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Accountability is not a smear

Bristol and Beyond

A few words from the Cable media team


stamp-made possible by co-opOn Tuesday night we published a story detailing that Bristol Mayor George Ferguson and senior Council officials knew, prior to the controversial sale of the Council’s port land, that Bristol Port Company had intentions to exploit oil and gas, including through deep well fracking.

This information was repeatedly hidden from the public and elected officials during the sale process and has only been revealed now. The Mayor and the Council claim they eventually negotiated a commitment from the Port Company to not pursue oil and gas exploitation. Whilst the Port eventually decided on this occasion to withdraw their application for an oil and gas licence, the council have refused to provide evidence of whether this commitment applies to companies related to the Port Company. Indeed, the Mayor and Robert Orrett, the director of property, have made contradictory statements on the matter.

Equally, as a result of the sale of the land, the Council have admitted that any third party could now apply for oil and gas licences, without restriction. Indeed the Council were told by the Port Company that they would consider selling land “probably to an oil company”. In addition we have confirmation from the Council press office that a ‘mines and minerals’ clause was excluded from the contract at the Port Company’s insistence, leaving the possibility open for natural resource exploitation. This information was never made public and was not relayed to all councillors. Now there is a major contradiction from the Deputy Mayor about who knew what and when.

Some have accused the Bristol Cable of playing political games in the timing of this article. Let us be clear, we received 72 pages of correspondence between the Mayor, a senior Council official and representatives of the Bristol Port Company from a Freedom of Information Request on April 19th, only two weeks before publication. To do properly these stories take time.

We requested comment from all parties with ample time to respond.The responses were hours over deadline and avoided key questions. As such we submitted follow-ups and contacted Robert Orrett over the phone for clarification. Comments were incorporated into the body of the article and complete responses have been made available as attachments, along with the complete FOI disclosure.

The Cable co-op is committed to holding power to account, not serving it, including all political parties. The Cable will hold to account whoever wins on May 5th. We are currently following leads with all parties about their knowledge of the fracking potential. The Mayor and the Council have repeatedly been offered the opportunity to clarify this matter through full disclosure of the contract documents. The Cable calls for the Council to make public the freehold’s sale contract. It is crucial there is accountability and transparency, particularly at election time. Is that a smear?


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  • All I can say is BRAVO….


  • Fantastic investigative journalism. These are utterly disgraceful actions on the part of the mayor who appears to be only interested in pleasing his rich friends and clearly holds scant regard for transparency, the concerns of local people or of the possible environmental impacts of his actions. The Council seems equally responsible for being complicit in the sale and not insisting on full public disclosure of the terms before the sale was made. Thank goodness that someone is reporting on this and trying to inject some accountability and transparency (something which of course should be totally unnecessary). This revelation also calls into question the value of having a mayor in Bristol and highlights the negative aspects of concentrating too much power into the the role of one person. Despite what may be said in election campaigns and how much background research you can do on someone, you can never be sure of their motivations and how they will act if given power. With no mayoral position and with decisions being made by an elected council, no one person can have a disproportionate influence. This process may slow some things down, but it certainly means we had successfully prevented the threat of fracking in Avonmouth up until the election of the mayor. Keep up the good work, the whole of Bristol needs to know about this and with any luck by the end of tomorrow we may end up with a mayor and Council who will actually communicate with the public and think about the needs of the people of Bristol before the desires of those who have much and will always want more.


  • Hartcliffe Green

    Can anyone explain why Cllr Mark Brain is now a director (since 2013, resigned and then rejoined 2015) of First Corporate Shipping Ltd, the parent company of Bristol Port Company Ltd?


    • The Bristol Blogger

      Bristol City Council is entitled have a non-exec director on the FCS Ltd. board. Brain has obviously been nominated to do it again this year.

      Last year Tory councillor Wayne Harvey, an employee of FCS, was the non-exec. (I’m pretty sure that an employee can’t be a non-exec?)

      Not that these councillors do a lot:

      It’s pretty clear that this non-exec role at FCS is not serving the Bristol public or the wider public interest very well.


      • Not another person with city council affiliations who is clueless as what constitutes a conflict of interest! Where does Bristol City Council manage to find them all?

  • Hartcliffe Green

    Not showing on his registered interests, but they were update June 2015, one month before he was re-appointed


  • It sounds like the property team have maybe left it out in the contract?


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