Before the City Leap deal ascended to the Reverend and his cabinet of all the chumps for rubberstamping, a cross party scrutiny committee got to take look at some of it.
Comments by councillors at this meeting were not positive. Among the complaints: * That the committee’s comments and questions over a period of years have not received adequate answers; * Every scrutiny meeting listed in the final report was either delayed, deferred or cancelled and reorganised; * Money spent on advice and procurement has been around £10million dwarfing the concession payments of £2.3m we may receive over five years from City Leap; * Scrutiny members were denied access to the detailed agreement with private partner Ameresco. How do you scrutinise something you can’t see? Enormous complexity’s involved. If something goes wrong, trying to enforce a secret agreement is difficult; * What happens to the loss in Bristol Heat Networks? Up to 31 March 2022 there was a £1m loss according to documents at Companies House. No member has been briefed on the loss. Who’s paying? The council taxpayer? Private sector partners?
Councillors got no answers. Instead cabinet member, Kye “The” Dudd openly laughed in their faces.
“Billion pound” City Leap was finally signed off by the Reverend and his cabinet of donkeys in December. Turns out the 20 year public-private energy partnership is not worth a billion in private investment at all but £424m with a “hope” that it becomes worth over £600m in the five years.
It’s not £424m of private investment in Bristol either. Half of the so-called decarbonising projects branded ‘City Leap’ are public sector projects with public finance in place such as plans announced at the last budget to spend £84m from the Housing Revenue Account making council homes energy efficient to an unambitious Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) ‘C’ rating.
The only new money coming from the private sector is potential investment in the city’s heat network system. And this money only arrives after council bosses handed our publicly-owned network to Swedish government-owned multinational Vattenfall at a knockdown price kept top secret for “commercial reasons”.
Although it’s an open secret that our heat networks were shifted to Vattenfall “at cost” rather than “current value”. Meaning we only charged them what it cost us to install the network rather than what it’s worth as a going business concern. A considerably smaller sum. Ask yourself if Jeff Bezos would sell Amazon at the price it cost him to build the warehouses and website?
Add this latest loss to the £10m we spent procuring the whole farrago and it looks like City Leap is really City Loss.
It’s been brought to our attention that the Reverend’s cabinet member for Housing Delivery, Tom “Plasticine Man” Renhard doesn’t like to hear mention of daddy, Ian Renhard.
Turns out Plasticine Man, who famously condemned Western Slopes campaigners from Knowle West as “posh NIMBYS“, is no stranger to a luxury middle class lifestyle himself. As daddy was managing director of multinational building firm, Interserve Construction ltd.
Plasticine Man, we’re told, is especially sensitive about this as it appears that daddy funded his son’s education – including a pricey stint in the US – by constructing, among other things, prisons! Some might say ‘how apt’. Renhard senior even lists a number of his former directorships of private prison companies at Companies House.
However, rest assured, this is not something you’ll be reading about in the city’s snooty snorefest community rag, The Bristol Cable, as Plasticine Man’s partner happens to be a director there!
How convenient for the city’s incompetent Labour administration.
Not much information emerging from the Rev Rees on the scale of cuts in public services he’s proposing over the next year*. Instead the inane egoist seems to be focussing his PR efforts on boasting about how many ‘hits’ his ridiculous Canadian TED Talk is getting on Youtube and his fantasy plan for an underground network in Bristol.
What we do know is that of the £11.7m of savings planned for delivery in 2021/22, only 46% were achieved.Leaving around £5.5m to be brought forward to this year. We also know around £29m of ‘efficiencies’ and ‘transformations’ were announced in this year’s budget. That’s a total of about £34.5m cuts to be made to public services this year then.
But what will be cut? Council documents, carefully hidden from view, have identified “six key areas for service reviews”. They are: property and capital; be more business-like and secure more external resource; improving efficiencies; digital transformation; reducing the need for direct services and, er, redesigning, reducing, or stopping services.
Property appears on these cuts lists every year and delivers nothing; the council being “more businesslike” is a hollow joke and that last time they tried digital transformation it delivered a £30m deficit senior bosses tried to hide from the mayor and public.
It’s therefore likely all the cuts will come from “improving efficiencies”, euphemism for staff cuts; reducing the need for direct services, which means trying to stop the public accessing services they’re entitled to (see SEND) and redesigning, reducing, or stopping services, which means scrapping services altogether.
So the Reverend’s plan is to fire staff, bully council taxpayers into not taking up services and cut anything else that’s not nailed down to save £34.5m
No wonder he wants you to look the other way at his stupid TED Talk.
*Since this article was published Bristol City Council has published a press release acknowledging they may need to make £31.1m next year. What they didn’t mention was an annex to a finance report to cabinet that suggested these cuts might be as much as £87.6m!
‘Hey hey we’re the ACORNS … We just rat-rattle around … We’re too busy careering … To put any rentiers down’
By Ex ACORN band member
After a string of minor hits since launching in 2014, skin and hair has been flying recently for tweenybopper band the ACORNS as they split messily with former frontman Tom ‘Plasticine Man’ Renhard.
The uncharismatic frontman had been moving in the well-worn ‘sellout’ direction ‘pursuing a solo career’ ever since he signed a contract with the Housing Delivery label at Rev. Rees’ Business Confidence for Christians Inc. (BCC), a wannabe global media empire last year.
Outside of the band’s credulous fan base, that involves total immersion in a ‘cult-like’ rapture where members all wear red shirts and scream band lyrics at gigs in unison, more sceptical observers have noted that the rupture between Plasticine Man and band leader/founder Nick ‘Action Man’ Ballard had been brewing for some time.
The British ACORNS arrived on the scene from Bristol as harmless no-hopers and immediately landed a series of minor hits. A partnership quickly developed between band leader Ballard and then-unknown aspiring frontman Renhard. The duo formed a close bond and together wrote their first hit full of 1960s innocence, ‘I’m A Believer’ to commemorate the occasion.
As the red-shirted ACORNS fan base grew, the pair followed this up with ‘IWW Funds Heist/Theme From The US ACORNS’ (featuring Wade Rathke) and ’Tomorrow’s Gonna Be Another Bad Ass Landlord Picket’.
The lyrical focus of these early pop-protest songs was on the rent difficulties of poor people. Yet by the time of their difficult second album, songs like ‘Last Bus To Eastville’ were not only an acknowledgement of a concentration of fans in East Bristol but also of the fact that the duo’s self-penned songs were expanding into other concerns. Such as the lack of reliable or affordable bus services, encouraging people ‘to go out and vote’, and erm, volunteering to collect rubbish.
The high point in this partnership, as their prophetic ‘Daydream Believer’ hit Number 1, was marked when Renhard was asked by the Rev. Rees of BCC Inc. to sing in City Hall to a rapt audience of more wealthy and respectable types than the ACORNS’ usual red-shirted riff-raff fan base.
Band members and fans had been assured by Ballard that the ACORNS would be playing regularly for the Reverend in person and would get career-launching gigs in spaces controlled by the Rev’s friends in ‘the business’ such as the Dipshit and Dudd Recordings and the Merchants (of Death) venture capital label.
However, it became increasingly apparent that the ACORNS were being actively excluded from the Reverend’s charmed circle and were failing to reach the nationwide acclaim they craved.
Not so Tom ‘Plasticine Man’ Renhard whose naked ambition to climb the greasy pole can be traced to his inexplicable membership of the Avon Pension Fund from 2015. A mainstream career move missed by ‘Action Man’ Ballard in the euphoria of the band’s 2014-19 smash hit run and the apparent Bono and The Edge-like success of their partnership.
The Rev. Rees appointing Renhard to the Homes Board as early as 2017 was also given the seal of approval by an indulgent Ballard leadership. The final straw for the ACORNS, however did not come until they were excluded this summer from the Renhard/BCC collaboration project ‘The Living (Dead) Rent Commission’ – an ongoing 3-4 month PsychoSilly festival of middle class hand-wringing at City Hall about ‘the regrettable suffering of proletarians’.
The ACORNS did not take this latest insult lying down or, more accurately, Nick Ballard, self-appointed band leader could not take anther slap in the face to his ego. He immediately denounced Renhard in the local press and as in many other press outlets as he and his minions could find willing to vent the ACORNS’ rage.
Their red-shirted fans even managed to shut down the first gig from Renhard/BCC’s ‘Loving Your Rent (Living Rent, surely? Ed) Commission’ earlier this month. Plasticine Man was then summarily expelled from the ACORNS. A course of action which he has objected to on the grounds of it being done ‘without due process’.
Feeling the pressure from a failed law suit in Sheffield against a ‘defamed’ landlord that had cost the band (or the fan base) £100K, Ballard further responded by penning the last to-date ACORNS hit song as a response to events. The bitter and angry ’Not Your Stepping Stone’.
The irony of this Punch and Judy shit-show is that Renhard could actually be correct about the lack of due process regarding his expulsion. Except that the ACORNS, oddly for a ‘unionised/community band led by the fans’, are still very vague about whether they even have a written constitution.
They are, in fact, registered at Companies House as not one, but two limited companies: ACORN the Union Ltd, and ACORN Community Organising Ltd. The latter run by Ballard and the former by fellow 1960s throwback crooner Louie ‘Louie’ Herbert.
Very much like a Trump, Putin or even a Marvin Rees show, whatever the Great Leader says goes and there is no comeback.
An overdue kick in the ass for the Reverend’s ineffective, unqualified and slimy ‘Chief Housing Warbler’ is not to be regretted for sure but as an example of internal democracy from an alleged ‘fan base-led’ community organisation/housing union? Hmm. .
Yesterday, a report was set to go to Bristol City Council’s cabinet to agree a large capital spend to tackle the city’s crisis in school places for SEND children. Imagine the surprise when the agenda item disappeared off the agenda at middayyesterday prior to the meeting at 4.00pm.
The council later claimed that the item was pulled due to the spiralling costs of building work. Had these costs spiralled in the five days since the report was first published online?
Another theory is that the item was hastily pulled to avoid the public making statements and asking questions about SEND that could have included queries to the Reverend Rees about his dodgy SEND spying scandal. Has an urgent item of SEND expenditure been pulled to save our thin-skinned mayor from embarrassment and, possibly, legal complications?
Here’s one statement from a parent that got pulled when this agenda item got pulled at remarkably short notice. Read it and make up your own mind about what’s going on:
The Decision Pathway Report says: ‘Whilst this report puts forward a positive story about the council investing capital funds to deliver much needed capacity within the SEND sector, it is often the case that the reaction to such proposals is mixed. This should not deter BCC from proactively sharing this news ahead of the Cabinet decision in August and we’d recommend taking a positive stance on talking about the amount being invested and the impact it will deliver. Preparations can be made to put reactive lines in place to respond to likely counter’s [sic] from external commentators and we’d recommend ensuring a comprehensive stakeholder comms plan is in place to cover individual projects and ensure those impacted are fully aware of the proposed investments.’
This section has been added by a PR officer on 14 June 2022. Send families form the majority of external commentators in this context. These are families who have had the most traumatic of experiences. If nothing else is obvious to Cabinet, the need for an additional 450 Send places shows how many children and young people have been suffering and for how long.
To tone police and minimise the response from ‘external commentators’ shows that disability discrimination truly is an acceptable form of discrimination by the council and administration. Its external comms department is party to victimising the families of those with protected characteristics for speaking out and advocating for their needs.
Appendix D [pictured below] says there will be ‘reputational risk’ if the council is unable to name education settings in EHCPs. This is because ‘sufficient provision is not yet in place’. It says the key consequences of this ‘could result in increased complaints to the council and/or a judicial review’. The Key Mitigations state:
‘Communications plan required. External Communications Team engaged. Workshop to develop comms strategy to be held’. It is dated 27 July 2021. In addition, there are two restricted items, a first for council Send papers.
The One Page Business Case paper says that the lack of specialist provision results in: ‘CYP educated out of area, CYP needs not met, BCC not meeting legal duty, More expensive placements being used, Judicial reviews, Negative reputation, Political pressure, EHCPs cannot be finalised.’ All papers show the extent of the specialist places crisis and the impact of this, such as the LA ‘not meeting legal duty’ and ‘EHCPs cannot be finalised’.
These are things that families have been speaking out about for years. And yet, for speaking out they are ‘critical commentators’ with External Comms running a workshop to deal with it. This workshop was to develop a strategy to protect the council’s reputation against families using the entirely legitimate legal action of Judicial Review, against an LA not meeting its statutory duty.
Leaked emails by The Bristolian last month revealed that council staff, including at director level were monitoring the social media of Send parents and compiling lists of individuals and organisations they considered to be ‘critical’. This included cross referencing personal accounts and delving through photographs and sharing the data with third parties. The External Comms team just keeps popping up like some kind of Council Black Ops whenever something happens the LA doesn’t like.
The papers named above potentially indicate the council is in breach of Article 10 of the Convention on Human Rights [Freedom of Expression]. It supports residents’ concerns about unlawful covert surveillance taking place – as far back as July 2021 – as well as possible Victimisation under the Equality Act 2010.
Public Forum statement to Bristol City Council Cabinet 02 08 2022 (unpublished)
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.
Rather than reinforcing the lost Labour majority in the council democratically by reaching agreement with the rising Greens, Bristol Mayor Marvin Rees has doubled down on his already well-developed autocratic tendencies.
Encouraged by the authoritarian nature of the office he holds and the support of “even-higher in the firmament” despot Dan Norris as West of England Regional Mayor, Reverend Rees has instead surrounded himself with a personally selected cabinet of sycophantic courtiers. All eager to pretend to the deluded but fragile-as-glass messianic emperor that he’s fully clothed.
Alas, to complete the “choir of angels” required around the celestial centre, the steady drip-feed of sufficiently pliable self-seekers and arse-lickers was wearing thin on the ground, even for the Bristol Labour Party.
So please step forward Tom “Plasticene Man” Renhard to fill the gap. The pliant New Labour councillor for Horfield – a former nobody known only for his ambition and compulsive brown-nosing of anyone in the party he saw as useful for advancing his political career.
Greasy pole-dancer Renhard started from humble beginnings as the mere obedient secretary to Cllr Brenda “Commissar” Massey’s chairing of Horfield Branch Labour Party. He then proceeded to ingratiate himself with Bristol North-West’s Blairite MP Darren “Dipshit” Jones, before – most recently – sniffing out the Reverend Rees himself by providing “indispensable” services during the Mayor’s re-election campaign in April. As a direct consequence, he’s been elevated into the latter’s key cabinet post of Director of Housing.
Plasticene Man’s been catapulted into the office previously occupied by someone with at least a minimum of experience and credibility – Paul “Wolfie” Smith. His qualifications and talents for this are, according to Bristolians who’ve had the misfortune of working with the Play-Doh chameleon or who’ve been forced to rely on him for any competent undertaking – no matter how small – completely and utterly absent. It would appear therefore that the sole reason for Renhard’s selection as Marvin’s right-hand man in the cabinet is due to the elasticity of his composition.
Eager to be all things to all people and thereby to increase his profile and visibility among the gullible, Tom Renhard has been sliming around the Labour Party and the Co-op Party for some time. Not to mention the “tenants union”/community organisation ACORN, who are currently thrilled to laud him as the hero of their forlorn hope to acquire influence in Shitty Hall. So on the face of it, at least in The Reverend’s eyes, Plasticene Man is the perfect man for the job.
Eighteen days after his election and the Reverend Rees still hasn’t managed to find a full cabinet for his second term.
Despite reappointing his ‘Infamous Five’, the two deputy mayors – Craig “Dick” Cheney and Asher “The Slasher” Craig – his anointed successor – Helen “Oh My” Godwin – court favourite – Nicola “La La” Beech – and aging makeweight – HRH Helen of Holland – Rees still has no cabinet members to run Transport, Housing or Education.
Neither is the Reverend intending, it seems, to reach out to the Greens by giving them some cabinet seats after they decimated his councillors and destroyed his majority at the election.
What is his plan then? Is the Reverend going to end all pretence of democracy in Bristol and simply let council managers and appointed One City business wankers run these departments any way they see fit?
Questions are also being asked about the appointment of La La Beech to the Climate, Ecology, Waste and Energy brief. Here, among other things, she’ll nursemaid through Rees’s deranged City Leap public asset sell-off to a multinational company. This may result in the burning of as much shit as possible in Avonmouth to generate loads of lucrative dirty (surely clean? Ed.) energy.
Alas, it turns out that La La Beech, in her day job as a corporate PR consultant, lists one of her clients as the National Grid. is there a conflict of interest here at all?
The transfer of Bristol City Council’s lowest paid staff in security and cleaning to Bristol Waste to save the authority a few quid and prop up their cash-strapped waste company looks racist.
One thing left unexplored by the council’s HR Committee last Thursday was the fact that, at least, 34 per cent of the staff involved are black and many have English as a second language. Although that’s not the full picture as ethnic data on this section of the council’s workforce is incomplete.
Many observers see this as a text book case of institutional racism as well-paid white male bosses assure councillors that these voiceless staff are happy to be transferred over to Bristol Waste on poorer terms and conditions than the ones the bosses will continue to enjoy.
Director of Workforce John “Bedwetter” Walsh – who gets by on £122,475 a year plus £20,835 pension contributions – didn’t mention to the HR meeting the make-up of this section of his workforce. Was he embarrassed to admit that he’s forcing one of the lowest paid sections of his workforce with one of the highest numbers of black employees on to second class terms and conditions?
An Equality Impact Assessment (EqIA) has been produced for a Cabinet meeting on Thursday and it confirms that 34 per cent of this workforce is black as well as showing that data on ethnicity for this section of the workforce is incomplete. The assessment also contains plenty of weasel words that try to excuse management.
For example, it claims any ‘potentially adverse impacts on people with protected characteristics’ are ‘indirect’. As if poorer terms and conditions do not directly affect those concerned? The EqIA also claims, ‘contractual terms and conditions (including pay and pension) are protected in law, and it would be unlawful for the new employer to seek to change these for any reason connected with the transfer.’
Then comes the caveat, ‘unless they have a justifiable Economic, Technological or Organisational Reason for doing so’. In other words, Bristol Waste have loopholes on hand to set about attacking these workers’ terms and conditions from the day one.
The assessment also explains that ‘Non-contractual elements – such as HR policies – would change to those of the new employer, which may be more or less generous than those currently in place’. Why so coy over whether these conditions are more or less generous? The council know. It’s a simple exercise for HR bosses to read Bristol Waste’s HR policies and compare them to their own. Why hasn’t this been done?
On the question of whether these workers’ existing HR terms and conditions will be protected, we’re told ‘BCC and BWC may secure greater protection of noncontractual terms, subject to this being affordable within the overall business case for the proposal’. In other words, terms and conditions will be traded away on the basis of a mysterious business case that hasn’t been published.
Last year the council published a worthy ‘Transforming race and equality at BCC’document to help them tackle their ongoing problems with institutional racism. The report’s recommendations under the heading ‘Corporate Leadership’ addressing Equality Impact Assessments say, ‘In the event of there being likely disproportionalities in relation to BAME staff, a corporately agreed mechanism should be established to explore the reasons; and to determine whether there may be ways of mitigating against this.’
So where’s Bedwetter’s corporately agreed mechanism exploring the reasons why black staff are being disproportionately affected by an outsourcing plan that’s attempting to save a few quid at the expense of workers’ dignity?