#45. Covering asses.





Charmley is SO wrong with this…

I have a dossier an inch thick, started when Private Investigator Paul Wiseman first brought the issue to the notice of Oswestry Town Council back in January of this year (2018). By chance, I was at that meeting.

To cut a very long story short, on Tuesday last (30th October) I took up Mike Harris’s invitation to meet with him at his offices in Oswestry to view his files on the history of the grant his football club received from Shropshire Council back in 2012. He literally opened his files for me. His dossier is three inches thick.

During the course of a 2 hour meeting I asked some very challenging questions of both him and his Chief Operating Officer Ian Williams. On the substantive issues I came away with the conviction that not only had TNS not been to blame for this fiasco but that the Administration at Shropshire Council has a lot of questions to answer not least of which are:

1. Given the State Aid rules that govern “loans” from public bodies to commercial enterprises, why did Shropshire Council…

a) make the grant at all when they weren’t familiar enough with the format of a legacy grant to ensure that the rules that make such a grant legal were followed, and

b) knowing that, fail to maintain oversight when the management of the grant passed to officers and elected Members of Shropshire Council and Oswestry Town Council who were clearly unqualified to manage the specific conditions agreed to by both sides to meet State Aid rules?

2. But principally, why are Shropshire Council Executive pursuing a claim that will result in Shropshire taxpayers meeting the legal costs of their attempt to cover their asses for serious errors which their own Audit Department have clearly identified and which Shropshire Council’s Executive dismiss as “historical”.

Had Shropshire Council [and see blog post #32 to see how I object to being damned by association] put its sensible head on (not the one that is still stuck up its own collective ass), the whole issue could have been settled amicably back in 2013 – when the Authority first started to realise that it had a serious problem- then Shropshire Council could have emerged with its credibility intact. Even now, five years later (four years if you believe Peter Nutting’s claim that the matter had been sitting on his desk since he took over as Leader in May 2017), it could have achieved that even after the damning report by its own Audit Department earlier this year that showed up the Administration as a bunch of numpties.

The truly shaming thing about that newspaper report is that Deputy Leader Steve Charmley has also seen all the paperwork relating to the TNS grant, so it is truly incredible that he could come away and say what he says here. Not only is it SO wrong on so many counts it is creepily intimidating to any Shropshire Councillor who feels they are anyway involved by virtue of the trust placed in them when they were elected by their constituents with the reasonable expectation that they would “look after the shop”.

I asked Mike Harris if either Shropshire Council Leader Peter Nutting or Shropshire Council Chief Executive Clive Wright had seen the files and he confirmed that the offer of unrestricted access had been made to both of them but both gave the offer short-shrift.

When I entered local government I handed the Administration my reputation with the expectation that they’d look after it. It makes me VERY angry when I see them trash it, so to see Steve Charmley telling me I can’t be angry at what’s being done in my name by association with “Shropshire Council”?

Well, in the genteel format of a cellphone text reply: WTF!


Throughout this case I, with others, have argued for an independent investigation, at one point I managed to get an assurance (in closed session of the Performance Management Scrutiny Committee) that an investigation would be held in the form of a “review” by a Task & Finish Group once the current legal proceedings have ended. But that assurance was given by the chair of a committee that, it now appears, didn’t have the authority to make such a promise. Subsequent responses to my emails from the Head of Legal and Democratic Services have categorically ruled out any such investigation as “not in the best interests of taxpayers”.

You could set it to music, so choreographed are the knee-jerk reactions to any perceived threat to the sanctity of Shirehall Administration’s peace of mind.

An independent investigation apparently cannot be justified because of its cost and yet the costs of a seriously doubtful legal process are justified? A legal process that wouldn’t have been necessary if Shropshire Council Executive had done its job properly in the first place!