The Blind Leading The Blindfolded

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We are grateful, once again , for the following submission from another of our regular followers and contributors , Mr Nigel ‘Highbrow’ Hobro.

Hobro brings his forensic eye to Wirral Council’s  failings in relation to funding which they were responsible for administering. What Hobro dissects may be esoteric to some but the failings he identifies will be familiar to Wirral Leaks readers – a failure of due diligence , a failure of openness and transparency , a failure of accountability and , damn it, a failure to do things ‘properly’ – and all in the name of reputation management (and no doubt other base motives) . We invite you to open your eyes before they take us all over the precipice:

The public are blinded as to the workings within Wirral Borough Council as the corporation seeks to keep its failings from open view. The issue regarding ISUS and BIG seems hackneyed except if one considers that the revelations have deliberately been kept in deep-freeze by the Council Leader and by top officers. They are as new as the date of release of data, usually forced by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) under threat of contempt of court. Certainly I asked for the names of companies in receipt of BIG funding that were liquidated as early as 2013, to be refused, even though liquidated companies have no protection under the Data Protection Act. The latter was conclusively attested to in summer last year with a ruling from the ICO, and most surely had been known all along by the Council’s monitoring Officer, Mr Surjit Tour.

Those who have been blind seem reluctant to accept criticism from the illuminati despite thin vows of transparency and of accountability. When Grant Thornton reported on the multi-fold failings in the BIG process vis -a -vis 6 files nevertheless despite a disclaimer from Grant Thornton of the Councils italicized statement, the Council claimed no wrong-doing and pointed out that only Lockwood Engineering had gone bust. On forced release of the Executive Summary re BIG in July 2013 the Leader of the Council issued a press release stating the success of the program and that of all Big fund recipients (sic) only one had gone bust. Yet time and erosion of the whitewash reveal that in fact two companies further had entered into liquidation with connexions to the Leader even at that early date. The council chief executive blatantly lied on 8th October 2014 saying only three were bust whereas the true total was eleven by then. I am not sure that Braille can distinguish between entering liquidation and finally being liquidated though these blinders did insist on a difference that to all intents and purposes is valueless. When the sexton prepares the grave there are very few lazarus’ indeed.

I do claim that the BIG process was so flawed in its arrangements that it opened a clear vista for fraud. Due diligence would not involve a coach and blinkered horses being driven through the benevolent intentions of the grants.

Last week I received data re Corrin Kenny Limited a company that received £13,250 of BIG money sometime soon after 4th May 2011 when Councillor Andrew Hodgson approved the award. The file given me contained no accounts later than 31st March 2010 which represents a poor basis indeed for processing future projections.

The friar Pacioli who invented double entry intended that all debits and credits equate to zero otherwise his system collapses applying to historic and equally to projected accounts. Due diligence compelled me to reconstruct from the entries in the projections an opening Balance Sheet. It proved impossible to do leaving a creditor of £7,000 which clearly had not been run through the projected cash flow. Surely any business applying for £20,000 of free money should at the very least offer up a clear set of projections, and any civil servant intending to give out public money should expect a clear Business Plan budget. Without the budget being sound the reins of the coach are fraying.
BLIND, Wilfully blind or just complaisant officers?

The officer who produced a short page of recommendations for the “Independent Panel” to consider was a Mr Stone of the Regeneration Department. He did not look for a balanced model ( in Cashflows that do not balance as to Cash flow, Profit and Loss and Balance Sheet one can always find errors that invalidate the proposal) and did not remark on the £26,600 cost that was not included in the Total for Cost of Sales. This was plain as a pikestaff for any but the purblind. I imagine therefore that Mr Stone did not attempt to analyse the formulae within the Excel model-I did, unpaid!, and with my having to reconstitute the Excel from a Adobe Acrobat file. I observed with my clear vision that, to check the validity of the assumptions, I would need to recreate the file. If I had been paid it would have been 2 hours of WBC time . Mr Stone may have had the benefit of the original Excel file in which case half an hours work would have sufficed. They have eyes to see but do not wish to see!

Mr Stone or Gemma Henry had access to a reporting suite from Companies House. They might have discovered that the Company Secretary whose name headed the application was involved already with seven companies of which three at that contemporaneous time were entered into the London Gazette to be dissolved. This was not a chequered flag to go ahead with the grant but a chequered past to prompt more questions.

I checked the full accounts for March 2010 and noted from a minds eye memory going back 6 years that the requirement to produce accounts not less than 6 months old had not been enforced, or perhaps in April 2011 the officers did not see that accounts to 31st March 2010 were more than a year old. I noted as a kestrel hovering at several hundred feet the balance of Other Debtors at £52,989 and wondered if Ms Gemma Henry quartered in Invest Wirral’s offices in Egerton House asked of Mr Kenny, giving his address as Egerton House, of what that was composed. Could it be an illegal Directors Current account because it most definitely was not a Trade Debtor, and if it were that, then what business has WBC advancing money to a company that was already sitting on an unrecognised liability of up to £30,000 of PAYE/NI? I began to see into the future (see below.)

COACH AND HORSES

Then to the Minutes of the Meeting at 9:30am of 21st April 2011 (with next meeting at foot of page for 27th May 2010(sic)) attended by the blind Invest Wirral who blind-folded the independents from Business Link and from the Federation of Small Business by, per Grant Thornton, giving them no accounts, and just the précis by Mr Stone, Finance Manager. The précis ran to just 320 words which recommended that only £20,000 would do the job. After a discussion “in great detail” all voted save one independent to award the grant. Dissension was met by the compromise of awarding just £13,250 even though Mr Stone had written only £20,000 would do. Blind, blind, blind or perhaps the diligence drivers ( an 18th century coach) whipping through what they could for an individual close indeed to the Regeneration Manager, Mr Kevin Adderley.

All seemed unconcerned that the award would be the same contravention of rules as was the award – that never should have been given per Grant Thornton-to The Edge magazine of Lets Go Publishing ltd. Both sought to advertise in the Wirral just as had Thinklocal and indeed Wirral View in direct competition with non-funded newspapers. The blindfolded independents would not know only the wilfully blind officers knew.

THAT WHICH WAS VISIBLE TO THE DISCERNING EYE THEN AND CAME TO PASS

Hindsight reveals that far from Corrin Kenny having £93,266 reserves in March 2012, by July 2013 the Liquidator reported a deficiency of (£75,000 ) which for four years he has been trying to recoup from the director who had had an overdrawn current account (see above and £52,000).

HM Tax Inspectorate began calling in its debt in March 2012 .The officers did not see at March 2010 that the debt to Taxes had been £40,481. The did nt see the warnings from the filings at Companies House where the figures quoted as prior year balance sheet in the 31st March 2010 accounts were different from the 2009 Balance sheet as filed. It is the business of Local Authorities to ensure before parting with our taxes that the grantees have paid their dues and observe laws and regulations and not to encourage tax defaulters! The debt to the Revenue finally was recognised as being £70,646 and the Liquidator (see above) noted the debt owed by the director to the company. To this date the Liquidation is open five years later as the Revenue seek to enforce the debt. So the ‘diligence’ reached the river and unloaded £13,250 of tax-payers money to sail down the Swanee to the accompaniment of the blind harmonica players from the Council.

OBFUSCATION AFTER THE EVENT

What we can see is that Mr P Davies Councillor was not anxious that these details be released on Corrin Kenny Ltd since he did accompany Mr B Kenny on trade missions to the Isle of Man and, though I have not seen the photograph, allegedly to Reno. I guess the sad story of New Concept Gaming Ltd, some £845,000 of public money including some BIG, going down the same river was another musical score that the blind players did not want you to read. Of “all BIG recipients” these two were certainly in liquidation when Mr P Davies issued his press release in July 2013.

SOURCES
The sources for my article are Companies House, data which is now free and at the time would only have cost Invest Wirral a maximum of £5 to see; and What do they know.com at https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/corrin_kenny_ltd_big_fund_award?nocache=incoming-948560#incoming-948560

The Egerton House Mystery

egerton-house

We are grateful to yet another correspondent with an enquiring mind who has sought refuge at Leaky Towers. This instalment in the Wirral Chamber of Commerce/ Wirral Council shenanigans concerns itself with Egerton House. This is another property which somehow landed in the burgeoning Chamber portfolio .

Our correspondent asks whether he has to stick to the Wirral Leaks party line and launch into some ‘scurrilous criticism’ of certain individuals to get published. Absolutely not! there’s enough of that on here and anyway we appreciate and encourage independent thought and debate – unlike some other institutions we could name !

We just ask that you read for yourselves and make your own mind up although we do say amen and halleluljah to the view expressed about Kevin Adderley!

Egerton House – where has the cash gone?

Egerton House was the first redevelopment on the docks and was owned jointly by Wirral Business Enterprise Limited and CEWTEC, the training and enterprise council. Wirral Business Enterprise Limited owned its fifty percent outright after a grant from the rump of Wirral Task Force funds and CEWTEC’s share was in part funded by the Department for Employment. Essentially the purchase and re-development of Egerton House was publicly funded.
When the Training and Enterprise Councils were abolished the Department for Employment reluctantly agreed that its loan would be cancelled subject to assurances on board structure and activities and Egerton House could remain as a resource for Enterprise development on Wirral. To avoid a substantial tax bill the two companies then offered Egerton House to the University of Liverpool, Wirral Metropolitan College and the Local Authority with an option to lease it back. All pitched to take it over and the two boards of directors chose the Local Authority. A lease was granted back to Egerton House (Wirral) Limited – during negotiations over the lease the Local Authority sought assurances that one elected member of the authority would be on the board with an Officer as observer.
The directors of Egerton House (Wirral) Limited adopted a very cautious policy, fearful that they might lose their largest licensee and amassed very substantial cash holdings peaking at over £600,000. It is difficult to see how this caution allowed an imaginative contribution to the development of Enterprise on Wirral.
Following the ‘merger’ with Wirral Investment Network the old board left, apart from Dr David Prior and Asif Hamid became chairman and Paula Basnett joined the board along with others. At this point Wirral Leaks might require me to stick to their party line and launch some scurrilous criticism of these two individuals. I would prefer to say that Asif has managed to draw together the most credible board of directors that Wirral Chamber of Commerce has ever had and through his membership of the LEP and connections to central government strives to do the very best for Wirral. Paula Basnett has consistently worked hard to bring together the diverse players in business support and with help from Phil Davies (who I also admire) rescued the Chamber from exiting Wirral.
BUT
In its latest published accounts Egerton House (Wirral) Community Interest Company lists amongst its contributions to the community; a Dr Bike day to have ones bicycle checked out, a Macmillan bake off day, ‘Shower Grants’ in case you get a bit hot and bothered riding your bike to work and hosting a steering group on Enterprise mentoring. In fairness it also lists all the core activities at Egerton House that are in support of business and for the good of the community.
Its latest Confirmation Statement (Annual Return) notes persons with significant control as Asif Hamid and Paula Basnett. Not surprising since they are the only directors of what holds itself out to be a Community Interest Company.
What the accounts as at 31st March 2016 don’t explain is why cash at bank after so many years of being over half a million pounds is a mere £2518 down from £336,816 on 31st December 2014 with debtors up from £86k to £344k.
At the same time in the Chamber’s accounts for the same dates cash at bank has gone up from £59,734 to £302,000.
Would it be reasonable to suggest that rather than hearing about a Dr Bike day we as taxpayers who paid for Egerton House might be more interested in whether Egerton House has lent around £300,000 to the Chamber and if so on what terms and if not who has the cash?
Your correspondent has no problem with Egerton House funding the Chamber as long as it is secure and public and not spent on Kevin Adderley and no wish to call upon other busy people to volunteer more time by sitting, pro bono, on the board of Egerton House (although the Local Authority should be present on the board as required in the original negotiations on the lease).
In an ideal world Egerton House might be fully integrated into the Chamber along with its lease and the Chamber should then aim to publish the fullest possible accounts to its members and the whole Wirral community.
Until then perhaps they could make a start by explaining Egerton House’s disappearing cash at bank.

The Common People

rich-pickings

Rich pickings for the Basnetts and friends.

Now you all know we are totally non-judgemental at Leaky Towers so when we refer to the common people we are talking more about some of the people we discussed in yesterday’s post  who seem to have a lot in common.

They call it partnership working / networking – we call it cronyism and empire building at the expense of the ‘little people’ .The rich enriching themselves and their friends by accessing scarce public resources …..and with Grant Thornton being the common denominator when it comes to auditing there is very little chance of any awkward questions being asked.  We note that the late-to-the-party Daily Mail follow up their own concerns on the matter by belatedly bringing to their readers attention the Peel Group and particularly group director Robert Hough.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4003918/Ban-fat-cats-secret-deals-says-MPs-demand-action-Mail-exposes-old-pals-club-doles-public-money.html

Fortunately our own consultant Dr Robert B Smith has been able to remedy any ‘information deficit’ our readers may have when it comes to the following local contacts and connections that have increasingly caused us so much concern :

Board Games (of recent times)

Liverpool City Region (LCR) Combined Authority committee members

ex-Chair Cllr Phil Davies; Leader Wirral Council -, now committee member
Asif Hamid; The Contact Company – committee member

Liverpool City Region Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) 

Chair

Robert Hough; Peel Group (previous Chair until end of June 2016)
Asif Hamid; The Contact Company – previously Vice-Chair, now Chair

Board members 

Cllr Phil Davies; Leader – Wirral Council

Asif Hamid; The Contact Company
Neil Sturmey; Head of Office & Partner, Grant Thornton

Mark Basnett; LCR – LEP (Executive Director in attendance)

Mark Basnett additional company directorships:

Merseyside Special Investment Seed Fund Ltd.
Merseyside Special Investment Venture Fund Ltd
Merseyside Special Investment Venture Fund Two Ltd
Merseyside Special Investment Mezzanine Fund Two Ltd
Merseyside Special Investment Fund Ltd
Merseyside Special Investment (Small Firms) Fund Two Ltd
Merseyside Small Loans For Business Investment Fund Ltd
Small Business Loans Ltd

Wirral Council

Cllr Phil Davies; Leader – Wirral Council

Kevin Adderley; ex-Strategic Director for Regeneration and Environment

Paula Basnett; ex-Investment Manager
Independent Auditor, Grant Thornton

Wirral Chamber of Commerce (WCofC)

Chair

Asif Hamid; The Contact Company CEO

Board members

Paula Bernadette Basnett; WCofC CEO (ex-Investment Manager at Wirral Council; ex-head of Invest Wirral; ex-Manager of Egerton House; ex-Wirral Business Partnership CEO).

Cllr Phil Davies; Leader – Wirral Council
Kevin Adderley; WCofC Group Managing Director (ex-Wirral Council Strategic Director for Regeneration and Environment)
Sue Higginson; Principal, Wirral Metropolitan College
John Syvret; CEO, Cammell Laird (Peel Group)

Wirral Investment Network (Management) Ltd

Asif Hamid; The Contact Company CEO, Director

Paula Bernadette Basnett; WCofC CEO, Director
(No other Directors)

Egerton House (Wirral) Community Interest Company

Asif Hamid; The Contact Company CEO, Director
Paula Bernadette Basnett; WCofC CEO, Director
(No other Directors)

The Lauries Ltd

Asif Hamid; The Contact Company CEO, Director
Paula Bernadette Basnett; WCofC CEO, Director
Kate Eugeni; Head of Training and Education at Wirral Chamber of Commerce

Paula Bernadette Basnett; WCofC CEO, Secretary

Lauries Events Ltd

Asif Hamid; The Contact Company CEO, Director
Paula Bernadette Basnett; WCofC CEO, Director
Kate Eugeni; Head of Training and Education at Wirral Chamber of Commerce

Wirral Metropolitan College – Governors

Sue Higginson; Principal, Wirral Metropolitan College

Paula Bernadette Basnett; WCofC CEO
Richard Mawdsley; Director of the Peel Group
Grant Thornton (Auditors in attendance)

Join the dots

The Hive – Wirral Youth Zone

John Syvret; Chair (CEO, Cammell Laird [Peel Group])
Cllr Phil Davies; Leader – Wirral Council
Kate Eugeni; Head of Training and Education at Wirral Chamber of Commerce
Phil Garrigan Deputy Chief Fire Officer of Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service

Saughall Massie Fire Station proposal

Could this be the trade-off for the Birkenhead site for The Hive/Wirral Youth Zone between Wirral Council and Merseyside Fire & Rescue Service…?

Wirral Waters

Peel Group
Wirral Council

Egerton House (WCofC)

Pacific Road (WCofC)
The Contact Company 26.03.2015 Liverpool Echo – The Liverpool City Region Local Enterprise Partnership and Wirral Chamber of Commerce have also provided Asif Hamid’s company with additional support. (£11m reported costs, at least 75% reported as public funding)

Wirral Metropolitan College Wirral Waters campus for Construction and the Built Environment (£8m public funding)
Tower Road ‘A’ & ‘C’ Bridge replacements to service Ro-Ro Ferry £7.12m all public funding incl £712k from Wirral Council – Peel £0

Now join more dots…..

Who was ‘instrumental’ in the failed £175m International Trade Centre as part of a move to kick-start the £4.6bn Wirral Waters project.

Who went to China to meet Stella Shiu?

Who met Stella Shiu when she visited Wirral?

Who went to Reno?

Who went to the Isle of Man?

Who was responsible for administering and investigating the Business Investment Grants (BIG), Investment Start Up Scheme (ISUS), and Working Neighbourhoods, schemes?

 

Chamber of Horrors

 

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As we’re still waiting the arrival of Wirral View  we had to console ourselves with the cut out and keep Wirral Chamber of Commerce supplement in this week’s Wirral Globe.

Blimey! – there’s Paula rockin’ the tan enhancing white outfit again . You can sense the middle aged desperation from here. Then there’s some hapless handsome chappy roped in for publicity purposes and Kevin “Addled” Adderley giving us his best death stare. Get over it Kev – Emma never loved you. Either get some counselling or console yourself with the fact you screwed Wirral Council for a bit fat cheque and even as a desperate hasbeen you can still have a sly fag out the back of Egerton House.

We also get the announcement that the Business Improvement District (BID) managed by Wirral Chamber of Commerce won the Place Marketing – Small Location in the BID Awards 2016. Apparently this was due to July’s inaugural ‘Be in Birkenhead Summer Festival’ held in Hamilton Square. Jeezus – there must be so many places on earth that someone would  want to spend summer other than Birkenhead . As Her Ladyship said : ” Book me a flight to Kabul, Aleppo, the Death Valley. Anywhere but bloody Birkenhead in summer “.

No doubt the special attractions of the Birkenhead Summer Festival featured the ‘Smack Shack’ , the ‘Methadone Marquee’ and the ‘Heroin Haven’. They must have come in droves.

After being privy to this good news we are also treated to a list of forthcoming events at  ‘The Lauries Centre’ – which has also now been annexed by the Wirral Chamber of Commerce.

At which point we hand over to one of our many insightful contributors who says :

I see that WBC have picked up an award for ‘Birkenhead First’, a recent regeneration scheme. I mean, do me a favour! What regeneration is this? Each day Birkenhead fills with more homeless beggars, more junkies using Hamilton Square as a toilet, more shops shuttered up, more piles of rubbish in the overpriced car parks in Grange Rd West, more public drinking along Borough Rd. And that’s not to mention the row of boarded up shops which have been there longer than my memory. Charing Cross is a delightful place now it has been regenerated, the boarded up pubs, the all night kebab shops and drinking dens, the crowds of morons spoiling for a fight…a true tourists delight. Did the 6,500 extra visitors enjoy their experience? How does this council get an award for all this?

To which we replied :We think it must be a misprint and the award was for DE- generation.

Our correspondent responded : And now the Wine Lodge is up for sale, I bet that gets boarded up after Xmas. WBC could offer tours to firms of boarder uppers to show them how to shut down and board up an entire town, Charing Cross, the centre of old Birkenhead. I remember the xmas tree on the roundabout as was. Look at it now, criminal……….

Over to you Paula  “I’m dreaming of a White Christmas” Basnett – will you be ordering a double Aussie White from Yatesy’s as a bit of Christmas cheer?. We suspect only if someone else is buying and preferably someone with a big chequebook from Wirral Council!.