Mayor accused of 'cover-up' over CEO Payout

Mayor accused of 'cover-up' over CEO Payout

Mayor Marvin Rees has been accused of a 'cover-up' over the payout to former Bristol City Council CEO Anna Klonowski.

The accusations come after a peculiar series of events at Tuesday’s Full Council meeting. At the meeting, Graham Donald, who started a petition for a full council debate over the CEO payoff, commented that the Mayor failed to answer his question and his supplementary.

Graham also noted that his question, which had been 'forgotten' from the last council meeting despite being submitted before the deadline, had also been edited. The question itself then appeared on the monitors in truncated form, unlike every other question which was asked. It was also noted by others that no paper copies of Questions from the public were available in the gallery, unlike most other previous meetings.

Responding to this Graham Donald, local Westbury-on-Trym & Henleaze campaigner, said:

“This all looks like a cover-up to me. Why was I not allowed even to mention Anna Klonowski’s name in my Question, despite this issue having been in the media for months – where did this new rule come from?

"The Mayor told me in March that the payment to her was £70K and required by her contract, but the city council’s auditors say that it wasn’t contractual and we now know her departure cost Bristol £98K. Why these differences? The Mayor just responded by attacking the auditors.

"When I asked the Mayor what lessons might be learnt in the recruitment and management of senior officers, we were treated to a speech about how much he had improved the city council’s governance and management. I do wonder if he’s living in a parallel universe.”


Cox: Labour now has the power to stop Brexit if it wants to

Following the Prime Minister's intention to delay the meaningful vote in Parliament on the Brexit deal, Bristol West Parliamentary Spokesperson James Cox has joined Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable in calling for a vote of no confidence in the government. 

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Bristol can lead the way on drug reform

Liberal Democrats Home Affairs Spokesperson and former cabinet minister Sir Ed Davey MP joined Bristol West Prospective MP James Cox on a visit to Bristol Drugs Project to look at the drug and addiction-related issues faced in Bristol. 

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Remain vote increases in Bristol as pressure grows for a People's Vote

Bristol Liberal Democrats are putting pressure on Bristol Labour MPs to back a People's Vote on the Brexit deal as constituency polling suggests that support for remaining in the EU has increased across the Bristol. 

The Survation poll, which was commisioned by Channel 4 and is the largest and most comprehensive poll since the referendum, has found that support for leaving the EU has fallen across Bristol, and with support for the Prime Minister's Brexit deal in a minority. 

Constituency estimates have now been published and show a clear swing from Leave to Remain. Bristol West remains one of the highest Remain-supporting constituencies in the country, with just 16.72% of voters wanting to leave the European Union. Despite this, Labour MP Thangam Debbonaire has consistently opposed a People's Vote. 

James Cox, Liberal Democrat Prospective MP for Bristol West, said:

"The numbers show very clearly that support for remaining in the EU has not dimmed but has grown in Bristol West. When I talk to people on the doorstep, they are very clear about their vision for their country. They want young people to have good opportunities, refugees to be welcomed not vilified, and for us to work with our neighbours to tackle climate change. I share that vision, which I believe will only be realised if we stay in the EU.

"Despite this, we have an MP who openly backs a Norway-style deal over a People's Vote. This is completely at odds with what is right for her constituents and what her constituents want. Bristol West wants a remain-supporting MP, not a soft Brexiteer. It's time Labour MPs stopped helping the Conservatives deliver Brexit and joined us in stopping it."

Bristol South had the highest leave vote in the city, with 47.1% of voters backing Leave. However, the poll now suggests that this number has shrunk to just 40%, with 60% now in favour of remaining in the EU.

Andrew Brown, Liberal Democrat Prospective MP for Bristol South, said:

"The data suggests that as the reality of Brexit has become clearer, people who previously voted leave are switching their view, with only 4 in 10 people in Bristol South now supporting leave. It is time for people to be 'given back control' of the Brexit process and for Karin Smyth to support a People's Vote."

The data also suggests that support for the Prime Minister's deal is in a significant majority in Bristol, with an estimated just 39.2% supporting the heavily criticised deal. 

MPs will be voting on Mrs May's deal on December 12th, with all Bristol's MPs expected to vote against it. 

   

Negus: Bristol demands better for libraries

In response to the Council's Libraries Strategy, Bristol Liberal Democrats leader Cllr Anthony Negus has made the following statement:

"Bristol Lib Dems welcome the prospect of a Libraries strategy – but despite the title, this is not what Cabinet approved last week. Instead, there will be conversations with people interested in each of the present library buildings. We heard variously that libraries are to be community-run, maintained as an overall city-led and paid-staff run service (with some exceptions!) There was the talk of trusts, asset transfers and even commercialisation but too little on what libraries should be for. The University of Bristol believes their £80m investment in a new library will pay dividends. The Lib Dems are proud of the four new libraries we created and the role we have played in Scrutiny and in Council to make the Mayor think again about our library service. But last week it was said that there was no guarantee of money to sustain our 27 libraries until 2020, and there was no vision or leadership for a long-term plan beyond that date. 

"My request for at least a minimum delivery standard across the entire system was not answered and the executive member regularly said that libraries should not be seen as buildings. This flags up the concern that they will go virtual (online). Rather than sustain and improve our delivery of this essential service, existing library buildings will be seen instead as a soft touch for asset-stripping or downgrading to something immediately wanted by a local group rather than needed for the long-term by the wider community. One of the Cabinet has made it clear her preference to demolish her local library and replace it with housing.

"Some will see this as a popular proposal and look good on local leaflets but, to use the Mayor’s term for building an arena in Bristol, this would be a vanity project built over the wreckage of a public offering of long-term skills and learning to the community. As anyone who has listened to the Cabinet webcast will know, my intervention highlighted this known political mission and I stick by it. Reversing Austerity should start with a vision for the future and move on to delivering better opportunities for all. Personal growth is the most valuable kind. 

"There are a large number of community buildings provided over many years as a panacea for deprived areas by previous Labour administrations which are now underused or falling into expensive disrepair. The Lib Dems support much of the current administration’s attempts to build new affordable and Council housing alongside private dwellings by agreements with developers. We are also keen to see bold civic enterprise in better use of redundant city-owned assets alongside those of other public bodies. Active library buildings are a long way down this list. If we want to deliver essential housing then we can do this more effectively and in greater numbers elsewhere.

"Bristol Lib Dems have suggested a vision that sustains its library service to be fit for future benefits. We will look imaginatively to modernise, relocate, co-locate and even to accept revenue-earning features. But our sustainable model will not asset-strip Bristol’s vital resources for short-term headlines. Bristol demands better."


Bristol SU backs People's Vote campaign

University of Bristol Students' Union has backed the People's Vote campaign, calling for a referendum on the terms of the final Brexit deal. 

The Students' Union - which represents 22,000 members - has backed the anti-Brexit campaign. This follows a motion, proposed by Bristol Liberal Democrat Students, passed at the union's Annual Members' Meeting called for Bristol SU to formally oppose Brexit in any form.

73% of under-25s voted to remain in the EU in 2016. It is estimated that further 1.5 million young people have become eligible to vote since the referendum.

Max Langer, Clifton campaigner and Chair of the Bristol Liberal Democrat Students, said:

"Brexit will be the biggest hit to young people's opportunities since the financial crash and so it is brilliant to see Bristol SU standing up to fight for their member's futures.

"I look forward to seeing lots of University of Bristol students at the march, demanding a People's Vote with the option to remain. Here in Bristol, we will continue to press our Labour MP to join our cause and to listen to her young constituents."

James Cox, Lib Dem Bristol West Parliamentary Spokesperson and post-graduate student, added:

"It is remarkable that the government has decided to pursue such an ideological Brexit, one of the only times a government has acted so relentlessly to build a future against the expressed wishes of those who will have to inhabit that future. 

"I am very proud that the University of Bristol's students are making their voice heard and are standing up for the opportunities of young people. I urge, once again, our local MP Thangam Debbonaire to listen to her constituents and to act in their best interests." 

The Student Union is offering a free coach service for interested students to the upcoming People's Vote March for the Future in London on Saturday, October 20th. It is anticipated to be the largest pro-European march yet. 

The government is expecting to present its deal to Parliament in November. 


Freedom to fly vital for region’s airport

The Liberal Democrats’ Bristol West Parliamentary Spokesperson has highlighted the importance of maintaining the freedom to fly between the UK and Europe in any Brexit agreement.

Under the current arrangement, all UK-EU flights fall under the legal protections of several EU aviation agreements and bodies. However, in the event of a “cliff-edge” or no deal Brexit, the UK would fall out of the EU’s single aviation market. In an extreme case, this could mean that no flights will be able to fly between the UK and the European Union.

Regional airports like Bristol Airport rely heavily on European flights, with 94% of flights operating through Bristol going to or from the European Union.

Unlike trade, where a worst-case scenario would have the UK fall back onto World Trade Organization rules, there is no equivalent for the aviation industry, a reality which has sparked strong concerns. 

James Cox, Liberal Democrats Bristol West Parliamentary Spokesperson, said:

“The result of these technical notices is clear. No deal is not an option. For airports like Bristol, an ambitious hub for our area, they rely on their ability to get free access to the European Union. Every day the government refuses to rule out taking the aviation industry off a cliff, they risk growth, investment and jobs.

“The Prime Minister says she wants to work in the national interest. Its time she, her party and the opposition got real and pledged to put whatever deal – or none – she comes back with to the country in a people’s vote with the option to remain in the EU.”

A spokesperson from Bristol Airport said:

“The scenarios set out in these technical notices highlight the importance of continued access to aviation connectivity for people and businesses across the UK and the EU. Bristol Airport’s customers can be confident that, along with the rest of the airport industry, we continue to work closely with the Government to ensure continuity of safe and easy air travel post-Brexit.”

This follows news today from airline Thomas Cook who has announced that passengers will not receive compensation for expenses in the event of their flights being grounded due to Brexit. 

  • The government is expected to put the deal with the EU before parliament in November, however, after the Prime Minister’s Chequers plan was rebuffed by the EU it remains unclear if the UK can secure a comprehensive deal.

Langer: Plan for complex economy demands complex solutions

Liberal Democrats passed a motion at conference which seeks to tackle inequality by reforming corporate governance and bringing about a system of life-long training to give people the skills needed to adapt to the changing workplace. 

Speaking at conference, Clifton campaigner Max Langer:

"We are living in a time of inequality, levels of which we've not experienced since the beginning of the twentieth century. And this phenomenon is especially prevalent in Western English speaking countries due to our reckless corporate culture.

"In this motion, by taking stakeholders and giving them a say in how companies are run and how their managers are paid, we can start to tackle this culture working to bridge this gap. 

"Whilst productivity has slowed, technology is developing faster than ever. Therefore, our systems of training need to change in order to keep up. Simply training people when they are 18 years old is no longer good enough, and by implementing the life-long training schemes proposed by the Liberal Democrats we will be better able to meet the demands of the future. 

"The Liberal Democrat plan looks at our complex economy for what it is and seeks to answers to answer the problems with complex solutions - not quick fixes."


Cox: No young person should be left to suffer in silence

Liberal Democrats passed an emergency motion at their conference which aims to tackle the high rates of self-harm amongst children and young people.

Speaking at the conference, Bristol West Parliamentary Spokesperson, James Cox said:

"The University of Bristol has built itself a reputation as a world leader in research and higher education, but, tragically, over the last eighteen months, it has acquired a new reputation. It has been described as the "suicide capital of the UK" with an "epidemic" of suicides amongst its students. 

"The link between self-harm and suicide is often discussed. For some, it is a way to take control of their pain, for others a cry for help that too often goes unheard. I am living with a mental health condition, but I am lucky that I recognised the signs earlier, sought help and am undergoing treatment. Others, too often tragically, are not so lucky. 

"The numbers of young people, particularly young girls and those from the LGBT+ community, who self-harm shows that they are being let down by systems and institutions that are supposed to protect them. 

"I am proud of the Lib Dems' commitment to ending injustice in mental health and the focus on self-harm that has been unanimously approved the conference. Our education and healthcare systems must work more closely together in protecting young people and students. Depressive episodes and mental distress are now becoming commonplace on campuses and in schools across the country. With far too many being let down the postcode lottery in our mental health services, schools and universities should be offering counselling and pastoral care to students and staff. 

"No young person should be left to suffer in silence. Liberal Democrats demand better for young people and better mental health services."


Unanimous support for Lib Dems' SEND funding motion

Bristol City Council voted unanimously to back the Lib Dems' motion to restore funding to the special education needs and disability education budget. The motion follows a high court ruling which determined that the council's proposed cuts to the SEND budget were illegal in a groundbreaking case.

The motion will force the council to come back with a revised funding plan that restores funding to the High Needs Block and to develop an action plan to improve the outcomes for children with SEND throughout Bristol.

Cllr Tim Kent, Bristol Lib Dem Finance Spokesperson and mover of the motion, said:

"In our city, schools have increasingly seen the funding for children reduced. Top up funding has been slashed and that has had a significant negative impact on children and schools.

"I think the cabinet made a catastrophic mistake in January in agreeing to such large cuts to SEND. Let us not fool ourselves we all made that mistake. None of us noticed at the time. Thankfully a small group of parents were more diligent and their action has given us a second chance.

"We should not be here but we are. Parents and children should not have been denied their lawful rights. But they have. Funding should be provided to meet need but it hasn’t. That is the past, that is the present, let us today agree that it will not be the future for children with special education needs and disabilities here in our city.

"I am pleased that the council backed this motion unanimously and I look forward to seeing the recommendations of the Scrutiny Task and Finish group."

 

The motion also moves the council to endorse the British Dyslexia Association definition of Dyslexia and pledges to engage with Dyslexia Awareness week (1st-7th October) and go green.


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