George Ferguson got a live television grilling over transparency of the Green Capital accounts.
Keeping up a promise to appear on ITV West Country over the issue, the mayor was robustly challenged by anchor Ian Axton on Friday.
Asked by the presenter: “In a one-word answer, will you commit to publishing the Bristol 2015 Ltd accounts in accordance with the local governance code, to satisfy everybody?”
The mayor replied: “We will satisfy the Department for Energy and Climate Change [where funding came from] at my request to the Prime Minister. We’ve reported every month, every single month. We’ve reported twice to the Bristol audit.
Axton said: “That wasn’t a yes, was it?”
Ferguson replied: “Yes, but we are giving a proper explanation and all these people are doing is trying to catch me out and be political, and why should I give them the ammunition?
“Because it’s quite plain: Stephen [Williams, former Bristol West MP] lost the election very, very badly and has written a rather bitter letter that says ‘could you publish it [the accounts] before the election?'”
Ferguson added: “I’m so proud of what we’ve achieved. It’s brilliant on a local level and international field, thank you.”
Axton had challenged Ferguson over the exact breakdown of money spent on things like summits earlier in the interview.
He asked the mayor: “You haven’t got figures, have you? You haven’t got any sums of money that the public can see? Why can’t the public see how much you spent?”
The mayor answered: “There will be figures. I’m absolutely with you about transparency. I’ve never, ever thought anything else and we’ve been through probably a more rigorous auditing and scrutiny process than any supplier at the council gets. The proper accounts will be produced at the proper time.”
He added: “People have got to realise, there was £1 million that we as a city council put in. That was incredibly effective. That levered another £11 million of public and private funding – and there’s a difference in public and private funding.
“We set up a company because the company was the best vehicle not only to run Green Capital, which it has been extremely effective at, but also to lever that extra funding and I’m absolutely convinced that we wouldn’t have been successful without doing that.
Axton then said: “You don’t have to comply with the code, but don’t you think that because it’s public money, ‘I kind of think we should?’”
“We will give the proper information that will satisfy the audit and that is what we should do,” the mayor replied.
Campaigners have been calling on Bristol 2015 Ltd, the company set up to deliver the programme of events for Bristol’s year as European Green Capital, to release full details of expenditure.
So far, only a portion of the money spent has been subjected to public line-by-line accounts. £1.35 million, put in by the council and spent on grants to small organisation, has made public. But the remaining £7 million from central Government has only been partly broken down.
Although it is funded by predominantly public money, Bristol 2015 is not obliged to release full, line-by-line accounts as it is a private company.
Some of the accounts have been broken down into broad categories, including summits (£1,679,409), green technologies (£561,253) and a website (£245,000).
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