Tag Archives: Bristol City Council

LEAKED EMAIL: BUSINESS WEST BEG COUNCILLORS TO SAVE THE MAYOR!

With a vote by councillors due next week on whether to have a referendum on scrapping the elected mayor, Business West head honcho James Durie and friends have got scribbling fast:

FAO All Bristol City Councillors

Dear Councillor

I attach a letter to each of you from Bristol Chamber of Commerce & Initiative – Business West with reference to the motion to trigger a referendum on the Democratically Elected Mayoral model for the City of Bristol at Full Council Meeting on 7th December. This is a matter of significant interest and concern for us.

Regards

James

James Durie  | Chief Executive – Bristol Chamber & West of England Initiative

Executive Director – Business West 

Dear Councillor, 

Strengthening Bristol’s Democracy  

We are writing to you about the motion to trigger a referendum on the Democratically Elected  Mayoral (DEM) model for the city of Bristol. This is a matter of significant interest and concern for us.  

The DEM model – chosen by the people of Bristol in the 2012 referendum – has enabled all voters  across the city to directly elect the leader of the city every four years. As the representatives of  business in the West of England, and also as residents of Bristol, we saw the need in 2012 to change  the governance model of the city and supported the creation of a directly elected mayor. We continue  to support this now and wish to see it strengthened.  

We are writing to each of you privately as our representatives in Bristol’s democracy to make clear  our position. We will also be contributing to the debate at the council meeting and in public.  

Background 

We believe in a strong and inclusive economy for Bristol. In 2012, Business West Chamber and Initiative supported the ‘Elected Mayor for Bristol’ referendum “Yes” campaign as we believed that a  directly elected mayor would improve decision making in the city, strengthen Bristol, and help deliver  prosperity which is essential for jobs and services and the continued sustainable growth of the city.  

Over the last 35 years we have had many strong partnerships with Bristol City Council (the  regeneration of Harbourside and Broadmead are two). However, our long experience showed us that  the system of local government in 2012 – being often short-term in outlook and delivery – was holding  the city back. We believed then, and continue to believe now, that stable leadership, which brings the  city together, is essential. The five changes of leadership in Bristol City Council we encountered in the  seven years before the referendum made stability and consistency impossible for the long-term  thinking and decision-making that cities need. It also made the case harder for investment to be made  in the city whether by national government or private.  

At present, businesses and employers are focussing on dealing with the impact of inflation, Brexit, and  trying to recover from the pandemic with major skills and supply chain shortages in what remains a  challenging, fast changing environment. And on top of these, there is the need for businesses to  contribute to decarbonisation as part of meeting the climate crisis. Many of these challenges are long term and our work to meet these will be helped by strong and accountable leadership.  Build a New Future for the DEM model 

We are supporters of the Directly Elected Mayoral model but also want to see this strengthened. We  want to see strong and effective system of local government which is best able to serve all our  communities. We need to ensure that there is consistency of leadership over each four-year period so  that critical issues of, for example, transport and land use planning can be agreed and delivered. 

The research published in the Bristol Civic Leadership project argued that: 

• The mayoral model delivers more visible leadership of the city. 

• Direct election gives the individual substantial democratic legitimacy to lead and makes mayors  more accountable. 

• Successive mayors have been effective in developing a forward-looking vision for the city. • Four-year terms provide stable leadership. 

We believe these points are critical in this debate. At the same time, we share the legitimate concerns  that the role of councillors in decision making has been restricted and that the expansive remit of the  mayor risks overloading one individual. There are other issues, too. Since Bristol adopted the DEM  model, the city and its councillors have also supported – and become part of – the West of England  Combined Authority. We believe that Bristol still needs strong leadership to enable it to operate as  the central and largest component of a city region of over 1.1m people. As national government shifts  more funding into regional authorities, we need to make sure that the leadership in the city is right to  work in the context of WECA, too.  

We want an open debate about all these points so that we can see democracy strengthened as well  as retain the leadership needed. We believe that we can find the right way to balance leadership,  accountability, and a renewed role for councillors, amongst others, to help the city move forward. We  will be contributing to The Mayor at 10 projects. In the meantime, we feel that a referendum will be  a distraction and urge that the motion be rejected in favour of a commitment by all to improve the  DEM model.  

Signed 

Jaya Chakrabarti 

President 

Bristol Chamber of Commerce  and Initiative 

James Durie 

Chief Executive 

Bristol Chamber of Commerce  and Initiative 

Director – Business West 

John Savage 

Chairman 

Bristol Chamber of Commerce  and Initiative

****It’s been brought to our attention that the letter is inaccurate. It states:

‘The five changes of leadership in Bristol City Council we encountered in the  seven years before the referendum made stability and consistency impossible for the long-term  thinking and decision-making that cities need.’

But there were only two leaders of council in the 7 years before the 2012 referendum: Barbara Janke 2003-07 and 08-12 and Helen Holland 07-08!

GREENBALLS: Saving da planet for da yoof

An occasional series showcasing the bollocks that’s talked about the environment by people who really should know better.

Bristol City Council is going to sink £4million and ongoing revenue funding of about £400k a year into a ‘Youth Zone’ that will be built on open space in Inns Court in South Bristol.

This got the following explanation from the council and the wealthy philanthropists from Onside who are behind the national Youth Zone projects:

Youth Zone
https://www.bristol247.com/news-and-features/features/green-space-under-threat-from-youth-centre-plans/

So concreting over green space encourages young people to use green space? Glad we got that sorted.

CITY LEAP: ANOTHER ENERGY BUSINESS SHAMBLES?

Leap 82429

A strong rumour rumbles through the Bristolian newswire that never sleeps … One of the three multinational corporates bidding to become a partner in the ‘billion pound City Leap’ neighbourhood heat network joint venture with Bristol City Council has thrown in the towel.

So it’s farewell, then, to ENGIE Services Holding UK Ltd and Sumitomo Corporation (as a consortium). Have they decided that Bristol City Council’s “billion pound’ golden egg may well end up all over their faces? This leaves E ON and Ameresco to battle it out for the grand prize in a procurement race that has so far burned through £7million of council taxpayers cash for no useful reason.

Engie’s decision may not be unrelated to a cabinet paper released this week that reveals the council has just received £11million from the government to build a heat network in Bedminster. This, the paper explains, will connect to eleven new blocks of flats in the Bedminster Green area. In other words, the cost, at present, of connecting one block to a neighbourhood heat network is a million quid.

Never mind any profit, Engie probably figured out not losing a small fortune in this expensive business was probably unavoidable. How much would you have to charge punters to get a million quid back while “implement[ing] competitive heat retail and competitive heat generation across the heat network”?

Not a question Bristol’s cabinet or councillors have so far asked while signing away £7million of our money on their latest daft energy business.

THAT RARE BEAST … An informed comment on the Evening Post website!

In response to claims that Cineworld at Hengrove isn’t viable and “the cinemas for years have been dead”:

RARaspberryEgg17 HRS AGOReply to AwrightMeBabberz

You are wrong on this one.

At the current time, Cineworld charge £6 a ticket.

Around 400 of us have the Cineworld “Unlimited” Card, where, for a fixed monthly fee, you can watch as many films as you want (I know the numbers because Cineworld set up an unlimited group on Facebook for each cinema)

Cineworld themselves haven’t helped with their scheduling :

The Sopranos spin off, “The Many Saints of Newark” was released yesterday. Hengrove gets just one showing per day, at 4.40 PM, not great when you factor in people’s working commitments.

In the Cineworld App, both Yate and Weston have two showings per day, at 5.40 PM and 8.30 PM. Further afield, Cineworld cinemas in Newport, Cheltenham, Gloucester and Swindon have four showings per day, and this scenario is repeated for other films.

Prior to Covid, Hengrove was designated by Cineworld as an “International Film Cinema”, showing many Polish and Bollywood films, with Poles and Asians coming from as far as Thornbury, Newport, Cardiff, and Gloucester, to watch films in their native language (with English subtitles) that they could not watch nearer home. Since Hengrove re-opened, precious few foreign films have been shown

As a benefit of having an unlimited card, we had regular early preview showings of films, before they went on general release. Outside the screen, there was usually a table set up for us, offering free film posters, badges, water bottles, etc, and occasionally a tub of sweets or a drink. Again, this has all stopped.

Those of us with unlimited cards have long suspected that Cineworld themselves have wanted to close Hengrove, irrespective of any housing development.

Worse still, Cineworld are just silent when we ask questions via their social media channels….

NEW HENGROVE HOUSING HORROR

Hengrove Leisure Park

More good news for South Bristol as a planning application before Bristol City Council’s Planning Committe ‘A’ today proposes to demolish Hengrove Leisure Park and build 350 homes in its place.

This latest housing site is conveniently nestled between Hengrove Park, where 1,500 homes have planning permission, and the new private equity development ‘Urban Quarter’, where 250 homes are being built. 

A few hundred metres east of the site, on Hengrove Way, is Barratt Homes’ recently completed Filwood Park, a development of 150 homes and next to that is the emerging Skanska/IKEA ‘Boklok‘ abomination built on the verge of Airport Road with 173 homes.

The existing facilities at Hengrove Leisure Park – the cinema, bingo hall and the majority of food outlets – which only opened with much fanfare in 1998, are all proposed for demolition to make way for housing. Because, according to the planning application before councillors, the existing facilities are ‘not viable’.

Residents of Whitchurch, Hengrove, Hartcliffe and Knowle West are furious at the news that some of the last leisure facilities in the area are being thrown into the dustbin of history under the cover of “the housing crisis”. 

A slogan that, in the hands of the property industry, is nothing more than a populist ploy to extract large profits from overdevelopment. Is it any surprise that as house prices in south Bristol head north of £300k, the international private equity industry is taking an interest?

Residents also complain that they have been fooled by Bristol City council and its planners as the 1,500 home development on the hugely popular Hengrove Park was only signed off for planning permission on the basis that there were public facilities, like the leisure park, in the area to support new housing. The leisure park is even listed as part of ‘Phase one‘ of this new development by Bristol City Council.

This proposal is also another major disaster for the credibility of Bristol City Council planners who, 25 years ago, foisted this car-friendly development – a large car park with some large retail sheds – on south Bristol as their vision of the future for the area.

Indeed, so enamoured were council planners and politicians with their exciting new corporate-leisure-in-a-car-park future, they even granted the privately-run operation an unprecedented 1,000 year lease on the council-owned open space of Hengrove Park to realise this dream.

Whether this ludicrous 1,000 year lease to a corporate allows the new owners of the leisure park, AEK UK, to demolish it and build housing remains to be seen. 

DEFLATING MAYORAL EGO LIVE!

A seemingly harmless question from posh Green councillor Carla “The Green Princess” Denyer at Tuesday’s council meeting got the Reverend Rees in a bit of an emotional state.

The painfully liberal member for the Royal Borough of Clifton East asked the Reverend a seemingly harmless question. Was it reasonable to refuse to support the Climate and Ecological Emergency Bill, a Private Members Bill currently going through Parliament, just because it was likely to fail without Tory support?

Back came a rambling response from a visibly emotional mayor: “I just anticipated this. When I see your name, my heart often sinks because it’s just the usual, kind of, you know, chess game trying to get a tweet or a blog out of the answer that feeds that line that, you know, Labour Party don’t care about the planet.”

This is despite the dull Green Princess not running a blog (unlike the Reverend) and running the most boring Twitter account imaginable! Could the Reverend’s response have anything to do with Ms Denyer’s efforts at present to become leader of the national Green party and the amount of press and attention she’s receiving locally and nationally? Press coverage that currently eclipses the thin-skinned jealous Reverend’s by a considerable amount?

It was obvious to many on Tuesday that our emotionally insecure mayor needed to constantly underline his own importance. He spent most of the meeting basically saying “Look at me. I’m a very important person” and boasting about the national and international corporate non-entities-in-suits he has been meeting with lately.

At one point he even told councillors that they lacked the integrity of the people he had had a highly important Zoom meeting with just that morning. Those people being merchant bankers and financiers. A profession popularly regarded for having, er, zero integrity.

Take cover! The Reverend’s fragile ego has crash landed in the dodgy international finance sector!

PLASTICENE MAN BAMBOOZLED BY NIMBIES

Renhard-Red-Telephone-Box

A successful council motion last night to preserve the city’s greenbelt and wildlife areas such as the Novers/Western Slopes from the Reverend’s looney housing developer mates really upset the developer-friendly Labour Group.

The Reverend, naturally, had one of his regular and embarrassing hissy fits in public at councillors after not getting his own way and being stopped from concreting over any more of our open spaces. But also joining him was our dear friend Tom “Plasticene Man” Renhard, the city’s new Cabinet member for housing, tasked with reading out crap speeches badly written for him by the Reverend’s PR sideman Kev “Slo” Slocombe.

After the Labour defeat, Plasticene Man, Labour’s latest ridiculous working class voice of the people, was heard privately dismissing campaigners, insisting that none of the Western Slopes campaigners lived locally and that they were all “posh nimbys”. 

For starters, how can you live out of an area and be a Nimby? 

COUNCILLORS CALL TIME ON CHILD ABUSE IN BRISTOL SCHOOLS

Kerry on People Scrutiny

If you’re ever looking for some visceral screen entertainment over the next few years, we suggest you take a look at Bristol City Council’s People Scrutiny Commission on Youtube. Finally, it looks like the gloves might be coming off against the council’s social care and education bosses for failures and evasions stretching back for years.

The Commission is chaired by Tim “Little Asshat” Kent who has a child with special educational needs in Bristol and has the scars on his back to show for it. He’s joined on the committee by Christine “Miss” Townsend, who has been accused in the past of being a ‘terrorist’ by local academy chain The Venturers Trust for complaining about their admission procedures, and Hartcliffe councillor Kerry “Rosie” Bailes.

Kerry has a child with special educational needs who’s been forced out of his primary school for three years now, because, as far as we can tell, his Hartcliffe school is run by some sort of Nazi freak fully backed by the council. Also on the Committee are Tim “The Ripper” Rippington who has family experience with autism and Bristol City Council ‘services’ and Geoff “Cods” Gollop who has a family member drifting around somewhere at the wrong end of the council’s adult care service.

All-in-all it looks like the focus of this committee might be on the human rights of children and service users. Rather than its usual business of blaming parents, covering up abuse and ignoring the systematic management failures of senior bosses and an embedded culture of institutional disability discrimination. An approach that bosses, for years, have tidily wrapped up in complicated bureaucracy and unfathomable technocratic jargon to give their ugly work a veneer of respectability.

The first meeting of People Scrutiny got off to a flying start with Kerry telling Hugh “Hell” Evans, the cheery, chubby Jacqui “Village” Jensen replacement as Executive Director Of Institutional Abuse (surely Executive Director of People? Ed), in relation to his ‘Building Rights: a review of Bristol’s policies and actions for people with learning disabilities and autistic people’ report:

 “This all sounds really amazing. A lot of it should already be happening. The law was changed a very long time ago and we just haven’t seen it. As public forum said, there is no accountability. You know that I’ve been in the system nearly four years now and I’ve seen no difference. It’s still very much a you’ll do as you’re told or else system and when I say or else, I mean or ,else. It is awful.”

My son was thrown into a car park at five years old. He was locked in an office for being autistic. This report talks about abuse in care homes. That’s happening in our schools under our noses. And when we complain about it, we are lied about. There is no accountability. What kind of consequences are there if none of this happens? You know it can’t go on as it is. This is our children, you know? What consequences are there? The people who abused autistic people in care homes went to prison. You know what? When are our children going to get justice. When is there going to be some consequences?”

Evans, unsurprisingly, didn’t offer Kerry a timeline on when council bosses and education ‘leaders’ might suffer any consequences for abusing children and ignoring service user’s rights. Instead a private meeting away from the public eye was offered by Education Director Alison “Burly” Hurley.

Kerry, not one to be easily distracted by useless private meetings with desperate arse-covering council bosses keen to keep a fat salary rolling into their bank account at the expense of abused children, has instead approached the Police and Crime Commissioner requesting a criminal investigation into the abuse of SEND pupils in Bristol schools.

Last week’s meeting is available on Youtube with more set to come

“COMMON ACTIVITIES”: THREE WAVES OF BULLSHIT

New Briefing Arrives for BCC’s Homelessness Prevention Team

Homeless directive

In July, a Bristol City Council managerial team led by HR taskmaster John “Bedwetter” Walsh produced a 12 page, full colour glossy pile of vomit called ‘Common Activities – Briefing for The Homelessness Prevention Team’.

Complete with “flow charts” and other meaningless diagrams, no doubt employing external graphic designers at an undisclosed sum, Bedwetter and his team of useless flunkies churned out “inclusive” speech hogwash by the bucket load. All packaged to please the uncritical eyes of the Reverend Mayor and his team of sycophants, simultaneously confusing the general public and rank-and-file employees alike, and/or boring them stupid.

Common Absurdities

Once you’ve read through the 12 pages of utter drivel and after exhaustively eliminating the “positive” buzzwords that saturate it – like “shared objectives” and “creating a city of hope and aspiration” – and distilled it down to an essence that could be easily comprehended in a single paragraph, you’re left with this:

Bristol City Council is cutting back £1 million from its £53 million staffing budget. This will be achieved by “generalising” tasks, and “fusing” any coal-face posts that “do the same job” in the eyes of management. They also reserve the right to “make further savings where possible”.

These measures are currently being introduced in three “waves” that are supposed to wash over Bristol City Council in the course of July.

Considering the number of unproductive bullshit job staff and “professional support officers” involved and the costs of dreaming up and implementing such a complicated and probably unnecessary process, surely one could ask if the £1 million savings could have been far easier met elsewhere?

Maybe by simply firing Bedwetter and his ever-swelling entourage of goons and flunkies?

NO LOOKING BEFORE WE LEAP

Why were an unholy alliance of council bosses so keen to prevent a meeting of councillors scrutinising the fatcats’ confusing and secretive “Billion Pound” City Leap plan last week? Who do these clowns really work for?

City Leap is the latest senior officer brainchild to emerge out of Bristol City Council and they’re spending £10m of our money on it. The money’s being spent on procuring a multinational corporation as a ‘joint venture partner’ in, er, wait for it … An energy business!

This time the business is aimed at cashing in on ‘net zero’ by, among other things, building and running unregulated neighbourhood heat networks across the city to “‘up the pace’ in reaching carbon neutrality targets”,

Chief Exec Mike “Billie Jean” Jackson; Exec Director for Growth and Regeneration, Stephen “Preening” Peacock and Energy Services boss David “Payday” White all told councillors at a scrutiny meeting last week that there was absolutely no role for them in City Leap until their secretive high stakes procurement process was finished in February. 

The officers explained they would then generously allow councillors a couple of hours to rubberstamp their extraordinarily expensive done deal a few days before it goes to cabinet to get signed off by the Reverend, a Yale-trained corporate puppet.

The unscrupulous threesome explained that any attempt now at democratic scrutiny of this latest council energy scheme would have a ‘material impact on the procurement’.

Bizarre reasoning asserting that the council’s constitution and the right of councillors to scrutinise the executive like any normal functioning democracy should be suspended. On the basis that it might upset any multinational corporation lining up at the trough these officers are generously setting up for them.

All highly irregular. Surely any multinational that wants to work with Bristol City council needs to understand from the get-go that they’re working in a democratic environment where public scrutiny of their work is likely to be regular and detailed? And if they don’t like our democracy in Bristol? Well, they can fuck off to any of the many dictatorships around the world with their money can’t they?

Why are Bristol City Council bosses, whose jobs should directly involve upholding the constitution of Bristol City Council to the letter, creating an environment where the city’s democratic norms need to be ignored because corporate interests are waving some money around? Isn’t this exactly the time democratic scrutiny is needed?

A similar fiasco unfolded with Bristol Energy. Scrutiny and opposition councillors were persistently refused access to vital company information by officers. Councillors were unable to scrutinise what was going on at the company and the result was an estimated  £50m loss to council taxpayers.

Is it acceptable for officers to set up yet another energy business shrouded in secrecy that can repeat exactly the same mistakes all over again?

COMING SOON: What the fuck is City Leap anyway?