Anyone who has lived in Slough since the 1980's will remember the BBC 6-o-clock television news bulletins which began with a big bong, from Big Ben, followed by the then daily news about corruption at Slough Borough Council.
Corruption has not gone away. It is infrequently uncovered because Thames Valley Police have never been interested in tackling what decent, honest and respectable police officers describe as "endemic corruption in local government".
The previous chief constable refused to set-up a squad to deal with serious council criminality throughout the Thames Valley.
Instead low-level villains are caught and prosecuted. Unfairly the bigger criminals, proficient at avoiding detection, are left undisturbed. Eventually they leave the council and those remaining, aware of the crimes, remain silence.
The new cleaner, in the Slough Times opinion, replacement administration assumed control of the council on the evening of Monday 6 June 2016. The tasks they face are truly daunting.
A few, always senior, Slough Council staff have popped-up at the London Borough of Tower Hamlets. One, a former deputy head of legal at Slough, told Tower Hamlets public that is was against the then crooked mayor, Lutfer Rahman, Human Rights to insist he answer residents questions at a major meeting of Tower Hamlets council.
The Slough Times is reproducing a recent posting from the Love Wapping web site to remind everyone in Slough, other councils experience corruption.
We are concerned about the lack of openness and transparency, so essential when journalists and other citizens attempt to uncover worrying incidents.
Council openness and transparency is often a sad illusion, just like full accountability.
By Mark Baynes • December 16, 2016
Love Wapping ('LW') can exclusively reveal that there will be no criminal prosecutions of any Youth Services personnel as persons unknown claim that evidence submitted by the Council to the police was rejected as it was ‘incorrectly packaged’.
Both the Metropolitan Police Service and Tower Hamlets Council itself have rejected this ‘incorrect packaging’ claim.
LW has spent many months trying to establish the truth of this issue with the help of numerous people from across the political spectrum who are representative of every part of our community.
The authorities have failed Tower Hamlets so, as with the electoral petition, it is down to citizens to seek the truth. Nothing changes.
It now seems that persons unknown are intent on preventing the truth from being revealed. This is the story so far.
There have been between 75 to 150 individual investigations into allegations of wrongdoing by Youth Services anonymous-threatening-man-featured during the tenure of Lutfur Rahman.
Youth Services were brought in-house by Rahman and the Tower Hamlets First administration soon after he came to power in 2010 despite the existing service being well run and efficient.
The investigations into Rahman’s Youth Services have been undertaken by Tower Hamlets Council since Rahman was found guilty of electoral corruption and dismissed from office.
On Wednesday 18 May 2016 Cllr. Rachael Saunders stated in council that around 75 investigations were underway into various activities of Youth Services members under Lutfur Rahman including “Fraud, corruption, nepotism, failure to declare personal interests, failure to declare criminal convictions, breaches of procurement and recruitment processes, breach of the council’s financial regulations, breaches of Health & Safety and Data Protection legislation.”
Since then numerous pieces of information have emerged concerning how some members of Rahman’s Youth Services were allowed to behave including:
LW also understands that Youth Services staff may have been in attendance at both Polling Stations and Electoral Counts.
Love Wapping has been aware of wrongdoing in Tower Hamlets Youth Services since the summer of 2015 but concrete evidence has been hard to come by. After the publication by the Council’s Internal Audit team of a general overview of their findings LW undertook more focussed enquiries.
In 2015 we were informed that in the region of £400,000 had been misspent by Youth Services personnel using payment cards issued to them by the Council for office use.
It now seems that this figure may be nearer £2,000,000. That sort of money would pay for a lot of council services. It would certainly keep all our Children’s Centres open.
The results of our investigations into the extent of Lutfur Rahman’s corrupt practise has often surprised us. But when we found out why there had not been – and would not be – any criminal prosecutions of any members of Youth Services we were astounded.
The Council’s internal investigations team, in conjunction with Mazars, a large accountancy firm based in St Katharine’s Way acting as their external investigators, undertook numerous investigations into Youth Services activities. The precise number of investigations is not known but is presumed to be between 75 and 150.
At the completion of these investigations the evidence gathered, including witness statements, was then sent to the relevant department of the Metropolitan Police Service, in this case the Fraud Squad, which is part of Operation Falcon within the Met’s Organised Crime Command.
The normal process is that a local authority submits evidence to the relevant police force who review the evidence and then, if all is in order, submit it to the Crown Prosecutions Service (CPS). It is the CPS who decides if a prosecution is in the public interest.
In the case of Youth Services none of the cases were submitted to the CPS by the Metropolitan Police.
This is the point where everything becomes very odd.
Our elected representatives (Councillors) and the Council executive (the bit that does stuff aka council officers) were told that all the Youth Service evidence had been rejected by the Met Police as the evidence was incorrectly ‘packaged’.
As it was incorrectly packaged all the evidence for all the cases was not only returned to the Council but never submitted to the CPS for consideration as to prosecution.
Just to add to the bad news the unidentified Council officers or officer(s) were also told that none of the Youth Service cases would result in criminal prosecution either now or in the future.
By a happy coincidence LW staff have extensive personal experience of gathering, preparing documenting and ‘packaging’ evidence of all types for use in serious criminal prosecutions from fingerprints at burglaries to terrorist explosive devices.
So we immediately knew that this packaging story was, to use a legal term, complete and utter bollocks.
Strict protocols govern the collection and handling of forensic evidence like fingerprints, weapons and DNA which if not adhered to the evidence can render the evidence useless. Our understanding is the only evidence submitted by the Council to the MPS was documentary – just bits of paper which in themselves have no evidential value.
It is the words written on the paper by investigators, witnesses and suspects that are of value. Yes the statements need to be written and witnessed in the right way but at the end of the day most evidence is just bundles of paper. Maybe crates of bundles of paper for a large fraud. But still just paper.
We asked the CPS if they were aware of any specific packaging requirements when a local authority submitted evidence to the police. The CPS was baffled and suggested we ask the police.
So we asked we did.
There is no formal process or set of presentation requirements
for evidence submitted by a local Authority to the MPS. During the progress of
the investigation a Local Authority would be expected to provide information,
intelligence and evidence and this would be then put into the correct format by
the investigating officer, should the need arise to refer it to the CPS.
The investigation commenced in June 2014 and concluded in
June 2016, there was a close dialogue and interaction between the Local Authority
and the investigating officer for the provision of any evidence
The MPS also provided us with this information.
In June 2014 the London Borough of Tower Hamlets referred two
allegations of fraud to the MPS in relation to nine youth organisations on the
borough. The allegations centred around the provision of approximately
£300,000 of funding during the financial year 2013/4. These matters were
allocated for investigation to the Fraud Squad, which is part of Operation Falcon
within the Met’s Organised Crime Command. A number of inquiries were carried out
and the matter has now concluded. We have communicated our rationale for the
decision reached with London Borough of Tower Hamlets.
That’s all pretty clear then. No specific requirements for packaging by MPS.
We also asked the National Police Chiefs Council (formerly known as the Association of Chief Police Officers, ACPO) if they could tell us anything about specific packaging requirements. They could not but suggested we contact the Home Office.
We also asked Tower Hamlets Council questions pretty much identical to those we asked the Met although we did so via a Freedom of Information request just to be on the safe side.
Here is an extract from our FOI request.
The request is regarding the submission by Tower Hamlets Council of evidence relating to recent investigations into Youth Services to the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) and the MPS response to the submission.
The information requested is not held by the Local Authority. There are no written details provided to the Local Authority by police forces.
Please see response to question 1.
Submissions were made to the police between December 2014 and June 2016
Fraud Squad – Operation Falcon part of the Organised Crime Command (SCO7)
The information requested is not held by the Local Authority. There were no discussions on suitable formats as no guidance exists on the packaging and presentation of evidence from the Local Authority to the police.
Please see response for question 5
Please see response for question 5
Wednesday 22nd June 2016
Insufficient evidence to proceed.
Please see response for question 1
In addition to our FOI we also asked the Council for a further statement which, after a weeks delay, they provided:
We have fully co-operated with the police in providing
information relating to their investigation. The police do not provide written
guidance to organisations on how to package information. Our internal
investigations are ongoing.
This looks like yet another breath-taking example of the lack of prosecutorial action following evidence of fraud in Tower Hamlets. What are the authorities afraid of here?said Jim.
Someone in this process has royally messed up. The statements from the Council and the MPS simply don’t add up,said Elaine Bagshaw, Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Spokesperson for Poplar & Limehouse.
We’ve now had two years of wasted time; wasted money and still no answers and no-one held to account for what happened. We deserve much better as a borough.
LW has submitted Freedom of Information requests to the Council for details of all meetings between Council officers and the MPS relating to the submission of evidence relating to Youth Services investigations and a copy of the full Internal Audit report into the Youth Service.
Only a summary of this report was presented to the Audit Committee and so available for residents to examine.
LW believes there are overwhelming public interest reasons for this report and any other relevant documents to be published and will pursue this matter on this basis.
When we get it – and get it we will – then we will let you know if it sheds anymore light on how the Youth Services evidence was incorrectly packaged.
The incorrect ‘packaging’ story above is the most important story that LW has published since October 2014 when we first revealed that council grants were distributed by Lutfur Rahman and cronies on the basis of political patronage, not need.
The reason that this ‘packaging’ issue is so important is that it would seem that someone somewhere is not telling us all the real reason why there have been no criminal prosecutions of Youth Service personnel.
Our Council is currently being forced to implement savage cuts to essential services that will affect everyone in the East End of London.
It only seems fair that those who have misused millions of pounds of Council money are identified. With the support of residents across the borough our work will continue until such time as these people are known.
The general public has a basic right to know the full extent of all the activities of Lutfur Rahman’s Youth Services operations. And we all need to know why this happened. What was the purpose? And where did that money go?
These can be found at the bottom of this web page