Author Topic: Is Final Chapter In wi-fi 'Saga' Near?  (Read 263442 times)

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Offline Des Morgan

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Re: Is Final Chapter In wi-fi 'Saga' Near?
« Reply #1060 on: December 12, 2012, 02:58:42 PM »
In the minutes of the November Scrutiny Committee Coun Perkins is quoted as follows:

‘Councillor Perkins commented on some of the major issues, including the level of monies made available by the Council to support the project, his own role as a director of the company, and the additional costs incurred in Highworth project compared with original estimates’.
 
I am interested in his observation with regard to the ‘level of monies’ made available by the Council. Is it his contention that insufficient monies were made available or is it his view that the way in which the payments were staged affected the delivery programme of a Wi-Fi network for Swindon?

With regard to his claim that ‘additional costs’ were incurred in Highworth, I am quite amazed that his is able to make such a statement given that in September 2011 when I asked the Leader of The Council to advise me how much of the £250k was used to pay off costs associated with the Highworth pilot, he responded ‘Based on the information the Council has received it is only possible to make an estimate on the type of costs DC funded using the £250k. We are therefore unable to say conclusively how much related to the Highworth Pilot’

This claim did fly in the face of a statement made by the Cabinet Member for Finance who is on record as stating ‘the Council does have visibility of where the money has been spent’
I have read and re-read the papers in which the case was presented to give DC the £250k. At no point is it ever mentioned that costs incurred by and associated with the Highworth Pilot remained unpaid and would be paid for out of the £250k. Indeed the general tone of the presentation was that the £250k was required to advance the project and offer some assurances to ‘alleged’ potential investors.

So I have asked Coun Perkins 

1. Will you please now reveal the actual costs associated with setting up the Highworth Pilot and in particular advise the extra costs beyond the initial £150k?

2. Will you also offer an explanation why no other investor saw fit to invest in DC given the assurances made in the presentation to Cabinet before the second tranche of £250k was paid.

3. Will you also confirm that the officers who completed the Risk Assessment made before the release of the £250k were aware of the fact that DC had not obtained any financing beyond the Loan from SBC and a bank overdraft facility? 

As ever i don't expect an answer any time soon


ph1lc

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Re: Is Final Chapter In wi-fi 'Saga' Near?
« Reply #1061 on: December 12, 2012, 07:40:55 PM »
I

3. Will you also confirm that the officers who completed the Risk Assessment made before the release of the £250k were aware of the fact that DC had not obtained any financing beyond the Loan from SBC and a bank overdraft facility? 

As ever i don't expect an answer any time soon

There was much stupidity in the handling of the whole DC fiasco  - but there you ask probably the most pertinent question of all Des.

It was obvious any one with two brain cells that DC could not possibly succeed without funding far in excess of the £450K SBC were laying on the table. On that basis anyone involved with the risk assesment is fatally wounded and should be dismissed immediately.

Bearing in mind his exorbitant "salary" what did Hunt bring to the talbe that justified his share allocation?
That is a question that Rodders himself must answer, it was his baby.




Offline Des Morgan

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Re: Is Final Chapter In wi-fi 'Saga' Near?
« Reply #1062 on: December 12, 2012, 11:09:54 PM »
Quote
It was obvious any one with two brain cells that DC could not possibly succeed without funding far in excess of the £450K SBC were laying on the table.

Indeed, and where the officers come under huge pressure is why did they make such high blown claims that lending the second tranche was 'in the best interests of the Council' when as the Chief Executive of SBC made clear in a very unambiguous statement

I believe it has been clear since March 2010 that the council had concerns about Digital City's ability to deliver on the agreed business plan within the available funding.

Given this was so 'clear' why did someone not demand to see evidence of incoming investment (as opposed to RH's assurance that there were potential investors) and bank funding.  Both lines of funding were part of the impetus to lend more Council money.

Offline Outoftowner

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Is Final Chapter In wi-fi 'Saga' Near?
« Reply #1063 on: December 12, 2012, 11:40:52 PM »
Indeed! It was obvious to quite a few people what was really going on but SBC officers and councillors could not see it and still can't either see it or admit to it. I believe that some of them were hoodwinked but some of them were complicit in a simple scam. In fact a very simple but bold scam.

Ladies and Gentlemen you have been fooled and you continue to screen those who fooled you. Why?
What's it all about?

Offline Des Morgan

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Re: Is Final Chapter In wi-fi 'Saga' Near?
« Reply #1064 on: December 13, 2012, 05:00:58 AM »
Quote
Ladies and Gentlemen you have been fooled and you continue to screen those who fooled you. Why?

HUBRIS noun pride, vanity, arrogance, conceit, self-importance, haughtiness, conceitedness

Offline DavidPayne

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Re: Is Final Chapter In wi-fi 'Saga' Near?
« Reply #1065 on: December 13, 2012, 02:08:10 PM »
As ever i don't expect an answer any time soon

Des you have the patience of a Saint but don't stop what you are doing! They cannot possibly defend this. The evidence on this site alone is quite overwhelming and all they can do is burden you with evasive replies, each of which adds to the case against them which will ultimately constitute an indefensible indictment. If you can forbear the attrition, the group of you TS analysts will in due course, haul someone before the judge at the very least of public opinion.

Top Man.

Offline Richard Symonds

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Re: Is Final Chapter In wi-fi 'Saga' Near?
« Reply #1066 on: December 13, 2012, 10:08:44 PM »
I think the Wifi enquiry is now pretty much concluded, we have in effect just read the last page of the book.

What, before the 'working party' has met Mart?
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Offline Des Morgan

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Re: Is Final Chapter In wi-fi 'Saga' Near?
« Reply #1067 on: December 14, 2012, 11:16:18 AM »
Quote
What, before the 'working party' has met Mart?

The term 'Working Party' might be a little too much. For my part what we have is a non-working party.

What are the terms of reference?

Who will be the 'non-voting' chairman?

When will they meet?

What will they consider?

Who will they interview or take evidence from?

Will it be a white wash?

Will officers be asked to account for their advice?

So many questions - so few answers!!

Offline Richard Symonds

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Re: Is Final Chapter In wi-fi 'Saga' Near?
« Reply #1068 on: December 14, 2012, 08:53:29 PM »
Quote
What, before the 'working party' has met Mart?

The term 'Working Party' might be a little too much. For my part what we have is a non-working party.

What are the terms of reference?

Who will be the 'non-voting' chairman?

When will they meet?

What will they consider?

Who will they interview or take evidence from?

Will it be a white wash?

Will officers be asked to account for their advice?

So many questions - so few answers!!

Questions for Scrutiny on Monday night Des, are you going to ask such questions?
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Offline Richard Symonds

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Re: Is Final Chapter In wi-fi 'Saga' Near?
« Reply #1069 on: December 16, 2012, 06:03:59 PM »
Scrutiny Monday Night November 5th 2012

Interesting that yet again Dave Wood the Liberal member was absent!  I wonder why?

Chairman Small announced that the order on the Agenda would be modified as the Cabinet Member for Streetsmart turned up with so many of her officers they could hardly be accommodated at the table!!  This change was challenged by Brian Cockbill.  As for streetsmart I am none the wiser as to who is responsible for what as the portfolios seem to be so unclear in their duplication.  But that is for another discussion another day.

Brian Cockbill had already submitted his questions in wrinting and as per previously he was handed answers at the meeting.  It would be helpful if Brian could post those details on here.

I asked the following questions which were answered in the main meeting under item 5 and on two occasions during that main part of the meeting the Chairman gave us the opportunity to ask supplementaries.  The answers given are notated in Red

1.   The Accounts for Digital City (UK) Ltd., were promised by Councillor Perkins last September 2011 to be made available to the public in ‘a few weeks’.  Why has it taken so long to fulfil this promise and how does the Council intend to publish them for the people of Swindon?

Councillor Perkins said that "The details had to be agreed with the other shareholders."

2.   Chairman can you please confirm that these accounts have been completed and tell us which members of the Scrutiny Committee have examined them and the accompanying report?

The Chairman confirmed that the accounts had been completed and no one on the Scrutiny Committee had seen them.

3.   In what way was the £400,000 loan used and how much was used in salaries?

Councillor Perkins referred me to the Accounts.

4.   Why did the Council pay for these accounts to be prepared for a Private Limited Company to whom it loaned £400,000 of Swindon Council Tax Payers money?  What contribution have the Directors made to these costs?

I was referred to the Cabinet Report of February 15th section 4.1

5.   What financial penalties have been incurred by the late submission of these accounts?

Financial Officer Stuart McKellar said he did not know and the Chairman promised me an answer in writing.

6.   When the accounts have been submitted to Companies House, who will ultimately sustain the costs incurred by late submission?

Financial Officer Start McKellar said this had to be discussed and the Chairman promised me an answer in writing.

7.   Does the council intend to take legal action against the Directors to secure the value of the loan plus accumulated interest and the costs of the accounts and if not why not?

The council will normally pay because the Director was acting on behalf of the Council, but no decision has been taken as yet.

8.   If the company has traded whilst insolvent does the Council intend to sustain any criminal responsibility for this act?

The Borough Solicitor replied that this was a hypothetical scenario!


Under Agenda 5 The Chairman pointed out that this item would be dealt with under to categories Wi-fi 1 and Wi-fi 2. 

Councillor Perkins having looked extremely uncomfortable during my questions regained his composure as a Salesman and told us about the benefits of Wi-fi and UK Broadband and how it evolved.  Although I will not go into it here he was questioned about the savings achieved with this project and again said that this project would never have happened unless we had had Digital City in Highworth.  There was a lengthy contribution from Business Transformation Officer Hitesh Patel.  I will move on from this subject as it is not the purpose of this post.

so to Wi-fi 1!! 

Garry Perkins handed over one complete set of accounts to the Chairman and an abbreviated set of Accounts to the other members of Scrutiny.  So question 1 why did he leave until that moment to do so and why did he not make available the detailed set to all the members of Scrutiny?  He stated that the Company was only required by law to reveal the abbreviated set and he had to achieve the approval of his fellow directors and shareholders to share them with the meeting.  The Accounts had been submitted to Companies House on October 31st.  It remains to be seen if they were received in time ie October 31st as they accrue yet more financial penalties if they were not!

At this point it was agreed that a Special Working Party would be set up with Two Labour and Two Conservative Members and a non voting Chairman.  This Working Party was to present its findings to a special meeting of Scrutiny in January 2013.

Councillor Perkins gave us a report on his involvement which started with the second tranche of money.  He kept on saying it was £200,000 where as we all know it was £250,000!!    He said he joined the board in April 2010 but I thought it was March?  Perhaps someone could clarify this point as I have looked and cannot find it on here.  His first Board Meeting was in June 2010.  He reported that things were not going well then and they desperately needed a further cash injection and that is why he held on in an attempt to secure a way forward.

There was a Price Waterhouse Coopers report in February 2011, please note the year, which was not shared with the meeting.

There was a discussion initiated by Bob Wright about how we need to find out why this project was not handled by normal competitive tender as there were a number of local businesses who had expressed interest in working with the Council but had been excluded from the outset?  The Borough Solicitor intervened and stated it was "a Loan not a Procurement".  Bob Wright added that "for a shareholder we acted like an owner but also as a shareholder when it suited us".

Councillor Perkins said he was anxious to expunge everything and "bring it out to move on."

Bob Wright stated that DC was bust at Christmas 2009 and asked the question as to why was further money loaned under these circumstances?

I will add my comments about this meeting when you have all had a chance to read this and comment on it.  I must stress that this was my understanding and would welcome any correction if in indeed I have got anything wrong.

Now compare them to the official minutes of the meeting as published on the official Council website
   
https://ww5.swindon.gov.uk/moderngov/mgAi.aspx?ID=29523

W- Fi Project Update Report

Meeting of Scrutiny Committee, Monday, 5th November, 2012 6.00 p.m. (Item 36.)

Minutes:

Further To Minute 29, the Chair advised the meeting of the answers provided by the Leader of the Council to the series of questions put to him by Mr Brian Cockbill at the last meeting, regarding matters concerning the Council’s Wi-Fi project and, in particular, the final accounts of Digital City (UK) Ltd. At the invitation of the Chair, the Council’s Board Director Finance, Revenues, Benefits and Property responded to supplementary questions put by Mr Cockbill regarding the arrangements by which payments were made by the Council to Digital City (UK) Ltd and shareholder access to the company’s accounts.

 

The Chair continued, putting questions submitted by Mr Richard Symonds on the following issues:

 

1.    The delay in making the final accounts of Digital City (UK) Ltd available to the Committee and public inspection of the final accounts.

 

2.    The completion of the accounts and the inspection of these completed accounts by the Scrutiny Committee.

 

3.    The use by Digital City (UK) Ltd of the £400k loan and the element of that sum used to meet salaries.

 

4.    The payment made by the Council for the preparation of the accounts and any contribution made by Directors to those costs.

 

5.    Financial penalties incurred by the late submission of the accounts.

 

6.    Responsibility for meeting the cost of any such penalties incurred as a result of the late submission of the accounts.

 

7.    The potential for legal action to be taken by the Council to recover the value of the loan plus accumulated interest and costs associated with the preparation of the final accounts.

 

8.    The potential for legal action being taken by the Council against the Company if it is proven to have traded whilst insolvent.

 

The Chair and Councillor Garry Perkins, Cabinet Member for Regeneration and Culture, supported by the Director of Law and Democratic Services, responded at the meeting to Mr Symonds question nos. 1 to 4 and 7 and 8. The Council’s Board Director Finance, Revenues, Benefits and Property was asked to provide written responses to Mr Symonds’ question nos. 5 and 6. Councillor Perkins also responded to supplementary questions put by Mr Symonds.

 

The Chair indicated that, to facilitate members’ debate of this item, it was his intention that the item be considered in two parts, firstly, matters relating to the new, UK Broadband Wi-Fi scheme, and, secondly, matters relating to the original, Digital City (UK) Ltd scheme.

 


On the basis of what has been published as the official minutes, do readers believe, as I do, that the emphasis of my questions has been lost ?

Added to which Stuart McKellar has yet to write to me, as promised!!
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ph1lc

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Re: Is Final Chapter In wi-fi 'Saga' Near?
« Reply #1070 on: December 16, 2012, 08:41:50 PM »
Richard old chum. It's over!

On the basis of the minutes, and the terms outlined for review - the bastards have got away with it.
We know what happened to the money - Hunt the **nt hived off with a large slice and Aqovia trousered far too much for what they provided.

Bluh will be the next Pontiff and Perkinator canonised.

Offline Mart

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Re: Is Final Chapter In wi-fi 'Saga' Near?
« Reply #1071 on: December 17, 2012, 07:02:41 PM »
Perkinator canonised

17 inch Naval gun should do it. With the wadding rammed in, nice and hard.

Or have I misunderstood?
Sometimes I think you have to march right in and demand your rights, even if you don’t know what your rights are, or who the person is you’re talking to. Then, on the way out, slam the door.

Offline Des Morgan

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Re: Is Final Chapter In wi-fi 'Saga' Near?
« Reply #1072 on: December 17, 2012, 09:07:09 PM »
Quote
Richard old chum. It's over!


They wish!!!

Offline Des Morgan

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Re: Is Final Chapter In wi-fi 'Saga' Near?
« Reply #1073 on: December 17, 2012, 09:11:44 PM »
This was sent to me at 5.15pm today only just within the timeline the Council were required to answer.

Quote
Dear Mr Morgan,

Ref: FOI101000369490 Freedom of Information Request 

Further to my email below, I can confirm the Council are in contact with Price Waterhouse Coopers in relation to the confidentiality of the report. We will endeavour to reach a conclusion no later than 4th January, 2012.

If you have any queries about this matter please contact me. Please remember to quote the reference number above in all future communications.
 

Here is an example of ‘opaque’ local government and demonstrates the very worst of behaviours which only serves to suggest that ‘there is something to hide’

I made an FOI request to view the PWC report on 4 November 2012. It now appears to be the case that the Council need to contact PWC ‘in relation to the confidentiality of the report’ and the best they can offer me is to ‘endeavour to reach a conclusion by 4 January 2013’ or in a timescale of 8 weeks since I first asked. I am sure we all know what the outcome will be!

The report has been seen by elected Councillors including at least one member who is not a Cabinet member or indeed a member of the Conservative Group. 

I am advised the Council engaged PWC in 2011 to advise on future options in relation to Digital City, and the Council tax payer paid the £10,100 cost of the report. Given at the time of the report Council officers had already determined that Digital City was ‘dead in the water’ I believe the publishing of the report to be in the Public Interest. I appreciate a public airing of the background into Digital City may not be what Councillors want, but that’s no reason to sit on the report. 

Councillor Bluh, Leader of the Council very recently wrote in his weekly Swindon Advertiser column the following:

Quote
“We know people do not feel informed about where the money is spent, the issues concerned and how to influence decisions. The Big Conversation is part of our commitment to try and change this – I am passionate about facing these as openly and constructively as possible”


Clearly, he doesn’t really mean what he says if he allows this report to sit in the Civic Offices with a restricted access to selected officers and Councillors.



Offline Mart

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Re: Is Final Chapter In wi-fi 'Saga' Near?
« Reply #1074 on: December 18, 2012, 08:08:19 PM »
I distrust anyone who says they are passionate about anything except family members or spouses.
Sometimes I think you have to march right in and demand your rights, even if you don’t know what your rights are, or who the person is you’re talking to. Then, on the way out, slam the door.

Offline Richard Symonds

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Re: Is Final Chapter In wi-fi 'Saga' Near?
« Reply #1075 on: December 19, 2012, 12:53:05 PM »
Somewhat belatedly I write to report on my attendance at Scrutiny on Monday Night

I arrived late and as I had been travelling all day had absolutely no time to prepare for my questions so no sooner than I sat down I had to ask the questions that came to mind.

1.  Why was there a discrepancy between the questions I asked on November 5th and those blandly noted in the official minutes?

surprise surprise I didn't get an answer I could accept!!

2.  Why hadn't I received the two written answers promised by Chairman Small

Chairman Small apologized and asked the clerk why he hadn't responded. He said that he had sent me an email saying he was expediting, but I replied that no such email had been received. I was not permitted to give my email address there and then and was asked to do so after the meeting and Chairman Small asked the Chief Executive to reply to me.

3.  What were the Terms of Reference for the 'Working Party'?

Quite a long list but did I understand correctly that this excluded details previously discussed at Scrutiny?  I would appreciate confirmation of this point please from people present.

4.  Who are the four members of this Committee?

It was confirmed that they are Labour Councillors Moffatt and Wright and Conservative Councillors Ford and Hurley.

5.  Who will be the 'non voting' Chairman?

This is for the 'Working Party' to decide

6.  When will they be holding their first meeting?

Today Wednesday December 19th

7.  Will they be interviewing members of the public who hold evidence?

This will also be decided by the 'Working Party'

It remains to be seen if this 'working party' delivers what is expected by the Public or will it be just a Wi-Wash with no further information being made available.   :santa_lipsrsealed:

Finally I am grateful to whoever made a full set of the accounts available to me.  They make very interesting bed time reading and reveals this to be even more of a disgrace than was previously known!!



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Offline Outoftowner

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Re: Is Final Chapter In wi-fi 'Saga' Near?
« Reply #1076 on: January 03, 2013, 11:01:49 AM »
Avidity Consulting Ltd, the company hatched by Rikki Hunt on 21 September 2009 and from which he resigned just over a year later, on 31 December 2010, was finally dissolved on 11 December 2012.

The company remained in business just long enough to give paid advice to Swindon Borough Council on how to run Swindon Commercial Services and set up a borough wide Wi-Fi system and then disappeared without trace or legacy. Money well spent?
What's it all about?

Offline Tobes

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Re: Is Final Chapter In wi-fi 'Saga' Near?
« Reply #1077 on: January 03, 2013, 03:50:11 PM »
No.

It doesn't matter how this is dressed up by Bluh. Why can't he do the decent thing and just 'fess up?

It was a MISTAKE. A HUGE, COSTLY, EMBARRASSING, CRINGE INDUCING MISTAKE!!!

He was mislead by someone who talked the talk but singularly failed to walk the walk. That same person has 'something of a poor track record' in recent times. The concept was technically flawed to begin with, the plan only made possible by an elastic interpretation of due diligence and ended up utterly wasting £400k of public money at a time when we're told EVERY PENNY counts.

In my opinion, Bluh and his team appear to be behaving like gamblers. With our money. I'd possibly accept it as a reasonable policy if only they could demonstrate that ANY of their coin-flipping has actually paid a dividend.

As people keep reminding them, its not their job to play at being risk-taking entrepreneur - THATS the job of the private sector.

Theirs is to EMPTY THE FEKKIN BINS (Viva Le Mart)
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Offline Geoff Reid

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Re: Is Final Chapter In wi-fi 'Saga' Near?
« Reply #1078 on: January 03, 2013, 06:23:05 PM »
No.

It doesn't matter how this is dressed up by Bluh. Why can't he do the decent thing and just 'fess up?

It was a MISTAKE. A HUGE, COSTLY, EMBARRASSING, CRINGE INDUCING MISTAKE!!!


Ahem  :santa_afro:

I happen to possess a piece of audio in which Cllr Bluh does admit to it being a mistake.  He changed his tune shortly afterwards and began hailing his WiFi'aso as a success. He has stuck to this line ever since.

If I haven't posted the audio by Sunday, (bit wrapped up in family matters at the moment), someone please give me a gentle nudge.

Offline Richard Symonds

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Re: Is Final Chapter In wi-fi 'Saga' Near?
« Reply #1079 on: January 03, 2013, 06:54:59 PM »
I happen to possess a piece of audio in which Cllr Bluh does admit to it being a mistake. 

Rod admitting that he made a mistake?

Surely not Geoff?

He doesn't make mistakes, just other people like you and me for daring to warn him about them beforehand!!!

This will be worth waiting for in the light of what has now become history.



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