The ongoing campaign by the community in St Werburghs, represented by its Neighbourhood Association, to get rid of the advertising billboards in the area that don’t even have planning permission to be there has taken a new turn.
A local activist, Mark Boyle, mounted a 24 hour vigil against the billboards on Thursday at the site of some of the offending and legally dubious billboards owned by the Children’s Scrapstore, a recycling charity that moved into the area just a couple of years ago.
It’s all a bit embarrassing for the charity and its retail arm, Artrageous, who arrived in St Werburghs spouting warm words and all the usual voluntary sector, right-on community values nonsense and now find themselves at loggerheads with that same community.
Not that you would know it if you read the organisation’s annual report from last year. Their brassnecked boss tells the charity’s funders and supporters:
The general public support of Artrageous is increasing and we are therefore integrating with the community as we hoped in our plan to move to St Werburghs
And goes on:
It was always a major part of the business plan to increase trade from this area while cementing community links.
Whoops! It must have momentarily slipped their minds – just as they were writing their annual report too – that they’re actually involved in a major row with the local community. Never mind. Who needs the truth? Probably not the public bodies disbursing the public funds to the charity on our behalves.
The charity meanwhile, in its defence, is claiming it needs the money earned from the billboards to remain solvent. They say:
“It may be some consolation to realise the money earned from the boards goes directly to helping children both locally and across Bristol.”
Not strictly true either. The majority of the money actually goes directly on staff wages who in turn might be “helping children both locally and across Bristol” although apparently not the local community they work in.
It might be worth some of these anti-billboard campaigners taking the time to have a closer look at the Scrapstore’s annual report themselves. It reveals that at least two of the trustees appear to have earned money from the charity but have not obtained permission from the Charity Commission to do this.
So it looks like it’s not just planning law the charity’s breaking at present.
Perhaps too, the five “observers” from various local authorities listed in this annual report who, it’s assumed, are supposed to be directly overseeing the tax payers’ money handed to the charity ought to get off their clueless, lazy arses and start doing their jobs properly as well.
Bristol City Council’s observer, incidentally, is Tom Williams a Service Manager for Young People’s Services in the Culture and Leisure Services Department. Wonder how much he’s paid not to notice breaches of the law?