Sunday, 31 August 2014

Mosque Parking Scandal - Chance for Labour Group & Council to Reflect.....

Isn't it funny how Labour Sandwell Council never initiate any dodgy deals but people beat a way to their door to propose "deals" which then come to pass.

Firstly, we had the allegation that Sandwell College approached the brothers and sisters to steal and destroy The Public but the College now formally deny this! (Ongoing, watch this space....).

Secondly there is the ongoing ice rink scandal. Once again it is alleged the ice rink developers "approached" the Council whereas Labour's thick "leader" said something else to the media (see posts passim).

Thirdly, there is BogGate (thanks Coral for the moniker) when Mr Quyam appeared from nowhere to make an offer on the unmarketed bogs which were then sold to him at a price way under the official valuation. (Again, see posts passim).

And here we go again with the proposed sale of valuable land at an undervalue to a mosque. Most of the details are secret but Labour say "A request has been made BY THE MOSQUE to acquire the land" (even though it is not adjacent to the Mosque and currently only has access to West Brom High Street so that a separate entrance will have to be made into Earl Street).

The mosque (which is advertised on the website Mosque Directory as for men only) has its own parking (as per its planning permission) which could be used for the elderly/infirm and there are a number of SMBC public car parks just a very short walk away eg Edward Street or Sandwell Road/Temple Street. There are also public transport options with many bus services along the High Street and also the nearby Metro station at Dartmouth Street.

The main report is still secret but it seems the planning and highway people are the only ones who have been asked to look into this and there is no reference anywhere to an independent valuation. SMBC bought Shaftesbury House fairly recently and it is a massive, empty , office block right on the High Street. Clearly this is a large and potentially valuable development site but Sandwell Labour are publicly alleging that the sale of 1.25 hectares (space for 50  - FIFTY - cars) is "not required for any future development or use of Shaftesbury House"! How can they possibly say this? Where is the factual basis for this allegation? In a rising property market how can carving off a significant plot of land from a larger plot not affect the value of the latter? Where else has this plot been marketed? Why has the value not been tested on the open market? Who else has been given the chance to make an offer?

Even the plan is being kept secret let alone the so-called "valuations". Let us not forget that Sandwell Labour have been diverting s106 "planning gain" monies (eg from Tesco) for vanity "public realm" projects like the daft statue when it should have be used for infrastructure improvements and, more particularly, affordable housing. (The old college site just down the road was originally earmarked for affordable housing by the Homes and Communities Agency but that idea has now been dropped in favour of the proposed "clap clinic" building). Even the comrades admit that the land would be far more valuable for housing and let us hope the number of "X's" in the secret SMBC documents are not a portent of the actual figures ie amount payable by mosque "XXXXX"; true value of land (allegedly) "XXXXXX" therefore approval sought to sell at an undervalue of "XXXXX". If these "X's" ARE indicative, a six-figure site is being sold for a five figure sum on the basis of imposing a restrictive covenant which could be removed at some future date (probably in secret). This at a "five-figure" loss to the local taxpayer.

Tonight the comrades will gather for their secret Labour Group meeting. You would think after the recent High Court disaster, when they happily waved through an illegal and discriminatory policy losing the taxpayer between £700,000 and £1M, they would behave more responsibly but in Sandwell shit sticks to the blanket. There are only two opposition councillors but perhaps they can raise this scandalous deal at the full Council on Tuesday before this crap (at best) deal is "authorised" by the AMLD Cabinet Committee on Wednesday night?


e                               t   @bcrover (Vernon Grant)

Confidential phone no: 07599 983737


Tom Watson MP: Hull Graduate or Too Much Larkin About?

West Bromwich East is indeed blessed to have as its MP the expenses-guzzling motormouth, Tom Watson - a man prepared to hold forth at great length on any "leftie" issue that passes by, whether of any relevance to his hard-pressed constituents or not (whilst strongly supporting eg the Iraq War and the replacement of Trident).

The Skidder has been deliberately fed false information over the last few months - apparently in the naive hope that I would publish it and be discredited or with a view to discovering my informants. Not so long ago a senior Labour "personality" [sic] within the Pyongyang-style cesspit that is Sandwell Council was putting it about West Bromwich that Wealthy Watters did not, contrary to popular belief, get a degree at Hull University.

Let me say straight away, that I don't really care whether he did or didn't and I am in no position to comment on academic prowess from the standpoint of my own "Desmond" (although there was improvement later on!) But I had to have a look noting that the "informant" was someone close to the "great man" himself and there was also the question of why this tale was being told?

Having trawled Google I have been unable to establish the facts. Obviously, Watters attended Hull but apart from some media references to him having "graduated" the position remains opaque.

I applied to Hull Alumni but was told I must make a Freedom of Information request (a procedural form much used by Tommy himself) to Hull University but when I did this it was refused "for data protection reasons". Noting that The Wealthy One is such a vociferous campaigner for the, er, "truth" I wrote the following letter to him on 14th August but regret to say that I have yet to receive a reply:

Tom Watson MP                                                      14/08/14
House Of Commons
London SW1A 1AA

Dear Sir,

A Labour Councillor in Sandwell and someone close to you has, for reasons unknown, been putting it about that you left Hull University without a degree although I do note some articles on the internet referring to you having "graduated".

Can you please confirm the position?

Yours faithfully,

(And as they say in Sandwell, "Excreta, Excreta"..... Apologies for readers outside the Borough but that is an "in" joke).

Maybe someone out there knows? If so, please feel free to contact me..... I think we should be told!

PS Watson has been campaigning vociferously against bookmakers (whilst accidentally voting in the wrong lobby during a Commons debate on the issue). His comrades at Labour Sandwell Council have been equally active on this subject (although this did not prevent them trying to force through the licensing of a new, er, casino in Sandwell!) How gratifying then to receive information yesterday of the opening of a new shop in West Brom High Street by, er, Paddy Power. Surely my informant is mistaken? (Addendum 31/08 - just been told this is true and it is right next door to Ladbrokes!)


e                         t   @bcrover (Vernon Grant)

Confidential phone number:  07599 983737


Friday, 29 August 2014

The Turdmeister and the Law

The moronic "leader" of Sandwell Council - Darren "The Turdmeister" Cooper - is, like many politicians, a bullshitter of the first order and that is nowhere more apparent than in his comments on Labour's "great legal triumph" and on their recent utter humiliation in the High Court (all given credence by the Wolverhampton C-S's).

Let us look first at that "triumph" - the alleged "defeat" of Michael Gove over the ending of Gordon Brown's ruinously expensive Building Schools for the Future [sic] programme.

That case was brought by 5 councils plus Sandwell and was actually decided on very narrow grounds indeed. The High Court Judge decided that Gove was entitled to end the scheme but that he had failed to take into account equality considerations and had not consulted adequately in respect of certain school building projects which has reached a defined procedural stage during a particular 6-month period. He was ordered to reconsider those particular projects again.

The six councils expressed "jubilation" at their great "triumph". The egocentric Cooper brought everything back to his favourite topic - himself - and told the BBC that he was "personally vindicated" by the decision.

But there was an interesting little point that was missed by the mainstream press. Sandwell obviously thought their own huge legal department was not up to the job of dealing with the case and brought in a private firm of solicitors, Bevan Brittan LLP. But due to some sort of cock-up along the way Sandwell actually missed the time limit for bringing the claim! And so Turdy's "triumph" almost didn't get off the ground at all but was eventually allowed only after the Trial Judge "stretched a benevolent discretion to Sandwell". So much for "fighting" for the children, parents and teachers of the Borough as alleged by Cooper! Just more incompetence.

As it was, of course, the "jubilation" was short-lived. Sandwell Labour failed to heed the final words of the Judgment:

"126. Finally, the extent of my decision is that the Secretary of State must, I stress must, reconsider the position of each of the claimants with an open mind and paying due regard to whatever representations they may respectively make. But provided he discharges that duty and his equality duties, the final decision on any given  school  or project still rests with him. He may save all, some, a few, or none. No one should gain false hope from this decision."

And so it came to pass. Gove still axed the local projects. A triumph for Sandwell Labour indeed!

Now let us turn to the recent High Court humiliation already described in my posts "Local Media Blackout on New Sandwell Council Scandal" and "Lord Mayor of Sandwell - Hypocrite!" Anyone with a few brain cells to rub together who read the Judgment in that case would have realised the absolute demolition job done on Sandwell's "case". A leading Housing Law blog - - headed their erudite commentary on the case, "Just Bonkers, absolutely bonkers" and the first line of their excellent post reads, " Just what did Sandwell think they were doing?"

Enter Cooper and the Wolverhampton C-S's. Despite the fact that Sandwell accepted during the Court case that Eling's (?) reckless decision, unanimously supported by the ovine Labour Group, had affected 3,600 of the most vulnerable souls in society, Cooper says that no compensation will be payable to them despite the action being unlawful and discriminatory. I am not at all sure about that and we shall see what further action the Child Poverty Action Group (who brought the case) and the Equality and Human Rights Commission (who intervened) take.

Cooper said the legal costs were £40,000 but, again, we shall see. Sandwell did use their own solicitors this time and who knows how much time they spent on the case at taxpayers' expense? But they also had to pay a QC and Junior Counsel to put forward their piss-poor case. Clearly they will have had to pay the costs of the CPAG solicitors and barristers (again including a high-powered QC). Sandwell also have recent form for underestimating legal costs. Readers of my post, "Casino Costs Cock-Up by Sandwell Labour" will recall that Eling (again) claimed SMBC would recover its costs from the Casino debacle whereas a FOI request confirmed that the comrades had actually had to pay out taxpayers' money of £18,500.28p! Ooops!

But the idiotic Cooper still tried to bluff his way through the disaster and told the C-S's that Sandwell were considering spending a further £50,000 fighting an appeal (not with the money of the Labour councillors, of course, but with our money). The C-S's were happy to print his grandiose but totally ridiculous claim, "If it's a case of spending £50,000 to save a million I'm prepared to do it" (but again, not with his personal money....).

Of course there was never any real prospect of a successful appeal as all the legal commentators pointed out. I was confident enough to offer £100 to charity if Sandwell won an appeal on all counts. Today the inane Cooper has had to attempt a reverse ferret via what he purports to be "his" blog and is implying that the decision not to appeal is some sort of rational decision by him whilst still saying that if he had his way he would re-introduce the discriminatory policy!

BUT THERE IS ONE THING THE TURDMEISTER AND THE MAINSTREAM MEDIA HAVE NOT SAID ALTHOUGH IT HAS FEATURED IN MY POSTS REFERRED TO ABOVE. As a DIRECT result of the incompetence of Sandwell Labour in rushing their crazed scheme through the Council meeting they lost Sandwell a transitional relief grant of £675,000 even though they were desperate to claim it! You don't believe me? Then just read the actual words of the High Court Judge below the subscription......

And finally, even the comrades must now realise that although they do not give a toss what people think, their failure to consult on a raft of issues, if continued, is likely to lead to more very expensive trips to Court.... Nice work for m'learned friends and more bleak days for the taxpayer!


e                           t   @bcrover (Vernon Grant)

Confidential phone no: 07599 983737

Per Mr Justice Hickinbottom:

17. On 16 October 2012, the DCLG issued a paper, "Localising support for council tax: Transitional grant scheme", which indicated that £100m had been set aside to provide transitional grants to authorities which adopted schemes which ensured that (i) those who would be entitled to 100% support from council tax benefit would pay no more than 8.5% of their net council tax liability; (ii) the taper rate would not increase above 25%; and (iii) there was no sharp reduction in support for those entering work. Applications for transitional grants had to be made by the same 31 January 2013 deadline.

21. The Council's Cabinet considered the consultation results and other preparatory work (including a full EIA dated 22 October 2012) at a meeting on 7 November 2012. It considered the perceived problem that if the Council went ahead with the scheme in its then-current form, it would not be entitled to a transitional government grant of about £675,000. The Cabinet approved and recommended adopting the scheme, but with modifications to make it eligible for that additional funding, by deleting (i) the reduction of capital cut-off limit from £16,000 to £6,000, and (ii) the restriction to the maximum payable on a band C property. It was clearly still considered that the CTR Scheme as drafted would result in an appropriate level of savings, when compared with the previous council tax benefit. The modifications did not include a residence requirement. It was expressly noted that an EIA had been carried out.

25. In the event, the Council did not acquire the transitional assistance from central government (see paragraphs 17 and 21 above), because those who were on full CTB, but failed to obtain a council tax reduction because of the residence requirement, had a greater than 8.5% impact on their relief from the tax. On the evidence, it appears that this became evident to the Council after the 4 December 2012 decision but before the scheme was implemented. In any event, the introduction of the requirement led to a loss of the £675,000 transitional relief.

Mosque Car Park - Another Secret Labour Sale at an Undervaluation!

Next Wednesday Sandwell Labour will resolve to sell part of the Shaftesbury House premises at High Street, West Bromwich at a figure significantly below its market value but, as ever in the secret state of Sandwell, we are not allowed to know the figures as they have been redacted from Council documents. And this from a Council that is constantly pleading poverty!

In 2005, a planning application was made to extend the Jamia Mosque and Community Centre at 47 Dartmouth Street, West Bromwich - a residential street. The application lapsed but a further application was submitted (DC/09/50532) and granted in 2009. Two subsequent applications (DC/09/50892 & DC/09/51697) varied the original and the extended Mosque was opened in June OF THIS YEAR. At the bottom of this post I have set out the exact wording of the planning consent as regards parking but it is noteworthy here that Labour's planning committee said this at the time (ie within very recent history):

"Consideration will be given to the provision of parking in association with the development. This will include an assessment of:

- whether the majority of people walk to the place of worship or religious instruction;
- the proximity and availability of public transport facilities;
- the availability of car parking in the vicinity;
- the use of the centre for wider community purposes and for special events drawing large numbers of participants;
- the adverse effect of on-street parking on adjacent occupiers, the environment of the neighbourhood and whether it would create potential hazards to pedestrians and other road users.

The planning committee report for the final grant of planning permission stated:

"There would be a car parking area with 19 spaces to be provided with an in and out system to Dartmouth Street together with a direct pedestrian access to Dartmouth Street".

Well that's all ok then isn't it? No! Now the comrades say the Mosque has been so busy it needs extra parking and so they will sell it part of the (non-adjacent) Shaftesbury House car park even though it would have a significantly greater value if sold for housing!

The Shaftesbury House saga (part of a wider Labour disaster story) will feature in another post but at the moment, the only access to the proposed Mosque car park is from the High Street via the Shaftesbury House property so that a separate access will be made to Earl Street. As far as I am aware, Sandwell Council still own Shaftesbury House (having been forced to buy it) and so any sale is likely to diminish the value of the remaining plot. But, as ever, with Sandwell Labour we are not allowed to know the facts. The matter is listed for rubber-stamping at the AMLD Committee next week but two of the agenda items (including, incredibly, even the map) have been redacted from public view altogether whilst the supposedly "public" item has this heavily redacted gem:

"Strategic Resource Implications

3.1 The proposed disposal at a consideration of £XXXXX represents the
value of the site with the restriction that it be used for parking in
connection with the mosque only and for no other purpose whatsoever.

3.2 The market value of the site is estimated to be in the region of £XXXXXX
on the basis of its residential development potential. On this basis
Committee Members are requested to approve an undervalue of £XXXXX
under General Disposal Consent powers in acknowledgement of the
proposed community benefit disposal."

It is said that the alleged removal of parking problems, particularly on a Friday, somehow constitutes a "community benefit". (It is noteworthy that in a different context - the continuing ice rink scandal - Labour claim that there is now ample car parking in West Brom Town Centre thanks to 2,200 spaces at New Square so that SMBC can demolish the Queen's Square car park and gift the cleared site to a developer). There is nothing in the public agenda item about encouraging Mosque users to travel to it by alternative means other than by private car. There also appears to have been no consideration to giving the Mosque a short lease or licence for the site pending re-development of the Shaftesbury House site as a whole.

Of course, even The Kremlin cannot get away with this gross breach of their legal obligation to secure best value upon disposal of land and so they are proposing a restrictive covenant as follows:

"1.8 Any disposal on this basis would include a restrictive user covenant,
preventing the purchaser from using the site for any other purpose than
that of parking in connection with the mosque only and for no other
purpose whatsoever. Any attempt to deviate from the prescribed use
would therefore require formal council consent and potential financial
remuneration, if appropriate."

What this means in real terms is ambiguous. The words "if appropriate" are particularly alarming (particularly when seen in the light of BogGate etc). How could a change of use/removal of the covenant come to be decided - would the process be public or secret? Would the "socialists" actually take legal action against the Mosque if it breaches the covenant (the only remedy they would have left upon a sale)? Any removal of the covenant would inevitably enhance the value of the site - particularly if a new entrance is made to Earl Street - and so payment would most definitely be "appropriate". But who would calculate how much that remuneration should be? Why isn't a formula put into the contract? Remember that in BogGate, Labour sold the three blocks secretly for £25,000 and THEN (ie afterwards) paid £1,200 for a valuation report which valued them at £130,000! Given that Labour take the approach - "we have a massive majority and will do what we like" - this is all very perturbing.

Of course, Labour will force this through next week but you may wish to make complaint to SMBC. Presumably there will have to be a planning application for a new entrance to Earl Street and opposition to that may be appropriate. As soon as the decision is made The Skidder will make a Freedom of Information request for the redacted documents and figures.

Is all this just gross incompetence or something far worse?

ADDENDUM - 30th AUGUST, 2014 - DEJA VU.....

And here is another similar and recent case from the allegedly cash-strapped "socialists"! Instead of putting a car park on the open market it was to be offered to a Mosque first. Did they buy it or didn't they and what was the deal? How did the comrades value the site? These are the relevant minutes from the Asset Management & Land Disposal Committee of 18th December, 2013:

(4) that the Council owned car park at Cambridge Street,
Smethwick be declared surplus to Council requirements
and the Director - Legal and Governance Services
dispose of the freehold interest to the adjacent mosque
on terms and conditions to be agreed by the Area
Director - Regeneration and Economy;

(5) that in connection with resolution (4) above, in the event
that an agreement cannot be reached between the
Council and the mosque by 18th June, 2014, the Director
– Legal and Governance Services, dispose of the
freehold interest in the land at Cambridge Street,
Smethwick on the open market on terms and conditions
to be agreed by the Area Director – Regeneration and


e                                 t   @bcrover (Vernon Grant)

Confidential phone number: 07599 983737

Planning conditions DC/09/51697

8. Before the property is brought into use the approved car parking spaces and vehicle circulation areas shall be laid out, graded, and surfaced in accordance with details to have been submitted to and approved by the planning authority.

12. Before the property is brought into use the car parking management plan shall be submitted to and approved by the planning authority.

13. The car parking management plan  approved in pursuance of the previous condition shall be implemented as soon as the development is brought into use.

14. The car parking management plan approved in pursuance to conditions 12 and 13 of this planning permission shall remain in operation for the life of this development.

Thursday, 28 August 2014

More Trickery from Labour in Sandwell!

The Skidder has recently been pilloried for making Freedom of Information Act requests to Sandwell Council but if you read on you will see why they are so very necessary. Judge for yourselves.

Back in 2009, Unite sold Terry Duffy House, an office block in West Bromwich and constituency office for MP's Watson and Bailey (Who he? Ed), to Labour Party Properties Limited - proprietors, The Labour Party. As Sandwell Council have been told not to communicate with me, I was forced to make a Freedom of Information Request to establish whether the comrades had been paying business rates to their, er, comrades at SMBC. Here is the exact wording of my request dated as long ago as 6th March, 2014:

"On 23rd December, 2009 Labour Party Properties Limited purchased
Terry Duffy House, West Bromwich. Please confirm whether SMBC have
granted business rate relief in any form in respect of that
property since 23rd December, 2009. If yes, please provide the
relevant details."

I received the following absolutely unequivocal response:

"Further to your request I can confirm that no rate reliefs have been
awarded to Terry Duffy House."

On that basis I assumed Labour were paying business rates but I then received information which suggested the contrary. Accordingly, I made a further request as follows:

"I am returning to my original request in respect of business rate
relief for Terry Duffy House and the categorical reply of 2nd
April, 2014 from Julie Richards (Supervisor Revenues & Benefits
Service) that Labour Party Properties Limited have not benefited
from any business rate relief in respect of that property.

It has been drawn to my attention that in two separate FoI requests
SMBC have included the "basement, ground and first floors" of Terry
Duffy House (ref R2478809990207) in lists of "empty" commercial
properties over £45,000 and £50,000 since 2009. Am I to assume that
despite being "empty" and on these lists, Labour Party Property
Limited nevertheless paid full business rates throughout this

And today, nearly six months after my original request I get the following response (the strange accent signs are as per the SMBC original):

"Bst Ground And, 1st Floor, Terry Duffy House, West Bromwich

In reply to your original Freedom of Information Request when you asked us
for information on business rates reliefs I can confirm the information
given in the original response, that there were no business rate reliefs
on the property known as Bst Ground And, 1st Floor, Terry Duffy House,
West Bromwich.

In respect of your subsequent enquiry I can confirm that this property was
empty between 24^th December 2009 and 11^th April 2011. During this time a
three month unoccupied property exemption was applied for the period 24^th
December 2009 to 23^rd March 2010. Following this, a full empty rate
charge applied for the remainder of the void period, 24^th March 2010 to
11^th April 2011.

2^nd Floor, Terry Duffy House, West Bromwich.

In reply to your original Freedom of Information Request when you asked us
for information on business rates reliefs I can confirm the information
given in the original response, that there were no business rate reliefs
on the property known as 2^nd Floor, Terry Duffy House, West Bromwich.

In respect of your subsequent enquiry I can confirm that this property was
empty between 24^th December 2009 and 11^th April 2011. During this time a
three month unoccupied property exemption was applied for the period 24^th
December 2009 to 23^rd March 2010. Following this, a full empty rate
charge applied for the remainder of the void period, 24^th March 2010 to
11^th April 2011. subsequent enquiry I can confirm that this property was
empty from 2nd April 2010 to date. During this time a three month
unoccupied property exemption was applied for the period 2nd April 2010
and 1^st July 2010. Following this, a full empty rate charge applied for
the remainder of the void period, 2^nd July 2010 to date.

To clarify, neither of the properties were entitled to receive any type of
relief, both properties did attract an unoccupied property exemption for
the period of time stated above."

You will note that SMBC did not grant business rate relief since the comrades had already claimed exemption for various parts of the building. Labour SMBC are making swingeing cuts but at least their brothers and sisters - in - arms are not divvying up for the greater good of Sandwell!

I have complained to the Information Commissioner about the way my request has been handled. YOU may think SMBC tried to deliberately mislead me as to the true position. I couldn't possibly comment.........


e                        t   @bcrover (Vernon Grant)

Confidential phone no: 07599 983737

Guest Blog No 3 - Bob Woods - Carry on at your Convenience!

I am delighted that Bob Woods has provided a second "Guest Blog" to The Skidder. Once again, Labour stalwart Bob highlights the lack of scrutiny at Sandwell Council, this time in the wake of "BogGate"......

Bob Woods:

The saga of the sale of three former public conveniences by  Labour Sandwell Council has already been outlined in the Sandwell Skidder ie The Council did not advertise the three buildings for sale but did a private “deal” (rather than put them out to tender or auction them) for £25,000. They then (ie AFTER the sale) spent £1,200 of public money on a “valuation” report which independently valued the blocks at £130,000!

Last week, Julian Saunders - The Sandwell Skidder - was invited onto BBC WM’s Adrian Goldberg Show on two consecutive days. I listened to both interviews and subsequently rang in to speak live on BBC WM.
I thought that Mr Goldberg was reasonably impartial though he did question if it was cock-up or conspiracy which was a bit generous knowing Sandwell Council!

The Interview on the second morning was slightly different as it had a speaker from Sandwell Council, Cllr and Cabinet Member Ian Jones. He wasted no time in trying to smear Julian as having a personal vendetta against Sandwell Council, though he did say it would be inappropriate to give details (interestingly, Cllr Darren Cooper, Council Leader, has no such compunction about confidentiality!)

Now these facts themselves seem strange and certainly would imply maladministration at the very least and are definitely reasons for further scrutiny.

There are of course some obvious questions to be asked:

1. If there was no advertising how did anyone know the three blocks were for sale?

2. In which case who told Mr Abdul Naeem Quyam about the properties? An elected official or an employee?

3. Who, if anyone, knew Mr Abdul Naeem Quyam personally? Is he a family member or family friend of anyone connected with the Council?

4. Who, if anyone, stood to gain from the sale, and any potential profits from a resale?

 When I rang Adrian Goldberg I was clear about my concern. I stated that I was a long standing member of the Labour Party and proud to be so. But that my concern was not just the sale of these public conveniences - it was a much wider issue of scrutiny and transparency.

Adrian Goldberg helpfully reminded his listeners that Sandwell council is effectively a “one party state” (his words) with only two non-Labour councillors so that there is no effective opposition to scrutinise effectively.
Well I agreed with Adrian. I said that it is therefore beholden on any council that is overwhelmingly of one party (whatever the colour) that it should be even more transparent in its dealings to avoid accusations of mendacity and wrongdoing.

Unfortunately Sandwell Council is led by a cabal who organise business so that there is little effective scrutiny by the councillors, press or, indeed, the public.

It is clear from conversations that control of the councillors is by a mixture of patronage and bullying (see Mick Davies’s guest blog on the Sandwell Skidder for more detail!) I have also witnessed this myself at branch level.

I do not know why the local press do not hold Sandwell Council to account. The Excess & Smear used to do this but now they seem to give them a free pass.

Having experienced the wrath, “banter” & caustic comments of Darren Cooper via his “personal” twitter account @sandwellleader after my first visit to the public session of the Cabinet, I can appreciate why members of the public are loathe to take them on.

I have been spoken to by Sandwell Labour Councillors about giving succour to political enemies in UKIP and the Tories, and that I should follow the party line. Well my loyalty is to the Labour party I grew up with, my trade union roots, and not the “one party state” of Sandwell Labour as it is at present.

But going back to what Adrian Goldberg said about scrutiny - effective scrutiny is the key. There are many things that Sandwell Council do which I applaud. But there is plenty that is done which raises question of honesty, transparency and even legality.

Any council worth our trust should be happy to have effective scrutiny. If Sandwell Council won’t scrutinise itself effectively, then  we need to do it for them. I am proud to be one of the #sandwellscrutineers and we will hold them to account!  


e                            t   @bcrover (Vernon Grant)

Confidential phone number: 07599 983737

Skidder Shorts No 17 - A Message from SMBC's Chief Executive....

Back in March the Chief Executive of Labour Sandwell Council (a politically-restricted post) tweeted to his beloved Leader, Darren "The Turdmeister" Cooper, in response to a critical tweet from me:

"Sandwell out of control? Sound budget*, council tax frozen**, services protected as far as we can***, new leisure centres****."

* A sound balanced budget is actually a legal requirement!

** Council tax was only frozen so that SMBC could benefit from additional freeze grant funding from the cuddly, er, Coalition Government. Labour then shafted their own hard-pressed tenants with a huge inflation-busting rent rise.

*** Note the pathetic caveat "as far as we can". Youth services decimated, arts provision destroyed, the library service castrated, many more job losses etc etc

**** The ludicrous Cooper is determined that every town in the Borough will have a new leisure centre whether it needs one or not. The Council's own Leisure Trust was deemed inadequate to run the new West Brom Centre which has been farmed out to a private company. The allegedly cash-strapped Labour Council is BORROWING huge sums for these new centres and mortgaging the Borough for years to come with this crazed policy.

And so according to Jan Britton, the Chief Exec, everything is rosy in the earthly paradise of Sandwell - which makes the failure to disclose the auditor's report with their annual accounts all the more mystifying. And then there is this from the minutes of next week's full Council meeting:

"Members (of the Audit Committee) noted that the Council had SIGNIFICANT GOVERNANCE ISSUES arising in the following areas:-

i) Children’s Services;
ii) the resilience of the medium term financial strategy;
iii) compliance with procurement and contract procedure rules;
iv) business continuity planning;
v) health and social care reforms;
vi) ICT."

Great job, Jan. Great job!


e                   t   @bcrover (Vernon Grant)

Confidential phone number: 07599 983737

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Bog Scandal Latest - Valuation Done AFTER Sale!

The three bog sites were independently valued at £130,000 and this valuation cost the taxpayer £1,200. Labour Sandwell Council did not market the properties, put them out to tender or auction them but sold them to Abdul Naeem Quyam - who appeared from nowhere and made an offer - for £25,000.

Councillor Ian Jones, a Labour "Commode" Member, has been on BBC Radio this morning and publicly stated that the valuation was conducted - at £1,200 remember - AFTER the sale. He claims this happens quite often in Labour Sandwell!!!!

Jones attacked me for making FoI Requests to Sandwell Council but they will be getting another one in five minutes time asking for a copy of the valuation report!

It was also suggested by Jones that the acceptance of a sole bid from a private individual was "often" the method used to sell properties "quickly". I cannot say about The Shambles just yet but the other two sites - Albert Street and Jervoise Lane - were deemed surplus to the Council's requirements by decision 09/03 on, er, 24th January, 2003. And so the properties stood empty and were un-marketed for well over 9 years until Mr Quyam got his crystal ball out and "divined" that they were up for sale. And lo, Labour suddenly decided that a quick sale was imperative.....

Incidentally, it appears that the sale was not so quick in that the Land Registry documents refer, in respect of two of the properties, to a side "agreement" between Mr Quyam and SMBC dated 22nd June, 2012 whereas the transfers were not completed until around 12th/13th August, 2012.

The full FoI request is set-out below. Judge for yourselves whether it is "reasonable" or not!


e                        t   @bcrover (Vernon Grant)

Confidential phone number: 07599 983737

FOI Request - 21/08/14:

Dear Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council,

In an earlier FoI Request you stated that the three former public
conveniences at Albert Street, Oldbury; Jervoise Lane, West
Bromwich and The Shambles Wednesbury were sold without being
offered on the open market and as a result of having received a
single "offer" in respect of each property.

It was also stated that SMBC paid £1,200 for a valuation of the
three properties from the District Valuer, Mr J Page. Councillor
Ian Jones has publicly stated that the valuation was done AFTER the

Finally, Land Registry documents show that besides the actual
transfer of the properties to Mr Abdul Naeem Quyam in August, 2012,
SMBC entered into a separate "side-agreement" with him in respect
of at least two of the properties ie "An agreement dated 22nd June,
2012 made between (1) The Borough Council of Sandwell and (2) Abdul
Naeem Quyam".

1. Please state how the offers were communicated to SMBC and to
whom. If in writing, please disclose the written offers;
2. Please state the date(s) of the offers and the amount of the
offers if not otherwise evident from your reply to question 1;
3. Please state the date of Mr Page's Valuation Report and disclose
3. Please disclose the agreement of 22nd June, 2012 AND any other
written agreements that may exist between the named parties in
respect of the three properties.

Yours faithfully,

Julian Saunders

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

A Document Sandwell Council Didn't Want You To See - Bogs Scandal Latest!

The smell from the bogs is getting worse......

Regular readers will be aware * that Labour Sandwell Council "lost" my Freedom of Information Act request concerning the sale of three public conveniences and then two officers - Willetts and Wendling - supplied me (for reasons unknown) with information which (at best) was incorrect and grossly misleading. One might have thought that the very highly-paid Chief Executive and/or Head of Legal & Governance would, in the circumstances, have hastened to correct the record and make a full, open, disclosure of the material facts but it doesn't work like that in Labour's Sandwell. I was forced to spend time and money applying to the Land Registry for the true information (fees payable). In the case of the former bogs at The Shambles, Wednesbury - the premises had been sold on and so I had to make a further "historical" search by post (this service is not available online) and pay an even higher fee than normal. Before we turn to the result, let's have a look at what Sandwell Council said EXACTLY in respect of the mechanism of the sale process:

"Question - Please state how SMBC marketed the plots and for how long the marketing process continued;

Answer - The properties were not offered for sale on the open market"

"Question - Please state the number of offers received. If for any reason the
highest offer was not accepted in respect of any of the plots please give
reasons why it was not accepted;

Answer - The Council received one offer for each property and proceeded on the
basis of a negotiated sale..."

Thanks to my historic search I can now confirm that, like the other two former bogs, The Shambles was again sold to Abdul Naeem Quyam of Warley Road, Oldbury and for just £10,000. Here is the proof which Labour were so keen to withhold:

Now let us have a look at the FoI Request again with regard to Labour's valuation of the premises before sale:

"Question - State how SMBC valued the respective plots. If an external valuer was
instructed please state their name, the valuations and the fee for this

 Answer - The sites were valued by the District Valuer, Mr J Page.  The fee for the valuation service was £1,200 and the valuations were:

Albert Street - £35,000

Jervoise Lane - £50,000

The Shambles - £45,000"

And so, friends, Labour paid 12-hundred quid (!) for a valuation which provided a combined total figure of £130,000 (One Hundred and Thirty Thousand Pounds) but, without marketing them (or auctioning them), accepted a mysterious written offer and then sold all three sites to Abdul Naeem Quyam for a TOTAL of £35,000 (Thirty Five Thousand Pounds). Now the next QUESTION is WHY but outside agencies might need to become involved to try and solve that one.....

I should just add that The Shambles has been sold on. At this point in time I cannot say whether there were any intermediaries between Quyam and the people listed at HM Land Registry as the current owners but I can say that Quyam paid £10,000 for this particular site in August, 2012 and the present owners paid £40,000 for it on or around 2nd April this year. As I say, there MAY have been other owners in between and/or considerable monies spent on renovating the property but, even so, this appears to also be indicative of Labour selling at a gross under-valuation......


e                    t   @bcrover (Vernon Grant)

Confidential phone number - 07599 983737

* See earlier blogs - 07/08/14 "Can you help me? Local Sandwell knowledge required!" and 08/08/14 "Why are Sandwell Council Lying to Me?"

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Jim Cadman - Statue Entrepreneur!

Mr James William Cadman is involved in serial fund-raising for statues. There was the Don Revie Statue at Elland Road plus Fred Trueman, Les Dawson, Eric Morecambe etc etc etc. A common feature in media reports are local councils being persuaded to back these projects with the promise that they will bring thousands of tourists to the various sites.

Sandwell Council has given Cadman £30,000 plus of public money for the proposed statue of WBA's incomparable "Three Degrees" even though this is supposed to be a "private" project. And what did the moronic Labour "leader" of Sandwell Council, Darren "The Turdmeister" Cooper, say the other day - that the proposed statue would bring "thousands of visitors" to West Bromwich! Oh yeah?

I have submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to Sandwell Council as to how it came to "donate" £30,000 of public money to this allegedly "private" project and to establish the legal status of Cadman's "appeal" and what checks the Council undertook before handing him two cheques for £15,000 each.

James William Cadman is based in Stourbridge as were two companies he was involved with - Intofootball Limited and Intoprints & Memorabilia Limited both of which have been struck off and dissolved by Companies House in 2009 and 2010 respectively.

Until 2008 Cadman was a director of Tunnel Vision Company Limited but remained as its sole shareholder until that Company was also struck off and dissolved THIS YEAR.

And just last year on 22nd July, 2013 James William Cadman signed the statement of affairs as a Director in a Creditors Voluntary Liquidation of Mediasign Marketing Limited wherein it was stated that "the estimated deficit as regards creditors" was £111,002. (Curiously the sole creditor was a Dutch Company called Cantor Holding BV).

But obviously Sandwell Council must have been fully aware of this curious record and must have conducted proper due diligence before parting with such a large sum of public money. Mustn't they? They have presumably taken steps to ensure that the money is ring-fenced in a trust account or similar - haven't they?

And here is another curious coincidence. Cadman has set up the "Rotherham Sporting Heritage Guild" to raise money for a statue to the first black professional footballer, Arthur Wharton. I am not sure whether Rotherham Council have put money in but various councillors have taken to the media backing the idea. And who do we know who works for Rotherham Council according to his Register of Members' Interests. Step forward one of the two "deputy leaders" of Sandwell Council, Steve Eling!

Companies House documents state that Sunny Jim's birthday is 1st April.......


For reasons unknown, the companies in which Cadman is involved have a habit of regularly changing their names. More company names are popping up but you can add Pixsportique Limited to the list of struck off and dissolved companies.

Furthermore, our Jim has a bit of history with Sandwell Council. From 1999 to 2003 or thereabouts Mediasign Marketing Limited (now in liquidation as above and where Cadman was a shareholder and director from at least October, 2000 and possibly earlier) had a contract with SMBC to supply illuminated advertising signs on lampposts. SMBC resolved via its scrutiny committee to pull out of the contract - possibly as a result of a new deal they were doing with J C Decaux. On 15th October, 2003 the "cabinet" confirmed that decision and resolved to "negotiate" a termination with Mediasign. Three councillors present when the decision was made were Cooper, Eling and Hussain, the present "leadership".


One of the almost constant common features of the growing number of companies I have now linked to J. W. Cadman besides having their address at County Lane, Stourbridge is one Mark James Chapman either as a co-director (eg Intofootball Limited & Intoprints & Memorabilia Limited) or as Company Secretary (eg Pixsportique Ltd, Mediasign Marketing Limited (in Liquidation) or Cornerstone Marketing Limited.

Happily, Jim himself does not appear to have been either a Director or Shareholder (or at least not recently) of Media Lights Limited which went into liquidation with debts of three-quarters of a million pounds just last year. Once again, there was a Dutch connection with Media Lights having a Dutch Company as its sole shareholder and three Directors named Lanting - all having Dutch addresses. But the Company was registered at County Lane, Stourbridge and the Company Secretary was - yes - Mark James Chapman.

Which makes it all the more curious that the following comment was made in the Lancashire Evening Post on 7th March, 2008 in respect of Jim Cadman, "Chairman of the Sir Tom Finney Day Committee" (and, more recently, organiser of Tom Finney "Tribute" dinners):

"The gala dinner is being sponsored by the Media Lights Group.
Jim Cadman, from the advertising company, said: “It’s going to be the most incredible thing.” "
The word "incredible" can, of course, mean "extraordinary" or "outstanding" but also "implausible" and "questionable". Clearly, however, Jim was merely just an employee and spokesperson for Media Lights in 2008.

ADDENDUM - 20th AUGUST, 2014

Unfortunately the online service at Companies House do not go back as far as the 1990's but other searches APPEAR to link Mr Cadman with a number of other companies (mostly dissolved). This is a non-exclusive list but he appears to have been a short-lived Director at Results From Print Limited, Ninian Leisure Limited and Full Time Communications Limited. I don't know if he had a shareholding in any of those companies. He also seems to have had a more direct involvement in James Cadman Associates Limited (Dissolved) and Football Heroes Limited (Dissolved). 


e                       t   @bcrover (Vernon Grant)

Confidential phone number: 07599 983737

A General Complaint to the Information Commissioner re SMBC.

Here is a complaint which I have today forwarded to the Information Commissioner's Office with a copy to £128,000 per annum Neeraj Sharma at Sandwell Council.

Information Commissioner’s Office                                                                                                    13th August, 2014

Dear Sirs,


I am becoming increasingly concerned with regard to the cavalier way in which Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council are treating FoI requests. This should, perhaps, not be surprising given various tweets by SMBC’s Labour “leader” who once infamously tweeted that he would “congratulate” the Chief Executive if he blocked my requests for information!

May I deal firstly with some examples from others. All the examples are available via the website and they can be located by searching for the title of each request as shown below.

Request of Brian Crockett - “The Public - commisioned [sic] reports”.

This request was mostly refused on the ground, inter alia, of commercial confidentiality, but then SMBC chose to leak some of the withheld information to the local newspaper.

Request of Brian Crockett - “Judgestock”.

SMBC fobbed off this request for details concerning their funding of a music event in August, 2013 with the unlikely statement that full details would be published in July, 2014 with the Council’s annual accounts. Needless to say the details have not been supplied and so I have made a new request - “Sandwell Music Event - August, 2013”.

Request of Darryl Magher - “ “Concordat” Between SMBC and Sandwell College”.

Your office is, in fact seized of this matter (plus the related request to Sandwell College) as Mr Magher has appealed SMBC’s (and the College’s) failure to answer most of his request. The point for present purposes is that this is another example of SMBC purporting to withhold information but then making selective leaks of same to the local newspaper.

Robert Fellows - “Responses to Tom Watson’s questionnaire from groups based at The Public”.

This is an interesting one since SMBC said formally in response to an initial request that a certain cache of documentation was never received whereas local MP and self-styled “truth-campaigner” Tom Watson says that it was definitely submitted to them. Mr Fellows has now had to go back to SMBC with regard to this “anomaly”.

Turning to my own requests:

Julian Saunders - “Terry Duffy House - Rates”.

I made my initial request as long ago as 6th March, 2014. I received an absolutely unequivocal reply. Information was then received that appeared to show that the unambiguous response may not have been correct and so on 24th June, 2014 I requested an internal review. SMBC claim e-mails were not received or somehow “lost” and appear to be treating my request as a whole new application stating that they have until 26th August to reply. This is wholly unsatisfactory in the circumstances of the case.

Julian Saunders - “Land at Florence Road, Smethwick”.

I am prepared to accept that there are some arguable issues concerning certain aspects of this request
but I firstly make the observation that SMBC have not exactly bent over backwards to be straight with me here. I am considering an appeal to you but, for present purposes, one of the main issues here centred on the correct identification of a plot of land. With no explanation whatsoever, I was initially given EIGHT separate Land Registry title numbers for the single plot. It seems that this may be correct but this was perplexing without proper explanation. I have just had the reply to a request for an internal review and I have now been given “incorrect” information as to the location of the plot. I have been told that the plot title was connected to “Lime Grove” whereas I believe that the plot is, in fact, connected to “Poplar Grove”. I do not know whether this apparent error was due to plain incompetence or something more sinister but it does, in my submission, once again demonstrate the slipshod way in which certain requests are dealt with.

Julian Saunders - “Sale of Three Public Conveniences”.

This request was absolutely straightforward. SMBC sold 3 former public conveniences to the same purchaser in 2012. It is obvious that they would hold details of the purchaser but, to date, they have refused to name him. Indeed, two officers of the Council have, in writing, given me false and misleading information for reasons that are yet to be established. Firstly I was told that the sale was to a company which had no legal status. Then I was told that SMBC had negotiated the sale with a company which had been struck off at Companies House nearly three years earlier. All the time the information was readily available to the two officers involved and, indeed, SMBC had entered into a separate legal agreement with the same gentleman in respect of at least two of the properties (seemingly to protect their interests in adjacent properties). Once again, it may be that the release of false and misleading information is down to reckless disregard for the FoI process by two individuals or it may be indicative of something altogether more worrying.

I should add here that, hitherto, SMBC have refused to disclose the sale prices. I have been able to establish these by alternative means in respect of two of the properties but not the third as yet. In the case of the two properties where I have the information both sales were at a very considerable discount to the value stated by an independent valuer. If SMBC will not now make full disclosure forthwith then, inevitably, this matter will also be winging its way to you!

I believe you have the power to investigate these matters with SMBC and take appropriate action. Please do so.

I am sending a copy of this letter to SMBC’s Director of Legal and Governance, Neeraj Sharma.

Yours faithfully,


e                                  t   @bcrover (Vernon Grant)

Confidentail phone no: 07599 983737

Skidder Shorts No. 16 - Statue Latest - Unanswered E-mail.

Seven days ago, I sent the following e-mail to Mr Cadman, the "local businessman" raising funds "privately" for the proposed hideous statue of WBA's magnificent "Three Degrees". Regular readers will be aware that Labour Sandwell Council have raided a planning fund intended for infrastructure improvements to "donate" at least £30,000 of public funds to this allegedly "private" project. The inane Labour "leader" of the Council and self-styled "Voice" of all Baggies fans, Darren Cooper, has claimed that "thousands" will flock to West Bromwich to see this effort if and when it is erected! Need I say more....

Dear Mr Cadman,
You are probably aware that I write a community blog called "The Sandwell Skidder" which recently featured the proposed statue.
Can you please confirm the EXACT legal status of your appeal/fund. If there are trustees please identify them. 
Yours faithfully,

To give Mr Cadman the benefit of the doubt, it is the holiday season and he may be away but I am sure he will wish to respond to my request as soon as possible! In the meantime, I have submitted a further Freedom of Information Act request to Sandwell Council via - "Legal Status of Celebration Statue etc" to ascertain how this "private" appeal came to apply for public money and how the Council decided to squander (sorry, "invest") £30,000+ of public money in a "private" enterprise.


e                            t   @bcrover (Vernon Grant)

Confidential phone no: 07599 983737

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Sandwell College or Council - which One is Lying?

Corruption does not have to consist solely of officials or politicians receiving cash in brown envelopes (although questions must at least be ASKED when a Council such as Sandwell doles out multi-million contracts without open tender). An organisation can be corrupt if it has contempt for the rule of law and subverts due process for self-serving motives and/or naked political advantage.

What follows may seem a small point at first but consider what is going on here, why and the likely end results if such behaviour is not stopped forthwith.

Sandwell Council has a so-called "cabinet" structure. As Labour has almost total control of Sandwell Council the party high-command has surrounded itself with highly-paid Council officers who are, so it would seem, prepared to serve their political masters without question or challenge. Many are paid in excess of £100,000 per annum and, in the current climate, would be highly-unlikely to find such remunerative employment elsewhere. Thus when they are told to jump, they jump (or, as in the case of the recent CTR disaster,  they simply turn a blind eye).

The thick moron who inexplicably fought his way up the greasy-pole to become political "leader" of Sandwell Labour and Council, the ludicrous Cooper, equates almost total control of the number of seats on low turn-outs (ie most of the electorate of Sandwell did NOT vote for Labour*) with a "mandate" for him and his colleagues to do as THEY please (without proper consultation) irrespective of the consequences and again, as the CTR fiasco shows, without regard even for the law of the land.

It is vital that any Council makes reports that are accurate and keeps a true record of its doings. Indeed the minuted decisions of the  Cabinet, Committees and full Council are the legal bedrock of local governance. If the Council is taken to Court - CTR again - then, unless there is evidence submitted to the contrary, the barristers in the case and the trial judge will AUTOMATICALLY assume that the minutes are a true and fair reflection of events and the decisions made. If, therefore, a Chief Executive and Cabinet members are subverting this process then - sorry, but CTR case again - the Council will, as the trial judge in that case put it, "plunge into unlawfulness" with disastrous results.

Turning to the College, the same general principles apply though in a slightly looser form. The College is run by a Board of Governors. It receives almost the whole of its income from the taxpayer - mostly through Central Government (although in Sandwell, the Council has decided it too wants to fund them from its extensive resources). Once again, the minutes of those meetings are the foundations of the whole legal edifice of the College structure and that is, at least, understood by them although they have tried themselves to subvert public accountability by redacting large chunks of their minutes from public view.

Both Sandwell Council and Sandwell College still refuse to disclose certain redacted information concerning The Public deal and both of these taxpayer-funded bodies are fighting tooth and nail to oppose having to release the truth about their sordid rip-off Public "deal". Neither would fully answer the Freedom of Information requests of Mr Darryl Magher and we are indebted to him for appealing the whole matter to the Information Commissioner.

Following a reply to my recent FoI request for release of the redacted College minutes they have finally disclosed same and the information therein will feature in forthcoming blogs. This post deals with an incredible minute which means that either the Council or the College have lied in their official minutes. Both cannot be telling the truth, it is as simple as that!

The Public campaigners have stated that, for their own reasons, "councillors" Cooper and Mahboob Hussain pursued a vendetta against The Public and were determined to close it at whatever cost to the Borough. This led to a constant stream of "reviews" and to Hussain instructing Jones Lang LaSalle, expensive property consultants, at a cost to the taxpayer of £39,000 to shaft the project. But the definite advice of JLL was that the building was totally unsuitable for use as a school or college! Nevertheless, Cooper and Hussain pressed on and at a press conference in May, 2013 Hussain announced the closure of The Public and its conversion into some sort of hybrid sixth-form school/college. We have maintained all along that all the running was made by Cooper, Hussain and the sheep in the Labour group. In any event, in May, 2013, this was not a done deal (despite some of the pronouncements from the College) but Labour SMBC had burnt its boats. It had to find a way of forcing the deal through. This again will be the subject of further posts but this blog pointed out that, by saying the College stitch-up was the only game in town, SMBC had buggered-up any negotiating "position" so that the College could take these fools to the cleaners. And so it came to pass - to the cost and detriment of Sandwell folk.

Having publicly announced the deal, there was no way back for Cooper and Hussain and so the officials of SMBC had to go through the absurd process of "objectively" assessing that the deal was a "good one". The farcical outcome of this was shown in the so-called "Options Appraisal" (attended by the very lawyers who MAY have suggested the cock-eyed "concordat" in the first place but who, in any event, were paid very handsomely for pushing the deal through). See my post of 11/06/2014 "The Public - The Plot Thickens" about this aspect of the sad fiasco.

SMBC then brought out the big guns to provide the "cabinet" with a report or "Fundamental Review" so that Cooper and Co could go through the charade of studying same on 14th August, 2013 and 16th October, 2013 and make the "democratic" decision that the College deal should proceed (even though it had been announced months earlier!) Incidentally, SMBC are still trying to keep parts of that Report secret!

As above, Hussain was driving all this and so it came as a surprise to the campaigners when it was stated at paragraph 6.9:

"In September, 2012 Sandwell College approached the Council and initiated discussions concerning the conversion of The Public to a 6th form centre. These discussions have continued."

The campaigners questioned this but SMBC stated that the College's approach was "verbal" and that there was no written record of this.

But pursuant to my FoI Request, Sandwell College say the precise opposite ie:

"The initial approach regarding the Public was made by Sandwell MBC. The Deputy Leader
telephoned the College’s Deputy Principal and this resulted in a meeting being held on
15th August 2012 attended by the College’s Deputy Principal and Director of Finance, who
met with the Deputy Leader, a Service Director from SMBC and the SMBC Service
Director – Learning and Culture. This meeting took place in the Council’s offices. The
College does not have any notes relating to this meeting". (Query who the two Council officers were at this meeting. Anyone tell me?)

And later in April, 2013 they minuted:

"Extract from the minutes of the meeting of the Board of Governors
held on Monday 22nd April 2013
Sandwell MBC had undertaken a review of its estate with a view to rationalisation and
had been exploring the option of converting The Public into an educational building.
The Council had suggested that the College might want to consider The Public as a
discreet sixth form centre, which would accommodate a maximum of 1,000 students.
The meetings and discussions that had taken place with the Council, senior
politicians and managers from the Council were outlined." (Noting this is an educational establishment the spelling of "discreet" is, er, unfortunate.....)

Now the College has told lies about this whole "deal" and taken extensive steps to keep the "deal" secret but they seem quite certain don't they? It is also noteworthy that SMBC allege that the College approached them in "September, 2012" whereas the grasping College state that there had already been a meeting in August, 2012. How can I say which party is lying?

Let us just assume, as a purely theoretical exercise, that SMBC have lied (and it should be noted that there is an almost identical "discrepancy" about an initial approach in the emerging ice rink scandal - see my blog of 18th January, 2014 "Cooper - Skating on Thin Ice? (Ice Rink Scandal Part 2)".

The first thing to note is that the "Fundamental Review" was written by four senior officers of Sandwell Council - Adrian Scarrott, Director of Neighbourhoods; Neeraj Sharma, Director of Legal & Governance Services; Stuart Kellas, Director of Strategic Resources and our old friend Melanie Dudley, Director of Improvement & Efficiency [sic]. (No conflict of interest there then - involving La Dudley when she is a Director of one of the parties subject to the proposed contract, Sandwell Futures Limited!)

If the approach story is a lie, then did these four know it or were they just repeating what someone told them. If so, who was that "someone"?

There are two Deputy Leaders of SMBC - Eling (who has recently blotted his copybook so spectacularly) and Hussain. I am assuming that the "Deputy Leader" the College says approached them is Hussain but stand to be corrected. But that would be interesting.

IF the "approach" story is a lie and the Deputy Leader WAS Hussain then he was present at both the Cabinet Meetings of 14th August, 2013 and 16th October, 2013 and he would have known that. There is no record of him attempting to rectify the "Fundamental Review" in any way.



e                         t   @bcrover (Vernon Grant)

Confidential phone number: 07599 983737

* Despite the fact that there was a concurrent European election on the same day the range of turnout in May for Sandwell was from as low as 24.31% up to 37.42% with a substantial number of wards recording a turnout of less than 30%. Of course, a substantial number of the votes cast went to parties other than Labour - notably to UKIP).

Fudgestock - A Letter to Fudgy.

The letter below was sent to "The Fudgestock Trustees" by recorded delivery post on 30th July requesting a response by yesterday. No response whatsoever has been received.

For the background to this story, if you are not already familiar with it, please see my blogpost "Another Sandwell Labour Liar? - Tony "Fudgy" Meehan" dated 22nd July, 2014. Before I set out the letter there are just a couple of small points to make:

1. As yet,  Labour's "Fudgy" has not amended his legal Declaration in Sandwell Council's Register of Interests and so we must assume that he is NOT the same person as Anthony William Meehan, the legal owner of 8 Vicarage Road;

2. Turning to the charity side of things I should mention that last year, 2013, a member of The Skidder team e-mailed New Cross Hospital three times requesting confirmation of the total amounts received via Fudgestock/Judgestock. Whilst acknowledgements were received,  there was no substantive reply. This may, of course, just be down to administrative incompetence;

3. The "Friends" - who, may I say again, have done a considerable amount of fund-raising work for which they deserve credit - claimed a couple of years ago to have donated £110,000 to charity over 16 years. Unfortunately, we have no way of verifying this and, assuming the figure is accurate, we have no accounts to show what percentage that figure is of the total monies they raised and, if it was less than 100% of the take, what happened to the balance. It is clearly in the public interest that "fundraisers" should be accountable which is why there are detailed rules surrounding those claiming charitable status. Furthermore, the threshold annual income above which a charity must REGISTER with the Charity Commission is £5,000. By their own statements, The "Friends" have taken above that from the public ie £110,000 divided by 16 years = £6,875 per annum.

(I do not wish to discourage well-meaning folk from charitable fundraising. There is plenty of online information for those wishing to set up charities eg via The Charity Commission's own website. I expect the good folk at SCVO (Sandwell Council of Voluntary Organisations) can probably also help with advice and even some lawyers are prepared to do pro bono (unpaid) work for small charities. Fudgestock support Macmillan and I know from personal experience that they are extremely helpful to folk wishing to assist their fundraising activities).

Anyway, I still await a response to the following letter:

The Fudgestock Trustees                                                         Birmingham
c/o Tony Meehan                                                                     30/07/14
8 Vicarage Road
WS10 9BA

Dear Sirs,


I am enquiring about the status of the above trust. Please state:

1.   The date upon which the Trust was formed and whether this was formalised by deed;

2.   The full names and addresses of all present Trustees plus any that have retired since 01/04/10;

3.   The name and branch of the Trust’s bankers.

Please also let me have copies of all the annual accounts since the formation of the Trust. These can be sent via e-mail to to save copying charges. If this is not possible I will meet photocopying and postage charges up to £10.

Please reply by 9th August.

Yours faithfully,


PS On an unrelated  matter can you please confirm whether “Tony” Meehan’s full name is Anthony William Meehan?


e                   t   @bcrover (Vernon Grant)

Confidential phone number: 07599 983737

Friday, 8 August 2014

Why are Sandwell Council Lying to Me?

Yesterday I pointed out in my blog "Can you help Me? Local Sandwell knowledge required!" that two different employees of Sandwell Council had given contradictory information to me pursuant to a Freedom of Information Request I made in respect of the mysterious circumstances surrounding the sale of three former public conveniences by Sandwell Council.

On 30th July, 2014 (and this is on the website for all to see) Mr David Willetts of Sandwell Council stated that: "The three properties were sold to Central Property Line... Oldbury".

I pointed out that there was no such legal entity in its own right called "Central Property Line" and that if it had any legal status at all it was either a partnership or a sole trader. (I had made the original request for this, by the way, way back in June). If the sale was to a partnership or sole trader then this information would be immediately identifiable to Sandwell Council from the conveyancing file held by the Legal and Governance Department.

But instead of supplying me with the correct details I received this response on 7th August, 2014 from Anouk Wendling who happens to work in that very Department:

"As for the identity of the purchaser, I can confirm that Central Property Line Limited - Company Number 04373028 - 36 Birmingham Street, Oldbury B69 4DS is indeed the company the Council has corresponded with in regards to the sale of the aforementioned properties."

I expressed surprise at this as that particular Company had been struck off the Companies House Register in December, 2009! Once again I invited Sandwell Council to simply look at the conveyancing file and tell me the truth.

Sandwell Council have also flatly refused to tell me the sale prices for the three properties or the Land Registry title numbers.

I have here to thank Mr Ric Keeling of UKIP who supplied me with sufficient information to be able to properly identify one of the properties - that at The Shambles, Wednesbury - at HM Land Registry and whilst I still do not have complete information at this stage I can tell you - exactly as I asserted - that Sandwell Council do, of course, have the correct information but, for reasons unknown, have attempted to conceal it from me.

Sandwell Council conveyed The Shambles site on 13th August, 2012 to Abdul Naeem Quyam of Warley Road, Oldbury who has subsequently sold this property on. I still don't know the price he paid but as the property was not marketed publicly and he was apparently the only "mystery" bidder I imagine it was not a lot. He sold the property on for less than Sandwell Council's own valuation.

Readers of yesterday's blog will recognise the name Abdul Naeem Quyam as he was the sole shareholder and director (after the retirement of a Mr Talib Mahmood) of the second reincarnation of Central Property Line Limited (07661284). Strangely, this company - registered at a Small Heath, Birmingham address - was in existence at the time Quyam bought the bogs (or at least the Wednesbury ones) but he did not chose to use it to complete the purchase. That Company was also struck off by Companies House on 24th September, 2013.

In 2006 Mr Quyam set up a company called X Catalogue Limited which was also struck off by Companies House and dissolved in March 2009.

In 2007 Mr Quyam set up a Company called Unity Property Investments Limited from his Warley Road address. The other shareholder and Company Secretary is a Mr Abdul Amean of the same address. That Company is just about on its feet having been gazetted for strike-off by Companies House on more that one occasion. At present the potential strike off is suspended.

I have been publicly attacked on Twitter today by the moron who purports to "lead" Labour Sandwell Council, Cooper, for making FoI requests. Perhaps he should be turning his attention to asking why I have not been told the truth here and as to what steps are now being taken by Council Officers to make a full and frank disclosure on the outstanding information  - particularly the sale prices.

ADDENDUM 10/08/14

Thanks again to Ric Keeling of UKIP, I have been able to conduct a search of HM Land Registry regarding the bogs at Jervoise Lane, West Bromwich. Despite a press report which indicated different information the freehold title of this property, which SMBC say was valued by the District Valuer at £50,000, was sold by SMBC without it being marketed and subject to a single "mysterious" sealed bid to our old friend Abdul Naeem Quyam of Warley Road, Oldbury. And the price? Er, £10,000.

What is going on here?

ADDENDUM 11/08/14

Thanks to "Anon" I have now pinpointed the Albert Street bogs which were valued at £35,000 but also sold to Abdul Naeem Quyam, this time for £15,000. I am told it is now being used by a taxi firm. There is a large car parking area to the rear and I would appreciate any information as to whether it is being used by the taxi firm since it APPEARS that this land is still in the ownership of SMBC and it will be interesting to establish whether they are receiving any payment for this. (Correction 12/08 - the taxi firm has gone and the property is not toilet but "to let").

This is now looking worse for Sandwell Council and I am determined to establish why two of its employees have provided me with false information pursuant to my FoI request as not only did SMBC sell all 3 bogs to Mr Quyam in 2012 but there is clear reference in two of the three Land Registry titles to SMBC having entered into a separate agreement with him before the sale completions ie "an Agreement dated 22nd June, 2012 and made between (1) The Borough Council of Sandwell and (2) Abdul Naeem Quyam.

Sandwell Council have been pissing down my leg and telling me it's raining. Why?


e                       t   @bcrover (Vernon Grant)

Confidential Phone No: 07599 983737