Tag Archives: Bristol Energy

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

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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?

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“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

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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

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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

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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?

COSTLY CARBON NEUTRAL FUTURE JOY

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Our old friend Old Sparky from Private Eye’s ‘Keeping The Lights On’ column cast his eye over municipal ENERGY RESELLING COMPANIES again in January. He explained that Notttingham City Council’s Robin Hood Energy would require its THIRD bailout in a year very soon.

He then observed, “the municipal energy supply model is FINANCIALLY UNVIABLE“. A message virtually everybody now gets except the Reverend Rees and his gormless sidekick, responsible for council finance, Craig “Crapita” Cheney.

Early in January, on the day Bristol City Council-owned Bristol Energy announced a further LOSS of £11.2million for 2018, Cheney cheerily announced that the company was at a “at a turning point where it can now begin to play a greater role in the city’s journey towards a CARBON NEUTRAL FUTURE.”

What a load of bollocks. How can running up a DEBT, now standing at over £30million – that will never be repaid – help our future? Carbon neutral buzzwords or not?

The Reverend and Cheney need to shut their energy business fiasco down today and apologise to the people of Bristol for wasting their money.

RUNNING OUT OF ENERGY

This story was published in our paper version earlier this month. Bristol Energy MD, Peter “High Pay” Haigh, has subsequently left the organisation as we reported yesterday. The reasons for his departure, like everything else about this shit show of a company, are shrouded in mystery.

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So it’s farewell, then, to NICK JORDAN, chairman of Bristol Energy, who’s quietly sloped off somewhere or other to do something else instead and left behind a cool £30million tab for council taxpayers to pick up.

Nick has RUSHED FOR THE EXIT just behind Bristol Energy’s finance director, Laura Flowerdew and he’s replaced by Alex Wiseman, one of the few remaining directors at Bristol Energy and the owner of consultants Alex Wiseman Associates.

Meanwhile, staff at Bristol Energy tell us that the Operations Director, Dave Ford, and the Sales Director Phil Biddle were made REDUNDANT last month and they’ve not been replaced. This comes after three heads of department at the company were made redundant over the summer while others have simply DEPARTED without explanation. None have been replaced.

Bristol Energy staff tell us there is very little funding left and that they are being managed by consultants and very inexperienced managers as the whole operation winds down, apparently heading for BANKRUPTCY.

The only question seems to be when will the business go to the wall? Before the mayoral election in 2020 saving council taxpayers further DEBT. Or after the election? To improve the Reverend’s chances of re-election?

And cost the council taxpayer further millions ….