Green perspectives on Stockwood and Bristol. Mostly.

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Hengrove Handout

Tomorrow, the city council's Cabinet will be recommended to hand over £800,000 to an unsuccessful bidder for the Hengrove 'Healthplex' PFI project.

They don't have to cough up, of course. According to officers, they've done nothing to make such a payment necessary. In fact the contractor that has come cap-in-hand (or rather wig-in-hand) to the council has neither the right nor the entitlement to the cash.

Yes, it's a proposed out-of-court settlement of a dispute over the bid for the contract to build and operate the planned Leisure Centre/ Pool. The report to Cabinet (pdf) gives all the background, but the essential part seems to be this:

DC Leisure Management (DCLM) are threatening to sue the city council. They say that the bidding process for this lucrative contract (ok, they didn't actually say lucrative) wasn't followed. The consortium that got the contract (Bristol Active Ltd) was allowed to change one of its members during the bid, and its proposals for a ten-lane swimming pool were accepted whilst DCLM's similar proposals were not.

The council's own legal advice is that DCLM haven't got much of a case - if any. But what they have got is the ability to delay the whole project through legal action - unless an out-of-court settlement can be reached. So it looks like a transfer of £800,000 pounds is going to find its way into DCLM's account instead of any of the much needed services that our council is supposed to be providing.

Of course, the council could go ahead and say we'll fight this. So what if the Healthplex is delayed? Other flagship Hengrove projects are already behind schedule; the Hospital, originally intended to open about now, has just been put back a couple of years and the Computershare HQ is also delayed.

A delay to the opening of the new pool might even be welcomed in some quarters too - especially among users of the Jubilee and Bishopsworth pools, due to be shut down as soon as the Healthplex opens.

And maybe £800,000 would help kickstart the long-promised provision of a library to serve Hengrove and Whitchurch....

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Councillor Recall

Charlie Bolton blogs about how last night's council meeting found a couple of minutes to deal with his motion to set up a 'recall' system when, as occasionally happens, wards lose confidence in their councillor.

Yes, said Charlie's fellow councillors, it's a fine principle. Then they went on to amend the motion so that nothing will be done to make it happen in Bristol. That would be far too complicated!

[Added 30th July]

The amended (and passed) motion:

Council endorses the concept supports in principle the idea of 'recall' for Bristol City councillors.

Council calls on the whips and Councillor Bolton to include in their discussions - as agreed at the full council meeting of 31st March - a proposal for the recall of councillors via a voluntary code. Once the details of such a code have been established, all councillors will be invited to subscribe to such a code.

Council further calls on the leader to write to our local MPs and the Prime Minister urging them to bring forward proposals to make 'recall' a requirement at both local and national government levels.]

OK, lets simplify it a bit for them. Recall means the electorate demanding the resignation of a councillor so that a further election can be held. That means a petition being raised among the electors; a figure of 20% of the electorate signing seems about right to demonstrate that the dissatisfaction is real, though that's negotiable.

Here are a few suggested rules to govern a 'recall' procedure.

1. It's voluntary on the part of councillors to commit themselves to 'recall', though the party groups could make it a condition of their backing. If, when elected, a councillor makes a commitment to accept any valid 'recall' bid, that commitment cannot be changed.

2. Any recall petition must be raised by the electorate at its own expense, and in a form that makes it practicable to check signatories' names against the electoral register.

3. Any person, or group, instituting a 'recall' bid should register their intention with the council - and the councillor concerned - beforehand

4. Any promotional literature inviting electors to sign should also be made available to the councillor concerned

5. The costs of mounting the 'recall' bid should be capped in the same way as candidates electoral expenses are.

6. No 'recall' election should be called if the councillor's term of office has less than a year to run.

That's off the top of my head. and no doubt it could be improved. But it's demonstrably do-able. Like me, experienced councillors also gave Charlie's motion some thought, but all they came up with was agreement on the drafting of their disabling amendment.

So why has the council ducked it?

Stockwood - Bristol's newest shopping destination!

Things have been happening at Hollway Road shops, the parade of two dozen units plus library at the heart of Stockwood. Cycling City is on the job of turning it into the destination retail centre of choice for the cyclists of South Bristol.

Until now, we've had to make do with just three bike stands at the shops.

Now, two have been added at the library two at the Co-op three at the post office two at the chippy two at the offie.

Sadly, the recently refurbished playground at Cottle Road Park, with its own little shopping parade, remains without any provision for bikes.

As do the shops on Sturminster Road.

Clearly, there's a plan behind all this. If only we knew what it was.

Meanwhile, the other side of the one-time tracks, the Parks people are consulting about the future of the few acres of open space between the Whitchurch Railway Path and the Saltwell Viaduct on the A37. Apparently it's a Site of Nature Conservation Interest, (which makes it pretty safe from being sold off to provide park-keepers in Knowle). But isn't this the place where Cycling City want to provide a new off-road link route under the viaduct and up into Whitchurch? They don't seem to have told the Parks planners.....

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

The Bath Road goes 'Showcase'

Looks like the Bath Road buses are next to become 'Showcase' quality. Well, some of them. The plans are out now, and there's an 'informal public consultation' - whatever that is - until August 14th. On Tuesdays (10 till 4), Thursdays (10 till 8) and Saturdays (10 till 2) up to August 1st you can see the plans at Unit 9 on Brislington Hill (opposite the White Hart). Or you can see the detailed leaflet here, without leaving your PC, and send comments from this council website page

The cynic in me wonders whether these improvements will provide a bus service comparable in speed and reliability with those when I were a lad. After all, then there were lots of bus conductors and not nearly so much traffic cluttering the roads - so buses could move quicker and didn't have to stand still while you paid your fare.

There are certainly good things about the showcase plans. Better bus lanes, new pavements where none exist now (notably alongside the Arnos Vale cemeteries), more bike segregation. Real time information at bus stops. Bus stops with litter bins!

Some less promising things, too. Beyond the city boundary, cycling looks as suicidal as ever on the approach to Hicks Gate. Across from the Paintworks, there's one of those confidence-sapping cycle lanes outside a row of parked cars, any one of which might suddenly open an off-side door; there's a marked lack of bus stops from Temple Meads to beyond Totterdown bridge; and, all along, bus stops seemingly placed to maximise walking distance from homes reached through the side streets.

And questions, questions, questions. Will the real time information extend to all the routes along the Bath Road? There's the ABus 57 service, for instance, serving us here in Stockwood. First's 'country' buses, including the core X39 express route to Bath, haven't so far been brought in to the realtime system - will they be now? Same goes for the 349 Keynsham service, shared between First and ABus.

Now, if these buses are to be equipped to join the 'realtime' system, maybe we're actually making progress. But if not, all that fancy gear is only going to tell us when the next 1 or 36 is coming along. Hardly worth the effort.

I'll add comments below if and when I learn more