CONVICTED fraudster Tony Ramsden has been elected chairman of a top business organisation in a move branded “shocking” and “unbelievable”.
The Bournemouth planning consultant is free after serving part of a 10-month jail sentence handed down by a judge who branded him a “liability in business”.
Now the former councillor, who is currently looking for a full-time job, has been elected chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses’ (FSB) branch in Bournemouth, Poole and Christchurch – despite his conviction, three bankruptcies and a six-year ban as a company director.
His father David is the branch’s secretary.
Mr Ramsden, also known as Ramsden-Geary, was convicted by a jury last September of obtaining credit as an undisclosed bankrupt.
He had denied the charge, which related to a loan of £25,000 from business partner Christopher Wardrop.
He had already pleaded guilty to five offences under the Insolvency Act.
Ken Parke, who runs Ken Parke Planning Consultants in Winton, said: “I’m speechless.
“I’m shocked that someone who was convicted of fraudulently running a business has been elected to look after such an organisation.”
Nick Hart, who lost money in one of Mr Ramsden’s business ventures, said of the appointment: “It’s so wrong, it’s unbelievable.
“How can a person who is totally dishonest, declared a liability in business, a liar, a three times bankrupt, be at the head of a federation looking after small businesses?”
Ian Elliot, former managing director of Salad Creative, who says the company is still owed money by Mr Ramsden’s business for printing work, said the appointment was “farcical”.
“It’s utterly unbelievable,” he said. “He’s a person that’s ripped off small business. Small businesses shouldn’t have anything to do with the guy.”
But Christchurch councillor Colin Jamieson, a former regional officer with the FSB, said: “Tony is a very dynamic and forward-thinking person. I’m sure the FSB of Bournemouth, Poole and Christchurch would thrive under his leadership.”
At the sentencing last year, Judge John Harrow said Mr Ramsden’s three bankruptcies were “quite a record”.
He added: “By the time of your second bankruptcy, it should have been painfully obvious that you were a liability in business.
“The rules are there to prevent exactly this kind of situation. You ploughed on and continued running and being actively involved in business. You were prepared to lie to your trustee in bankruptcy and acquaintance Mr Wardrop and conceal vital information. You flouted all the rules.”
Banning him as a director for six years, he added: “In my view, you're unfit to act as a company director.”
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Former Bournemouth council colleague Cllr David Smith said: “I wish Mr Ramsden all the very best in his new post but considering he’s spent a period of time in prison for offences involving dishonesty, I’m somewhat surprised he’s undertaking this role.”
Another senior Conservative in Dorset said he would be asking questions about “whether this person is the best ambassador” for the FSB.
He added: “Are we so short of good people to step forward and do these things?”
Ken Moon, regional chair for FSB Wessex, said in a statement: “The Federation of Small Businesses represents businessmen and women from all over the UK and has a very successful membership base in the Bournemouth area.
“Tony Ramsden was elected by members, and the FSB is a leading voice of business in the region and would welcome employers/owners from small and medium size firms to the organisation.”
But FSB Wessex declined to comment further on whether Mr Ramsden was a suitable branch chairman.
The national FSB said it was a matter for the regional office.
Mr Ramsden said: “I can confirm that I was recently elected chairman of the FSB (Bournemouth, Poole and Christchurch branch) by the members.”
- Are you a member of the Federation of Small Businesses? Are you satisfied that Tony Ramsden is a suitable branch chairman? Email email@example.com or comment at bournemouthecho.co.uk
Ramsden leads committee of six
TONY Ramsden now heads a committee of six as chair of the Bournemouth, Poole and Christchurch branch of the FSB.
His vice-chairman, Jeff Pearce of Verwood-based Oakpark Security Dorset, did not want to comment but indicated he was unaware of Mr Ramsden’s criminal conviction.
The branch’s secretary is Mr Ramsden’s father David, who has previously been chairman.
The other three committee members are Russell Bowyer, Andrew Davis and Matthew Lawson.
Federation ‘protects interests’
THE Federation of Small Businesses describes itself as the UK’s largest campaigning pressure group.
It works to promote and protect the interests of small firms and the self-employed.
Its code of conduct for members says: “Members should endeavour to follow the principles adhered to by those in public office – Selflessness, Integrity, Objectivity, Accountability, Openness, Honesty and Leadership.”
The association has more than 200,000 members in 33 regions and 194 branches.
The federation’s 19-strong national policy team includes Tony Ramsden’s father David, as its tax and economic affairs chairman.
Father works as secretary
TONY Ramsden’s father David has, like his son, been chairman of the local FSB branch and been bankrupted.
Mr Ramsden senior, now branch secretary, is the owner of David Ramsden Associates.
He is also one of the FSB’s leading national figures, acting as its tax and economic affairs chairman.
Last year, he gave evidence to a House of Lords select committee, speaking about the legislation commonly known as IR35.
He also sits on the board of the Dorset Local Enterprise Partnership and is lead director of its Growing Places Fund.
The fund has a budget of £9.4million to lend for major investment and regeneration in the county.
David Ramsden did not return calls from the Daily Echo requesting a comment.
Ramsden bankrupted three times
TONY Ramsden was elected a Conservative councillor for Talbot and Branksome Woods in 1999 and soon became chair of Bournemouth’s licensing committee.
He was re-elected in 2003 but had to step down shortly afterwards after being bankrupted.
It later emerged that he had also been bankrupted in 1993.
A third bankruptcy then followed in 2013.
After leaving the council, Mr Ramsden became a planning consultant, heading the firm Planning Solutions and appearing for developers at meetings of the council’s planning committee.
Last year, he represented the developer behind a planned £150million hotel, apartment and leisure complex on the former site of Bournemouth’s Winter Gardens.
The application was rejected and Mr Ramsden was accused of trying to mislead councillors over the extent of support for the scheme.