IS THERE A BLACK HOLE IN THE WHITE ELEPHANT?
The budget for mayor “Uncle” George Ferguson’s major VANITY PROJECT and RE-ELECTION STRATEGY is spiralling dangerously out of control.
Despite efforts from the mayor to GAG councillors from revealing the financial shambles, we know that CANCELLATION of any on-site car parking and the LOSS of revenue has smashed a £10m-sized budget black hole into mayor’s £90m Arena project.
Meanwhile a council Scrutiny Committee in August UNCOVERED a further £4m worth of costs for the project, pushing the total budget up to at least £94m.
Now it’s been revealed that the owners of the land, the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA), are DEMANDING payment for their land, which the council had originally claimed would be a freebie. The HCA are believed to want around £4m for the land.
So just a year into the project and costs have been already pushed up by around NINE PER CENT to £98m before a shovel’s got anywhere near the site. The total FUNDING GAP for the project is now at least £18m and this will have to be met by council taxpayers and through cuts to services already being hammered by austerity.
Concerns have also been expressed about other aspects of Uncle George’s funding proposals. He claims £53m will come from the City Deal ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT FUND.
A complicated mechanism based on borrowing against any increased receipts from business rates in the TEMPLE QUARTER ENTERPRISE ZONE. At present there’s little sign of much growth in these receipts, which leaves Bristol council taxpayers, as lenders of the last resort, to pick up that tab too.
Uncle George claims a further £38m of funding will come from rental and operating income from the arena. Although this figure has been described to us as “VERY AMBITIOUS” and, again, any shortfall will have to be met by the council taxpayer.
Uncle George, however, remains wedded to his basketcase project, which was one of the few actual promises he made in his election campaign. Delivering an arena, regardless of cost, may also be the only chance this highly unpopular mayor has of getting RE-ELECTED.
So worried is Uncle George about these PRECARIOUS FINANCES being revealed, he got his useless new legal boss SANJAY “UNDER” PRASHAR to invent a so-called ‘BLANKET EXEMPT STATUS’ gag to stop anyone discussing them.
Uncle George now has also removed the responsibility for the arena from the council’s PLACE SCRUTINY COMMISSION who had been asking some tricky questions and given it to the friendlier OVERVIEW AND SCRUTINY COMMISSION.
The commission’s Labour Chair, STEVE PEARCE, has already been quoted as saying “I won’t be pushing the mayor too hard on this.”
Thanks Steve. Nice to know you’re looking after us so well.