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  • Writer's pictureThe Gaudie

'More faces than the Town House clock': Councillors trade barbs ahead of no confidence vote

Updated: Jan 20

Councillor Christian Allard faces removal from the Anti-Poverty Committee over vote to defund Big Noise Torry

Photo Credit: Aberdeen City Council (L- Cllr Allard, R- Cllr Kusznir)

Ahead of tomorrow’s Aberdeen City Council meeting, Conservative councillor Michael Kusznir has introduced a motion to strip fellow councillor Christian Allard of his role as Convener of the Anti-Poverty and Inequality Committee.

Allard’s comments about Big Noise Torry:

Mr Allard, a SNP Councillor who represents Torry and Ferryhill ward, made headlines last month after leading the charge to cut nearly £750,000 in funding from Big Noise Torry, a music charity for children living in deprived areas.

At a council meeting in early March, Mr Allard stated that the Big Noise programme had ‘no impact whatsoever,’ arguing the scheme had not led to increased attendance or educational attainment for students at schools in Torry.

He told councillors:

‘Let’s be very clear, if we had the money, we wouldn’t [fund] it either.’

However, after the Scottish Government stepped in to provide funding for Sistema, the parent charity of Big Noise, Mr Allard changed his tune, posting online that the funding was ‘great news.'

Mr Allard contends that his decision to cut funding for Big Noise was a result of his strong objections to a planned extension of the programme across the city.

Kusznir explains rationale behind motion:

Mr Kusznir, who also represents Torry and Ferryhill ward, told The Gaudie why he submitted the motion to strip Allard of his role on the Anti-Poverty committee.

He said: "With more faces than the Town House clock, Cllr Allard has shown himself no longer fit to convene our Council's Anti-Poverty Committee. No longer fit having voted to defund and terminate one of the biggest anti-poverty programmes in Torry, Big Noise.

"No longer fit having treated constituents with contempt: voting to defund Big Noise Torry and then 3 days later praising the Scottish Government providing funding to save it. No wonder people do not trust politicians. Cllr Allard must now be removed."

In the text of the motion, Kusznir added: ‘Big Noise Torry is about much more than music. Music is a tool that is utilised to deliver early intervention and improve life chances. The Council recognising this in 2013, when it first approached Sistema Scotland to delivery Big Noise Torry, said “that Sistema Scotland’s operation will be an integral aspect of the City Council’s regeneration work in Torry.”’

Allard claims he was referring to study commissioned by previous Council

Allard’s initial comments were criticised in the Scottish Parliament by Conservative MSP (and former Council co-leader) Douglas Lumsden, who called Allard’s words, along with those of fellow SNP Councillor Lee Fairfull, ‘an absolute load of mince.’

Councillors Allard and Fairfull have hit back at Lumsden’s comments, arguing that they were referring to the findings of a 2021 study they claim was commissioned while Lumsden was leader of the Council.

Allard told The Gaudie: 'The Sistema report, looking at educational outcomes, was commissioned back in 2020 at Strategic Commissioning Committee, the Labour Co-leader Jenny Laing was the Convener, the other Co-leader at the time, Tory Councillor Douglas Lumsden was present.'

While the 2021 report does note the ‘the limited impact of Big Noise Torry on educational attainment,’ it does not conclude that Big Noise should be decommissioned, as Allard and Fairfull did.

Instead, the report suggests that ‘closer monitoring’ be enacted to ensure greater impact by Big Noise on students in Torry, and that the partnership between the Council and Sistema continue.

Allard pointed The Gaudie to a statement released by the SNP Council group.

The statement, which criticised Lumsden's comments, read: ‘Douglas Lumsden said in Holyrood that when he was co-leader of Aberdeen City Council, council officers offered up big noise Torry as a cut and potential saving but he rejected that because he knew the impact that the project has on those who are most vulnerable.’

‘It has become apparent that Conservative Councillor Douglas Lumsden and Labour Councillor Jenny Laing commissioned an evaluation of Sistema in 2021 but chose not to release it. The pair proceeded to sign up to extend Sistema across the city at a cost of £4 million instead of keeping it within Torry and despite the result of the evaluation.’

Mr Lumdsen responded to The Gaudie's request for comment Tuesday evening, taking issue with Allard's depiction of events.

He said: 'Councillor Allard needs to realise he is in a hole and should stop digging!

The fact is that the SNP and Lib Dems chose to strip Big Noise Torry of their funding and are now desperately trying to deflect the blame. Councillor Allard and Fairfull have both failed the people they are meant to represent and should be ashamed.

The claim that they make that I was a recipient of a report that questioned the value of Big Noise Torry is completely false, I would remind Councillor Allard that I stepped down as Council Co-leader in May 2021. It is clear that the SNP are in a mess and are clutching at straws in an attempt to deflect from the fact that they tried to abandon the people of Torry.'

Allard to face vote of no confidence tomorrow

Kusznir’s motion to remove Allard from his position as Anti-Poverty Convener is the first item to be considered at tomorrow’s meeting. As a member of the SNP-Liberal Democrat partnership, which holds a majority in the council, it is expected that Allard will retain his role as Convener.


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