Local Liberal Democrats have accused the Tory Deputy Mayor of dirty tricks after he told the Chief Executive of Bristol City Council and Bristol 2015 Ltd. to stay away from a Council meeting to discuss Bristol 2015 Ltd.’s spending of public money during Bristol’s year as the European Green Capital.
Local Lib Dems Gary Hopkins and Graham Donald were particularly incensed that the Council’s audit committee was not suspended after it became apparent Nicola Yates would not be present for public questions. Ms Yates receives £18,000 for her role as Chief Executive of Bristol 2015 Ltd. on top of her £160,000 salary as Chief Executive of the City Council.
The chair of the meeting later revealed that someone from Bristol 2015 Ltd. was on their way. At this point Deputy Mayor Geoff Gollop, who has overall responsibility for finance, admitted that he had advised the company’s representatives, including Nicola Yates, not to show up.
Eventually Ms Yates did turn up; however this was over an hour and a half after the start of the meeting. Under the Council’s constitution members of the public may only ask questions during the first thirty minutes of the meeting, which meant no questions could be directed at Ms Yates after she arrived.
Cllr Gary Hopkins, Lib Dem Group Leader, said:
“It is shocking that the Tory Deputy Mayor thinks he can get away with such dirty tricks. We expect clarification as to why he thought the Chief Executive’s absence would aid the Council’s democratic process.
“We have known for some time that this administration is more than happy to hide behind technicalities in the law rather than be open with how taxpayer money is being spent. This is why Liberal Democrat councillors will make it a priority to introduce a culture of transparency at the Council to replace the current administration’s culture of secrecy.
“If the Chief Executive cannot be bothered to answer basic questions over the finances of the company she is responsible for, how can she justify taking £18,000 of taxpayer cash for the role? Members of the public will have to decide whether she is deserving of their hard-earned money.”
Graham Donald, Liberal Democrat candidate for Westbury and Henleaze ward, added:
“It is extraordinary that the Tory Deputy Mayor thinks it is acceptable for the Chief Executive to hide away from answering genuine questions from members of the public. He should never have used his position to give such ‘advice’.
“It is with great sorrow that these individuals show such contempt for public transparency. That they are prepared to favour evasion over transparency speaks volumes for their views on the right of the public to hold them both to account. The people of Bristol deserve better than this.”