Djanogly & Gilchrist, our part in their downfall

We learnt today that Alastair Gilchrist Westminster Council’s Strategic Director of Resources has resigned his position with the Council and will only be with the council till the end of June.

It is a day that is tinged with sadness as we feel that now Gilchrist and his ego have departed, there will be little for Nustville to report. In light of that, it’s worth revisiting Gilchrist and his chequered career at Westminster.

Gilchrist first came to Westminster Council in 2004 when he was appointed head of their parking services. He came from a successful career in the private sector having been a key figure in helping low cost airline Easy Jet get their e-commerce division off the ground (you know the one – you got charged extra for paying by credit-card) Barely had he got his feet under the desk and worked out how the coffee machine worked, with astonishing speed by October 2006 Gilchrist had launched the first pilot of Pay-by-Phone in Westminster.

The initial contract for Pay-by-Phone was awarded to the then Canadian company Verrus, who are currently owned by British firm PayPoint.

Pay-by-Phone was considered as a viable alternative to cash meters by the council, and in 2007 Westminster Council began removing its 4000 coin operated parking meters. The last meter was removed with much fanfare from Warwick Square on the 6th May 2009 and signalled that Westminster Council had gone cashless (at least as far as parking was concerned!).

The over-ambitious Gilchrist was the main driving force in the setting up of a tax payer funded quango named Partnerships in Parking (PiP). This shady group was formed with the intention of procuring contracts on behalf of a small group of London Authorities and TFL. The reason given was ostensibly to save money on contract procurement. Gilchrist was the administrative Chairman of PiP and by then in our opinion seemed little short of requiring psychological attention. Nevertheless, through his quango he was able to promote to the other LA’s the use of parking related contracts including the lucrative Verrus operated Pay-by-Phone contract. It became clear through research by Mr Graeme Jones that PiP had big plans, and they made clear their intention of becoming a UK wide procurement hub.

Then came Gilchrist’s finest moment and a defining point for historians of the local authority cock-up school.

He just couldn’t leave his handiwork alone, and much like the sculptor who chips too much off his masterpiece, the final piece of the jigsaw was for Alastair Gilchrist to add a little icing on the revenue cake by introducing a parking charge.  But, less M&S and more S&M, this was no ordinary Parking Charge.

This charge was a parking tax confined to the estimated 6000 odd motorcycles and scooters coming into its borough each working day.

At the start of his career with Westminster Council’s Gilchrist had attempted to introduce motorcycle parking charges using pay and display machines. The scheme failed because putting a sticky ticket on a motorbike proved incredibly unreliable, especially when it was raining. But, like a gift from the heavens, Gilchrist was caught in the headlights of technology and with the introduction of cashless Pay-by-Phone technology, and his hands at the levers of power he saw that there was nothing stopping the inclusion of scooters and motorcycles in to the parking revenue pot.

Gilchrist had become the smug architect of what is now known as the Motorcycle Charging Scheme (MCS).

Despite overwhelming opposition from residents and others, charging began in August 2008 and very soon along came a fledgling campaign group called No To Bike Parking Charges led by one Warren Djanogly.

No To Bike Parking Charges later became No To Bike Parking Fees then what it is today No To Bike Parking Taxes (NTBPT). The NTBPT claimed to be a single issue group only interested in fighting the MCS in Westminster.

Independent researcher Graeme Jones had quickly identified the potential threat to all bikers in the UK from Gilchrist’s MCS and PiP which had the potential to swiftly introduce Pay-by-Phone parking for bikes across the land.

With unrewarded diligence, Jones began months of work researching how PiP was set up and thereby identified serious anomalies in PiP’s procurement methods for all the contracts they managed.

Jones prepared a detailed complaint for the NTBPT to send to the European Commissioners but sadly this was rejected by the NTBPT Chairman Warren Djanogly for reasons never explained. This left Jones to go it alone. Luckily for Nutsville Graeme Jones provided us with the results of his research and updates on the progress of his complaint in Europe. The huge potential significance and public interest in his research was not lost on us.

Meanwhile Djanogly prepared his own complaint for the EU based on the novation of contracts between NCP and NSL, the Council parking enforcement contractor. This brought Djanogly and Gilchrist into a public duel as Gilchrist had signed off on the novation. Months of mud slinging between Djanogly and council officers culminated in Djanogly lodging a formal complaint with Charing Cross CID against two Westminster Council officers alleging fraud and forgery. When these allegations proved unfounded Djanogly, through his regular news letters, accused Charing Cross CID of corruption and collusion with Westminster Council!

Undeterred Djanogly persuaded 70 NTBPT supporters to travel to Brussels to hand in his novation complaint to the EU Commissioners. When Nutsville revealed that Djanogly’s complaint had come to nothing the NTBPT Chairman explained the whole complaint had been nothing more than an elaborate smokescreen, as a prelude to an as yet an undisclosed main event.

In contrast Mr Jones’s EU complaint has gone on to force five separate PiP partner authorities to reply via the UK Government in answer the EU Commission’s questions in a mammoth 14 page explanation.

Further, Mr Jones’s EU complaint exposes how Alastair Gilchrist awarded the debt recovery management contract in breach of EU law and in complete contradiction of WCC’s own procurement code. And, if that was not enough, he goes on  to explain how Alastair Gilchrist  not only awarded Verrus the framework Pay-by-Phone agreement for PiP but further encouraged other local authorities in PiP to utilise that contract illegally. If that’s not bad enough, Jones’s complaint also reveals how another Local Authority was encouraged to utilise the Verrus contract who is not even a PiP member.

If it were not for Gilchrist’s MCS, Mr Jones would never have looked at PiP, but after having Gilchrist wag his finger at Jones stating that he would never get the council to change its policy on the MCS it’s interesting that its Gilchrist who has walked. But as Mr Jones makes clear he will hold anyone to account who is responsible for looking after other people’s money. A sentiment shared by Nutsville and leads us rather neatly to the next matter.

After Warren Djanogly raised a claimed £89,000 for a legal fund it should have been incumbent for Djanogly to produce detailed accounts on the basis it is OPM (Other Peoples Money).

What has been produced so far as the ‘full accounts’ simply do not add up.! When Mr Jones joined the NTBPT forum to hold Djanogly to account for the sums he’s collected, Djanogly deleted the threads and banned Jones from the forum.

Djanogly then went on to issue a ‘Letter Before Action’ against a close friend of Nutsville and threatened legal action against Mr Jones. In light of that, we announced in our last post that papers and evidence are being compiled and will shortly be submitted to the MET Police for criminal prosecution for offences against the Fraud Act 2006 and Theft Act 1968 by Warren Djanogly NTBPT Chairman and NTBPT Committee members. With so many unanswered questions and the threats of legal action against us what other way is there to hold Djanogly to account?

Today Djanogly resigned as Chairman of the NTBPT solely blaming us for his departure.  After his many threats of legal action against those that try to hold him to account Djanogly claims we are immoral for raising our unanswered concerns with the police. Djanogly himself has said there has been a huge volume of concern over the legal funds accounts.

Campaign newsletter (155) “we still plan to honour our obligation made last week by publishing the accounts on 17 May 2011, albeit in a different format to the one suggested in response to a huge volume of concerns raised by many of you

As Djanogly has refused to be held to account by us perhaps he will prefer to answer the MET Police instead.

With today’s news we cannot help draw the comparisons between Djanogly and Gilchrist, like two peas in a pod;

Both sought power

Both have been described as megalomaniac bullies

Both were far from transparent.

Both can issue a lying rebuttal

Both had national empire building aspirations

Both were arrogant and incompetent

For both it was just about the money.

And as JK Galbraith said: Power Hungry failures often mean they’re sailing on the HMS Ain’t Getting None.

Perhaps the soon to be former managing director of WestCo Trading Ltd might want to apply for the recent vacancy over at NTBPT, in return he might be able to put in a good word over at City Hall for his chum Djanogly for a recent vacancy for a management consultant.

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