Joined-up government

Anyone see this in today’s Cancer?

Plans to start modernising Bristol’s primary school provision are under threat.

Projects in the first phase of the council’s citywide Primary Review are facing pressures because of rising costs and falling income.

Kate Campion, the council’s service director for schools, said the council had been counting on using £16m from land sales towards the funding, but this was likely to be £3.5m short.

Surely this can’t be the same Bristol City Council that runs the Development Control (South and East) Committee, which on Wednesday waived a £700,000 payment to the council specifically for educational facilities in the Easton area from developers Square Peg so they could proceed unimpeded with their controversial “sustainable development”?

Mathematicians will note that’s one fifth of their current budget shortfall Bristol City Council have declined to claim without good reason.

Meanwhile Tory education spokesman John Goulandris has been fronting our politicians’ latest pisspoor PR efforts to create some faux-concern over their latest education cock-up..

We’re also told in the Cancer, “[Goulandris] proposed an all-party working group to tackle the problem, which emerged when the minority Labour group was in control and is proving tricky for the new Lib Dem administration to solve. His motion to the full council was passed unanimously this week.”

Presumably nobody bothered telling that other existing all-party working group, the Development Control (South and East) Committee about this all-party effort to focus on our kids’ education then?

They really take us for fools don’t they?

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9 Responses to Joined-up government

  1. Jon Rogers says:

    Afternoon BB

    I hesitate to suggest that I think you are being a tad cynical and misleading!

    Not that I can blame you (seeing how poor some of the recent Labour decision making has been in the City), but describing the Development Control (South and East) Committee as an “all-party working group” rather misses the point that it is a “regulatory” committee, not a “scrutiny” committee.

    You are usually more accurate than this.

    Councillors of all parties on DC Committees are required BY LAW to interpret and apply planning law. They are required to base their decisions solely on careful weighting of material planning considerations, rather than personal or political preference.

    I accept that such law seems to many of us to be weighted in favour of developers, but if councillors vote on factors other than those covered by planning law, then the council can (and not infrequently does) face appeal by developer or judicial review by any party.

    Such an action can be costly to the council and therefore the taxpayer.

    The primary school debacle is one of many that the Lib Dem administration is having to pick up just prior to the election. Friends of the Labour Party will be trying to lay the blame at our door as they use their “resignation enabled” time to canvass and leaflet.

    Jon

  2. thebristolblogger says:

    £700k for education and the wider issue of primary places in East Bristol is a “material planning consideration”.

  3. Jon Rogers says:

    You are correct. And as you have already blogged, the quantum of S106 contributions has been the subject of debate.

    I understand that the DC committee asked the planning officers to give further consideration to the proposed S106 contribution particularly in respect of affordable housing at the first DC committee.

    Jon

  4. thebristolblogger says:

    Even at 10%, the level of affordable housing is woefully inadequate given the housing situation in the city. There’s also the issue that developers often return to planning committees at a later date to revise these affordable housing figures downwards.

    This happened ,for instance, with Crest at the Ghostown … Er, sorry Canon’s Marsh.

  5. monster mash says:

    You may be right about Crest, but the affordable housing rules are designed to get this into places where it would not normally be built. Much of the square peg development will be relatively low cost anyway, its one bedroomed flats in Greenbank remember. And its being built in an area thats already full of affordable housing (just look in Morgan and Sons window).

  6. Gary Hopkins says:

    S106 is basically a tax on the profit that a developer makes. There are formulas in place but these are varied if the development is particularly difficuilt eg Wills factory site at Hartcliffe or if profit is low because of economic conditions.
    The developer has to open up their books to officers and haggling takes place.
    What is a major problem at the moment is that because of the crazy stranglehold central government has on council spending 106 is practically the only gane in town to produce affordable housing. Eagle eyed readers will have noticed that private development has ground to a halt and therefore with it the supply of new affordable homes.
    So we have developments on ice ,builders out of work,people wanting housing and central government completely failing to open up the systems to allow councils to get the job done.
    Well done Gordon!!

    There is a side problem with places being allocated in upmarket flat developments. They often carry hefty service charges which are outside the scope of housing benefit so the affordable flats become unaffordable.

    The immediate school places issue is a real nightmare. What is becoming clear is that the scale of the problem was entirely predictable more than 6 months ago and yet this was kept from then opposition Cllrs and the public whilst it was complacently sat on. Urgent action is being taken but with it having been left so late any solution is going to be difficuilt and may not be ideal.
    Just 1 more of those reasons emerging as to why Labour scuttled out of office.

  7. thebristolblogger says:

    We’ll leave aside for the moment your planning officers’ laughable inability to play hardball with property developers.

    But what’s interesting about the Square Peg S.106 agreement is that despite your new “One Council” approach – where you claim an all-party priority for education – is that your planning committee and planning officers for some reason prioritised a “sustainable” wood chip heating system allegedly worth £1.5m as some sort of public benefit instead.

    It’s the same old story with you lot. Claim over and over again that you’re focusing on education and then pump all our money into this year’s fashionable nonsense in the hope it gets you a few headlines.

    Your message comes over loud and clear: a few wealthy snobs getting to feel superior about their central heating system is more important to you than our kids’ education.

  8. chris hutt says:

    We should be very cynical about investments in ‘sustainable’ housing which go way beyond what is remotely cost effective. There are some interesting scams developing on this front which no doubt Squarepeg have noticed.

    One example is Energy Saving Companies (ESCos) which remove the capital cost of energy generation from a development project and vest it with the ESCo who then service that, and make a profit, from subsequently selling the energy to the consumers, who are tied into that supplier.

    So it’s the end consumers who take the hit (because they can’t switch to cheaper energy suppliers) rather than the developer. I wouldn’t be surprised if Squarepeg were planning to use such an arrangement to fund the wood chip heating system for example.

  9. Sceptic says:

    Chris, the situation you describe re ESCos is reminiscent of that fine old 19th century exploit the workers trick: the company shop. This was usually the only shop available and stole back the workers’ wages by selling them stuff at inflated prices.

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