RED TROUSER GATE: Fox goes hunting

Over on Charlie Bolton’s blog you can currently find Lib Dem and Green councillors mincing around, mutually patting each other on the back and assuring the public what thoroughly decent chaps of the highest possible integrity they and their wealthy international architect friends really are.

They’re also keen to assure us that any doubts we might harbour about their planning boss David Bishop’s idiosyncratic approach to selling public land to their wealthy friends is down to our own ignorance.

Yes. Silly old public. We don’t understand about high-powered things like “lobbying” like these important councillor insiders do.

Apparently, so these thoroughly decent councillors of the very highest integrity claim, it’s perfectly normal for millionaires like George Ferguson to directly contact well-paid council decision-makers like Bishop, ask for a bit of public land to build a tower block on and be gifted it two weeks later without the need to defer to council policy or muck about with any of that messy old paperwork stuff.

It’s called “lobbying” dontchaknow?

No worries then. It’s official. From councillors supposedly at the progressive end of politics in the city. It’s just business as usual at Bristol City Council. There’s nothing to see here. Please move along now …

Well thankfully there’s at least one councillor who thinks this is a complete and utter load of twat.

Step forward Tory Councillor Ashley Fox, who’s spotted what’s going on with Bishop and Ferguson and has tabled a series of incendiary questions about Bishop and his unorthodox approach to public land sales to influential local developers at the next Full Council Meeting on 2 December.

Ashley’s questions are available in full on James Barlow’s blog. However there’s a few that are particularly striking:

Does the Cabinet Member agree with me that the apparent informal and unrecorded manner in which this property sale was transacted could leave the Council open to accusations of impropriety or favouritism?

Does the Cabinet Member agree with me that the apparent manner in which the recent sale of parts of the embankment of the Bristol-Bath Railway Path was transacted warrants further investigation?

Will the Cabinet Member undertake to remind all Officers engaged in the disposal of Council-owned assets of the importance of the principle of Integrity (within the Code of Conduct for Employees) that “holders of public office must not place themselves under any financial or other obligation to outside individuals or organisations that might influence them in the performance of their official duties”?

These questions seem, albeit in Ashley’s rather high Tory lawyerly fashion, to be raising the question, that has consistently been put on this blog, as to whether there might be an issue with corruption at Bristol City Council in relation to land deals.

Thank god at least one councilor has a basic understanding of the principles that need to underpin the workings of honest government. It’s been a long time coming.

Ashley’s questions are politically quite adept too. The Labour administration – who have for months now studiously buried their heads in the sand on an emerging scandal that they could have easily strangled at birth by simply rescinding the blatantly unconstitutional land sale – are now in a bind, particularly as Chief Exec Bum Disease seems to have played a dummy and landed the ball directly at their feet.

They’re basically being publicly invited to either back or sack the deeply unreliable Bishop.

If they back him, is there potentially more damaging material still to come and how much damage will that do to their administration now they’re directly involved? Certainly a number of bloggers have more information that’s yet to enter the public domain …

Or do Labour sack Bishop? Totally undermining all credibility in their expensively assembled £1m a year new senior management officer team that’s been promising a lot for ages but would be delivering an embarrassing mountain of sleaze.

I think this is going to be fun.

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10 Responses to RED TROUSER GATE: Fox goes hunting

  1. Pingback: Fashion News » Blog Archive » RED TROUSER GATE: Fox goes hunting

  2. Chris Hutt says:

    Calling it Red Trouser Gate pulls in a whole new surfer segment.

  3. Spectator says:

    Just a minute old boy, I thought that a bunch of chaps in red jackets were supposed to chase Old Reynard… but what’s this I see? A Fox chasing a chap in red trousers? Oh well…

    A hunting we will go,
    A hunting we will go…

  4. The coming weeks will certainly be interesting, with complaints, freedom of info requests, questions to Cabinet, meetings about the legal position all to come – maybe in that time even the Evening Post will report the issue! I was promised a reply from BCC Complaints Manager Tim Sheppard about his investigation into senior officer David Bishop by Friday 14 Nov but, surprise, surprise, it did not arrive. I’ll be reminding him about this and hope to get something next week.

  5. BristolPatriot says:

    If proven does this not become tantermount to treason?
    Common purpose yet again .

  6. Archie says:

    It is amazing that a simple complaint which was originally going to be resolved in 14 days has dragged on for 2 months!!! Surely BCC must know how bad this has reflected on them and as for BEP, not reporting this story is just as bad, Is the Sam Mason story a smoke screen?

  7. Gary Hopkins says:

    Happy to repeat my comment that you can find on Charlie’s blog that I think the Blogger suggestion that CB has been warned of raising the matter is rubbish and to state publicly that I do think even though he might be in a different party that CB has integrity.
    Happy also to repeat the welcome to reality statement that of course developers lobby to get the best deal for their development. What is the point is how this is dealt with by officers and the administration.

    The council has policies and procedures that are there to protect public accountability and the public interest.There has been a long history at BCC of policies not being stuck to and that is one of the reasons ,among others, for the council performing so poorly over so many years.If a policy is changed on the hoof there needs to be avery convincing public explanation.
    The parks and green spaces strategy was in my view broken within minutes when Filwood park was disposed of and there are questions to answer here.
    I am very glad that Cllr Fox is asking some questions and I will be interested to see if he gets any meaningful answers.
    This will of course be the same Cllr Fox who ,when chairing a recent scrutiny enquiry , failed to see any problem with this council agreeing to an arrangement on waste governance that pushes Bristol not only to build an incinerator in Avonmouth but also to import neighbouring councils waste. He waved away the challenge to the administration.
    To be fair a previous related challenge was allowed through to council for discussion where his party leader Cllr Eddy tried ,partially sucsessfully and with the support of Cllr Fox to obscure the issue.
    The third challenge comes up shortly and we shall all watch the outcome with interest.
    Readers may also wish to follow the old post link which refers to the Bristol Tory habit of the last couple of years of not only not asking awkward questions of their friends in the Labour administration but actively working to block those like myself who do challenge.

  8. sceptic says:

    Gary Hopkins said:

    “There has been a long history at BCC of policies not being stuck to and that is one of the reasons ,among others, for the council performing so poorly over so many years.”

    Well Gary, part of your job is to set council policy and ensure that council officers follow it. Your comment shows you and your colleagues in the council chamber are not up to the job.


    Are you so in thrall to the officers that you allow them to lead you by the nose; to set policy and follow/ignore it as they see fit?

    Are you frightened to challenge them?

    I think we should be told.

  9. thebristolblogger says:

    I do think even though he might be in a different party that C[harlie] B has integrity

    I fear Gary doth protest too much about Charlie’s integrity.

    I’m sure readers of this blog will make their own minds up about the integrity of a councillor who publicly defends a wealthy local property developer while attacking two local bloggers – one of whom is in his own party – who have exposed an extremely dodgy public land deal, which – should it now collapse thanks to their work – could cost the property developer a lot of money.

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