The Pantomime of Parlour Games

 

Blind man's buff

How Wirral Council likes to treat its tax payers.

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

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

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

A pantomime in three acts

Act 1     Blind Man’s Buff

Act 2    Pass the Parcel

Act 3    Musical Chairs

Dramatis Personae

Bob Neeld WBC accountant

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

Peter ?  colleague of Diane Bradbury (now retired)

Several members of the Independent Panel

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

 Act 1  : BLIND MAN’S BUFF

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Audience invited by placard to “BOO” and Narrator shouts

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

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

Applause and boos

Act 2 : PASS THE PARCEL

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

The blind-folded independent panel members:

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

They bow and leave the stage

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

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

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

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

He leaves to a grave blow of the tuba.

Enter Diane Bradbury and Peter and Paula Basnett:

Paula Basnett:

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

Diane and Peter to the front of the stage:

“We have nothing whatsoever to say” and snigger

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

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

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

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

Act 3 : MUSICAL CHAIRS

Narrator enters with placard bearing :-

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

Sales                                   3,474

Grants (other than BIG)       9,272

Release of BIG                      3,541

Depreciation                        (4,722)

Consultancy                        (1,500)

Accounts                             (1,298)

Other                                   (7,044)

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

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

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

Narrator : “Fast forward to January 2015”

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

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

Audience invited to OOOoooo!

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

Functionary: “I didn’t hear that!”

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

Functionary: “I didn’t hear that!”

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

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

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

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

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

Music and enough seats for all bar one

All dramatis personae on stage

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

FINIS

 

 

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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