Monday, October 30, 2006

Personal Message From Chris Mcglade

Ive learned over the last two years that when you put your head above the parapet that you attract comments both good and bad.Its funny isnt it.Politicians have contact with the public all the time.Some people agree with them some people dont.Yet it would seem that some of the politicians in this borough and the officers who are paid for with public money simply cannot stand any sort of criticism at all. They are ok with the positive comments but never the negative.When they recieve the negative no matter how justified those negative comments against them are,the people who make those negative comments suddenly become intimidating or bullies.

Certain people within this council remind me of the spice girls when they were booed off stage in Spain,because quite simply they were bloody awful.They had become so used to the sychophants (and I hope that Ive spelt that correctly) greasing them up and telling them how good they were,and believing all their own hype,that when they were brought back down to earth and to the harsh reality that they were in actual fact useless,they ran off stage crying and feeling that they had been badly done to.How dare anybody boo or criticise us? Do they know who we are? That was their attitude.
Anybody who decides to venture into public life in any form has to accept criticism,no matter how much of a bitter pill it may be to swallow.As a comedian I have been heckled off stage and have been booed off more times than I care to mention.As my old mate Chubby Brown once said to me he wishes he'd had a pound for every time he'd been booed off or paid off cos if he had he'd own half of Middlesbrough by now.I have also though had massive highs at the comedy store in Hollywood and the theatre Royal in Newcastle.Its taking bad and good together.

In over two years since our campaign started I have shouted on a few occasions.The scrutiny commission meeting,the demonstration we had at the councils exhibition last year.Thats all Ive done.Shouted and told people in this council what I think.Ive not assaulted anyone,hit anyone,sent nasty emails or letters,damaged anyones property or harrassed anyone and neither has anyone else in our group. Suddenly because Ive dared to stand up and in a loud voice say what I think, the council have tried to make me out as being some kind of fifth column in the midst of the unsuspecting public.It has been a deliberate attempt to steer public opinion away from me and our campaign.These tactics are typical.I have spoken to people who have fought campaigns against big oil companies etc in places like Brazil and the deep South in the U.S who have had to face the same sort of character assasination as I have in Redcar.The same methods have been used here in Redcar as have been used in Sao Paolo in Brazil.

These are the sorts of tricks that big business use in order to try and crush those that speak out.And Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council is a big business.They and Persimmon homes stand to lose out massively financially if this scheme doesnt go ahead.They are the ones with lots to lose and that is why they use these smear tactics and dirty tricks.What do I stand to gain by this scheme not going ahead? Nothing.Not financially or otherwise.I have no desire to become a councillor,I just want truth and justice to prevail and for that area in Coatham to become the jewel in Redcars crown through it being used to enhance our town and by not becoming just another housing estate.

Demonstration and protest arent dirty words.This nation was built upon demonstration and protest.Through people shouting to be heard,in a lot of instances taking up arms and literally fighting for what people believed in.I and our group have never campaigned violently or threateningly and I would condemn anyone who did.But I will be critical and I will air my views and if they dont sit right with our ward councillor,her leader,the chief executive or anyone else then thats their problem.They should Learn to deal with it and understand that they are not going to connvince everyone or attract positive comment from everyone all of the time instead of trying to smear people by spreading lies in order to try and blacken their name.

Its funny.My old friend Mo Mowlam sat in the Maze prison across a table with some of the most violent terrorists that there were because she knew that if peace was to be achieved thats what had to be done.Instead of sitting and talking this council use the excuse that we have shouted in the past like thats such a massive crime,and then use untrue statements in electioneering 'personal messages' in order to put us down because they are so arrogant they cannot stand the thoughts of people,thousands of people, disagreeing with them.Because they see their way as the only way,despite massive public opposition.

I know that I will probably attract more negative comments between now and next May however,let these people that churn out these untruths be aware of the fact that the public have been stirred up more than they ever have before,basically because our group have provided the public with the facts for once,and come election day next year that same public will be able to see the people in this council that are stooping to the depths that they are doing, for exactly what they are.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Local Government Ombudsman Report

Investigation into Complaint No 05C/03367

Against Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council

Table of Contents

Report Summary


Legal and Administrative Background



Report Summary

Local Taxation

This report arises because Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council failed to recognise and now will not accept that:

• its power to set the level of Council Tax for empty properties in its area (1) is different to and exercised separately from its power to reduce an individual’s liability for Council Tax on a property;(2)

• it can not fetter its discretion to reduce an individual’s liability for Council Tax by having a “blanket policy” that it will never allow a reduction;

• it must consider and reach a decision on any individual requests.

In December 2004, using new powers the Council decided that all empty homes in its area should pay the maximum 90% of Council Tax. Mr and Mrs Weaver bought a bungalow in the area shortly before the Council’s decision and renovated it.

They experienced hostility from people in the area and decided not to move into the bungalow. When they received the bill for 90% of the Council Tax Mrs Weaver wrote to explain their circumstances and ask for a reduction in the Council Tax. The Council refused saying that the Council had set the maximum discount for empty properties”... and does not allow for any individual discretion”.

In the course of my investigation of Mrs Weaver’s complaint the Council has maintained that it does not have to consider individual requests for reductions. Given the case law and legal principles about the duty of public authorities not to fetter their exercise of discretion, the Local Government Ombudsman flnds the Councih s stance to be inexplicable and, clearly, maladministration.

The Council must consider and reach a decision on Mrs Weaver’s request and must establish internal arrangements for how such requests will be considered and decided in the future. The Council is free to reach any decision that it considers f on any request provided that it reaches such a decision properly.


I. Mrs Weaver complains that the Council has failed to give proper consideration to her request for a reduction in her Council Tax liability.

2. For legal reasons, the names used in this report are not the real names of the people and places concerned (3)

3. An officer of the Commission has spoken with Mrs Weaver and has made inquiries of the Council.

4. An opportunity has been given for Mrs Weaver and the Council to comment on a draft of this report.

Legal and Administrative Background

5. Local authorities may reduce the discount on Council Tax for a number of classes of empty properties in their area, from 50%, which formerly applied across England and \ to a minimum of 10% (4) A council must apply the same level of discount to

all empty properties in its area or in a specified part of its area.

6. In addition, local authorities may reduce the amount of Council Tax payable on any dwelling or class of dwellings in its area to any extent which it thinks fit (5)

7. Where an authority has discretion it can adopt a policy or guidelines to indicate how it proposes to exercise that discretion. Such policy should be determined by those with proper authority, taking account of the law and local circumstances. However, it must not act in a way which fetters’ the proper exercise ofdiscretion. A policy which effectively eliminates the authority’s consideration ofan application or of a class of applicants, will be liable to challenge in the courts: Case law has established that without falling into arbitrariness, decision—makers must remember that a policy is a means of securing a consistent approach to individual cases, each of which is likely to differ from others. “Each case must he considered, therefore, in the light of the policy but not so that the policy determines the outcome.” (6)

8. The Commission for Local Administration in England has issued guidance on good administrative practice (7) which includes the following general advice:

“(Councils should) consider any special circumstances of each case as well as the council’s policy so as to determine whether there are exceptional reasons which justify a decision more favourable to the individual customer than what the policy would normally provide.

a council’s policy must not be used as a rigidly applied constraint which prevents the proper consideration of any exceptional circumstances of a case. Where the council has a discretion to confer a benefit it is inappropriate to operate a policy which purports to specify in advance circumstances where the discretion will never be exercised. A council which operates in that way would be fettering its discretion.”


9. In December 2004, the Council resolved to reduce the discount on Council Tax for empty properties in its area to 10%. Mr and Mrs Weaver, who live in a different council’s area, had bought a bungalow in Redcar shortly before the Council’s decision. The bungalow needed extensive renovation which Mr and Mrs Weaver carried out in advance of their intended move. However, they were dissuaded from making the move by hostility directed against them from people in the neighbourhood including incidents to which the police were called. They have now put the bungalow on the market.

10. On receiving a Council Tax bill for 90% of the full amount, Mrs Weaver wrote to the Council, outlining her circumstances and the reason why the property was empty. She asked the Council to reduce the amount of tax which it was demanding. The Council replied, saving that, whilst sympathetic, it was unable to reduce the bill as the decision to set the empty property discount at 10% had been taken at policy level “and does not allow for any individual discretion”.

11. In reply to queries from the Commission’s officer, the Council said:

• that it had decided to impose a blanket increase in Council Tax liability on empty properties to encourage their owners to bring them into use;

• that the policy did not allow for the exercise of discretion in individual cases and that, were itto do so, the Council could anticipate applications for relief from the owners of all the 350-plus empty properties in its area

• any similar requests in future would be refused.

12. The Commission’s officer then raised with the Council the issuc that it mieht be fettering its discretion, contrary to law. In reply, the Chief Executive said that:

• he did not consider that the Council had fettered its discretion and was “not actin unreasonably as all customers will be treated the same”;

• future requests for amendments to Council Tax charges would not he dismisscd out of hand and would be considered by the administrative machinery within the relevant department, although it was most likely that such requests would be refused;

• the Council would recognise instances where requests were based on extraordinary circumstances and would act accordingly. However there appeared to be no such circumstances to justify a different decision in Mrs Weaver’s case; and

• the Council would welcome my advice on the matter.

13. In response to a draft of this report, the Council said that its position was that:

• in respect of its power to reduce the discount on empty properties, it was not necessary to “apply discretion” in individual cases;

• the discretion to reduce Council Tax payments generally is a power, not a duty and the Council “may decide not to use this power” especially where to do so would mean making payments out of local funds;

• the Council believes it should be able to take account oflnancial constraints “in deciding whether and to what extent discretion to reduce Council Tax payments would be applied”.

14. The Council has drawn attention to court cases where there appears to have been an acceptance that authorities’ general policies left ‘only a small degree of room for discretion’.

15. Statistics produced by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister in answer to a Parliamentary Question by the Shadow Local Government Minister revealed that 20 local authorities had confirmed that they either used or planned to use the discretionary power to reduce Council Tax between 1 April 2004 and 31 March 2005.


16. The Council argued that it had no discretion to consider or comply with Mrs Weaver’s request and failed to take into account the legislation which enables it to reduce Council Tax on any dwelling as it thinks fit.

17. Parliament has given the Council powers to reduce Council Tax payments at discretion. It must therefore give proper consideration to any application made to it for such a reduction.

18. The Council’s response to Mrs Weaver clearly was a fettering of its discretion and was certainly maladministration. The injustice to Mrs Weaver was that her own particular circumstances were not properly taken into account.

19. To remedy that injustice, the Council should now give proper consideration to Mrs Weaver’s request. It should invite her to state her reasons as to why her Council Tax payments should be reduced as an exception to the generally applicable level. Having considered her reasons, the Council should then state its reasons for either accepting or rejecting the application. It should notify me that it has done so, within one month of its formal consideration of this report. It should also confirm that it will establish internal arrangements for how any other requests will be considered and decided in the future, taking into account the relevant law and the proper exercise of its discretion. It should inform me of those arrangements within one month of its formal consideration of this report.

Anne Seex 27 September 2006

Local Government Ombudsman

Beverley House

17 Shipton Road

YO30 5FZ


(1) Local Government and Finance Act 1992 Section 11A (as amended by Local Government Act 2003 Section 75 & 76) 2 (2) Local Government and Finance Act 1992 Section 13A (as amended by Local Governn Act 2003 Section 13.A)

(3) Local Government Act 1974, section 30(3)

(4) 1 Government and Finance Act 1992 section 111 as amended by the Local Government Act 2003 (sections 75 and 76)

(5) Local Government and Finance Act1992 as amended SI3A

(6) R v Hampshire County Council ex parte w 1994] ELR 460 at 476, per Scdlev J

(7) Guidance on Good Practice 2: Good Administrative Practice

Monday, October 23, 2006

Radio interview with Vera Baird

Click to listen

The dirty tricks of our desperate ward councillor and the leader of her party.

When a ward councillor has to stoop to telling lies about someone in order to get re-elected,someone who voted for her at the last council elections,someone who started a campaign because she was constantly telling him that she was so against the development yet no one in the council was listening to her,then not only is she showing her true colours she is showing her desperation.

She as usual,is trying to play the role of the timid,butter wouldnt melt,badly done to ward councillor but sadly for her it just dosent wash anymore.Her 'personal message' has awoken people to the levels of desperation that she and her contemptible party leader are experiencing at the thought of the ward of Coatham being lost.

I am used to this sort of behaviour.Her party leader has already attempted to smear me by starting a smear campaign saying that I was a member of the BNP.I am used to the dirty tricks played by the chief executive,a 'man' who couldnt lie straight in bed as we have proved many times on this site.So this latest round is nothing new.If I or anyone in the friends of Coatham Common had behaved in the way that Josie Crawford stated in her 'personal message' then why has she not gone to the police? Why have none of our group been arrested,questioned or cautioned? Why did she raise money for my girlfriends flower tubs by selling greetings cards and then take the money in personally to my girlfriends shop?

Is that the way someone who has been abused so much and intimidated so much behaves? Of course it isnt.She hasnt gone to the police,we havent been arrested etc,and her contact with us has not stopped because the things that she bemoans about in her letter are untrue.I have phoned her about 5 or 10 times in two years.I have never threatened her or intimidated her.I have never sent an email to her that every other member of the council hasnt recieved and they have never been threatening abusive or intimidating.I have never sent her any rude or threatening letters and I have never spat at her in the street.

In making these claims and inferring that either myself or other members of our group have carried these abuses out, then she has sunk into the depths that her party leader already wallows in.I will not rise to this provocation.I will not lower myself in getting personal as she has done however easy that would be.No,if she thinks that making false accusations and smearing people in order to win public sympathy so that they re-elect her to the council's gravy train is the way forward, then let her get on with it,but I think that she is in for a huge shock.

People in Coatham have witnessed her lack of commitment to them,her ineptitude and now her willingness to twist the truth first hand.Its only a matter of time before they rid our ward of her altogether.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Local press coverage of the protest

Coverage from the Northern Echo and the Gazette of Saturday's march - (Once again click to enlarge. Apologies for quality)

Support from Vera Baird MP

Here is the letter read at our successful march on Saturday 7th October: (click to enlarge)

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