Wednesday, September 10, 2008

From four stars down to two and Persimmon pulling out? Never?

This is Chris. In May this year, a source from within the council approached us with information about a corporate assesment that was due to take place and gave us the name of the man from the Audit commission who was carrying out the assesment.

We were informed by the source from within the council, that senior officers had been making sure that none of the ordinary council workforce would give anything other than a glowing account of what was going on within the council, by telling them what to say should they be asked by the corporate assesment team coming into the council. One senior officer who was openly called a liar in the Whittaker tribunal report, apparantly greeted some of the workforce in his department one morning with bacon rolls and hot tea before he gave them one such 'briefing'. We were informed that senior officers were doing their best to paint as rosy a picture to the assesor as they could.

Acting on this information, we were able to approach the corporate assesor from the audit commission and we told him what had been going on within Redcar and Cleveland Borough council for some time, not just since the Labour group re-took control of the council.During the assesment, the assesor and his assistant arranged a meeting which I and two other members of our group, attended. It lasted for two and a half hours. This meeting led to us sending two massive bundles of damning documents, including the information about the supression of the final audit report by ex- chief executive Colin Moore and now ex- finance officer Ray Richardson, which showed that the council were not a four star authority under the old coalition.

About six weeks ago, we then had a meeting which lasted nearly five hours with the NEW district auditor herself and we went through the complete bundles of paperwork which included tribunal documents showing how this council had acted illegally, lied, colluded, bullied, intimidated and showed documents of how Ray Richardson broke the law by overspending without permission to the tune of approximately thirty five thousand pounds. We have also provided the documentation which proves the massive conflict of interests between this council and Persimmon homes in 2001 over the issue of Coatham, a year before the scheme was even put out to tender.

It would appear, that the audit commission have taken very seriously the information that we provided them with and have started to act upon it, hence the two star rating that the council were given yesterday by the audit commission.

Or have they?

The man who carried out the corporate assesment, the man we had a two and a half hour meeting with, was a man called Mike Newbury. Yet the man who's name was on the corporate assesment was Steve Nickling? Steve Nickling was the old district auditor. He was apparantly involved in the collusion between the Audit commission and the council that led to the supression of the final financial report which showed that this council were not a four star authority and its replacement with a second 'final' report, which then showed that the council were? Mr Nickling moved onto and I quote, " a new appointment" shortly after this story was featured in Private Eye magazine.

How is it that he has now been brought back to become involved in a corporate assesment this year, when he had already stated a year ago that last years assesment was his last? Could it be that given the information we took to the new district auditor about their involvement with the supression of that final financial report, that this is some kind of attempt to white wash once again and cover up again?

Now it is time for a FULL INDEPENDENT INVESTIGATION into this councils entire workings. Is it any wonder that Steve Nickling came back to oversee the new Corporate assesment? Is it any wonder that finance officer Ray Richardson, flew the nest and left the council before this report was published? Could it be that Persimmon pulling out of the Coatham Scheme, if the unconfirmed report that we received yesterday afternoon is true, could have also been prompted by the relevant information being given to the district auditor?

If George Dunning were any kind of leader, he would call for an independent investigation into the supressed final audit report that took place under the last coalition, that certain members of the old coalition were fully aware of, aswel as an independent investigation into all aspects of Moore and Richardsons roles as senior officials within our council. He would also call for an investigation into just exactly why this council have spent so much public money on behalf of Persimmon homes, in order to desperately try to push through a housing scheme that has been described publicly by Dunning himself and the MP as tainted, botched and a disaster?

Come on George, you keep bragging about how open and transparent the council are, well lets see you put those words into practise.

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