Bristol Green Capital money still under wraps
Bristol Council’s CEO has replied to my letter of 2nd February with, as expected, a less than forthcoming account of the spending of £8million of taxpayers’ money on Bristol’s year as European Green Capital. Despite taking a month for Ms Yates to reply only one question has been answered directly, giving a list of the people who went to Paris for climate change talks. Ten people went, with a hotel bill of £29,000 with subsistence of £3,165 and £3,661 on travel. No names are given (though some can be worked out from job titles) and it’s not clear whether all of them stayed for the whole conference or just went for the day. So as usual, a partial answer just leaves more questions.
But there’s still a stubborn refusal to be open about how our money was spent. The council and the Mayor continue to hide the information behind the corporate wall of Bristol 2015 Limited. They say that it does not have to disclose detailed expenditure. Ms Yates believes that this means the Local Government Transparency Code does not apply. I have asked the Permanent Secretary at DCLG, the department where I was a minister, for advice on this point. I believe that the council has most definitely wilfully defied the spirit of the code. I await a ruling on whether the legal rules have been broken. She is also maintaining the refusal to publish the corporate governance review of the company. She confirms that it was the council that paid the £8,700 consultancy fee but even this is not enough grounds for publication!
The answers to my questions continue to point me to the laughable Audit Committee reports to Bristol Council. The opaque nature of these reports was what prompted me to ask the detailed questions. Otherwise I am directed to various websites and “information in the public domain”, which again is avoiding disclosing the detail.
So any reasonable person must conclude that the Mayor and council have something to hide. They still refuse to disclose the identity of the person or company who received £245,000 to build and maintain the website. The amount comes from one of the Audit Committee reports. So this means that they are choosing to disclose some information to the Audit Committee while maintaining that the spending was all done by the Bristol 2015 Limited company and that the council does not have access to the details. So how come they can give 16 precise figures but don’t know how they are made up? It’s simply not credible and an insult to the intelligence of every Bristolian for the Mayor to shrug his shoulders and say “I know nothing!”
Here are Ms Yates “answers” to my questions, embedded in the text of my original letter. Judge for yourself whether your council is being open, transparent and honest about the spending of your money….