Why does Council leader David Monk (pictured) lie to his fellow councillors and the residents of the district either by design or accident? Here’s a very recent example: Labour leader Cllr Connor McConville asks him on January 27th 2021 at a public YouTube meeting:
“What if any amount of funding has been given to businesses in error with regard to the COVID business support grants?
Councillor Monk replies:
“£95,000 to one business is outstanding. This was due to a late change in guidance that couldn’t have been avoided. Folkestone and Hythe District Council won’t be held liable for this outstanding amount if it can’t be recovered.”
Now we’re not talking about flogging double glazing where truth is a flexible fact of life. We are talking about when the Council is entrusted with handing out nearly £26 million in public money, of Covid grants and the way it went about it. So Cllr McConville expected and deserved a truthful answer. What he got was a copper-bottomed vintage Monk lie in our opinion. It was not an evasion, nor was Cllr Monk being economical with the truth. It was a lie we honestly believe. (You can decide for yourself)
We’ve spoken to specialist lawyers who deal with the statutory obligations imposed on councils when dealing with state aid. The over-riding principles are enshrined in law and binding in all circumstances, including the requirement to confirm a business was not an ‘undertaking in distress’.
On March 11th 2020, Version 2 of the “Small Business Grant Fund and Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Grant Fund Guidance” was issued to local authorities. This stated that despite leaving the EU on 31 January 2020, State aid rules continue to apply and that “authorities will be familiar with the administrative approach taken to State aid on previous business rates relief schemes.”
On Wednesday April 1 £12bn funding for business rates grants transferred to local authorities including the funding for Hospitality, which Hallam Estates would later receive.
On the same day April 1 2020, the Council via their Folkestone Works website, made it known that a third version of State Aid guidance had been publicised by the Department of Business, Energy & Industry Strategy (BEIS).
Within thirty days all local authorities, including ours, had received three versions of guidance from BEIS, all mentioning State Aid, so the Council cannot claim not to have known about the guidance and state aid rules.
It’s known the payments for Covid grants began on Monday 6th April, according to senior Council sources. So, by the time Hallam Estates received its 1st grant, three sets of guidance were in the public domain and the council would have been aware of each of them.
So when Councillor Monk states that when the payments were made, the council was unaware of the guidance, it’s a full-fat lie for Folkestone & Hythe District Council had received three versions just like every other local council responsible for delivering Covid Grant money.
And let’s not forget, the Council have three Solicitor’s de minimus, they being – Amandeep Khroud, the Monitoring Officer and Solicitor for the Council. Nicky Murton and Alastair de Lacey. So there is no way they could be ignorant of the law around State Aid, so have no defence.
So now to the reality behind all this, and it demands an answer Councillor Monk.
Explain how £95,000 was handed over to that well-known local Conservative and former bankrupt (and your good chum), Michael Stainer’s failing company, Hallam Estates. This payment happened days after 3 versions of state aid guidance had been issued, to a company already facing proceedings for insolvency which fully met the definition of an ‘undertaking in distress’.
Explain how this money was handed over to a company that also owed £51,000 in unpaid council tax and yet regularly provided hospitality to the local Conservative party. Were your party chums aware that as they wined and dined, they were sitting in premises that weren’t paying Council Tax?
Taken at The Grand Folkestone – last week of April 2019 before local election on 2nd May 2019
This Covid Grant money is now ‘lost’ following Hallam being placed into administration, and there is no basis for Councillor Monk’s optimism that FHDC won’t be held liable for its loss. Quite the reverse! The Council’s reckless disregard of binding regulations regarding state aid, its ignoring of repeated warnings that Hallam was an ‘undertaking in distress’, will surely see it made fully and deservedly liable.
It’s reported from Council sources that in fact this money wasn’t even paid to Hallam Estates, but another former Stainer company Eastons Management Ltd ‘run’ by puppet director Robert Moss (pictured below).
So, when Councillor Monk, clearly reading from a script, refers to ‘late changes in guidance’, he’s either lying, or he’s admitting that his Council three solicitors haven’t a clue about state aid. And all of them are forgetting ignorance is NO defence in law.
As to the applicant/s themselves, we have the following questions:
Did Robert Moss (pictured) as the sole director of Hallam Estates make applications for COVID-19 grants between March 2020 and Feb 1st 2021, or was that done by another party? If so who?
As the sole Director, can he tell us into which bank accounts did any COVID-19 grant money go, and who controls those accounts?
Was any of this grant money used to pay off bailiffs or as a deposit (now lost) on two former Stainer-owned flats sold at a repossession auction?
When did Mr Moss complete the declaration that Hallam Estates Ltd was undertaking was not in difficulty (within the meaning of Article 2 (18) of the General Block Exemption Regulation on 31 December 2019?
Under Version 2 and all other subsequest issued guidance it stated in Counter Fraud Measures
Any business caught falsifying their records to gain additional grant money will face prosecution and any funding issued will be subject to claw back.
So who’s going to prosecute Hallam Estates as it’s in administration?
How will the Council claw back the £51,000 in Council Tax owed by Hallam Estates?
Let’s see Robert Moss’s and the Council’s response as it looks like the taxpayer has been royally screwed over by Hallam Estates and Folkestone & Hythe District Council.
The Shepway Vox Team
Journalism for the People NOT the Powerful