To Sandwell In A Handcart

Colin as Surjit 009

Less than 5 years of dedicated public service at Wirral Council seem to have taken their toll on poor Surjit Tour  pic: courtesy of John Brace

We couldn’t bring ourselves to watch video footage last week’s Wirral Council Cabinet meeting as we understand Power Boy Pip et al  gave outgoing Wirral Council law lord Surjit Tour a rousing round of applause as it was his last ever council meeting – yes , even from Cllr George Davies – but then the deputy leader of Wirral Council must be relieved to see the back of this particular chink in his armour.

The plaudits were all very reminiscent of the time when the subsequently convicted criminal Jim ‘Crabby’ Crabtree chaired the the Audit & Risk Management Committee  – yes we know ! – can you believe that actually happened ? – and led the handclapping for Audit Commission/Grant Thornton gobshite Mike Thomas. We suspect the applause for both was much for the same reason – keeping a lid on Wirral Council malpractice and getting paid well to do it.

Having said that Tour must be shooting off to his new gig at Sandwell Council like shit off a shovel. And it would appear he will be right at home. As a local source commented –‘Labour controlled and crooked forever’ 

https://www.expressandstar.com/news/politics/2016/10/10/sandwell-council-shake-up-fourth-senior-officer-leave-post/

We’re sure the six figure salary was particularly enticing for this status – conscious public servant. All we can say is that you can earn as much as you like but at the end of the day you’re still Surjit Tour.

https://www.expressandstar.com/news/local-hubs/sandwell/2017/05/26/sandwell-council-looking-to-appoint-top-roles—one-earning-100k-pay-packet/

We’re just staggered that out of four candidates interviewed for Sandwell Council’s top legal job that Tour came out on top.  Isn’t it reassuring that our public services have such a deep well of talent to draw upon?

Sandwell Council  must be particularly dear to Tour’s heart as a legal case involving his new employer was brought to attention in 2016.  A Wirral Council whistleblower had told their senior managers that they weren’t complying with the law when it came to administrating Discretionary Housing Payments  (DHP)- which are what they say on the tin, discretionary payments made to people who are having trouble paying their rent for one reason or another and presumably some of the most vulnerable members of the community.

Wirral Council seem particularly reluctant to promote this fund they have available to help people in need so we’re saying loud and clear if you find yourself struggling to pay your rent contact Wirral Council and ask about DISCRETIONARY HOUSING PAYMENTS!

Needless to say the public-spirited  whistleblower who identified that Wirral Council were acting unlawfully was cruelly hounded out of their job for showing up their managers for the bullying incompetents they were.  There will be much more to come on this story but changes to procedures and belated thanks from Tour doesn’t cut it when someone’s career is needlessly destroyed for,once again, wanting things done properly and dare we say LAWFULLY!

Is it just us who thinks that if we don’t speak up about such abuses we’re all going to hell in a handcart?

Subject: Re: Whistleblowing Matter (Case Ref: 22/2016)

Dear X

Further the above matter, I have now completed all requisite enquiries into this matter. I have received and considered the report prepared by XX (Senior Auditor) into the matter you raised in your confidential report [CRF1] dated 22nd February 2016.

The review conducted by XX showed that whilst an assessment of income was undertaken in respect of DHP applicant’s income, the assessments were not fully compliant with the post Sandwell case and revised DWP guidance (issued in August 2015) on such claims.

In light of this, supplementary guidance has issued and explained to all relevant members of the team at the Transaction Centre so that DHP claims are assessed in accordance with the Sandwell case and revised DWP Guidance. Moreover, changes to procedures have and are being implemented to ensure consistency and compliance with the Sandwell case and revised  DWP guidance.

May I take the opportunity to thank you for bringing this issue to the attention of the council.

Kind regards

Surjit Tour

Head of Legal & Member Services

and Monitoring Officer

Advertisements

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.

 

 

The Blind Leading The Blindfolded

blind_followers

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

Truth Justice Accountability

transparency-010

Pic courtesy of Private Eye 

We see that Wirral Council’s indelible stain just won’t let it wash. Kudos to Martin ‘Motormouth’ Morton who this week has been doing his bit for the ever -growing whistleblowing community at an event to promote the so-called ‘Hillsborough Law’. Reprazent!

http://www.wirralglobe.co.uk/news/15096509.Wirral_whistleblower_Martin_Morton_speaks_up_for_truth_and_justice_at__Hillsborough_Law__event/

After a bit of digging we find out that the ‘Hillsborough Law’ is in draft form and is more formally known as The Public Authority Accountability Bill. Suddenly it all makes sense as to why Morton was there as as far his former employer is concerned a Public Authority Accountability Bill is what Wirral Council receive from Grant Thornton (and the Audit Commission before them) at the end of the financial year for not making too much of a fuss about ‘accounting and auditing irregularities’. To paraphrase a question that was apparently recently asked of someone else in a public forum : ” Are we questioning Grant Thornton’s integrity ? ” – hell,yes, m’lud!

Just a a quick look at the sections of the draft Bill itself reveal it to be something out of the Wirral Council Labour administration’s worst nightmare

http://www.thehillsboroughlaw.com/

1 Public authorities and public servants and officials shall at all times act within their powers:

a. In the public interest,

b. With transparency,candour and frankness 

Let’s face it this is an administration who thinks ‘the duty of candour’ is either a British Army tour of Afghanistan or part of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Although to give them their due they’re a big fan of frankness . For as we know they run all their decisions past Birkenhead MP Frank Field first!

2 Public authorities, public servants and officials shall be under a duty to assist court proceedings, official inquiries and investigations:

a. Relating to their own activities,or

b. Where their acts or omissions are or may be relevant 

Good job our public servants and officials have had time to practice that immortal line : ” I can’t recall”. Pity the poor shredding machine and the person with a future RSI claim has to redact all those incriminating documents if this Bill comes to pass that’s all we can say!

3. In discharging the positive duty under section 2 , public authorities , public servants and officials shall :

a. Act with proper expedition

b. Act with transparency,candour and frankness

c. Act without favour to their own position

d. Make full disclosure of relevant documents,materials and facts

e. Set out their core position on relevant matters at the outset of the proceedings,inquiry or investigation

f. Provide further information or clarification as ordered by a court or inquiry 

We’ll just pick out ‘act with proper expedition’and ponder on that for a moment. Which is what Wirral Council do when it comes to problems raised by people who just want things done properly . The difference being that the council ponder for weeks,months,years – in the hope that the people pointing out their failings will either give up or (preferably) peg it.

Whilst there are a further 15 sections I’m sure you’ll agree that we’ve made our point about the Bill in relation to Wirral Council and why they would fear it. Which is exactly why we implore you all to support the Hillsborough Law and all those who seek truth,justice and accountability!.

 

 

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?

 

Ministry of Truth

 

ministry-of-truth-official

Another of our valued contributors Nigel “Highbrow” Hobro provides us with the latest update on the long running saga that is the BIG cover up (both in name and by nature).

After being given the usual run around by Wirral Council a Freedom of Information request eventually provided the evidence that Hobro and co had needed to support their long held claims of malpractice.

Once again we seem to witness the closed ranks and the triumph of dishonesty over truth. Whilst Hobro rightly highlights the questionable actions of Wirral Council management in this sorry saga we would like to raise a particular concern about so called independent agencies who collude with such behaviour. In all of these Wirral Council whistleblowing cases a common denominator has been how external auditors have consistently failed to act in the public interest.

No wonder that ex – Cllr Jim Crabtree , the former Chair of the council’s Audit & Risk Management Committee , asked for a round of applause for Mike Thomas (Audit Commission/ Grant Thornton)  when he made his last appearance at an ARMC meeting. Mr Thomas appeared shocked at the tribute – we were appalled………

Wirral Borough Council management is now revealed to be a sordid manipulator of the truth. I write that buttressed by hard-won evidence. Evidence forced out of WBC by threat of contempt of court after a campaign of obfuscation lasting all the way back to 2011. In addition to the management being exposed, a reasonable man might well have grounds to write that the Leader of the Council either was fed lies, and turned a blind eye, or told them in full knowledge. As regards (former WBC CEO) Graham Burgess and his Regeneration team, Kevin Adderley, and the ever-present David Ball, the taped proceedings of the Special Audit and Risk Committee meeting of 8th October tars them with lying, or complicity with lies, and that extending to the Legal Officer, Surjit Tour, who in despite of his accustomed “legal” interventions, kept silence as untruths were reeled out.

Language is never exact and can be readily misused – “the devil wins us with honest trifles to betray us i’the deepest consequence” and such abuse of language, “tis the equivocation of the fiend”, has been practised by many. Bill Clinton “I did not have sex in the Whitehouse” or his “I smoked but did not inhale” are famous examples. The tone of delivery may help. After a night of the Long Knives in June 1934 where a former German Chancellor was murdered with his wife, and hundreds of others, Hermann Goering cheerily met Anglo-American Reporters with the quip “Boy, have I got news for you!” Naturally he personally had organised many of the assassinations himself and put a jovial face upon it. “There is no art to find the mind’s construction in the face”!

Why am I quoting Macbeth? Why because the play shows how small untruths may lead to monstrous acts somewhere late in the “seeds of time”. Particularly I quote Macbeth because a line spoken by the tragic hero fits this situation neatly. Macbeth says

“I am in blood steep’d in so far

That going back were as tedious as go o’er”

Surely malevolence grows steadily like a worm fed on rubbish. Let me rehearse how an Original Lie grew and grew.

14 March 2011   Minutes given to Regeneration committee of councillors include tabulation of false figures from Wirralbiz Working Wirral figures, in order to give impression that all is well

July 2011        Kevin Adderley outfaces James Griffiths, whistle-blower, by untruthfully blurting out that no BIG recipient has gone bust

January 2012     Chief Anti-Fraud officer, Beverley Edwards files a 370 page report with the Director of Law showing the phoenixing of Lockwood Engineering ltd assets into Harbac (UK) ltd, and multiple flaws in the BIG process, together with flaws and fraud in wirralbiz’s ISUS program

March 2012       

Press release by WBC as follows 23 March 2012

Re: Allegations relating to Business Grants

Director of Finance and Deputy Chief Executive, Ian Coleman said:

“The allegations raised are being investigated by the Council’s Audit Officers. Their preliminary view, having interviewed the complainants and others, and considered all relevant documentation, is that there is no evidence that substantiates the allegations made against Council officers – at that time there was only the suggestion that (the now CEO of Wirral Chamber of Commerce) Paula Basnett was a friend of the wife of the director of Cass Coaches; this among a myriad of other allegations against claimants and advisors of wirralbiz).

“The investigation has not yet concluded however it is anticipated that the report will be finalised in the next few weeks.

“The Council’s Economic Development unit has an excellent track record for the work it does to encourage investment into Wirral, support local businesses and help people into jobs. This was recognised most recently when the team won the national LGC Award for Economic Development, which praised the innovation shown by the Council.”

BY March 2012  the decision has been taken to hide Beverley Edwards’ report and substitute it with a Dave Garry report, and stretch that report out as long as possible

July 2012      the council pays £33,000 to wirralbiz regardless of allegations as the lie must be fed

September 2012   “the report will be finalised in the next few weeks” transmutes by witchcraft “ into no report will be published as it is unfit for purpose and Mr D. Garry regardless of his failure ,will leave the authority with £46,000. But what of the 370 pages of Beverley Edwards’ report?

The LIE is swelling with falsehoods and the toll and bill is mounting both for the public and for the two whistleblowers. For the public a further £50,000 will be paid to Grant Thornton. One wonders is this simply to buy time?

October 2012     to feed the lie the Council pays a further £66,000 to wirralbiz

Early December 2012    The Grant Thornton team report both that they have completed the BIG investigation within just over a month, and that WBC is putting no pressure on them to render a report till the ISUS investigation is complete.-to buy more time?

March 2013   Grant Thornton delivers its report which is hidden from view for 16 weeks

March 2013     Press release by Cllr P Davies and again the red herring is thrown into the ocean incarnadine with a “I am pleased that I am now in a position to state clearly that the ISUS report which has now been concluded does not criticise Wirral Council or its officers” WHEREAS from the off the investigation was never directed against council officers!!

July 2013        Under pressure from a question at a full council meeting Cllr Davies agrees to release just the Executive Summary of the BIG investigation. In it are new obfuscations. Grant Thornton though investigating Lockwood Engineering ltd in its sample of six files contrives not to notice or record the phoenixing issue of BIG-funded assets moved into Harbac UK Ltd without any liquidator knowing-a very strange omission indeed. Likewise the BIG LIE battens on the equivocation that a gap of 26 months passed between the August 2010 award of BIG and the dissolution of Lockwood in September 2012. Disingenuous indeed since entry into Liquidation effectively ends the company’s trading and this was only 8 months later!

July 2013     Cllr Davies in a press release, “filled top to toe with direst cruelty” wrote

“I am also pleased to note that with the exception of one, all companies that received BIG funding are still trading – creating jobs and contributing to the local economy”

THE BIG LIE and his soul is not to fly to Heaven. Here is the list of companies that were no longer trading at 1st July 2013

New Gaming Concept ltd   into liquidation  18/03/2010 and fully dissolved  25/06/2011

Lockwood engineering ltd                             01/04/2011                                 20/09/2012

Corrin Kenny ltd 22/03/2012 long liquidation

July 2014 A special audit and risk committee was abandoned in uproar as the Chairman Cllr Crabtree (displaced now and up before criminal court in January coming on an unrelated matter) attempted to close down the issues by a majority vote of Labour Councillors.) Cllr Davies approached me at the end threatening to sue me for linking him with the advisor preparing the defective BIG fund projections. Had I known of the connexions between Brendon Kenny (Corrin Kenny Ltd above) and the Adderley-P Davies coterie, or of the £810,000 deficit in New Gaming Concept Ltd , he would have been even more anxious.

8th October 2014 The reconvened special audit and risk committee is held and despite with-holding what the Chief Executive would submit, the WBC management pestered me many times for the content of my speech. Since the delivery of my speech to them in July 2014 meeting was a contributory cause of that meeting being aborted , I did not supply my notes to them on this ocassion. Graham  Burgess and Kevin Adderley, “twere as tedious to go o’er as go back” repeated the same untruth that now only Lockwood , Harbac and Atlantic Engineering were liquidated or in Liquidation. BIG LIE for by then the list had grown to

 New Gaming Concept ltd   into liquidation  18/03/2010 and fully dissolved  25/06/2011

Lockwood Engineering ltd                             01/04/2011                                 20/09/2012

Corrin Kenny ltd 22/03/2012 long liquidation

With additions  

TTH Laundry Services Ltd                                  21/08/2014

Halliwell Industrial & Marine Silencers                07/03/2014       

Harbac (UK) ltd 14/08/2013

Combined Harvesters ltd 12/12/2013

Atlantic Engineering ltd 11/03/2014

Brocks Mechanical services ltd 04/02/2014

Imaginations Air travel ltd 01/09/2014

I make that ten cessations of trading as both the Chief Executive and the Super Director spake and as, the two representatives from Grant Thornton , the auditors, sat silent, and as David Ball , Manager of Regeneration was equally mute, and lastly the Monitoring Officer, Surjit Tour never corrected them.

A FARCE and a waste of all the salaries and overtime paid to the notables who were present. A personal insult to myself, to James Griffiths and to the public whose money had so flippantly been  thrown away. Throughout the Monitoring Officer refused access to the list of BIG recipients even though a cursory examination of his legal database would show him that liquidated companies have absolutely no rights to confidentiality, period. Wilfully he maintained the BIG LIE and you have only to read the directions from the Information Commissioner to understand how,  improperly, Monitoring Officer offered up a series of ridiculous objections with the purpose of concealing the BIG LIE.

There will be other commentators here and on Wirral in it together. Let me record how angry I am with these pious and aloof civil servants who in reality were hiding their own incompetence and sordid lie-telling. The reader will discover the motivators to tell such lies.

Think on the triumph of Donald Trump in the USA. So many lies were told by the Clintons that he decided to campaign with half truths and once won, row back on his campaign slogans. That is the terminus to arrive at when “ first you practice to deceive”.

A Return to Greed

Pigs 2

There’s a particularly intriguing story that keeps returning to our radar .

So we set Verity off in pursuit of  various leads in an attempt to get to the truth of the matter. First port of call was the ever informative What Do They Know website. My goodness !, there are some interesting Freedom of Information (FOI) requests concerning Wirral Council on there – but one that particularly caught our eye and appears to have disappeared under everyone’s radar was an FOI request made by perennially returning Tory councillor Ian Lewis.

https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/payments_to_the_returning_office

Now why would Cllr Lewis be especially interested in knowing about historical information held by Wirral Council concerning the role/responsibilities/returns of the Returning Officer ?

Could it be that his interest was piqued by a couple of posts on Wirral Leaks or does he know something we don’t?…..

https://wirralleaks.wordpress.com/2016/05/31/standard-procedures/

https://wirralleaks.wordpress.com/2016/05/04/big-returns/

There’s certainly some interesting information to be had about the role of the Returning Officer during elections. It seems to us that this role basically involves bossing council staff to do all the running round whilst the already massively remunerated council CEO picks up a big fat fee just in case there’s an electoral cock-up and the government need someone to blame.

It’s interesting to note that between 2006-2010 the Returning Officer Steve Maddox donated all Returning Officer fees that he was supposed to receive to charity. It’s just such a shame he wasn’t so charitable when it came to bullying his own staff and setting the tone for a bullying culture at Wirral Council. His successors as Returning Officer – Bill Norman, Graham Burgess and presumably the latest incumbent Eric Robinson obviously don’t believe in such generous largesse as they are seemingly some of the greediest little piggies in local government (and that’s saying something as this a particularly crowded trough).

return-to-greed-012

https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/356355/response/869178/attach/4/FOI%201087924%20Councillor%20Ian%20Lewis%20Payments%20to%20the%20Returning%20Officers.pdf

The sums on offer are eye-watering and frankly in this age of austerity, absolutely obscene. This year alone the current Wirral Council CEO Eric “Feeble” Robinson has picked up just short of £30,000 on top of his £175,000 + salary for the Local, Police and Crime Commissioner elections and the EU referendum.

Verity’s forensic eye was particularly drawn to details of the Returning Officer statutory fee  of £11,362 for the 2012 Police and Crime Commissioner election , paid presumably to the then Wirral Council CEO Graham Burgess (aka Burgesski) . However she has discovered the alarming anomaly that Burgesski was also the Returning Officer for the Lancashire Police and Crime Commissioner election in 2012 !.

return-to-greed-009

https://www.blackburn.gov.uk/Lists/DownloadableDocuments/NoticeOfElectionAgentsNamesAndOffices.pdf

How curious we thought and we’re left wondering whether Burgesski  could have picked up two fees amounting to £22, 724 in one day ?.   Now that would be beyond obscene!.

I think we should be told !  – but who to ask?.

Burgesski himself ? – we suspect the Great White Shark , former union firebrand and now champagne socialist would like to put his Wirral Council  , ahem, ‘experiences’ behind him.

Internal Audit ?- or rather Infernal Audit under the guidance of Internal Chief Auditor Mark Niblock? . Are you kidding us?. This one learned his trade under his predecessor , the disgraceful David Garry.

External Audit ?- Grant Thornton and their predecessors the Audit Commission have a shameful track record of not biting the hand that feeds them and have produced more fudge than Devon in the name of protecting a lucrative income stream.

Monitoring Officer ?- I’m sure Wirral Council’s Monitoring Officer Surjit Tour would be able to clear this one up for us as he should be well versed in the legalities and correct procedures involved.  We’re sure that Tour ,in the absence Bill Norman Wirral Council’s Monitoring Officer who was suspended at the time , would have ensured that everything was above board and that those who were entitled to Returning Officer fees were paid correctly and made to the people who were properly entitled to them!………unless of course somebody knows different!.

Rouday Awakening

dont-lose-your-head-puzzle-maze

If there’s one lesson that Wirral Council should have learned in recent years is this:

Never,ever underestimate the  resilience , resourcefulness  and sheer bloody-minded persistence  of whistleblowers. They will never lose their head and will overcome the bureaucratic maze you attempt to put in their way.

And so we proudly bring you the latest instalment of the BIG/ISUS/Working Neighbourhoods saga (yes , it’s still going on) . However it’s a sorry state of affairs when the whistleblowers have to get the EU involved.

But whatever works right?.

We proudly present a message from Ms. Rouday  from the Directorate of the Audit Quality Control Committee informing Nigel “Highbrow” Hobro that European auditors are on the case because let’s face it  internal and external auditors on Wirral have failed miserably to do their jobs. Which leads us once again to say : “What is up with these people?”

As Highbrow says :

Terror and Virtue are inseparable bedfellows. It was true in the French Revolution caused by the State’s financial deficit, wholly comparable to ours of 2007 to now. An emergency where ONLY TERROR inspires Virtue.

No threat of harassment no Virtue.

Robespierre’ Constitution of 1794 never implemented has much to say about the duties of civil servants and how the Terror was directed at Germinal against the venal ” Indulgents”.

We have had too much of indulgent pay offs and safe exits, of parachuting to new posts. It is Terror of falling into the tools of the Department of Work and Pensions that keeps the workforce quiescent  a Virtue for those in the riding seat. I think the “bourgeoisie’ need to feel the collar of Madame La Veuve.

Now we don’t profess to understand what  the bleedin’ hell all of this means but we do know we’re behind him 100%. And we particularly like the cut of Madame Le Veuve’s gibbet.

———- Forwarded message ———-
From: ANNE ROUDAY <anne.rouday@eca.europa.eu>
Date: 8 September 2016 at 10:26
Subject: Case 33/2015

Please find a letter for your attention.

 

Best regards,

 

ANNE ROUDAY
Secretarial assistant – Directorate of the Audit Quality Control Committee

 

rouday-2

The Emperor of Dissemblance

Frank_nap

“He keeps saying he’s going to sort it out. He needs to get his chequebook out and write a cheque” – is Frank Field addressing this statement to Sir Philip Green or to Wirral Council Chief Executive Eric Robinson? 

I was awoken from my golden slumbers this morning by Her Ladyship shrieking :

” Darling , come quickly, that ghastly man is on Radio 4 again…..”  

As there seem to be so many ghastly men (and women) about at the moment it was only when I heard the familiar condescending drawl that I realised she meant dear old Birkenhead MP Frank Field (aka Frankenfield).

Whilst sat at the dining room table I settled down to listen to Frankenfield fulminate against “Sir” Philip Green   described as the “unacceptable face of capitalism ” in a report into the collapse of BHS published today by the Work and Pensions and Business, Innovations and Skills Committees . As we know Frankenfield is the chair of the former Committee and took the opportunity  to do his well worn holier than thou routine and asked :  “What kind of man is it who can count his fortune in billions but does not know what decent behaviour is?”

For the the full tawdry story : https://www.theguardian.com/business/live/2016/jul/25/damning-bhs-report-leaves-sir-philip-green-under-pressure-business-live?page=with:block-5795a8a3e4b0d75e7e5f2dcd

That was bad enough however I nearly choked on my kedgeree as Frankenfield  with breathtaking hypocrisy called Green a “Napoleon figure who orchestrated all this ” and who was “used to everyone around him doing as they’re told”

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-36879241

Takes a Napoleon to know a Napoleon we thought to ourselves! .

Although in this case Frankenfield ‘s Napoleon being less like Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte and more like the Napoleon from Animal Farm – Our Leader,Comrade Napoleon, Father of all Animals, Terror of Mankind,Protector of the sheep-fold,Ducklings’ Friend – the Emperor of Dissemblance.

Frankenfield went on (and on and on) to demand  that Sir Green should write a cheque for “at least” £571m for the BHS pensioners……..which in comparison his demand for £48,000 x 4  from Wirral Council for his favoured recording artistes seems quite reasonable! .

But what was it about Frankenfield’s insistence that the collapse of BHS  was all down to  model -botherer and yacht-collector Green ?  (he certainly has it in for Greens doesn’t he ?- whether they’re former Wirral Council Directors or the Wirral Green Party).More objective commentators have drawn attention to the fact that the BHS Inquiry deservedly lambasted not only Green , but the buyer of BHS Dominic Chappell and their enablers.

A report in today’s Financial Times titled “BHS report lays bare failure and liability” states that  – ” Some of the report’s most withering passages are reserved for the “directors, advisers and hangers-on” who surround the two men (Green and Chappell) . They “are all culpable”, the MPs say.”

Among the advisers were  Grant Thornton, the accountancy and auditing firm . Who also strangely enough are Wirral Council’s  auditors. We were particularly drawn to the Financial Times comment that these directors,advisers and hangers-on gave the greedy Green “the lustre of credibility”.

We can’t help feeling the same “lustre of credibility” is similarly given to  Frankenfield and the Wirralgate scandal by the likes of Council directors ,advisers, hangers on and in particular Grant Thornton.

We say this as we are in possession of some astonishing correspondence between Grant Thornton and a local person of interest who has asked us to hang fire for the moment as they (and us) await further developments.

So finally we’d like to ask our readers that whilst they’re demanding “Sir ” Philip gets stripped of his knighthood that St.Frank gets stripped of his sainthood and we’ll leave the last word to Napoleon himself …….

Napoleon quote

 

 

The Key To The Lock

KEYHOLE

Following on from yesterday’s Freedom of Information post which anticipates tomorrow’s Notice of Motion set before Wirral Council we proudly present an in depth analysis of and comment on the wirralbiz case by whistleblower Nigel “Highbrow” Hobro.

This was made possible only by the (forced) release of information held by Wirral Council under the Freedom of Information Act.Readers will be able to reflect on the desperate attempts that the Council went to deny the information by use of delays and attempts at exemptions.Furthermore there is a chance to consider the role of the Council’s external auditors Grant Thornton in this long running saga.Our only comment is that in the financial year 2014/15 Wirral Council paid them £259,000  – you do the math and draw your own conclusions!.

The Key to the Lock is Harbac Limited

What key will open up the locked away truth about the obfuscations and dilatoriness of the investigation of wirralbiz? Why would a near complete audit report on BIG be hidden for 3.5 years and only revealed by compulsion from the Information Commissioner? Why would WBC spend £50,000 on a process of independent audit from September 2012 to March 2013; then a further 4 months for “further research”; then a further year before revealing two reports, those of Grant Thornton and Dave Garry Chief Internal Auditor, but deliberately redacting out all mention of that of the Principal Auditor, who had been Mr Garry’s superior. The Council pleaded s36, interference with its conduct of business and s40 of FOI law, not to reveal names of officials, when it delayed the FOI request that wanted sight of this 370 page report of the Principal Auditor, for one full year.

However when WBC published the 370 pages it was littered with references to B Edwards, or “edwardsb”, D Garry; D Bradbury and some further ten of BIG fund recipients that it had already refused to reveal to another FOI request. Perhaps the s40 protection of names of individuals, was a convenient delaying tactic and no more?

Certainly the chaotic mess that the Council was in during early 2012 ,with the alternatives of Parliamentary Commissioners or the Peer Improvement Board before them ,might have been a great incentive to delay the revelation of what would have been another scandal added to the dung-heap of Social Services, Colas and uncollected rents. The wirralbiz revelations might have tipped them over the edge even with the Edwards report as it stands, with its indications of sloppy work; the failure to check files for quality on a multi-million pound contract; the clear indication that Invest Wirral in three days checking of files spurred by James Griffiths whistle-blowing, found 22 of 44 files with forged signatures and multiple other defects in the remaining 22. Such was their concern that they arrested the contract insofar as it paid for 18 month reviews and all non-ISUS work, referred to as wirralbiz +. They did not stop the visible public Lecture series nor the £500 grants just the backroom work. B. Edwards’ report was thereby enough as it stood to prove malfeasance but WBC rather preferred to let that go and unleash the cheats and incompetents on erdf monies ,just not with WBC, giving them leeway without let or hindrance to obtain two further erdf contracts in 2012. Even WBC knowing of the sins of wirralbiz did not stop WBC from meekly washing them right out of their hair by paying them a further £350,000 in final payments, in December 2011, July and October 2012, no questions asked. All the above indicates a deliberate attempt to move the scandal quietly away from WBC and the responsible officers and park the problem on the door-steps of others.
The Dark Heart of the Matter

But there is one matter which crossed into potential criminality and the condoning of it, with only superficial questions asked, and which is the “dark heart” of the matter.

We all expect that a local authority relying on law to conduct its activities should in all matters seek to uphold the law. Where the council can fine litter-bugs with an on-the-spot £80 fine we in parallel expect it to inform other authorities constituted by law where it has learnt of law-breaking. We do not expect the self-interest of officers within WBC to override this duty in any circumstance, nor do we expect the public authority deliberately to conceal that a criminal action has been condoned at its highest levels.

Rather than pursue all the labrynths and corridors of this scandal through which you have been previously led- perhaps even to obscure the view of this “Dark Heart”- let me take you reader by the hand and let us examine more closely the Lockwood Engineering Ltd/Harbac UK Ltd affair regarding the award of £20,000 towards the purchase of machinery costing £30,650.

Grant Thornton investigated the Lockwood case in November /December 2012 and had at its disposal the work of “our predecessors”. Yet where one of these two predecessors, the Principal Auditor reports at 12.11

“The point is to bring to the attention of the Head of Legal and Member services the possibility that the relationship between Lockwood and Harbac may indicate asset stripping of Lockwood by Harbac” ,

Grant Thornton dodges this issue. The reader may be misled where a forensic department of a national audit firm writes instead absolutely nothing about this major concern but deems it necessary to note the company changed its name soon after incorporation which is very common for new incorporations!. I find it hard to accept that Grant Thornton made no mention of this transfer. It was left to the council to refer to a legitimate transfer in its apologia embedded within Grant Thornton’s BIG Executive summary.

Where an auditor makes no mention of a concern important to the Principal Auditor and where the Council hides a report for 3.5 years because it refers to that concern we may smell a rat. The abrupt termination of the Audit and Risk committee when that afternoon they received my intended speech was a very strange affair indeed for my speech contained an unexpected attack on the officers rather than on wirralbiz. Perhaps they feared I might also leave the beaten track and go on to discuss Lockwood/Harbac.

Reader let us revisit the time of May 2010 when Lockwood Engineering ltd made its BIG application. It had existed for 10 months only and submitted Management Accounts to 30th April 2010 and forecasts from May1 2010 to April 30 2011. The forecasts and the management accounts did not correspond and, when adjusted by myself to correspond , clearly showed that the company would be unable to pay its debts as and when they fell due. When an advisor, Fieldcrest Ltd was paid £1,000 for the work#, and a Chief Accountant for WBC cannot see the obvious, or if they do see it, keep silent, then you have to consider that the BIG process is wide open to partiality and corruption. Likewise neither well-paid individual could sense the unreality of a projected annual turnover of £2m compared to a 10 month turnover of £457.877 in the management accounts. By these silences the Panel was induced to pass the grant.

Ongoing Reviews

The council undertook reviews to ascertain whether the objectives of BIG were met. Council staff visited the Lockwood premises for the purposes both of BIG and for the purpose of the three apprentices started under the WBC apprenticeship scheme funded by Working Wirral. The two directors appear to have fallen out and Mr Harding set up an absolutely new company , Harbac uUk Ltd on 4th October 2010. The grant had already been paid on 27th July 2010 either without any signature of any director, or signed and displaced by a later application.(see below) Mr Harding signed another application form on the 7th October 2010# and became a director of Harbac Uk Limited on the 11th October. I hope you are getting more suspicious than Council officers were at the time. Grant Thornton elide over this as if they had not read the 13th January 2012 report by writing “We assume, therefore, that the BIG application was incorrectly dated”.

We can assume that council officers visiting Lockwood whether for Apprenticeship monitoring or for BIG monitoring were innocently blithe of theses goings on, never discussed the rapidly dwindling fortunes of the company but were content that “outcomes” for apprenticeships and BIG investment could be ticked off. We are entitled likewise to assume the opposite! There may have been a growing panic among the council officers and the misdating of the application for BIG by five months may have been a clumsy error by them to cover up, or indeed even at that date in October 2010 an indication they were legitimizing the transfer of the books, assets and business of Lockwood to Harbac.

What to make of the assertion

“its business and assets had previously been transferred with the approval of KA {Kevin Adderley} to a successor company…There is evidence that KA was aware that the original company had continued in existence following this transfer”
It makes more sense that KA knew of an October 2010 transfer than of a March 2011 transfer which appears more to be a late referral to the Legal department. We have here a muddling of the defence mounted by officers and I support the thesis that an informal knowledge in October 2010 was later covered by procedural rectitude in March 2011 just before the Creditors Voluntary Liquidation was announced in April 2011.

The problem is washed over by the statement by an officer that during an inspection in March 2011 they were suddenly apprised of the transfer and that the director promised to repay the liabilities of Lockwood Engineering Ltd. Did not the offer letter state at paragraph 10

Under the terms of this Grant Agreement you agree to maintain the premises of the Company, or of any successor to the Company in Wirral for a minimum of three years commencing from ·the date of the final grant payment

I explain that the anomaly of the 7th October 2010 dating of an application substituting the May 2010 application form with a replacement one, shows that some council officers were aware of the transfer in October 2010. If I be correct then of what value are the Director’s assertions he would pay off the liabilities of Lockwood Engineering Ltd? The officers have already been misled by the May 2010 financial figures that move from a Balance sheet value per the management accounts of March 2010 of £60,885 positive to a deficit of £218,000 at April 2011.  But the officers are so lenient that they nominally accept that it is a parting of the ways of the two directors, Mr Lockwood and Mr Harwood, that necessitates the movement of the assets. I imagine he told them that despite him personally having no monies left 
The Directors of Lockwood have considered other financing options with their Bank without success and they cannot provide any additional security or collateral. The Directors have already invested heavily in their business during the start up stage and have only taken minimum salary from the business and at this time do not feel that they can offer the personal securities their Bank requires.
That the trading of Harbac UK Limited would be sufficient both to support itself and to pay off the debts of its prior company…a likely story for a group of ingénues but not for an officer experienced over 20 years in Regeneration.
It appears that WBC officers have translated a grant to an entirely new company with no known financial backing-no mention is made that the new director P Backhouse is providing capital and with Mr Harding having no new funds. The concern with business plans, applications and the approval of an independent Panel or a Councillor is cast to the winds. It is easier for the officers to hide the failure from the original Panel than to perform due diligence. The fact that the Legal Department is not immediately informed but has to wait for a further 5 months to be told in March 2011 bespeaks deliberate and guilty concealment. I do not believe that the husk of Lockwood Engineering Ltd, left idle between October 2010 and 21st April 2011 represented anything more than an attempt to cloud over the deed of the deliberate transfer of its order book and assets to Harbac UK Ltd. The Principal Auditor certainly does point to the possibility of asset stripping. By warning the WBC Legal department of this the Principal auditor is indicating that the Legal Department has not informed any regulatory body for the 9 months since it knew of the transfer. The Legal Department has relied on the words in any offer letter referring to “any successor company” with no regard to the claims of the creditors of Lockwood Engineering Ltd.

Referral to a regulatory body

The liquidators, Begbie Traynors, of Liverpool confirmed to me by email that they had had no knowledge of the £30,650 worth of fixed assets funded by BIG. The assets are not mentioned in the April 2011 Statement of Assets and Liabilities nor did they find them in the accounting records. The liquidators of Harbac UK Ltd would only correspond with a creditor or a representative of a creditor.

Begbies Traynor don’t seem ever to have received any correspondence from WBC! By what sophistry this has been omitted I do not understand? Perhaps these assets for which WBC paid in July 2010 were never entered into the ledgers of Lockwood Engineering Limited?

ETHICS

The law is the cornerstone of commercial dealings, the rules of the House if you like. What WBC seem not to have weighed against the three jobs and three apprenticeships created is the loss to other contractors of £91,000# With Harbac uk Ltd liquidation amongst the list of unpaid creditors is £12,772 to WBC Business rates section and £4,972 to a company based in Price Street Birkenhead. WBC officers are not gods and it is not their prerogative to arbiter as to what part of law should or should not be enforced, according to what suits them best.
Conclusion

If I appear to be going on about these matters it is for no reason other than that WBC has dragged out over three years the information that ought to have been available in April 2012. It is myself that has been put upon and obliged to return to matters of many years ago. It is significant that to my knowledge not one person has been disciplined in WBC nor any contractor or director of wirralbiz. If the obfuscators of WBC believe they have done a great PR job well they have all the means at their disposal, endless amounts of public money to fritter away. They have indeed burnt a lot of this fuel. Yet I can write so frankly and without fear of legal action from WBC-some PR job!