Author Archives: thebristolblogger

CUT TODAY FOR LABOUR VICTORY TOMORROW

Some excellent sleuthing by Momentum in the lead up to the Reverend’s Tory cuts budget at the end of February UNCOVERED what appeared to be an extra £9million being hosed into the council’s cash reserves for NO APPARENT REASON.

This £9million was the difference between what the council’s published financial risk assessment said was NEEDED in cash reserves and the amount of cash actually being PUT IN THERE.

But lo and behold! Just the day before the council’s budget meeting, a new risk assessment suddenly emerged, explaining the council actually needed a FURTHER £9million in cash reserves.

All very convenient, although the stench of the Reverend building a personal ELECTION WAR CHEST for 2020 at the expense of our public services now remains hanging heavily in the air.

Do look out for those Labour election treats, baubles and bribes in 2019 – 20 but try not to forget what they really cost us in terms of lost services and wrecked lives

LEADERSHIP WATCH

The Reverend Rees continues to demonstrate the leadership skills and sure touch that earned him a MISERABLE little middle management equalities officer post paper shuffling for the NHS. Was it there he perfected that ability to wear a shiny suit and talk utter shite?

A brief glance through the Reverend’s weak and cowardly Tory budget for the coming year reveals virtually every department at the council will be making CUTS. Or “efficiency savings” as the Great Helmsman demands we call them. Deploying weasel words in a sad attempt to fool us that his atrocious cuts WRECKING our public services will somehow be improvements to these services if he applies enough heavy-handed PR spin to them.

However, if we’re being strictly accurate, all council departments are making “efficiencies” except ONE. The exception being the Reverend’s very own EXECUTIVE OFFICE, which is receiving a £600k boost to its budget for next year. Although, if we’re to be consistent, shouldn’t this 25 per cent uplift to his own budget be called an “INEFFICIENCY SPEND“?

Does the Reverend think CUTTING everyone else’s budget while BOOSTING his own to afford more trips to Manhattan, China and Cannes and run a junket for ‘World Mayors’ here in Bristol is a good example of the ‘city leadership’ he’s forever banging on about? Did they teach him to be a GREEDY self-serving bastard on his wanky leadership course at Yale? Or is his ‘I’m all right Jack’ approach to leadership just another one of his many embarrassing PERSONAL FAILINGS?

Surely leadership is about leading from the front and ensuring that he takes, at least, his share of any cuts to ENCOURAGE and LEAD his colleagues in these harsh times?

Got to be better than blathering on about leadership while blatantly showing none.

COUNCILLORS WANT COMPANY SECRETS

Councillors, with bugger all to do since the Reverend Rees decided he didn’t want them scrutinising his work in detail any more, are finally ASKING QUESTIONS about the council’s two companies – Bristol Energy and Bristol Waste.

Councillors from all parties have been querying whether, in legal terms, Bristol Waste – a so-called ‘TECKAL COMPANY’ that can be selected to deliver council services without going through a procurement process – should be treated in the same way as a Council directorate for audit purposes. In other words, should there be FULL PUBLIC ACCESS to the company’s income and expenditure accounts like any other council department?

The Reverend and his panicky bosses have, so far, responded by trying to SHUT COUNCILLORS UP. They claim that a secret “independent review” of the companies has required Bristol Waste to establish its own audit committee while Bristol Energy had already established an audit committee. This is enough oversight argue the Reverend’s gophers.

Councillors, however, concerned at mounting LOSSES and excessive SECRECY at the companies, are reputed to be less than happy with the Reverend’s response and his insistence on constant secrecy for his failing companies. Especially as, at present, only ONE COUNCILLOR, the Chair of the Overview and Scrutiny Management Board, is permitted to attend Shareholder Group meetings and only as an observer.

Shareholder Group meetings are where the finances and management of these companies are discussed. But, “due to the commercial sensitivity of the matters discussed”, the Chair of the Overview and Scrutiny Management Board is then BANNED from SHARING any information with other councillors.

Many councillors, permanently out-of-the-loop and concerned at the LOSSES and the general CONDUCT of companies they’re responsible for, are now saying that it’s “too limiting to maintain a situation whereby only one non-executive Council member is given access to information.”

How much longer can the Reverend keep his “commercially confidential” company bandwagon on the road? It increasingly looks like pressure is mounting from both the public and councillors for exactly the kind of TRANSPARENCY the Reverend promised us during his election campaign.

Watch this space.

POTHOLED!

A cyclist was involved in a nasty ACCIDENT on the Downs recently when he rode straight into a pothole measured as 8 inches deep, 68 inches long and 26 inches wide. It was also completely SUBMERGED in water and looked like a puddle.

The bike SNAPPED in two when the cyclist hit the pothole and he was hospitalised with head and face injuries including concussion and fractured cheek, nose and hand. NUMEROUS REPORTS had been made to the council’s ‘Fix My Street’ website, especially from cyclists reporting how dangerous sections of the Downs now are. There are a series of LARGE POTHOLES there, which the council is doing sod-all about.

Meanwhile, the council and their cycling consultants are resurfacing the cycle path on Baldwin Street for the THIRD TIME, even though no one uses it. All around the city, they’re building cycle paths a few metres long, when all the evidence shows that cyclists won’t dismount, get onto the cycle path, cycle a few metres, dismount and get back on the road again.

Why are the roads so much better in South Gloucestershire and North Somerset than in Bristol? Any potholes that appear are FILLED IN. Roads that deteriorate are RESURFACED. Meanwhile, Bristol has some absolute HORROR SHOWS, many where there is very heavy cycle use. The roads around Blaise Castle are another example.

And this is supposedly a ‘Cycling City’ where Sustrans chooses to locate its headquarters?

REES GETS HIS WAFFLE IN A TWIST

The Reverend Rees’s latest HORRIFYING ASSAULT by management jargon on the English language has just crossed our desk. Is he having a baby?

The Reverend has decided, in his wisdom, that he needs to recruit a committee to recruit a committee to run his absurd 50 year ‘ONE CITY PLAN’ and so he’s sent out a letter to the great ‘n’ good and any self-styled city leadership wanker inviting interest in this exciting non-job.

“The City Office is now setting up a Governing Board and is seeking Board members to oversee the IMPLANTATION of the initiative,” he waffles. Er, did he by any chance mean, “The City Office is now setting up a Governing Board and are seeking Board members to IMPLEMENT the initiative”?

Because last time we looked “implantation” is the stage of pregnancy at which the fertilized egg adheres to the wall of the uterus!

MAT SHIT CRAZY

Just days after a string of national press reports in January highlighting the CHRONIC FINANCIAL PROBLEMS of Multi-Academy Trusts across the country, parents of Hillcrest Primary in Totterdown were informed that the school had quietly approached the Regional Schools Commissioner to form a MULTI ACADEMY TRUST (MAT) with Holymead, West Town Lane & Whitchurch Primaries.

Accompanying the announcement, a set of dubious claims were LEAKED out to parents to justify the idiot plan. Claims that include ludicrous financial assertions for MATs with little basis in reality. One claim is that academies get “MORE MONEY” than local authority schools. They do not. Funding per pupil is the SAME for both types of school.

Another claim is that the academies will “SAVE MONEY” because the school will not have to pay any money to the local authority for shared services. Partially true. Although the school will have to pay money to the MAT instead. Savings, therefore, will be somewhere between very limited, zero or more than they’re paying now depending on how the MAT and its OPAQUE and UNACCOUNTABLE trustees, members and self-styled leaders choose to set their charges (and significant personal salaries).

The only possible way academies can spend more money on your children is if they DRASTICALLY REDUCE teachers’ and staff pay and conditions – any schools’ biggest expense. This means an assault on maternity, paternity and sick pay, more use of unqualified and newly qualified teachers, less staff with larger classes, poorer SEN provision and much more. Otherwise, these academies are BARELY SOLVENT.

A glance at the accounts for West Town Lane, which is already an academy, reveals the school has just £200k in reserves and a capital buildings budget of just £25k per year. £200k is enough to pay staff for ONE MONTH. While the school is just a new roof away from BANKRUPTCY.

These schools simply aren’t financially sustainable outside local authority control. A fact confirmed by the Times Educational Supplement. They reported this month that “it would only take TWO MORE YEARS like the one that they have just had to leave the entire [MAT] sector on the verge of insolvency.”

Why are local schools rushing down this academy route then? Or more to the point, why isn’t our Labour-run authority doing more to warn NAÏVE SCHOOL GOVERNING BODIES of the dangers of this DAFT TORY INITIATIVE? And what, exactly, is the Reverend’s cabinet member for schools, Anna “The Ostrich” Keen, whose main qualification for the job appears to be that she’s the Reverend’s old geography teacher’s daughter, doing about it?

The Ostrich needs to get on top of this issue. Otherwise people might end up thinking that the Reverend and The Ostrich are launching a vicious Tory-style AUSTERITY ASSAULT on teachers’ pay and conditions in Bristol using school governing bodies as cover to deflect the blame away from themselves.

Not the kind of dishonesty the Reverend Rees’s would ever get up to, surely?

UPDATE: Since going to press, EIGHT more schools in Bristol have announced their intention to form a MAT:

Fair Furlong Primary in Withywood
Knowle Park Primary in Knowle Park
Bridge Farm Primary in Whitchurch
Whitehall Primary
Cabot Primary in St Pauls
Glenfrome Primary School in Eastville
Brunel Field Primary in Ashley Down
Ashley Down Primary

CLASS WAR MEMORIAL CAMPSITE SHOCKER!

A report in the Nazi Post on 29 January announced that the homeless have been FORCED to pitch tents on Rosemary Green, just by Greenbank Cemetery. Not only was this an EYESORE for the hordes of wealthy hipsters in the area but, screamed the Post in an attempt to dial-up further controversy, the homeless had set their tents up next to a ‘WAR MEMORIAL’.

How disrespectful, setting up tents by a memorial for our fallen heroes in wars. However, some basic RESEARCH revealed this ‘war memorial’ was actually a memorial to 4,000+ paupers who DIED in the now demolished Eastville workhouse. All died of POVERTY and NEGLECT in the workhouse and were dumped in UNMARKED GRAVES.

A few years ago, local historians wrote a book detailing the CRIMES of this workhouse and then raised funds for a MEMORIAL to these people who had been FORGOTTEN. So historians and locals were scratching their collective heads at references to a “war memorial” in Greenbank Cemetery. Concluding that it was either more CRAP JOURNALISM or, maybe, the Nazi Post is recognising a “CLASS WAR MEMORIAL“? Whatever the case, all references to a “war memorial” have now been disappeared from the newspaper. Funny that.

Busy spouting the usual blather from Mr Angry, the Nazi Post missed THE REAL STORY here. This memorial to the workhouse was about people who DIED due to a system that CRIMINALISED POVERTY. People who could not work – like the old, infirm, those with learning difficulties or, even, those who suffered industrial accidents – were dumped in workhouses. Families were split up and the able-bodied poor were set to work undertaking MINDLESS TASKS.

Food was cheap and INADEQUATE and the regime BRUTAL. The theory of our Victorian CITY LEADERS was that if people were treated harshly, they would stop being poor. No, we’re not taking the piss, that’s the size of it.

Before burying those that died from CHRONIC neglect and starvation, the Church of England came down and consecrated ground on Rosemary green for the burial of the workhouse dead. Not once but three times at £50 a pop. Enough money to feed all of the incarcerates well for a year. But at least their bodies were safe … Er, not bleeding likely.

Most were DUG UP by a JCB in 1972, taken to Avon View cemetery and DUMPED in a hole without any marking. Historians are still trying to get the CofE to pay for a headstone at Avon View but getting the BISHOP OF BRISTOL to give a shit about anyone that’s not a wealthy creep or a Merchant Venturer is like getting blood out of a stone.

Today, with austerity cuts, ‘CITY LEADERS’ won’t be building any workhouses, feeding the poor gruel or dumping their bodies in MASS UNMARKED GRAVES with the CofE’s support. Instead, the homeless and destitute are left to crawl off to a tent or a shop doorway and FUCKING DIE. As long as the shoppers or commuters don’t have to look at them, there’s not a problem.

But you better look at them, because YOU COULD BE NEXT. A workplace accident, divorce or a death in the family could see you reduced to LIVING IN A TENT in Bristol – as long as the council don’t nick it off you, of course. That’s the reality of Bristol today. The benefits system is INADEQUATE and support services are COLLAPSING due to a lack funds. The inhumanity must stop. Surely the media and everyone else need to stop demonising the homeless and poor and have a pop at those who put them there, innit?

We don’t want historians writing books about the cruelty of today’s city leaders while people build memorials to our dead homeless in a hundred years do we?

PRIVATE SECTOR EFFICIENCY WATCH

Spunkface

City Council Property Services Director, Robert “Spunkface” Orrett, finally abandoned his local authority sinking ship in September for an executive lifeboat in Filton. Here, a LUCRATIVE CONTRACT appeared with Malaysian corporate, YTL.

YTL are the firm who want to build Bristol’s arena in Filton with public money and who, no doubt, will find Spunkface’s city council CONTACT BOOK and INSIDER KNOWLEDGE of developing an arena in Bristol very useful indeed.

Those with longer memories, may recall Spunkface arrived at Bristol City Council in the autumn of 2012 from corporate property firm BNP Paribas as the man who was going to bring “private sector efficiency and discipline” to the council’s STRUGGLING and UNDER-POWERED Property Services Department.

He also brought along an UNLAWFUL private consultancy gig with BNP Paribas, which he didn’t give up for over a year, breaking all known codes of conduct for public servants. However, for some reason, this conduct was OVERLOOKED by senior council bosses and councillors who are supposed to rigorously defend the integrity of our public services.

When Spunkface departed in the autumn, his department – largely run by a revolving door of interims and consultants who couldn’t give a toss – was announcing over £7million in UNACHIEVED SAVINGS; an OVERSPEND of £2million and was engulfed in MANAGEMENT CHAOS. Meanwhile, on Spunkface’s watch, a number of financial and bullying SCANDALS had emerged across his department.

These SCANDALS in markets, security services and the Harbour Office were all brushed under the carpet by Spunkface while he SINGULARLY FAILED to make any progress in increasing income from the council’s valuable property portfolio as he had been employed to do. Although plenty of city council property was handed over FOR FREE to corporate property guardian firms to earn big money from EXPLOITING the homeless and vulnerably housed.

Now that Spunkface has departed, we learn that discussions are taking place at a senior level in the council about OUTSOURCING the management of the council’s Property Services to the PRIVATE SECTOR to bring – wait for it – “private sector efficiency and discipline” to the useless department!

Who would ever have guessed that a manager brought in from the private sector would achieve nothing except to so thoroughly trash a local authority department it needed to be outsourced to the, er, private sector?

PATH TO RUIN

SHIT IDEAS FROM REES’S CORPORATE FRIENDS pt 56

Within weeks of the Reverend Rees unveiling his PIE-IN-THE SKY underground rail plan, the BRISTOL AND BATH RAILWAY PATH is, again, being targeted as a CHEAP rapid transit option by Labour’s corporate transport consultant friends.

In an EXACT REPETITION of proposals that were ended 10 years ago by HUGE public protest, some shadowy corporate transport consultants have LEAKED a proposal to the Nazi Post to run a tram/light rail down the Railway Path as a cut-price alternative to Rees’s impossibly expensive tube dream.

The Reverend’s transport wonks have even wheeled out USEFUL IDIOT, David Redgewell, a self-appointed local transport spokesman to back their plan. Redgewell operates under the guise of the official-sounding ‘South West Transport Network’, a mystery organisation with mystery funding and no formal documents of association.

“No one is saying the cycle way will be closed, far from it, it would actually be widened and improved to allow the light rail track to run alongside it,” explains this full time UNACCOUNTABLE BUSYBODY who doesn’t even understand that the Railway Path isn’t a “cycle way” but a park and inner city wildlife corridor first and foremost.

“There is already a section of the cycle path that runs alongside the Midland railway, so it isn’t too radical,” he rambles on. Well, tell that to the THOUSANDS of residents that successfully campaigned against exactly the same stupid plan ten years ago, you dodgy transport industry gobshite.

Meanwhile the Reverend’s entirely decorative transport cabinet member, Mhairi “Bauble” Threlfall, currently overseeing the incredible £200million non-appearing Metrobus system, has tried to brush aside any plans for the Railway Path. She told the Post, a rapid transit route on the path had been “MENTIONED IN PASSING”, whatever that means.

The Post however suggests things may have gone beyond being “mentioned’. They say, “several of the UK’s top transport experts – including those involved in London Cross Rail project and the completed Strathclyde Subway – have been IN TALKS with Metro Mayor Tim Bowles, Bristol Mayor Marvin Rees and leader of B&NES council Tim Warren.”

And, “It is understood the group has been advised there are only TWO OPTIONS available to running the eastern route through one of the most congested parts of the city – either building a tunnel underground from the outskirts or build a tram-like light rail system next to THE CYCLE PATH.”

Does the Reverend know what happened last time the local Labour Party tried to TRASH our Railway Path in 2008? They were STOPPED in their tracks by MASS PROTEST before slumping to their WORST election performance in a generation in 2009 when they ended up with just 16 councillors.

The Greens and the Lib Dems who SUPPORTED the Railway Path and OPPOSED Labour’s rapid transit plan, meanwhile, enjoyed an electoral boost with the Lib Dems forming a majority administration in 2009.

Rees and Threlfall should consider themselves warned.

IMPORTANT RECENT LEGAL DECISION RE: DEREGULATED ASSURED SHORTHOLD TENANCIES AND SECTION 21 EVICTIONS

A recent landlord-served Section 21 notice vs assured shorthold tenant contest was fought at county court level (London) over the landlord’s failure to issue a gas safety certificate at the outset of the tenancy. The landlord lost his case, then appealed it and lost again. The appeal judgement sets quite an extraordinary precedent for future cases of contesting a Section 21 eviction over the same grounds. Follow this link to:

https://nearlylegal.co.uk/2018/02/i-can-serve-gas-safety-certificates/

Both judges ruled in agreement that the changes made to the Deregulation Act in 2015 made it mandatory for the landlord to have ALREADY issued the tenant in a gas using property with a gas safety certificate WHEN S/HE SIGNED THE FIRST CONTRACT OF THE TENANCY.

Also, they ruled that another/new safety certificate CANNOT be served to rectify this omission in retrospect. Therefore, if the landlord/agent failed in this regard at the outset of the tenancy, then if the landlord serves a Section 21 notice to quit and the tenant contests it, the latter has a very strong case to argue in court that the notice is illegal and invalid.

There are various comments at the bottom of the article linked above which clarify some of the legal issues around the decision.

On October 1 2018, assuming it is not overturned at the High Court, and as written in the Deregulation Act’s amendment of 2015, the ruling will apply not only to deregulated private tenancies but also to regulated ones.

Hence housing activists need to GET MOBILISING around defending these ground-breaking judgements from any sneaky moves by the Tories and the NLA ASAP.