Bristol City Council’s new planning boss Simone “The Concrete Queen” Wilding is off to an interesting start.
The Concrete Queen was headhunted by the council’s underperforming Chief Exec Stephen “Captain” Peacock and they are very friendly having worked together at that business-friendly clusterfuck, the SWRDA.
Since starting in May, the Concrete Queen has:
– attempted to ban councillors from calling in planning applications for a committee to consider to “streamline the process”.
– pulled a video of a planning meeting from 9 August where her officers tried to rig the minutes of a previous planning meeting regarding the controversial Broadwalk planning application.
– failed to take action after planning committee chair, Richard ‘Bunter’ Eddy, politically attacked a member of his non-political ‘quasi judicial’ committee in the Nazi Post for voting against an application Bunter voted for.
– lied to councillors at a 7 September planning meeting, claiming alternative sites had been looked at for the cemetery expansion into Yew Tree Farm on south Bristol’s greenbelt
– At the same meeting, she withheld from councillors a report by a contamination officer recommending refusal of the cemetery application.
– Attempted to rip up all SNCI (Site of Nature Conservation Interest) designations in Bristol by claiming they can be built on if the effect is mitigated elsewhere.
How long will the people of Bristol be subjected to this dreadful woman?
Despite a promise to let councillors know, after a scrutiny meeting in June, senior council boss Stephen “Weak Man” Peacock has still failed to explain what a payment of £1.2m to Bristol Energy from his City Leap procurement fund was actually for.
The City Leap money was signed over to Bristol Energy by the council’s Section 151 Officer under the heading ‘Innovation Services’ in January 2020. At the precise time the failed council energy reseller had a cashflow crisis.
The Bristolian has obtained a copy of the contract between the city council and Bristol Energy for the £1.2m. It has an appendix where ‘Services Supplied’ should be listed but the page is blank.
To the untrained eye, this £1.2m, paid in an emergency to a collapsing firm, has all the characteristics of a public money ‘bung’ designed to keep a bellyflopping company afloat prior to an election later in the year. An election that, subsequently, never happened due to Covid.
Meanwhile, Weak Man, despite being unable to explain to councillors or the public what he spent £1.2m of public money on, has been promoted and given a pay rise! Now that Chief Exec Billie Jean Jackson has done Bristol a favour and fucked off to London, his interim replacement is … the inexperienced and underqualified Weak Man!
Is Weak Man being rewarded by Rees for bent payments rendered?
“A cowardly power play against a random council estate mum”
SEND spy victim Jen Smith made a statement today to Bristol City Council’s Overview and Scrutiny Management Board. As she finished she looked the council’s new underqualified and over-promoted chief exec, Stephen “Preening” Peacock in the eye, the statement speaks for itself:
Will Peacock manage to get a grip on an issue that his predecessor Mike “Billie Jean” Jackson failed to? Or will our latest Chief Executive chump let the SEND spying issue spiral further out of the control of the council?
Is he just another useless senior council boss: all fat wallet and no morals?
What happened to Bristol Waste managing director Tony “I Am The” Lawless and his sidekick, finance director Adam “Dumb” Henshaw? Why did both suddenly quit on July 18 and disappear without working their notice?
The story goes that last March the rubbish bosses got their business plan signed off and approved by council boss Stephen “Preening” Peacock and the Reverend Rees. That business plan was based on holding a pretty strong line on pay in order to keep another of the council’s struggling businesses solvent.
So, when the unions decided they needed a better pay rise they bypassed Bristol Waste altogether and went straight to the Reverend and his ex-union baron sideman “Slo” Kev Slocombe. The Reverend then instructed Bristol Waste (despite having no authority to do so) that they needed to make a better pay offer despite knowing full well they didn’t have the money. to pay for it.
Eventually Bristol Waste did make an improved offer. Not good enough to satisfy what the unions wanted but high enough to mean that it was double the amount of this year’s contract increase from the Reverend. Bristol Waste would now have to eat into their reserves and implement major cuts that formed no part of March’s business plan.
Soon after the pay hike announcement Lawless and Henshaw quit. Chris Holmes was quickly transferred over from Bristol Holding to take on the finance role, and a new interim MD was headhunted and appointed.
Last we heard Bristol Workplace (the recently outsourced cleaners and security from Bristol City Council) have already seen workloads substantially increased as the company attempts to deliver more for less.
This month the new management will be launching a public consultation. Designed to be as boring as possible, one of its objectives will be to test out ideas that sound like they will be better for the environment but, in reality, will also save BWC lots of money. The preferred option being to go to three week rubbish collections rather than the two weeks currently in operation.
General word is that the Reverend doesn’t much care what the company does as long it doesn’t go bust before the end of his term in May 2024
Back in the first pandemic lockdown of 2020, Bristol City Council decided that for the small traders in and around St. Nick’s Market, “all fees would be payable” – despite the fact that they would be unable to generate any income for almost another year.
The fees included not only rent, but also electricity charges, cleaning and maintenance of toilet areas etc, despite the fact that for the period the Markets were locked and empty 24/7. As is often the case, it is difficult to track down exactly who was responsible for this divine proclamation from on high, but the familiar names of current/former BCC career bureaucrats like Mike Jackson, Stephen Peacock, Jacqui Jensen and old friend of The BRISTOLIAN, Richard Fear, cropped up in our investigation.
An appeal was launched and apparently a trader meeting was held with some of these individuals in December 2020, but no progress was made – the fees were still “payable” and that was that. Fear was presented with evidence that many other English councils were supporting traders and not charging them for the space – in fact the vast majority – but for Fear, Bristol was resolutely determined to join the minority of refusing/indifferent councils in a “Lockdown Hall of Shame”.
Under pressure, he conceded he would consult with other “core cities” and give traders a concluding reply by January 2021, but nothing was received. Tucking this achievement into his glorious record, Fear next waltzed off from BCC in April ‘21 into some other high-paying bullshit management job somewhere else.
To Tuesday’s Overview and Scrutiny Commission meeting on Tuesday where the horrifying City Leap privatisation project was being discussed. The £7m two year procurement process is now over and US firm Ameresco has got the winning bid with state-owned Swedish firm, Vattenfall, as a partner.
The headline news is that the city’s heat networks, built and funded by council taxpayers and the government since 2015, are to be handed over to Vattenfall to run. This generous award of public assets to a private firm appears to have no price tag attached.
Not that this seemed to concern councillors on Tuesday, who appeared intensely relaxed at news of a multi-million pound public asset being given away to the private sector.
However one exchange between the council’s City Leap kingpin Executive Director Stephen “Preening” Peacock and Lib Dem Councillor Tim “Little Asshat” Kent caught the eye.
Councillor Kent had the temerity to ask the preening Peacock what a cost of £1.2m (which may not have been unattached to a bung to Bristol Energy) was for in Peacock’s exorbitant procurement costs. The exchange went something like this:
KENT: “What was the cost of Energy Innovation Services in 2019 for?”
PEACOCK: “It’s a historic number We don’t have anything more to say on that today”
KENT: “OK I don’t recall that. So what was it”?
PEACOCK: “I don’t have the Information today”
KENT: “Can anyone recall what that is. It’s £1.2m and nobody knows what it is. It’s about 15 per cent of the budget”
PEACOCK: “I’m not saying we don’t remember. I’m saying it’s not relevant … If you’re trying to allude to Bristol Energy. It’s that. It’s been dealt with at previous meetings.”
KENT: “I wasn’t a member of [the committee] then so it doesn’t stop me from asking questions. Even if you don’t like the questions.
PEACOCK: “I’m simply saying this meeting is to talk about the outcome of a procurement and if you want to discuss the outcome of a conversation we had two years ago we’re very happy to do that.”
KENT: “What I’m discussing is the figures that are presented to us here in the room I just asked a simple question. I had a suspicion. I wasn’t actually sure but that figure particularly stood out. My real question about that then – what was it? Because it was a lot of money?”
PEACOCK: “We’ll write to you afterwards if you like? We have been focussing today on City Leap procurement. This is just merely a restatement of a budget that’s been in there with the only additions and changes being the information you’ve now seen to close out that period,. Which effectively, I think, we’re about £100,000 within the budget and then we’re looking for a fresh approval to get into the mobilisation and transition phase. All I’m saying is we’re not in possession of that information today because it’s a historic matter.”
KENT: “I think that the budget was reported about 18 months ago that it would be no more than £6.5m. [it’s now £7.3m]. I thought my question was perfectly reasonable. I see you don’t.. Anyway I’m done. Thank you.”
In the space of a couple of minutes, Peacock variously says: “we don’t have anything more to say on that”; “I don’t have the information”; “it’s not relevant”; “it’s a historic matter”.
Would you trust this man to sell your heat network to a multinational corporation?
Plans by Bristol City Council, cloaked in secrecy, to hand over the prime Arena Island site to pension fund L&G for free without an open market sale or procurement process continue.
The deal, cooked up by the council’s former £260k a year interim regeneration boss Colin “Headboy” Molton, who was officially characterised by the council’s own legal team last year as “incompetent”, finds the council guaranteeing rents for 40 years on a speculative office slab L&G intend to build on the site.
And there’s lots more public money to go around for privileged corporate sector players in on this public money giveaway. For instance, new council regeneration boss Stephen “Preening” Peacock has just signed off £420k to a corporate ‘strategic partner’ (Arcadis working with Arup and Mott MacDonald) “to provide project management, cost management and design services to maintain progress”.
Progress on what? Er, a further £32 million worth of “enabling works” on the site that the public are paying for before handing the site over to L&G.free of charge.
How many HR managers does it take to create a shortlist for a Director of Homes and Landlord Services at coolly efficient and agile Bristol City Council? Er, four!
The selection meeting notice for the post sent to councillors listed four HR bosses as attending, including the ridiculously thick and useless HR director duo of John ‘Bedwetter’ Walsh and Mark “Bashar” Williams. They’re accompanied by their underlings Celia “Hopefully not a Relation?” Williams and James “Betty” Brereton, presumably in case any reading of long words or adding up is required from an HR director?
Also at the meeting are no less than two council lawyers, the Head of Democratic Engagement and regeneration bald eagle Stephen “Preening” Peacock. All these staff to advise a small committee of five councillors?
When the council is looking to make £20m of cuts later this year, perhaps they should start by cutting the three extra HR bosses and the spare lawyer sat about at meetings before they start further wrecking our frontline services?
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?