Posted by: John Brace | 25th April 2019

What was in the 4 page secret report to councillors about Wirral Council making payments to a company that doesn’t exist?

What was in the 4 page secret report to councillors about Wirral Council making payments to a company that doesn’t exist?

                                       

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Audit and Risk Management Committee (Wirral Council) 24th April 2019 Part 2 of 3 Forge House Associates

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Audit and Risk Management Committee (Wirral Council) 24th April 2019 Part 3 of 3 Forge House Associates

Councillors at yesterday’s public meeting of Wirral Council’s Audit and Risk Management Committee (which can be watched above) considered a report on Forge House Associates Limited (a copy of the previously secret 4 page report that councillors decided should be made public is at the end of this blog post).

The services of a Stuart Halliday (director and owner of Forge House Associates Limited) were provided to Wirral Council through Forge House Associates Limited. On the 25th September 2018 Forge House Associates Limited were struck off the Companies House register of companies by Companies House (presumably for having been a company for over 2 years by this point but not having filed any accounts).

However after being struck off the Companies House register Wirral Council continued to receive invoices in the name of Forge House Associates Limited (albeit to be paid into a different bank account). As the company was dissolved the VAT number used on these invoices was also invalid.

In early 2019 Mr Halliday was offered a job working at Wirral Council by Eric Robinson as Corporate Director for Economic and Housing Growth (which has a salary range of between £117,510 and £130,568). Eric Robinson sent details of this decision to councillors around this time.

However when Mr. Robinson became aware of Wirral Council’s concerns about the invoices, the job offer was withdrawn.

In the table accompanying the report it is claimed that the work through Forge House Associates Ltd was as a commissioned contractor and outside of IR35. However HMRC guidance would appear to state that where a worker provides their services to a public authority through a personal service company that the worker owns that since April 2017 a public authority should deduct employer’s income tax and national insurance payments from any amount paid to the limited company. Despite questions asked by councillors about this no clear answers were given, giving the impression that Wirral Council isn’t doing this.

A copy of the report and accompanying table are below.

Forge House Associates report page 1 of 4

Forge House Associates report page 1 of 4

Agenda Item 5

NOT FOR PUBLICATION
By virtue of paragraph(s) 1 of Part 1 of Schedule 12A
of the Local Government Act 1972.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION (Exempt from Access by Public and Press by Virtue of Paragraph 1 (Information relating to an individual) of Schedule 12 to the Local Government Act 1972

(Wirral Council logo)

Audit and Risk Management Committee
Wednesday 24 April 2019

REPORT TITLE: Forge House Associates
REPORT OF: CHIEF EXECUTIVE

REPORT SUMMARY
The purpose of this report is to provide Members of the Committee with the opportunity to discuss further the appointment and termination of work of a contracted individual consultant and worker.

RECOMMENDATION

The Committee is asked to note the written and verbal report.

Forge House Associates report page 2 of 4

Forge House Associates report page 2 of 4

NOT FOR PUBLICATION

1. SUPPORTING INFORMATION

1.1 At its meeting of 11th March 2019, the Committee expressed several concerns regarding the history of appointment of Mr Halliday, firstly as an agency worker, secondly as a consultant under a contract for services and then as an interim (agency) director.

1.2 Members expressed concern over the process of appointment at each stage of Mr Halliday’s differing yet continuing categories of work for the Council. In particular, Members wished to know more about the reasons for the decisions made by the senior officers concerned.

1.3 At the end of that process, Mr Halliday’s relationship with the Council as a contractor was terminated and the offer of interim appointment, as communicated to Members, was withdrawn. As addressed in the report, this was because the company by which his services had been procured and provided, of which he was co-director, had been dissolved compulsorily by Companies House. A new company had been established, with a similar name, but the contract had not been novated. Instead, the Council was only informed of a ‘changed’ bank account, which ultimately led the Council to consider the invoices as misrepresentation and the accompanying invalid VAT registration as potentially fraudulent misrepresentation.

1.4 As a result of investigations and communication with HMRC as the proper authority, a letter was sent to Mr Halliday on 30th January 2019 (and attached as Appendix A). This was replied to by solicitors’ letter, advocating Mr Halliday’s explanation and offering to make certain corrections to rectify the relationship (and attached as Appendix B). The steps offered were repudiated by the Council, as set out in a response dated (and attached as Appendix C).

1.5 The timeline and summary of steps taken at each stage of Mr Halliday’s contractual arrangements with the Council are set out as follows. The Chief Executive will attend the meeting to address the steps laid out and respond to members questions and concerns.

Forge House Associates report page 3 of 4

Forge House Associates report page 3 of 4

DATEEVENTKEY POINTSLEAD
Aug-16Requirement for Programme Manager to lead ‘Assets’ theme of Transformation ProgrammeHead of Transformation appoints SH following competitive interview process. References were sought covering last two years employment (as per process)
SH appointed on initial 12-month contract as Programme Manager, managed by then Head of Transformation
Head of Transformation
Feb-17Proposal to create Wirral Growth Company emerges from ‘Assets’ programmeClear that the WGC project would take a minimum of 12-months to develop and implement
Discussion between Head of Transformation and newly appointed Director of Transformation leads to SH contract being extended to complete the WGC business case
P Satoor
Apr-17Member Enquiries received about SH background and previous employmentChief Executive took steps to follow up and review previous employment history of SH at CoY Council. Specific reference sought and received
Further conversation held with chief executive at CoY Council, which caused no concerns regarding SH appointment
E Robinson
Jun-17First-phase Business Case for WGC complete and reported to CabinetCabinet accepts the outline business case for WGC, prompting further work on the programme
Chief Executive writes to SH conforming offer to continue working on the project up to completion
E Robinson
Aug-17Change in reporting arrangementsDavid Armstrong as SRO for Assets transformation programme, assumes line management responsibility for SHD Armstrong
Nov-17Department ReviewChief Executive completes thorough review of senior structure, resulting in the creation of EHG directorate and new director postE Robinson
Forge House Associates report page 4 of 4

Forge House Associates report page 4 of 4

DATEEVENTKEY POINTSLEAD
Dec-17Contract Review AssessmentSH work programme reclassified from interim to commissioned contractor (outside of IR35)E Robinson
Jan-18SH begins providing some support to other projects, notably the Local Plan development and response to MHCLGE Robinson
Mar-18New Department Established: Economic and Housing GrowthNew department agreed at E&A Committee
Recruitment process for new director is launched
Existing officers slotted into AD roles and Lucy Barrow appointed as AD for culture and visitor economy
E Robinson
Jun-18Brian Bailey appointedBrian Bailey is appointed by Members
SH hands over responsibility for all projects other than WGC, which he agrees to continue to lead.
E Robinson
Jan-19

APPENDICES

Appendix A – Corporate Director for Business Management, letter dated 31 January 2019
Appendix B – Messrs Pepperells, letter dated 6 February 2019
Appendix C – Director: Governance and Assurance (Monitoring Officer), letter dated 15 February 2019

BACKGROUND MATERIAL

Contractural and internal documents associated with the table above.

SUBJECT HISTORY (last 3 years)
Council Meeting ARMC
Date March 2019

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Responses

  1. Eric Robinson was told in forensic detail by local man Charles Nunn about Halliday’s alleged crimes years ago, after he was CHASED from York City Council following suspected criminal conduct writ large.

    Why is this employment of a thoroughly dodgy character not being referred to IN CLOSE DETAIL? Perhaps it’s being done to save face and protect the plummeting reputation of Wirral’s Chief Executive Officer, and to protect the reputations of the ******* councillors who took him on and granted him a £40,000 golden hello?

    Do our senior officers and councillors think we are either stupid or born yesterday?

    Eric Robinson is a desultory servant of the public, incompetent (thoroughgoing) and needs to be SHOWN THE DOOR, with no pay-off, urgently.

    • Unfortunately councillors decided to keep the three appendices (Appendix A – Corporate Director for Business Management, letter dated 31 January 2019, Appendix B – Messrs Pepperells, letter dated 6 February 2019 and Appendix C – Director: Governance and Assurance (Monitoring Officer), letter dated 15 February 2019) secret.

      However as the letter in Appendix B was Mr Halliday was responding through his solicitors, I can guess that Appendix A accused him of breaking the law.

  2. Two words – Due Diligence – if the CEO at WBC only had one job to do….

    • Thanks for your comment.

      Well what’s interesting is the papers for that meeting show that a specific reference was sought and received and how it’s written implies that following receipt of this reference there was also a phone call (referred to as an hour long phone call) between Eric Robinson and the Chief Executive of City of York Council.

      Also in the entry for December 2017, what on earth is a commissioned contractor?

      • We can only hope somebody who has no interest in protecting any of the parties involved in the recruitment process can find the missing pieces to another of WBC’s dodgy jigsaw puzzles.

  3. Wirral Council’s Audit and Risk Management Committee, as opposed to the Wirral Council’s Audit and Risk Non-Management Committee, give me a break with all this silly over long names for meetings and groups.
    Couldn’t they just be called the Audit team? as for risk they clearly haven’t got a clue, as no one runs back ground checks.
    Don’t forget people its voting time soon, don’t let them back in!!!!!!

    • Thanks for your comment.

      Unfortunately audit team wouldn’t be a good name as there’s internal audit (done internally by Wirral Council) and also external audit done by their auditors.

      But then considering there are committees at Wirral Council with names like the Members Equipment Steering Group, at least the name of Audit and Risk Management Committee describes what the committee is supposed to do !


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