Council officers plot to give land to Lansdown on the cheap

While Cabinet member Gary Hopkins continues to live in his own little make believe world where he thinks he’s in power and can make promises about the Ashton Gate land sale like “we will … get best value for Bristol residents”, the reality is somewhat different.

Because a Freedom of Information request published today reveals the people who really run the city council – its officers – are busily planning to sell our very valuable land on the cheap to Steve Lansdown so that he can sell to Tesco for a handsome profit:

The Council is currently involved in negotiations which could potentially result in the disposal of land for less than best consideration

Oh dear. Looks like Gary joins Jon Rogers in being in office rather than in power doesn’t it?

This entry was posted in Bristol, Bristol South, Developments, Environment, FOI, Lib Dems, Local government, Planning, Politics, World Cup 2018 and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

63 Responses to Council officers plot to give land to Lansdown on the cheap

  1. Jon Rogers says:

    Selective quote there BB – the full quote is “The Council is currently involved in negotiations which could potentially result in the disposal of land for less than best consideration in return for community benefits but independent assessment of the negotiated terms will need to be sought to determine the value of any proposed undervalue of benefits.”

    The full quote doesn’t fit with your story does it? The full quote is accurate and does not contradict Gary’s, “we will … get best value for Bristol residents”

    But why let such things get in the way of another sleazy story?

  2. SteveL says:

    Question is, what is a “community benefit”. Is it a supermarket and some BRT route?

  3. SteveL says:

    Or is it, perhaps, handbags for the planning committee or their wives:
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/football/8321089.stm

  4. organiclocal says:

    How’s about the community benefit is

    ‘Tesco fund link rd (to Tesco).’

  5. thebristolblogger says:

    Jon, you’re such a wanker it defies description.

    Your scumbag officers on 6-figure salaries are sorting favours for the richest man in the city and I’m the sleazy one?

    And do tell us Jon, while you’re here, when did you find out about BCC owning land at Ashton Gate?

    After all, didn’t you accuse me of sleaze and lies over that matter then run away when you were asked to factually back up your claim?

    Everyone knows you’re smearing Jon. It’s completely transparent.

  6. thebristolblogger says:

    As for “community benefit”:

    The “community benefit” the Lib Dems and David Bishop delivered at the Chocolate Factory was a wood chip heating system.

    No schools, no public transport, no social services etc, etc.

    Central fucking heating for rich people instead.

  7. Jon Rogers says:

    Don’t like it when tables are turned do you?

    I point out your “misleading” (to be generous) quote, and that your sly innuendo doesn’t stack up and then I’m “smearing” and worse!

    On the Chocolate Factory (a situation inherited from Labour) you are confusing “sale of land” with “planning conditions”. Two different things.

  8. thebristolblogger says:

    Stop rambling about tables Jon and answer the question I’ve asked you about 5 times now, there’s a good boy.

  9. BERATE says:

    Jon,
    Irrespective of whether the quote above is accurate or not, if you try to sell the land for anything less than 95% of the consideration value, there will be an immediate referral to the European Commission and a complaint made under state aid rules: http://tiny.cc/zweUI

    Unless you offer the land for unconditional sale to all comers, you will need to demonstrate that you have obtained the market value , and obtain independent valuations which are transparently available to the public.

    You can quibble about public benefit, and how you define community benefits, but what is being discussed is the offering of a substantial public subsidy to a private business which could arguably afford to pay the full amount and could quite easily raise the cash required to fund the stadium through other means.

    Incidentally, if planning officers recommend refusal on the grounds of impact to environment, community or existing retail and the committee decide to approve, will you still sell them the land?

  10. Jon Rogers says:

    More information in Post article

    http://bit.ly/3TpVm6

  11. organiclocal says:

    Ahem….one fifth of £20m tesco value does not =

    £250-300,000 in community benefits.

    What’s so wrong in getting the real value in cash?

  12. chrishutt says:

    There was a time in the dim and distant past when Jon Rogers made much of the need for openness and transparency. So how about some of that now?

    There’s one way and only one way of determining the value of the land we own at Ashton Gate and that is to put it on the open market and see what it fetches. In a free market the value of anything is determined purely by what people are prepared to pay for it. All the rest is bullshit.

    So I’ll start the ball rolling by offering £350,000 subject to planning permission for a foodstore being given. That’s a serious offer which I am confident I can finance and is £50k more than the Council were expecting according to today’s Evening Post.

    Any advances on £350k?

    Alternatively, if the Council prefer to keep this hidden away from public scrutiny and do some dodgy deal with developers just like Labour used to then just carry on as you are. I had hoped for better from the Lib Dems.

  13. Gary Hopkins says:

    As an administration we would like the world cup(although there are a lot of written indemnities to squeeze out of government first) and that necessarily means a new stadium but the deal has to be right. Even if we were daft enough to fail to negotiate a good return for our assets there would be auditers crawling all over it.
    Any agreement will be subject to cabinet decision and the details will be available for public scrutiny.
    We have no idea what the planning committee will decide and I think the fact that Lib Dem members and others on the planning committee failed to pass the new Bishopston school even though that gives us as an administration problems shows that they will decide on planning grounds. They were not convinced that education officers had tied down the details properly.
    The planning committee also have to decide whether to agree to the supermarket on the old stadium site.
    The stated position of the club at the moment is that they would walk away if they do not get their way on this.It remains to be seen if that is what happens.
    In the meantime my previous comments are available for all to see and nothing in the partial quote in the post above undermines them.

  14. Bluebaldee says:

    Under the same terms that Chris has proposed (planning permission granted for foodstore) I offer £400,000.

    There, that’s two offers well in excess of what the council were expecting.

    I may have to leverage some of this a la the Glazers’ buyout of Manchester United, but hey-ho it’s more than Lansdown is offering…..

  15. Mark Wright says:

    Hold on, before people get carried away a couple of misunderstandings need to be cleared up:

    1. In finance the annuity value of an asset (i.e. the annual income equal in value to the actual asset) is generally considered to be 1/20th of that asset value (5%) – largely because most such “mortgages” to cover purchase are 20 years long. Therefore, there is nothing at all unusual in getting a purchaser to offer ~5% of the asset value annually in the form of some other costed benefit… it’s basically equivalent to a loan-purchase.

    2. The large majority of the value of a piece of property is locked within the leasehold, not the freehold. Typically 75% or more of the value is in the leasehold. Though it would be nice, having sold on the leasehold the freeholder cant unilaterally then expect the full land value again for the freehold. Therefore, sadly, the value of the freehold held by BCC is not simply 20% of 20m, I think it’s at most a quarter of that (though the exact amount would depend on how much uplift in the value there is caused by any planning gain on the land – it gets pretty complex!)

    Both of these points are independent of the question of whether it is desirable to sell the land of course.

  16. chrishutt says:

    Mark, there’s only one way to determine the freehold value and that’s to put it on the open market. All the rest is Voodoo economics dreampt up by consultants to please their political paymasters.

    Ownership of the freehold means holding the Aces because the foodstore can’t go ahead without the owner’s consent. That’s worth a good deal more than the £450k I am now offering to top Bluebaldee’s offer.

  17. Jon Rogers says:

    Chris Hutt asks, “There was a time in the dim and distant past when Jon Rogers made much of the need for openness and transparency. So how about some of that now?”

    Our administration remains completely committed to openness and transparency.

    That doesn’t give us the right to break commercial confidences, nor would we agree to discuss all our internal discussions on everything. Finally, there are significant planning decisions to be taken. These must be free from political interference.

    Look back 8 short months to our predecessor’s administration and decide if you would get 3 cabinet members responding carefully to clarify where we can.

    It is not always easy being the administration, but for me anyway, it is certainly fun! I genuinely believe that we can make a difference, changing Bristol for the better.

    Have a good day all

    Jon

  18. Ben says:

    “Our administration remains completely committed to openness and transparency. ”

    Thats good to hear, Jon.

    In that spirit – when did you first learn that BCC owned the land in question?

  19. Mark Bradshaw says:

    hey Jon

    We didn’t have time to engage on blogs etc given the mess you and your colleagues left us to sort out! I’m only on this and other blogs now I’m out of office. I’m afraid I had a lot to do – and read – when in Cabinet.

    Mark

  20. chrishutt says:

    Jon, of course the willingness of leading members of the Lib-Dem administration to listen to and comment on points made here is good, but it does seem to stop short of giving straight answers to some of the questions, such as that posed by Ben above.

    We all know that the council owned land at Ashton Gate is worth at least ten times the figures being reported in the Evening Post. So let’s establish a genuine market value for the land and, if the sale goes through, that could be used to fund community facilities that meet the real needs of the people of Ashton and Bedminster rather than being tied up with the Stadium development.

  21. Jon Rogers says:

    Thanks Mark,

    You say, “I’m afraid I had a lot to do – and read – when in Cabinet”

    I realise that my admission that I don’t read every document that crosses my desk in full sent shivers down the spines of the old guard.

    “How else can we keep the Executive Member tied to his desk, head in briefings, strategy documents, options appraisals, community engagement and consultation protocols, etc , etc and avoiding listening to, involving and engaging with the wider public?

    “This has worked for years in Bristol to keep Exec Members running along officer lines.”

    I try and get every document in the public domain as soon as possible, so others with particular view points, bees in bonnets and interests, can read and comment.

    My officer briefings are primarily to discuss my agenda.

    I find I can often learn more and understand more from the general public (including these blogs) than I do from reams of paper documents.

    It is a different approach from my predecessors, but it seems to be making some progress. Time will tell.

    Jon

  22. Jon Rogers says:

    Chris Hutt said, “We all know that the council owned land at Ashton Gate is worth at least ten times the figures being reported in the Evening Post.

    My understanding is that the figures quoted in the Post are annual returns, not “one off” returns.

    The land sale is not in my portfolio and I am not involved in negotiations. The reason I am resisting answering Ben’s question is I would have to admit that I heard the detail first on one of the blogs and obviously I wouldn’t want to do that as it might imply that on this point of information I was not as well informed as I like to think I am. So I am going to carry on resisting!

    Jon

  23. Jon Rogers says:

    I should say “possible land sale” – it has already been made clear that any such decision would come to Full Cabinet.

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  25. Mark Bradshaw says:

    ‘find I can often learn more and understand more from the general public (including these blogs) than I do from reams of paper documents’

    the importance is balance – I had open briefings when invited travel groups and users, transport operators and even Assoc of British Drivers met me to discuss issues. I didn’t spend all day every day in Brunel House! I think you’ve discontinued these ‘Transport Board’ meetings nowadays.

    Mark

  26. inks says:

    “Ownership of the freehold means holding the Aces because the foodstore can’t go ahead without the owner’s consent. That’s worth a good deal more than the £450k I am now offering to top Bluebaldee’s offer.”

    Not quite. Without the Tesco development you’re stuck for the next hundred years with a bit of land earning a pittance as a car park.

    So if Tesco decide not to buy you out or the development doesn’t go ahead for whatever reason you’re stuffed.

    And if Tesco make you an offer of £200,000 what alternative would you have but to take it and lose your £250,000? There’s no other buyer as Bristol City will only give up their lease as part of the deal with Tesco.

    Tesco would have you by the balls just as much as you’d have them. More so as if the development doesn’t go ahead Tesco don’t lose money, they’ve not currently bought up any land.

  27. organical says:

    If I was the freehold owner I’d be pushing for maximum cash value especially for a very rich buyer and an extremely wealthy supermarket.
    Hang on I am the owner, (sort of).
    Jon I like your spirit of openness-ask your employees and colleagues to get me and my fellow citizens the best price please.
    And lets have all the details here on the blog before any signatures. Don’t want any sniff of dodgy dealing behind our backs please (ok too late ).

  28. dreamingspire says:

    Jon, how about resurrecting the quarterly Transport Forum? The previous minority administration killed it. We might then be able to have some input to seriously looking at the transport and related public safety problems associated with both the main stadia, as well as the effect of another supermarket. (And other benefits from that Forum, not relevant for this thread.)

  29. Tony Dyer says:

    Inks said
    “Without the Tesco development you’re stuck for the next hundred years with a bit of land earning a pittance as a car park.”

    Which was the situation before the Tesco proposal materialised, and has been ever since the leasehold was signed in 1987. So the council would be in no different a position then they were before – no worse off and of course no better off but certainly not stuffed.

    The options are that if the Tesco development doesn’t go ahead then Bristol City FC decide to stay as they are – in which case they would still need the land as a car park, or, more likely, seek out other sources of funding to redevelop their existing ground or to provide a mixed use development which is not reliant upon the use of the council owned land and/or does not jar so badly with local planning policy – either of which many local residents might see as preferable compared to having a superstore built there. In either case, the council may be able to use the public land to provide a development which is thus of direct community benefit rather than trying to demonstrate an indirect community benefit.

    The Council is not stuffed just because a car park remains a car park. Whilst each successive year, sees the remainder value of Bristol City’s leasehold reduce. It is Bristol City FC who are the ones for whom the clock is ticking.

  30. thebristolblogger says:

    Mark,

    1. In finance the annuity value of an asset (i.e. the annual income equal in value to the actual asset) is generally considered to be 1/20th of that asset value (5%) – largely because most such “mortgages” to cover purchase are 20 years long. Therefore, there is nothing at all unusual in getting a purchaser to offer ~5% of the asset value annually in the form of some other costed benefit… it’s basically equivalent to a loan-purchase.

    This is very interesting and largely accurate. But it doesn’t tally with what your manager and key advisor on the matter, Alun Owen, told the Post today:

    If Ashton Gate is sold to Tesco to build a supermarket, then the amount which the council would be owed for its share of the site could be as much as £250,000-£300,000.

    There’s no suggestion here that £250,000-£300,000 is an annual 5% asset benefit, to use your words.

    What is the explanation for this?

    That Owen can’t express simple concepts in plain English? (In which case why does he have a job advising councillors?)

    Or is he providing different messages to different audiences? (ie you and me)

    Or is it that your chosen project manager simply doesn’t have a clue and is out of his depth?

    But let’s assume that Owen’s figure is in fact a 5% annual asset benefit payable over 20 years as you appear to be saying.

    Then the land’s worth £5m. But how does that tally with this claim of yours?

    the value of the freehold held by BCC is not simply 20% of 20m, I think it’s at most a quarter of that

    If, as seems to be claimed, Owen’s £5m valuation is a quarter of 20% of the value of the entire land. Then he’s valued Ashton Gate at £100m!

    Shurely Shome Misshtake?

    The problem is Mark, that the city council at quite a high level – through yourself and Owen – have put out two conflicting messages regarding this land within hours of each other.

    This is not only confusing – which might be your aim? – it also begins to turn the whiff of our local authority doing favours for wealthy men in to a stench.

    Finally,

    it gets pretty complex!

    No it doesn’t. Some people – perhaps like Mr Owen who appear rather confused himself – are making it complicated.

    having sold on the leasehold the freeholder cant unilaterally then expect the full land value again for the freehold

    The freeholder doesn’t need to “expect” anything. The leaseholder wishes to buy the freehold in order to get out of the lease and sell the land at an inflated profit.

    The leaseholder cannot “expect” to buy the freehold and certainly cannot “expect” to buy the freehold at a knockdown price.

    The freeholder can choose to keep the land, sell to the leaseholder or sell on the open market.

    They can therefore “expect” a market price. Everything else is noise.

  31. The £500K that the Bristol Traffic PRoject bidding is worth it even precisely because we are not going to resell it to Tesco and therefore their supermarket proposal is dead.

    1. Sainsburys will be grateful. And we are talking more than nectar-point grateful here, more orange supermarket bags full of cash grateful.

    2. I get to remove the parking rights of the FC and replace it with the South Bristol Transport Interchange -A bike park alonside the proposed BRT route/bike path

    3. I’ve been in discussion with George Ferguson and alongside the proposed BRT route/bike path we’re building some houses. It will be the first BRT-housing development where you can step straight out the house into a bendy bus.

  32. chrishutt says:

    Inks, your analysis is pretty good, but you don’t seem to realise that both land owners at Ashton Gate enter negotiations on pretty equal terms. Each has a piece of the jigsaw and they can only complete the jigsaw by doing a deal.

    Let’s assume for fun that I was successful in my bid to buy the BCC land for £450k and that I’m a hard nosed businessman. I’d have an assett of little value on its own since, as you point out, it’s leased to BCFC for bugger all (another dodgy deal?) so I couldn’t do anything much with it except sell it on.

    But an option for me would be to sell the land to Sainsburys or Asda who might be happy to add it to their landbank just to block Tesco or another competitor. That possibility would put me in a strong position.

    BCFC/Lansdown on the other hand would be anxious to progress their deal with Tesco, etc. but would be stymied if they couldn’t buy my land. So their negotiating position would be quite weak and would depend on pretending the whole stadium deal was off in a bid to panic me into a cheap sale.

    We’d both have a lot to lose if we didn’t do a deal and a lot to gain if we did, and we’d both know it. For BCFC the extra to be gained from a sale to Tesco would be around £15 million less whatever they agreed to pay to buy me out. Obviously they’d pay say £2 million for my land because they’d still be £13 million ahead and £2 million is small beer in the context of a £65 million stadium.

    But they wouldn’t pay £10 million because that would leave them with only £5 million extra and they might well decide that wasn’t worth the humiliation of letting me shaft them. Perhaps they’d really abandon the new stadium plans under such circumstances.

    So somewhere between £2 million and £10 million is the figure that would be settled on. My guess is that might be £5 million because it’s still low enough not to derail the stadium plan.

    And £5 million is the sort of figure that a lot of us think the Council ought to be charging for our land. That would buy some nice community facilities for Ashton and Bedminster which might go some way to compensating for the Tesco store.

  33. chrishutt says:

    Make that £550k now I’ve seen Bristol Traffic’s bid.

  34. Bluebaldee says:

    Who exactly is Alun Owen? Is he retarded?

    From the Evening Pisspoor:

    “Alun Owen, the council officer in charge of major projects, said if the council sold its car park site then it would receive 50 per cent of the proceeds – the other half would go to the club. If Ashton Gate is sold to Tesco to build a supermarket, then the amount which the council would be owed for its share of the site could be as much (!) as £250,000-£300,000.”

    Two questions – firstly, why does the freeholder have to give 50% of the sale proceeds to the leaseholder?

    Secondly, current urban planning guidelines state that a developer can put up to 60 dwellings per hectare, so that works out at around 30 dwellings on the council-owned bit of the Ashton Gate carpark if the land is sold for housing.

    Any developer would bite your hand off at the shoulder to be offered a site of that size for 30 dwellings at just £300k.

    But we’re told that the land is worth four times as much to Tesco than for housing (£20million v £5million).

    So why is Alun Owen saying that the council could get just £250 – 300k for it?

    If, as many suspect, the council is planning to rip us all off by virtually giving away the land to one of the region’s richest wankers – then why let a moronic loose-cannon like Alun Owen make absurd statements to the local press?

    Come on local politicians! If you’re going to be corrupt and sleazy, at least do it properly!

  35. Pingback: Tesco Ashton Gate Planning Meeting: CANCELLED!!! « The Bristol Blogger

  36. organiclocal says:

    I fear the car park has already become a pork pie factory.

  37. thebristolblogger says:

    Who exactly is Alun Owen? Is he retarded?

    Looks like it doesn’t it?

    why let a moronic loose-cannon like Alun Owen make absurd statements to the local press?

    I don’t think anyone let him loose. It rather looks like him and the thick copper from Sheffield took it upon themselves to make this nonsensical announcement to the press.

    Presumably they think everyone’s as stupid as they clearly are?

  38. chrishutt says:

    From the Blogger DIY Ashton Gate banner site –

    http://bit.ly/2rCQZs

  39. inks says:

    “But an option for me would be to sell the land to Sainsburys or Asda who might be happy to add it to their landbank just to block Tesco or another competitor. That possibility would put me in a strong position.”

    An interesting point, certainly Asda would have a big angle as a lot of their regulars, me included, would head to a nearby Tesco in preference.

    But still they know they’d get a compulsory purchase order up their arse in due time so it’d just be a pissing around delaying tactic. Big businesses don’t tend to piss around like that as they ultimately depend on not being hated by everyone, including a local authority, for future developments.

    So, no, I don’t think you’d manage to sell the blocking bit of land to either Sainsbury or Asda.

    Outside of central Mayfair or a site in the City of London no-one pays £5 million for an acre of land. Dream on.

    It’s wrong to say the landowner and Tesco are going head-to-head on an equal basis. Tesco / City have the majority of the site and the leasehold of the carpark so they’ve got the stronger hand. If they chose not to play ball the carpark is valueless.

    NB/ As a personal note, particularly to our esteemed local councillors, only webmong twats sign their posts.

    All best wishes

    inks

  40. Jon Rogers says:

    inks suggests, “NB/ As a personal note, particularly to our esteemed local councillors, only webmong twats sign their posts.”

    I sign my posts to remind me and others that they are like public emails and are not anonymous.

  41. chrishutt says:

    Inks “Outside of central Mayfair or a site in the City of London no-one pays £5 million for an acre of land.”

    But that is the kind of money that we are being told Tesco were and now Sainsburys is offering – £20 million for the whole site so £4 million for 20% of it (don’t know off hand what that is in acres), which is the proportion owned by BCC. Plus the highway access via the BCC land bumps up the value.

    The fact that the BCC land is leased to BCFC anyway obviously limits the options for BCC but it’s pretty irrelelvant to a sale to BCFC itself. The value of the land remains what it would fetch on the open market.

    Good point about compulsory purchase though. You’re right that a CPO would be employed at some stage, but wouldn’t they then have to pay the market value (+ a margin?)? So the crucial factor is who would determine the market value for a CPO and how.

    We now have a situation where Sainsburys appear to be the bidders so Asda, Tesco and even Aldi might all be worried that their existing stores will take a hit, although you could argue Sainsburys don’t compete for the same market segment.

  42. Jon Rogers says:

    Afternoon all

    I said yesterday that “My understanding is that the figures quoted in the Post are annual returns, not “one off” returns.”

    I have checked and the figure of £250,000 to £300,000 is a possible option for the value of community benefit. It is an ANNUAL figure in perpetuity, not a ONE OFF figure.

    This would make more sense as many have commented.

    The council must deliver the best value for the people of Bristol in any land sale.

    With respect of land sale, I understand that the Council has four main options …

    (1) a disposal at full market value for a capital receipt;

    (2) a disposal at less than market value for a capital receipt generally requiring Secretary of State approval if over £2M;

    (3) a disposal in return for community benefits in perpetuity which when capitalised at least equate to the full market value;

    (4) a mixture of community benefits and a capital receipt equivalent to the full market value.

    What I understand is being discussed here is a possible sale based on option (3).

    The full market value would be assessed independently, and it has been made clear by the Leader that any decision on this matter would be a public cabinet decision.

    Jon

  43. chrishutt says:

    Jon Rogers posts clarification in comments of Evening Post article –

    “I think there is a little confusion here.

    I have checked and the figure of £250,000 to £300,000 is a possible option for the value of community benefit. It is an ANNUAL figure in perpetuity, not a ONE OFF figure.

    This would make more sense as many of your readers have commented.

    The council must deliver the best value for the people of Bristol in any land sale.

    With respect of land sale, I understand that the Council has four main options …

    (1) a disposal at full market value for a capital receipt;

    (2) a disposal at less than market value for a capital receipt generally requiring Secretary of State approval if over £2M;

    (3) a disposal in return for community benefits in perpetuity which when capitalised at least equate to the full market value;

    (4) a mixture of community benefits and a capital receipt equivalent to the full market value.

    What I understand is being discussed here is a possible sale based on option (3).

    The full market value would be assessed independently, and it has been made clear by the Leader that any decision on this matter would be a public cabinet decision.”

  44. chrishutt says:

    Sorry, I didn’t see that Jon had already posted above.

  45. thebristolblogger says:

    Another claim from a cabinet member and more confusion then.

    Jon has managed to contradict two cabinet colleagues (who contradict each other) and value the land at £10m.

    If we accept Owen’s wacky claim that the leaseholder is entitled to half the value of the freehold when they buy it. Then £250k is half the value, which means the land is actually worth £500k as an annual annuity over 20 years.

    This of course contradicts Mark Wright yesterday who suggested the land was worth just 5% of 20% of the value of the total site, which is about £200k (oddly close to Owen’s initial total figure).

    But didn’t Simon Cook tell a Full Council Meeting that the land wouldn’t be valued until planning permission was granted anyway?

    Confusing isn’t it?

  46. Jon Rogers says:

    Truth isn’t your strong suit is it BB. I didn’t indicate any value.

  47. thebristolblogger says:

    No. But your officers did.

    What are we supposed to think?

  48. chrishutt says:

    Jon refers to benefits in kind given in “perpetuity”. I’m not sure how that compares with a 20 year pay back period in terms of value, but maybe not that different in practice.

    It seems to me that Jon’s option (1) is the only open and transparent mechanism since it enables the capital sum to be spent in whatever way the council judge to give the best value for money, which may or may not include facilities provided by BCFC.

    Option (2) would constitute a subsidy of BCFC and I think if a subsidy were considered appropriate it should be dealt with separately, justified or not on its own merits, rather than being ‘lost’ in an unrealistically low sale price.

    Option (3) is the opposite of open and transparent because there will inevitably be a suspicion that the community benefits are not really what the community want and/or are not the best value for money but are determined to suit BCFC and to fit in with their business plan .

    Even if the BCFC benefits were initially thought to represent good value, what incentive would BCFC have to maintain or improve that value when the customer is locked into their product ‘in perpetuity’? Under option (3) the Council will never have the option of seeking better value or more appropriate community benefits elsewhere.

    Who in their right mind would sign himself up to buying one selection of goods or services from one supplier ‘in perpetuity’? What if one’s needs change? What if the supplier goes bankrupt (not that a football club could ever go bankrupt)? It’s utter madness (so no surprise that it is the option favoured by BCC).

    Furthermore option (3) is likely to confuse the distinction between community benefits that are provided by the applicant as part of planning consent and benefits subsequently ‘purchased’ by the council on behalf of the community. Community benefits may be ‘double counted’.

    So if openness and transparency really count for anything the council must go for option (1). Then if is thought appropriate to spend some of the land sale receipts on community benefits those should be sought from the best value supplier and according the the priorities determined by the community.

  49. Jon Rogers says:

    Er no officers did not – They indicated that “figure of £250,000 to £300,000 is a possible option for the value of community benefit. It is an ANNUAL figure in perpetuity, not a ONE OFF figure.

    That is not a capital value.

    I accept that is not as clear as it might be in the Evening Post on Friday, but at least they are seeking the truth, whereas you are trying to invent controversy.

  50. Jon Rogers says:

    I do enjoy hearing your simplistic view of the world Chris and welcome the challenge!

    The four options I cited are the four ways in which a council may legally dispose of assets.

  51. chrishutt says:

    Jon, so ‘openness and transparency’ is “simplistic” now?

    If you make things so complicated that nobody understands them then ‘openness and transparency’ become meaningless and the whole thing becomes a rogue’s charter. That’s why I put forward ‘simplistic’ analyses and suggestions, so hopefully people can understand what’s going on.

    Has the financial crisis not taught us the pitfalls of excessive complexity such that almost no one understands what’s really going on? Such overly complex and inevitably opaque systems lend themselves to abuse by smart operators like Lansdown because no one else understands what’s really going on.

    You simply can’t have openness and transparency combined with degrees of complexity that few understand. I know the real world is infinitely complex but the structures and mechanisms employed by the council needn’t be and shouldn’t be.

    If we all shrug our shoulders and say the world is just too compolicated to understand then what is the point of democracy? We might just as well hand power over to the likes of Lansdown and Savage and say ‘please don’t be too beastly to us’. (Oh, we have, have we?)

    Anyway Jon if you “welcome the challenge” of my “simplistic world view” perhaps you could say why option (3) is better than option (1). Or are you merely watching proceedings from afar with bemusement?

  52. Martyn says:

    “…excessive complexity such that almost no one understands what’s really going on?”

    Spot on… and (sorry to diverge) how can a civilised society still be questioning the fundamentals of it’s education system in the 21st Century?

  53. dreamingspire says:

    Jon, legal the 4 options may be, but for once I fully agree with Chris: we are extremely suspicious about council-defined “community benefit” these days. A public park may be fine, but anything tainted with commercial profit isn’t. And monetising such an alleged benefit may be popular, but its usually a nonsense (e.g. DfT monetises time that I spend waiting for a bus at £7.50 per hour, so please can I have £7.50 for the twice last week that a UWE/Wessex bus didn’t pick me up – once it just drove past, the other time it was later reported to have “broken down” – and so twice I had to get to TM by two buses in order to be sure to pick up rail tickets that I can’t trust Royal Mail to deliver, as I wanted to be sure to have them in my hands well before travelling).

  54. Jon Rogers says:

    Chris

    It is nothing to do with “simplistic” v “openness”

    Option (1) is different to Option (3).

    Both have their place when using our land assets trying to improve the city for the benefit of our residents , organisationsand businesses. All are important.

    The options can offer a return for the people of Bristol – option (1) as a capital sum, option (3) as long term community benefits.

    There are other factors here. These options cannot be considered in isolation. Many questions need to be answered. No decisions have been made.

    Any arrangement under any of the 4 options will be open to scrutiny.

    As Bismarck said, “Politics is the art of the possible” to be contradicted by JK Galbraith with “Politics is not the art of the possible. It consists in choosing between the disastrous and the unpalatable. “

    I trust that in this complex situation, we can do the right thing.

    Jon

  55. Jon Rogers says:

    Martyn highlights Chris’s comment on “…excessive complexity such that almost no one understands what’s really going on?”

    IMO it is complex, but not “excessively” complex.

    It is difficult to explain when some information is not public domain, but as more information becomes available, then things should become clearer.

  56. chrishutt says:

    JR “some information is not public domain”.

    Yes, we’ve noticed that.

    So you’re saying that all will be revealed to us plebs in due course, when the important decisions have been made, and that in the meantime we must just trust in your integrity. Sorry but that doesn’t sound much like ‘openness and transparency’ to me.

  57. Jon Rogers says:

    I say again, Chris – no council decisions have been made.

    It is common for “work in progress” to be confidential. I might not like it and you might not like it, but it happens.

    My personal preference is for more work to be done in public.

    I am willing to engage in blog comments, to speak to the media about early ideas and to encourage our councils to share problems, rather than work behind the scenes on secret solutions.

    I accept progress is slow. There are many unhealthy old habits, dating back 30+ years that need to be unlearnt. Hopefully you see some progress?

    Jon

  58. organiclocal says:

    Not sure ‘where we’re to’ in this discussion. I like the real time information and jon’s and other councillors input. The BB and chris are right to keep pressing.
    Obviously there’s stuff going on we don’t know about -but the rumour mill is working overtime. The Sainsbury story is no surprise to me -I heard it weeks ago. The car park sale remains a pork-pie factory until maybe a statement written in stone that the land wont be given away with a dodgy community-benefit-football-club-benefit-deal.
    Probably become clearer next week when the new stadium is won or lost , or maybe a draw with a rematch later.

  59. chrishutt says:

    The council have clearly made a decision to support BCFC in their ambitions (was that arrived at democratically?) but the nature of that support is unclear. Perhaps it has to be ‘unclear’ because there must surely be rules (FA? LA?) against local authorities giving subsidies to their local teams, otherwise that could easily get out of hand.

    So, in the absence of public domain information, I’m going to speculate that this is basically about finding ways that the council can support, or subsidise, its local football team without it being too obvious to the outside world.

    Might that explain the 1980s deal whereby the council leased a valuable chunk of land to BCFC on terms that were extremely favourable? Might it also explain why a blind eye was turned for so long to illegal parking by BCFC fans around Brunel Way and its slip roads, and why the parking restrictions have suddenly been enforced with yellow lines when BCFC needed to foster dissatisfaction with the existing stadium to build up support for its new stadium?

    Option (3) clearly fits with the desire to make hidden subsidies since it would allow the council to virtually give BCFC £5 million worth of publicly owned land with just a return in kind that can readily be accommodated within the stadium business plan at little real cost to BCFC.

    No doubt there is a lot more of the same going on that we don’t know about and no doubt every other city with a prominent football team is doing similar things, so I suppose the argument is that we’ve got to do these things because everybody else does.

    The problem is that once you start making compromises with such political principles as openness and transparency where does it stop? If your hands are sullied from one ethical compromise, perhaps for a ‘good cause’, then how can you resist the next time when the cause isn’t so obviously ‘good’?

  60. thebristolblogger says:

    Jon,

    Er no officers did not – They indicated that “figure of £250,000 to £300,000 is a possible option for the value of community benefit. It is an ANNUAL figure in perpetuity, not a ONE OFF figure.

    You’re quoting yourself, not your officers. Owen is reported as saying:

    If Ashton Gate is sold to Tesco to build a supermarket, then the amount which the council would be owed for its share of the site could be as much as £250,000-£300,000.

    No “possible options”; no “annual figure” I’m afraid.

    I’m not disputing what you said. I’m pointing out that it contradicts Owen, Simon Cook:

    ” [no] valuation has been placed on this land at present as this is dependent upon any successful planning application for a change of use.”

    And Mark Wright:

    sadly, the value of the freehold held by BCC is not simply 20% of 20m, I think it’s at most a quarter of that

    What’s not truthful about this? You are all contradicting each other.

    It’s obvious what’s going on here:

    Cook set the “say nothing until planning is decided” policy on 14 September. This had some merit as it was simple and gave you time.

    Then on Friday this was blown apart by House and Owen who decided to informally brief a Post journalist on the valuation and ditch the agreed cabinet policy.

    Subsequently yourself and Mark have been firefighting trying to shore up your cabinet’s authority (over your own officers!) and create confusion over Owen’s valuation claims.

    In fairness to you, you’ve been quite successful on the second point. Anyone reading this thread would undoubtedly be completely bamboozled over the value of this land.

    However, unfortunately for you, it’s an open secret that a valuation of the land in the low hundred thousands – produced by another senior officer – has been circulating in the Council House for some weeks now.

    On the question of the Cabinet’s political authority – it’s a matter of opinion obviously – but we’re dealing with the most important set of planning applications in the city in a generation here and the Council House appears to be in disarray.

    The impression is of splits, disagreements and factions. And it seems there are people at the Council House who believe that a poor deal for the people of Bristol on this land can be best achieved with the assistance of the Evening Post.

  61. Jon Rogers says:

    I am quoting officers. You are quoting reports.

    I am quoting facts. You are repeating your speculations, hoping that by repetition they will miraculously acquire validity.

  62. thebristolblogger says:

    Quoting the officers from where Jon? Can you show us?

    Why isn’t there a press release?

  63. thebristolblogger says:

    Chris,

    local authorities often try to support football clubs.

    Leeds City Council got well and truly stung recently trying to buy the football club’s training ground off them for £6m while quoting World Cup 2018 tosh.

    It all got called off when people started asking questions.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/football/2009/oct/16/leeds-united-thorp-arch-deal-collapses

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