So it’s farewell, then, to Bristol City Council Chief Exec Mike “Billie Jean” Jackson. He’s off to the London Boroughs of Wandsworth and Richmond upon Thames to become their joint chief exec trousering £300k pa, the largest local authority salary in the country.
And what a legacy he leaves behind. £60m pissed up the wall on Bristol Energy; a £50m overspend on the Colston Hall; censures from the ombudsman for not bothering to reply to correspondence; a SEND service OFSTED say parents have lost trust in and a gobsmacking unlawful spying operation of parents with SEND children. Lucky old London managing to headhunt this useless money wasting fucker.
Before he left, Billie Jean delivered to indifferent staff the benefit of his wisdom. “I’m an economist by training,” he chuntered, “and specialised in economic geography. I started my local government career as an economic development officer in Birmingham. I’m fascinated by places – what makes the character of a place, why some places succeed economically and others struggle. And most importantly, trying to work out how best to improve the life chances of people who live in that place.”
Well, we’re no economists Mike, but we reckon that some places succeed because you spend £100m on a concert hall at the drop of a hat for them while other places that are far poorer get fuck all. If you want to improve the life chances of people who live in that poor place spend the £100m there you thick twat.
It’s older than the Colston statue, founded by a Bristol ‘hero’, steeped in history, loved by fans and an icon of the city.
When the owners changed its name this spring, we expected hundreds of angry letters to the Bristol Post, furious radio phone-ins, angry debates on TV and Tory MPs and councillors threatening to boycott it. Instead there was silence … Not a fucking murmur.
To us, it is The County Ground, founded by cricket legend and Bristolian, W. G. Grace and home of Gloucester County Cricket Club since 1889. In March this year club members were informed, without warning, in an email that:
Gloucestershire’s home venue, the Bristol County Ground, has been renamed as the Seat Unique Stadium with immediate effect.No consultation with the fans; no debate; no thought of the history; just ‘fuck you’ it’s done. And what a shit name. The only plus is that it’s not named after some Arab dictatorship or Russian oligarch.
The last few years have been filled with bullshit as Colston lovers tried to defend the celebration and memorialisation of the slave trader in the city. They claimed ‘history was being erased’ by changing the name of the ex-Colston Hall. Why, when the County Ground is a far more popular, profitable and valid and not named after a slave-trader is there silence?
This stinks of hypocrisy. The owners of Gloucester County Cricket Club and slave-traders like Colston share the same values, they did it for the money.
A gushing and not altogether clear media release arrives. From the pen of the massively overspent Bristol Beacon (formerly the Colsunall. Ed) we’re first treated to some introductory corporate word salad about “core values” and “sustainability, diversity and creativity” before the main event. An excitable announcement from the Beacon’s useless management, who have managed to spend £104m on a £54m concert hall refurb project that’s resulted in the venue being valued at, er, zero.
The big news from this whacko state funded culture gang is that their worthless venue is going into a “corporate partnership” with local TV production firm, Plimsoll Productions. Plimsoll will produce two videos to showcase and “raise awareness of the work done by Bristol Beacon” and they will collaborate with Bristol Beacon on a number of creative projects in local communities.
What this work might consist of isn’t made very clear. Neither is it very clear how much we’re forking out via the Beacon for Plimsoll’s “expertise in video production and storytelling”. And neither have the Beacon managed to tell us that one of the non-executive directors of Plimsoll Productions is the Reverend Rees. The man signing the £100m cheque for the 1000 seat venue’s inane refurb!
How nice that the Reverend has managed to get himself a paying gig out his own overspent crackpot culture project. No conflict of interest there at all.
The Reverend’ Rees’s not just an idiot. He’s an innumerate idiot. His amazing plan to spend over £100m on an upmarket concert venue for the city’s snooty culture set to hang around air kissing each other and talking pretentious bollocks in might not be going to plan.
In the council’s Statement of Accounts for last year that are just about to be signed off by our confused councillors, the Bristol Beacon is currently valued by the council’s external auditors at, er, ZERO.
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.
Since Colston came off his pedestal and went for a swim on June 7th social media, TV and the press have been dominated by politicians, journalists and so-called ‘community spokespeople’ gushing with praise for the statue coming down.
The Mayor’s Office even banged on in a press statement that the Reverend Rees had an audience of 10 million around the world, from Bangladesh to Tokyo after Colston’s ‘burial at sea’. However, while seizing this new opportunity for pontificating, Rees conveniently failed to give a toss about the people who had put him on the world stage. That was the 17 or so demonstrators who had been identified under Home Secretary, Priti Patel’s orders to “get these people” – the statue topplers.
So as Rees was boring the masses in Bangladesh, Avon & Somerset Police were being forced to line up charges of criminal damage that could put the protestors away for up to 10 years. And what did Rees do? Intervene at the Council for the good of the city and agree not to press charges, allowing the cops to give two fingers to Patel? Like fuck he did … Far better to bathe in the glare of global publicity and forget about those who put him there.
Campaigners who have fought for many years for the Colston statue to be removed and to get a permanent memorial to the victims of slavery in the City have been astounded by the two-faced hypocrisy of these turncoats. Rees told Points West:
“When I first came in, myself and a number of black people in the creative sector said that the best thing to do is to keep that [Colston] debate away from me.”
So Mr Civil Rights’s major contribution to the struggle to get the Merchant Venturers pet slave trader off our streets and schools was not just to do nothing but to actively discourage others from getting involved.
When calls came to change the name of the Colston Hall in 2017 Rees was silent, refusing to make his position clear until he was caught like a rabbit in the headlights at the end of a TV programme. Martin Luther King, who Rees idolises, must be turning in his grave.
In 2019 after the Merchant Venturers had spent months sanitising the wording on a plaque for the statue that was meant to correct the history of Colston, Rees only intervened to avoid becoming a laughing stock. Finally using some of his executive power to block the Venturer’s sanitised plaque before heading to the hills faster than Dominic Cummings in a top of the range Land Rover, leaving the project in limbo for over a year.
Meanwhile Rees’s second in command Asher Craig’s hardly covered herself in glory in dealing with persistent calls by campaigners for a permanent memorial to remember the victims of the trans-atlantic slave trade. Bristol lags far behind other ports like Liverpool and Nantes in France that were involved in the ‘vile trade’ and have made major efforts to both memorialise the victims and tell the history – warts and all.
One historian from Bristol University stated in a meeting with Asher Craig in March 2019 “that Bristol’s reputation abroad, when referring to the city’s response to its slaving past, was very bad”. He also said that Bristol shouldn’t limit its ambitions regarding a slavery museum, “the city should think big and be better than Liverpool”.
Bristol City Council have missed opportunities to right this embarrassing wrong many times. In 1996 around the Festival of the Sea, in 1999 when the Respectable Trade exhibition was launched, in 2007 with the bicentennial of the abolition of the slave trade and again in 2015 when the Colston protests began.
In 2017 campaigners from three groups and local residents proposed the Abolition Shed project, which wanted to convert two council-owned warehouses on Welsh Back into a memorial for the victims of the African slave-trade with a visitor centre to tell the history. When they approached Asher Craig to get support from Bristol City Council she basically told them to clear off and get some private funding.
Despite this slap in the face campaigners continued the fight to halt the council’s proposed development of the warehouses into more restaurants and bars and to finally do something. This persistence and enthusiasm by unpaid Bristolians who gave a fuck about the memorial, the history and the city’s reputation was clearly starting to annoy Rees and Craig.
In August 2019 Marvin angrily demanded to know “who the campaigners were” and in response to their proposals cited a record in office of being amazing, without, of course, any concrete commitment to a memorial and museum. Asher was even more furious claiming“the City was now taking this seriously” and accusing the campaigners of being “bullies”. One local historian from the Counter-Colston group commented:
“Despite the fact that it is just not true, for Asher to characterise people as ‘bullies’ who have, without ‘funding’ and political power given lots of time and energy over several years to try to get something done after decades of failure, is disgraceful.”
Needless to say the Abolition Shed project was strangled at birth by Rees, Craig and the Council as they voted to turn the warehouses into pizza restaurants whilst wasting a million quid on moving a barge to appease the developers. Another missed opportunity in Bristol’s tradition of failure.
Asher’s only response to persistent demands for a memorial was to set up a ‘roundtable’, which descended into the usual talking shop while those who wanted to get a concrete commitment from the Council were seen as ‘troublemakers’.
It is also no surprise that Marvin’s response to Colston’s statue coming down was to propose a ‘history commission’. Looking into the “true history of the city”, which sounds like another opportunity for free-loading academics to fail to do anything.
So here we are, kicking the can down the road again….
Before we start, we should get the history straight, as the fake-history from the Bishop of Bristol to the Merchant Venturers’ spin, plenty of porkies have been told about Edward ‘The Enslaver’ Colston.
From 1680-92 Edward Colston was an investor, official and eventually deputy governor of the Royal African Company (RAC), the premier Atlantic slave trading organisation in the British Empire. Under Edward Colston’s management and leadership of the RAC, approximately 84,500 enslaved Africans were branded and forced onto the company’s ships. Only 65,200 Africans survived the trip, a death toll in the region of 19,300 over the twelve year period. Of the 9,000 or so enslaved children under the age of 10 on Colston’s company slave-ships, more than 2,000 died, their bodies along with the adults were thrown overboard. The survivors, who were sold to plantation owners in the Caribbean, faced a short and brutal life of hard labour.
And it wasn’t just Africans that businessmen like Colston and the Merchant Venturers forced into labour. They were quite willing to coerce thousands of vulnerable Bristolians and others into working in their plantations through poverty (indentured servants) and legal (POW’s, ‘criminals’, orphans) and illegal (spiriting) bondage.
The profits of this ‘vile trade’ and the labour of hundreds of thousands in the plantations flowed back to wealthy investors like Colston and other Merchant Venturers. Colston wanted to be remembered as a ‘moral saint’ (sic) so he bequeathed some of his fabulous wealth made off the backs of Africans and others, to selected groups in the city that conformed to his religious and political bias. And the rest was history…until now. Finally, we can start to get Edward ‘The Enslaver’ off our backs.
Havin’ a laugh…
We have been chuckling in The Bristolian office over the last few days reading some of the reactions from right-wing nobs who are in love with ‘Eddy the Enslaver’…
Bunter Eddy showing his class
Apparently Tory Councillor Richard ‘Bunter’ Eddy will now be boycotting the Hall because it is not named after Colston! Is this because he will only go to venues that are named after slave-traders? Message from The Bristolian to Richard Eddy…Bristol is not named after a slave trader, so please try and boycott the whole city….in fact why don’t you fuck off altogether.
Obsessive Nazi Post letter writer R. L. Smith (the ‘know all’ from Knowle) ranted on about Counter-Colston campaigners ‘erasing history’ and ‘burning books’ until it was pointed out he had been campaigning to shut Bristol’s libraries for years! Twat.
Some have said that Bristol Music Trust are ‘pandering to a tiny minority’; it was actually a tiny minority of powerful merchants and politicians that put Colston on the pedestal that he sits on today. The majority of Bristolians never had a say in the naming of buildings, statues or streets. The tiny minority that the city should stop pandering to are the Society of Merchant Venturers who, since their Royal Charter of 1552, have been dictating who should or should not be memorialised – it’s for the people of Bristol to decide who is remembered and why – and there are plenty of great candidates.
Changing names and places… what about our history?
So what’s next for a Colston name change?…Colston Boys and Girls Schools? How awful darling… and how ironic considering the Merchant Venturers and their education buddies have been changing the names of our schools like confetti over the last few years. What ever happened to Whitefield, Withywood, Speedwell and St George schools let alone Hartcliffe and Monks Park? Seems like when it comes to our schools the names can be changed without debate by posh wankers from Clifton. And none of these schools were named after mass-murdering slave traders!
The same goes for buildings of historic interest. It has been pointed out to many of the opponents of the name change that, for fucks sake, it is only the name of the Colston Hall that is changing; the building is not being demolished. Unlike half of Temple Way and the historic Methodist Ebenezer Chapel and Avonvale School in East Bristol which were flattened without any debate by rich property speculators. It seems Bristolian working class history is worth shit compared to the history of murdering profiteers like Colston and the Merchant Venturers.
Of course, the next battle will be over the new name for the Ex-Colston Hall. A sensible solution would be to open it up to the people of Bristol to choose a name (what like Hally McHallface? ed). More likely is that some wealthy scumbag or a Corporation will buy the brand off the cash-strapped Council and it will end up as ‘Sir Rich Bastard Hall‘ or ‘Carphone Warehouse Hall’. Just like in the olden days when wealthy scum like Edward Colston and the Merchant Venturers had the run of the city and named everything after themselves…
Bristol City Council seems to be avoiding cuts in some areas. Please step forward the Reverend Mayor, Marvin Rees, who’s decided there should be NO CUTS at all in his personal office; his new chief executive’s office or to his senior leadership team. Areas that have all chronically UNDERPERFORMED over the last five years and cost us a lot of money.
Not that the Reverend gives a shit about saving money when it comes to himself, his self-regarding PUBLICLY FUNDED international lifestyle or his personal office team of EGO PAMPERERS on the rates.
Back on November 30 the Reverend SUSPENDED non-essential spending at the council for ordinary staff delivering services. By Tuesday 6 December he was touching down in China, pretending he was on some sortsales mission.
What the fuck was he selling them? CREAKING, underfunded local public services? SUBSIDISED film studio facilities in Hengrove ideal for overblown costume drama? CHEAP tickets for dodgy middle class comedians at the Colston Hall? The USELESS services of the shittest Internal Audit team the world has ever known?
If a pointless ‘trade mission’ to China by a SMALL and FAILING municipal body led by a pompous, preening figurehead isn’t non-essential, what the fuck is?
So there’s less money to buy furniture for BATTERED MUMS lucky enough to get an unfurnished shell of a home off the council; a fifth of the CHILDREN’S CENTRES designed to support our city’s most vulnerable kids will be closed down and LOCAL COUNCIL OFFICES ideal for the elderly, infirm and isolated to easily access public services from will shut their doors but fans of mainstream music and comedy can, at least, rejoice.
Because the Rev Rees, with his laser-like focus on fairness and equality, has agreed to continue handing over £1m a year for the next three years to the BRISTOL MUSIC TRUST who run the Colston Hall. Phew! Guess we’ve got to keep those FAT FEES rolling in for millionaire musicians and the rolling roster of state-subsidised BBC/Oxbridge touring comedians haven’t we?
Meanwhile those all-important CREATIVES doing all that vital and well-paid marketing work for the entertainment industry, directly subsidised by the state, can’t possibly be expected to attend a JOB CENTRE when there’s a perfectly adequate pool of undervalued underpaid childcare professionals available for the task.
It hasn’t taken long for Marvin “The Reverend” Rees to turn into another nasty little Tory Boy RUINING THE LIVES of his low paid council staff so that he can FEATHER THE NESTS of the city’s wealthy elite has it?
Less than three months into his ‘REIGN OF ERROR‘ and Marvin has announced that he will need to make 1,000 staff at his council REDUNDANT to “balance the books”. Virtually all these staff will be low paid and will be working in ESSENTIAL public services like adult care, education, social services and housing.
These HORRIFYING CUTS have been spun by the Reverend’s new £63k a year trade union PR girl, Kevin “Slow Brain” Slocombe, as entirely the fault of Tory government austerity and Mayor-no-more George Ferguson. The dynamic business and corporate-friendly Labour duo claim that George left behind a £29m debt for 2016 – 17 of unachieved savings.
Really? So how come a report accepted by Marvin and his cabinet in July – just ONE MONTH before his cuts announcement – assured us, “This report shows that the Council has been able to deliver on its saving plans and balance its base budget in what continues to be a challenging fiscal environment.”
It then goes on to say, “The current financial strategy, consisting of the final year of the 2013-17 MTFS, will be sufficient to balance the Councils budget in 2016/17.”
So what happened in a month to create a £29m black hole in this balanced budget? WHO’S TELLING THE TRUTH? Marvin in July or Marvin in August?
Meanwhile, Slow Brain and the Reverend’s claim that they have no choice but to fire 1,000 staff on low pay fails to stand up to BASIC SCRUTINY when you start to look at the expenditure they’ve either already authorised or are intending authorise and for whom.
In late June Marvin and his cabinet had no problem in handing the COLSTON HALL £1.6m up front to develop their refurbishment plans while also agreeing in principle to chuck them a further £10m to achieve these plans.
At the same meeting, similar generosity was shown to the BRISTOL OLD VIC – who were awarded £1m to underwrite their refurbishment plans – and to another concert hall – ST GEORGE’S – who received £600k to help them with their rebuilding efforts.
And it doesn’t stop there. In September Marvin will award those famously poverty stricken organisations – BUSINESS WEST and the UNIVERSITY OF BRISTOL – an undisclosed subsidy of over £500k to keep their ‘Set Squared’ creative industries ‘business incubator’ running the way they’ve become accustomed to at Brunel’s stylish ENGINE SHED at Temple Meads.
Also in the loop for an undisclosed public handout (of £500k plus) from the Reverend is the THE BOTTLE YARD film and TV studios in south Bristol. Because we can’t have austerity in the high-earning film industry can we?
This is all before we get on to the really high ticket projects Marvin is backing. He’s still committed to the £150m ARENA project, assuring anyone who will listen it’s affordable despite only having £100m to build it.
The other £50m will come from the council taxpayer until that income stream runs dry when Marvin, no doubt, will throw another few bodies on to his HUMAN BONFIRE and sack a few more staff running essential services to balance his crooked books.
Finally we have Marvin’s uncosted and unfunded EUROPEAN CAPITAL OF CULTURE bid. To make himself look good in the ruins of the public services he’ll be running, the Reverend intends to make the city Capital of Culture in 2023 at an undisclosed cost.
HOW MUCH this will cost or WHAT USE it will be to any one not involved in of Marvin’s heavily subsidised high-earning creative industries is anyone’s guess. But what the hell? It’s only other people’s money and other people’s jobs isn’t it?
In less than THREE MONTHS Marvin’s mayoralty has turned into a hyopcritical farce and an elitist backscratching exercise.
“No one left behind” he says? Except for 1,000 council staff running essential services and their familes …