Monday, February 11, 2013

Sir Steve Bullock , Lewisham A&E, and the Interims: Mayor finds legal funds


Sir Steve Brokebloke

Wadsofcash@Lewisham.con

At a point when the public purse is being squeezed ever-tighter, Lewisham Council’s Mayor sends out an urgent appeal: But could Sir Steve look any closer for the cash than his interims? TheBigRetort

Recently an appeal was dispatched to Lewisham residents from none other than Sir SteveBullock himself; to save the local hospital's A&E.
 
Since nicknamed by us “Sir Steve Brokebloke,” the Mayor of Lewisham claimed that the government and trust administrators did not have the power to downgrade the hospital following failings by its Trust elsewhere.
 
Apparently we ‘the people’ stand a good chance of winning a legal challenge to the (unlawful) decision so brutally carried out against Lewisham's A&E, and Sir Steve hopes to 'enable' us by making contributions to his Legal Challenge Fund.
 
But what if Mayor Bullock need look no further than his own council for the dosh? 
 
First though, the Wiki definition for interim is... 'a temp'...  Curious then is it not that that in October 2005, the former Director for Regeneration at Lewisham was replaced by one Malcolm Smith, then in a similar role at Newham Council. At that time it was stated that (Smith), 'will replace (the former executive) on an interim basis before a permanent appointment is made'. [Emphasis added.]
 
Yet it was  not until the following year, in 2006, sitting in secret session - without press or public oversight - that a panel of councillors and the Mayor himself decided, (i) that "no appointment be" made for a "full time" Executive Director for Regeneration; and (ii), that Smith, in receipt of a pension and redundancy package from Newham Council, and also employed at Portsmouth, be contracted. 
 
Lewisham then paid to a firm styled “Interea Consulting Limited” in respect of these services £240,000 - in 2010/11 alone.
 
The previous year £204,000 was paid out.
 
In 2008/09, £233,000 was coughed up; 2007/08, £189,000 landed at Mr Smith's feet; and 2006/07, £183,000 was 'doled' out. (Sans VAT and expenses of course.)  
 
The payments are by no means comprehensive; or for full time employment.
 

In just one month (March 2011) Interea Consulting Limited billed to Lewisham Council almost £44,000 in respect of Mr Smith’s services..? (VAT and expenses not included.)

 
Mr Smith did not work in a full time capacity for these payments, as stated above...

From his 2005 appointment, to the termination of his contract in October 2011, an 'interim' (see Wiki) he was actually also a director of Interea Consulting Limited - 50% of the shares of which were owned by his wife; described as a 'librarian' on Companies House files. 
 
We wrote to the Mayor about this cosy arrangement; in order that we could establish if Lewisham received best value for what is essentially taxayers' money.

The Mayor's response though was curious, and not what we expected at all...
 
Usually open and helpful in all matters Lewisham, 'Steve' did not feel able to assist - 'on this occasion'. 
 
Neither could the Mayor 'discuss publicly' what was said about individual candidates ‘whether appointed or not' to the post of Executive for Regeneration.
 
Individual candidates..? There was only one candidate: Malcolm John Smith.
 
Curiously too, despite evidence to the contrary, the Mayor also claimed that he was 'not present' when the decision was taken not to employ a full time executive for the role in regeneration.
 
MINUTES of the meeting of the APPOINTMENTS COMMITTEE... MONDAY, 17 JULY 2006 at 9.15 a.m.
 
Present
 
Councillor Morris (Chair); Councillor Michel (Vice-Chair); Councillors Alexander, Klier, Peake and the Mayor (Steve Bullock) [Emphasis added.]
 
APPOINTMENT OF EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR FOR REGENERATION (Resolved: that no appointment be made.) [Emphasis added.]
 
The above decision by the Mayor and councillors added to the bills Lewisham would later receive in respect of this 'interim' position.
 
Given that Mr Smith by then appeared to be in the employ of the council, since 2005, the former Exec for Regeneration having moved on, the meeting to decide the role would also seem to be somewhat late in the day too.
 
Later minutes also record:
 
MINUTES of the meeting of the APPOINTMENTS COMMITTEE...WEDNESDAY 23 JULY 2008 at 1.30PM.
 
Present
 
Councillor Morris (Chair); Councillors Alexander, Klier, and Russell.
 
Apologies for absence were received from the Mayor, Sir Steve Bullock, and Councillor Michel. [Emphasis added.]
 
Also Present Councillor Best
 
Exclusion of the Press and Public
 
RESOLVED That under Section 100(A)(4) of the Local Government Act 1972, the press and public be excluded from the meeting for the following items of business on the grounds that they involve the likely disclosure of exempt information...
 
The following is a summary of the items considered in the closed part of the meeting: Appointment to the Role of Executive Director for Regeneration. [Emphasis added.]
 
Prior to arriving at the decisions shown above and following 'the Committee were briefed on the circumstances leading to the previous offers of, firstly, a three month contract and then a two year fixed term contract.' 

---------

"The Committee reviewed the operation of the contract over the last two years and carefully considered the options at their disposal concerning appointment to the post on a fixed term or permanent basis. The Committee asked for any increases in contract value to be kept in line with JNC awards.

"Having received the written views of the Vice-Chair and advice from the Head of Personnel & Development, the Committee concluded a renewal of the contract for a further two year period was in the best interests of the Council, but that this decision was taken on the basis of the circumstances of the case and was not a precedent to be used for other positions and gave no guarantee as to any future renewal.  [Emphasis added.]

 
"The above was resolved and the panel made the following recommendation:
 
That the contract of Malcolm Smith as Executive Director for Regeneration be renewed for a fixed term period of two years starting 1 October 2008 and that the Head of Personnel & Development negotiate the terms of the contract in line with the proposals contained in the report." 
 
Ignoring the fact that the above does not mention Interea Consulting Limited - anywhere -  and that the contract was to cease in October 2010 (why then was Mr Smith employed until October 2011?), the Mayor also informed us that no papers were retained by members of the panel monitoring the (secretive) selection process above: But why? 
 
And what were the 'written views' of the Vice Chair (Councillor Michel)?  

What too was the big secret requiring a closed session? Perhaps it was the vehicle by which the interim was to be paid... Interea. Perhaps?
 
Unfortunately we shall never know. 
 
To be fair to the Mayor, though rather forgetful, even though his shoulder has been touched by The Sword he is usually quite an open and amiable bloke - which is why he has this publication amongst his fan base - but this does not look at all transparent.
 
The minutes do record the Mayor’s presence; a presence that set the interim gravy train in motion; for a role that redefines the usual definition of 'temp'; and a role that ceased in October 2011 - after our probing - and a year after it was supposed to cease; following a secretive meeting which 'gave no guarantee as to any future renewal'...?
 
What is going on at Lewisham Council one may well ask.
 
Malcolm Smith it should be said has done nothing wrong; other than line his pockets from an available public purse, he was simply being paid huge sums for his remarkable efforts; and for which he was rewarded... handsomely. But an expertise that apparently saw no other challengers... in the whole of the United Kingdom? Why he is too described both as an ‘Interim’ and a 'local government officer’ may have staff at the Inland revenue scratching heads. 
 
But that aside… back to our proposal. The former interim’ Exec for Regen used to live in the borough of Lewisham. Should he or his family have needed it he would have had full use of Lewisham‘s A&E.  May TheBigRetort respectfully suggest therefore that Mayor Bullock forward his appeal letter to Dorset - where Mr Smith now resides. One never knows, a little contribution may be forthcoming.
 
Malcolm Smith, to give him his due, has been open about his directorship. However, the “interims” remaining at Lewisham, somewhat less prone to stepping out of the shadows, do not publish their associate directorships publicly: making a probe - shall we say - taxing? 

Such individuals negotiating contracts in the dark should be 'publicly outed'. 
 
The Mayor's attendance at the meeting to decide the future role itself is too worthy of further scrutiny. 

Meetings overseen by the Mayor and members of the various panels offering lucrative financial packages should take place - in public.
 
If payments to 'tax vehicles' owned by such fortunate individuals are available in Lewisham accounts and expenditure - why then the need for secret closed sessions to decide their merits?
 
The interim/consultant gravy train may yet get such "passengers” to make a contribution towards the Mayor’s Challenge - and help save Lewisham Hospital's A&E.
 
Failing that, readers should write to Sir Steve Brokebloke and demand that he halts such cosy contracts - and the secrecy surrounding them - so that he does not have to go cap-in-hand to a squeezed and increasingly vexed public.
 
Write to Mayor Bullock.

Enable Sir Steve.

Now, there's a challenge.
 
Coming soon in TheBigRetort.... THE GARDEN WALL, THE SCULPTOR, AND THE FORMER PLANNING OFFICER.



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