Westminster Council facing police investigation into dodgy deals and cover-ups.

Under the leadership of Councillor Colin Barrow and his mate the council’s chief executive Mike More there is a story of miss-management, incompetence, lies and cover-ups which dwarf even the recent parking fiasco.

But what do you expect from a man like Colin Barrow, who has trouble even remembering that he has a free parking space under city hall, not to mention his borough wide free parking permit. Oh dear we just mentioned it again, ops.

On Tuesday 20th December 2011 Nutsville had an appointment at MillBank House with four senior District Auditors. At that two hour meeting we presented our objections to Westminster City Council’s behaviour regarding its handling of taxpayers money.

This is the third year Nutsville has been forced to make objections to Westminster City Council’s accounts, and as a result the District Auditor refuses to sign off on Westminster Council’s accounts.

Below are the objections we made to the Westminster City Council accounts for the years 2008-2009, 2009- 2010 and 2010-2011 on that cold December afternoon.

Nutsville has reserved the right to bring further objections that we are currently investigating to the District Auditors attention in the near future relating to more suspect items in the Westminster City Council’s accounts.

Certain items are currently being considered for possible criminal prosecution for offences against the Fraud Act 2006 and with regard to section 14 sub-section 3 of the Audit Commission act 1998.

Agenda item 1. Westco Trading Ltd 2008/09 09/10 10/11

Colin Barrow

Reverse ferret Colin Barrow

WestCo trading is the brainchild of soon to be ex council leader Colin Barrow, who set up the company to trade for profit out of reach of public inspection. This was to be a private money making arm of Westminster Council’s bloated PR department with an incentive scheme of 25% of before tax profits handed out by Alex Aiken head of Westminster’s PR department as bonus payments out of sight of public scrutiny.

Don’t let the hype being spread about Barrow’s reasons for departing the top council job in the country fool you. Do you really think that Barrow would give up his position just before the Olympics and miss out on the chance to hobnob with all the Olympic parasites who will be living it up in Park Lane?

We requested the following in respect of Barrow’s Westco Trading Ltd company and relating to the years 08/09, 09/10 and 10/11;

a) We submitted email evidence ( we supplied emails from WCC Head of legal services dated 9th August 2011) from Westminster City Council refusing access to inspect the accounts and contracts as a material breach of the Accounts and Audit regulations 2011 part 4 made in the exercise of the powers conferred by section 27 of the Audit Commission Act 1998 and we requested that a public notice be issued by the Audit Commission in relation to this breach as per section 8 of the Audit commission act 1998 and that public notice should be an immediate report as per section 8 sub-section b.

We gave notice to Westminster City Council that papers are being compiled to place before the MET police for consideration for a criminal prosecution pursuant to section 14 sub-section 3 of the Audit Commission act 1998.

 

b) We requested for an application to the courts declaring all income derived through Westco Trading Ltd unlawful and furthermore that Westminster City Council has acted unlawfully by using Westco Trading Ltd for the purposes of gaining profit, expressly a breach of the Local government Act 2000 sub-section 3 limits on powers of well-being and we cited the case of RMP v LAML http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWCA/Civ/2009/490.html We submitted the invoices from Westminster City Council to Westco Trading Ltd and the invoices from Westco Trading Ltd to other Local authorities as evidence of this.

 

We requested a public interest notice as per section 8 of the Audit commission act 1998 with respect to Westco Trading Ltd being used unlawfully by Westminster City Council for the purpose of gaining profit expressly a breach of the Local government Act 2000 sub-section 3 limits on powers of well-being and we cited the case of RMP v LAML http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWCA/Civ/2009/490.html and that public notice should be an immediate report as per section 8 sub-section b of the Audit Commission act 1998.

 

c) We requested the District Auditor to investigate where the incentive/contribution scheme payments in the Westco Trading Ltd published accounts have been paid as per the incentive scheme supplied under Freedom of Information request (we provided the District Auditor the Westco incentive scheme document) and pursuant to section 17 sub-section b requested that an application is made to the courts declaring these payments unlawful.

 

We also requested a public notice in accordance with Accounts and Audit regulations 2011 part 4 made in the exercise of the powers conferred by section 27 of the Audit Commission Act 1998 that a public notice be issued by the Audit Commission in relation to this as a breach of the local government act 2000 section 3 sub-section 2 and as such a public interest notice is issued as per section 8 of the Audit commission act 1998 and that public notice should be an immediate report as per section 8 sub-section b.

 

d) We requested a public interest notice as per section 8 of the Audit commission act 1998 with respect to Westco Trading Ltd being included in Westminster city councils procurement code as in that procurement code it states,

 

4.0 THE CITY COUNCIL AS A BIDDER

4.1 Where the City Council is putting forward a bid to provide services to either another public sector organisation or a commercial entity then this activity must be subject to the same process, governance and approvals, defined by value threshold, for procurement exercises as described in this Code.

 

4.2 Where the City Council is putting forward a bid to provide services which meets any of the following criteria the Contracting entity must be Westco Trading Limited, the City Council’s trading vehicle:

 

• the bid is to provide services which will generate a profit

• the bid is to provide services it a commercial entity

• turnover is greater than 50% of the delivery units budget

 

We believe this inclusion in Westminster City Council procurement code is a clear breach of the Local Government Act 2000 section 3 sub-section 2.

 

 

Agenda item 2 Partnerships In Parking (PIP) 08/09,09/10 AND 10/11

 

Arrogant finger wager Lee Rowley

Arrogant finger wager Lee Rowley

Now here comes Barrow’s mate Councillor Lee Rowley Cabinet member for spin, illusion, misdirection and all other parking related headaches department into the mix. Rowley fails to turn up to a single PiP board meeting, perhaps he was too busy managing the nightlife parking tax.

 

Nutsville has learnt that the next PiP board meeting will take place on February the 29th we wonder if councillor Lee Rowley will attend this meeting, as we understand this meeting is to have one agenda item that being a five year review report that is confidential and the public are to be excluded from this meeting. The reason we have been given for keeping this away from public scrutiny is to allow the authorities and their officers to be honest in the declarations about the report.

 

a) Partnership agreement

We requested a public interest notice as per section 8 of the Audit commission act 1998 in respect of Westminster City Council as the lead authority in respect of the PIP partnership agreement that this agreement is in breach of the local government act 2000 section 3 sub-section 2 in that there is provision in this agreement for commission payments with respect to members who are not the original seven members in that if they joined in year one to pay 1% per annum of any framework contract utilised and that if they joined in year two or later they must pay 2% per annum of any framework contract utilised that was procured on behalf of PIP..

 

b) Partnership commission payments/profits

We requested a public interest notice as per section 8 of the Audit commission act 1998 in respect of Westminster City Council as the lead authority of PIP in that Westminster City Council sent invoices for commission payments for a contract for pay and display machines to London Borough of Enfield, London Borough of Richmond, London Borough of Havering, London Borough of Hackney, London Borough of Tower Hamlets, expressly in breach of the Local Government act 2000 section 3 sub section 2 (see invoices supplied as evidence of this).

We also requested an application to the courts that said income be declared illegally derived income in breach of the local government act 2000 section 3 sub-section 2.

 

c) Confidential advice to Verrus from PIP management committee in contradiction to WCC response to EU Commission via UK Government.

We requested a public interest notice as per section 8 of the Audit commission act 1998  in respect of Westminster City Council as the lead authority for PIP in that in a PIP a management committee briefing note of 21st January 2010 confidential advice was given to Verrus in direct contradiction of the statement to the EU Commission via the UK Government the then Office of Government Commerce in answer to questions raised by the EU Commission investigating the Verrus PIP framework contract in that the contract would be terminated a year early on 29th January 2012.

 

This was clearly done to;

i) avoid expenditure for a new procurement

ii) avoid incurring a fine from the European Court of Justice.

 

d) PIP accounts year 2009-10.

We requested a public interest notice as per section 8 of the Audit commission act 1998 in respect of the PIP accounts published for 2009-10 in that the accounts supplied show two sets of accounts in an xls. document supplied in that they show Inc & Exp analysis and a second set entitled Taylor made Inc &  Exp which show two differing sets of figures.

 

 

 

Agenda item 3 Pay By Phone contract 08/09,09/10 and 10/11

 ( See also our story on Pay-by-phone)

a) Duplicate invoicing

We requested a public interest notice as per section 8 of the Audit commission act 1998 with respect to invoices supplied under the inspection of accounts 2009/10 .

We also requested a public interest notice with respect to invoices supplied under the inspection of accounts 2010/10. We cannot confirm whether these duplicate invoices for 2009/10 or 2010/11 have been paid or if any of the invoices for the years concerned have been paid as no notation is on these invoices stating if they have. We can only come to the conclusion that since invoices have been supplied under the inspection of accounts that they must have been paid. We asked the District Auditor to investigate this matter and if duplicate payments have been made that the District Auditor request Westminster City Council to redress this.

 

b) Call centre/service charges

 

Leith Penny

Leith Penny

Welcome aboard Leith Penny, Westminster Councils Strategic Director for City Management who has denied the council has paid for other boroughs call centre charges.

Nevertheless we request a public interest notice as per section 8 of the Audit commission act 1998 in relation to a report issued recently at a policy and scrutiny committee on the 7th December 2011 http://transact.westminster.gov.uk/committee/index.cfm?c_docs=Policy_and_Scrutiny_Committees/Current_P_and_S_Committees/Finance_and_Transformation/7%20December%202011  where it is stated in item 4a appendix 1 that actual expenditure for pay by phone is in 2010/2011 is £1,867,244 but we were given under the inspection of accounts £3,493032.02 of invoices.

 

c) Other local authority call centre/service charges

We requested a public interest notice as per section 8 of the Audit commission act 1998 that WCC has been paying the call centre/handling/service charges with respect to the Pay by Phone contract with Verrus for other local authorities. Evidence for this is in the invoices from Verrus in that WCC is paying for the phone number 02070050055 which is mistakenly quoted on the invoices as 02077005005 as this number does not exist and that the 02070050055 number appears on the local authority parking signs in Islington and Tower hamlets and Spelthorne as well as Westminster City Council.

 

For further evidence of this we provided email responses from Islington and Tower Hamlets that they are not paying any call centre charges or service charges at all for the pay by phone contract with Verrus.

We requested an application to the courts that the amounts paid by Westminster for call handling/centre/service charges for other local authorities be declared unlawful expenditure.

 

d) Duration of contract

We requested that in the absence of any new tendering process for a pay by phone contract that a public interest notice is issued as per section 8 of the Audit commission act 1998 against WCC as WCC stated in their response to the EU Commission investigation into the award of this contract that the contract would terminate a year early on 29th January 2012 and that WCC has/is not party to another framework agreement or contract for pay by phone.

 

e) Revenue share/ response document

We requested the District Auditor investigate “in lieu of 0870 Revenue share” that appear on invoices from Verrus to WCC. The phone number referred to 0870 is most probably 08704284009 which we believe was used during the experimental scheme and if you ring this number now you get the message that it no longer works and that you must call 02070050055. We asked the District Auditor to request a copy of the “ P15 response document” referred to on the invoices from Verrus to WCC. If as implied from the invoices WCC have indeed been gaining a share of revenue from this then we will request a public interest notice as per section 8 of the Audit commission act 1998 in respect of this and request an application to the courts under section 17 of the Audit Commission Act 1998 that this income be declared unlawful income pursuant to the local government act 2000 section 3 sub-section 2.

 

 

f) Misinforming UK Government causing misinformation to EU Commission

Mike More

Mike More

How could we leave out Westminster City Council’s chief executive and Barrows old mate, Mike More who in the past has found it easy to say one thing and do another.

We requested a public notice as per section 8 of the Audit commission act 1998 in that WCC misinformed the UK Government which in turn caused the UK Government to misinform the EU Commission that only WCC was utilising the PIP framework contract so that they could garner the result they got from the EU Commission and that contrary to that submission WCC are paying for the service charges for those authorities to utilise Verrus under the framework agreement.

This was clearly done to;

i) avoid expenditure for a new procurement

ii) avoid incurring a fine from the European Court of Justice.

 

Agenda item 4 Internal Audit contract 09/10 -- 10/11

a) Failure to supply a contract for inspection under the ACA 1998

We requested a public interest notice as per section 8 of the Audit commission act 1998 that WCC failed to supply this contract for inspection during the inspection period in breach of the Audit Commission Act 1998 section 15.

 

 

b) Entitlement to invoice for contract

 

Philippa Roe

Philippa Roe

Surprise surprise we found that Cllr Philippa Roe, Westminster City Council’s Cabinet Member for Strategy and Finance had allowed the council’s own auditors (equivalent to the financial police) to operate and illegally invoice the council without a valid contract.  How could it be that the very auditors the council used to investigate the parking re-let million pound cock up did not have any valid contract with the council? Why did it take poor old Philippa eight whole weeks to do anything about the illegal activity?

 

We requested a public interest notice as per section 8 of the Audit commission act 1998 in that RSM Tenon have been allowed by WCC to invoice for this contract  thereby incurring illegal expenditure since march 2010 when this company had no rights to invoice WCC for this contract.

 

c) Novation of contract.

We requested a public interest notice as per section 8 of the Audit commission act 1998 in that WCC failed in its novation of this contract in 2009 and that despite a statement of decision with regard to the novation of this contract in June 2011 this novation was not completed till 19th September 2011 8 weeks after it was requested under the inspection of accounts. WCC issued an ex-parte voluntary notice to the EU on 7th July 2011.

 

Agenda item 5 Debt recovery contract 2008/9 -- 09/10 -- 10/11

a) Award of contract

We requested a public interest notice as per section 8 of the Audit commission act 1998 in that WCC awarded this contract at zero contract value in accordance with contracts let under £150k ( see WCC item 5 -- Central Services Contract Monitoring 2008-09 Appendix B report) yet in a WCC audit and performance report 09/10 this contract has a value of £800K http://transact.westminster.gov.uk/committee/index.cfm?c_docs=Audit_and_Performance_Committee/2010/30%20June%202010/Item%208%20-%20Contracts%20Review%202009-10

 

b) Award of contract in breach of EC Directive 2004 18/EC

This contract is still the subject of an EU investigation and we sent WCC head of legal services an email letter on the 31st August 2011 raising questions with regard to WCC’s response to the EU Commission via the UK Government and as such to date have not had a response despite several emails and telephone calls since.

We asked to reserve the right to return to this item with regard to the excessive fees levied by this contractor on the public exceeding those fees laid down in legislation by the secretary of State and will  be contacting the District Auditor shortly when we have completed our investigation.

 

Agenda item 6 Parking enforcement contract 2009/10 – 10/11

Now we move on to how Councillor Rowley gave away £1.95 million of taxpayers money to a private company just because they failed to live up to their promises in the contract? As you will see it’s one balls up after another with Rowley:

a) Virement for extra FTE 10/11

We requested a public interest notice as per section 8 of the Audit commission act 1998 with respect to a Statement of decision made by Cllr Lee Rowley and Cllr Melvyn Caplan published 19th October 2011. In this statement was an approval for a virement for parking. According to Westminster City Council financial regulations a decision for a virement over £1M can only be made by the Leader or the Cabinet. This has been brought to the attention of Westminster City Council and no satisfactory reply has ever been made.

 

b) Invoicing for items not in the contract 2010/11

i)  We requested a public interest notice as per section 8 of the Audit commission act 1998 with respect to invoice 007158 dated 30/09/2011 in that WCC have been invoiced for an extra 50 FTE some six weeks prior to Cllr Lee Rolwey and Cllr Melvyn Caplan making a statement of decision on 19th October 2011 which states that “this decision will not be implemented until 5 days have elapsed from it being published”

 

ii) We requested a public interest notice as per section 8 of the Audit commission act 1998 with respect to invoice 007158, amount 135,153.71

invoice 007294, amount 136,365.88

invoice 007675, amount 149,061.19

invoice 007952, amount 159,860.56

invoice 008154, amount 208,286.62

invoice 008452, amount 208,286.62

invoice 008702, amount 208,286.62

in that the contractor NSL has failed to deliver that which they tendered for namely the new technology ANPR and NSL should be paying for extra CEO’s not Westminster residents.

 

c) Parking enforcement re-let 09/10

We requested a public interest notice as per section 8 of the Audit commission act 1998 with respect to the £600k paid to Mouchel for the parking re-let contract and in light of the report into the parking re-let being confidential that the authority publish this report the subject of which the residents of Westminster have paid for to the tune of £600k Publishing this report will assure the residents of Westminster that such mistakes that were made will not be repeated. If the report remains confidential then how can the residents of Westminster be assured the same mistakes will not happen again.

 

d) Mobile camera cars not certified from 31st March 2009 till 16th November 2010.

We requested a public interest notice as per section 8 of the Audit commission act 1998 that WCC incurred illegal expenditure as they failed to apply for VCA certification for the mobile CCTV vehicles which were procured under a parking enforcement contract for parking enforcement but which could not issue a single parking ticket from 31st March 2009 till 16th November 2010 or insure the protection of the residents of Westminster from illegally/dangerously parked vehicles. These vehicles had parking enforcement written on them and the one thing they could not do was parking enforcement.

 

e) Extra mobile enforcement vehicles not provided for in contract 2010/11

We requested a public interest notice as per section 8 of the Audit commission act 1998 with respect to extra mobile enforcement vehicles that were deployed on street by WCC contractor NSL. There is provision within the parking enforcement contract for 6 on street mobile enforcement vehicles in year one of the contract yet in January 2011 12 vehicles were seen patrolling the streets of Westminster City Council. This was confirmed at a meeting of 29th March 2011 by Cllr Lee Rowley at that meeting attended by members of the campaign group NoToMob (www.notomob.co.uk). On the 4th May and 17th May Cllr Rowley was asked in emails for the deed of variation for the increase in fleet size of mobile CCTV vehicles via email to which there was no reply however on the 2nd of June 2011 an email sent to Kevin Goad requesting the current mobile enforcement fleet size was also unanswered. Did WCC pay for this temporary expansion of the mobile CCTV fleet and who authorised such expansion?

 

Agenda item 7 Westminster Community Homes Ltd 2010/11

Inspection of accounts and contracts

We submitted email evidence from Westminster City Council’s Head of Legal refusing us access to inspect the accounts and contracts which is a material breach of the Accounts and Audit regulations 2011 part 4 made in the exercise of the powers conferred by section 27 of the Audit Commission Act 1998 and that a public notice be issued by the Audit Commission in relation to this breach as per section 8 of the Audit commission act 1998.

We gave notice to Westminster City Council that papers are being compiled to place before the MET police for consideration for a criminal prosecution pursuant to section 14 sub-section 3 of the Audit Commission act 1998.

 

We then reserved the right to place objections to the accounts of WCC in relation to the following items when our investigations are complete;

 

i) Award of contract to City West homes Ltd

ii) Award of contract to Global consulting Ltd

ii) Transfer of WCC property at Nil value to a registered charity in which WCC have only 33% interest.

 

Agenda item 8 City West Homes Ltd 2010/11

Inspection of accounts and contracts

Nutsville submitted email evidence from WCC’s Head of legal services refusing access to inspect the accounts and contracts to show a material breach of the Accounts and Audit regulations 2011 part 4 made in the exercise of the powers conferred by section 27 of the Audit Commission Act 1998 and that requested that a public notice be issued by the Audit Commission in relation to this breach as per section 8 of the Audit commission act 1998.

 

We again gave notice to Westminster City Council that papers are being compiled to place before the MET police for consideration for a criminal prosecution pursuant to section 14 sub-section 3 of the Audit Commission act 1998.

 

We went on to reserve the right to place objections to the accounts of WCC in relation to the following item when our investigations are complete.

 

i) Award of contract to City West homes Ltd from Westminster Community Homes ltd

 

Agenda item 9 Illegally issued PCN’S for parking via unapproved devices 2009/10 – 10/11

Then it was back to Councillor Lee Rowley’s lovely parking department.

Issue of illegal tickets via a fixed CCTV system

We requested a public interest notice is issued as per section 8 of the Audit commission act 1998  that all tickets issued for parking offences via fixed CCTV since March 2010 were issued unlawfully as WCC does not have certification and the CCTV system does not supply appropriate evidence in accordance with legislation.

We requested that an application is made to the courts pursuant to section 17 sub-section b of the Audit Commission Act 1998 declaring these payments unlawful and illegally derived income.

It’s certainly Westminster City Councils best years, with the Westminster MP Mark Field suggesting the Barrow and Rowley’s failed parking plan had an element of criminal revenue raising about it.

In fact parking has a lot to answer for down at City Hall, because most of the above would never have come to the publics notice had not Westminster City Council blindly gone ahead with the introduction of another parking revenue scheme, the motorcycle parking tax.

 

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6 Comments

ShockedJanuary 17th, 2012 at 7:14 pm

OMG

No wonder Colin Barrow wants to stay on long enough to screw the council’s budget.

Kill SwitchJanuary 17th, 2012 at 8:25 pm

Nuts, I doth my cap to you sir. Fantastistic work.

Now I really hope these twats get their collars felt.

GazJanuary 17th, 2012 at 9:20 pm

That’s some piece of work, fantastic qand congratulations. If that lot doesn’t turn up a few surprises I’ll eat my Yamaha :)

Now, you just need to make sure the voters of Westminster digest and take notice of the corrupt they keep inviting back on their behalf!

PeterJanuary 18th, 2012 at 8:19 am

Wow, i’d be concerned if I was at the wrong end of this…..

sunshineJanuary 18th, 2012 at 10:55 am

lets hop your figures are correct this time

Pat PendingJanuary 21st, 2012 at 10:46 pm

This is what prompted Barrow to Jump ship then, his position has become Untenable. Rowley will be next as no one will want his poison touch any where near them. Any new Boss coming in will want that twat long gone before he gets there. Well done to every one at Nutsville for highlighting these self serving untrustworthy councillors.

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