West Lancashire Borough Council Outdated Policy On Fraud

On checking the WLBC anti-fraud policy, with the Beacon Park Golf Course landfill royalty scandal in mind, it seems not to have any urgency, as the relevant section of published information dates from 2014.

This is what you see in 2020 https://www.westlancs.gov.uk/media/192477/Fraud-Transparency-PDF.pdf

“The Council is obliged to publish certain information in relation to its activities on the prevention of fraud. The relevant information for 2014 is set out below:

• The Council has not used its powers under the Prevention of Social Housing Fraud (Power to Require Information) (England) Regulations 2014 or similar powers during the last year
• There are currently 2.5 full time equivalent employees undertaking investigations and prosecutions of fraud throughout the Authority
• There are currently 2 professionally accredited counter fraud specialists working for the Authority
• A total of £84,000 was spent by the Authority on the investigation and prosecution of fraud
• A total of 46 fraud cases were investigated during the year. These were all in relation to Housing Benefit and Council Tax fraud.

Perhaps fraud really doesn’t have any urgency, as suspected by the lack of any investigative action of the VAT and royalty accountancy at the Beacon Park Golf Course? We can only wonder what the 4.5 employees have been investigating since 2014?

West Lancashire Covid-19 Infections Increase

West Lancashire has had 753 confirmed cases of infection since the start and reports +2 today, with 660.8 cases per 100,000 of the population, reported by NHS England.

There were no deaths reported but 35 new coronavirus cases were reported in Lancashire yesterday, with Preston showing the highest increase for the second consecutive day. Fears are growing that Preston may be subject to restrictions if cases continue to surge, following comments from the council’s health boss on Friday.

Huge Public Service Redundancy Pay-Outs “Incense The Public”

A senior civil servant has received a £500,000 retirement pay-off that sets a new Whitehall record for the most money pocketed by a mandarin in a single year.

Clare Moriarty, 57, has retired after 35 years working across the Civil Service. She has been Permanent Secretary to Defra and Department for Exiting the EU. She has landed a redundancy payment of over £300,000 on top of her £180,000 salary. The sum is more than three times the new public sector pay-off limit set to be introduced.

Moriarty landed a redundancy payment of more than £300,000 on top of her £180,000 salary and pocketed a bonus of close to £20,000 for good measure. She also received an extra £137,000 in her pension pot, taking its total value to a colossal £1,833,000, and her annual pay packet to almost £650,000.

Her redundancy payment alone, £260,00 plus £45,000 “in lieu of notice” is more than three times a new public sector pay-off limit which is being brought in after the Government admitted that huge pay-outs “incense the public”. Moriarty had been in the Civil Service for 35 years, rising to the rank of Permanent Secretary at the Department for the Environment before moving to the same role at the Department for Exiting the EU last year.

When the Ministry was closed after Boris Johnson finally delivered Brexit in January, she briefly moved to the Cabinet Office before it was announced that she was leaving Whitehall at the end of March. Moriarty paid gushing tribute to her colleagues, writing on Twitter ‘I could not have asked for better, more committed colleagues in seven departments over 35 years. I will always be a huge supporter of the Civil Service and its wonderful people… I salute you”.

The Cabinet Office report states her total remuneration for 2019-20, including pension contributions, was £645,000 to £650,000. A footnote reveals “The combined figure includes salary of £180,000-£185,000; a redundancy payment of £262,185 and compensation in lieu of notice of £45,450”.

Her pay-out is even bigger than the £248,189 expected to be made to Cabinet Secretary Sir Mark Sedwill after he was forced out by Boris Johnson. It dwarfs the £95,000 cap on severance payments the Government has repeatedly promised to introduce over the past five years.

West Lancashire Borough Council last made redundancy payments of £112,386 to the Chief Executive, £90,616 to the Director of Development and Regeneration and £64,205 to the Borough Solicitor. “Redundancy costs have been calculated in accordance with the Council’s Redundancy Policy, which complies with the Local Government (Early Termination of Employment) (Discretionary Compensation) (England and Wales) Regulations 2006. Pension strain cost will also be paid to the Pension Fund of £422,000. The pension strain cost has been calculated in accordance with the Local Government Superannuation Scheme Regulations. Council Policy is that when making posts redundant there should be a payback period of less than three years. The changes to management structure agreed by Council provide a payback period of 2.2 years.

And prior to that lot the cost of the one voluntary redundancy was the highest for WLBC since Gill Rowe left with £386,116. The Annual Accounts include “Director of Leisure and Well Being Dave Tilleray (left by voluntary redundancy Jan 2018) Salary £66,239, Expenses £126, Compensation for loss of office £84,323, Totals before pension £150,688, Pension contribution £186,663, Total £337,351″.

Do you have a feeling of being mugged?

The BBC Stasi Will See Your Bank Statement Now

reports “The Over-75s’ TV licence scheme in chaos as BBC demands to see bank statements” and “Pensioners must provide detailed proof of income to keep watching for free”. The hell we will! 

The BBC’s move to make over-75s pay for television licences descended into farce yesterday after the website crashed as soon as the charge was introduced. Viewers trying to pay were greeted with a message that said the service was “temporarily unavailable while we update it for the changes to over-75 licences”, before the site was restored last night.

The Labour peer Lord Foulkes of Cumnock

described the situation as “farcical”. “We said this would be an administrative nightmare and that has proved to be the case” he said. “It will also cause distress among some elderly people who are already worried about how they will pay”.

Since yesterday, only over-75s who receive pension credit are still exempt from paying the £157.50 a year, although letters informing pensioners of this change were not sent out in advance, and some will not be posted until September. The site was down for maintenance on Friday night. A viewer who tried to pay on Friday claimed the site’s message had said it would be back up yesterday morning.

The broadcaster is facing additional criticism after it emerged that pensioners are being asked for their bank statements to prove that they do not need to pay the licence fee. Some callers to a hotline set up to help pensioners with the change are being advised to send bank statements to the TV Licensing offices [That’s Crapita, to you and me!] to prove that they receive pension credit.

Campaigners warned that the measure put the elderly at a risk of identity theft and fraud. “It will be extremely frustrating for older people to hear how potentially risky the process of applying for a free licence seems to be” said Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK. Creating and sending copies of sensitive personal and financial information can expose older people to ID theft and fraud”.

Advisers on the helpline, which is run by the outsourcing giant Capita, initially tell callers to photocopy or scan pension credit documents. Many elderly people do not have access to a photocopier, however, especially with the lockdown limiting their ability to visit shops.

The alternative was to post a bank statement or the original award letter for pension credit, with a note requesting its return, one adviser said. On another call, a different employee said a “verbal declaration” over the phone giving pension credit information would secure a reprieve. Pensioners who were deaf or had difficulty speaking could instead post a bank statement, he added. About 70% of people over the age of 70 have some hearing loss, according to the Action on Hearing Loss charity.

A handler on the helpline directed one caller to Citizens Advice for assistance with the licence fee, as he said he was unable to help further. The Capita employee added that many letters informing the elderly of the change would not be sent out until September, a full month after the charge had been imposed. The letters would offer access to a text service for deaf viewers, the BBC said.

Lord Foulkes said the hotline’s suggestions proved it was “unworkable” to reimpose the fee. “This decision was wrong in principle as it will increase loneliness in elderly people, but this has shown it is also really impractical,” he said. “I think it is unworkable, a nightmare.”

The BBC had failed to explain to him how TV Licensing would determine who received pension credit, he added “If the elderly post bank statements, they are at an increased risk of identity theft.” Age UK had raised concerns that the loss of the exemption would put the elderly at greater risk of TV licence scams, which are already common. “In 2018-19, £2.2m was lost to criminals this way and we previously predicted a 13% rise in these scams if the free TV licence scheme was removed,” said Abrahams.

The licence fee exemption was introduced in November 2000 by the Labour government. In 2015 George Osborne, the Tory chancellor, handed responsibility for funding the benefit to the BBC, with the government phasing out its contribution to the scheme. However, Boris Johnson had pledged in November to save the free licences.

The BBC said: “To make the 75+ Plan available for customers online, the TV Licensing website was temporarily offline on Saturday, as was always planned. TV Licensing are not actively seeking bank statements, this is simply an option and we don’t expect to make very much use of it. The TV Licensing team take extreme care with personal data and have a wide range of measures in place to protect it”.

West Lancashire over 75s should not feel obliged to pay any BBC Licence fee, but should post any letter from Crapita to Boris Johnson at 10 Downing Street London and invite him to pay it as he promised to save the free licences. Above all, do not in any circumstances put your private financial data at risk.


New Local Authority Carve-up Plans

Plans for the carve-up of Lancashire County Council seem to be coming thick and fast.

Preston City Council proposed a merger with South Ribble, Chorley and West Lancashire. A day later Preston was left out of a new South Ribble, Chorley and West Lancashire merger plan.

West Lancashire leader Ian Moran set out his fundamental opposition to being drawn into any tie-up with Preston. “We have no links with Preston, whereas we do share some links with Chorley and South Ribble. A Preston-based council would just become a mini-county council, in which West Lancashire is ignored just as we are now.

“It would be to the detriment of the towns, villages and hamlets of the borough” Cllr Moran warned.

The leaders of the trio have written to the government to request a formal invitation to develop their plan for a standalone council covering the three districts and their collective 340,000 population. The move is part of fast-moving negotiations over attempts to secure a devolution deal for the county, which will require a wholesale shake-up of the existing council structure.

In their letter, they state that the proposed patch represents “a functioning economic area” and features “communities with many commonalities”. South Ribble Borough Council leader Paul Foster told the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) that the distinction in tone was because of the different approaches taken by the city and county council.

“There is a lot of politics going on at the moment, but the fact is that we were left blind to County Cllr Driver’s proposal. Why didn’t he come and speak to us if he thinks that his option is the best? Preston City Council speaks to us [South Ribble, Chorley, and West Lancashire] about these things on a regular basis.

“Ultimately, ministers may make this decision for us, but the integrity of local government in this region and the needs of the residents we serve are paramount” said Cllr Foster, adding that he hoped to move forward to have a “constructive discussion” with all parties.

Chorley Council leader Alistair Bradley said that his authority had been working with neighbouring councils to develop “a consistent and joined-up view of where Chorley’s interests may be best placed in any changes to local government”.

“Position documents have been drafted by various councils, but unfortunately, we were unable to achieve any unanimity of view. Given that the county council has moved forward with their intention to present their proposal which has no consensus with Lancashire leaders it is prudent for us to voice the opinion of Chorley Council to ensure that the voices of our council, our residents and beloved communities are heard”.

Neither Cllr Foster nor Cllr Bradley commented on whether there were any circumstances in which they would ultimately accept a merger which involved Preston.

Preston City Council leader Matthew Brown moved to reassure all three of his fellow Labour colleagues who have come together to make their own pitch for so-called “unitary” status, telling the LDRS that they would be “equal partners in any new arrangement”.

“All of four of us have had extensive discussions and there was openness to new structures, but disagreements over the precise footprint. I feel the motivation behind our proposal is very different to Driver’s, as we believe it is the best way to achieve our radical ambitions to build an inclusive economy and society in Central Lancashire, in which wealth is shared around more evenly” said Cllr Brown, adding that he was confident of having further “constructive” talks on his proposal.

The Force Coming Against West Lancashire Over 75s

From Rosie Cooper MP “The House of Commons Library has calculated local figures with 6,820 older households in West Lancashire at risk of losing their free TV licences.  If the age threshold is raised to 80, 2,780 local pensioners will lose their TV licence. If free TV licences are means tested 5,010 will lose their free licences”.  

Capita, a company that should best be dealt with at arm’s length if they call at your door, is paid circa £59 million a year by the BBC to collect licence fees, and its staff are awarded bonuses for targets.

Likewise Regional Enterprise (RE), a company controlled by Capita, provides everything from planning and building control to trading standards, highways, cemetery and crematorium services, regeneration, and environmental health. It allowed an employee to indulge in fake property transactions and he raked in £2million due to Capita/RE “incompetence of scandalous proportions”.

Today, the BBC has introduced its new scheme to force people over 75 to pay for their TV licence, unless they receive Pension Credit. Culture Secretary Nicky Morgan had  launched a public consultation on whether non-payment of the TV licence fee should remain a criminal offence. Currently, anyone who watches or records live TV or uses iPlayer without a TV licence is guilty of a criminal offence and could go to prison. Baroness Morgan said it was time to think about keeping the fee “relevant” in a “changing media landscape”.

The BBC said a 2015 review found the current system to be the fairest. Well, they would, wouldn’t they? The consultation, which would last eight weeks with the government publishing its response this summer, will also look at the viability of an alternative enforcement scheme. Decriminalisation would not mean payment would become voluntary. It could instead mean it would become a civil offence similar to non-payment of council tax or an electricity bill.

TV Licencing insisted the elderly would not be hounded and that it has “considerably increased” staff in its customer support office for when applications begin today.

The incomes of the BBC targets? A single person in 2020/21 will get £134.25 a week of basic state pension, that’s £6,981 a year. If you’re married, and you and your partner have built up the full number of state pension qualifying years, you’ll get double that amount, so £268.50 a week. But the Government decided that women who paid the married woman’s stamp at any point in the 35 years before reaching pension age should be entitled to 60 per cent of the basic state pension a week if they are still married.

The main thing to remember is you do not need to pay for anything until you receive your letter from TV Licensing. These should land on your doorstep in August or September. AgeUk states “We will let you know as soon as we know what the letter looks like so please keep an eye out for scams in the meantime.

“We are already seeing the warning signs of administrative chaos, and we hope this will make the Government realise just how foolish it was to transfer a welfare benefit to the BBC. Lastly, now is the ideal time to check whether you might qualify for Pension Credit which not only gets you a free TV licence but would secure you thousands more pounds a year to top up your pension”.

Philip Davies MP, who sits on the Commons digital, culture, media and sport committee, said pensioners may end up in court for not paying. “Is that really where the BBC wants to go with this?” And Peter Bone, one of more than 60 Tory MPs who wrote to BBC director-general Lord Hall to complain, said “It’s just mean and nasty”.

TV Licencing, which is Capita Ltd, has advertised for “Visiting Officers” Job Description: Enforcement Officer; In this role you will be visiting addresses that don’t have a valid TV Licence. You will explain the legislation, help the customer understand our payment options and where necessary conduct an interview under caution.  Salary: £21,216 basic salary plus commission (annual average is £5,856 but earning potential is uncapped) Core Responsibilities: include “Maintain an effective deterrent against evasion of the TV licence Maximise sales for the BBC. Enforce prosecution proceedings by taking Records of Interview under caution”.
The last word today comes from a lady pensioner who has slammed the BBC’s decision to scrap the licence fee waiver for over 75s, saying that she would rather go to prison than pay the corporation £157 a year. Ivy Siegfried. 82, from Inverclyde in Scotland, told This Morning hosts Rochelle Humes and Dermot O’Leary that she would happily go behind bars as at least she’d get ‘three meals a day, a room and a free TV’.

Will the Capita “incompetence of scandalous proportions” be seen in West Lancashire as its enforcers appear on our streets, earning their “uncapped potential”? You bet they will.


Has The Equality Act Given Us Equality?

“2020 marks a decade since the implementation of the Equality Act 2010. In October 2010, it replaced previous anti-discrimination laws with a single Act, making the law easier to understand and strengthening protection in some situations. The Act helps to make Britain an open, equal and inclusive society where everyone is offered a fair chance in life.

“Whilst we know the journey is far from over, we’re proud of how far Britain has come to protect people from discrimination. From equal pay to same sex marriage, hard won rights have changed the way people can live their lives for the better”.

It’s best summed up as “Equality for some” rather than all. Here in West Lancashire, WLBC discriminated deliberately against the elderly and disabled by stopping concessionary travel just as the new Act was passed, while declaring useable reserves of £millions. All they got was social isolation. Where was, and is. their equality?

WLBC deliberately discriminates against residents who live in flood areas. While we regularly report the disgusting flood events of raw sewage in homes and streets in Burscough, opponents of it are ignored and insulted.  Having met with the Flooding Minister and held a Flooding Forum with residents and local agencies, it looks like we need Dad’s Army to hold back the floods, says West Lancashire MP Rosie Cooper. The only answer from the agencies seemed to be we should get our own sandbags and help each other! Where is their equality?

WLBC deliberately discriminated against the elderly, senior, golfers of the Beacon Park Golf Club by ruining the course with landfill. WLBC watched as the Seniors were expelled from Senior League Competition matches, and still watches as much of the course still lies derelict under landfill. Where was their equality?

Introduced into West Lancashire while it was under Tory control, and the Westley Arms was open for “free via council tax funding for after-meeting councillors” it was pitiful to see the Act ignored here.

And since Labour gained control, it’s been pitiful to see it still, continually, ignored. They got rid of the Tory “gravy train”. Since then they have agreed with Tories to two absent councillors being kept in paid post after seeking advice from Counsel at a cost of £800 to council tax payers. They endorse the long standing Tory policy of housing development without provision of new utilities and services.

 “An open, equal and inclusive society where everyone is offered a fair chance in life”. Really?