MAYOR AT CENTRE OF FINANCIAL COLLAPSE OF DOCK’S FERRY SERVICE
A scandal is emerging around Bristol Mayor, “Uncle” George Ferguson’s role in the failed BRISTOL FERRY BOAT COMPANY LTD. The company, which ran the blue and yellow ferries around the docks and received considerable council and government subsidies, crashed with £300K DEBTS, no paid-up basic insurance cover for passengers and owing Bristol City Council £11k in mooring fees at the time Ferguson was elected in November 2012.
Indeed, on his very first day at work at the Council House on November 18 2012, it seems super successful businessman Uncle George, who owned A 40% STAKE in the company, was busy planning to LAY OFF 30 STAFF at his failed company and calling in the administrators! Although he blustered to gullible Nazi Post reporters at the time, “I have never been involved in the day-today running of the company.”
Then things get murkier. By early January 2013 a new company, with a remarkably similar name, FERRYBOATS BRISTOL had appeared and was running the very same boats on the very same routes around the docks. This new company, operated by what was described as “a consortium of investors”, curiously, was managed by one of the directors of Ferguson’s failed ferry company, IAN ‘BUNGLE” BUNGARD.
However, Bristol Ferry Boats Ltd didn’t last long either. By May 2013 a third entity, this time a cooperative venture, with yet another similar name took over the boats and the operation, BRISTOL COMMUNITY FERRY BOAT COMPANY.
Again the director from Ferguson’s failed ferries, BUNGLE, was aboard along with his wife, PHILLIPA, and they were joined by Ferguson associates like his old WELLINGTON SCHOOL chum, Sustrans twit JOHN “REALLY” GRIMSHAW; local urbanist and architect twerp KEITH “TIMMY” HALLETT; Merchant Venturer JAY TIDMARSH and, our favourite, SUE LEARNER, described in the company prospectus as Phillipa Bungard’s midwife!
A lot of questions can be asked about what this gang of posh Bristol establishment insiders, random midwives and ‘FRIENDS OF GEORGE’ were up to.
Not least, how did they manage to obtain a series of PRIME FERRY ROUTES around the city docks without having to go through a city council tender process against the vastly better run NUMBER 7 FERRY company?
This tender process, coincidentally, is the direct responsibility of our old friend, the city council’s dribbling mentally ill loon of a docks boss, CAP’N TONY “AHAB” NICHOLS.
Legally, neither of these new ferry companies had any right whatsoever to routes that were awarded by open tender to a completely separate legal entity. Public procurement rules forbid this. So why didn’t Ahab RETENDER the routes as he’s LEGALLY OBLIGED to do rather than hand them quietly over to a local group of wealthy and influential individuals who just happened to be very friendly with the mayor?
Another unanswered question is what happened to all the PUBLIC MONEY that went in to the original basketcase ferry boat company, 40% owned by the mayor? Hundreds of thousands have been poured in by the city council since 2002 and the company even received a government development loan of £125k in 2009.
How were DEBTS OF £300K ever run up? How was the company able to obtain city council tenders while being FINANCIALLY UNVIABLE? Especially strange when you consider that rival firm, Number 7 Ferries, operates similar routes on the same waterway at a PROFIT.
The final question arises over the use of so-called “PHOENIX COMPANIES”. These are new companies set up to trade in the same activities as a former company so it looks like “business as usual” to customers. Phoenix companies can also use directors from a former failed company.
However, while this is legal in certain cases if investors have been properly notified of the circumstances, elsewhere companies that have carried out this DODGY PRACTICE have attracted criticism in the media and parliament as it allows companies to effectively dump their liabilities, walk away from debt and start all over again at an unfair advantage.
The formation of a Phoenix Company is subject to regulation by the DTI. So watch this space …