Blog in 2017: The Grenfell tragedy has resurrected the madness of fire privatisation
This year my small news site received an extraordinary boost from a five year old post which appeared to have been regenerated by the Grenfell fire tragedy.
The Grenfell disaster showed the bravery of the London fire brigade in tackling such a grim scenario. Heroism and extreme tragedy side by side.
The post that got revived in the wake of the fire was the almost unbelievable story of how an Old Etonian baronet living in a semi in Wellingborough, Northants had got his hands on the management of London's entire fire engine fleet for £2. It is probably still the most egregious act of privatisation in this country. He of course had to hand it back after a few weeks as he couldn't run it.
Sir Aubrey Brocklebank: Sacked by the London Fire Brigade; Picture courtesy Daily Telegraph
The public authority had been powerless when the dodgy private company they gave the contract to maintain the fire engine fleet- Assetco London - handed over London's fire service to the baronet as the directors realising the game was up and fled the scene.
The good news here - though it has never been reported by mainstream media- is the authorities in their own slow way are ensuring the perpetrators get their just deserts.
Grant Thornton , the auditors for Assetco, have been fined £3.5m (reduced to £2.275m after they co-operated with the Financial Reporting Council) and found guilty of no fewer than 12 cases of professional misconduct. The details are in this blog.
Assetco's John Shannon stands aside two London fire engines
Robert Napper, the individual account responsible for auditing Assetco was fined £200,000, reduced to £130,000 after he co-operated with the inquiry. He had already retired but I traced him to an Oxfordshire village enjoying his expensive wines.
Now Assetco directors John Shannon, Raymond Flynn and Matthew Flynn are to face a disciplinary tribunal by the Financial Reporting Council on January 15. The statement is here.
The press release reads:
"The Formal Complaint contains multiple allegations against each of Mr Shannon, Mr Flynn and Mr Boyle. The Formal Complaint includes allegations they acted dishonestly or recklessly; that they breached the fundamental principles of integrity and objectivity in the manner in which they prepared the financial statements; and that their conduct fell significantly short of the standards reasonably to be expected of members of Chartered Accountants Ireland (CAI). The complaint covers a wide range of issues which pervaded AssetCo plc’s financial statements."
Some idea of what was going on has already been covered on this blog. Don't hold your breath that the London Evening Standard will cover the story.
The original blog attracted over 2,500 hits when it was published. This year it topped my ratings with over 14,700 hits - showing that readers are interested in such issues.
Altogether over five years it has received some 20,000 hits.
The other stories have been posted on both my blog and byline.com - so the figures on my blog will be a small proportion of the number of hits on the stories.
The second highest hit from readers tells the heroic story of a London Midland train driver whose quick reaction in nine seconds prevented a commuter disaster near Watford. It came out in an accident report and had over 5170 hits and can be read here.
Two stories about the plight of the Conservative Party also rated highly. A story revealing that membership of the Conservative Party had plummeted to 100,000 attracted nearly 5000 hits and one on changes to the Tory Party constitution attracted well over 1700 hits. The two blogs are hereand here and on Byline here and here.
On my site it got 2600 hits - mainstream media have finally followed it up last week but put the blame on Jeremy Corbyn instead.
Dave Prentis, general secretary, Unison Pic Credit: Twitter
The attempt to force Unison to rerun the election for the general secretary Dave Prentis also attracted a lot of readers. Again the public hearings by the Certification Officer received no coverage in mainstream media except the Morning Star. All the blogs received over 1000 hits - the largest being over 1850 hits for a blog publishing the statement of a former union official who accused the union of " anti Democratic practices". The link is here and here.
The issue is not quite over as a judge is due to hear the opponent's case again for an appeal on February 8.
Three other issues made the top slots - the bonus payments to top DWP civil servants who set up the hated Universal Credit payments which I also wrote up for the Sunday Mirror; the scandal of 3.3 million pensioners who will have to wait years for the state pension and the prospect of two Tory Lord Chancellors facing legal action for institutional racism over the appointment of judges and tribunal members.
All this has to show that there is a public appetite for investigative journalism and the mainstream media are increasingly ignoring important stories by sticking to a narrow agenda. Much more to come in 2018.