Police probe into fraud and corruption claims against Wirral businness grant scheme is dropped

Wallasey Town Hall: Council sent audit file to police

Wallasey Town Hall: Council sent audit file to police

First published in News
Last updated
Wirral Globe: Photograph of the Author by , Editor

A POLICE investigation into allegations of fraud and corruption against a company involved in a Wirral business support scheme has been scrapped after officers found "a distinct lack of significant evidence."

The inquiry began in March of 2013 when accountants Grant Thornton advised Wirral Council to forward their audit of the scheme to the force's Economic Crime Unit.

Merseyside Police detectives requested more information in June of that year, but since then nothing more had been heard.

Now it has been revealed the probe was wound-up in April this year - and no further action is to be taken.

A letter from the Matrix Serious and Organised Crime Unit to town hall chief executive Graham Burgess informed him: "This investigation has revealed no clear evidence of criminality."

It continues: "Furthermore, it has highlighted a distinct lack of what would be described as key and significant evidence...

"The absence of this material would make an investigation into these matters extremely difficult and it has to be said that professional judgement would suggest any prosecution would be flawed from the outset."

A report to a specially-called meeting of the council's audit and risk committee on Tuesday made public more than 500 pages of documents relating to two business support schemes.

The first is known as the "BIG Fund" - Business Investment Grant - and the second "ISUS" - Intensive Start-up Support. The initiatives were designed to kick-start new companies and help them through the recession.

The controversy centres around allegations made by whistle-blowers formerly employed by the WirralBiz agency, which administered both schemes on behalf of the local authority.

They said they had evidence cash had been handed over to firms without proper checks carried out.

There was "wide-scale systematic weaknesses” and “possible fraud” involving the way applications were handled.

Allegations were made about inappropriate relationships between applicants and officials.

WirralBiz has always strenuously denied the claims and said it has not been involved in any wrong-doing.

The audit and risk committee made no progress and was adjourned after councillors said they wanted more time to study the mountain of documents.

Within the papers though, the "Overall Conclusion" into the ISUS scheme is this: "There is no foundation to the allegations of waste of public money, fraud or corruption."

In fact, a statement by Mr Burgess to the committee said: "The BIG and ISUS schemes have been mostly successful funding programmes and have both had a positive effect on Wirral’s economy and business community."

The Globe has contacted WirralBiz and Wirral Council for a comment and is awaiting their response.

Comments (15)

Please log in to enable comment sorting

2:54pm Wed 23 Jul 14

bigfoot says...

WHAT? So now the Council and its friends have been handed a load of 'get out of jail free' cards!
WHAT? So now the Council and its friends have been handed a load of 'get out of jail free' cards! bigfoot
  • Score: 12

6:19pm Wed 23 Jul 14

hobroW says...

No Leigh Marles nor any globe reporter attended yesterdays meeting at 5pm at the Town Hall,

Read John Brace and wirralleaks later and you will see that the order of presentation of documents is perverse, Up to page 55 or so we have D Garry report which is then followed by its refutation by Timmins report. Only in the Agenda supplement pack do you find the real NMcCoy the Grant thornton reports.

This is precisely what Cllr John Hale was protesting about yesterday evening. That the administration was by sleight of hand trying to close the matter.

The reason the Police cant investigate is referred to in their letter- the council have in a butter-fingered way lost the backing sheets to the ISUS payments, They cant prove they paid for individual files!

Grant thornton refer also to the loss of a major Woring wirral contract oops butter-fingers again and lastly to there being no contractual relationship on BIG. without these and given Wirralbiz's intransigence in refusing access to the files the Police simply cannot act!

The Audit and Risk committee will reconvene with a Special Meeting in September giving councillors adequate time to absorb the devastating findings. I do wish that this Reoport was better informed and attending the ARMC meeting last night would have helped.

Oops Butter-fingers
No Leigh Marles nor any globe reporter attended yesterdays meeting at 5pm at the Town Hall, Read John Brace and wirralleaks later and you will see that the order of presentation of documents is perverse, Up to page 55 or so we have D Garry report which is then followed by its refutation by Timmins report. Only in the Agenda supplement pack do you find the real NMcCoy the Grant thornton reports. This is precisely what Cllr John Hale was protesting about yesterday evening. That the administration was by sleight of hand trying to close the matter. The reason the Police cant investigate is referred to in their letter- the council have in a butter-fingered way lost the backing sheets to the ISUS payments, They cant prove they paid for individual files! Grant thornton refer also to the loss of a major Woring wirral contract oops butter-fingers again and lastly to there being no contractual relationship on BIG. without these and given Wirralbiz's intransigence in refusing access to the files the Police simply cannot act! The Audit and Risk committee will reconvene with a Special Meeting in September giving councillors adequate time to absorb the devastating findings. I do wish that this Reoport was better informed and attending the ARMC meeting last night would have helped. Oops Butter-fingers hobroW
  • Score: 3

6:21pm Wed 23 Jul 14

hobroW says...

The quote re no waste has occurred is lifted from the end of the "unfit for purpose" D Garry report!!!!!
The quote re no waste has occurred is lifted from the end of the "unfit for purpose" D Garry report!!!!! hobroW
  • Score: -1

7:44pm Wed 23 Jul 14

hobroW says...

in fact I seem to remember Jane Kennedy Police Commissioner complaining in these pages about the severe shortage of funds that Merseyside Police are suffering.When a fraud case comes up there is much expense and where your complainant has lost vital evidence, for pecuniary advantage must be proved and of you have a fraudulent file but cannot prove that is has been paid for as it is sublimated within payments for 100 clients whose names have been misplaced, then you are not going to help the complaionant.

GT anticipate this and suggest the council uses its powers under s222 LGAct to take a criminal prosecution should the Police not themselves act.

Perhaps that is the reason neither wirralbiz nor the council are available for comment?
in fact I seem to remember Jane Kennedy Police Commissioner complaining in these pages about the severe shortage of funds that Merseyside Police are suffering.When a fraud case comes up there is much expense and where your complainant has lost vital evidence, for pecuniary advantage must be proved and of you have a fraudulent file but cannot prove that is has been paid for as it is sublimated within payments for 100 clients whose names have been misplaced, then you are not going to help the complaionant. GT anticipate this and suggest the council uses its powers under s222 LGAct to take a criminal prosecution should the Police not themselves act. Perhaps that is the reason neither wirralbiz nor the council are available for comment? hobroW
  • Score: 0

7:47pm Wed 23 Jul 14

Growl Tiger says...

Posture, deny, delay, make excuses, but never ever admit the truth – that’s WBC’s mantra.
Posture, deny, delay, make excuses, but never ever admit the truth – that’s WBC’s mantra. Growl Tiger
  • Score: 4

9:02pm Wed 23 Jul 14

Joeblogg85 says...

Nigel,

I have always wished you well regarding this matter but it looks like the game could be up. You may be correct in your findings. However, proving fraud rather than a mistake is a much tougher assignment.

There is always risk involved with these type of funding regimes. They usually fall under the Risk Capital category and by nature you win some and you lose some.

Personally, I would always be prepared to risk a small amount of capital funding to a fledgling organisation on an idea that could catch fire and be successful. However, I understand that to some that may seem wrong.

Whatever has gone on here it is clear that many of the boxes were not ticked. It is definitely a big mistake not to have a proper signed contract in place for example. It is also clear that the council has closed ranks on you. No surprise there.

Given the inevitable outcome here, may I suggest a dignified exit may now be required.

I wish you well Nigel, as you and James both had the guts to follow up on your findings and for that my friend you should both be applauded.

All the best.

Joe.
Nigel, I have always wished you well regarding this matter but it looks like the game could be up. You may be correct in your findings. However, proving fraud rather than a mistake is a much tougher assignment. There is always risk involved with these type of funding regimes. They usually fall under the Risk Capital category and by nature you win some and you lose some. Personally, I would always be prepared to risk a small amount of capital funding to a fledgling organisation on an idea that could catch fire and be successful. However, I understand that to some that may seem wrong. Whatever has gone on here it is clear that many of the boxes were not ticked. It is definitely a big mistake not to have a proper signed contract in place for example. It is also clear that the council has closed ranks on you. No surprise there. Given the inevitable outcome here, may I suggest a dignified exit may now be required. I wish you well Nigel, as you and James both had the guts to follow up on your findings and for that my friend you should both be applauded. All the best. Joe. Joeblogg85
  • Score: 2

9:10pm Wed 23 Jul 14

hobroW says...

Growl Tiger wrote:
Posture, deny, delay, make excuses, but never ever admit the truth – that’s WBC’s mantra.
Yes this has moved away from the depredations of wirralbiz which is Smallsville stuff to a philosophical Helm's Deep.

Can we allow majorities to define what is truth and what is not? how far have we slid down the slope where The PARTY defines what is good or what is bad. Is the spin of WBC to be left unchecked till we do slide into mendacity and away from meritocracy. All this refusal to admit a truth forensically proven over hundreds of pages by forensic accountants, will it lead inexorably to our decline as a free society?


Lies have to be stifled at birth lest they grow more monstrous. The Rohirrim are all in Helm's Deep but where is the White Wizard?
[quote][p][bold]Growl Tiger[/bold] wrote: Posture, deny, delay, make excuses, but never ever admit the truth – that’s WBC’s mantra.[/p][/quote]Yes this has moved away from the depredations of wirralbiz which is Smallsville stuff to a philosophical Helm's Deep. Can we allow majorities to define what is truth and what is not? how far have we slid down the slope where The PARTY defines what is good or what is bad. Is the spin of WBC to be left unchecked till we do slide into mendacity and away from meritocracy. All this refusal to admit a truth forensically proven over hundreds of pages by forensic accountants, will it lead inexorably to our decline as a free society? Lies have to be stifled at birth lest they grow more monstrous. The Rohirrim are all in Helm's Deep but where is the White Wizard? hobroW
  • Score: -1

11:28pm Wed 23 Jul 14

PaulCa says...

JoeBlogg85 - "Definitely a big mistake..."

Look up a definition of the word 'mistake', then have a listen to the CEO...

http://goo.gl/znBccO
JoeBlogg85 - "Definitely a big mistake..." Look up a definition of the word 'mistake', then have a listen to the CEO... http://goo.gl/znBccO PaulCa
  • Score: -3

9:42am Thu 24 Jul 14

Joeblogg85 says...

PaulCa wrote:
JoeBlogg85 - "Definitely a big mistake..."

Look up a definition of the word 'mistake', then have a listen to the CEO...

http://goo.gl/znBccO
Paul,

I am 100% behind Nigel and James. However, when the dark forces are against you proving what you believe can be very difficult if not impossible.

It's not difficult to figure out what's gone on here but getting justice with Wirral Council can be very frustrating to say the least.

Joe
[quote][p][bold]PaulCa[/bold] wrote: JoeBlogg85 - "Definitely a big mistake..." Look up a definition of the word 'mistake', then have a listen to the CEO... http://goo.gl/znBccO[/p][/quote]Paul, I am 100% behind Nigel and James. However, when the dark forces are against you proving what you believe can be very difficult if not impossible. It's not difficult to figure out what's gone on here but getting justice with Wirral Council can be very frustrating to say the least. Joe Joeblogg85
  • Score: 3

12:51pm Thu 24 Jul 14

Growl Tiger says...

When you ask officers a few polite questions their reply is immediately arrogant and dismissive fundamentally telling you to “go away”. Since the last reshuffle there has been no change in culture. They completely ignore the fact they are there to serve residents and conveniently forget we pay their huge, inflated salaries. Their onboard computers are programmed to always say "no".
When you ask officers a few polite questions their reply is immediately arrogant and dismissive fundamentally telling you to “go away”. Since the last reshuffle there has been no change in culture. They completely ignore the fact they are there to serve residents and conveniently forget we pay their huge, inflated salaries. Their onboard computers are programmed to always say "no". Growl Tiger
  • Score: -1

11:53am Fri 25 Jul 14

hobroW says...

This started with a knee-jerk protective gesture from officers three years ago . The panic-ridden actions then they decided to brazen out together.

Never did they imagine that this would spin out of control. It is their intransigence in admitting their gross errors; their unconcern with the welfare of the two whistleblowers; their determination to grit it out ..that has lked to costs of approx £150,000 to investigate. The ARMC meeting to properly discuss this is on 7th October by which time opposition councillors will fully understand

that officers' recidivism and recalcitrance has cost the rate-payers a further £150,000. That is a lot to spend on reputation management and particularly when the effect is diametrically opposite.

As to our dignified exit, a well-meaning suggestion, we can as all bnow is safely in public domain. I look forward to a long summer without bothering about this dreary negligence.

Our mental health is safe as we have enjoyed mocking the Council officers which is of course salutary else one would not have persevered so long. Thanks for your best wishes Joeblogg and Tally-ho
This started with a knee-jerk protective gesture from officers three years ago . The panic-ridden actions then they decided to brazen out together. Never did they imagine that this would spin out of control. It is their intransigence in admitting their gross errors; their unconcern with the welfare of the two whistleblowers; their determination to grit it out ..that has lked to costs of approx £150,000 to investigate. The ARMC meeting to properly discuss this is on 7th October by which time opposition councillors will fully understand that officers' recidivism and recalcitrance has cost the rate-payers a further £150,000. That is a lot to spend on reputation management and particularly when the effect is diametrically opposite. As to our dignified exit, a well-meaning suggestion, we can as all bnow is safely in public domain. I look forward to a long summer without bothering about this dreary negligence. Our mental health is safe as we have enjoyed mocking the Council officers which is of course salutary else one would not have persevered so long. Thanks for your best wishes Joeblogg and Tally-ho hobroW
  • Score: -3

2:06pm Fri 25 Jul 14

Llamedos 1 says...

I must agree with Joe, now is the time to move on. The Police will never take any action against Wirral Council as they all roll up the same trouser leg, they are all in the Lodge together and they all play golf together. Whilst I appreciate Nigel`s frustration in highlighting this case and getting fobbed off at every turn Wirral Councils Officers are not worth giving yourself a nervous breakdown or heart attack for. The guilty parties will eventually get their pay-offs at our expense but there is very little we as concerned council tax payers can do about it as is now proved by Merseyside Police declaring "no case to answer" THEY ALL COVER EACH OTHERS BACKS
I must agree with Joe, now is the time to move on. The Police will never take any action against Wirral Council as they all roll up the same trouser leg, they are all in the Lodge together and they all play golf together. Whilst I appreciate Nigel`s frustration in highlighting this case and getting fobbed off at every turn Wirral Councils Officers are not worth giving yourself a nervous breakdown or heart attack for. The guilty parties will eventually get their pay-offs at our expense but there is very little we as concerned council tax payers can do about it as is now proved by Merseyside Police declaring "no case to answer" THEY ALL COVER EACH OTHERS BACKS Llamedos 1
  • Score: 3

9:35am Sat 26 Jul 14

Positive thinker says...

They should take a little look at the clowns down
at Egerton house
They should take a little look at the clowns down at Egerton house Positive thinker
  • Score: -2

7:29pm Sun 27 Jul 14

hobroW says...

Except that DCLG has not yet spoken nor has the European Court of Auditors. In May this year Mansfield District Council had the withholding of 25% of its ERDF grant upheld by Justice Foskett in the sum of £150,000 for failing to observe the advertising of contract rules

http://www.bailii.or
g/ew/cases/EWHC/Admi
n/2014/2167.html

I am obliged as ever to my learned friend John Brace.

WBC management of some £880k of erdf in ISUS has more holes than a colander!

When DCLG has promised its report to me ion March, then April and finally August. The field-work was done in January 2014 so what could be holding it up. Perhaps something contentious?
Except that DCLG has not yet spoken nor has the European Court of Auditors. In May this year Mansfield District Council had the withholding of 25% of its ERDF grant upheld by Justice Foskett in the sum of £150,000 for failing to observe the advertising of contract rules http://www.bailii.or g/ew/cases/EWHC/Admi n/2014/2167.html I am obliged as ever to my learned friend John Brace. WBC management of some £880k of erdf in ISUS has more holes than a colander! When DCLG has promised its report to me ion March, then April and finally August. The field-work was done in January 2014 so what could be holding it up. Perhaps something contentious? hobroW
  • Score: -3

7:07pm Wed 30 Jul 14

keith3028 says...

Partying at Egerton House, no doubt.........maybe even considering their next move in fleecing' local taxpayers (or maybe not - now they're the "independent Chamber of Commerce" as well!) Time to consolidate; plan and implement some other scam.....they might as well - nobody seems to be bothered in curtailing their activities.
Partying at Egerton House, no doubt.........maybe even considering their next move in fleecing' local taxpayers (or maybe not - now they're the "independent Chamber of Commerce" as well!) Time to consolidate; plan and implement some other scam.....they might as well - nobody seems to be bothered in curtailing their activities. keith3028
  • Score: 0

Comments are closed on this article.

Send us your news, pictures and videos

Most read stories

Local Info

Enter your postcode, town or place name

About cookies

We want you to enjoy your visit to our website. That's why we use cookies to enhance your experience. By staying on our website you agree to our use of cookies. Find out more about the cookies we use.

I agree