(We might even have finished drawing the logo by then)
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?
As the dust now settles following Tuesday’s annual budget pantomime in Shitty Hall (short version: MASSIVE CUTS! HUGE JOB LOSSES! OUR CITY RUN BY MORONS!), it looks like fun times are ahead.
Meanwhile, as the party barons bicker amongst themselves over exactly who is responsible for precisely which pile of crap we are all going to be forced to bite down on over the coming year, it’s City Director NICOLA ‘LADY GAGA’ YATES – the city’s six-figure salaried second-choice chief executive – who has been selling the shit sandwich diet to staff.
The fact that it took her the best part of two days to dream up anything halfway optimistic does not bode well, but try she did, with a round-robin message to all staff that she sent out today.
Naturally, the grim news that she will be “reducing the number of people who work for the organisation by around 800 [full time positions]” is left till the end, along with what might be a contender for Least Convincing Promise Of The Year: “I want to say again that wherever possible my commitment absolutely remains to avoiding compulsory redundancies.”
As convincingly as any £160,000-a-year career sacker can try, she attempts to project optimism, claiming that “many” of the £83 million-worth of savings that have to be made “will come from doing things more efficiently including – redesigning services, refocusing resources for the areas that need them most, squeezing more from our contracts and raising income.”
In other words: HELP! WHERE THE HELL IS THE MONEY GOING TO COME FROM?!
Certainly if Gaga’s own approach to thrift is anything to go by, we’re all screwed. Look at her published expenses, which totalled around £3,800 for just ten months.
At first glance, nothing spectacularly bad – but when you get into the detail, you realise these are the expenses of the sort of overpaid idiot who thinks .
A Zones 1-2 Underground ticket for one of her trips to London cost us £11.80 – when in fact the TfL fares chart helpfully demonstrates that the cash fare for a single journey is just £4.70 (making it a £9.40 round trip), with electronic ‘Oyster’ fares capped at £8.40 for a whole day of journeys, and One Day Travelcards costing no more than £9.
Similarly, a return train trip to London to a scheduled event was charged to us at £72.50 – when according to the National Rail Enquiries website typically such a journey, booked a fortnight in advance, would cost from around £50-£60, with even bigger savings for earlier booking.
A 1.5 mile taxi journey from City Hall to Portland Square is charged at £7.90, when the Council’s own Final Agreed Tariff Card would have it at £5.30 (plus 20p per 40 seconds of waiting time). Perhaps Gaga got stuck in a ten minute traffic jam and was just TOO POSH TO WALK!
Neither could she be bothered to walk up (or down!) Park Street, so instead she had us fork out £13.60 on a return taxi journey to Bristol Uni for a meeting with well-dodgy Vice Chancellor (and notable Merchant Venturer) Eric Thomas. That’s right – £13.60 for a round trip of BARELY A MILE!
A return trip from Council House to the M-Shed is so obviously taking the piss that it even has its own excuse note: “Not enough time between important meetings to walk”. Well, by foot it’s a mere half-a-mile away – that’s a stroll of five-to-ten minutes. Driving, due to the traffic management around the Centre and the Harbourside, it’s most likely a car journey of approximately two miles, taking about, erm, ten minutes!
And so on, and so on.
And this is the person trusted to find £83 million in savings by “doing things more efficiently”!
What was that old saying? ‘Watch the pennies, and the pounds will look after themselves’?
Well, not if Gaga’s in charge of the penny-surveillance!
What a curious development in the never-ending saga of management mishaps in the upper echelons of HorseWorld.
On Monday the Bristol University newspaper Epigram published an article about recent events at HorseWorld on its website. It covered many of the allegations which The BRISTOLIAN first brought to public attention.
By mid-morning on Tuesday, readers began telling us that the article was no longer being displayed. We attempted to contact Epigram and its editors, the Student Union, the University’s Press Office and the UoB management, to find out what had happened. No one got back to us.
Then a source close to HorseWorld MD Mark ‘Not That One’ Owen told us what seemed by now to be obvious: the article had been pulled after a furious Pinocchiowen was “straight on the phone to the Uni [yesterday] morning” to demand that the article was removed.
We then posted a link to a cached version of the article still available via Google.
Today that Google cache version has also been taken down.
So in support of a free press unhindered by threats, coercion, fear or favour, we present for you here the full text of the article in question [not any more – see notes at the bottom of the page for further info!] – and call upon you, the reader, to decide whether it should have been pulled…
The BRISTOLIAN’s précis of the Max Miller Epigram article ‘Mismanagement rears its ugly head at Horseworld’
There’s a “scandal brewing” at the sixty year-old charity HorseWorld, with fears that it may have to reduce its activities and make more than 25 staff redundant after the failure of its bid for planning consent to permit the sell-off of land to developers. This is in tandem with reductions in income, a situation “mirrored by the fates of charities across the country” as donation levels drop off.
The article also notes that research by the National Council for Voluntary Organisations and the Charities Aid Foundation shows that between 2010 and 2012 charitable giving were down £1.7bn (£2.3bn when adjusted for inflation) to £9.3bn – a plummet of 20% in real terms. This research into the donations nosedive was released shortly after an investigation by the Telegraph newspaper, which showed that the number of “executives receiving six-figure salaries at Britain’s leading aid charities, and those linked to them, rose by nearly 60 per cent from 19 to 30 over the past three years.” The article noted The BRISTOLIAN’s own coverage, in which managing director Mark Owen has been reported as having “played a part in Horseworld losing over £2 million in the last three years.”
The article then summarises some of The BRISTOLIAN’s claims about Owen’s management of HorseWorld, including his starting salary of £60,000 in 2008, his £28,000 company Audi, the hiring of consultants at £525 per day, and his blaming of others for the charity’s predicament. As the author notes, this “does not exactly scream out ‘competent management.’”
Next comes reflection on the overall shrinking of charity donations in the UK during recent recessionary times, pointing out how fundraising website Charity Giving shut down – with a loss of more than £250,000 in donations – and highlighting a report in The Independent which investigated the challenges faced by UK charities “battling not only the effects of economic downturn, but also theft, organised crime, fraud worries and accusations of pure mismanagement.”
The article then crunches some of HorseWorld’s numbers: its income fell by nearly £200k from £1.25mn to £1.06mn in 2010-2012, with voluntary donations dropping from £728,046 to £398,214 over the same period.
Next it is pointed out that Owen’s strategy for rectifying HorseWorld’s financial freefall – an all-or-nothing green belt planning gamble – was about as high-risk as you could get. The phrases “financial mismanagement” and “major mistake” are used.
Finally, the author summarises, suggesting that what has been happening in the management of HorseWorld “is a perfect [but extreme] example of what is happening across the country.” Ultimately, when a charity sees income drying up and managers not acting appropriately, it is the good work which suffers most.