HAS THE REVEREND GIVEN ARENA ISLAND AWAY TO THE TORIES?

An old FoI request about the dodgy Bristol City Council/L&G Arena island deal catches the eye. It reveals L&G execs operating inside Number 10 [Downing Street] in 2015 and meeting Bristol City council property bosses who were supposed to be building an arena on the controversial site:

Downing Street FOI

The bizarre deal The Reverend has now struck with L&G execs is that they get the prime Arena Island site after £32m of public investment and BCC get a 40 year lease on one of the proposed L&G corporate office slabs proposed for the site … And both sides get to avoid any procurement or open sale that might upset the cosy arrangement.

But what the hell were L&G execs doing in Downing Street at the heart of power in 2015? The answer is John Godfrey, L&G’s longtime Corporate Affairs Director – basically their chief political lobbyist. The former Tory Parliamentary candidate worked at Number Ten as Head of Policy for Prime Minister Theresa May from 2015-17. At the time, this L&G/Downing Street revolving door generated headlines in the Financial Times like, “Legal & General gives Toryism a reboot“.

At the same time the Legal & General CEO was musing on his blog that “UK cities are not overbuilt but under-demolished”. The company also developed an interest in fiscal policy (basically government spending money on infrastructure); called on taxpayers to invest with savings groups such as, er, L&G and argued that planning laws should be eased to defeat ‘Nimbies’.

Alongside L&G’s political capture of Downing Street, another front opened. In 2016, John Kingman was appointed Group Chairman of Legal and General plc. Prior to this, Kingman was a senior Treasury official and, among other things, led a research project looking at the tax treatment of buy-to-let property, which led to major policy changes in the 2015 Budget.

The specific change was Section 24 of the Finance Act 2015-16, setting mortgage tax allowance for individual landlords to 20 per cent. A change that didn’t apply to corporate landlords or property rental companies. Corporates, effectively, were allowed to operate at a state-engineered advantage to smaller competitors in the property market.

With the political and legal environment in place to fill their boots, L&G now required gullible twerps from the provinces who think they’re big shot property players with access to public land. Please step forward on 12 December 2017 Marvin’s £1.5k a day ‘property expert’ Colin Molton.

He walked into L&G’s offices in London desperate to offload Arena Island quickly so that the Reverend’s favoured multinational, YTL, could dodge the ‘sequential test‘ designed to favour inner city sites over out-of-town and get planning permission for an arena in Filton. L&G were happy to oblige with a self-serving deal and advice on how BCC could dodge procurement regulations and hand them the land.  

As an added sweetener May’s L&G-friendly Downing Street operation stepped up, hinting to the Reverend and Molton that £100m of government money was on the table towards the Temple Quarter regeneration.

However, since the demise of May in 2019, L&G’s influence in the corridors of power has waned and the Johnson government with its levelling-up agenda focussed on the Red Wall seems uninterested in handing over £100m to the Reverend to regenerate Temple Meads.

In fact, they’ve now knocked back two funding applications from Bristol. Leaving the people of Bristol shortchanged and Tory L&G with a prime piece of public land in Bristol to cash in on. 

What a scam.

WYE WATCH

Wye
Wye Oh Why?

Bristol City Council rolls out its annual Pay Policy Statement. Where they announce the ratio of their lowest paid worker to an alleged highest paid worker. Written by one the council’s leading retards, HR Director, Mark “Bashar” Williams, it’s an eyewatering tissue of lies and bullshit that’s dutifully signed off every year by councillors for the wards of Cloud Fairyland on the HR Committee and Full Council.

In 2020 -21, the last year actual, rather than invented, figures are available, the council announced a pay ratio of 9.45:1.Except the lowest paid earned £17,364 while the highest earner, our friend Colin “Head Boy” Molton, trousered about £280k pro rata. A ratio of about 16:1.

Bashar’s sums are a little awry aren’t they? This year, Bashar calculated a pay ratio of 9.36:1, which has been backed by the new Green Chair of the HR Committee, former
big cheese council boss, Tim “Why-Oh” Wye. Delivering this pile of lying HR wank to Full Council, Why-Oh Wye explained “this [pay] policy is about the council’s directly employed staff. Interims are not relevant to this item”.

Why the largest salaries paid to workers at Bristol City Council aren’t relevant to a
policy about the largest salaries paid to workers at Bristol City Council isn’t something
Why-Oh Wye bothered to explain. It just isn’t relevant, apparently.

Although what is potentially relevant is that, according to LinkedIn, Why-Oh Wye is a “Self Employed Consultant specialising in Health and Social Care” for local authorities!

Anyone got any ideas why he might be keen to keep consultant and interim fees at a council off the record and unaccountable?

BEA-CON?

The Reverend’ Rees’s not just an idiot. He’s an innumerate idiot. His amazing plan to spend over £100m on an upmarket concert venue for the city’s snooty culture set to hang around air kissing each other and talking pretentious bollocks in might not be going to plan.

In the council’s Statement of Accounts for last year that are just about to be signed off by our confused councillors, the Bristol Beacon is currently valued by the council’s external auditors at, er, ZERO.

What a great investment.

LABOUR BLAMES ELECTION BELLYFLOP ON NON-EXISTENT MIDDLE CLASSES

 A crap win, by just 52 votes over the Greens, by Labour’s self-styled working class hero Kye “The” Dudd at the Southmead by-election had The Dudd’s team reaching for their copies of The Labour Party Book of Crap Excuses. Divide and misrule was the excuse of choice.

‘Gentrification’ was to blame, announced local Labour mastermind ‘Slo’ Kev Slocombe. Pesky unidentified incomers and the damned middle classes of, er, Southmead voting Green instead of Labour like proper working class people do were to blame. 

Labour also claimed that their core vote on Southmead’s long-neglected council estate had held firm. So firm that less than 9 per cent of people living in a solid Labour ward based around a council estate voted for them. The former Labour heartland now enters ultra-marginal territory with the Green Party likely to seize the ward at the next election in 2024. 

Is it time for the Rees administration to stop lecturing us about how working class they are and, maybe, start actually spending some bloody money on working class voters in the suburbs? Rather than pouring all the city’s cash into corporate coffers to fund big projects in the centre, attractive and convenient for the city’s real gentrifiers. The wealthy white professionals who dominate the inner city and the management of our local institutions.

Has The Dudd got the message that Rees and his corporate gentrification agenda need a hard kick up the arse?

IN PLAIN SIGHT

guild

To the The Guild of Guardians website, which tells us that this obscure invitation-only organisation for the wealthy “is a registered charity that aims to improve the quality of the Civic life of the City of Bristol. In partnership with the City, the Guild continues to support and enhance the Mansion House and Office of Lord Mayor.”

So far so exclusive, dull and conservative but then it tells us, “It is unique in that through its membership it affords the opportunity for the private sector to discuss with senior politicians the policies of the City Council.” 

How nice. Selected wealthy members of the private sector get to discuss the policies of the city council with its politicians in exchange for donations to do up the Mansion House and crawl up the Lord Mayor’s backside.

All perfectly normal and above board for Bristol.

DID SLO KEV WRECK CORBYN’S CAREER?

Slo Kev, remaining tight-lipped as usual.

A heroic reader has suffered Guardian columnist, Owen “Luvvie” Jones’s latest book, ‘This Land: The Story of a Movement‘ so we don’t have to. The book is “a compelling, page-turning journey through a tumultuous decade in British politics” according to the, er, Guardian, and describes the rise and fall of the Corbyn movement in the Labour Party.

Our reader says the book is “overwhelmingly worthy and dull” but a small remark catches the eye.

 “Corbyn’s then head of media, Kevin Slocombe, did not respond to requests from the newspapers for comment, and the matter seemed to end there. But the Mear One controversy resurfaced over two years later.”

 A rare reference to the Reverend’s PA “Slo” Kev Slocombe who worked for Corbyn during his first year as Labour leader. And, surely, it’s no news to local journalists to find Slo Kev ignoring difficult questions about his boss from the media? On this occasion Slo Kev ignored the Jewish Chronicle from November 2015 when they asked ‘Did Jeremy Corbyn back artist whose mural was condemned as anti-semitic’

The mural, Freedom for Humanity, was painted near Brick Lane in London in 2012 by graffiti artist Kalen Ockerman, known as Mear One. Some claimed imagery in the painting was anti-semitic and Corbyn waded in, commenting on Facebook, “you are in good company. Rockerfeller destroyed Diego Viera’s mural because it includes a picture of Lenin.”

The comment sparked questions from the Jewish Chronicle, which Slo Kev strategically ignored. But the issue of anti-semitism never went away for Corbyn and ended up wrecking his leadership when the press started digging at loose ends after the general election in 2017.

A question arises: could Corbyn’s career have been saved if his media operator had nipped accusations of anti-semitism in the bud in 2015?

Rather than performing his usual trick of ignoring tricky allegations and hoping they go away?

ECO-CON FIRM’S SLOPE STUDY SHAM

ETHOS ENVIRONMENTAL PLANNING

Bristol City Council’s house building company, Goram Homes, have binned plans for housing on the council-owned section of Western Slopes. However, corporate developer Lovells still have a planning application outstanding on the privately-owned section of the land. This application includes an ecological report prepared by Bath’s Ethos Environmental Planning.

Ethos describe themselves – in purest word salad -,as a “multi-disciplinary environmental planning consultancy providing specialist advice to inform decision making for planning and development”. So does it come as any surprise that Ethos ecologist, Jim Phillips, who’s produced a helpful ecological assessment for Lovell’s at Western Slopes, was found to have breached CIEEM’s (Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management) Code of Professional Conduct?

This was in relation to an ecological assessment he did for a planning application in Crewkerne, Somerset. Phillips, bearing an uncanny resemblance to a useless partially sighted illiterate, only managed to survey a portion of the Crewkerne site. The bit, coincidentally,  that’s not registered as a local wildlife site by Somerset Wildlife Trust. He also forgot to take into account the badger population in the area and didn’t notice a number of ponds and hedgerows on the site.

Now, not dissimilar concerns regarding the quality of Phillips’ efforts for Lovells at Western Slopes are emerging from local campaigners, Bristol Tree Forum and Manor Woods Valley Group.

Of course, any claim that there’s a network of bent ecological consultancies prepared to work for the benefit of corporate property developers with deep pockets would be conspiratorial nonsense wouldn’t it?

Wouldn’t it?

FOI WATCH

An intriguing request appeared on What Do They Know, a public Freedom of Information request website, on 19 February 2022. Subsequently, in early March, ‘extraneous material’ was removed from the request. Here it is with the ‘extraneous material’ unremoved. What can it all mean?

Spencer Penny

Want to know something about how you’re governed? Go to  www.whatdotheyknow.com

WECXIT

dan-norris signing off
The WECA man signs a few more cheques for departing staff

All is not well in world of WECA, the fucked up reinvention of Avon that’s under the notional control of Labour’s loopey Metro Mayor, Dan “The WECA Man” Norris.

Our newswire has been throbbing with gossip that there’s been a number of senior exits from the organisation. All accompanied by non-disclosure agreements and large non-contractual pay-offs, possibly in excess of the £74k forked out last year on a couple of generous exit packages.

Among those ‘disappeared’ is our old Bundred friend, now WECA Monitoring Officer, Shahzia “Dim” Daya. Her latest political crisis occurred a few months back when she incorrectly advised The Weca Man that he had a right of veto over the decisions of the obscure ‘West of England Joint Committee’.

Other senior bosses following Dim Daya out of the door include senior directors Malcolm Coe and David Carter,  Jason Humm, Head of Transport, Ruth Wilmshurst, Head of Comms and Scrutiny Manager Ian Hird.

This leaves weirdo WECA Chief Exec, Patricia “Psycho” Greer, to further consolidate the uninterrupted power and influence she enjoys over the Metro Mayor position. Greer – whose corporate culture is “like something out of a Hieronymous Bosch painting” – is well known for denying officers any access to the mayor. Insisting that everything goes through her instead. A situation former mayor, Tory Tim Bowels, and now the WECA Man seem comfortable with.

Word is, as long as the WECA Man has some PR red meat to throw at the public, he doesn’t much care what’s going on with the staff.