Revealed: The Old Etonian Baronet who snapped up London’s fire engines for £2

Sir Aubrey Brocklebank- a hooray henry owning all London’s fire engines for £2? Pic courtesy Daily Telegraph

This is Sir Aubrey Thomas Brocklebank,  6th Baronet Brocklebank, of Greenlands and Irton Hall, Cumberland.

He is now the proud owner – not just of a  battered 2cv  racing car as pictured  here – but of the entire fleet of fire engines owned by the London fire brigade. When you next have a fire in Greater London this is the man who will responsible that the crew arrive in a properly maintained and equipped fire engine.

In the mad world of  privatisation  Sir Aubrey was able to snap the fleet and  get his hands on an income stream worth nearly £200m over the next ten years – for JUST £2.

You the  council taxpayers will be paying this man £1.5m a month to look after London’s fleet. He got this  at a knock down price because  the Greater London Authority foolishly under Ken Livingstone and even more foolishly under Boris Johnson and former London fire chairman, Brian Coleman, sold off  London’s fire engines and a 20 year lease on its own maintenance headquarters in Ruislip to a private firm.

The firm was sold on to AssetCo ( which I have written about extensively) whose  own chief executive, John Shannon, had to be dismissed, when he left it teetering on bankruptcy. The actual engines are at present owned by bankers, Lloyds TSB, one of the chief creditors of AssetCo London which had over £30m in debts and haven’t a penny to  replace the ailing fleet of engines from 2014. This has been admitted by Sue Budden, director of finance,of the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority, . She told councillors at a meeting last week: “When they look ahead and look at the big vehicle replacement that is due to start in 2014, I think they can see they are not set up to cover that.” The full story by me is on the Exaro  news website at http://www.exaronews.com.

Step in Sir Aubrey who bought ailing  AssetCo for  £2 – without the fire authority or its staff- even knowing until the deal was signed. Such is the new world of privatised services – elected people aren’t even important enough  to know who owns them.

Now Sir Aubrey appears to be the scion of a very famous and powerful shipping family who owned two stately homes. One, Nunsmere Hall in Cheshire was built for his namesake, the third baronet, who went on to join the board of Cunard, and drew up plans for the original Queen Mary in the 1920s. The family have a steam locomotive on the narrow gauge Ravenglass and Eskdale railway named after them and in 1927 there was a swish saloon known as the Brocklebank.

The present Sir Aubrey  even graces the picture collection held by the National Portrait Gallery – with portraits of him and his first wife, Dr  Anna-Marie Dunnet, purchased by the gallery in 2004. He was also like the all the family, educated at Eton but too old at 60, to be a contemporary of London mayor Boris Johnson.

But a closer investigation reveals that  Sir Aubrey is not all he seems. Gone it appears are the two stately homes – both are now hotels. And Sir Aubrey  now remarried  with wife, Lady Hazel, is actually on the electoral register at a£162,500  three bedroomed semi in Stanwick, Wellingborough in Northants – in the constituency of Tory Mp, Peter Bone.

He doesn’t even own his house outright – he has a mortgage with the very democratic Nationwide building society.

It is at this address in July  that he set up a small private company A & AB Investments Ltd, which paid the princely sum of £2 for London’s fire engines. It is this company that is now the ultimate owner of London’s fire services. He has since set up another company Premier Fireserve, based at  the leased maintenance plant owned by the fire brigade.

Nor does he have any of the illustrious careers of his ancestors. Instead he is non executive chair of a series of venture capitalist funds, under the name Puma – who simply offer very good tax avoidance schemes – by investing in anything from hotels, property, antiquarian books – and then liquidating their investments after five years to secure maximum tax relief and returns for their investors. Hardly reassuring for such a permanent feature as providing a fire service which cannot be traded for tax  avoidance.

His only other passion is racing 2cv cars – with a  team known as Twin Snails. Indeed the elderly boy racer competed at Snetterton in Norfolk over the August bank holiday weekend in the British championships. His team have had mixed fortunes -doing better at Snetterton but coming a cropper at Brands Hatch -see http://www.flickr.com/photos/maisiehexagon/492921242/

Now you may think I am making  all this up. I tried to contact Sir Aubrey five times  to find out his side of the story. But he is shy and reclusive when it comes to the press – and he never returned my calls. I wonder why as I never bite.

But I think any reasonable person would think he is not the  first person you would want to run a public service and he hardly even has a particularly good business record. It is time he is held to account and I have great hopes that  Ex MP Andrew Dismore, the Labour assembly member for Camden and Barnet, will pursue him on our behalf by every means possible to find out the truth behind this, on the surface, very dodgy development.

16 thoughts on “Revealed: The Old Etonian Baronet who snapped up London’s fire engines for £2

  1. What a load of muck raking crap. Did you forget to mention that it’s bought for £2 bcoz he bought both the assets and the debts? And why pillory him for being a baronet?

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    • Rahul, i sincerley hope that you do not require assistance from the LFB in the future, as you may end up with a fire engine turning up, or not as the case may be, that is unable to pump water cause its so old or broken. The new fire minister needs to act now and force the LFB to bring the fleet back into public ownership, fire engines may have been old but they were certainly maintained by skilled MRV’s (mechanics) who knew what they were doing.

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      • Old or broken? That’s a bit harsh. The fleet is nearly new, between one and ten years old, and is due to be replaced on a rolling programme from 2014, funded from the ‘income stream’ mentioned in the article. Something else we can blame Gordon Brown for in his mad rush to remove capital expenditure from Government books. I don’t see how you can blame a privatisation that happened a decade ago on the Tories or BoJo.

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  2. This needs to be publicly shouted about to all ears. James OB needs to try to get bojo to answer and own up. Eton and bullingham club win again. David camerons britain. This will get worse when the real cuts come in. Please ensure Private Eye are aware

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  3. Rahul, if he bought it for £2 or £20000000000, do you really think he is the right person to be in charge of the London Fire Brigades fleet of fire engines. Get a grip.

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  4. If it was ‘muck raking’ it’s pretty extensive and well researched. Also, if it is, then Mtr Brocklebank will no doubt defend himself admirably ( or as is more likely the predominantly pro right Tory media will do it for him). I’ll wait for Boris to explain it to James OB – Oh no, Brian does not talk to James does he, best to stick to Daybreak or Nick Ferrari.

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  5. This countries industry has been decimated and it seems the only way to make vast sums of money is to muscle-in to the public sector. The fire service is non-profit making, so any money taken out of the fire budget for so called profit is unexceptable. This money should be used on wages, equipment, buildings etc. Not being used to line some fat cats pocket at the expense of creating a Trumpton type fire service.

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  6. what’s all this talk about the public industry sector being decimated by the private sector fats cats? duh the industries were always owned by the fat cats but the govt interfered over the years and destroyed it!
    if the unions hadnt have crippled many industries with their insistence on red tape and other labour rubbish they might be in a much better position and we would all have jobs!
    its NOT the job of the govt to directly create jobs! they cost too much and dont contribute anything to the GDP as they all come from the taxpayers pockets!

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  7. Why is it that the fire service seems to be in such disarray ! What with failed projects like the RCC projects, that we all know was a bad idea to begin with.
    Now this, an incompetent fool purchasing a fleet that he probably knows nothing about and eventually drive into the ground.
    It’s about time people were held accountable for their stupid and redidulpus ideas that never work!
    Speak to the people on the ground floor before you decide to F**K us over ………. again !

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  8. its going to be a case of if your house or property aint insured or your poor and cant pay for private services your property will burn privatization sucks our goverment is corrupt as fcuk .rich gets richer and poorer gets poorer

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  9. This cheeky monkey has popped up as Chairman of a business called NGS plc. These salt Barons really know how to fleece the poor people of Southampton. A catalogue of bust companies behind them debts all over the place, and all you have to do in the UK is walk away and start again;)

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  10. Rich you won’t get insurance because of fracking….you will be paying £5 a litre for water because the water in the pipes will have methane in them and some other unwanted poisons…truly the parties are destroying our once great country…..

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  11. Salt international in liquidation now! Wish we could all get away with doing business like this!! What an outstanding fellow!! I’m so glad my country has honoured him Sir!

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