Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Wokingham owned companies. Open for business. Not scrutiny. Wokingham Regeneration or Development?

Wokingham Borough Council January 2012 ITEM NO: 61.00 TITLE Audit Commission Annual Plan 2011/12 

"Has concluded that there is Risks with the mismanagement and potential  misreporting by the use of council owned companies."

"The town centre redevelopment is being funded by the Council at a time of economic uncertainty. There is a risk that failure to deliver the anticipated returns will have an impact on your financial resilience"

"At present the progress of the Transformation Programme does not take place in a public meeting. There is a risk that existing reporting lines do not enable effective scrutiny of progress by members outside of executive and other interested stakeholders."

July 2012 in the previous scrutiny meeting the minutes state 

"Panel noted the four principles of good scrutiny as identified by the Centre for Public Scrutiny. With regards to the principle 'to reflect the voice and concerns of the public and its communities', Members questioned how the public could be involved in scrutiny. they were informed that they could attend pubic scrutiny meetings, ask questions at meetings, suggest topics for review or could pass their concerns on to their local councillor. Agendas for public meetings were also sent to the local media."

Freedom of Information request on the £100m Wilson Bowden Wokingham Regeneration contract rejected on commercial grounds. 

(update. This is now contested and will go to formal internal review before it can be escalated outside of the local council.)

(Update. Some Tory councillors have defended the secrecy of the Wokingham Regeneration contract between Wokingham Enterprises Ltd and Wilson Bowden Developments because businesses do not like their tenders scrutinised Since Wokingham Enterprises Ltd is not the actual council but a sub company (with exclusive use of our money) it is fine for it to be outside the law that demands open public scrutiny for council expenditure and contracts..

I would like to remind the councillors the laws around transparency of public spending are there for a reason. Using a business owned by the council does not change whose money can be abused. You have chosen to fail on ethics and use an untested loophole. Selecting ones own scrutinisers, no mater how many, is not acceptable.

I am also aware that the council are supposed to provide the information that does not limit a businesses competitive edge but is not outweighed by public public interest.

19 October 2012 Wokingham Enterprises Limited is to be put into a Dormant state

£6k payment to Cllr David Lee's selected councillors deemed acceptable, although they did not apply for the role against better applicants who may have been willing to do so for free as part of the community.

Request to ask if the above situation is acceptable at the Scrutiny meeting for 11th September denied as too late and too vague. (amendment, have agreed to bring up at the next one)
Update Question asked to the executive of Wokingam Borough Council

Deeply concerned about just how 'comfortable' the establishment have become. When their answer to to ethical concerns met with 'within the rules'. Who makes the rules?


The audit (makes some interesting reading). Pages 6-10.

Who scrutinises the Conservatives decisions  Sheer madness.

How are they supposed to operate? Not in my experience. We should submit questions on the fly in response to glossed over items.

LibDem councillors complain publicly about the problem. Not all willing to commit to acting on it by signing a petition though?

Please do something

Sign the petition! And tell your neighbours. (this is a link too)

In my dealing with Wokingham Borough Council not questioning their integrity, but instead my expectation that their actions should be open to scrutiny so that their integrity can not be questioned, I have felt politely misdirected. Rarely ignored, for which I am grateful, but feel I have met too many beurocratic defence systems to work within the system.

If you believe in conservative values and became a Councillor only to find out that you have simply empowered a secretive clique I would ask that you act on it in the only way you can. Stand down for a bi-election. I'm sure if you talk to the other parties they would help you regain your seat under another banner.

One final push. Please.

If you agree can you please contact your local ward representative and get our council to be 'actually open and accountable in regards to contracts managed through our three companies. It is still our money. 

Copy / Paste


Do you feel the executive Wokingham borough council is suitably scrutinised?


Dear Cllr

I am one of your constituents.
I am deeply concerned about the way that the non-executive directors of our council owned companies have been selected and are being remunerated. Also the large sums of our money that they are able to spend apparently without public scrutiny.
One example being the £100m contract with Wilson Bowden homes which the National Audit Office was concerned will not represent a viable investment. The National Audit office has also expressed concerns about how the companies can be used for misreporting.
Can you please request a public consultation referenced in the local press for measures that should be taken to stop these companies from being capable of facilitating inappropriate use of public funds.
Also can you please express your personal views on the matter.

Kind Regards

Find your ward representative here.

Update 2014/01/30

I have had a tenuous relationship with Wokingham Borough Council regarding our right to film public meetings. They have consistently blocked the filming of the South Wokingham Development in relation to highways. A Freedom of information request has confirmed that the negotiations surrounding the S106 contributions have not been calculated to construct an average contribution per dwelling area. These leaves a lot of leeway with secretive people.

Eric pickles guidelines are clear on this. Let the bloggers in. If there is misrepresentation then that can be dealt with. The evidence of one recorded meeting was needed when Cllr Baker lied in an outburst at a previously blocked Southern Wokingham Highways meeting and I accused him of in in an e-mail exchange in which the Wokingham Times was included. He threatened to sue me, I played along and then provided the evidence, not before asking the leader of the opposition who was present to vouch for me on twitter. She vouched for Cllr Baker!

So we can see why the ability to film public meetings in the manner linked below is essential to scuppering dishonesty at Wokingham Borough Council.


Wokingham Borough Council felt that this annotation is was excessive and blocked filming.


They council could film it themselves. Cllr Baker lied (again) that I was asked to tender for the work over a year ago on a public forum of the old Wokingham Times site. I offered to purchase the kit if they would film it.

They have made up rules that someone can film as long as the film the whole thing put it all online and do not edit it. Only the BBC does not do that? They made that up and 3 hours of waffle is hardly transparent either. Not to mention that Cllrs are signed up to a code of conduct to support transparency. Yet the annotation is to ask about Fracking because councillors will not be transparent about how they will act on that.

I'll cut to the chase.

People can not be bothered to govern without cashing in a little it would seem. If people will not volunteer out of the goodness of their hearts then we may as well have the gamesters doing it.

But people poor people are starting their lives in too much debt now. For all our innovation. That is why we need to make life harder for the crooks and keep their take modest.

Start with transparency. Make them commit in advance about Fracking (Yes, No or public referendum) and make them allow people to turn up and film as they see fit at public meeting just as they can at any other public event.

Just tell them to make promises using www.NoCheapPromises.org


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