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

OH NO IT’S THE ICO (Revisited)

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Just to update you on a story that we published in autumn concerning a breach of data protection by Wirral Council.
The story clearly upset someone who goes by the pseudonym of R.Sole . Well we presume it’s a pseudonym  , either that or they were an unwanted child. The only thing we haven’t printed from their email to Leaky Towers is who they addressed their delightful missive to – because  a) they’re out of order and b)  way off  target.
It was interesting to see your recent story regarding noise logs being “dumped” in the street by Council officials.
You really do embellish the truth don’t you!!  It is quite obvious that they weren’t dumped, dickhead.  This was obviously a genuine mistake by a Council officer who either dropped them by accident or had them stolen.
I admit that he or she was very careless but to say that they were deliberately dumped is ludicrous.
Get your facts straight before you publish.  You fucking idiot.
Regards
R. Sole

Dear R. Sole

We didn’t say the documents were “deliberately dumped”.
You say dropped , we say dumped. However they ended up on the pavement it’s still a breach of the Data Protection Act
What we’re left wondering is why you choose to provide such positive feedback on a Saturday night  7 weeks after we published the story ? 
You also ask us to get our facts straight (by the way it wasn’t just information about noise logs). Do you know more about the incident than our source ?- if so would you care to share that information so we can set the record straight?
Thankfully we are able to go back to our original source who provides us with an update on the story  having received a more polite response from the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) than we did from R.Sole.
It is interesting to note that the ICO tell us that Wirral Borough Council ‘self reported’ the breach of the Data Protection Act. Was this before or after we’d reported the matter on Wirral Leaks ?  No prizes for guessing !
Nevertheless we’ll be checking out the ICO website to see what action – if any- they publicly (rather than publically) choose to take .  Needless to say censure by the ICO is very much a case of deja vu when it comes to Wirral Council :
 https://wirralleaks.wordpress.com/2012/12/31/oh-no-its-the-ico/

Dear Sir/Madam

Thank you for your email of 14 October 2016 concerning papers you found belonging to Wirral Borough Council relating to noise complaints.
 
We want to know how organisations are doing when they are handling information rights issues. We also want to improve the way they deal with the personal information they are responsible for. Reporting your concerns to us will help us do that.
 
Our role is not to investigate or adjudicate on individual concerns but we will consider whether there is an opportunity to improve the practice of the organisations we regulate. We do this by taking an overview of all concerns that are raised about an organisation with a view to improving their compliance with the Data Protection Act 1998.
 
I can confirm that Wirral Borough Council has self-reported this matter to us and we are investigating this incident. As part of our investigation we will take steps to ensure that the council has addressed all foreseeable weaknesses in its organisational and technical controls, with a view to reducing the potential for a recurrence.
 
Although I cannot confirm what action, if any, we will take, in common with all such cases I can advise that there are four options available to us:
 
 We may issue advice. This may take the form of a letter, or an undertaking. The latter is a publically available document signed by both the ICO and the organisation to which it is issued;

  • We may mandate the steps required to reduce the likelihood of a recurrence by way of a formal Enforcement Notice;
  • In the most serious cases, we may issue a Civil Monetary Penalty. This acts as a deterrent against future incidents;
  • Finally, we may offer an audit or advisory visit. These allow the ICO to review specific areas of a data controller’s compliance and to make tailored recommendations for improvement.

 
Further details of all our regulatory powers can be found in our Regulatory Action Policy, which can be found on our website.
 
The above steps are not mutually exclusive and in common with all such cases we will use a combination of our powers to ensure that both the incident and any improvements required are appropriately addressed. 
 
At this stage we are unable to confirm what the outcome of that investigation will be. We will not write to you again in this matter but any formal regulatory action will be published on the ICO’s website.
 
I hope this information is helpful. Thank you for bringing this matter to our attention.
 

Legal Personality of the Year

surjit-legal-personality

“Where can I buy a personality and can I get it on expenses?”

We continue with the heroic struggle of the BIG/ISUS/Working Neighbourhoods whistleblowers as they attempt to bludgeon Wirral Council into submission when it comes to revealing the truth and holding people to account. Hey ! guys  you could have saved yourselves a lot of “time and trouble” if you’d recorded a top ranking and well connected councillor being racist and reckless . Just sayin’……….
The latest revelation has come at the intervention of the Information Commissioners Office  (ICO) .Whistleblower Nigel “Highbrow” Hobro  tells us : ” Even the ICO expresses his inquietude re : the withholding of company names that had gone bust.”
Never mind “inquietude” the ICO ruling falls just short of  stating : ” WTF are Wirral Council playing at?…..” :
“The first thing to say here is that the Commissioner has seen the
withheld information a list of companies who received grants
and she has discovered that a certain number were in fact no longer trading
at the time of the request. A search of Companies House has shown that
certain companies were in liquidation or had been otherwise dissolved.
Clearly for these companies there can be no detriment as the companies
no longer exist. Moreover, a company that is dissolved has no legal
personality so there is no way any claim for breach of confidence would
be actionable. There is no conceivable way the section 41 exemption
could be applied to withhold the names of the companies who are no
longer trading. Indeed it is worrying that the Council has sought to
withhold the names of these companies as it should have been obvious
that the exemption would not be engaged in such circumstances. The
Commissioner would expect the Council to be aware if companies it had
given financial support to were no longer trading and so it would seem
unlikely that the Council were simply unaware that some companies
were no longer trading………
This leads the Commissioner to conclude that the Council has
applied the exemption in a blanket fashion without properly considering what
the consequences of disclosure might be. In light of this the Commissioner has also decided that the Council has failed to demonstrate what the consequences of disclosure might be. “
Oops!
Nigel reminds us that it was 2 years ago that rather worringly he had to remind Wirral Council’s Head of Law  :
“Surjit bust companies have no legal personality…you should know that Surjit!!”

You can see the full  cringeworthy Tour/Hobro exchange at between 14 and 15 mins of this John Brace video . You can also see that it wasn’t a bad dream and that astonishingly  Jim “Crabby” Crabtree once chaired the Audit & Risk Management Committee!.

This ICO Decision Notice  also reinforces our impression that Tour rocks up every Monday at Wallasey Town Hall and thinks to himself  : ” What FOI exemption shall I use this week ?”  whether it applies or not. Oh he’s definitely a legal “personality” is our Surjit!

no-hidden-wrongdoing

” Dear boy – just repeat after me  : ‘no hidden wrongdoing’ and you’ll be fine. I’ve been getting away with that line for years . If in doubt go for denial .”

All pics  and video courtesy of John Brace.

 

Environmental Disaster

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A concerned citizen writes :

Walking the dog last week I picked up 60+ ‘neighbour’ complaints on the pavement by Guinea Gap (ironically including one from a man who wouldn’t give his full details as he was worried about data protection). These complaints are detailed, including months of noise logs and personal details/addresses/phone numbers, and in the wrong hands would cause endless upset for the complainers.

Yes folks it would seem The Most Improved Council in an Alternative Universe strikes again!.

As ever we requested to peruse the evidence and sure enough our source came up with the goods.

Whilst it may be in the public interest  to know that Wirral has a ‘Benzene Route’ (who knew?) where Wirral Council monitors toxic emissions ,

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– it is completely unforgivable for the Environmental Health Department to dump confidential documents containing sensitive personal data on a pavement near Wallasey Town Hall. Two thoughts : Firstly perhaps the Information Commissioner’s Office should be informed about this serious Data Protection breach and secondly where were Kingdom Security when you need them to slap a  Fixed Penalty Notice on the litter lout responsible for this careless act of environmental vandalism?.

We were intrigued to discover that the information was recorded on a Northgate Information Solutions template – not a Wirral Council logo in sight. So it would seem that highly paid officers can’t even devise their own documents and rely on a multi-national that trades on leeching off the public sector (aka ‘outsourcing’).

Northgate Information Solutions are a holding company  of  NGA Human Resources whose website is positively vomitous :  http://www.ngahr.com/

Needless to say there’s certainly some fascinating (confidential) information to be had about noisy neighbours, polluters , barking dogs, fire burners etc ; etc;. However we particularly like that one of the complainants was referred to as ‘the auld fella’  – endearing maybe but unprofessional definitely.

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We can’t help agreeing  with the poor soul who had a keep a ‘noise log’ where they record the inconsiderate activities of their neighbour as being like the  Wirral Council officer who  dumped these documents on the pavement as ‘ absolutely awful’.

P. S . We must say we had much fun at Leaky Towers redacting the documents – perhaps one of us could get a full time job as a ” Senior Redaction Consultant”  a la media control freak Martin Liptrotsky !.