The Systematic Plundering of Resources: Council Staff allegedly involved in theft

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In the run up to the controversial boarding up of two sections of the now semi-derelict block of flats at 56-67 Red Houses, at Bishop Auckland‘s High Etherley in County Durham, a number of flats seem to have been stripped of copper piping, boiler equipment, fixtures and fittings with what appears to have been the active assistance and/or participation of one or more employees of Durham County Council. The decision by Teesdale Housing Association to house a number of individuals with known involvements in the theft of copper and other saleable metals, in breach of locally adopted housing policies, its own contractual agreement with its tenants and national government guidelines, was to lead to a subsequent metal theft free for all which has now left badly needed affordable housing in a serious state of disrepair; and may well turn out to implicate a number of key housing staff with previous links to Teesdale District Council into the bargain.

According to residents, alleged drug dealer Kevin Slack, who, some locals maintain, is in some way related to the Housing Association’s former Managing Director, Peter Slack, is believed to have been a key mover in the apparent disappearance of boiler equipment, copper piping and other saleable items from the block; as vulnerable tenants were driven out of their homes and their recently vacated flats plundered of anything and everything that would be of the slightest interest to a thief. And, in spite of the fact that the Police appear to have been provided with pictures of Mr. Slack, County Council logo on his overalls clearly visible, apparently orchestrating and overseeing operations, no action appears to have been taken to date.

To add insult to injury, following a recent incident in the immediate vicinity of the now almost uninhabited block, in which one of the only two remaining tenants was actively harassed by Mr. Slack, by means of a combination of attempted brow beating, bullying, insults and intimidation only just short of direct threat, the Police seem less than proactive in actually ascertaining his whereabouts; in spite of the fact that they have been given full details of every vehicle he has ever had access to since at least 2006. Why? The embedded sound file below consists of PC Heather Fenwick (71) and PCSO Sara Downs of Bishop Auckland’s Beat Office attempting to explain the situation away in front of unconvinced residents and Councillors at a recent PACT Meeting in the village. In due course we shall look at some more of the Slack’s handiwork, with particular reference to their alleged links to a planning corruption scandal at Durham County Council which could be every bit as serious as the notorious Poulson Affair that brought down one time Chair of Durham Police Authority, Alderman Andrew Cunningham. And, in so doing, we shall be exposing their alleged connections with a number of well placed Police officers who could well have contributed considerably to the Slacks’ more than two decades long run of apparent untouchability……

Corruption Busters Durham SW: A Characteristically Inaccurate Response

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In its response to a December article in the ‘Teesdale Mercury’ dated 20th March 2013, Under the banner headline ‘Run-down estate will be improved- pledge’, Teesdale Housing Association responded to residents’ consternation at the wholesale and deliberate running down of a block of flats in the immediate vicinity of where it plans to construct a brand new row of houses by claiming that the damage to the flats had occurred as a direct result of a ‘quick turnover in tenancy and the properties….being left empty’. Elsewhere in the same article the Housing Association also claimed. quite incorrectly, that this had ultimately resulted in the area being ‘named a hot-spot for trouble by the police.’

In reality the estate had been named a hot spot for trouble well before a September 2007 Etherley Parish Council Survey, published in November of that year, revealed that some 82% of residents taking part believed it to be an anti-social area. So why did it take the Police so long to designate it as such in the first place? In the opening months of 2012, as a direct result of the Police’s persistent failure to act appropriately in relation to a whole range of inter-related issues, from drug dealing, to copper theft, to harassment and anti-social behaviour, two residents undeterred by the alleged associations between a number of local criminals and certain elements within the Police, initiated a series of complaints with the Independent Police Complaints Commission, a number of which are still on going.

Teesdale Housing Association’s response has been to deny that any of what has been going on at Red Houses is its responsibility, in the characteristic tone that one would expect from an organization steeped in the corruption and criminality of the previous Blair administration. In a style that epitomizes the arrogance that has infested every arm of local government in the Dale since the demise of former Chair of Durham County Council Andrew Cunningham, and the rise of the late John ‘Kinmont Willy’ Armstrong, the one time self styled uncrowned king of Evenwood and Barony, whose own Council career appears to have been every bit as corrupt as the disgraced father of former Blair Cabinet Enforcer Jack Cunningham, who he himself was to follow as one of the major kingpins at County Hall, Teesdale’s response to its complainants has been as follows:

‘No one named in your complaints is a tenant of Teesdale Housing Association and to the best of our knowledge do not live with any of our tenants. If this was the case we would have worked with our partners to service notices of seeking possession where appropriate. Therefore I cannot uphold your complaint’.

A number of sound recordings of staff members conversations with their tenants currently lodged with Clark Willis Solcitors, Darlington, would appear to indicate that not only were Teesdale Housing Association fully aware of the fact that many of those responsible for the problems on the estate were not only resident at their properties, whether as tenancy holders, sub-tenants or members of their household, but that they were also aware that the same people were also regular visitors at other Teesdale Housing Association owned properties from which many of the previously referred to activities were actually being organized. Of further relevance still, in relation to the Police’s apparent inability to deal with the problem that they themselves had effectively allowed to continue, pretty much uninterrupted for any more than a few short weeks at a time, since the findings of the Parish Council Survey were published in November 2007, is that one of the specific individuals who they had persistently refused to deal with, in relation to certain matters directly related to the previously referred to complaints to the I.P.C.C., was involved in the affray that accompanied two stabbings in a drug related brawl at the local Cricket Club directly adjacent to Red Houses on Boxing Day 2012.

In due course we shall examine the supposed relationship between certain allegedly corrupt elements within the Police and those apparently responsible for the wholesale theft of copper, piping, wiring and boiler equipment from the block at Red Houses at the centre of the current controversy. Interestingly enough, some of what appears to have been stolen seems to have disappeared off the Police log altogether and has become consigned to a strange sort of limbo land in which the Police seem no longer responsible for either ascertaining its current whereabouts, or else attempting to bring about its recovery. The means by which this appears to have occurred seems to have been through the brokering of some sort of mysterious trade off, in which the man charged for the alleged break in at 58 Red Houses, where a boiler appears to have been taken, was only actually charged with effecting illegal entry into the property in order to use the facilities. An apparent case of Virtual Reality Policing with Durham Constabulary, where black is white. red is yellow, and two and two make five….or so the story goes!

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Planning for Destruction: Corruption and Criminality in Social Housing

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When former Chair of Durham County Council, Alderman Andrew Cunningham, was jailed for his part in the Poulson Corruption Scandal back in nineteen seventy two, a key factor in the bribes for contracts scam that was eventually to send him to jail had been the so called ‘Category ‘D’ Demolitions policy, initiated by Durham County Council back in the nineteen fifties as part of a professed initiative to improve social housing. In reality, however, a great deal of sturdy well built nineteenth century housing stock, which could have been upgraded and improved for a fraction of the cost that demolition and new build always entails, was designated as unfit for human habitation and subsequently bulldozed instead. And, as one would expect with any scam that had principally been designed to put large sums of money in the top pockets of the councilors and civil servants directly involved in the commissioning of the new build projects intended to provide replacement housing stock for the communities that they supposedly served, much of what was subsequently thrown up to replace the long since flattened terraces that had previously been laid out by conscientious and God fearing Quaker mine owners, whose community minded approach to the work force that they employed is a well known fact of historical record, was little more than sub standard architecturally flawed ‘Jerry Build’.

Interestingly enough, many similar flaws to those known to have been inherent in the County Durham Category ‘D’ initiative, with particular reference to the wholesale reorganization of communities and the lack of proper compensation to those owners and occupiers ultimately destined to lose their homes, were to be built into the system once again in relation to many of the so called ‘Pathfinder Schemes’ initiated by former Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott‘s lumbering Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions during the early years of the Blair government. One vital fact in relation to this similarly flawed scheme for supposedly regenerating communities, at vast cost to the tax payer in relation to what was actually provided, is that at the time when much of what Prescott was involved with was actually being implemented and followed through, Tony Blair’s Cabinet ‘Enforcer’, Jack Cunningham, was none other than the son, and ultimate successor, of ex-jailbird and disgraced former Chair of Durham County Council Andrew Cunningham.

In addition to the implementation of the highly controversial Pathfinder Schemes, in which former Northern Rock Chief Executive Leo Finn appears to have played a pivotal role, Prescott’s office were also responsible for the national upgrade of the entire social housing stock as part of the last Labour Government’s ‘decent homes standard’. This considered, it is perhaps significant that in Andrew Cunningham’s native County Durham Teesdale Housing Association appear to have been involved in a similarly corrupt scam of their own every bit as criminal in intention as the one that sent the former Chair of Durham County Council to jail back in nineteen seventy two.

According to the current Chair of Etherley Parish Council, he and his colleagues were informed that Teesdale Housing had planned to demolish a block of twelve flats on High Etherley‘s Red House Estate well before it had taken the funding to have eleven of them fully upgraded. As one would expect with a project of this kind, much of the money spent on the upgrade was to involve the installation of brand new gas fired central heating systems; complete with large quantities of copper piping of a specific quality and quantity to be of particular interest to professional criminals engaged in the kind of wholesale metal theft that has become an every day part of life in contemporary Britain. Given the alleged links between Andrew Cunningham’s one time Criminals’ Mayorality and a number of top level gangland hoods, it should come as little surprise that just over two years on from the 2010 upgrade of 56-67 Red Houses two sections of the block are completely uninhabitable as a direct result of the wholesale stripping of boilers, metal, fixtures and fittings by a network of criminals allegedly linked to a former Head of Housing at T.H.A.

Of further significance still perhaps is the fact that the current Head of Housing at Teesdale Housing Association, Diane Smith, was not only fully aware as early as July 2008 that a number of known criminals, who had been allocated properties in the block in breach of locally adopted housing policies previously implemented by the now defunct Teesdale District Council, were directly involved in the wholesale theft of metals from the surrounding district a full two years before the upgrade, but neither she nor the then Housing Officer responsible for the Red House Estate took any action whatsoever to ensure that tax payers’ money was properly protected. A digital sound file of a discussion between Diane Smith and Suzanne Bellas of T.H.A. in the company of a local resident activist, which took place on 1st July 2008 in relation to the above referred to matters and is currently lodged with Clark Willis Solicitors, Darlington, would appear to constitute incontrovertible evidence that this is indeed the case.

Given the fact that the Independent Housing Ombudsman Service has seen fit not to take any action whatsoever against Teesdale Housing, in spite of the large sums of money that appear to have been deliberately wasted by a number of key players within its management structure, it is perhaps significant that the previously referred to sound file was one of the pieces of hard evidence that the I.H.O.S. refused to look at. In a future posting we shall examine some of the proven links between Teesdale Housing Association and its parent organization Endeavour Housing with Cherie Blair; with particular reference to the legacy of Andrew Cunningham’s Criminals’ Mayorality in the former Bishopric. And, in so doing, we shall present hard evidence of Housing Association Staff providing cover stories for known criminals provably involved in metal theft from the vandalized flats at Red Houses.

A Bias Against the Complainant? Unsubstantiated Allegations Against Tenants Going Unaddressed?

With Swan Housing Association in the media spotlight over the current government investigation into embezzlement of Housing and Communities Agency grant funding, another aspect of the Swan Housing Corruption Scandal that has received somewhat less attention than perhaps it should have done, with particular reference to its dealings with the Independent Housing Ombudsman Service, has been the alleged ability of Swan Housing to make false and unsubstantiated allegations about its tenants which, when eventually proven to be false, it has not so far been forced to acknowledge or even address. Given the fact that housing associations have been granted a wide range of powers under the Anti-Social Behaviour Act 2003 which have the potential to enable them to take out injunctions against tenants who they deem to be troublesome, which can actually result in those tenants being deprived of their liberty, the case of a provably rogue housing association, which has been caught red handed falsifying documents in relation to Homes and Communities Agency Grant funding, but which has effectively escaped censure in relation to false and unsubstantiated allegations about its tenants which were later proven to have been unfounded, is an interesting case for examination indeed.

Given the potential for abuse in such matters, in a situation in which a corrupt housing officer was attempting to have a tenant unlawfully evicted by having them imprisoned, or, in a worse case scenario, having them locked up so that the property at which they resided could be plundered of their personal possessions whilst they themselves were incarcerated in relation to some trumped up charge, the failure of the Independent Housing Ombudsman to provide a proper series of checks and balances in relation to such matters appears to have exposed an unfortunate consequence of the winding up of the now defunct Tenants’ Services Authority in which Tenants Rights have been seriously compromised; as a direct result of what may well be widespread corrupt practice within the system right the way across the board. With housing association staff effectively being given a free rein to fabricate evidence against tenants and falsify documents in relation to grant funding simultaneously, as a direct result of the Housing Ombudsman’s failure to take appropriate action, Grant Shapps’s role in the affair should not go unnoticed: particularly as his own personal business dealings have come under such widespread public scrutiny in relation to some apparent corrupt practice of his own. And, in view of the additional the fact that it was his decision that led to the winding up of the Tenants’ Services Authority in the first place, an organization which had previously kept housing associations on the straight and narrow, it is worth asking the question as to whether or not the entire Social Housing Sector has since potentially been opened up to the possible depradations of organized criminals; both at national and local level.

It is fact that the situation with Swan Housing is not a single isolated incident. It is also fact that in Teesdale in County Durham the area has had an historic link with organized crime operating within local government since the nineteen fifties: a situation that was to result in the jailing of former Chair of Durham County Council, Andrew Cunningham, for his role in the Poulson Corruption Scandal, back in the nineteen seventies. It should therefore come as little or no surprise that Teesdale Housing Association, which succeeded the now defunct Teesdale District Council as the principal provider of  social housing right the way across Teesdale back in 2006, can be proven to have been involved in making similarly false allegations against its tenants when the issue of complaints to the Housing Ombudsman Service has come to the fore. In a recent letter to a serial complainant dispatched in January 2013 the Housing Ombudsman related allegations that had been made about a tenant, in relation to what they are alleged to have said, as if they were actually true; whilst simultaneously making no attempt to investigate the the actuality of what had or hadn’t been said.

‘At a meeting on 5th September 2012 you stated ‘I get what I want,’ the Ombudsman falsely alleged, ‘by constantly harassing, bullying and being a nuisance until I get my own way….that is how I get my own way.’ In reality, however, what had been said during the course of the above related conversation was something entirely different and related to a question that a member of Teesdale Housing Association Staff had asked in relation to another complainant. The member of staff in question had asked why a number of related agencies had successfully managed to sideline an attempt by an old age pensioner, himself a repeat victim of crime, to have a CCTV camera, that he had bought at his own personal expense, installed at the rear of his bungalow to prevent his garden shed from being broken into. What was in fact said related to the accused telling the previously mentioned member of staff that the reason he had managed to get cameras installed at his property related to his ability to use e-mail and other modern methods to communicate with the correct government departments or else expose corruption or general lack of co-operation within those elements responsible for dealing with such matters within the system. A sound recording of what was actually said, to which the Chair of Etherley Parish Council and other interested parties have been given access, is currently lodged with Clark Willis Solicitors, Darlington, and is likely to be referred to a number of other relevant individuals and organizations, both at national and international level, in due course.

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Corruption in Housing: A National Overview

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With the imminent implementation of the much hated ‘Bedroom Tax’ right the way across England, the current situation in the Social Housing Sector has entered the mainstream political dialogue and consciousness on a level largely unseen since the introduction of the ‘Right to Buy’ scheme under Margaret Thatcher’s government more than three decades ago. With more attention being given to Welfare Reform, and the Bedroom Tax in particular, by street level political commentators and activists on the Left of the political spectrum at present than to any other legislative development since the much hated Poll Tax of the early nineteen nineties, some of the most significant changes in how social housing in the country is organized, which have taken place in the last few years, have surprisingly gone largely unnoticed. Indeed, in spite of the fact that since the Coalition Government came to power in 2010 constraints upon social landlords generally, which had hitherto forced them to act and to operate within the law, have effectively been almost entirely removed altogether, very little as regards the overall effects of this have found their way into the mainstream media.

One of the principal human agencies responsible for a whole range of changes to the system, which have led to, amongst other things, the winding up of the Tenants’ Services Authority, which, following its replacement by the Housing and Communities Agency in April 2012 had been responsible for, amongst other things, keeping Housing Associations on the straight and narrow, was the controversial Conservative M.P. Grant Shapps, whose business activities in America in particular have led to calls in Parliament for a proper Police investigation.  Amongst the allegations being circulated with regard to what basically amounts to Mr. Shapps’s apparent ‘sharp practice’  in relation to an internet business that he was running under the name of Michael Green, is supposed to have involved what is claimed to have been breach of copyright on a grand scale.

This considered, it is perhaps significant that since the demise of the Tenants’ Services Authority the Homes and Communities Agency have found themselves embroiled in a serious corruption scandal apparently linked to the embezzlement of H.C.A. Grant Funding by Swan Housing. Interestingly enough, this is not the first time that Swan Housing have managed to attract controversy to themselves in relation to what is alleged to have been a less than ethical methodology in their business dealings. A valid case in point revolves around what seem to have been a series of interesting, and some would say inappropriate, connections between certain individuals directly involved with Swan Housing and the Independent Housing Ombudsman Service which some complainants have claimed has prevented the latter organization from acting independently. In the next posting we shall examine the wider implications of these allegations, some of which are elaborated upon more fully in the embedded YouTube link below, in considerably greater depth; with particular reference to the South West Durham area.

Corruption Busters Durham South West

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Corruption in Planning, Housing, and Policing in County Durham: and its overall effect on both national and local government administration in Post War Britain from 1948 until the present day. A response from Durham to the groundbreaking work of Nigel Ward and his team from Whitby in North Yorkshire.

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