Saturday, 31 October 2015

Touching a Nerve!

This is a master class from Sandwell Council on how to take the piss out of the Freedom of Information (FoI) provisions AND protect the dimwitted Labour "leader", Darren Cooper.

Here is a very simple question I asked Jan Britton's* collapsing circus via a FoI request on 24th September, 2015:

"1. Please state an estimated total of man/woman hours spent by SMBC staff in preparation of the so-called "Leader's Blog" in the 12 months immediately preceding the date of this request;

2. Please state the estimated total number of man/woman hours spent recently by SMBC staff on the preparation of the Leader's speech [sic] on the occasion of the appalling terrorist murder of an SMBC employee in Tunisia."

Of course, we all know that even though the unemployed Cooper has time on his hands he is, in fact, incapable of even stringing 140 letters into a meaningful sequence in a tweet, let alone actually writing a blog or a speech. All his stuff is written by drones in SMBC's press office for whose dubious output the taxpayer - you and I - shell out over HALF A MILLION POUNDS a year!

The Smethwick Simpleton Strikes Again!
Cooper recently basked in the coverage he obtained following the horrific crime in Tunisia and press office are still milking this for all it is worth. Of course, on the night of the atrocity Cooper was out with vicious Brittan-baiter Tom Watson and unavailable for comment so that SMBC put up, er, Mahboob Hussain as it's official spokesperson despite the fact that he has voluntarily suspended himself from the Cabinet and the Labour Party to "clear his name" following unspecified allegations of "irregularities".

And Cooper still makes the untruthful claim that "The Leader's Blog" is "his" which is, of course, b*llocks. But Jan Britton is happy to perpetuate this lie for his master and advertise the effort on the home page of the SMBC website. Here it is today:

Now here's a funny thing. In the Pyongyang-style "Secret State of Sadwell", the Cult of Cooper must be maintained at all cost and so my request was mysteriously removed from the normal FoI procedure and,well within the normal timescale for reply, I received a response from no less a person than the Assistant Chief Executive - Melanie Dudley - on 2nd October. Cooper and Watson groupie Dudley informed me that the staff in the HALF A MILLION POUNDS + a year press office are not obliged to account for how they spend their time despite this huge cost to the taxpayer. Unlike most well-run organisations Jan Britton's cowboy/girl outfit can do as they please and so they keep no records of how long they spend tweeting about dog-sh*t and producing the other excrement that Cooper claims as his own etc. [Now see addendum below]

This, of course, is also a great way of avoiding having to reply to FoI requests! A publicly funded and - allegedly - democratic council can simply fail to keep records at all and this will defeat the Act.

I duly applied for an internal review on 6th October and, once again, the normal procedure was bucked and on 14th October I received an unusually prompt reply with a "restricted" security rating (!) from the charmless Director of Governance [sic] Neeraj Sharma. She confirmed Dudley's comments that press office didn't bother to keep any records of how they spend their time. In my original, very simple, request (above) I had also requested an estimate of time spent if no record was available. Sharma has quoted the law (and appears to be correct) in saying that even though it would be a very simple thing to do, preparing an estimate would constitute "creating a new document" and there is no obligation in law for SMBC to do this.

Of course, in a full Council meeting  not so long ago the clownish Cooper laughably heralded a new era of "openness" in the sordid affairs of SMBC just as a pig flew over Freeth Street. Yet although it would take just minutes to find the information requested - ie Dudley or Sharma could just ask the real authors to estimate the time they spent on this stuff at taxpayers' expense - they will not do so. 

Of course, a lot of this stuff has the benefit of being overt propaganda for The Labour Party and yet is being prepared at public expense..... But we will never know the details.

Here are just eight (of many more) examples of Cooper's blatant lying (one from yesterday) which SMBC have brought out the big guns to attempt to cover-up (check the last one!):

Wouldn't it be great, eh readers, if he would "write" a blog on where he got the £30k from for his house extension?

Still, someone has to hide the truth about dimwitted Daz's deficiencies although the egomaniacal fantasist himself thinks he is clever and likes to take the mickey out of the thick people in Sandwell who vote Labour. In my blog of 21st June, 2015, "Cooper - 'Conman Communicator?'" (currently part-redacted due to attempted censorship by West Midlands Police to protect the Chair of the West Midlands Police and Crime Panel - matter ongoing) I pointed out that Cooper is urinating on Sandwell folk by pretending that he is capable of reading the daily newspapers each day and producing a digest of left-wing-biased "news". In the post (herewith):

I exposed the fact that the class dunce was not, in FACT, doing this at all but "borrowing" a digest prepared by local MP and ex-public schoolboy, John Spellar. Cooper has, for a considerable period of time, flagrantly passed this stuff off as his own. He continues to do so to this day and in his usual gormless-style has mocked local folk about it:

Only Wolverhampton is worse than Sandwell as a place to live in the whole of Britain according to a new survey this week but, apart from a small band of insurgents, the people of the Borough like their politicians to be like tomato juice - "red" and thick. How else can one explain why an admittedly small percentage of them keep voting for people like Carol Goult (a debtor subject to an IVA), Tony "Fudgy" Meehan (so thick he forgot he owned his house) and the ex-bankrupt, Joanne Hadley?

In the latter case there is a mysterious Twitter account which purports to be that of "the gob" Hadley herself but whose style bears an uncanny resemblance to those operated by the boneheaded "leader" and his Unite the Union sidekick, Brian Rickers. The troll Hipkiss whom Cooper describes as his "guru" regularly featured via his now suspended account. Much traffic on the account involves these parties plus Cllr Paul Sandars and, now, Hipkiss's latest abusive account.

This is the sort of stuff being put out - allegedly in the gobby ex-bankrupt's name:

1 One of the stunts of Cooper's troll network is to heap praise on the Great Helmsman himself thus this from "Joanne":

2  The illiteracy of the Sage of Smethwick is "extreamly" contagious. Here "she" is on one of Cooper's favourite themes and also twice copying in Hipkiss's latest troll account:

3  Here "she" is playing the game of "follow my leader" enjoyed by all the venal voting fodder in the Sandwell Labour ranks. This was Cooper praising Hipkiss via his previous troll account just before Twitter finallys suspended it and repeated by "her":

4   As above, the populace of Sandwell seem to like their politicians as rough as a badger's tool but if this unfeminine outburst addressed to Unite's lying** local rep in the style of the "leader" himself is really the work of the ex-bankrupt Trustee of multi-million pound guzzling Sandwell Leisure Trust, then the political class [sic] of the Borough really has hit a new low.....

It probably doesn't matter about Sandwell anymore as, politically, it seems to be a lost cause but the rest of the region need to know just how appalling Cooper really is before the, er, "historical" day dawns..... Quite why areas like Solihull should wish to be dragged down by this lot into their cesspit is incomprehensible!

What a t*****!

And finally, hot off the press, one from this very evening addressed also to his troll. All I can say is, "well quite":

Addendum - 01/11/15 - a correspondent this morning has pointed out that two of the very top people at SMBC say there is no time management or other assessment of the bloated press office and so how can Britton show that his shambolic outfit is getting "best value" from them as required by the Local Government Act 1999? SMBC's failure to have press office keep records appears to be a clear breach of its duty to "secure continuous improvement in the way its functions are exercised, having regard to a combination of economy, efficiency and effectiveness". Perhaps Britton should outsource this alleged "service" and see if the taxpayer can get a better deal elsewhere?

* Jan Britton purports to be SMBC's "Chief Executive".

** For just some examples, please see:

Remember that you can still speak to the Regional Fraud team if you have evidence of possible wrongdoing by Sandwell Council. Phone DS Wayne Haynes and his team in confidence on 0121 251 2175.


email                   twitter   @bcrover (Vernon Grant)

Confidential phone no:  07599 983737

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

F*CK ME!!!

Well it takes a lot to shock me these days where Labour Sandwell Council is concerned but, unless some of the long-suffering staff have made an error here, what follows is horrifying even by the bent standards of elements of this sleazy bunch.

For the benefit of new readers, Wednesbury Celebrates [sic] is a secretive community association [sic] which is run as a personal fiefdom by Labour Councillors Elaine Costigan and Olwen Jones as a faggots'n'peas version of the Wheeltappers and Shunters Club.

Here are the two of them outside one of the lavatory blocks which features in the "bog-gate" scandal (which Olwen's husband Cllr Ian Jones lied about live on BBC Radio):

Regular readers will know that I have referred this organisation to West Midlands Police and to the Council's auditors in respect of a serious "sting" by persons unknown on the taxpayer and Sport England.

This piss-pot organisation has also taken over de facto control of Wednesbury Town Hall where Cllr Olwen Jones's son runs a business (see below) and where his partner/close personal friend, Richard McVittie, has a £35k a year job courtesy of the aforementioned rip-off of Sport England. Regular readers will know that none of these bodies has actually troubled to pay the taxpayer any rent so that over £30,000 is outstanding.

But Wednesbury Celebrates has also been getting money from us taxpayers via Cllr Costigan and Olwen Jones's Labour comrades to the tune of at least £5k per annum. It is important to note that, unless they are particularly stupid, all SMBC councillors AND employees are well aware of the involvement of Costigan and Olwen Jones in this organisation.

Carry on reading below if you will but, when you get a chance, please take a look at my recent posts on this subject:

I make no apology for showing again the totally ludicrous application Wednesbury Celebrates put in to SMBC for more dosh. In any Council other that the shambles run by Jan Britton this laughable, illiterate, sh*t would have been rejected.......

You will note that Costigan and Olwen Jones were quick to get the application in for financial year 2015/16 and the application was number "WED/01/16 ie the first for the financial year.

It is of vital importance to know that when this joke "application" was put in there were outstanding rent invoices from SMBC to Wednesbury Celebrates for over £20,000 of taxpayers' (our) money. As above, the figure is much higher now. And so, not only was the application a joke but there was a huge debt owing. So who approved payment of a further £5,000?

You won't find it easily on the SMBC website and I have had to write to Jan Britton to pin this information down but after 26th May, 2015 there was a re-shuffle of the Wednesbury Town Improvement [sic] Board.

On 9th July, 2015, Julia Elstins, the "Community Development Initiative (!) Officer for stinking SMBC wrote a formal letter of approval of the grant. Such is the hold that Wednesbury Celebrates has over the Town Hall the letter was not even addressed to the organisation but simply to: "Wednesbury Town Hall, Holyhead Road etc.."

The first two lines of the Elstins letter are crucial:

"The Town Lead Member and Vice Town Lead Member for Wednesbury met recently and agreed to fund Wednesbury Celebrates £5,000....."

The first question is why the whole Board did not meet and where these two Councillors met and where the minutes of the meeting are?

The second question is who are these pair? This is the document sent from Jan Britton:

Town Lead Members 2015/2016

Wednesbury Costigan (Deputy: O Jones)

It is clear that elements within Sandwell Council are bent (and the Police are turning a blind eye) but what the f*ck is going on here? Unless Ms Elstins or fellow employees have got it wrong, Costigan and Olwen Jones have approved an application which their organisation put in despite being thousands of pounds in debt and then approved it themselves in an unspecified "meeting" which is not minuted anywhere on the SMBC website! If this is correct then surely (at least) two Councillors should be resigning forthwith?

Of course, a senior and highly-paid  Director of rotten SMBC, Adrian Scarrott (who also features in the Sport England debacle) then authorised actual payment over of our, taxpayers', five grand despite the taxpayer being owed over four times that amount! Kerching!!!

I have not had the courtesy of an acknowledgement, let alone a substantive response, to the detailed crime report hand-delivered to West Midland Police (nor from the auditors KPMG) but will clearly now be referring this further information to them.

(Incidentally, Darren Cooper's "guru" and social media spokesperson, the Twitter troll Andrew Hipkiss, has also appeared as an official (?) spokesperson for the Jones family and stated that Richard Jones's "Five Star Academy" is NOT a private business but another "voluntary organisation"- although Hipkiss states that it does owe substantial sums in rent to the taxpayer for extensive use of Wednesbury Town Hall. In the light of Hipkiss's helpful intervention I have also formally asked HM Revenue and Customs to take a look at where Five Star's income is going since it is clearly not being paid in rent. No doubt Mr Hipkiss will also be able to help WMP with regard to these issues).

* Jan Britton is the person who purports to be "Chief Executive" of SMBC.

Please remember that if you have evidence of potential wrongdoing by SMBC you can speak in confidence to the Regional Fraud Team currently investigating Sandwell. Phone DS Wayne Haynes and team on 0121 251 2175.


email:             twitter:  @bcrover (Vernon Grant)

Confidential phone no: 07599 983737

Technical Blog - Sandwell College Secrecy

Tory Business Secretary, Sajid Javid, is my MP as my home is just - by a few yards - in his constituency. I appealed to him for assistance when I was not getting a response from various parties in respect of the bent Sandwell Council/Sandwell College deal over "The Public". Javid purported to assist without ever declaring that his brother, Basit Javid, a top copper in West Midlands Police, was a member of the College's Board of Governors and had been directly involved in the affair! As clear a conflict of interest as one can imagine but I was kept in the dark until I figured out the family relationship myself.

Copper Javid has subsequently attended various College Board meetings where he hobnobs with another Governor - the man who purports to be "Chief Executive" of Labour Sandwell Council, Jan Britton - even though the Council is subject to an ongoing Regional Fraud Team investigation in relation to alleged criminal offences. Both copper Javid and Britton have agreed at meetings to keep various aspects of the College's affairs secret including various matters connected with the Public deal. This is an affront to local democracy (in so far as it exists in the North Korean-style State of Sandwell).

I have put in various FoI requests to the College. The most successful to date confirmed that Sandwell Labour forced the College - seemingly as part of the bent Public deal - to rent property (at a very high price for West Brom) from, er, Labour Party Properties Limited!

But the College is now being obstructive with regard to Freedom of Information requests and in the last two days I have been forced to make THREE applications to the Office of the Information Commissioner so that the sleazy College is forced to comply with its LEGAL obligations.

Only the hardcore Sandwellistas will want to read the full texts (which are set out below) but suffice to say that:

1   the first deals with student numbers at Central Sixth which the College could provide in a matter of minutes;

2   the second deals with the almost non-existent arts "provision" at the building; and

3   the third deals with a couple of matters where the College has purported to respond but in a wholly unsatisfactory manner. Part of the request deals with keeping minutes secret again concerning The Public deal and the other part concerns the College's mysterious interest in Sunny Jim Cadman's private statue appeal.

(Full texts below).

Remember that DS Wayne Haynes and the Regional Fraud Team can be contacted in confidence with regard to alleged fraud offences in Sandwell - 0121 251 2175.


email          twitter:  @bcrover (Vernon Grant)

Confidential phone no:  07599 983737





I am a community blogger writing on matters connected to Sandwell in the West Midlands.

Sandwell College is known to the ICO following its refusal to supply information concerning a second £70m building it “acquired” in suspicious circumstances. At present I have a number of FOI requests outstanding with them. In this particular case, I have had no response from the College whatsoever, despite the request for an internal review.

1 My original request of 16th August, 2015

Freedom of Information Request - Central Sixth "A" Levels

Vincent Alexandervich <>

Aug 16

to Jill
Please state:

1. The actual number of students at Central Sixth who physically took "A" levels at Central Sixth in 2015;
2. The actual number of "A" Level exams sat.

Julian Saunders

There has been no response to this request. Accordingly, on 22nd September, 2015 I applied for an internal review.

2   Application for an Internal Review - 22nd September, 2015

Vincent Alexandervich <>

Aug 16

to Jill
Please state:

1. The actual number of students at Central Sixth who physically took "A" levels at Central Sixth in 2015;
2. The actual number of "A" Level exams sat.

Julian Saunders

Once again, there has been no response whatsoever. Accordingly, I request that the Information Commissioner intervene to ensure that the College complies with its statutory obligations.

Julian Saunders 27th, October, 2015





I am a community blogger writing on matters connected to Sandwell in the West Midlands.

Sandwell College is known to the ICO following its refusal to supply information concerning a second £70m building it “acquired” in suspicious circumstances. At present I have a number of FOI requests outstanding with them. In this particular case, I have had no response from the College whatsoever, despite the request for an internal review.

1   My Original FoI Request

Freedom of Information Request - Arts Provision at Central Sixth - 28/08/15

Vincent Alexandervich <>

Aug 28

to Jill,
I am confused as to what the eventual concordat [sic] provision was as to the retention of an arts offering at Central Sixth noting that Mr Garry Morris of SMBC has been involved in what small pickings there have been to date (and he was the tender contact for pop-up banners at huge cost for the "arts cafe" [sic]).

1 Please forward the unredacted terms of the concordat in so far as it related to an ongoing arts provision;

2 Please state how much money Sandwell College has actually received to date from SMBC in respect of the alleged ongoing arts provision and precisely how Sandwell College has spent the monies received;

3 On 20th May, 2013 in the minutes of the Board of Governors there is a document prepared by SMBC as part of a report relating to The Public  marked "Annex 2" setting out SMBC's requirements of the College in respect of an ongoing arts provision and the desired outputs from the project. Please disclose all reports from the College to SMBC relating to compliance with those terms (or any subsequently agreed terms if that document was superseded) and the measured results in respect of the desired outputs.

4 Please disclose any other documentation passing between Sandwell College and SMBC in respect of the alleged ongoing arts offering.

Julian Saunders
In the absence of any reply, I applied for an internal review.

2   Request for Internal Review - 20/09/15

Overdue - FoI Request - Arts Provision at Central Sixth



to Jill,
Allowing for the August Bank Holiday the reply to this request is now overdue.

Please take this email as a formal request for an internal review.

Julian Saunders

No response has been received whatsoever. Accordingly, I request that the Information

Commissioner intervenes to ensure that the College complies with its statutory obligations.

Julian Saunders - 28th October, 2015





I am a community blogger writing on matters connected to Sandwell in the West Midlands.

In this particular case Sandwell College did attempt to reply to my original request but in a wholly unsatisfactory manner. I requested an internal review but they have failed to respond within the time limit.

There are a couple of small typos herein but which do not affect the gist of the content.

1   My original request -  28/08/15

Freedom of Information Request - Minutes 14/07/14

Vincent Alexandervich <>

Aug 28

to Jill
I refer specifically to the minute of the Board of Governors B14.63 from their meeting on 14th July, 2014:

1  Of "the Local Authority Representative's Highlights Report" - please state the identity of "the Local Authority representative" who prepared the report;

2  Of "members were reminded of the way in which underspend would be split between the main contractor and the Local Authority, with the latter's share being transferred to the College" - please state the amount of the underspend that was, in fact, transferred from SMBC to Sandwell College;

3 Of "in response to a further query, members were informed of the current position with regard to the 'Three Degrees Statue' - state who made the enquiry and, more particularly, who present was apparently able to inform the Board of "the current position" and, indeed, what the "current position" was as at that point of time?

Julian Saunders

2   Response to Original Request from Sandwell College - 28/09/15

Jill Berry

Sep 28

to me
Dear Mr. Saunders,

I refer to your request for information under the Freedom of Information Act dated 28th August 2015 and respond as follows:

1 Please refer this request to the local authority as they produced the report.
2 The local authority recovers all monies spent in the re-development of Central Sixth through a rent charge.
3. We do not hold this information.

If you are not satisfied with our response to your request for information you have the right to appeal. If you wish to appeal, please forward your appeal to me, in the first instance, and I will arrange for it to be dealt with. A senior manager will consider your complaint and you will receive a reply within 20 working days. If you are not satisfied with the outcome of any appeal that you lodge, you have the right to appeal to the Information Commissioner's Office.

Jill Berry
Corporation Secretary
Sandwell College
Central Campus
1 Spon Lane
West Bromwich
West Midlands  
B70 6AW
Tel: 0121 667 5135

3   Request for an internal review - 28/09/15

Vincent Alexandervich <>

Sep 28

to Jill
I have to say that I am beginning to wonder whether The College are now trying to take the mickey in respect of my FoI requests and will certainly be referring this to the Office of the Information Commissioner if you intend to continue with a course you appear to be taking.

Please take this email as a formal request for an internal review of my whole request pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act.

Without prejudice to the generality of the request for a total review my a sensible person:

1. My understanding is that a Local Authority representative was appointed under the so-called "concordat" a "deal" between two publicly-funded bodies. His or her report was specifically referred to in YOUR meeting. Why the identity of the person should be something you wish to keep secret is beyond me. In addition to my original request please also now disclose the "highlights report";

2. It has been widely trumpeted in the local media that the construction work came in under budget and your OWN minutes specifically state that the local authority were due to pass half of any underspend back to you. This is nothing to do with the rent charge (although I am happy that you are at last appearing to acknowledge that the College is paying a rent charge and not actual rent). I know the College has had some financial problems but you must know if you received monies from SMBC or not and the amount? Please disclose this.If the media were deliberately misled and there was no underspend, please say so.

3. Your response here is absolutely appalling. This discussion took place at one of YOUR own Board meetings so how can you possibly NOT have the information? There were not many at the meeting and so it will be very easy for you to supply this information if there was a failure to keep a proper record.

Julian Saunders

The College has failed to respond to the request for an internal review within 20 working days and so I request that the Information Commissioner intervenes and ensures that the taxpayer-funded College complies with its statutory obligations.

Julian Saunders - 28th October, 2015