Documents sent by post to Francis Maude re Stockport Council

Sheila Oliver made this Freedom of Information request to Cabinet Office This request has been closed to new correspondence. Contact us if you think it should be reopened.

Cabinet Office did not have the information requested.

Dear Cabinet Office,

Some weeks ago I sent some documents by post to Francis Maude for the attention of the new Transparency Board. Please may I see any letters, minutes, emails, handwritten notes of meetings or telephone conversations or any other written document whatsoever regarding what action Mr. Maude intends to take in this serious case involving the mismanagement of several millions of pounds and failure by Stockport Council to release details about this seriously overbudget project for possibly five years. This cover-up is ongoing. Mr Maude promised a shake up of people who waste public money.

It is regarding the Harcourt Street school to be built on a still gassing former toxic waste dump - a site with arsenic, brown asbestos and lead on it, the cost of which rose from £5.5 million in October 2005, to £7.5 million in December 2005 to £8.6 million in June 2006 to £10 million, and that is before they admitted to the extensive contamination on the land which they tried to leave in situ.

I very much look forward to hearing from you.

Kind regards

Sheila Oliver

Yours faithfully,

Sheila Oliver
Local Environmental, Human Rights and Freedom of Information Campaigner

Cabinet Office

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CABINET OFFICE REFERENCE: FOI303731

Dear Ms Oliver,

Thank you for your request for information. Your request was received on
18/07/2010 and is being dealt with under the terms of the Freedom of
Information Act 2000.

In some circumstances a fee may be payable and if that is the case, I will
let you know the likely charges before proceeding.

If you have any queries about this letter, please contact me. Please
remember to quote the reference number above in any future communications.

Yours sincerely,

FOI Team

Cabinet Office

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Dear Cabinet Office,

Thank you. Since sending the documents to Mr Maude, brown asbestos has been discovered on the site. Stockport Council and Greater Manchester Geological Unit (part funded at that time by the Council) said the site had been shown not to be contaminated and that they had complied with BS10175. Both comments were untrue, brown asbestos has been found on the site, which is having to be removed by hand by a specialist team of asbestos experts. How much this is costing is anyone's guess, but had they complied with BS 10175 the contamination would have been found four years ago and not last month.

If they build the school on the site and brown asbestos fibres are vented out with the landfill gases in the venting ducts which are to be situated in the school building and playground areas, then the 550 primary school children and 50 babies will be guaranteed to develop cancer. If they find brown asbestos fibres within the vented landfill gases, then I assume the new school will have to close immediately with the waste of £10 million of council taxpayers'/taxpayers' money.

These are very serious issues. Why on earth build a school on an unstable, former toxic waste dump when there was another safer, cheaper, more popular site available? I can guess! I look forward to hearing from you.

Kind regards

Sheila

Cabinet Office

1 Attachment

Dear Ms Oliver

Please find attached the response to your FOI request dated the 18^th July
2010.

Kind regards

Amalie

Amalie Kjaergaard

Digital Engagement

Cabinet Office

020 7276 1272

The Cabinet Office computer systems may be monitored and communications
carried on them recorded, to secure the effective operation of the system
and for other lawful purposes.

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Communications via the GSi may be automatically logged, monitored and/or
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Dear Cabinet Office,

So, what you are saying is that when abuses involving many millions of pounds are reported to the Cabinet Secretary, Francis Maude, enclosing documentary evidence, then nothing whatsoever is done about it? What about the armchair auditors we are all supposed to now be following the disbanding of the Audit Commission? I shall ask again in another month to see if anything has yet been done. Maybe the Condem Alliance is all talk, cutting jobs but not dealing with financial abuses. I shall keep asking via this site until something is done.

Kind regards

Yours faithfully,

Sheila Oliver

Dear Cabinet Office,

I forgot to say I sent it to the new Transparency Board too, which is dedicated to openness in public finances. Something very, very strange is going on at Stockport Council, which they are keeping totally secret and have been for years. Some basic details below but there are other abuses:-

I have tried for possibly three years to report a serious waste of council taxpayers money. I tried asking council meeting questions of the Leader of Stockport Council, Dave Goddard, for over a year
without success, I reported it to senior officers and Executive Councillors at Stockport Council without success, I reported it to my MP, Andrew Stunell without success, I reported it to the District Auditor without success and to the Chief Exec of the Audit
Commission without success. Stockport Council has a Fraud and Financial Irregularities policy, which they refuse to comply with - even the Director of Finance, Steve Houston. I have been told by the Audit Commission that the Council doesn't have to comply with
its own policies.

I may be wrong, but it all seems a rum do to me and if even one of those mentioned above had actually addressed the issue, I wouldn't be writing this now.

In October 2005 Stockport Council announced they would build a school on a former toxic waste dump which would cost £5.5 million. By December 2005 the cost was £7.5 million for a 3443m2 school at £1650m2. By February 2006 the cost was to be £8 million. By July
2006 it was £8.2 million with a £2.40 million funding shortfall. The proposal went before the planning committee in July 2007 with no mention of the funding problems. The cost then rose to £8.6 million and up to £9.9 million. This was before they admitted the site was contaminated with lead, arsenic and brown asbestos. Brown asbestos is currently being hand picked out of the site by asbestos experts. How much that is costing I am not allowed to know. The
Council has been told by the Information Commission that they should be answering questions regarding this but they are maintaining secrecy. In the project initiation document it was stated to be a risky venture, but there was never a Plan B, although there was a cheaper, safer site. As an explanation to the
Executive Committee of Stockport Council as to why the cost had risen exponentially the following was put forward.

The cost had risen in part because the school had increased from the original 2600m2 to 3185m2 at a cost of £1450m2, which they put at £1,050,000. 3185 - 2600 = 585m2 x £1450 = £848,250. No-one will explain this apparent arithmetical error of a quarter of a million
pounds. What about the original 3443m2 size of the proposed school @ £1650. None of this makes sense!

Something doesn't add up and I would like to report it to someone who will listen. The Council won't, my local MP, won't, the District Auditor won't and the Chief Exec of the Audit Commission (now defunct) won't.

Yours faithfully,

Sheila Oliver

Cabinet Office

1 Attachment

Dear Ms Oliver

Please find attached a reply to your email dated 16th August 2010.

Kind regards

Amalie

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Dear Cabinet Office,

The Audit Commission have proved to be a waste of space in this case and it was easier to get information from the Ministry of Defence regarding the Trident Nuclear Weapons project than to get any sort of response from the District Auditor.

I sent the information to the Transparency Board addressed to Francis Maude. I think this is relevant to the Transparency Board; do you want me to send it again? I also sent it to Eric Pickles and have asked what he has done about it too. If the reply comes back they the Dept of Communities and Local Government can't find the documents either, then we can assume that communications from taxpayers are routinely filed in the bin.

Kind regards

Yours faithfully,

Sheila Oliver

Dear Cabinet Office,

Is my local MP Andrew Stunell and Junior Minister at the Department of Communities and Local Government having a laugh here? I repeatedly
asked him to make Stockport Council reply to questions, which they
have avoided for about four years:-

http://www.libdemvoice.org/andrew-stunel...

I shall ask him again for help and post his response, or lack of
it, on this site.

Have a look at this frightening You Tube clip of the brown asbestos
"experts" languidly and unscienficially removing brown asbestos
from the school site:-

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b0rCPnP5H9o

Yours faithfully,

Sheila Oliver

Sheila Oliver (Account suspended) left an annotation ()

I don't think that Andrew Stunell link worked. Try this:-

http://www.libdemvoice.org/andrew-stunel...

Cabinet Office

Dear Ms Oliver,

Thank you for your email of 17 October regarding your local MP Andrew Stunell.

The Freedom of Information (FOI) Act provides the requestor with an access right to recorded information. Your request is not a request for information. We would of course be happy to re-consider the question asked should it be re-phrased as a request for recorded information. A 'valid' request under the FOI Act is one that asks to see recorded information held by the public authority, such as information on a specific issue, or process, not one that asks for opinion or seeks answers or calculations etc.

Kind regards,

FOI Team
Cabinet Office

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Dear Cabinet Office,

Thank you for your reply. I shall do exactly as you say.

Out of interest no-one will send their children to this school because this is how the "experts" removed the brown asbestos:-

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b0rCPnP5H9o

Basically two bored chaps with bin bags and a stick not following even basic safety precautions for themselves never mind making the site safe for 550 primary school pupils and 78 babies. The school is not big enough either and they are having to change the nursery school on the site to a nursery class because it is not big enough. The ConDems new plans for extra nursery care for children in deprived areas means that it is not even more - not big enough.

This will be massively politically embarrassing for the ConDem government to have one of the only schools to be built in the country unusable and the court cases about this will, no doubt, go on for decades.

As mentioned, I shall re-submit and await the response with interest.

Kind regards

Sheila Oliver

Cabinet Office

Dear Ms Oliver,

Thank you for your email below and I apologise for the delay in responding.

Just to confirm, we will take no further action until we receive a rephrased request for recorded information.

Kind regards,

FOI Team
Cabinet Office

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Dear Cabinet Office,

Thanks for your response. I have been promised a reply from Eric Pickles' Department regarding all the very serious goings on here. Andrew Stunell, Junior Housing Minister,and the chap credited with bringing in this social cleansing policy, was told of all the illegalities and dangerous action endangering the lives of 550 children and 78 babies and I am just waiting to hear from the Department of Communities and Local Government what action he took over this. If I get a reasonable response from them, then I might not have to bother you further. For information, please see this You Tube clip of brown asbestos being removed from the school site by bored "experts" - two blokes with bin bags and a stick - one of whom can't be bothered to keep his own respirator on, so what hope that he did his job properly to safeguard the children?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b0rCPnP5H9o
"experts" clear brown asbestos from the Harcourt School site.

Parents are quite understandably refusing to send their children to the new school. It will be multi-million pound white elephant and I might get back to you then too. There must be some action taken against such rogue councils which waste millions of pounds of taxpayers' money.

Kind regards

Sheila