Struggling Skelmersdale Trader Screwed

While a Concourse shopping centre trader is pleading with owners to cut rent, the company concerned, London & Cambridge Properties, has made huge profits and for the last full year alone increased its underlying profits, described as key performance indicators, by 6% to £61,367,000.

“I’m paying full service charge for full complement of security guards, a full complement of cleaners but we’ve got reduced security and cleaning, reduced heating and lighting. Is that right?”

The business owner, who asked to remain anonymous, says requests to the operators have fallen on deaf ears, leaving him and others fearing for their livelihoods.

In the shopping centre only a small number of tenants, such as Iceland and Home Bargains have been able to stay open. Those forced to stay closed are now counting the costs of dramatic losses in income, with some attempting delivery services to make up some of the shortfall.

The owner said that his business has received a grant of £10,000 to help towards the drastic loss of income but fears this will quickly run out once rent and money owed to suppliers is paid out. A temporary suspension of business rates has also helped but the shop owner said that he paid about £1,500 a month to LCP to cover rent and utilities, as well as a further £3,000 annually for a service charge to cover other expenses such as security and cleaning staff.

He had hoped bosses would reduce these during the lockdown but said that numerous requests had been ignored. He said “I’m paying full service charge for full complement of security guards, a full complement of cleaners but we’ve got reduced security and cleaning, reduced heating and lighting. Is that right?”

The businessman stressed that traders were not asking for rent to be wiped off, but instead a small reduction to help make the loss of income more manageable and allow them to continue trading when possible. He suggested that the business rates being saved on unoccupied properties could cover some of the costs and that traders would repay any gesture from LCP by ensuring that there were still businesses around to attract customers when it becomes safe to do so again.

“They’ve done nothing since the start of this to help us, it’s not just me saying this. You should be helping us to pay rents to make sure we’re sustainable so you’ve still got businesses who can reopen. Support us, help us. We’re not asking for no rent, we’re asking to be in it together”.

A few years ago LCP stated it “is undergoing an ambitious expansion programme, not least with its current focus on local convenience parades in the retail sector”. That seems like it was bad news for the Concourse! £61million profits and its ambition to expand them even while its tenants are in trouble isn’t exactly philanthropic is it?

 

Corruption, And Suspicion Of It, In Serco

Outsourcing Serco has a long term leisure contract with WLBC. The company declares “Even on the smallest scale, corruption is corrosive, and just the suspicion of it can severely damage our reputation. Remember: we would rather forego business or lose money than become involved in corruption even on the smallest scale. Sometimes doing wrong can seem right. For instance, when a small illegitimate payment would prevent a project falling behind schedule, it may seem harmless to pay up. Never be tempted to do so. Bribery means giving or receiving an unearned reward to influence someone’s behaviour. One common form of bribery is a “kickback” an unearned reward following favourable treatment. Both are corrupt.

“Corruption is any unlawful or improper behaviour that seeks to gain an advantage through illegitimate means. Bribery, abuse of power, extortion, fraud, deception, collusion, cartels, embezzlement and money laundering are all forms of corruption”.

In July 2013 Justice Secretary Chris Grayling

seen with London based WLBC Cllr Currie, told the Commons that G4S, along with rival Serco, could have overcharged the taxpayer by up to £50million for monitoring tagged crooks who were in jail, abroad or even dead.

Serco officially stated “Serco Geografix Ltd has taken responsibility under the terms of the proposed DPA for three offences of fraud and two of false accounting committed between 2010 and 2013 related to the reporting to the UK Ministry of Justice (MoJ) of the levels of profitability of Serco’s Electronic Monitoring (EM) contract. These issues were reported by Serco to the SFO and the MoJ in November 2013.

“Investigations into allegations of wrongful billing which were the subject,  understandably, of significant public and Parliamentary concern in 2013 have now been concluded without any criminal charges against Serco”.

The Independent Newspaper wrote about routine use of council gagging orders leaving Britain open to corruption. “If staff are silenced by gagging orders, it increases the risk that we will wake up in five or ten years to find that corruption has taken root in local government” was referring to council workers having been routinely issued with gagging orders when they left public service.

An investigation found that thousands of ex-council workers were offered extra money under “compromise agreements” if they promised not to say anything bad about their former employers. And figures obtained by BBC Radio 5 live suggested £226.7 million of taxpayers’ money had been paid out as part of settlements to more than 17,500 council workers, most of which included strict secrecy clauses.

Metro News told us “The UK has dropped three places to 11th in the latest report on corruption levels around the world. And make no mistake, despite the UK’s general complacency about not being a corrupt country, there is plenty of it about. A former advisor to the prime minister back in late 2017 wrote about the ‘endemic’ corruption in the UK’s planning system. “In every corner of the country, you can find stories of bribery, with local councillors and officials rigging the planning process for their own gain” he said.

The CIPFA Code of Practice on Managing the Risk of Fraud and Corruption is applicable to all public services organisations. The code is comprised of five key principles, which are to: acknowledge the responsibility of the governing body for countering fraud and corruption; identify the fraud and corruption risks; develop an appropriate counter fraud and corruption strategy; provide resources to implement the strategy; take action in response to fraud and corruption.

And in the Local Government Transparency Code 2015 is stated “Local authorities should use a risk management approach with strong internal control arrangements to reduce the risk of any payment fraud as a result of publishing public data. Local authorities should refer to the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy Code of Practice on Managing the Risk of Fraud and Corruption”.
WLBC, even under its new management, has its own policy on anti-fraud and corruption. As we relate so often Serco Leisure Operating Ltd sub-contracted with Oakland Golf and Leisure Ltd to undertake what was supposedly a development of the Beacon Park Golf Course. Serco even allowed Oakland Golf and Leisure Ltd to make a planning application relating to a golf course condition by its named Director, Jonathan Snellgrove, whose public record at Companies House included company dissolution owing £100,000 of VAT to HMRC, never recovered, and included a Liverpool Magistrates conviction following a case brought by Knowsley Borough Council planning department

WLBC states “Areas which may be most at risk in respect of corruption are (this is not an exhaustive list): Tendering and award of contracts”. CONCLUSION 8.1 The Authority has always prided itself on setting and maintaining high standards and a culture of openness, with core values of fairness and trust. This Policy fully supports this desire to maintain an honest Authority, free from fraud and corruption.

8.2 The Authority has in place a network of systems and procedures to assist it in dealing with fraud and corruption when it occurs. It is determined that these arrangements will keep pace with future developments and techniques to both prevent and detect fraudulent or corrupt activity that may affect its operation 8.3 The Authority will maintain a review of these systems and procedures through continuous Internal Audit work and this Policy will also be reviewed regularly.

Readers might think WLBC and its elected members have enough alleged fraud and/or corruption at the Serco leased Beacon Park Golf Course landfill/royalty development to investigate than to insinuate members of the public fighting for justice accuse them of it? Having an individual director of a company involved in fraud might have instigated some due diligence from at least one employee of WLBC. It seems not!

Yes Prime Minister 1986

While the Sunday papers, and the “Beeb” of course, get all self-righteous about a PM aide making a lockdown trip or two, we recall the days when Jim Hacker was in charge, or thought he was. 

Jim Hacker explains who reads the newspapers.  

Hacker: “Don’t tell me about the press. I know exactly who reads the papers. The Daily Mirror is read by people who think they run the country; The Guardian is read by people who think they ought to run the country; The Times is read by the people who actually do run the country; the Daily Mail is read by the wives of the people who run the country; the Financial Times is read by people who own the country; the Morning Star is read by people who think the country ought to be run by another country, and the Daily Telegraph is read by people who think it is.

Sir Humphrey: “Prime Minister, what about the people who read The Sun?”

Bernard: “Sun readers don’t care who runs the country, as long as she’s got big tits”.

They knew a thing or two in 1986!