Tidings of comfort and joy

A city council press release slips out under the cover of the Christmas break. Already flagged by Lib Dem Cabinet Member, Mark Wright, on this blog, we’re being told “Council takes action to safeguard privacy”.

Potentially good news then as it’s all about how the city council will be using RIPA (The Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000) laws – that allows them to collect data on and engage in the covert surveillance of citizens – in the future.

Wright himself tells us, “In future, the council’s privacy-related activities will be scrutinised in public by the Council’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee which will act as a proper check on the use of such methods.”

While we’re also informed of some other measures that will be introduced:

  • Elected councillors to be given a strategic role in scrutinising the way the Council uses data and covert investigatory techniques
  • Review of the Council’s procedures on retention, destruction and storage of data collected by the Council, and the adoption of a code of practice
  • Reviewing the rank of authorising officer for RIPA and whether this request should be raised to a more senior level
  • The Deputy Chief Executive to be the ‘responsible officer ‘ for ensuring all authorising officers are of an appropriate standard and properly trained
  • This is all well and good but it does raise a question. What on earth have council officers been up to for the last ten years using these laws out the view of elected politicians with no independent scrutiny and zero accountability?

    Wright says Overview and Scrutiny will provide a “proper check on the use of such methods”. So is he saying that there has been no such proper checks before?

    And if councillors are now being given a strategic role in scrutinising the way the council uses data and covert investigatory techniques who was doing this before? Unelected and unaccountable officers? Nobody at all?

    What about “adopting a code of practice”? Were officers using surveillance and collecting data on us with no code of practice? Without a written set of rules and regulations guiding their actions?

    How about “reviewing the rank of authorising officer for RIPA”? Are we being told that low-level bureaucrats have been authorising invasive surveillance and collecting data on us without any accountability?

    This is nothing short of scandalous. No wonder the council have slipped this news out at Christmas.

    Posted in Bristol, IT, Lib Dems, Local government, Policing, Politics, Privacy | Tagged , , , | There are 15 comments

    Merry fucking Christmas

    To all our readers.

    Pete Seeger:

    YouTube Preview Image
    Posted in Culture, Politics | Tagged , | There are 6 comments

    Turning the tables on the surveillance society: can we find out what they've been looking at on the internet?

    Chris Hutt draws our attention to an “interesting” Freedom of Information request.

    So can it be done? Can we find out what the great, the good, the powerful – the people that run our lives – are doing on the internet?

    Here’s the easy to follow flow chart published by the Information Commissioner on the subject (and further information is available in their publication The Exemption for Personal Information [pdf]):

    Not beyond the realms of possibility is it? Mr McNamara will be busy when he gets back from his extended break won’t he? ‘Cause they’re not gonna like it up ’em are they?

    Posted in Bristol, FOI, IT, Local government, Politics, Twitter | Tagged , | There are 37 comments

    Ashton Vale, Ashton Gate, new stadium, World Cup, Sainsburys: the battlelines for 2010

    With the city’s World Cup bid accepted earlier this week, now might be a useful time to look at what will be happening at the grassroots as we enter 2010.

    First thing, the phoney war over Sainsburys at the Gate will draw to an abrupt close in the new year and fighting will break out in earnest.

    Charlie’s announced on his blog that Sainsbury’s are talking about a big store on the site. 9000 sq metres in fact. By comparison the proposed Tesco there was going to be 5,500 sq metres. The existing Sainsbury is 5,126 and Asda is 4,733.

    So it’s effectively a third superstore in all but name as it adds 3877 sq metres of supermarket floorspace to the area, which compares directly to the 3729 sq metres of the Morrisons superstore at Symes Avenue, Hartcliffe.

    Now we’ve all finally seen the report produced by the city’s planning officers for the withdrawn Tesco application, it’s hard to see how they expect to get planning permission for this when that didn’t.

    The Blogger’s planning experts say the increase in retail floorspace and the transport implications alone should see it refused and it will also blow a huge hole in the city’s planning Core Strategy.

    One suggestion is that Sainsbury’s are in a win-win situation. If the planning permission is granted they get a giant superstore, if it isn’t they will have prevented any other supermarket moving into the area. And all for minimal a outlay as the club is once again paying for all the consultancy and Sainsbury’s have only committed to buying the land if permission is granted.

    Meanwhile the south Bristol Labour Party are right behind the Sainsbury’s plan at present as are, of course, the Lib Dem leadership duo of Cook and Janke as well as the increasingly erratic ‘town hall fat cats’ Ormondroyd and the sidekick – that copper from Sheffield who doesn’t know where Easton is.

    Latest rumours from the third floor say both the ‘fat cats’ are fast losing the confidence of their own staff as bizarre clamp downs, weird diktats and impossible demands are passed down the ranks to deliver. The duo are said to be particularly sensitive to Steve Lansdown’s needs and are very touchy about the Ashton Gate car park affair (blogger passim), which is likely to reignite alongside the Sainsbury’s plan. Both are “determined” that the supermarket gets permission we’re told.

    A planning application is touted to go in late January or early February, so the fun starts soon. Pull up a seat.

    Also expected early next year is the Ashton Vale town green hearing. Local residents have put in an application to have some of the Ashton Vale land protected and the Blogger learns this process has been mysteriously “fast tracked” and we can expect a hearing early in the year.

    Landowners Pontin and Lansdown are said to have their lawyers primed – as will the city council – while residents are talking up their chances as “pretty good”.

    Best keep an eye on this one as it may deliver surprises …

    Posted in Activism, Ashton Vale, Bedminster, Bristol, Bristol South, Developments, Environment, Labour Party, Lib Dems, Local government, Planning, Politics, Southville, World Cup 2018 | Tagged , , , , , , , | There are 10 comments

    S.106 news

    As we finally bid farewell to the Blogger’s favourite piece of public art shite, Victoria Park’s ‘Black Cloud‘, a small snippet of funding information comes our way.

    The council’s November s. 106 spending update, outlining how cash from developers has been spent by the council, includes money from the development of 32 – 36 Victoria Street, Redcliffe for the provision of Public Art Schemes.

    Money went to “the temporary Black Cloud sculpture in Victoria Park, the Art in the City Lecture Series at the Arnolfini, and an art installation in the North Cabin of the Bascule Bridge,” we’re told.

    So that’s a new bit of public money for the project, while Arnolfini of course gets another chunk of our money – no questions asked.

    There’s also some chatter that the proposed transfer of s. 106 agreement decisions to local neighborhood partnerships is being ‘fiercely resisted ‘. Council officers want to hang on to ‘their’ money apparently, despite millions of s. 106 payments lying around in council bank accounts doing nothing already.

    Posted in Bristol, Culture, Developments, Local government, Planning, Politics, Redcliffe | Tagged , , , , , , , | There are 7 comments

    Jonnie, Jonnie, Jonnie come out, come out from wherever you are …

    They say a week’s a long time in politics but it’s a very short time indeed for the Lib Dems’ Planning and Transport supremo, Jon Rogers, to make a complete nob of himself and demonstrate he’s a disempowered old fool running a shambles of a department on hot air alone.

    Can it be just last week that the mad doctor was frothing, fulminating, pompously pontificating and madly CAPITALISING on this very blog?

    Planning is INDEPENDENT of the executive

    He thundered at us. Ooh er, missus!

    the Bristol Blogger has, once again, served up an unnecessary, unpleasant and inaccurate slur.

    He boldly asserted.

    One part of my portfolio is to review how the planning officers tackle applications. They do seem to me to be scrupulously open and transparent.

    Really Jon? So what’s this we’ve been reading on Tony D’s blog? Broadmead German Market: Planning Department turning blind eye to Council’s rule breaking?

    How can this be? The city’s ‘scrupulously open and transparent’ council officers not bothering with planning permission for themselves? Shurely shome misshtake?

    Jon’s shambolic planning regime took a further hit today when Bristol 24-7 caught Jon’s boss, Barbara Janke, politically interfering in the planning process for a proposed biofuel plant in Avonmouth.

    Dearie me, what is going on in Jon’s department? First he cheaply gives up the city’s greenbelt he was elected to protect and now we find his officers and his boss openly abusing the planning system he runs.

    Meanwhile, Jon, an avid Twitterer and internet PR buff, seems to have temporarily dropped from view. Where could he be? Is he alright? Or is it time he got on that bike for good?

    Posted in Blogging, Bristol, Broadmead, Developments, Lib Dems, Local government, Planning, Politics, Twitter | Tagged , , , | There are 6 comments

    So who at the Counts Louse earns more than the PM?

    December’s Bristolian reveals all …

    A handy link to the Bristolian is now available on the Blogger’s ‘Bristol sites’ widget along with Bristol 24-7.

    Posted in Bristol, Culture, Journalism, Media, Politics | Tagged | There are 3 comments

    STOP PRESS: Mimosa meltdown!!!!

    Strong rumours reverberating on the Blogger’s newswires say that the manager and long-term secretary at Mimosa Healthcare’s ailing Kingsmead Lodge Nursing Home in Shire walked out earlier today this month. (This is what happens when you spend the afternoon at Christmas parties and then write up secondhand stories from someone else who’s spent the afternoon at a Christmas party. Ed.)

    The manager was brought in earlier this year to “turn the home around” after the police launched an investigation following allegations of abuse from former staff at the home in February and the coroner announced an inquest into the death of a resident at the home during the summer.The inquest is expected to be heard in January.

    The home also featured in a BBC Inside Out West documentary on Monday, while just last week the Care Quality Commission (CQC) claimed they had found evidence of “institutional abuse” in residential care homes in Bristol.

    Posted in Bristol, Bristol North west, Health, Local government, Politics, Privatisation, Shirehampton, Social Care | Tagged , , , | There are 5 comments

    The Copenhagen mystery

    That pitifully thick Clifton Tory-in-disguise that calls herself the leader of this city, Barbara Janke, gave a pitifully thick explanation for flying to Copenhagen to save the planet by doing her Christmas shopping – along with two colleagues, between them wasting enough carbon to circumnavigate the globe three times – to Bristol 24-7:

    “I am intending to fly,” explained the gormless west Bristol housewife, “because I am only able to be there for two days. To travel by other means would mean I could not go.”

    Barbara confirmed this version of events when her ever-loyal corporate yes-man in a cheap shiny suit, Stephen Hilton from Connecting Bristol, told everyone via Barbara’s brand shiny new planet-saving Twitter account (@Barbara_Janke), “I’ll be trying this out to report back from the Copenhagen summit. I’m there from Mon 14th to Wed 16th Dec”

    Really? Babs is there from Monday until Wednesday is she? So how come her Lib Dem colleague Neil Harrison says on his blog today, ”

    “Barbara has gone to Copenhagen today too and she has flown.”

    That’s a very long flight … Or is she spending the weekend there? What better way is there to get a feel for Copenhagenisation than to shop on the Stroget and other traffic free streets?

    Posted in Blogging, Bristol, Bristol West, Environment, Global warming, Green Capital, Lib Dems, Local government, Politics, Transport, Twitter | Tagged , , , | There are 7 comments

    Council priorities: free foreign travel for the rich, nothing for the poor

    As Stockwwod Pete reports that Barbara Janke has been flown out – at our expense – to hang around in Copenhagen for no reason being ignored by high-level diplomats, news comes in from the frontline (where services won’t be cut remember) …

    “A single parent of three with a seriously debilitating long-term condition recently had a case conference with Bristol social services, the health service, teachers and the like.

    “Often the kind of solutions people need are very simple and cheap and this conference quickly concluded that the woman might need help getting her kids to school in the morning. What’s easier to deliver than that?

    “”But we haven’t got any money,” piped up the representative from Bristol social services …”

    Posted in Bristol, Budget, Economy, Environment, Green Capital, Lib Dems, Local government, Politics | Tagged , , | There are 40 comments