We were amazed to read recent reports from the cops that due to funding cuts victims are now expected to INVESTIGATE CRIMES THEMSELVES. Including, we’re told, crimes like burglary and criminal damage Rumours of speedily constructed gallows in various parts of the city have yet to be confirmed. Although The BRISTOLIAN would be amazed if burglaries will not be investigated in Clifton or Westbury on Trym before we all start getting our balaclavas and gloves out. But this has been the case for many years in some areas of Bristol. Try getting police support in Hartcliffe, Easton or St Pauls. Give plod a ring because someone has torched your mini and see what happens: nothing normally. This reminds us of an old story. A young single mum living in the inner city phoned the police after hearing and spotting someone in her back garden. She was promised support within ten minutes. When it failed to arrive she rang again. She explained she was on her own in her house with two small children. More concerning the intruder had got it into the shed where the tools were. She was given further assurances …

After another ten minutes with no sign of plod she rang back and said, “don’t bother, I’ve shot him”.

Within two minutes an armed response unit arrived! They questioned her for several hours before departing. Needless to say, they had lost all interest in the theft from the shed.

The BRISTOLIAN will keep its eyes peeled and will investigate incidents of fraud and corruption from Bristol’s high and mighty. We will then hand on the details to the Old Bill, and see what they do. If you know of anything, drop us a line and we’ll chase it. Lets turn their austerity measures around.

Oh dear. It seems that Bristol City Council’s council tax collection website may be a SECURITY DISASTER waiting to happen and be vulnerable to PHISHING SCAMS that could be created by the average sixth former to rip money off unsuspecting council tax payers!

Bristol City Council’s private website contractor, GANDLAKE LTD who appear to have built the faulty site, were informed of the problem in JUNE and have, so far, done NOTHING about it. Since they’ve now pocketed a large wedge of public money presumably they just don’t care?

One computer expert told THE BRISTOLIAN,

The site allows ‘un-escaped’ text to be passed through the URL and run as JavaScript on the page. Please see the phishing email below I knocked up in 2 minutes just now. It will take the user to the actual site, valid SSL certificate an’ all, and change the phone number to the XXXXXX. We could spam this out, sit back and wait for people to call willing to pass us their debit card details. Obviously we won’t but it illustrates the point!

I could probably come up with some worse or more intrusive stuff if I gave it the time. I’ve got more important things to do but some hacker university kid probably doesn’t!
=====
Dear resident,
Your council tax is overdue, please click the link below to pay
Kind regards,
XXXXXXXXXX
Overdue Payments Office, Council Tax Department
Bristol City Council
Another computer security expert told us:
The site has a cross-site scripting vulnerability (XSS). (For a comprehensive view of XSS see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cross-site_scripting). It means that people wanting to use the BCC website for paying Council Tax , Business Rates, Council Tax Reduction and/or Housing Benefit and Landlord Services could be redirected to a third party site and have their details taken. There’s a suggestion that the database containing user logins and personal data such as email addresses is vulnerable and could be compromised.
In plain English, YOUR BANKING DETAILS COULD BE STOLEN if you use this site and Bristol City Council continue to DO NOTHING to stop it. It’s another public/private contractual shambles where we potentially pick up the tab for laziness and incompetence. Although maybe now the security problem has been made public someone will act to protect us?

Bristol City Council Chief Exec Nicola ‘Lady Gaga’ Yates wants to cut £90 million from what little remains of local services. But it’s not only the council that teeters on the BRINK OF BANKRUPTCY unable to provide basic services.

Remember the ‘Private Finance Initiative’ – or PFI – deals that led to all our new schools being built by private companies which then lease them back to local authorities?

Well, the schools have to pay the PFI companies before they are allowed to spend a single penny on books, or anything else. So when schools get their budgets cut – tough. Blacklisting PFI racketeers like Skanska or Carillion get their money before your kids get educated.

And the brand spanking new facilities aren’t what they’re cracked up to be. The Oasis Academy – previously Portway School – now has to pay more for five-a-side pitches, for example. The charge: a WHOPPING £40 an hour. How many kids do you know with that sort of money? So the pitches stay unused and local kids play in the streets.

Even worse, the company charges BREATHTAKING SUMS for basic caretaking. The PFI deal means that a company provides ‘soft services’ like catering, and caretaking. f a light bulb goes, the school staff can’t touch it. They must call ‘caretaking services’ who, when they eventually get there, will charge up to an EXTORTIONATE £60 for changing a light bulb!

Money grabbing bastards are stealing our children’s education – kids should come first. Time to ditch these sick PFI debts!

China & big business cashing in on city’s solar power bonanza

While leafing through our latest copy of Construction News, the ‘Magazine of the Chartered Institute of Building’, a headline leaps out: CONTRACTORS EYE UP BRISTOL’S £47M ‘DASH FOR SOLAR’.

Maybe this a reference to Mayor Fergo’s go-ahead earlier this month for a £47m plan to install solar panels on 7,000 council houses and a variety of public buildings in the city?

This is “triggering one of the biggest solar PV projects since the Feed-In-Tariff (FIT) was cut in November 2011,” the magazine breathlessly informs its corporate readership. It then lists massive global companies including Lakehouse, Wates, Willmott Dixon and NOTORIOUS BLACKLISTERS Carillion among the contractors who might be interested in this feed-in feeding frenzy. Hardly the kind of local businesses that Mayor Redtrousers and his sidekick, solar-powered windbag Sir Gus Hoyty-Toyty seem so keen to promote at election time!

The article then finds Simon Green from Lakehouse – which grabs lucrative public sector contracts – waxing lyrical: “Because of MASS PRODUCTION IN CHINA, the unit cost of the kit has come down considerably and with the feed-in tariff the same as it was, then you have a large enough project, and the RATE OF RETURN is as big as it was before,” he gushes.

Bollocks. Unit costs have not “come down considerably”; they’ve been driven down. China has unlimited access to forced, slave and child labour and gives workers zero human rights. So they can undercut competitors in European markets by selling panels below cost. Why? To break Europe’s companies and get a monopoly.

Just the sort of practices we should be encouraging here in Bristol for our long-term benefit don’t you think?

Anyway, with £47m to play with, why can’t we manufacture and install the damn things from Bristol?

A merry-go-round of useless managers squanders £100k on lethal play equipment whilst care of children suffers!

BUDGET slashing in Bristol has cut so deep that staffing at our kids’ nurseries and Children’s Centres are now reaching dangerously low levels, sources tell The BRISTOLIAN.

Despite being scored ‘Good’ or above in all areas in its last published Ofsted report, one popular east Bristol nursery school – which we can now reveal as The Limes in Whitehall – now faces a £100,000 budget shortfall. Already staffing shortages mean that qualified teachers and Early Years Practitioners are often forced to act as little more than sentries stopping children from escaping.

The situation for staff on the frontline at The Limes is contrasted with the well-salaried upper echelons, where a recruitment revolving door has seen three new head teachers in little over a year. Each has attempted to stamp their mark on the school – which is attached to a Children’s Centre – by remodelling the kids’ play garden. The total cost? In excess of a STAGGERING £100,000!

One garden makeover, which cost an eye-watering £70k+, even had to be ripped out because it was UNSAFE. Worryingly, there had been no proper health and safety assessment before it was built, and NO OVERSIGHT from Bristol City Council. The garden’s potential for injuring children was only picked up on by chance – when someone who worked in H&S came to collect his grandchild and was alarmed by what he saw.

The garden then had to be immediately ripped up and children barred from using it until it could be made safe!

The cost of these EXPENSIVE VANITY PROJECTS by senior management has lost them the opportunity to employ extra staff to actually look after the children – yet comes at the same time as the current Head spends thousands on expensive consultants.

At least one such ‘expert’ is a former colleague of the Head, and is reportedly used mainly to cover staff shortages – when it would be more sensible and cheaper to hire full- or part-time staff on permanent contracts.

So if this is what it’s like now, what’s it going to be like once Mayor Fergo pushes through his £90 million cuts package?

Web ExclusiveIt was can’t-tell-the-truth bingo on BBC Radio Bristol this morning, as HorseWorld’s MD, the ever incompetent Mark ‘Not That One’ Owen, was interviewed on the Breakfast Show by Steve Le Fevre.

HorseWorld M.D. Mark Owen: management skills of the back end of a panto horse

HorseWorld M.D. Mark Owen: management skills of the back end of a panto horse

Pinocchiowen had taken to the airwaves to lament his regime’s FAILURE at yesterday’s Bath & North East Somerset Council planning meeting to secure permission to raze the horse charity’s land in Whitchurch in order that a bunch of houses that local people couldn’t afford could be built there.

And despite some direct questions from Le Fevre, the troubled charity boss just didn’t seem able to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth…

Here’s the link to the show on BBC iPlayer – it’s at 1h 52min; or here’s a link to just the interview.

And in case we’ve not made it easy enough for you with that, here’s the full transcript:

Steve Le Fevre: Now let’s talk more about HorseWorld. It’s one of the area’s best known animal charities, it’s been told it can’t redevelop on its base in green belt land on the edge of the city, it wants to build a new visitors’ centre at its complex in Whitchurch, and build more than a hundred homes on its land to help pay for the project.

And Mark Owen is the Managing Director of HorseWorld, and joins us just now… Hello Mark…

Mark Owen: Morning Steve, how are you?

Steve Le Fevre: So this turn down, a major blow for your finances?

Mark Owen: It’s certainly very disappointing, you know I wake up this morning slightly shell-shocked by what’s happened there. We had some extremely exciting, well thought-through, meticulously planned application for a much more exciting and sustainable future, which had the support of the case officer, had the support of BANES’ own transport experts, it had the support of an independent business consultant, which verified the business plan.

So we went into this meeting with all the technicalities ticked, and all of the important information supported by BANES. Yet they voted against it.

Steve Le Fevre: There was a lot of opposition though Mark, as well, wasn’t there?

Mark Owen: There’s more support than opposition on the actual BANES website. Yes, Save Our Green Spaces have an opposition about building in green belt in general, but actually if you look at the facts, there is more support for what we are doing than against…

Steve Le Fevre: Well, you have opposition from Whitchurch Parish Council, Compton Dando Parish Council, Whitchurch Village Action Group, Bristol City Council…

Mark Owen: No, no, no… There is no objection from Whitchurch Parish Council. They’ve actually accepted the very special conditions.

Steve Le Fevre: Must be our mistake, then, we had an objection from them. My apologies if that’s not the case. Let me talk to – stay with us, and we’ll talk to Dr Mary Walsh from Whitchurch Village Action Group. Hello Mary…

Mary Walsh: Hello!

Steve Le Fevre: What are you against necessarily – it sounded like a great tourist attraction for the area…

Mary Walsh: I have a very bad line – can you repeat?

Steve Le Fevre: What are your objections to this?

Mary Walsh: My only objections, and Mr Owen will know, all along, everything between us has been…

Steve Le Fevre: Well just tell us!

Mary Walsh: We want to save our green spaces. Whitchurch depends on our green belt, as a village. We have very little left – there’s only 13% green belt in the country, and unfortunately BANES have 3/4 of that 13%.

Steve Le Fevre: Alright, and that is the point, Mark, really trying to build on the green belt and then put the houses on your land – just the topography that’s the problem?

Mark Owen: Well there’s a certain irony about this because with this BANES have recently – and I mean as recent as the 19th November – have promoted HorseWorld’s land as the most likely area of land within the Whitchurch village to be…

Steve Le Fevre: But what about the land you’re hoping to go to with your visitor centre and your arena and so forth?

Mark Owen: Yes, we’ve got two parts of our site, the most contentious part is where the houses are being built, and that’s where 95% of the discussion last night was on, and on that part, this is where BANES have earmarked as the most likely area to be brought out from the green belt, and there is a Core Strategy initiative to bring two hundred houses to the Whitchurch village.

A certain irony where they support our land as the most likely for housing.

Steve Le Fevre: Right, well we’ve, we can’t go on too long on this, but just on the finances themselves, just a text that’s come in from J in Bristol, ‘please ask HorseWorld how much charity cash they’ve blown on a naïve, ill-judged plan, a betrayal of donors and legacies…’ Is that a fair point?

Mark Owen: Of course there’s a concern about, you know, going into applications, planning applications, it’s an expensive thing. But what I would like to say is, what if we don’t do, you know, the sustainable future of a sixty year old charity will not be there unless take these plans. The current centre is unviable, it’s land-locked, it’s too small, and it needs investment.

Steve Le Fevre: Alright, we’ll have to leave it there, Mark – thank you very much indeed. Mark Owen, Managing Director of HorseWorld, Mary Walsh you heard as well from Whitchurch Village Action Group.

Just in case you were starting to believe Mr Owen’s fanciful claims, here it is in black and white, from the BANES ‘reports pack’ (entitled ‘20112013 1400 Development Control Committee.pdf’) accompanying yesterday’s Development Control Committee meeting:

To date 38 individual objections letters and 46 letters of support have been received in respect of application 13/02164/OUT for the proposed residential development. 567 identical objection letters have been submitted from local residents through Whitchurch Village Action Group. 8 objections letters and 64 letters of support have been received in respect of application 13/02180/FUL for the proposed Visitors Centre application. 2 Objection letters were received in respect of Listed Building application 13/02121/LBA.

(The same, identical summary of consultations/representations appeared in last month’s reports pack as well, then labelled as  ‘23102013 1400 Development Control Committee.pdf’.)

Allow your super soarway BRISTOLIAN guide you through the VERY TRICKY SUMS which Owen clearly has trouble with…

  • Objections: 38 + 567 + 8 + 2 = 615
  • In support: 46 + 64 = 110

(And as we have previously noted, those 110 notes of support actually break down into 108 notes from 72 people.)

For the record, Steve, when you said “you have opposition from Whitchurch Parish Council” you were correct in that Whitchurch PC had recorded official objections to the plans in both the above mentioned reports packs. The full text:

WHITCHURCH PARISH COUNCIL – OBJECT for the following reasons:-

1. A lack of confirmation from the Inspector regarding B&NES Council Core Strategy housing numbers for Whitchurch Village.

2. Whitchurch Parish Council believes that the protection of the existing Green Belt is of paramount importance in order that the Village protects its traditions, culture and sense of community which has been built and retained over many years. The majority of the land in these applications is in the Green Belt.

3. The Plan for traffic is flawed. In the Traffic Assessment 4.10 it states that ‘the proposed development is unlikely to have any impact on the existing traffic flows or the operation of the narrowest sections of Sleep Lane’. We believe the projection of traffic is inadequate and that Sleep Lane will be greatly affected by the increase in traffic from the developments together with the junction with Woollard Lane, Staunton Lane and the A37. Therefore given the current constraints with regards to the layout of Sleep Lane, any increased demand to use this route as a result of development is unacceptable.

4. Whilst we are sympathetic to HorseWorlds ‘Special Circumstances’ we do not believe that they outweigh the potential harm to the Green Belt as explained in Section 9 of the NPPF and the fact that the developments will have a detrimental effect on the safety and operation of the public highways in the area.

ADDITIONAL COMMENTS DATED 2ND September:

In view of the recent meeting between Horseworld, BANES & Whitchurch Parish Council we continue to have reservations about the inevitable increased traffic flows notably the two-way system in Sleep Lane and the potential bottlenecks created at the junction of Woollard Lane/Sleep Lane and Woollard Lane/A37.

We wish to record our continuing stance that the existing Green Belt should not be developed. However given the lack of clarity surrounding the number of houses Whitchurch Village is expected to take on, BANES Core Strategy, and the developing scenario with other housing developments we feel that we should record our thoughts as follows.

In the event that BANES Core Strategy is ratified by the Planning Inspector at a level of 200, we would not object to the Horseword application of 125 houses subject to the following conditions:

1) Strict implementation of the traffic controls proposed by Horseworld and agreed by BANES Transport/Highways.
2) Support for the revised traffic proposals by BANES
3) Absolute and irrevocable refusal of any other housing development that would exceed the 200 or lower figure agreed between BANES and Planning Inspector.
4) We acknowledge the special circumstances put forward by Horseworld.

Claiming that very measured statement from Whitchurch as outright support shows that Owen is not just wild for the old pork pies, but apparently SELF-DELUSIONAL as well!

Even the Bristol Post has seen through his wishful thinking and corrected its latest story to more accurately reflect the balance of public opinion over the HorseWorld plans after The BRISTOLIAN politely drew the attention of the journalist assigned – amusingly a crime reporter – to the actual recorded numbers of 615 against and 110 for.

So Mark: seek treatment. Not just for your sake, but for the charity you’re running into the ground.

Word reaches us that BRENDA ‘WISE MONKEY’ MCLENNAN is no longer the Finance boss at the Arnolfini arts centre by the Floating Harbour. Sources there have been keen to distance themselves from her for some reason, and have been at pains to emphasise that they parted ways in October. Why could that be?

Whilst not boasting the same name recognition as His Redtrouserness, you may remember McLennan from her unsuccessful bid for a council seat back in May, when she ran as the public-spirited, politically independent candidate in Clifton for the INDYREDPANTS PARTY, that ragbag of gormless cheerleaders for King George.

What you might not know is that this ‘outsider’ to Bristol’s local politics is also now the Deputy Chair of the City Council’s Audit Committee – which is responsible for ensuring sound management of our money and clamping down on fraud and corruption within BCC. If nothing else, this unusual appointment of one of the Mayor’s keenest public supporters brings a whole new meaning to the term ‘politically independent’.

Certainly Ms McLennan (who has racked up thousands of pounds in expenses) has wasted no time in showing the kind of gumption needed to “shake things up” at Shitty Hall by, err… Not turning up for the most important Audit Committee meeting of year!

That’s right, for reasons unknown, Ms Mclennan – one of only two people providing allegedly independent oversight of council finances – failed to show at the Committee meeting in September, where the council’s audited accounts for the 2012-13 were agreed and signed off (without a hitch, natch).

Also on the agenda at the meeting was the report from the council’s Internal Audit Department cataloguing the series of gross financial failures across the organisation. These included theft, wholesale non-compliance with procurement regulations, dodgy management of cash accounts and – even – a very special mention for The BRISTOLIAN’s bête noire, Facilities Service Manager Tony ‘Toerag’ Harvey’s bent Markets Service!

So nothing there that would in any way interest an independent election candidate who wants to “shake things up” at Bristol City Council then!