North London Ltd.: further significant revelations UPDATED

In previous posts, I have discussed North London Ltd. (NLL), and pointed out some of the mysteries that surround it.

To recap briefly, NLL was a private company that (a) was handed hundreds of thousand of pounds by public authorities (including LBWF, both directly, and through the Waltham Forest Business Board); (b) according to its accounts, paid generous ‘director’s remuneration and other benefits’ (a whacking £314,897 in the three year period 2004-07 alone); (c) left an unexpectedly faint footprint in terms of recorded outputs and accomplishments; and (d) was put into liquidation in 2013.

What I think is particularly interesting is one of the two programmes that NLL was involved in during its brief lifetime, the 2009-13 European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) financed Exporting Success.

The object of Exporting Success was to encourage small- and medium-sized companies in North London to seek new markets overseas, and it involved a consortium of six or seven delivery partners (essentially other private companies and quangos) with NLL at the helm.

So far, so straightforward, and to begin with, the delivery phase of the programme, too, continued on the same untroubled pathway. However, the calm did not last.

The managing agent for ERDF in the capital was the Greater London Authority (GLA), and it was charged with monitoring and actually handing over the funding.

In the years to mid-2012, City Hall officials made one or two visits to NLL’s headquarters to assess progress, and settled 12 invoices worth £591,500. But then a more systematic review persuaded them that NLL’s outputs were so meagre that it was necessary to impose a penalty for ‘significant’ underachievement, in effect a claw back of no less than c.£100,000.

As of today, it is unclear what happened next, mainly because NLL’s liquidation occurred at broadly the same time, prompting arguments between the various parties involved as to whether the penalty was a ‘true debt’.

That is the essential background, but in recent weeks, I have made a series of further discoveries which are even more intriguing (and perturbing).

One thing that has been never been very clear is how NLL came into existence in the first place. Sources within the company have repeatedly insisted to me it was set up by the London Development Agency, a quango responsible to the GLA.

However, when I recently put this proposition to the GLA itself, using the Freedom of Information Act, I was told bluntly that it was not true.

Of course, I have no way of knowing who is right or wrong here, but the fact that such a basic question is disputed hardly inspires confidence.

Then there are two issues relating specifically to Exporting Success.

First off is the matter of exactly which geographical area the programme was aimed at. In the bid document that it submitted to the EU, NLL firmly focused on the boroughs of Enfield, Haringey, Tottenham and Waltham Forest, and made repeated references to North London as its sole target. Yet over time, as a 2013 list of outputs reveals, NLL mysteriously widened Exporting Success’ reach, and offered assistance to firms in Chelsea and Harrow to the west, and Lewisham, Croydon, and Sutton to the south. So far, no explanation has been offered as to why this was allowed to happen.

Second, scrutiny of NLL’s delivery partners raises further significant issues. Of those named in the bid document, I have previously established that Delta Club went into liquidation in November 2011, and the E11 BID Co. was plagued by serious internal problems, and hardly contributed to the programme at all (see the links below). As to UK Trade and Investment or UKTI (part of the Department of Business, Innovation, and Skills), the story is even more perplexing

In the bid document, NLL mentioned UKTI on 44 separate occasions, and suggested that it was a crucial delivery partner, which would generate ‘huge added value’.

Yet when I asked the Department of Business, Innovation, and Skills earlier this year about UKTI’s involvement, it told me: ‘UKTI did not provide any support for an ERDF programme called Exporting Success’.

Moreover, when I then asked City Hall to comment, the relevant officer for European programmes admitted that, until my inquiry, ‘We were not aware that UKTI were not participating in this project’.

Had NLL erred, or was this a simple misunderstanding? Whichever is the case, it does not say much about the quality of GLA oversight and monitoring.

Finally, there is the matter of NLL’s liquidation. The Gazette entries are here:

They show that NLL was wound up because of the actions of Prevista Ltd.

What surprises is that Prevista Ltd. was also one of NLL’s partners in Exporting Success!

So NLL not only failed markedly to achieve its targets, but also apparently did not remunerate a close ally with what it was owed, which begs the question: where then did that portion of the money end up?

My inquiries continue.


A further conundrum has come to my attention.

Readers of this blog will remember that I have previously written extensively about LBWF and the publicly financed Local Authority Business Growth Initiative programme (LABGI 2), because there was and is – surprise, surprise – considerable uncertainty about what the latter achieved in terms of outputs.

They will also recall that NLL was paid considerable sums from this programme.

Now when I originally asked what exactly NLL received this money for, I was assured by sources within the company that the answer was quite straightforward: someone had to manage and run LABGI 2, and LBWF had commissioned NLL to do so.

This always seemed to me unlikely, because I had in my possession a contract that LBWF had issued to run LABGI 2, and that was between it and, not NLL, but the Waltham Forest Business Board operating arm, Waltham Forest Business CIC.

Anyway, in order to clear up the matter once and for all, I recently used the Freedom of Information Act to ask LBWF for a comment, and received the following very clear reply from no less than Lucy Shomali, Director Regeneration and Growth:

‘I can confirm that Waltham Forest Council did not enter into a contract with North London Ltd. for the LABGI 2 Programme’.

Again, I can’t tell who is right or wrong here, but that two such divergent opinions should co-exist further underlines the gist of this post.

Related Posts

North London Ltd. – an enigma wrapped in a mystery?

North London Ltd. and a shortfall of £101,822

The Waltham Forest Business Board and North London Ltd hit the buffers?

LBWF, the Local Authority Business Growth Initiative programmes, and the Waltham Forest Business Board, E11 Bid Co., and North London Ltd.

Delta Club: a very Waltham Forest story, up like a rocket, down like a stick