Wednesday, 31 January 2018

Labour Rebellion Against Tyrannical Eling!

It looks like the worms are beginning to turn. To throw another metaphor into the mix, Labour Leader [sic] Eling's vicious attack on Council workers seems to have been the straw that broke the camel's back with the more sensible of his comrades.

For those that are not keeping-up with the rapid slide into chaos of Steve "The Milkman" Eling's shaming leadership he was on the BBC this week boasting how he pushed Standards Committee hearings through against his main enemies - Cllrs Hussain and Ian Jones. (Incidentally, this will be added to the ongoing Standards complaints ongoing AGAINST HIM as it was supposed to have been the Chief Executive who brought the case against against Hussain and the Audit Committee - packed with Eling puppets like Piper - who took action against Jones on pathetically flimsy evidence. These were laughably supposed to be apolitical hearings but nothing is apolitical in a stinking dictatorship and, once again, Eling has let the cat out of the bag.)

At least in the Jones affair we now have public evidence that the late Smethwick Scumbag, Darren Cooper, was corrupt - as everyone knows - and so further questions must be raised as to why the comrades have stuck a picture in memory of the former wife-beater outside the Council chamber!

In a criminal court case it would be not be on for the prosecuting counsel to go and have a "chat" with the jury before the trial but Sandwell Labour is above the rule of law. And so the day BEFORE Jonesy's hearing the highly controversial new Monitoring Officer, Surjit Tour, arranged a private, and more importantly top secret, "briefing session" with the four Councillors on the Committee who should have known better than to attend and whose position on the Committee is now untenable. Two of them, Shackleton and Trow are Cabinet members and long-serving Councillors. Geoff Lewis and Sue Crompton knew the score. Lewis and Trow are also local Labour Party officials there to ensure that The Party gets its way (eat your heart out Beijing!)

Mr Tour bizarrely took along the Deputy Monitoring Officer, Philip Tart, even though Tour had received written notification that Jonesy intended to call Tart as a witness at the hearing! Insiders told me that Tart was "one of the good guys" (a rarity in Jan Britton's bent paid service) but he now has serious questions to answer about this episode.

A local well-known Labour Party figure recently described Eling to me as being "on the spectrum". But whatever he is, he completely "lost it" when he heard that details of Surjit Tour's secret meeting had been leaked - and allegedly started shouting obscenities. The upshot was that he (a Unison member and Labour leader) ordered the immediate suspension of seven - YES SEVEN - employees Eling suspected of being the source of the leak. He doesn't have the power to do this and so we must assume that the joke Jan Britton executed the order.

Jan Britton put the Council's IT system into partial lock-down too in a search for the alleged culprit. It seems no-one bothered to discipline Tour or Tart for holding the secret and highly irregular meeting in the first place!

Eling (pictured with some of the obscenity he and Marshall put on a WhatsApp feed) only got the top job after a disputed election and he (and his wife according to High Court evidence) set about trying to destroy those who had not supported him. His ruthlessness in attacking seven Council workers betrays his insecurity. At the time of writing, The Skidder understands that no evidence has yet been found of wrongdoing but they have faced a very stressful period and, inexplicably, remain on gardening leave.

This blog has reported time and again how the Unions have been up Sandwell Labour's arse for years but if The Eling Seven are not guilty they must demand The Milkman's head here!

Some comrades - not just those in the Wednesbury area - have expressed utter disgust and astonishment at what Eling has done. I wrote to all Cabinet members and asked them individually if they had prior notice of Eling's bullying decision and whether they condoned it but they have all failed to respond. Now at least some of the local Party - West Bromwich West CLP - have had enough and have put down a motion for the next Labour Group meeting. In a Skidder exclusive - here it is (ironically sent to apparatchiks Cllrs Lewis and Trow - see above]:
West Bromwich West – Motion to Sandwell MBC Labour Group

This CLP condemns the actions taken by Sandwell MBC, in instigating the suspension of seven Cabinet secretaries, on unproven grounds of ‘leaking’ information concerning a pre-meeting which took place on Tuesday 23rd January 2018,  prior to the formal Standards Committee meeting on the following day.

This suspension has now been lifted and the Cabinet secretaries placed on ‘gardening leave’ prior to redeployment.

Such actions are a fundamental abuse of natural justice, a breach of appropriate Trade Union agreed processes and are contrary to the historic values of the Labour Party.

This CLP demands their immediate re-instalment and an apology to each of the victims of these actions.

Now Eling must defend his aggressive bullying! Perhaps jokes like "left-wing trade-unionist" Cllr Bob Piper will remove his tongue for The Milkman's bottom and condemn the man he worships?

We must all support this reasonable demand for justice and support THE ELING SEVEN!

More Paranoia From Eling:

We have seen that Eling is now using the Council's Street Wardens as his own Praetorian Guard - presumably with the permission of Jan Britton. We have seen that Warden 18 Chris Jones has been involved in the Hackett public urination business and as he is still on duty and not suspended I am going to the Police with regard to this whole agfair and asking them to investigate what appears to be a conspiracy to pervert the course of justice by a number of individuals.

Wardens 5 and 15 illegally barred me from a public meeting and there is ongoing legal action with regard to that. After the meeting further Wardens (including Warden 18 Jones) arrived to "guard" Councillors as they left Oldbury Council House! (You are paying for this crap taxpayers!)

But I was due to give evidence at Jonesy's Standards Hearing and Eling and Britton could not stop me lawfully entering the building. If you were wondering why you didn't see many Wardens out and about on the morning of Wednesday 24th January doing the job WE pay them to do it was because Eling and Britton had seconded FOUR - yes FOUR - of them to act as security guards at the Standards Hearing! As the number of people watching form the public gallery was, er, zero you may well ask what is going on here. Of course, part of the object of the exercise was to intimidate me. Unbelievably, I was ushered into an upstairs committee room and a guard placed outside!

At one point the female warden was on the landing but when I asked to use the lavatory she stood in the corridor until I came out! (I had to wash my hands thoroughly as this was a facility also used by The Sp*nk Brothers!) To be fair - she did offer me a cup of tea at one point.

I felt a bit like Rudolf Hess with 4 guards just for me. Mind you - it gave me great pleasure to sit and write a blog about this stinking Council from the inner rectum itself! If you don't believe this incredible stuff here's a pic of me mid-blog and you will see the yellow hi-vis of one of my jailers through the glass panel in the door. As with most things Sadders - you don't have to make up extraordinary nonsense because it's all true!!!!

(Apologies - photo below omitted from first posting!)



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Monday, 29 January 2018

P*sspoor BBC Thrash Eling With Wet Lettuce Leaf!

Time and time again we have seen the BBC fail to cover the corruption, cronyism, incompetence and bullying within their friends at Labour Sandwell Council and that they have shown clear partiality when they do get their act together.  A senior BBC journalist led the memorial event for the late Smethwick Scumbag, corrupt Darren Cooper. We saw the nonsense with the so-called "news" programme Midlands Today.

(Of course, one senior male Sandwell Councillor frequently boasted of having sexual intercourse with one of their presenters.)

As this blog has shown, "Leader" Steve Eling and Cllr Richard Marshall met with The Skidder in a Birmingham pub and tried to recruit me to attack various Councillors and, particularly, Cllrs Hussain and Ian Jones. Eling communicated lightly with me via his personal email account but the pair set up a Whats App feed and sent loads of communications, thereby exposing confidential information, abusing all manner of people, making grossly obscene and transphobic remarks and much more. The full thread (with a few necessary redactions) is available at:

Whilst this course of communication was ongoing, Private Eye Magazine (one of the few media organisations to actually do some proper journalism about the Labour disaster-zone) published that a Councillor had been subject to a court summons for, er, non-payment of Council Tax! Sandwell refused, as per normal, to answer a Freedom of Information request to name the errant individual. I found out it was Marshall. In some Whats App messages and phone calls Trick Dicky finally fessed up and gave me a cock and bull story that it had been overlooked due to a bereavement in his wife's family. Meanwhile a BBC Journalist called Alex Homer (who had previously been a slavish propagandist for Sandwell Council and Darren Cooper at his former employers, The Wolverhampton C*ck-Suckers (aka The Express and Star) had picked up the story and spoken with Marshall.

I told Marshall I would be running the story and he sent me the following message alleging that Alex Homer on behalf of the BBC had agreed to lie on his behalf. Alex Homer denies this but I cannot trace any sign of the BBC running the story. Anyway - here is the message and this is clearly what Marshall was telling me:

Of course, all this was before Marshall was made bankrupt when he and his wife cheated a widow out of £30,000 and they couldn't pay the money (increased substantially by interest and legal costs) back after blowing it.

Now a BBC Broadcaster called Alex Lester has failed to do his homework properly and let Eling p*ss all over him on air!

On Friday last Eling appeared on WM. During the interview (in which Eling defamed me - thanks to folk who sent me the recording) there were the following two exchanges about the WhatsApp stuff:

Alex Lester: "He [James Morris MP] specifically accused you and another councillor of asking a blogger to give the Chief Executive "a kicking". Is that correct?"

Cllr Eling:  "No, it is not correct."

Alex Lester: "That's an absolute lie - definitely not?" (Meaning that James Morris was lying not Eling).

Cllr Eling:  "It is. I have never asked him to kick anybody so erm (then returns to the subject of James Morris)"

And then later:

Alex Lester:  "Now the thing is - let's just go back - you say you deny actively sending - I mentioned the, er, you or another councillor asking a blogger to give the Chief Executive "a kicking". And so nobody as far as you are aware has sent any or you didn't and no-one else as far as you are aware has sent a message to that effect?

Cllr Eling:  "I'm not aware that there's been a message asking a blogger to give the Chief Executive a kicking. I certainly haven't given a blogger a message to give the Chief Executive a kicking." (Once again he rapidly turned the conversation to a rant about James Morris MP.

Eling thinks he has got one over on the BBC because what he said was technically true. Interviewer Alex had not researched the matter adequately or at all and named the wrong person. It was the (female) Assistant Chief Executive Melanie Dudley that Eling and Marshall wanted me to harass (and again later on other occasions too). And here is the offending message they sent me (the white messages are them):

Note the "we" in last message ie Eling and Marshall!

So Eling whilst ducking the real issue did not lie and thanks to pathetic interviewing he got away with it........

Alex "the Dark Lord" (and his on the ball BBC colleagues) could have read all about Eling and Marshall's vicious harassment of Ms Dudley as long ago as 31st October 2017 when The Skidder published:

Whilst all this was going on neither BBCWM nor Sunday Politics Midlands (where Eling appeared on TV) mentioned a huge breaking story where someone leaked that Sandwell Monitoring Officer, Surjit Tour, and his Deputy, Philip Tart held an highly irregular meeting in secret with members of the Standards Committee the day before their Stalinist Show Trial of Cllr Jones. Eling was so furious that the secret meeting was in the public domain he suspended SEVEN Council workers! Big story of Eling totally losing self-control and a LABOUR council sh*tting on employees completely overlooked by pro-Labour Sandwell Council BBC!

Two days later Eling appeared on Sunday Politics and seasoned Oldbury Kremlinologists sniffed the first bat squeak that Eling is going to let Marshall carry the can. This was the relevant piece with an interviewer (who I think was Elizabeth Glinka - my apologies if it was not):

Interviewer:  "There are accusations that you have attempted to use social media to retaliate against your political rivals, the people you have an axe to grind with. What do you say to that?"

Eling:  "Well I don't use social media at all. I haven't got a single social media account. I haven't got Facebook, Twitter or a blog."

Interviewer:  "There are accusations that you tried to get other people to use it on your behalf."

Eling: "No well its rubbish. Absolute dross."

Interviewer:  "So you are saying that all the accusations made by James Morris are essentially lies?"

Eling:  "Well they certainly are in relation to me. Other people have posted on social media. All sorts of horrible stuff gets posted on social media but nothing has been posted on social media by me because I haven't got a single social media account."

Eling actually sat back with a broad grin on his face presumably amazed that he had been given such an easy ride! Here is the actual screengrab showing smug Steve's self-satisfaction at "winning" this part of the "interview". He may mock folk but the storm clouds are gathering...

It is because of supine mainstream media like this that The Skidder has to keep going and continue to speak truth to ye huddled masses. We march on comrades!

PS - Eling seems to have bought a new tie in, er, Thailand. Thank heavens he only goes there for neckwear and not for what one predecessor Sandwell Leader [sic] "Bangkok Bill" went for.......


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Sunday, 28 January 2018

Lion Farm Fields - A Major Fraud?

The current Leader of Labour Sandwell Council, Steve Eling, has been on the Council since 1986. Unfortunately for the people of Sandwell he rose through the ranks to become the "money man" so that he was in a position to know about all significant deals going through the bent Council. He became joint Deputy Leader with disgraced Labour Councillor Mahboob Hussain, and then became Leader following the death of corrupt Darren Cooper. Throughout his tenure at the top of the Council Eling claims that he somehow failed to notice widespread fraud, cronyism, incompetence and bullying. He sat by whilst the Hussain family enriched itself courtesy of the taxpayer. He knows an awful lot, however, about the sleazy deal to destroy Lion Farm Playing Fields. If he is still in post in the next few days he needs to tell is what is really going on here (his position is under threat on many fronts not least because of his vicious suspension of seven workers whom he accuses of leaking details about a highly irregular secret meeting he didn't want us to find out about).

Many of Councillor Hussain's land transactions were facilitated by a bent and/or grossly incompetent employee called Dave Willetts who is no longer with the Council. The disgraced Willetts recently told a Council committee that before 2011 most of the property owned by the Council was the responsibility of individual departments. He described the system as "feudal" (although he is a proven liar and so we need to take everything he says with more than a pinch of salt.) His public evidence was that Cllr Hussain wanted to take more control over the property portfolio (or, more particularly, the disposal of Council property - OUR property) and so Hussain himself suggested the formation of the "Asset Management and Land Disposal Committee (AMLD). This would bring all land matters under central control.  Darren Cooper and Steve Eling thought this was a great idea (!) and the AMLD was formed in May 2011 with four high-powered members, Cllr Hackett (the one who urinated in a bus shelter, an event which Labour tried to, er, cover-up), Cllr Ian Jones (himself in hot water at the moment), Cllr Eling (yes, that man again - he was involved in everything) and, of course, Cllr Hussain. Eling and Co then voted Hussain as Chair to give him even more power over the disposal of our property. (At this time EVERYONE connected with Sandwell Council knew of the allegations that Cllrs Hussain and Bawa had benefitted unusually from a Compulsory Purchase scheme and the allegations concerning Mahboob's involvement with the Sandwell Muslim Organisation but, no doubt, Cllr Eling will claim he was the exception and knew nothing about them! Certainly no alarm bells were ringing or, if they were, the top brass ignored them.)

Hussain also had members of his extended family working for the bent Council including in the legal department. Regular readers will know that his son, Azeem Hafeez, "worked" for years as a lowly employee in the property and regeneration department whose head, Nick Bubalo, was deeply involved in the vast majority of the fraudulent transactions exposed to date but who also claims, like Eling, that he didn't know what was going on. These people were being paid six figure salaries from our money and at the every best were so incompetent as to miss the obvious.)

Willetts himself arranged for restrictive covenants to be removed to increase the value of properties belonging to Cllr Hussain's close associates. Toilet blocks were sold at an undervalue to a member of Hussain's extended family. The old Coroner's Office in Smethwick and a large plot of building land in Oldbury were sold to Hussain's son, Azeem Hafeez at low valuations. In a change from the usual activity, Azeem had land at Clifford Street which he bought cheap and then tried to SELL to the Council. Eling, the "money man" didn't notice anything wrong with any of these transactions - or at least that is what he says.

It is beyond the scope of this post today to deal with Hussain's involvement in council house allocations but that is another area of great public concern.

Cllr Hussain is said to have insiders working in his interests at Dudley Council too including at least one Councillor. Happily, he is a "special friend" of West Midlands Police (WMP) for "services rendered" and so he escapes "normal" investigation by them. I shall be mentioning "The Rickshaw Restaurant" further in this piece but when it "went on fire" a small cannabis farm was found there. Needless to say the local Cowards in Blue took no action over this.

Cllr Hussain has an unfortunate history, so it is said, with fire. Happily, investigations by WMP have completely exonerated him from any involvement in any of them so that's good. It is said a shop he owned in Smethwick/Bearwood caught fire many years ago. The Rickshaw Restaurant went up in smoke. His close associates were trying to take over the property at Farley House which suddenly "went on fire". Cllr Hussain was supposed to be having a meeting with local objectors about the disposal of the property the next day but gleefully called it off after the fire saying "there's not much point now is there?" A factory unit where his close associates were having problems getting planning permission to turn it into flats was subject to a conflagration. WMP know all about this since they immediately sent an officer to rouse the keyholder - a Mr Mahboob Hussain of 51 McKean Road, Oldbury!!!!

Hussain is also the co-owner of Five Star Taxis in Dudley (and his family have extensive interests in other taxi firms throughout Dudley and Sandwell.) Mahboob lied about his and his family's interests in Five Star in legal declarations to Sandwell Council at a time it was bidding for valuable taxi contracts from them. When this was exposed by this blog he told mainstream media that it had all been a mistake. Mr Jan Britton, the joke Chief Executive of SMBC "launched an investigation" into this very serious matter and he concluded too that it was all just "an oversight" by Hussain. The investigation was so all embracing and detailed that Jan Britton did not make a single written note about how it was conducted, his findings of fact and his decision. Zilch.!!! (Britton has been in post since 2010 and, like Eling, claims he was completely unaware of the fraud, corruption, cronyism and bullying going on under his nose even though he is very highly-paid to run the Council!)

Five Star operate from a taxi office by the bus station in Dudley which was also the location of The Rickshaw Restaurant. At some point a big shot property developer called Jeremy Knight Adams (pictured here holding the plan with the new Tory Mayor of the West Midlands, Andy Street, grovelling to him) wanted to build a large Tesco store on the land and so must have had dealings with Hussain. Indeed, the Wragge Report said this was so.

For those not familiar with the story, WMP were finally forced to start a fraud investigation into Sandwell but Cllrs Cooper and Hussain at least were desperate to stop this. This blog has shown time and again that WMP are corrupt when it comes to Sandwell and so they were more than happy to "pull out" at the first opportunity. Thus Cooper had Jan Britton instruct Wragges Solictors (now called Gowling WLG) to do a report. Britton and Sandwell's then Head of Legal, disgraced Solicitor, Neeraj Sharma, had a very close relationship with Wragges and so decided not to put this important legal work out to tender and awarded the job to them at a cost of AT LEAST £185,000 (Eling and Britton are declining to tell people how much of our money they actually spent and a Freedom of Information request is in to force them to do so (so much for Eling's claims to be "Mr Transparency").

At least one corrupt senior officer at WMP immediately put the police investigation on hold pending the completion of the Wragge Report (which was many months later). This was criminal in all senses of the world. Wragges had no real investigative powers. They had documents handed to them by the Police and SMBC but no power to interview witnesses. As we shall see - this made the final, very badly written, report substantially meaningless.

In any event Steve Eling has let the cat out of the bag about what was really going on IN WRITING twice as disclosed by this blog. Writing about WMP interviewing Darren Cooper on a purely personal matter relating to harassment of a woman Eling wrote:

"Of course, by this time, relations between Mahboob Hussain and Darren Cooper were strained because Darren had not managed to get all the enquiries stopped, which provides motive for [Hussain] putting Darren under more pressure."

(Although the police station visit was nothing to do with SMBC, Jan Britton used our taxpayers' money to lay on the Council's chauffeur-driven limo to take him to Steelhouse Lane nick in Brum (and wait to take him back) and a senior SMBC solicitor represented Cooper throughout the interview. No disciplinary action has yet been taken against Jan Britton in respect of this.)

Cllr Eling also let slip the fact that the Wragge Report was an egregious waste of public money to stymie the WMP investigation and that it was not intended that us mere taxpayers and voters would ever actually see it. He wrote in an email on 21st April, 2016 (when he was acting Leader following the death of Cooper) which he hoped would remain secret:

"The [Wragge] Report is, or will not be a public document."

(This is email is now the subject of a standards complaint since Eling had no power to make such a statement as Jan Britton was forced to confirm at a hearing in the High Court!)

I am afraid that here there is no real alternative now but to read my blog of 18th June, 2015  entitled "More Hussain Memory Loss?" following the link below but before you do so please note the date of it. This was when the supposed police "investigation" was going on and yet it seems that they did nothing. I can personally say that DS Wayne Haynes of the Regional Fraud Team was fully aware of my concerns about this deal, the undeclared interest of Cllr Hussain in respect of his relationship with Jeremy Knight Adams and a tax matter.

And so, from June 2015 Jan Britton and Steve Eling were also aware of serious concerns about this deal.

Let's go back to the chronology. This is partly taken from the useless Wragge Report who had no investigative powers and were unable to take ANY witness evidence from any party involved in this highly suspect deal.

In 2004, Hussains's son, Azeem Hafeez, purchased the Rickshaw Restaurant for £85,000 cash. I am not sure whether he was working for the bent Council then but he just had that sort of money down the back of the sofa. Wragges say he sold the land to "A37" - who must be Jeremy Knight Adams - for, wait for it, £470,000! A profit of just £385,000! By this time he was most definitely employed by bent Sandwell Council despite all his other many business interests and, seemingly, not needing the money. Perhaps it was a sense of public service that kept working in Bubalo's department?

DS Wayne Haynes told me the Regional Fraud Team had close connections with HM Revenue and Customs and so I asked him to also investigate the tax affairs of Azeem Hafeez and others. On the face of it he had made a massive capital gain on a commercial property held in his own personal name and so did he declare this and pay tax on it?

Wragges say the relationship between Hussain, his son and the property developer "caused us some concern." They pointed out (as I had in my June, 2015 blog) that Hussain's taxi office was right next door to the Rickshaw and also part of Knight Adams's proposed development so that, as Wragge's put it, "it is very unlikely that [Jeremy Knight Adams] would approach Mr Hafeez without also approaching the adjacent owners."

Whatever the relationship between Hussain and the developer Wragges state categorically - and this is vitally important:

"In any event Cllr Hussain introduced the developer to Sandwell Council as a potential property development partner for sites within the Borough. When he did so, he does not appear to have declared any interest or association with that developer to the Council."

The proven liar Willetts said in evidence recently that when the corrupt Cooper became Leader following the arrest for theft of his predecessor, he declared the Council "open for business". Cooper was as thick as two short planks and was in thrall to Hussain and Eling (I had a meeting with him once and his response to every detailed question was "ask Steve Eling"). Cooper and Co held a "roadshow" style meeting at The Hawthorns to trumpet this new approach. Staff were told that it was the Councillors in control now and they would call the shots (even though most of them are not professionals, have no business experience whatsoever and some are thick and/or corrupt). Cooper, Eling and Hussain promoted Jan Britton as Chief Executive even though his CV was very light and he appeared to have neither the track record nor the ability for the top job. As we have seen, the appointment has been disastrous for the people of Sandwell as Britton was totally unaware of everything bent going on in his council - or at least that is what he says. In 2012 he wrote an infamous memo to all staff bollocking them for questioning decisions of Councillors and making it perfectly plain who the "masters" were.

As Labour are a virtually complete dictatorship in Sandwell they have had no effective scrutiny of their own actions and have decided in many cases that they can ignore the law of the land (see, for example, Eling's disastrous and very costly decision in respect of the unlawful restriction of council tax benefit from some of the most vulnerable folk in the Borough.) This attitude seems to have crept into land deals even though the law has been settled and clear for a long, long, time ie that councils have a statutory duty to obtain "best value" for sold land. Cooper, Hussain and Eling seemingly decided the law did not always apply to them and their weak and ineffectual Chief Executive was, at the very best, powerless to stop them.

Thus, as this blog has shown, they started to attempt to do deals with any Tom, Dick or Harriet who happened to come along. Their modus operandi was to have a secret un-minuted meeting with a developer and then to do a deal with them locking out all potential competitors. You might wonder how this lack of any sort of competition ensured they obtained "best value" but they usually tried to cover themselves by doing in-house valuations - by the likes of Mr Willetts "lol" - or paying thousands of pounds to friendly "experts" who were already benefiting from other lucrative SMBC contracts and could be expected not to "rock the boat". The corrupt deal for the long-term disposal by lease of The Public building in West Bromwich is one example and another was the highly unusual deal Cllr Eling was so heavily involved with to bring an ice rink to West Bromwich.

In one case - which yet again has been reported to WMP - Cllr Cooper was involved in a deal with a developer which would lock-out competitors but  is said to have requested a £25,000 "donation" to his old mate Jim Cadman's private "Three Degrees Statue" scheme.

For those not familiar with Lion Farm Playing Fields here is a Google image. The area is a stonking 19 hectares very close to the dreaded Birchley Island and Junction 2 of the M5 - indeed on the Council website Eling and Co are concealing this "project" under "Junction 2 Regeneration."

Leaving aside for the minute, the rights and wrongs of building on precious green space (and it seems only 8% of grim, polluted, Oldbury is actually green space) members of the public usually imagine that if a Council has such a massively valuable plot for sale it might auction it or put the sale out to competitive tender. There are developers falling over themselves for such sites. If it could be developed it is worth a very considerable sum of money indeed which should, of course, be then used by the Council to deliver vital frontline services for the benefit of the benighted Borough.

And yet, here, Cllr Hussain bowls up with a developer he already knows (per Wragges) and a totally secret deal is prepared. At some point The Skidder can exclusively reveal that Hussain took a senior Councillor on an unofficial site visit to the plot to garner his support. As ever, this was never declared by him. Council staff then did what they were told and drew up a scheme to lock out any competitors. The matter was put to the AMLD that Hussain himself had asked to be formed and which he chaired.

Of course, there is no democracy within the Labour Council and everything is agreed at the top and imposed on the sheepish councillors. There are secret meeting of the Labour Group who agree all decisions privately so that the actual public meetings are just for show - hence why they are over so quickly. But even then, Jan Britton ensures that the public are excluded from meetings wherever possible and that only the bare minimum of documents are ever put in the public domain.

You will see from the Google image above that it is not just environmentalists and sports field users who are likely to be annoyed by this scam. There are other large retail developers nearby, Halfords, Dunelm etc. There is a large hotel. There are houses all around the site (though some are council houses and their residents don't count as far as Sandwell Labour is concerned.) Anyone who drives in this area will know what a nightmare junction Birchley Island is and the prospect of adding more traffic there must fill people with dread.

This is the first PUBLIC documentation released by Sandwell Council in respect of this huge deal - the AMLD agenda of 2012. You will note that there is no reference to Lion Farm Playing Fields but that the whole thing is hidden under "Junction 2 Development" at Item 8:

Please also note also Item 9. This was where Cllr Hussain and Hackett agreed to sell off the old Coroner's Office in Smethwick - which was then bought at a very reasonable price by, er, Azeem Hafeez, Hussain's son.

There are always a few seconds of formalities at these meeting but even leaving them on one side, Hussain and Hackett spend just seven minutes to get through 8 substantive land disposals including this massive deal ie just 53 SECONDS EACH.

You will see from the above agenda that all documents in respect of Lion Farm at Item 8 and 8(a) were not available to the public nor to other property developers. The only document Jan Britton permitted us morons to see was this:

And so the only document available to the public and other developers said absolutely nothing and just referred to private documents. Bizarrely, even this ridiculous document was marked IL2 Protect - the bent Council's "top secret" category!

To put the icing on the cake, Cllrs Hussain and Hackett opened the meeting with approval of the minutes of the previous meeting AND THEN SPECIFICALLY AGREED TO EXCLUDE THE PUBLIC FROM THE WHOLE OF THE REST OF THE MEETING!

This all stinks of collusion and cover-up.

When the minutes of this meeting were published they said this:

"It was reported that the Council had been approached by a property developer who wished to enter into an option agreement for a period of twelve months whilst they undertook additional feasibility work to develop a major regeneration scheme on lands owned by the Council off J2 of the M5. The scheme would bring forward for development 19ha of land that was currently used for recreational purposes."

So this is how it worked under Cooper, Hussain, Eling and Britton. Someone just says they want to build on a massive site and SMBC say fine. We won't market a multi-million site to anyone else. You can have a free run for 12 months for a fee. There is no declaration that the developer was introduced by Hussain himself nor of Hussain's unofficial site visit.

This blog has shown how, time and again, Cooper, Hussain, Eling and Britton delegated very major decisions to Mr Nick Bubalo who, as we have seen, was deeply involved in a series of bent transactions but who claims he had no idea what was going on in his name. Here the same pattern was repeated. Hussain and Hackett resolved to do the deal giving Jeremy Knight Adams two years run at this excluding all other property developers:

"Resolved: that [disgraced Solicitor Neeraj Sharma] be authorised to prepare and complete an option agreement for a period of twelve months from the date of the agreement with Jeremy Knight Adams of Hampton Properties in relation to Lion Farm Playing Fields on terms and conditions to be agreed by [Nick Bubalo]."

Bubalo was also given authority to extend the agreement "for a further 12 months". Hence why I say Knight Adams had a clear run for two years.

The Cabinet received the AMLD minutes without objection at its meeting on 9th January, 2013. Those present nodding this massive deal through were Cllrs Cooper, Hackett, Hussain, ELING, Badham, Linda Horton, Ian Jones and, significantly as he is now trying to force this deal through, Cllr Paul Moore (an employee and puppet of Tom Watson MP.)

I kid ye not but these eight Councillors got through the WHOLE agenda that day in 2 - YES TWO - minutes. That in itself shows the utter contempt of Eling and Co for any sort of proper process.

West Midlands Police must investigate all this immediately. The frightening thing is that Jan Britton did not refer the question of the option to Knight Adams to the Police and to the Wragge investigators. They said the whole matter was "a cause of significant concern" but then, unbelievably state with regard to the option deal "we have not investigated that option." And it seems no-one else has either.  Why the hell not - there is a multi-million pound deal involved here? What a truly shocking state of affairs - but it gets worse!

The Skidder admits to taking his eye of the ball on this one. Having seen that the option was for 12 months with a 12 month extension and that had expired he assumed the difficulties in building on this site were insurmountable and the whole idea had been dropped, particularly as there are legal restrictions applying to the site in favour of The National Playing Fields Association (now called "Fields in Trust")

The Skidder missed that this scheme is now being championed by Cllr Paul Moore and that it came back to Cabinet last November 2017 (I am indebted to the SMBC employee who tipped me off.)

It now transpires that Knight Adams was able to keep renewing the option though I have not yet been able to find the details of approval of these extensions and why the option was continually extended (a Freedom of Information Request set out under the subscription below requests the relevant information.) Paul Moore recommended that the option now be varied and extended to allow Knight Adams the chance - still with all other competition locked out - to develop the playing fields as a designer shopping village.

Moore claims that there are no brownfield sites suitable in Sandwell for such a development  and pushes the old Sandwell Labour bullshit about job creation. Despite the fact that this wretched scheme will destroy 19ha of precious green space Moore claims that the scheme will have "environmental benefits" "lol"! It will also enhance "leisure" facilities presumably meaning that it is better to waddle round a shopping centre than playing sports there!

One has to ask if this is such a viable scheme why nothing much has happened for over five years... There are huge retail developments close to this intended scheme notably Merry Hill and The Birmingham Bull Ring. There has been the New Square Shopping Centre development in West Brom and there is the large Gallagher Retail Park in Wednesbury. Last week The Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors reported that the requirement for retail space is dropping dramatically as shoppers move online. But if this last bit of green space in the area goes under concrete and the whole concept is a white elephant your kids and grandkids will never have the opportunity to use the green space for what it is intended for. Once its gone, its gone forever.....


Moore is now crying that Knight-Adams has acted on the original option and spent a lot of money on the scheme. Despite the fact that the whole site (which I have visited) is surrounded by buildings and roads (see Google image above) Moore has now claimed in a public document that Knight Adams has incurred significant expenditure in securing adjoining land to develop the scheme without saying which land. The implication here is that SMBC will be forced into agreeing the deal because one developer has been given a special deal and has spent money on the basis of a deal. The Police have to examine the original option noting Hussain's involvement, the involvement of at least two disgraced employees who were implicated in many more dubious transactions and the "significant concern" expresses in the Wragge Report. (I am referring this to WMP and hope that you will do so too but given the corruption to date I am also pressing for an independent police force to be brought in.)

The Cabinet duly authorised a further option to Knight Adams. The Councillors concerned were Khatun (inseparable from ex-Mayor Derek Rowley who is himself under  current investigation), Carmichael, Costigan (ironically close to millionaire Gallagher of the eponymous Retail Park), Hackett (yet again), David Hosell, Moore, Shackleton and Trow. The person authorised to do the deal is the highly controversial new Monitoring Officer, Surjit Tour.

I spoke to a number of Councillors before the last full Council meeting on 16th January, 2018 about Lion Farm. Most I spoke to said it wasn't in their ward and so they couldn't care less. Those that I managed to ask a supplementary question to about whether there had been fraud here shrugged their shoulders or said it was none of their business!!!!! These are your elected representatives.

I was unlawfully excluded from the meeting (which is the subject of ongoing legal action) but as far as I can tell (the minutes are not on the website yet) the whole Council nodded this through without objection. The Playing Fields are in Langley Ward as I understand it, and all three Labour Councillors from that ward made no comment against this scheme at the meeting. They are Cllrs Sharon and Yvonne Davies and Bill Gavan.

As with places like Black Patch Park SMBC fails to maintain them properly and then says there must be new development as surprise, surprise they are in a poor state! They claim the Lion Farm pitches are poor but I walked the whole site on a dismal January day and they were in good order. There is a patch of land to the side which is in a poor state (but would make a good nature reserve or similar) and there is a boggy patch right at the bottom end (the Birchley Island end). 

Sandwell Labour are sports mad and have spend multi-million pound sums on new Leisure Centres etc as vanity projects to boost their status. But here are the costs for using Lion Farm:

Thus if a couple of pub teams want a match they have got to shell out £100 quid!

I have documentary evidence that Cllr Hussain was also keen on selling the playing fields at Bason's Lane and now Eling and Co want to blast millions of pounds they claim they haven't got on destroying the Londonderry Fields for another vanity job - the swimming pool (which will be built on vital green space and mean that two existing pools are shut.)

A group of concerned locals have formed an ad hoc group to fight the Lion Farm project per se and to demand a full investigation into how the original deal was done and how Labour say they are going to achieve best value having excluded everyone bar Mr Knight Adams. The acting Chair is local man, Pete Durnell (pictured). We need to get the word out as to what is going on here and so please help the group by joining the campaign and tell your friends. The group are also anxious to have some fun and so please sent your photos and memories of Lion Farm generally and the Fields in particular.


TWITTER:   @LoveLionFarm   (the group will be using the hashtags #savelionfarm and #fighttheknight

FACEBOOK GROUP:  Save Lion Farm Fields


The group wish to hear from users of the Fields. The plan is to have a public meeting as soon as possible to agree an action plan.

I note that Cradley Heath Speedway Supporters attempted last August to have the Playing Fields registered as an asset of community value but were rebuffed by SMBC. Could they please email as soon as possible regarding this?


Facebook:   Julian Saunders                      Email:

This is the Freedom of Information Request that has gone into bent Sandwell Council:

Thursday, 25 January 2018

An Exchange of Correspondence with Surjit Tour!

At PRECISELY the same time that Sandwell Council was being hammered in the House of Commons I received this letter from the controversial new Monitoring Officer (see my blog earlier today as to how his secret and highly-irregular "briefing" meeting with members of the Standards Committee has sparked uproar today and the suspension of seven members of staff.)

Incidentally - when did the Council ever engage in any sort of "dialogue" with me? Perhaps they mean when they threatened to sue me!

I love the "yours sincerely" "lol"!

I also enclose my reply.


Mr J Saunders

By email:
My Ref:
Your Ref:

Please ask for:
Surjit Tour
Telephone No:
0121 569 3172
Fax No:


25 January 2018
                                                                                                                                       Please assist us by quoting our
                                                                                                                                       reference on all correspondence

Dear Mr Saunders

Sandwell Skidder (“the Blog”)
Allegation of Harassment

I am writing to you on behalf of the Council.

The Council considers that your behaviour and conduct over the past few years cannot be left unchallenged any longer. Whilst it had hoped that your activities would die down over time it is clear that that has not happened and instead they have only increased. In addition to using your blog to attack Councillors and employees you are targeting the same individuals on Twitter and other social media sites. You are regularly seen outside of the Council offices seeking to obtain information.

The Council fully accepts that, as a body, it must be subject to criticism but as an employer it has a duty to its staff to ensure that they can work in peace and are not harassed and targeted, and a duty to Council tax-payers to ensure that their needs are not neglected whilst having to expend considerable time and effort trying to dealing with a persistent and vexatious individual such as yourself.

Whilst the Council has carefully considered whether there would be any merit in trying to engage in dialogue with you again unfortunately it does not seem to be possible or be likely to achieve any measure of success. Only today, 25th January 2018, you have posted a witness statement in a


 - 2 –

blog entitled “The Statement Sandwell don’t want you to see!” that was produced for a quasi-judicial standards hearing that was held on 24th January 2018. You were put on notice that the Council objected to the content of this statement yesterday. You have nonetheless gone ahead and not only published your statement but presented a skewed account of what took place.

The excitable language you use on your website is indicative of a motive to do damage. Unlike newspapers or news websites you fling out with abandon accusations of corruption and criminality against individuals. Nor do you appear to verify your accusations. Your persistent publication of a photograph of the Council leader with the captions on it, is designed to harass him. That is why you are doing it.

We would ask you to go through your blog and consider carefully the appropriateness of the accusations you are making and the language you are using.  The council requests that you remove all unfounded abusive/offensive remarks and images immediately.

We consider that when you do you should recognise that the language is excessive and much of the content inappropriate and together it is harassing of individuals and is unacceptable.

To that end, we are engaging specialist Counsel to assist us with this matter but would hope that you will take steps to ensure that no further action is in fact necessary.

For the avoidance of doubt, if action is taken by the Council, we will comply with the relevant pre-action protocols. At this stage, we hope you will act to ensure that there is no need to proceed any further.

If necessary, we reserve the right to show this letter to the court.

Yours sincerely


To: Surjit Tour <>


My reply is - you are well out of order and can fuck off.

I am already taking legal advice concerning your Council's harassment of me especially your illegal refusal to allow me into last week's Council meeting. I will also be sending an appropriate letter to the Member who made false allegations against me and rest assured - when I find out who it is - I WILL be taking legal action against them.

As far as the photo is concerned the words reflect what Cllrs Eling and Marshall said in respect of fellow members. There are current Standards Complaints outstanding against both Councillors and a purported investigation by the Labour Party. The words used are completely accurate as you will note from the WhatsApp feed and it is important for everyone, and particularly women, to be constantly reminded of the vile and perverted views towards them of this pair. If Eling doesn't like it - tough - he should never, with Marshall, have denigrated women is that foul manner. It is noteworthy that Eling and Marshall's immediate reaction was to lie about the authenticity of the WhatsApp feed and that they were duly exposed. They have not expressed a scintilla of remorse to the victims of their hate campaign nor made any sort of apology. That is a very good reason to continue to remind the public of the sort of men they are.

Stop trying to bully me and to censor free speech and do your highly-paid job.

Julian Saunders



Facebook:   Julian Saunders                   Email:


Stop Press - Eling Attacks Staff!

I have been writing recently about the increasingly paranoid Labour Leader [sic] of bent Sandwell Council, Steve "The Milkman" Eling. I had been warned that despite the outward appearance of him just being a boring nonentity he is a vicious bully. That was proven when he and his fellow Sp*nk Brother, bankrupt Cllr Richard "Tricky Dicky" Marshall started to pass stuff to me to harass and intimidate other Councillors, notably Cllrs Hussain and Ian Jones. And it seems to have been proven again today.

This is a fast moving story and coming piecemeal to The Skidder but the news is, I believe, that Eling has suspended SEVEN - yes, seven - secretaries and parts of the IT system are in lock-down as the madman lashes out trying to find "a mole". Apparently this all stems from a brave SMBC employee leaking that Surjit Tour, the controversial new Monitoring Officer, had a secret meeting to brief the members of the Standards Committee BEFORE they convened their show trial to pot Cllr Jones yesterday. Apparently The Milkman went beserk about this highly irregular meeting being made public! So much for him "draining the swamp" and being "Mr Transparency" "lol".

I have emailed the four members who had the secret meeting with Tour - Lewis, Shackleton, Crompton and Trow but they have not responded as yet. Presumably as socialists "lol" they don't mind seeing staff members suspended?

Two Councillors (one of whom doesn't normally speak to The Skidder) said this morning that they were disgusted about the attack on staff and that Eling had "lost the plot". All this comes after joke Chief Executive Jan Britton boasted just yesterday of his corrupt paid service winning an "Investors in People" award - you just couldn't make it up!!! A serving Labour Councillor has told me of a number of instances when staff have left Eling's office in tears - perhaps it was the joy of listening to his incessant droning for hours on end!

We have seen many times that the feeble trade unions have sat on their hands and done nothing whilst Eling has sacked a number of people who he perceives not to be on his side. But this time, the Unions must give this jumped-up prat a right kicking! Hopefully, the times are changing with the Unions and Unite were shocked yesterday about the conduct of Eling in his hate campaign against Jonesy.

If you are a Sandwell Council staff member with information about Eling's conduct please use the whistleblowing procedure or, if you are too scared (as many are of reprisals from Britton) contact The Skidder (anonymously if necessary) or, of course, contact your Union. If Eling has reduced you to tears speak out!

If you are contacting The Skidder there is a phone number for use TODAY only - 07871 910206. Do not contact me using Sandwell Council equipment. If you are still scared of Eling and Britton (and the exercise today is presumably to frighten and intimidate staff) set up an anonymous email account and contact me via

I am not encouraging staff to breach the terms of their employment and the internal whistleblowing procedure should be used where possible but there is also a public interest in alleged wrongdoing being investigated and brought to the attention of the appropriate persons.

On the same theme, the joke Council now say that if the Leader or any Cabinet member has overruled a decision of an officer or officers made under delegated authority he or she is in breach of the code of conduct!!!!

If you have information about Cllr Eling (or anyone else for that matter) ever overruling you or a colleague please supply information to your Union rep or let me know asap as a Standards Complaint is already in concerning Eling.

Could any Union reps representing the Eling Seven please contact me - initially via

Don't get mad with the tyrannical Eling - get even!

Stop, Stop Press - Eling reported as shouting the "f" word about the suspended staff and saying he didn't want them back. I am told the Unions are on the case......

And don't forget it is less than two hours to the adjournment debate in the House of Commons. Watch it live at 5pm. People are finally taking an interest in this shabby and corrupt Council!



The Statement Sandwell Don't Want You To See!

I was asked by Cllr Ian Jones to provide a statement for his Stalinist Show Trial yesterday (such is the truth of the one-party state in Sadders that, at one point, Cllr Steve "Luvvie" Trow forgot it was supposed to be a Standards Hearing and started talking about breaches of Labour Party rules!) I duly submitted a statement to the Council which is set out in full below.

(I tried to put this up yesterday but had some technical problems and so apologists to the keen Skidderistas who couldn't access it.)

(Don't forget the adjournment debate on stinking Sandwell Council live from the House of Commons at 5pm TODAY - 25th January,2018.)

The hot-shot and very expensive "prosecuting" barrister up from London stated publicly that he would be formally objecting to this statement being put in evidence. Regretably, we didn't get to that as Jonesy (represented by Unite the Union) decided enough was enough of the ludicrous kangaroo court and walked out before I was due to be called.

When you read the statement you will understand why Leader [sic] Steve "The Milkman" Eling (pictured below) and Jan Britton were so anxious not to have it placed "in the public domain." But now it is. Enjoy!

In The Matter Of:                                                                                               JPS/First                                                                                                     
Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council


Councillor Ian Jones


Witness Statement of Julian Saunders

I, Julian Saunders, of xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx will say:

1   Since 19/11/13 I have been the principal author of The Sandwell Skidder blog published at The subject of the blog is the corruption, cronyism and incompetence widespread throughout SMBC during the tenure of Mr Jan Britton as Chief Executive together with reports of the poor behaviour of a number of Councillors.

2   I have made, and continue to make, repeated reports to West Midlands Police concerning a number of issues that have arisen. I was interviewed as a witness in respect of the main fraud “investigation” and there are certain matters still ongoing. I have made occasional complaints to the Council’s auditors, KPMG. Any reference below to Councillor Jones means Councillor Ian Jones unless otherwise stated.

3   After training and what was then called “articles of clerkship” I worked as a solicitor for 18 years. I am concerned that the audit and standards processes at SMBC are currently being “gamed” by certain individuals purely for party political reasons and also that important evidence is being deliberately concealed from the so-called “independent person.” There is also a gross disparity of legal representation between SMBC and the accused. At the recent hearing involving Cllr Hussain there was a QC, two other barristers and at least two qualified solicitors lined up against him (although he chose not to attend.) In the first proposed hearing involving Cllr Jones he was initially refused an adjournment as he was trying to find legal representation and this was only granted after a lengthy hearing with lawyers present at incredible cost to the taxpayer when two barristers and at least two qualified solicitors were lined up against him and he was faced with a “bundle” of evidence several hundred pages thick. This should offend anyone’s sense of justice and it certainly does mine.

4   Myself (and my wife) have directly suffered thanks to the actions of Councillor Mahboob Hussain and members of his family. My legal training instilled in me the principle that everyone deserves a fair trial whatever they are accused of and they are “innocent until proven guilty.” And so even with him, and not without considerable personal reservations, I have been in communication with his lawyers to provide certain evidence related to the witch hunt against him and I attempted to submit evidence to the Monitoring Officer and to SMBC Solicitor Maria Price concerning his standards hearing. It is his own fault that he did not contest the hearing (although I understand that he does genuinely have some health issues at present) but that does not mean that the evidence of the likes of Mr David Willetts should simply go unchallenged and be accepted by the panel. Willetts is a proven liar eg his false response to a statutory Freedom of Information request concerning the identity of the purchaser of three toilet blocks where some considerable time after the event he still sought to conceal the truth. Incidentally I believe that there was a suggestion by Labour Councillors that Willetts should suffer clawback of his pension in respect of losses incurred by SMBC due to his conduct in various matters and so, on legal advice, he declined to attend the Audit Committee following an invitation from them. It was not made clear to the Independent Person or to the public whether this threat was dropped before he gave evidence against Cllr Hussain a couple of weeks ago. He also made a number of errors in his evidence which SMBC staff including a solicitor and the Monitoring Officer should have known to be false. Neither did any of the SMBC staff present at the hearing correct the constantly made but false assertion throughout the hearing that SMBC had only received one offer letter whereas in my blog of 25/08/17 “Another Bog-gate Mystery” it is clear that there were two letters with different signatures.

5   Certain Councillors are trying to smear me by saying openly that I am now, somehow, in the Hussain and Ian Jones “camp”. Really this is so ridiculous as not really worth the merit of comment but as it is being made even by senior Cabinet members such as Cllr Paul Moore I need to address it. With regard to Hussain, I am only communicating with his lawyers. For what it is worth, I agree that he was in breach of standards with regard to the sale of the public conveniences but much evidence was concealed (possibly deliberately) and many questions remain to be answered from that sad affair. To this day I am still trying to get West Midlands Police to reopen their enquiries into his and his family’s activities and am currently submitted further evidence to them (some of which became apparent from the recent standards hearing) and so I cannot see for the life of me how that equates with “being on his side.”

6   The situation with Cllr Ian Jones is slightly more nuanced. He was not really “on the radar” in the early days of my blog which was primarily involved with the corruption, misconduct of councillors and downright lying of SMBC councillors and employees surrounding the corrupt deal to transfer The Public building (where my wife worked) to Sandwell College. The main protagonists were Cllrs Cooper, Hussain and, as the truth gradually emerged, Eling.

7   The blog at this stage was a “personal” affair. I was so enraged by the lies being told about The Public deal I just felt that I needed to get things off my chest. But then members of the public and even some employees began to contact me about other issues. This began to pique my innate curiosity. Then Ex-Councillor Mick Davies, a very close personal friend of Audit Committee member Cllr Bob Piper, handed me a photocopy of a SMBC internal document showing the price that three toilet blocks were sold for to a member of Cllr Hussain’s extended family and the rest, as they say is history. Over the years the blog - all produced in my own time and at my own expense (which has been considerable)  - has grown and covered many issues of concern to the general public. Throughout this period Jan Britton has attempted to thwart my investigations mostly by keeping huge amounts of information secret from the public. But he has also caused and/or permitted his staff to ignore me, mislead me and deliberately lie to me eg Mr David Willetts who, as above, lied in a Freedom of Information response concerning the sale of the toilets. In an effort to silence the blog completely, Britton even caused and/or permitted employee Jane Perham to send two letters to my wife’s then employers trying to get her sacked from her job.

8   In due course I went onto local radio - BBCWM - to discuss the lavatories and Cllr Ian Jones was put up to “oppose” me. I had not, hitherto, had any dealings with him. In the interview he made an extraordinary comment that the valuation of the blocks by the District Valuer had been done after the valuation. For some considerable time thereafter I repeatedly used the blog to call Cllr Jones a “liar” with regard to this - and the statement was, indeed, untrue. However, relatively recently, I was handed a copy of the actual press briefing that Jones had been given and he was actively mislead by Jan Britton’s staff. I am told that the false document was prepared by Mr Willetts but that is hearsay evidence only although SMBC would know, of course. This led me to publish a partial apology to Cllr Jones in the blog on 25th August, 2017 entitled “Another Bog-gate Mystery!”

9   It has not yet been concluded but I ran a very forthright campaign against Cllr Ian Jones, Cllr Olwen Jones and Cllr Elaine Costigan in respect of their involvement in an organisation called “Wednesbury Celebrates” which included sending detailed allegations to West Midlands Police and KPMG. To say, therefore, that I am somehow biased in favour of Jones is simply ludicrous. Apparently, the fact that I was seen having a drink with him after the last Council meeting is the “evidence” of bias which, again, is a really pathetic smear.

10   It is impossible to consider the fraud and corruption during Jan Britton’s tenure without considering Darren Cooper. He was a monster and I appear to be the only person around who was not scared of him. There is no Councillor, including those on the Standards Committee who were around at the time who were not scared of him. That went for employees too. Some Councillors were actually physically intimidated by him. Employees report him shouting and repeated banging his massive fists on the table at meetings. But even those who were not scared that he would physically harm them knew that if they crossed him he would destroy them. Politically, Councillors had seen what happened with Councillors Mick Davies and Jayne Wilkinson. Councillors were (and still are) repeatedly threatened with deselection if they fail to obey the Leader (first Cooper and now Eling.) The vast majority of Councillors were given “special responsibility payments” on top of their basic allowances and this seemingly bought their total loyalty (at the end if the 2014 financial year only six Labour Councillors did not receive such payments.) Employees who didn’t fit in were fired by Jan Britton (though made to sign confidentiality contracts in return for huge sums of public money.) Even senior employees who refused to do Cooper’s bidding were axed by Jan Britton including Stuart Kellas and John Garrett. Cllr Bob Piper - who claims he is left-wing and and ex-trade union rep but who raised no objection to this conduct - wrote to me “If they ever had a clue, they made them redundant!” In my case he tried every trick in the book to silence the blog including a massive social media trolling campaign of the most vile kind against myself and my wife, false accusations to the police and so on. It is said here that Cllr Ian Jones in this matter passed on an order from Cooper to staff. There was no Councillor during Cooper’s depraved leadership who can say, hand on heart, that they would have refused to do this. The whole lot were scared of him. That is the way it was. His level of complete control is amply shown by the saga of his visit for a police interview at Steelhouse Lane Police Station in Birmingham. Cooper faced interview under caution specifically in relation to a personal matter relating to the harassment of a woman. It was nothing at all to do with SMBC but Jan Britton, or his very senior staff with his knowledge, arranged for Councillor Solicitor Maria Price to represent him there. Mr Britton asks us to believe that this was not a cost to the taxpayer since, by happy coincidence, Ms Price just happened to have a day’s holiday booked for that very day and selflessly gave it up to assist “Darren.” Britton then arranged for the Council’s chauffeur to use the limousine to take Cooper and Ms Price to and from the personal interview - which was a cost to the public purse. It is also noteworthy that there were hardly any whistleblowing disclosures by staff during the Cooper/Britton regime as staff knew the disastrous consequences if they dared to speak out.

11   I first became aware of the house deal involving Councillor Rouf or his family via a report from a member of the local Muslim community. Virtually all the information I have been given has been handed to West Midlands Police. It is a matter of considerable concern that Jan Britton did not refer this matter to the Wragge investigation. This was deliberate and, one may surmise, on the direct orders of Cllr Cooper. The fact is that this bent deal had been in the public domain for some considerable time. My first blog on the subject - “Forget The Bedroom Tax - It’s Seven-Bedroom Heaven For Some in Sandwell” appearing on 26th September, 2014. This was shortly followed on 4th November, 2014 by a post, “Now What’s Cllr Rouf Up To?” As more information became available more posts followed: “Sandwell Labour’s Rouf on Skid Row” (11/11/14); “Cllr Rouf - Unemployed My Arse! Another Labour Liar!” (13/11/14); and “Cllr Mohammad Rouf - An Oasis at The Midnight” (17/02/15). Thus there had been five blogs voicing major concerns about numerous aspects of this deal in the public domain before Jan Britton formed the terms of reference to his friends at Wragge and Co in March/April, 2015 and yet he excluded this issue.

12   Two further blogs followed - one before the Wragge investigation was concluded but Britton still failed to act. On 21/09/15 I published “Rouf House - SMBC Sale Price!” and on 30/01/17 I published “Cllr Rouf is STILL protected!”

13   There are certain matters related to this affair that still require proper investigation by West Midlands Police or, better still, by an independent police force. I only have very limited investigative powers but they could and should have got to the bottom of all this. The fact is that Rouf signed false declarations to his Register of Interest entries. Like another Councillor who had been given council housing in highly dubious circumstances, Cllr Rouf attempted to conceal the fact by stating that he owned the SMBC house in which he was then living. It was only via information from the local Muslim community that I had cause to do a Land Registry search and establish the truth. At the material time, Rouf was still working as a taxi driver and had sold his own unmortgaged property for £125,000. He also had an interest in residential property in Shirelands Road, Smethwick and yet he was awarded a Council house. That is fact but hearsay evidence from the local Muslim community was also that the building of the house in Florence Road had been planned for a long time before it happened. The house sale was so that he had the money to buy the plot cheaply from SMBC and start the build. Sandwell Council facilitated this by giving him the Council house for the duration of the project.

14   West Midlands Police were fully aware of the issues regarding the false declarations (which involved other councillors as well) but failed to take any action before the 12 month limitation period for commencing prosecutions expired. Cllr Steve Eling wrote to me via his personal email account: “They [ie West Midlands Police] failed to bring any charges within the time limit and consequently the allegations fell. The idiots!” Neither Jan Britton nor any Monitoring Officer has raised any standards complaint with regard to the false declarations.

15   During the course of the Rouf saga - and despite a number of threats of extreme violence via anonymous telephone calls - I visited Smethwick on a number of occasions and met with people who lived near the plot and also some of the other would-be purchasers. One family of local business people (hereinafter “the family”) who easily had the wherewithal to buy the site had been very interested indeed but had been constantly “fobbed-off” by SMBC employees - often in respect of “the substation” excuse (see further below.) I offered to broker a meeting between them and West Midlands Police but the latter did not take that up.

16   Sandwell Council bought-up the terraced houses on the plot for a sum in excess of £200,000. They then used taxpayers’ money to demolish the houses leaving a large clear plot, surrounded by small terraced houses, save for a small electrical substation right at the front of the plot. We only now know from the papers in this hearing that Sandwell Council were already in negotiation with one of Cllr Rouf’s sons but that, in the meantime, the property was listed for auction. Various locals were interested in the plot but, as we know now, Darren Cooper - a close personal friend of Cllr Rouf - ordered that the auction be stopped because there was an existing prospective purchaser. Interested locals, including,significantly, “the family” - made phone calls to SMBC but all say that they were told the property had been removed from auction because of problems in moving the electrical substation. It is clear that staff were routinely lying to local residents and the question is why, if they were not directly involved in a fraudulent conspiracy (which I say they were as with other matters). As a matter of fact, the substation was easily dealt with once the land had been sold to another of Rouf’s sons at a price massively below what SMBC paid for the site. Sandwell Council kindly provided free land within their car park just over the way and Western Power paid for the equipment to be moved. The alleged problems of moving it were a lie perpetuated by Jan Britton’s corrupt paid service.

17   Local residents insist that they knew nothing about was going on from then on. We now know, that for reasons unknown, the one son of Cllr Rouf did not complete the purchase following Darren Cooper’s intervention. The specific plot, with others, was then included by officers in a scheme to include small-scale new-build housing by individuals and their recommendation came before the Asset Management and Land Disposal (AMLD) Committee on 27th October, 2011 chaired by Cllr Rouf’s distant relative, Cllr Mahboob Hussain, and also attended by Cllrs Steve Eling and Jones. It is very important to note that Jan Britton’s staff had redacted details of the actual plots so that there is no way interested local residents could have known that the Rouf plot was included in the scheme. Cllrs Hussain, Eling and Jones considered best value and, in the absence of any evidence of fraud, lawfully decided that best value could be achieved by accepting sealed bids on the plot and not putting the property back into auction. This decision was approved and endorsed by the full Council on 29th November, 2011 including by three of the Councillors sitting on the Committee dealing with this matter ie Cllrs Lewis, Shackleton and Trow (see further below.)

18   The new scheme involved interesting parties paying £75 to enter the bidding process and then sealed bids being considered. My understanding is that the internal SMBC auditors and Wragges suggest that the sealed bid process was robust and fair but that it is specifically not the hearsay evidence of Council “employees” nor, indeed, of the current Leader of the Council. Persons purporting to be anonymous employees have said that in other cases low-ball offers were put in by associates of the would-be purchaser and information of the highest bid leaked to individuals so that they could choose whether or not to enter the highest offer. We will come to “The Eling/Marshall Files” in due course but suffice to say here that Cllrs Eling and Marshall fed me a substantial information of information - including confidential information - in an effort to destroy Cllrs Hussain and Jones and they made specific comment about the deal whereby a substantial plot of land in Oldbury was sold to Council Hussain’s son (another bent deal which featured activity by David Willetts). Here is what they said about that and about Rouf’s plot: “MH [Cllr Mahboob Hussain] “house/land” deal was rigged [it transpired they were talking about the Lodge Street deal]. Council received 4 bids, his was indeed the highest but the of 3 [sic] were it has become apparent off his family members. Roufs is now also being looked at as it also looking fishy.”

19   In a Freedom of Information response from David Willetts (and we have seen above that he has lied about property matters), he claimed the plot was “marketed” for “4-5” weeks though he provided no details. The locals tell me they knew nothing about SMBC re-offering the plot to the public and that many of them would have been interested. In particular, “the family” said they would have definitely paid £75 and bid had they known anything about it. SMBC say publicly that they only received three bids and one bidder had not paid the fee so that only two bids were considered. Given the people I have spoken to about the plot this seems absolutely incredible as does the fact that the winning offer of just £65,000 happened to come from another of Rouf’s son. The police need to properly investigate all this.

20   For the sake of completeness Rouf’s son applied for planning permission for an enormous seven-bedroom house looming over and completely out of character with the terraced street and groves. This was quickly nodded through. But locals including those in the row of terraced houses immediately adjacent to the house say that no planning notices went up about the application and that they would have objected. They say the first they knew on this monstrosity on their doorstep was when building started and they did not even know the land had even been sold. They complained to John Spellar MP who wrote to Jan Britton. Britton fobbed him off and so the residents collectively invited me to see them. I started to put in FOI requests etc and the responses were substantially delayed and, in my opinion, deliberately opaque. There was every opportunity at this stage for Jan Britton to refer the matter to the Police and to halt the construction but he claimed that as a legal contract had been entered into his hands were tied. But the contract would not have been legal if fraud was established. Finally on the facts of this, Cllr Rouf told me to my face in the chemist shop where he works that he would not be moving into the house himself. This was, of course, a lie as he moved straight in upon completion.

21  With all of the above to consider it is really scraping the barrel for the pro-Eling Audit Committee to deliberately single out a small incident involving Cllr Jones to try and harm him with a standards investigation particularly as he lawfully considered best value for this plot at the AMLD meeting in October, 2011 and that the land sold for £65,000 when officers had put an auction reserve of £45,000 on it (although the public still do not know how this figure was arrived at or whether Mr Willetts sought a professional valuation of the plot.) The fact is that the allegation, such as it is, is politically motivated. Incidentally, officers of the Council published a guide price via the auctioneers of £34,000 to £38,000. It is the industry wide auctioneering practice not to set the reserve price at more than 10% above the top guide price - in this case £41,800 - yet here officers set the reserve at £45,000 which was potentially illegal pursuant to the Consumer Protection Regulation 2008.

22   In his recent evidence at the standards hearing for Cllr Hussain, Mr Dave Willetts did get one thing right when he described the culture prevalent at the beginning of the Cooper/Britton era. Up until the 2008 crash Willetts says SMBC were raking in the money with land sales. The following depression played havoc with that and Willetts stated that auctions had become very unpredictable (and do, of course, cost fees to use.) Willetts explained that from 2009 to around 2011 then Deputy Leader Steve Eling had reduced the target for capital receipts and actively discouraged sales by auction during this period. But Cooper (always the puppet of Cllr Hussain) declared the Council “open for business” and this became a mantra. Councillors were going to rule the roost and employees had better get used to it and do their bidding. We have heard of many cases thereafter of Councillors bullying staff with no objection from the Chief Executive and this Committee heard graphic evidence from Mr Willetts about his own situation during the sale of the toilets and the intimidation he claims he was under (though as above, he does have a record of failing to tell the truth.) Also his previous statements - one to internal audit and two to the Wragge investigation - were not made available to the Independent Person to compare and contrast in the Hussain case.

23   Although Cllr Cooper was nominally employed elsewhere he spent a great deal of time at The Council House as did Cllr Hussain. Cllr Jones was still employed by Walsall Council and, as I understand it, worked just one day a week at SMBC. Cooper and Hussain were in total command with a weak and ineffectual Chief Executive prepared to do their bidding. As above, Cllr Cooper was close to Rouf and relied on him and Cllr Zahoor Ahmed to “deliver” the substantial local Muslim vote for Labour. It is highly probable that he knew the plot was going to Rouf’s family but SMBC, in this investigative process, have found that Cllr Jones did not know this at any time. It was Cooper who ordered the auction to be stopped and he most probably had fraudulent intent. Jones merely passed the message on and had no more part in the matter until the AMLD Committee meeting.

24   Council officers had provided and auction estimate of £34,000 to £38,000 and placed a reserve of £45,000 on the plot. Of course, it is possible that could have been changed at any time before the auction up or down. It is equally possible, particularly noting Mr Willetts’s comments on the vagaries of auctions at that time, that the reserve was not met and the property not sold. Although Cllr Jones had no part in the negotiations the SMBC staff offered the sale at £45,000. Leaving aside the question of fraud this would have meant SMBC getting the money it wanted (the reserve price) but without the deduction of the auctioneer’s commission. It is noteworthy that it was officers of the Council who decided not to recommend that the plot went back into auction when the deal to one of Rouf’s sons mysteriously fell through but decided to recommend sale by sealed bids via the “new” process. Again, leaving aside the question of fraud, Cllr Jones was one of three councillors to approve this in committee including both Deputy Leaders. This was approved by the full council including three members of this Committee and resulted in SMBC selling the plot for £20,000 more than officers had originally agreed via the reserve price. Even if, which is disputed, Cllr Jones should have considered best value in February, 2011 he did so in October, 2011 for the self same plot and, with others, achieved a substantially better result in any event.

25   In 2016 I met with Cllrs Eling and Marshall by prior arrangement in a Birmingham pub. The vicious social media trolling of myself and my wife had ended the very same night that Darren Cooper died. Eling was emollient - claiming that he was disgusted at what I had endured. He was going to tackle corruption and “drain the swamp”. I expressed scepticism as he had been directly involved in “signing off” most of the bent deals I was writing about. No Councillors including the powerful Eling had made any complaint to Cooper about his trolling for fear of the backlash. I was particularly exercised with Eling’s very direct and intimate involvement is a very large corrupt deal to bring an ice rink to West Bromwich. Cllr Eling assured me that mistakes had been made and that everything would change. He would even review the position of the Chief Executive whom we referred to that night and later as “the turd in the pool”. I was assured that the ice rink deal would not be going ahead and that an announcement would be made “within a few weeks” (which it was). I said that I was regularly attacking the conduct of Cllrs Hussain and Jones and so it was no skin off my nose to continue to do so. I would not agree to staying quiet if he and his “side” were guilty of wrongdoing but said I would sit on my hands for a bit and give them an easy ride whilst things panned out. They agreed to furnish me with “bullets to fire” against Cllrs Hussain and Jones and to that end, shortly afterwards, Marshall set up a Whats App account to send me messages and Eling occasionally contacted me via his personal email account.

26   Following threats and other misconduct by Cllrs Eling and Marshall I disclosed a redacted version of most of their messages to me. The two Cllrs told people the information was fake and so on 5th November, 2017 I put up (subject to a few redactions) a complete download of the messages in a blog called “Steve Eling - You Are a F*cking Liar!”. I have not yet disclosed emails but am referring to them in various blog stories. The download is replete with attacks on fellow councillors and employees, disgusting obscenity about female employees and release of confidential information. At one point it is clear that they or SMBC employees acting on their behalf illegally obtained information from the Department of Work and Pensions. There are numerous attacks on Cllr Mahboob Hussain but you will see that a very substantial part of the download is devoted to attacks on Councillor Jones and his family. It is a campaign bordering on obsession and on an industrial scale. (I have something else to say on this but due to its personal nature am only prepared to do so in camera.)

27   Interestingly the feed shows that Eling and Marshall were not really interested in Cllr Jones in respect of the Rouf plot since everyone knew he was nothing really to do with it. You will see, however, that Cllr Marshall, was concerned that Cllr Rouf and Cllr Ahmed were stirring up local Labour activists against him and he feared deselection. This caused Eling and Marshall (presumably through Jan Britton) to get SMBC employees trawling files for evidence against them (including trying to unlawfully secure information from Birmingham City Council taxi licensing department.) They were desperate for their supporters on the then Audit Committee to make a splash on 26th January, 2017 and Eling and Marshall wrote to me on that date and several hours before the meeting took place at 18.00: “Interestingly [sic] about Rouf house being pulled out of the auction by Jones” but then they realise that this is an irrelevance and go on: “no-one is asking if Rouf knew about it as he was the only one going for it. And that it’s now proven that officers grossly undervalued other sites and properties isn’t fair to assume Rouf paid way below the market value too?” They asked me to keep this secret until after the meeting of the Audit Committee took place.

28   I know that a number of Councillor Eling’s faction were disappointed that some of my disclosures had not been investigated and they too were desperate to destroy Cllrs Hussain and Jones. Thus on 26th January, 2017 Cllr Bob Piper contacted me and asked me if I would give live evidence to the Audit Committee upon which he sits. When I agreed he wrote to me: “You’ll get an invite. I want to ask whether there are other issues you think the officers have not investigated but you will get a pretty free reign [sic] - I suspect the Jones’ will go ballistic.” Clearly the Audit Committee was also developing an anti-Jones agenda.

29   There need to be major investigations into Cllr Rouf by the police and an independent person but, of course, there hasn’t been. The clue to the reason why not is what Eling and Marshall said on April Fools’ Day, 2017 when Marshall reported: “Rouf and Zahoor have asked to come and see me this wk as they ‘want to tell me everything that’s been going on’” In other words, the two Councillors had agreed to join the Eling sect and so Eling and Marshall dropped all investigations against them.

30   In the light of the blatant witch hunt against Jones on a wafer-thin allegation I offered to give evidence at this standards hearing. I wrote to all four Councillors on the standards committee panel asking if they voted for Cllr Eling in his initial (disputed) election for leader but they failed to reply. On 29th November, 2017 I wrote to Jan Britton and the Deputy Monitoring Officer asking to give evidence at the hearing to assist the Committee. Cllr Jones replied that he was seeking an adjournment to obtain legal representation but that he intended to call me as a witness. On 30th November, 2017 Mr Surjit Tour, Monitoring Officer refused my request on the basis that I had not been called by a member even though I am told that, by then, he was very well aware that Cllr Jones had said he wanted to call me (although he was still seeking an adjournment.) I duly attended the hearing where the Chair, Cllr Lewis, refused to allow me to pass messages to assist the unrepresented Cllr Jones.

31   On 20th December, 2017 I wrote to The Monitoring Officer, Solicitor Maria Price and the four members of the Committee on a point of law. By this time it was clear that I would be a witness. I asked whether the leader and cabinet structure of SMBC and its constitution at the material time specifically overruled s.15 of the Local Government Act 2000 and, if so, where I would find the documentation relating to that. I referred specifically to s.15 (9) which clearly gave Darren Cooper the legal power to overrule any delegated officer exercising delegated functions. Arguably, as a cabinet executive, Cllr Jones had the same power. The point being that, in the absence of fraud, Leader Cooper was entitled by law to overrule the decision of an officer made under delegated powers. I think Cooper was acting fraudulently but that is not really the point here since it is common ground that Cllr Jones was not acting fraudulently in any way in respect of this land sale and nor did he know what Cooper was up to. The sole allegation is that he passed on Cooper’s instruction when he should have considered best value at that point and at least considered whether it was appropriate or not to overrule officers. But if Darren Cooper had already made that decision lawfully pursuant to LGA 2000 then there was nothing for Cllr Jones to consider. He was simply the conduit for a lawful instruction from the Leader. Alternatively, s.15(9) appears to also give Cllr Jones the exact same power. As it is accepted that Cllr Jones was not acting fraudulently then the Standards Committee need to show that his actions were in some other way unlawful which they were not. In the premises, if Cllr Jones was acting lawfully he cannot be in breach of standards. I make this statement on 21st January, 2018 and I have not had the courtesy of a response. I understand that Cllr Jones hasn’t either. In any event Cllr Jones understood that SMBC had an offer in the exact same sum as the reserve price. When things went wrong with that he, with others, properly and lawfully considered the question of best value in Committee at the first opportunity.

32   Also on 20th December, 2017 I made a standards complaint against three of the four members of the Committee who dealt with the adjournment in December, 2017 as they had direct involvement in this matter having received the decision of Cllrs Eling, Hussain and Jones at the AMLD Committee in October, 2011 at the full Council meeting of November, 2011 when the three of them raised no objection to and approved the decision of Cllr Jones and others not to sell the specific plot by auction but via a sealed bid process. As the hearing was adjourned I have asked the three members concerned to reconsider their position and to make the appropriate declarations.

33  On 17th January, 2017  I wrote to The Monitoring Officer asking what the arrangements were for me attending on 24th January, 2017 but have not yet had the courtesy of a reply.

34   Finally, whilst the extracts from a shocking memo below came a few months after the matters in hand it is symptomatic of the chaotic cowboy/girl operation that Cooper, Hussain, Eling and Britton were running. Britton wrote a stiff warning to all staff on 17th December, 2012. This was after the agreement for sale but still at a time when corrupt staff were misleading the public and so on. This is what he said:

“It is characteristic of failing Councils that they have poor working relations between employees and members….. As employees, we have to remember that it is the elected members who are “the Council” - not ourselves, our job it to advise Members on the policies and priorities they set and then deliver the policies and priorities they approve in the most efficient and effective manner we can, not to set the policies ourselves…...In the old days, this is where employees would complain that Members were “interfering” or “getting involved in things that they’re not supposed to”.... My response is very clear: there’s no such thing as Members interfering with something - the Members are the people who are elected to form the Council and they have the right to be involved in whatever way they wish - as long as it accords with the Council’s constitution and the law of the land, if it doesn’t, that is probably our failing not there’s, because it means we haven’t given them appropriate advice about the constitution or the law.”

I know that the Independent Person at the Hussain hearing was much exercised with what training etc Councillors had received relating to compliance with the Code of Conduct and yet here we see the Chief Executive actively attacking staff who raised queries such as happened here when it was questioned whether it was appropriate to remove the plot from auction. But it was a case in Mr Britton’s authority of “we do whatever Darren Cooper says” and that was that.

Statement of Truth

I believe the facts stated in this statement are true.

Signed: J. P. Saunders

Dated: 21st January, 2018


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