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.