Tagged: Buckinghamshire

A4e staff jailed for DWP back-to-work training fraud

Six employees at a back-to-work recruitment company have been jailed for a fraud that saw them falsely claim almost £300,000.

They worked for Action 4 Employment (A4e) which helped people gain training to get into work.

They made up files, forged signatures and falsely claimed they had helped people find jobs, enabling them to hit targets and gain government bonuses.

Four more employees received suspended sentences.

Following a 13-week trial at Reading Crown Court, four people were found guilty of taking part in the fraud in January. Six others previously admitted their part, and a further three were acquitted.

Prosecutor Sarah Wood said between them they created 167 false claims which cost the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP), which contracted A4e to carry out the work, £288,595.

Some falsified files using the names of family members, while others offered bribes in the form of vouchers to get people to fill out false forms, the court heard.

A4e ran the Aspire To Inspire lone parent mentoring programme between 2008 and 2011.

The £1.3m contract covered Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire and was funded by the European Social Fund.

A4e was also paid £10,500 a month to implement it, and received payments for each person it helped gain employment.

In sentencing, Judge Angela Morris said there had been a “systematic practice” of compiling bogus files over a “considerable period of time“, behaviour which she described as “appallingly cavalier”.

She said:

“No amount of pressure justifies the wholesale fabrication of information in files or the forgery of other people’s signatures on documents, all of which is designed to extract money from the Department of Work and Pensions.”

She added it was “simply wrong”.

The defendants were:

  • Charles McDonald, 44, of Derwent Road, Egham, Surrey, pleaded guilty to six counts of forgery and one of conspiracy to commit forgery. He was sentenced to 40 months in prison.
  • Julie Grimes, 52, of Monks Way, Staines, Surrey, pleaded guilty to nine counts of forgery. She was sentenced to 26 months in prison.
  • Nikki Foster, 31, of High Tree Drive, Reading, pleaded guilty to nine counts of forgery, and was jailed for 22 months.
  • Ines Cano-Uribe, 39, of Madrid, Spain, was found guilty of one count of forgery and one of conspiracy to commit forgery. She was jailed for 18 months.
  • Dean Lloyd, 38, of Rochfords, Coffee Hall, Milton Keynes, pleaded guilty to 13 counts of forgery. He was given a 15-month jail sentence.
  • Bindiya Dholiwar, 29, of Reddington Drive, Slough, pleaded guilty to seven counts of forgery, and was jailed for 15 months.
  • Zabar Khalil, 35, of Dolphin Road, Slough, was found guilty of one count of forgery. He was given a 12-month sentence, suspended for two years.
  • Matthew Hannigan-Train, 31, of Westacre Close, Bristol, was found guilty of one count of conspiracy to commit forgery. He received a 12-month sentence, suspended for two years.
  • Hayley Wilson, 27, of Middlesex Drive, Milton Keynes, was found guilty of one count of conspiracy to commit forgery. She was given a 12-month sentence, suspended for two years.
  • Aditi Singh, 32, of Albert Street, Slough, pleaded guilty to two counts of forgery and one count of possessing items to commit fraud, and received a 10-month sentence, suspended for two years.

A4e chief executive Andrew Dutton said the company has a “zero-tolerance policy” towards fraud and money had been set aside so “the taxpayer will have lost nothing” from the scam.

Mr Dutton said: “Their claims do not reflect the way this company operates, or the values of our 2,100 staff, whose honesty and integrity are much-valued.”

> But seldom practised, it seems.

Source – BBC News, 31 Mar 2015

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Teesside councils suffer worse than average spending cuts in latest government settlement

Teesside councils have again suffered worse than average cuts in the latest government funding announcement.

Figures released today show Middlesbrough Council‘s ‘spending power‘ – the total amount it has at its disposal through central grants and council tax – will fall by £8.9m from £158.4mm in 2014-15 to £149.5m in 2015-16.

That is a cut of 5.6% – compared to an average cut for all English councils of 1.8%.

Redcar and Cleveland will lose £5.2m, or 3.7%, while Stockton emerged relatively unscathed – down £3.6m, or 2.1%.

The list of worst-hit areas is dominated by Labour-dominated parts of the Midlands and North.

> Well, what a suprise !

Tamworth in Staffordshire faces the biggest cut, of 6.4%, followed by Barrow in Furness and Chesterfield.

At the other end of the scale, a number of councils in the South of England will actually see their spending power go up.

Tewkesbury will see the biggest increase, of 3.2%, while Surrey will get an extra £27m, or 3.1%.

Other towns and counties getting an increase include East Devon (up 2.7%), Buckinghamshire (up 2.3%), Cambridge (up 2.3%), Dorset (up 1.9%) and Cheshire East (up 1.4%).

Source –  Middlesbrough Evening Gazette, 18 Dec 2014

Low profile United & Cecil Club funnels cash to Conservative must-win marginals – including Berwick

An organisation registered at a stables in the Home Counties, with a former tobacco lobbyist for an honorary secretary, is a key weapon in the Conservative Party’s battle to win the next election.

The United & Cecil Club is playing an increasingly crucial role in funding election bids in the most tightly contested constituencies. The club has been used to raise funds for the Conservatives for years and these funds are now being deployed strategically as the party targets United & Cecil Club ahead of the 2015 election.

Since the last election, the organisation has given £282,250 to Conservative candidates  – nearly double the amount it has given to Conservative central campaign headquarters. In the first quarter of this year alone, the U&C club has given almost as much to candidates as it did in the whole of last year. Most of the cash is targeted at key swing seats.

Despite its increasingly important role, little is known about the U&C club. Donations to the club tend to be small and so there is no obligation to identify the donors. Only the identities of individuals making donations of more than £7,500 are published by the Election Commission under disclosure rules.

In disclosures made and published by the Electoral Commission the U&C club is registered at an an address in Iver, a village in Buckinghamshire. However, in the parliamentary register, the U&C lists its address as a riding school in Berkshire.

The stables are run by Tim Lord. Lord, a former chief executive of the Tobacco Manufacturers Association, confirmed to the Bureau that he is honorary secretary of the U&C club.

When asked  to supply further details about the U&C club, Lord declined to elaborate. “We are a club, we have our objective and we comply with the law,” he said.

Christopher Fenwick, a member of the wealthy retail family which has an estimated fortune of £500m, was until recently a former deputy chairman of the organisation, Lord confirmed.

Fenwick hosted a table at last ​week’s Conservative fundraiser at the Hurlingham club, which was focused on the 40 seats to hold and the 40 seats to gain. Last year he sponsored two tables where the table plan showed his guests included U&C chairman, Brooks Newmark MP and Anne-Marie Trev​elyn, a Tory hopeful who is bidding to win the Lib Dem marginal seat of Berwick-​up​on-Tweed.

Related story: Interactive – Who sat with whom at the Conservative Summer Party

The Tories have been criticised in the past for taking money from organisations which lack clarity about the identity of their donors. The Midlands Industrial Council, an organisation based in a small Lincolnshire village, was for years used to channel money to the party from wealthy businessmen who wanted to keep their donations private.

The Tories have learned the language of modern government,” said Tamasin Cave of Spinwatch who leads the Alliance for Lobbying Transparency coalition. “They talk about transparency and fairness but the reality is they are continuing with an antiquated way of doing things, like secret donor clubs.”

A Tory spokesman said: “All donations to the Conservative party are properly and transparently declared to the Electoral Commission, published by them, and comply fully with Electoral Commission rules.”

Analysis by the Bureau reveals that hundreds of thousands of pounds have already been donated to Tory candidates ahead of next year’s election, one that polsters suggest may produce the tightest result in living memory.

Marginal image

With Labour having to rely largely on the unions for funding, the Bureau’s analysis shows that leading Tory hopefuls are powering ahead in the sums raised.

Political funding and the way this money is raised has been thrown into sharp relief following the Tories’ annual fundraising dinner, held last week at the exclusive Hurlingham Club in south west London.

The event proved a huge money-spinner with oligarchs, Middle Eastern businessmen and City financiers vying to bid huge sums at an auction that raised, according to those there, £500,000 for David Cameron’s party.

At this year’s dinner a Russian banker – the wife of a former Kremlin deputy finance minister – paid £160,000 to play tennis with David Cameron and Boris Johnson. A bottle of champagne signed by Margaret Thatcher went for £45,000 with a pot of honey fetching £20,000.

Source – Bureau Of  Investigative Journalism,  05 July 2014

http://www.thebureauinvestigates.com/2014/07/05/the-low-profile-lunch-club-funnelling-cash-to-conservative-must-win-marginals/

Areas of North-East worse off than former East European communist countries

Parts of the North-East are poorer than many areas in former communist countries in Eastern Europe, new figures show.

People living in County Durham and Tees Valley have a lower income than places in Romania, Bulgaria and Poland, according to the Brussels statistics.

Large chunks of Greece also boast higher living standards than the North-East’s poorest sub-region – despite that country’s recent economic catastrophe.

And the figures also lay bare the extraordinary wealth of central London, where incomes are 4.5 times those in Tees Valley and County Durham.

Phil Wilson, the Sedgefield Labour MP, said the analysis was a stark reminder of just how far the region had to go to catch up, saying: “These are poor figures.

“There is a lot to do to raise the standard of living in the North-East. People face a cost of living crisis, which has only got worse over the last two or three years.

“However, we should remain part of the EU, because the North-East has benefited from a lot of inward investment, including from multinational companies like Nissan and Hitachi.”

The statistics, produced by Eurostat, an arm of the European Union, compare wealth across the EU using a measure known as “purchasing power standards” (PPS).

 It takes into account the effect of prices on the cost of living, rather than simply measuring gross domestic product (GDP), or output per person.

They show that, in 2011, Tees Valley and County Durham, GDP per head on the PPS measure was £14,700 – or just 71 per cent of the EU average.

That was significantly lower than Northumberland Tyne and Wear (83) and North Yorkshire (89) and the third lowest figure in the UK, after Cornwall and West Wales (both 64).

But it was also lower than the Yugozapaden sub-region of Bulgaria (78) and two areas in Poland – Mazowieckie (107) and Dolnośląskie (74).

Four sub-regions of Greece enjoy a higher income and Bucureşti-Ilfov (122) – which takes in the capital of Romania – is far, far wealthier.

Meanwhile, two other sub-regions of the UK – North Eastern Scotland (159) and Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire (143) – are among the EU’s richest.

Separate figures, yesterday, also threw fresh doubt, on the Government’s claims that the region has enjoyed a jobs recovery, despite the flatlining economy, until recently.

Since the start of the recession five years ago, the number of self-employed people has leapt by 23,000 in the North-East and by 37,000 in Yorkshire.

Meanwhile, the number of traditional employee jobs has dropped by far more – by 91,000 in the North-East and by 64,000 in Yorkshire.

> I think that says all you need to know about the job situation in the North East.

Worryingly, the average weekly income of someone in self-employment is 20 per cent lower than in 2008, earning them 40 per cent less than a typical employee.

Source – Northern Echo  07 May 2014