- Bradley emailed Forde a day after the Mathew Street report was published
- After blaming Forde for the Mathew St debacle, a desperate Bradley had the gall to then beg him for a meeting to discuss 'next steps'
- Bradley disowned his council's own offical Mathew Street report - after supporting it publicly
- At a secret meeting on Sunday in Bradley's home in Wavertree, the council leader was joined by partner in crime, former council leader Mike Storey.
- The pair of politicians then begged an astonished Forde to hand over to them confidential documents and emails to help them get rid of the Harbarrowboy!
- A shocked and horrified Forde decided to expose the pathetic pair for their dishonest, unscrupulous and immoral plotting.
The Forde dossier - which runs to 15 extremely readable and gripping pages - has now been deposited with the Daily Post and the Liverpool Echo, whose heavily censored versions you will be able to read tomorrow (if you can be arsed, eds).
And, we can reveal, Labour Leader Joe Anderson has already reported Bradley and Storey to the Standards Board and demanded a full-scale investigation into their plot and their shocking behaviour. We believe the Lib Dem pair have shown, in their disgusting treatment of Forde and their attempt to manipulate him for their own ends, that they are unfit to govern the great city of Liverpool.
Lee Forde, on the other hand, has consistently shown tremendous strength of character, a formidable determination to clear his name and admirable honesty, principle and integrity.
The Harbarrowboy of course, may take temporary comfort from Bradley and Storey being shopped trying to do him in. But, rest assured dear readers, the Harbarrowboy's days are well and truly numbered - and will be over very quickly indeed.
Bradley's 'pissed-off' emails to Forde can be found on a separate post on the aptly-named City of the Dead blog.
Liverpool deserves better - why Lee Forde blew the whistle on Bradley and Storey is on your left.
Part 2 of the 15-page report, which includes new email evidence about Mathew Street, will follow shortly (well, we need a glass or two of bubbly first to celebrate, eds)
So pull up a seat, settle down and read, in Lee Forde's own words, how the city of Liverpool's Lib Dem leadership are a couple of lying, cheating, dishonest bastards....
“Out of the blue on Sunday afternoon (November 18th), I received five separate e-mails from Councillor Warren Bradley, leader of Liverpool city council.
The emails, virtually identical, had all been sent on Saturday in the space of three minutes from his private email address. Each of the emails asked for a meeting with me regarding the Mathew Street report which had been published two days earlier.
I was absolutely stunned by this approach from the Leader of the Council - the last time I had seen him was two days before, as he gave numerous interviews to the press, radio and TV in support of the findings of the city council’s report into Mathew Street. I had not expected to ever hear again from someone who had publicly condemned me so unfairly.
I was still extremely angry both about the publication of the council report and the Leader of the Council’s own comments in support of the report, which had questioned both my professionalism and my integrity. I had been blamed for the cancellation of the Festival – even though I was innocent.
Since Friday, I had been attacked by the full weight of the council machine, which had deployed considerable staff and resources to try and trash my reputation.
Its report was a complete whitewash and a disgraceful cover-up of the true circumstances which had lead to the decision by the Culture Company chief executive, Jason Harborow and city council chief executive Colin Hilton to cancel the Mathew Street festival in early August 2007, almost three months after I had submitted my resignation as Events Manager with the city council.
I had done all within my power over a period of almost a year previously to repeatedly notify my superiors in the Culture Company of the problems in staging the Mathew Street festival in 2007, as a result of the loss of the Pier Head and big cuts in funding.
I knew too that Councillor Bradley had been aware of these difficulties and my strenuous attempts to try and save the Festival. This information was noticeably absent from the council report, which had taken almost three months to produce and which had been drastically amended at the Leader of the Council’s insistence.
As a former employee, I was a convenient scapegoat, while the real culprits escaped.
Once my shock and surprise at seeing the emails had subsided on the Sunday afternoon, I agreed to Councillor Bradley’s invitation to meet, although I informed a number of people in advance. I decided that I had nothing to lose from a meeting - I wanted to find out what ‘next steps’ referred to and what his motive was.
I also intended to use the opportunity to press my case for the council’s report to be retracted and for me to be given a public apology.
Through text messages, I arranged with Councillor Bradley to go to his home on Sunday evening.
Ironically, the first and last time I had been to his home was in early August, when he had asked me to put together a rescue plan for the cancelled Mathew Street Festival, while I was serving my notice.” (See later emails)
Date: Sunday 18th November, 2007 - two days after the publication of the city council’s Mathew Street Report.
Venue: Councillor Warren Bradley’s home in Wavertree.
Present: Lee Forde, former Events manager, Liverpool Culture Company; Councillor Warren Bradley, Leader of Liverpool city council; Councillor Mike Storey, Executive Member for Regeneration and Liverpool’s 800th Birthday celebrations.
“I arrived at Councillor Bradley’s house, slightly later than we had arranged, at about 8.20pm on 18th November. I must have been a bit agitated because I had got lost several times and had to phone him to get directions. I was feeling very nervous – I did not know what to expect, or what I was walking into.
I was greeted at the front door by Councillor Bradley who shook my hand, called me ‘mate’ and ushered me inside. He thanked me for coming and offered me a drink – tea, coffee or a beer. I told him I would feel better with a beer and he fetched me a bottle of Peroni.
When he returned, he told me he had also invited Councillor Storey to attend and asked if I “was alright with that?” I told him I had nothing to hide.
Councillor Bradley explained that his wife Pauline had already gone to fetch Councillor Storey in their car.
At this stage, although outwardly calm, I was confused and completely gob-smacked at the turn of events. I could not fathom Councillor Bradley’s motive for the meeting. Nor did he immediately explain the purpose of the meeting.
While my mind raced, I could not help observe to myself that the Leader of the Council had not yet had the good grace to apologise for his role in the publication of a biased council report which had caused me, my family, my friends and colleagues so much personal upset by trying to damage my professional reputation and integrity.
Councillor Bradley then asked me how I was and mentioned that he had ‘felt sorry’ for me on Friday when, as he was giving interviews to the media at Liverpool Town Hall, he had seen me standing outside.
I had been trying to defend my reputation and integrity to the media after he had helped attack them. Councillor Bradley said he really ‘felt’ for me. This was the closest he ever came to apologising for his conduct and for the council’s report.
Just as Councillor Bradley began to explain how ‘disappointed’ he was with the report’s findings – although he had not expressed this to the media at the time - Councillor Storey arrived.
Councillor Bradley invited Councillor Storey to join us in having a beer and left the room to fetch a bottle. I and other colleagues had been told that the two men had fallen out some months before, but they appeared to be on good terms. While Councillor Bradley was out of the room, Councillor Storey asked me how I was. I told him, with some understatement, that “I have felt better” and how disappointed I had been with the council’s report.
Councillor Bradley returned and explained to Councillor Storey that he had invited me around to discuss the report’s findings, as he was unhappy with them.
Again, I wondered why he had not expressed this unhappiness to the media when he had the opportunity?
Councillor Storey (now in terrified hiding below, eds) volunteered that he had spoken to me recently and understood that I still wanted to be involved in events in Liverpool. I was not sure of the relevance of this observation.
Councillor Storey then observed that it was “ironic” that I had been attacked in the council’s report as “Lee was responsible for transforming Mathew Street from a disorganised event to a national Festival.”
Councillor Bradley immediately agreed and observed that he felt the report identified the wrong people as being responsible for the cancellation of the Festival.
I was very angry. I told him that I felt the council’s report was “full of lies”, fatally flawed and fundamentally wrong. I had been scape-goated even though I had been a loyal servant of the city, had never played any political games and had done everything to the best of my ability.
Councillor Bradley asked me why I thought the event had been cancelled.
I thought this was a bizarre question for the Leader of the Council to suddenly ask - his own council had spent three months investigating what had happened and had just published its findings! To me, it showed he had no confidence in the report and was now effectively dis-owning it. This came too late for me of course - I had been publicly attacked by his council on Friday.
I told him that the Festival had been cancelled because of poor management by senior officers of the Culture Company who had failed to replace me when I had resigned three months earlier. They had never taken Mathew St seriously and didn’t realise the value of the event and how much people in Liverpool felt about it.
I also informed Councillor Bradley that, on at least two previous occasions, Culture Company Operations Director, Chris Green had told me and members of my Events team that he would be pleased if Mathew Street was cancelled as he could use the budget elsewhere.
I told Councillor Bradley that I had been shocked when I first heard Mathew Street had been cancelled. I had not expected it.
I reminded him that at his request in early August, I had tried to put together a rescue plan to get Mathew Street back on track but that the Chief Executive of the city council, Colin Hilton had abruptly refused to allow me to go ahead. I still did not understand why he had done this.
I pointed out the obvious - that far from being responsible for the cancellation of Mathew Street - I was the one who had done all in my power to try and save it.
I told him that I had been placed in ‘an impossible situation’ because of the battle between Culture Company chief exec, Jason Harborow and Councillor Storey over funding.
I was the ‘piggy in the middle’. There had been an attempt to ‘strip the budgets out’ – reduce the funding for Mathew Street - to prevent Councilllor Storey from getting what he wanted.
I also reminded both men that I had been replaced at meetings by Mr Harborow and that the Culture Company Steering Group regularly arranged pre-meetings in order, it seemed to me, to ensure only certain information was passed to Councillor Storey.
I said that during April, while trying to sort out the problems with Mathew St, I had also been producing the major Son et Lumiere event to celebrate Liverpool’s 8ooth birthday. This was a week-long event which Councillors Bradley and Storey had both wanted and which had forced an extremely damaging £100,000 cut in the Mathew St budget. Councillor Bradley asked me how many tickets had been sold for the Son et Lumiere shows. It had been a virtual sell-out - two shows a night for seven days, attracting between 5-6,000 people. Councillor Bradley asked where the proceeds had gone from ticket sales. I was surprised that he apparently did not know the established procedure for Culture Company ticket sales.
I explained that the tickets, which were priced at £2.50 each, had been sold through the 08 Place and Liverpool Direct (LDL). Originally LDL had wanted to charge the Culture Company an administration fee, per ticket, of £2.70. In other words, the cost of admin would have been higher than the ticket price itself.
The Culture Company had therefore agreed that LDL could take all the proceeds from ticket sales as their admin fee. Both Councillor Bradley and Councillor Storey appeared genuinely shocked. I was astonished that they appeared so out of touch and ignorant of what was going on.
Councillor Bradley then asked me if I had any information that would prove senior people in the Culture Company were involved in events leading up to the cancellation of Mathew Street.
He said: “Is there anything you can get us, to get rid of Harborow? To get him out? He must have been involved in it - although the report exonerates him.”
Councillor Bradley also asked if I could access Mr Harborow’s leave records – I assumed that he believed Mr Harborow was taking more holidays than he was entitled to.
I told Councillor Bradley that I had given a huge amount of information - in the form of emails and other documents - to the council’s inquiry, which had been ignored.
I had compiled a dossier as part of my claim for constructive dismissal which was now with my legal advisor. It would come out in public when a hearing took place.
I explained that I was also currently in negotiations with the council, through ACAS. If an out of court settlement was reached, the documents might be made available. I was non-committal about this – I needed to think it through – but told them I would consult my solicitor.
As I sat in Councillor Bradley’s living room sipping my beer, I remember being completely astonished that, two days after the council had tried to destroy my own reputation, the Leader of the Council and the former Leader of the Council were now trying to involve me in a conspiracy to remove the chief executive of the Culture Company.
I was shocked that such underhand dealings could go on. It seemed to be political skulduggery of the worst kind. I have never been involved in anything remotely like this at all before. Something was clearly seriously wrong and I felt extremely uncomfortable. I felt as though my integrity was being compromised and that undue pressure for information was now being placed upon me by people who had already once tried to destroy my reputation.
I did not have an axe to grind with anyone – I had resigned because I did not believe that Mathew Street could be delivered safely for the allocated budget and that the public were being put at risk. Now I was being drawn into something else - a conspiracy. I felt I was being used to try and get rid of someone and that there was a good chance that, if their plan ever went wrong, I would again be hung out to dry as the perpetrator. Neither Councillor Bradley nor Storey had been truthful and honest with me before – after Mathew St was cancelled, Councillor Bradley told me he was going to ensure that the council report would not blame me. He had not kept that promise, even though I had tried to rescue Mathew St.
On reflection now, I believe they must have both thought I was a complete ‘sucker’ and soft touch and that they could drag me into their conspiracy to get rid of Jason Harborow.
But at the time, I was a bit bewildered, totally confused and had extremely mixed emotions - I must have been in a state of profound shock.
Councillor Bradley then questioned me about a number of matters concerning Mr Harborow and Mathew Street and also asked what I knew about a company called Solutions and if Jason Harborow was involved with them.
I told him that Mr Harborow had told me that ‘Solutions’ – a merchandising company - were friends of his and that he had worked with them in the past.
I told the councillors that Solutions were now a preferred supplier to the city council. This meant that we had to use their services, even if we could get the same or similar goods cheaper from elsewhere – there was a general understanding about this within the Culture Company.
Councillor Storey remarked: “It’s just like Liverpool Direct.” I understood him to mean by this that he thought it was a corrupt or suspect arrangement, although I personally do not know of any evidence for this.
I finally agreed that I would look and see if I had any other documentation about Mr Harborow. I left the meeting after almost two hours and we tentatively agreed to meet again.
The following morning, Monday 19th November, I telephoned Councillor Bradley and informed him that I had consulted legal advice and was unable to release any documents to anyone unless and until my case was satisfactorily settled.
I the undersigned, Lee Forde, declare this to be a true and faithful account of my meeting on Sunday November 18th, 2007 with Liverpool Council leader Cllr Warren Bradley and Regeneration leader Cllr Mike Storey.