County Council apologises to Water Park councillor

Gloucestershire County Council has formally apologised to Cllr Esmond Jenkins for failing to take his campaign against wrongdoing in the Cotswold Water Park seriously enough.

Cllr Esmond Jenkins

GCC leader, Cllr Mark Hawthorne, has confessed in a surprisingly frank letter to Cllr Jenkins that the Council had been wrong to dismiss his concerns over the sale of Keynes Country Park to a developer and pledged to “do better in future.”

The apology follows criticism in a recent report by local government expert, Professor Graham Garbutt, of a culture at Shire Hall that prevented thorough investigation of complaints by Cllr Jenkins who represents the Water Park on Cotswold District Council.

Cllr Jenkins claims he hit a brick wall of denial when he led local opposition to the transfer of GCC-owned KCP to holiday home developers, The Watermark Group. His investigations later helped jail Dennis Grant, Chief Executive of Cotswold . . . → Read More: County Council apologises to Water Park councillor

Anti-corruption councillor lives to fight another day

Yesterday, Cllr Esmond Jenkins – Cotswolds anti-corruption campaigner and Liberal Democrat councillor – was cleared of all but a small number of complaints which had been fired at him by a property developer and Cotswold District Council’s planning manager.

Cllr Jenkins (left) is asked for his reactions by the press after the hearing announced its decision

Mike Evemy, Chair of the Cotswolds Liberal Democrats made this statement in reaction: “The Standards Committee’s decision shows that Esmond Jenkins has fought for local residents robustly but fairly to uncover the truth surrounding Keynes Country Park. The attempts to smear his character by a major developer and the Council’s own Head of Planning have utterly failed. Cotswold District Council has wasted thousands of pounds of council taxpayers’ money on this vindictive attack on a councillor who stood up for the people who elected him and challenged the cosy relationship between council planners . . . → Read More: Anti-corruption councillor lives to fight another day

Cotswold District Council ignored alarm bells rung over Cotswold Water Park fraud, councillor claims

The Gloucestershire Echo has carried a story in which Cllr Lee Searles (LD, Park) spoke out at a special Audit Committee meeting of Cotswold District Council last week.

Councillor Lee Searles

The paper states in its edition dated Thursday November 3:

‘Why did Cotswold District Council take no action to investigate what turned out to be a major fraud at the Cotswold Water Park, despite alarm bells ringing two years before?”

This probing question was posed by district councillor Lee Searles (LD, Cirencester-Park) as the audit committee debated an investigative report into council members’ and officers’ dealings with the Cotswold Water Park.

Former Cotswold Water Park Society chief executive Dennis Grant was arrested in May 2010 and later convicted of stealing £660,000.’

Cllr Searles voiced the concerns of many Cotswolds residents in asking why Dennis Grant’s fraudulent activities were not picked up earlier by local authorities.

He also challenged . . . → Read More: Cotswold District Council ignored alarm bells rung over Cotswold Water Park fraud, councillor claims

Outside police force in new Water Park probe

Gloucestershire’s Chief Constable Tony Melville has backed a move to draft in officers from an outside force to conduct a “peer review” of the much criticised investigation into the Cotswold Water Park scandal.

The constabulary came under fire earlier this year after it emerged that officers twice rebuffed reports of criminality by Dennis Grant, Chief Executive of the Cotswold Water Park Society, who is now serving four years and four months for a £660,000 fraud.

Despite allegations that fraud and corruption in the Water Park was more widespread than identified by the original inquiry, senior officers made a decision after Grant’s arrest that they had insufficient information to justify a “more intrusive” investigation.

The probe could now be reopened if new lines of inquiry are identified during the review. That decision to close down the initial investigation after Grant’s arrest was challenged by campaigning Liberal Democrat councillor, Esmond Jenkins, . . . → Read More: Outside police force in new Water Park probe

Change will come

With the ongoing scandal in the Cotswold Water Park still unfolding and internal splits in the Cotswolds Conservative Party recently leaked to the local press, these are changing times in our area.

Cllr Esmond Jenkins (Lib Dem, Water Park) has summed up the situation at Cotswold District Council by posting these thoughts on the Wilts and Glos Standard website:

Cllr Esmond Jenkins

“Try as the regime does, to retrieve a desperate situation , the average Cotswold Conservative voter is becoming steadily disenfranchised. Why? Because we have a regime on the defensive making bad decisions. People see poor decision making for what it is, i.e. it is poor because because it represents poor value for money for the District. It is not poor because one particular party puts the idea forward.

“In 2009 I was invited to stand as a Tory councillor, I declined .

“I had by then witnessed . . . → Read More: Change will come

CDC Leader refuses to make his Water Park business dealings public

At an eventful Cotswold District Council meeting yesterday, Conservative Council Leader Lynden Stowe once again refused to disclose how much money had transferred between the Cotswold Water Park Society and the companies of which he is a shareholder.

Lib Dem Opposition Leader Cllr Paul Hodgkinson (Churn Valley) asked the following question at the meeting:

“At the last Council meeting on 12 July 2011, I asked the Council Leader to state, in the interests of transparency, how much business his various companies had received from convicted fraudster Dennis Grant, former Chief Executive of the Cotswold Water Park Society. The answer was far from transparent: “the total of sales less direct costs was £3,000”.

“That answer was meaningless and has, no doubt, confused the taxpayers of this district who have every right to expect total openness from those they elect. It is common knowledge that businesses are able to offset all . . . → Read More: CDC Leader refuses to make his Water Park business dealings public

Campaigner welcomes Water Park inquiry

Gloucestershire County Council has announced that it is setting up an independent inquiry into the Water Park scandal.

Cllr Esmond Jenkins, Liberal Democrat (Water Park), has been campaigning for an independent probe and welcomes the news but with a caveat:

“It is vital that this inquiry is seen to be totally independent and without any limit on its scope. I will work closely with this inquiry and share all the information I have. This is precisely what the Waterpark community has been calling for and I hope the inquiry engages fully with the local parishes.”

“I am greatly concerned that this should not be a cheap, cursory probe because the amount of money set aside by GCC appears to be totally inadequate when you consider that CDC spent more than £30,000 on its own investigation which was not even independent.”

“I have recently had talks with senior Gloucestershire police . . . → Read More: Campaigner welcomes Water Park inquiry

Fresh call for water park cash inquiry

There have been more calls this week for a fresh inquiry into the Water park scandal which saw ex Water Park Society CEO Dennis Grant recently jailed for fraud.

Private Eye, ‘Rotten Boroughs’, 3 August 2011 The call comes after further revelations became public about local authorities being warned about missing money months before anyone took action.

Mr Grant defrauded the Society out of £660,000, but it has now emerged that Cllr Esmond Jenkins (Water Park) alerted senior council officials, the police and Cotswolds MP Geoffrey Clifton-Brown to a missing payment of £150,000 two months before Grant’s crimes were uncovered.

Cllr Jenkins contacted officers at Cotswold District Council, Gloucestershire County Council, Wiltshire County Council, Gloucestershire Police and the Cotswolds MP. He asked them if they were aware of a £150,000 deal which had been arranged between the Water Park Society and a company called Kilbride. The £150,000 never appeared in . . . → Read More: Fresh call for water park cash inquiry

Parliamentary Questions on Water Park land-scandal

As ex-Cotswold Water Park Society CEO Dennis Grant starts his jail sentence, an alleged council cover-up over the Water Park Scandal is to be raised in Parliament.

Cheltenham Liberal Democrat MP Martin Horwood has lodged questions in Parliament to be answered by the Communities Secretary Eric Pickles. The questions concern the leasing of Keynes Country Park to the Watermark Group by Gloucestershire County Council.

Cllr Esmond Jenkins has been leading the call for total transparency from our local councils.

The 85 acre public amenity was transferred to holiday home developers Watermark in a storm of public outrage that eventually led to Grant’s arrest.

Campaigning Lib Dem councillor, Esmond Jenkins, who used Freedom of Information legislation to force Gloucestershire County Council to hand over a land deal legal file claims he was assured by GCC that the file contained all the information but details of a £165,000 payment from the . . . → Read More: Parliamentary Questions on Water Park land-scandal

Private Eye exposure of Water Park scandal goes on