“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?
Unlike our own pathetic version of a ‘socialist’ Mayor here in Bristol, Juan Manuel Sánchez Gordillo of the tiny town of Marinaleda (population of less than 3000) in Andalusia, Spain, gets up every morning to take control of yet another piece of privately-owned but idle property with his fellow townsfolk, or redistributes produce to those in need by immediate requisition from city supermarket chains. And he also succeeds, simply by using the principle of “from each according to their means, to each according to their needs”, relentlessly using militant direct action and leading by example from the front.
In a poverty-stricken region of Spain with 35% unemployment – the people of Marinaleda have only 5% due to local initiatives. The once idle, privately owned land is now owned communally (seized originally through land occupation) and farmed collectively. They also now have their own democratically-run primary and secondary schools for the kids, their own community radio station, and best of all, the hated local police force are not allowed into town.
Now compare and contrast with the wealthy metropolitan city of Bristol where you can’t get a council house for love nor money: but in Marinaleda you get a full grant to build your own high quality council house to any specs you like, getting expert help and the building materials for free, and then afterwards you pay onlythe equivalent of £13.50 a month! ___________________________________________________________________
IN FEBRUARY of this year, two activists from Bristol (Y and Z) travelled to Marinaleda on spec, hoping to interview this inspiring character. “We were starting to despair of the mayor having any time for us,” said Activist Y, “as he was so busy with his work for the community”. However, the day before their arrival they finally managed to contact him on the phone, where according to Activist Z, “he said only two words: ‘Diga me’ (tell me), and once he’d heard what we were about, he boomed out just one extra word: ‘Venga!’ (come!)”.
Below is the transcript of their interview with a very different sort of Mayor:
Activist Y – How did the Marinaleda socialist project start?
Mayor Gordillo – It started with a struggle against unemployment. Fighting land ownership was the best way forward for solving unemployment, because in rural Andalusia just 2% own 50% of the cultivatable land and we realised that we were not going to get anything through charity. We had to seize the initiative by taking direct control of the land and the means of production. So we fought continuously for 12 years and did many things from hunger strike to occupation to get the land back. King Juan Carlos and those other rich scum haven’t forgiven us, because for the first time in the history of Andalusia we managed to get back our land and to keep it. So there we were, the forgotten poor, facing off against the government, the judges, the police and the landowners, and we got our land back.
Activist Y – What approach was in your opinion the most successful?
Mayor Gordillo – The success came from fighting; each struggle never stopped until we got a victory no matter how small it was. That made people motivated enough to struggle on for the following success and then the one after that. It helped people to forget what they hadn’t been able to get, and to remember what they had gained.
Activist Y – What problems have the community encountered, and how have they resolved them?
Mayor Gordillo – The problem is that when people start getting land and the government or the landowner concedes a few crumbs from the table, they start feeling like masters – without actually being masters. Peasants who didn’t have anything before now have some rights, but it can breed complacency. Another problem is the concept of work. If one person has a wage and another hasn’t one at all, this creates division. The other problem is maintaining people’s unity amidst a constant barrage of consumer culture. We have been gaining ground slowly, recently discussing with people for example how we can possibly pay the [central government] taxes, or whether we could even stop paying them at all, so this is how the battle continues. But the capitalist system is always a thief, and is exploiting us more than ever before.
Activist Y – Have the ideas of Marinaleda had any influence across the region, or even into any other parts of Spain?
Mayor Gordillo – In some places yes, but I wish we had more influence across Spain and in the world, and that people paid proper attention to what we say instead of seeing us as a freak show. It’s terrible how the public is deceived – they don’t seem to realise that by buying things, they get bought. But people like us who don’t buy this con and who’d rather spend our lives fighting don’t have to follow that life. Through struggle, you learn not to be afraid of anything.
Activist Y – How do you plan out the allocation of land and housing in Marinaleda?
Mayor Gordillo – Those who don’t have a home receive the materials to build them. 350 houses have been built in this way in the town centre. They are each 90 metres square, and each has a further 100 square metres of courtyard. A typical council house here has three bedrooms. Except that they cannot sell it, the house is effectively owned by its residential household, who pay 15 euros a month into the community housing fund.
Activist Z – In my city we have many homeless people, so if someone became homeless here, how would you support that person?
Mayor Gordillo – There should not be anyone without housing or food, but if somebody ever needs it, they’ll get it. We can provide all of our people with economic assistance – I don’t think there’s anyone homeless in Marinaleda.
Activist Y – How does wages and money work here?
Mayor Gordillo – Same as everywhere in the world. The ideal was to have our own currency and our own bank, but money works the same as in any other country. What we earn here is more than the standard [over double the Spanish minimal wage], and way over what people generally earn for labouring in the countryside of Andalusia. There are no poor people, but there are no very rich people either. In terms of indirect taxes for sustaining what we have, everyone pays the same. There are no direct taxes that are charged on wealth, as everyone in the village is more or less on the same level economically.
Activist Y – Do you have a TV station for the town?
Mayor Gordillo – We had one, but we had to close it in the end. TV is only good in that it gives you a voice, and that’s very important because mainstream media is run by big capital. Most Spanish channels serve as the voice of the rich. There is no public TV in Spain. We do still have a radio station.
Activist Y – In Bristol, our mayor pretends to be a socialist but he is really just another self-serving careerist and blind follower of the market ideology. For a ‘wealthy’ city, there are many homeless people and much poverty, while the council hires inefficient private companies and high-fee charging consultants to make things worse. The council runs along happily under the model of ‘austerity’.
Mayor Gordillo – There are far too many people who call themselves socialists, but in reality they are capitalists. These things do not sit well together, or at all. Energy, water and housing should be expropriated and turned into public assets. Small businesses can be kept private, but large businesses and the means of production must always be made public, run directly by the workers. TV and radio too. Austerity is driven by the endless search for low production costs. The cheapest labour costs for capitalism currently come from Africa and Asia. Take Amancio Ortega – the richest man in Spain – his textile companies are in Bangladesh and India. There he pays a euro and a half for 10 hours labour without paying any taxes, then he sells on at a huge profit in the US and Europe. Austerity is just a tool to drive the working class everywhere down to the same level of total exploitation and misery. Ortega is a multi-millionaire. If a person gets very rich, then he is a thief. He does not get rich through his own work, but by stealing. Under capitalism the workers always fail, while the idle rich always succeed.
Activist Z – What solutions do you think we could achieve in Bristol? Is there a message we can take back to our own council, or even better to the people they are supposed to represent?
Mayor Gordillo – You won’t get socialism by accepting how things are. You can only achieve what they always tell you is impossible through direct action – by struggling for it, just as we are doing here. Every single city, town or village in the world has the land and resources that can sustain it. Get out there and take back control!
This transcript was translated from the original Spanish recording by two Bristolians: Activist Z (see above), and Activist X, a native speaker.
Victory for Labour in all four Bristol
wards at the general election – alongside bad defeats in South Gloucester
target wards Filton and Bradley Stoke and Kingswood – just about managed to
PAPER OVER THE CRACKS emerging along CLASS LINES in Bristol. A closer look at
Labour’s victorious results reveals A DIVIDE emerging between WEALTHY INNER
CITY WARDS now occupied and gentrified by the middle classes and the city’s
neglected WORKING CLASS SUBURBS.
Could Labour’s historic coalition
between organised labour and the progressive middle classes be falling apart in
Bristol? For example, in South Bristol, Labour romped home in Southville,
Windmill Hill and Bedminster grabbing TWO THIRDS OF THE VOTE. However,
in the working class wards of Filwood, Hartcliffe and Withywood and Hengrove
and Whitchurch Park Labour reputedly TRAILED IN BEHIND THE TORIES.
This pattern was somewhat repeated in
Bristol North West where Darren “Dipshit” Jones LOST BADLY in
working class Avonmouth and Lawrence Weston while he RACKED UP VOTES in
middle class Westbury-on-Trym, Stoke Bishop and Henleaze. However Dipshit can
point to some glimmers of light in that ultra-Corbynite stronghold Lockleaze
remained unfaithful to him as did key working class estate Southmead.
Another story altogether unfolded in
Bristol West, however, where working class communities with a larger mix of immigrant
and black voters in wards such as Easton, Eastville, Hilllfields and Lawrence
Hill, stayed with Labour to deliver Thangam Debbonaire a THUMPING MAJORITY
– the largest of any Bristol MP – to continue her vendetta against the
left wing of her party.
What all this means for the future and
for Bristol is open to interpretation. Especially as many people who voted
Labour at the general election are telling us that they only LENT THEM A
VOTE to keep the Tories out and they’ll VOTE DIFFERENTLY at next
year’s local elections.
All to play for in the mayoral
elections in 2020, then. (306)
Bristol’s Labour MPs have reportedly
been overjoyed at their Party’s defeat in December’s General Election.
“I have been euphoric,” said
Bristol North West MP Darren ‘Dipshit’ Jones, “Corbyn and his fantasy of a
fairer, more equal society is over. And I kept my job! It was my best Christmas
for years,” added the Tony Blair fanboy.
Smiling from ear to ear, Bristol East
MP Kerry McCarthy agreed … “It was a very Merry Christmas. Labour’s annihilation
was wonderful. We have been desperate to get rid of Corbyn for years.
Unfortunately, despite the best efforts of ourselves, the media and the entire
Establishment he was still hugely popular with the members and the general
public. We couldn’t budge him and we were desperate.
“Then, last year, (Deputy Leader)
Tom Watson explained to me that Aleister Campbell and Peter Mandelson had a
brilliant plan. We were to force Corbyn to back a second EU referendum against
his wishes. This would then guarantee that we lost millions of working class
voters and would be obliterated at the next General Election. We could then
blame it on Corbyn!
“It was a brilliant plan, pure
genius … And it worked like clockwork! The prospect for democratic change is
now well and truly over,” she laughed.
Elsewhere, in Kingswood, Tory MP Chris
Skidmore celebrated another victory … “I see this as a complete
mandate,” he said. “When I return to Parliament in the new year I am
going to give it my all. I will once again devote every ounce of my energy to
knocking seven shades of shit out of the poor, the sick and the disabled. As
for those idle British workers, those c#*ts are gonna get it with both
“I’m gonna kick the living f#cking crap out of them, I swear on my life.”
On September 12 the Reverend Rees launched the city’s Smart
City Strategy at the ‘Bristol – Sweden Future Cities Summit’. This five-year
strategy, “sets out how Bristol City Council will support Bristol’s smart
city journey” and, “aims to ensure smart city projects will provide
opportunities to more people and communities to assist in the city’s inclusive
growth and help towards solutions to issues such as public safety, traffic
congestion, energy poverty and health and social care”. But what is a
‘Smart City’ and what are ‘smart city projects’ and why do we need them?
When you see the word ‘smart’ prefixing an object it means one thing. Deploying
the internet – originally devised by the US military as a weapon – to collect
as much behavioural data about the ‘Smart’ device owner as possible so that the
data can be used to predict, suggest and, increasingly, control the user’s
actions. Often through ‘nudging’ victims into better corporate citizenship if
not outright threatening them with extra-judicial sanctions.
It began with the smart phone. A mini computer in your pocket beaming detailed
behavioural data about your life back to unaccountable tech firms and their
government and corporate partners. This is the ‘big data’ you hear about or
what Google call ‘data exhaust’ as if it’s a harmless waste product without
value. If you’ve got one of these phones, then you’re likely to be providing
real time information to unaccountable corporations about where you are and
what you are doing. And, rest assured, this information is being stored and
analysed by tech companies, the government, security services and various
corporate third parties.
The smart phone has been so successful at collecting your data and making tech
corporations money through the ruthless competitive dynamic unleashed by big
data that there’s a huge economic imperative to produce more ‘smart’ products
to collect more data about you and your family. Silicon Valley has given this
all out assault on your life and privacy a cuddly name, ‘The Internet of
Cars, homes, public services, exercise aids, finance, shopping, health products, utilities, white goods and much more are all in the firing line for a ‘Smart’ makeover. Google even owns the tech to know what’s in your smart fridge. (Imagine visiting your GP and being told you have been struck off because you had too many pies in your fridge contrary to your ‘Smart Health Agreement’?)
However, to collect this huge amount of behavioural data from the digital crap being foisted on us, you need a ‘Smart City’ infrastructure. A dense mesh of 5G transmitters and receivers throughout the city that can upload and manage the huge amounts of real time behavioural data the ‘Smart City’ prophets require for their big data society.
This is sold to you as “innovation” that will
create “jobs and sustainable growth” while delivering personal
benefits such as faster internet speeds to download a movie to your handheld
screen or the quicker uploading of holiday photos for gran.
Don’t be fooled. The internet is a weapon and the smart city aims it at you.
GOOD NEWS for the
Reverend Rees as he’s “overwhelmingly” reselected to stand for mayor in
2020 for Bristol’s Labour Party. Although it looks like the Reverend’s
well-remunerated sidekick Kevin “Slo” Slocombe may have worked
tirelessly BEHIND THE SCENES stitching-up the procedures for the
‘trigger ballot’ that decided the Reverend could not be challenged for
the Labour candidacy.
Labour’s ‘trigger ballot’ rules were CHANGED at their last conference so that ward branches (of members) and party affilliates (staffed by bureaucrats) are balloted SEPARATELY and if either section has ONE THIRD in favour of a selection process then one is run. Under the old rules, there was ONE BALLOT requiring a simple majority for branches and affiliates combined. This tended to favour affiliates, such as trade unions who CONSIDERABLY OUTNUMBER WARD BRANCHES.
For example, in Bristol, there are 25 ward branches and 92 affiliates,
which means membership votes were outnumbered almost three to one by the
However, trade union insider, Slo Kev’s LOBBYING of eager right wing bosses at Labour’s South West Region, who LOATHE the Corbynite rank and file of their party, persuaded them to bend the rules and allow the Reverend’s trigger ballot to be run UNDER THE DODGY OLD RULES. This meant even if every Labour ward branch in Bristol had voted for a reselection process, THERE WOULD NOT BE ONE if the affiliates decided they didn’t want one.
so it came to pass that the Reverend was reselected as Labour’s
candidate even though many wards hadn’t even had time to run a ballot
before they were STOPPED by Labour’s dodgy regional bosses
because of the impending Euro elections. Other wards complain their
selection meetings weren’t QUORATE (ie. there were not enough
members there). The Reverend’s own branch, Easton and Lawrence Hill tell
us their vote wasn’t quorate but an ‘indicative vote’ was 32 – 5 AGAINST their own member.
Over at the Hartcliffe, Withywood and Bishopsworth branch, the meeting was quorate but the ballot paper WASN’T WORDED CORRECTLY so couldn’t be counted. While in Eastville, the Reverend’s former election agent, Kelvin Blake FORGOT to invite any party officials to their ballot and declared a victory for Rees despite the meeting not being quorate! In fact, the only branch we can find that legitimately voted for Rees were the wealthy liberals of Redland keen on a reheated Blairite to maintain the status quo.
What a shambles. Is this a party fit to run a city?
By our Engineering Correspondent You may have heard the local Labour and Green parties, followed by our esteemed Mayor, making very public declarations about their plans to make Bristol Carbon Neutral in the coming decade. Very sensible given the recent UN statement that we only have twelve years to avoid climate catastrophe … And counting.
They’ve talked the talk, now they’ve got a chance to walk the walk. With Bristol’s very own ‘Tidal Lagoon’, a term actually used by the Green party. Although it’s usually called the ‘Floating Harbour’. In January the Mayor, Labour, and all Green Councillors were mailed, pointing out the unequalled opportunity to generate significant amounts of carbon neutral electricity at minimal cost, from Bristol’s water system.
You can think of the harbour as a tidal lagoon, in which case it’s got the highest tidal range, at its gates, in a city, in the world. Two massive surges every day. Or you can look at it as a simple reservoir and dam, fed by two rivers, both used historically for power generation.
Actually, it’s both. With a flood control outlet (at Tesco on the M32) that leads via a straight tunnel to Sea Mills. It’s difficult to imagine a better set-up for water-based power generation. Every weir, from the main inlet at the Netham on the Avon and Snuff Mills on the Frome, right down to the Underfall Yard and Sea Mills flood control outlets, are capable of making useful power.
Unlike the Swansea tidal lagoon scheme, the entire infrastructure already exists. All the dams, weirs and flood control features are in place. Some have been there for over a century. Literally all that’s needed is the installation of appropriate turbines, themselves stock production items already in use all over Europe.
First step is the not hugely expensive job of producing a map of the whole water system, including details of all the potential power generation points. This map can be taken to European water power specialists, currently being contacted, to get an accurate estimate of potential outputs and costs. If Bristol doesn’t have this data it will be compiled from Google Maps plus photos and video. Then it’s decision time. Given satisfactory figures and effective management (executive ‘action this day’) it would be feasible to have power coming out of the easiest installations this year.
Response so far? Zero. Nada. They’ll all be mailed again In March (eleven years and nine months…) It’s not totally surprising. BCC is an institution and the first instinct of all institutions is to ignore inputs from outside. But they don’t really have that option. This is an emergency. All solutions must be considered. Bristol City has to step up to the plate, if nothing else for their revolting children.
This is where we find out if our glorious leaders Can Do, or are just useless politicians.
Keeping his manifesto promises was always going to be challenging for the Reverend Rees, not least because we calculated at the time that it contained about 78 UNCOSTED PROMISES in all. However, what we couldn’t predict was how the Reverend would smash through any BARRIERS TO FAILURE quite so spectacularly.
Top of the list must come his promise to “COMPLETE THE ARENA“, which has now been downgraded to, “I will cancel the existing arena project I promised and instead support a global corporation’s efforts to build an arena in Filton named after an obscure dead bloke who owned our local privatised water utility scam”.
Meanwhile in terms of the Reverend’s highly contested housing promise – “WE WILL BUILD 2,000 NEW HOMES – 800 affordable – a year (by 2020)” – his housing guru, Paul “Wolfie” Smith continues to carefully calibrate the spin with the line that his PROJECTIONS are on target … Even if the actual number of houses being built isn’t!
Then there’s the recycling promise. The Reverend’s recently promoted former waste boss, The Former Socialist Known as Kye Dudd simply CHANGED THE TARGET and hoped no one would notice. We will “increase recycling, setting a target of 55% for all waste by 2020,” thundered the Reverend’s manifesto in 2016.
Fast forward to 2019 and we find The Former Socialist Known as Dudd’s waste overseer, Bristol Waste managing director Tony Lawless telling the Nazi Post, “We are delighted to see Bristol is on track to meet its ambitious RECYCLING RATE OF 50 PER CENT BY 2020.”
The comment came after the Reverend’s council managed to announce in January a measly ONE PER CENT increase in recycling rates since 2015 to 46%. Nothing like enough of an increase to reach 50 per cent, never mind 55 per cent, by 2020 as promised in their manifesto.
Have Rees and Dudd changed their promise in a vain attempt to claim they have courageously fallen a little short of a hugely ambitious target and hope we’ll not notice?
With the city’s housing crisis officially averted by a global fixed income and derivatives specialist and a religious nut who’s “no housing expert”, JEREMY CORBYN swung into town to grace us with his Jesus-like presence on October 11. The very day it was announced 100 per cent of kids in CLIFTON went to university while only 9 per cent of kids in HARTCLIFFE did.
So what burning issue of the day did the Jezza choose to raise regarding the AUSTERITY SHATTERED LIVES of long suffering Bristolians? Education inequality? SEND cuts? The failing NHS? The wage freeze since the turn of the Millenium? Rogue landlords? Brexit? The slow financial death of local authorities?
Er, no. Jeremy met a selected group of people from UJIMA RADIO and the CREATIVE YOUTH NETWORK to outline to them what books he thought he should be on the GCSE curriculum for English Lit.
“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a male MP in possession of the Labour Party leadership, must be in want of a brain”