Tag Archives: City LEAP

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,

CITY LEAP SELL-OFF LATEST

Simple District Heat Layout

The ‘Permanent Energy Centre’ on Castle Park will eventually generate some of the energy for the wider ‘OLD MARKET HEAT NETWORK’. This is a plan to supply low or zero carbon heat to connected buildings around Old Market at a cost equivalent to, or lower than, mains gas. To this end the council has now agreed to spend £9.4MILLION (plus £8.8MILLION of government money) installing a heat network around the Old Market area.

However, rather than the people of Bristol and council tax payers DIRECTLY BENEFITING in lower bills from their PUBLIC INVESTMENT into CHEAP ENERGY, the council say, “these projects are important parts of the Bristol Heat Network system and will be important assets under the CITY LEAP INITIATIVE“.

In other words, once this network has been completed at PUBLIC EXPENSE, it will be FLOGGED to the private sector so that they can extract a PROFIT from the cheap, clean energy infrastructure we’ve paid for. A similar heat network at Redcliffe, directly serving SOCIAL HOUSING, has also been put up for sale to the private sector as part of the Reverend’s energy fire sale (surely the billion pound City LEAP Prospectus? Ed).

Why can’t these heating systems REMAIN IN PUBLIC HANDS to deliver any financial and social benefits directly to the Bristolians that paid for them? Why are they being SOLD, before they’re even built, to make PROFITS for a group of global shareholders? Why are Bristol Labour Party using public money to build assets that are already on the market to global corporations?

Who voted for this corporate scam?

ON THE BUSES

Is there a city council news blackout about the large decline in bus passenger numbers in Bristol over the last year? Journeys are down 5.3 per cent compared to the same period last year and reveal the current administration, just prior to next year’s election, is bucking the
trend of increasing bus use in the city over the last ten years. Self-styled “city leader” and “change maker”, the Reverend Rees appears to have delivered significant change in at least one important area then.

The Metrobus, which the Reverend strongly supports, contrary to all common sense, as a “first step towards an integrated rapid and mass transit network” apparently, is among services showing
obvious signs of failure after just a year in service. Numbers on the M2 from Long Ashton Park and Ride are down. While the M1 service from Hengrove to the Centre has quietly had its service reduced from every 10 minutes to every 12 minutes due to a lack of passengers.

This must be classified as a significant personal failure for the Reverend who has twice taken on the
cabinet transport portfolio during his reign of error. Then there was that ‘State of the City’ address last October. Remember his announcement and the accompanying gushing PR about a “flat fare” scheme in partnership with First Bus? This turned out to be a nonsensical mess, resulting in a
variety of different fares and a price increase for the majority of passengers. Further compounded this summer when First hiked their prices again.

The Reverend’s current cabinet transport chief Kye “The” Dudd also remains silent on this failure.
Preferring instead to waffle on about a pie-in-the-sky ‘Green New Deal’ and the “billion pound City Leap” prospectus, his sell-off of public assets to the private sector.

The Reverend, meanwhile, is now cooking up a pre-election ‘Bus Deal’ with First. Another woolly agreement between Rees and the untrustworthy corporate sharks, that commits public money to various road ‘improvements’ so that First can attempt to further increase their monopoly profits from our pockets. Meanwhile any talk of an underground or any other proper rapid transit system for the city appears to have been removed from the Reverend’s talking points by mayoral spin doctor “Slo” Kev Slocombe.

Hopefully the next stop for Rees and Dudd will be the Job Centre.

 

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?