The Bristol Cable

A consultant to the board of the city council’s failed Bristol Energy company was paid almost a quarter of a million pounds last year, it has been revealed.

Chris Smith received £242,101 in salary, fees and allowances from April 2020 to March 2021, including the period after the local authority sold the firm’s domestic and business customers last September and August respectively, according to the council’s accounts.

Interim managing director Allan Booth earned £111,209 between April and November when he left the business and Smith took over its operational management. That was on top of £33,917 for the last two weeks of March last year, a sum that included part-payment up front, when he was brought in to split up and sell the disastrous venture that racked up tens of millions in losses and saw Bristol City Council sink £36.5million of taxpayers’ cash.

The eye-watering amounts for both posts, which were interim, are the “costs incurred by the company to secure the individuals’ services on this basis and not the amounts the individuals actually received (which will have been lower)”, Bristol City Council’s 2020/21 draft statement of accounts says.

The previous year’s figures show Smith, who was then interim director of finance, was paid £113,333 for six months between October 2019 and March 2020. As previously reported, the former MD Marek Majewicz earned £322,960 in 2019/20 including an £85,800 payoff when he was replaced by Booth in March last year.

Bristol Energy’s household customers were sold to Together Energy for £14million, along with its brand, and its business book to Yü Energy for £1.34million. Liquidators were appointed last month to begin the process of winding up the remaining legal entity BE 2020 Limited.

Meanwhile, Adam Henshaw, finance director of another of the city council’s wholly owned firms, Bristol Waste, was given a 51% hike, although the company says this was because the role increased from three days a week to five. His salary went up from £73,179 in 2019/20 to £110,431 in the last financial year.

Managing director Tony Lawless earned £125,744, a 5% rise from £119,587 in 2019/20.

Operations manager Jason Eldridge’s wages, including fees and allowances, increased by nearly 7% from £97,344 to £103,783. City council housing company Goram Homes managing director Stephen Baker earned £113,300 last year, having been paid £52,678 from his appointment in September 2019 to March 2020.

The figures are in the same set of accounts that revealed three interim city council officers were paid more than the authority’s chief executive in 2020/21, with the highest, Clean Air Zone communication and engagement director Nicki Beardmore, costing taxpayers £218,000.

In a written reply to a question submitted by Joanna Booth at the council’s audit committee on Monday, July 26, asking what controls over salaries were in place, the local authority said: “The council discloses executive salaries for its wholly owned companies in the council’s annual accounts, in the same way as it does for the council’s senior officers.

“The council, as shareholder, must approve the salaries of the managing directors and finance directors of each of the companies.

“This approval is considered following a recommendation from Bristol Holding Limited, which now has a remuneration committee to support recruitment processes and ensure adequate benchmarking exercises take place.”

The council and Bristol Holding, which oversees the authority’s companies, declined to comment further.


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