Tag Archives: Bristol City Council

REES BOARDS THE COLSTON BANDWAGON …

… After years of kicking the can down the road

Colston docks

Since Colston came off his pedestal and went for a swim on June 7th social media, TV and the press have been dominated by politicians, journalists and so-called ‘community spokespeople’ gushing with praise for the statue coming down.

The Mayor’s Office even banged on in a press statement that the Reverend Rees had an audience of 10 million around the world, from Bangladesh to Tokyo after Colston’s ‘burial at sea’. However, while seizing this new opportunity for pontificating, Rees conveniently failed to give a toss about the people who had put him on the world stage. That was the 17 or so demonstrators who had been identified under Home Secretary, Priti Patel’s orders to “get these people” – the statue topplers.

So as Rees was boring the masses in Bangladesh, Avon & Somerset Police were being forced to line up charges of criminal damage that could put the protestors away for up to 10 years. And what did Rees do? Intervene at the Council for the good of the city and agree not to press charges, allowing the cops to give two fingers to Patel?  Like fuck he did … Far better to bathe in the glare of global publicity and forget about those who put him there.

Campaigners who have fought for many years for the Colston statue to be removed and to get a permanent memorial to the victims of slavery in the City have been astounded by the two-faced hypocrisy of these turncoats. Rees told Points West:

“When I first came in, myself and a number of black people in the creative sector said that the best thing to do is to keep that [Colston] debate away from me.”

So Mr Civil Rights’s major contribution to the struggle to get the Merchant Venturers pet slave trader off our streets and schools was not just to do nothing but to actively discourage others from getting involved.

When calls came to change the name of the Colston Hall in 2017 Rees was silent, refusing to make his position clear until he was caught like a rabbit in the headlights at the end of a TV programme. Martin Luther King, who Rees idolises, must be turning in his grave.

In 2019 after the Merchant Venturers had spent months sanitising the wording on a plaque for the statue that was meant to correct the history of Colston, Rees only intervened to avoid becoming a laughing stock. Finally using some of his executive power to block the Venturer’s sanitised plaque before heading to the hills faster than Dominic Cummings in a top of the range Land Rover, leaving the project in limbo for over a year.

Welsh-Back-Association-and-Bristol-Radical-History-Group-have-a-plan-for-an-Abolition-Shed-empty-dock-buildings-on
Bullies? Abolition Shed campaigners

Meanwhile Rees’s second in command Asher Craig’s hardly covered herself in glory in dealing with persistent calls by campaigners for a permanent memorial to remember the victims of the trans-atlantic slave trade. Bristol lags far behind other ports like Liverpool and Nantes in France that were involved in the ‘vile trade’ and have made major efforts to both memorialise the victims and tell the history – warts and all.

One historian from Bristol University stated in a meeting with Asher Craig in March 2019 “that Bristol’s reputation abroad, when referring to the city’s response to its slaving past, was very bad”. He also said that Bristol shouldn’t limit its ambitions regarding a slavery museum, “the city should think big and be better than Liverpool”.  

Bristol City Council have missed opportunities to right this embarrassing wrong many times. In 1996 around the Festival of the Sea, in 1999 when the Respectable Trade exhibition was launched,  in 2007 with the bicentennial of the abolition of the slave trade and again in 2015 when the Colston protests began.

In 2017 campaigners from three groups and local residents proposed the Abolition Shed project, which wanted to convert two council-owned warehouses on Welsh Back into a memorial for the victims of the African slave-trade with a visitor centre to tell the history. When they approached Asher Craig to get support from Bristol City Council she basically told them to clear off and get some private funding.

Despite this slap in the face campaigners continued the fight to halt the council’s proposed development of the warehouses into more restaurants and bars and to finally do something. This persistence and enthusiasm by unpaid Bristolians who gave a fuck about the memorial, the history and the city’s reputation was clearly starting to annoy Rees and Craig.

Pizza Express May18_38-1920x900
That Rees/Craig proposed slave trade memorial

In August 2019 Marvin angrily demanded to know “who the campaigners were” and in response to their proposals cited a record in office of being amazing, without, of course, any concrete commitment to a memorial and museum. Asher was even more furious claiming“the City was now taking this seriously” and accusing the campaigners of being “bullies”. One local historian from the Counter-Colston group commented:

“Despite the fact that it is just not true, for Asher to characterise people as ‘bullies’ who have, without ‘funding’ and political power given lots of time and energy over several years to try to get something done after decades of failure, is disgraceful.”

Needless to say the Abolition Shed project was strangled at birth by Rees, Craig and the Council as they voted to turn the warehouses into pizza restaurants whilst wasting a million quid on moving a barge to appease the developers. Another missed opportunity in Bristol’s tradition of failure.

Asher’s only response to persistent demands for a memorial was to set up a ‘roundtable’, which descended into the usual talking shop while those who wanted to get a concrete commitment from the Council were seen as ‘troublemakers’.

It is also no surprise that Marvin’s response to Colston’s statue coming down was to propose a ‘history commission’. Looking into the “true history of the city”, which sounds like another opportunity for free-loading academics to fail to do anything.

So here we are, kicking the can down the road again….

ROTTEN COMRADES: Manoeuvring People Out of Their Jobs and Then Buying Their Silence

By The Dwarf

I’ve been watching for some time Bristol City Council’s war against its own staff, but it becomes particularly vicious in light of the coronavirus situation. The suppression of our black whistle-blowers continues apace and the dismissal and downgrading of our disabled staff has been made worse by the pandemic because there aren’t any safe roles to be redeployed into. But nonetheless, BCC won’t let an impossible job market get in the way of following an unethical and discriminatory policy to the bitter end, no matter how illegal it is.

I’ve written at length about this (see Smiter passim). The message, I think, has got through but they sadly have no shame and continue down the same road anyway. There is one member of the cabinet who is genuinely interested in these affairs and has tried to rectify these problems but the chain of command is so long it becomes like a game of Chinese whispers. Instructions and queries are garbled on the way down and replies obfuscated on the way up. When reports are written (for example, the workforce survey which jumped across the management chain and informed leaders directly) the facts are obfuscated by legal agreements that prevent disclosure and therefore the reasons for staff unhappiness aren’t shown.

And here we come to the nub of it. Bitter disputes between management and staff (grievances, disciplinaries and capability hearings) are being hidden by settlement agreements that have non-disclosure clauses. This means that if BCC discriminates against a member of staff and gets its chequebook out so no one can talk about it. This situation often happens when staff reach the point where appeals have failed and they are left with the option of either taking a settlement or going to court. You can’t blame them for settling when the council starts writing a cheque that equals what they would expect in court but without all the stress, but the process prevents the leadership of the organisation from seeing staff being manoeuvred into their predicament and then being bought off. The council is buying the silence of people it victimises.

So, even if a discriminatory event takes place that has been identified (like manoeuvring out most of the black staff from a department during a restructure and then making it impossible to stay at your own grade if you manage to hang on in there) any subsequent agreement not to go to court about it can’t be talked about. So we can’t learn from it. So the narrative that there was no discrimination at all is maintained and black staff, apparently, weren’t “a cabal” as reported. (You know who you are.)

Of course our black staff aren’t the only ones who are frightened, because our disabled, sick and older staff are too. It’s quite clear that quite a few of our staff are clinically vulnerable to the coronavirus (BCC used to be disability-friendly) and have shielded. Except a lot of these instructions to shield were rescinded. Some have cancer, some have heart conditions or hypertension and others have diabetes. Others have family members with the same sort of impairments and need to shield for their sake. When the instruction not to shield (unless you matched very strict criteria) came in, the staff phoned in sick and got a doctor’s note because they were in danger. BCC is now having sickness absence hearings for these people (some of which are the last stage, stage three). They promised not to penalise people who were sick because of coronavirus and they have gone back on this promise. How I really feel about this behaviour is just not reportable.

All of this is led by a well-motivated, well-organised human resources team. They enable the worst excesses of managers and provide custom-crafted tool-kits for those managers to demote, redeploy, harass and dismiss staff who do little more than stand up for statutory rights such as whistle-blowing and protecting themselves from danger.

It’s about time HR was reorganised. Hopefully they can then get a taste of their own medicine.

AGILE STILL FRAGILE?

agile
An exciting Counts Louse agile workspace. Admire the colour scheme;
ignore the cost?

An expensive SEVEN YEAR FIASCO of ‘agile working’ continues unchallenged at Bristol City Council. There’s still NO EVIDENCE that the council’s plan to buy the Temple Street Lubianka for £18m and expensively refurbish the Counts Louse at a further cost of £16m while selling off council offices across the city has delivered any savings.

Alongside the pricey property arrangements came a ‘Workplace Programme’ promoting HALF-BAKED TECH SOLUTIONS and fashionable MANAGEMENT CONSULTANCY NONSENSE. This claimed the council could create money-saving “new agile working environments” for their workforce by issuing staff with laptops, smart phones and tablets and promoting home-working and mobile working to save money.

The expensive plans, put together by UNACCOUNTABLE MANAGEMENT CONSULTANTS, originally came with promises of £60m of savings by Max Wide “Boy”, one of the many execs who have rolled in through THE COUNCIL’S REVOLVING DOOR over the last few years to scrounge a six-figure salary.  Wide Boy arrived in 2013 and departed out again in 2016 leaving a £30 million agile working-shaped DEBT in his wake.

Fast foward three years and the ‘Agile Working’ fiasco continues. A recent report to councillors on the latest AGILE WORKING FAILURE in adult care – where the implementation of tablets and tech on the advice of consultants has belly-flopped – explains, “there still isn’t a clearly defined and available benefits document for the Agile Working Project”.

In other words after seven years of forking out HUGE SUMS OF MONEY on the advice of management consultants procured by high-earning council directors, no one HAS MEASURED THE COST EFFECTIVENESS of their ‘agile working’ strategy. Consequently the obvious conclusion that cutting back staff and giving those that remain a tablet will NOT SAVE ANY MONEY is still yet to be reached.

Although any targets for rewarding failure among council execs and their management consultants continue to be exceeded.

WALSH’S WHISTLEBLOW JOB FLOP

MAYOR GETTING RACY

More problems for Bedwetter Walsh emerge as his useless HR department is UNCEREMONIOUSLY DUMPED from managing whistleblowing matters at the council. Responsibility for whistleblowers now sits with the Chief Internal Auditor as bosses’ and councillors’ trust in their OVERPAID HR MANAGEMENT CLOWN and his MALFUNCTIONING DEPARTMENT evaporates after a series of highly avoidable mishaps.

The new arrangements arrive after staff REPEATEDLY told council bosses and councillors that they had NO TRUST in the whistleblowing process under the bizarre management of Bedwetter who’s hobbies appear to include targeting whisleblowers for the sack.

It’s now general knowledge around the Counts Louse that this useless lying fruitbat was working at Wakefield Council in a senior HR role when six whistleblowers were PAID £1MILLION IN COMPENSATION after being FIRED and placed on a register of POTENTIAL SEX OFFENDERS for trying to expose CHILD ABUSE in Wakefield children’s homes.

How much longer can this dangerous fool survive in Bristol?

COUNCIL’S BEDWETTING PAEDO PROTECTOR BREAKS HIS OWN RULES

falling-pounds

Friend to any passing paedo and DANGEROUS ENEMY of decent social care workers everywhere, John “Bedwetter” Walsh, the council’s weirdo Director of HR and Chief Mayoral Arselicker, is at it again. His latest wheeze is TO EXPLAIN AWAY to gullible councillors his authorisation of the continued employment – ON £1,500 A DAY – of his executive colleague and the Reverend’s best buddy, Colin “Head Boy” Molton.

Despite Head Boy being REPLACED as Head of Growth and Regeneration in the autumn by his former colleague, another regional development bureaucrat, Stephen “Preening” Peacock, Head Boy CONTINUES TO WORK FOR THE COUNCIL ON A HUGE WEDGE. This bizarre arrangement was first described as “a sensible period of handover between Colin and Stephen to ensure a smooth transition and to maintain momentum with major projects” but more recently it has been slightly rebadged as “remain[ing] involved in a small number of projects for a short while to make sure there is a smooth transition.”

How long is a “short while”? AND HOW MUCH WILL THIS “SHORT WHILE” COST COUNCIL TAX PAYERS? Bedwetter finally made himself available to the council’s HR committee in December –   two months after he PERSONALLY AUTHORISED this generous arrangement at a cost to us, so far, of around £66k – to explain all. However, two key problems emerged from Bedwetter’s HR Committee appearance.

Firstly, the item was EXEMPT, meaning the public, paying for this EXECUTIVE THEFT, will not be told anything about this carve up by two public sector managers with a dubious relationship to truth, honesty and the rules. Secondly, Bedwetter’s ‘verbal report’ conveniently leaves NO PAPER TRAIL and NO ACCOUNTABILITY for a decision that puts large sums of public money into an individual’s pocket for no coherent reason.

Bedwetter’s dodgy ‘verbal report’ also ignores the Bundred Report, expensively prepared for the Reverend in 2017 to explain how to run a council lawfully and competently. The report demanded that “REPORTS rather than PRESENTATIONS to be used as the basis of discussions and decisions”.

Why, then, is Bedwetter deliberately breaking his own council’s rules to help line Head Boy’s pockets with our cash? Rules that he’s paid handsomely to uphold.

FORWARD THINKING?

shokedJPG
Shocked councillors

Who’s this irate councillor looking concerned in the pages of the Nazi Post? Step forward Paul “Wolfie” Smith, Labour’s cabinet housing supremo. He’s “SHOCKED” and has “LAUNCHED A BLISTERING ATTACK” on the University Hospitals Trust Bristol, who run the BRI, for leaving 20 of their 36 flats on Eugene Street empty “WHILE PEOPLE ARE SLEEPING IN THE STREETS”.

The homes are currently empty as the hospital was refused planning permission for A MULTI-STOREY CAR PARK on the site by the council in March and are now appealing against the decision. However what the fuming councillor isn’t telling us is that the homes in question were sold for A FAST BUCK to the hospital by the council in 2008 for, er, “REDEVELOPMENT PURPOSES“.

And who on Earth was running the council in 2008 selling off our council homes? Step forward our dear old friends in the angry and irate LABOUR PARTY. Then under the clueless leadership of one of Wolfie’s old colleagues Peter “HOPELESS” Hammond and his deputy – one of Wolfie’s current colleagues – prize-winning councillor HRH HELEN OF HOLLAND.

What goes around …

ARUP PLANNING TAKEOVER

Print

More news drifts in regarding the slow but inexorable OUTSOURCING of the whole of the city’s planning system and its oversight to private firm Arup.

We already know that Arup have been, for some time, supplying agency staff to the council’s planning department to specialise in ‘MAJOR PROJECTS’. Then came the news that Arup were involved in developing the Reverend’s options for his ‘Western Harbour’ plans at the Cumberland Basin.

So it should come as little surprise to learn that Arup were also involved in drawing up BRISTOL’S LOCAL PLAN. Specifically, the private firm were responsible for SITE ALLOCATIONS and POLICY DEVELOPMENT for this detailed development blueprint for the city that WILL MAKE LOTS OF PRIVATE INTERESTS LOTS OF MONEY.

When will we get the chance to vote on a manifesto promising to hand our city’s planning system over to multi-national companies looking to make a profit?

ELECTED FOOLS BELIEVE INVENTED RULES

Mike-Langley-council-meeting-tribute2

The DISDAIN and DISREGARD that the Reverend Rees and his council boss friends hold for our elected councillors and the public was on full display when the Reverend decided to REFUSE to answer public questions at a Full Council Meeting because some of them may have proved HIGHLY EMBARRASSING.

 The Reverend’s senior managers went to work for the mayor convincing councillors and our idiot Lord Mayor Jos “Halfwit” Clark that ‘rules’ PREVENTED the Mayor answering public questions during a general election. Councillors eagerly accepted this ‘advice’ from their expert officers, apparently oblivious to the fact NOTHING in national nor local election guidelines prevents either mayors or council leaders answering public questions at meetings during an election.

 To add insult to injury, at this very same council meeting where council officers were busily INVENTING RULES on behalf of their coward mayor, councillors were asked to consider an updated ‘Member – Officer Protocol’. A document outlining how councillors and council officers needed to treat each other with ‘RESPECT‘! Might this reasonably include the expectation that council officers tell councillors the truth about election rules?

 However, the real kick in the teeth came the next day when council officers used the council’s official Twitter account to PUBLISH A PHOTO OF THE REVEREND and his cabinet sidekick, Anna Keen, promoting some crap mayoral initiative in Southmead in direct contravention of, er, ELECTION GUIDELINES TO COUNCIL OFFICERS. These simple guidelines state, “councils should ‘not publish any material which, in whole or in part, appears to be designed to affect public support for a political party’”.

 How could council officers possibly not think a photo of two senior members of the Labour Party PROMOTING their initiative in the middle of a general election would not appear designed to affect public support for Labour?

The officers involved are bent and biased

FULL FARCE BRISTOL CITY COUNCIL

FULL FARCE BRISTOL CITY COUNCIL

by CITIZENS ROBESPIERRE & MURAT ably assisted by Dr J.I Guillotin

November’s Full Council meeting saw an outbreak of ‘MARIE ANTOINETTE SYNDROME’ among entitled councillors in official foppery pitted against a SEETHING MASS of unwashed sans-culottes in the public gallery. Controversy began when Lord Mayor Jos Clark decided (without historical precedence in Bristol or nationally) to SUSPEND PUBLIC QUESTIONS to the Mayor due to “lack of time, because of the national election”.

The Lord Mayor had informed public questioners by email that they could NOT ASK QUESTIONS in the Council Chamber and that the Mayor would not offer any verbal answers. Instead, questioners would receive a written response within 10 working days. The BRISTOLIAN, analysed these questions and – lo and behold – many were POTENTIALLY EMBARRASSING to the Reverend Rees. Raising issues such as the gentrification of Cumberland Basin, jobs for Marvin’s evangelical pals and the contra-BCC policy of hiring trade unionist BLACKLISTING CONSTRUCTION FIRMS.

Chaos reigned in the public gallery as, first, questioners were told that THEY COULDN’T SPEAK OR GET ANSWERS. Then they were told that, maybe, they COULD ASK QUESTIONS BUT NOT RECEIVE ANSWERS and then, finally, they were told that the original ruling would stand. Breathless council flunkies dashed around the chamber with leaflets and ‘clarifications’ as each modification was made up on the spur in council back offices. Adding to the confusion, it also turned out that some questioners were unaware of this ARBITRARY DECISION until they arrived.

Next, onlookers in the public gallery were confronted by BRISTOL’S COUNCILLORS SWANNING IN to pose in Hawaiian shirts for a photographer. Why was this? It was supposed to be a tribute to Hawaiian shirt fan Cllr Mike Langley, who had recently died. Shirt-clad councillors posed with arms around each other before going off to their benches and delivering 40 MINUTES OF SPEECHES in memoriam to their deceased colleague.

Those who knew Mike – A GENUINE SOCIALIST – were confronted with the unedifying spectacle of Tory, Blairite Labour, Lib Dem and the rest competing to see who could deliver the most NAUSEOUS HYPOCRISY while shedding CROCODILE TEARS as most of them had hated Mike. One councillor even announced … ‘In the words of Mike Langley, Vive la Revolution!’ The whole SORRY SPECTACLE resembled one of French Queen Marie Antoinette’s ‘soirees’ where she and her courtiers would dress up to play peasant shepherds and shepherdesses while real peasants starved outside the gates.

After their PRIVATE FANCY DRESS PARTY, the public presence in the gallery was finally acknowledged by the Versailles Court and farce descended into ABSURDITY. When ‘no-question’ time was announced, ONE PLUCKY PROLE stood up and asked why procedure had changed from what was in the council constitution?

Lord Mayor Clark tried to shut down this unseemly interruption to her travesty in motion while security goons twitched in anticipation on the gallery stairwell. Their services were unnecessary, however, as the prole sat down after shouting – to thunderous applause from angry sans-culottes in the gallery – ‘YOU’RE A DISGRACE – YOU SHOULD RESIGN!

Rumours of scythes and pitchforks being sharpened in Bristol’s outlying suburbs cannot be confirmed.

OFFICIAL: “WE’RE INCOMPETENT” ADMIT SENIOR COUNCIL BOSSES

contract

The enthusiasm with which our serially useless senior council bosses are suddenly embracing advertising their INCOMPETENCE is a new and novel innovation for our Counts Louse’s Third Floor DEPARTMENT OF DUNCES.

Their public confessional follows a report from Green Councillor and Audit Committee vice chair Clive “Shakin'” Stevens into how former chief exec Anna “Big Wedge” Klonowski walked away from Bristol in 2017 after just SIX MONTHS’ OF INDIFFERENT WORK with £98k in her pocket. Shaky, was given access to carefully selected top secret documents by dodgy council bosses and has devised a personal “MOST LIKELY SCENARIO” regarding the payout.

Shaky claims it was all down to SERIAL INCOMPETENCE and council bosses are queuing up to cheerfully admit it. Not least because their only other option would be to admit to UNLAWFUL ACTIVITY. What Shaky alleges transpired is that Big Wedge’s colleague and associate, Jackie “You’re Fired!” McGeachie – the former Tesco exec turned jobbing senior local authority HR interim – “ACCIDENTALLY” sent the wrong Chief Exec contract to lawyers in 2017, which allegedly entitled Big Wedge to a big wedge and, er, nobody noticed it was the wrong contract until it was too late.

However, Shaky’s “most likely scenario”, which we’re invited to believe over “the conspiracy theories”, raises as many questions as it answers. For instance, if the payment to Klonowski was an error, WHY AREN’T WE ASKING FOR IT BACK? And what type of contract was sent by Big Wedge’s personally appointed HR boss that allows someone to resign and scarper with immediate effect but contractually obliges the employer to fork out six months’ pay in lieu of notice? AN UNPRECEDENTED ARRANGEMENT Shaky fails to explain.

Of course, this mysterious ‘top secret ROGUE CONTRACT remains safely locked away from the public, despite, by Shaky’s definition, being an out-of-date generic document and not personal information relating to a named individual. Shaky also says he discovered evidence of “GROSS OBFUSCATION” or “A COVER-UP” from bosses over the payment. Only to meekly announce “they should be ashamed”. But why isn’t Shaky recommending IMMEDIATE DISCIPLINARY ACTION against them? Why would anyone want bent and dishonest bosses to remain in post running our council?

Is it because these bosses might start revealing what really happened and who authorised paying Klonowski £98k of hush money that we weren’t obliged to pay?