A Break From the Scandals!

Don’t worry, we’re not bombarding you with more scandalous shenanigans at Broxtowe Borough Council, rather using the attention this blog is getting right now to promote a great event for a good cause.

On 28th February, the (Beeston-based) writer Graham Caveney will be at Middle Street 9781509830671the boy with the perpetual nervousness_13_jpg_254_400Resource Centre talking about his critically acclaimed memoir, The Boy With The Perpetual Nervousness.

A tale of the grooming and sexual abuse that Caveney endured by his Catholic School headmaster, this is no cliched slice of misery-lit but one of the most human, thoughtful books you’ll ever read. His candour and humour make this not just a book about abuse, but of growing up, of culture, and how we construct memory. When I read it last year I instantly proclaimed it a classic: a claim I still very much stand by.

I wrote a piece on Graham for the Nottingham UNESCO City of Literature website, which you can read here, and Jade Moore wrote an excellent piece for The Beestonian.

Your chance to hear Caveney read, and be joined in conversation with Deirdre O’Byrne is in aid of Middle Street Resource Centre. It’s promoted by the mighty Five Leaves Bookshop. 

The event is free, but donations welcome. Places can be reserved by dropping an email to  events@fiveleaves.co.uk . We will see you there!


Also, the Canalside Heritage Centre has an exhibition of some of the I Am Beeston photos from the past 18 months. The project, which I initiated after the EU Referendum and the reports of increased hostility for those from elsewhere, aims to introduce Beeston to itself, from those who have lived here all their lives, to those who have just made the town their home. The excellent Christopher Frost took up the idea when I couldn’t give it the time it needs, and his photographic skills and way with words have lent the project a new dimension: over 150 people have so far been featured.

Drop by and see a small selection of these pictures, and keep an eye on The Beestonian Facebook page for full updates and the archive of pics.


The new issue of the mag has just been released, find it in our usual stockists or read it online here.








Welcome to our latest dispatch from the Foster Avenue Frontline: with our final (for now) uncovering of the scandal, gross profligacy and cover-up rocking Broxtowe Borough Council right now.

So where are we? You are probably feeling a little concussed with the slew of stories we’re putting out, so let’s have a TL;DR overview of the past two stories.

  • Since 2015, Broxtowe Borough Council has been run by a hard-right bunch of Conservative ideologues who find the idea of public services – indeed, the council itself – contrary to their beliefs.
  • Policies have been implemented that degrade council services and put locals at risk.
  • Council workers who oppose these policies are ostracised and driven out. Those who remain are working under a strict code of silence, where morale is rock-bottom.
  • Councillors are using their positions, not for the public good, but to further their own private causes /friends.
  • These policies have proven to be counter-productive, and instead of keeping budgets low have led to a scandal that has seen hundreds of thousands of pounds of council tax pounds diverted into lawyers / temporary staff pockets.
  • The council, seeing these spiralling costs, are attempting to sell off assets – such as the Town Hall- that we have all owned for years, to make ends meet.
  • We think, that in light of the above, instead of getting rid of the Town Hall, it is time for Cllr. Richard Jackson to face up to his mistakes and resign.

So what have we for you this week? Read on, and find stories about the continued cover-up at Foster Avenue, how Cllr. Jackson has eroded scrutiny and democracy over the past three years and about another councillor abusing their position. However, we start with a severely serious issue: how the lives of tenants are being put directly at risk by council policy and mismanagement.

If you would like to help fund our investigative journalism, we’d be dead grateful. You can slip us a few quid (and many thanks for those who have done so already: it is gratefully received and will be spent solely on the hours we put into this) then please click here : https://www.paypal.me/BEESTONIA


Perhaps the most worrying detail is not the effect on staff morale but the effect on council duties. Whilst the council’s reports paint a rosy picture of gas safety a leaked Morgan Lambert report paints a far more unsettling picture. Between 2015 and 2016 Broxtowe Borough Council “[had] been in a position of high risk for several months.”

Whilst the report admits that “improvements have been made” it is at pains to stress that there are “still some high-risk areas.” From the start of the report, it was noted that Broxtowe’s gas servicing and repair procedure was “onerous and subject to human error.” The council’s trigger point for gaining access to properties reflected that of Gallion’s Housing Association, who were the first housing association to violate the Housing Regulator.

Several clear failings were identified in the council’s 10-month cycle. One property had not been accessed for 15 months, another for 13. The law requires properties to be inspected every 12 months. Beestonia has been reliably informed that there were at least four houses which had not been serviced for a number of years. Some of these properties were listed as wholly solar, with no record of gas attachment at all.

The Landlord Gas Servicing Record asks engineers to record carbon monoxide (a highly toxic gas) levels, however “it was evident that they are actually recording the CO2% readings.” “It [was] important to brief the engineers on [this] requirement.” “A complete overview of how the gas boiler programme is managed [needed] to be undertaken.”

According to a former operative approximately 100 houses were found to be non-compliant, whilst we have not seen documents to confirm this it pokes holes in the council’s reporting of 100% compliance. Moreover, our source suggests that despite this report dating to the end of 2016 it was not acted on for approximately 18 months and will take a further 9 months to implement all of its findings.

Our sources say that such a situation exposes Broxtowe to ‘a Grenfell-esque tragedy’. Of course, we’ll only know when it is too late.


Another week, another council meeting. Same sweltering building, same furious glares, same greying Councillors. Despite this, the room has a different ambience. I (Thomas) am the only person sat in the press gallery and a councillor takes time out to whisper “you’re not going to cause trouble, are you?” “Me,” I smile “Never.”

The Town Hall has dropped off the Agenda but it has been replaced by the budget. I have three questions I want answering, how much do the council believe the investigation has cost so far? How much more will it cost in future? And how long will it take? Thankfully, several Labour councillors have the same bee in their bonnet.

“We’ve heard estimates from some people in this room that this investigation is costing £400,000. Others say £500,000. If you read the local papers they’re saying £600,000,” Cllr Greg Marshall thunders, “Can you tell me how much has been spent? And how this compares to the original £38,000 that was agreed?”

“Obviously,” says Chief Executive, Ruth Hyde, “costs change. You have received monitoring reports as it progressed.”

The Interim Deputy Chief Executive starts to explain how spending has been accounted for. The provision of funds sits in the 2017/2018 budget and there are currently no funds allocated for 2018/2019. After being prodded by Cllr Dawn Elliott, Ruth Hyde explains that costs are paid from the normal legal fund, the Housing Revenue Account, and the general fund. The spiralling costs are now part of the overall over or underspend of the council.

This is one of the greatest difficulties with tracking how much has been spent.

A later debate discusses funding for the secret Ad-Hoc committee set up to deal with the findings of the investigation. The committee decides to delay the decision until the committee has delivered their findings, Cllr Dawn Elliott takes this opportunity to ask one of my questions.

“When will that be?”

“Cannot say,” says Ruth Hyde, “it’s not in our control.”

“Will it be this year? 2018/2019?”

“I cannot confirm.”

The resolution passes with Finance Chair, Paul Simpson saying that the decision on allowances will be made “on the delivery of their findings, whenever that is.” Which is reassuring.

“Do you have any estimate at all of the full cost?” Asks an exasperated Marshall.

“I will not share this figure with the public,” says Simpson.

I think he means me. And by extension, you.

“Is that because you do not know the figure or because it will never be made public?”

“The costs will be subject to a full audit,” interrupts Council Leader, Richard Jackson “and you will see how much our choices have saved.”. Italics our own.

I cannot wait.

The Deputy Chief Executive kindly offers to sit down the next morning and provide a figure of the costs so far. This was said on Thursday; the Councillors and I are still waiting.


How has this whole rotten, costly scandal evaded notice for so long? How has a (not particularly well covered-up) cover-up happened? Where is the scrutiny?

There are a couple of factors. Firstly, the strange death of local investigative journalism.

Once, the Nottingham Post (formally the Nottingham Evening Post) would have been over this story like a rash. Once, not so long ago, they would have a dedicated bunch of highly trained, well-resourced, contact-book crammed journalists keeping an eye all over the actions of the council.

Many of the whistle-blowing emails to us are prefaced with “I did send this to the Post 12 months ago…”. Once, they would have been read and reported on, followed up and splashed over front-pages and spreads. Alas, such days are long gone.

The Nottingham Post, like many elements of local media, has seen advertising and circulation drop significantly as online news sources usurp their exclusivity. This is not the fault of the journalists and editors involved, merely a symptom of the ongoing change in how we view news. Proper journalism is costly in terms of time and resources: why pore over five hundred pages of committee reports for the hope of one possible lead when you could write a dozen chunks of revenue-raising click-bait in the same time? This is not a criticism, we fully understand the economic realities but simply mention it to show the sad fact that scrutiny from the press has gone. Emboldened, councillors run rampant.

So how well does the council police itself? Well, some of the measures put in by Cllr Jackson would make a dictatorial regime blush.

Out go scrutiny committees. These were put in place for the council to monitor their own workings; Cllr Jackson abolished them. Why?

Staff at Broxtowe write to us telling of cover-ups, serious incidents not taking seriously, and a culture of secrecy that has made their job intolerable.

Once, Councillors could debate freely at full council meetings. This proved too uncomfortable for Cllr Jackson, and in 2016 that was abolished and replaced with a system that for full council councillors have to apply in advance, in writing, to ask a question. This stymies, and often outright extinguishes, any real debate.

Cllr.Jackson, as we have mentioned before, abhors free thinking and keeps his councillors tightly whipped. A disgruntled former councillor who served under him described this as ‘tantamount to bullying’.

Freedom of Information requests are not being dealt with in time, with a failure to reach the statutory response time. Chief Executive Ruth Hyde recently stated that this was due to the ‘complex nature of the requests”, which is really not an excuse. An FOI request we have made has gone well past the time allowed for a response, and as such, the case has been referred to the Information Commissioner. Another journalist working on a parallel story to ours reports that his requests are often betted away on the flimsiest of reason, or simply stonewalled. So it’s not just us.

The whole internal scandal rocking the council right now is masked behind a wall of secrecy. The secret committee that decides such things, the Ad Hoc Committee, is so secretive that members of the committee apparently don’t get to see the full documentation about the issues they have to subsequently pass judgment on: a bizarre situation that saw Labour members recuse themselves in disgust at the farce of it all.

We have a council that is rigid with stress, terrified that Cllr. Jackson and his cronies will identify them next to not being in-line with his scorched earth thinking. When stress counselling was offered to all staff in 2017, the applications to attend were so high they well exceeded the number of spaces available. As far as we’re aware, no further spaces were offered.


As writers, we always love a ridiculously fitting analogy. Tories shitting all over their wards? Metaphorically, seemingly so. Literally? Well, sort of.

We are not sure if Kimberley Councillor Shane Easom’s dog is a Tory or not, and we don’t want to smear a hapless canine with such an assumption without knowing what rosette he’d choose to wear. But if a dog is the responsibility of the owner, then when the councillor was caught on CCTV letting his dog poo on a local park and not clear it up, we can be confident of what level of affection Cllr Easom has for those he represents.

He ended up being hauled before the law and fined. But what other councillors have contempt for those they perceive as below them?

Step forward, once again, the Owens, the married councillors for Awsworth. Sources tell


The Owens, in their natural habitat.

us that they don’t feel their bins are collected quite how they’d like them, so have made a few demands. Their bins must be pushed back into his drive (despite anyone else only getting theirs put curbside), and made demands that the refuse workers change their round so as to not wake him too early. We are well aware that Councilor Owen needs his sleep, (see pic)  but surely this is the height of arrogance. Refuse workers feel ‘stressed, under pressure and hate how the Owen’s don’t see themselves as public servants, but Lords of the Manor.

We’ve had other stories about similar incidences of alleged abuse of power: we will report back once we get these stories verified.


We will be leaving this story for a few weeks now, while we work on processing information and carry out more interviews. We will also be getting this story to a national audience in a few days: follow me on @beeestonia for more details.

If you would like to help fund our investigative journalism, we’d be dead grateful. You can slip us a few quid (and many thanks for those who have done so already: it is gratefully received and will be spent solely on the hours we put into this: https://www.paypal.me/BEESTONIA

If you want to get in touch with us, we will treat all correspondence with utter confidentiality: send to mattgoold23@hotmail.com tpgroberts@outlook.com 




stephen miles

pic: copyright Stephen Miles






When we pressed ‘post’ on Part 1 of this story, we expected it would cause something of a stir, but we wildly underestimated the scale of this. The article became the best read of anything previously written in ten years of this blog, and suddenly our inboxes were full of more whistleblowers than a referee’s convention and more leaks than a Welsh Country Fair. We realise the latter works best said out loud.

We have a colossal amount of information to work through, including reams of complex documents; windingly strange anecdotes and highly-sensitive information of potential criminal activity that needs very careful handling before publication. We are very aware of how fast certain people would be to get this blog offline and sling us both in the libel courts, so please be patient while we sift the accumulated info. If you have written to us and we haven’t replied,  we will, in time. One of us is a full-time student and part-time worker; the other a full-time worker with a baby, a magazine and a raft of projects to nurture.

As such, we’ve set up a PayPal account for anyone wishing to help us along with this case. Donations will be spent solely on stuff around the story: generally, the vast amount of hot beverages we need to sip while writing, but also the odd bit of professional help. It will also cover the time and money we lose when we could both be working on our own freelance projects. If you could slip us a couple of quid to make this a little more sustainable, we will be hugely grateful. click below to do so:



“Do you know what it is like to go into work every day, and know that you might be made redundant?” She sips her coffee through pursed lips “To go in and try and serve the public when you know them upstairs want to get rid of you? It’s no way to live”.

Today’s source isn’t really telling us anything we haven’t heard before. She wrote to us after reading our article and felt she had to talk. We arrange to meet in a busy cafe and talk she does: of how her job has been ground down over the past couple of years, how she is forced to do more for less, and how she has to put up with a council that has lurched into dysfunction by a leader who is openly contemptuous of those he oversees: after all, “He voted to get rid of us that time didn’t he?”.

No, this isn’t new. We have heard this many times in the past week, as employees came forward in droves to tell us their experience of working at Broxtowe. Each contact came with a similar desperately sought condition: “this would be strictly confidential, yes? We’ve been threatened about speaking out before, and I can’t afford to lose my job”.

We assure each time that contact confidentiality is sacrosanct. Upsetting tales of jobs done under impossible conditions are related. Tears bud and flow. Coffee is sipped. Papers are handed over. Yesterday it was tea and an email address, the day before beer and a phone number. Days blur, stories pile in, notepads tot up anecdotes and evidence.

It seems that what we did last week was less shine a light, more burst a dam. The council troubles have been an open secret for some time, with both councillors and council workers having to work under an almost dictatorial code of silence. And as often is the case, once one person starts talking, they all do. Our inboxes are testimony to this.

Since our last article was published, stories of the systematic defunding and demoralising of the nation’s local authorities have hit the news. Council tax is set to rise this year due to central government starving councils of funding. Council -owned assets being sold off to make shortfalls, less the most vulnerable be denied care. Tory-controlled Northamptonshire County Council is effectively declaring bankruptcy. After 8 years of austerity, there is simply nothing left to cut.

Councils are teetering on the brink, and hundreds of thousands of workers devoted to public service see a bleak future. They also see the people they directly help suddenly plunged into peril. These are grim days, and a survey of local authority staff would probably turn up a similar sense of widespread discontent.

So what makes Broxtowe special? Well, while other council leaders try and mitigate against cuts, our own leader, Cllr Richard Jackson, seems to take great delight in grinding down a once-decent council. The current situation is to a great extent a self-inflicted wound that ordinary Broxtowe council tax payers are having to pay for. Our proud Town Hall, standing as a symbol of civic democracy for 80 years, is now having to be sold to pay for the destructive of Jackson and his acolytes, while a seemingly out -of-her-depth Chief Executive is caught frozen in the headlights.


“The original allegations are routine” they say, fixing me with a stern look, “the sort of thing you’d expect from any large organisation. It’s what happened afterwards that was the problem.” As documents pour from our desk it slowly becomes apparent how true that statement is. An independent investigation found “outdated” HR policies in need of “urgent review,” policies that were “inconsistent with current legislation.” Delegated powers are riddled with “ambiguities,” “inconsistencies” and “impracticalities.” Guidelines on conflict of interest are needed and implicitly the council has lost “staff confidence.”

Leaked emails show allegations flashing back and forward between departments accusing departmental heads of being “vindictive” and “malicious.” Legitimate grievances become buried in acres of personality clashes that stretch back to 2015. Weakness at the top allowed these squabbles to foment and develop to the point where council business is, according to one source, “crippled.” But the fact that rings true in all of this is that the original failings, the ones that the current “chaos” stems from, are routine. They happen, they are bad, but they happen.

The settlements agreed to staff to resolve them sit at a reported £60,000, although we are keen to intimate that we have only seen details of two payments, one for around £15,000 and one for around £35,000. But, as investigations rumble on, the desire to avoid paying £60k appears to have cost us £600,000 in investigations, interim staff and staff hours lost to interviews. The investigation allegedly interviewed over 100 staff, guzzling down 1000s of staff hours.

Poetically, £600,000 per annum is the exact amount that the Council have listed as a funding gap in the medium term for 2017. Told to save £600,000, the council SPENT £600,000. Brilliant.


Jackson and Hyde

As with Watergate, the problem is always the cover-up. How much do we have to pay to preserve the ego of the council’s leader?


And all the time, as our last episode explained, lawyers and recruitment firms are receiving vast amounts of public money that could be going to services, preserving both democracy as a concept, and its physical manifestation: the Town Hall. And it is to the Town Hall we will visit to see the ground-zero of this gross mismanagement of the council.

I’m told more than once by those gathering into the public gallery that this is the first time they’ve witnessed a council meeting. It’s a frigid Tuesday night in February, and we’re at a committee meeting where we can just watch, not interact. The room is, as always, ridiculously warm and overlit.

Yet the gallery is packed out with people who have gathered to hear what the elected representatives of the borough have to say about the future of the very building we sit in. “They should get rid of them councillors, not the building,” says an elderly lady as we take our seats, as Cllr Jackson glares over at the throngs gathering. This is where the Town Hall’s future will be debated, and the councillors can speak freely, albeit whipped to the party line by Jackson, who chairs the committee

The meeting opens with a bit of great news. Due to the sterling work of the Beeston and District Civic Society (who I urge you to join, find out more here), the building is being considered for Listing by Historic England, with the council formally advised the day before the committee meeting. As one of the main proponents for listing is Sir Neil Cossons, former Chair of English Heritage (and former Beestonian), which means it looks likely that the Town Hall will indeed be listed. Great news, for now.

What follows is a travesty of debate.

While the opposition parties whole-heartedly stick to the line that the building must be retained, the Tories throw up as many clunky rhetorical tactics as possible.

There is the false-dichotomy: “It’s either the Town Hall or key services” says Richard Jackson, forgetting to mention the astronomical amounts going directly to lawyers and employment agencies due to his gross failure at leadership.

There is the absurdist, with Councillors arguing that “there are people in Eastwood who don’t know where Beeston is, so why should we save the Town Hall?” Reductio ad absurdum, and Cllr Steve Carr, Lib Dem, points out this fallacy, to much applause and laughter “There are probably people in Eastwood that don’t know where Caernarfon Castle is; that doesn’t mean it should be knocked down.”

Despite claiming to have an open mind on the future of the building, it is abundantly clear that they are desperate to sell it, and sell it soon. Those lawyers aren’t free, you know.

In wades our MP, making a rare excursion to matters of her constituency rather than the more luxuriant surroundings of her Charnwood mansion / every TV + radio studio going. “Fake News” she cries in her newsletter


Errr, unfortunately, this in itself is fake news (fake soubz?) As the many, many people who completed the consultation form saw very clearly, it was Option C. When that option was requested to be removed, the council point-blank refused. “Everything is on the table” they stated.

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Now, aren’t the Conservatives hell-bent on following the will of the people? Surely the result of the consultation should, therefore, be treated similarly?

So that’s where we are on the Town Hall right now: disassembling, diversion, and demolition very much on the cards.  Let’s get back to what is driving all this.


Enter the Owens. The Nuthall Councillors (and married couple), Phil and Jill, have been causing some waves.

Say what you like about the Owens (and we have) but their commitment to the horrors of austerity is ideological, NOT practical.

Presiding over their fiefdom of Nuthall, staff at Foster Avenue have a very special place in their spleens for the dynamic duo. Aloof, snobbish and dripping with the idea that they have the divine right to rule, these are the sorts of characters that Roald Dahl wrote about. Curiously their ire now seems to be turned inwards, towards council leader Richard Jackson.

Phillip Owen apparently feels that he was overlooked for a suitably self-important role after the Tories took the council in 2015. Perhaps the deputy leadership would befit his stature? Or at least a decent chair to nap in…


The Owens. Fighting for Broxtowe.

No, Owen allegedly feels betrayed. After decades as an elected nuisance, he should have been rewarded and Jackson denied him the pomposity he felt he deserved. According to one source, the Tories have split into three factions, the bad, the also bad, and the ugly.

This may be a display of spontaneous solidarity with their national level colleagues. How does this tie into our investigation? Well, it appears that Phil’s feeling of exclusion extends to Council business itself. After being caught asking a few uncomfortable questions about what he wasn’t allowed to know he was handed a legal warning by the council.

This warning, allegedly approved by Ruth Hyde and sent by Richard Jackson, apparently cost an eye-watering £250 and became a talking point at the next council meeting. Owen supposedly waved the letter around like Augustus Gloop had caught Charlie’s ticket to meet Mr Wonka; proffering it to those in attendance and wondering loudly what it all meant. The authors would like to make it clear that we have not wrote this to imply that Mr Owen cannot read. However, wouldn’t it be funny if we did?

The Owens are wild cards here. They have opened a front on Cllr. Jackson when he least needs another battle to fight. More chaos ensues.


Slightly further North, we enter Kimberley, where Tory Councillors Mel Crow and Shane Easom hold sway. Their approach to democracy is certainly interesting.

A local woman, Stephanie Hather, born and bred in the town, decides to bring her business closer to home. Ms Hather, a single mother with a talent for tasty spuds, had previously traded happily in Stapleford without concern. Pitching her van in Kimberley, she proved an instant hit, and things looked good.

Then she was told, out of the blue, to sling her hook. In a letter from Broxtowe Borough Council, she was told her van might ‘damage mosaics’ near her pitch. She was not alone in thinking that this was a rather bizarre reason, but obliged and stopped trading.

Now, who was really behind this? It seems that the Cllrs. Crow and Easom were eager to prevent Ms Hather trading due to being friends with other traders who didn’t want the competition. Spurious reasons were thus concocted, and Ms Hather had to move on.

This doesn’t seem to be a one-off. Other businesses appear to be have suffered similar indignities and have been pushed out of the town, only to thrive elsewhere. This is hardly good for the town and local economy.  Crow and Easom, it seems, care little for this. Kimberley: open for business (as long as you are on the right side of Crow and Easom)?

But Ms Hather didn’t take this lying down. She kept the story alive in the public eye, and the fuss subsequently made the press, reflecting badly on Crow and Easom. So badly, it seems, the Cllr Crow rang a journalist on the Eastwood and Kimberley Advertiser and demanded she stopped writing ‘negative’ stories about the potato affair. Open democracy, eh?

The Council eventually decided to stem the tide of bad publicity with money. £200 was plucked out of coffers and offered to Ms Hather as a way of saying sorry for what they’d done. This was dismissed by Ms Hather as risible bearing in mind everything she went through, the abuse suffered along with all of the obstacles to trade put in her way. Council officers then denied that a certain meeting took place where this issue was discussed (there is documentary proof of this) and papers were “temporarily” lost. It looks like a huge, potentially costly and utterly self-inflicted fiasco.

Instead of taking the £200, the plucky Ms Hather decided to take Cllrs. Crow and Easom to the Local Government Ombudsman, who are currently investigating. If allegations of gross mispractice are upheld, we could see further trouble from this council in the grips of chaos.


The Council is clearly in disarray. Dysfunction at the top is ruining the working environment of many. The ruling party are at one and others necks. Local businesses are treated like dirt. Councillors appear to be free to pursue their own agendas. Costs are spiralling all over the shop. As money haemorrhages from the coffers, central government cuts continue to deepen and the situation worsens.

This is, as we have clearly stated before, a self-inflicted wound. We are paying for the gross mismanagement and leadership failings of Cllr Richard Jackson and Chief Exec Ruth Hyde. It is now time they were open about their failings and take responsibility.

On Tuesday, Councillors will vote on increasing their allowances by 2%. Let’s hope they do the decent thing.

More to come next week. If you want to get in touch with us, we will treat all correspondence with utter confidentiality: send to mattgoold23@hotmail.com tpgroberts@outlook.com 

If you wish to support our work, please feel free to make a donation here: https://www.paypal.me/BEESTONIA










It may not have escaped your notice, but Broxtowe Borough Council seems to be in a bit of a desperate state: assets are being rapidly sold, services closing down; staff reporting a toxic workplace environment. Now, the Town Hall is mooted to be sold and demolished by a local developer with little scruples. If this isn’t the heftiest bit of symbolism imaginable, we don’t know what is. The flagship of local democracy is being razed due to…well what?

Before we get into the details of why this is, let’s go back to 2015.


In the run-up to the local (and general) elections, Broxtowe was hit by the most severe cut to its local government settlement – the amount it receives from the government each year. This blog asked our MP Anna Soubry to raise this with the local government minister (Eric Pickles), but the self-proclaimed Broxtowe’s Voice In Westminster didn’t bother – and why should she? The cuts wouldn’t touch her, securely away in her Charwood mansion.

The 2015 General Election surprised everyone, not least the Conservatives who, against expectations, came to power. Similarly, the Tories in Broxtowe took back control of the council, again against expectations. Suddenly, Cllr Richard Jackson was leader, with a council largely populated with Yes-men and Yes-women who stood not out of any strong party allegiance, but to bang their own particular campaign drum. Many would leave in the next couple of years, disillusioned and disappointed by the experience. The majority don’t do a great deal, rarely speaking at meetings and entrusting that to a core set of ideologues: Jackson, Mel Crow, Shane Easom, Philip and Jill Owen. The rest obligingly vote the way they’re told.

Election dust settled, stuff began to happen. Over at Foster Avenue, in strode a member of the new administration “I’m in charge of finances now” he crowed to the officers working at their desks. “Changes are going to come”. “It was intimidating” recalls an officer who witnessed it “It was arrogant and designed to make us all fear for our jobs. That was the start of the decline”.

Since then, we’ve been contacted on numerous occasions by council staff who have wanted to let us know – always off-record – about the troubles at the council. How the decisions made by Cllr. Jackson and co. were impacting on them, how they had to absorb the blame. How they felt harassed and disenchanted, years of experience and loyal service cast aside by the Thatcherite ideology of Jackon and his hatred of public services. It didn’t help when Cllr Jackson, in his role as a County Councillor, decided the very existence of Broxtowe Borough Council was a Bad Thing and voted to abolish it. Yes, abolish the very council he was head of.


Rent arrears have been increasing at a steady rate between 2012/2013, then accelerated when the Tories took power, increasing in one 18 month period by an eye-watering 27%. This triggered alarm bells across the council, particularly when arrears topped £454,000 in 2015/16.

This figure is most likely a kind one: the way these figures have been reported is described to by one source as “a misrepresentation: the figures seem massaged to hide the true extent of arrears”.

One cost-saving policy implemented was a restructuring of the collection of rents, which it seems they paid KPMG approximately £30,000 to oversee.

This report was handed to the portfolio holder for Housing, Cllr Eric Kerry. Never the most competent of individuals (his tenure on the Notts County board coincided with the astonishing Munto Finance affair; while his own company has been repeatedly threatened with being wound up due to late submission of accounts ), this was probably a dubious idea. It seems, errrr, that swathes of the report were simply ignored.

The report did, however, recommend the merging of the Housing Department with the Rents Team, a move that an officer told us was ‘Utterly lacking nuance and implemented in an over-zealous fashion. It was hugely unpopular, and they said it was going to be a disaster but weren’t listened to”. The teams were effectively being pushed together, despite occasionally working at cross-purposes (housing are mandated to keep people in their homes; rents to enforce evictions if necessary). Staff engagement, a fairly decent indicator of morale, plummeted. Quite simply, it was a catastrophe.

To facilitate these changes, the top three officers in Rents were offered, and accepted, voluntary redundancy packages despite being an underperforming team. This is akin to seeing a building on fire, and thinking it best be tackled by laying off firefighters.

After implementation of this new shared service arrangement, collection rates did change – but not necessarily for the better. While the deficit decreased very slightly, more money would have to be set aside in ‘irrecoverables’: basically, bad debts increased. By 2018, rent arrears reached an unprecedented percentage of total rents.

Ah, you say, welfare changes such as the Bedroom Tax and Universal Credit would have seen increases irrespective of the administration: however, neither have been implemented in Broxtowe to date.

This is a clear failure of policy.


What happens when a council starts to become dysfunctional? Well, all sorts of stuff. One particular incident perhaps highlights this more than most.

In 2016, a council-employed gas engineer was on his rounds in Chilwell. He visits an elderly lady, who is in tears. When pressed, she tells him a bailiff has recently visited and made threats to evict. She feels utterly vulnerable, and the engineer decides to take action. He jumps in his van and seeing the bailiff’s vehicle, parks opposite. An altercation ensues on the street, and the bailiff drives off and reports the engineer to the council.

An investigation follows by a manager outside the Directorate, and the gas engineer is sacked. The engineer is miffed, understandably, and appeals. While the appeal is processing, the council overturn his dismissal and he is reinstated. The council’s HR policy is suddenly in the spotlight – which we’ll get around to later. Meanwhile, the incident triggers differences of opinions across the council: some supporting the engineer, some the bailiff. “Increased animosity forced a lot out, people started to argue,” a source tells us “Things began to bubble to the surface”.


To try and nip these problems in the bud the Chief Executive, Ruth Hyde, decides to send herself and around a dozen other high-ranking members of staff on a team-building course at Nottingham Business School. This course, which took place over several days, involved trust exercises, individual sessions and leadership training. The hope was the antagonism would be massaged away by all of this, and the council would return to Foster Avenue as close as the Waltons.

They ended up more like the Mansons.

This is unverified footage from the sessions:

Despite our best efforts, we have been unable to find how this was procured, or the cost of the failed exercise. However, similar courses at Nottingham Business School typically cost £1,350 +VAT per person. This would suggest a bill of around £27, 000 – not to mention working days lost.


Multiple grievances were aired, often at a high level. There was a strong feeling amongst those caught in the cross-fire that these were not taken seriously by HR. Personal attacks become commonplace. Whole swathes of the council become engaged in open warfare. Things become untenable. Eventually, councillors are asked to approve spending money on an investigation. They oblige.

On the recommendation of law firm Browne Jacobson, they hire a barrister, Richard Powell, to investigate allegations within the council about staff and what action should be taken. This isn’t cheap: a council were asked to approve a payment to Powell of £18,720 (with VAT) in 2017, this payment was duly made on the 18th July, 2017. However we have reason to believe the total bill will actually be higher: council invoices show another payment to a ‘Richard Powell Ltd” in April 2017 of £30,000 (inc VAT) from the council. The cost of this dysfunction begins to snowball. Between April and August 2017, a further £47,696.52 (inc VAT) is trousered by Browne Jacobson, in what is described in council invoices as ‘miscellaneous expenses and counsel fees’. Hmmm.

These are only the expenditures we can confirm, these only cover from April to September 2017. A number of individual sources suggest the figure is considerably higher if expenditure outside this period is taken into account. What the council does confirm is that they have estimated a further £35,000 be taken into account for further investigative work. Again, sources say this is wildly optimistic. According to the agenda of the Policy and Performance Committee. The approved budget for this was £29,200: this had been massively exceeded by September, with investigations set to rumble on for some time.


Following receipt of this report, in the Summer of 2017, four senior officers at Broxtowe are suspended. These are the Head of Legal; Head of Housing; Director of Housing, Leisure and Property Services; and the Housing Allocation and Options Manager. This is a significant blow to the smooth running of a council; even more so within a council with terminally low-morale.

But worse was to come. We understand from several sources, and from a leaked internal email, that large swathes of the Council’s own HR policy were not just lacking, they appear unlawful. While we have not been privy to this report, which was not made public, we believe the following areas required significant change:

  • Grievance policy
  • HR Data reporting
  • Bullying and Harassment in the workplace
  • Mediation
  • Stress management
  • Code of Conduct for agency staff
  • Disciplinary rules, policy and procedure
  • Removal of informal warnings, changes in formal warnings
  • Amendments to the council’s whistleblowing (!) policy

These aren’t a few minor tweaks: they’re a comprehensive rewrite. A dysfunctional council appears to have been working with a dysfunctional HR policy for years. The aforementioned gas engineer case might not have appreciated the funny side of all this for his case: he was sacked and reinstated under a questionable HR policy. Does his temporary sacking actually count, or does it hover eternally in the ether? Perhaps Brian Cox could advise.


With staff suspended as costly investigations roll on, jobs still have to be done. Finding staff with the level of specialist expertise required is neither cheap or easy. Here’s when The Venn Group rolls up.

Specialists in senior-level recruitment, they were tasked with filling the vacancies of staff forced to sit at home. While there are no figures for individual officer replacements, we can confirm that a staggering amount was spent with The Venn Group. The final implications of filling these roles will be quite significant, with Councillors being told the costs were:

  • £150,000 p/a for Interim Deputy Chief Executive
  • £107,000 p/a for Interim Strategic Director
  • £99,000 p/a for Interim Housing Manager

(p/a: per annum: 40 weeks per year).

These are well above the expected salaries of the roles if they were permanent appointments. This is a costly business.

There are also the costs involving current staff. One of the suspended managers was paid off, receiving £14,693 as a kiss goodbye. Of course, if he had been found guilty he would have received not a penny in severance.

Total payments for 6 months (between April and September 2017) to the Venn Group total £269,982.20. That’s money that could be being spent on vital services, and retaining public buildings such as the Town Hall. This is frivolous, and the buck stops at Cllr. Richard Jackson’s desk.

As the situation is far from resolved, these costs continue to mount and put huge pressure on council budgets. The council were forced to admit employment savings targets will not be achieved, and any additions to the capital programme will have to be taken from the council reserves: something with anathema to Tory councils, which abhor touching reserves.

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So where are we right now? Council morale is still low, which is hitting productivity. Unnecessary, self-inflicted costs are spiralling, and as such services are being put at risk; the council are forced to look into selling assets such as the Town Hall. This symbol of local democracy is at risk due to the deficit of management and leadership at the council since Cllr Richard Jackson and his Conservative administration took over.

It’s not just symbols of democracy that are at risk: it’s local democracy itself

Cllr Jackson has already tried to destroy the council once and failed. This attempt seems like it might succeed. We deserve better.

We have only scratched the surface here. Next week we will detail further expenditure; the secret committees set up to look into the crisis; how a lack of transparency is leading to staff feeling threatened and under constant pressure; and how the final combined total of this affair could well exceed a seven-figure sum. Oh, and why Tories are at war with each other…

Tune in!

If you wish to speak to us confidentially, send an email to mattgoold23@hotmail.com and /or tpgroberts@outlook.com .

We will protect all sources.