Tag Archives: Bristol Energy

LETTER TO ALL COUNCILLORS FROM UNISON

From: Bristol Unison
Sent: 14 February 2022 07:58
To: All councillors
Cc: Bristol Unison; Branch Secretary; Branch Secretary, Unite
Subject: full council and collective disputes

Good Morning Councillor

I am emailing you regarding the budget proposals for Full Council on February 15th.

I am unsure if we are allowed to speak, but even if we are if will only a minute.  Hardly sufficient.

I have to inform you that we have raised two collective disputes.  One regarding museums, is by UNISON, the other one is unsurprisingly regarding the cut to trade union facility time.  With the latter, we are joined by UNITE.

The collective dispute regarding museums relates to the paperwork that was submitted to Cabinet and scrutiny prior to the full council.  The equalities impact assessment ( EQIA) was wrong and out of date.  Full details of this, is within out statements.  Furthermore, on meeting with Senior officers they confirmed this and apologised.

The EQIA should not be a paper exercise, but a robust evaluation.  I would suggest that this is especially important within culture and particularly in relation to museums and archives.  This remains the last free event that a low waged family can undertake on a rainy day.  With the cost of living increases and the low wage economy this is essential to many of your citizens.

The cuts in the papers suggested only £85k, when the true figure of nearer £420k has now arisen.  This will decimate the staff group. 

There are other issues, but with the speed of the consultative process prior to budget setting and inaccuracies within the paperwork, we are unable to engage properly.  We are asking for this report to be withdrawn, so it can be written properly and we can engage with our ideas on raising revenue to offset damage  to this service.  Furthermore, has Cabinet been misled?

Our other collective dispute with UNITE, involves the intention to cut trade union facility time.  We expect that the intention is to hamper us being able to represent member’s views in situations like this, and allow budgets and similar to pass through unmolested by democracy. 

I have spent days trying to get to the bottom of this, unsuccessfully.  I was first directed to the office of Kevin Slocombe, after a few days.  He engaged for a bit, and then handed me and our collective queries to John Walsh.  I have only received platitudes, not concrete assurances that this cut will not decimate trade union’s ability to function.  I have been told that this not a cut, but a realignment of funds.  If that is the case, then why is it in the budget proposals dealing specifically with cuts? 

We ask you to vote against this and withdraw it for proper consultation.  If it is not a cut, then it can be dealt with at the HR committee.  We will be discussing these collective disputes at this afternoon’s CJCC, with a view to them being heard at the next HR committee.

We have also been informed from other sources that Councillors have been told to vote this budget through, or fall foul of the Code of Conduct.  There is a letter circulating on social media, showing this. We believe that this undermines democracy in our city further.  We would support any councillor who votes with their conscience on the 15th.  The press would be interested in such a threat, as would the citizens of Bristol.  Who voted you in, to represent their wards and constituencies.

Lastly, I need to make a point about waste of finances.  We are told about Central Government reducing funding and putting us in such a position, that we need to cut services and outsource.  However, it is our opinion that BCC has not been entirely prudent with the budget.  For example the recent giving away of land at Temple Island to L and G, with a further £34m in improvement works.  To our knowledge, there was not a procurement process or open market tendering.  We are unclear what benefits there are for BCC or Bristol citizens.  City Leap has cost £7.4m, with a further £3m in reserves.  Bristol Energy lost £43m.  Colston Hall has now cost the council tax payer £54.4m.  I could go on, with salary increases for senior officers being one example.  We are in the process of collating evidence of this type of possible financial mismanagement.  If you are interested, then please get back to me and I can provide the list.

We firmly believe that our City should not be subjected to cut after cut and revenue should be more carefully managed, and utilised to deliver services.

Thank you for taking time to read this email and we hope you join us in defending our city.  It deserves much better.

Best wishes

Area Organiser, Unison Office, The Create Centre

DOCKS: WHERE’S OUR MONEY?

News that Bristol City Council is forking out £100k on a review of their Harbour Service run by our old Harbour Master friend, Cap’n Tony “Ahab” Nicholls, is raising a few eyebrows. This is the fourth review of the Cap’n’s bent and useless service since 2014!

This latest review will be undertaken by Fisher Advisory “an international consultancy with extensive experience providing specialist management consultancy in the maritime, multimodal and aviation sectors” at a cost to the council taxpayer of over £100k.

This follows an alleged review of the service by former Property boss Robert “Spunkface” Orrett in 2014. The secretive results of which are lost in the mists of time. A further review was undertaken by Bristol Energy architect Bill “Dick” Edrich in 2018. Again, no results have ever been seen, while Edrich sloped off to the private sector when his expensive Bristol Energy farce started falling apart.

Idiot former Director of Commercialisation Penny “Hell” Fell launched a review in September 2019 promising to deliver a report in July 2021 that would “turn the loss-making waterway into a lucrative attraction”! This review, too, never appeared after Fell scarpered in 2020 after writing a highly misleading pre-election Cabinet report for the Reverend on the financial state of Bristol Energy in January 2020. 

This latest docks review comes after news early last year that Ahab is unable to account for £100k of public money described as “fees not charged” in an Internal Audit report published in January 2021. This report also highlights “closed practices and poor management arrangements”, which sounds like polite euphemisms for corruption to us.

Will this latest report have the balls to actually publish what’s been blatantly obvious for years? That Ahab is a dishonest and underqualified bullying incompetent who needs to go.

WET AND WEAK MONITORING OFFICER DROPS HIS TROUSERS AND BENDS OVER FOR THE MAYOR AGAIN

O'Gara

“L’il” Tim O’Gara, the city council’s weak and woolly Monitoring Officer, is at it again.

Richly rewarded to be a tough and independent voice at the council, keeping the Mayor, councillors and staff in line and acting according to the council’s constitution and policies, “L’il” Tim has consistently failed at this. Instead he has carved out a reputation for doing whatever the mayor tells him, regardless of propriety or the law.

Among his many handiworks has been turning a blind eye to the Reverend’s lack of any apparent open sale or procurement process as our valuable land at Arena Island is handed over to pension fund L&G. They will develop the land at a considerable profit to themselves while lumbering us with a 40 year rental charge for an already obsolete office block they intend to build.

O’Gara was also behind hiding vital Bristol Energy documents, such as dodgy business plans and realistic accounts, from the councillors and the public. A dumb practice only helpful to the Reverend, keen to hide his fundamental incompetence, now condemned by the council’s auditors. “L’il” Tim’s work almost certainly helped the shambolic energy reseller run up a £43m debt for council taxpayers.

Now we learn “L’il” Tim has turned his attention to next week’s motion before the Full Council to have a referendum on whether we should continue to have a mayor. And “L’il” Tim has helpfully allowed the Reverend to table an amendment to the Lib Dem’s motion stating that the alternative to the Mayor should be a leader and Cabinet system not the committee system requested by the Lib Dems.

This is odd because last year, when the Lib Dems put in a similar motion, proposing a leader and cabinet system, the Greens tabled an amendment to change it to a committee system. Only for O’Gara to pop up and dismiss the Greens stating it was a “wrecking amendment”. 
So what’s changed now? Apart from it’s the Reverend (who O’Gara’s shit scared of) tabling this latest and similar amendment?

Why is some weak and useless tosspot of a Monitoring Officer allowed to be entirely partisan and fuck about with our city’s democracy like this? With his limited legal skills, mental weakness and poor character, might “L’il” Tim be better suited to provincial house conveyancing practice rather than to the political cut and thrust of a core city local authority where the bullies and thugs tend to congregate at the top?

“L’il!” Tim is a wimp and a coward and he now really needs to fuck off before he does any more damage to our city.

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?

WASTERS

Waste wages 1

Will claims from councillors earlier this year that the real reason for the rush-job outsourcing of Bristol City Council cleaners and security staff to Bristol Waste was to address urgent cashflow issues at the stumbling council-owned company turn out to be accurate?

Last week came the bizarre announcement that Bristol Waste are suspending Green Waste collections for at least ten weeks. The reasons given for this decision were confusing to say the least. Oscilating between claims of a national shortage of skilled drivers and the alleged impact of Bristol Waste drivers self-isolating from Covid-19. We’re also fast learning that Bristol Waste is no longer able to guarantee collecting general waste and recycling on the day they are contracted to do so. 

Now we hear that bailiffs acting on behalf of SITA visited the offices of Bristol Waste earlier this week to demand overdue payments for the clearance of waste from larger blocks of flats in Bristol. What on earth is going on?

Adding to this sense of a company and management spiralling out of control comes news that the struggling firm’s Finance Director Adam “Because I’m Worth It” Henshaw received a 50 per cent pay rise last year. Tidily uplifting Worth It’s pay packet from £73k in 2020 to £110k this year. 

What was this enormous pay rise for and who authorised it? Is this a reward for failure? Or do Bristol Waste view their increasing inability to collect waste and pay their bills as a sign of management success?

Bristol Waste mainman, Managing Director, Tony ‘I Am The’ Lawless, had to rub along on a pay rise of just five per cent this year, which saw his pay packet exceed £125k for the first time. A rise rather more generous than he allowed his long-suffering staff. 

Operations Director Jason “Fatty” Eldridge, meanwhile, trousered a cool seven per cent rise. Crashing his salary through that all-important six-figure barrier to £104k a year.

Bristol Energy-watchers may recall executive salaries there rose the more the company failed. Culminating in Managing Director Mark ‘Magic’ Majewicz pocketing an obscene compensation package of £306k while the company racked up huge losses in 2019 – 20.

Is history repeating?

ONE SMALL LEAP FOR BRISTOL: ONE GIANT PAYDAY FOR THE PRIVATE SECTOR?

Leap 82429

“We should never have been in the energy business,” is the Reverend Rees’s mantra regarding Bristol Energy. The deranged energy reselling wheeze delivered courtesy of a pair of hapless elected mayors and a supporting cast of idiot senior council bosses and greedy private sector troughers that has cost the city an estimated £50 MILLION during a long period of austerity and public service cuts.

But why, if we should never have been in the energy business, is the Reverend now setting up ‘CITY LEAP‘, a “billion pound” public-private vehicle to decarbonise the city? Or is “the delivery of a local interconnected, low carbon, smart energy system in Bristol that provides long-term social, environmental and economic benefits for its residents, communities and businesses” not “the energy business”? If not, what is it?

This latest Bristol City Council energy project, which, like the last one, is promising social, environmental and economic benefits to the city is also, like the last one, shrouded in mystery. Albeit an even more EXPENSIVE mystery with the best part of £10million already shifted to the private sector to pay for legal and procurement consultants who have finally delivered a shortlist of three multinational corporate ‘partners’ for the project.

But what is this project? So far, we understand, the council will be handing over their limited number of ENERGY ASSETS – mainly some half-finished city centre heat networks and wind turbines to a multinational company to “implement competitive heat retail and competitive heat generation across the heat network”.

In English that means the multinational will be making A PROFIT from public assets by charging the competitive rate they choose to supply energy from our public infrastructure. However, this is nowhere near a “billion pound” project, which makes some recent announcements from the council’s housing department rather interesting. 

They say, “Housing recently assisted the City Leap team with updating and revising documentation for the City Leap project, which included the INFORMATION ON OUR STOCK and the potential OPPORTUNITY for improvements to net zero. Housing will continue its liaison with the City Leap team and notes the significant benefits that having a pre-procured partner for project delivery and, potentially, investment could have on the rapid roll out of carbon reduction programmes.”

In other words Bristol City Council Housing Service intend to sign A CONTRACT IN ADVANCE with a multinational to retrofit all their council homes. Then should any large government grants for retrofitting council homes roll in to the council – such as through a ‘GREEN NEW DEAL‘ – they’ll roll straight out again and offshore to a corporation who can charge whatever they want and do whatever they want.

They’ll be no competitive tendering; no local opportunities; no local profit and little democratic control over any housing improvements or the public funds for them. This could, potentially, amount to tens, if not hundreds, of MILLIONS in grants.

Of further concern is another missive from the council’s housing department, “it is anticipated that the retrofit of domestic properties will be included in the program of works delivered by the City Leap Energy Partnership. The REQUIREMENT to retrofit domestic properties is essential to the decarbonisation of heat and to achieving carbon neutrality.”

Is this a reference to privately owned homes? And what is this “REQUIREMENT to retrofit domestic properties”? A project that might well cost that magic “billion pounds”. But how will home owners be “required” to retrofit their homes? Will this have to happen through the council’s multinational partner? Do homeowners pay or do the government pay? Can homeowners be FORCED in to debt to meet this new “requirement”?

Will households in the city end up INDENTURED to some faceless multinational corporation so that the council can live the green dream while delivering an extravagant pay day to a lucky corporate? Is the plan, this time, that the council’s foray into the energy business dumps the inevitable huge losses directly on to us?

We think we should be told,

ENERGY SHAMBLES

bristol-energy

As the Reverend launches his long, tedious re-election campaign with the comedy slogan “GETTING STUFF DONE”, devised by his tin-eared PR guru “Slo” Kev Slocombe, let’s take a look at what stuff the Rev’s got done with his energy reselling business Bristol Energy shall we?

The headline stuff is that he’s lost a load more of our money with the company announcing a  £10 MILLION OPERATING LOSS in the year to March 2019. Virtually identical to the £10 million loss he notched up last year! This brings total losses, so far, at Bristol Energy to about £34MILLION.

Our man in the energy business says it’s worth comparing the Reverend’s mess at Bristol Energy with Robin Hood Energy, the energy company wholly owned by Nottingham City Council. “Bristol Energy has 165,000 CUSTOMERS, a TURNOVER £76.2 MILLION and a GROSS MARGIN OF 7.3 PER CENT,” he says. “Meanwhile Robin Hood has 167,000 CUSTOMERS, a TURNOVER OF £70.3 MILLION and a GROSS MARGIN OF 7.2 PER CENT. So they’re broadly comparable.”

“But Robin Hood made an OPERATING PROFIT on these figures of £742,000. On the same turnover and customers, Bristol Energy made a thumping OPERATING LOSS of £10.1 million. Will the Reverend be asking hard questions as to why this is?”

“Does it have something to do with the 200 STAFF Bristol Energy employ for an identical customer base to Robin Hood who manage with just 99 STAFF? Or Bristol Energy’s wage bill of £7.23 MILLION while Robin Hood’s is just £3.31 MILLLION? Or the highest paid director at Bristol Energy pocketing £242,000 while Robin Hood’s scrapes by on £99,000?”

“Anyone who thinks that Bristol Energy can become profitable by 2021 only needs to study the 2019 accounts. Even if they doubled customers to 330k (highly unlikely) and made only modest increases in staffing/admin costs to support this customer growth they would STILL be loss making,”

These are the inconvenient facts. The Reverend may be able to spin his pet project as a success to a cabinet of clueless arselickers but the public requires a proper explanation for this LOSS-MAKING SHAMBLES overseen by a bunch of unaccountable MONEY GRUBBING SCROUNGERS.

I doubt we’ll get it





NO ENERGY FOR WORKERS

pcs

Bristol’s Labour council continues to impress with its militant support for the workers. A PCS Union organiser was recently THROWN OFF the council’s 100 Temple Street site by security while trying to speak with Department of Work and Pensions staff based there.

Security told the organiser that SENIOR COUNCIL BOSSES wanted him gone after they got a complaint from bosses at BRISTOL ENERGY, the caring sharing energy company costing us millions.

Seems these community-minded energy folk are actually A BUNCH OF FASCISTS who don’t like trade union organising.

Fancy that.

BUSINESS NOT BOOMING

bristol-energy

It’s trebles all round for the variety of FAILING BUSINESSES run by our council. At last month’s Cabinet meeting, politicians not only agreed a further £6MILLION HANDOUT for Bristol Energy, which has now had £37.7million of our money, but decided that Bristol Holding, the parent company for Bristol Energy, Bristol Waste and their low key data gathering firm, Bristol is Open, now needs AN EXECUTIVE CHAIRMAN on a cool £150k a year.

This expensive appointment is the prelude to the council’s City LEAP energy venture where public assets and infrastructure such as wind turbines, solar panels and local heat networks will be handed over to Bristol Holding, basically A PRIVATE FIRM outside any useful public oversight. The holding company will then be able to use these assets as sweeteners to attract private sector investment. A plan that has all the characteristics of yet ANOTHER COUNCIL GIVEAWAY TO THE PRIVATE sector.

The Reverend’s finance chief, Craig “Dick” Cheney, also used City LEAP as the excuse for keeping his LOSS MAKING SHAMBLES of an energy firm afloat for reasons he didn’t make very clear. Will we end up funding this LOSS-MAKING VANITY FIRM indefinitely while the private sector gives it a wide berth and cherry picks other valuable public assets for PROFIT? It was also quietly announced at the same meeting that Bristol University was pulling out of the underperforming joint venture data gathering firm Bristol is Open. Although it’s not yet clear whether the university JUMPED or were PUSHED.

How long before our council is handing any ‘smart city data’ they’ve gathered about us over to the private sector hawks that are circling?