Your say / Bristol

‘The bad decisions keep coming’

By gary hopkins, Wednesday Oct 18, 2017

Many people cited the arrogance as the reason that Bristol’s first elected mayor George Ferguson was voted out.

People voted in what they thought would be a very different character but has Bristol gone from the frying pan into the fire?

People were surprised early this year when I and Tory councillor Richard Eddy, who are very far from being political allies, flagged up concerns at the full council meeting that confirmed the appointment of our now recently departed chief executive.

So concerned were we at the recruitment procedure that both Liberal Democrats and Tories refused to support the appointment, a very unusual step.

The recruitment of someone to this and other senior posts is a long and thorough procedure if followed properly and involves information from a variety of sources and very careful consideration.

The various parts of the process are there to ensure fairness for all applicants and that the council ends up with the right person in post.

Apart from raising our concerns about the process, neither of us individually, or our groups, raised the matter further until after the recent departure of the chief executive.

Bristol City Council’s chief executive, Anna Klonowski, stood down to focus on her role as primary carer for her parents

There were, during the seven months of her period in charge, a large number of departures of senior staff and, of course, the turnover was not good in the previous months of this administration [with a few appointments leaving the post in quick succession]. But no explanations were offered.

The Bristol public were then told that Ms Klonowski had resigned for personal reasons.

She physically left in early September but we were told that she was working from home on our behalf until the end of September.

As it was not disruptive to the council and we wanted to make sure we did not have a repeat, both councillor Eddy and I spoke out again about the problems on the recruitment procedure (apart from anything else the promised training had not been put in place for new councillors).

The mayor reacted very angrily and many were fascinated by his touchiness on the subject.

A well-informed sources close to the centre of the administration disclosed that Ms Klonowski left with a £70,000 pay off.

This has been confirmed by the administration, but they seem to be sticking to their story about the reason for departure, at least for the moment.

This has led to the further questions about the payoff to someone leaving of their own accord and not working notice. I am sure a lot of staff would like that privilege.

Having kept the payment secret, the mayor has now admitted it was made and is now claiming that the terms under which it was paid were authorised by a decision of human resources committee last year.

In fact that is not true and what was agreed was a tightening up on costs following the mayor’s £200,000 pay-out to the chief officer he inherited.

Questions are now being asked about the legality of the £70,000 and the £200,000 pay-outs and if we have had the full story from the mayor.

Richard Eddy has also raised concerns about pay-offs to senior staff

Meanwhile councillor Kye Dudd, a close associate of the mayor who chairs the HR Committee, seems to be trying to drop the widely called for enquiries and has launched an attack upon myself and councillor Eddy and has made an unsuccessful attempt to have us removed from the committee.

In fact, all of this probably needs to go to an investigation by an outside body so that the Bristol public can have some confidence restored. HR committee on October 19 could be interesting.

An all-party committee was given a tiny window to respond to the mayor’s ridiculous library plans this week.

Despite the challenge, the committee came up with well thought through practical proposals, based on principles put in to practice successfully elsewhere. The alternatives were rejected before the ink was even dry with a pre-emptive strike.

An insult to the thousands who have responded to the “consultation” but I am afraid typical of this regime.

The bad decisions and refusal to reconsider keep coming.

I am afraid that the mayoral system is itself one of the main reasons for the appalling decisions and waste of public money and I know that the majority of the Bristol public look forward to dumping the system as soon as they can.

Gary Hopkins is a Liberal Democrat Councillor for the ward of Knowle.


Read more: ‘The mayoral system puts too much power in one set of hands’

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