30 September 2013

Answers to Correspondents: Ethical Business Practices and a Cuckoo Company

This is a postscript to the earlier article Dirty Tricks Department: Stevens Family Values

At 12:42 on 30 September 2013, the following comment was received about the above article:
"I'm slightly confused by this.
I'm a big reader here, but on this one I must say i'm lost. Can I get some clarification:
James Stevens has registered a company. But how is that illegal.
Also, if Nicki Williams is trading as Tall Poppies Consultants LTD... But hasn't registered the company to begin with, surely it is she who is in the wrong here, not James? Can I just ask why the Editor has not picked up on this point?"
The reply to the above would not fit into a standard comments box, so it is published here instead.


HPT Editor replies:


Thank you for your comment.

In the UK, every business has a formal legal structure.  There are several different legal structures to choose from.  These include: Sole Trader; Limited Liability Partnership; Unlimited Partnership; Private Limited Company; Public Limited Company.

The two business structures that are relevant to this matter are Sole Trader and Private Limited Company.

Ms Nicki Williams was a sole trader, with the trading name of Tall Poppies Consultants.

So far as can be established, this business was going to be incorporated.  The business name would then be, with effect from the date of incorporation, Tall Poppies Consultants Limited.  The business structure would then be private limited company, again with effect from the date of incorporation.

For reasons that only the Stevens family of New Mills can give an explanation for, a newly created limited company was registered at Companies House on 26 July 2013.  It was formed by James Alexander Stevens of that family, with himself as sole director and no company secretary.  The name that he chose to use for the new company was Tall Poppies Consultants Ltd.

Susan Stevens is the (currently suspended from work) town clerk in the town of New Mills, and mother of James Alexander Stevens.  The father/husband is Alistair Stevens, who stood for Parliament in this constituency at the last general election.  It is not clear who is the brains of the outfit.

From the above date (26 July 2013), if Ms Williams still wishes to incorporate her HR business, she will have to use a different form of words for the new limited company.  There are several million registered limited companies active in the UK, so these subtle, slight name differences between companies are not unusual.

Every limited company has a unique company registration number.  Ms Williams would be well advised to ensure this number is clearly shown on every document of the new limited company, along with its registered office address.  The registered office address can be different from the trading address.

James Stevens taking it upon himself to form and register a 'cuckoo in the nest' company using the name Tall Poppies Consultants Ltd is not illegal.

It is weird, and it is very strange behaviour to be sure, and it's not what any normal personality would conceive of, even less carry through into action, and one would think that a 25-year old man would have more important things to attend to, and given all of the circumstances the act is ethically dubious and morally questionable, and it may even be a signifier of stalker tendency or latent mental health issues. But it's not illegal.

Here are the commercial laws of this country that are now relevant to James Alexander Stevens:

If James Alexander Stevens attempts to pass off this business as anything even remotely to do with Nicki Williams, then that would be illegal. (Common law tort: passing off.)

James Alexander Stevens is now under a legal duty to promote the success of the new limited company Tall Poppies Consultants Ltd (Section 172 of the Companies Act 2006).

Stating a false occupation on an official Companies House form is against the law.  Indeed any statement to Companies House that is misleading, false or deceptive in any material particular is a criminal offence. This is Section 1112 of the Companies Act 2006.

James Alexander Stevens made the material false statement to Companies House, in writing, that he is a HR Consultant.

The punishment available to the Court upon conviction under Section 1112 above is imprisonment up to two years, or a fine, or both.

We shall end with Dostoevsky, words from over a century ago:


Update

As at 1 October 2013, Companies House shows that Tall Poppies Consultants Learning Training Development Limited has been registered with company number 8712571.  This is the HR company that is genuinely associated with Ms Nicki Williams.

28 September 2013

Dirty Tricks Department: Stevens Family Values


Receiving occasional abusive comments and the odd hate mail are par for the course when a blog becomes successful. Or at least widely read, as this one is.

For someone to use false names, and for that same someone to make false statements to the authorities of this country, is crossing the line, however.

Who would do such a thing?  More to the point, what is the intimate connection between that behaviour and the corrupt goings-on inside New Mills town hall that have recently been exposed?

A mysterious event from a recent New Mills town council meeting has now become more clearly understandable. When a bill was due to be paid by New Mills town council to Nicki Williams, a HR consultant who trades as Tall Poppies Consultants, a councillor became very agitated about the matter. He made the ridiculous - and wholly false - assertion that the payment was illegal.

The basis of the councillor's assertion appeared to be that the cheque was made out to Ms Williams, but the stub showed that it was in respect of Tall Poppies Consultants.

However since Tall Poppies Consultants was a trading name of the individual concerned, the two names are synonymous from the point of view of a business payment being made.

The over-excited councillor was Alistair Stevens.  Cllr Stevens is married to Susan Stevens, the town clerk in New Mills who is currently suspended from work whilst the council's disciplinary process takes its course.

The business and livelihood of Ms Nicki Williams is Tall Poppies Consultants. The nature of that business is human resources consultancy ('HR'). Tall Poppies Consultants has been appointed by the town council.

Ms Williams' intention was to incorporate the business as Tall Poppies Consultants Ltd, a limited company.

A new limited company with the name of Tall Poppies Consultants Ltd was indeed officially incorporated. The incorporation documents were filed at Companies House on 26 July 2013.

But who incorporated it, thus taking the limited company name of 'Tall Poppies Consultants Ltd' away from Ms Nicki Williams?  Why, a member of the Stevens family.

The sick mentality behind this stunt is to deprive Ms Williams' business of its legal incorporation.

The vindictiveness and spite is breathtaking.

In the eyes of the Stevens family of New Mills, what is the 'crime' of Ms Nicki Williams? Well, she is the HR consultant who was brought in to investigate staff wrong-doing at New Mills town council, and oversee the necessary processes and improvements.

Obviously, in the eyes of some of the Stevens family of New Mills - the suspended town clerk of New Mills being Mrs Susan Stevens - taking on this assignment for the town council means that Ms Nicki Williams must be punished.

Who is the sole shareholder and director of the newly formed limited company Tall Poppies Consultants Ltd?

It is a person called James Alexander Stevens.

James Alexander Stevens, who prefers to be called 'Jamie', is the oldest offspring of councillor Alistair Stevens and the suspended town clerk Susan Stevens.

Jamie Stevens' ambition is to one day be a primary school teacher.  However, his false statements and liking of using false identities to make statements are now likely to fatally count against his ambition.

If Jamie Stevens stops now and apologises, he may be able to rescue the situation from the point of view of his future ambition.  If he carries on this way, then no parent will tolerate having their precious child in the care of such an individual.

False statement? False identity?  Back that up, Mr Editor, or face the wrath of Stevens!

So, regarding false statement, when he registered the limited company Tall Poppies Consultants Ltd Jamie Stevens told Companies House that his occupation is "HR Consultant".  At the date of the incorporation of the company, he was of course no such thing.

Regarding false identity, when an item of hate mail came in to High Peak Transparency - sent to the site using the email account of Steven Haslehurst of Isaac Way in Manchester - upon investigating the email it was quickly revealed that the actual author of the email was - yes, you've guessed it - Jamie Stevens.

"What's for tea mother?  Secrets and lies?"


Update

As at 1 October 2013, Companies House shows that Tall Poppies Consultants Learning Training Development Limited has been registered with company number 8712571.  this is the HR company that is genuinely associated with Ms Nicki Williams.

18 September 2013

Parish Notices, or First Local Councillor To Orbit The Moon


We've been in receipt of various threats over the years, and the editor has been locked up, interviewed by the police and so on, all over articles that have been published concerning what goes on in local politics. Not one of the threats or actions has ever succeeded.

High Peak Transparency published its first article in April 2009.  This was about a local youth shelter, made of garish, modern materials, that was proposed by some Labour Party councillors to be put up without planning permission in a conservation area.

This first article was entitled Gimme Shelter. Or the lesser-known 'Don't Gimme Shelter'.

In HPT’s early years the readership used to roll along at a few hundred page-views per month.

After the current sequence of articles started it reached 3,000 page-views per month, then 4,000, then 5,000.  The monthly readership has steadily climbed.  For the last two months it has averaged over 6,000 page-views per month.

The current series of articles has concerned activities inside New Mills town hall in the High Peak. As at 19:20 today, the readership of this site stands at 6,434 page-views in the last calendar month.

The current series of articles has been characterised by town councillors in New Mills contacting the site with regular cease and desist requests. They have been saying ‘Please stop saying things about the town clerk’, ‘Stop mentioning the town clerk on your blog’, ‘Do not refer to the town clerk’, and so on.

The efforts of town councillors to protect the town clerk of New Mills have been categorical, consistent, and very persistent.  They have come from various different councillors.

In response, the editor has been at pains to repetitively point out to town councillors the following facts:

1. We live in a free country.

2. Freedom of speech is a birthright of every Englishman (and woman, obviously).

3. Exposing dishonesty, corruption or incompetence in any public body is a civic duty of every citizen.

4. There is no conceivable way that New Mills town council is even remotely responsible for any of the content of this site.  It may as well try for a lunar landing, or attempt to enact a by-law requiring homosexuals to wear blue hats.

However, following the town councillors’ regular, persistent efforts on behalf of the town clerk as above, the advisers appointed by New Mills town council to help rectify the town hall problems and clean up the mess have contacted this site.

After careful consideration, and in all of the circumstances concerning recent events, we think it right to publish the following statement:

“High Peak Transparency’s reason for existence is to make sure that any inappropriate practice, or unacceptable or unreasonable behaviour within any public body in the High Peak area, whether by councillors or employees, is exposed where there is or has been any wrong-doing.

“Whilst our views and intentions in this respect remain unchanged, we have been contacted by New Mills Town Council.

“We have been made aware that if we were to continue with the above, there is a possibility it might impact on bringing about a fair and reasonable outcome to recent events within New Mills Town Council.  It is for this reason that High Peak Transparency will not be posting any comments in relation to any employees of that council until after it has been established what the determination of those events has been.”

13 September 2013

Behind Closed Doors: Criminal Activity

The crisis of corruption and dishonesty inside the New Mills town hall would appear to be reaching its climax.

The current body-count from the crisis is five:  Councillors Tony Ashton and Alan Barrow have resigned from the town council. Dishonest Ian Huddlestone resigned earlier.  A clerical employee - and would-be Heritage Centre administrator - has been suspended.  The town clerk Susan Stevens has been suspended.

The locks on the town hall have been changed.

Although an end to this corruption crisis would now seem to be in sight, some final kicks and rattles are still coming from the corpse.

Councillor Alistair Stevens

For example, the last town council meeting* ended in chaos.  This was due to one councillor's persistent breaking of this country’s anti-corruption laws.

The disruption took place after the public were excluded from the council meeting.  It was caused by a councillor’s refusal to leave the council chamber so that a particular matter could be discussed by the council. The councillor has a financial interest in the matter.

That councillor is Alistair Stevens.  He is an estate agent in Royton, Oldham.  He was also Parliamentary candidate for High Peak at the last general election.

We will first examine the law concerning local government corruption, and then investigate how Cllr Alistair Stevens has got on in public life since standing for election as our MP in 2010.

What the law says

The principal anti-corruption law concerning local government in this country is Sections 26 to 37 of the Localism Act 2011 (‘the Act’).

Section 27 of the Act requires every local authority - by law - to promote and maintain high standards of conduct by its members.

The councillors of both New Mills town council and High Peak Borough Council are subject to the above legal requirement.

Cllr Alistair Stevens is a member of New Mills town council, which is a specified local authority under the Act.

Section 29 of the Act requires every councillor to set out all their pecuniary interests on a register. This register of interests must be published.

Cllr Stevens’ very obvious pecuniary interest in his spouse’s well-paid employment by New Mills town council - and their extensive pension associated with the job - is recorded on the published register. The entry is signed and dated by Cllr Stevens himself.

How the system is monitored - or not

New Mills town council is in the area of High Peak.  The appointed monitoring officer for standards in local government - for both New Mills and High Peak - is Mark Trillo.

The monitoring officer role occupied by Mr Trillo is paid nearly £140,000 per year.

If the monitoring officer does not perform, or is slack, or lazy, or is lacking in the necessary curiosity, tenacity and investigative qualities, or simply does not take his responsibilities seriously enough, that encourages dishonesty and council corruption to take hold.

Also, in the above circumstances, such a monitoring officer is not providing the necessary value for money: the large amount of money that he takes from the public purse.

Where a monitoring officer is not up to the job, and a criminal offence has been committed by a councillor, the police are on hand.

What Councillor Alistair Stevens has been doing

Firstly, Cllr Alistair Stevens has taken part in town council meetings where his wife’s role, conditions of employment etc at the council were discussed.

Secondly, Cllr Alistair Stevens has taken part in town council discussions about which HR consultants are to be appointed by the council to examine the role and conduct of his wife in the town hall.

Thirdly, Cllr Alistair Stevens has been trying to get the town council to spend public money on solicitor’s bills to threaten this website, in respect of his wife.

(These legal threats are being made against High Peak Transparency and its editor because we have exposed the facts that the town clerk of the town of New Mills - Cllr Stevens’ spouse - is a personally dishonest individual and is professionally incompetent for that important public role. Exposure of those important facts is a matter of clear public interest.)

The criminal offences

Now let us see exactly how clear is the legal prohibition on the above corrupt activities:

Under Section 31 (4) of the Act, if a member of a council has a pecuniary interest in a matter that is about to be discussed by a local council then that member - Councillor Alistair Stevens in this case - must not:
(a) participate in any discussion of the matter at the meeting;
(b) participate in any vote taken on the matter at the meeting.
The law that governs these matters is in plain English.

This is a link to the relevant Standards Chapter of the Localism Act 2011, which is published on the government's Statute Law Database.

Conviction

Because a criminal act has been committed here, any person - whether a council monitoring officer, a councillor, or an ordinary citizen - who has the necessary evidence can now report this matter to the police.

The necessary evidence:

(1)  A listing of all of the relevant recent council - and committee/sub-committee - agenda items and dates where Cllr Stevens took any part in the discussion.

(2)  A list of the names of honest, upstanding citizens - which of course includes councillors - who were present in the council chamber when he did so.

(3)  A printout from the council website of Cllr Stevens' pecuniary interests register form, including his wife's employment at the council at the time of the offence(s), and his signature on the form.

The police can then take the necessary evidence statements from some of the individuals on the list at (2) above, with a view to prosecution of the criminal offence(s) that have been committed.

The criminal penalties

How seriously does parliament take this kind of law-breaking in local councils?  This can be gauged by the criminal penalties that it has imposed for any breaches.

For each individual offence, the penalties are set out in Section 34 of the Act:

The Court may impose disqualification from being a councillor for a term up to five years.

A fine of up to £5,000.

If Councillor Alistair Stevens continues, then each time he takes part in any future New Mills town council discussion or vote that concerns his wife while she is the paid town clerk, he commits a new criminal offence.

Each separate offence committed is subject to the above penalties.

All cases in which the person is found guilty result in a criminal conviction.





* Full town council meeting held on 9 September 2013

01 September 2013

Dishonest Councillor Forced To Resign

Dishonest Ian Huddlestone (third from left)
Dishonest Labour Party councillor Ian Huddlestone has resigned from the local town council.

This was long overdue.  Among other things, Huddlestone asked the town clerk of New Mills to lie to the other councillors for him about a local property.

The town clerk, Susan Stevens, did what Huddlestone asked.  She composed and sent a falsified letter to the other members of the council.  To do this, she used the town council's official letterhead.

Mrs Stevens simultaneously sent out another letter containing the true facts, but this letter was sent in secret, only to Huddlestone.

As a result of the above corruption in public life Mrs Stevens' job has been placed in very serious - possibly terminal - jeopardy.  She is currently suspended from work.

Dishonest Ian Huddlestone has two other roles in public life.  First, he's a postman.  Second, as a member of the High Peak Labour Party, he chairs the Regeneration Select Committee at High Peak Borough Council.

That's right.  The High Peak area has a dishonest postman - and corrupt councillor - in charge of its important regeneration plan.


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