We have seen time and again how Costigan and grovelling Councillor Peter "Zorro" Hughes have sought to interfere in Wednesbury affairs. Every opportunity is taken to advance themselves and the perfidious Labour Dictatorship/Council. Every "community event" is exploited and ransacked for the publicity it will afford the venal "socialists". And so we come to the switching on of the Wednesbury Christmas Lights in 2017 - normally a happy, non-partisan occasion. But not any more.....
The Lights event as I shall call it is run every year by the Tipton Community Association (TCA) which has an excellent reputation across the Borough for managing outdoor events. But in 2017 it was hijacked by Sandwell Labour. The bent paid service of the Council under the leadership [sic] of Jan Britton yet again failed to adequately answer a Freedom of Information Request on this matter. I now set out below a series of questions and answers put to TCA by a third party which has elicited some shocking replies (shown in red). If anyone has any problem with the replies please refer to TCA. My cooments are in bold.
Questions & Responses:
Wednesbury Christmas Lights Fri 1st Dec 2017
1. Organising Committee: Sandwell Council advise that the TCA were commissioned to lead on Mgmt and delivery of the event and were supported by local organisations and ward members. This doesn’t give all the information I was hoping to receive.
Please may I ask specifically other than yourself and members of the TCA can you name all of the following that were involved?:
Ward Councillors: Elaine Costigan, Pam Hughes, Peter Hughes
Sandwell Council Officers: Tom Hogan (not Hodson)
Labour Party Members (known to you): Maggie Dorsett plus the three Councillors named above
Union Members (known to you): Not known
Businesses/Business Owners: Tony Baker (ANT), Spencer Thrower (Black Country Barbers), Scott & Spencer Evans (Bescot Promotions)
Any other organisations: None involved in the actual planning & management of the event
Did Cllrs Olwen Jones, Bob Lloyd or the newly elected Luke Giles have any input in to this event? If so please could you advise who and what they did? Olwen Jones & Bob Lloyd were not involved in the planning and did not attend any meetings. Luke Giles was not directly involved in the planning and did not attend any meetings, however he did attend the event as a representative of a sponsor (Evans Halshaw) and also assisted with the charity collection on the night of the event
[Skidder Comment - I thought Cllr Pam Hughes was also meant to be a trustee of TCA?]
2. Cllrs Costigan, Pam & Pete Hughes, Labour member Maggie Dorsett, Spencer Thrower and Tony Baker are all said to have been involved in the planning & organisation:
Did any of these named people act against the TCA or act separately to the TCA, as commissioned lead & Mgrs, in organising this event? Yes
If so please could you advise who and how they acted in ways contrary to the TCA management & lead? There appeared to be a hidden agenda. There appeared to be separate secret meetings where arrangements were made without my knowledge. All three Councillors arranged external sponsorship and direct payment of some activities and attractions. These arrangements were kept secret and not discussed at any meetings I attended, even though I requested information on several occasions. The sponsors were not revealed until the event, they did not appear on any publicity until the event when a large banner was placed at the front of the stage. A FINAL meeting was arranged by the three Councillors which had to be rescheduled at my insistence as they had not informed me, or invited me (as the organiser) !
I take full responsibility for the amount of funding received through my LAB funding application which is clearly and accurately documented and is now in the possession of SMBC. I have no knowledge of the amounts of any external funding, who received it, or who it was paid to. I felt coerced into accepting decisions that had already been made, even though I knew they were potentially fraudulent. Although official SMBC posters had been produced, there were several other styles of posters created and distributed throughout Wednesbury town centre without my knowledge, when questioned, I could not get a satisfactory answer from any of the three Councillors named above. I was also pressurised into ignoring the requirements of SMBC's Safety at Public Events Committee regarding the Fire Eater's act insurance cover
I was specifically requested to visit a business owner in Wednesbury to discuss her concerns about the location of various elements of the event. During that discussion that person raised the issue of the Wednesbury BID. The very next day, I was subject to a complaint that I had questioned her about the BID. It is my belief that this situation was manipulated by one or more of the three Councillors named, in an attempt to discredit me
In another meeting, where I was trying to ascertain the content and running order of the event (as more secretly arranged items had been added) I was subjected to an array of dirty looks, tuts and eye rolling from all three Councillors, a complaint was then made that I was rude and disrespectful to the Town Lead. An accusation that I strongly deny and in fact have a number of witnesses to support my position. When I raised concern about the level of expenditure (as we were at that point over £1500.00 over budget) I was told to not worry as there was plenty of money and they would simply sign another LAB grant, this I felt was contrary to the spirit of my tender for the project.
Throughout the whole sequence of planning meetings and site visits I felt unwelcome, pressured, and treated with a level of contempt by the three Councillors named
[Skidder comment - as above re Pam Hughes.]
3. Spencer Thrower, Tony Baker “Rhino” and Ant Event Management: It would appear that Spencer Thrower & “Rhino” are both part of Ant Event Management, B71 3SH:
Please can you advise if any other organisations were asked to quote for staging and booking acts? The actual stage was booked directly by me through Promarco Ltd of Dudley. Ant Event Management were appointed by me to book acts and run the stage activity during the event as they had done in previous years.
Do you think that it is ethical to have two persons who apparently have an entertainments business “Ant Event Management” as part of the planning group from the initial planning stage? Would this not be a conflict of interest? As this arrangement had been in place for the previous year I saw no reason to not continue with them
Are you aware that Spencer Thrower’s partner was booked to appear, Helen James? At that point in time I was not aware that Helen James was a connected person to any of the organisers
Were any checks done on Ant Event Management being a bonafide business entity? The website they have used for promotion does not exist currently. There is no UK listing for Ant Event Management or any phone number I can see being listed. I raised this question at the time and reported my concerns to Council Officers, however I was advised to run with it
Did Ant Event Management have all the necessary documents available in their name to be able to ensure the safe running and legal requirement of any part of the Wednesbury Lights Switch On that they were responsible for ie Public Liability, PAT etc? No
Was Ant Event Management asked to give a new quotation for the 2017 event with breakdown or was it agreed that they charge the same amount as the previous year? I gave Ant Event Management a budget of £1500.00 to work with, leaving them to decide on the content of the entertainment
Please can you advise who approved the use of Ant Event Management and was Cllr Elaine Costigan involved in the approval? It was apparent at the first meeting that I attended that Ant Event Management were the organisation I was to use for the Wednesbury event
Were the decisions to award Ant Event Management the contract for this event done prior to the TCA being commissioned to manage the event? It is my opinion that this is the case
Is it correct that Tony Baker was first given the contract for the security of the event? Yes
Was this agreed prior to the TCA being commissioned to manage the event? It is my opinion that this is the case
Who approved and/or put forward Tony Baker to supply security? It was apparent at the first meeting that I attended that Ant Event Management were the organisation I was to use for the Wednesbury event
On the night other security were managing the event, please can you advise why Tony Baker and his security were dropped? Although the operatives on the night were the actual persons as those appointed by Tony Baker, I actually made the decision after consulting Council Officers and my fellow organiser Karen Simms, to engage the men under my own organisations management and insurance, as it was clear that there was no legal company structure in place and my own integrity would be put at risk. Therefore the freelance security personnel who were there at the event were appointed by, and paid directly by myself on behalf of Tipton Community Association.
4. Sponsorship, donors etc: This is an area that is not clear at all. A banner was on the front of the stage purporting to show “sponsors” of the event. I list the following companies and organisations on the banner:
· Evans Halshaw
· Sandwell MBC (SMBC)
· The Lamp
· The Trade Centre
Clearly other than SMBC all of the above are business entities.
For each, other than SMBC, can you advise what was actually sponsored at the event and what costs did the sponsorship cover? I believe that Playlands made a payment of £300.00. I do not know what for or who received it. I only know this because the Manager there asked us for the gazebo and table they had paid £300.00 for! I have no knowledge whatsoever of any of the other sponsorship deals
If any of the companies donated anything either financially or in material goods please can you advise for each company what they donated and amount? Not Known
Who arranged each of the sponsorship deals or donations, please name? Not Known
If any Cllrs or Sandwell Council Officers agreed to the sponsorship and/or accepted donations please can you name them? Not Known
Who arranged for the printing of the banner, what was the cost and where has it been accounted for? Not Known
[Skidder comment - those of you who have read by blog about hos Jan Britton's bent paid service rigged the Wednesbury BID ballot will note that two friends of La Costigan again feature here. How much was donated, to whom and where did the money go?]
5. Cash Collections:I understand that the TCA passed a total of £1500 to the Mayor of Sandwell for their chosen charity. This compromised monies from Oldbury, Tipton as well as Wednesbury.
On the night of the collections in Wednesbury are you satisfied that you received all of the collecting tins, buckets and any other container used for the purposes of cash collection that you as organiser had distributed? The number of collecting tubs returned to us on the following Monday was correct
Were all of the cash collection tins, buckets and containers secured, tied and unbroken and returned in the same condition as they were initially distributed? No
Are you satisfied that all your own collections were in order and above board and all monies counted by yourselves represents a true and accurate figure of what was collected on the night? If for any reason you are not please could you advise details? The amount collected was disappointingly low, arrangements had been agreed to collect all the buckets to be stored securely at xxxxxxx [redacted by Skidder - name of local business] where they would be kept until the Monday morning when my Chair of Trustees and myself would meet with the three Councillors named above to count the contents. In the event, when Alan and I arrived at xxxxxxx we were advised that the 'bloke from the barbers' had already taken them. When Alan and I arrived at Wednesbury Town Hall, all the buckets had been opened and the cash tipped into one container
Other than TCA collections were any other collections made by other organisations on the night? If so please if known can you name the persons and/organisations that were making other collections? Were these collections authorised by TCA? TCA did not authorise any other collections and as far as I am aware no other collections took place
[Skidder comment - this is not the first time this blog has queried the "inadequacy" of street collections involving Sandwell Councils. Remember former Council Tony "Fudgy" Meehan and his bucket collection at "The Friends of Fudgestock" for Wolverhampton Hospital? Alas when I wrote to the Hospital they could not trace the receipt of ANY donation from that source in the year in question.....]
6. Event:There seems to be a number of other holes in the recording, accounting and management of the event that may not have been in TCA’s control. Please may I respectfully draw your attention to the following and ask for your response:
1. Ice Rink - Who organised this, authorised it and paid for it at what cost? Not Known
2. Jelly Legz - Who organised these, authorised these and paid for their services at what cost? I believe all arrangements were made between Elaine Costigan and Bescot Promotions
3. Gareth Gates - Who booked him, authorised booking and who paid for his appearance at what cost? Were there any other associated costs involved in his appearance i.e. accommodation, rider etc ?
4. Stilt Walkers - Who organised these, authorised them and paid for them at what cost? I believe all arrangements were made between Pam Hughes and the organisation concerned
5. Of the 1- 4 above are you aware if any of them have any personal connections or family ties with Councillors, Sandwell Council Officers and/or any other persons that have been involved in the planning, organising and management of this event? If so please can you name and advise? Not Known
6. There is a Local Area Budget payment for this event from SMBC to the value of £6036.33 to the TCA. Are you aware of any extra SMBC funding either LAB or other being received by organisations, cllrs or individual persons that may have contributed to this event? Please can you name and advise amounts if known? Not Known
[Skidder comment - the Labour Council is skint. £6k seems reasonable for an event of this type IF the local traders are behind it. But what was the true cost and who has accounted for the mysterious extra funds and where is this information?]
7. Mgmt, Staff, Councillors and Sandwell Council Officers:
1. Are you happy to state that you are satisfied that TCA had full control of all aspects of the event and the event management and that it was run in accordance with your own good practice? If not please could you advise why? Although I was left in complete control on the day (I was there from 9.00am through to 9.00pm) I cannot honestly say that TCA were allowed to manage the Wednesbury event to our own good practice
2. At any time during the planning process, management and the night of the event were you at any time coerced in to making decisions that you did not agree to? If you were are you able to advise in what way you may have been coerced and by whom? Particularly regarding Ant Management, xxxxxxxxxxxxx [Slidder redaction for legal reasons], and the inferred instruction to ignore the requirements of the SAPE Committee regarding the Fire Act's level of insurance cover
3. Since the event has taken place have you been put under any pressure to not release any details of accounting, management, sponsorship, donations and or any other matters that may compromise the good name of the TCA or implicate others in any way that may be detrimental to their reputation? If you have please could you advise the circumstances and the persons involved? I have been advised to tread carefully by Council Officers so as not to return to the 'days where TCA were excluded from any working relationship with Sandwell Council'
4. Since the event have you received any implied or explicit threat to undermine the good name of the TCA and/or deny yourselves funding and/or council resources or the withdrawal of your lease of The Brook Street Community Centre? If you have please could you advise the circumstances and the persons involved? Yes, this is happening now, we have already been deliberately excluded from this years Christmas Events, I have received several reports from members of the public regarding inflammatory and potentially slanderous comments being made by at least one Ward Councillor. I cannot comment further on this point at the moment as it is currently being investigated by the relevant employer of the said person and I would not wish to prejudice any decisions that may be made
5. Have you received any implied or explicit threat or similar that may make you feel uneasy in being able to continue your role professionally and for the good of the community in an open, honest & transparent manner? If you have please could you advise the circumstances and the persons involved? Yes, both myself and other members of TCA Management Team feel under pressure at the moment, we feel intimidated and deflated, and although we want to let the community know what is happening we are genuinely frightened that our activities will suffer and our facilities will be pulled from under us. We firmly believe however, that the public will come down firmly on our side and therefore will continue to bring this bullying and corruption to light
6. I am aware of comments that some officers and councillors have made to myself and other organisations in the past. The phrase “Don’t bite the hand that feeds you” is a popular one thrown out. At any time have you received comments similar to this from Cllrs or SMBC Officers? Please can you advise which Cllrs and/or SMBC Officers have made these type of comments to you? Yes, on several occasions
7. Do you feel that you are being coerced by Cllrs and SMBC Officers to tow [sic] the line and not the wishes of your organisation or community? I truly believe that this is the case
PLEASE BE ASSURED THAT THIS IS A TRUE REFLECTION OF THE SITUATION AND THERE IS NOTHING I HAVE WRITTEN HERE THAT I WOULD NOT RELY ON IN A COURT OF LAW
[Skidder comment - here we ago again - vicious bullying by the Labour Dictatorship! Who is running this year's event and how are the finances being handled? Once again how is Cllr Pam Hughes tied up in all this - though given her performance at "Ask Andy" she has no independent will and is merely a cipher for the ludicrous Zorro?]
Since writing about the bent BID ballot overseen by Jan Britton's staff a trader has approached me directly. The trader claims to have been canvassed to agree to the BID directly by both Cllrs Costigan and Pam Hughes but was also NEVER sent a ballot paper.....
I also raised the involvement of Mr Mike Maynard in all this and my FOI request to the bent Council has been acknowledged today. Regular readers will know that Maynard boasted that he was specifically asked by the Council to run the "publicity" for the BID and so set up Facebook and Twitter accounts. What was in it for him - an obsessive photographer? Maynard has also revealed what might be the answer - he has also boasted that the Council are considering "funding" his photography"!
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