Category Archives: BeaconParkGolfCourseWatch

From The Borough Leisure Advert “Golf Courses In West Lancashire”


As published “Golfers can feel at home in West Lancashire – there are a number of excellent golf courses.

“Beacon Park Golf Course
Up Holland, Skelmersdale
Tel: 01695 625551
“Web: New website coming soon……..
“This 18-hole golf course is a picturesque testing ground set high above the Lancashire plain. The 5,996 yard course has a par of 72. Golfers can just turn up and play without needing to be a member. Just phone in advance to book a tee time.

“The course has bar and restaurant facilities which can cater for individual groups, private functions and golf societies”.

This is how picturesque it is courtesy of Serco!

We, WLBC, Have Neither Eyes To See Nor Tongue To Speak

Misquoting Speaker William Lenthall appears to be the position of West Lancashire Borough Council

when the subject of the Beacon Park Golf Course (BPGC) mismanagement is raised, specifically about allegations of VAT fraudsters, the destination of landfill royalties, and the involvement of Serco Leisure Operating Ltd and Oakland Golf and Leisure Ltd and its Director Jonathan Snellgrove.

Because there is no trust in public life. Landfill in-Ruined Golf Course-Cashed out with  The Royalties. One Beacon Park Golf Course VAT fraudster might have been misfortune, but two was simply negligent.

At the last WLBC meeting, 22nd July 2020, an agenda item was to secretly discuss the “Leisure Contract Extension – Short Term Measures in response to COVID 19” rather than to discuss the Beacon Park Golf Course in response to the Serco control of the BPGC shambles, including the secrecy surrounding the officially agreed 23,375 lorry loads of landfill plus the unknown loads that created the excess now supposedly being spread around the course.

Basic VAT fraud arises when a business dishonestly fails to charge and account for VAT when they should have done so, or VAT is charged but not paid over to HMRC. Cheating the public revenue is a judge-made criminal offence. In order to obtain a conviction, the prosecution only has to show that the defendant has made a false statement with the intention of defrauding HMRC. So it’s clear that there was no effective scrutiny by WLBC of the DCT Leisure Ltd accounts leading up to its dissolution, its demise as the golf course leaseholder.

In the case of R v Mavji, 84 Cr. App. R 34 the Court of Appeal held that an actual act of deception is not necessary. A failure to submit a VAT return or pay the VAT due can be sufficient if done so with dishonest intent to evade tax, for example, of £100,000.

Former 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]”.

How ironic is it that on 1 April 2011 we were told that a “New operator for Beacon Park Golf Course, West Lancashire Community Leisure Trust has been announced as the new operator of Beacon Park Golf Course from the New Year. John Bullock, Labour, Chairman of the West Lancs Community Leisure Trust, said “We are delighted to take on the day-to-day operations of the golf course. The Leisure Trust is committed to making sure the sporting facilities in the area are first class and we hope to continue this at the golf course. The course, on Beacon Lane, Up Holland, will continue to operate as normal and members and visitors will see no change in the service offered. All staff will continue to be employed at the site”.

We are asking how WLBC failed to prove the element of suspicions of VAT fraud/landfill royalties and/or corruption in relation to the Beacon Park Golf Course landfill development in not one case but two. The application 2011/0787/FUL for “Partial remodelling of existing golf course and driving range and creation of new nine hole short course” was submitted for a scoping opinion on 2nd February 2011. 17 other items of documentation were submitted on 13th July 2011.

One of the 17 documents is key to the suspicions, a “Letter from communities and local gov re planning fees”, Dated 21st July 2010 in which the name of a company director Jonathan Snellgrove was provided as querying concerns about the costs of planning applications for low impact outdoor leisure facilities. “The applications to which Mr Snellgrove refers should be subject to a maximum fee of £1,690…reducing the cap from £250,000. I hope this clarification goes some way to allaying Mr Snellgrove’s concerns”. Signed by Minister Greg Clark MP. And nobody in WLBC thought fit to check who and why.

From WLBC to “Agent of the Beacon Park Golf And Country Club, Matthews And Goodman Nations House Edmund Street Liverpool, In respect of application number 2011/0787/FUL received on 13 July 2011 and in pursuance of its powers under the above-mentioned Act and Order, West Lancashire Borough Council as Local Planning Authority, having considered your application, hereby grants permission for: Partial remodelling of existing golf course and driving range and creation of new nine hole short course. At Beacon Park Golf And Country Club, Beacon Lane, Dalton, Wigan. Signed by John R Harrison, DipEnvP, MRTPI Borough Planner Dated: 12 December 2011”.

Following reports to Cabinet (15th November 2011) and Council (14th December 2011) interim arrangements were put in place with West Lancashire Community Leisure Trust and the trust partners Serco Leisure Operating Limited to undertake temporary arrangement for the management of the golf course.

The report included “The arrangements previously negotiated by DCT for the land drainage work with Oaklands Leisure [Oakland Golf And Leisure Ltd Company number 07006297 Incorporated 2nd September 2009 Director Jonathan Russell Snellgrove] provided an opportunity to improve facilities, retain or increase future membership and increase income”.

And it included “The trust partners have examined the previous financial years and membership records of the golf course. The information provided by DCT confirmed that the golf course had been losing money during the past two years, as a result of falling memberships and increasing costs”.

There was never any public disclosure made of the “arrangements previously negotiated by DCT for the land drainage work with Oaklands Leisure” and DCT Leisure Ltd gave notice and relinquished their lease for the management of Beacon Park Golf Course on 31st December 2011. Thereafter DCT Leisure Ltd was dissolved with huge VAT and redundancy debts.

And, the infamous planning application by Jonathan Snellgrove who WLBC denied meeting, and then admitted in writing DID meet, with the then Deputy Director of Leisure and Wellbeing for the West Lancashire Borough Council, who DID meet Jonathan Russell Snellgrove of 22 Rockery Lane, Leeds LS18 the Director of Oakland Golf and Leisure Ltd which company was, with Serco, a major financial beneficiary of the enormous landfill operation at Beacon Park Golf Course.

In “Review Findings” the Director stated he “can find no evidence of any written or recorded dates, minutes or reports from any meeting with officers and Mr Snellgrove in relation to the “potential remodelling works at Beacon Park Golf Course”.

But he can advise that “Mr Nelson recalls a recent on-site meeting with Mr Snaylam from Serco/West Lancashire County Leisure Ltd (perhaps you meant West Lancashire Community Leisure Ltd?) regarding the re-modelling works at which Mr Snellgrove was in attendance but after introductions took no part in the meeting. There are no minutes or reports produced as a result of that on-site meeting”.

I was “sorry to appear pedantic about this matter which is extremely important to residents and council tax payers of West Lancashire, but your answer in your “Review Findings” paragraph 1 is directly contradicted by your answer in paragraph 2, as the meeting you do mention was “regarding the re-modelling works”. Isn’t what Mr Nelson tells you recorded by you as evidence?. Which paragraph do you prefer me, or the Information Commissioner, to believe?”

“As for Mr Snellgrove being “in attendance” but “took no part in the meeting” would you be kind enough to ascertain what his role was in the “on-site” part of it? I’m sure Mr Nelson can recall if Mr Snellgrove expressed an opinion about the landfill, even if it was hearsay between [Serco Manager] and Mr Snellgrove since the meeting was about “the re-modelling works”? In view of the contradictions I have pointed out might you now need to re-consider your up-holding of the FoI response from Mr Nelson?

No, he didn’t! They had neither eyes to see nor tongue to speak!

Landfill in-Ruined Golf Course-Cashed out with  The Royalties, that’s the new history of the Beacon Park Golf Course.

Beacon Park Golf Club Reviews & Information

Once in the top ten golf courses in the UK it is now “Ranked 2070 out of 2137. From 186 ratings & 98 reviews on Golfshake, its Average Rating is 3.11.

Reviewed Jul 19 2020 by Harry C – rated 2 out of 5 “Paid for 18 holes but only played 9 as the fairways were much too long and the greens were very poor. Even after hitting it down the middle of the fairway you would lose a ball. Reviewed Jul 14 2020 by Stuart K – rated 3 out of 5 “Great value for money at moment just long walk down to first tee”.

Reviewed Dec 31 2019 by John W – rated 1 out of 5-No comment. Reviewed May 29 2019 by Andy W – rated 2 out of 5 “The course lay out is very nice, cut through some lovely woodland with some nice views. However it needs a bit of maintenance, fairways are a bit long & the greens are slow. I must say the bunkers are excellent though. I wasn’t told before I booked that the 1st is closed, you start at the 2nd & the 18th has been made into a par 3 & a par 4. In fact the lad in the clubhouse was downright ignorant. A little bit of care & this would be a cracking little course”.

Reviewed May 15 2019 by Ian S – rated 2 out of 5. “Not the best! Hard to find your ball even in the fairways! Daisies and dandelions everywhere! Greens a bit bald! Ran true. Just needs a bit of TLC”. Reviewed May 12 2019 by James N – rated 3 out of 5 “Course ok. first cut too long and second cut was ridiculous. greens pretty good but pins were in tough positions”.

Back in 2018, members of the Beacon Park seniors section beat more fashionable clubs with better facilities and more resources to win the South West Lancs Seniors League by six points. Neighbouring clubs such as Hurlston Hall, Mossock Hall and Formby Hall fell by the wayside as the smaller but committed squad from the club came up trumps to take the title.

New members Barry Baker and Ken Clarke played alongside regulars Tommy Jackson, Billy Fitzpatrick, Mike Stokes, John Stanley and Paul Bretherton to form the nucleus of the winning team although vital contributions came from 27 senior members in total. Highlights of the season included an 11-3 away win at Mossock Hall and a 14-0 home win against Sutton Hall. Special mentions went to Bob Ratcliffe, Jack Sockett, Pat Higgins and Ceasar Marchesean, all of whom are close to 80 years of age but made valuable contributions.

They claimed to keep themselves fit in body and mind by playing regularly at Beacon Park, and how some of them feel about it now, 2020, is unprintable.

A Local Embuggerance For Serco?

And not just for Serco, as we remind West Lancashire tax-payers just what was promised years ago, a split of the Beacon Park Golf Course profits. Imagine it, shareholders in a profitable business, long before Tawd Valley Developments Limited comes to fruition.

Surely Serco Leisure Operating Ltd rues the day when it was announced they accepted the contract to operate the Beacon Park Golf Course? Just wait until Rupert Soames sees its bottom line!

To quote the current WLBC Head of Wellbeing and Leisure 10 July 2020 “I can confirm that the overall business at Beacon Park Golf Course makes a loss, taken individually and with no further attributed costs, the hiring of buggies and functions are profitable”.

In 2011 “Serco have now concluded their discussions with Oaklands Leisure [Oakland Golf and Leisure Ltd] and have been able to project a positive financial position in future years. However the initial years of the improvement works will require Serco to cover operating losses”. [The initial NINE years of improvements and still a building disaster site?]

The “initial years” have become the “permanent ongoing years” with no end in sight, despite the optimism shown by the WLBC Head of Wellbeing and Leisure that “The remodelling works for the entire site, including both the nine hole and foot golf, are due to conclude late summer 2020 and are planned to be operational early summer 2021 following a period of planting/growing. It must be noted that both the completion of the remodelling and the re-opening of the site are weather dependant and have already been subject to delays due to the adverse weather conditions.

“Should any future operational models require consideration, the decisions will be taken by Elected Members of Council”. But as Our West Lancashire once asked? 

Well, elected members should recall this news issued to The Champion, published May 2016. “Last year, West Lancashire Borough Council told the Champion that the project had experienced delay and that re-profiling for the current works would be “completed by the autumn of 2015.” They now hope hardcore deliveries for these works will cease by the end of 2016, and that the nine hole par three course will be open in the summer of 2017.

A borough council spokesman commented “The new nine-hole par 3 golf course will be an exciting addition to the facilities at Beacon Park Golf Club and will assist in attracting new members. West Lancashire School Sports partnership has agreed to arrange junior access through schools when the new course opens. Work has also commenced to make changes to the golf club house and open up the facility to visitors from Beacon Country Park.

“These changes are essential to ensure that the golf course and club house meet the needs of golfers and the wider public thereby enhancing their attraction as a leisure facility. The works are being carried out through West Lancashire Community Leisure Trust and the Trust operating partners Serco Leisure Operating Limited, who are operating the golf course on behalf of the council.

“Planning approval was granted for the works which specified the type of materials, estimates for the total hardcore infill, site access arrangements and delivery times for materials to be brought to site. The golf course operator has assured the Council that every load brought on to the site has had a full soil sample report with it and the Council is aware that the Environment Agency has been involved in monitoring the site work.

“Work to create the new nine-hole course was planned for four areas of the course, but following discussions with golfers, the Leisure Trust has decided not to proceed with two of these phases. This will reduce the amount of hardcore coming to the site, and disruption to the course and local residents.

“The remaining area of development for the course on the old driving range is now underway and will provide additional facilities. The Council hopes hardcore deliveries for these works will cease by the end of 2016. The council expects the nine hole par three course to be open in the summer of 2017, subject to there being enough good weather for landscaping to be carried out. The new Footgolf facility which is being developed on the old driving range is expected to be ready by spring 2018”. Now it’s 2021. Was there ever a shambles, an embuggerance, like this in the history of the Borough?

A Marriage Of Convenience, Or Greed?

21st September 2004, Ian Phelps, for and on behalf of Serco Ltd, wrote his “Dear John” letter to John Nelson, then WLBC Acting Leisure Services Manager, confirming how critical it was for “Authority to Proceed“ with the nuptials and payment to Serco of a dowry, or contingency sum, of up to £610,000, to be approved within the Capital Programme to cover the potential costs of reimbursing Serco for improvement works to leisure facilities.

In the name of the then relevant portfolio holder, Cllr D Westley, “this matter is one where urgent action is required without delay!”

And one of the conditions of Serco’s tender was that whenever improvement and enhancement works are carried out, the “Council will reimburse Serco for lost income”. All of this just for three leisure centres and two swimming pools.

Moving on to 2020, imagine this now applying to the Beacon Park Golf Course, now leased to Serco Leisure Operating Ltd, that we taxpayers might be paying Serco for self-inflicted losses of income due to the shameful landfill/royalty scandal caused by, err, Serco mis-management of it!

As these weekend pictures below show, the the course remains a disgrace. 

    

Would you trust Serco to host your wedding reception in the currently closed down Beacon Park Golf Course facility?

How VAT Corruption WAS Missed By WLBC

In the eyes of WLBC, out-sourced services corruption, in leisure services, was non-existent. 

But let’s say you run a small plumbing firm and you’ve been charging West Lancashire Borough Council for fixing 100 toilets a month in council properties when you have only fixed 70. Let’s say you’ve been running this fiddle for three years. What could, or should, the consequences would be if it were to come to light through unpleasant events in the bathrooms of several tenants?

In all likelihood your business would be ruined, would never work for another local council, or anyone else. Nor should you, it’s criminal, fraud. That’s outsourcing. Just as DCT Leisure Ltd running the Beacon Park Golf Course was. Because WLBC did contract direct with DCT Leisure Ltd Company Director Mark Prosser for the golf course lease and failed miserably any verification or competency assessment of the company. Its unpaid VAT, unpaid former employee claim, employee redundancy, and unpaid trade and expenses bills, totalled £69,508. 

Yet national outsourcer Serco committed fraud on a massive scale but it’s still supported by taxpayers, including West Lancashire Borough Council, as this picture shows.

From Rupert Soames, Serco Group chief executive “Those of us who now run the business are mortified, embarrassed and angry that, in a period between six and nine years ago, Serco understated the level of profitability of its Electronic Monitoring contract in its reports to the Ministry of Justice.

“Serco apologised unreservedly at the time, and we do so again. The management and culture of Serco, and the transparency with which we conduct our affairs, have changed beyond all recognition, and we are pleased that this has been acknowledged by both the SFO and by the government”.

Which brings us back to the Beacon Park Golf Course. The “Transparency with which we conduct our affairs” is missing. When will the Soames management and culture reach its relationship with Oakland Golf & Leisure Ltd so that the whereabouts of the landfill royalties is exposed, accounted for, and WLBC tax payers can be assured there was no VAT fiddle, as with DCT Leisure Ltd?

 

Dereliction Of Duty, Known As The Great Golf Course Swindle

On being asked what evidence exists for how West Lancashire Borough Council owned Beacon Park Golf Course became a landfill site creating vast royalty wealth for Serco (the operator) and Oakland Golf & Leisure Ltd (referred to as Oaklands), we produce email exchanges below containing proof.
Questions

03 November 2015 12:52
To: Nelson, John; Gagen, Councillor
Subject: Beacon Park Golf Course

“Could you possibly let me know the start date for when Oaklands started their work at the BPGC, ie when the topsoil was first removed? Could you also let me know the start date for the delivery of the inert materials to BPGC? And could you please let me know how many deliveries of inert materials have been made to date?

“In respect of the new Footgolf proposal, could you let me know on what date this proposal was notified to WLBC, on which course it will be played, ie 18 hole/9 hole/both, and what fees will be charged? Has WLBC as a “one third shareholder” in the BPGC venture been presented with a business plan, and could you ascertain what staffing requirements there will be for this Footgolf venture?

“Finally for now when we spoke last I think we understood Oaklands allegedly has a record of golf course construction, but according to its website of historical completed projects there is no mention of any golf course constructed. That being the case how was WLBC able to conclude Oaklands was competent to undertake the project?”

Answers

05 November 2015 from John Nelson
“Further to your request for information.

“Contractors started on site in November 2013. The first sections of topsoil were moved back and deliveries of the inert materials commenced at the end of November 2013. The information regarding number of deliveries is not available. [Two years later and loads delivered not available!]

“Footgolf is one of the proposals for the Beacon, the course operator [Serco] was looking at incorporating this into the redevelopment work for the driving range and not the 18 hole or 9 hole course. WLBC is not a shareholder, the operation of the course and the facilities provided are for the course operator to determine. The Council will benefit from a split of one third of any operating surplus.[But not a shareholder in its own golf course]

“WLBC do not have a contract with Oaklands and would not be part of any verification or competency assessment of the company. This assessment was undertaken by Serco Leisure Operating Limited”. 

Regards John.
John Nelson
Head of Leisure and Cultural Services
West Lancashire Borough Council



Conclusion. West Lancashire Borough Council abdicated any responsibility for the development of the golf course, leaving it in the hands of Serco and the state you can see it in today. Planning permission granted in 2011, now nearing nine years for this appalling chapter in the history of this borough.

Landfill Or Orchids On A Golf Course?

A golf course in Bristol has closed off nine of its 18 holes following advice from an ecologist, after a rare orchid that had grown during the lockdown was found at the venue.

Half of the course will remain out of bounds until the middle of July. This comes at a time when, also due to the lockdown, the demand to play golf has never been higher. A spokesman said ‘the golfers aren’t particularly pleased about it’, although the venue has been praised on social media for prioritising the environment.

The green-winged orchid is assessed as ‘Near Threatened’ in Great Britain and ‘Vulnerable’ in England, existing mostly along the Welsh coastline, but it started to grow at the municipal Ashton Court Golf Course in Bristol during April.

Bristol City Council, which runs the golf course, says it has taken the decision to reduce the number of holes available to play by nine to allow for the plants to seed. It added that it plans to have all 18 holes back open by July 15 and has asked the public to be patient in the meantime.

Meanwhile, WLBC is “In the process of finalising a contract extension with Serco which covers all WLBC facilities including Beacon Park Golf course…finalise the re-profiling of Beacon Park Golf Course and to consider future operational models”. Allowing landfilling for Serco/Oakland Golf & Leisure Ltd to receive untold royalty profits has brought WLBC into disrepute. 

Just what future does Beacon Park Golf Course have in the hands of Serco? Ask us the same question in another five years!

Sefton Or Serco?

It doesn’t take too much thought about where golfers receive the service their taxes should provide.

Above, Bootle Golf Course today in Municipal Sefton Leisure shows privatised Serco Leisure  West Lancashire to be the poor relation. Sefton Council outlines the operating procedures for staff and public alike to ensure compliance with Government guidance on social distancing. “Any failure to adhere to the rules set out in the procedures may result in the withdrawal of the facility to play golf”.

“The procedures are in several parts covering the Green Staff, Golf Shop Staff, Facilities available and the Playing Regulations for golfers. The course will be open to the public from 9am until 7pm. The playing of golf outside these times is not permitted and the police may be called to those caught doing so.

“Golfers should be reminded that green staff have been significantly reduced during the lock down with four staff covering both courses on a week on, week off rota. This has meant that the height of cuts are higher than we would expect at this time of year. We will slowly reduce the heights as we try and get back to normal but staff levels remain limited due to staff shielding. We hope that customers take this into account when playing the course and we will try and get the course back to the normal summer condition as soon as possible”.

There have been over 2,000 rounds played in Bootle since it re-opened on Wednesday, May 20 following lockdown, and Sefton Council’s Green Sefton team is now worried that those still using it for daily walks could be struck by golf balls.

During lockdown, many used the golf courses for their one hour of daily exercise, but they now face the hazard of being hit by stray balls. Mark Shaw Green Sefton Service Manager said “We knew golfers were itching to get out on our popular courses at Bootle and Southport and we are delighted to welcome so many of them back and to be loosening the restrictions they face when they come.

“However, we want to remind those people who quite legitimately used Bootle Golf Course as a place to take their daily exercise sessions under lockdown, that they now risk putting themselves in harm’s way with the danger of being struck by golf balls. This also applies to those people who have taken the suspension of play as an opportunity to fish, unofficially, in our water hazards”.

The Green Sefton team is putting up signs at Bootle Golf Course to remind and warn non-golfers of the hazards, including where a public footpath that crosses the 8th and 11th fairways.

Since Green Sefton announced it had re-opened Bootle Golf Course and Southport Golf Links (picture below) in May, with fees held at 2019/20 levels, business has been brisk.

From this week, players have been able to play in fours, rather than just in pairs or on their own and from Monday, June 15th, snacks and drinks have been available. Other restrictions to ensure players’ and employees’ safety remain in place.

People wanting to play need to book a tee slot, by telephoning Bootle Golf Course on 0151 928 1371 or Southport Links on 01704 535286. Slots are available every ten minutes from 9am to 7pm. More information including details of the current restrictions is available at http://www.sefton.gov.uk/golf.

Sefton Council’s £500,000 plans to improve golf in the borough through the development of driving ranges at Bootle Golf Course and Southport Golf Links, remain in the pipeline although have been delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown.


Unlike Beacon Park Golf Course above, the Sefton plans feature dedicated coaching bays, plans for the new floodlit facilities were developed after a consultation with local residents and golfers, who highlighted the importance of new practice facilities and investment in course infrastructure.

Imagine it, “consultation with local residents and golfers”, the very idea! Sounds like a democratic option denied to West Lancashire golfers by Serco and WLBC!