Hallmarked WBC

New-WBC

The latest forensic examination performed by whistleblower Nigel ‘Highbrow’ Hobro on the BIG fund debacle is set out below.

Try and stay with the technicalities and complexities as it demonstrates the effort and commitment that whistleblowers have to go to evidence their concerns. Such effort and commitment is of course totally inexplicable to the powers that be at Wirral Council.

As a matter of interest our view on the question posed in the final line of the article is that the powers that be just want the titles and the money to sustain their egos . And they want to do it with the least possible effort. Those who want things ‘done properly’ are to be swatted away like irritating midgies. All the ‘midgies’ can do is too continue to get under their skin……..
I have just completed a review of my penultimate audit sample of BIG fund files. When I get the Data Commissioner’s order for WBC to release the Merseycare Transport ltd BIG fund file I will, as any proper auditor ought, have selected a sample of 20% of all BIG fund files. It is incumbent on any auditor to increase his sample where a random sample-the original 6- is found to be entirely deficient, as it was.

I am of course unpaid and have had to battle with a reluctant, and indeed deceitful Council and officers seeking to cover over the inadequacies of its staff and systems in the years 2009 to 2012.

What strikes me is that these officers never demanded original Excel files, or indeed created them from pdf’s. I had to recreate the Excel file so as the better to analyse its shortcomings from indistinct copies of pdf’s. However if this did not, and it did not, demand much of my time, then how much easier it would have been back in 2009-2012. Why did these officers not test these Budgets as so easily they might have done by recreating them on Excel. Grant Thornton in their report indicated that no sensitivity analysis had ever been done for which read my comment above. You can only readily flex budgets if you have them on Excel! What ifs, and, does the Cash flow and the Profit and Loss gel?, are questions answerable if the data is on Excel. My first test was to “Excelise” and place Profit and Loss and Cashflow together to create a Balance Sheet. If the balance sheet from these two combined does not balance then one has unearthed the central lie, and so it was unreconciliable.

Further the officers might have distrusted LEC’s budgets and their competence by observing that even in small matters the budget submitted was wrong.. there is no VAT to be claimed on either bank charges and interest nor on Insurance, but LEC Lights calculate VAT on both. One would be on guard had the officer been awake at the time.

Can a balance sheet be prepared from the two documents, Cashflow and Profit and Loss? For year ending 30th March 2010….NO!! That is to say the fundamental underpin of all accounting numbers, that they should all add up to zero, to balance, is not satisfied. Thereby the plan is INVALID.

The reviewing financial officer, probably Bob Neeld, did point out on July 23 2009 that in October 2009 the cashflow predicted that the £15,000 overdraft facility would be exceeded by £20,000 even with the receipt of the grant… “predicting its own failure” was his expression. The cashflow sent to myself under FOI shows the re-arranged balances to answer this flaw, leading only to a £7,900 overdraft. A remarkable turnaround in the one month leading to the award in August 2009, partly explained by the introduction of supposed further Director’s loan repayments of £15,000. Indeed that became a condition of the BIG loan that at least the first of three deposits of £5,000 be shown to officers of Invest Wirral. Really it was a paltry condition indeed in face of the manifold objections to awarding the grant, not least that at 31st March 2009 the firm was insolvent to the tune of £115,000 .

The real question were the connexions between the patent holding company Luminanz . If £15,000 could be magicked out of somewhere within less than 3 months, perhaps in reality the claimant was Luminanz, based in Bolton. The reviewing account was alive to this in his July report

“I am therefore alerted to the possibility that the two companies are connected, and that the development project is being undertaken by Sign Lights ltd(lec lights) yet owned by a related company under licence”.

Indeed a former name of the company had been Luminanz Manufacturing Limited, one of its four incarnations. At inception Morton Graham was both a director and a fifty per cent shareholder in LEC lights whilst at the same time controlling Luminanz Ltd in Bolton.

Mr Neeld devotes two paragraphs to the notion that perhaps in reality LEC lights does not need the money, a vital criteria of BIG, it can get it from Luminanz, but is opportunistically grabbing at the ripe plum on the WBC tree, as did so many of those in my audit sample. It is transparent also that Mr Mathews is good for the money without recourse to WBC BIG fund. Later Mr Mathews turns £100,000 of his loan to LEC Lights Ltd to share capital, and, in 2016, is able to offer the Administrator of his company a straight £60,000 for its patents and equipment having dumped a quango creditor (NWF Energy and Environmental technologies LLP) for a cool  £750,000. I guess in one way or another that was our taxpayer money!

The magicking of £15,000 resonates with the curious absence of Director’s remuneration for the entire year projected to March 2010 and onwards through to August 2010, a fallow period of 17 months where the director would live off fresh air. A man of such resources!! He can repay the £15,000 he owes the company and still live off nothing for 17 months. Why ever does he NEED the BIG grant? The suspicion is that it is Luminarz of Bolton who are really behind this bid just as Bob Neeld, the WBC accountant, harboured suspicion. The second director of LEC lights, H Matthews, seems happy not to be repaid his £145,613 until April 2010, and then only in drip feed. The contingency that Mr Matthews will not take his money back early remains another problem for the advising WBC accountant.
The reader must therefore ask himself whether, as claimed by former CEO Mr Burgess, and by the Wirral Chamber of Commerce honcho, Mr Adderley, the BIG fund was largely a success? I will, reluctantly, write a round up of all my long protracted audit but for now I confidently can write…it was not!

It was a failure .When competent officers pointed out flaws their objections were got round by utterly facile means or they were simply ignored or outvoted in the Panel, a vote never recorded.(see Grant Thornton’s report). The independents on the Panel were never told the whole truth. The so called system was as porous as a Delhi slum sewage pipe. Perhaps the officers were incompetent, or just lazy and complacent, or perhaps a deliberate opening was made to facilitate favouritism or even bungs.

 

 

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The Pantomime of Parlour Games

 

Blind man's buff

How Wirral Council likes to treat its tax payers.

We never thought we’d see the day when we’d be quoting Lenny Henry. However we were in the Leaky Towers parlour reading The Sunday Times and something he said resonated with us as it was a neat summation of a dramatisation that we’d received of the ongoing Wirral Council whistleblowing saga involving Nigel ‘Highbrow’ Hobro and friends. Henry is talking about his role in the Bertolt Brecht play ‘ The Resistable Rise of Arturo Ui’ which  is a satirical allegory of the rise of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party in Germany prior to World War 2.

Henry comments : ‘If good people do nothing. , terrible things happen. There are parts of the play where if somebody would go ‘No I’m not going to do that,the play would end’

As you will discover Mr Hobro presents us with yet another play without end.

A pantomime in three acts

Act 1     Blind Man’s Buff

Act 2    Pass the Parcel

Act 3    Musical Chairs

Dramatis Personae

Bob Neeld WBC accountant

Diane Bradbury formerly appearing in WBC Regeneration Department now Head of Commercial Waste in WBC!!

Peter ?  colleague of Diane Bradbury (now retired)

Several members of the Independent Panel

The Aspire Trust (in Liquidation ooooo!) and the Aspire Creative Enterprise ( in liquidation tooooo!!) Both in liquidation from January 2015 with Parkin S Booth who also are kindly appearing.And behind the curtains…….. Headmaster S Peach formerly of the Olderhaw School and subscriber to both Aspires.

 Act 1  : BLIND MAN’S BUFF

The several attendants of the Independent Panel are spun round three times with blindfolds attached by DB and P. They must make their way towards awarding £15,000 of BIG money to a charitable educational company not fitting the base criteria of the BIG award.The Narrator quotes an officer of WBC :

“ BIG is a business grant intended to be used to help businesses attain sustainability by investing in new plant,….not provide a platform to continue operations whilst seeking other funding services”

Reveal the only forecast provided ( credit sales of £83,000) the projected cashflow, to cries of “Sixth form Business Studies” standard pooh pooh

Bob Neeld: holds up placard for audience “ A quick short response is that the business’s solvency cannot be commented on as there is no history. I cannot judge whether the business plan is sound, the market exists or the predictions of turnover or profit realistic.”

Audience invited to shout-IT MUST BE STONE DEAD THEN!!!

Invest Wirral give independent Panel members another spin just for good measure.

Narrator (off-stage) cries out…What about the VAT threshold of £73,500? No mention of Vat for a hot-desking operation letting out multi-media equipment. Isn’t that the point of the trading arm Creative Enterprises , to go where the charity Aspire Trust cannot, without fear of Corporation Tax and loss of charitable status .Where have I seen this recently, yes the Lauries and its trading arm!

Meanwhile the independents on the Panel are blind-folded so they don’t see the placard they just are read out the synopsis which says that Creative Enterprises is not a new business after all. Because WBC says it is so.

Audience is invited by Narrator to remember our celebrated panto of “the Emperor has no clothes” where The Emperor, buck naked insists, he is wearing the most sumptuous of clothes.

Audience invited by placard to “BOO” and Narrator shouts

“It was incorporated in less than one month before!!”

The Act closes with the presentation of a giant £15,000 cheque to Mr Hobbs of Aspire Creative Enterprises.

Applause and boos

Act 2 : PASS THE PARCEL

The dramatis personae return to the stage and explain how each of them can’t be held responsible.

The blind-folded independent panel members:

“WE NEVER SAW THE BUSINESS CASHFLOW” “WE ONLY SAW THREE SUMMARIES BY WBC”

They bow and leave the stage

The Councillor with his rubber-stamp (recommended as large and colourful)

I was told that both senior accountants of WBC, Wirral Invest and senior independent business experts all approved this so I took their word. Oh and a couple of my colleagues sat on the Oldershaw Academy Board with Head teacher S Peach , he was a subscriber of Aspire’s two companies (wink wink)

He bows and leaves the stage to a humorous trumpet blow (the more raspberry, the better).Bob Neeld comes to the fore-stage with a Pontius Pilate washing of hands:

“ You saw my email on the placard. I soberly warned and rest my case”

He leaves to a grave blow of the tuba.

Enter Diane Bradbury and Peter and Paula Basnett:

Paula Basnett:

“I am just a marketer. My colleagues have the on-line qualification over-a-couple-of-weeks –low- cost Prince qualification blame them”

Diane and Peter to the front of the stage:

“We have nothing whatsoever to say” and snigger

Exeunt to be replaced by Invest Wirral staff (faces covered by masks)

“We don’t understand accounts it is up to Bob Neeld not to us”

All now have left the stage leaving a giant parcel left in prominent view.

A character with a t-shirt marked “Wirral rate-payer” to enter stage, pick up parcel and leave as lights are dimmed.

Act 3 : MUSICAL CHAIRS

Narrator enters with placard bearing :-

Accounts of Aspire Creative enterprises for 429 days to 31st March 2012

Sales                                   3,474

Grants (other than BIG)       9,272

Release of BIG                      3,541

Depreciation                        (4,722)

Consultancy                        (1,500)

Accounts                             (1,298)

Other                                   (7,044)

Narrator: What happened to the £83,000 sales then?

To the grave sounds of tuba Bob Neeld shouts “I told you so”

Voices offstage “ no-one should hear of this!”

Narrator : “Fast forward to January 2015”

The lights dim and on relighting we are at the offices of Parkin S Booth with a calendar showing January 2015.The functionary of Parkin S Booth :

Both Aspire Trust and Aspire Creative Enterprises both have attended my offices and solemnly declared they have no assets to speak of and owe on each part the sum of £40,000, a total sum of £80,000.

Audience invited to OOOoooo!

Narrator speak: I recall Aspire Trust each year declared their ownership of a artwork valued at £20,000 at 2010 accounts; £50,000 for two by Michelle Molyneux in March 2013

Functionary: “I didn’t hear that!”

Narrator speak: I recall Aspire Trust each year declared their ownership of a artwork valued at £20,000 at 2010 accounts; £50,000 for two by Michelle Molyneux in March 2013

Functionary: “I didn’t hear that!”

Narrator speaks: “Are you as deaf as a post or as deaf as the liquidators of Lockwood Engineering Ltd?”

Functionary: Are you a creditor? If not shut your gob and stop waving the accounts of the Trust at me. I aint getting paid ,so I aint investigating. And there’s that!”

Narrator speaks (hoping for support from the audience): But, but, the more this happens (s206 Insolvency Act) the more stringent banks become and the fewer charities and businesses will be able to borrow. Rules is rules aint that so? Was it not the purpose of BIG to provide cash to businesses that could not get it from banks? How is companies going bust and not declaring their assets going to encourage banks to lend?

(to the audience) :  It’s naughty isn’t it children?

From the wings the voice of Councillor Pat Hackett: “You are hurting good people”

Music and enough seats for all bar one

All dramatis personae on stage

Music starts up and all characters go on stage and dance round the chairs. After several rests of music only one character is left standing, with his arms stretched out and wearing the t-shirt “Wirral Rate-payer”

FINIS