Well done to Alice Ferguson and Naomi Fuller, Director and Communications Director respectively of the hopelessly middle class Southville charity, PLAYING OUT, for delivering one of the best self-inflicted PR disasters we’ve ever seen.
A sort of Reclaim the Streets for the Cath Kidston set, this ridiculous charity blocks upmarket residential streets for a few hours every month so kids can get to play in the road “like we did in the old days”.
The two lovely Southville gals behind the charity, one of whom just happens to be Mayor Bent Trousers’ DAUGHTER, were given some space recently in the mayor’s new personal propaganda machine, the Bristol 24/7 website, to “set the record straight”.
What record ? Why was this record ever bent? What’s going on?
Playing Out wanted to assure us that the fairly LARGE SUMS of public money that have come the charity’s way from the council since daddy arrived on the hot seat at the Counts Louse is purely down to their brilliance and an overwhelming public need for middle class kids to access boutique retro play experiences.
What better possible way is there to spend public cash in this age of austerity? Especially while the mayor personally cuts real public services – where his relatives don’t work – to the bone.
“It’s funding which was ring-fenced for this kind of initiative. It doesn’t all just come out of one big pot, that’s not how it works,” the pair bleated to Bristol 24/7 while not bothering to explain how it did work.
“It’s two years before Bristol as a city even decided it wanted an elected mayor that Alice and Amy held their first playing out session,” the site wailed neatly sidestepping the issue of when their generous levels of funding began.
And then the coup de grace. A Bristol City Council PR is rustled up to RUBBERSTAMP the vacuous claims: “The Mayor has never been involved in a funding decision relating to Playing Out. He took office on November 19 2012, meaning the majority of funding decisions pre-date his time in office.”
Alas, within two hours of this bizarre PR manouevre – randomly denying any nepotism exists between the mayor and his daughter for no apparent reason – an article had appeared from the mayor-watching Bristol News team rebutting the council’s and the charity’s claims.
Up to the Mayor’s election in 2012, Playing Out were paid by the council the fairly reasonable amount – for what they do – of £12,000. By the end of the Mayor’s first year in office that figure was £92,000!!!
That’s, almost, an EIGHT-FOLD increase and none of it from especially ring-fenced council funds for middle class mums with daft ideas in Southville so far as we can see.
So did this £92k not “come out of one big pot at the city council”? Who knows? Neither Playing Out nor 24/7 provide evidence one way or the other. Although the council’s published expenditure records do nothing to disabuse the public of the notion that Playing Out’s money did indeed just come out of one big pot at the council.
Now 24/7 and Playing Out have set the hare loose, this hugely embarrassing issue for the mayor looks set to run and run in the lead-up to next year’s mayoral election.
So who’s idea was it for Playing Out to go to the local media with a load of partial information for us to pick over then?