Advantage West Midlands

Some stories relating to public sector waste in recent years have been been hard to believe. However, this one takes the biscuit.

It involves the RDA, Advantage West Midlands, which is due to be scrapped in 2012. Despite this, it seems it continues to fritter away taxpayers’ money with only its own interests at heart. This particular story has a few different strands, so I suggest that you buckle in tight.

First of all, it emerged last year that the boss, Mick Laverty, received a bonus of £21,000 on top of his salary, which surpassed that of the Prime Minister’s. In total, there are four directors on a six-figure salary, with twenty-seven other senior staff receiving between £61,000 and £85,000 per year. In fact, only one such individual took voluntary redundancy in response to a widespread call to preserve valuable public money at the same time as they were asking their lower-end staff ‘to show restraint’. We may just have found one of the reasons why.

When you log on to the AWM website, you are greeted with a picture of Mr Laverty and his colleagues collecting a prize at the Midlands Excellence Awards 2011. This is particularly interesting. In the words of Midlands Excellence themselves, the awards are “open to private, public and voluntary organisations of all sizes” and provide “a rigorous and cost-effective assessment of performance in nine key areas ranging from customer satisfaction to people management, leadership, processes and impact on society.” Winning an award such as this would, at first sight, seem to be an excellent indication of the supposed exceptional work carried out by the RDA. Unfortunately, things are a little more complicated than that.

Midlands Excellence has a Board of Trustees comprising 5 people, plus a Chairman. One of these five is none other than Mick Laverty himself.  So hang on one minute: the CEO of AWM, which applauds itself for winning this esteemed award, is on the Board of Trustees of the organisation that gave it them? Yes, but it gets worse.

To enter the awards, you have to pay a fee, amounting to a value in excess of £1,000 in AWM’s case. But, as our research into RDA grants revealed, Midlands Excellence are already recipients of funding from Advantage West Midlands - over £400,000 between 2007 and 2009. Taxpayers' money, allocated to AWM by the Government, was paid to an organisation that later commended AWM for its 'excellence'. It really does beggar belief.

The idea is that receiving an award like the one from Midlands Excellence makes the RDA look good, but most importantly makes its directors look good, all of whom will of course be looking for a job come next year. Undoubtedly, they see this as an excellent addition to their CV, and they have said that themselves in the minutes of a board meeting in July 2010!

Note: A keen-eyed supporter alerts us that AWM have removed their July 2010 minutes from their website - so we've included a copy below:

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