Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Skidder Shorts No. 9 - Sandwell Council - Charity begins at, er, The Hawthorns

There can be no doubt whatsoever that the charity attached to West Bromwich Albion Football Club, The Albion Foundation, does some excellent work. When all said and done, however, it is connected to a multi-million pound commercial operation (which actually made a pre-tax profit according to its accounts) and the Foundation is certainly not shy on its website in promoting the Premier League (we hope) Club. In the circumstances, I merely ask the question why SMBC needs to fund this charity so generously - particularly when it has wrecked the local arts charity, is cutting frontline services and is about to boot out over one-third of its own workforce.

From the SMBC payments over £500 list, in the 2013-2014 financial year the Council made three payments totalling £8,210 direct to the football club (!) and a stonking £199,030.50 to The Albion Foundation. (There may also be payments under £500 too but I don't have access to that information as yet).

Now it could be that SMBC are securing external grants and simply acting as a conduit to pass money on (although why the money cannot go direct to the charity I know not) and, as ever, I invite them to clarify the position.

One of the Trustees of The Albion Foundation is Tony Costello, described on the website as being "previously at Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council" and another is Labour "Councillor" and "cabinet member" Hackett. Cosy!

As The Turdfinder-General tweets each week, "Boing Boing"!

(PS I understand the Baggies have also directly benefited through additional bookings etc from SMBC's decision to destroy The Public.)



e                 t  @bcrover  (Vernon Grant)

Confidential phone (7am to 8pm): 07599 983737

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Skidder Shorts No. 8 - Sandwell College - Poor Governance

This is the content of a letter which I have today posted first class to Ofsted with copies to the Skills Funding Agency and to The College itself:

Dear Sirs,


I shall be writing to you separately with regard to the (still secret) shenanigans surrounding the “back-door” acquisition of a second £70m+ campus in two years by Sandwell College in due course but wish to make a formal complaint here about a specific example of poor governance by Sandwell College.

The College is a publicly-funded body susceptible (in theory, at least) to the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act 2000. It seems from my research to date that this public body has not been used to external examination of its affairs but the taxpayer is entitled to scrutinise its activities to ensure that public money is being spent wisely and appropriately.

The College has persistently failed to publicly disclose the minutes of the meetings of its Board of Governors timeously. In recent times it has attempted to avoid publication of its decision-making body completely, eg by having a “private”, “un-minuted” meeting in an hotel last summer, and even where publication has eventually been made it has sought to redact information (this has been the subject of at least one Freedom of Information Act  request).

I am aware that the College needs a little time after meetings to collate the minutes and circulate them but in these days of e-mail etc I submit that 14 days is ample time to do this. In the case of Sandwell College the release of minutes is, routinely, a period of months. As I write this on 29th April, 2014, the Board of Governors minutes for the meetings of 9th December, 2013 and 24th February, 2014 remain unpublished (despite a Freedom of Information Act request dated 3rd April, 2014).

At “best” (sic) this gross delay in a result of sheer incompetence by College staff. At worst, there is a deliberate attempt to prevent timeous disclosure of information which should be in the public domain. No doubt you will wish to bear this in mind when fulfilling your statutory duties.

Yours faithfully (etc)



e                t  @bcrover  (Vernon Grant)

t  07599 983737 (7 am to 8pm)

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Skidder Shorts No.7 - Sandwell Council - Rotten Boroughs piece

Many of you have been asking for sight of the piece in Private Eye Magazine from last November in which Sandwell Council appeared in the brilliant "Rotten Boroughs" section. Well here it is - small but perfectly formed:

"They don't waste words on unnecessary debate at Sandwell Council, a Labour fiefdom in the West Midlands. According to its website, recent cabinet meetings have lasted seven minutes (June), 53 minutes (July), 18 minutes (August) seven minutes (September) and 17 minutes (October), while full council meetings have lasted 55 minutes (May), 40 minutes (July) and 41 minutes (October). So the cabinet, supposedly the council's main decision-making body, over five meetings sat for a total of one hour 42 minutes - just over 20 minutes on average.

PS: Sandwell's hard-working councillors received a total of £1,219,867.28 in allowances last year."

Private Eye Magazine No 1354 29/11/13 (Please buy the next issue!)

And more - the Sandwell Council budget documents disclosed for 2014/2015 show an increased estimate for allowances to £1,395,000. Cuts, what cuts....?

e -            t - @bcrover

Confidential phone line 7am to 8pm - 7 days - 07599 983737

Vernon Grant, Box 374, 27 Colmore Row, Birmingham B3 2EW

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Skidder Shorts - No. 6 Revenge of The Turdmeister!

The Leader (sic) of Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council (SMBC), Councillor Darren Cooper aka "The Turdmeister", "Sadim", "Pooper S-Cooper" & "The Turdfinder-General" (mostly in honour of the infamous "No Shit, Sherlock" dog-fouling poster fiasco) only fairly recently discovered that "Vernon Grant" is my nom de guerre and that I am Julian Saunders, husband of Linda Saunders who was, of course, the MD of The Public in West Bromwich.

Since that date, The Turdmeister has taken to using what he says is his "personal" twitter account, er, @sandwellleader to threaten to disclose Linda's redundancy payment to the world at large - not anyone else's - just Linda's. He was at it again just yesterday!

He also threatened, via Twitter, to do a Freedom of Information Act request to his own Council for this private information and, strangely enough, up popped just such a request  to SMBC from someone apparently called "J Shephard"! All very odd.

But, as any fule kno, Linda was not employed by SMBC but by Sandwell Arts Trust ("SAT"). Indeed, here is a section from "The Fundamental Review" (sic) - Cabinet agenda item 7 - of 16th October, 2013:

1.7 Under the existing Management & Services Agreement with the Sandwell Arts Trust which was entered into in 2009, The Council has certain contractual and financial responsibilities with regard to the wind-up of the Sandwell Arts Trust. These include redundancy and pension liabilities for SAT employees."

And who chaired this meeting - yes, you guessed it, The Turdmeister himself!

Quite why Pooper S feels the need to find out this information and broadcast it publicly is for others to question. Some may consider it a form of bullying or harassment but I couldn't possibly comment (yet!).

Points of Order:

1. Linda and those other SAT employees who were entitled to redundancy payments received the amounts they were entitled to under the local authority scheme as operated by SMBC - not a penny more, not a penny less:

2. It is not for me to speak on Linda's behalf but I will venture to say with 100% certainty that she would rather be leading her brilliant team in delivering a fantastic arts provision to the people of Sandwell and beyond these school holidays than simply having a few quid in the bank.


e              t  @bcrover (Vernon Grant)

Confidential phone line - 7am to 8pm - 07599 983737

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Skidder Shorts - No 5 - Conflict of Interest?

When yobbish Sandwell Council (SMBC) decided to shaft The Public the so-called "cabinet" were presented with a "Fundamental Review". Needless to say, in the Secret State of Sandwell this has never been fully disclosed. A small part of it - heavily redacted - can be seen as item 7 of the cabinet agenda for 13th October, 2013.

(In passing, I should add that even though the decision to close The Public and to gift it to the College had been made long before 13th October, 2013 the redacted document shows that even at that late stage, SMBC had STILL not completed a capital appraisal for the project! As I have said repeatedly, this was rushed through for political reasons and was all "back of an envelope"- stuff! This probably explains the horrendously crap deal  the Turdmeister & Co have foisted on the people of Sandwell - still secret, natch).

With regard to smashing-up the architect-designed building paragraph 1.6 (heavily redacted) says, "Legal advice has confirmed that Sandwell Futures Limited can be commissioned to carry out this work....." (and so it came to pass.....).

Sandwell Futures Limited is controlled by Interserve Plc and Dalmore Capital.

Now take a look at the signatories to the Fundamental Review on the 4th page. These include Director of Improvement and Efficiency (sic) MELANIE DUDLEY who, therefore, was part of all this.

FACT - MELANIE DUDLEY is a Director of Sandwell Futures Limited!



07599 983737

e             t   @bcrover (Vernon Grant)

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Sandwell Council & Interserve - Part 2 - Because We Can!

This is, unfortunately, a detailed note showing how Sandwell Council (SMBC) have skewed their procurement process to avoid open competition and tendering in many areas and to funnel millions to Interserve and its related companies away from public scrutiny for up to 25 years!. What follows may be a bit heavy but you will realise how important this is when you see the amounts of public money involved.

In 2007, SMBC decided to enter the horrendously expensive Building Schools for the Future ("BSF") programme and, in accordance with EU procurement law, published a Notice in the Official Journal of the EU. This signalled the commencement of a search for a private company to join with them as a Local Education Partnership ("LEP"). Eventually, two companies were left in the tendering process, Balfour Beatty & Interserve. As far as one can tell, all was "above board", and Interserve hit the jackpot.

It seems quite clear from SMBC documentation that the INTENTION at the time was for this procurement to apply simply to the BSF programme and for that alone. For example, this from the full Council agenda of 3rd March, 2009 (unless they were just lying, of course):

"1.4 Sandwell is in two waves of the National Programme Wave 3 and Wave
5, subject to future public spending decisions, which will enable a
continuous programme of investment across the whole secondary estate.

1.5 An OJEU notice was published on 9th August 2007, which signalled the
commencement of the procurement process for a Local Education Partner
to deliver Sandwell’s BSF programme. Sandwell’s procurement will follow
the competitive dialogue procurement procedures in line with EU
Regulations and use the standard documentation produced by
Partnerships for Schools (PfS), the national body responsible for the
delivery of BSF.
1.6 The BSF programme covers four key contracts;
• The Strategic Partnering Agreement for the LEP which is a 10 year
arrangement with an option to extend for a further 5 years
• The PFI Contract for a 25 year period
• The ICT Contract for an initial 5 years with an option to extend a
further 5 years
• The Facilities Management Contract for 25 years with an option to
break in respect of soft FM at years 10, 15 and 20."


"2.2 That the Council confirm the continued pursuit of Building Schools for the
Future as its strategic direction for the transformation, rebuilding and
renewal of its secondary education provision in Sandwell."

But then SMBC wanted to broadened the remit so that the LEP could also handle other Government programmes and other school/educational projects, thus from the same agenda document:

"6.9 At the ITCD stage of the process, the two consortia were required to 
provide responses to various documents that SMBC issued. Bidders had 
to supply details of how they will establish and work with SMBC in a Local 
Education Partnership (LEP) to transform education in Sandwell, their 
designs and Facilities Management (FM) options for a 25 year PFI 
scheme for Rowley Learning Campus, their designs for the Smethwick 
Learning Campus design and build scheme, FM arrangements for the 
Smethwick Learning Campus, financial models, proposals for a managed 
ICT service in secondary schools in the BSF programme, including a 
learning platform, data centre, building management systems integration 
and transformation, additional services (including the Primary Capital 
Programme, professional construction related and property services and 
learning platform, equipment, software, technical support and consultancy 
and management information systems offered to non-BSF schools 
including primary schools and academies) and comments on draft 
contracts and payment mechanisms. The same documents were 
submitted for Final Bid stage but they reflected discussions that had taken 
place during the dialogue period." 

And let us look at the the Deputy Leader, Eling's, "Corporate Procurement Strategy" of January, 2010 - prepared shortly AFTER the LEP was formed:

"4.5 Building Schools for the Future 
The Council has recently appointed a private sector partner, 
Environments for Learning (E4L) following a rigorous 
Competitive Dialogue process, which in turn equates to a formal 
Local Education Partnership (LEP). 

The outcome of this is a partnership who will “take Sandwell 
secondary schools into the 21st century” and the appointment of 
145 craft apprentice places supported by the Council’s “Think 
Local Construction”."

(As an aside, the very next paragraph trumpeted another great SMBC deal - Transform Sandwell - a financial disaster now prematurely ended!)

But whilst the LEP was clearly intended to be used for the BSF and ancillary schemes the lawyers had been to work and broadened the remit still further so that the LEP could (allegedly) involve itself way beyond the educational remit and provide services as disparate as the "construction of office blocks" to, and I kid you not, the "construction of crematoria" and "restaurants". Here is the full list, if you don't believe me, from the EU contract history 2009/S 149-217829

(Just as an aside again, one has to wonder, given that SMBC argue that they can effectively do what they like under this "contract", and that the above includes "construction for buildings related to leisure, sports etc", why the contract for Wednesbury Leisure Centre was put out to separate tender although, happily, Interserve won it! It may also explain why money has been flowing to Sandwell Futures Limited (Interserve) from SMBC budgets which have no apparent connection with education eg "Street Scene". Also, SMBC are just about to expend large sums of taxpayers' money on their crematoria (nearly £1m) and it will be interesting to see if Interserve have "won" the work for that too. Don't forget - this is all under the spurious heading of "Building for Schools"!)

Now have a look at this further detail from the EU Notice:

"Original Text

CONTRACT AWARD NOTICE SECTION II: OBJECT OF THE CONTRACT II.1) DESCRIPTION II.1.1) Title attributed to the contract by the contracting authority: Sandwell Schools for the Future Programme. II.1.2) Type of contract and location of works, place of delivery or of performance: Services. Service category: No 11. Main place of performance: The Borough of Sandwell and adjacent areas. NUTS code UKG34. II.1.3) The notice involves: The conclusion of a framework agreement. II.1.4) Short description of the contract or purchase(s): The contracting Authorities were seeking an innovative private sector partner or partners to particiapte and invest in a new Public Private partnership vehicle (a "Local Education Partnership" or "LEP") to be established jointly with some or all of the contracting authorities. The LEP will provide (or arrange the provision of) "Partnering Services", which will include (but not be limited to) the development of a strategic investment programme for: a) Educational Facilities (including the secondary school estate of the Borough Council of Sandwell with the potential to extend this to primary schools, childrens centres, Academies and other educational facilities); b) there is also the potential to include other community facilities to be co-located on schools sites including community centres, libraries and health facilities; together the "Relevant Facilities")in the contracting authorities' area. These Partnering Services may also comprise of the following services: a) strategy advisory services; b) programme management services; c) project development services; d) procurement consultancy services; e) procurement and delivery of all services required to deliver the strategic investment programme for the Relevant Facilities (including through the provision, integration and management of supply chain arrangements). It is anticipated that such services may include: i) architectural services; ii) engineering services; iii) construction services; iv) technical services; v) building services; vi) hard facilites management services; vii) soft facilities management services; viii) information communication and technology ("ICT") services; ix) transportation services; x) educational support services; xi) educational programme development services; xii) educational strategy services; xiii) professioanl construction related/property services and operational asset management services (these services may also be required in respect of facilities other than the Relevant Facilities but which are within the overall estate of the Borough Council of Sandwell which, for the avoidance of doubt, includes housing stock managed by Sandwell Homes Limited). Operational asset management services may include but not be restricted to facilities management services; for a period of up to 15 years. The ICT services provided by the LEP may extend beyond the Relevant Facilities to the wider estate of the Borough Council of Sandwell and to other users of ICT services which are provided by or through the Borough Council of Sandwell. Where professional construction related/property services and operational asset management services are required by Sandwell Homes Limited, the LEP may be required to contract directly with Sandwell Homes Limited or Sandwell Homes Limited may purchase the LEP's services from or through the Borough Council of Sandwell. The relevant facilities or other facilities provided by the LEP, which may be a mixture of new build, remodelled and refurbished facilities, will be delivered under the Private Finance Initiative (PFI) and/or design and build arrangements. This may include the delivery of the Relevant Facilities (or other facilities) through separate Special Purpose Vehicles (SPVs) established by the LEP. Where an SPV is established, the shareholders in such SPV may include the LEP, third party equity providers and supply chain members. The contracting authorities may contract with the LEP or, where an SPV is established, directly with the SPV. The LEP may also be required to provide for, or arrange for the provision (through supply chain arrangements) of, the management and/or integration of the Partnering Services, design and build construction contracts, facilities management services, support services and ICT services (this list is not exhaustive) where the contracting authorities' existing arrangements are either transferred or expire. SECTION V: AWARD OF CONTRACT TITLE: Sandwell Schools for the Future Programme. V.1) DATE OF CONTRACT AWARD: 31.7.2009. V.2) NUMBER OF OFFERS RECEIVED: 2. V.3) NAME AND ADDRESS OF ECONOMIC OPERATOR TO WHOM THE CONTRACT HAS BEEN AWARDED: Environments for Learning Limited, 395 George Road, Erdington, UK-Birmingham B23 7RZ. E-mail: Tel. +44 1213444888. URL: Fax +44 1213567493. SECTION VI: COMPLEMENTARY INFORMATION VI.1) CONTRACT RELATED TO A PROJECT AND/OR PROGRAMME FINANCED BY COMMUNITY FUNDS: No. VI.4) DATE OF DISPATCH OF THIS NOTICE: 4.8.2009."

You will note that the "contract" - the clue is in the first three letters - has been extended still further so that such matters as "housing" can be included in the, er, Building Schools scheme! Indeed, it has been re-named to just the "provision of services" which it seems, according to SMBC, means they can effectively do what they like. The other question that arises, is who polices these multi-million pound "deals" once they have started to ensure that the taxpayer is getting good value for money?

One has to wonder whether SMBC was hoodwinked into drafting the contract so widely or whether it did so deliberately. In any event, they rely on it to maintain secrecy surrounding these multi-million pound contracts. As a mere amateur lay-person, it is impossible to pick out what money is going where although you will see from, for example, my blogpost of 9th January, 2014 "Interserve and Sandwell Council" that the sums are very large indeed. The SMBC budget for 2014/15 makes just a passing reference to £98m (excluding other contracts and ancillary costs) wrapped up in PFI deals & finance leases alone but no breakdown is provided. As long as I can keep going and as long as SMBC refuses to give voluntary disclosure, this will, unfortunately, lead to a string of Freedom of Information requests although SMBC will still try and maintain secrecy by hiding behind confidentiality clauses which, in many cases, their OWN lawyers have drawn up to thwart public disclosure! Open democracy Sandwell "Socialist"-style!

Of course, not all the money is coming from the long-suffering Sandwell taxpayer (though a lot IS) but it is coming from us as taxpayers nationally and from what SMBC calls "prudential borrowing" (which has to be repaid via the taxpayer). Under BSF, for example, large sums were paid by the Government but, again, there is no publicly-available breakdown. Since 2010 the BSF scheme has been stopped and whilst some other schemes continue, eg the Priority Schools Building Programme, Sandwell seems to be increasingly ploughing its own furrow under its misguided "leadership". By using redacted information in Council minutes, awarding bizarre contracts like The Public to Interserve without tender, and then by relying on "confidentiality" clauses to prevent FOI disclosure The Turdmeister & Co can put two fingers up to us mere scum and tell us it is none or our business!

In the specific case of The Public, the so-called "Fundamental Review" that went to the "cabinet" has never been publicly-disclosed and the only available version is heavily redacted. SMBC have purported to award Interserve a contract worth around £6.7m without open tender under the above "LEP" scheme and it HAS contested release of the contractual information via FOI requests. Not bad since they have "spun" the yarn that this nonsense somehow constitutes a "great" deal for Sandwell!

For some peculiar reason Sandwell Futures Limited (Interserve) is specifically named as the "LEP" in The Public "deal" whereas in the EU Journal the LEP is a different Interserve company, Environments for Learning Limited. All very odd and something to be investigated further (again I invite SMBC to voluntarily disclose information to avoid the necessity of further FOI requests). I should also mention here that the main officer of SMBC in charge of the team setting-up the above, incredibly widely-drawn "contract", was a SMBC Director called Melanie Dudley. She is still not only a highly-paid employee of SMBC but also a Director of Sandwell Futures Limited. One other SMBC employee is also a Director.

Sandwell Futures Limited is said to be a "partnership" but SMBC have only a 10% shareholding. The main shareholders are the socialist (not!) Interserve and Dalmore Capital (in place of Barclays Bank). Whilst it is difficult to follow these weird contracts here is detail from the latest accounts which shows who money is going OUT of Sandwell Futures to:

Year End 30/09/13

To Agilysis & Cambridge Education £6.6 MILLION
To Dalmore Capital & Barclays Bank £527,000
To Sandwell Council £135,000 (yes, thousand)

To Interserve & related companies £38.3 MILLION (some "partnership"!)

Further, there is the Medium-Term Finance Strategy 2014-2017 attached to SMBC's budget. Strangely, the reference to The Public is not contained in a reference to the LEP but in respect of a so-called "strategic partnership" with Sandwell College. The reference to the LEP is, despite the above, just in respect of educational facilities. SMBC will receive (from the national taxpayer) large sums via grants and payments under the Primary Capital Programme and such like schemes but will also "prudentially borrow" to fund part of the programme or even, it seems, pursue further PFI schemes! It appears that for years to come this AND other works will not have to be put out to tender but simply gifted to Interserve. This is the throwaway line from the strategy document:

"The LEP was formed in spring 2009 and will assist the Council in transformational change to be brought about in learning through the support of £370 million in new school facilities."
Serious money! Three hundred and seventy million - and mostly to Interserve! No wonder they were so anxious to "help-out" with the destruction of The Public!

It remains to be seen how SMBC will continue to try to enjoy the secrecy surrounding these deals and whether people will get well and truly shafted - as with The Public and like the unfortunate SMBC women employees in respect of "equal pay" - via good old Sandwell Labour.

Just because you can do something doesn't mean you should - but that doesn't seem to apply in Sandwell!



07599 983737 7am to 8pm 7 days

e the t @bcrover (Vernon Grant)

Friday, 4 April 2014

Sandwell Council - Utter Contempt for Freedom of Information Law

Remember the £39,000 of taxpayers' money Sandwell Council (SMBC) spent on the, as it turned out, useless reports from Jones Lang LaSalle? These were prepared by early summer 2012 but SMBC refused to make them public. On 31st October, 2013 Mr J Maher put in a Freedom of Information (FoI) request for disclosure which was refused, mostly on the ground of alleged commercial confidentiality.

Using his twitter account @sandwellleader - unbelievably, actually the "leader" of SMBC - Cooper - said the reports would be released but then back-tracked on this and they remained secret. But on 3rd January 2014 (with the FoI request still unanswered) the reports suddenly found their way to the Express and Star newspaper in Wolverhampton who were only too happy to print an article complete with a quote from Cooper. I used Twitter at the time to point out that this was totally unsatisfactory. Even then, the reports were not finally disclosed (with redactions) for some considerable time.

Fast forward to the pathetically-named "Concordat" ie the dodgy contracts relating to the destruction of The Public. This time, local people are indebted to Mr Darryl Magher for his FOI requests to both SMBC and to Sandwell College. Both public bodies were unable to comply with the legal time limit for disclosure but eventually they both disclosed page after page of documents with ALL the material information redacted. I am not concerned with the College here but only with SMBC.

One of the major reasons for redacting the information was that information was protected from FoI by confidentiality clauses between the parties - including some that had actually been inserted into the contracts by the Solicitors acting for SMBC, Ashfords! It was argued that to disclose the information would actually be a breach of contract.

Fortunately, on this occasion, Mr Magher appealed this nonsense by requesting an "internal review" - this step being a prerequisite to a referral to the Information Commissioner. That review is still in progress.

But step forward Cooper again. Yesterday (or the day before) he gave some of the redacted information to the Express and Star - or at least someone did - but he was happy to provide a commentary on same. This is absolutely unacceptable noting SMBC's refusal to disclose pursuant to the law of the land, and particularly as the "internal review" is still in progress.

We must assume that Cooper/SMBC have received permission for disclosure from Sandwell College, Sandwell Futures Limited and Interserve Construction Limited otherwise there would appear to have been a material breach of the contractual terms the parties were at pains to draw-up to prevent access (all at considerable public expense). I say that the parties cannot pick and choose what they release and now that partial disclosure has been made, all further arguments of confidentiality are otiose and should be overruled.

I will be sending this blog to the Information Commissioner by way of formal complaint and, hopefully, Mr Magher himself will complain. Please feel free to use this blogpost yourselves to complain either to the Chief Executive of SMBC and/or to the Information Commissioner (e-mail to - include your phone number).


e -           t - @bcrover


Thursday, 3 April 2014

Sandwell College's Gift to Labour (from the taxpayer......)

Regulars readers will know that Sandwell College, Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council (Labour-controlled) and Interserve have stitched up a deal between them to the exclusion of all other parties and without putting the multi-million pound construction contract out to tender or other open competition for the destruction of The Public, West Bromwich and its tacky conversion into a college.

They have done their best to keep the deal secret even though it is entirely funded by the taxpayer and a Freedom Of Information Act request was treated with utter contempt for us mere scum - see my earlier blog - "Taking the Urine". The FOI request is now subject to an appeal but don't hold your breath.....This secrecy is all very strange as this was supposed to be such a "great" deal!

In November, 2013 the £165,000 Chief Executive of Sandwell SMBC was put on the Board of Governors of the College. At their meeting of 9th December, 2013 - the minutes of which are still being kept secret even though we are now into April - they resolved as follows:

Sandwell College

Extract from the minutes of the meeting of the Board of Governors
held on Monday 9th December 2013

B13.172 Approval of Expenditure B13.172

 i) Rental of Rooms at Terry Duffy House

 The Vice-Principal (D&ER) presented a report seeking approval for the College to
rent a number of rooms in Terry Duffy House from January to June 2014 in order to
accommodate programmes for the unemployed. This request was being made as
there were no rooms available within Central Campus. The income from the
unemployed programmes and associated costs were explained. It was noted that
IT, furniture and whiteboards would be transferable to the Public.

 RESOLVED: that the Board of Governors approve a short term lease of the
second floor of Terry Duffy House, from January to June 2014, at a
total cost of £47,118.10 including VAT (total cost includes rent, IT,
furniture, carpet, whiteboards and legal fees).

No wonder they have been keeping this secret! Because the minutes are still being hidden it is not yet known whether Britton was actually at the meeting.

TERRY DUFFY HOUSE IS OWNED BY LABOUR PARTY PROPERTIES LIMITED. It is the base for the local Labour Party and for two Labour MP's - Wealthy Watson and Bailey (who he?).

There are acres of empty offices in West Bromwich but this just happened to be the venue chosen! This is public money being spent and so one must wonder why the taxpayer is buying carpet for the Labour Party when the College is, allegedly, only staying for 6 months. Knocking off the VAT & the fripperies I guess the rent for just one floor only is £5,000 a month or more (ie at least £30,000 of the ex-vat sum). A tidy little donation to Labour with election expenses arising.

It remains to be seen as this scandal unfolds whether Ed Milliband will arrange for this money to be returned to the taxpayer. Has he got the Balls (and I don't mean the bloke who helped wreck the economy)?

PS If anyone can let me know the identity of the College's auditors to save me looking it up that would be helpful.


e -       t - @bcrover