Category Archives: Yuppification & All That Jazz

Broadmead expansion, ‘Bristol Alliance’, Cabot Circus, loft living, serviced apartments etc

Just what is Junket Janke hiding? The mystery of Bristol council’s Eurocities 2010 gravy train

For some reason Bristol City Council has been dragging its feet over a Freedom of Information request relating to a trip to Zaragoza for the Eurocities conference back in early November by council leader Barbara ‘Junket’ Janke, her £72,000 per year ‘director of place-making’ Mike Bennett, and possibly other hangers-on.

With the suspicion that this little four day jaunt to sunny Spain cost a pretty penny or two and serves little to no purpose at a time when the city council is threatening massive cutbacks to services and jobs across Bristol, it seems curious that the council has not been keener to wheel out its no doubt entirely valid and deep-ranging justifications – I am sure we are all waiting with excitement for old favourites like “value for money”, “strategic partnerships” and even “post-industrial destination economy”.

But, despite being legally obliged to respond within a month, the council still has yet to even acknowledge the original FoI request, so requester Steve Woods has politely resubmitted it:

Dear Bristol City Council,

I have not yet received a reply, or even the courtesy of an acknowledgment, to my FoI request for information on the visit of Barbara Janke and the Director of Place to the Eurocities 2010 conference
in Zaragoza, Spain.

A full reply should have been received by 6th November and Bristol City Council is therefore in breach of the law by not having responded within the stipulated term.

I set out below verbatim the text of my original request for your information, just in case it has slipped into oblivion down the back of the municipal filing cabinet.

“Dear Bristol City Council,

I understand that the Leader of the Council, Barbara Janke, and the Director of Place recently attended the Eurocities 2010 conference in Zaragoza, Spain.

My queries under the FoI Act are as follows:

1. Did any other representatives of Bristol City Council attend this conference, apart from those mentioned above?

2. What was the overall cost (registration, travel, accommodation, etc.) to the City Council of its representatives attending the Eurocities 2010 conference.

Yours faithfully,

Steve Woods”

Can you please advise by return just what the current position is with this request, as well as when I can expect a reply.

Yours faithfully,

Steve Woods

Exuding the sense of opaque entitlement often found with a certain kind of ‘knowledge economy’ technocrat, somewhat cantankerous servant of the city Bennett – formerly the chief self-facilitating node at Bristol Media – has not even mentioned the Eurocities event on his blog since October (before it took place!), much less than offered any insights on what ‘the team’ learned there to us, the Great Unwashed of the city… Could this be because he and Babs got up to some unsavoury Spanish practices of their own at the taxpayer’s expense out there?

Stokes Croft versus Tesco

Right, so I’ve missed out on all the excitement, but anyhow, here’s the story so far on the campaign to prevent the old Jesters building on Cheltenham Road from getting turned into another Tesco Express…

8th February

11th February

12th February

13th February

14th February

20th February

15th March

16th March

17th March

18th March

19th March

20th March

23rd March

Related links

I leave the last word to Al Shaw from Redland People/Trym Tales:

“…I am surprised that on the official press release by Avon and Somerset Constabulary announcing the eviction the force find it necessary to assist Tescos in their PR campaign by quoting a Tesco spokesman uncritically in connection with the company’s desire to open the controversial store.

“It’s one thing for the police to enforce the decision of a court (which is part of their job); when they act as a mouthpiece for a huge company which is widely disliked and criticised by people from a range of social and economic backgrounds, it seems to me that the force has stepped over the wrong side of a line and manifested a poitical bias.”

[Edited to add links.]

The West Country’s whitest city? SWRDA thinks so…

Of course, the private sector doesn’t have a monopoly on trying to whitewash Bristol – unaccountable regional policy wonks at the South West Regional Development Agency (SWRDA) fancy trying their hand at it too!

As anyone who has been through the back streets to get to Temple Meads train station will know, much of the area is boxed off with big purple boards, adorned with flashy, laminated adverts promoting all the good works SWRDA is doing for the local area. These, if you have ever been so bored as to look closely, are illustrated with the smiling faces of various people which SWRDA, it seems, believes best represent inner city Bristol. So you’ve got the communications director of an organic Somerset farm, and the Stroud-based boss of an electricity company – both white.

There’s also the touching tale of a ‘romantic rambler’ and his bride-to-be, a rock collector from Bristol (“We chose the ring the next day – I found a beautiful antique jewel which had to be mine. We celebrated by the waterside with bubbly from a local vineyard; the perfect end to an unforgettable weekend”) – again, both white.

In addition there’s various random people populating more generic boards in which the fine work of SWRDA in ‘Temple Quarter’ (“a multi-phase regeneration programme which is reinvigorating the heart of one of Europe’s leading commercial and cultural cities”) is trumpeted to the accompaniment of photos of white-teethed catalogue model types enjoying al fresco lattes or cycling or just generally being busy doing Very Important Things on schematics in offices – and guess what? All white!

Makes you wonder exactly what SWRDA is planning for the much-awaited ‘multi-phase regeneration programme’ in the ‘Temple Quarter’…

Yuppie developers say ‘Bristol’s all white for us’

Recession or no recession, there seems to be no let up in the breathlessly hyped world of property developments across our fair city. There’s hardly a plot of land not fenced in and surrounded by big glossy pictures of pretty models enjoying aspirational lifestyles – but just what sort of people are the developers trying to attract?

At Canon’s Marsh off Anchor Road, Crest Nicholson calls its development Harbourside. The advertising hoardings claim “inspiration from Bath’s classical Roman architectural history” (Eh? Do they realise where they are?) and promise “a new view of living”. Well, so long as you aren’t too dark skinned it would seem – all the models in its cosy scenes of hip urban dwelling are young and white.

Down on the Centre, at the foot of the refitted old Bristol & West tower, is the Broad Quay development, courtesy of property consultants Knight Frank and Lambert Smith Hampton. Here the slogan is “Be Close To Everything”; except – judging by the pale faces smiling out of the laminated boards – Black and Asian Bristolians.

Heading north we find ourselves on the outer edge of Montpelier at the old VW garage on the corner of Bath Buildings and Cheltenham Road. This is Essence, “an exciting collection of 1, 2 & 3 bedroom apartments” being assembled (after a fashion – they appear to have run out of money) by Linden Homes. This 129 flat development celebrates its vibrant nature with hip names for its different sections, like ‘Vibe’, ‘Spirit’ and ‘Origin’ (I shit you not!); but again, some kind of unspoken colour bar prevents any non-caucasian faces from being featured enjoying life in the “distinctive and diverse” properties on offer.

Finally, let’s see what life in trendy young development-land has to offer south of the Centre… Wapping Wharf – tucked between Wapping Road and the new Museum of Bristol – is an Umberslade project, and is promoted with the tagline “Creating a thriving environment in a historic harbour setting”. Sounds beautiful, doesn’t it? And the pictures really reflect the Floating Harbour’s heritage, with anchor chains and cranes and ropes and… Ermm… No non-white people?

So, what do you reckon – are the developers trying to tell us something? Perhaps we ought to be telling them something straight back.

Banksy stormed!

Banksy stormed!

In the early hours of this morning, Banksy’s ‘Mild Mild West’ on Stokes Croft in Bristol (UK) was repainted by a member of Appropriate Media, presenting an alternative version of this ‘alternative Bristol landmark’.

Through this action, Appropriate Media asks ?What is the value of street art??. How much time and money will be spent to restore this urban ‘masterpiss’ by urban masterpisser, Banksy.

Come on, you only care about it cos its a Banksy and he sells his lazy polemics to Hollywood movie stars for big bucks.

Come on, you only care about it cos makes you feel edgy and urban to tour round the inner city in your 4×4, taking in the tired coffee table subversion that graffiti has become.

Graffiti artists are the copywriters for the capitalist created phenomenon of urban art.
Graffiti artists are the performing spray-can monkeys for gentrification.
We call for the appropriate and legitimate use of public and private property.

We are taking matters into our own hands

We will not seek permission

We will retaliate

From Appropriate Media

ETA (1):

Just to clarify, I am not Appropriate Media, I just saw a post about it on Bristol IndyMedia – so anyone itching to dole out some death threats, hate mail, notes of congratulations or whatever, please bear this in mind 😉

ETA (2):

Some media coverage:

Bristol blogs on this:

‘National Squat Meet’ to take place in Bristol in March

National Squat Meet 09 flyer

NOW IS A PERFECT TIME TO SQUAT
Now is a perfect time to come together to share our collective creativity, rage, and pride in our cultural identity; to come together for ourselves and look to our future with solidarity and passion. Let’s meet and empower ourselves in our common struggle!

CRACKS ARE APPEARING…
We feel it necessary to meet at a time when those at the top are losing their grip to discuss ways we can work together to change our world from the bottom up. New spaces and opportunities are opening all around us and there is a growing potential for more widespread recognition of the need for autonomous housing action. The threat of eviction and homelessness hangs over more people every day. There are over a billion squatters in the world. Now is the time to build a stronger network of resistance.

THIS IS A CALLOUT
This is a callout for all those involved in securing and maintaining squats and autonomous spaces across the UK, and beyond, to meet and discuss issues that affect us all as a community. Following on from the hugely successful national meeting in Leeds last year, and many smaller local gatherings, that have happened throughout the year, this year’s meet up will be in the Bristol area. Please bring your positive energy, enthusiasm and thoughts to share skills and engage in open dialogue.

WE CAN CONSTRUCT A POSITIVE VISION OF THE WORLD
We hope to discuss ways of strengthening our network in defence of autonomous spaces, share success stories from last year’s day of action and formulate future plans and schemes for creative chaos! The agenda will be decided between us all on Friday evening. Please arrive early if possible to help us create the space. Any comments/ suggestions/ mad ideas please contact squatmeetup@googlemail.com

Squat Meet 09 blog

Ashley Road roof protest enters third week

Protesters have been camped out on the roof of 87 Ashley Road for two weeks today.

An open public meeting about the situation has been called for this Thursday, at 6.30pm at the St. Paul’s Learning Centre (or, erm, library).

Here’s the text of a leaflet as posted on Bristol IndyMedia:

On Thursday 27th of November an open public meeting is being held in The St Pauls Learning Centre at 6.30pm to discuss this situation. Supporters of the rooftop protesters will be in attendance to answer questions, respond to local concerns and open a dialogue with PfP.

Places for People are publicly invited to state and openly discuss what their intentions for 87 Ashley Road are. This will help assure everyone that they are in fact going to rehouse people on the housing waiting list.

We hope you can attend.
For further information contact:
Email: 87AshleyRoad@gmail.com
Phone:07722 786 379

Background:

On November 12th 2008 Places for People (PfP) executed an eviction order on 87 Ashley Road, a squatted building occupied by 20 people who have been made homeless by this action. This building was unused by PfP for four years and left empty until May 2008 when squatters working to house as many people as possible moved in.
PfP have refused all attempts to negotiate a mutually benifical agreement, repeatedly submitted incorrect possession claims to Bristol Magistrates courts and threatened illegal eviction. At one stage the sitting magistrate called PfPs representation “a right dog’s breakfast.”

As bailiff’s and builders working on behalf of Places for People entered the property several squatters moved onto the roof to resist eviction and have been there ever since.
As far as the courts are concerned the eviction has been served despite protesters being on the roof.

This press release is being written on the 14th day of continual rooftop occupation and is being sent to community groups and individuals in the St. Pauls area, and Places for People.

Builders have boarded up all normal exit points from the roof, leaving the roof protesters no safe, immediate access. PfP have instructed builders to render the property uninhabitable by removing ALL fixtures and fittings.

There are no planning applications currently under consideration by Bristol City Council for 87 Ashley Road. PfP have been vague about their intentions for the property, however they have mentioned plans that would not benefit anyone on the housing list.

The protest is part of a continuing concern over Places for People’s treatment of empty properties and it’s selling off of rental stock on the open market. PfP are selling properties via the “shared ownership” scheme while not replacing rental properties for those most in need. This will lead to an eventual return to the unaffordable rental market and a worse deal for low-income families seeking decent accomodation.

Resisting yuppification on Ashley Road

Ashley Road resister fists 'Places For People'

I popped up the road earlier to see how things were going at the 87 Ashley Road squat eviction resistance (hmmm, bit of a mouthful there, sorry).

To rewind a little: until yesterday, there was a squat on 87 Ashley Road, but it was evicted in the morning. Former squatters of the Places For People-owned building (and possibly others) then managed to evade security, bailiffs and police, and gained access to the roof. They have been there ever since.

According to people on the ground supporting them, they have ample wet- and warm-weather gear, food, supplies and other such useful materials up there.

The reasons for the resistance are outlined in a leaflet:

Dear Neighbours

At 10.am this morning (12/11/08) police and bailiffs smashed their way into 87 Ashley Road evicting some of the occupants. Several people are on the roof, while contractors and bailiffs rip up the inside to make the house uninhabitable.

We are resisting this eviction because…

  1. We need somewhere to live.
  2. Taking your housing needs into your own hands is a positive thing, especially when social housing has such long waiting lists.
  3. This building has been left empty for at least 4 years, during this time both Places for People (P4P) and Bristol Churches (previous owners) have made no attempt to renovate or convert it into social housing. That’s 8 potential flats that have been left to rot. And for the past 6 months no.87 has housed more than 30 people.
  4. P4P have no planning permission to use or renovate this building. This morning a P4P representative said that the only active planning application they have is for April 2009, where 87 will contain a ‘site office’ for the ‘development’ of 16 other ‘shared ownership’ properties in the St. Pauls Area.
  5. St. Pauls UnLtd have opposed P4P’s plans because they did not provide enough social housing or affordable housing.
  6. Existing P4P tenants complain about the standard of service of maintenance in their existing properties.
  7. Everyone has a right to a home: Squatting is legal, necessary, and provides an alternative to the stranglehold of debt that underpins the current financial crisis.
  8. Tying people into 30+years of mortgage debt is an illusion of housing security, in the light recent repossessions.
  9. We are part of this community and against all privatizations, repossessions and evictions.

P4P are more concerned with money than housing those in need they are the biggest UK housing association and have the highest paid chief executives in the housing sector (Director salary: £258k in 2007). Housing associations were set up to fill the gap left by Thatcher’s destruction of social housing provision. They cannot legally make profits, but make up for this with fat bonus checks for the fat cats. That’s taxpayer’s money going to fund extravagant lifestyles

For more information and sources about P4P please check indymedia

http://bristol.indymedia.org

‘Direct action is better than any waiting list’ Squatters handbook. (Or mortgage!)

87 Ashley Road eviction resistanceI used to squat, because I was too poor (despite a full-time – but minimum wage – job) to rent privately, and locked out of the housing list. The property I squatted had long been emptied by its owner, a housing association. Despite assurances to its previous tenants that it would be repaired to an acceptable standard and that they would be permitted to return to it, it was not, and they weren’t. I and my fellow squatters were able to quietly live there for nearly six months before the housing association even realised we were there. We negotiated a situation with the housing association whereby they would not institute eviction proceedings against us, and in return we would vacate the premises (with fair notice) when they were ready to make good the building for the return of its tenants. In its life as a squat, this building helped house around twenty people, and helped seven or eight get onto the housing list, where they might secure decent long-term accommodation.

After I left, there was some kind of breakdown in relations between the squat and the housing association (I’m not sure of the details), and I believe an eviction was carried out. The building was then left to rot until the housing association was able to discharge its obligations under law, and then to sell it on the open market to a private developer. The tenants did not return. The building is now in the private sector, another piece of prime inner city real estate lost from the social housing sector.

Therein lies the rub – just because an empty property’s owner is a ‘social landlord’, it does not necessarily follow that the landlord wishes to use the property to house poorer people who want to rent. Often the landlord will look to the market, and decide that ‘shared ownership’ or open market sales would be more desirable – desirable to the landlord, not to those it is meant to be housing.

From what I understand of the situation at 87 Ashley Road, the building was not cleared of squatters so tenants from the housing list might be rented a home there, but instead to sell off. This is not about ‘places for people’, this is about profits.

The roof resisters seem like they might be there for a while. I’m sure they would welcome support on the ground, even if only for a few minutes.

St. Paul’s: What a gas

Man peppersprayed by Sergeant 2978 on Stokes Croft, 5/11/8

Just after two in the afternoon today I walked up the street to go to the shops. As I turned onto Stokes Croft from the St. Paul’s side, I saw a small gaggle of people on Turbo Island. Walking over the small green towards them I saw a policeman and a couple of plastic pigs. I watched with mild interest as I carried on towards the shop. It appeared to be the Avin’ It Somewhere Constantly‘s recent clampdown on street drinking in the area (which will soon be bolstered by the council’s adoption of a No Street Drinking order over much of St. Paul’s).

Man peppersprayed by Sergeant 2978 on Stokes Croft, 5/11/8

After concluding my business in the shop, I returned the same way. I had left the house intending to also take some pictures of the artwork on the corner of Stokes Croft and CIty Road, so I had a camera with me. As I headed back in that direction, whilst the pedestrian crossing over Jamaica Street turned to the little green man, I could see the copper briskly walking behind one of the Turboheads as he (or possibly she) waddled away from the area. He had his back to the policeman. The policeman raised his arm, and with his hand maybe a foot away from the man’s head, he zapped him with pepperspray. As I was walking across the road I managed to capture the immediate aftermath, with the man screaming in agony, clutching at his face. I could not really hear anything that was being said at this point – things just moved very quickly.

Man peppersprayed by Sergeant 2978 on Stokes Croft, 5/11/8

By the time I got to the other side of the road, the gas-happy cop and the two PCSOs had manhandled the coughing, spluttering, choking man to the ground. The officer with the itchy trigger finger cited section four of the Public Order Act, claiming that “you threatened to break my jaw”.

bloggassing_041

I continued taking photographs as we were all stood (or lying, in severe discomfort) no more than three or four feet apart. It seemed like the only thing to do, seeing as they had applied pressure points to the man’s wrists before cuffing him, and did not appear in a particularly rational state of mind.

bloggassing_051

The proper copper (who by now I could see was a sergeant, serial number 2978) kneeled over him as he radioed for back up. The plastic pigs hovered around, not really giving off the vibe of people who knew what they should be doing. One, a small, youngish blonde woman, did seem to take some pleasure in assisting her mentor in roughly rolling their suspect around on the pavement. Her colleague – older, larger – orbited the scene in what to me looked like adrenaline-fuelled confusion. All three seemed to be keen to look away from the camera as I continued to snap away – turning away from me, bowing their heads, rubbing their faces with their hands. I mostly ignored them and kept my focus on the man on the ground, his faced screwed up in pain, having difficulty breathing, and dribbling a lot.

bloggassing_061

Sergeant 2978, perhaps a little less tunnel-visioned by now, announced to his colleagues that they should step back a little, to ‘let the gas disperse’ or similar (I can’t remember what his exact words were at this point). This gave the jumpy brunette the chance to address herself to me:

Can you stop taking photographs?

She may even have appended ‘please’ to the end, but the tone was not of a polite request.

bloggassing_071

I replied:

Why? There’s nothing wrong with taking photos, there’s no law against it.

bloggassing_081

Provoking the response from her:

But it’s not needed, is it? Stop taking pictures and move on.

bloggassing_091

Sensing that now their quarry was prone and barely breathing on the floor, there was no particular need to provide work for idle hands by standing around and arguing the legal toss with three stooges who found the need to gas someone for daring to drink a can of brew in public, I decided against dialogue, and instead took a long, lingering look at her serial number (8317) and then into her eyes, before carefully repairing to a safe distance, from where I continued to watch the scene, make notes on my phone, and review the pictures I had already taken. The PCSOs under the direction of sergeant 2978 did their best to clear the scene of any witnesses – mostly the brew crew they had initially been ‘talking to’ – citing no powers or authority in doing so.

Go, move on, or I will nick you!

bloggassing_101

With the sound of sirens in the background, and the two PCSOs conflabbing with their alpha male beat teacher whilst all looking in my direction, I decided to head home before the inevitable name-taking, card confiscating and bogus arrest could happen.

bloggassing_111

I uploaded the images to my computer, and after making some basic notes of what was said and done, I returned to Turbo Island within about twenty minutes, only to find no sign of activity – no police, no brew crew, no writhing prisoner.

Whoever that person is, whatever he did or did not do, I hope that he is alright.

===

I am blogging this because it happened right in front of me (I got a faceful of pepperspray too).

I have no idea is the man did or did not threaten sergeant 2978.

What I did see, though, was the man walking away from the police, making no discernible threatening gestures, only for sergeant 2978 to raise up his pepperspray to head height and then gas him at point blank range.

I am concerned on two counts:
The issue of street drinking bans and dispersal orders in my neighbourhood, both in terms of their effectiveness (or otherwise) in actually tackling the issues that supposedly predicate them, and in terms of the police enforcement of them.
The issue of bearing witness to police activity, in light of the concerns raised by photojournalist Marc Vallée and others that clause 75 of the Counter Terrorism Bill will be misused as much as section 44 of the Terrorism Act has been (and, indeed, as they anticipate section 43 will be misused in the future).

[I will return to these themes in the near future, but I have other things I should be doing and I really need to get this blog post up.]

More Carbootballs

Continuing on the Carboot Circus theme, some more links:

Facebook groups:

(Members of 1235hrs 6th October 2008)

[Members as of 2215 hrs 6th October 2008]

<Members as of 1740hrs 7th October 2008>

{Members as of 1917hrs 8th October 2008}

%age = BunKRS effect in change in membership numbers from first mention on this blog to last update.

Other menshes of Carboot Circus:

Bristol blogosphere united by the meme that cannot die… All hail CARBOOT CIRCUS!

Birth of a meme..?

Picking up the meme and running with it:

Eyeing the meme covetously, but restraining themselves:

Other contenders:

  • Bread and Cabot Circus
  • Cahoot Circus
  • Carbon Circus
  • Carrot Circus
  • Circusmead
  • Cornucopia Circus
  • Jesus Building
  • New Broadmead
Edited Friday 14th November to add more links

Stokes Croft 3, gentrifiers 1

Okay, so we lost the battle over Lakota, but it seems like the groundswell of dissent in the area over the massive changes to the cultural and social makeup of our area proposed by developers is finally being heeded by the council… In quick succession the plans to put up apartment blocks and student flats on the sites of Clockwork and the Attic Bar and adjacent to the Bell have all been thrown out!

For more info on this and other developments, stay tuned to the People’s Republic of Stokes Croft and the St. Paul’s Unlimited Community Partnership websites, and check my Nu.Bristol pages.

PS An interesting little vid with Chris Chalkley of PRSC, SC resident Keval Shah and Hogge from the Cube talking about the area and the challenges it faces:

Pity the fool

I try and make sure all comments on here get published – everything bar blatant spam. Even the mental stuff goes up. The only comment I can remember deliberately not approving was one which did the rounds of Bristol blogs, which claimed to be ‘outing’ The Bristol Blogger.

Then after a week away, I noticed this little gem on the comment waiting list. I’m not prepared to sully my lovely Yuppification section with its ignorant, prejudiced, sub-literate witterings, but for the sake of openness I present it here on the wire for you to marvel at.

A few points:

  • Note the meandering, bitter tone, and the switches of target between the area of Stokes Croft itself and its inhabitants, signs perhaps of an addled liver and a restless (and I use the word in its broadest sense here) mind;
  • Appreciate the erratic use (or absence) of eliding apostrophes (“Its full of”, “You can’t go”);
  • Gasp at the daring omission of letters from words – a triumph of expressiveness given poetic balance by the unnecessary addition of letters elsewhere (“The are whores everywhere”, “heroine addicts”);
  • Applaud the confident yet entirely evidence-free assertions of FACT (“Most residents of the croft ARE claiming benefits”, “There are hostels everywhere”), which are sometimes strikingly specific (“It has a crime rate equal to that of Hackney”, “Most residents are…shooting up in the hallways of the 51º02 block”);
  • Take your hat off to the author’s heroic refusal to be bound by outdated concepts of consistent capitalisation or formatting (“the full moon”, “the UK”, “the croft”, “Hackney”);
  • Revel in the bold failure to connect any of the numbered points to the commenter’s initial statement that “Stokes croft needs to be developed”…

I could go on, but I’m sure you, dear reader, have more than enough meat between your teeth already.

Law of the Wring: anti-graffiti attrition continues along the Avon

The Battle of Cumberland & Wapping Roads continues…

I’m not sure how long these anti-graffiti signs have been up – I’ve been past every day since Tuesday, and only noticed them today, as there were some workmen doing what looked like grouting – but already all of them that I could see have been artistically deconstructed 😀

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!)