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Exclusive: Tory-led Aberdeen council would ‘support’ Bon Accord Baths restoration and spend £39m on roads repairs

Aberdeen Conservative leader Ryan Houghton has pledged support for Bon Accord Baths and millions to repair the city's roads, if his group remains in control of the council after May's election. Picture by Michael McCosh/DCT Media.
Aberdeen Conservative leader Ryan Houghton has pledged support for Bon Accord Baths and millions to repair the city's roads, if his group remains in control of the council after May's election. Picture by Michael McCosh/DCT Media.

The Scottish Conservatives have pledged to splash the cash if they win control of Aberdeen City Council in May’s election – committing support to the restoration of the much-loved Bon Accord Baths.

Speaking to The Press And Journal exclusively, Aberdeen group leader Ryan Houghton has also promised a £40 million war chest to repair the Granite City’s roads and paths.

Under the multi-million-pound scheme, each of Aberdeen’s 13 council wards would be allocated £3m for the most important maintenance projects in the area.

Work would be community led, Mr Houghton said, with “residents and councillors best able to tell us where this money should be spent”.

In 2018, the Labour-led administration his group is part of pledged to spend an extra £10m on road repairs over five years.

However, the coronavirus pandemic badly impacted that work and meant only £3.4m had been spent by last May.

Splashing the cash: Conservative-controlled Aberdeen council would ‘support’ Bon Accord Baths restoration

Ahead of their full manifesto launch, the Tories have told The P&J they will pledge official support for Bon Accord Baths if in control of the council.

Bon Accord Baths. Picture by Paul Glendell/DCT Media.
Bon Accord Baths. Picture by Paul Glendell/DCT Media.

Mr Houghton, the current finance convener, met with volunteers working to restore the art deco swimming pool after their public plea for more support from the local authority.

Campaigners are currently working out what the public would like from the restoration of the baths, which have become a target for vandals and been damaged by the elements since its 2008 closure.

Options being weighed up include a community hub with small shops and food outlets to help raise extra money.

It came after calls were voted down to include the B-listed Uptown Baths in a £150 million refresh of the city centre and beach areas, brought forward by the ruling Conservative, Labour and independent coalition.

The Tories are the largest group in that administration and have, so far, named 17 candidates to stand for election, with nominations closing tomorrow night.

But they have been part of ruling coalitions since 2012.

Their maximum of 17 councillors is six short of an overall majority.

Houghton: Bon Accord Baths restoration ‘tonic Aberdeen needs’ after lockdown

The Bon Accord Baths commitment, which would result in council officers assisting volunteers in their quest to secure funding for repairs to the weather-beaten building, is the big ticket item in a wider promise to protect the city’s heritage.

Aberdeen Conservative group leader Ryan Houghton. Picture by Kami Thomson/DCT Media.
Aberdeen Conservative group leader Ryan Houghton. Picture by Kami Thomson/DCT Media.

Mr Houghton – who is looking to migrate from the George Street and Harbour ward to Airyhall, Broomhill and Garthdee this election – claimed his party had a “strong record” to show from their time in power.

He added: “Restoring iconic features – lighting, fountains and rose beds and supporting the iconic Bon Accord baths – will boost our city centre and give Aberdeen a tonic it needs after two years in lockdowns and restrictions.

“And of course we will continue to deliver on a massive assortment of city centre and beach masterplan , which seems to have appeared on the SNP manifesto, despite their vote against the £150m we secured to fund it.

“The administration with Conservatives as the largest group has already delivered the award-winning Aberdeen Art Gallery, and we have already started on huge projects like the beachfront, new market and city centre masterplan.”

He added that the Tories were the only party that should be trusted to continue talks with the UK Government about £20m levelling up cash for the redeveloped market in Union Street, hitting out at a lack of Scottish Government money for the art gallery and Teca.

No workplace parking tax in Aberdeen under Conservative-controlled council

A third pre-manifesto launch promise confirms something the Scottish party leader Douglas Ross has already announced.

The Moray MP and MSP last month vowed that no council under Tory control would bring in the workplace parking levy.

Conservatives have ruled out introducing a workplace parking levy in Aberdeen. Picture by Shutterstock.
Conservatives have ruled out introducing a workplace parking levy in Aberdeen. Picture by Shutterstock.

It’s a new limitless, discretionary power being given to councils to boost coffers, but Mr Ross claims it shows the SNP and Green government is “anti-driver” and using local authorities as a “shield” on tax hikes.

Business chiefs claim the charge – to be paid either by the employer or passed on to car commuters – would be unfairly punitive towards rural workers.

And Aberdeen leader Mr Houghton has reaffirmed that, under Conservative control, it won’t be coming to Aberdeen in the next five years.

He said: “We will refuse to enact a workplace parking levy, because just like we have seen under the SNP’s business rates regime, Aberdeen workers and employers will be hammered by this tax on jobs.

“Aberdeen has shown great resilience during the Covid-19 pandemic, and people here need a council that will continue to push Holyrood for every iota of assistance.

“Almost in spite of the Scottish Government, we have achieved significant progress that reflects the strong voice we have been for this city.”

In a nutshell: The Conservative Aberdeen manifesto pledges so far:

  • Support volunteer restoration efforts at Bon Accord Baths as part of a wider drive to maintain the city’s heritage
  • Set aside a £39m fund to repair Aberdeen’s roads and paths – shared as £3m apiece for each of the council’s 13 wards.
  • To refuse to introduce a workplace parking levy

Conservative group leader Ryan Houghton is standing for election in Airyhall, Broomhill, Garthdee. Other candidates announced are:

  • Ian Yuill, Scottish Liberal Democrats
  • Harry Rafferty, Scottish Greens
  • Derek Davidson, SNP

Read more on the years-long debate about the upkeep and future of Bon Accord Baths here:

George Mitchell: Why we must save Bon Accord Baths

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