Barlow's Beef : Another monumental blunder from Cheshire East


Here we go again.

You have to feel a touch of sympathy for all those hard working employees at Cheshire East. They get tarred with the same brush as the council and it's really nothing to do with them at all.

If your boss made one embarrassing blunder after another he/she would probably get fired. In Cheshire East they get promoted.

Having only just recovered from the Lyme Green debacle, Physio Gate and the deeply embarrassing spectacle of launching two new commercial ventures on the same week the previous one closed with enormous losses comes another monumental blunder.

Councillor Sam Gardener, who was initially the Conservative-run council's deputy cabinet member for finance and assets, resigned after revelations that he failed to disclose that he was barred from being a company director when CEC gave him responsibility for the local authority's finances in May 2015.

The ban relates to charity donations that failed to reach the intended charity but were transferred into the account of a company in which Mr Gardener was a director. That company subsequently went into liquidation owing creditors £440,000.

You might think it prudent for any prospective cabinet member, let alone one involved in finance, to be closely vetted for any fiscal irregularities but apparently Cheshire East did not.

"I was not obliged under Council rules to disclose the matter of my disqualification as a company director when interviewed for my Cabinet position and the disqualification is in no way incompatible with my duties as a portfolio holder," said Councillor Gardener.

Mmm... let me consider that for a moment: disqualification from being a company director for financial irregularities is 'in no way incompatible with my duties as a portfolio holder.'

Councillor Gardener may have had some difficulty selling that to taxpayers (had they known).

So how did CEC react on discovering his disbarment?

"The Council and the residents of Cheshire East have lost the services of a highly talented, sensitive and dynamic young man who has chosen to step down," said Council Leader Rachel Bailey.

It sounds somewhat reminiscent of the statement made by managing director of the CEC loss-making CoSocius who claimed the company 'made progress in a number of areas and contributed to the success of other areas.'

(What he didn't say was that his company somehow managed to lose £800K of taxpayers' cash in only eleven months trading and notch up a pension deficit of £8.5M.)

Only in Cheshire East could the resignation of a cabinet member disqualified from being a company director for financial irregularities be described as a 'highly talented, sensitive and dynamic young man.'

Clearly Councillor Bailey was not one of those creditors left with debts of £440K who I suspect would have an altogether different opinion.

I really don't know what point of reference the CEC leadership uses for evaluating its performance. Undeterred by its mammoth losses at CoSocius they launch two new identical trading companies and describe a disbarred company director as a 'dynamic young man.'

Residents financing this political circus may use another vocabulary.

The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of

Barlows Beef, Vic Barlow


Here's what readers have had to say so far. Why not add your thoughts below.

Dominic Brown
Tuesday 19th April 2016 at 7:28 am
I just can't understand why somebody who has mishandled charity funds and been punished for it would want or even think they were suitable for holding public office. At the very least he should have waited until he was no longer barred to be a company director. Bad judgement on his part.

As for the response from the council leadership I think at best it's naive. I think most of the public are wondering why he is still a councillor.
Alan Brough
Tuesday 19th April 2016 at 8:33 am
I think that, in view of the profligate waste of our money by CE Council, Rachel Bailey has (by making that ridiculous statement) proved herself wholly unsuitable, unqualified and undeserving of the office she holds.

She should stand down
Colin Moore
Tuesday 19th April 2016 at 1:08 pm
There's a common habit amongst these people who cheat - they confuse rules and the law with right and wrong and do things which are clearly wrong whilst also carefully and deliberately circumventing the rules or the law. This does NOT make what they do right - so don't bother writing to me and saying "he did nothing wrong," because that would make you as bad as him.
Bob Bracegirdle
Wednesday 20th April 2016 at 12:16 am
Help. Leicestershire seems the height of probity and common sense in comparison but I'm moving back to Cheshire!! What can we do?
Pete Taylor
Friday 29th April 2016 at 2:34 pm
Congratulations to Council "Leader" Rachel Bailey for getting CEC back into pole position on page 18 of today's issue of Private Eye. This page is entitled "Rotten Boroughs" and regularly featured the antics of Rachel's immediate predecessor Michael Jones; he was always going to be a hard act to follow but Rachel looks to be off to a fine start.