Tag Archives: Cllr Shirley Brown

Bristol’s Big Freeze: Snow joke in St. Paul’s – council abandons inner city Bristol (again)

I see that Councillor Jon Rogers (Executive Member, Transport & Sustainability) has been getting stuck into tackling ungritted pavements in Bristol. He spent forty minutes last night with local blogger Chris Hutt, gritting footpaths around Queen’s Road.

That’s Queen’s Road. In Clifton.

I look forward to seeing Councillor Jon Rogers (Ashley Ward) doing the same in St. Paul’s in the near future. Because the council he helps lead certainly doesn’t look like getting down to it anytime this side of summer.

Meow! What’s prompted this rather uncharitable assessment of Cllr Rogers’ Blitz-style, everyone-pitch-in-together gesture?

Pull up a chair, and I’ll tell you…

You could be mistaken for thinking that Britain had been visited by the horsemen of the Apocalypse judging by the institutional paralysis that the recent snow visited across our fair isles has caused. The failure of local authorities to adequately prepare for what has been, in all honesty, a fairly mild few days of snow and frost is both sadly expected and wholly needless. The weather was predicted accurately, the UK is a socially advanced state with a multi-layered and complex infrastructure, and the resources to deal with any big freeze are available.

But then the capacity to deal with a problem is no guarantee that the problem will be dealt with, certainly not in Bristol.

The snow began before Christmas, and then eased off. Gritting took place in the mornings, and Bristol rumbled on. Come the 5th January, though, and the people whom we pay to run our city on our behalf failed us. The snow began light, but continued through the day. It then continued through the night, heavier and heavier. We awoke on Wednesday morning to a chocolate box cover, a twinkly cityscape beneath a fluffy white blanket. It looked beautiful; it was not to last. There had been no widespread gritting this time, so roads had quickly become impassable. Bus services across the entire city were cancelled. Schools and workplaces were forced to shut down. Things ground to a halt.

A little personal side: I visited my parents in their small village over Christmas. They told me of similar inertia on the part of their own local council. The whole village had been ignored by gritting lorries, so my father rang up the council. ‘Why hasn’t our village been gritted?’ ‘We’re prioritising main roads, sir,’ came the reply. ‘But there’s a main road through the village!’ ‘I mean bus routes, sir.’ ‘But there are two bus services that use this road!’ ‘Ah, I mean main bus routes, sir.’ Or, to decode the municipal gentility, ‘Fuck you, prole – we’ll grit where the fuck we want.’

I live in St. Paul’s, which is in Ashley Ward. We’re not important enough to be gritted. I mean, sure, Stokes Croft has been gritted, leading up to Cheltenham Road and the Gloucester Road – a main artery into and out of the city. But what about the Frontline – Grosvenor Road and Wilder Street – which links the Easton end of the neighborhood with the city centre end? Nada. The same with Portland and Brunswick Squares, which are our interfaces with Cabot Circus and Broadmead. And you can definitely forget any of the side roads, the residential streets zigzagging across our densely packed ends.

Now, fair enough, priorities have to be made. I can understand that there are primary routes which need to be kept open before other roads can be dealt with. But the whole of St. Paul’s has – again – been ignored, and regardless of the potential for catastrophic accidents.

For example, the corner of Cave Street and Wilder Street. Cave Street leads off Portland Square, and gives way to Wilder Street. It inclines down onto Wilder Street, and visibility is restricted by Balloon Court to the north and Cave Court to the south. The junction has (obviously) not been gritted, and is now a dangerously slippery ice rink. All day long since Wednesday cars, vans and trucks have been caught out by the conditions on that junction, many sliding right across the road, some spinning out completely, often only narrowly avoiding other vehicles or – even more frighteningly – pedestrians. At least one car has slid across the entire width of Wilder Street and crashed into the fence enclosing the car park opposite. And let’s not even get onto the subject of pavements – because the council certainly hasn’t. I’ve lost count of how many people have fallen flat on their arses on the corners of Wilder Street and Brunswick and Cave Streets.

It seems that it is only going to be a matter of time before someone is seriously injured in St. Paul’s – or worse. Much worse.

So, because it seems unlikely that Bristol City Council will get round to protecting local people by gritting in St. Paul’s, I’ve been getting on with it myself. This afternoon after work I made a start, taking two hours to drag back four bin loads of salt from the grit store opposite McDonald’s, which seems to be the nearest to us (obviously, there are no grit bins actually in St. Paul’s*). There is now a rudimentary path on the eastern pavement of Wilder Street between Cave Street and the entrance to Cave Court flats, a well-gritted corner on Brunswick Street, as well as other patches through the ice across the mouth of Brunswick Street, at the entrance to the cemetery and on the path between Bond Street and Brunswick Square.

Passersby were keen to pass on their opinions of the council and its policy (or lack thereof) on gritting as I was doing this. One particularly angry local man walking back into St. Paul’s with his family talked of big public meetings, liability for preventable accidents, putting politicians out of office and those kinds of thing. He was particularly unimpressed that our local councillor was out gritting in Clifton whilst St. Paul’s people slipped on untreated pavements and roads. As we were talking his son slipped flat on his back trying to negotiate a particularly icy corner of Brunswick Square.

With an absentee, race jibe councillor on the one hand, and another, Clifton-preferring councillor on the other, one wonders what it would take for St. Paul’s to get noticed by its own representatives. I suspect that Jon Rogers’ new Facebook page will not be what local residents are looking for.

* Don’t believe me? Then check out this map of grit bins in relationship to St. Paul’s. It’s based on the Bristol City Council’s own map of grit bins across the city, and St. Paul’s Unlimited Partnership’s map of St. Paul’s.

Pep talk & Shirley

My absentee councillor, Shirley Brown née Marshall, has broken cover and spoken to the Evening Post about her ‘moment of race jibe madness’!

Nearly six years after she was voted in, Shirley Brown remains Bristol’s only black councillor.

In a city that has had a large African Caribbean population for more than 50 years and now has a significant proportion of residents from backgrounds across the globe, she does not think that is good enough.

Shirley, 48, intends to spend the two remaining years of her second term as Liberal Democrat councillor for Ashley ward trying to improve the situation.

“It is really important for more African Caribbean people and more black and minority ethnic people in general to become engaged with the political process and I will be working on that,” she said.

She has had huge support from the people of Easton and St Paul’s, and never more so than when opponents criticised her for spending too long in America in the early months of her marriage to Byron Brown.

“People really rallied round me – but seeing what I went through does make some of them reluctant to put themselves forward for public life,” she said.

During her first term on the council, from 2003-2007, mother of three Shirley said she spent up to 60 hours a week on council work, attending more than 30 meetings every month.

But a couple of months after she was re-elected, and shortly after the death of her father, the then Shirley Marshall collapsed at work in Easton and was taken to the BRI.

Although it turned out not to be a stroke, as suspected, Shirley took it as a warning sign that she was burning herself out.

She went to America to recuperate and it was while she was there that her friend Byron, whom she had met when he was visiting Bristol on a council exchange, proposed.

Four days later, the pair wed and three days after that Shirley came back to Bristol. Early in 2008, she returned to the US for an extended honeymoon and soon began to attract criticism for picking up her £11,000 council allowance while she was across the Atlantic.

The Lib Dems felt this was unfair, given that councillors from all parties have had long illness absences that have not drawn so much attention.

In her defence, Shirley contended that she was continuing some of her ward work by email and her fellow Lib Dem Ashley councillor Jon Rogers was covering the rest.

She now has an unexpected opportunity to repay him for that, as Jon is a cabinet member following the surprise elevation of the Liberal Democrats to control of the council last week.

Shirley said: “Jon and I work very well together and now he is an executive member it will mean I will be covering ward work a lot more.”

…She played an active role in many events for Abolition 200 – the 200th anniversary of the Bill to end the slave trade – and is a supporter of the Legacy Commission, which will carry on some of that work.

She was therefore horrified that an Asian Conservative councillor, Jay Jethwa, spoke out at the council meeting last week against continuing funding for the commission.

“I could not believe she was saying that,” Shirley said. But the Tories were equally incredulous at the Lib Dem’s response, in which she called Councillor Jethwa a coconut, and made an official complaint.

Her boss, Lib Dem Councillor Barbara Janke, was not impressed either and has told Shirley to apologise, which she did.

As well as the council, Shirley has her paid work helping young people with personal development and working with women’s groups, as well as speaking engagements and motivational seminars.

There is also her faith. She is a preacher, although she has cut back on her work since her illness…

I await this renewed interest in ward casework with bated breath.

Shirley not!

This past weekend saw the Jamaica Street Studios open up their doors for an open day, celebrating the living art and culture of Stokes Croft and its people. Chris Chalkley of PRSC very kindly has sent round a round robin email complete with pictures from the weekend, and lumme if in one of them it looks like not just one but both Ashley ward councillors! See what you think…

Can it be true? Has the wanderer not only returned, but actually spent time in sunny Saint Paul’s? Or are these actually agency doppelgangers, hired in for the day? Answers on the back of a council expenses claim as soon as possible, please…

(Picture courtesy of People’s Republic of Stokes Croft, which is in no way responsible for this blog!)

Desperately seeking Shirley

The ongoing saga down here in St.Paul’s of our absentee councillor, Shirley Marshall, continues:

Shirley Marshall. Check. Huge suitcase. Check.

Cllr Shirley Marshall attended full council last night. Full marks to her. Unfortunately, her card was spoiled when she was seen leaving the council house with a very large suitcase. Perhaps the suitcase contained a bumper crop of council papers – perhaps she’s off on another ‘holiday.’ We don’t know, but perhaps Jon Rogers, Gary Hopkins or – heaven forfend – Cllr Marshall herself would care to enlighten the residents of Bristol who are giving her £11,000 a year to represent them.

Tip o’ the titfer: Bristol IndyMedia

Never fear! Batmarsh & Rogering are here!

Batmarsh & Rogerin

Reassuring news for those of us concerned about the recent licensing trials and tribulations of St. Paul’s Carnival here in Bristol:

Local LibDem crimefighting duo Shirley Marshall and Jon Rogers (rumoured to have been the stunt doubles for Del Boy and Rodney in the Batman & Robin episode of OFAH, filmed in front of the Coroner’s Court) have assured us in the latest arse-scratching edition of ‘Ashley Focus’ that they are – deep breath – “asking questions”. Phew!

libdem questions