SCARY MONSTERS #3 ROTTEN BOROUGHS

In 1832 the reform act was introduced to combat the system of rotten boroughs where one man could have many votes. Emancipation progressed and in 1969 the voting age was reduced to eighteen. A policy heavily promoted by “Screaming “ Lord Such and The Teenage Party.

Today we find ourselves in a retrograde position where students can vote in the city where their University is. In Bristol we have the bizarre situation where a student can move into temporary accommodation for three years and vote in the local elections. The ever-increasing student population puts pressure on a desperate housing situation.

These people will not meet the Bristolian diaspora who have been pushed to the outskirts of town. They will not become aware of our situation and aspirations for our hometown. They will inhabit a world apart and engage in a pseudo Bristol culture promoted by capitalist media. Just look at the way Bristol University portray our city on “Explore” Bristol. Our areas do not even get a mention.

Thus we have the creation of a new rotten borough with votes going to 20,000 strappers and still rising. As they depart and are replaced ,they will have no responsibility for their interference in our local democracy.

The damage will be done and more will be coming.

BOSSES WAGES UP: ‘SAVINGS’ DOWN

When Labour councillors voted in November for a TEN PER CENT pay rise for the council’s senior bosses as part of an organisational restructure, they assured us that £750k would be saved by employing less bosses.

Alas, just a month later and with an internal consultation on these management changes underway for the next few months, news is SNEAKED OUT that savings will now only be £500k. And, of course, there’s no guarantee this figure won’t drop further before the restructure is complete.

Looks like it’s another con to increase wages at the top in exchange for fuck all.

UPDATE:
Oddly, an entirely different story emerged directly from the mouth of the Reverend Rees regarding these ‘savings’ (as opposed to the traditional term ‘cuts’).

When questioned this week about how much his new senior management structure would ‘save’ us, the Reverend claimed the figure had risen to £830K. Somewhat different to the £500k savings figure stated in his own finance report he signed off in December.

Relevant sections of the reports are here:

Meanwhile a presentation to the HR committee just today still claims the savings are £750k:

So where did this magical new pr-friendly £830k savings figure the mayor’s spouting come from? And why are the HR committee still being fed an old figure discredited in finance reports in December?

And what – to use the Reverend’s own farcical management-speak bollocks – is the “single version of the truth”?

DICK ED NEXT TO TACKLE DOCKS SHAMBLES

“Dick” Edrich: the latest boss drafted in to sort out the council’s docks and markets shambles

Over FOUR YEARS after we told them so, Bristol City Council finally notice that their HARBOUR OFFICE and MARKETS SERVICE are expensively mismanaged basketcases.

The council is now threatening some sort of ACTION after finally publicly acknowledging, “poor governance arrangements; a poorly managed balance between commercial rigour and democratic accountability; a failure to maintain the Harbour assets and poor management” at its Harbour Office.

This comes four years after The BRISTOLIAN revealed that turd in human form, Harbour Master, Cap’n Tony “Ahab” Nichol, was a serial and, apparently, unsackable BULLY who has got away with MULTIPLE BULLYING OFFENCES towards staff over many years. 

The docks infrastructure that he’s responsible for, meanwhile, remains at near-collapse after years of CHRONIC MISMANAGEMENT by underqualified Ahab and his handpicked team of clueless over-promoted supervisors and absent civil engineers.

We’re told that Bill “Dick” Edrich – the man who helped set up the loss-making Bristol Energy fiasco – has been urgently drafted in to BANG HEADS TOGETHER at the Harbour Master’s Office and in Markets, managed, for no coherent reason, by one of Ahab’s hapless minions in recent years.

However, those with longer memories may recall that recently departed property boss, Robert “SPUNKFACE” Orrett, was similarly ordered by Mayor No More Red Trousers – back in 2014 – to sort out the embarrassing management shambles exposed by The BRISTOLIAN in docks and markets.

Although the opposite happened when Spunkface left Ahab to reorganise the docks service as he saw fit. Ahab then used the opportunity to FIRE any experienced workers who had complained about his bullying and incompetence while ensuring his useless crew of management and supervisory bullies were kept on with enhanced salaries.

We can probably look forward to not much happening for a few years yet then

I SPY BENT COUNCIL BOSSES

News is emerging that paranoid loons Mayor No More Ferguson, his Chief Exec – the revolting Nicola “Lady Gaga” Yates – and their Business Change buffoon Max Wide “Boy” set up an ILLEGAL SURVEILLANCE and SPY NETWORK across the council to snoop on staff and, possibly, others. The system may have even have been used to spy on elected representatives.

A low-key council report tells us that in 2015, Wide Boy, the Strategic Director for Business Change, took the decision to introduce a DLP (Data Loss Prevention) system to the council. This was after a series of what Wide Boy paranoically described as “UNAUTHORISED LEAKAGES of information outside of the Council”.

Wide Boy identified a DLP system that could track ‘tagged’ documents on computers and record the movement of emails. He then SECRETLY DEPLOYED it on some – as yet – unknown computers at the council and, maybe, beyond. We understand “particular groups” were targeted based on “the level of sensitive data they could access”.

Following the TOP SECRET installation of the DLP, a member of staff complained. Their representations included claims that Wide Boy’s spy network was ILLEGAL because the system was deployed IN SECRET without the targets’ knowledge.

The original allegations were investigated by the council’s Data Protection Officer at the time and she recommended a further review, which is now complete. The new review concludes that data protection LAW WAS BROKEN because “the implementation of the system was not open and not communicated to those affected”.

So-say “SWIFT CORRECTIVE ACTION” has now been taken and a decision taken to ‘switch off’ and uninstall the system while all data collected by the system “has been/will be (sic) deleted”.

However, questions around ABUSE of RIPA (Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act) laws by Wide Boy and Lady Gaga – who were supposed to use and regulate these powers for the council – appear to have been glossed over. As has the question of whether council bosses SPIED on elected councillors, partner organisations or members of the public.

Presumably this is so that the involvement of Inspector Knacker and m’learned friends is NOT REQUIRED?

Yet.

ROTTEN COMRADES: ‘REDUNDANCY PAY CUT SHOCKER’

by Less-Than-Pragmatic Dwarf

Another month, another shambles as Bristol City Council’s dodgy unions bend over backwards to help the employer. This time it’s redundancy pay that’s at risk but, instead of telling the employer to go “do one”, our comrades have, er, bravely thrown in the towel.

Citing the obvious line that if unions don’t go along with the cut, the employer will change their contracts anyway, our reps have come up with a piss-poor, face-saving formula that they will add “checks and balances” to the proposals.

Management would threaten unilateral changes to contracts, wouldn’t they? It’s the first – and oldest – trick in the book. Instead of saying “nice try sunshine!”, our not-so-bright colleagues scratched the top of their heads, fell over their clown shoes and surrendered.

One of the “checks and balances” reported to our Industrial Correspondent is an increase to voluntary severance payments. A windfall that, for ordinary workers, is as rare as hen’s teeth. Besides, what manager proposing a restructure will choose the more expensive, but more equitable, voluntary route to redundancy when it’s cheaper just to choose who to fire?

Back when they had experienced reps, the unions argued that it was better to let volunteers go than to fire people who are desperate to keep their jobs. This will strike a death knell for such an idea. Unions agreeing to this proposal will change the contracts of thousands of staff, even non-union members, which is actually worse than doing nothing.

If nothing is agreed and the proposals are imposed, at least one or two brave members of staff could challenge it. Perhaps with the help of an ambulance chasing lawyer or a union that has somehow managed not to compromise itself? Because, of course, redundancy pay is part of your contract and enforceable in law. “Checks and balances”, even placed in a policy, won’t be.

However, it’s not a done deal yet. Although the reps are agreeing it in principle, the unions will need to consult with their members (watch out for some frighteningly Orwellian fact distortion in your inbox). They want the effects of this not to kick in for a couple of years. But they intend to agree it now and tie it down in such a way that nobody can claim, in say three years’ time, that it was a surprise.

It’s not just Unison this time, the blame lies with Unite and GMB as well. They’re all complicit in this. If you catch anyone from the unions defending or promoting these proposals, in the Counts Louse or elsewhere, do yourself a favour: make them a dunce’s cap to wear and ask them to resign.

 

MARV’S KINGDOM CON, WORKERS WILL BE DONE

Another win for our on-the-ball Reverend Mayor. His new force of outsourced Environmental Enforcement Officers recruited to fine locals for littering and anti-social behaviour – and launched in a blaze of publicity – are being paid BELOW his own living wage!

Adverts all over the internet from dodgy outsource specialist security firm Kingdom are offering the jobs for £8.00 AN HOUR when the Reverend’s formal living wage rate for all council workers and their contractors is £8.45 AN HOUR!

Adding to the sense gross incompetence emanating from the Reverend’s witless LABOUR ADMINISTRATION, the living wage rate was introduced by them just last year with much song-and-dance. Not least when Labour councillors claimed they had to raise senior bosses’ salaries by up to 20 per cent to get their FLAGSHIP living wage policy through.

A year later and their policy for the low paid is in TATTERS while the huge pay increase for bosses not only remains firmly in place but has been INCREASED by another 10 per cent by Labour councillors this year!

Meanwhile, reviews from Kingdom’s former Environmental Enforcement Officers from around the country do not bode well and suggest workers’ rights may be a low priority in the Reverend’s new LITTER FREE PARADISE.

“Worst company ever,” says a former Kingdom officer in Canterbury. “Diabolical company. Work long hours with hardly any break and get pushed to issue a certain amount of tickets when targets are illegal … Managers and colleagues disrespectful and ignorant. Did not even speak to me properly if at all.”

“Run by Neanderthals!” claims another former employee from St Helens. “Worked here only because I was desperate. You must record when you have had conversations with “management” as they deny you ever contacted them. No one can take responsibility or make a decision. No support. Do not bother, you deserve better.”

 “Make sure you read your contract,” advises another former employee from Hampshire. “Told it wasn’t targeted and is to extent. But they try to performance manage you out. Was not allowed to take breaks in an 8 hour shift. Have to pay for second hand uniform.”

Yet another emerging shambles from the Reverend’s useless council. Will anyone be taking responsibility for this?

REES’S ARENA BELLYFLOP LATEST

The recent announcement by the Reverend that he was launching a review by bent accountants KPMG of his review of the Arena and standing down the current developers is the final NAIL IN THE COFFIN of an arena at Temple Meads.

However, a new site for the venture seems to have suddenly found favour: the Brabazon Hangar in Filton. A development site owned by Malaysian firm YTL Developments that’s run by Merchant Venturer Colin “TORY BOY” Skellett, Wessex Water boss and former chair of TORY business quango, the Local Enterprise Partnership.

Coincidentally, working with Tory Boy on his new development project at Filton are a couple of familiar faces – former Bristol City Council Strategic Director Place, Barra Mac “NUGGET” Ruairi and former city council property boss Robert “SPUNKFACE” Orrett.

What a remarkably small world it is.

Even more coincidentally, the Reverend stopped off in Malaysia to meet YTL bosses on the way to his pointless China junket before Christmas. So how long before we’re handing over £120million quid plus any overspend and extras of public money to this gang of INSIDERS and CHANCERS at Filton to build our arena on their site and on their terms?

The Filton site is already no stranger to controversy and strange public-private shenanigans. YTL, run by Tory Boy Skellett, purchased the former airport after an extensive marketing exercise on behalf of owners BAE paid out of PUBLIC MONEY and carried out by er, Tory Boy Skellett’s Local Enterprise Partnership.

Another remarkable example of a remarkably small world up there in Filton where conflicts of interest appear to cease to exist.

HEY MOMENTUM – WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU AT?

MOMENTUM is the movement within the Labour Party that has, according to their own manifesto, set out to radicalise the party behind leader Jeremy Corbyn.

While this principle is to be lauded, to the average punter on the Bristol street the internal Labour Party struggles of Momentum against its well-entrenched old guard of (neo)liberals, careerists and self-serving jobsworths means very little. Why?

Sometimes I wonder how many of you have your ear to the street, because we’re in a MASSIVE SOCIAL CRISIS this winter. The homeless are strewn everywhere. No social housing, just rack-rent slum landlords. Wages going down in real terms. Benefits being trashed. Fewer and fewer social services. The NHS on the brink of total collapse. That means GRAPPLING WITH THIS EMERGENCY can’t be put off until ‘after the next election’, but needs to be addressed RIGHT NOW. Here in the socially-cleansed margins of working class Britain, we’re LITERALLY dying by the thousands.

And Bristol’s Labour Party elected representatives are STILL nearly all diehard Blairites. Happy to implement Tory austerity, yet craftily using Momentum activists to keep themselves in power and/or looking good in public. This happens any time one of these anti-Corbyn quislings needs re-election – or to give a recent Bristol example, when they need your street presence to give them the kudos they lack on say, a so-called ‘March Against Austerity’, WHERE THEY DON’T MENTION AUSTERITY OR THE CUTS ONCE!

What would JC do? He’d agree with us. Look back at his record since the 1970s. He always saw Labour Party internal politics as being SECONDARY to the struggles of the countless social movements he was active in. His principles never changed, but he always had the humility to listen to the people first. He didn’t wait until authority had been cleared through his control over the Labour Party – he just GOT STUCK INTO THE ISSUES. That’s why people voted for him and it’s why many more support and trust him today.

There seems to be some confusion in Momentum ranks as to what a social movement is. A social movement is not about ‘getting our guys into office’ in the Labour Party. It’s a MASS GRASS-ROOTS militant and democratic CAMPAIGN built around the key issue of the moment, and also one that isn’t a covert vehicle for any one political group or another. Think of the 1980s Anti-Poll Tax Campaign as a model. Right now, that key issue is STOPPING AUSTERITY DEAD IN ITS TRACKS – while we still can.

So Momentum needs to HELP BUILD that social movement and GET STARTED on it right away. Let the changes in the party structure and democracy be propelled forward by the social movement, not the other way around. Because quite simply, without such a movement, we haven’t a hope of effecting any real change – either within the Labour Party or without.

ANGRY BRISTOL LABOUR PARTY MEMBER

How to stop cuts the Steve Norman way

By The Bristol Blogger

I first came across Steve Norman in late 2004. Ian Bone, then editor of The Bristolian, called one evening: “You’ve got to meet Steve Norman and Andy Richardson. Top geezers! They’re running a campaign directly with the elderly and learning disabled to save their daycare centres, which are being shut down by the council.

“The protests are crazy. You’ve never seen anything like it. Steve was quoting Martin McGuiness’s ‘Armalite and ballot box strategy’ to me. They’re doing a protest next month outside the Council House. Make sure you get there.”

So that’s how I found myself outside Bristol’s Council House on a crisp January morning in 2005 at some protest to save something I didn’t know much about. Although that was about to change because Bone was right, I’d never seen anything quite like this before.

A protest over council cuts in those days would usually consist of eight – maybe ten – well-meaning socialists brandishing a few crappy placards and a fake petition for the public to sign. Maybe they’d be accompanied by someone flogging a badly written newspaper listing the crimes of the Labour government alongside an urgent plea to join their marginal socialist sect.

This protest consisted of about 20 elderly and learning disabled people accompanied by Andy and – as the public ringmaster-in-chief with a megaphone in hand – Steve. However, the genius of this protest didn’t lie with Steve’s quickfire Bristolian epithets aimed at various social service bosses and out-of-touch Labour councillors but with the 20-odd extremely vulnerable elderly and disabled people who were very, very slowly trooping across the pelican crossing on Park Street directly outside the Council House.

When a protestor finally made it to the other side, they would press the button to cross again and wait for the ‘green man’ pedestrian light. Meanwhile, the other nineteen would continue their ramshackle progress across Park Street. By the time they all finally reached one side, the green man appeared, allowing them to troop across the road all over again!

Few cars were going anywhere that morning. Traffic chaos engulfed the heart of the city directly outside its notional seat of power and there was fuck all anybody could do about it! Motorists might be fuming but they were hardly going to get out of their cars and start threatening a load of vulnerable adults, some with zimmer frames, others in wheelchairs.

The police arrived, mildly (and not very realistically) threatening arrests. Only to be told by Steve they would require full risk assessments and specialist lifting equipment before they attempted to remove anyone in a wheelchair into a police vehicle. The police seemed to accept this logic and drifted away to do something more useful or, maybe, they were trying to find their equalities policy and a disabled access police van with a wheelchair lift? (Steve knew perfectly well that the Avon & Somerset Police had no such vehicle in service. Police were therefore unable to arrest or legally remove wheelchair using protestors).

Meanwhile, the target of the protests, Bristol’s councillors and senior council officers remained hiding behind closed doors. Not one of them daring to venture the few metres outside to meet with their own vulnerable service users on a chilly January morning. Stephen McNamara, the council’s legal boss and town clerk, then at the height of his high camp wig-wearing “Look-at-me-I’m-a-very-important-man-I-am” phase, was even stationed in the lobby of the Council House to personally prevent any of his vulnerable adult service users accessing the toilets!

The protest broke up after a couple of hours when council transport arrived to return the service users to Lockleaze Day Centre for their lunch. Steve and Andy invited me to come to a ‘Campaign to Save Daycare in Bristol’ meeting.

These meetings happened most Thursday evenings in a back room at the – now – sadly demolished Wedlocks pub at Ashton Gate. From this disorganised ragbag of vulnerable service users, carers, political activists and anyone else who showed up – sort of led by Steve and Andy often with their heads in their hands – a ‘spring offensive’ of actions was devised and launched.

This offensive kicked off on the 1 March at the annual budget meeting of Bristol City Council. A meeting flooded with the elderly, disabled and their carers. So many attended that wheelchairs lined the length of chamber and a victory came early when it was announced that Labour’s piss weak and wimpy council leader, Peter Hammond, had thrown a sickie and his long-suffering deputy, Helen Holland, would be standing in for him. Lib Dem Councillor Simon Cook, that year’s Lord Mayor, provided further amusement prior to the meeting when he agreed to depart from tradition and let the public speak at a budget meeting “as long as you don’t mention Hitler”.

Helen managed to mumble through almost five minutes of her boss Hammond’s odious justification for cuts to the city’s most vulnerable at the height of an economic boom for the rich when the council chamber descended into chaos and the budget meeting – as planned by the council – ground to a halt. Kicked off by a single carer interrupting her speech and loudly accusing Helen “of trying to fucking kill me” in 2003, the Hitler speech was soon rolled out by another protestor as councillors, the Lord Mayor and town clerk, McNamara, resplendent on his throne in his absurd judges wig, were aggressively heckled into silence.

A full blown retreat by councillors from the chamber soon followed when Steve and Andy handcuffed themselves to a rail in the public gallery and McNamara was confronted with the reality that he had lost all control of his own council meeting and had no means of restoring order. He had no clue how to remove the handcuffs from Steve and Andy and couldn’t use his security to throw out any other protestors. Even he understood manhandling any vulnerable adults he was legally responsible for protecting out of his building might end badly.

The people had seized the council chamber and the Lord Mayor, councillors and highly-paid administrators from the UK’s eighth largest city were cowering from vulnerable adults in a back room unable to set a legal budget for the city. Mission accomplished.

Many of the “spring offensive” actions have now taken on a near mythical status. Not least, the Friday afternoon of March 18 2005 when twelve service users occupied their own day centre in Lockleaze after some of them handcuffed themselves to rails and refused to leave at the end of the day. Steve, Andy and friends remained outside all night, supporting the occupiers – and thwarting the plans of council staff, who had to remain on site to “protect” service users, to starve out the occupiers – by pushing fish and chip takeaways through an open second floor window on long sticks.

The occupation created a huge amount of high profile coverage from the press, TV and radio. While the council’s daft PR man, Simon Caplan, invited open ridicule and more publicity when he helpfully explained, from the front page of the local newspaper, that the protest “served no useful purpose”. Except introducing the daycare campaign to new audiences across the city through headline coverage on every available local news platform!With the wind in their sails, the campaign moved on to even more logistically complex protests. Within hours of the announcement by Tony Blair of the 2005 General Election on April 5, Steve and a number of protestors with major mobility problems had occupied the Labour Party’s first floor South West HQ on Portland Square with an ITV News camera crew in tow!

On May 3 2005, just days before the election, Steve and protestors targeted hundreds of bank holiday customers at @Bristol. Many of these punters were less-than-impressed that the learning disabled and the frail elderly were having to take the streets to campaign to keep their own services. Bristol’s Labour boss for social services, Robin Moss, however, insisted to reporters that the daycare protests were “political stunts”. Although the real political stunt arrived just a few days later when Moss was unceremoniously dumped out of his Easton council ward by the Lib Dems while his party was similarly dumped out of power in Bristol, again, by the Lib Dems.

Steve, Andy and the protestors weren’t done yet and continued putting pressure on the new Lib Dem administration that had promised a review of daycare services during the election. On June 6 2015, the group appeared on College Green directly outside the Council House for the day with a series of 10ft-high placards directly naming seven council officers under a large headline: “Bristol social services’ list of uncaring professionals”.

This produced an aggressive response from town clerk and part time Council House toilet attendant, Stephen McNamara. “If necessary,” the wannabe tough guy thundered from the pages of the Evening Post, “the council will take legal action through the courts to prevent any such activity. The council will not tolerate its employees being harassed in this way.”

Steve loved these kind of threats from puffed up bureaucrats. “This campaign will not be bullied by city council legal mumbo jumbo and empty threats,” he replied in the same article. While he told the BBC, “I would love a legal action for the publicity”. That same day, Steve publicly forwarded his name and address to McNamara, inviting him to take immediate legal action. Steve was only too happy to see this – or any other – pompous old fool, who habitually made the law up to suit the interests of the powerful, in a proper court where the real law would apply.

When Steve, predictably, received no response from McNamara, he borrowed a flat-bed truck and on June 11 2005 spent the day humiliating the council by driving around the city centre, followed by a convoy of the press, parading his ten foot placards publicly shaming the same seven council employees all over again.

And the council’s response? Immediate legal action? Police? Arrests? Injunction? ASBO? Er, no, unconditional surrender and an invitation to Steve and the protestors to immediately attend talks with the Lib Dems to try and settle the dispute. Within weeks of these talks, the Lockleaze Day Centre was officially saved and the campaign drew to a close.

Steve went on to fight many more battles after this one. But the basic template of the ‘Armalite and ballot box strategy’ altered little: use persistent and high profile PR-friendly direct action ignoring all police and legal threats from weak and desperate politicians until the useless fuckers surrender. And they always will.

RIP Steve.