Monday, 19 May 2014

Skidder Shorts No. 11 - Five Star Sandwell!

One of the two "Deputy Leaders" [sic] of Sandwell Council ("SMBC"), Mahboob Hussain,  quite properly completed the Register of Member's Interests and referred to unspecified employment with "Five StarTaxis" of Dudley. Someone made an enquiry with the Monitoring Officer and £124,251 per annum Head of Legal & Governance, N Sharma, replied to confirm that Five Star Taxis are, indeed, Five Star Taxis and Minibuses Limited who happen to have a contract with SMBC (although the Register has still not been amended to this effect).

A search at Companies House shows that a "Mahboob Hussain" was actually Company Secretary at Five Star from 5th August, 2009 to 9th October, 2012.

A search of the SMBC "payments over £500" list (which obviously excludes any further payments under £500 that may have been made)  shows that in SMBC financial year 2012/2013 Five Star received £30,744.54p.

The Labour heirarchy at SMBC are constantly whining about having to make "cuts". Happily, Five Star seem to be exempt since the payments for 2013/2014 nearly DOUBLED to £60,471.75p! Kerching!


e                        t   @bcrover (Vernon Grant)

Confidential phone no. 07599 983737 - 7am to 8pm

Tweets of The Turdmeister - Part One

A number of residents of the Borough of Sandwell have minor criminal convictions but as they are not open political opponents of the oafish Labour "leader" [sic] of Sandwell Council, Darren Cooper, aka "The Turdmeister", they escape his public censure. Not so in the case of one local  man - let us call him "Mr X".

It is a matter of public record that Mr X faced a court hearing in February, 2014. Before the hearing Turdy regularly "advertised" the forthcoming hearing via what he says is his "personal" twitter account (er, @sandwellleader) as it is fair to say that Mr X was a political opponent (although not a member of any political party).

Mr X was convicted of a relatively minor offence not including violence and received what appears to be a particularly harsh sentence. The "Leader's" friends at the Express and Star made great play on this "story" and gave it prominent coverage complete with photographs. Turdy was beside himself with glee and on 11th and 12th February ran a whole series of gloating tweets.

Let us just assume for a moment that The Turdmeister was tweeting simply as a loutish moron and was indifferent to the effect of any of this upon the reputation of the Borough (in 2012 his twitter account was famously described as "a barely literate stream of invective"). Some may say, "ah, well - that's politics". Some may  even think Mr X was "fair game" for a series of public attacks (bring back the stocks....) But even those of a vindictive bent would, I surmise, have had their two-pennies' worth and left it at that. But not Cooper.......

Since his initial flurry, The Turdmeister has additionally tweeted direct references to the conviction on a minimum of 8 occasions plus he has tweeted a minimum of 3 times enquiring about fine payment. In addition he has tweeted a minimum of 13 (thirteen) times concerning Mr X's curfew. Mr X has fragile health but our dear "Mental Health Nurse" has referred to him as "a criminal", "crim" and "the convict X". He has threatened to report Mr X to the police for "breaches" of curfew (even though he apparently has no knowledge of the ACTUAL terms of same and is incorrect in his assumptions). In one particularly notorious incident he actually took to twitter and directly accused Mr X of breaching curfew and throwing a brick through his window - later tweeting that this incident had actually been the work of a gang of "thugs". On the night of 3rd April he tweeted about the curfew no less than 3 times (which prompted me to refer this to Ed Miliband on the basis that this was simple harassment. No reply, natch).

And all this from a man who once tweeted, "I like to be kind to other people no matter who they r. That's what makes me who I am". We must all be grateful that his "mental health nursing career" does not entail working with prisoners or other "offender rehabilitation".


The final paragraph above was meant to be "ironic". My information is that the boorish Cooper is employed by Birmingham & Solihull Mental Health Foundation Trust ("Bsmhft") who, inter alia, supply mental health services at Birmingham - Winson Green - Prison. I had been told Cooper did indeed work with offenders but I am still unable to independently verify that (yet). Whatever, the situation, Mr John Short, the Chief Executive of Bsmhft, has been made aware of "The Tweets of the Turdmeister" and, indeed of this blogpost dated 19th May. You and I might be surprised that a "mental health trust" tolerates the sort of thing referred to above by an employee (especially if the employee DOES actually work with offenders) but it seems that Bsmhft not only tolerates this but actively CONDONES such behaviour. How else can one explain that "@sandwellleader" [sic] made a further four attacks on Mr X via twitter on the night of 26th May (seven days AFTER this post)?

On that night, Darren Cooper tweeted the Express & Star article again. He then tweeted 3 more times about the curfew. Interestingly, when a formal complaint was made to Sandwell Council about different tweets our "mental health nurse" was totally exonerated as "he was tweeting in a personal capacity" but when confronted about these tweets he says it is just "politics". Here is a tweet from 26th May and it is up to you, dear readers, to decide whether all of this constitutes bullying/harassment:

"@X No I don't think it is bullying it's politics. You were convicted by a court it's in the public realm. End of anyway #curfew".

Clearly Mr John Short must also take the view that all this is acceptable as The Teflon Turd has continued his "campaign" with impunity. Why should this be? Could it have anything to do with the fact that the he is not only an employee but, unbelievably, also a GOVERNOR of Birmingham & Solihull Mental Health Foundation Trust! You couldn't make it up!


Now it is absolutely clear that Bsmhft  DOES condone all this as employee Darren Cooper has re-started his attacks. And so we get these to Mr X:

19/06/14 "Where you been hiding X? Been doing your  community services? Lol"

20/06/14 "Only the criminal mind would come up with such an analogy X".


e      t @bcrover (Vernon Grant)

Confidential phone no:  07599 983737

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

A Sandwell Fairy Tale......

This is a long and depressing tale which shows the "strange" ways in which two local Labour politicians have used taxpayers' money and also the attitude of the mainstream media to such matters.

Please note that what follows has been pieced together by my own amateur efforts and there are a couple of gaps where information is simply not available to me (yet).

Can I take you back to 2009/2010 please? Enter "councillor" Darren Cooper still yet to earn the sobriquet, "The Turdmeister" but a political-bruiser of the old school scrambling up the local greasy pole. Cooper was first elected as a Labour councillor with Sandwell Council ("SMBC") in 1991 and became a cabinet member in 2003/4. Unbelievably his career continued and he became Deputy Leader of SMBC in 2009. The sitting Labour "leader" then had to resign due to a theft charge (!) and Cooper was crowned as "leader" (whereupon he took up a number of important local positions and directorships including in December 2009, Birmingham Airport Holdings Limited & associated companies).

And so, we are told, despite his long political experience it is alleged that in 2009 or 2010 Cooper suddenly felt that he needed "executive coaching". Now there are hundreds of companies providing this sort of, er, training (eg Caret Consulting) and, indeed, SMBC pay taxpayers' money for such services from time to time and so one would assume that a tendering process of sorts would take place to find a suitable mentor for our shy, retiring flower. But no. SMBC turned instead to, er, local Birmingham Labour politician, the recently de-seated Steven John Bedser.

Remember folks, we are still somewhere in the mists of 2009/2010. The history of Bedser at this stage is a little opaque. He was elected to Birmingham City Council as a Labour candidate in 1998. His LinkedIn profile - presumably his own work - states that he has been a Birmingham City Council ("BCC") Councillor from 1998 "to present" which overlooks the fact that he lost his seat and was NOT on BCC 2008 to 2010. He also shows a somewhat schizophrenic approach to the niceties of Company Law (slightly worrying as he is NOW a cabinet member of BCC) since he likes to describe himself as "Managing Director" of a non-limited company he says, via LinkedIn, he set up in 2006, "FD Associates". Strangely he seems to have also traded under the name "Fairy Dust Consulting" (see further below).

It seems Bedser did operate as a sole trader under the name FD Associates and he had a separate bank account in that name with Nat West. Somewhere around this time, and whilst not on  BCC, he applied for a grant from them for the "LGBT Senior Reference Forum" either in the name FD Associates or Fairy Dust Consulting. Even though there was at the time (and still is) a brilliant LGBT charity in Birmingham doing excellent work, BCC decided to pay, then ex-councillor, Bedser via "Fairy Dust Consulting" (not FD Associates) £7,819.50 of taxpayers' money in financial year 2009/2010 (BCC FoI reply 25/05/11 to Mr D. Singh).

I have asked Bedser himself to say what happened to the money and the "LGBT Senior Reference Forum" but no reply has been forthcoming. BCC say they did not "request a final report" on this expenditure of public money ie they have no idea how it was spent. Enquiries of the Library of Birmingham and the Birmingham LGBT charity reveal that they have no knowledge of any of this and do not hold an archive for it. Maybe the money was spent wisely on a good cause but we, the public, simply don't know.

Still back in 2009/2010 and now trying to piece together details of Bedser's "consultancy" career. This from a September 2009 website which may or may not be totally accurate:

"Fairy Dust Consulting is a network of experienced consultants (ie NOT just Bedser) each of them recognised as a leading practitioner in their own field."

And then to paraphrase the rest - Steve's origins lie in the Health Service. this later developed into a management career. He then became Chief Officer of a Primary Care Group and then Director of a Primary Care Trust, both in Sandwell. Since leaving the Health Service he has been the Chief Executive of a large environmental regeneration charity prior to founding Fairy Dust Consulting in 2006. Alongside his paid career, Steve has a high profile as an elected member in Birmingham" (this last bit can't be true since he was off BCC in 2009)

 In other words (and if correct) a reasonable CV but no reference to qualifications/experience as a management consultant/executive coach.

Sounds busy though doesn't he? Add to this his claims of being a trade-union activist for Nalgo and Unison and his work as agent for Labour MP, Richard Burden! And then in early 2010 he attempted to get the Labour Parliamentary candidature for Birmingham, Erdington . Strangely, he does not seem to to have made much of his glittering health service career nor his role as hot-shot "consultant" with the comrades on the selection committee if this quote from his pitch related in "The Stirrer" is anything to go by:

"My background is in community engagement, working with the voluntary sector".

But then in May, 2010 Bedser was elected for the second time to BCC. He has recently had a few grand off them but now there was the question of declarations of interests etc. For reasons that are not clear, on 4th June, 2010 he set up a limited company using his sole name and with himself as the only shareholder called Fairy Dust Consulting Limited. On the same day he filed a declaration of interests with BCC declaring the existence of the new Company and saying this (words in parenthesis my own):

"Prior to my election I held contracts (plural) for professional services. For the avoidance of doubt I have now withdrawn from these contracts (plural) and will complete any outstanding work on an ex-gratia basis to the City Council. These contracts (plural) were entered into as a sole trader. Any future contracts will be tendered for by Fairy Dust Consulting Limited in full accordance with Council procurement rules".

(Incidentally, our "management consultant" also confirmed a connection with those old friends of Sandwell Labour, er, Unite the Union.).

Now you may wonder why the next bit is relevant but please bear with me. When Bedser set up the Limited Company (which gave him a certain amount of "invisibility" from prying eyes) he effectively "sold" the benefits and advantage of the non-limited company trading names FD Associates and Fairy Dust Consulting to the Limited Company. No money actually changed hands but rather what is called a "goodwill" payment was booked to the Company. This figure was dreamt up by Bedser and/or his accountant who valued the highly-successful Bedser "brand" at, er, £10,000. What this was based on may only be apparent to HMRC who tend to restrict "goodwill" which is purely personal to an owner/director since they can amortise this sum over the years and claim this as an allowable expense in computing taxable profits (Bedser has, in actual fact, done this himself and reduced goodwill by £1,000 per annum in the two sets of abbreviated accounts he has filed to date but as for profits......).

The brief accounts for 2011 and 2012 show that Fairy Dust Consulting Limited was at that time a VERY small operation indeed. The 2011 accounts show the goodwill referred to above being reduced from £10k to £9k and the only actual asset of the business being £329 (presumably a computer/phone). They do show cash in the bank of  £7,963 which sharp-eyed readers will note is similar to the amount Bedser got from BCC. As this is a small company there is no legal requirement to file a profit and loss account but the amount transferred from there onto the balance sheet was, er, £76 (yes - just Seventy-Six Pounds!).

The 2012 accounts, and it is important to note that these are dated 30th June, 2012, show a deteriorating position! The so-called intangible "goodwill" has been reduced to £8k and it looks like he might have bought a new computer since the only actual assets are now £743 BUT most of the cash in the bank has gone (down to £1,748). In fact, there is a major trading LOSS such that current liabilities of £11,532 exceeded assets of £8743 (including the £8,000 "goodwill") by £2,609. This is insolvency and the accountant was obliged to add the following statement to the accounts:

"Going Concern: the Company has wound down much of its activity (what activity?) during the year and as a result these accounts have been prepared on the going concern basis, on the understanding that the sole director and shareholder (ie Bedser) will continue to financially support the Company".

Which brings us back neatly to SMBC and The Turdmeister. IF he needed "executive coaching" why did SMBC not tender for and employ a reputable company such as, for example, the aforementioned Caret? (Curiously HR Magazine reported in September 2010 that Bedser had set up via Fairy Dust a specialist training programme for senior lesbian, gay and bisexual leaders called "Rainbow High" in partnership with, er Caret). Who at SMBC made the decision to appoint Bedser for this role? Was it Cooper himself? Did the Chief Exec have any input?

The fact is that without a Freedom of Information Act request we do not know when Bedser was first "appointed" but it must have been before May 2010 since Turdy tweeted on 24/09/13 that Bedser "was not a Councillor" when the arrangement started. This is odd because what appears to be the second invoice Bedser submitted was for Feb-Aug 2011.

It is up to you dear reader to decide whether Bedser's track record was such as to qualify him as an "executive coach" for Cooper and whether SMBC erred in failing to tender and/or give the alleged contract to an established training company. It is then for you to decide, whether Bedser's tinpot company should have been allowed to charge the taxpayer a whopping £450 for each alleged monthly "session".

Sorry, but there is more. As above Bedser secured (at least) a first payment from public funds which Cooper tacitly accepted to the press was £2,700 (6 x £450 sessions). But this was in the good old days when councils did not have to publish a list of payments over £500. This caused a problem in 2011 when the rules were tightened.

As any fule kno an invoice for payment should be addressed to the council. I don't know what happened with the first payment but by the time of Bedser's second invoice the rules had tightened. By now our management guru was back on BCC and so you would assume that he would know to address the invoice to "Sandwell Council" or to "SMBC" but no, he addressed it directly to "Lindsey Rogers, Governance Services Manager (Members), Sandwell Council House, Oldbury etc". The invoice dated 16th August, 2011 was for another 6 undated - "sessions" with Turdy between February and August 2011 at an unspecified venue. In total, a second £2,700 from the taxpayer. Interestingly he asked for the cheque to be made payable to "FD Associates" even though the Limited Company was up and running. You will also note from the above that Bedser was fully au fait with "Council procurement rules" in respect of his dealings with BCC but that the rules with Sandwell were, apparently, something different.

But due to the new council expenditure rules another problem arose as this "contract" had never been tendered for and so SMBC had to complete a form to allow the payment to be made. Happily the same Lindsey Rogers, Governance Services Manager (Members), was able to authorise this stating on the form "Leaders (sic) mentoring - bespoke supplier who is directly engaged via Leaders (sic) office". Kerching!

And so it went on. Bedser was now "in the system" though he still made sure to address to next invoice direct to Lindsey Rogers as before. Out went another £2,700 for 6 undated £450 sessions at an uknown venue and there was yet another after that so that Bedser/Fairy Dust received a minimum of £11,800 of our money. The situation continued after the date of the 2012 accounts and as no later accounts are yet available it is at least possible that the SMBC money was the ONLY income to the management guru's company! We shall see....

Mind you, Bedser was quick to complain about perceived lack of value from others despite having himself received a minimum of £19,619.50 from two councils eg these two tweets from last summer (note hashtags):

"There isn't a refund, not with the AA said the call centre operator when I tried to get 6 months back, having sold my car" ; or better still:

"@Post Office Just figured out you charged 24% premium on my returned holiday currency #thievingrobdogs #notmuchbetterthanwonga" (I'm sure all those in Sandwell who can only dream of a holiday will be shedding a quiet tear......)

This came to light when I strayed across the name "Fairy Dust Consulting Limited" in the payments over £500 list. Various local mainstream media outlets including the BBC were alerted but, depressingly, the amount of our money being spent was too insignificant for them to be bothered with. I began to tweet the information but then the Wolverhampton branch of SMBC's Press Office, the Express and Star, weighed in to help the person they describe to me as "Darren". You will see from the below their "interesting" take on the affair - please have a handkerchief ready!

The E&S ran the story on Friday 13th (!) September, 2013. The first thing Turdy told them was that he had very conveniently now stopped the "monthly sessions" because of the need to make costs savings! Despite his 18 years on the Council prior to becoming leader he "saw himself as a kid from a council estate who had entered a completely different world and had to make some difficult decisions." He admitted the sessions (no dates or venues and not apparently asked for by the senior journalist) had been going on since 2009 but the E&S didn't bother to get details (so it is possible from this that Bedser received more than £11,800). Cooper never talked politics with his Labour chum (who happened to be on a joint Birmingham/Sandwell Council health committee for part of this period) but the training was to help him be an effective leader dealing with people from "all walks of life".

The sob story continued, "I became leader at a very difficult time. I had to move on a former chief executive and take the decision to cut the number of senior directors from 26 to 13". He apparently told the senior journalist that the training covered  different aspects of communication including "body language" but he had (conveniently again) just stopped as "every little helps". No date was given nor apparently asked for in respect of the "final session".

As if this garbage was not bad enough the senior E&S journalist returned to the subject the following day saying "there is a legitimate debate to be had about the use of a consultant and the cost at a time when council cuts are resulting in hundreds of jobs being lost. Yet it offers some insight into the enormity of the responsibility that some politicians can find themselves bearing." (Honestly, I am not making this up and it gets worse...I was also under the impression that Turdy desperately wanted this job and did not have it thrust upon him....)

"For those at the top", advised the "E&S", "it is something of a baptism of fire to suddenly find yourself running a budget worth hundreds of millions of pounds a year, employing more staff than any business in the borough and being relied upon by every single man, woman and child to provide a service." (Incidentally Turdy is just about to preside over a cull of 36% of those staff but it is not clear if the "body language sessions" covered handing-out the P45's).

Just in case we had still not got the message the Saturday piece ended (takes cut onion and dabs nears eyes), "No wonder Councillor Cooper wanted to make sure he could get his message across".

Whilst you are cleaning the vomit from yourselves we can reflect perhaps on one or two of Turdy's efforts to "get his message across":

1. How about this from The Express about Thatcher before she died. Our "mental health nurse" retweeted someone's message "Lady Thatcher. Rot in hell". As reported, "when challenged Mr Cooper made clear his support for the sentiment by replying: 'my feelings, not my words'."

2. Or this to my good self "And now your mate @xxxxx as [sic] been put to bed I'm turning my attention to you Mister."

3. I don't think Bedser would endorse homophobia but when three Ukip campaigners were photographed outside the public lavatories in Blackheath on 21st December, 2013, campaigning to keep them open,  Cooper sent this delightful yuletide message, "O dear you could get arrested hanging around what was public toilets! #threewisemen lol #ukippers. Please RTweet"; or

4. A brilliant synopsis of education funding, "Not easily [sic] to understand how schools get funding taken me a while. Easy to create conspicuous [sic] theory and carp about things."

But the E&S hadn't quite finished....Because the executive coaching had made him a more effective leader the cull of directors (which wouldn't have happened anyway, of course) had SAVED the taxpayer FOUR MILLION pounds and so he thought this "justified" the minimum £11,800 payment to his Labour chum. Now if you believe that you really do believe in fairies........


Information about Sandwell Council, Sandwell College and Interserve always welcome!

e                     t   bcrover  (Vernon Grant)

Confidential phone number - 7am to 8pm - 07599 983737

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Ice Rink - A Sandwell Council Lie - And I Can Prove It!

A brief summary:

July, 2013 The "leader" of Sandwell Council ("SMBC") Darren Cooper, aka The Turdmeister, told the press HE had initiated talks with "one or two" developers to bring an ice rink to Sandwell. Thanks to my recent Freedom of Information Request SMBC - rather than the developer (!) - then assessed nine sites (presumably at public expense) before deciding that the best thing to do would be to use taxpayers' money to demolish its own Queen's Square car park! Council officers then scored this plan and it came out at a ridiculously low 54%. But Labour decided it had to go ahead. They arranged a proposed deal with a secret demolition contractor at a secret cost to knock the car park down.

December, 2013 A plan was hatched and put before a "cabinet" committee. The idea was to use public money to provide a cleared site to the developer who would then be granted a long lease at a nominal - rather than a commercial rent (why?). No other party was involved in this secret "deal". Three senior Labour "councillors"- Hussain, Eling and Crompton - had a busy agenda with the usual formalities, nine other matters and this to deal with, but speeded through in just 30 minutes - in the meantime deciding to drop the lease idea and find time to resolve to simply sell the cleared site to the developer at a price "to be agreed"!

When the meeting minutes were published they confirmed that the three Labour Councillors had indeed agreed this deal and in paragraph 59 (13) (2) resolved:

"that the Director - Legal and Governance Services be authorised to dispose of the Multi Storey Car Park, West Bromwich to Planet Ice Property Leisure Limited on terms and conditions to be agreed by the Area Director - Regeneration and Economy".

This is an out and out lie. Why it has been made I know not. How do I know this? Because until last week Planet Ice Property Leisure Limited did not exist! It does now under company number 09029113. I should know since I bought the company on 8th May!

Further info including my request for a FoI Internal Review via - see "Ice Rink Appraisal".

See also my two earlier blogs - 15/01/14 "Another Sandwell Scandal - Spot the Difference?" and 18/01/14 "Cooper - Skating on Thin Ice? (Ice Rink Scandal Part 2).


Info about Sandwell Council, Sandwell College and Interserve always welcome!

e                t   @bcrover  (Vernon Grant)

Confidential phone - 07599 983737 ( 7am to 8pm)

Skidder Shorts No 10 - Sandwell Culture-Free Zone

When the laughable Labour "leader" of Sandwell Council ("SMBC") , The Turdfinder General himself, was shafting The Public he infamously stated that Sandwell had "loads" of other galleries anyway! I wonder what he meant by this? Here is the information of the pathetic service offered - taken from the SMBC website.

The only facility listed as a "gallery" is Wednesbury Museum & Art Gallery which between Apr-Sept is open a massive 9 hours per week (wow!). This is reduced to 4 hours per week Oct-Nov and it is closed altogether Dec-Mar!

The other facilities on the website are not galleries nor community spaces like The Public but museums/heritage sites and they are rarely open either.

The best option is Haden Hill House which manages a massive 18 hours per week of opening Apr-Sept but this goes down to, er, 4 hours per week Oct-Nov and, again, it is closed altogether Dec-Mar. The associated Haden Old Hall is only open for special events and open days.

The other "jewel in the crown", Oak House, is also only open 9 hours per week Apr-Sept and reduces to a meagre 4 hours per week Oct-Nov. Yet again, the good folk of Sandwell (and beyond) are deprived of any service at all over the winter months - Dec-Mar.

The Manor House Museum manages 6 hours PER MONTH Apr-mid July and 12 hours per week mid July-mid Sept.

And that is basically it folks! There is a Community Heritage display in Tipton Library plus two other sites which are only open by appointment or on special open days ie Bishop Asbury Cottage (open for a massive 6 hours on two dates this YEAR) and Galton Valley Pumping Station.

The Labour Group controlling SMBC in its iron grip are pumping multi-million pound sums each year into sport - much of it borrowed money. Besides new centres they are provided grants to sports organisations and ploughing millions by way of subsidy each year to the Leisure Trust, but they "can't afford" culture, the arts, libraries and, yes, even museums. It's all because of "government cuts" don't ya know!


Info about Sandwell Council, Sandwell College and Interserve always welcome:

e             t  @bcrover  (Vernon Grant)

Confidential Phone Number - 07599 983737 (7am to 8pm)

Thursday, 8 May 2014

Unsuccessful Complaint to Sandwell Council - Tweets of Council "Leader" [sic]

In the eyes of Sandwell Council ("SMBC") my wife, Linda, and I are not individuals but in some way conjoined in respect of matters Sandwell. Regular readers will know that I have been using the nom de guerre "Vernon Grant @bcrover" via Twitter. Darren Cooper, aka "The Turdmeister" - a "councillor" and, unbelievably, the "leader" of SMBC, has frequently described this as a "fake account" which is incorrect as many people in West Bromwich and elsewhere have been fully aware of my identity from "day 1". No-one in what I like to call my wonderful "Bletchley Circle" bothered to tell Turdy.

Linda had over 30 years service in local government service. Ironically she began her career at SMBC and, after spells with other authorities, she returned to SMBC as Chief Librarian before being asked BY THEM to go on secondment to Sandwell Arts Trust, a charity, to head up the team running The Public. By the 25 year contract drawn up by SMBC, workers at The Public had the benefit of the local government redundancy scheme as operated by Sandwell Council. Later, Linda's secondment ended and she became the Managing Director on a, er, "permanent" basis.

The clever [sic] people at SMBC have form for agreeing long-term contracts and then trying to pull out of them eg Sandwell Homes, Transform Sandwell etc and most readers will be aware that the political leadership soon decided it didn't like its own agreement and that it would shaft Sandwell Arts Trust and The Public. The Turdmeister himself chaired the "cabinet" meeting of  16th October, 2013 when the "decision" was laughably "confirmed" and it was specifically noted that SMBC would meet its own contractual obligations for the 60 folk they were about to throw out of work (Para 1.7). Accordingly, Linda received her redundancy payment - not a penny more, not a penny less.

In early March, 2014 Turdy finally worked out my identity and besides savaging me, he decided that Linda was also "fair game" for attack. It has been suggested that because she is married to me, she is somehow jointly responsible for what I tweet. This is factually incorrect but that matters not to Turdy & Co. He specifically threatened to go and confront her at her new place of work (for reasons he has not explained - maybe as a "mental health nurse" he wished to offer her counselling......).

Even though Linda was not, at the time of redundancy, an employee of SMBC The Turdmeister threatened to make public details of her redundancy pay (ironic as he is fighting so hard to keep the details of the Sandwell College "Con"cordat secret). He changed tack and then suggested he would do a Freedom of Information Act request as to her redundancy pay. Curiously, just such a request was then made by a mysterious "Mr J. Shephard".

Linda made a formal complaint about this to SMBC - see "Part One" below for the full text. She was of the view that Cooper was trying to bully and intimidate her. There was an initial suggestion that the complaint would be dealt with by an independent person but it was then considered by SMBC's own Head of Legal, £124,251 per annum N. Sharma. The complaint was dismissed for the following reasons:

1. Turdy was tweeting in a purely personal capacity;
2. In any event nothing in the tweets constituted bullying or bringing his office into disrepute;
3. The tweets do not constitute the "meanings" Linda ascribed to them and she was "making assumptions"         (whatever that means!);
4. People reading the tweets would not know they referred to Linda (nor to me although I had made no
5. Again referring to MY tweets (Linda had not attacked SMBC via twitter) - Ms Sharma opined "I am
    bemused.....that it feels so personal or unfair to you that the Leader should make some minor "teasing"
    remarks in comparison to the tweets coming the other way.";
6. The tweets were not serious enough to merit further investigation.

As above, the full text is set out below and you can form your own judgment.

This dismissal was sent to Linda by e-mail on 26th March, 2014. Cooper was clearly delighted since on 29th March he sent TWO further tweets to me falsely claiming that Linda's redundancy constituted "a six-figure sum" and gloating "Tweeting in a personal capacity. Lol" (full texts in Part 2 below).

(One might have thought, given the complaint, that proceeding with further attacks on this subject shows a gross lack of judgment from someone "in charge" of a huge budget but, again, you can decide).

In view of the ongoing attacks, Linda put in an appeal on 30th March, 2014 (full text in Part 2 below) and the matter was listed to go before three councillors of the Standards Sub-Committee on 14th April, 2014. I assume that the all-powerful Cooper was informed but whatever the position he was clearly confident that he would face no sanction as he continued his attacks, addressed to me and now implying that I had in some way financially "benefitted" from Linda's redundancy pay:

03/04 "....How's the cashflow after the big pay-off. Could do with some cash to help the college"

04/05 "....The Public Jules u did ok"

05/04 "....Talking of rich how much went into your house recently"

09/04 "...on the pop aagain Jules - spending all that taxpayers money"

The matter went to three councillors on the Standards Sub-Committee who upheld the original decision. They decided:

1. Turdy was tweeting in a personal capacity;
2. Even if he was not acting in a personal capacity there would not have been a potential breach of the               Members's Code of conduct (!);
3. If they had felt there was a potential breach, the matter was not serious enough to merit an investigation; &
4. That because of MY tweets "it was tit for tat"!

Completely, er, vindicated Turdy returned to the theme on the very next day ( before Linda had been advised on the outcome of her appeal) and despite the fact that he has blocked me via twitter:

15/04 " public soon Humpty (ie me). Then we can talk taxpayers money can't we"

02/05 (re attending arts events & ignoring for example, price of tickets at The Hawthorns) "Indeed most can't afford to I'm afraid #nothadafatpayoff for #failure"

Cooper is about to preside over a cull of 36% of SMBC's workforce. I hope he is not going to use social media to attack them in respect of their redundancy payments!

The full complaints are set out below. I have not redacted the other names for sinister reasons but simply because I do not have time to ask permission from the authors. Linda has given me permission to disclose the complaint documents. Turdy has removed the offending tweets.


COMPLAINT FORM – Linda Saunders – continuation sheet
Please provide us with the details of your complaint.   Please identify, if possible, which part of the Members Code of Conduct you consider has not been complied with.
My complaint is against Councillor Darren Cooper and specifically a series of tweets on 5th, 6th and 7th March 2014. These tweets were potentially seen by all of his followers and were re-tweeted/commented on by several individuals. I attach screenshots of the tweets below.
In terms of the Rules of Conduct, I am alleging that he has not complied with the following rules:
12 (2) b Do not bully

The tone and implication of the tweets is threatening and intimidating – he direct mailed my husband with our address, threatened to come to my new place of work (Birmingham xxxxxxxxxxx), implied that I could be in breach of a settlement agreement and threatened to disclose my redundancy and pension settlements. He is not entitled to information relating to my redundancy – I was not an employee of SMBC at the time. Details of my redundancy are a private matter and there is no requirement for them to be in the public domain. If he has it, then there has been a breach of the Data Protection rules and I specifically reserve the right to take further action if that is the case. If he does not have it, then he is simply making threats and harassing me.
12 (6) Do not conduct yourself in a manner which could reasonably be regarded as bringing your office or authority into disrepute
His intemperate reactions to the twitter conversations that day and bullying of myself using a twitter account @sandwellleader bring both the Office of Leader and Sandwell MBC into disrepute. These are not one-off instances as investigation of his twitter account would show but I specifically draw your attention to the following.
(I have not copied one further disreputable tweet wherein he also used sexist language to refer to me as my husband’s “wifey”).
Screen shots
March 5th
Really! Would you like me under FOI, 2 release what your wife got.” Threatening a misuse of confidential information relating to my redundancy that he has no right to know or to release and attempting to damage my reputation.

March 6th
Did the wife get a good pay off.” As above.

March 6th
Indeed Do you know what a compromise agreement is” Attempting to intimidate me by implying that I am in some way breaching the terms of my redundancy which I am not.

March 7th
For public information @sandwellleader has just sent me a DM checking my private address.” This is not public information. Contacting re my home address is bullying and intimidating.

I will have a ride down to the (named new place of work) later.” Threatening to come to my new place of work is intimidating and constitutes harassment. Should he attempt to harass me at my workplace I shall contact the police forthwith.
This complaint in no way affects my husband’s right to make his own complaint about these and other tweets from @sandwellleader and/or other twitter accounts.


Thank you for your response to my complaint about Councillor Darren Cooper dated 26th March. I hereby formally request a review of your decision for the reasons set out below.

You state, inter alia, that you “consider the Leader was acting in his personal capacity, that his actions did not breach the Code of Conduct and, even if they had done so, they are not so serious as to merit investigation.”

1) “The Leader was acting in his personal capacity”. The very use of the twitter name @sandwellleader suggests that this is not the case and even a cursory inspection of his twitter feed shows that he habitually uses that medium to promote himself as Leader, the Labour Group within Sandwell Council, prospective Labour candidates for the Council and the activities of the Council itself. Occasionally he cross references to his official blog. He also promotes his personal SMBC projects eg “Having an ice rink is popular with people in Sandwell” or “3D view of West Brom’s new leisure centre…#Labour investing in services”.

I attach an article that appeared in the Birmingham Mail on February 23rd 2014 that contains quotes from Cllr Cooper that indicate that he considers his use of it to be very much about his role as Leader of Sandwell Council, summarised as “Councillor Cooper says twitter gives him direct contact with about 200 constituents in his local ward, Soho and Victoria, and enables him to pursue political campaigns, such as his current anti-UKIP agenda.” Despite your assertion, his own contradictory statements and the external evidence show that his use of the @sandwellleader name is not purely personal.

2) “The people reading the tweets would not know that they refer to you or your husband.”

This is ridiculous and, just by way of example, see the objections made to Cllr Cooper’s behaviour at the time by, for example, @xxxxxxxxx (a local Labour Party member), @xxxxxxxx (a former SMBC employee) and @xxxxxxxxxxxb. In addition he boasts of over 2000 followers, all of whom had access to his comments. By way of example: 

"Seriously @sandwellleader are these responses to @bcrover appropriate for an elected councillor....."

And also “@sandwellleader -  I think that @bcrover attacks you and your fellow Cabinet Members actions. I don’t recall him attacking your family”.

3) “That his actions did not breach the Code of Conduct”.
As demonstrated above, his behaviour on twitter breaches 12(6) by bringing his office and the authority into disrepute.
In addition, his behaviour continues to breach 12 (2) “Do not bully”. As a result of my complaint, he should now be aware that I do not regard his tweets as “minor, teasing remarks” and I note that he has removed his original comments. However, on Saturday 29th March (ie after your email) he posted the following offensive tweets which are, in the light of the above, bullying and harassing towards me.

"@bcrover Vanity projects and 6 figure sums seem to feature in your life don't they. Don't hear you carping about taxpayers cash on that Mr S"

"@bcrover No self interest on the 6 figure some [sic] then on that is there. Tweeting in a personal capacity. Lol"

4) “They are not so serious as to merit an investigation”.
As you will know all bullying should be taken seriously because of its potential impact on the victim. I have met Cllr Cooper less than half a dozen times and always in a professional capacity. I do not believe that this limited contact would lead me to think that his comments were teasing. The fact that he continues to tweet offensively AFTER I have made it clear that I find it intimidating is unacceptable and makes it even more serious than it was before.

5) The sexist description of me as my husband’s “wifey” also drew the tweet below from @xxxxxxxxx (female)

"It seems 'wifey' is now an appropriate term for @sandwellleader to call a female spouse. A condescending way of referring to a man's wife"

6) You have also completely failed to address the serious issue of the potential breach of Data Protection rules. When I was made redundant, I was not working for Sandwell MBC. Sandwell MBC and BT officers will have processed data relating to my redundancy payment on behalf of Sandwell Arts Trust, my employer. This means that neither Council officers nor Members have any right to have seen the details except for the purposes of data processing. If Councillor Cooper has seen the details, then this is a serious matter and requires investigation. The Information Commissioner has produced advice for local authorities on disclosing personal information to members but the key points here are:

·         This was not Sandwell MBC’s information to disclose;

·         And the advice states - “The elected member should only be given access to the personal information they need to carry out their duties.” Clearly Councillor Cooper has no need for any personal information about me to carry out his duties.
My husband’s actions are entirely his own affair and have no relevance whatsoever to this complaint.

Please acknowledge receipt of this review request and advise me on the time line for further action.


e           t   @bcrover  (Vernon Grant)

Confidential phone line 7am to 8pm - 07599 983737

Friday, 2 May 2014

Terry Duffy House - some of the truth at last......

Following my Freedom of Information Act (FoI) request we now have most of the sordid details of the payment of taxpayers' money to Labour Party Properties Limited - the non-taxpaying property company of the Labour Party -  for rent at Terry Duffy House. Labour MP's Watson & Bailey (who he?) have offices there as do the local Labour Party.

Regular readers will know that the rapacious Sandwell College moved into its brand-new taxpayer-funded £77m Spon Lane Campus in or around September 2013 but, according to Sandwell Council (and they never lie), in precisely that month the College decided it wanted to take-over another £70M building in central West Bromwich, The Public. Of course, they were never going to get the money for this via the usual channels - having just had a shiny new campus - but the Labour Group of Sandwell Council, with their hatred of The Public project, were only too happy to assist and hence the still-secret multi-million pound taxpayer-funded "Concordat" deal between these two public bodies (still secret despite a Freedom of Information Act request).

Sandwell Council then had its own Chief Executive, Jan Britton, appointed to the Board of Governors of Sandwell College. His first full Board meeting post-appointment was on 9th December, 2013 but, at the time of writing - 2nd MAY 2014 (!!!!) - the College has not published the minutes which should show whether Britton was at the meeting or not (and no-one will tell me if he was there or not despite repeated requests). It is not as if he is hard to miss! (Incidentally, there is another FoI request in for the minutes now).

(NEW INFO 03/05/14: Since posting this I have now had a response to my Freedom of Information Act request which confirms that Jan Britton WAS at the meeting when this agenda item was discussed, did not see fit to declare an interest and was, presumably, happy to see public money channelled to his political masters!)

Although West Bromwich is awash with empty (and cheap) commercial offices the Board of Governors of 9th December, 2013 just happened to decide to take what is alleged to be a six-month only lease at Terry Duffy House - happily (sic) owned by Labour Party Properties Limited.

Following my FoI request we now know that the net rental is £3,000 per month into the pockets of Labour ie £18,000 if the lease does only last for 6 months. I understand these offices have had empty space for some considerable time but The College was happy to use your money to pay Labour a generous (for West Bromwich) £9.11p per square foot*. They have also had to use our money for legal fees and other ancillary costs.

Unbelievably, The College has also paid £4,300 ex vat of our money - yours and mine - to buy Labour some brand new carpets which they say they will leave in Terry Duffy House when (if) they leave after 6 months (which will also be after the election)! Sorry for the pun but Labour are getting PILES of cash!

Of course, none of this things can possibly be related can they?

* The "Con"cordat deal is still being kept secret but the strong rumour is that The College are only paying back the multi-million pound costs of conversion of The Public and that they are paying little or even NO rent for 25 years! As an iconic landmark building the converted Public should be capable of achieving a tidy rental. Even at just the £9.11 psf The College is paying Labour for bog-standard offices this would equate to a net rental for The Public of £1.1 million per annum to Sandwell Council (£27.5m over the 25 years plus inflation-linking). That is based on pre-conversion square footage.


All info welcome concerning Sandwell Council, Sandwell College and Interserve.

e               t  @bcrover  (Vernon Grant)

Confidential phone 7am to 8pm - 07599 983737