Tag Archives: Bristol City Council

ANOTHER AFFORDABLE HOUSING SCAM

Sisters Uncut at Cheltenham Road Library

 Funny business at the Cheltenham Road Library site. The library building, occupied by Sisters Uncut last month, was recently FLOGGED by Bristol City Council to MD Homes for an unknown sum, somewhere in excess of £2.5 million. Some say it may even have been sold for as much as £9 million.

The council advertised the site for sale to developers claiming it had PLANNING PERMISSION for the “erection of 36 self-contained flats over an underground parking area”. But has it?

Permission for the flats was originally granted to the council’s development partner,  Chatsworth Homes, in 2008. They were given the prime Cheltenham Road site in exchange for a new library they were supposed to deliver in Bishopston as the developers of the notorious BRISTOL NORTH BATHS site on Gloucester Road.

Alas, Chatsworth went BUST in 2015 owing Bristol City Council £3.4m in loans and leaving us to pay a further £1.5m to complete their BOTCHED and BANKRUPT development. We’ve therefore paid £4.9m for the new library that Chatsworth were supposed to be giving us for “free”.

Now it gets murkier … Chatsworth only managed to get planning permission for luxury flats at Cheltenham Road WITHOUT any affordable housing because they were providing a library as a community benefit instead. Since the new developers, MD, AREN’T supplying a library shouldn’t they have to meet affordable housing commitments instead?

That’s notwithstanding that the planning permission for the site granted in 2008 was only for THREE YEARS. Although MD Homes have quickly applied for “a non-material amendment” to this out-of-date permission requesting minor changes to the windows on the property. This amendment was conveniently waved through in a matter of weeks in February by council Planning Officer, Thomas Wilkinson, who forgot to mention anywhere that the permission was SIX YEARS out of date!

What’s going on here? Are we about to get another luxury development of flats with no affordable housing courtesy of our dubious planning department working alongside the council’s notoriously bent Property Services department?

WE’RE CRAP CONFIRM AUDITORS

More exciting news on the Rev Rees’s efforts to support WHISTLEBLOWERS at Bristol City Council.

We learn that the Rev’s hapless pair of CHIEF INTERNAL AUDITORS have investigated the state of whistleblowing at Bristol City Council and have discovered – after all these years – that there’s “a lack of co-ordination, no central or comprehensive recording of whistleblowing reports and no governance or review of the process.”

Well, we could have told them that. Remember the whistleblowers who were unceremoniously REMOVED from the council’s Markets Service in 2012 while in the care of Internal Auditors so that middle-ranking council bosses could spend 18 months COVERING-UP a comprehensive rip-off of the public?

And who was responsible for these useless whistleblowing arrangements at Bristol City Council?  Please step forward, er,  Bristol City Council’s CHIEF INTERNAL AUDITORS Alison “Mullet” Mullis and Melanie “Joe” Henchy-McCarthy who have been regularly reporting absolute bullshit about whistleblowing matters to the council’s Audit Committee  for years.

Now – presumably to keep their ineffective whistleblowing merry-go-round spinning aimlessly – the Chief Internal Auditors have announced they’re developing a NEW whistleblowing process for themselves and they’ll present an annual review of their work to the Audit Committee (as they have, in theory, always done). Plus ca change?

What whistleblower in their right mind would trust this pair of dubious chief auditors reporting – yet again – to the same soft-headed council committee of the gullible?

CASHMAN TO CASH IN?

Cocking up and cashing in?

The next senior council boss touted to make that lucrative move from the public sector to the private sector is one of Bristol City Council Property boss, Spunkface Orrett’s minions, Stephen “CASHMAN” Ashman, Building Practice Manager.

Cashman, we’re told, has been frantically rushing around making a business case, largely by ‘CREATIVE INVENTION’, to outsource huge amounts of maintenance work on council properties to Integral, a corporate that specialises in outsourced ‘hard services’.

It’s also rumoured that Cashman will be handsomely ‘LOOKED AFTER’ by Integral going forward. So we suggest councillors get off their lazy backsides right away and launch a corruption investigation into this dubious little weasel.

They might also like to take a look at Cashman’s decision last year to DISMISS a recommendation that major maintenance was undertaken on the boiler supplying the Register Office on Corn Street.

Cashman decided to IGNORE the advice, with the result that the boiler has now been condemned with replacement costs that are described as ‘significant’. Temporary heating and sticking plaster solutions are currently being used while someone dreams up an excuse to get the necessary capital spend approved by councillors in the current climate.

Has there ever been such a buffoon making significant spending decisions and cocking up massively at a time when accuracy, honesty and prudence are the order of the day?

BUNDRED: GRAMMAR CLASS

OK. Here’s the Reverend’s new Chief Executive, Anna “Big Wedge” Klonowski’s long-awaited ‘Response to the Bundred Review’ going to cabinet next week.

The Bundred Review, you may recall, discovered that Bristol City Council was a financial basketcase where senior managers were running amok committing a variety of offences in order to massage our council’s accounts for their own benefit.

Many of us have been hotly anticipating clear and bold action from the Reverend and his well remunerated sidekick, Ms Big Wedge, to clear up this fiasco and nail the culprits once and for all. Alas, it looks like we may be disappointed.

One of Bundred’s many recommendations raised by Ms Big Wedge in her new report is:

“The Council should take steps to build on recent improvements in the quality of reporting and document management. Where necessary guidance should be issued, or training provided, to report authors emphasising the importance of clarity, transparency, analysis and advice (paragraph 121).”

Another is:

“Members should be less tolerant of poor quality reports than they appear to have been in the past (paragraph 120).”

OK then. Who’s gonna tell Ms Big Wedge the standard of English, grammar and syntax in her report is simply not good enough? Here’s a few random examples from the first two pages:

“To ensure that cross directorate saving proposal [sic] or proposals that covered [sic] more than one Directorate are achieved, each savings proposal has been allocated a named Strategic and Service Director lead as accountable officers.”

And:

“Further consultation will be required in respect of some areas of savings proposals and will commence when the General Elections [is there more than one?] have concluded. This has required Officers to consider further mitigations to assure delivery of the budgets in these unusual circumstances.”

And:

“In addition, Directorates will be challenged to explore alternative options for meeting the cost pressures faced within their existing resources or seek supplementary estimate [sic] to increase the directorate spending limit.”

And:

“This has now been put into implementation [sic] and should ensure there is a shared understanding and approach to council processes across the organisation that supports all Members.”

For fucks sake, “Put into implementation”? Isn’t there a word for that – ‘implemented’? Have the Reverend, Big Wedge or the council never heard of proofreading?

Meanwhile moving on to the subject of ‘clarity’. Try some of these for size:

“We have also reviewed, aligned and combined the monthly mechanisms for managers and their Service/Strategic directors to submit a holistic view of savings delivery from a financial and action focussed perspective.”

If anyone has the foggiest idea what Service/Strategic directors will be physically submitting and to who, please get in touch.

Or try this nightmare piece of prose from the depths of hell:

“Member oversight is a new element of this governance process that now includes a Delivery Executive. This involves attendance by the Mayor and Deputy Mayor (Finance, Governance and Performance) who is the chair of the new Delivery Executive. This meeting provides an opportunity to discuss the savings proposals, delivery and implementation and provides an additional challenge, enables further investigation of the detail, reviews any mitigating actions and provides a formal feedback loop to Cabinet with an overview of progress on savings delivery. Relevant Portfolio holders also attend these sessions, providing joint ownership and accountability for savings by both members and officers.”

This seems to be suggesting “member (ie, councillor) oversight” will be a matter for a “Delivery Executive”, which includes only one member out of 70 – the Deputy Mayor – plus possibly “relevant portfolio holders”. This meeting will then provide a “formal feedback loop”  to Cabinet members (although in order to be a “formal feedback loop” wouldn’t it have to return to the Delivery Executive where it came from?)

So Big Wedge’s “member oversight” stretches to around nine cabinet members if we’re generous and include those in her new-style “formal feedback loop”. The other 62 normal councillors who aren’t in the executive can presumably fuck off then?

Now try this bollocks for size:

“A one-off investment fund has been allocated to support savings related change activity across the council, this also includes funding a proportion of the change resource within the council. The resource is limited, making the threshold for allocation of this resource high, therefore promoting local ownership of service change and savings delivery, whilst mitigating against increased savings targets in future years for replenishment once this resource is fully used.”

We’ve no idea either. And what’s “mitigating against” all about? Meaning is so lost in there that it’s hard to tell whether it’s a straightforward error mistaking ‘mitigating’ for ‘militating’ or whether it’s the tautology ‘mitigating against’.

And finally (as we can’t stand any more of this half-arsed meaningless drivel):

“To ensure the achievement of long term improvements in the function, it will be necessary to take an end-to-end approach, combination of top down and bottom up initiatives, take along those involved in the execution of the operations; optimise the finance functions by removing waste and re-focus on core and value add activities.”

Excellent use of cliché, ambiguity and vague platitudes that could mean anything from Ms Big Wedge here.

Wouldn’t it all be so much simpler and provide a helluva lot more ‘clarity’ if she just fired the arseholes who fucked up the accounts in the first place and instead employed some people who can write reports competently in plain English and implement the proposed plans?

Bundred Response Recommendations FINAL-2

PARKING CONSULTATION SHAMBLES

As we warned six months ago, “Nothing says Mayor Marvin “The Vicar” Rees is a hopelessly over-promoted public sector middle manager without a clue quite like his plan to get long-suffering councillors to review resident parking zones in their wards, apparently without any SUPPORT or RESOURCES.”

So it’s no surprise to find councillors are now complaining about, er, the USELESS and INEFFECTIVE consultation process around resident parking zones in their wards. Lib Dem Councillor for Cotham, Anthony Negus, recently confronted the vicar over his shambles.

“The recent consultations in my ward were only notified by notices on lampposts and so the responses were few,” he explained,  “the resulting changes and their implications on adjacent areas will NOT BE NOTIFIED and officers required that NO COMMENTS be sent to them.”

Negus then demanded, “Does the Mayor welcome the outcome of his policy being PERSONAL DECISIONS made by councillors – since the alternative of INFORMED CONSULTATION that I wanted can now only be carried out with no support from council officers?”

The vicar’s response was ‘MYSTERIOUS’ to say the least, “There appears to be confusion about the manner of the RPS review consultation undertaken last year. The review was carried out using an online survey, supported by posters in each community and the local coucillors and Neighbourhood Partnerships being responsible for informing people of the survey. ”

And what are councillors supposed to do with the responses?

What a shambles. As we correctly said six months ago, “Quite how Marv thinks a part time councillor on £13k a year with lots to do can also adequately research the views of up to 3,000 HOUSEHOLDS and then collate these views into a meaningful document to take action on is anybody’s guess.”

What a waste of everybodies’ time this has been.

PROPERTY BOSS IN UNFORTUNATE ALIEN OTHERNESS SLIP-UP

‘An awkward sense of ALIEN OTHERNESS’!

Unfortunate news just in. Seems idiot senior Bristol City Council property boss, Richard “The Builder” Fear, is going to have to pull down a HIDEOUS and PRICEY high spec loft extension he stuck on top of his well-appointed period gaffe in Haverstock Road in upmarket Knowle!

Tragically, it seems, this member of Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors and leading council property “expert” FORGOT to obtain planning permission from his own council for what he laughably describes as an “upscale dormer window”. Does Fear, brought in by the city council three years ago for his alleged private sector expertise, think the rules don’t apply to him?

Alas, they do and he’s now lost an APPEAL to the Planning Inspectorate for retrospective planning permission for his outsize pretentious carbuncle, which not only fails to meet any traditional definition of ‘dormer window’ we’ve ever encountered but fails to comply with a host of planning regulations too.

What a terrible shame. Just imagine what it’s going to cost the OVERPAID council management twerp – who thinks rules are for the little people – to remove his unsightly mess from Knowle’s heritage skyline? There will also be little to cheer Fear in a HIGHLY CRITICAL report from the Planning Inspectorate.

The inspector, David Morgan, doesn’t mince his words over Fear’s abysmal extension that taste forgot. “The maximised proportions,” summarises the inspector of this “strident and bulky structure create an awkward sense of ALIEN OTHERNESS“. Ho! Ho! The Inspector then helpfully lists all the planning rules and regulations Fear has ignored before roundly rejecting Fear’s absurd claim that it’s a “Permitted Development”. Oh dear!

Perhaps once Fear’s dismantled this ANTI-SOCIAL MESS that’s fucking up the view in Knowle, he could take a similar approach to his day job?  Why not start dismantling the endemic culture of CORRUPTION and INCOMPETENCE in the council’s Property Service Department?

A clear-out at a department that currently has an inexplicable £9 MILLION DEFICIT while being involved in a variety of scandals such as with property Guardians Camelot would be most welcome.

But we won’t be holding our breath.

NEW YORK – LONDON – BRUSSELS – HARTCLIFFE

There was a very LOW KEY decision from the Vicar last month to continue spending £351k a year to keep open his Bristol City Council office in Brussels and to provide a nice little slush fund for his aimless mayoral trips abroad.

This will no doubt come as especially good news for residents of HARTCLIFFE, SOUTHMEAD, LAWRENCE WESTON and FISHPONDS. As, following his destructive Tory cuts budget that closed all neighbourhood Customer Service Points, the Reverend can now proudly boast that his council has an office open for business in Brussels but not in, er, Hartcliffe!

How convenient for paying the rent …

UNLAWFUL POISON PLANT LATEST

Planning permission is now only for the little people in Bristol; not for stuff built for the big swinging dicks of the Merchant Venturers

Efforts by the Day Group to build a POISONOUS bottom ash manufacturing plant at the Port of Bristol, Avonmouth, yards from people’s homes and WITHOUT planning permission, continue to be secretly supported by Bristol City Council’s planners and politicians.

Following a complaint filed in November by a local ‘moaning bastard’ in Avonmouth, the council was forced to issue a PLANNING CONTRAVENTION NOTICE (PCN) against Day Group and investigate this enormous mystery plant at the Port of Bristol with no planning permission.

Day Group have responded to the PCN through lawyers and, seemingly, the response was TOO DIFFICULT for our thicko planners and local authority lawyers to understand as they immediately engaged the services of independent counsel from St Johns Chambers, Queen Square to explain the letter to them.

Although perhaps it’s best not to engage the services of St Johns because they’re, apparently, a shower of IDLE TOSSPOTS bleeding the public purse dry. Over three months later and they, allegedly, still haven’t managed to supply the council with a legal opinion on a short letter on a small point of planning law!

Construction of the plant therefore CONTINUES while the Day Group attempt to obtain a licence from the Environment Agency to start manufacturing their poisonous crap at the site. When questioned by locals on why they were processing a licencing application for an unlawful facility, the Environment Agency responded that planning was not an issue for them.

Meanwhile Avonmouth’s two local Labour Councillors, Don “LENIN” Alexander and Jo “STUPID HIPPY” Sergeant have gone very quiet indeed. Having promised residents they would FIGHT the plant, anything they’re doing to stop this unlawful and potentially harmful eyesore in their ward going ahead appears to be either TOP SECRET or entirely INEXPLICABLE. They have, however, found time to vote to keep their taxpayer funded sandwiches and parking spots.

Promises, last month, from the useless municipal duo to ask the Reverend questions about the facility at Full Council mysteriously NEVER HAPPENED, while enquiries from residents are stonewalled or ignored. Are this pair of rookie politicians being BULLIED in the shadowy corridors of power?

The Day Group are now offering TOURS of their illegal installation to the community at large (except for local “moaning bastards”). Especially any locals who might be likely to accept the largesse of Merchant port bosses through their QUARTET FOUNDATION community slush fund, now run by Sue “Bullshit” Turner, a former Port of Bristol PR boss.

The strategy of state agencies, who should be PROTECTING US to support the Merchant Venturer-run Port of Bristol and their POLLUTING corporate clients is now perfectly clear. Once the EA grant a licence for the unlawful facility, the local authority can then point to the licence to claim the facility is lawful regardless of the planning situation.

All they need to do now is keep any pesky residents and councillors quiet until it’s too late.

CULTURE NEWS

The Dick Kelly Counter-Cultural Banjo Band

There’s no shortage of money at Bristol City Council to fork out on another bloody cultural strategy EXPENSIVELY assembled by consultants from London.

This time around, the city’s current CULTURAL COMMISSAR, Labour Assistant Mayor Estella “Tinkerbell” Tincknell has called in the services of the UK’s “leading creative economy and cultural consultancy” at an undisclosed cost.

The Tom Fleming Consultancy, an “international consultancy” according to their own OVERBLOWN bullshit, have already produced an “Overview & Emergent Themes” paper for their grand plan: Bristol’s Cultural Futures. And what a treat it is.

From a ‘workshop-style intervention’ on how Bristol ‘does international’, which resulted “in a new thought leadership paper” (no, really, they are that up themselves) to “reinventing what it means to be in Bristol, to be Bristolian, and to be at once local and global,” no hackneyed phrase, jargon-riddled cliche or piece of pretentious old bollocks is TOO EMBARRASSING for The Tom Fleming Consultancy.

However the big idea is to become … Wait for it … “THE CITY OF COUNTER-CULTURE“! Forget May ’68; The Angry Brigade; Fat Freddy’s Cat; The Velvet Underground; The Situationist International; Naked Lunch, Ketamine or Crass, a new council funded Bristolian counter-culture of property agents called Nigel renting out shipping containers to public schoolboys so they can run a PUBLICLY SUBSIDISED start-up or street food outlet is on the way. No doubt accompanied by couple of hipsters with a banjo performing authentic indie folk pop in an overpriced coffee shop. Radical or wot?

Of course, we’ve been here before. In 2009 remarkably similar bollocks from the ‘Yellow Railroad International Destination Consultancy’ resulted in a POINTLESS £72k a year Place Making Manager at the council; a couple of street art events and an expensive JUNKET for the city’s self-styled cultural elite at Brasserie Blanc in Quakers Friars. All much criticised by the, then, opposition Labour Party.

This time around Tinkerbell has recruited such counter-cultural luminaries (from those centres of counter-culture West Bristol and er, Bath) as Dick Penny of the Watershed and Andrew Kelly “The Clown” from the Festival of Ideas on to a cultural steering group to deliver the new ‘vision’ and, no doubt, mop up any PUBLIC FUNDING for their organisations in the process.

So be sure to look out for a load of upper middle class cultural bollocks you don’t want and didn’t ask for being dumped on you soon so that the usual suspects can grab another large slice of public funds …

INTERNATIONAL CUTS WATCH

Bristol City Council seems to be avoiding cuts in some areas. Please step forward the Reverend Mayor, Marvin Rees, who’s decided there should be NO CUTS at all in his personal office; his new chief executive’s office or to his senior leadership team. Areas that have all chronically UNDERPERFORMED over the last five years and cost us a lot of money.

Not that the Reverend gives a shit about saving money when it comes to himself, his self-regarding PUBLICLY FUNDED international lifestyle or his personal office team of EGO PAMPERERS on the rates.

Back on November 30 the Reverend SUSPENDED non-essential spending at the council for ordinary staff delivering services. By Tuesday 6 December he was touching down in China, pretending he was on some sort sales mission.

What the fuck was he selling them? CREAKING, underfunded local public services? SUBSIDISED film studio facilities in Hengrove ideal for overblown costume drama? CHEAP tickets for dodgy middle class comedians at the Colston Hall? The USELESS services of the shittest Internal Audit team the world has ever known?

If a pointless ‘trade mission’ to China by a SMALL and FAILING municipal body led by a pompous, preening figurehead isn’t non-essential, what the fuck is?