Tag Archives: Scrutiny

LETTER TO ALL COUNCILLORS FROM UNISON

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  The equalities impact assessment ( EQIA) was wrong and out of date.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  We are asking for this report to be withdrawn, so it can be written properly and we can engage with our ideas on raising revenue to offset damage  to this service.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.

Best wishes

Area Organiser, Unison Office, The Create Centre

NO LOOKING BEFORE WE LEAP

Why were an unholy alliance of council bosses so keen to prevent a meeting of councillors scrutinising the fatcats’ confusing and secretive “Billion Pound” City Leap plan last week? Who do these clowns really work for?

City Leap is the latest senior officer brainchild to emerge out of Bristol City Council and they’re spending £10m of our money on it. The money’s being spent on procuring a multinational corporation as a ‘joint venture partner’ in, er, wait for it … An energy business!

This time the business is aimed at cashing in on ‘net zero’ by, among other things, building and running unregulated neighbourhood heat networks across the city to “‘up the pace’ in reaching carbon neutrality targets”,

Chief Exec Mike “Billie Jean” Jackson; Exec Director for Growth and Regeneration, Stephen “Preening” Peacock and Energy Services boss David “Payday” White all told councillors at a scrutiny meeting last week that there was absolutely no role for them in City Leap until their secretive high stakes procurement process was finished in February. 

The officers explained they would then generously allow councillors a couple of hours to rubberstamp their extraordinarily expensive done deal a few days before it goes to cabinet to get signed off by the Reverend, a Yale-trained corporate puppet.

The unscrupulous threesome explained that any attempt now at democratic scrutiny of this latest council energy scheme would have a ‘material impact on the procurement’.

Bizarre reasoning asserting that the council’s constitution and the right of councillors to scrutinise the executive like any normal functioning democracy should be suspended. On the basis that it might upset any multinational corporation lining up at the trough these officers are generously setting up for them.

All highly irregular. Surely any multinational that wants to work with Bristol City council needs to understand from the get-go that they’re working in a democratic environment where public scrutiny of their work is likely to be regular and detailed? And if they don’t like our democracy in Bristol? Well, they can fuck off to any of the many dictatorships around the world with their money can’t they?

Why are Bristol City Council bosses, whose jobs should directly involve upholding the constitution of Bristol City Council to the letter, creating an environment where the city’s democratic norms need to be ignored because corporate interests are waving some money around? Isn’t this exactly the time democratic scrutiny is needed?

A similar fiasco unfolded with Bristol Energy. Scrutiny and opposition councillors were persistently refused access to vital company information by officers. Councillors were unable to scrutinise what was going on at the company and the result was an estimated  £50m loss to council taxpayers.

Is it acceptable for officers to set up yet another energy business shrouded in secrecy that can repeat exactly the same mistakes all over again?

COMING SOON: What the fuck is City Leap anyway?

BUNDRED: NOTHING GOING IN WRITING FROM REES’S BENT LAWYER

The Reverend Rees’s response to the Bundred Report into the council’s MULTIPLE FINANCIAL FAILINGS, being personally overseen by his chronically underperforming donkey of a new Chief Exec, Anna “Big Wedge” Klonowski, is FALLING APART before it’s even started.

On Tuesday – in the middle of a General Election when politicians are looking the other way – Ms Big Wedge published her SEMI-LITERATE, ‘Response to the Bundred Review’ for the Cabinet to sign-off next week. Page 4 of Big Wedge’s rambling error-strewn drivel tells us:

“S[enior]L[eadership]T[eam] have agreed and the Chief Executive has recently reinforced the need for reports rather than presentations to be used as the basis of discussions and decisions.”

So come Thursday and Ms Klonwoski’s incompetent legal boss and Monitoring Officer, Shahzia “Dim” Daya – who personally oversaw and signed off the UNLAWFUL BUDGET of 2016 at the heart of the controversy – published her own report to councillors, ‘Scrutiny Structures and New Ways of Working – Hothouse Outcomes’.

This report is just one page long and tells councillors, “Full details of the outcomes of the Scrutiny review will be provided by Members VERBALLY at the meeting.”

So much for “the need for REPORTS rather than PRESENTATIONS to be used as the basis of discussions and decisions” then. Do the new rules not apply to lazy and bent Monitoring Officers?

The significance of all this is that councillors simply did not have the necessary ACCESS and INFORMATION they required to scrutinise what their bent managers were up to in 2015 – 17. This new scrutiny review is supposed to correct that.

Although it looks to us like councillors are being blatantly set up to fail all over again by exactly the same council bosses who conned them last time.