Tuesday, 25 February 2014

The Curious Case of Ian Crow

Mr Sherlock Holmes was hunched over his new tablet device, his pale face and aquiline features appearing more ghostly still in the machine's glowing light. He suddenly leapt to his feet and handed the contraption to me.

"I am afraid", said the great detective," that I must away to the city to make enquiries. I fear that our old friend Grant is in grave danger."

"No shit, Sherlock," I ejaculated! "Who would wish harm to that amiable fellow?"

Holmes handed me the electronic gizmo. "Read the twitter feeds, Watson, of @sandwellleader and @crow_ian * and let me have your deductions when I return," he stated as he departed in some haste.

For several hours I stared at the device until my head was spinning.Much of these entries may as well have been written in the tongue of a remote African hill tribe for all I understood them. Who are 'the Baggies,' I wondered? Why is a #ukipper different from a breakfast delicacy? What does 'Boing,Boing' mean? I made a mental note to ask my old-Etonian friend, Cameron, about the definition of 'LoL'.

Holmes returned with a somewhat downcast mien and reached for the syringe case to administer that substance of which I so disapproved. Finally, he requested my views.

"Well Holmes my dear chap, Crow seems a rough fellow of the worst sort. He seems not to be anyone working with those with mental health issues. He has called Grant 'a nutcase', 'nuts', 'a crack pot'. 'totally tapped', 'the nut-job' and even asked if dear old Vernon had been dropped on his head at birth."

"So far, so good," Watson. Pray continue."

"Crow is no lover of the arts. He says it is all a waste of money. He derides a building called The Public - 'nobody cares....they all think it's shit,' is his view. Mind you, Holmes, he seems to have some special knowledge about that place. He asked: 'Does that mean they are knocking it down?' long before a report was produced listing that as a possible option."

"Capital, Watson!" We will make a detective of you yet! But does he have a connection, I wonder, with that august body, Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council?"

I paused as our dear landlady, Mrs Hudson, brought in a tray of afternoon tea although the delight of her arrival was somewhat tempered when she announced a 3.8% rent increase for our small but comfortable rooms.

"No," Holmes, "I don't think so. On 6th November last he contacted the Council to report a pot-hole near somewhere called Ikea and they said they would send him a form to complete. Surely he wouldn't waste their time? Mind you, he seems to have become close to this man Cooper - they had quite a chat on this twitter-thing on 11th December."

"Indeed Watson," said my old friend, "something of a masterpiece of its type!"

"He may be of the lower ranks, Holmes, but he reads the local gossip sheets assiduously. Long before the matter came before the Council he followed up a story from this Cooper chap in the local rag - 'Hello is there an ice rink coming somewhere round here' he, er, crowed."

My friend stretched his gaunt limbs and became suddenly animated. "But what, my medical friend, of all this and our friend Grant?"

"Well he has, perhaps, been somewhat mocking in his tone with Crow. That fellow said he was taking his dear lady out and ended his tweet #prat with no brains - directed at Grant - who rather injudiciously replied 'that's no way to talk about your missus'. But surely to talk of danger is going too far?"

Holmes leant forward and began to tell me the outcome of his own enquiries thus far. "There are a number of oddities and discrepancies with our Mr Crow. Let us start with his address. He claims to live in the town of Wednesbury but he does not. I have checked sundry public records including the roll of voters,Watson, and our friend is being untruthful".

"I also deduce, Watson, that Crow must have attended the same - rather poor - school as Mr Cooper. How else can one explain some curious spelling tics common to them both?"

"Oh come now Holmes, where is the evidence for that?"

"Look again Watson at Crow's tweet of 12th November last when he claims to be the victim of what he calls 'personnel attacks' and then three tweets from Cooper of 12th and 13th November -'this is about a personnel attack',' this is a personnel attack' and '...instead of personnel attacks'."

"Illiteracy is unfortunate but common enough, Holmes. It is hardly a crime and certainly not one worthy of your phenomenal forensic skills?"

 Holmes pressed on regardless, "and then there is the word "vile" to be considered. This is a word used by Cooper as both an adjective and a noun."

I laughed incredulously. "A noun?"

"Indeed, Watson, Cooper uses 'the vile' to describe supporters of an association football team called Aston Villa as well as in its normal usage. Crow has used the word in a most aggressive manner towards friend Grant - objecting to his  'vile tone', accusing him of telling 'vile lies' and, of most concern, calling him a 'vile bag of shit'. Foul isn't it?"

Holmes fixed me with a direct stare, "I don't suppose that you believe in coincidences do you Watson?" Before I could reply, he continued. "There is a very often contemporaneity between the tweets of Cooper and Crow."

Here I felt obliged to interject. "I an beginning to understand this twitter business and must agree with you that Crow is not a real person. His account is an obvious blind. But, equally, Cooper cannot be a real person either. No-one in his position could pour forth such a stream of moronic drivel. I mean, look at all this stuff about canine faeces!"

"He is not only real Watson but, incredibly, he IS also the so-called leader of Sandwell MBC," cried my now ashen-faced friend.

Holmes reached for the syringe case again and having indulged himself with a particularly large dosage settled down to tell me more of this fantastic business.

"Crow is what is now popularly known as a troll, Watson. He claims to be an only occasional driver of vehicles and yet my enquiries this morn confirm that the overwhelming number of his tweets were sent via i-pad and i-phone devices. It is my working hypothesis that this fellow could not afford such items."

A light began to shine in the darkness. "I don't suppose," I whispered hoarsely," that this Cooper also sends his tweets by these i-thingies does he?" Another thought dawned, "Ah yes, and I begin to see the danger for Grant......."

Holmes took up his violin. "I am afraid, Watson, that this mysterious business is beyond even my considerable powers. It must remain unsolved and I regret that it will not feature in your famous annals. Let me see if I can put you to sleep."

I stretched myself out on the sofa and Holmes began to bow a strident Germanic air. Several hours later, I awoke as he played, from memory, the final notes of this epic piece.

 "What was that, Holmes, my dear fellow?"

"Gotterdammerung, Watson. Gotterdammerung!"


Since posting the above "friend" Crow's twitter account has been closed - e's passed on, e's off the twig! This crow is no more. He has ceased to be!


E-mail - thesandwellskidder@gmail.com     Twitter - bcrover

Tel: 07599 983737

WEBSITE re Ice Rink nonsense under construction - icestink.gb.net

* Sundry screenshots have been retained in the event that items suddenly "disappear".

Saturday, 8 February 2014

Terry Duffy House - A Big Thank You to Labour from Sandwell College?

Sandwell College has taken space in Terry Duffy House which is owned by Labour Party Properties Limited. I am assuming they are paying rent and so what better way of rewarding a party that has put two fingers up to the people and presented them with a second £70M building just a few months after they moved into their own £77M ski-slope?

These greedy sods were aggrieved at the lack of space at the ski-slope and hitched up with Sandwell Council (SMBC), who themselves were upset that the Tory government had cancelled their ruinously expensive Building for Schools scheme with Interserve and Barclays Bank and who were also determined to kill off The Public.

SMBC Labour group were able to use their political power to rush through closure of the Public and then for the so-called "Cabinet" to specifically resolve to suspend the Council's normal contract and procurement procedures so that they could give the contract to Interserve without any tender of competition. (How can they show that this in any way constitutes good value for money? There is NO comparator because they have rigged it that way).

I keep saying that giving multi-million contracts to a single party without anyone else getting a look-in MUST perforce be bent - as simple as that- but the burning question is why is this being done and by whom? (watch this space re the ice rink scandal). If not bent then this must constitute GROSS incompetence.

And so neither the College nor SMBC have made the details of their pathetically-named "Concordat" public even though the Council's Wolverhampton press office, aka The Express and Star, have reported it as such a good deal! The agreement was rushed through just before the Christmas holiday. Mr Darryl Magher has send a detailed Freedom of Information request to both the College and SMBC but at the time of writing, these remain unanswered. Such is the contempt with which SMBC are treating it that they have dropped it on some underling in the Museums Department to answer and he has requested "more time" to reply - fortunately refused by Mr Magher.

The College have failed to put the last TWO sets of Board minutes on their website. They are a public body but are also keeping everything secret.

Although The Public was paid for with taxpayers money and designed by an internationally-known architect, no plans for the new "Central Shit", with its "modular classrooms etc", have been made available to the people. Interserve are currently smashing-up the interior behind blanked-out windows. So-much for open democracy.

And so this tawdry affair continues with the College lining the pockets of the Labour Party that is looking after them so well! HOWZAT!

Oh, and by the way - those great socialists at Labour Party Properties Limited have paid no corporation tax on their property empire for the last EIGHT years.........

As usual, the SMBC Labour-friendly media have ignored these issues apart from vomiting out the odd press release. Compare and contrast this with the acres of space given to SMBC "leader" Pooper S-Cooper's moronic dog sh*t gimmick.


E-MAIL - thesandwellskidder@gmail.com

TWITTER @bcrover


There was some confusion yesterday about the ownership of Terry Duffy House. The Land Registry showed only one "exact match" for the address and postcode of  TD House but this turned out to be a property owned by SMBC and which I think has been leased for 10 years to the African Caribbean Resource Centre. I have now established that Labour Party Properties Limited bought TD House from Unite on 23rd December, 2009 and it is registered at the Land Registry under title number WM742064.

Thursday, 6 February 2014

FOI Request - Terry Duffy House - Councillor Mick Davies


Sandwell Councillor Mick Davies has struck a blow against the secret state of Sandwell with the following Freedom of Information Act request which he made by e-mail yesterday, 05/02/14:

To Whom it May Concern..

Re: Terry Duffy House,1 Thomas Street, West Bromwich.

I would ask that the following be treated as an FOI request.
  1. Can you confirm that Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council are the owners of the said property?
  2. Can you confirm the name of the lessees granted a 10 year lease on 17.6.2013.?
  3. Can you confirm the annual rental of this property?
  4. Can you confirm that this amount is in line with the current market value?
  5. Can you furnish me with a copy of the terms within the lease relating to sub-letting?
  6. Can you confirm that a sub lease has been granted with the sub-lessees being Sandwell College?
  7. Can you confirm when this sub-lease was dated?
  8. Can you confirm the annual rent associated with this sub-lease?
  9. Can you confirm to whom the sub-lease rent us paid to?.
Thanking you in anticipation of a positive response. (End)

I too have raised some questions via Twitter. There is a document in the public domain which states that in June 2011 the property was under the control of Labour Party Properties Limited but that the basement, ground and first floors were unoccupied. I am not sure whether the Labour Party had to pay business rates for these empty parts (?)

What happened between June, 2011 and the grant of a new lease in 2013 (I cannot find anything on the Sandwell Council website about the grant of a new lease)? IF Labour took the new lease why would they do that if the building was half-empty unless either they were getting it so cheaply or they had already done a secret deal to sub-let to Sandwell College? Or perhaps a secret deal has been done for a lease to Sandwell College and THEY are sub-letting to Labour and the unions?

One of the principal reasons given by SMBC for the current destruction of The Public (even though SMBC are NOT responsible for funding the College) is that the College needed extra space and so the voter/taxpayer is entitled to know what space the College has taken in Terry Duffy House and the terms.

I expect that Cllr Davies will be subjected to the usual bully-boy tactics from some quarters but I congratulate him on his brave action.


E-MAIL - thesandwellskidder@gmail.com

TWITTER - @bcrover

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

More PFI Nonsense from Sandwell's "Socialists".

In an earlier post I blogged about the grotesque amount of money being spent by  Labour Sandwell Council (SMBC) with Interserve, Barclays Bank and related companies and this post deals with an earlier scheme for five schools. Whilst not (apparently) on the same scale as the Sandwell Futures/Interserve scandal it must be noted that these payments MUST be made by SMBC as a matter of law for the next 20 to 30 YEARS. They come straight out of the annual budget regardless of anything else and leave less in the pot for vital frontline services. The only difference is that Sandwell's alleged "socialists" CAN cut frontline services but they can't cut these massive PFI payments.

In 2003 SMBC entered into a PFI deal to "design, build,finance and operate five replacement schools". All this was long before SMBC were forced to show payments made each month over £500 and so I cannot tell you the multi-million pound cost of the construction etc. It also seems that this earlier scheme was different from the Interserve nonsense in that I have not been able to trace any direct involvement in the scheme by SMBC (whereas they have a shareholding in the crap Interserve PFI via Sandwell Futures Limited).

It seems that ALL the payments going out from this scheme are to just one company - Total School Solutions (Sandwell) Limited. It is possible that there are some payments under £500 too but from the publicly-available figures SMBC paid them:

12 months Apr 2012 - Mar 2013 - just £2,086,573.97p (over £400,000 per school per annum);

9 months Apr 2013 - Dec 2013 - just £1,389,149.32.

There is a curious thing here in that the payments follow odd patterns - some months there are payments and none in others. There were no payments at all from the beginning of December 2012 until May, 2013. I have no idea why that should be and don't expect SMBC to tell the taxpayer but it seems a very odd arrangement. Further, the accounting year for Total Schools also now ends - like the Council's - on 31st March. The last available accounts to 31st March, 2013 show "sales" ie turnover of only £1,285,00 whereas you will see from the above that SMBC definitely paid them over £2 million. (I have the exact dates and they are on the website for all to see).

As with all this PFI nonsense there is a whole web of companies moving money about - presumably to avoid paying any tax. These are just some of the companies involved in this rubbish:

1.  The original Total School Solutions (Sandwell) Limited was a wholly-owned subsidiary of Total School Solutions (Sandwell) Holdings Limited (see below) which was a joint venture between Vinci (Holdings) Limited (a subsidiary of Vinci Plc) and PF Schools (Sandwell) Limited (a subsidiary of Pell Frischmann Group Limited.

2.  It does appear that even the companies involved occasionally get confused since the accounts of TSS (Sandwell) Ltd say that Vinci (Holdings) Limited sold out its shareholding in 2007 whereas SMBC refer to the seller as Vinci Investments Limited. The sale was said to be to SMIF UK Limited (acting as the General Partner of Secondary Market Infrastructure Fund UK LP).

3.  But what is this? Despite what is said in 1 above the 2013 TSS Holdings accounts say the original parties were the aforementioned PF Schools (Sandwell) Limited but not Vinci - a new company pops up - Norwich Infrastructure 4 Limited. This may be an error since it seems that Vinci were the original construction company and Norwich came in later.

4.  There is an hilarious document from 2007 when Vinci Investments Limited wanted to sell out. They thought they needed SMBC's consent but SMBC thought they didn't but gave it anyway! Needless to say that in the secret state of Sandwell the document is heavily redacted so that the voter cannot see what is happening! As above, it appears that the sale was to SMIF UK Limited but another company Semperian PPP Investment Partners No 2 Limited also comes into the reckoning but they sold out in 2013 to the aforementioned Norwich Infrastructure which itself is owned jointly by Foresight VCT Plc and Foresight2 VCT Plc.

I am not an accountant and when I first saw the accounts of TSS (Sandwell) Limited my heart leapt! All that money SMBC was paying them gave rise to taxation of £88,000 but oh dear, the Notes to the accounts refer to this as "deferred taxation" and by happy chance this was reduced for the last year to,er, ZERO by utilisation of losses,"other tax adjustments" etc.

A Short Quiz

In this smoke and mirrors world, TSS (Sandwell) Holdings Limited is purely a vehicle for collecting interest payments and income from fixed assets. In the last two financial years the interest receivable was £306,000 and £231,000. Now guess how much disappeared in "Interest payable and similar charges"? Go on, have a go? No prizes, I am afraid if you guessed, er, £306,000 and £231,000! Nevertheless, due to the other income there was a potential corporation tax charge of £30,000 but, of course, this is offset by the "effects of group income". Now guess the actual tax payable? Yes, you got it - ZERO!

Incidentally, I believe that Semperian referred to above are registered in Jersey.

As I write, the joke "leader" of SMBC, Cooper, has been on TV talking about dog shit. Apparently SMBC issued 80 x £75 dog shit fines last year (although he didn't say how many were actually PAID). He can go on tele to boast about potential income of £6,000 when pouring multi-million pound sums into these horrendous PFI deals!

I don't know what it is but to quote "Mr Leigh Gull", "socialism it ain't".

And finally, if you still do not feel that SMBC have thoroughly shafted you, the original name of Total School Solutions (Sandwell) Holdings Limited was, I kid you not, PEOPLEUPPER LIMITED!


E-MAIL - thesandwellskidder@gmail.com

TWITTER - @bcrover