Category Archives: Revolving door

Revolving Doors 38: beware corporate management of HS2

Open corruption in the UK in the form of “brown envelopes” is rare. We weave a subtler web, unholy alliances in which those already wealthy entrench their position – and that of friends and family – with high salaries from consultancy and non-executive directorships supporting some political or corporate interest.

The revolving door between HS2 and CH2M

An earlier post on this website covered the report that Roy Hill, managing director of the US headquartered engineering company CH2M, had been seconded to HS2 acting chief executive on a temporary basis.

Mr Hill had worked at HS2’s offices in Canary Wharf for CH2M between 2012 and 2014 after the company won the role of development partner carrying out preparatory work.

CH2M further entrenched?

In Gill Plimmer’s FT article (February 2017) readers were reminded that Mark Thurston, an executive at CH2M, has now been appointed chief executive of HS2 Ltd, replacing the aforementioned Roy Hill. He will take over in March.

However, after a competitor threatened legal action (conflict of interest), in March this year CH2M handed back the contract to design the second phase of the £56bn HS2 — extending the London-Birmingham link on to Manchester and building a branch from the Midlands to Leeds.

HS2 fortified by lobbying consultancies MHP and Westbourne Communications

MHP employees: former politicians and civil servants/government advisers, including:

  • Jane Wilson (public relations, civil service adviser), managing director, corporate affairs team. Former chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations and reviewer for the Department for Education.
  • Charles Clarke Former Labour Party MP, hired to ‘provide advice to its team’.
  • Edward Davey – former secretary of state for energy and climate change until May 2015.

Westbourne Communications co-founded and run by Conservative James Bethell, the 5th Baron Bethell. Other environmentally damaging causes supported include fracking and extending Birmingham airport. As Transport secretary, Philip Hammond attended the launch of Westbourne’s Campaign for High Speed Rail, when rail companies were asked to pay £10,000 each to a fund. At a dinner organised by Westbourne in November 2012, transport minister Simon Burns said the campaign’s efforts were “greatly appreciated”. HS2 champion Lord Adonis has also spoken at the firm’s events. Westbourne provided the secretariat and press office for the all-party group for high-speed rail, paid for by rail and commercial interests: TSSABruntwoodSouth West TrainsAbellioEurotunnel and Core Cities. With the passing of the HS2 bill (first phase) this APPG has now been disbanded.

The records of potential HS2 suppliers also need to be scrutinised

The president and managing director of Alstom Transport UK & Ireland, which was bidding to provide HS2 trains, stepped down over corruption allegations relating to the supply of trains to the Budapest Metro. Other legal actions facing the company relate to bribery allegations in connection with transport contracts in New Delhi, Tunis, Lithuania and Warsaw.#

 

 

 

m

Broken Britain 3: ‘strong and stable government’: by the rich, for the rich, at the expense of the rest

Government for Britain’s rich: strong and stable; for its 99%: a crumbling NHS and farming sector, expensive public transport, vanishing libraries and cuts for the young, the poor and the frail .

Those who are ‘just about managing’ live in the only ‘big advanced economy’ in which wages contracted (2007-2015) while the economy expanded, the cost of living rose and multinational profits rocketed.

Pett lists the end goals which would benefit the 99% and the wreckers

As Eisenhower said, we need a humane government which would focus on the well-being of all, not the profits of the few and stop being complicit in slaughter . . .

 

and we should strengthen local/regional economies.

 

Close the global casino and the revolving door between big business and government

and offer all, especially superfluous managers and young commodity traders, socially beneficial work

 

 

 

*

lllllllllllllllllllllllllll 

Whistleblowers 11: the ones that got away?

In Britain whistleblowers are usually made to suffer, despite the nicknamed ‘Whistle-blowers Act’: There have been several general articles about whistleblowing on this site & others focussing on some brave individuals who suffered for revealing unwelcome truths. Before this site was set up there were health sector whistleblowers; Marta Andreasen & Paul van Buitenen also revealed shocking cases of EU financial mismanagement and suffered for it.

 Just for the record – covered profusely in MSM:

Professor Prem Sikka tweeted about a case involving Barclays chief executive Jes Staley, who started to work for Barclays in December 2015 and later recruited at least four senior executives who had worked with him at JPMorgan Chase. In June, when Barclays received two anonymous letters making allegations of what the bank describes as “a personal nature” about one of the investment bankers, Mr Staley asked Barclays’ security team to track down the author, though the bank’s compliance department had logged the letters as potential whistleblowing.

Barclays’ board only learnt of Mr Staley’s efforts to identify the tipster in January when a second whistleblower, this time a Barclays’ employee, came forward and directly contacted its outside directors.  In a letter, the Barclays employee pointed to flaws in the bank’s whistle-blower procedures and cited Mr. Staley’s attempts to unveil the anonymous critic.

The bank said it had instructed law firm Simmons & Simmons to conduct an investigation which found that Mr Staley erred in trying to identify the authors of the letters, who in the end were not unmasked. Barclays’ board also informed the FCA and PRA.  Barclays said it has given Staley a formal written warning and will slash his salary. The bank has promised to review its whistleblowing programme.

The Prudential Regulation Authority and the Financial Conduct Authority are now looking into the matter in Britain, while New York’s Department of Financial Services and the US Department of Justice are conducting investigations in the United States.

Paul Moore, a former HBOS banker, was dismissed from HBOS in the run-up to the financial crisis in 2004 for whistleblowing – warning that the bank was running risks it did not understand. He told The Mail on Sunday: ‘Staley should be fired. Trying to find out the identity of an anonymous whistleblower where the motivation is obviously to try to crush them is gross misconduct.’

It requires real courage for whistleblowers to act on what they see, especially in the UK. One FT article notes that a recent survey by the Ethics Resource Centre of employees in 13 countries found that 63% of British employees who reported wrongdoing experienced retaliation, second only to India and far worse than the 36 per cent global averageMore detail here:

 

 

 

.

Broken Britain – 1

The corporate world continues its vitriolic but insubstantial attacks on the Labour Party leader whose approach threatens their unreasonably affluent lifestyles. Will increasingly media-sceptical people who seek the common good be affected by them?

In brief, the reference is to arms traders, big pharma, construction giants, energy companies owned by foreign governments, food speculators, the private ill-health industry and a range of polluting interests. Examples of the damaging political-corporate nexus are given here – a few of many recorded on our database:

Arms trade: Steve Beauchampé“A peacenik may lay down with some unsavoury characters. Better that than selling them weapons”.

The media highlights Corbyn’s handshakes and meetings, but not recent British governments’ collusion in repressive activities, issuing permits to supply weapons to dictators. In the 80s, when lobbying Conservative MP John Taylor about such arms exports, he said to the writer, word for word: “If we don’t do it, someone else will”. Meaning if we don’t help other countries to attack their citizens, others will. How low can we sink!

Big pharma

Reader Theresa drew our attention to an article highlighting the fact that the Specialised Healthcare Alliance (SHCA), a lobbying company working for some of the world’s biggest drugs and medical equipment firms, had written the draft report for NHS England, a government quango. This was when the latest attempt at mass-medication – this time with statins – was in the news.

Construction

Most construction entries related to the PFI debacle, but in 2009 it was reported that more than 100 construction companies – including Balfour Beatty, Kier Group and Carillion – had been involved in a price-fixing conspiracy and had to compensate local authority victims who had been excluded from billions of pounds of public works contracts. The Office of Fair Trading imposed £130m of fines on 103 companies. Price-fixing that had left the public and councils to “pick up the tab”.

Utilities

In Utility Week News, barrister Roger Barnard, former head of regulatory law at EDF Energy, wondered whether any government is able to safeguard the nation’s energy security interests against the potential for political intervention under a commercial guise, whether by Gazprom, OPEC, or a sovereign wealth fund. He added: “Despite what the regulators say, ownership matters”. The Office of Fair Trading was closed before it could update its little publicised 2010 report which recorded that 40% of infrastructure assets in the energy, water, transport, and communication sectors were already owned by foreign investors.

Food

A Lancashire farmer believes that supermarkets – powerful lobbyists and valued party funders – are driving out production of staple British food supplies and compromising our food security. She sees big business seeking to make a fortune from feeding the wealthy in distant foreign countries where the poor and the environment are both exploited. These ‘greedy giants’ are exploiting the poor across the world and putting at risk the livelihoods of hard working British farmers, their families and their communities. She adds that large businesses are gradually asset-stripping everything of value from our communities to make profits which are then invested abroad in places like China and Thailand.

Health-related

Government resistance to funding long-term out of work illness/disability benefits followed the publication of a monograph by the authors funded by America’s ‘corporate giant’ Unum Provident Insurance which influenced the policy of successive governments. After various freedom of information requests, the DWP published the mortality figures of the claimants who had died in 11 months in 2011 whilst claiming Employment and Support Allowance, with 10,600 people dying in total and 1300 people dying after being removed from the guaranteed monthly benefit, placed into the work related activity group regardless of diagnosis, forced to prepare for work and then died trying. Following the public outrage once the figures were published, the DWP have consistently refused to publish updated death totals. Information touched on in this 2015 article has been incorporated into a ResearchGate report identifying the influence of Unum Provident over successive UK governments since 1992, the influence of a former government Chief Medical Officer and the use of the Work Capability Assessments conducted by the private sector – described as state crime by proxy, justified as welfare reform.

Air pollution

The powerful transport lobby prevents or delays action to address air pollutants such as ground-level ozone and particulates emitted by cars, lorries and rail engines which contribute directly to global warming, linked to climate change. They emit some common air pollutants that have serious effects on human health and the environment. Children in areas exposed to air pollutants commonly suffer from pneumonia and asthma.

Victimised whistleblowers, media collusion, rewards for failure and the revolving door 

  • A recent whistleblower report records that Dr Raj Mattu is one of very few to be vindicated and compensated after years of suffering. The government does not implement its own allegedly strengthened whistleblower legislation to protect those who make ‘disclosures in the public interest’.
  • This media article relates to the mis-reporting of the Obama-Corbyn meeting: there are 57 others on this site.
  • Rewards for failure cover individual cases, most recently Lin Homer, and corporate instances: Serco and G4S were bidding for a MoD £400m 10-year deal, though they had been referred to the Serious Fraud Office for overcharging the government on electronic monitoring contracts. Another contender, Capita, according to a leaked report by research company Gartner was two years behind schedule with its MoD online recruitment computer system – yet the government had contracted to pay the company £1bn over 10 years to hire 9,000 soldiers a year for the army.
  • The 74th instance of the revolving door related to Andrew Lansley’s move from his position as government health minister to the private health sector. An investigation by the Mail found that one in three civil servants who took up lucrative private sector jobs was working in the Ministry of Defence: Last year 394 civil servants applied to sell their skills to the highest bidder – and 130 were MoD personnel. Paul Gosling describes how the Big Four accountancy firms have PFI ‘under their thumbs’ and gives a detailed list of those passing from government to the accountancy industry and vice versa.

Steve Beauchampé asks if the barrage of criticism apparently aimed at Jeremy Corbyn is more about undermining the politics he stands for which are probably less far to the left than those of many in the current government are to the right. Most political commentators and opponents aren’t worried that Labour will win a General Election under him, but they are alarmed that the movement his leadership has created might one day lead to an electable left winger.

 

 

 

 

Some Times readers set the latest anti-Corbyn propaganda in context

 

Not for the first time, the Murdoch Times made a ‘throwaway remark’ into a headline ‘soundbite’. It centred on a passing reflection by David Miliband, a former foreign secretary in the Blair government, made in an interview in the Times.

miliband-clinton

Widely reported to be a great friend of the Clintons

Peter Burgess asks a pertinent question: “Why on earth do you think that the likes of Murdoch preferred him and Blair rather than the likes of Benn or Major? Of course the establishment and in particular people like Murdoch want Miliband Snr as Labour leader, just as they wanted Blair rather than Foot or a Tory like Major. They knew how to control him”.

Miliband said that the Labour party is now weaker than in the 1980s and must face up to the “historic nature” of the challenge ahead.

Hem Laljee refers to this as “the fallout from the New Labour. Its founder is still loitering in our midst and giving advice. New Labour was the different garb of the Conservative The working class have been left rudderless which reflected in their votes for the Brexit”. 

David Miliband’s main theme was his own well-rewarded work for the USA’s International Rescue Committee. Asked about his future leadership intentions, he added: “I honestly don’t know what I’m going to do. It’s hard to see, but what’s the point of saying never?”

Radlon comments: “Rather standing his ground to save the Labour Party . . . he scarpered off to a well-paid US job. How would Labour’s traditional voters, not to mention the Dave Spart wing of the party, view this rich kid parachuting into the leadership of the party from 3000 miles away?2

Mr Corbyn said: “I was elected to lead this party. We will continue our campaigning work on the NHS, on social care, on housing.”

Another comment was that the political-corporate-media establishment must secretly think that Corbyn has quite a good chance of electoral success, despite their rhetoric, because they are spending so much time and devoting such great efforts to discredit him and his supporters.

 

 

 

 

 

Is the HS2 project the most blatant example of UK/USA’s revolving door/vested interest ridden politics?

hs2-viaductvisual

“A gravy train for consultants, involving banks, lawyers and government officials” – and industry?

Many are shocked by the hugely damaging environmental and social impacts of demolition of properties in London and homes, farms and businesses and along the proposed HS” route.

Added to this reaction is horror at news of the emerging and all-too familiar reports of conflicts of interest – a polite expression for what is a form of apparently legal corruption.

A skeletal chronological summary of news about the nominated leadership of the HS2 project and some contract awards follows, based on reports in the Financial Times, 2015-2017.

Background 2015

The Institute of Directors suggested that it would be cheaper to knock down Birmingham and build a new city 20 minutes closer to the capital, while the Institute of Economic Affairs cast doubt on HS2’s regeneration benefits, pointing out that HS1 failed to regenerate Kent, with the average employment rate in the south east of Britain 5% lower than before the high speed service was introduced.

Portugal, Poland, Spain, the Netherlands and Belgium have all cancelled planned or existing high-speed rail projects and some argue that Britain should follow suit. Martin Blaiklock, a consultant on infrastructure and energy project finance, said that extra capacity could be built more cheaply by adding to existing railways. “[HS2] is very high-risk,” he says. “It is a gravy train for consultants, involving banks, lawyers and government officials.”

Conflict of interest emerges in 2015-16 in favour of an American multinational 

revolving-door-peopleIt was reported that Roy Hill, managing director of the US-headquartered engineering company CH2M, has been seconded to HS2 acting chief executive on a temporary basis from November, after Simon Kirby, the former chief executive, elected to leave for Rolls-Royce. Mr Hill worked at HS2’s offices in Canary Wharf for CH2M between 2012 and 2014 after the company won the role of development partner carrying out preparatory work, in a contract worth about £70m.

CH2M entrenched?

In Gill Plimmer’s FT article yesterday, readers were reminded that Mark Thurston, an executive at CH2M, has now been appointed chief executive of HS2 Ltd, replacing the aforementioned Roy Hill.  He will take over in March.

David Higgins, HS2’s chairman, said he recognised the need to avoid any conflict of interest and that Mr Thurston would consequently cut all links with his previous employer. “They will be treated in the same way as any other supplier – no more or less favourably than that,” Mr Higgins said of CH2M.

CH2M has already been paid around £500m for working on the line as development partner and then the delivery partner on Phase 1 of the high-speed railway project, from London to Birmingham. Phase 2 covers Birmingham to Manchester and Leeds.

Mace, a large consultancy and construction company, which worked on the London 2012 Olympics and plans for Hinkley Point C, has written to HS2 Ltd, set up by government in 2009, announcing that it intends to challenge the decision to award CH2M, the US engineer, a contract to design the second phase of the London to Manchester line. “As a British-owned company, we were naturally disappointed with HS2’s decision and are looking closely at our options,” Mace said.

 gravy-train

Ms Plimmer states that Mace is threatening to sue the state-owned company behind Britain’s planned £56bn high-speed railway line over alleged conflicts of interest..

She quotes a source close to the legal process who said it was “extremely likely” that Mace would file a claim in the High Court this week. “Mace is concerned over conflicts of interest. It is looking for an injustice to be corrected,” the source said. “CH2M has been awarded half a billion pounds worth of contracts even though nothing has been built yet.” CH2M declined to comment.

Legal action could delay the project, which is expected to get Royal Assent this week, paving the way for construction to start this year. Final amendments to the HS2 bill are being debated on Monday in the House of Commons.

Tony Berkeley, the Labour peer and a former engineer who worked on the Channel tunnel, said the situation “smells”. “There must be other companies in the UK who are capable of doing it. Is HS2 actually competent to do the procurement or are they just relying on CH2M to do the whole thing and procure themselves?”

 

 

 

 

Mary Robinson fails to mention the corruption and self-serving that has characterized the “elite global agenda”

An article by Mary Robinson, a former president of Ireland, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and a member of The Elders, may be read on a sister site. She opened:

mary-robinsonMillions across the world feel that the current globalised system is not working in their best interests. From unemployed former steel workers in the US rust belt, to the small island states in the South Pacific where livelihoods are threatened by climate change, people are angry that decisions taken by governments and in corporate boardrooms appear blithely indifferent to their daily struggles. We know from history that crude populism offers no real solutions, creating only false hope and scapegoats. Yet it is also clear that there are many politicians who will cynically exploit genuine grievances for their own ends”.

She ended by calling on citizens across the globe to trust their best instincts and work together for justice, but thoughtful commentators pinpointed omissions which underlie the uneasy reaction of some readers (extracts follow, all links added).

John Bruce addresses Ms Robinson: “With immense respect the air in your ivory tower isn’t what the rest of us breathe”

This article epitomises the views of a human being with a great heart but so out of touch as not to begin to understand the realities of life as understood by those who voted Brexit, or for Trump, or who are, and will be, powering the whole ground swell of global discontent.

It is not about leadership per se, but its abuse in pursuing greed over decency and values

Simon elaborates: This tip of the hat to the discontent of the “Millions across the world” seems well intentioned.  But Robinson fails to embrace the significant corruption and self-dealing that has characterized the “elite global agenda”.  

Yes, in theory globalization offers much promise, but its idealistic promoters have inexcusably turned a blind eye to abuses, distortions and fraud in globalization’s execution.  All too frequently, dissent has been brushed aside as populist ignorance.  

Globalization’s idealistic leaders (The Elders?) have lost credibility precisely because they have failed to call out the “fellow traveler” profiteers in their own ranks, and likewise been cheerleaders to globalization’s stark imbalances.  

John Bruce continues: One price of this has been consumerist capitalism – a policy to enrich the wealthy at the expense of the not so well.

The mechanism has been education to a belief that “I shop therefore I am” – all on the back of expensive debt to the individual, supplied at near zero cost by institutions which, in a free market, would no longer be in it.

That is the cause of disaffection and it threatens revolution. Corbyn is right 20/1 is a pay ratio the civilised world needs to adopt or, had we still been here, the future would have been a time of immense violence – politics by other means to get rid of the oppressive mortmain on the lives and aspirations of the many by the protected and privileged few. An elite whose leadership has long been to protect the status quo and vested interest. Not something anyone with the power to do anything wishes to change.

The deep entrenchment of such leadership, based on the comfortable misconception of its beneficiaries, that the answer to poverty is simply to make the rich richer and it will simply trickle down, has come to put humanity at risk never before faced.

The second price to be paid for consumerist capitalism is its carbon footprint 

Nature has the capacity to re-cycle 280 – 300 ppm carbon pa (note Keeling). The system has been out of control since about 1980. Now, 40 years later and in absence of intervention – to make clean energy to put coal oil and gas out of business and convert current engines to run clean – we have no future.

It is, on the evidence, that stark.  But just as the conventional wisdom was wrong in thinking the RMS Titanic couldn’t sink so today we no less deliberately deny ourselves the reality, preferring a delusion which allows us to think that by cutting carbon we can remain below 1.5C.

Bruce ends prophetically: “What drives our weather will set our destiny.”  

 

 

 

 

Monbiot: a ‘dark money network’ is taking power on both sides of the Atlantic

Is that news to anyone?

flagThis site and others have been focussing on this appalling phenomenon corrupting governance for years, so much so that corruption of politicians and supporting media is no longer shocking: it is the norm.

As such, frequent news of revolving doors and rewards for failure has been under-reported on this site of late – despite many significant leads from regular readers – because these items just repeat our view of the state of the nation.

However the ever-eloquent George Monbiot is more persistent

george-monbiot-3He explains: “Dark money is the term used in the US for the undisclosed funding of organisations involved in political advocacy. Few people would see a tobacco company as a credible source on public health, or a coal company as a neutral commentator on climate change. To advance their political interests, such companies must pay others to speak on their behalf”.

Though corporate America was horrified by some of Donald Trump’s positions, especially on trade, once he had secured the nomination, big money began to recognise an unprecedented opportunity.

Monbiot continues: “Trump was prepared not only to promote the cause of corporations in government, but to turn government into a kind of corporation, staffed and run by executives and lobbyists. His incoherence was not a liability but an opening: his agenda could be shaped. And the dark money network that some American corporations had already developed was perfectly positioned to shape it”.

He looks into the historical background:

statue-liberty-covers-eyes“Soon after the Second World War, some of America’s richest people began setting up a network of thinktanks to promote their interests. These purport to offer dispassionate opinions on public affairs. But they are more like corporate lobbyists, working on behalf of those who founded and fund them.

“These are the organisations now running much of the Trump administration”.

He then relates the story of MP Liam Fox

In 1997, Liam Fox founded an organisation called The Atlantic Bridge. Its patron was Margaret Thatcher. On its advisory council sat the future cabinet ministers Michael Gove, George Osborne, William Hague and Chris Grayling. Fox, who became a leading campaigner for Brexit, described the mission of The Atlantic Bridge as “to bring people together who have common interests”. It would defend these interests from “European integrationists who would like to pull Britain away from its relationship with the United States”. The Atlantic Bridge (link no longer informative) was later registered as a charity –  only after it collapsed did the full story of who had funded it emerge.

atlantic-bridge

Read the tedious and depressing details in the Guardian or on this site here.

liam_fox_1246914cHow did Fox achieve this position, after the scandal that brought him down six years ago? Monbiot explains: “The man who ran the UK branch of The Atlantic Bridge was his friend Adam Werrity, who  . . . carried a business card naming him as Fox’s adviser but was never employed by the Ministry of Defence, joined the secretary of state on numerous ministerial visits overseas, and made frequent visits to Fox’s office”.

The Charity Commission investigated The Atlantic Bridge and determined that its work didn’t look very charitable. It had to pay back the tax from which it had been exempted (Hintze picked up the bill) and the trustees shut the organisation down. Monbiot continues; “As the story about Adam Werrity’s unauthorised involvement in the business of government began to grow, Fox made a number of misleading statements. He was left with no choice but to resign”.

As the Financial Times reported, the election of Donald Trump transformed the fortunes of Liam Fox: he is back on the front bench, with a crucial and sensitive portfolio – Secretary of State for International Trade – an indispensable member of Theresa May’s front bench team: “The shadow diplomatic mission he developed through The Atlantic Bridge plugs him straight into the Trump administration”.

Taking back control from Europe means closer integration with the US

president-rooseveltMonbiot adds that European laws protecting the public interest were portrayed by Conservative Eurosceptics as intolerable intrusions on corporate freedom and the transatlantic ‘special relationship’ is a relationship between political and corporate power. He ends with the following warning, sent by President Franklin Roosevelt in 1938 to the US Congress:

“The liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of private power to a point where it becomes stronger than their democratic state itself. That, in its essence, is fascism”.

Monbiot adds “It is a warning we would do well to remember”.

 

 

Closer to home: spotlight on combined authorities and elected mayors – democratise!

A reader brought to our attention the recent article on transport by Richard Hatcher. Before we focus on this, we set it in the context of his reflections on combined authorities for thoughtful people in the seven CAs already established and a further seven proposed – read in detail here

Why government – and employers – want a directly-elected mayor

A directly-elected mayor is a presidential form of local government, accountable only in direct elections every four years with no right of removal.  It means the government can deal with a single leader and one not tied to local political parties as a council leader is – an arrangement that suits the private sector too. Directly-elected mayors offer the possibility of a Tory mayor, or at least an independent, being elected in Labour-dominated urban areas. And they are ideally suited to the media’s fondness for reducing politics to personalities.

Democratise the Combined Authorities: London has an elected Assembly – why not the West Midlands?

 

batc

 

Richard Hatcher points out on BATC’s website that there is a precedent, the scrutiny arrangements in London: “There ongoing public accountability of the directly elected mayor and the Greater London Authority is ensured by a directly elected London Assembly.  The London Assembly has 25 elected members. They are not just existing councillors drafted onto a Scrutiny Committee, they are elected by citizens who vote for them specifically because they are going to fight for their interests. And they aren’t just reactive to policy, they act as champions for Londoners proactively investigating concerns through not just one but 15 issue-based committees and raising their findings and their policy demands with the Mayor and with the government itself”.

The Constitution of the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) does not exclude the option of an elected Assembly, Hatcher asks “If it’s right for London why isn’t it right for the West Midlands?”. Three principles are laid down and seven positive steps – read on here.

Scrutiny?

His article written earlier this month describes the WMCA Scrutiny Committee as being ‘seriously incapable’ of carrying out that responsibility: “The Scrutiny Committee only has 12 councillor members. It is scheduled to have only four meetings during the year, for two hours each.  It is inconceivable that the Committee can engage with the huge range of activities of the WMCA, select issues to scrutinise and carry out a serious process of scrutiny in that time. (Each set of documentation for the monthly CA Board meetings typically amounts to a hundred pages or more, let alone those from the other dozen or more committees.)”

Be aware of conflicts of interest

The Scrutiny Committee allocates 3 places to representatives of the 3 Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs), the employer-led bodies representing business interests. Hatcher comments: “This is an extraordinary decision which seems unique among Combined Authorities”. For example, there are no LEP representatives on the Greater Manchester CA Scrutiny Committee. The House of Commons Public Accounts Committee report into devolution and Combined Authorities, published in June 2016 said:

“It is alarming that LEPs are not meeting basic standards of governance and transparency, such as disclosing conflicts of interest to the public.

LEPs are led by the private sector, and stakeholders have raised concerns that they are dominated by vested interests that do not properly represent their business communities”.

So far two of the three LEP places have been taken up by named representatives. One is Sarah Windrum, founder and CEO of Warwickshire technology company The Emerald Group, on behalf of the Coventry and Warwickshire LEP. The other is Black Country LEP Board Member Paul Brown, Director of Government Services for Ernst & Young, a global accountancy company.

Ernst and Young serves as auditor and tax adviser to Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon – the businesses which have come under the most fire for avoiding taxes. As its website says, it is closely involved in the formulation and delivery of policy “across a wide range of central Government departments”.  Given the controlling role of government in the WMCA, Hatcher thinks it inevitable that Paul Brown, as Director of Government Services, would be exercising scrutiny on behalf of the CA over policies which his employer, Ernst and Young, would have been involved in formulating and delivering.

Other members of the Black Country LEP have a direct interest in investment in land for construction. The Chair of the BC LEP is Simon Eastwood, Managing Director of Carillion Developments, Carillion Plc. Carillion plc is a British multinational facilities management and construction services company with its headquarters in Wolverhampton. It is one of the largest construction companies operating in the UK. Among its projects in the West Midlands is the redevelopment of Paradise Circus in Birmingham city centre. Read on here.

Hatcher concludes: “In the absence of an elected Assembly, the Scrutiny Committee is the only instrument of public accountability of the WMCA. Its credibility depends on there being no suspicion in the public mind that there are actual or potential conflicts of interest. For that reason we believe there should be no representatives of LEPs on the Scrutiny Committee”.

 

 

 

MP Jamie Reed is to pass once again through the revolving door to Sellafield Ltd

jamie-reedjc-6A reader sends news that Labour MP Jamie Reed has decided to leave parliament and return to work for his previous employer, the nuclear power station Sellafield, as the company’s new Head of Development and Community Relations.

He has decided that he prefers this option to working towards the election of a decent government working for the common good. Sellafield’s discreditable past may be noted by following the link above, and worse here (below)

sellafiled-accident

Gesture politics: loyalty is not Reed’s strong point: During Jeremy Corbyn’s acceptance speech as leader of the Labour Party, he publicly resigned as shadow Health Minister giving as his reason Corbyn’s opposition to nuclear energy.

Mr Reed, who has represented the Cumbria seat since 2005, announced in a letter to party leader Jeremy Corbyn that he will down at the end of January 2017.

It is to be hoped that his replacement will be an asset to the country.