£450,000 WiFi Loan ‘Within The Rules’ says Audit Commision…

Swindons long running WiFi saga took another interesting turn yesterday when the District Auditor decided that Swindon Tory Councillors Rod Bluh and Mark Edwards acted ‘within the rules’ when they secretly set up a hybrid business deal, a public-private partnership if you will, with a brand new company owned by a personal friend.

Incredibly, these two councillors committed the Council to lending £450,000 of public money to a company which the Council had been advised to impose a credit ceiling of just £500.    If that wasn’t bad enough, even when members of the public pointed out that the council was ignorant of the fact they were also dealing with an Isle of Man registered off-shore company and that the Councils own ‘Director of Business Transformation’, Mr Hitesh Patel,  had become a director of Digital City (Uk) Ltd shortly before he authored a cabinet briefing document in which he advised the Leader of the Council and lead member for finance,  (Cllr’s Roderick Bluh & Mark Edwards), to loan £450,000 to the company, but did not inform anyone that he was already a Director of the company……

Anyway, it’s all recorded on the Talkswindon Forum WiFi Enquiry so for now, here’s what the District Auditor had to say:

Dear Mr Watts,

You contacted me earlier in May 2010 regarding Swindon Borough Council’s loan to Digital City UK Ltd and related matters.

I have now completed my consideration of whether any further action is required by me in relation to this matter. I have taken into account all information available to me, including Internal Audit’s recent report and points mentioned in correspondence from several private individuals, including yours.

I am of the view, based on the information available to me, that no further action is required by me on this issue. This is because I am aware of no evidence of an unlawful item of account and there are no circumstances which would cause me to consider the issue of a report in the public interest. The circumstances surrounding the Council’s decision have already been widely publicised.

I am grateful for the comments and information received and will take these into account in my audit of the Council accounts for the financial years 2009/10 and 20010/11 and in any other work that I might carry out as external auditor.

The individual rights of members of the public are not affected by this decision.

Yours sincerely
Martin Robinson

Councillors Bluh & Co are probably cock-a-hoop that they’ve got away with some pretty shoddy business practice without having their knuckles rapped.  For our part we’ve exposed Bluh and his colleagues for the rankly incompetent bullshit artists that they most certainly, and demonstrably are.

Whatever the Audit Commission may do, or not do, the public records attest to the fact that many lies have been told by politicians that should know better, usually for no better reason than to cover mistakes that would be deemed ‘gross misconduct’ in the real world of business.  In the world of politics however, it would appear that the rules can be so easily bent out of line that almost anything can be described as being within them.

This isn’t the end of the WiFiasco, but it is the beginning of the beginning of the end for it.  Like Roderick Bluh’s other failed Vanity projects and legacy purchases, this one seems set to become another one of Bluh’s expensive,  (for us taxpayers),  failed visions.

Time will tell how expensive, but at present I think his visions have cost the Swindon Taxpayers about £1,700,000

Posted on
Thursday, May 27th, 2010
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