Bristol Council Cabinet Review – June 2011

The 5 minute guide to Bristol City Council Cabinet Business 27 June 2011. See bottom of the post for Crowdsourcing Opportunities

Agenda Items:


Last year the Council underspent by £3,100,000. So this year, they propose to keep the money “just in case (nudge, wink)” they overspend this year. £3.1m could be converted into a £23 reduction in Council Tax for a Band D property.


The Council spent £26.6m less on capital programmes than planned. One would think this would be grounds for promotions all round, but actually it’s not the done thing in the public sector; “slippage” as it is known is much worse than overspend, as money that hasn’t been spent yet is always at risk of being taken away from departmental budgets.

A reasonable chunk of the slippage looks it will never need to be spent, thus hopefully the city’s external debt (money borrowed by the council that you have to pay back) will be reported as dropping rapidly.


The Council still reckons it can get our money back from Iceland (£8m). A recent legal judgement in Iceland has given British local authority debt “Priority Status”. This means that if a bankrupt Icelandic Bank with no assets owes millions to hundreds of organisations, the dozen of so “Priority” creditors get repaid first, after the taxman, the banking regulators, the liquidators, the lawyers and any protected staff pension schemes.

Hypothetically then, instead of getting 0.05% of nothing, Bristol as a priority creditor near the front of the alphabet might get 0.1% of nothing. I wonder how much the Council spent with  Bevan Brittan on filing legal papers.


A summary of the hoops that need to be jumped through if you want a bit of the Council’s £2.5m budget for social community arts or whatever the current buzz phrase is; should you require any training in jumping through hoops, Bristol has a number of Circus Skills consultants who can assist.

The 2009/11 Key Arts Providers (yep, the usual suspects) are listed here.


An Academy is a compromise solution for schools, in which they are not maintained by Local Authorities, but neither are they independent. It’s a more complicated approach to purchasing state education than just giving parents a voucher for education which they can spend where they like, or for that matter just buying education with actual money like most British parents would do if they could afford it.

From the perspective of the swivel chairs in the control room at the Local Education Authority, Academies are awful things because the LEA can do chuff all to them. No guidance notes, no diversity statements, no equalities assessments, no carbon neutrality assessment, no health & safety posters, no memos, no cover sheets, not even a TPS report. This is clearly a problem, and in the absence of any actual means to compel Academies to kow-tow to the Council House, the new plan is a Partnership Agreement. Officers note:

There are risks that an increase  in the number of academies could fragment and splinter the school system in ways that could foster competition rather than collaboration.  The Partnership Agreement is designed to ameliorate the risk of this occurring in Bristol

Which, frankly, is rather the point; competition amongst service providers (schools) raises standards because customers (parents) can take their business (children) elsewhere.

So, if you’re a school governor, or a parent, and your school is converting to an academy, make sure you let the headmaster and the senior management know that you expect them to do the best they can for your child, and that they should tell the LEA to stick their Partnership Agreement in the nearest recycling box.

Crowd Sourcing Opportunities:

Life is too short to spend it reading documents. (I mean my life, not yours). Help me out:

  1. Looking for suspicious slippage in Appendix D of the Capital Outturn
  2. Read the Partnership Statement: Education in Bristol, find something dodgy
  3. Look at the current list of Key Arts Providers. Find their Charities Commission records (because they’re probably all charities) and identify what percentage of their annual income is derived from state subsidy as opposed to voluntary donations.

Leave a comment if you find anything.

One thought on “Bristol Council Cabinet Review – June 2011”

  1. OK, Key Arts Providers. Let’s start with the Watershed. I haven’t time to check the Charity Commission for exact figures just now as I’ve got to go and throttle my children, but does anyone else remember them getting £6m from the RDA in 2007?

    And wasn’t the point that the Watershed would buy the surrounding buildings and then generate its income from them rather than grant funding?

    So how come they’re still getting around £100k off the council tax payer and £1m off the Arts Council 4 years later?

    Watershed boss Dick Penny also said he was going to be “driving out the yob element” from the Harbourside because “the night-time environment isn’t exactly synergistic with our inclusive creative culture.”

    Well he’s certainly achieved that because one of the properties Watershed owns is the old Chicago Rock bar that’s been shut for around a year now.

    Presumably empty buildings collecting no rent and costing us £100k a year are “synergistic with our inclusive creative culture” then?

    Penny is public money-wasting joker.

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