Culture of Denial

Date: 18/05/2020 (09:07:23 AM BST)
To: Keith Palmer
Cc: Emma Lewell-Buck MP, Cllr Angela Hamilton, Cllr David Francis, Customer Advocates, Simon Buck

Dear Mr Palmer

If you had told me that Simon Buck was listening into our phone conversation of the 13th January the pair of you would have had an earful of what I thought of the Council and I need not repeat it here because my views are well known. That you wish to misreport my view is why I associate you with the corrupt practices of the Town Hall.

Cllr Anglin reported after a meeting held in November 2013; “Michael, I took no minutes as is customary at these informal meetings. For your record I am sure all would agree: 1. The Exec representatives of the Group accepted that the construction had been made legally as per drawings seen

I did not agree as I knew that UK Docks were using the term ‘legal’ to cover up the fact that they did not have planning permission for their shed. I went and measured the width of the shed for myself a couple of days later and found that it was wider than permitted and advised Cllr Anglin about it but he chose to ignore me and accept the word of the Principal Planning Officer.

We had identified that there was a problem with the height as early as 9th September 2013 when another local resident wrote:

Could you please confirm what height the structure is being constructed to? It seems that one had approval (12 mtrs), and the other didn’t (15.5.mtrs).

He never answered the question but sent her a link to the complaints procedure. I had just been cheated out of a legitimate complaint at the second stage of the complaints system and could not rectify it by the time it got to the Ombudsman so for obvious reasons I was loath to enter it again.

I was given no alternative after the planning officer wrote 20th December 2013:
Mr Dawson – once again – I have measured this on site and have copied the 1996 plans across to you twice already (attached again for your use) and I have explained during our meeting that the base and height of the structure are compliant…this is the end of the matter as far as I am concerned Please do not email me again

I had proof by then that the shed was 3m too tall but what is important there is no reference to the base or the height being lawful. The meeting had been made informal so the Planning Officer need not be held to account and he has never been brought to account and that is why the shed is still there. The Council told the Ombudsman that the shed was the permitted height and this was a misrepresentation.

The planning officer was not tasked with producing any documentation to back his claim that UK Docks had approval for their shed. He did not use the term ‘legal’ to mean approved either but he was quite happy to let the use of it go because it diverted attention from the fact that there were no authorised drawings to back any claim that the shed had approval.

A complaint was driven all the way through the complaints procedure and the lawfulness of the footings was never mentioned until we get to the Ombudsman. My complaint (248789) was dealt with when the Planning Manager conceded that the shed was in fact 3m taller than planned. It was replaced by one invented by his boss, the Head of Development Services (253539) otherwise there was no reason to involve the Ombudsman.

During this time the question of whether it was lawful or not arise until an extra clause went into paragraph 20 in the Ombudsman’s findings of 15-Apr-15:

In response to the draft of my decision Mr X says because the foundations are too wide the permission was not lawfully implemented.

It neatly disposed of the complaints about the shed not meeting the 2nd condition but it is not true because Mr X never said it.

The Council knew exactly who Mr X was and picked selected bits out of the archive to paint a false picture to the Ombudsman and she was too willing to accept it which is why the Council is in so much trouble now. What I actually told the Ombudsman was:

That they were not laid in accordance with the authorised plans (1m too wide) was overlooked by the Council. This could have been looked at if the Council had ask for retrospective planning application.”

This neatly brings me to the fallout from our telephone conversation where you suggested that I had been trying to get Emma to sway the Ombudsman’s decision. I saw immediately what you were tying to do and it reminded me of the ‘lawful’ story so I promptly wrote to Emma about it 13-Jan-20:

At the end of the day the Council are misusing the Ombudsman’s Office to hide malpractice then use their findings to deflect any enquirers after the truth“.

I see from Mr Buck’s review of our conversation – see below (14-Jan-20), that you want to replace that with your inference that I have been trying to get Emma as an MP to influence the Local Government Ombudsman, and to complain further to the Local Government Ombudsman.

Coupled with the suggestion that I take legal advice, it looks like you did not tell Mr Buck about the attachment sent to Emma and copied to you whom I thought was her new office manager. I did not bother to copy it to Mr Buck as you gave me the impression over the phone that you had replaced Mr Buck.

If you look at the attachment you will see that Mr Tilbury said “My view is that we need to raise a “new complaint” so that the Local Authority shall deal with it, and if not, the Local Government Ombudsman can deal with it.

I’m sorry but I gathered from our conversation and Mr Buck’s email that you wish me to waste my time, the Council’s and the Ombudsman’s when at the end of the day they will have replaced “the Council are misusing the Ombudsman’s Office to hide malpractice” with “Mr X and the MP for South Shields are trying to influence the Local Government Ombudsman”.

I was not born yesterday and I could see exactly what you are trying to do and it appears that your view is at odds with Emma’s and mine. If you are the new office manager for the MP for South Shields it is not a very good start is it? If you are not, why did you solicit my home phone number from someone I thought I could trust?

M Dawson.

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