Category Archives: Bristol City Council

SEND PARENT SPY SCANDAL: SEND ITEM ABANDONED AT CABINET MEETING!

SEND  Reputational narrative
Reputational narrative from Jon Smith, Newsdesk Supervisor at Bristol City Council

Yesterday, a report was set to go to Bristol City Council’s cabinet to agree a large capital spend to tackle the city’s crisis in school places for SEND children. Imagine the surprise when the agenda item disappeared off the agenda at midday yesterday prior to the meeting at 4.00pm.

The council later claimed that the item was pulled due to the spiralling costs of building work. Had these costs spiralled in the five days since the report was first published online?

Another theory is that the item was hastily pulled to avoid the public making statements and asking questions about SEND that could have included queries to the Reverend Rees about his dodgy SEND spying scandal. Has an urgent item of SEND expenditure been pulled to save our thin-skinned mayor from embarrassment and, possibly, legal complications?

Here’s one statement from a parent that got pulled when this agenda item got pulled at remarkably short notice. Read it and make up your own mind about what’s going on:

The Decision Pathway Report says: ‘Whilst this report puts forward a positive story about the council investing capital funds to deliver much needed capacity within the SEND sector, it is often the case that the reaction to such proposals is mixed. This should not deter BCC from proactively sharing this news ahead of the Cabinet decision in August and we’d recommend taking a positive stance on talking about the amount being invested and the impact it will deliver. Preparations can be made to put reactive lines in place to respond to likely counter’s [sic] from external commentators and we’d recommend ensuring a comprehensive stakeholder comms plan is in place to cover individual projects and ensure those impacted are fully aware of the proposed investments.’

This section has been added by a PR officer on 14 June 2022. Send families form the majority of external commentators in this context. These are families who have had the most traumatic of experiences. If nothing else is obvious to Cabinet, the need for an additional 450 Send places shows how many children and young people have been suffering and for how long. 

To tone police and minimise the response from ‘external commentators’ shows that disability discrimination truly is an acceptable form of discrimination by the council and administration. Its external comms department is party to victimising the families of those with protected characteristics for speaking out and advocating for their needs. 

Appendix D [pictured below] says there will be ‘reputational risk’ if the council is unable to name education settings in EHCPs. This is because ‘sufficient provision is not yet in place’. It says the key consequences of this ‘could result in increased complaints to the council and/or a judicial review’. The Key Mitigations state:

‘Communications plan required. External Communications Team engaged. Workshop to develop comms strategy to be held’. It is dated 27 July 2021. In addition, there are two restricted items, a first for council Send papers. 

The One Page Business Case paper says that the lack of specialist provision results in: ‘CYP educated out of area, CYP needs not met, BCC not meeting legal duty, More expensive placements being used, Judicial reviews, Negative reputation, Political pressure, EHCPs cannot be finalised.’ All papers show the extent of the specialist places crisis and the impact of this, such as the LA ‘not meeting legal duty’ and ‘EHCPs cannot be finalised’. 

These are things that families have been speaking out about for years. And yet, for speaking out they are ‘critical commentators’ with External Comms running a workshop to deal with it. This workshop was to develop a strategy to protect the council’s reputation against families using the entirely legitimate legal action of Judicial Review, against an LA not meeting its statutory duty. 

Leaked emails by The Bristolian last month revealed that council staff, including at director level were monitoring the social media of Send parents and compiling lists of individuals and organisations they considered to be ‘critical’. This included cross referencing personal accounts and delving through photographs and sharing the data with third parties. The External Comms team just keeps popping up like some kind of Council Black Ops whenever something happens the LA doesn’t like. 

The papers named above potentially indicate the council is in breach of Article 10 of the Convention on Human Rights [Freedom of Expression]. It supports residents’ concerns about unlawful covert surveillance taking place – as far back as July 2021 – as well as possible Victimisation under the Equality Act 2010.

Public Forum statement to Bristol City Council Cabinet 02 08 2022 (unpublished)
SEND  Comms risk
‘External Comms Team engaged’ to stop parents’ judicial reviews?

SEND PARENT SPYING SCANDAL: LEAKED EMAIL

A leaked email from the Bristol City Council education managers at the heart of the SEND spying scandal reveals them plotting over what information they would provide to Bristol Parent Carer Forum.

SEND  Email  PCF

The email clearly indicates that Education Director Alison Hurley was personally overseeing what sensitive personal data from parents should be unlawfully released to third parties

At the time, Vikki Jervis was Principle Education Psychologist at Bristol City Council. What parents were saying on social media had to do with education psychology is something of a mystery. Although she appears to be the council’s expert on RIPA and GDPR and releasing personal information obtained through surveillance to third parties.

Virginia Roberts is a consultant brought in as SEND lead for Bristol’s Written Statement of Action for OFSTED. It’s her job to oversee an improvement in SEND in Bristol after its terrible OFSTED inspection. How does monitoring and sharing parents’ social media posts relate to improving Bristol’s SEND service? Has Roberts shifted her focus to silencing parents rather than improving her service?

Maybe SEND management are more concerned with monitoring parents’ social media and supplying gossip to third parties than doing the jobs they are handsomely paid to do?

SEND PARENT SPY SCANDAL: IS IT WIDESPREAD AND SYSTEMATIC?

Spy medium

A new message just in regarding Bristol City Council spying on SEND parents’ social media:

“I know of one case where the comms team reported a Bristol parents tweets to the SEND team. Screen shots were taken and then a SEND manager sent the tweets to the parents school. I’ve seen the evidence.

“This family’s vulnerable and already facing accusations of fabricated or induced illness (ffi), so they dare not do anything.”

Yet again, sensitive personal data of parents, unlawfully processed by Bristol City Council External Communications Team, is casually handed over to a third party to further process unlawfully. In this case a school is involved.

We will be endeavouring to find out which school this was. Then we can arrange a visit from the Information Commissioner (ICO) for the school to explain why they think that holding parents’ sensitive personal data, obtained and shared via unlawful surveillance without permission, is OK.

What a mendacious shambles our city’s education sector is.

BRISTOL JOINS LOCKDOWN HALL OF SHAME

st nicks

Back in the first pandemic lockdown of 2020, Bristol City Council decided that for the small traders in and around St. Nick’s Market, “all fees would be payable” – despite the fact that they would be unable to generate any income for almost another year.

The fees included not only rent, but also electricity charges, cleaning and maintenance of toilet areas etc, despite the fact that for the period the Markets were locked and empty 24/7. As is often the case, it is difficult to track down exactly who was responsible for this divine proclamation from on high, but the familiar names of current/former BCC career bureaucrats like Mike Jackson, Stephen Peacock, Jacqui Jensen and old friend of The BRISTOLIAN, Richard Fear, cropped up in our investigation.

An appeal was launched and apparently a trader meeting was held with some of these individuals in December 2020, but no progress was made – the fees were still “payable” and that was that. Fear was presented with evidence that many other English councils were supporting traders and not charging them for the space – in fact the vast majority – but for Fear, Bristol was resolutely determined to join the minority of refusing/indifferent councils in a “Lockdown Hall of Shame”.

Under pressure, he conceded he would consult with other “core cities” and give traders a concluding reply by January 2021, but nothing was received. Tucking this achievement into his glorious record, Fear next waltzed off from BCC in April ‘21 into some other high-paying bullshit management job somewhere else.

Good fucking riddance!

SEND PARENT SPY SCANDAL: GREENS FIRST PARTY TO BREAK COVER

Spy medium

A statement on the SEND spy scandal has emerged from the Green group at Bristol City Council. They’re the first party to go on the record. We anticipate seeing more statements on the matter in the coming week:

“The recent reports in the local media about leaked information showing that parents/carers of children and young people with SEND have had their on-line social media communications monitored by senior council officers and then shared with an external agency, have raised serious concerns for councillors across the council.

“The administration have confirmed that this happened but claimed it was at the request of the parent carers forum, a claim that organisation denied in a statement released on Thursday.

“This area of work falls within the People Scrutiny remit, the vice-chair of which is Green Party Councillor for Southville Christine Townsend. She is working with other elected representatives in trying to get to the bottom of exactly what has happened as the media reports are confusing and contradictory.

“Greens, and councillors from other parties, believe that these accusations are so serious that an external investigation is required in order to ensure full transparency. Only this will help to restore the trust of our residents in this area of the statutory education service.”

We broadly agree that an independent inquiry would be helpful. However, chances of the Reverend launching such an inquiry into his own administration are near zero. We also believe that any inquiry needs to be run by an independent QC, not by some ex-local authority time-server in a pin-stripe suit on a fat consultancy fee. We need someone who knows how to nail the guilty, not cover-up for bent council bosses.

Onwards and upwards through the shit!

NETTING ZEROES: PUBLIC HEAT – PRIVATE PROFIT

City Leap  BE

An announcement in March that the council’s £7.3m City Leap procurement process had finally come to an end and US firm Ameresco had got the contract to ‘decarbonise’ the city by 2030 was accompanied by a lovely Thatcherite kick in the teeth from Labour. As it was also revealed that the city’s heat network assets would be handed to Ameresco’s partner, Vattenfall to run.

Vattenfall is an energy multinational owned by the Swedish state. So we’re in the odd position of handing some of the city’s publicly owned energy assets over to the Swedish people to financially benefit from. Go figure. The announcement of this giveaway – that’s not even a sell-off as no price tag is attached – comes after claims as recently as February that the networks would be put into a joint venture company owned by the council and the private partner.

Bristol Holding boss, Peter Beange assured councillors at a scrutiny meeting on February 9 that the heat networks would be part of “a successful share sale to the winning City Leap joint venture.”

Not any more. The brand new networks of underground pipes and heat centres built with public money over the last seven years will now be fully privatised so that Bristolians can be squeezed for profit for heating their homes and businesses in an unregulated energy market. 

The news didn’t seem to bother councillors at a scrutiny meeting on 28 March when the u-turn was revealed. Instead they engaged in another round of cheerleading for the private sector. Strange, because Labour, Green and Lib Dem politicians have all called for the Tories to nationalise energy providers in the face of the cost of living crisis and huge energy price hikes.

It’s like politicians come out with any old populist bollocks that they have no intention of really fighting for isn’t it?

HAS THE REVEREND GIVEN ARENA ISLAND AWAY TO THE TORIES?

An old FoI request about the dodgy Bristol City Council/L&G Arena island deal catches the eye. It reveals L&G execs operating inside Number 10 [Downing Street] in 2015 and meeting Bristol City council property bosses who were supposed to be building an arena on the controversial site:

Downing Street FOI

The bizarre deal The Reverend has now struck with L&G execs is that they get the prime Arena Island site after £32m of public investment and BCC get a 40 year lease on one of the proposed L&G corporate office slabs proposed for the site … And both sides get to avoid any procurement or open sale that might upset the cosy arrangement.

But what the hell were L&G execs doing in Downing Street at the heart of power in 2015? The answer is John Godfrey, L&G’s longtime Corporate Affairs Director – basically their chief political lobbyist. The former Tory Parliamentary candidate worked at Number Ten as Head of Policy for Prime Minister Theresa May from 2015-17. At the time, this L&G/Downing Street revolving door generated headlines in the Financial Times like, “Legal & General gives Toryism a reboot“.

At the same time the Legal & General CEO was musing on his blog that “UK cities are not overbuilt but under-demolished”. The company also developed an interest in fiscal policy (basically government spending money on infrastructure); called on taxpayers to invest with savings groups such as, er, L&G and argued that planning laws should be eased to defeat ‘Nimbies’.

Alongside L&G’s political capture of Downing Street, another front opened. In 2016, John Kingman was appointed Group Chairman of Legal and General plc. Prior to this, Kingman was a senior Treasury official and, among other things, led a research project looking at the tax treatment of buy-to-let property, which led to major policy changes in the 2015 Budget.

The specific change was Section 24 of the Finance Act 2015-16, setting mortgage tax allowance for individual landlords to 20 per cent. A change that didn’t apply to corporate landlords or property rental companies. Corporates, effectively, were allowed to operate at a state-engineered advantage to smaller competitors in the property market.

With the political and legal environment in place to fill their boots, L&G now required gullible twerps from the provinces who think they’re big shot property players with access to public land. Please step forward on 12 December 2017 Marvin’s £1.5k a day ‘property expert’ Colin Molton.

He walked into L&G’s offices in London desperate to offload Arena Island quickly so that the Reverend’s favoured multinational, YTL, could dodge the ‘sequential test‘ designed to favour inner city sites over out-of-town and get planning permission for an arena in Filton. L&G were happy to oblige with a self-serving deal and advice on how BCC could dodge procurement regulations and hand them the land.  

As an added sweetener May’s L&G-friendly Downing Street operation stepped up, hinting to the Reverend and Molton that £100m of government money was on the table towards the Temple Quarter regeneration.

However, since the demise of May in 2019, L&G’s influence in the corridors of power has waned and the Johnson government with its levelling-up agenda focussed on the Red Wall seems uninterested in handing over £100m to the Reverend to regenerate Temple Meads.

In fact, they’ve now knocked back two funding applications from Bristol. Leaving the people of Bristol shortchanged and Tory L&G with a prime piece of public land in Bristol to cash in on. 

What a scam.

WYE WATCH

Wye
Wye Oh Why?

Bristol City Council rolls out its annual Pay Policy Statement. Where they announce the ratio of their lowest paid worker to an alleged highest paid worker. Written by one the council’s leading retards, HR Director, Mark “Bashar” Williams, it’s an eyewatering tissue of lies and bullshit that’s dutifully signed off every year by councillors for the wards of Cloud Fairyland on the HR Committee and Full Council.

In 2020 -21, the last year actual, rather than invented, figures are available, the council announced a pay ratio of 9.45:1.Except the lowest paid earned £17,364 while the highest earner, our friend Colin “Head Boy” Molton, trousered about £280k pro rata. A ratio of about 16:1.

Bashar’s sums are a little awry aren’t they? This year, Bashar calculated a pay ratio of 9.36:1, which has been backed by the new Green Chair of the HR Committee, former
big cheese council boss, Tim “Why-Oh” Wye. Delivering this pile of lying HR wank to Full Council, Why-Oh Wye explained “this [pay] policy is about the council’s directly employed staff. Interims are not relevant to this item”.

Why the largest salaries paid to workers at Bristol City Council aren’t relevant to a
policy about the largest salaries paid to workers at Bristol City Council isn’t something
Why-Oh Wye bothered to explain. It just isn’t relevant, apparently.

Although what is potentially relevant is that, according to LinkedIn, Why-Oh Wye is a “Self Employed Consultant specialising in Health and Social Care” for local authorities!

Anyone got any ideas why he might be keen to keep consultant and interim fees at a council off the record and unaccountable?