenlea Street block, and the flats were boarded up. But not the flat above the Jaconellis, where the windows were removed and a grill placed over them, leaving what was effectively the Jaconelli’s roof open to the elements, causing their heating bills to rocket.
Only in late 2010, after over five years, did GCC make a radically improved offer, which I understood to be £85,000. However, Mike Dailly, the Jaconelli’s lawyer stated today on his blog that the only legal offer was £71,000, and I must defer to Mike’s superior knowledge of the facts.
In 2011, faced with court actions, GCC made a verbal offer of £90,000, never yet formalised in writing – an offer that the Jaconelli’s would have accepted in 2006, but which now, in the light of changes in the property market and because of the legal and related costs they had incurred in their six year fight, would not have left nearly enough to find and purchase an equivalent property.
Glasgow City Council, through its PR machine and grapevine, has effectively sold a distorted picture of the Jaconellis to an either lazy or compliant Glasgow Press and media, who published uncritically and with apparently no fact checking or attempt to get the Jaconelli’s story directly.
The factoids (things that, as Norman Mailer once said, everybody knows are true – except they ain’t) included -
that permanent alternative accommodation was offered. It wasn’t – temporary rented accommodation at around £400 a month was offered to property owners – the Jaconellis – who paid no rent on their own home.
The offer of accommodation had been bracketed with the improved purchase offer – it wasn’t.
That the Jaconellis were demanding a figure of £360,000 in settlement. This one requires more explanation, but there are potential legal hazards to me in trying to explain it. Suffice it to say that a misunderstanding arose between the Jaconellis and their previous lawyer over a figure that was only designed to illustrate the gross disparity between the derisory sum offered to the Jaconellis and the astronomical profits made by a developer of an adjacent plot, who reaped a profit of £5.5 million on a £45k investment from GCC – the Sun’s ‘£3.5 million pound Gran’ story.
Margaret Jaconelli officially requested mediation on the dispute this year, a request refused by GCC, a fact known to the Court. In the last week, the Scottish Government twice offered to act as mediator between the Jaconellis, and were twice refused. Later, Glasgow City Council, faced with the reality of what an eviction of this vulnerable family, now barricaded into their flat, would mean, delivered an ultimatum – vacate immediately and we will mediate. The Jaconellis refused.
Mediation – or ADR (Alternative Dispute Resolution) is an accepted technique in resolving bitter disputes where the law is failing. Mediation is not, I emphasis not arbitration. No decision or view is espoused by the mediator – he or she simply attempts to get the parties to reach agreement by acting as analyst, facilitator and honest broker. GCC had nothing to fear from this process, and had they been willing to enter into it, a deal would have been reached on a figure well removed from the nonsense they have spread about extravagant demands from the Jaconellis.
On Thursday, they preferred to send 80 policemen and women and some 20 riot vans on a dawn raid, dispersing the small band of Jaconelli supporters and barricading the street, then breaking down the doors of 10 Ardenlea Street. The Jaconellis are now homeless, and a gross injustice, fully supported by the law and Glasgow City Council has been perpetrated, leaving a stain on the Commonwealth Games and the City of Glasgow.
The Jaconelli’s case has been referred to the International Court of Human Rights at Strasbourg, a process that can take years. Margaret Jaconelli, just before the final assault on her home, took the decision to run as an independent candidate for the Scottish Parliament, raising the deposit in hours form friends and sympathisers. No one should doubt the determination and steely resolve of this remarkable woman, the epitome of the Glasgow working class spirit, to fight for her rights.
More at Commonwealth Games Monitor here.