A summary of events at Lowedges:
Corruption and fraud.In the early ‘90’s, as European money started to come on-stream, Sheffield City Council set up neighbourhood forums. Lowedges was among the first. The forums were created as the means to draw down this European money. The ‘community’ aspect of the forum was always a widely publicised illusion, but this was not discovered for several years. In Lowedges, the council worker was Mr. C. Dean.
Sheffield City Council also records that the forums can be used to access money not available to the council. In Lowedges, the personnel and constitution of the forum ensured council control.
In Lowedges, the council always had a ‘package’ - the local forum would control the local community centre, Lowedges Community Annexe, a building at the heart of Lowedges Estate. Mr. C. Dean was also designated to ‘assist’ here. The Lord Mayor, a local councillor of the time, announced at a forum meeting that the Annexe was essential as an asset if the council was to draw down matched European funding.
However the forum and the Annexe are completely different organisations, each with their own management and committee structures.
From 1995, control of the forum was contrived by ‘picking off’ individuals who did not fit in with council / forum plans. Local activists, and one not-local political activist, Mr. D Henderson, eventually succeeded in controlling the forum in 1997. This was illegally done, and all subsequent Annual General Meetings have also had no legitimacy. The Chief Executive of Sheffield City Council attended. The next step was to take control of the Annexe.
Their ‘targets’, volunteers in the area who had forum positions prior to and subsequent to the take-over, were literally hounded out of their voluntary positions. Tactics included:
harassment, public humiliations, continuous local acrimony, bitterness, false accusations, poison-pen letters (widely distributed) and otherwise making the volunteer as uncomfortable as possible. The attacks were unrelenting, continue to this day, and are not limited to Annexe volunteers.
As well as the personal attacks, political means were also used. Local volunteers would have had no knowledge of these tactics, and so would have be totally unprepared for what was done to them. These tactics included, falsification of minutes, gerrymandering, filibustering at meetings to prevent other from making a point, pre-arranging the outcome of meetings, and outright lying and cheating at meetings at which there were forum elections. The general public would have been unaware of what was going on.
However, all the above, and the following, has been recorded in full detail throughout the whole period.
A local councillor, Colin Ross, always supported the forum whilst it was implementing council policy and positioning itself as the only local organisation to draw down European money. The complaints of the victims were ignored. Attempts to make a complaint about the behaviour of councillors were not permitted.
The council already had general plans for how it wanted to spend SRB European money in Lowedges. These plans included for the privatisation of childcare and the commercialisation of the community café, both of which were in the Annexe.
One policy was to use European money to convert the voluntary sector activities into paid employment and claim job creation. Local councillors approved the policy, although there were no jobs created, only a transfer from altruistic to mercenary.
Mr. C. Dean was the council worker employed to ‘smooth’ progress, and already had a reputation for disposing of volunteers who did not do as he instructed them.
Shortly after gaining control of the forum, the plan to control the Annexe continued. Mr. C. Dean attempted to effect the removal of the voluntary playgroup leader, and to replace her with another worker, who had been promised paid work. This plan to simply take the playgroup, having first made many false accusations to justify what was to come, included taking the group, its assets, premises, and clients.
Mr. C. Dean had council support for his plan, but it did not work. Mr. C. Dean had already contrived, earlier that year, and with the help of a council colleague, a financial penalty upon the Annexe. Cash starvation was but one of his council approved weapons, another was to issue false minutes. Constant attempts to sabotage the development of the Annexe, also with council support, continue to this day.
When Mr. C. Dean met with resistance, he immediately escalated his remit and enrolled Mr. D. Henderson and forum activists and council colleagues to force through the council agenda for childcare. Mr. Henderson’s first words as he addressed the Annexe committee for the first time were lies - later admitted by the council (they had no choice!). The same ‘dirty tricks’ as above were used, only much more intensely. The resistance continued.
A complaint was made about the behaviour of Mr. C. Dean. Attempts were made to prevent an honest complaint procedure being carried out. This too was complained about and the correct complaint procedure was not followed. A long-term colleague of Mr. C. Dean looked into the complaint, falsified a report, and attempted to dismiss the complaint by using specious and fatuous excuses. Meanwhile the abuses continued and every effort to break the Annexe was used. The council could not allow the complaint to succeed, as Mr. C. Dean was originally attempting to implement the overall council approved policy of assuring control of European money.
The council could never admit to this, because projects financed with European money needed community endorsement, and so every contrivance was used to ensure that the complaint failed - the consequence would have been exposure of the council’s corruption and original plans. The complainants were constantly asked WHY WHY WHY did they think they were being treated in that way? The complainants, at that time, did not know. This was sufficient excuse for the council to refuse the complaint, assured at the time that the original plans could continue.
In addition to the above, the volunteers had to endure; denial of service, removal from mailing lists, redirection of mail, obscene poison-pens, blocking of access to assets, lying, cheating, attempts at social exclusion, constant insults, sabotage and illegal activity. These continue today. The LGO thinks nothing is wrong.
Mr. C. Dean and the forum continued to have council support. The forum even declared, before the 1998 Annexe Annual General Meeting, that they would be controlling the building. The forum chair signed papers as chair of the Annexe, and the forum secretary stated that she was to be the next secretary of the Annexe.
Despite cheating with the votes at the AGM, the forum did not gain control. The council and forum attempted again to gain control that year, contriving (yet again) a reason to suspend the grant. The Annexe would not, and will not, submit to bullying and intimidation of this kind. Despite having failed to control the Annexe, the council and forum had an agenda for which there was a timetable. To this end the forum, with council support, continued to behave as though they had won the AGM. Forum meetings continued to discuss Annexe business, and the forum issued an Objective 2 Priority 5 regeneration plan that included plans for the Annexe - privatisation of childcare and the café! - as a year earlier. That the forum and council should have continued with this, after such a forceful rejection by the community, and bearing in mind that community approval is a requirement for these European funded plans, was but one of the acts of corruption first identified in November 1997.
Where local voluntary groups have had successes, either through events or obtaining funding, the forum derided or put down the achievements.
Meanwhile, other council plans for the forum continued, mainly by use of stealth, cheating, creation of illusion, deception, etc, all the while continuing the attacks upon the Annexe. Despite complaining, the council never did anything to stop the abuses of the volunteers.
A complaint was made to the Local Government Ombudsman. It turned out that he effectively works for the council, and had supported the council when it attacked another community building for the purposes of being able to draw down European money. In that case too the abuses of the volunteers were ignored, whilst the abusers continued to receive support from the council executive.
We later discovered that it was not only the forum and Mr. C. Dean, that had been forging documents, fabricating evidence and deceiving all who would question what was and is happening, but colleagues, other council officers, were doing the same.
One particularly hurtful and spiteful abuse was when Mr. C. Dean excluded the Annexe volunteers from the Lord Mayors evening, effectively trashing the volunteer work of the whole community.
At least three corrupt members of the police have so far been identified. These had, (and one continues,) turned a ‘blind eye’ to the activities of the forum, activists and council, and continued support for the council. The first council / police link was established (in relation to this case) in December 1997.
Community groups left the forum, the already small membership diminished, attendance at meetings was almost non-existent, and the forum Chair admitted that the forum was not representative of the area. Six members of the public attended the meeting at which the alleged forum area regeneration plan was endorsed ‘on the basis of no objections’ - there was no discussion permitted of the plan during the meeting, it was filibustered. The council support continued - it had to - it wanted the European money, and the trivial fact that the forum itself admitted that it was not a representative organisation was not a detail that was going to prevent the original council agenda continuing according to plan.
Eventually, bearing in mind that the council / forum abuses continued, the fraud and corruption of the council / forum was sufficiently proved to be able to be able to make reference to this at council meetings. Some members of the police tried, but failed, to suppress the exposure of the corruption.
Further sanctions were placed upon the Annexe.
As Objective 1 was approaching, the pressures upon the Annexe increased. However, by this time the Annexe volunteers had taken a ‘do or die’ attitude. Having suffered so much abuse for so long, it was not going anywhere, and no further council bullying and intimidation would be effective. The lies and unsupported allegations continue to this day.
As far as the Local Government Ombudsman is concerned, the council has done nothing wrong, and the manager of the LGO office has written a personally insultive letter, stating that this author is incoherent.
Meanwhile, because the forum does not have community support, it is necessary for the council and forum to fabricate the evidence required to satisfy the European funders. Two extra council officers were drafted in to assist. One was the Area South co-ordinator, reporting directly to the local councillor, also a forum trustee, and the other was a new ‘development’ officer and friend of officers of the council European funding unit. He was also a relative of the leader of the ‘new’ playgroup that was to take over the existing playgroup. This leader is also a forum trustee. The development officer applied for funds for his relative and forum associates whilst sabotaging Annexe development. Again, the council ignored complaints. Falsified applications for European, and other, monies were issued, as was a falsified application to change the status of the forum to a charity. The local area report supported the original council policies, and continued with the false assumptions and unsupported claims for the area. This Area South co-ordinator has now been promoted.
The deceptions were again discovered. There were attempts to cover up the lies with yet more lies, as they had always done in the past, but on these occasions they ‘tripped themselves up’. The council / forum position, fraudulent at creation, is now completely untenable.
It later came to light that the local forum, with council support, had been claiming rights of primacy over other areas, not just over Lowedges. These areas were within the area known as Area South. These other areas had volunteers who had also been abused by the Lowedges forum, and attempts made to destabilise these organisations. In addition, where, naively, they entered into a ‘partnership’, they very quickly discovered that there was never any intention on the part of the Lowedges forum to have a ‘partnership’, and subsequent forum publicity confirmed this.
The council has withheld the money it owes to the Annexe from the last financial year and then used the court to enforce payment of a council bill applicable up to 2001. The corrupt council officers and councillors have now been identified and we are ready to publish their names.
The council MUST break the Annexe if it is to control Lowedges and whatever European money it wants for its own plans. Whatever happens, the council or forum will never have community support, despite the constant creation of illusions and the fabrication of reports to give the appearance of local support. Where illusion was not enough, false claims of endorsement were made, i.e. from the local tenants association, who have nothing whatsoever to do with the forum.
The Annexe volunteers have done nothing wrong. If they had done anything wrong the council would have rightly taken the Annexe years ago. The Annexe, like the Sheffield South Community Alliance, is a true ‘bottom-up’, open, transparent and democratic organisation.
The Annexe has been asking for months for ANY evidence to support ANY of the accusations, allegations / innuendo used to justify the council prejudice of the Annexe. The council has consistently refused. This is a breach of European Human Rights - citizens are entitled to know what they are supposed to have done wrong if they are to be punished, and are entitled to know what evidence exists to justify that punishment. In the case of the Annexe, the council decision was taken behind closed doors and the alleged report was ‘exempted’, i.e. withheld from the public.
The council MUST bury us if it to continue with its original plans. The forum continues its tactics to this day, supported by the council, and the Annexe volunteers continue to be prejudiced by this council.
Another recent Annexe attacker was a local Advice Centre. It turned out that the manager was the wife of one of the councillors supporting the forum, the wife was a long-term friend of Mr. C. Dean, the Advice Centre was dependent upon the council for financial support, and the Advice Centre is to receive more council money soon.
We are also of the opinion that the Ombudsman has ‘boxed himself into a corner’, in that his position has become fixed and that he can not change his stance, whatever evidence may be presented to him. Similar circumstances apply to the Charity Commission.
What is not known at this stage is the position of the District Auditor. The District Auditor claimed that nothing was wrong, only for an independent audit to reveal faults that are leading to imminent prosecution. The District Auditor also refuses to produce ‘evidence’ to support the stance that it took at the time.
We conclude that the corruption is rife throughout Sheffield City Council, and is controlled from the top down. In Lowedges, as elsewhere, the reasons have always been for money. After SRB, the Objective 1 was just too big a temptation. Both forum and council became greedy and careless, the fraud and corruption was exposed.
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