Not content with scooping £20 million of public money for the ‘Crashlanded Flying Saucer’ foyer refurbishment a few years back, Bristol’s leading arts-venue-named-after-a-slave-trader COLSTON HALL now has its hand out for a slice of that sweet tasting £1.4 billion Regional Growth Fund pie.
Chief Executive of the Bristol Music Trust – which took over the running of Colston Hall from the council in 2011 – LOUISE ‘MARIE ANTOINETTE’ MITCHELL reckons she deserves £30 million from the RGF to tart up the Hall because:
Bristol is the wealthiest city outside London and we should have a cultural and arts scene that reflects that.
It’s pretty plain to see that she does not see Colston Hall as a place for ordinary Bristolians, but a playground for the rich to rattle their jewellery at touring jesters and minstrels. Obviously in Mitchell’s world wealthy people are hard done by and so need a bigger and shinier pleasure palace in which to doss about flaunting their cultural superiority – paid for by the rest of us, of course.
It’s not just the public purse she’s chasing for cash, though. She’s also brought in a new sponsorship programme, presumably so companies can get their branding onto the Hall’s toilet paper or speaker cables or something. First to take up her offer is filthy rich wealth management firm Brewin Dolphin, which again says something about who Marie Antoinette thinks deserves to be in Colston Hall.
Of course, chucking money at bricks and mortar doesn’t create more culture. And anyway, shouldn’t our cultural centres reflect all Bristol, offering access to all – not as an afterthought or a quaint bleeding-heart piece about ‘their struggle’ – like so many smaller, financially poorer venues across the city do?
Not if Mitchell has her way. But then this is a person who barely conceals her contempt that many associate her Hall with slave trader Edward Colston:
I do find it frustrating and there is a lot of misunderstanding about the building. People think it was paid for with money made from the slave trade which is not true. It was called Colston Hall because it was built on Colston Street.
Thanks for correcting us poor uneducated types without your six years’-worth of university and more than thirty years in arts management, Louise.
But, errr, why exactly do you think Colston Street is so named…?
Much pant-wetting and excitement at the offices of our new local currency, the BRISTOL POUND, recently.
A breathless press release explained they now had £100,000 on deposit from people wanting to use the currency – that’s equivalent to about 0.001 per cent of the city’s economy.
However, what they failed to point out was that over 20 per cent of these deposits came from a single person. Step forward MAYOR GORGEOUS, who has his mayoral salary – which after all is little more than pocket money to the independently wealthy toff – deposited in Bristol Pounds every month.
Meanwhile, newly-elected stealth Lib Dem, the Indy RedPants councillor for Kingsweston JASON ‘BOURNE’ BUDD tried to make a big media splash by announcing he would follow his political mentor’s lead and have his own £11,000 Shitty Hall allowance paid in Bristol Pounds too. Well, not all of it – he’s not completely stupid – just a tenth. Still, 90% of something is better than 100% of nothing if it all goes tits-up.
Sterling work, George!
While Mayor Redpants continues to cost our cuts-stricken city a fortune with his endless European jaunts, one of his former Cabinet colleagues was selflessly saving us a few quid in travel expenses. Step forward recently deposed Lockleaze councillor and the low-key, low-impact Lib Dem ‘Housing Miniature’ GUY POULTNEY.
Before being toppled by Labour’s Estella Tincknell (from, err, Clifton) in the local elections at the start of May, Poultney – a keen reader of The BRISTOLIAN, according to our city centre distributors – had been invited to Brussels to make some sort of speech at a conference – something he gleefully agreed to.
However, when Shitty Hall officials carefully explained he couldn’t claim for his girlfriend’s costs on expenses, Poultney withdrew his acceptance sharpish and decided instead to stay at home EATING BOWLS OF SHREDDIES and watching reruns of Come Dine With Me in his pyjamas.
Who says our councillors use all-expenses paid trips as cheap holidays?
Word reaches us that the ongoing problems with May Gurney, the waste management company in 2011 awarded a massive seven year £96 MILLION CONTRACT* for kerbside recycling collections across the city, will not be sorted out any time soon.
Company bosses have told senior council officers that if they exercise their right to place financial penalties on May Gurney for its continued failure to meet agreed collection targets, then it could go bankrupt.
So even as the waste builds up on our streets because MG – whose revenues rose more than one-fifth in the past financial year in part thanks to the Bristol contract – won’t employ enough people to get the job done properly. Meanwhile, the Council does nothing, because no one wants to risk calling the bluff of a bunch of trash barons – who are about to be quids in thanks to a buy-out.
So that’s what the smell is – a bunch of cowards pissing their pants because of stinking profiteers!
* In putting together the paper edition, we incorrectly cited a figure of £94 million. We are happy to correct this error having found a couple of million quid down the back of George Ferguson’s sofa.
Is our under pressure elected Mayor cracking already? Or is it an early run for the council’s new honest approach to consultation – “I’ve listened to you – now fuck off OK”?
It starts at around 1 minute 40 seconds in. Enjoy …
Mayor’s expensive Euro jaunt habit exposed
Following last issue’s story on His Royal Redness’ conference-hopping jaunts around Europe, it has emerged that Mayor George Ferguson cost local people a WHOPPING £126,000 on one trip alone!
Information obtained by The BRISTOLIAN details how independently wealthy Fergo took a TWENTY-STRONG ENTOURAGE with him on his recent junket to Cannes, further fuelled by nearly £35,000-worth of ‘business sponsorship’ taking the total cost up to an astounding £161,000.
With £20k contributed directly by Bristol City and South Gloucestershire councils, the balance – just shy of £107,000 – was funnelled through various BCC front organisations. These include ‘Invest in Bristol’ and ‘Bath and the Local Enterprise Partnership’, both of which – entirely by coincidence – have Bristol City Council addresses. So, fellow Bristolian, you footed the bill!
Mayor Gorgeous has already rebuffed any criticism of this fatuous trip and its cost as “trivial” – because obviously one hundred low income households’ yearly council tax payments are mere “trivia” to George and his wealthy eurotrash business pals. And if you’re wondering why the Evening, sorry, Bristol Post has been so quiet about this executive troughing farce, you might be interested to hear that its editor Mike Norton also went along for the ride!
Your favourite super sleuthing scandal sheet can also reveal that Mayor George gallivanted off on another Euro-trip last month. With at least one person from Bristol Green Capital, he popped to Switzerland for three days where they POLISHED THEIR BACKSIDES on plush conference seats for €540 a throw at Geneva’s Conference on Sustainable Towns and Cities.
The conference also included an invite-only trip to the opera – Puccini’s three hour bore-fest, Madama Butterfly, performed by the Houston Grand Opera – though it’s not clear whether George attended this or just settled for the Fondue Gala Dinner, which provided the opportunity “to mingle in an informal setting and discuss the issues of the day.” Like, er, Europe-wide austerity measures!
When anyone questions the cost of all his away-days at our expense, the millionaire mayor Fergo seems to bristle with rage, as with his recent Twitter outburst over Freedom of Information requests – such as the as-yet unanswered one relating to his Geneva jolly. Similarly George wails that he was in Geneva “creating jobs”, which tells us how just far departed from reality he now is, seeing as he’s not created any jobs at all – but actually cut 300 jobs in his last budget.
We think the jet lag from all this travelling abroad at our expense might finally be taking its toll – can you get deep vein thrombosis of the brain?
Bridge row as transport fiasco trundles on – George’s Stalingrad?
Another week, another embarrassing public row about BRT, the crappy ‘super bus’ system nobody wants but nobody seems able to stop.
In March Gorgeous George found himself engaged in a WAR OF WORDS with North Somerset councillors Elfan Ap Rees and Nigel Ashton over their glorified FirstBus service. They both criticised the mayor for being in Cannes (see The BRISTOLIAN #4.2) rather than at a meeting with them explaining his new policy of rerouting this supposed transit system. Unimpressed, the two carrot-crunching councillors issued a press release stating the BRT plan was going ahead in its original form: through Bristol Docks, over Prince Street Bridge, and into the Centre.
George responded by publicly calling Rees and Ashton “SILLY” and firmly stating BRT would not be going over Prince Street Bridge.
Then everything went very quiet for a few weeks. But now George’s own underling, Head of Special Projects and consummate time-serving Bristol City Council underachiever, Alun Owen, has piped up to councillors and the press saying – wait for it – that buses will be routed over George’s beloved Prince Street Bridge!
“Oh no they won’t,” replies Dame George in true pantomime style. But what on earth is going on here? Who’s in charge – unelected bureaucrat Owen or elected mayor George? And why is a local government officer openly contradicting his elected boss and NONCHALENTLY CHANGING AGREED POLICY via the press?
This is turning into a huge débacle for George. He was elected on a platform of scrapping the BRT plans – yet U-turned on this within days of being elected, announcing instead he would reroute the system to avoid the Docks and Prince Street Bridge (and so not upset his Redcliffe heritage mafia chums and Harbourside business associates). Now even that plan is being publicly undermined by his own employees.
It’s as though the mayor can’t even manage his own staff – let alone a whole bloody city!
A political row has broken out after the last BRISTOLIAN exposed Bristol City Council for signing off gagging orders to staff at the rate of TWO A MONTH.
Within just days of The BRISTOLIAN hitting the streets, Bristol North West’s Tory MP ‘Sugar Ray’ Charlotte Leslie was calling for Bristol City Council to implement an immediate ban on these orders due to their CORROSIVE EFFECT on open and honest government.
Sugar Ray Charlotte’s efforts eventually elicited a bizarre response from the Shitty Hall’s West Wing-obsessed public schoolboy twit of a PR boss Peter ‘Claudia Jean’ Holt, who claimed Bristol City Council “has used 54 compromise agreements in the last five years,” adding that they “are only ever used in exceptional circumstances”.
Going by Claudia Jean’s figures that’s a rate of just one month… So that’s okay, then. Except it’s not – because it’s BULLSHIT. According to information provided by Bristol City Council in 2011, they signed off 46 of these orders in 2008/09 alone, and a further 54 in 2009/10 – that’s one hundred gagging orders in just two of the last five years! No figures are yet available for the years 2010 – 2013 but on present evidence it looks like Claudia Jean’s misreported the numbers of these orders by a factor of about four…
It’s also interesting to note that there was a MASSIVE SPIKE in the use of these gagging orders in 2008 when Bradford Sun Queen Jan Ormondroyd arrived in Bristol as Chief Executive. In the year immediately before she arrived – 2006/07 – Bristol City Council signed off none. Within two years of her arrival, staff were being legally gagged at the rate of one a week.
So not only did she introduce a bloated, under performing management structure and enormous pay hikes for the chosen few, but she proactively gagged any staff who attempted to criticise her mess. And remember: this is the management that gave us the hated BRT, the loathed green spaces strategy, and attempted to destroy the Bristol and Bath Railway Path – all whilst promoting utter nonsense like promising to spend £50m on hosting the 2018 World Cup – a kamikaze pledge that cost Bristol £363,000 with nil return.
So just how many people tried to sound the alarm and got gagged?
Get in touch if you were one of the ones silenced…
Rehoming centre for horses heading for the knacker’s yard?
Trouble is brewing at the upper paddock of the Whitchurch-based animal rescue charity HorseWorld, where Managing Director MARK ‘NOT THAT ONE’ OWEN has been making some curious financial decisions.
In recent months Owen has been galloping around pleading with politicians and planners for the green light to build a new visitor attraction in the Green Belt, flying in the face of local people in Stockwood and Whitchurch unhappy at this enormous intrusion into protected land.
Pleading the charity’s poverty has been Owen’s strongest card. He’s using the massive losses built up since he took over in 2008 (half a million pounds lost each year, with rumours the latest financial figures will show HorseWorld is nearly ONE MILLION QUID in the red) as the main reason why he needs to sell charity land to build houses and a new aircraft hangar-sized horse performance attraction. The way he sells it is that income from this will be the only way to overcome the enormous deficit – which, of course, was built up whilst he’s been in charge.
And it’s not just half-witted councillors or second-string planning officers he’s busy chatting up: Owen is also noted for his habit of hiring expensive consultants – splashing out £525 A DAY on one to advise the charity on, err, fundraising.
Another consultant’s weekly fee of £750 seems cheap by comparison – till you consider they were brought in to run a fund-raising auction that LOST THOUSANDS.
Meanwhile, as Owen schmoozes his way round the city’s decision-makers wearing his best long face and begging for special consideration, he somehow forgets to mention that his allegedly hard-pressed charity has just given him the keys to a BRAND-NEW SHINY £28,000 BLACK AUDI.
Cars are a recurring theme for Owen. When first appointed to the job he made a curious decision to promote himself in The Independent On Sunday’s finance pages – trumpeting how he’d DOWNGRADED FROM A PORSCHE (to a mere Land Rover Discovery).
He thought this would make him some sort of people’s champion, but predictably the stunt SPECTACULARLY BACKFIRED, hacking off dozens of the charity’s staff, many of whom were (and are) surviving on minimum wage.
Owen started at HorseWorld five years ago on a salary published as £60k – a figure that’s since risen not uncomfortably.
And what do charity donors get for their paid-more-than-an-MP MD? Well over £2.5 million shipped, which has HAEMORRHAGED HORSEWORLD’S RESERVES, carefully built up over sixty years from legacies and donations of people who love the idea of a horse rescue charity – and now shrunk by over half in just five years.
Meanwhile, while his new car’s engine purrs, HorseWorld staff complain they are forbidden by Owen – for financial reasons, of course – from doing the very work they’re employed to do: rescuing animals in need. That costs money, of course. Something that HorseWorld pleads it has none of.