I sent in my request for invoices and reports this morning in order to assess whether the statement of accounts needed to be challenged.
I am writing to request invoices and reports associated with the statement of Bristol City Council’s accounts for the year ended March 31 2020. I would like to receive them electronically.
I attach a list of 960 entries from the £500+ spending spreadsheets provided by the council. Do let me know if you have any questions about this.
Please provide any invoices attached to the City Office or City Mayor cost codes where they have not been provided in the £500-spend spreadsheets.
Impact Social related
In addition to providing the invoices for the company Impact Social, please provide all reports associated with them (invoices #621-630) in the attached spreadsheet.
In July 2019, at Cabinet, the council approved the following in relation to an agreement with L&G for the land at Temple Island:
the Council approved entering into an Agreement for Lease
Cabinet approved a project budget of up to £0.5m to support the development of proposals for the Temple Island site. This funding to be utilised for internal BCC staff time and fees, professional consultancy fees, site and survey work and including an appropriate contingency allowance
In February 2020, the cabinet approved the following:
the Council entering into conditional agreements and an agreement for lease
the allocation of £2m to the G&R Directorate to support the development of the project
Please provide the following in relation to the above [from July 2019 and February 2020]:
the conditional agreements and the Agreement for Lease with, and in relation to, L&G
Any invoices associated with the initial £500,000 project budget in relation to BCC staff time and fees on this project, professional consultancy fees, site and survey work, and any invoices for ‘appropriate contingency allowances:
Any invoices and reports associated with the £2m allocated in February to the G&R directorate.
If you need any further information then please let me know. I am a Bristol resident and a member of the NUJ. Best regards,
This is the second time I have asked to inspect Bristol City Council’s accounts but last year I was deemed to have asked without providing a reasonable amount of time so the request was denied.
I’d forgotten to include the EY reports on Bristol Energy and City Leap so have requested those too.
Apologies for the additional email — I left out four transactions, which I attach to this email. They are numbered consecutively in addition to the previous spreadsheet: 961 to 964. I would like to see the invoices, project briefs and reports of these four invoices.
Yoko Ogawa has won every literary award there is in her country. That’s how the novel is introduced before it begins, and it struck me as an odd thing to write. Each story stands alone. Why should my enjoyment of this story be affected by what other people think or how she is judged? But as I finished reading about a trapped writer writing about a writer who was trapped it occurred to me that maybe it’s all part of the same narrative.
Ogawa blends reality and fiction in a way that the dystopian events around her become understandable to us. We live on an island where things have gone wrong. Things disappear — ordinary things, things that shouldn’t matter to the people in power — and life goes on. How much can we stand to lose? Today it’s a rose but tomorrow?
What can you let go of right now? Your laptop, phone, coffee, children, parents? There’s a sense of a Buddhist letting go in this story. Remembering how things used to be hurts. When you don’t remember, however, you can float away, free.
Does the same life go on? What does it mean and what are the consequences? Her lyrical approach to reality and to isolation helps us explore how it feels. Seeing it through a Buddhist angle shifts the narrative from the dystopia we are used to.
In the reviews, many compare it to Orwell’s 1984. There is a secretive police that round up those who won’t obey. They are then tortured and murdered. Some come back — those found not guilty/useful — but most are never seen again. We do have a sense that they are uncaring and certainly destructive.
This is a wonderful narrative. I never quite knew where I would end up as I followed our nameless characters. We don’t find out their names. We learn of R — her editor — and the old man, and her mother and father. We don’t find out her name. Which makes sense. Are our names in our diaries? Do we need them when we talk to ourselves, or listen?
Jesus was such a great Buddhist that he even gave up his own body. Ogawa wonders and answers, what happened next?
There has been an increase of 500% in claims of the council tax reduction (CRT) scheme according to Cllr Dudd, speaking at the Cabinet meeting on 28 April 2020.
Two weeks previous to that Bristol247 wrote: “Since mid-March, the applications for reduced payments have gone from an average of around 100 a week to 642 in the past week.”
Might the council be looking to reduce it again, however?
CTR is on the agenda for the Overview of Scrutiny and Management Board meeting on 8 July but there is no information as to why. The report won’t be published until 6 July, however. Papers to scrutiny should be made available a week before the meeting but that is not happening. They are being published on 6 July only because the matter is due to go to Cabinet the following week.
The council tried to reduce the council tax reduction scheme in 2017 for the year 2018/19. After much campaigning by opposition groups and Acorn, the idea was abandoned.
While noting that the consultation itself states: “Councils are required to review their CTR schemes annually and consult on any proposed changes to them.” The council had initially decided to not retain the option as it had been.
“Options were taken to Executive Board for approval and it was decided that the council would not be consulting on the current scheme as an option due to the council’s current financial position.”
At the time, ITV West reported that: “The Mayor of Bristol says changes must be considered but the most vulnerable people will still be protected.
‘We are facing some of the most difficult decisions on how we fund public services in Bristol’s history. All the options presented recommend continuing to support those in severe financial need and take into account the need for a discretionary fund and some protections for those worst off’. [ITV]
We don’t yet know what will come to OSMB on 8 July but the three options suggested initially for the CTR are listed in the following consultation document.
Make a 25% payment mandatory for those on CTR
Make a 7.5% payment mandatory for those receiving CTR
Develop a banded scheme with various options ranging from payment of 25% to 75%.
The deadline for any public questions to OSMB were due 2 July so it is not possible to ask about it. I have lodged a formal complaint about the lack of reports and timely information.
Boxing is “the only sport where you have two doctors on hand, a resuscitation team on standby, and an ambulance outside” (Roger, 63, retired boxing coach). It’s also being promoted as the sport that will help young men desist from violent crime. How can this violent sport help in preventing violent crime?
I come to Jump’s work via the filter of Loic Wacquant’s Body & Soul, an ethnographic research study on, as he described it in a lecture, ‘a skinny French white guy in South Chicago’s Black neighbourhood learning to box’.
Wacquant (2004:31) referred to boxing gyms as ‘islands of stability and order’, in that they ‘protect an individual from the street’ and ‘act as a buffer against the insecurity of the neighbourhood and pressures of everyday life’. Wacquant believed that boxing gyms helped to regulate men’s lives, when disorder and delinquency engulf it.
When I discovered Wacquant at university, we weren’t yet as a society at the stage of promoting boxing as the answer to social ills. As that focus has increased, however, Deborah Jump’s book The Criminology of Boxing, Violence and Desistance provides an in-depth and very specific look at the merits of it.
In Bristol, we have had the election of a mayor who has said, “Boxing was a big part of my teenage years and taught me discipline, self-control and how to overcome set-backs”. This has been almost as prominent as Banksy’s painting of the door to the Empire Fighting Club and subsequently providing them with quite a boon. The mayor has proudly brought boxing into City Hall.
He has also made the front pages of the local press by bullying a member of the media, has said that activists can expect to be ‘tackled’, and has aggressively rebutted an NHS doctor who had brought a petition to City Hall about the air quality that is killing 300 a year; so much so that councillors approached the doctor afterwards to offer their apologies for his behaviour.
While the paradox is fresh of how violence can fight violence, let’s look at how this text can help us understand boxing and its potential.
The biggest contradiction seems to be about helping men avoid violent crime in an environment that suggests violence is the answer. As she writes:
the masculine cultural values transmitted in the gym environment, especially in relation to homophobia, hyper-masculinity and the accomplishment of such through ‘masculinized vocabulary’ (Deuchar et al 2016) are not necessarily conducive to desistance from crime.
“I argue that the enclave of the gym and the majority of its members are actually compatible with violent criminogenic attitudes, especially those that pertain to the defence of masculine ideals. “
Jump questions common tropes that suggest boxing is a panacea for all social ills, and she unpicks the criminal justice responses to youth crime and the well-intended misgivings that boxing is the cure.
policy makers and parents, as well as criminal justice agencies, believe that the structured disciplining environment of the gym is enough to combat criminogenic attitudes and violent behaviour.
She dispels this myth.
She proposes that boxing is a convincing ‘hook for change’ (Giordano 2002), and the appeal of the gym is undoubtedly a powerful one. However, more needs to be done to challenge the masculine discourses present within the gym environment. She does this by revealing the fragility of the narratives.
She suggests that the appeal of boxing lies in its ability to generate a “defence against male anxiety and vulnerability, and that the environment itself is tailored to the prevention of repeat victimisation.”
“In other words, the attendees are not just there to become boxers, they are there to sequester any form of male vulnerability and victimisation behind physical capital and gloved fists.”
In her 2016 article: They didn’t know whether to ” fuck me or fight me ” : An ethnographic account of North Town boxing gym, she writes: “The ‘habitus’ of the boxing gym enabled most men to view violence as an acceptable solution to a problem.” A particularly striking point is made in relation to the people she met at the boxing gym: boxing was “employed as a resource to command fear.”
Men’s identities are stripped down and examined. The intention of some seeking the boxing gym is to hide their weaknesses and to find affirmation. In relation to this, Jump writes:
Certainly, the concept of ‘hardness’ sits neatly with psychoanalytical object relation theories, whereby some men are endowed with fragile self-boundaries and a deep ambivalence towards intimacy, and will defend against this exposing vulnerability, by disguising it behind a carapace of muscle and bodily capital (Wacquant 1995b).
Jump’s text starts with a history of boxing, and its masculine traditions, starting from its Spartan usage to train men in between battles, and ending up in the use of it as a sport with a particular appeal in relation to class. She then provides ethnographic case studies of boxers she was able to approach and interview as part of her research.
The ethnographic chapters provide insight and a lens through which we can hear the boxers speak for themselves. Jump highlights her own effect in the interviews while simultaneously drawing out the messages from her case studies. We learn about the roles of the gym members and particularly the influential position of the trainer at the gym.
Her conclusions are useful to note. “Not every sport provides the same outcomes in terms of pro-social development, and desistance from crime.” There is also an argument to be made that “sports – particularly violent, combative ones – reinforce a sense of hegemony and promote attitudes favourable to violence, especially when concepts of status or winning become threatened.”
In boxing, violence is specifically linked with winning and this is imperative in “maintaining valued identities and status-forming attributes” such as respect, honour and status through violence. This mentality fostered through such sports, normalises violence as an everyday occurrence.
How does that help individual growth and change, however? One suggestion is that change can’t come without a ‘redemption script’ (Maruna 2001).
This is a process where previous behaviour becomes acknowledged and worked through, and subsequently ‘knifed off’ as a part of oneself no longer valued.
In boxing, however, violence and physical status are valued so it is difficult to cut off this identity because as Jump puts it, “young men often draw upon the social capital that violence can offer, regardless of whether or not they take it ‘out of the ring’.”
There are three detailed case studies of interviews Jump has with Frank, Eric, and Leroy. Their families, histories and experiences at the gym are approached and used as context for how they see boxing. Jump sets out the theories and approaches she will be using in the first chapters of the book, and then examines them in relation to people she has interviewed.
Reality comes up against theory.
The reality is that boxing is appealing for men, as cited in this text, and the way it is used to gain respect and promote fear. Physical toughness and bravery are noted as boxers revel in being perceived as fighters. Not only does it come with a sense of “satisfaction and pride for those who participate, but also adds to the element of danger and masculine prestige contained in the image.”
Winning is associated with violence, and preparation comes from the establishment of physical capital — one’s body.
The preening and manly display, coupled with the psychological realisation of physical capital, was carnivalesque at times – and, in some respects, grotesque, as some men would approach their bodies with a dysmorphic lens. Put simply, the investment in the body as a structure was extreme. Some men would push their desire for bodily perfection to bizarre lengths, sometimes culminating in vomiting after workout sessions or, as with the case of Eric, starving oneself to “make weight”.
In the gym as well, there was a hierarchy based on physicality and the “Bouncers and professional boxers were at the top of the hierarchy,” which seemed to be determined by the “participants’ capacity for violence”. Those with the most physical capital had the most power.
The main premise of Jump’s book is examining the notion that boxing can help men desist in violent crime. While there are female boxers, Jump herself notes that her ability to participate in the boxing environment was limited by being a woman.
Her text raises some important questions about ‘how’ boxing is meant to help with violent crime, and the limitations of just funnelling violence into a specific environment without the ability to transform it.
When you are taught that winning is important and that violence and physical capital are the primary methods of winning, then how can you go from that to cooperation and change?
Jump’s ideas on boxing being part of “boys’ socialisation through sport, competition and success, bodies, emotions and pain, domination of women, and aggression and violence” are important to note.
There are female boxers and the London 2012 Olympic Games were the first to feature women’s boxing. Jane Crouch, the first officially licensed British female boxer in 1998, who has won numerous world titles lives in Bristol and has just had autobiography optioned into a movie. Bristol is also known for its female pugilists who used to fight at the side of the Hatchet and inspired the novel The Fair Fight by Anna Freeman.
It feels there is more to be explored about boxing but Jump does a great job of focusing on only her remit. She doesn’t get distracted and she answers the questions that need answering.
Boxing can help provide a source of belonging, loyalty and support, and is helpful in breaking down barriers in segregated communities. The strenuous exercise also provides rewards and benefits to self-esteem. However, it is not possible to separate the benefits of the sport with the masculine discourses and physical risk.
When advocating boxing as a solution, it is also important to understand the underlying cultural messages transmitted in hyper-masculine arenas and to provide young men with positive role models who they can identify with.
“The Council is planning to develop additional Deliberative Democracy work in 2020/21 to further strengthen public engagement,” states the Q4 Performance Report that is going to scrutiny in July. Previous ‘democracy work’ by the council has meant the mayor paying £90k of public funds to check what people were saying about him on Twitter. I thought I should follow-up.
The email to democratic services has been published below. The rest of the post is a roundup of some highlights.
The Overview and Scrutiny Management Board is meeting on 8 July 2020 and the agenda is available here.
The last item is the Performance Report (PR) for Quarter 4. It includes various interesting updates.
Air Quality — As XR activists sit on top of City Hall and are ignored by the mayor, we learn that the number of deaths attributable to air quality have increased since 2017.
SEND — The targets for Education and Health Care Plans are well-below target with only 10 being issued within 20 weeks. This does not mention the quality of the plans or whether they will be appealed, and if indeed they mean that the child has a school place.
The Affordable housing target is well-below what was desired. Only 113 affordable houses build in Q4.
The council are apparently benefiting to a sum of over £500k on the work that it has been doing. Note that the Housing Festival has so far been paid £225k by Bristol City Council with only £115k of that from a WECA grant for innovation.
I would have liked to ask a few questions of OSMB but was limited to two. i chose to ask about Impact Social and deliberative democracy because I have lodged a complaint with the ICO about the refusal of my subject access request by the council, and about the council’s lack of GDPR notice.
Hi Democratic Services,
In the Performance Report published for the OSMB meeting, the text to item:WC4 BCP533 Increase the percentage of people who feel they can influence local decisions (QoL) states the following: ” the Council is planning to develop additional Deliberative Democracy work in 2020/21 to further strengthen public engagement.”
Residents already know about the £90,000 paid to Impact Social for monitoring social media (with no clear GDPR specification), and the £8000 a year to Delib Democracy for a platform for the Citizens Panel. In addition to the Quality of Life Survey, would you please let me know:
1. What is the additional Deliberative Democracy work in 2020/21?
2. Whether the Impact Social contract is being cancelled or renewed in September 2020?
The following is my question to Cabinet on 28 April about the Clean Air Zone that the mayor wants to postpone:
In January, young Rife journalist, Deqa Hassan wrote about the silent voices in the green movement. She talked about white liberal middle-class people dominating the discourse on the environment, and those who are absent. Sometimes individuals are represented but never communities. She is talking about unheard BAME communities, and the privileged people who can avoid the externalities of the effects of pollution.
In Bristol, the silent voices are those overrepresented in the death counts such as in Lawrence Hill that has a ‘very much higher than average BME population as % of the total population’. First, it was deaths from air quality – 7.5% of deaths in Lawrence Hill, and 6% in Central ward. (According to the Bristol City Council Equality Impact Assessment on the clean air zone https://democracy.bristol.gov.uk/documents/s48444/CAZ%20EQIA%20Final.pdf ) These are the highest proportions in the city.
Now we can add Covid-19 deaths to those lists of sick, silent and dead voices.
In Rife magazine, Hassan raises her voice to say: “In Bristol, Fishponds, Stapleton and Easton suffer from the worst air pollution in the entire city. These areas house a lot of Bristol BAME residents and they lie along and collect emissions from the M32. I’ve been given accounts of white colleagues who have changed their cycle routes to and from work to avoid Easton in order to save their lungs just a few minutes in that area, yet BAME families live and work in this pollution every single day.” https://www.rifemagazine.co.uk/2020/01/who-are-the-silent-voices-in-the-green-movement/
Her call is being ignored, however.
According to the latest CAZ update going to Cabinet on 28 April 2020, Mayor Rees has written to Grant Shapps MP, Secretary of State for Transport to “urge the Government to rethink the implementation of Clean Air Zones and the disastrous effect that complying with the timeline, as set out within the legal Direction, will have on businesses in Bristol during this unprecedented time of uncertainty for them.”
Any postponement of the CAZ as requested by the mayor of Bristol will result in additional deaths not only from air quality, but quite likely from Covid-19 as well. The additional deaths are more likely to be from BAME communities.
My question is: How many deaths are acceptable for the mayor of Bristol, in order to avoid the “disastrous effect” that complying with the timeline will have “on businesses in Bristol”?
Will the mayor listen to James Durie, director of Business West and chair of the One City’s Economy Board, who says that in recovering from coronavirus and stimulating our regional and national economy, we must “put the need for clean air at the centre of how we do it”?
On February 19, I revealed that Bristol City Council had contracted for £90,000 with a social media company called Impact Social so they could analyse what was being said about the mayor.
There are three issues with this contract: 1) the cost is very high for a time when the budget had just been cut by £33 million; 2) we don’t know what the purpose of the data collection was; and 3) there seems to be no clearly presented GDPR notice about how this data is to be/being used and for how long it will be kept.
Apart from the exorbitant cost of the service in the midst of millions of pounds in cuts to the council, the purpose of the analysis remains a mystery.
The mayor may be in breach of GDPR by not providing a transparency notice about his collection of public data.
After this blog revealed that the council have contracted to collect social media information, concerns were raised about whether the mayor is collecting lists of residents who mention him or the Bristol City Council.
The report released to me in the FOI I submitted clearly showed that the data was collected in relation to the following search terms: “Marvin Rees” / “mayor of bristol” / @MarvinJRees / @BrisMayorOffice / “Bristol Council”. The search seems geared to return more information about the mayor than it does about the council.
Twitter handles are revealed in the reports.
So what does he do with the names?
At a recent Cabinet meeting, he seemed to know some residents names, despite them not being there.
“Martin Rands, there’s a familiar name,” he said to those around him. “Joanna Booth, that’s another familiar name.” He was referring to me because I had tabled a question about the Western Harbour at Cabinet on November 5.
"A spokesman for the council said any GDPR implications would have been tested during the contract procurement process": that's an FoI to go for – https://t.co/tICsi8BFiN
According to David Traynier CIPP/E, CIPM, certified GDPR professional who uses the legislation as part of his work, the collection of social media information does fall under the remit of the GDPR/Data Protection Act 2018.
“If the council processes personal data, they’re required to make a privacy notice readily available (i.e. on their website).”
“It makes little difference that the personal data (names, handles etc) is in the public domain, anyone processing that data must still comply with the law to protect the data subjects (the people whose data is collected).
In practice, this means (under GDPR Article 5(1) ) the processing must be lawful, limited to the purposes for which the data is initially collected, use only the minimum of data necessary to the purpose, that the data must be accurate, only kept as long as is needed, and must be kept securely.
When not collecting data directly from data subjects, Article 14 requires that data subjects are informed of the processing but not if ‘the provision of such information proves impossible or would involve a disproportionate effort, in particular for processing for archiving purposes in the public interest.’
They would need to ensure they include details of what they do in a transparency notice that is readily available to the public.
Traynier goes on to say: “I think what they’re doing is lawful, providing they follow the required safeguards. It’s quite common now anyway, so uncontroversial. The key thing – aside from meeting the mundane requirements around security of storage/data retention etc – is that they only use the information for their stated purpose of democratic engagement and nothing else down the line.”
As noted in my original article, all three opposition parties, were surprised by news of the social media analysis and say they have not seen the reports.
If the council do not have a transparency notice about how they use this data then this could be a breach of GDPR.
Note that the local media picked up on the story the following day with no attribution to this blog or the research that revealed the contract and the data gathering.
Bristol City Council have yet to respond to any of my questions.
A Freedom of Information request by Ephemeral Digest has revealed that social media mentions of the Bristol Mayor and Bristol City Council go directly to the Head of the Mayor’s Office and to the mayor’s policy advisers.
Bristol City Council have paid £90,000 to social media company Impact Social so as to keep track of online platforms. The contract began on 1 March 2018 and is due to expire in September 2020 unless it is renewed.
An example report from the 8th to the 10th of December clearly shows the users who have been Tweeting about any of the following search terms: “Marvin Rees” / “mayor of bristol” / @MarvinJRees / @BrisMayorOffice / “Bristol Council”.
Twitter users such as Liberal Democrat Party councillor Tim Kent (@cllrtimkent), @citizencaz, @keepbristoltidy, and @glutenfreescone were all listed.
The contract between the Council and the company states that it provides reports as “additional objective information and evidence base” so as “to inform corporate planning and organisational policy responses” and will be used “by the Policy Advisors and Head of Mayor’s Office”. “This is irrespective of who holds that office and information from the analysis will be available to anybody upon request.”
There are monthly reports “offering sentiment, topic, author, source of story, location and trend analysis” are not “for the purpose of collecting personal data and shall not serve any party political purpose.”
Up to six in-person presentations are meant to happen to representatives of the Council including Head of Policy & Strategy and a representative of the Mayor’s Office.
Competency criteria in the contract, which may account for the £90,000 fee, include the ability to monitor all available platforms on social media, “analysis and interpretation that goes further than algorithms and includes interpretive analysis”.
The clients are meant to have “public sector / political experience / knowledge, understanding and competence”. They should also have comprehensive understanding of the role of Mayor of Bristol and Council policies.
The ability to segment users into specific groups and an understanding of crisis communications are also listed.
When approached for comment, Conservative Leader Councillor Mark Weston said: “This is the first time I have heard of the company ‘Impact Social’ and, given the apparent cost of their contract and supposed non-partisan status, I am surprised that these monthly reports are not more widely circulated or distributed.
“Whilst social media is an influential platform for public discourse, I am far from convinced that Bristol City Council should be commissioning such specialist analytics.
“This is not well-publicised support and so it is extremely difficult to assess whether or not such research really provides value-for-money to the taxpayer.
“It is just this sort of extravagance which makes people rightly critical of continuing local government waste and misguided spending priorities.
“The Mayor still has significant resources at his disposal and these should – whenever possible – be directed towards maintaining public services that people actually want or depend upon.”
Liberal Democrat leader councillor Gary Hopkins stated: “We knew nothing about this and it is quite staggering in its gall. The cost of the Mayor’s Office is quite appalling in any case and this is disgraceful. For the record, the taxpayers of Bristol are not getting value for money.”
Green party candidate for mayor Sandy Hore-Ruthven said: “The current Mayor accuses Councillors and the media of chasing headlines and click bait on a regular basis. It turns out he is so concerned about those clicks and comments that he is prepared to spend £90k of taxpayers money to find out what you and I are saying about him. I can see no value to the city or its people of this contract to anyone but him. This is taken of money that should be spent on frontline services. Listening to people costs nothing and should be at the heart of all politicians work.”
At a Resources Scrutiny meeting Deputy Mayor Cheney and Mayor Marvin Rees highlighted the “significant funding cuts” to councils in recent years of 60%. “Mayor Rees referred to the 8 years of austerity that had been imposed on this Council by central Government.”
Bristol City Council have been approached for comment but had not responded in time for publication.
In the same spirit as my Nice Cup of Tea shawl, I’ve used brioche and reverse stockinette for this design. I do tend to get obsessed with a pattern combination for a while and this time I thought I better write it up while I was enjoying it. If I can keep my mojo going, I’m going to make it into hat and scarf patterns as well.