July 20, 2024

Guardian covers more fall out from Peverel’s price-fixing scam with Cirrus Communications

For the second week, the Saturday Guardian Money section has given wide coverage of the Peverel / Cirrus Communications price-fixing scam

For the second week, the Saturday Guardian Money section has given wide coverage of the Peverel / Cirrus Communications price-fixing scam

The Guardian returned to the Peverel price-fixing scam involving Cirrus Communications yesterday.

The personal finance editor Patrick Collinson reported Janet Entwistle, Peverel CEO, rejecting calls for compensation.

Peverel is insisting on paying only £100,000 as a “goodwill” payment to settle a dispute in which it systematically rigged tender processes in favour of its subsidiary Cirrus Communications.

Entwistle’s reply – unexamined by the Guardian – was a rebuff to Sir Peter Bottomley, who last week suggested that the offer of compensation be substantially increased or turned over to mediation.


Although Peverel is an enthusiast of behind-closed-doors mediation schemes – where its conduct is not examined or criticised in open court – Entwistle rejected the proposal.

The Guardian also reproduced a number of letters, including those from Campaign against retirement leasehold exploitation regulars Michael Hollands and Ian Hay. Hollands letter was headed ‘Guilty – so cut the spin and have a rethink’. He added:

‘Peverel must realise action is needed before its reputation is in tatters’

Hay raised the issue of having had to pay £2,500 in subletting fees to the contingency fund at Gibson Court – the site in Esher that burned down two years ago. This has been the subject of recent correspondence between Campaign against retirement leasehold exploitation and the Tchenguiz Family Trust.

In a published letter in the Guardian, Sebastian O’Kelly, of the Campaign against retirement leasehold exploitation / Leasehold Knowledge Partnership, urged:

“Politicians should be scrutinising this sector under full parliamentary privilege, and putting pressure on taxpayer-owned banks to call in loans based on insubstantial, overvalued assets, or where income streams are simply unjustifiable charges.”


  1. Michael Epstein says

    A contingency fund (or sinking fund) should be for an explicitly stated purpose and used only for that purpose. Tchenguiz Family Trust companies made an agreement with the OFT to charge £85 for sub-let fees. What has sub-letting go to do with service charges? Is anyone else at Gibson Court being asked for a £2,500 contribution?
    May I remind everyone that the activities of E&M were the subject of Parliamentary Early Day Motion 342

    • Michael – E&M have quoted a subclause in the lease which basically grabs 1% of the market value of the property on sublet, plus £200 in admin fees. The agreement with the OFT of September 2012 is hopeless for us. It states that where the landlords have discretion under the lease to vary this fee, it will instead be set to one month’s rent. E&M say they have made no agreement to charge just £85 for a sublet. However E&M, in defending their position, are now blaming the Residents Association, saying that they (E&M) have no discretion under the lease to vary the fee. The RA did not raise the matter at the time of the fire and it would not be possible to waive the fees as it would mean getting all the residents’ agreement. How convenient for E&M! We have not managed to track down anyone else subletting at Gibson Court, but we do know that all sales have also been subjected to a 1% fee. Apparently for sales, the 1% transfer fee was waived (but only until 31 December) but the contingency fee, also 1%, was not. I don’t know what the fees for sales will be after 31 December. Think of a number, and E&M will wheel in their lawyers to enforce it.

      Sebastian, on our behalf, has asked some pertinent questions about how the TFT has dealt with similar cases and whether there is not a precedent for waiving the fees. This was the response from E&M:

      As we have attempted to explain to you on a number of occasions, the contingency fee is solely for the upkeep and maintenance of the block. The beneficiaries of this fee are the leaseholders and not the landlord. As such, the landlord has obligations to the other residents to uphold this payment, with no discretion to waive or reduce the fee on subletting or a sale. Your accusation that Fairhold has this discretion is completely wrong and misleading.

      Happy Christmas!

  2. Has any other quality newspaper or tabloid paper ran any of these storeys. If they have not, why when it is a storey worth running? The top of the iceberg is visible, and we the leaseholders know what is below?

    How come Cirrus formally known as Cirrus Communications who were the instigators in this corrupt behaviour, are still trading and winning contracts withy their sister company, Peverel Group which also finds work for Kingsborough Insurance Services Ltd, and including CarelineUK.

    When Price Fixing/Tender Rigging begins, usually the Larger Contractor, who wishes to gain bribes the smaller contractor into corrupted methods, so they both benefit.

    Usually in Law the leader of such a corrupt contractor in a Cartel, would be given a more severe penalty than the subordinate corrupt smaller contractor?

    In this case the main contractor in the Cartel, and the company that purchased the Peverel Group knew of the corrupt actions of Cirrus.

    The Office of Fantasy Tendering, OFT played safe and freed themselves from any further investigation by setting a very low threshold in the way the investigation was a One and not a Two.

  3. Michael Epstein says

    It is precisely because of cases such as yours, that so many have united against the Tchenguiz companies (including Fairhold/E&M. If we can “score” enough victories against them on other issues, we help people such as you. In this we are making good progress. We await the outcome of the forthcoming SFO/Tchenguiz action, which will have important consequences for the future of Fairhold /E&M.
    God luck, we are with you and the residents every step of the way. We will find a way to win this.

  4. The Guardian today 28.12 reports on the £7,000,000 plus houses in Egerton Crescent London. I think Band H is the highest for Council Tax purposes so presumably that is the band they are in. Those of us in retirement apartments find that we are placed in very high bands even though we have quite small properties – in our case in Devon an apartment worth about £200,000 a year is in Band E and costs almost£2,000 a year. Appeals have proved useless. Is this another result of the very high initial prices charged for retirement apartments and another warning for new purchasers?

  5. Brenda

    Yes, the system is illogical and unfair in the retirement sector. Your Band E cannot be right and you should challenge it.

    These flats, completed in 2002, were hugely overpriced around £300,000.

    During the recession in 2011 the flat next door, identical to mine, was sold for £285,000 two years ago.

    The neighbour above me, whose flat is the same size as mine, bought it in 2006 for £250,000. She went to a valuation tribunal at which Band D was reduced to Band C that affected us all.

    • Hi Fleeced sorry an extra “a year” crept into my last posting. The flats now sell below £200,000.I did appeal some 10 years ago and was told the original price (some 15 years ago) put it into Band E. Therefore the appeal was refused.
      I sometimes feel that everybody regards those living in retirement apartments as sheep ready to be fleeced.

  6. Here’s a report on council tax band changing :


    • Thank you Ollie I will give this a try because i know one identical flat to mine is a Band D,I will let you know what transpires,

  7. Ollie – yes, I know you are right.

    But I’m confused! My neighbour did compare the Bands in the local area and this is how she managed to get it lowered from D to C and we all benefited from the lower council tax. But I don’t understand this as the two bedroom flats here cost well over £250,000 now – very odd.

  8. Thank you Ollie and Fleeced. I think some Valuation Officers may be more intransigent and insist that the price paid plus the mathematical formula used to take it back to the first year of Council Tax gives a figure which is set in stone, There are flats here selling at even less than mine which are in Band E. Probably nothing can be done until a brave (foolhardy) government decides to reband the whole country – but that may not be in my lifetime. I have written to my MP but cannot see change coming any time soon. It is an important issue though and another warning to those who may be thinking if buying into the “dream”.

    • Having been turned down by the Valuation officer, I followed Martin Lewis’ advice and managed to reduce my banding (and the rest of the residents who were not in the lower band). I live in a cottage not an apartment. You need to check to see if there is a ‘similar’ sized apartment in your block that is in a lower band. If there is then the rest is plain sailing.

      • Thank you Ollie and Jane. I checked Zoopla prices for last 5 years and found on present prices the flats would have originally been in Band C, I also found a neighbours flat which was rated D, Mine is Band E. I have emailed local valuation office asking that the flat be re-assessed.

        • Brenda,

          Please remember its the “assessed market value at April 1991 which counts for setting of Council Tax banding. The market values for last 5 years shown by Zoopa website does not count.

          • Thank you Ollie, I have pointed out to the Valuation Office that my flat which was priced at £99,450 in 1999 was £5,000 less than the identical flat in the block which was assessed (I think on appeal) as Band D. Since looking into the matter I have found flats in this block currently selling for under £150,000 are still in Band E. If nobody challenges these assessments they are apparently set in stone although equivalent local flats at the same prices are sometimes advertised in Band A.
            I think the problem is that any move of house is stressful but when it is occasioned by bereavement, ill health or dementia people are just too upset to start challenging Council Tax bandings. Therefore they remain high as compared with other non retirement premises. I would like to see Valucation Offices forced to check sheltered housing bandings every 10 years to see if they are accurate. Ideally of course would be a national rebranding but this will never be done because the whole system is skewed against lower value accommodation.

  9. Michael Epstein says

    I know it really doesn’t work that way, but I, Scourge Of Peverel, will award 10 points to anyone that gets their council tax reduced on the basis of being managed by Peverel!

    • Hmm – attractive offer, could be worth a try. Everyone will have to wait though because I am told the investigation will take 2 months.