Tag Archives: Bristol City Council

HOUSING FAIL

1930s_Council_housing_Knowle_West_Bristol J
Going, going …

Back in the dark ages of March 2016, months before the Reverend Rees and his ego climbed down from his personal Mount Olympus to become Mayor, there were 27,402 council homes in Bristol. 

By March this year, after seven years basking in a Reesian age of light with a laser-like focus on housing, there are now 26,687 council homes in Bristol. A fall of over 2.5 per cent! 

Undeterred by conventional measures of failure, however, Rees has got the housing waiting list down. Simply by reorganising the list and throwing people in bands three and four off it altogether! 

Success Rees-style.

OLD ROPE GAP

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A gushing press release from Bristol City Council announces that “a gap in a major cycling route through Bristol city centre will be filled in over a nine-month project, which is about to start. The £1.2-million plan to fill in the ‘Old Market gap’ begins on Monday, September 11, and is expected to be completed next April.”

The ‘Old Market gap’ will be a length of cycle path about 20 metres long. That works out at about £60k per metre for tarmac, kerb stones and white paint.

If you’re wondering why you pay so much tax for so few services, maybe blame the corporate civil engineering industry? They’re robbing us blind with the assistance of our country’s idiot political class.

Are they laying gold-plated kerbstones?

L’IL TIM THE LAWBREAKER

O'Gara
Monitoring Officer Li’l Tim has form: https://thebristolian.net/2021/12/05/wet-and-weak-monitoring-officer-drops-his-trousers-and-bends-over-for-the-mayor-again/

Now into his fourth year of being bullied by Reverend Rees’s henchman “Slo” Kev Slocombe and virtually everyone else at City Hall, all is not well for local authority legal eagle ‘Li’l’ Tim O’Gara, Bristol City Council’s underperforming and underwhelming Monitoring Officer. 

For it seems this senior council boss whose job is to make sure the council doesn’t break the law has been, er, breaking the law! Residents have discovered that his councillor complaints process that should involve advice from an ‘independent person’, publicly appointed by councillors, has instead involved a top secret ‘independent person’ personally appointed by L’il Tim contrary to the Localism Act. 

Happily, this mystery ‘independent person’ has entirely agreed with Li’l Tim that complaints about councillors during Tim’s watch don’t need much investigating and complaints could be dismissed either without action or with pathetic actions that councillors were welcome to ignore without sanction. This unknown mystery person also agreed with Tim whenever he summarily dismissed troublesome complaints as ‘politically motivated’ or ‘vexatious’.

Residents, however, are not happy with Li’l Tim’s bollocks even if councillors are. What could be better for our dubious local political class than a broken complaints process perfectly designed to let them off the hook regardless of how bent, bullying, rude or useless they are?

As the rest of the local press are reluctant to do much reporting on this bent senior Bristol City Council manager running a bent process to let bent councillors (and Mayors!) off the hook, here’s the latest set of public statements delivered to mute councillors on the council’s ‘fraudbusting’ Audit Committee. 

Note how residents are now pointing out how Li’l Tim is further breaking the law by refusing to issue the ‘section 5 report’ he’s legally obliged to. The law requires he publicly report to councillors any unlawful activity by his local authority. Even if it’s the Monitoring Officer breaking the law.

Of course, Li’l Tim has a huge conflict of interest in outrightly refusing to issue such a public report into his own law breaking activities. A simple fact that Bristol’s dim councillors appear oblivious to.

Here’s the statements. Enjoy …

Statement to Value and Ethics Committee 3 November 2023 (1)

I’m sharing my concerns about governance failures apparent from my attendance at the Value & Ethics sub-committee of the Audit Committee.

It’s clear that the Monitoring Officer (Tim O’Gara) has acted unlawfully (together with the Head of Legal Services, Nancy Rollason) in his “appointment” of Independent Persons to the members’ complaints process.

My concern is that the Council appears to be attempting to cover up this unlawful activity (or “regularise” it, as Councillor Brown has suggested in his statement to the(cancelled) Full Council  Meeting on 14 November. How can councillors responsible for proper governance of the authority be apparently attempting to avoid any mention of unlawful activity by the Monitoring Officer and not call for an investigation into what has gone wrong at the City Council?

There have evidently been serious failings in the Member’s complaints process, that have not been subject to appropriate levels of scrutiny by members sitting on V&E:

• the actions of M[onitoring] O[fficer] & H[ead] O[f] L[egal] S[ervice] to take upon themselves the role of selection and appointment of I[ndependent] P[erson]s, thereby failing to meet the requirements of s28 of the Localism Act, and usurping the role of members in appointments, since the last lawful appointment in 2013.

• Refusal to even provide dates of appointments of I[ndependent] P[erson]s, and an absolute refusal to provide their names (this is a public appointment. What sort of country are we living in where people can make decisions with complete anonymity?).

• the lack of openness and honesty from the M[onitoring] O[fficer] and H[ead] O[f] L[egal] S[ervice] in answering public questions (We have to date received no answers to our questions to the Monitoring Officer from V&E on 3 November (when both the M[onitoring] O[fficer] and the Independent Member (Mr Adebayo) failed to attend)

• An insistence on imposing confidentiality on members of the public, when the Local Government Association (LGA) makes it clear that this is not practical (or ethical)

• The irony that given this insistence on confidentiality the H[ead] O[f] L[egal] S[ervice] and M[onitoring] O[fficer] may have acted unlawfully and breached GDPR by sharing information with so-called “Independent Persons” they themselves appointed unlawfully

• Constant censoring of public questions and statements, always at the “11th hour”, with no clear explanations given. Statements critical of the M[onitoring] O[fficer] Hor H[ead] O[f] L[egal] S[ervice] are pulled. Statements critical of the Independent Member on V[alues] &E[thics Committee] (Mr Adebayo) are pulled

• Refusal to publish “public interest” test criteria, despite this being LGA best practice 

• The issue of whether payments made to these unlawfully appointed “I[ndependent] P[erson]s,” are lawful items of account.

• A process governed by secrecy on the grounds of “confidentiality”. Poor quality management reports, with key information omitted. The H[ead] O[f] L[egal] S[ervice] has misled members by telling them that reports this year were in the same format as prior years. This is categorically untrue. This year she omitted the dates claims were received, thereby obscuring the length of time taken to decide on complaints

• Failing to report on key Local Government Ombudsman complaints findings that noted unacceptable delays in deciding complaints (over 5 months in some cases) and that required a revised Member Complaints Code to be prepared by the Council.

The Full Council meeting on 14 November planned to push ahead with the “ratification” of 3 I[ndependent] P[erson]s, following what the Monitoring Officer described as a “robust “process. Members need to be clear exactly what that process was and whether it met the full requirements of the Localism Act. The public should also have a right to know the backgrounds of these individuals. These 3 I[ndependent] P[erson]s should not be appointed if they have had any dealings with any complaints to date.

I would ask Members of the Audit Committee, in accordance with their responsibility for governance matters, to consider:

• whether the M[onitoring] O[fficer] and H[ead] O[f] L[egal] S[ervice] have met the standards of Honesty, Openness, Integrity, Accountability and Leadership in their management of the members complaints process, their reporting to V&E, and their responses to public scrutiny.

• what steps you need to take to restore full public confidence in the role of the Monitoring Officer, given that the current post holder Mr Tim O’Gara has acted unlawfully but refuses to take responsibility for his actions and refuses to issue a section 5 report (LGHA 1989) to report unlawful activity by a local authority.

• Whether the attempt to “ratify” I[ndependent] P[erson]s appointments at Full Council meets the legal requirements of the Localism Act 2011 in full.

• Why the scrutiny process of Audit and Values & Ethics committees failed to pick up failings in the members’ complaints process. Most significantly the unlawful appointments of I[ndependent] P[erson]s (possibly over the last 7 years).

Statement to Value and Ethics Committee 3 November 2023 (2)

It is clear that members of the public who have made complaints about Councillors already felt badly let down by the process. Now that we know the Monitoring Officer himself has acted unlawfully and still refuses to admit to this, or follow due process as set out in LGHA 1989, how can we have any trust in governance at Bristol City Council?

Due to the unfortunate events that led to the Full Council meeting being postponed, Bristol City Council is still in breach of the Localism Act 2011, by not having any lawfully appointed “Independent Persons”.

Since this has been the case since about 2017, another week of this situation isn’t going to make a significant difference, but it is very disappointing that the Monitoring Officer is failing to provide clear information about what has happened.

Not only is he not coming forward to volunteer information, he is also failing to give responses to questions asked formally.

On the 3rd of November, myself and another member of the public submitted written supplementary questions as part of the Value & Ethics committee as the Monitoring Officer didn’t attend that meeting. I have not had any response and I do not believe the other member of the public has had any response either.

I was led to expect a response by the 6th November to a formal complaint (attached below) I submitted to Bristol City Council on the 16th of October about the “Independent Persons” situation. I did not receive a response.

On a separate matter, the Monitoring Officer said in full council on the 31st of October that he would give a written explanation of why the minutes Extraordinary Full Council were not  recorded accurately in line with current Council policy. I have not had a response.

I do not find it acceptable that the Monitoring Officer is refusing to answer questions that have been properly submitted.

I still believe that the “Independent Persons” matter requires a ‘Section 5 report’ as per the Local Government and Housing Act 1989 which puts a personal public duty on a Monitoring Officer to write a report if “any proposal, decision or omission by the authority…constitutes, has given rise to or is likely to or would give rise to a contravention by the authority…of any…rule of law’.

I believe a failure to write a report is also in breach of section A13.03(b) of Bristol City Councils Constitution, which reads:

“(b) Ensuring lawfulness and fairness of decision making

After consulting with the Head of Paid Service and Chief Finance Officer, the Monitoring Officer will report to the Full Council or to the Mayor in relation to an executive function if he or she considers that any proposal, decision or omission would give rise to unlawfulness or if any decision or omission has given rise to maladministration. Such a report will have the effect of stopping the proposal or decision being implemented until the report has been considered.”

It is understandable that mistakes happen and things get missed. It is not acceptable that the Officer who is meant to be promoting high standards in the rest of the Council is refusing to answer questions, and refusing to carry out the public duty imposed on him as Monitoring Officer.

Please will you write to the Monitoring Officer and tell him he does need to actually follow the law and BCC constitution, even if it’s embarrassing for himself. Or he could explain why he doesn’t need to do those things, which is one of the supplementary questions I asked on the 3rd of November.

Text of complaint ref: 40910847 made on 16th October 2023 

I wish to make two complaints with regard to how complaints about Member Code of Conduct have been handled. 

Under Section 28 of the Localism Act 2011 there is a very clear requirement that the independent persons involved in the process are required to be approved by a vote of the councillors: “a person may not be appointed under the provision required by subsection (7) unless the person’s appointment has been approved by a majority of the members of the authority” 

My understanding is that the last time that happened in Bristol City Council was in 2013. Further, my understanding is that unfortunately that independent person passed away in 2016. 

My first complaint is that any of the independent persons who have been appointed without having been approved by the required vote, have been appointed unlawfully. By implication, that means none of the complaints that have been handled since 2016, including my own complaint, have been handled in a lawful manner. 

Under Section 5 of Local Government and Housing Act 1989 which lists the duties of a Monitoring Officer: “it shall be the duty of a relevant authority’s monitoring officer, if it at any time appears to him that any proposal, decision or omission by the authority, by any committee, or sub-committee of the authority, by any person holding any office or employment under the authority or by any joint committee on which the authority are represented constitutes, has given rise to or is likely to or would give rise to …a contravention by the authority, by any committee, or sub-committee of the authority, by any person holding any office or employment under the authority or by any such joint committee of any enactment or rule of law or of any code of practice made or approved by or under any enactment…to prepare a report to the authority with respect to that proposal, decision or omission.” 

Which basically says if the council breaks the law, or are considering an action that would break the law, the Monitoring Officer is required to give a report that gives full details of that unlawfullness. 

My second complaint is that this report has not been written. I believe a failure to write this report, which is a required public duty, is by itself an unlawful act.

BARTON HOUSE: HOW BADLY HAVE REES AND BRISTOL CITY COUNCIL FUCKED UP THIS TIME?

On 5 September 2017 Tamara Finkelstein, Director General for the Building Safety Programme and Department of Communities and Local Government, wrote to all local authorities. This was after 3cm-wide cracks between concrete panels were identified in large panel system (LPS) buildings on the Ledbury estate in Peckham, south-east London. 

Finkelstein told local authorities:

“It is important with all large panel system buildings that their structural history is known, and that their condition and continued structural integrity are understood and monitored. This should include desktop studies where necessary to establish what strengthening work has been undertaken, and to assess the original design of the building. In undertaking desktop studies, building owners may not be able to rely solely on their own records. They may also need to explore records prior to them taking ownership of the building and explore the accuracy of them. Depending on the records available and findings from non-intrusive investigations, building owners may wish to commission more intrusive forms of investigation to check condition and strength of critical connections.” 

So how come Peter Apps and Robert Booth at the Guardian report today:

“Bristol city council said there was no record of any structural surveys of Barton House after remedial works were carried out around 1970.”

Why did the Rees administration disregard government advice for six years and allow one of their buildings to deteriorate to the point where its 400 residents need to be evacuated at a few hours notice and made homeless?

This was avoidable and heads need to roll.

GAZA: ASK YOUR COUNCILLOR TO SUPPORT A CEASEFIRE

There are a small number of councillors supporting the requests for City Hall to be lit in the cause of Palestine and the demand for a ceasefire on November 14th. Ask your councillor to support an open letter requesting the same:

Dear Councillor X,

Thank you if you have already signed the BCC ePetition on the Israel Gaza Conflict (https://democracy.bristol.gov.uk/mgEPetitionDisplay.aspx?ID=290…) and shared it with others. The online signatures have now reached 3,500 people in less than a week and many hundreds more have signed printed petitions which will also be submitted.

I would also like to encourage you to sign the BCC Councillors’ open letter that has been sent to your councillor email address. It is important that our elected politicians demonstrate that they have empathy with the people of Gaza and demand a ceasefire now.

Find your councillors email here: https://democracy.bristol.gov.uk/mgFindMember.aspx

NETTING ZEROES: WHERE’S THE PRIVATE CASH?

Netting Zeroes (2)

No sign of the private sector cash that’s supposed to pour into the City Leap public-private partnership to decarbonise the city.

One new project is “an £11m programme of energy efficient upgrades for fuel poor homes”, funded by the Department for Energy for just 150 homes across WECA.

Another project will spend £890k on heat decarbonisation plans and designs for council buildings. Funded by the, er, taxpayer through the Department for Energy. The plan is then to grab more government grants to fund the work.

Despite the smalltime public money approach, local journalists breathlessly report that shadowy ‘council bosses’ have told them “City Leap would lead to a massive extra 180 megawatts of renewable energy generation in Bristol.”

Bristol City Council’s wind turbines and solar farm in Avonmouth currently generate about 4.3 megawatts so that’s a 42 fold increase then.

Sounds likely.

‘BENT PIECE OF LYING SHIT’?

Bristol City Council’s new planning boss Simone “The Concrete Queen” Wilding is off to an interesting start.

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Yew Tree Farm

The Concrete Queen was headhunted by the council’s underperforming Chief Exec Stephen “Captain” Peacock and they are very friendly having worked together at that business-friendly clusterfuck, the SWRDA.

Since starting in May, the Concrete Queen has:

– attempted to ban councillors from calling in planning applications for a committee to consider to “streamline the process”.

– pulled a video of a planning meeting from 9 August where her officers tried to rig the minutes of a previous planning meeting regarding the controversial Broadwalk planning application.

– failed to take action after planning committee chair, Richard ‘Bunter’ Eddy, politically attacked a member of his non-political ‘quasi judicial’ committee in the Nazi Post for voting against an application Bunter voted for.

– lied to councillors at a 7 September planning meeting, claiming alternative sites had been looked at for the cemetery expansion into Yew Tree Farm on south Bristol’s greenbelt

– At the same meeting, she withheld from councillors a report by a contamination officer recommending refusal of the cemetery application.

– Attempted to rip up all SNCI (Site of Nature Conservation Interest) designations in Bristol by claiming they can be built on if the effect is mitigated elsewhere.

How long will the people of Bristol be subjected to this dreadful woman?

THE REAL STATE OF THE CITY ADDRESS

Last night the Reverend Rees delivered his final State of the City speech from the University of Bristol’s shithouse Wills Building. Here’s a response:

Marvin, your State of the City speech seems to be a list of things that haven’t been delivered or resolved in your time in office. 

Most of the key infrastructure projects that previous Labour council’s failed to invest in remain uninvested in but with a tab left to be picked up by the next administration. 

There’s no funded mass transit proposal. It’s stalemated due to a lack of agreement between two bickering Labour Mayors who have prioritised their own personal animosity and egos above the needs of the city and region. 

The city continues to have deep divisions along race and class lines despite all the talk about diversity, equity and inclusion and tackling the “issues”. Where are the measurable outcomes showing improvement? 

But then you did watch the Colston statue come down and spot a self promotional media opportunity rather than a chance to trigger a real attempt to tackle the city’s long standing divisions. 

Congratulations Marvin, you built some homes (the vast majority at market rates with many being bought by private landlords) and yet still managed to miss every housing target you set yourself. 

The housing waiting list has increased to 20,000 families. The highest it has ever been, despite officers actively discouraging residents from going on the list “because it’s a waste of time”. 

Homelessness remains noticeably present everywhere, except, maybe, in the Bearpit, despite your promise to solve it. 

The vast majority of the 14,000 homes with planning permission are not being built and you try to blame a minority opposition party for this failure to deliver.

Still no arena, public or privately funded, anywhere. And tens of millions in public funds sunk into an elitist city centre cultural venue because of a binding legal contract signed on your watch. All while deprived suburbs lose community/cultural facilities.

City Leap has potential but so far isn’t unlocking any private investment and is falling behind its real investment plan, never mind this unsubstantiated £1bn you constantly quote at the press.

Goram Homes also has some potential but your planning delays means it’s falling massively behind schedule.

Bristol Waste is a basketcase with a revolving door board of directors. A direct result of poor corporate oversight. Your political interference in its business planning, meanwhile, has undermined any efforts to reduce costs. 

Elsewhere, your council is still complicit in developing SNCIs despite declaring an ‘Ecological Emergency’ and creating plenty of photo-ops of Labour politicians standing in fields saying how important green spaces are. 

There’s still no real plan for achieving net zero despite declaring a ‘Climate Emergency’. 

Then there’s the poorly implemented CAZ, almost as if it was designed to fail and disrupt. 

You are creating only one Liveable Neighbourhood and this is being poorly implemented and poorly consulted on with middle class neighbourhoods getting disproportionate input while poorer neighbourhoods are ignored.

Local CiL projects, especially transport and parks, are not being delivered partly because staff are being taken away to work on “headline grabbing” strategic projects.

The budget gap is currently larger than the Bundred one under Ferguson and there’s still no realistic plan to address it beyond service reduction and selling off council property. 

SEND?!?!! Say no more. Your “Deputy” Mayor hasn’t a clue what she is doing just like the chain of useless Labour education leads before her. Our kids and, increasingly, their parents are paying the price of this serial incompetence. 

The Dedicated Schools Grant is effectively in special measures and your administration is just crossing it’s fingers and hoping the government doesn’t pull the plug on this ever growing debt.

Basically Marvin, you have left behind a stinking pile of crap and then have the nerve to lecture the councillors who will have to clear up your shit about how the city should be run!!! 

Get da fuck!

IT’S A MUGA’S GAME

Filwood Broadway  Swimmming Pool Site
Filwood swimming pool site, ideally located for a MUGA but flogged for housing

The existing MUGA (Multiuse Games Area), next to the demolished Olympic sized swimming pool in Filwood Broadway, is to be relocated to a ‘wildlife area’ next to a floodlit pitch on Filwood’s BBS Football Park.

When asked. “Why not install, new MUGA, into Filwood Park”? Told, that it is impossible! Why? Because BCC, has sold the land to a developer who has built houses on half of Filwood Park (Filwood’s ONLY public Park)!

As the land no longer belongs to BCC (public land, mind you! Sold!), BCC can’t build it there so it is putting it further away from its original location with the possibility that people who use it won’t want to go that far away to use it!

WHO’S RIGHT? THE CABLE, DAVOS AND LOW TRAFFIC NEIGHBOURHOODS

Malcolm X  Media

Self-styled, community newspaper, The Bristol Cable continues to throw bizarre conspiracy theory smears at working class opposition to the Low Traffic Neighbourhood in East Bristol. A meeting opposing the LTN in early July found Cable journalists seizing on a comment by a speaker from London who said, “we need to think about the needs of local people rather than “what they say at Davos.””

This comment “blurred into conspiracy theories” explained investigative experts at the Cable without bothering to explain why. Although we do know that ‘conspiracy theories’ soon blur into ‘right wing’ in the centrist lexicon of smears (with ‘anti-semite’ not far behind).  

However, a brief look at the website of the World Economic Forum, a powerful, inarguably, right wing economic lobby group of unbelievable wealth who meet annually at the exclusive Swiss resort of Davos to lobby governments in the interests of US billionaire oligarchs, global corporations and the international banking and finance class, reveals they are openly promoting a series of ‘net zero’ policies. Including, er, Low Traffic Neighbourhoods and ’15 Minute Cities’! Why is mentioning this a conspiracy theory?

Informed progressive commentary on the subject suggests that the Davos billionaire club is running a self-serving ‘net zero’ PR campaign aimed at protecting their own wealth and interests rather than the climate. Most of their proposals will have a marginal effect on climate and will not challenge the existing global economic order that’s driving it. But the charade might make the billionaires look like they’re doing something as they shovel more cash from another scam into their bank accounts. What’s wrong with calling this shit out?

It was pointed out on Twitter to Cable journalists that they were doing billionaires a favour by smearing people who draw attention to them. Along with the observation that one of the Cable‘s funders, Bill Gates, through his philanthropic foundation, was an ‘Agenda Contributor’ to the WEF, so maybe the Cable‘s views on Davos and the WEF are a little untrustworthy?

All sniffily rejected as more conspiracy nonsense by Cable contributors whose expensive educations seemingly didn’t stretch to the simple study of ‘what is a conflict of interest?’

The haughty snobs at the Cable want us to believe that Somalian taxi drivers and some bloke who runs a bar in London campaigning against traffic calming in East Bristol are an imminent right wing threat to your future and wellbeing. By contrast, the US billionaire oligarch class organising the world economy for their own benefit and trashing the planet are cuddly teddy bears in need of protection from dangerous ‘conspiracy theorists’.

Go figure.