First, I would like to thank the Returning Officer for organising these incredible elections that were so fantastically well run. He totally deserves the £10k he’s earned today. Although he obviously hasn’t. The whole thing’s been a total bloody shambles hasn’t it? Except I’m not going to say so. This is because he’s written a document called the Member-Officer Protocol that says, as a councillor, I’m not allowed to criticise him or any of his high-earning colleagues at the council and if I do he can complain to himself about it and find I have contravened something or other. Then he can punish me by announcing I have done something terribly wrong. How could I possibly be expected to say what I really think with a threat like that hanging over me from one of the thickest posh lawyers with no power you’re ever likely to meet?
I would also like to thank my party and their workers for all the support they have given me. You have all been tremendous. In return I now commit to doing anything the leadership ask of me, no matter how daft, destructive or contrary to the interests of the city and the people who voted for me it is. This is my pledge to you my glorious tribe of fellow drones.
And finally, I’d like to thank the idiots who voted for me. You have all been really useful and I will see you all again when I come back and seek reelection in three years time. Rest assured, I’ll have dreamed up some excuses by then for my inexcusable behaviour toward you, your concerns and your neighbourhood. And I’ll have plenty more bullshit I can feed you in my rather sad and pathetic pursuit of a little bit of status and power.
Will that do?
Now where’s my expenses form? No, not that one. That’s the declaration of interest form. We don’t need to bother with all that red tape nonsense do we?
Plans for the council to build housing on the Western Slopes on the fringes of Knowle West are causing a bit of a stir at this election.
Here’s a south Bristol resident’s letter to the Mayor and Cabinet on the issue after the Cabinet agreed in March to transfer this land to their housing company, Goram Homes, in preparation for building on this valued open space. There was very little debate or discussion about the transfer, which you can watch on YouTube, and green space/ecological issues weren’t mentioned. There was also an ambiguous comment about the planning process:
Dear Mayor and Cabinet Members
I understand the need for housing in Bristol and appreciate the difficulties involved in how to build enough council or affordable housing. I also recognise the difficulty in addressing this need whilst balancing it against the ecological and climate emergencies.
I’m writing to you about the Cabinet meeting held on 9 March 2021.I was disappointed by the lack of any meaningful debate on item 11, Goram Homes Land Disposal. I note that these meetings are public and agendas published, but most residents of Bristol do not follow these meetings at all and there seems very little effort to engage disadvantaged communities in understanding the implications of the items being discussed and the decisions being made.
The Mayor spoke about sustainability in building. That’s welcome but is really just the standard of building now.Councillor Shah, Cabinet Member with responsibility for climate, ecology and sustainable growth, made no comment about any environmental effects of transferring so much land to your housing company. I don’t know all of the 12 sites in detail and many do seem to be genuinely brownfield. However some of the sites are environmentally rich, semi wild spaces, or sites that are rewilding themselves (Western Slopes/Novers Hill), or perhaps were brownfield but could now commonly be thought of as a green space (New Fosseway), or unambiguously a green space that is in high use (Knowle West Health Park).
There was also no mention of the well being effects of green spaces, especially in poorer neighbourhoods and seemingly no recognition of the value of such spaces in reducing the need for costly use of NHS services.
As all but one of you in the register of interests lists your ‘land in the property of the authority’ as ‘sensitive interest’, it is impossible to see if your decisions are affected by self interest to any property you own that may increase in value if these sites are developed. Your land is classed as ‘sensitive interest’ or ‘confidential for reasons of security’, presumably because these are your home addresses.
I invite you to add more transparency to the decision. What is the mechanism to allow this to be looked at? Can council officers who are allowed to see your registered interests check the locations and review whether conflicts of interest should have been declared for this decision?
“Where we own the land we have greater influence in the planning system. The planning system has some teeth, but where you’re the landowner it can really kind of add value and get the outcomes that we’re looking for, so a combination of that sort of regen thinking and where we also have Goram Homes involved it makes me very positive about the future of some of those locations and so I really look forward to…. I’m so glad Gorham are going to have that certainty and now we can look forward to cracking on with those sites.”
I invite you to clarify what was meant, as there are possible different interpretations. On the one hand it could be a positive statement about the benefit to the council of achieving what it wants to on those sites, on the other it carries a threat of extra power in the planning process to push through whatever you want to build. Given the comment is ambiguous and unclear, I think some clarity is needed.
You seem to have created a tension between your housing aims and your ecological aims. The choice of housing or ecological richness. For some of these sites the ecological loss is just too great. All but one of you have wards in the north of the city, I’m very happy to meet you at the Western Slopes and show you around, so that you can actually experience the site for yourself.
Having had the grand global green sustainable smart city visions courtesy of the progressive parties, it’s time for the Tories to enter the election fray as their manifesto finally appears.
At just ten pages long, they’re doing us, at least, one massive favour. By way of comparison, the Green’s Squire Bufton-Tufton treated us to 36 pages of his Clifton drawing room progessive piffle. The Tories, in contrast, leave few populist cliches unturned in a short booklet that’s quite hard to find and called ‘Our plan to build back better in Bristol’.
Big ideas are thin on the ground here. Apart from wanting to scrap the mayor and save money by not pissing millions up the wall on energy companies, there’s nothing much in the way of grand schemes to catch the eye. Instead it’s just a list of local bugbears with a few law ‘n’ order shapes thrown in
The most noticeable of these is a clear threat of some social cleansing: “Use the Council’s powers to move van dwellers to permanent sites rather than allow informal sites to develop on local roads.”
They’re also quite keen on having an ongoing passive/aggressive conversation about your your safety. “We want people to be safe and feel safe where ever they live”; “We will listen to communities on how to make neighbourhoods safer for all” and “We will work with the Police Commissioner to ensure safer streets across Bristol.”
All of which actually makes you start wondering if you are safe? Especially when their seemingly endless safety concerns are washed down with a further mild threat/message from their thuggish looking ex-squaddie Police and Crime Commissioner candidate, Mark Shelford. He promises with menaces to “drive down crime and make our streets safer.”
Although judging by Mark’s general tone and demeanour, it seems highly unlikely that our streets will be safer for anyone who wants to protest on them. The rest of the manifesto is lists, dog whistles and mood music clearly aimed south of Southville where the progressive manifestoes abruptly stop.
In the Tories’s words it’s a manifesto that “delivers on the basics that matter to our residents, prioritises funding for our communities and doesn’t ignore the suburbs”!
This means public toilets will be reopened; libraries kept open; the Jubilee Pool saved; pavement parking tackled; “more will be done to preserve and improve our local amenity such as the Western Slopes in South Bristol”; “licensing for all ‘houses of multiple occupancy’ across the city not just in certain areas” introduced; an “end to over-development of some of our key sites such as the Cumberland Basin and Hengrove Park” and “we will fairly distribute money across the City so communities have a real chance to improve their area rather than fighting over funding scraps.”
Will the public find this thunderously low key and ordinary municipal vision with a blatantly populist edge that promises to preserve services and protect communities more appealing than the progressive ‘big project men’ and their weird ‘visions’ that can only be delivered through large faceless corporations seeking profit?
We’re overwhelmed with choice at this election aren’t we?
Taking some much-deserved time off from wandering aimlessly around the city lying and bullshitting to long-suffering residents (surely spearheading a modern and professional election campaign? ed.), the Reverend Rees has taken an especially large dump and evacuated a stinking pile of an election manifesto on to the public. And yes, we’ve read it all and our research team are now in recovery.
Yet again, we’re treated to the, now, traditional Labour shopping list of promises off the back of a fag packet. We’ve counted a total of 91 of these promises and hardly any of them are costed. Starting with the unfeasibly bonkers plan to “deliver a mass transit system … in the form of both an underground and an overground” because, we’re assured, Marvin’s “laid the foundations for a mass transit system.”
What foundations has Marvin laid? A demented assertion in a couple of interviews and some orange lines on a Google Map? Where, for starters, is the feasibility study for an underground he promised three years ago? He’s, literally, done nothing about this plan he can show anyone. Why would anyone sane believe a word of it? And how much will it cost?
Another tactic from Marvin is to promise again things he promised in his 2016 manifesto. So having failed to deliver ‘2,000 homes a year, 800 affordable’ as plastered on billboards all over the city in 2016, this time we’re assured the Reverend will be “building over 2,000 homes a year, of which 1,000 are affordable, by 2024.”
Another gem recycled from the 2016 manifesto, “Complete and open Hartcliffe Way recycling and reuse centre”. Why hasn’t it been completed already as promised five years ago? Why believe it in 2021 if it was patently untrue in 2016?
Or how about this one? “We’re delivering on our 2016 promise to get an arena built”. The only thing Marvin delivered on this subject was the exact opposite by cancelling getting an arena built. Who believes they’ll be an arena open in Filton by 2024 then?
In all, there’s 14 pages of this crap. Some appears stolen from the Greens in a blind panic: “Provide free travel for apprentices and students under-25”. Some is appearing in everybodies’ manifesto as the essential uncosted promise du nos jours: “Deliver a London-style one-touch integrated ticketing system so that your ticket can be used across different types of public transport.”
Some is peculiarly clueless: “Deliver a Green Spaces and Allotments Strategy which encourages local food production in every ward to help tackle food poverty”. As if local food production has something to do with low cost food.
Similar economic illiteracy abounds throughout. Another big idea is, “work with the City Funds to deliver the economic priorities in the One City Plan”. Why the fuck get a small charitable grant making trust run by your evangelical looney mate to deliver an economic plan for the eighth largest city in the UK? It makes zero sense. Who thinks this shit up?
We’ll conclude with the Reverend confirming his five years of useless failure in style with the promise to “Expand the Community Toilet programme and introduce an app that provides their location”. In other words he’ll not be bringing back the public toilets he closed. Instead he’ll spend our money on useless private sector provision with a pointless tech solution thrown in.
Having scoured the list of candidates at the forthcoming local and mayoral elections in Bristol, we’re happy to confirm there’s not much to get excited about. Just the usual bunch of swivel-eyed loons standing for colour-branded parties committed to more-of-the-same except with different people doing what council officers say instead.
The reds are offering more-of-the-same but with more talk of equality and diversity; the Greens are offering more-of-the-same but with more promises of segregated cycle lanes; the yellows are doing more-of-the-same but with no more mayor and the blues are offering more-of-the-same with even more-of-the-same.
The exception to all this crap is Rachel Lunnon who’s running for Burning Pink in Windmill Hill. Burning Pink are an Extinction Rebellion splinter group who accuse politicians of “treasonous betrayal” and are demanding that local councils actually honour their climate emergency declarations and act now on ecological collapse and social breakdown. Burning Pink have a variety of other demands too. Most of which would make the average local authority bureaucrat shit their grotty y-fronts.
The headline demand, however, is that local councils immediately declare open rebellion against the government! Which, at least, should keep Bristol City Council’s senior leadership team gainfully employed and prevent them squandering another £100m on daft vanity projects.
Rachel said on Facebook yesterday:
Democracy is broken. Our system makes a mockery of representation, with well meaning reformists unable to make real change. I’m fed up with big promises but lack of action on: city-wide clean air, the climate and ecological emergency, and affordable housing. Meanwhile high-rise development and building on green spaces disproportionately affect South Bristol without solving anything. I’m ready to listen to what local issues are affecting you, and what solutions you want.
We urge all Windmill Hill residents to vote for Rachel and for open rebellion against the government. It’s got to be more fun than three years of useless centrist dad explaining why he can’t do any of the things he promised hasn’t it?
Vote early. Vote often. Vote open rebellion against the government .