Author Archives: thebristolblogger

TRINITY ROAD COP SHOP – GOODBYE AND GOOD RIDDANCE

A group of people walking on the sidewalk

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The welcoming architecture of Trinity Road Police Station

Passing by the piles of rubble that were once Trinity Road police station in east Bristol the other day took me back to some nightmares of the 1980s. Opened in 1979, the station was built in with riot in mind or as one Bristolian described it: 

Is this the barracks of some continental-style gendarmerie, which takes to the streets only in armoured cars and with plenty of truncheons, riot shields and tear gas? Are we looking at the headquarters of some Soviet bloc secret police, with its interrogation rooms and execution cellars? No, this inscrutable, windowless, doorless, inward-turned building is the new Trinity Road Police Station, put up at the end of the 1970s for the greater convenience of our increasingly deskbound, paperwork-ridden policemen …or “police officers” as they like us to say now. Somehow this building is the perfect expression of modern policing, with its high-powered pursuit cars, speed cameras, shapeless bulky uniforms, hi-vis jackets and Heckler & Koch semi-automatic submachine guns.

In April 1980, Trinity was where the battered Avon and Somerset police officers retreated and regrouped after being chased out of St Pauls after their overpoliced and disastrous raid on the Black and White Café. Over the following years the station began to develop a dark reputation for weird, ritualised violence against those who ended up in its cells. 

In 1986 after the bombing of Libya by the US Airforce a mate of mine went out to graffiti against the escalation of what looked like a coming war. He was nicked in the Bear Pit and taken to Trinity where he was banged in a cell overnight. After refusing to give his finger prints (which had been a right in those days for minor offences) a bunch of cops came into the cell, grabbed him and began singing a song whilst an older, grey-haired officer used him as a punch bag.

The senior cop was no fool, never hitting him in the face but hitting his body ‘til it was black and blue. My mate still refused to give his prints, so they dragged him out using some keys to smash his finger nails as he desperately held on to the cell door frame. By this stage he had enough, gave his prints, was released without charge the next day, and staggered home.

You might say it was a one off? A few years later, one evening another mate who I played football with was walking back from the pub along Stapleton Road when he was kerb crawled by a police car. After refusing to stop, saying he was on his way home, the two cops grabbed him and in the scuffle that followed he kicked the car door shut. This was enough for them to nick him, and he was soon in a cell at Trinity. That night, once again a load of cops came in to the cell, held him and sang a song whilst a senior officer beat his body black and blue. He was released without charge the next day. 

The experiences of what happened to my mates soon got around. Many of us knew that Trinity was the last place you wanted to be taken if you were nicked. Far better to be in Bridewell, where at least there were senior cops who might not want beatings of prisoners (or worse) on their hands.

On Saturday 10 July 1994, Mark Harris a 31-year-old black man from Cardiff, was arrested for ‘suspected cheque book theft’ at 8.30pm and taken to Trinity Road police station. Three hours later he was found unconscious on the floor of his cell and rushed to the BRI where he was pronounced dead on arrival.

The results of a postmortem were not released to the public and a coroner’s inquest found an ‘open verdict’, meaning that jury confirmed the death is suspicious but could not find a cause. The suggestion was that Harris had hanged himself.

In 1995 there were protests outside Trinity Road led by Harris’s family, but like almost all deaths in police custody the killer cops were never brought to justice. I like to think that the only good thing to come out of the death of Harris is that it might have brought the ritualised beatings at Trinity Road police station to an end…but who knows?

So goodbye and good riddance to Trinity Road police station, and its dark history.

ROOTS ALLOTMENTS – OH DEER

Roots J
Another incident at Roots Allotments

Private allotments at Leigh Woods killed Bambi   

Lucky families out walking at Leigh Woods on Boxing day were treated to the sight of a deer caught in a fence with flesh ripped off its leg right down to the bone.

The fence was around new allotments run by for-profit company, Allotta Futureland Ltd, trading as old friends Roots Allotments. This controversial company’s private allotment site sits between two SSRIs  full of wild deer. 

Roots Allotments’ fence is far too low to keep deer from trying to jump it. If  it was larger they’d have to apply for planning permission, including a full environmental impact assessment. Something Roots are avoiding by claiming their allotments are “agricultural use”.

As the fence is low, deer try to get over it but misjudge it because it’s made of thin cheap wire that the deer can’t quite see.

The deer on Boxing Day suffered. Flesh was ripped from its leg down to the bone by its own weight. Members of the public had to use wire cutters to cut it out and then humanely euthanise it with the help of a vet as its leg was totally destroyed.

Roots Allotments list their aims as “improve biodiversity”, “build community” and “create good vibes”.

GREEN MANIFESTO: GHOST OF THATCHER HAUNTS TREE HUGGING HIPPIES CONFINED TO THE ATTIC

2024 Manifesto vs.2 14pp.indd

Following Labour’s lead, the Greens have gone some of the way to ditching the long list of expensive and undeliverable promises approach to manifesto writing.

Perfected by their centrist dad mayoral candidate last time round in 2021, Lord Sandy Bufton Tufton of India seemed to promise everything from reopening your local corner shop as boutique vegan food pop-up to sending an ambassador for Bristol to the UN. The Greens, this time, have gone for a stripped down version of the Bufton Tufton list approach.

‘Disappeared’ leader, Emma Edwards – confined to the attic for the duration in case she disturbs anyone from Business West with some dangerous off-message tree hugging hippy shit – has been briefly reanimated and wheeled out for the manifesto’s Foreword written for her by bland copywriters.

“Bristol Green Party has a vision of hope for the city and highly experienced candidates,” she enthusiastically assures us. That’ll be ‘highly experienced candidates’ like their current councillors who don’t understand the basic legal responsibilities of company ownership or the necessity to take action when the council acts unlawfully. There’s a thin line in local politics between ‘highly experienced’ and ‘reckless amateur’ isn’t there?

The main manifesto is divided into ten sections beginning with a ‘Getting the basics right‘ section. Here we’re threatened with that old chestnut “genuine engagement on key Council proposals” and decision-dodging “demographically representative Citizens’ Assemblies.”

“Ensure decisions about community facilities and community asset transfers have a more consistent and transparent process,” also pops up. Meaning community facilities and assets will be transferred to the Greens’ mates rather than Labour’s.

On to transport where, like everyone else, they’re going to improve the buses and – this is their one standout policy – they’ll fund this from a Workplace Parking Levy, if, presumably, Business West lets them?

Other keynote transport policies are the introduction of Low Traffic Neighbourhoods, which will “make traffic flow better on main routes”, apparently, and reviving Mayor No More Ferguson’s residents’ parking schemes, now redesigned as high tax revenue earner for the council.

In housing, the headline is to increase the city’s target of affordable homes from the current 600 homes per year to 1,000 per year. As no housing target in the city ever gets reached you wonder what the point of this actually is?

There’s also an odd and unexplained major outsourcing plan sneaked in, to set up an “arms length company to own and rent out council-owned housing”. This, the Greens allege, will create more “genuinely affordable homes” while also, conveniently, achieving the Thatcherite dream of moving social housing out of the council’s hands altogether. An old Lib Dem policy and one to watch.

Under the heading ‘A Great Start in Life’ we get a load of retreads of Labour’s failing Children’s Service policies where costs are going south fast. So they’ll increase special school places; somehow reduce costs of home to school transport and recruit more foster carers as they’ve been doing unsuccessfully for the last ten years. 

Despite being a major budgetary pressure, there’s nothing on the subject of the rising costs of private sector out-of-county children’s care placements at all. Neither is there any mention of the Tory ‘Safety Valve’ SEND cuts programme the council is now signed up to for the next five years if it doesn’t get cancelled immediately.

For young people, there’s a vague “aim” with no resource attached to “increase the provision of youth services”. On knife crime it’s equally vague and totally under-resourced. They’ll “work with young people themselves, with the police, schools, youth services and other community organisations.”

On adult care there’s some warm words for staff and social workers and then this, “investigate a council-funded capital grant programme or loan scheme to assist care homes to be more efficient to save money in the long run.”

Are they really proposing to use our money to subsidise private care homes’ profits?

Sections on public health and “a clean city” provide airy lists of stuff “aiming to”; “exploring”; “enhancing”; “joining up” with no firm commitment to anything very much. The language indicating the lack of resources to make any of it happen.

On culture we get that old manifesto money-wasting favourite, “lead a Bristol regional bid to become the UK’s city of culture” along with a vague threat of a raid on the Local Government Pension Scheme to fund pet culture projects.

The final section of the local authority manifesto is on our old corporate friend ‘net zero’. Basically the ‘billion pound’ City Leap is still the only game in town delivering small scale  publicly funded insulation, energy and EV projects. But it wouldn’t be a Green manifesto without developing a way to waste money the council hasn’t got on a pointless ‘net zero’ measure. So please step forward “a carbon budget process alongside the annual financial budgeting process.”

The idea here seems to be to employ people to add up the carbon costs of what the council does each year while cutting actual useful public services to the bone. Bravo!

ONE WEDDING SUIT AND AN ENGLISH LANGUAGE FUNERAL: THE LABOUR MANIFESTO

Bristol-Labour-Group-Manifesto-2024-1

Introduced in full colour dull PowerPoint by their newly minted leader, Tom “Plasticine Man’ Renhard, togged up in his wedding suit at a swanky conference room at Ashton Gate stadium on Saturday, Bristol Labour Party are first out of the blocks with a local election manifesto. 

The manifesto cover features a cheery little cartoon cover of multicultural pedestrians, happy cyclists, beaming schoolchildren, helpful coppers, trams, buses, windmills and, er, dead trees plastered onto a local independent retail backdrop. Produced in shades of red, it’s a bit George Ferguson on acid with the manifesto’s title, ‘Building Bristol’s Future’ providing mild threat for the paranoid.

The manifesto itself spells a departure from the Rees years. Marvin’s manifestoes provided a shopping list of promises he would then proceed to fail to deliver. His 2016 effort contained 78 uncosted promises and 38 vague commitments. The 2021 model slimmed things down to just 91 uncosted promises. Largely undelivered.

Renhard seems to have learned from this almighty mess of broken promises and has created a fuzzy document of vague aspiration instead. Delivered in hackneyed cliche with few indicators of how he would deliver on any of it, maybe Renhard knows he won’t have to?

Our team has combed through the 28 pages of English language wreckage and identified five stone cold, nailed down actual promises from Labour. These are: ‘build 3,000 council homes in the next five years’; ‘roll out more school streets’; ‘have more visible and responsive police and embedded PCSOs’; ‘protect the 100% Council Tax Reduction Scheme’ and ‘tackle anti-social behaviour, including fly-tipping, littering and graffiti tags, by hiring more enforcement officers and increasing fines‘.

We also discovered three almost promises in the manifesto. These fall short of actual promises as there’s little detail provided and few resources committed so it will be hard to hold them to account. These are: ‘upgrading and restoring our ageing infrastructure, including Bristol’s historic bridges and harbour’; ‘invest in road maintenance and pothole repair’ and ‘reduce violence against women and girls’.

Pretty much everything else in the document is vague aspirational waffle. In social care, which, according to Labour’s own figures is 43% of council spend, the big offer is, “We are partnering with Bristol’s public services to help ensure you can access the care you need, when you need it.”

From the party that has just tried (and failed) to remove disabled adults from their homes and shove them into residential care to save money, this is a pathetically weak policy response.

On education and children’s services, 22% of council spend, it’s hard to find much concrete. Just some waffle about “Helping children get the best start in life with more school places and better provision for SEND children; improving access to education and skills in our colleges and universities.”

Another weak response from the party that fucked up SEND provision years ago and is currently fucking it up all over again having signed up to the Tories’ vicious ‘Safety Valve’ SEND cuts programme.

On the big issue of youth knife crime, the Labour offer moves beyond pathetic. Promising to “improve CCTV and partner on youth engagement projects” alongside a further uncosted promise without detail to “support and invest in youth services.” 

Is that it?

On transport, Labour commit to, “exploring ways to bring buses into public ownership”. Currently impossible under existing legislation. And they will “start now on the transport solutions of tomorrow” whatever that means. Their most interesting policy may be “seeking ways to take back control of our highway maintenance work through insourcing.”

On Green issues, the offer is more of Rees’s underpowered over-publicised City Leap. Originally a promise of a ‘billion pound’ private sector investment, this promise dropped to £500m recently. The Labour manifesto now introduces a new figure of “£771m planned investment in decarbonisation”.

The reality of City Leap last year was about £23m of public sector grants and city council cash spent on overpriced heat pumps in schools and some small retrofit pilots, which Labour’s US corporate partner trousered a profit from.

The final section of the manifesto is a section unoriginally called ‘Our City, Our Future’ where the big promise is “creating a safe, attractive, well-lit and welcoming city centre.”

Does that mean neighbourhoods outside the city centre can expect to be unsafe, unattractive, badly lit and unwelcoming?

I think we should be told.

Palestine Action target Somerset Council over Elbit tenant 

Elbit

Images are available for free here

Activists submitted evidence of an action taken at Somerset Council, where they covered the building in red paint, bloody hand prints and spray painted messages which read ‘Elbit out’ and ‘Evict Elbit’.

Somerset Council are the landlords of Aztec West 600, the headquarters of Elbit Systems UK. Elbit Systems UK is owned by Israel’s largest weapons firm, who market their weaponry as “battle-tested” after they’re developed through assaults on the Palestinian people [1]. 

The Israeli weapons maker manufactures 85% of Israel’s military drone fleet and land-based equipment, as well as missiles, bombs and bullets [2]. Elbit’s CEO Bazhalel Machlis, who sits on the board of Elbit Systems UK, boasted of how the Israeli military has thanked the company for their “crucial” services during the ongoing genocide in Gaza [3]. 

Since October 7th, Israel has killed over 31,000 Palestinians, injured over 73,000 and displaced the vast majority of Gaza [4]. 

On two previous occasions, Somerset residents have disrupted council meetings urging for immediate action to be taken and for Elbit’s lease to be terminated [5] [6]. Amidst financial issues, the council has made plans to sell all of their commercial properties including Aztec West 600 [7]. 

However, residents have repeatedly emphasised that selling the property doesn’t absolve the council of their responsibility, and before any sale takes place the council must evict Elbit from their property. 

As the council have not yet taken such action, they remain on Palestine Action’s database of institutions and companies who profit from and enable Israel’s weapons trade [8]. 

The local group said: 

“By taking Elbit’s money, our council have Palestinian blood on their hands. By default, they’ve made the whole county of Somerset complicit in the ongoing genocide in Gaza. We refuse to stand by whilst the council continue to ignore our requests to evict Elbit. For the Palestinian people at the other end of Elbit’s weapons, we will continue to take action until the council kick Elbit out of Aztec West 600.”

ENDS

‘LEFTY WOKE NONSENSE’?

Gissa job
The fourth most powerful person in the UK?

Obscure website, Powerful Media’s UK black powerlist for people of African or African Caribbean heritage raised a few eyebrows when released last autumn with the Reverend Rees in fourth place.

Neither Foreign Secretary James Cleverly, now Home Secretary, nor Tory leadership hopeful, Kemi Badenoch, Trade Secretary, appeared on the list despite, on the face of it, being quite powerful.

This has led some commentators to brand the whole fiasco “lefty woke nonsense”. Powerful Media responded by explaining they had inexplicably banned parliamentarians from being listed.

But not mayors too weak to get selected for a seat to become a parliamentarian?

WHO THE FUCK IS JOHN BETTY?

John Betty

Possibly the most expensive idiot you’ve never heard of. This dodgy old fart has spent years grabbing lucrative local authority interim contracts.

He pitched up in Cornwall for a couple of years in 2018 where a local blog colourfully called him “a 10-minute shoe-in pensioner” as he forked out £2.5m without authorisation to an associate for a regeneration scheme in Truro.

Another career highlight was a stint in Bath 2005 – 10.

In charge of the later stages of the Bath Spa development where costs spiralled from £13 million to £45 million. He also featured in the press. They revealed he earned £1.2m during his five years there. A deal the coalition government called “exorbitant”.

So guess who, since leaving Cornwall under a cloud in 2020, has been project director for the Bristol Beacon as costs spiralled from £52m to £132m?

Remarkably, there’s no record of who appointed 77 year old Betty or why and there’s no recorded process for his appointment. Neither has he appeared before any committee of councillors. Nor is his, undoubtedly, huge salary recorded in the council’s statement of accounts.

Why is this high-earning, high public spender not accountable?