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Posted by: John Brace | July 23, 2014

Incredible first 5 minutes of Wirral Council councillors’ public meeting to discuss BIG & ISUS investigations


Incredible first 5 minutes of Wirral Council councillors’ public meeting to discuss BIG & ISUS investigations

                                

Above is video of the entire special meeting of the Audit and Risk Management Committee (Wirral Council) on the 22nd July 2014

Below is a partial transcript of the first five minutes of a special meeting of Audit and Risk Management Committee on 22nd July 2014 to discuss the investigations into the BIG and ISUS programs.

COUNCILLOR JIM CRABTREE (CHAIR)
Good evening everyone, welcome to the Audit and Risk Management Committee. Errm

[Agenda item 1]Members’ Code of Conduct – Declarations of Interest.

Have we got any? No.

[Agenda] Item 2, minutes of the last meeting, are they agreed?

COUNCILLORS
Agreed.

COUNCILLOR JIM CRABTREE (CHAIR)
Thank you.

[Agenda] Item 3, Business Investment Grant (BIG) and the Intensive Startup Scheme (ISUS) Investigation.

There’s been concerns from Members about the lateness and thickness of this item and, if I can given the size of the document and the concern that Members have about the lateness of receiving this, and that along with the written address from Mr Hobro, I’d like to recommend an adjournment of a week and we convene back here next Tuesday. Problem?

COUNCILLOR JOHN HALE (CONSERVATIVE SPOKESPERSON)
I’ve got a problem with that Chair.

COUNCILLOR JIM CRABTREE (CHAIR)
You’re on holiday?

COUNCILLOR JOHN HALE (CONSERVATIVE SPOKESPERSON)
I won’t be back …..

COUNCILLOR JIM CRABTREE (CHAIR)
….?

UNKNOWN COUNCILLOR
I’m on holiday as well Chair.

COUNCILLOR JIM CRABTREE (CHAIR)
Sweet, (can’t be heard). Pardon?

GRAHAM BURGESS (CHIEF EXECUTIVE)
Chair is it alright if I cut in? Chair I was just saying that obviously, we’re entering the holiday season. It’s inevitable that there will be people on holiday throughout the holiday season so obviously I’m concerned both for the Members and Council to get this matter resolved as speedily but as comprehensively as possible.

So clearly, we’d urge you to consider the meeting adjournment, because clearly we feel that this matter for everybody’s interest needs to be considered as quickly as possible to the satisfaction of all the Members though.

COUNCILLOR JIM CRABTREE (CHAIR)
Thanks for that, so I’m going to move that as a recommendation and…

(murmuring by councillors)

COUNCILLOR LEAH FRASER
… point of order, … should … we’re doing…before we do… (turns on microphone) sorry Chair, could I suggest we make it in a fortnight? Normally you would liaise with the spokes of each party and obviously you haven’t spoken to Councillor Hale and it would help. I think he should be here at the next meeting. Thank you.

COUNCILLOR RON ABBEY (VICE-CHAIR)
Fifth of August then Chair.

COUNCILLOR JIM CRABTREE (CHAIR)
Fifth of August.

COUNCILLOR JOHN HALE (CONSERVATIVE SPOKESPERSON)
No, I won’t be back.

COUNCILLOR RON ABBEY (VICE-CHAIR)
Well the problem is you’re going to need to prolong it then and,

COUNCILLOR JIM CRABTREE (CHAIR)
Yeah and there’s certain of the officers that won’t be here on the 5th,

COUNCILLOR RON ABBEY (VICE-CHAIR)
people will not be their deputies?

(multiple councillors talking at once)

COUNCILLOR LEAH FRASER
….. Council.. stepped on…

COUNCILLOR JOHN HALE (CONSERVATIVE SPOKESPERSON)
I’ll be back around the 7th.

COUNCILLOR LEAH FRASER
….

COUNCILLOR PHILLIP BRIGHTMORE
Chair, am I correct in thinking that err if any party has one of their members away so then they can be substituted by a deputy and if indeed if one of those deputies then can’t make it then they can’t be substituted?

COUNCILLOR JOHN HALE (CONSERVATIVE SPOKESPERSON)
We do have deputies, even though we’re charged with finding a substitute spokesperson.

COUNCILLOR PHILLIP BRIGHTMORE
It remains the case you’ve got deputies you can call on.

COUNCILLOR STUART KELLY (LIBERAL DEMOCRAT SPOKESPERSON)
I think the reality is, I think that that would normally be the case but the reality is that from the time that we’ve had it, I dare say amongst the lead Members, the spokespeople, would have made an ??? effort to digest as much of it as we possibly can without any slight meant to any other Members who clearly they will have done that, but certainly the spokespeople would have attempted that.

I mean I think what we probably do need to settle on a date, at which I, John and yourself could be there. Certainly if we push it to the 12th of August then I’m in Butlins (laughing)..err..

COUNCILLOR LEAH FRASER
Who’s the Chair?

COUNCILLOR STUART KELLY (LIBERAL DEMOCRAT SPOKESPERSON)
I mean I’m available up to that date. In moving your recommendation Chair is it your intention that we have a real discussion on what we have in front of us so far?

COUNCILLOR JIM CRABTREE (CHAIR)
No, it’s not really worth breaking up the meeting when we’re halfway through, so it’s not worth having a new discussion tonight. Errm and we could go round all night and come to different dates couldn’t we? Just her and me and then the Monitoring Officer would be away.

COUNCILLOR DAVID ELDERTON
We’re relying on deputies. We’re relying on deputies because for all Members …all Members have problems if they’re not involved at all … basis that… would first, it’s the first time .. Chair… I’m looking for a way forward.

COUNCILLOR JIM CRABTREE (CHAIR)
What time do you leave next Monday John?

COUNCILLOR JOHN HALE (CONSERVATIVE SPOKESPERSON)
Early.

COUNCILLOR DAVID ELDERTON
We can’t be arranging times just to suit John Hale.

COUNCILLOR JIM CRABTREE (CHAIR)
No, no we can’t.

COUNCILLOR DAVID ELDERTON
It’s a service, I can easily update John Hale he comes back.

COUNCILLOR RON ABBEY (VICE-CHAIR)
Now we’re moving into the peak holiday period errm middle of August.

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Responses

  1. So the matter has been fudged yet again, will we ever get to the truth of the matter even when they come back from holidays. Under the very expensive carpet yet again.
    As I have suggested in the past why dont the whistleblowers just come out & name names and let the ***t hit the fan well & truly.

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    • Jonathan

      Paul Davies of Fieldcrest limited produced five of the Dirty Half dozen BIG files investigated.

      Lee Owen first presented the Company 6- M L Engineering as a sole trader, and when this failed, Mr Davies repackaged it as a limited company taking the same numbers, pushing them for respectability into journals in an accounting software called Quickbooks, and pretending they were for a later period. When the Companies House deadline for the company came later it posed as dormant for the same period.

      Mr Owen perpetrated the 93% errors in tax returns that really ought not anyway to have been cross-sold to vulnerable start-ups.

      The original figures were messily compiled and there is no indication that they are correct as opposed to invented.A past challenge in the first submission that the Balance sheet had only three entries Van, Bank and Profit and loss was remedied in the second submission by taking a few thousand out of the bank and pretending the figure was stock!

      Other advisors included Wendie MacMahon , formerly of wallasey,in the strange case of ISUS1 where 12 hours and a £1,144 start-up fee was wrongly claimed.

      The alterations to dates on claims were effected in a joint operation between Ms Turnbull director and her administrator Laura Barling of Wallasey.

      We have not gone back to Pre ISUS but will this do for now?

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  2. Political meandering and other delaying tactics are getting Wirral BC a get out of jail card

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    • It’s now been adjourned to September rather than next Tuesday.

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  3. Jonathan we have done and ably aided by failures in redaction. Hopefully my address will be published by a blogger, or iof not on my siffleurdecommune or wirralbizzz wordpress account.

    The address will lead you to the names.

    What happened here is Labour and the council administration sought to railroad the opposition into terminating the issue only days after 526 pages were presented them. Quite properly John Hale evinced this reporting how he had asked to view the Grant Thornton full enquiry notes and the Executive summary ISUS since January. To be presented with 5 days to read-three days as he doesnt wish to read 526 pages on a computer screen and who would?

    Given the reports were in Labour’s gift who knows whether the Chair of ARMC did not read or have available these papers since March 2013? Would Ron Abbey be as acute as a criminal silk and absorbed them in 5 days? Perhaps he may have enjoyed longer to read them as deputy chair ARMC or anyhow nobody had the opportunity to test his comprehension of the same. I have had experience of barristers, obviously, and my brief was indeed absorbed by a barrister but at a cost of £1,500 + VAT! over two days.

    I find it astonishing that two party leaders should only have received these documents on Friday afternoon. The idea that they might bust their own printers by printing from the wbc website is crazy as it would talk hours and on an inket would cost £20. Councillors hold down jobs , have responsibilities to their constituents which are current, and thereby need time to digest these gobbets.

    The chair omitted to express regret to the gallery for wasting their time. The gallery seats were full! The officer time would also be expensive as additionally to the usual suspects, the Chief Executive was present, Kevin Adderley was present and David Ball was there. There were one press rep Liam Murphy, Cllr Phil Davies and Gilchrist, Cllr A Jones and some 10 public visitors, including M Morton.

    The chair was clearly absorbed by the internecine war betwen Members and forgot to express regret which I believe was necessary.

    A meeting shortly afterwards and it was agreed for September or October . Bravo the opposition who would not be bullied.

    The anger was evident among the opposition and clearly expressed when the meeting broke up.

    “the greatest imposture since Genghis Khan”! A.H. 9 January 1945 Mayhap even faced with overwhelming evidence the Labour group would like to pass over mine and J Griffiths’ concerns as a similar imposture.

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    • Do I not come under press? I heard tonight the meeting will be adjourned till September.

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  4. Jonathan

    The Chief Executive says at every opportunity that no council officer has anything to answer about Big, ISUS and Working Neighbourhoods (nearly as often as “The Dunny Chain Wearer” says “we have lessons to learn, we have lessons to learn”) and he wasn’t even turning up at Brighton Street back then.

    No wonder they signed him up in advance.

    Ooroo

    James

    Ps Could it be that no one has ever questioned them?

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    • We did question them at the last Improvement Board meeting, hasn’t been a simialr opportunity to ask questions since though…

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      • G’day John

        Sorry John I meant has anyone asked (interrogated) the council officers?

        I don’t know what I was more amazed by last night, your new aero dynamic tripod or that pile of 7,000 approx bits of (dunny) photocopied paper in the room.

        I really am losing the will to live over all of this.

        See you in September.

        Ooroo

        James

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        • Which council officers and which questions are you referring to?

          Glad you liked my new tripod. I find using it far more enjoyable than my old one and I hope the video footage produced is more interesting than before.

          Well each agenda was over 700 pages long, but yes with it being September rather than next Tuesday it should give them time to read it so they can come back after summer and do it justice.

          Despite the Chief Executive’s desire to deal with it “as speedily as possible” it’s probably better to have the meeting in September and do it properly than rush through it next Tuesday with a bunch of deputies at the meeting resulting in a meeting and outcome that nobody’s happy with.

          It also allows DCLG to conclude their investigations and hopefully determine whether they’re going to clawback any grant money and if so how much.

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          • G’day John

            I am 62 and have been around the block.

            These peanuts in the Labor Cartel are not going to read 500 odd pages. They couldn’t! get past page 3 of anything.

            They will say “Phil the Dill” what do youuuu waaant ussss to dooooooo?

            Ooroo

            James

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            • Any “whipping arrangement” is supposed to be declared at the declarations of interest stage.

              It’s a rare councillor that wants to “rock the boat” with their own party is it (whether in public or “behind the scenes”).

              Truth is although Labour have (and will have) the votes to have their way on this, they don’t want to give the opposition ammunition to claim the response has been rushed through. The nearer we get to a General Election, the more political parties will try to think through the consequences as Wirral has constituencies on each of the two major parties’ target list.

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  5. G’day John

    I had to take a travel sick tablet, bloody swinger, in fact bloody swinger with a tripod.

    Mate if they are just going to say no officer has a case to answer with no evidence of any sort (Lamburger Ghesler” wasn’t even here at the time) they may as well do it with deputies because they will just vote the way “The Dunny Chain Wearers” gang tell “Phil the Dill” to tell the Fudgit and Risk It Committee members how to vote.

    Watching them in action be it at Committee Room or pub they do not look like they have the intellect to get past page 3.

    They might wonder why we (I) mock them just read the 526 pages.

    Ooroo

    James

    Ps Pity you didn’t swing when “Phil the Dill” sat next to me my look must have been a picture. EErrrrrrrrrr the thought of him.

    Pps Tell my Paul not to carry on like a pork chop will you.

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    • I’ve just finished subtitling the first five minutes of the video of the meeting.

      I wasn’t recording when Cllr Phil Davies sat next to you, but you stepped up quickly like someone had just stepped on your foot.

      Which Paul are you referring to in your pps?

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  6. G’day John (Or is that Soderbergh or Tarrantino now you have a tripod?)

    Might be a mistake Inspector Griffiths shares my surname I thought he might be related.

    You know like the Davies that Grant Thornton said committed fraud that worked for Wirral Bizz and Invest Wirral he might be related to one of the numerous Davies’s amongst the council officers and councillors at Wirral.

    They certainly went out of their way to redact the name Davies from the 526 pages but no one else’s.

    Ooroo

    James

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    • Just call me John, it’s easier! Inspector Griffiths is nicknamed “Inspector Blight” after a number of wind turbine applications he agreed to go overturned in the High Court (but then lawyers do get paid a lot of money to argue over the interpretation of words).

      As to people being related to each other, I have a very uncommon surname, however if you’re a Smith, Jones or Davies there are many people that share the same surname. Without some proof of a family link, it’s therefore just supposition. Look in the Wirral phone book and you’ll find a lot of people with the surname Davies!

      Wirral Council don’t seem to realise that redacting dull documents just makes them more interesting to people!

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  7. Inexactitude john I shouilhave written the Press that is printed in ink. your digtal output far exceeds the printed copy and I regret not including you with Liam murphy

    Like

    • Circulation of this blog based on last month’s figures (June 2014): 2,568 visitors (this month is looking to be about 3,000).

      L’pool Echo circulation figures (from ABC) for June 2014: 62,422 per issue (print) and there were 29 issues in that month
      Online circulation for the Liverpool Echo website: 246,055 visitors (daily figure for their website)

      So comparing just online traffic, I get about 84 visitors a day compared to Liverpool Echo’s 246,055.

      However mine is a blog on one niche topic, those figures above cover the Echo’s output on reporting on Liverpool and Everton Football clubs and all the other types of stories they have too.

      Like

  8. […] 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. […]

    Like

    • G’day Mate

      “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.”

      What a clown, Graham Burge (r with the lot plus super duper car and 7 mistakes http://goo.gl/znBccO in 29 seconds) s.

      He says this as often as he possibly can but I doubt he has even convinced himself.

      It will be 3 years 3 months and 2 days from the day I sat with Basnett and Adderley telling me no Big Fund recipient had gone bad and all was well.

      Six out of six grants were dodgy.

      They asked me about forged signatures.

      This ongoing delay after delay will not change the facts and we will not go away..

      Ooroo

      James

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      • So which Council officer’s responsibility was it to actually get a signature on the near million pound contract before going ahead? Not signing the contract caused problems for Grant Thornton getting access to Wirralbiz’s records as they didn’t feel they had to if the contract was unsigned.

        In this recently decided legal case 25% of an ERDF grant (also through a regional development agency) was clawed back to a Council because of deficiencies in the tendering process… how robust was the tendering for Wirralbiz?

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  9. […] Although councillors were sent it before the debate on Lyndale School at the last full Council meeting on the 14th July, I remember during that meeting, the Mayor Cllr Foulkes stating that he’d only received it on the Saturday before the meeting (which was on Monday evening) so how could he be expected to have time to read it before the meeting (or words to that effect)? Similar reasons were also given by councillors last week on the Audit and Risk Management Committee over the amount of time to read a l…. […]

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  10. John I dont believe that the tendering process was fair and equitable and that I have been banging on about for all of the three years. My FOI’s re some critical invoices from Fieldcrest ltd-and just before the tenders!- have met with “Can’t make out what these invoices are for!” , then followed by an inaccurate description of them as regarding a special deprived area project, which I am 99% certain I can disprove!

    Now I was there at the time and observed Fieldcrest in long conclave with the wirralbiz director, even was brought in to fill details re an accounting system, for this tender. But can we believe that Fiedcrest would prepare a complicated tender, which I observed, without charging wirralbiz a fee for the same? I do recall suspicious murmurings I overheard where Fieldcrest asked, “What shall I term it?” . whilst looking slyly at myself, “Development!” came the sly response.

    Who are yer gonna believe, me or an already discredited bunch?

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    • Well if the tendering was flawed (according to EU law which means you have to advertise it across the EU just locally), which meant DCLG could claw back 25% of the grant, wouldn’t that explain why a lot of Wirral Council’s records have gone missing as this would come phone number size sums of money for BIG, ISUS and Working Neighbourhoods Funds?

      If a large amount of grant was clawed back for part of the process that was within Wirral Council’s sole control to get right, surely someone currently (or formerly) at Wirral Council would have responsibility for this?

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      • Precisely so my learned friend. WBC I do contend subsidised wirralbiz to prepare its tender which would of course be unfair in a competitive tendering process.

        One may imagine reasons for this- the convenience of carrying on the Working Wirral process; non-interruption of a business start-up program that had run already for five years.

        However we now know that wirralbiz was less than satisfactory, considerably so, and when two of its leading advisors spent the summer of 2009 walking around Egerton Dock conferring on how wirralbiz could not possibly get the ISUS contract given the bad practices we knew of (the second advisor was not James Griffiths!), then we may surnmise that an interruption of the program wiould have been a good thing!

        Any corruption of a well-thought out tendering process leads to more corruption of all processes which clearly happened in this instance.

        We now know that the Asset transfer program , for which wirralbiz was paid nearly £70,000, and which covered the transfer of millions of pounds worth of assets, was not covered by any contractual relationship; we have a response to another FOI re European project-Objective 1 where it covered £800,000 of this money to grant to community organisations, which response gives a contract date AFTER the work was completed and AFTER it was invoiced. Bad practice breeds with laziness to proiduce the worst results.

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        • Yes well with anything at Wirral Council, the more you look under rocks you more you can find things under them that the public should be shocked by.

          As you know though, the press can only skim the surface when it comes to reporting on such complex matters. Myself and even dare I say it the local papers don’t have the budget, manpower or resources to undertake even the sort of investigation the Council’s auditor has. So we just have to rely on whistleblowers and as when you question them, people engage in a conspiracy of silence surrounding allegations it’s nigh impossible to “double source” what a whistleblower says!

          Therefore the media tend to report on what has happened, quote from reports that have been published as investigative journalism is sadly not only expensive, but usually isn’t commercial in today’s media environment (well unless you’re a national paper like say for example the Financial Times with free access to financial experts willing to provide their opinion in return for a quote and some kudos).

          Due to pressures of time, a lot of pieces in the press are just becoming ever so slightly rewritten press releases…

          Like

  11. John I should point out that in the list of allegations from the two whistleblowers, see Agenda supplements pack p163 point 11, there contains this allegation of a tender process subsidised by Wirral Borough Council.

    In the Grant Thornton report which is to consider this allegation I cannot find any one answer or investigation of the same.

    If you can find an answer to it withing the GT reports please tell me where?

    Like

    • No I do not remember Grant Thornton commenting on this.

      However the “tender process” happened many years ago, therefore in order to investigate such allegations as people’s memories would be understandably hazy as to what went on, Grant Thornton’s investigators would have to rely on the contemporaneous historical records. I seem to remember a reply to an FOI request of yours which was minutes of a meeting that discussed a proposed tendering process for at least one of the three strands involved in this.

      Even if Grant Thornton didn’t investigate such an allegation, as flaws in the way the “contracts” (and I use the term loosely) would affect how much grant is clawed back, you would expect DCLG and/or European auditors to do this before producing their report. Have you supplied DCLG with the FOI response you got about how the tender process was done?

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  12. No I have not for as you have written this affair has so many slipways, alleys, non-adopted roads and mazes one get get through them all.

    What I am adamant about is that it is better to pay a large fine representing an outflow of resources from wirral, thereby stimulating punishment for any rotten apples, so that this does not recur.

    I don’t fall for its us money don’t rock the apple-cart. I am too fully aware of the poor effects that wirralbiz resulted in to allow that to happen again.

    Like

    • Well any clawback of grant will be seen by the press and public as evidence that Wirral Council did something wrong (however they try to spin it).

      Obviously the size of the clawback of grant will partly determine how badly Wirral Council did things and will determine whether any current employees face disciplinary proceedings.

      I know some public bodies (such as the police authority used to be able to and I think so can the NHS) can stop paying a former employee’s (or in the case of the police) police officer’s pension if they’re convicted of serious wrongdoing. Is this an option open to Wirral Council if the “bad apples” involved have either been paid off, retired or now work for other bodies (probably also in the public sector)?

      Like

  13. HOW ELSE CAN WE EXPLAIN THE DELAY IN THE PUBLICATION OF ANDREW WALKER.S DCLG REPORT EXCEPT CONSIDERATION OF AN ERDF PENALTY?

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    • Yes, if the DCLG report was just going over the ground that GT had already investigated, things would be concluded by now.

      The only conclusion to be drawn is that DCLG are investigating issues to do with the tendering processes itself that Grant Thornton didn’t mention in their investigations.

      Like

      • And John this week-end, and only after having the benefit of the GT ISUS report which explains my delay,I have provided evidence to the ARMC to show the following:

        1. The three invoices I have cited for “wirralbiz development” can fit into the correct boxes as GT inform ourselves of two tenders, the first between April and 30th June 2009, made to NWDA. The latter is covered by the first two of the Fieldcrest invoices covering May and June 2009. The invoice 1868 for 11 days work fits into the box for the mini-tender to WBC as there is sufficient time between the receipt of the Request for Quotation by wirralbiz and the deadline date for the work referred to 28th July to mid-day 7th Augiust 2009

        2. Evidence that wirralbiz charged Fieldcrest with this task, which of course I witnessed, but the evidence removes the “hearsay” element

        3. Hearsay from myself that Fieldcrest never subsequently produced any invoice for the many days he spent preparing this tender.{I processed all invoices as management accountant!}

        The consequences of an unfair tender could be 25% of £1m or even £2m to add to the individual reclaims on files incorrectly processed at £1,500 per file.

        Maybe the haste of the 22nd July ARMC meeting was to limit the eventual exposure on receipt of the ERDF report.

        I am firmly of the opinion that WBC cannot move forward until someone is ounished as Voltaire writes “Pour encourager les autres”

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        • As you point out the consequences of flaws in the tender process could result in a large penalty being imposed by DCLG on Wirral Council.

          Is there enough documentary evidence available to DCLG to defend such a decision to impose a large penalty on Wirral Council to do with the tendering process?

          Clearly if Wirral Council were funding Wirralbiz for work involved in their tender submission this shouldn’t have happened, but is that enough on its own?

          Like

  14. […] Similar reasons to do with availability and holidays were given behind the recent adjournment of the Audit and Risk Management Committee’s BIG/ISUS investigations. […]

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