Exclusive: London Fire Brigade sacks the 2cv racing baronet

Sir Aubrey Brocklebank: Sacked by the London Fire Brigade; Picture courtesy Daily Telegraph

The  incredible scandal surrounding the botched privatisation of London Fire Brigade takes yet another mad twist.

Sir Aubrey Brocklebank, the baronet who bought  the brigade’s entire fire engine fleet for £2 just three months ago, has had his contract terminated by the London Fire Brigade today. His company has gone into administration only  four months afterv it was set up, it was among a string of companies that appear to have been set up by the baronet only to fail.

The eccentric baronet who loves to race ageing  2cv’s at  racetracks across the UK and lives in a three bed semi in Wellingborough, Northants, thought he could make a fast buck by selling on the company. There is a previous blog which will tell you everything you need to know about him on this site.

You the  council taxpayers have been  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 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, dismissed by the firm, after he left it teetering on bankruptcy.  He is now going bust himself. The 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 in September: “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.

Now it emerges  surprise, surprise that after a few months that he can’t deliver and the authority has had to use emergency powers to end the contract and has handed it over to Babcock without any tender competition. The interim contract will last next 18 months.

This is their statement:

LONDON FIRE BRIGADE APPOINTS BABCOCK TO MANAGE  999 FLEET

London Fire Brigade has appointed Babcock International Group to manage and maintain its fleet of fire engines and specialist equipment on an interim basis.

Due to a deterioration of the services provided by Premier Fire Serve Limited (previously called AssetCo London Ltd), the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority, which runs the Brigade, has exercised its right to terminate the contract and appoint a new provider.

 While, undertaking a full, competitive procurement of the services, it has appointed Babcock to maintain the fleet on an interim basis of 18 months until the new provider has been appointed.

 London Fire Commissioner Ron Dobson said: “This move should stabilise the way in which our vehicles and equipment are managed and enable London Fire Brigade to continue to provide the Capital with the world-class fire and rescue service it deserves.”

However London Assembly’s Green Party spokesman Darren Johnson said:

“The sensible long term solution is to bring the contract in house and scrap the PFI arrangement. Many other fire authorities have a straight forward leasing arrangement. I hope that both the Mayor and the Government will see sense and recognise that the experiment with PFI has failed. We shouldn’t be taking financial risks with something so essential as our fire engines. Government funding guarentees for PFI credits could be better spent on developing an in house contract.”

what a mess!

AND THERE IS REPORT FROM DONEGAL REPORTING THIS FALL OUT

WORKERS LEFT SHOCKED AS DONEGAL CALL-CENTRE CLOSES WITH LOSS OF 30 JOBS

BREAKING NEWS: A Donegal call-centre has gone into administration with the loss of 30 jobs.

Workers at the Buncrana-based Assetco Manage Services ROI were told the bad news this afternoon.

The company, is part of a larger company, Assetco London Ltd, which works with London Fire Brigade.

London Fire Brigade failed to renew a major contract for Assetco London Ltd leaving workers out in the cold.

Shell-shocked workers at the company, based at the IDA Business Park in Lisfannon since 2006, were told the news today.

Even worse is the fact that none of the workers will be paid redundancies.

Ironically most of the London-based employees will be taken on by the company who won the new contract, Babcock.

However, the Irish company have not been given part of that new contract and will lose their jobs.

Members of KPMG, who are acting on behalf on London banks, turned up at the Buncrana company’s headquarters today to break the news.

Angry workers say they are outraged at how they have been treated.

A spokesman told Donegal Daily that they are considering their positions and are even thinking of staging sit-in at the plant.

“We have been very loyal to Assetco London and this is how we have been rewarded.

“We would like London Fire Brigade to know this and to know how we are being treated.

“There are 30 families being thrown on the scrapheap just before Christmas it’s just not on,” said a spokesman.

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.