We recently ran a story on our website about the relationship between L&G, who the Reverend Rees is gifting Arena island to, and the Tory government under Theresa May. Now we learn that the global pension player turned property developer continues to maintain strong links to the Tories under Johnson.
A Freedom of Information request to the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government, contains an account of a meeting between the Minister for Housing and Planning, Esther McVey, and L&G on 27 January 2020. Topics included the greenbelt. L&G got to tell the Tory minister, “the entire country was not for protecting the Green Belt as a blanket rule”.
They also got to express concern about “the planning capability of local authorities,” stating they would pay a premium to get planning applications fast tracked. Explaining, “when large scale developments are delayed by slow decision making, the financial cost of delay is greater than it would cost to contribute to planning upscaling”.
McVey agreed to “take this point onboard as she considers further work”. Meanwhile, “the Minister was eager to know what L&G thought government has to do to speed up the release of public land”!
On the plus side, at least Tory ministers take minutes. Unlike BCC who gave Arena Island away at a private unminuted meeting at L&G’s offices in London attended by Rees’s dodgy property supremo Colin “Headboy” Molton, now at WECA.
Closer to home, the council has just published a VEAP for their Arena Island deal. A document used to avoid legal action by acknowledging they may have acted unlawfully in terms of regulation.
Tells us all we need to know about Rees’s shit deal with L&G
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:
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.
Plans by Bristol City Council, cloaked in secrecy, to hand over the prime Arena Island site to pension fund L&G for free without an open market sale or procurement process continue.
The deal, cooked up by the council’s former £260k a year interim regeneration boss Colin “Headboy” Molton, who was officially characterised by the council’s own legal team last year as “incompetent”, finds the council guaranteeing rents for 40 years on a speculative office slab L&G intend to build on the site.
And there’s lots more public money to go around for privileged corporate sector players in on this public money giveaway. For instance, new council regeneration boss Stephen “Preening” Peacock has just signed off £420k to a corporate ‘strategic partner’ (Arcadis working with Arup and Mott MacDonald) “to provide project management, cost management and design services to maintain progress”.
Progress on what? Er, a further £32 million worth of “enabling works” on the site that the public are paying for before handing the site over to L&G.free of charge.
“L’il” Tim O’Gara, the city council’s weak and woolly Monitoring Officer, is at it again.
Richly rewarded to be a tough and independent voice at the council, keeping the Mayor, councillors and staff in line and acting according to the council’s constitution and policies, “L’il” Tim has consistently failed at this. Instead he has carved out a reputation for doing whatever the mayor tells him, regardless of propriety or the law.
Among his many handiworks has been turning a blind eye to the Reverend’s lack of any apparent open sale or procurement process as our valuable land at Arena Island is handed over to pension fund L&G. They will develop the land at a considerable profit to themselves while lumbering us with a 40 year rental charge for an already obsolete office block they intend to build.
O’Gara was also behind hiding vital Bristol Energy documents, such as dodgy business plans and realistic accounts, from the councillors and the public. A dumb practice only helpful to the Reverend, keen to hide his fundamental incompetence, now condemned by the council’s auditors. “L’il” Tim’s work almost certainly helped the shambolic energy reseller run up a £43m debt for council taxpayers.
Now we learn “L’il” Tim has turned his attention to next week’s motion before the Full Council to have a referendum on whether we should continue to have a mayor. And “L’il” Tim has helpfully allowed the Reverend to table an amendment to the Lib Dem’s motion stating that the alternative to the Mayor should be a leader and Cabinet system not the committee system requested by the Lib Dems.
This is odd because last year, when the Lib Dems put in a similar motion, proposing a leader and cabinet system, the Greens tabled an amendment to change it to a committee system. Only for O’Gara to pop up and dismiss the Greens stating it was a “wrecking amendment”. So what’s changed now? Apart from it’s the Reverend (who O’Gara’s shit scared of) tabling this latest and similar amendment?
Why is some weak and useless tosspot of a Monitoring Officer allowed to be entirely partisan and fuck about with our city’s democracy like this? With his limited legal skills, mental weakness and poor character, might “L’il” Tim be better suited to provincial house conveyancing practice rather than to the political cut and thrust of a core city local authority where the bullies and thugs tend to congregate at the top?
“L’il!” Tim is a wimp and a coward and he now really needs to fuck off before he does any more damage to our city.
Disquiet over the Reverend Rees’s plans to ‘transform’ the Cumberland Basin and its aging 1960s road system into ‘Western Harbour’, a GLOBAL CITY HIGH RISE HELL, in the shadow of Clifton Suspension Bridge is growing. A ‘public engagement’ on the gruesome plan, while everyone was away on holiday in August, led to an OUTCRY after it emerged that the Reverend was consulting the public on just THREE of the ten proposals he had received from his consultants, Arup. The remaining seven proposals remain SECRET.
The three proposals the Reverend deemed suitably “transformational” all involve DEMOLISHING the existing road system to “RELEASE LAND FOR DEVELOPMENT“. All three lack detail – just pink lines on a map indicating where any new road system may go – while potentially having A HUGE IMPACT on surrounding communities and the landscape around the Clifton Suspension Bridge.
Concerns are also emerging about the involvement of The ENGLISH CITIES FUND (ECF) in any plans. ECF is a joint venture between HOMES ENGLAND, LEGAL & GENERAL and MUSE DEVELOPMENTS. Which raises questions about the role and independence of the Reverend’s semi-detatched £1,500 a day regeneration chief, our old friend COLIN “Head Boy” MOLTON, who will have had a major influence on any plans.
Head Boy was chief exec at HOMES ENGLAND – when it was the Housing
and Communities Agency – until he joined Bristol City Council on a unique TAX EFFICIENT PAY ARRANGEMENT in 2017
and immediately cut a secretive, unminuted deal, on behalf of the council, with
LEGAL & GENERAL. A deal handing
these developers the land at Arena Island should the arena be cancelled.
Remarkably, this is the SECOND TIME
Head Boy has been involved in cancelling an arena at the Arena Island site as
he happened to be Executive Director of Operations & Development at the SOUTH WEST REGIONAL DEVELOPMENT AGENCY
(SWRDA) in 2007 when they cancelled their plans for an arena on the site that
they then owned.
Head Boy left the SWRDA in 2008 to become director at the South and South West
Region of the HCA (now HOMES ENGLAND).
By remarkable coincidence, with the winding up of the SWRDA by the Tories in
2011, the Arena Island site was transferred to the HCA. In early 2015, Molton’s
HCA, handed the site to Bristol City Council to build an arena and then Molton PITCHED UP at Bristol City Council in
2017 to work for the Reverend. He immediately set to work CANCELLING an arena and negotiating his sweetheart deal with LEGAL & GENERAL to hand them the
site for an unispiring, if highly profitable, mixed use development.
Head Boy is now being thrown out of the job he never went through a competitive
recruitment process for at Bristol City Council. But will the man, who lists
his address with Companies House as Donington Le Heath, Leicestershire,
continue to take a personal, proprietorial interest in ANOTHER VALUABLE PIECE OF PUBLIC LAND in Bristol?
The Reverend Rees’s most recent Q&A on Facebook found him in top lying form explaining his super tough policy on developers who FAILED TO DELIVER on affordable housing for the city.
“If on your piece land you FAIL TO DELIVER what Bristol needs, we won’t be very impressed by that and WE WON’T LOOK KINDLY on that when we’re looking to develop our own land and looking for partners to come and develop with us,” he boomed from his Facebook pulpit.
But is this the same Reverend Rees who’s apparently awarded a lucrative contract to a London-based corporate, LEGAL AND GENERAL (L&G) to create a mixed use development on the extremely VALUABLE council-owned Arena Island site? And is this the same L&G that was exposed last autumn as only offering 4 AFFORDABLE HOUSING UNITS out of a potential 120 on another valuable Temple Quarter site on Bread Street?
When it comes to saying one thing and doing another, the Reverend really is on to something. Indeed, it would appear that the Reverend and his personally appointed £200k a year friend and regeneration chief, Colin “Head Boy” Molton, have looked INCREDIBLY KINDLY on L&G despite them totally failing to “DELIVER WHAT BRISTOL NEEDS” in Temple Quarter and have, instead, embarked on an expensive planning appeal process to get exactly what L&G needs at the city’s expense.
When he was first MYSTERIOUSLY APPOINTED by persons unknown, virtually the first thing Head Boy Molton did was visit the London offices of L&G ALONE on12 December 2017. He met them again ON HIS OWN at the Council House on 24 January 2018. On 5 March 2018 he had a telephone call with representatives of L&G and “NO NOTES FROM THE CONVERSATION EXIST“. On 8 June 2018 Molton and the Reverend met representatives of L&G in the Mayor’s Offices.
Early on Tuesday 2 October 2018, the Reverend and and Colin Molton attended a breakfast with representatives of Legal & General and the Bristol Chamber of Commerce & Initiative on “how we can create renewed infrastructure, housing, energy and urban regeneration in Bristol”. Later that morning the Reverend and Molton met with the CEO and the Head of Public Affairs of L&G at City Hall and “NO NOTES FROM THIS MEETING EXIST“.
During this time the Reverend and Molton FAILED to meet with arena developers, Arena Island Ltd at all. Then on 23 August 2018 L&G released a press statement titled ‘Legal & General unveils vision for major urban regeneration project at the Temple Island (former Arena Island) site in Bristol’.
Failing to deliver for Bristol seems to work rather well for some corporate developers who have the ear of the right people doesn’t it?
Nigel “Independent” Greenhalgh’s blatant CONFLICT OF INTEREST was raised by Tory councillor Geoff “Cods” Gollop at the cabinet meeting on 3 September. The meeting where the Reverend cancelled the Temple Island Arena in favour of an office development on the site.
Cods Gollop was given a note by the Reverend’s NEW CLOWN PRINCE of the council’s legal department, “Uncle” Quentin Baker, another temp brought in to oversee a senior post of some significance in Rees’s administration.
And in a classic NON-DENIAL DENIAL, Uncle Quentin explained to Gollop: “The relevant officer [Greenhlagh] has confirmed that he hasn’t previously been employed by YTL as was alleged in the press and [a council] scrutiny meeting.”
Er, except no such thing was ever alleged in the press. The allegation was that Greenhalgh had worked for CRIBBS PATCHWAY NEW NEIGHBOURHOOD and was still working for CRIBBS URBAN VILLAGE. Both organisations that stood to gain from an arena at Filton.
This piece of non-denial denial bollocks from Uncle Quentin seems to have satisfied most Bristol City Councillors. Most Bristolians, however, are in a state of ABSOLUTE DISBELIEF that Greenhalgh has been paid by them to produce a report TRASHING their arena at Temple Island and promoting one at Filton, when he stands to financially benefit from the decision.
Again, in many countries, The Reverend, Head Boy and Greenhalgh would now be spending a considerable amount of time with law enforcement agencies DISCUSSING CORRUPTION.
Unfortunately the UK is not one of those countries.
Nigel “Independent” Greenhalgh, the council’s ‘Arena Director’ produced the official council cabinet report recommending that the Reverend SCRAP plans for an arena at Temple Meads in favour of a mixed use development. Advice the Reverend happily accepted on September 3.
Naturally Greenhalgh, as is the way at the Reverend’s council, isn’t actually an employee of Bristol City Council. Instead he’s a WELL-REMUNERATED CONSULTANT operating through a service company, which sounds like a shit early 90s rave act – ELEV8.
It’s well worth noting some of elev8’s past and present clients. For example, according to the company’s website, elev8 represented ‘CRIBBS PATCHWAY NEW NEIGHBOURHOOD’, the group of landowners who masterplanned, along with South Gloucestershire Council, the proposed development of Filton airfield. The very neighbourhood where Malaysian corporation, YTL, now wish to put an arena!
Also, according to elev8’s website, they continue to work for DEELEY FREED – who have an option on ‘CRIBBS URBAN VILLAGE‘, a development site in the Filton area. Greenhalgh and his firm are therefore an interested party in siting an arena at Filton and the effect this might have on land and property prices there.
What this all means is that Greenhalgh, his company elev8 and his clients in Filton may make a LOT OF MONEY from cancelling the arena at Temple Meads and promoting one at Filton instead.
What better person than Greehalgh is there, then, to write an INDEPENDENT REPORT for the Reverend and his cabinet asking them to SCRAP an arena at Temple Meads and start PROMOTING Filton as the ideal venue!
With Barra Mac Nugget safely employed at YTL, a new face appeared on the scene at Bristol City Council. Please step forward Colin “HEAD BOY” Molton, a former director at the HCA, the quango that sold Arena Island to Bristol City Council in the first place.
Initially employed as a temp to cover Mac Nugget’s post until a permanent replacement was found, Head Boy Molton was eventually handed the job to sort out Bristol’s arena on a SHORT-TERM CONTRACT basis, apparently without the hassle of having to go through any FORMAL RECRUITMENT PROCESS. Instead, Head Boy cut a deal with Bristol City Council to continue in his £1.5k a day post until May 2020 Conveniently enough, when the Reverend will likely be voted out of office.
Such a deal is, of course, outside all KNOWN PRINCIPLES of good employment practice and contrary to Bristol City Council’s constitution and equalities policies. How can an old white man with a chartered surveying qualification and a useful contacts book simply be handed a highly paid senior job at Bristol City Council without going through a COMPETITIVE RECRUITMENT PROCESS?
Since taking up his post, Molton has been glued to the Reverend’s side. Even attending the annual property development piss-up (surely networking event? Ed.), MIPIM in Cannes with the Reverend where the pair MET WITH YTL on at least TWO OCCASIONS.
However, perhaps Head Boy’s most interesting piece of handiwork – so far – was to employ yet another EXPENSIVE CONSULTANT as his ‘Arena Director’.
It’s a matter of PUBLIC RECORD, published in the The Nazi Post, that Barra Mac “Nugget” left his £136k a year job at Bristol City Council to work for YTL Developments as Chief Operating Officer on 5 May 2017.
However, emails published under FoI, courtesy of Frank Church, show Mac Nugget, still a senior city council boss with responsibility for the arena, arranging a SECRET MEETING in an UPMARKET BRISTOL HOTEL BAR with a representative of YTL for the 18 April. This meeting was “about the potential for using one of the HANGARS AT FILTON” as an arena and “HOTEL AND CONFERENCING AT TEMPLE MEADS“. Mac Nugget even asks the unknown YTL rep “can we keep this [meeting] as a one to one please”?
So, while serving out his NOTICE with Bristol City Council, Mac Nugget met his future employer to directly discuss SENSITIVE LAND AND FINANCIAL ISSUES with them on behalf of Bristol City Council, while going to great lengths to ensure that there were no witnesses to this meeting and no minutes.
In many countries Mac Nugget would now be spending a considerable amount of time with law enforcement agencies discussing CORRUPTION, conflicts of interest and the exchange of inside information. Unfortunately the UK is not one of those countries.
Instead, Mac Nugget moved on this spring from YTL to Bristol University on another FAT SALARY to manage the university’s Estates Department. In this post he’ll be responsible for delivering a new campus directly opposite, er, Arena Island.
The purpose of Mac Nugget’s year long stint with YTL remains shrouded in mystery as does any generous remuneration arrangements he may have had with them.