Flying the flag in the face of austerity

A local resident writes: ‘Have you noticed all the Union Jacks now flying in the borough? You might expect a Union Jack at the Town Hall, but do we need them at Leyton Cricket Ground and other such facilities? Alongside running the Council, with all the difficult decisions to be made over cuts to essential services, it would appear that money has been found to put a flagpole and union jack at all our sports grounds and council buildings, even to the extent of getting planning permission where required for listed buildings. Emails from the Council Leader’s office asking “Please can I have an update for the Leader asap” followed up with the detailed request “Leade... »

Disposing of Council assets: the Waltham Forest Business Board and the Argall car parks

Councils inevitably dispose of unwanted public assets from time to time, and it is always interesting to discover exactly how they do so, and who benefits. The following is a tale of what happens in Waltham Forest, and as might be predicted, it  provokes more questions than it answers.  On 14 June 2011, the LBWF Cabinet agreed to lease the Argall Avenue car parks to ‘BID’, a fair assumption being that the latter was the Argall Business Improvement District Co., which operated on the modest industrial estate of the same name (see the Cabinet paper of that date, Appendix B, p.1). The car parks between them encompassed 13,585 square meters and space for 110 vehicles; and though only ‘approximat... »

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

A couple of years ago, I started hearing some very surprising things about Leytonstone’s Business Improvement District (BID) company, the E11 Bid Co.. The allegation, in short, was that the directors of the company had failed to keep proper books and neglected to pay their taxes; run up substantial debts; and as a consequence jeopardised the company’s ‘going concern’ status. I had always been suspicious about the E11 BID Co. because there was a lack of transparency about its operations, and a lot of obvious flannel about its alleged successes. I knew that councillors (including the ex-Leader, Clyde Loakes) had been or remained on the E11 BID Co. board, and that the co... »

LBWF Chief Executive Martin Esom’s (non-) attendance at Cabinet

Back in September 2014, Waltham Forest’s Chief Executive, Martin Esom, was awarded a very large pay increase, amounting to £15,000 or 8.7 per cent, and this took his salary to £195,000 p.a.. With some justification, the Waltham Forest Guardian reported the story under the headline ‘Inflation busting pay rise for town hall boss’. Given his level of remuneration, one might expect that Mr. Esom would be a fixture at Cabinet, as this is, of course, supposedly the Council’s highest decision-making body.  But looking at the Council’s website, I find that Mr. Esom last attended Cabinet on 15 July 2014, has missed all the six following meetings, and on five of the six occasions has not even given hi... »

Tower Hamlets and a ‘grant funding shambles’: echoes of Waltham Forest

Mark Baynes at Love Wapping has just posted a very interesting piece on a Tower Hamlets council audit report which ‘paints a grim picture of an almost total lack of control in relation to the awarding and monitoring of grants across the borough’. As he observes, the report, which covers the period September 2014 to November 2014, ‘describes a culture within Tower Hamlets council that seems to have little or no interest in accounting for public funds. Issues identified included not verifying that grant money was actually being spent for the purpose the grant had been awarded, no monitoring visits to organisations, expense claims not supported by receipts and two Lunch Clubs ... »

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