Shropshire Council’s failed company ip&e is to be liquidated according to local media

There is an excellent beer festival going on down at Ludlow Brewery right now. A couple of hours ago, I took a moment out from a sampling session to take a call from the Shropshire Star. Reporters on the newspaper had learnt that Shropshire Council is about to make a decision to close its private company, ip&e. BBC Radio Shropshire has been reporting the same news.

Papers for next week’s cabinet meeting are not yet published. But I am guessing that there will be a paper proposing that ip&e, the brainchild of former council leader Keith Barrow, is going to be abolished. This should not be too difficult, as most staff are seconded from the council rather than transferred under TUPE.

The Shropshire Star quotes me as saying:

Andy Boddington said he was unsurprised about but had “mixed feelings” about the company’s demise.

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The Barrow Affair (6): Investigation into Barrow costs more than £12K and Shropshire Council is to pay

Shropshire Council has revealed some of the costs of investigating whether former council leader Keith Barrow breached the council’s code of conduct.

In answer to a question from Lib Dem group leader, Councillor Roger Evans, deputy leader Steve Charmley said:

The final cost of the investigation undertaken has not yet been calculated. External costs to date, however, total £9,782.80 excluding VAT. This investigation was instigated by Shropshire Council and there are no plans to invoice ip&e Limited for this. Officer time is not routinely recorded for individual pieces of work such as this (PDF).

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The Barrow Affair (3): Auditors of leader's personal tax return got ip&e contract says standards report

On Tuesday afternoon, without fanfare or a press release, Shropshire Council published the full report into the alleged breach of conduct by Keith Barrow, leader of Shropshire Council. The report is the result of a thorough and proper investigation by Olwen Dutton of legal firm Bevan Brittan into allegations of a breach of conduct by Barrow. After the investigation, Shropshire Council’s standards board ordered that the council leader apologise for the breach and undertake training in standards. Barrow has also resigned as chairman and director of his flagship council company, ip&e.

The report by Olwen Dutton is revealing. It is not a good report for ip&e, which shows its procedures in its early days to be lax. It also shows that someone with a long experience as a councillor, such as Keith Barrow, can still be unsure when standards procedures apply. (Numbers in brackets below refer to paragraphs in Olwen Dutton’s report.)

The sorry story of Keith Barrow and ip&e’s auditors…

Continue reading “The Barrow Affair (3): Auditors of leader's personal tax return got ip&e contract says standards report”

The Barrow Affair (2): Shropshire Council’s company ip&e needs reinventing as an innovation hub

The resignation of Shropshire’s council leader Keith Barrow from the board of ip&e has left the future of the company in limbo. My view is that the council should drop its obsession with making a profit out of other public sector organisations. ip&e must become the council’s innovation hub.

This company is very much a Barrow baby. He has been the champion promoting ip&e. He has been the one claiming that it will make the council enough money to alleviate some of the government’s cut to local government budgets. He has been, until today, the public face of ip&e.

But Barrow’s future as council leader is on the line. Can ip&e survive without him?

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The Barrow Affair (1): Shropshire leader forced to resign from council company after conflict of interest scandal

It is a press release slipped out with minimum of publicity. Visitors to the Shropshire Council Newsroom website are only greeted with the headline: “Shropshire Council Standards Sub-Committee meeting – 20 November 2015.” That’s a headline designed for boredom. Which is surprising because the news website is run by Three Sixty Communications, a subsidiary of ip&e. Three Sixty has often shown itself to be on the ball when it comes to communication. But ip&e is wholly owned by Shropshire Council. So we shouldn’t be surprised that this headline was written to disguise the leadership crisis that is enveloping the council.

Keith Barrow quietly resigned as a director and chairman of ip&e ten days ago. At that point, he must have been aware that the external auditors had determined that he had failed to declare a conflict of interest when appointing Oswestry based auditors to ip&e.

At the time, Keith’s resignation looked no different to an outsider from the perpetual turnover of ip&e directors. Continue reading “The Barrow Affair (1): Shropshire leader forced to resign from council company after conflict of interest scandal”