An independent investigation in to Middlesbrough Council Asset Disposals by MHCLG.

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We the undersigned call upon the UK Government to launch an independent investigation by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government in to the asset disposals of Middlesbrough Council.

You will no doubt be aware from the significant press coverage of the concerns surrounding the sale of land and property by Middlesbrough Borough Council.  These concerns have been ongoing for several years and show no sign of being appropriately addressed.  External auditors have placed an ‘except for’ qualification on the Value for Money element of Middlesbrough Council’s accounts for the past three years.  This is due to External auditors concerns regarding the sale of assets.  Internal auditors, due to their significant concerns, have stated that they cannot rule out criminality as a result of the weaknesses of procedures in place.

The concerns relate to properties sold at below market value. Other concerns relate to below market value sales where the sale appears to circumnavigate normal process and council policy including interfering with tender results to ensure that a particular associate of the former Mayor was the successful bidder, along side concerns regarding the valuations placed on council assets. Meetings are known to have occurred, behind closed doors, between developers and the Chief Executive.  

A recent tribunal found that information was being withheld from decision makers.

The Labour leadership at Middlesbrough Council have taken no effective steps to address the problems.  It would appear that the only hope that residents of Middlesbrough have is if an independent mayor is elected in 2019 and instigates a full and proper investigation of all asset sales.

Meanwhile Middlesbrough Council continues to, at best, fail to secure value for money from the sale of assets; the worst case scenario being that there is criminal wrongdoing, something that auditors could not rule out and specifically made reference to in their findings.

We the undersigned ask you to take action to ensure that you have satisfied yourself that no wrongdoing is occurring at Middlesbrough Council.  To be effective this action should include lobbying MHCLG to undertake a full independent review of all the evidence.

The Chief Executive at Middlesbrough Council, cannot be relied upon to provide assurances regarding these matters due to his involvement with the decisions. He was also found to be an unreliable witness, in key areas, whilst under oath at a tribunal.

Resulting in Judge Wade stating in respect of elements of his testimony: “that simply isn’t true”, “that was completely disingenuous”, “information was withheld [by The Current Chief Executive] from decision makers”.

He also provided incorrect information to members of the scrutiny committee at the time the sale of the TAD Centre was called in for review.

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The residents of Middlesbrough deserve quick and decisive action to address this issue. It is unsatisfactory to have to wait until a change of mayor to be able to ensure that residents are properly served by their local council.


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