The internet is in many ways marvellous and/but it means that all information is available, all the time, for anyone who has the time to look for it.
What to make of the information you find is another matter.
After the recent elections, we’ve had a number of people contact us. They’ve spent hours — days for all we know, emerging only when hunger and neglected children call — searching company directories, where you can pay for information on firms and directors, but also get a decent amount for free.
For example, Coun Larry Barker, of Congleton Town Council has been the subject of a number of searches, because (i) he’s a Tory and (ii) involved in Hood’s Stores at Lower Heath, Congleton, both of which annoyed people.
Before the election we had someone stirring up Tory-related trouble on Facebook, having found that — wait for it — as a professional man, Coun Barker was director of some companies.
The generally tenor of the conversation was: “We’ve found this on the internet, he’s a Tory, so there must be some-thing going on.”
After pointing out the fact someone with a directorship of a small shop in a small northern town wasn’t really headline news — or indicative of anything at all, come to that — we had to break it to our contact that even Tories were allowed to make a living, particularly when the position they held on the council was unpaid.
(It’s worth pointing out that this person who was so keen to “expose” Coun Barker had registered onto Facebook using a fake name — openness and transparency having its limits, apparently).
If you take the trouble to look up Coun Barker’s directorships, you’ll find he’s involved with shadowy groups such as Congleton Rugby Union Football Club and Newcastle-under-Lyme Community and Voluntary Support.
A town councillor, member of various community bodies: the man clearly needs exposing for all his good deeds.
It is more newsworthy that he’s a director of Lower Heath Stores, because that area has been in the news over plans to open a new store on the site of the eyesore that is the Grove Inn, and the closure of Hood’s shop. But when we contacted him for a comment he wasn’t hiding in his secret underground base stroking a cat but as open as anyone involved in a mildly controversial deal would be.
We don’t know the full details of what councillors are expected to declare but we doubt it’s every facet of their lives.
Town councillors are not paid, so it stands to reason that many will have jobs: they are supposed to declare paid employment and so on (as well as any “beneficial interest” in land that is within the area of the local authority upon which they serve).
Presumably if you say you get paid as, say, a self-employed builder, you don’t have to also give details of the companies you actually trade under.
So for future reference:
It’s not always news that someone owns a company.
It would be news if they failed to properly declare when they should.
And it’s certainly not news just because it’s on the internet.
Not that it’s not interesting: from Coun Barker we got to Yu Convenience and Yu Trading, which are the companies currently hoping to develop the former Grove Inn.
From a director there we got to Heritage Properties Congleton (which is based in Cleethorpes) and Yu Property Group (based on the Isle of Man) and then back to Hurst Street Dock Mill Partnership, also in Cleethorpes.
This led to us to Mr GN Malouf, who may not may not be Gregory Nicholas Malouf, who may or may not be the same man as gregorymalouf.com, some kind of motivational speaker, with booklets such as Breaking Down The Berlin Wall In Your Head.
Actually, that’s 10 minutes of life we’ll never get back.