Corruption of Complaints Procedure

South Tyneside Council and the Local Government Ombudsman
From: mick.dawson@theharbourview.co.uk
Date: 18/12/2020 (11:51:49 BST)
To: Nicola Robason
Cc: Emma Lewell-Buck MP, Anne-marie Trevelyan MP, Cllr Angela Hamilton, Cllr David Francis, Peter Cunningham, George Mansbridge, Hayley Johnson, Alison Hoy, Garry Simmonette, Keith Palmer
1 Attachment: BCandSTCtoJR7-Dec-20.pdf (84 KB)

Dear Nicola

Conflation of Complaints.

I had become Resident’s spokesperson after the Town Hall meeting in November 2013 as I was the only person attending who spoke out against the proposition made by the Principal Planning Officer that the enclosure (shed) had been approved. To put it another way I saw straight through Cllr Anglin’s view of the meeting: “Michael, I took no minutes as is customary at these informal meetings. For your record I am sure all would agree: The Exec representatives of the Group accepted that the construction had been made legally as per drawings seen.
Not only had he downgraded a meeting that was to decide the future of the shed, he linked me to two people who had an interest in its survival. First of all, I was not an ‘Exec representative’ of the Tyne Gateway Assn (TGA) although I had been on its committee for a good number of years, and secondly, I was aware that to say that the structure had been made legally to mean it had been approved was probably a fraudulent misrepresentation and your interim Head of Legal Services should be able to confirm that for you.

To clarify the position, I must make it clear that the Principal Planning Officer never said that at the meeting but a day or so later went on to reinforce Cllr Anglin’s view of the proceedings: “Please see below the reply from Peter. “Hello – I confirmed at our meeting with Mr Dawson and others on 25th Nov (Sept) 2013 that I had measured the width and length of the ground floor external footprint and height of the structure and that these dimensions were all in accordance with the attached approved drawing.
The drawing was not approved, and we were not to see one that had been approved in 1996 for another month. In the meantime, the Council had published a drawing of the gable end facing the river which appeared on 10-Dec-13 which was drawn to scale and showed it to be 15.6m x 12.2m. It was another Resident who pointed out that the Planning Manager had approved the Decision Notice, ST/1143/13/COND in October 2013, with which the drawing 8296/14 was associated.
If the meeting had been formal the Principal Planning Officer would have been instructed to produce some approved plans before UK Docks could restart work on their shed. The site had been a silent as a grave since mid-September and should have remained so until UK Docks had applied for permission retrospectively for it, and I doubt whether it would have been granted especially with regard to the additional length. Not only did he fail to produce any proof to back his point of view, it follows that he was not being truthful when he said that the dimensions had been approved either (these dimensions were all in accordance with the attached approved drawing).
Both I and UK Docks knew that he was misrepresenting the drawing(s) but they remained quiet about because it saved them from having to submit a retrospective application for their larger shed which was not only taller and wider but longer as well. The extra set of footings for the sixth frame were visible in the middle of their yard until August 2017, that is, when they were not covered by a pallet. UK Docks must have taken the outcome of that meeting as commendation to complete their shed because a pair of large cranes arrived on sight to fit the overhead travelling crane in the beginning of the new year, 2014. It looks like they had been assured by the Council that the deviation from plan could be passed off as immaterial i.e. non-material deviations from the permitted plan.
Indeed, they were still repeating it when Emma Lewell-Buck and Councillor Hamilton visited them early in 2019. From what I could gather, it was when they were asked to produce authorised plans to back that statement that they changed their plea to a new one – they had been granted permission retrospectively and as you know there was as much truth in that as there was in Mr Cunningham’s statement that it had been approved five years years before. I was more interested in stopping UK Docks completing their shed and their move from Tyne Dock than I was in planning officer Cunningham’s misdemeanours so I put in a formal complaint on behalf of the other residents and myself based on the observation, 10-Jan-2014:
It is therefore reasonable to conclude that the current structure has not been built to the ‘approved plans’ as provided by Council, i.e. 1A,1B nor does the drawing of the cladding/door fixing detail match what exists, for example the structure is 3 metres higher and 1 metre wider than shown on 8296/14.

I went onto question why nothing had been done about it but was ignored. The bunnies ears around ‘approved plans’ were deliberate; the plans were not approved. The complaint was intercepted by Mr Cunningham, never registered but passed back to the TGA: “Mr Dawson, I responded to you this morning as follows: The queries that you raise are not new, indeed I have been repeating my response to them for some time now, . . . . My understanding is that the responses that I had provided to you at this meeting enabled the matter to be closed. May I therefore suggest that you speak with the Chair of the resident’s group in respect of the points that you have raised below, as these have already been discussed and explained.

I was not prepared to accept a pack lies again, so I asked for the complaint to be escalated up the management chain(Council Notice 38292 refers) but the first thing the Planning Manager did was to back his Principal Planning Officer: “Approved Drawings  The following are details of the relevant drawings in the Council’s possession. The drawing that was submitted on 11th April 1996 with the application is numbered 8296/1A. That shows the overall height of the structure as 15.5m above the foundation level at the landward end.

Then, to kill off the complaint completely, the Planning Manager overwrote it with: see email to Planning. Mr Dawson asking various questions relating to the ongoing development at the slipway, River Drive, South Shields.
I have laboured this because the actions of the planning team in late 2013 and early 2014 illustrate the basic methods employed to corrupt the Council’s own complaints procedure and they need emphasising:

1. by not registering them so there is no audit trail of the responses;
2. by contradicting the complaint with a misrepresentation;
3. by passing the complaint back down the chain of command;

There are other deceits as I have shown in my letter to ‘All’ of 30-Nov-2020. The letter also compares two complaints in which the Council allowed the developers to build what they wished to build rather than what had been permitted and how both complaints blend seamlessly into the misuse of the Office of the Local Government Ombudsman. It appears that the Council use the Ombudsman in a way that is not open to the public:

Your email to Mr Atkinson has been forwarded to our team as your complaint on this matter has exhausted the Council’s complaints procedure and is now with the Local Government Ombudsman’s office.

Alison Hoy for Customer Advocates, 15-Mar-15

Alison marked her email [PROTECT] which means there are legal implications in what she was telling me: the email to Mr Atkinson was about ST/0461/14/FUL (extending the shed amongst other things); the complaint was originally raised using a detailed drawing from ST/1146/13/COND but was raised against the fact that the shed failed to meet the second condition imposed by ST/26/96/96.Her email is a perfect example of the 3rd way that the Council corrupt or abuse the Complaints Procedure.

4. merging two or more complaints in such a way that they need not address the concerns raised in any of them –  Conflation.

When she says: your complaint on this matter has exhausted, she was hiding the fact that the shed is taller than permitted and you repeated that when you confirmed that UK Docks had not been granted retrospective permission for their shed. It appears that the same staff who misled the Ombudsman are content to mislead you as their Monitoring Officer as well.

Because my letter to ‘All’ of 30-Nov-2020 repeated much of what I had told you in 2019 I did not wish to bore you with the detail but I did copy it to the interim Head of Legal Services to make him Generally aware of what had happened re UK Docks’ shed until the end of 2015. His copy of that email was not rejected but I followed it up with an email to him filling in some detail of malpractice endemic in the Town Hall, Building Control and South Tyneside Council, and that was rejected, 08/12/2020 – 12:00:48:

This is an automatically generated Delivery Status Notification.
Delivery to the following recipients failed permanently:
*john.rumney@southtynside.gov.uk
Reason: There was an error while attempting to deliver your message with [Subject: "Building Control and South Tyneside Council"] tojohn.rumney@southtynside.gov.uk. It has been in queue too long, and will not attempt delivery again.

The copy to Emma Lewell-Buck MP was also rejected 24 hours earlier by some software installed on system by a Mr Palmer whom I took to be her office Manager, 07/12/2020 – 11:19:09:

This is an automatically generated Delivery Status Notification.
Delivery to the following recipients failed permanently:
*emma.lewell-buck.mp@parliament.uk
Reason: There was an error while attempting to deliver your message with [Subject: "Building Control and South Tyneside Council"] toemma.lewell-buck.mp@parliament.uk. 550,550 Undeliverable mail

I asked Mr Palmer to remove the block but he has not done so. It appears that he was not acting on the MP’s behalf when it was put up but that it’s no longer my business as I have found a satisfactory workaround. What is more interesting is the rejection after 24 hours by Mr Rumney as it did not happen with a similar sized email of the week before. Who installed that software or do he do it himself?
I was naturally curious about the rejection message as I had not seen anything like it before and as far as I can see it is a trap set so the incoming mail can be read, returned to the queue marked as unread and then thrown out by some time set trapping software after 24 hours. I hope I have misread the situation but we will see what happens when this email gets sent as I have attached a copy of Building Control and South Tyneside Council for you.
It will be then up to him what he does about the misconduct of the Corporate Lead when she falsely accused the other Residents and I of making allegations (Attachment 6, Letter to MP for Berwick, 25-Jun-15). If an approved drawing says the river end of the shed should be 15.5m and it is 18.2m high at that point, it is not an allegation to claim it is nearly three meters tall than planned, it is the truth.
When I asked the Chief Executive on the 8th of July 2016: “I ask you to look again at this because there is a clear contradiction between what the Council were telling the LGO and what is known. Why your staff should misrepresent the facts to the LGO is for you to determine. That they have misinformed the LGO should be admitted and corrected and that is what this letter is about.”
I am fairly certain why they misrepresented the facts -they would not have got permission (retrospectively) for their taller shed, nor for their longer one. What I did not expect was that his Corporate Lead would be instructed to ‘Section’ me.
One just complaint about his staff misleading the Ombudsman is neither repetitive nor unreasonable and her misuse of of Section F is reprehensible, to say the least. Customer Advocacy (CA) can verify that none rather than one complaint, about the Council misleading the Ombudsman, have (has) been received.
I was unhappy with her threat to unjustly section me,1-Aug-16,and explained,2-Sep-16,the misrepresentations given to the Ombudsman again along with the advice given me by Peter Dunn and Co. and hoped she would reconsider her threat. I then remembered that honesty was not her strong point (saying residents were making allegations which was untrue) and so I passed my response and a covering minute to CA advising them that she was being unreasonable on the 3rd of September.
It appears that both were passed back to herby CA and so she was able to carry her threat without revealing the fact that I had sought legal advice: “I consulted a solicitor about Ms Hoy’s letter(email 9-Dec-15)”because I felt that she was being used by Mr Simmonette to avoid answering the question of the planned height of the shed.

My letter to you on the 5th December last year contained a facsimile of that advice to dispel all doubts that CA must have had about my visit to a solicitor and Mrs Johnson’s claim that: “there is no evidence to suggest that there has been deliberate misinformation provided by Council officers to the Local Government Ombudsman.”

Misinforming the Ombudsman is deliberate. She was covering up the fact that, to put it bluntly, a Senior Planning Officer had been lying when he told the Ombudsman that the shed had been built to the approved height. It appears that when you keep repeating, 26-Feb and 7-July: “It remains the case that all complaints procedures relating to this matter have been exhausted both internally within the Council and externally. ” you and Gill Hayton, who repeated much of the misinformation given to the Ombudsman, as well as the Ombudsman herself have been misinformed about the shed or worse.
Also Mr Tilbury spotted before I did that the Council were not registering Complaints: “Hopefully this can be dealt with as a “new” matter. If this complaint is not dealt with by South Tyneside Council, and it may well be that they say it relates to the old complaint.”
CA and the Council’s Corporate Lead have between them fulfilled the complete list of methods, given above, by which the complaints procedure gets corrupted and yet you say all complaints have been exhausted. Please explain how a procedure can become exhausted if it has not even begun and please do not quote 253539 at me; that was a fiction cooked up by the Head of Development Services to get the shed approved through the back door.
Yours sincerely
Michael Dawson

One thought on “Corruption of Complaints Procedure”

  1. Customer Advocacy (CA) can verify that none rather than one complaint, about the Council misleading the Ombudsman, have (has) been received.
    should read:-
    Customer Advocacy (CA) can verify that no other than one complaint, about the Council misleading the Ombudsman, has been received.

    Not that it it makes any difference, it looks like Mr Swales only ever got one complaint about his staff misleading the Ombudsman and he pressed an ambitious member of staff to claim the opposite and misapply some internal staff rules to close the protest down.

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