It has been revealed after an investigation by the Liberal Democrats that Bristol City Council Chief Executive Nicola Yates has received £18,000 in addition to her £160,000 for her “spare time” work on Bristol Green Capital.
Over £8m of taxpayers money is publicly recorded as having been spent on Bristol Green Capital and all attempts to examine line by line the value for money that this represents has been denied, refused or referred to ‘audit reports’ made to DECC (Department for Energy & Climate Change). Audit reports that are simply reports on whether the accounts give a ‘true and fair’ view of the company’s affairs but provide no actual specific details.
In early 2015 former Liberal Democrat councillor Christian Martin submitted a Freedom of Information request (FOI) asking for details of any additional salaries being earned by Bristol City Council employees who were also working for Bristol 2015 Ltd. Unequivocally the response given back made it clear that no council employees were receiving additional payments. The response did however cryptically make the point that Nicola Yates was an employee of Bristol 2015 Ltd. Such careful wording raised suspicions; it was an opaque rather than a transparent answer.
Various media reports over the course of the year have highlighted how few people in Bristol were engaged or knew much about what Green Capital actually was about. Repeated questions for greater scrutiny in the run up to the year and during the year by Liberal Democrat councillors were rebuffed as ‘political game playing’. Likewise members of the public who questioned green capital activities were denigrated by the Mayor on numerous occasions as “naysayers” and more recently “lunatics”. That a separate company (Bristol 2015 Ltd.) was incorporated to run the Green Capital events, only served to cast further suspicion over the year as the unique structure of this special purpose vehicle disallowed any public scrutiny through the use of FOIs which were all rejected under a carefully chosen clause from within the Act. Secrecy over the accounts and expenditure resulted in a recent protest calling for line-by-line publication of the accounts.
The Audit Committee of the council meets this Friday 11th March and this week additional limited financial information has suddenly made its way onto the Bristol 2015 website (a website that cost the taxpayer £245,000).
Lib Dem campaigner Christian Martin commented:
“Whilst I am not an accountant by painstakingly cross referencing links included in the Audit Committee Report I can reveal that in fact Nicola Yates did receive a salary from Bristol 2015 Ltd of £1000 per month plus expenses of £1,658. This being a job that originally we were told she would be doing in her ‘spare time’ away from her duties as Chief Executive of Bristol City Council where she earns £160,000 which is more that the Prime Minister (£142,500)! In total she has been compensated an additional £18,000.
"Does this represent value for money? Did she need to receive an additional £18,000 from taxpayer money earmarked and intended to be used specifically for green initiatives and to generate legacy projects for Bristol City?
“Nicola Yates and the Mayor removed Kris Donaldson from the post of Director of Green Capital, when Nicola Yates took over I would have reasonably expected that Green Capital work would have fallen under her existing contractual obligations as CEO of Bristol City Council for which she is handsomely paid. This additional compensation of £18,000 only confirms fears that a select few have financially benefitted from the mostly taxpayer funded Green Capital year at the expense of legacy projects and greater engagement with Bristolians. I therefore, call upon the council to release immediately all salary payments made to all employees of Bristol 2015 Ltd that were funded out of the £8m. Furthermore it is my belief that for Bristol City and it’s taxpayers to get value for money it would not be unreasonable to demand that Nicola Yates repay this salary.”