Green Councillors yesterday condemned proposals from the Mayor to hand key public land on Bristol’s Temple Island site to financial services company Legal & General (L&G), through an agreement created which avoids the usual legal tendering process. The Council’s arrangement would use public funds to develop the site and guarantee private profits but would give the Council no control over the development process or levels of affordable housing.
Some of the issues raised by Green Councillors included:
- The high costs borne by Bristol council in doing further preparatory work to prepare the site for Legal and General. This in addition to the half million pounds promised by Council to prepare initial plans and the millions of pounds already invested into Temple Island.
- The potential for the council to be left owing as much as a hundred million pounds if tenants are not found for office space, which it has promised to rent from L+G for 40 years.
- The lack of control the Council will have over the development or over levels of affordable housing. L+G successfully took Bristol Council to court last year to reduce affordable housing in one of its developments from 24 flats to 4.
- The possible legal risk arising from the Mayor's unorthodox arrangement with L+G, which avoids the usual legal tender process.
"Taking public money from the many to line the pockets of the few at Legal & General"
Leader of the Green Group, Councillor Eleanor Combley, said:
“Let’s be clear about these plans: Bristol Council would be taking public money from the many to line the pockets of the few at Legal & General, and taking on much of the risk into the bargain.
“The city has already invested millions of pounds in our land at Temple Island. Now the Mayor is proposing to spend even more to upgrade it, and then hand the whole lot over to a multi-billion pound financial services company. Then, as if this deal wasn’t sweet enough, the Council will pay L&G half a million to fund planning and design work for the land, and promise to cover the rent on office spaces for 40 years (even if tenants can’t be found). In short, the Council will shoulder the risk in order to provide the private company with a guaranteed profit. It’s heads L&G win, tails the Council loses.
“As a result, you might hope we would secure strong controls over what is developed there, but in fact we have no guarantee even on levels of affordable housing – only ‘aspirations’ – and this from a company that has already taken Bristol Council to court in order to reduce its affordable housing on another site in the centre from 24 to just 4 flats.
“It is deeply concerning that the Mayor has tried to duck scrutiny and the normal legal process so he can make this cosy arrangement with Legal and General. As my colleague Cllr O’Rourke has raised, it’s even possible that this unorthodox deal could open the Council up to legal action from other developers who were denied the opportunity to tender, as occurred with a similar arrangement in West Berkshire.
“The Mayor has said that actions, not words, are what matters. So what value should we put on his words about ‘municipal socialism’, when his proposed action amounts to bountiful generosity to wealthy corporations, with Bristol council tax payers stumping up the initial costs, and taking on a risk running to over a hundred million over the next forty years?"
"The people of Bristol might think that BCC is now too committed to the deal with L&G to objectively assess the risk"
Councillor Paula O’Rourke questioned the legality of the proposals, raising similarities to a case in West Berkshire where the Council recently lost a legal case. She asked the for assurances over the legal risk to the Council and said “The people of Bristol might think that BCC is now too committed to the deal with L&G to objectively assess the risk”. The Mayor was not in attendance at the meeting however his deputy said that 'independent legal advice' had been taken.
Cllr O'Rourke's full question is in the notes below.
"putting the Council at very significant financial risk"
Councillor Jerome Thomas submitted a statement against the proposal, comparing it to what the Mayor had promised after cancelling plans for the Bristol Arena.
“The Mayor said that there was an unacceptable level of financial risk of going ahead with the Arena at Temple Island, and that “the free market was offering us a solution without public intervention”. It is now clear that the Mayor’s preferred ‘solution’ requires very significant public intervention. This intervention is required in the form of many tens of millions of pounds of guaranteed rent payments to the Council’s preferred developer, putting the Council at very significant financial risk.”
Cllr Thomas' full question is below.
Notes: Statement and questions from Cllrs O'Rourke and Thomas
Statement: CS8.1 Cabinet – 2nd July 2019
Re: Agenda item 8- Temple Island
Statement submitted by: Cllr Jerome Thomas
In September 2018 Bristol’s councillors from all parties and without any opposition voted that the ‘best site for Bristol’s arena for the benefit of Bristol as a whole, is Temple Island in the centre of Bristol and that the decision maker by guided by the vote of this meeting.'
At the same time over 90% of the statements on the arena from Bristol’s residents were in favour of building the arena at Temple Island.
The day after that vote the Mayor took the decision to ignore the views of councillors and of Bristol residents and go ahead instead with an office led development at Temple Island. The Mayor said that there was an unacceptable level of financial risk of going ahead with the Arena at Temple Island, and that “the free market was offering us a solution without public intervention”. It is now clear that Mayor’s preferred ‘solution’ requires very significant public intervention. This intervention is required in the form of many tens of millions of pounds of guaranteed rent payments to the Council’s preferred developer, putting the Council at very significant financial risk.
Not only is the Mayor proposing to underwrite a development that Bristol doesn’t want, but he is doing everything within his powers to avoid public procurement rules which would ensure that, whatever the final outcome, the city gets the best value for the proposed use of the land, through an open and legal procurement process.
Question: CQ8.2 Cabinet – 2 July 2019
Re: Agenda item 8: Temple Island – update on proposals and disposal arrangements
Question submitted by: Cllr Paula O’Rourke
The report refers to the ‘Faraday case’ (Faraday Development Ltd v West Berkshire Council  EWCA Civ 2532) where an authority was found to have entered into an ‘ineffective contract’ which was ‘ultimately unlawful’. This raises some concerns due to the similarity with that case and the proposal put forward to Cabinet.
Allow me to outline the similarities:
BCC proposes the disposal of Temple Island as a ‘property transaction’, which falls outside the Public Contracts Regulations 2015 (which would oblige BCC to enter into public procurement). By doing this, you empower yourselves to enter into a contract with L&G without any form of tendering. Ditto West Berkshire Council.
However, you are drawing up proposals which will ‘trigger’ development works which would fall within the guidelines for public procurement. In the Faraday case, the Court of Appeal judgement says that ‘once the developer...had proceeded to draw down the land as per the terms of the agreement, there had been a procurement of development works that did not undergo the requisite procurement procedure’. This is what made the contract ‘ineffective’ and it was judged that West Berkshire Council had ‘acted unlawfully’.
The judge then went on to give the following advice to other councils:
- Public bodies should consider whether an agreement may trigger the public procurement regimes at the beginning, or indeed at any stage of the agreement. It is important to note that the Court of Appeal found that although there had been no deliberate wrongdoing by the Council, the effect of circumventing the procurement regime was the same.
1. What assurance can you give that developers, who have not been allowed to tender for Temple Island, will not take BCC to court, using the Faraday case as precedent?
2. I note that the Faraday case came to the Court of Appeal in December 2018. The sketch for the L&G development of Temple Island was public last summer, during the decision about the Arena and before this judgement. The people of Bristol might think that BCC is now too committed to the deal with L&G to objectively assess the risk; what assurance can you give that this is not true?
Green Budget Amendment creates vital rooms for foster carers in city housing
The first family is already benefiting from new rooms in a pilot scheme set up by Bristol City Council thanks to Green councillor Martin Fodor’s budget amendment, which pays for extra rooms in cramped council housing. Bristol has a shortage of larger council houses – the waiting list is twice as long as for smaller properties, and families needing larger homes have to wait for around 2 years.
Cleo Lake to ask Mayor to lobby government over reparations
At a Bristol Council meeting on Tuesday 7 July, Green Councillor Cleo Lake, activist and former Lord Mayor, will ask the Mayor to lobby the government to set up a commission to acknowledge, apologise and instigate reparations for the UK’s role in the Transatlantic Traffic in Enslaved Africans.
Clean air is a right not a luxury
“Our right to clean air is as basic and important as our right to clean drinking water. It’s now nearly 4 years since the Council passed a Green motion calling for a Clean Air Zone and yet despite the Council spending millions of pounds on consultants, Bristol is no closer to clean, breathable air. After four years of failure from Marvin Rees to act on clean air, I fully support protesters taking peaceful socially-distanced action to voice their frustration at the city's continuing illegal and unsafe air quality and call on the Mayor to speak with the protesters to explain just how he intends to clean up Bristol's air, with the urgency that is needed."
Good progress on homelessness but MPs must do more nationally
Green councillor and Bristol West MP candidate Carla Denyer has praised staff at Bristol City Council for their work tackling homelessness during lockdown , but highlighted that some more radical changes are still needed to fix the UK’s broken housing system. Councillor Denyer has called on the Government to do all it can to support renters, but has also made a particular plea to local Labour MP and Shadow Housing Secretary Thangam Debbonaire to reconsider her party’s proposals , which seem to favour landlords over their tenants.
Green Councillor Carla Denyer named one of the top women in engineering
Green Councillor Carla Denyer has been named as one of the Top 50 Women in Engineering for 2020 by the Women’s Engineering Society.
Bristol needs clean air now
As Extinction Rebellion gears up for a week of action and protests around Bristol’s illegal air quality levels, Green Councillors say clean air is now more important than ever. With growing evidence that dirty air exacerbates the impact of coronavirus and growing calls for a nationwide review on the Government’s air quality strategy, Greens say the time for talking is over – immediate action is now needed to clean up Bristol’s dangerous air.
Prevent a second wave of Coronavirus – give Bristol tools to track and trace
As lockdown restrictions are eased in Bristol, early evidence suggests the government’s ‘track and trace’ program is not reaching enough people to be effective.
Let this mark a new era for Bristol
Green Party Councillors in Bristol and the Green mayoral candidate join the voices calling for a new era to begin, now that Colston's statue, and the oppression it represents, no longer looks out over Bristol.
Safe streets needed now
As more people return to work and children return to school it is more important than ever that we have streets that prioritise pedestrians and cyclists and enable social distancing, Bristol’s Green Councillors have said.
Greens of Colour call for independent COVID inquiry to factor in institutional racism
Green Party demands independent BAME Covid-19 inquiry: The Green Party has backed calls for an independent inquiry into the disproportionate impact of Covid-19 on black, Asian and minority ethnic people. Greens of Colour chairperson Azzees Minott said: “The government’s inquiry into the impact of Covid-19 on BAME people has let communities of colour down.
Tackle rising unemployment with a Green New Deal
Green councillors have been calling for a ‘Green New Deal’ to reboot the economy, provide jobs and tackle the climate crisis. On 2nd June Bristol City Council's Cabinet meeting included the news that the Council is forecasting a funding gap of around £86 million as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic. This is made up of a combination of loss of income and additional expenditure to pay for the response to the emergency. Unemployment is also forecast to rise steeply in coming months.
Bristol's carbon neutral 2030 target essential
Green Councillor Carla Denyer proposed Bristol Council’s original Climate Emergency motion – the first of its kind in Europe – in November 2018. She said: “Hidden away on page 107 is a warning that there is now a high risk of failure to deliver the Council’s Climate Emergency Action Plan to reach carbon neutrality by 2030. This is very concerning. We cannot afford to lurch from one emergency to another. Some form of Green New Deal is essential to help the city and country to ‘build back better’. A green recovery is the only way to deal with the huge economic challenges while tackling the climate crisis, creating security and leaving behind the inequality that has damaged our society for so long.”
Secrecy and concealment as Bristol Energy loses millions of pounds
Bristol Energy has lost tens of millions of pounds of Council tax payers money, so Greens ask why this week's Cabinet meeting will hold the discussion's on what has gone wrong in secret.
Cleo Lake launches #GiveNTech campaign to tackle digital exclusion
Green Councillor Cleo Lake has launched a campaign to redistribute unused IT equipment to tackle digital exclusion during pandemic
‘Protecting renters’ shouldn’t mean that renters pay more
Green Councillor Carla Denyer has responded with alarm to Labour’s ‘five-point plan to protect renters’, which would require struggling tenants to take an economic hit, rather than landlords.
Trace every case of coronavirus to save lives
Bristol’s Green Party councillors have called for a new local emergency workforce to “contact trace” new cases of coronavirus to be ready for when the country emerges from lockdown. They call for a local system of testing, contact tracing and quarantine which would enable us to take control of the deadly coronavirus, save lives and avoid further lockdown. The call follows a Green report (1) on the issue published earlier in the month and increasing calls from public health officials for Government to rethink its centralized approach which puts too much focus on a tracing app without the wider system of support needed. (2)
“People need clean, safe air now more than ever” - Greens call on Mayor to rethink delays
Bristol’s Green Councillors have questioned the Mayor‘s calls to delay the start date of Bristol’s Clean Air Zone next year, pointing to mounting evidence that air pollution is linked to greater fatalities from Coronavirus
Green Councillors: more funding needed for coronavirus support
Bristol Green councillors have joined Green councillors from across the country demanding urgent funding for local authorities to tackle the coronavirus crisis.
Coronavirus: Bristol Greens call for calmer streets and more space for social distancing
Bristol’s Green Councillor group have today (Wednesday April 15) called on Bristol Council to look into road space reallocation and traffic calming measures to combat coronavirus.
Information and support in Bristol
Coronovirus (COVID 19) – what we all need to know We must stay at home to protect the NHS and save lives. Only go outside for food, health reasons or work (where this absolutely cannot be done from home). If you have to go out stay 2 metres (6ft) away from other people. Wash your hands as soon as you get home. Do not meet others, even friends or family as you can spread the virus even if you don’t have symptoms.
We will continue to work hard for you
We have all been affected in different ways by the coronavirus pandemic, but it is the most vulnerable across our city who continue to be impacted the most.
A defunct plan for a bygone era” - regional authority approves road-building plans
Last Friday (20 March) the West of England Combined Authority (WECA) approved a transport plan that will fund new road building projects across the region but commits no funding for public transport or walking and cycling schemes.
Greens: 'lift the ban' on asylum seekers working
Green Councillors call for end to illogical ban on asylum seekers supporting themselves
Council heading in wrong direction on climate emergency
Over a year after Bristol Council’s declaration of a Climate Emergency, Green Councillors say the Labour administration are making a series of bad decisions that will only make the emergency worse.
Mayor's inaction on air pollution - plans delayed again
Letter on the Mayor's inaction on air pollution from Green Group leader Eleanor Combley
Labour cabinet pass 'potentially illegal' transport plan
Last night Bristol’s Labour cabinet passed a regional transport plan that Greens warned is incompatible with the climate emergency and may be illegal under the UK’s climate commitments.
Greens criticise lack of action as climate and transport proposal is blocked
Green councillors have criticised what they called a “business as usual” approach as Labour and Tory councillors voted down a Green amendment to tackle Bristol’s transport issues and reduce carbon emissions.
Green Party welcomes Greta Thunberg to Bristol
Greta Thunberg has announced she will be visiting Bristol on Friday 28 February to join a Youth Strike 4 Climate demo.
Green budget amendment tackles transport and climate crisis
Green Councillors have submitted an amendment to next week’s Council budget meeting to deal with Bristol's gridlocked transport system and boost the Council’s work to tackle the climate emergency.
Region’s Transport Plan must be changed in light of Climate Emergency
Green Mayoral candidate, Climate Emergency leader, and UWE transport expert call on the Metro Mayor and Council leaders not to approve the Joint Local Transport Plan in its current form next month, stating that proposed new roads will worsen the climate crisis and congestion.