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Bye Bye Arvato ?

Arvato wants to sell-off & Council wants to quit

Report and photographs: Paul Janik
Desperate to find staff to answer the phones ?

News that Arvato wants to sell its appalling Customer Relations business and that Slough Council wants to abandon its disastrous contract with them, will delight everyone fed-up with bad council services.

Cllr Rob Anderson, the man who in 2003 closed-down Slough's eight highly acclaimed, and much loved, Play Centres for children, wanted to privatise as many council jobs as possible. His achievements include:-

  • Housing repairs - Interserve, 15 years contract
  • Rubbish collections, grass cutting and pothole repairs - Accord / Enterprise / Amey, 15 years contract
  • Children's Education - Cambridge Learning
  • Libraries - Essex County Council
  • Council Tax and Housing Benefits - Arvato, 10 years contract
  • Call centre - Arvato, 10 years contract
  • Computer systems - Arvato, 10 years contract
  • Telephone systems - Arvato, 10 years contract
  • Accounts - Arvato, 10 years contract

Cllr Anderson and best buddy Cllr James Swindlehurst have just privatised Slough Council's legal department to the London Borough of Harrow's own private company HB Public Law Ltd. Highly contentious contract solicitor Linda Walker, still involved in a sensational Council scandal, was the business development manager for Harrow Council and for HB Public Law.

Arvato

In 2011 chief councillor Rob Anderson decided to privatise more council jobs. This time his target was office staff.

Roger Parkin, then a council director, was put in charge. He favoured Arvato despite other council personnel wanting a different outsourcing company. Staff say Mr Parkin chucked-out an impressive highly regarded adviser who thought Arvato was not good enough.

Someone at the council chose LG Futures Ltd., with a Neil James Wilcox as one of two shareholding directors, to certify Arvato as suitable and competent to run Slough Council services. LG Futures was originally called Local Government Futures Ltd.

Council insiders have described Mr Wilcox and Mr Parkin as "drinking pals".

A 10 years privatisation contract was signed on behalf of Arvato by Richard Parkin and on behalf of Slough Council by Roger Parkin. The contract costs more than £10.1/2 million annually. It started in 2012.

There are claims the two Parkin men have some connections but repeated requests for details have been ignored by Arvato.

I Play Golf

On 8 November 2013 Mr Wilcox set-up his own one director private company
"I Play Golf Ltd.". He subsequently left LG Futures on 21 January 2014.

Sarah Lee wrote in MK News on 7 January 7 2015:-

A GOLFING heaven has been created in an industrial warehouse in Newport Pagnell.

Director of iPlay Golf, Neil Wilcox from Newport Pagnell, said:
I used to own a public sector financial management consultancy company (LG Futures). It was a very successful business ...... I found that I loved taking clients out on the golf course ...... sold up my stake in the company to my business partner and set-up iPlayGolf

According to other reports Mr Wilcox created the UK's biggest indoor golf playing venture, outside London, in Newport Pagnell close to the junction 14 of the M1 motorway.

golfretailing.com wrote:-

Wilcox makes his virtual dream a reality. By Miles Bossom - June 8, 2015

Can you really play golf indoors? Neil Wilcox believes the answer is yes and has put his money where his mouth is by opening the iPlay Golf centre in Newport Pagnell. Glyn Pritchard went to find out why.

A non-descript business park in Newport Pagnell may seem an unlikely setting for a game of golf, but looks are deceptive. Once inside, iPlay Golf is like the Tardis opening onto more space and areas as you explore. The centre is the brainchild of Neil Wilcox, who has a background in local government, not golf.

Wilcox explains, I worked in local government consultancy with a business partner helping local authorities make sense of, and conform to national government changes in legislation. It was lucrative but very demanding – we worked weekends and public holidays. When the recession hit it also became depressing with the emphasis on efficiencies and making cuts.

golfbusinessnews.com mentioned how successful the venture was.

iPlayGolfUK Appoints Magic Hour Media. 4.08pm 10th March 2015.

The venue, which is open from 0900 till late seven days a week, ..... a luxurious VIP Room along with a licensed Bar and Cafe showing Sky Sports plus facilities for Xbox, PS4 and Wii video games.

The public's response since we opened our doors for the soft launch in late 2014 has been staggering said Managing Director, Neil Wilcox. In many ways we are still putting the finishing touches to the business, but we already have over 500 Members of all ages, and the growth shows no signs of stopping.

Worrying signs of a potential business failure appeared when, on Monday 26 October 2015, Mr Wilcox announced a half-price offer, available at any time on any day of the week, to literally anyone who had been to a Milton Keynes Dons football match. All one needed was a football club membership card, a season ticket, a ticket stub or any Matchday programme.

The company's accounts looked bad. In the first year it lost £101,782. In the second year, losses increased to £376,038. In the third year debts were £707,336.

Observers are puzzled why an accountant, as Mr Wilcox claimed to be, let his company's debts grow out-of-control. Where was the due diligence ?

The Slough Times thinks Mr Wilcox employed more expensive staff than absolutely necessary, lacked a carefully designed business strategy, brought too much equipment instead of testing his business model with a smaller quantity of equipment and staff to ascertain the business' realistic potential.

Slough Council

Big spending Mr Wilcox bankrupted his own limited company for over £700,000. He then approached Roger Parkin who told him to apply for the Assistant Finance Director's job. A council source says Mr Parkin influenced the interviewing panel to give the job to Mr Wilcox.

After getting that job, Mr Parkin told Labour councillors they had to promote Mr Wilcox to Finance Director.

On Thursday 28 September 2017 Labour voted for Mr Wilcox's elevation to the council's top financial job.

Astonishingly, less than 11 months after liquidators were appointed on 18 November 2016 to his bankrupted company, Mr Wilcox – with no previous council experience – became the council's chief finance officer and statutory Section 151 Officer.

Between June 2016 and March 2017, Arvato paid over £170,000 of pubic money to a fictitious company. Who authorised those unlawful payments is unknown. Could it be the council person seen receiving a folded-up envelope from the person operating the ghost company ? Both the council and the fake company have email, fax and telephones, so why the discrete envelope delivery ?

Corruption is endemic in local government. The Slough Times wonders when Finance Director Neil Wilcox will improved procedures to safeguard the public's cash. In the Slough Times opinion, Slough Council paying real money to a non-existent company is fraud.

Slough Council, always pleased to shock and distress residents, paid council contractor Amey over £2 million for cleaning and maintaining the non-existent demolished Brunel Bus Station and the car park above it. Obviously at Slough Council no one cares.

The Slough Times urges the council to stop the many cover-ups and in this case for finance boss Neil Wilcox to get the public's money back without further delay.

On-going financial problems persist with last year's accounts (2016-2017).

The Labour Party, who run Slough Borough Council, are scared to tell the public the full truth about the accounts mess and the external auditor's continuing concerns.

Slough has 42 councillors: 34 Labour, 7 Conservatives and 1 Independent.

Arvato is alleged to have told the Council that since the 10 years contract began in 2012, no one at the Council has ever given them any feedback or asked them to improve or to do things differently. Having put this point to Arvato's responsible director, Jonathan Radcliffe, the Slough Times is patiently awaiting his reply.

Top Labour councillor James Swindlehurst regularly claims the public vote Labour because they want all these things.©

The Slough Times wonders if kilt and sporran wearing Jamie MacSwindle has consumed too many wee halves.

Has Slough Labour corrupted the voting system or have people knowingly voted for all these Labour-caused disasters ? Do tell us Cllr MacSwindle.