With ‘regret’, the local police have cleared abusive Wirral Council on ISUS

14th July 2014 – Merseyside plod clear Wirral Council on ISUS impropriety

(…and thank them for their openness)

ISUS stands for ‘Intensive Start Up Scheme’.

ALLEGATIONS RELATED TO ISUS BUSINESS SUPPORT.PDF

BIG stands for Business Investment Grant

ALLEGATIONS RELATED TO BUSINESS INVESTMENT GRANT (BIG) SCHEME

Enterprise Solutions are also known as  Wirralbiz.

This disaster is long-running, and speaks of serious impropriety.  In many ways it’s like the HESPE Highways scandal all over again – but this time with millions of pounds of central government grant money hideously squandered and / or lost – and all under an ‘improved’ council.

Whichever way you look at it, good financial stewardship this definitely ain’t.

From what we can gather, three separate schemes  were whistleblown upon, openly and in good faith, a good few years ago:

BIG (Business Investment Grant)

ISUS (Investment Start Up Scheme)

Working Neighbourhoods (not acknowledged or referred to yet)

Not unexpectedly, yet another Wirral cover up was the response.  This has continued ever since, gathered speed and has now gone into overdrive, with the following link to reports just released on the council website and an Audit and Risk Management Committee meeting, chaired by Jim “What a load of tosh”  later to be suspended Crabtree on Tuesday 22nd July at 5:00pm.

http://democracy.wirral.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?MId=4944&x=1&

From our vantage point, as an interested observer, all of the institutions involved, including Grant Thornton auditors, successors to the Audit Commission, seem to have combined and colluded, the effect of which has been to gloss over what seems to be a catalogue of concealment and deceit, spanning many years.

Here’s plod’s letter:

Merseyside police ISUS clearance

“Garym”, written on the above, will be Garym Lambert, Wirral Council senior auditor.

An ex-Wirral Council employee called David Garry, former Chief Internal Auditor is / was at the very heart of this.  More about him here in the form of an FoI request that was deemed ‘vexatious’ by the council’s legal “team” (since overturned).  He was paid off £46,000 for his troubles and scarpered with indecent haste back in October 2012.

I believe he was gagged inside a compromise agreement.

The two brave whistleblowers concerned here are qualified accountants Nigel Hobro and James Griffiths.  Both worked for Wirralbiz, whom for BIG fund central government loans, were selected to be the ‘advocate’ for Wirral Council, inviting and assessing local small businesses for £20,000 development packages from central government.

But greed got the better of somebody and it all went very badly wrong.

This blog post is by no means a thorough, forensic look at these issues…  just a starting point.  We’re not as up to speed as we should be.

For a lot more background, please browse to Nigel Hobro’s blog here

Here are links to all the relevant documents, copied from the Wirral Council website:

People’s identities have been disguised.  For ease of understanding…

Here is a key:

Nigel Hobro = WB2

James Griffiths = WB1

Paul Davies (Fieldcrest Ltd) = BA1

Lee Owen (Enterprise Solutions North West Ltd) = BA2

ISUS full report

Nigel Hobro = WB1

James Griffiths = WB2

Here’s a few interesting tweets just in from Nigel Hobro, one of the accountant whistleblowers in this case:

http://youtu.be/FE6oqn6zuvg

Following a farcical early adjournment of the Audit and Risk Management Committee on 22nd July 2014, the issues will be put on hold until a reconvened meeting on Tuesday 7th October at 6:00pm.

The minutes have the effect of making the whole charade look like it was professionally conducted on 22nd July:

http://democracy.wirral.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?MId=4944&x=1&

Helpful explanatory words from Mr Bu(7 “Mistakes” in 29 seconds)rgess:

“The Chief Executive commented that it was his belief that the documentation circulated to Members vindicated Council officers and, to be fair to those whose integrity had been questioned, he urged the Committee to consider the matter as soon as was possible.”

Done and dusted…………….already? A seed has been planted……! Before ‘Load of Tosh’ can chair any “scrutiny”…………?!

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About Wirral In It Together

Campaigner for open government. Wants senior public servants to be honest and courageous. It IS possible!
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10 Responses to With ‘regret’, the local police have cleared abusive Wirral Council on ISUS

  1. I have lost count of the number of times I have stated my opinion that the police and particularly Merseyside will never take any action against the Wirral Borough Council. They are all members the same golf clubs and they all roll up the same trouser leg. True justice will never prevail in this corrupt country when even the judiciary are in the same golf clubs and lodges..

  2. Nigel Hobro says:

    Thank you again Paul for bringing this to your readers.
    there are some 200-300 pages of documents , perhaps more, and probably impenetrable to most readers.

    The salient points are as follows:

    Grant Thornton repeatedly point out how difficult their job became because basic contractual data was not provided by WBC. They asked for the 2004 original contract with Wirralbiz but were told it could not be found

    The CRM database was the subject of a merry-go-round for Grant thornton, and its importance is stressed in the Police letter you publish, whereas the NWDA/WBC contract obliges WBC to keep a copy of CRM until 2025. Therefore the inability of the prosecution is the fault of WBC exclusively.

    How doies WBC lose a contract that governed over £10m of public expenditure and a database that controlled £2,5m expenditure is difficult to fathom without resorting to the words “cover-up”

    I can assure you that Grant Thornton has done a good job and exhort readers to compare the pitiable “Draft Isus” and draft “BIG fund” reports from D Garry with the direct contradictions within the excellent GT Abbreviated Summaries of BIG and ISUS. Reading these would be perhaps 40 pages and behind lies the clear evidence of the mendacity of Mr Garry. In my view he has done a job for his mates concocting a ridiculously partisan enquiry whist sitting in his office making up stories,

  3. John Brace says:

    Thanks for writing such a comprehensive blog post about this Paul. I’ve only really skimmed the surface with writing REVEALED: Grant Thornton’s previously secret £50,0000 report into how Wirral Council played the regeneration game today and previous blog posts on the same topic.

    Just to update you, as these minutes show a compromise contract over David Garry (previously Chief Internal Auditor at Wirral Council was agreed by Councillors Hodson, Meaden and former Councillor Johnston in September 2012. It was later in that meeting the compromise contract with Bill Norman was agreed. The cost of doing so is detailed here (£46,584) plus pension costs of getting his pension early.

    I have no idea whether the compromise contract included a gagging clause, did one of your previous FOI requests ever get an answer from Wirral Council on that point?

  4. As far as I’m concerned, no difference. A gag is a gag is a gag.

    Vested interests would, if pressed strongly, tell you that a gagging clause applies to whistleblowers and may even be a breach of the PIDA Act. But it serves broken organisations’ modus operandi to sow confusion, and to muddy the water; so expect them to be unforthcoming or even to go into lockdown when it comes to definitions.

    The NHS (and Wirral Council too) trumpeted ‘no more gagging clauses’ not long back, but this is simply part of a sickly, reputation managing PR drive. As we all know to our cost, gags are still effective, gags still exist, and the muzzling will go on ad infinitum if not challenged.

    • John Brace says:

      Well the truth is in any organisation no one is indispensable and if the organisation is well run, decisions should be fully documented and FOIs answered properly, negating the need somewhat for vital information to be in people’s heads.

      However with the vast swathes of people leaving the public sector, the usual people leaving organsiations for career advancement, there is little accountability because by the time it’s realised something did go wrong, it’s years later and the people involved have retired, been made redundant, moved on somewhere else etc.

      There are just so many screw ups in various bits of the public sector (ok call the press biased towards bad news) which point to a culture of “wilful blindness” that one wonders if there is something seriously wrong with our political culture at the top, because the culture, values and purpose of an organisation are set there.

      People don’t work well in a fear driven, bullying workplace where management are highly manipulative. People are people and want to be happy and valued, not treated like dirt.

  5. I agree with all of that, and I’m so relieved we have the Wirral Globe.

    It’s a shame that local rags like the Wirral News (owner, Trinity Mirror) have long since become bereft of council scandal, stuffed with PR hogwash, and appear to be fully onboard with the abusers.

    It makes exposing institutionalised abuse and corruption twice as difficult if hidden, corrupted “business needs” and advertsing allegiances become the driving force.

    It’s great for selfish networking and the forging of so-called “journalistic” careers, but not so good when it subverts and undermines openness, transparency, democracy, the common good, and the wider public interest.

    • John Brace says:

      Strangely Trinity Mirror seem happy to put in stories critical of Wirral Council in the Wirral edition of the Liverpool Echo, but hardly any in the Wirral News.

      The truth is though that legal requirements on local councils require them to put public notices on a variety of things in local newspapers. In the past the threat of withdarwing such lucrative sources of income has threatened the printing of stories critical of said councils.

      The main source of stories for the Echo are crime/court reporting with political reporting playing second fiddle.

      As to journalistic careers, I earned far more a week concentrating on commercial stuff (read by thousands a day) about video games rather than what I do now, which is less lucrative but has a community benefit.

      The fact I’m independent (from an advertising perspective) of Wirral Council mrans I can be critical of them.

  6. wirralbizz says:

    Freedom of Information Act is so important in cases such as ISUS/BIG abuses and yet WBC wilfully stonewalled the 15 requests from myself during these past three years. Even the review of D Garry’s mendacious report was first requested June 2013. A deadline of 25th June 2014 came and went for WBC to justify by arguments related to the FOI act why they had not provided this review as the Information Commissioner disallowed the stated rationale of s30 prejudicing a criminal enquiry.

    Even the most evil governments need to record their orders and edicts so they can pass down the chain of command which is why FOI is so vital to arrest the decline in standards in local government. A most interesting feature of this case is the refusal from the Legal department to provide minutes of the Basnett -Surjit Tour meeting of summer 2011. The subject was the recommendation of Ms Basnett to suspend the ISUS contract. My next move is to use FOI to request these minutes never provided to Grant Thornton. If they no longer exist the conclusion must be they have been deliberately destroyed; if so that is not a Legal department whose services we need or want

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