Category: BeaconParkGolfCourseWatch

Could Nigel Farage Tee Off At Beacon Park Golf Course?

Nigel Farage seen driving golf balls

on a driving range, which he couldn’t do at the Beacon Park Golf Course other than in a cage!

Could there be any truth in the rumour, (which we are about to start), that Nigel Farage might play golf at the Beacon Park Golf Course next year? Could there be any truth in the rumour that ANYONE could play a round of golf at Beacon Park Golf Course next year? They can’t play a full round this year, thanks to the landfill royalty scandal involving WLBC, Serco Leisure Operating Limited, and Oakland Golf and Leisure Ltd.

Notwithstanding the facilities are leased to West Lancashire Community Leisure [Serco controlled] the land and buildings of Beacon Park Golf Course belong to the Borough Council. We council tax payers own the Beacon Park Golf Course. The lease to run it for private profit was sold for £1 annually to DCT Leisure Ltd, a company that didn’t pay its £60,000 VAT bill and went bust. Then came Serco Leisure Operating Ltd, which already receives its £1,000,000 annually for WLBC leisure services including episodes of cockroaches swimming in managed swimming pool facilities!

Serco took on the golf course after a trial period to ensure its profitability. But its beady eyes soon spotted the opportunity to turn some course drainage work into a huge landfill dump. Oakland Golf and Leisure Ltd became OaklandNoGolfJust landfill.com and WLBC turned a blind eye to the whole shoddy Serco-led scandal made illegal by its admitted breach of planning conditions. This below is an example of golf course creation!

Hence “The proposed development comprises the remodelling of approximately 12 hectares of the existing Beacon Park Golf Course. It involves the remodelling of the 5th, 6th, 13th and 14th holes and construction of temporary greens and tees with the importation of 55,000cubic meters of inert soil; remodelling of the golf range to provide perimeter mounding and improved targets with 35,000cubic meters of inert soil; formation of 9-hole short course for junior golfers on 3.7ha land to be formed by importation of 65,000cubic metres of inert soil; remodelling of 1st and 2nd tee with 32,000cubic metres of inert soil”. Another example below of how players found the work of OaklandNoGolfJust landfill.com

“It is estimated that 187,000m3 of inert materials are to be transported to the site using HGVs carrying an average of 8m3 per delivery. 23,375 No of HGV Loads”.

We wrote “WLBC has a written policy”

“Anti-Fraud, Bribery and Corruption Policy that commits it to combating fraud, bribery, corruption or abuse of position for personal gain, whether the perpetrators are internal OR EXTERNAL to the Authority”. Which part of it does WLBC believe does NOT apply to the Beacon Park Golf Course landfill operation by the EXTERNAL Serco Leisure Operating Ltd and Oakland Golf and Leisure Ltd?

The Anti-Fraud, Bribery and Corruption Policy has been devised to “promote a culture of integrity and accountability in all employees, elected members, partners, CONTRACTORS AND SUPPLIERS OF GOODS AND SERVICES”. The Authority’s expectation, and indeed the public’s, regarding propriety and accountability, is that Members and Employees, at all levels, will lead by example in ensuring adherence to all Council regulations, codes of conduct, procedures and practices”.

Does WLBC believe that the public’s expectation of a culture of integrity and accountability does NOT apply to the Beacon Park Golf Course landfill operation?

What were the “lead by example” examples that allow no external audit to take place, because by no stretch of imagination can any be identified. Which of the three “The Anti-Fraud, Bribery, and Corruption Policies” apply to this scandal? Why was the “promotion” of them set aside by WLBC?

Of the three, did fraud, bribery, or corruption, or all three, contaminate the process by which Serco admits to receiving a mere £183,864, as Rupert Soames the Chief Executive at Serco Group Plc personally wrote the letter containing that landfill grab amount. Where, within the Serco Group/Oakland Golf and Leisure Ltd duo, is the remainder banked, and who accounted to HMRC for the VAT that was payable?

We should be told. Meanwhile the latest course corrective work has been stalled for months to come, by the weather.

What a surprise. Meanwhile Mr Farage can rest on his golf driving laurels for now!

Vandals Have Carried Out “Horrendous’ Damage” To At Least Two Golf Courses

And before you ask, no, this isn’t about the West Lancashire Borough Council

officially supported Serco horrendous vandalism at the Beacon Park Golf Course.

At Prestwich Golf Club in Greater Manchester a criminal drove an off-road buggy across the course and was seen performing ‘doughnuts’ on the greens. The course was left badly damaged

with evidence of tyre marks and mounds of turf having been torn up. The golf club estimates it will cost tens of thousands of pounds to repair the damage.

And vandals took a spade to greens at Willingdon Golf Club in East Sussex

So far it has cost around £1,500 to repair the damage. It took about 25 hours to get the surfaces repaired enough to play on again. To get it back to the required high standard it will take most of the winter and into the spring. 

Of course, we all continue to look aghast at the Serco landfill vandalism at Beacon Park, “Which has been the scene of bitter rows for years after Serco was permitted to dump large amounts of landfill waste on parts of the site’ stated Wigan Today. ‘This led to a massive dispute between golfers, backed by West Lancashire MP Rosie Cooper, and Serco along with West Lancashire Borough Council.

The developers, Oakland Golf and Leisure Ltd and Serco Leisure Operating Ltd with the connivance of WLBC said the proposal would attract more young golfers to the site and offer new facilities for members, “which the club has wanted to do since 2011”.

The whereabouts of all the landfill royalties is still under investigation. Serco admitted in writing to receiving £183,864 that a WLBC Officer stated should go to West Lancashire Community Leisure Trust, disputed by Serco as “stipulated in the contract”. That’s the stench that has pervaded this entire landfill racket.  

Perhaps it should be a general election issue? Get the “as stipulated contract” published. Get the total account of the landfill royalties and proof VAT was legally accounted for the “goods and services” involved to HMRC, published. There’s no longer any “Commercial In Confidence” involved, as Rupert Soames the Chief Executive at Serco Group Plc personally wrote the letter containing the “£183,864” landfill grab amount. 

Otherwise, it’s a matter that should surely be individually and separately audited out-with the annual WLBC Full Audit, which does not contain any reference to it.

Clearly A Man With Foresight?

Hullo, it’s me again.

Do you recall my good news to WLBC in 2005 that the Beacon Park Golf Course was in good hands? Almost too good, you might think? Here’s a reminder.

I wrote “Members may wish to acknowledge the success to date of the ground breaking partnership with DCT Leisure in managing the Beacon Park Golf Course for the Golf Course, Driving Range, Pro Shop and Beacon Centre Catering over the last 5 years. And “The Council now has a more favourable financial situation, with a guaranteed income from the course. DCT Leisure Limited has benefited both Council and local community, justifying the initial decision to engage them. Relevant Portfolio Holder: Councillor David Westley” to Cabinet: 15th March 2005.

“As we all know, “ground breaking” was an unfortunate phrase and is now synonymous with the ruination of the driving range, and the course, by excessive, unlimited, unlawful landfill, allowed by what DCT Leisure Ltd introduced while actually being an undetected bankrupt company. They fooled me, but that’s “par for the course” if you will pardon my use of the phrase!”

On Selective Scrutiny And Stewardship Of Public Funds

”Stewardship of Public Funds”

The WLBC “Statement of Accounts shows our financial performance and financial position for the year. These accounts have been prepared in accordance with the regulations that govern our financial affairs and demonstrate the council’s stewardship of public funds”. Yet the West Lancashire Borough Council owned Beacon Park Golf Course landfill royalty saga is as bad a breach of planning consent and stewardship of the funds involved as you might see in West Lancashire, or anywhere.

West Lancashire Borough Council issued “Audit of Accounts – Notice of Public Rights. Local Audit and Accountability Act 2014 and the Accounts and Audit Regulations 2015

“Notice is given that from 3 June 2019 to 12 July 2019 between 9.30am and 4.30pm Mondays to Fridays, any person interested may on reasonable notice inspect and make copies of the accounts of the Council for the year ended 31 March 2019 and all books, deeds, contracts, bills, vouchers and receipts, except as provided for in Section 26(4) to 26(6) of the Local Audit and Accountability Act 2014 in relation to commercially confidential and personal information.

“Notice is given that within the above period any such elector may make objections to the auditor, under section 27 of the Local Audit and Accountability Act 2014, relating to any matter where the auditor could take action under:

“Section 24 and paragraph 1 of Schedule 7 of the Local Audit and Accountability Act, namely, to make a report in the public interest; and/ or Section 28 of the Local Audit and Accountability Act 2014, namely to apply to the court for a declaration that an item in the accounts is contrary to law”. Marc Taylor Borough Treasurer.

But it seems the external auditors are unhappy

“West Lancashire Borough Council Statement of Accounts Notice of Delayed Audit Opinion. The audit of the 2018/19 statement of accounts, annual governance statement and narrative statement has been delayed and therefore notice is given that the accounts will not be signed or an audit opinion issued by 31 July 2019. The delay is due to issues raised by the auditors which require additional audit work to be undertaken before the audit can be concluded.

“The Council will publish the statement of accounts together with the audit certificate or opinion entered by the auditor as soon as reasonably practicable after the receipt of any report from the auditor which contains the auditor’s final findings from the audit which is issued before the conclusion of the audit. This notice is in compliance with the Accounts and Audit Regulations 2015 in relation to the Local Audit and Accountability Act 2014”. Marc Taylor Borough Treasurer West Lancashire Borough Council.

Surely it is now pertinent to ask that if the auditors have raised “issues”, cannot the Beacon Park Golf Course landfill royalties/VAT become “an issue” too?

WLBC has a written policy 

“Anti-Fraud, Bribery and Corruption Policy that commits it to combating fraud, bribery, corruption or abuse of position for personal gain, whether the perpetrators are internal OR EXTERNAL to the Authority”. Which part of it does WLBC believe does NOT apply to the Beacon Park Golf Course landfill operation by the EXTERNAL Serco Leisure Operating Ltd and Oakland Golf and Leisure Ltd?

The Anti-Fraud, Bribery and Corruption Policy has been devised to “promote a culture of integrity and accountability in all employees, elected members, partners, CONTRACTORS AND SUPPLIERS OF GOODS AND SERVICES”. The Authority’s expectation, and indeed the public’s, regarding propriety and accountability, is that Members and Employees, at all levels, will lead by example in ensuring adherence to all Council regulations, codes of conduct, procedures and practices. Does WLBC believe that the public’s expectation of a culture of integrity and accountability does NOT apply to the Beacon Park Golf Course landfill operation?

WLBC used a “Get out of jail card”

by use of “Freedom of Information Request 2018 / 885 – Request for Internal Review. In response to your email dated 21st December 2018 which requests an internal review of West Lancashire District Council’s handling of your FOI request entitled ‘Beacon Park Golf Course Membership Contracts’ ref 2018 / 885. In completing this review I have referred to your original request along with the response provided by Steve Kent on 21st December 2018. In your original request you made reference to “changes to membership contract terms and conditions to take effect from 1 December 2018”. You continued to ask “will WLBC Leisure Department intervene to publish the new terms and conditions on the WLBC website rather than expect golf club members to rely on Serco Leisure for this vital information”.

“You were subsequently advised by Steve Kent that the Council does not hold the information referred to in your request, namely “changes to membership contract terms and conditions to take effect from 1 December 2018”. The Freedom of Information Act only relates to recorded information held by public authorities. WLBC does not hold the information you have requested and therefore it is not possible to publish the terms and conditions on the WLBC website. Furthermore the membership contract terms and conditions form an agreement between the applicant and Serco and WLBC are not party to this agreement. It would therefore not be appropriate to publish this information on the WLBC website. For the reasons stated above I am satisfied that your request for information was handled correctly”.

The application seeks retention of increased levels on the site. This amounts to an estimated 16,000 m3 [or 40,00 m3, see below] over the site. There is still no apparent intention for penalties against SLOL and OGLL for their illegal operation of the golf course development. The two companies are the only apparent beneficiaries of the landfill royalty income. This application worsens that landfill royalty abuse by agreeing to retain the illegal excess material on the course. By Serco’s own admission, in a meeting attended by its senior management with the Beacon Park Golf Club members’ management committee, 40,000 cubic metres of landfill have to be removed off the old driving range area

The same name and address on a BPGC planning development application 2016/0040/FUL was, you’ve guessed it, Oakland Golf And Leisure Limited, 20 Rockery Road Leeds LS18 5AS.

From WLBC “Contractors started on site in November 2013 [for the 9hole course]. The first sections of topsoil were moved back and deliveries of the inert materials commenced at the end of November 2013”.

 

So what happened to the elusive royalties

declared in public by the Head of Leisure and Cultural Services West Lancashire Borough Council that “The royalties for the materials being brought to site and currently used to re-profile an area of the golf course for a new 9 hole par 3 course are paid to West Lancashire Community Leisure”? But the Leisure Trust auditors themselves refused to disclose if that was true. Not that it mattered, as Serco publicly admitted it was THEY who were receiving the royalties. The Head of Leisure and Cultural Services was in ignorance of the facts.

In December 2015 the Head of Leisure and Cultural Services West Lancashire Borough Council, John Nelson, wrote “The contractors have started to bringing material to site ready for the access to the driving range to be provided. The driving range will then accommodate up to 35,000m3”.

And he also wrote “Planning officers and officers from the Environment Agency both undertake monitoring functions in relation to the site. The planning officers in relation to the general conditions under the planning approval and the Environment Agency in relation to the permit and licence for Oaklands [Golf and] Leisure Limited for the importation of materials on to the site.

“I also have a responsibility as the land falls under the leisure provision for the Council. Although the facilities are leased to West Lancashire Community Leisure [Serco controlled] the land and buildings belong to the Borough Council.

“I retain a dialogue with Planning Officers and the Environment Agency to keep an overview of the development works and meet with the Trustees for West Lancashire Community Leisure (Leisure Trust) and their operating partner Serco Leisure Operating Limited”.

As we wrote “SLOL is not renowned for its golf course design and management, but give it a sniff of untold quantities of landfill royalties, hide them under “Commercial in Confidence” rights and SLOL is like a weasel down a rabbit hole, along with its partner in landfill Oakland Golf and Leisure Ltd, now long gone with its share”.

From a start in November 2013 to today, November 2019, who in their right mind believes that not only has West Lancashire Borough Council acted negligently but been obscure too? And who believes auditors should be telling us landfill royalties and VAT resulting from a WLBC, taxpayer,  owned not be accountable and made transparent?

West Lancashire Borough Council Annual Audit

Grant Thornton has published the draft findings report of the West Lancashire Borough Council for the year ended 31 March 2019.

It is worthy of note that for the statement of “Value for Money arrangements- Under the National Audit Office (NAO) Code of Audit Practice (‘the Code’), we [Grant Thornton] are required to report if, in our opinion, the Council has made proper arrangements to secure economy, efficiency and effectiveness in its use of resources (‘the value for money (VFM) conclusion’). They state “We have completed our risk based review of the Council’s value for money arrangements. We have concluded that West Lancashire Borough Council has proper arrangements to secure economy, efficiency and effectiveness in its use of resources”.

They [Grant Thornton] state “Significant findings – audit risks- Having considered the risk factors set out in ISA240 and the nature of the revenue streams at the Authority, we have determined that the risk of fraud arising from revenue recognition can be rebutted, because: • there is little incentive to manipulate revenue recognition • opportunities to manipulate revenue recognition are very limited • the culture and ethical frameworks of local authorities, including West Lancashire Borough Council, mean that all forms of fraud are seen as unacceptable. Therefore, we do not consider this to be a significant risk for West Lancashire Borough Council. Our audit work has not identified any issues in respect of revenue recognition”.

In respect of “Valuation of land and buildings” they state “The Council’s land and buildings assets have been valued this year by the Council’s in-house valuation team. Our work has assessed them as having a good knowledge of the Council’s portfolio, and they have used information from the Asset Register and other Council estates systems in carrying out their valuation of the assets. The assumptions used are reasonable and we are satisfied that they had access to appropriate levels of information to complete reliable valuations”.

Presumably they, Grant Thornton, are aware of all the WLBC land, including the Council resource the Beacon Park Golf Course (BPGC)?

The BPGC forms part of the leisure assets portfolio. Owned by WLBC and administered on its behalf by the West Lancashire Community Leisure Trust, and now leased to Serco Leisure Operating Ltd, a company that, with the agreement of the Leisure Services Department and Planning, between them turned the BPGC into a landfill site.

It may be within their [Grant Thornton] remit not to examine individual leisure assets, such as the BPGC, in their Audit. That excludes full disclosure of how companies involved in the BPGC have mismanaged it. DTC Leisure Ltd committed the criminal offence of not paying VAT but went into liquidation without penalty. Serco Leisure Operating Ltd has breached planning laws through its landfill activities and has been served with notice to comply with the original plan. Serco partnered the Oakland Golf and Leisure Ltd whose director was convicted of VAT and planning offences in Knowsley Borough, prior to its activities in West Lancashire.

In the course of the landfill activities it became clear that the excessive dumping was worth vast amounts of royalties to the companies involved. The local Serco Project Manager claimed royalties would be paid to the West Lancashire Community Trust Ltd, but events have proved the royalties were paid to Serco. Due to the involvement of local MP Rosie Cooper the Serco Chief Executive Officer Rupert Soames admitted in writing to them having received £183,864 of royalties revenue. The remainder of the estimated royalties is assumed to be traceable via a string of companies associated with the Oakland Golf and Leisure Ltd Director Jonathon Snellgrove. BPGC/WLBC planning development application 2016/0040/FUL is of interest.

Snellgrove’s misdemeanours included prosecution for planning breaches by Knowsley Council, convicted in his absence at Liverpool Magistrates Court and fined £9,000, never paid, and unpaid VAT of £100,000 at UK Sports Parks Ltd, now liquidated.

As I write this, once again BPGC is a shambolic development site

with the 1st fairway shown above, to attempt to correct what Serco Leisure Operating Ltd and Oakland Golf and Leisure Ltd debauched, by spreading the excess landfill across other parts of the course. Who knows when it might end?

Dare we mention “due diligence” of WLBC’s BPCG contractors and how can it “be concluded that West Lancashire Borough Council has proper arrangements to secure economy, efficiency and effectiveness in its use of resources”? It clearly cannot. But isn’t this what auditors of local authorities like West Lancashire Borough Council are paid huge sums of money for?

Serco’s Park Pool Cockroaches

Pool tackles outbreak of cockroaches

The recent report in the Advertiser doesn’t mention Serco as being responsible for the outbreaks. It simply refers to “West Lancashire Community Leisure Trust” and its contract manager. It does mention a pool user for 30 years saying it was saddening it has taken so long for action to be taken. She regrets not taking photographic evidence at times when the infestations were serious.

And she claims “Perhaps the day we visited the infestation was more prominent. But some employees certainly require additional customer service skills in order to deal with concerns raised by customers . When significant pests were visible, they were just told that someone will be out to brush the dead ones up”.

Why was the infestation even present? After all, the contract manager said “Cockroaches can be attracted to wet and warm places like swimming pools”. Knowing that, why wasn’t prevention up to required standards? 

But the then Tory West Lancashire Borough Council outsourced leisure services to Serco 15 years ago. Since then we’ve had the saga of the Beacon Park Golf Course landfill during which Serco breached planning conditions while the destination of the landfill royalties on 23,375 lorry loads, plus the VAT, remain unavailable to the public.

The “new” course remains unplayable, there is still no “footgolf” facility, and another year of disruption awaits golfers while Serco simply spreads its excess landfill along a fairway rather than be ordered to get rid of it off site. 

We wrote “Mr Soames CEO states in his company Strategic Report “Serco has deep expertise: overlaid on our private sector techniques, drive and energy is a public service ethos that means that we can help deliver government services efficiently, but in a way that recognises the need for public accountability and trust”…but not, apparently, the need for public accountability of the landfill royalties Serco has accrued from the Beacon Park Golf Course”.

As for the Park Pool cockroaches, perhaps Serco’s deep expertise, private sector techniques, and efficiency are simply mythical while the profits they make from WLBC’s leisure contract blur the Serco strategy?

Back In The League For Beacon Seniors

Back where they belong

On 1st April 2019 the Contracts Manager for Serco Leisure Operating Limited advised Rosie Cooper MP that the Senior Players of the Beacon Park Golf Course were reinstated to the competitive league we know they grace with their presence in it. Having been kicked out unceremoniously because Serco Leisure Operating Ltd (SLOL)and Oakland Golf and Leisure Ltd had ruined parts of the course and driving range  by illegal breaches of planning conditions, it was a case of job done by Rosie and the Senior players.

Rosie wrote “It seems there is now light at the end of the tunnel for the members at Beacon Park Golf Course after much controversy about the state of the course”.

She states she “has taken a keen interest in developments at the Beacon, following countless complaints over the poor state of the course since Serco took over and landfill works began”.

Despite all these challenges, the Beacon Seniors beat the odds and won the South West Lancs Seniors League last year. This season, due to the ongoing landfill situation, the Seniors were suspended from the league. There was uproar at this decision. MP Rosie had met with the golfers on site to discuss their concerns, as well as meeting with Serco and West Lancashire Borough Council Directors to find a solution.

Following a recent meeting of the league, at which Serco attended to present their work remeasuring the course and maintaining an 18-hole facility that meets CONGU regulations complete with new stroke index and score cards, to everyone’s delight, the Seniors have been re-admitted to compete in this year’s competition.

50% off all memberships

Additionally, SLOL has assured Rosie in writing that “From 1st April we are offering 50% off all memberships for the next 12 months at Beacon Park”. No work has yet started to reinstate the course to something approaching its former glory. Nor will it ever be, unless those involved in the works are not the cowboy companies mentioned here.

In a recent somewhat oblique reference to the course, Labour Cllr John Bullock said, of the new Borough development company “The entity acquiring the land is essentially passing the wealth of the Borough to a separate legal personality in which we may or may not have tools of control (to be tested – hopefully not in a court of law) [Think Beacon Golf Club]”

“Think court of law, think Beacon Golf Club”

and in that context surely it is reasonable to consider what we all know, that the land-filling of Beacon Park Golf Course began and ended with the wealth that was created by the dumping of 23,375 lorry loads, 187,000 m3 volume of fill being claimed by, accounted for, and paid in secret to the private companies Serco Leisure Operating Ltd and Oakland Golf and Leisure Ltd.

As we’ve published so often, the intended beneficiary of the landfill royalties would be the West Lancashire Community Leisure Trust. Its annual accounts do not provide any evidence to prove the receipt of other than its regular leisure income. It’s hardly surprising, because we know SLOL admitted to having received the royalty income. Serco plc has admitted to receiving a considerable sum from it. Oakland Golf and Leisure Ltd showed various income moving between associated companies run by director Jonathan Snellgrove. No evidence has ever been produced of VAT accountability on the landfill activity, a matter that should be seriously examined by WLBC.