Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The truth will out...

Last week on Tuesday 25th November, at the High Court of appeal in London, the Coatham village green appeal was heard. This hearing followed the high court hearing in July this year, where the councils main argument for not registering the land as a village green, the erection of warning signs by the Golf Club in 1998 warning people of flying golf balls, was kicked out by the High Court. The council won slenderly on that occasion in July because of the judges uncertainty about the councils second reason for not registering the land as a village green, namely the issue of deferment by the public who have been openly using the land for centuries never mind decades, to the members of the Golf Club.

In 2006, the law regarding village greens and commons was changed. The things that prevented the bid to register the land in Coatham as a village green in 2005, no longer existed in law. This council knew this. They anticipated another village green challenge and so they desperately erected the fences at great cost to the public, in order to try and thwart the village green challenge and then sought legal advice to try and come up with any argument that they could to try and beat it in the court case that they knew would inevitably come.

The fact is, that the public who have used that land never defered to the golfers. The council know this. That is why this issue of deferment wasn't even raised at the original village green public inquiry in 2005/06, where even members of the Golf Club themselves stated to the inquiry, that the public used the land and didnt defer to the golfers and that it was always a case of peaceful co-existance.

Here is a link to the Gazette web page regarding the appeal hearing.

There are a few things to be noted with this article.

Firstly, for possibly the the first time, an article written about Coatham, refers to the "many" who are in opposition to this housing scheme.

Secondly, it describes this scheme as exactly what it is, a Housing scheme. It does not attempt to try and make out that as a result of these houses being built, the people of Redcar will get all of the leisure facilities that they have been trying to make out we will get, in past articles about Coatham.

And lastly, it uses the phrase "covered in concrete" which for me, is most significant of all. Newspapers do have agendas of their own. They can influence people in many different ways. Depending on how an article is written, a newspaper can make people lean one way or another by painting differing images in the mind of the reader. If a newspaper wants you to support one thing it will use certain words and phrases that 'talk up' or put into a good light, the things that they want you to support. If they want the public to reject something, then they use the same psychology, but in reverse.

For the first time ever, The Evening Gazette has painted, by using this "concreted over" phrase, a realistic image of the Coatham development in the mind of the reader. There is going to be no major leisure development. The only leisure that will be provided will be provided by the council borrowing millions of pounds that we will have to pay back through our council tax, not through Persimmons' houses being built. The Persimmon development will be just a housing development that will cover everything in concrete.

This is all this scheme has ever been about, the council have known this all along and they have lied to the public of the area.

But what the article then goes onto say, says so much. The councils barrister is a man called George Lawrence QC. This man is probably the leading authority on open spaces in this country. I have faced him and all of his knowledge and experience in a magistrates court in Middlesbrough, where the council who had already paid him £12,500 for a twenty five minute appearance in the same court the month previous, paid him heaven only knows how many tens of thousands of pounds of public money for a two day hearing when I faced him over the issue of stopping up the old public footpaths which had criss crossed the common for about a hundred years. This is a hearing that could have easily been dealt with by the councils own solicitor.

Mr Lawrence whilst being an expert on this subject, is for me, also a bit of a legal prostitute. For there he has been, on past occasions, backing the council in their attempts to stop the land being registered as a common or village green and there he was once again in the High Court last Tuesday doing the same, but not so long ago the same Mr George Lawrence QC, was writing the forward for the Open Spaces Society handbook which basically tells people how to try and register open land as commons or village greens. This man clearly goes to the highest bidder. He isn't bothered about right or wrong, just who is paying the most.

I thought his argument to the judges last Tuesday though, showed a 'clutching at straws' mentality. When one of the leading experts on open spaces' only arguments to the appeal court, is that the judges had to consider the implications of them ruling in our favour because it would open the floodgates to other applications for land being registered as a village green, then I think that shows that there is no real depth of belief in the councils deferment argument at all.

As the opposing barrister pointed out to the appeal court judges though, they are not there to rule on the implications of something, they are there to rule on the law. On this occasion, it would seem that the law is not defined and there is a strong possibility that whatever the outcome of this appeal hearing, then one side or the other, will take this case all the way to the House of Lords for the Law to be defined.

Lets remind ourselves of George Dunnings press release from March this year.

Despite the council informing the solicitors opposing them over the issue of the village green, on the 26th of March, that it was the councils intention to actually go to Judicial Review over this issue, despite this council making that decision to go to Judicial Review over the village green issue approximately two weeks before that, despite George Dunning being told by the legal officer what was going to happen, George Dunning and Mark Hannon somehow failed to mention this in their press release? They preferred instead, to tell only half a story, only half a truth, in order to dupe the public of the area.

As the Coatham village green case, a case that they both made out in their release was over when they knew that it wasn't, goes from the High Court, to the High Court of Appeal and possibly all the way to the House of Lords, how Dunning and Hannon must rue the day that they ever tried to deliberately mislead the people of this area in order to try and make everybody think that everything, once again was all hunky dory with Coatham.

To quote Pinocchio Dunnings own press release from last year, the press release where he referred to the Coatham planning process as tainted, " I think that this action may come back to haunt certain individuals within the council".

They have no-one to blame but themselves.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Another tribunal decision goes against the council. Another employee sacked unfairly. Another officer is damned. When will R+CBC be investigated?

Yesterday the story of record damages for an unfairly dismissed council worker hit the press.

This was the case of Community Warden Paul Whittaker, who was unfairly dismissed by the council and who also failed to be re-instated by them despite being told to do so, by the tribunal. This was the tribunal that saw Senior Officer Simon Dale, a public servant on over £100,000 pa, being basically called a liar by the tribunal and found to have brought our council into disrepute.

This was the officer who, had his friend and councillor Dave McCluckie, defend him in the press after his shocking behaviour.

This was the officer who attempted to dupe the council when he pleaded for his job to the Labour group in the council, by providing them with information taken from just 20 pages of over a 40 page employment tribunal report. For some reason, he somehow failed to produce to the assembled Labour Group, the pages which showed how disgracefully he had behaved?

This was the man who the council had insisted HAD been caught on CCTV, doing the things that the council had claimed he had done, to result in him being sacked. Things that strangely, the police themselves didnt see on that same CCTV footage?

It makes me laugh when these people who are attempting to defend Simon Dale, a man who isnt fit to hold his position in our council and be paid literally thousands of pounds of our money, now say that they are taking no further action basically because the cost of them appealing would be too great.

They weren't saying this when they kept on appealing against the tribunal decision which went in Pauline Scanlons favour did they? Another ordinary council employee who was unfairly dismissed by this council.

It doesn't make any sense? There they were having no case against Pauline Scanlon at all, losing every appeal they launched against the tribunals decision and wasting hundreds of thousands of pounds of public money in the process, yet here they are apparantly claiming to have CCTV footage of Paul Whittaker doing the things that the council claim he was sacked for and damning him in the process and yet they are deciding to not take the case any further because they cannot justify spending the sums of money it would require to do so?

It doesn't make any sense because once again, they are not telling the truth.

If they had the evidence against Mr Whittaker and such great grounds for an appeal as Cllr Scott states, then they would have pursued him to the last. After all, they hounded Pauline Scanlon and they had no grounds at all!

But I suppose that they had to do that, they had no choice. Because if they had not appealled so many times, then the tribunal decsion which showed that the now ex- Chief Executive Colin Moore and the now ex- finance officer Ray Richardson, had been found by that tribunal of changing their evidence overnight, being deliberately disingenuous, bullying and intimidation and sharp practise would have stood and the council, who for some reason wanted to protect these two excuses for council officers, couldnt have had that whilst Moore and Richardson were still in the councils employment receiving massive payrises and giving themselves, under delegated authority, little perks like eight extra paid days holiday which was worth around £3000 in some cases and not brought before the council until AFTER they had taken the extra days holiday!.

Once again, individuals within our council, are trying to close ranks with each other in order to protect each other. They know that once again, they have been caught bang to rights and so it is better and far wiser to just make an excuse up for not proceeding any further and in turn let it all die down..

When Cllrs are protecting officers who have been found to have lied and who have been found to have brought the council into disrepute, then once again, you have to ask yourself why?

Heres the release which shows exactly what the solicitors representing Paul Whittaker said as opposed to the Gazette article which for some reason, stopped just before their damning condemnation of the council?

Saturday, November 15, 2008

It's only a matter of time...

Last year members of our group informed the MP Vera Baird, of the things that we knew our council, at that time, was doing wrong. She was informed about the massive conflict of interests between the ex Chief Executive of the council Colin Moore and his wife Veronica, who was a non executive board member of the PCT, both pushing a 5GP surgey that appeared from nowhere, in the Persimmon planning application without anyone, even the relevant council committees, knowing about it. She was informed about the fact that shortly after this was made public, Veronica Moore resigned her position.

What did Vera Baird do? Nothing.

We informed Vera Baird that an officer of the council had changed the Environment Agencies planning condition regarding the building of a sea defence, without consent or consultation.

What did Vera Baird do? Nothing.

The Serious Fraud Office had expressed concerns about the situation up here in Redcar and Cleveland.

What did Vera Baird do? Nothing.

She had already called the Coatham plans, on radio, a disaster. The now Labour leader of the council had already called the planning process tainted. She had already stated publicly that there was no funding for any leisure for the scheme and supported the Labour group who had said in election literature, that they would take the scheme back to the drawing board.

What did Vera Baird do to stop, or reverse, or to get investigated, this disaster? Nothing.

In October last year we produced, at a meeting in front of 500 people at the Coatham bowl which included the Labour leaders wife, a final financial audit report which had been allegedy surpressed by senior officers of the council and replaced after these officers had colluded with individuals within the Audit Commission. The story about this scandal was featured in Private Eye without any libel action being started against Private Eye.

Vera Baird obviously knew about this. What did she do? Nothing.

When a Conservative MP from a neighbouring constituency was about to show our film which exposes all of these things in the House of Commons and was about to call for an independent investigation, what did Vera Baird do?

She threatened this MP into not showing our film or calling for an independent investigation. Told him our facts weren't based in reality and then called for an internal investigation to be headed by one of the men involved in, among other things, the alleged surpression and collusion?

Not only has Vera Baird done nothing to stop these things or have them investigated properly, she has done things to make sure that they aren't. The Standards Board Of England have been informed about what is going on here aswel as The Local Government Ombudsman, The Environment Agency, Defra, G.O.N.E and the HSE. All have been informed well over a year ago, about the things that have been and are taking place here and yet miraculously, all of them have done nothing. Even the Serious Fraud Office who have sent letters stating and I quote that "The things taking place here appear to pertain to corruption" and "The police should investigate the issue of the surpressed report assisted possibly by the CPS", have done nothing.

That's not surprising really when as Solicitor General of the Country, Vera Baird is in charge of the SFO.

And lets not forget, this Borough has two MP's. In 2005, I had a meeting with Ashok Kumar in his constituency office in Guisborough. His secretary and ex-leader of the council David Walsh, was in attendance. Mr Kumar was aware, quite rightly, of a lot of the things that I was talking about. He had been following the Coatham campaign to some degree. The final question he asked me was "Do you believe there to be corruption within Redcar and Cleveland Borough council. I told him that I did. But he has never, despite the things that have been exposed about this council, spoke out against them or ordered any investigation of any sort.

But despite this burying of heads in sand and despite this failure to do anything about the things that have and are taking place here, you know that something is drastically wrong when not only do the SFO tell you that the police should be involved possibly assisted by the CPS,

a detective from South Yorkshire police tells you the council should be investigated,

an ex member of the Flying Squad tells you that something is wrong within the council and it should be investigated,

an employee of Sir John Stevens office Quest, tells you that the situation is bad and needs to be investigated,

the Audit commission downgrade the council to a two star authority because of the dossier that we provided them with containing all of the abuses that this council have been allowed to get away with

and when an MP from a neighbouring constituency is ready to call for an independent investigation into what is going on here.

Last night I, probably like millions of others, watched the 6 O'clock news and was shocked and disgusted to learn that quite a few different Government departments and varying bodies, had been warned about the situation in Haringey regarding the horrific Baby P case, at least six months before.

None of them did a thing and this poor child lost his life.

Those departments and bodies and the individuals within them, are no doubt backtracking like mad and trying to deny all knowledge and responsibility now the brown stuff has hit the fan.

It is only a matter of time before the same thing happens here in Redcar and Cleveland.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Who are you trying to kid Georgie?

Last week, in response to our press release, George Dunning stated publicly that he had had talks with Persimmon and that they were hoping to start work on the Coatham scheme in April of next year.

I scratched my head when I saw that statement last week, in view of Persimmons' dire financial statement which said that they had made 2000 people redundant, £600,000,000 had been wiped off the value of their land bank and their house sales had plummetted.. Yesterday Mr Dunnings statement confused me a little more, when the Governor of the bank of England said that the country was already in recession, that the forecast of 0% growth had now changed and that growth was actually going to be -2% next year and that even worse, by the end of 2010, there would probably be three million people unemployed in this country.

So today, when I read this article in the Guardian, George Dunnings statement had me absolutely dumbfounded?

And I quote..."With 380 homes completed, two of the three big construction firms, Persimmon and Martin Grant Homes, have downed tools because of the meltdown in the housing market, leaving residents surrounded by large swaths of a derelict construction site.

Antisocial behaviour has flourished. Residents, many with young families, complain of hooded gangs roaming the streets and robbing garden sheds. "We've had trouble with kids throwing stones at the house when we moved in. The builders left loads of rubble outside which is ammunition for them," said Emma Wren. "There are no pavements so you can't walk along with a buggy. Even walking to the bus stop you have to go through long grass and weeds."

The master developer, Gallagher Estates, promised shops, cycle lanes, bus routes, a multi-function hall, all-weather sports pitches, children's play areas, and even a "sensory garden" for disabled families. A primary school and one well-equipped play area have opened, but residents are still waiting for the other facilities.

Stella and Yemi Macaulay were among the first residents, moving into their four-bedroom townhouse almost two years ago. The pavements on their street are still unfinished. "They said it was going to be a new luxury place but Arbury Park is like a construction site. It's like a rubbish dump," said Mr Macaulay. "There are no basic amenities." He feared the credit crunch would mean the estate would not be finished for another five years. "We don't know what is going to happen now. Nobody knows. When is the business centre going to come? When are they going to finish the pavements?"

If Persimmon have downed tools on a site and houses that are already under construction, then how are they going to begin work on a site in Coatham that hasn't even been started on? I mean one of the residents of this unfinished development quite clearly state that because of the credit crunch, he feared that the estate would not be finished for another five years. So why did George Dunning and Persimmon still maintain in their statement last week, that Persimmon hoped to be on site in Coatham in April next year, when they wont be completing work on a site that they have already started on, for years to come?

I think the clue lies in the word "hoped".

Read on, antisocial behaviour, hooded gangs robbing properties, dereliction as a result of 'caring Persimmon' just walking off the job.

But I think that the people of Redcar and Cleveland will be most interested to read about the broken promises of pie in the sky leisure facilities that have not materialised in the development that is featured in the Guardian article. Shops, cycle lanes, bus routes, multi function hall, all weather sports pitches, childrens play area, a sensory garden for disabled people, all of them have failed to happen.

Do these things that have not materialised in the development featured in the Guardian article, sound awfully like the Extreme Sports centre, leisure centre including two swimming pools a dance floor and a 5GP medical village, all weather sports pitches, bus routes, childrens nursery, bowling alley, single screen cinema and a visitor centre with iconic viewing tower that both the council and Persimmon have been trying to dupe the people of this borough into thinking that they are going to get?

Really, if George Dunning wants to be respected as leader of this failing, two star authority, he ought to stop treating the public like idiots by churning out statements that people can see, by the things that are going on around them, are absolute nonsense and start telling the public the truth.

Namely, that this Coatham housing scheme and the leisure scheme that never has been, is, or ever will be, is finished. And that all that this council are hell bent on doing is tying us to Persimmon until they are ready to build their houses on a contaminated, minefield and zone three high risk flood area.

Once again, the only question that needs answering now is, why?

Well Done David Cameron!

I have just seen on the news, that after David Camerons attack on the Labour Government for defending Haringey councils decision to investigate itself, that the Government minister in charge, Ed Balls, has ordered an independent investigation into the whole matter. Not only that, I read in the Guardian that Haringey council have apologised.

Well done Mr Cameron. Lets see if we can now get the independent investigation that was all ready to be called for, but stopped by our own MP.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Kings New Clothes...

Today, in the House of Commons, Gordon Brown came under fire from the leader of the opposition David Cameron, for defending Haringey councils decision, to investigate internally, the horrific Baby P child abuse scandal which has shaken the whole country.

In condemning the Government for endorsing Haringey councils decision to investigate itself in order to try and cover up the alleged abuses of this Labour council, when the department of the council in question is accused of neglecting their duty and when the head of the department responsible for this alleged neglect still maintains, that despite the horrific death of this baby boy, good practise and I quote "had still been maintained", David Cameron really championed democracy. He was so very right to attack this government and Haringey council and so very right to state in the House, that those accused of wrong doing investigating themselves was, quite simply, wrong.

When I saw Mr Cameron on the news tonight, I was pleased that someone had had the courage to stand up and say what most other MP's in the house are thinking, state what most other MP's in the house can see, but have said nothing about. Namely, that how can justice ever be done if those accused of wrong doing, are allowed to investigate themselves?

I then thought about times over the last couple of years, where this same kind of cover up has been implemented by Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council. There have been times where members of our group have called for the now ex-chief executive and the now ex-finance officer to be investigated because of their alleged unlawful behaviour, only to be told by the legal officer, that all complaints had to be made to these two people themselves, basically so that they could carry out the investigation of themselves!

I remembered the time in October last year, when we met with the Conservative MP for Scarborough and Whitby Robert Goodwill, to tell him about the scandalous things that have and are taking place here in Redcar, even though he was MP for a neighbouring constituency.

As a result of this meeting, Mr Goodwill agreed to let us show a film that has been made about the scandals taking place in Redcar and Cleveland called "Coatham a Common Concern" in the House of Commons, and agreed to call for an independent investigation into the things that were taking place in Coatham and into other things that have taken place within Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council. He agreed to these things because he said that and I quote, " If he did not, then he would be neglecting his duty".

I then remembered how Redcar MP Vera Baird, solicitor General of this country, stopped Mr Goodwill from doing these things, by threatening him with the speaker of the House and by telling him that the things that we had told him were not based in reality.

How she must have been left smarting when not only did we win a High Court Judicial Review last December based upon the things that we had told Mr Goodwill, but also when Redcar and Cleveland Borough council, only recently, was downgraded to a two star authority because of the same things that we presented to the District Auditor.

To complete this stifling of free speech and democracy and to complete the whitewash Vera Baird, shortly after threatening Mr Goodwill into silence, then called for Redcar and Cleveland Borough council to hold an internal 'investigation' of the things that we had made public and had brought to Mr Goodwills attention.

As if this wasn't bad enough, she asked for this 'internal investigation' to be headed by the now ex-finance officer Ray Richardson, a man who had been featured three times in Private Eye for his alleged unlawful and untrustworthy behaviour including the surpression of an Audit financial report and the collusion with the Audit commission to replace it. This was a man who had been up to his neck in a lot of the the alleged abuses that had taken place within our council! How was he ever going to hold an unbiased investigation into the alleged abuses of the council, some of which he had been involved in?

Finally, what makes this whole afair even more of a disgrace, is that in March last year we had given Vera Baird a dossier containing the things that we knew at that time, the council had done wrong. Infact, late last year the Serious Fraud Office sent us a letter stating that what has taken place here in Redcar and Cleveland, should be investigated by the police, possibly assisted by the CPS.

So why did the Solicitor General of this country, bearing all of this in mind and bearing in mind she had just threatened another MP into not calling for an independent investigation, then write to the ex-finance officer and acting Chief Executive calling for an 'internal investigation'? An investigation that was never going to be fair, or democratic, or deal with the alleged wrong doing that had taken place?

As I have grown older I have realised that sometimes party politics clouds issues and situations that should not be party political. When something is wrong it is wrong, no matter what party you belong to. The investigation of at best, negligence in Haringey council, should not be carried out by Haringey council because how will any such investigation ever be unbiased?

The investigation of Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council for all of the abuses that they have so far gotten away with, should not be carried out by them either, especially by people who have already been shown to have been involved in the alleged wrong doing. It would seem that the Labour parties endorsement of a council investigating itself today, isn't the first time that this has happened.

Only in our case here in Redcar, it wasn't the Government just endorsing an internal council investigation that had been ordered by the council themselves, who are obviously going to try to cover up, it was a senior member of the Government, the Solicitor General of this country herself, telling the council to hold an internal invetigation, knowing that any such investigation would ultimately fail to condemn or expose fully, the terrible behaviour of the Labour controlled council in her constituency.

It is all so very wrong and so very undemocratic and not what you would expect from one in such a lofted position within our Government.

I have always, up until the death of Mo Mowlam, voted Labour. But today I applaud David Cameron for rising above party politics in order to speak the truth that we can all see and for standing up for what is right, fair and just. Lets hope that more people in the house follow his lead and lets hope that more people in the house stand up against the Kings new Clothes mentality that seems to be all around us.

Lets hope that independent investigations into both Haringey council AND Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council, now take place.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Have the councils new walkways claimed their first victim...

Today I spoke with a woman who's mum had a very bad accident as she walked onto Coatham Common from the entrance at Church Street. The woman that I spoke to told me that her mum had stumbled over a post that had originally, as far as she can remember, accomodated a sign that informed the public that the footpath it was at the mouth of was indeed, a public right of way. However, she said that this post had been cut down, presumably by the council and her mum had tripped over it breaking her leg in two places.

Her mum is still in hospital.

So I have been informed by the woman, they have involved a solicitor over this matter and have contacted the council about this matter. I told the woman, who's mum has joined us on our marches against the Coatham development in the past, that the issue of the publics right to use the land has already been heard in the high court in Newcastle earlier this year and although Jimmy Willis was ordered to remove his tent from the common, the judge could not and did not restrict the public from access to the common or restrict the public from using it. I told her that I will provide her solicitor with any information that he feels may be of use.

Lets see what transpires.

This is Madness...

In February 2006, a council source leaked a confidential cabinet agenda to us which showed that this council were going to commit public money to being spent on Persimmons' legal and consultancy fees. The then coalition cabinet were horrified because this document showed the lengths that this council were prepared to go to just to keep and I quote "Persimmons' confidence". I remember attending the cabinet meeting for which that leaked agenda had been for and laughing to myself as the then cabinet member Glynn Nightingale on one hand condemned the irresponsibility of the person who leaked the document to us, but then on the other hand tried to convince people, especially the press who were in attendance, that the council had nothing to hide.

I had to laugh to myself when Glynn Nightingale made that statement. The massive contradiction in what he had said, was that if the person who had leaked us the document hadnt done so, then no-one, apart from the cabinet and officers, would have ever known that this council who had a massive financial black hole in their budget, were committing public money to being spent on the legal and consultancy fees of the richest builder in the country. The cabinet and officers would have never said anything to anyone and no-one to this day, would have known anything about it. So much for having nothing to hide. But he had to say that because they and their willingness to bend over backwards just to keep Persimmon on board, had been exposed.

It makes me laugh when you see the now leader of the council George Dunning, saying that the council have to go with Persimmon because of the development agreement being signed just two days before the local elections last year, because as this leaked document from 2006 proves, the council, in using public money to pay for Persimmons' fees, were doing all they could to tie us to them long before any development agreement was ever signed. As one architect and a planner from London told me, the council being prepared to do this and in secret, until we were informed, was and I quote, "Dodgy".

Also contained within that leaked document was a part that said that if the funding to turn the Mungle Jungle into an Extreme Sports centre wasn't found, then Persimmon Homes themselves would pay £60,000 towards the compulsory purchase of the Mungle Jungle. Not only did this show that the council had little belief that any funding for such a facility would ever be found, it also showed their willingness to let Persimmon pay for the compulsory purchase of this building and flatten it and presumably have the option to then build more houses upon it.

I started the campaign against this housing scheme in August 2004. At that time everything ecconomically was "rosy in the garden". New houses were springing up all over the place, banks were lending money like there was no tomorrow, mortgages were ten a penny and lots of money seemed to be readily available. And yet, even set against this booming backdrop, the council and the owners of the Mungle Jungle still could not attract any funding for the Extreme Sports centre from either the private or public sector.
Now we are in Recession. The housing market is stagnant. No-one can afford a mortgage, repossesions are increasing daily, money is in short supply, redundancy is affecting many people around the country, banks and other institutions aren't lending money to anyone and the IMF have declared just this week, that this is just the start and that this country will be hit more than any other country in the world by the recession that we are going into.

In 2006, the MP Vera Baird told Charles Davis, Malcolm Baxtrem and myself, that the council were thinking of giving the owners of the Mungle Jungles lease, Enterprise West, a staggering 125 years lease as a way of trying to get someone, anyone, to give them the money that they needed in order to turn the Mungle Jungle into this Extreme Sports Centre. She told us at that meeting that she had said to the then Project Manager for the scheme Ian Hopley, that it didnt matter how long they extended their lease for, no-one was going to give them the amounts of money that they needed to turn it into such a facility.

So bearing all of this in mind, why is the council as part of their forward plan which will come before the cabinet on the 20th January 2009, now reccomending that Enterprise West should have their lease extended for 125 years? If Enterprise West and their partners in this folly the council, couldn't attract any funding for the extreme sports centre, if they could not secure any interest from anyone when things were booming, then how on earth do they think that they are going to be able to do this now that we are going to be hit worst by the recession that we have already started to slide into? If the MP herself could see that no matter how long the lease was extended for it still wouldn't attract any interest, then why do elements of this council believe that now we are in recession in 2008, they will be able to?

Are the people who are proposing this, the officers, the same people who refused to pay any heed to the warnings that were being given about the Icelandic banks, that consequently have cost the rate payers of this borough £6,000,000 as aresult of these people not withdrawing our money from them before they went under?

The ineptitude of these people, the shortsightedness of these people is absolutely staggering! Enterprise West must be rubbing their hands together with delight, just waiting for the day that the eventuality that they can all see ( The Extreme Sports Centre will never happen) finally happens and this council are forced to buy back the lease from Enterprise West. Once again, how much public money will be wasted by buying back the lease from Enterprise West when their futile efforts to secure funding for a facility that just isn't going to happen, are over.

Or are we supposed to let them try for ever and a day to gain funding? If what George Dunning has said this week in the press is correct, then work is going to begin next April. So how much longer are Persimmon going to wait for them to raise the cash? They were prepared to pay £60,000 to CPO the Mungle Jungle because they knew back in 2006 that Enterprise West would never be able to raise the finance. If they were, why would Persimmon even suggest such a thing? But if the council extend their lease for 125 years, then theres no way that Persimmon would pay the kinds of money that it would cost to reimburse EW for the lease that they had been given and so it will be the public of Redcar and Cleveland who foot the bill.

This is absolute madness and must be stopped. This is our money that is being squandered by inept people with their own agenda, who rather than having the courage to admit what everyone else can see, that this scheme and their game is over, are trying to press ahead to save their own faces and ultimately their jobs.

This squandering of public money and this vanity has to stop and it has to stop now.

Friday, November 07, 2008

The true picture starts to emerge as we are drip fed the information....

Last week the council put out a press release stating that it was their intention to apply for funding for a youth media and arts centre to be built on Majuba Road. That sounded great. However, we then discovered that the council are wanting to site this facility on an area that has already being allocated as a bowling alley that they have stated publicly that they have funding for, as part of the Coatham Enclosure scheme.

They don't mention this in their release, only that it would be built on Majuba Road.

Today after receiving the Herald and Post newspaper and reading the front page story, this youth media and arts centre that the council are hoping to attract funding for, is now apparantly going to include a drugs counselling facility, obviously for young people with drug related problems. Once again, this is a positive thing, but there a few questions to be asked and why on earth would you want to have a drugs counselling centre in the middle of a state of the art leisure development?

Why did such an obviously big part of this youth media and centre fail to make the fanfare story that broke in the main press like the Gazette and the Echo? How could it be overlooked?

Easy, because its what is known as 'drip feeding information'. Having a drugs counselling centre built on a site that was designated as a bowling alley as part of the Coatham scheme isn't exactly in keeping with the picture that the council have painted in peoples minds of the leisure facilities that they said were going to be built as part of the Coatham scheme, is it?

When have you ever heard any of the councils representatives say that there was going to be a visitor centre, extreme sports centre, swimming pool, leisure centre, drugs counselling centre, bowling alley? Thats right you haven't. Since when was a drugs counselling centre ever considered to be a visitor attraction that would make Redcar and I quote " A visitor destination of regional importance"? Thats right is isn't. So rather than draw more attention to the real facts when the story first breaks in the major local papers, it is drip fed to the public a week or two later in the freebies, so that the impact is lessened.

The truth of the matter is that there is going to be no visitor centre, no iconic tower, no extreme sports centre even though the council are going to extend the owners of the Mungle Jungles lease to 125 years in a desperate bid to try and raise funding, theres going to be no bowling alley obviously because they want to build this youth centre and drugs counselling centre on the site where that was going to be. There is going to be no major leisure development in Coatham whatsoever and certainly nothing that is being provided by Persimmon or as a result of their houses being built.

As for the swimming pool and leisure centre? Well, the council were going to borrow money £10,500,000 at the last count to build one, but that was before they were demoted to a two star authority and as such their ability to borrow such sums of money, was substantially dented.

The Coatham Enclosure leisure scheme is finished.

But the council are desperately trying to make us believe that it isn't. By putting out press releases telling people that they are applying for funding for a youth media and arts centre which we now know is going to be a drugs counselling centre too, they are trying to make out that theres going to be even more to shout about in the Coatham scheme, when in truth what they are wanting to build there, will be REPLACING leisure facilities in the Coatham Scheme that they have already told the public that they have the funding for.

One by one, the promised leisure facilities in the Coatham Scheme have all gone. The visitor centre isn't even a part of the scheme anymore. This was the thing that was going to make the Enclosure become a visitor destination of regional importance. The bowling alley obviously has gone too and it is obvious that the ex-Chief executives and Vera Moodys statement made in 2006 about funding for it being secured, was completely untrue. The Extreme Sports centre facility has attracted no funding.

So the council are trying to con the public by trying to replacing the leisure facilities that they have already told us they have funding for, with things that arent even part of the scheme. There are many who believe that they are doing this for the following reasons.

First they cannot concede to the public of the area that what The Friends Of Coatham Common have been saying all along has been true, namely there will be none of the leisure facilities they have been promising in Coatham. So they are playing on peoples apathy. Lots of people know about this controversy in Coatham. Most people are against the housing, but would like to see leisure facilities built. If you asked people what leisure facilities had been promised as part of the Coatham Scheme, most would say a baths but how many would say a visitor centre? or a bowling alley or an extreme sports centre, or an iconic tower by comparison? Granted some people, the people who have been following the campaign, would. But the majority of the public for whom the Coatham Enclosure controversy is just an argument rumbling on in the distance, wouldnt.

It's classic 'smoke and mirrors'. As far as the council are concerned, as long as the public can see something being built over there, then they would never know if it had been a part of the scheme when the scheme was first mooted or not. And theres a strong possibility that these people would simply assume, that these were the facilities that the council were telling people that we could only have if we had the houses. It doesn't matter that the things that the council are intending to replace the leisure facilities in the Coatham Scheme with, aren't even a part of the Coatham Scheme and are being provided by the council themselves. All the council are concerned with, is trying to put something there, anything, to give the impression to the public that the scheme is delivering leisure, so that they dont have to own up to what we have been saying all along, that it will be JUST ANOTHER HOUSING ESTATE.

What is also ironic, is that the youth arts and media centre which is sounding more and more like it will be just another youth club, isnt set in stone either. The council are only applying for funding. As always their press release about the centre was based, as were most of the releases about funding for the Coatham leisure facilities, on the word "hoping". But as we have seen with the Coatham scheme, how difficult is it to attract five million pounds worth of funding? Especially in a time of recession never mind when the ecconomy is booming.

They are trying to invent and implement an alternative Coatham Scheme to replace the one that has fallen through, so that people dont realise that the original scheme has indeed, fallen through.
An improved boating lake that was going to cost £60,000 originally, now spreading out far further than it ever was and costing a whopping £700,000 that Persimmon are no longer contributing to. An enhanced Coatham Bowl with a new roof and facelift. And now a youth media and arts centre containing a drugs counselling centre. Who knows what else they will desperately come up with? The council are trying to make people believe that the original Coatham scheme is all still on track and that everything is still going to happen, not only so that the reality of what we have been saying for four years ( There will be no leisure) isn't there for all to see, but also in order to keep us tied to the houses that are quite simply not needed.

It is good that the council are trying to replace the leisure facilities that have fallen through as we knew they always would, with something else. But to try and replace what was in the Coatham scheme with things that aren't and do it in a way that tries to make people believe that the Coatham scheme is still alive and kicking, just to keep us tied to Persimmon and their homes, is manipulation of the public via the press and is an absolute disgrace. Even more so when you take into consideration that there is massive opposition to the houses, when the area is a zone 3 high risk flood area that has to be protected by a £14,000,000 sea defence that somehow our council is now committed to spending public money on, even though it is Persimmons' sole responsibility and when there is absolutely no need for the houses at all because they haven't attracted any funding for any leisure.

The councils old cry was that we needed to have Persimmons houses to have a baths. That lie has now been exploded because we now know that any baths that is built, if there ever is one built, will rely on the council BORROWING massive amounts of money that will have to be paid back by the tax payer. We also now know, through an FOI request, that there is no 106 agreement in place between the council and Persimmon that ties Persimmon to providing any leisure at all.
Persimmons' scheme, even with planning permission, has failed to attract the funding for all of the other leisure facilities that the council told us would come, once planning permission was granted. These other leisure facilities, promised to us by the council and Persimmon, have now all fallen by the wayside and the council are desperately trying to replace them themselves and trying to plug all of the gaps to create the illusion that the Coatham scheme is still happening.

When the thing that whole scheme was based upon has clearly fallen through, when the councils reason for having the houses in the first place, the leisure element of the scheme, is no more, then you really have to ask yourself why this council and Persimmon are desperately trying to convince everyone that all is well and why the council are desperately trying to keep us tied to Persimmon when there is no need?

Its about time that they told people of this great town and borough the truth. But then again, I live in the real world. When you get an ex-chief executive and an ex-finance officer found guilty of lying to tribunals and of sharp practise and the council did not have them investigated but gave them massive pay rises instead, when you have the supression of an audit commission report which showed that we weren't a four star authority and the collusion between the same two officers and the audit commission to then replace this report, being featured in Private Eye, without any libel action being brought against the publication by the ones who were exposed and without the council taking any action whatsoever, when the council have been found to have been 'inconsistent' in the information that they have given under the FOI act, then what chances do we have of them telling the truth without having their arms twisted behind their back?

So it's about time that this whole seedy afair was investigated independently, immediately.

And so to the Law Society...

Next week on the 13th of November Andrew Lockley, a solicitor from Irwin Mitchells firm of Solicitors, will be addressing an event that is going to be held at the Law Society in London. He will be speaking about Coatham and presenting all the facts about what has been happening here. The Coatham village green case that is going to appeal on the 25th of this month, despite George Dunning and Mark Hannon somehow 'forgetting' to mention it in their March 08 Press release, looks set to not just go to the court of appeal, but go all the way to the House of Lords to clarify the law on this issue as apparantly, in this case no law exists.

Speaking to my contact at the Environmental Law Society, I have been informed that the issue of Coatham, as it hurtles towards the House of Lords, is starting to spring up all over the place. The councils own barrister George Lawrence apparantly spoke about it at a meeting only recently too.

This is fantastic news. Not only because the nations attention is starting to be focussed on our case, but as in turn, its attention is focussed on the behaviour of certain individuals within our council. How I bet Mr Dunning and Mr Hannon are regretting the day that they failed to mention in their press release that the Coatham Village green case was far from over and that the council themselves had issued a notice of intent to go to Judicial Review over the matter, instead of leading the public to believe that the whole issue of the Village green case was over.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Pinocchio Dunning...A cartoon leader of a desperate council part 1.

Last Thursday we issued a press release asking what was going to happen to the Persimmon scheme now that they have announced their devastating financial statement. It made the Gazette earlier this week.

There are so many inconsistencies and untruths contained within the statements that have been made by Leader of the council George Dunning, that I have decided to call him Pinocchio. How this man has the front to stand up and call himself leader of the council, when he is telling so many untruths to the public of this area, is just beyond me. His disengenuous, to say the least, comments are becoming more and more blatant as he becomes more and more desperate to put a brave face on things.

I have split this posting into three parts. Digest each part. Ask the questions. See the facts. Ask yourself why this man, a man who called for Colin Moores investigation twice whilst in opposition, but let him slip out the back door with a massive pay off that rate payers are still paying for and a glowing reccomendation in the press, is allowed to get away with telling so many untruths.

In the release, he makes reference to a 'legal challenge' that could stop the scheme totally. He states and I quote "Persimmon wanted the appeal court hearing brought forward themselves" and " As far as they were concerned, legal challenges pending"

What legal challenges in the appeal court could George possibly be talking about?

I'll tell you. The village green challenge which ended up in July this year, seeing the councils main point being thrown out by the High court leaving them to defend a much weaker point in the appeal court, a point that the original high court judge hearing the case in July said, could well be defeated at appeal.

So here we have a situation where Pinnocchio Dunning is making reference to an appeal hearing, but he isn't telling people what its all about? Well he wouldn't would he?
But thats because he doesn't want to. He wants to avoid it at all costs. You see in March this year, approximately four months before the village green case went to court, Pinocchio Dunning, along with his steel working member for ecconomic development Mark Hannon, put out a press release that made out that the whole Village green process had been kicked out and that it was going no further, that they had won.

However, we have found out through FOI requests, that Pinocchio Dunning had been told days BEFORE his misleading press release went out, that the council were intending to apply to the court to go for the Judicial review over the issue of the village green themselves!

The council then, under the FOI act, tried to wriggle their way out of this by saying that George Dunning hadn't been given correct information because it wasn't the council that had applied to go to Judicial Review, it was Persimmon.

But they cannot run away from the fact that the decision for Persimmon to go to Judiicial Review over the issue of the village green wasn't made until late in April this year. It was the council who had sent both the court and the opposing solicitors a notice stating that it was THEIR intention to go to Judicial review over this issue of the village green in March this year, days BEFORE dunnings press release went out. At the time that the release went out, it was the councils intention, not Persimmons' to go to the High court over the issue of the village green. Dunning and Hannon knew and yet neither said anything in their press release of March 27th which totally misled the public.

This is the leader of the council. How can anyone trust a man, or a council, who only tells the public half a story and the things that they want them to know as opposed to the full truth? This is basically brainwashing. Feeding people pap and just expecting them not to ask questions.

Pinocchio Dunning...A cartoon leader in charge of a desperate council part 2.

In Pinocchio Dunnings response to our press release, he states that he has had a meeting with Persimmon and that the scheme is still going ahead despite the country plunging head long into recession.

Despite the IMF statement today which followed the Bank of Englands panic cut in interest rates, stating that of all the countries in the world, Britains ecconomy will contract the most and be hit by recession the worst, mainly because of what they described as the housing bubble that grew too big, George Dunning and Persimmon homes still reckon that although work all over the country on their sites has all but stopped, 2000 people have been made redundant, their shares have dropped from £15.00 to just £2.30 and the value of their land bank has dropped by £600,000,000 Coatham is going to go ahead, all being well, in April?

But despite this glaring, nonsensical, contradiction between what mess theyre in and what they are saying publicly, here are a few other things that 'they' aren't bringing to the public's attention and a few questions that a lot of people would like to have answered.

1. If Persimmon are hoping to be on site in April next year, why have officers of this council, under delegated authority, without consulting even the councils planning committee, extended Persimmons planning permission for an unspecified amount of time? I mean, planning Permission lasts for three years. As it stands now, Persimmons' permission for Coatham would last until May 2010, so if they are going to start work in April next year, why have officers of this council extended Persimmons' planning permission beyond 2010? If they are going to be on site hopefully by next April, then theres no need to extend Planning Permission.

So why have they? What is so special about Coatham that makes Persimmon want to go against their own policy of not starting work on any new sites?

What is so special about this development that makes Persimmon, according to pinocchio Dunning, want to risk so much by starting work on this development as this countries ecconomy contracts more than any other in the world, when no-one can get a mortgage, when the cost of having a mortgage is rising and when the housing market is stagnant?

2. If Persimmon is going to be on site next April, are they going to start work on the sea defence now which has to be in place before any houses can even be built? Even if they started work on the sea defence now, how is it going to be completed in just five months ready for work on the houses to begin?

3. If Persimmon are going to be on site next April, are Persimmon intending to address the 47 planning conditions that have been set down, the conditions that they haven't even starting addressing? Are they going to start the clearing of landmines and contaminants before or after April?

4. The demolition of the leisure centre and Bowl to make way for the new leisure centre, pool and doctors surgery paid for through prudential borrowing, was always going to be part of phase one of the development. If Persimmon are going to be on site next April, why have the council spent thousands and thousands of pounds repairing the roof of the Coatham Bowl and leisure centre and giving it a facelift when if what Dunning has said is true, it is only going to be demolished in four months time? And why is the bowl taking bookings up until the end of 2009?

5. Why was the boating lake development reported in the Gazette in late 2006 as being a complimentary development to the Coatham scheme, to then be included as part of the Coatham Scheme at the Coatham Planning meeting last April, to now once again be described as a complimentary development once more?

6. Why has the cost of this 'complimentary development' risen from approximately £60,000, a sum that Persimmon were going to contibute to, to a whopping SEVEN HUNDRED THOUSAND POUNDS that Persimmon are contibuting absolutely nothing to?

7. Why are the council wanting to build a youth and media centre on the site of a building known in the Persimmon plan as the 'D2 building' a building which the council have already told us is going to be a bowling alley and something that they have already stated publicly in 2006, they have acquired the funding for?

8. If Persimmon are starting work in April on the Coatham scheme, why have the council sold the caravan park, which was always an integral part of the scheme because it was going to provide car parking for the whole site, to Lido leisure? Lido leisure were leasing the site from the council. In 2006, the council stated publicly that they were not going to renew Lido Leisures lease. Court proceedings began and Lido leisure even contacted us for information in preparation for their high court hearing early in 2007. Then like a bolt from the blue, no high court action is taking place and the council have suddenly sold the Caravan site in Coatham and another in Saltburn that Lido Leisure also run, to Lido Leisure for an undisclosed amount? Why is that?

Can anyone see Pinocchios nose getting any bigger yet?

Pinocchio Dunning...a cartoon leader of a desperate council Part 3.

Finally, in George Dunnings response to our press release, he states that he has had no reply to his email from Redcarpet. He clearly states

"He said he had received no reply after emailing Red Carpet"

Wait for it folks...Pinocchio Dunnings nose is about to grow a few more inches because here is a chronology of the correspondences between Project Management, the agents working on behalf of Redcarpet and not only to the council, but exactly to whom in the council and what each correspondence was about...

The chronology of events is as follows:

16 May 08 Project management wrote to Amanda Skelton (cc to George Dunning) on behalf of Redcarpet, inviting them to a meeting to discuss the Redcarpet scheme.

17 May 08, Redcarpet press release is printed in the Gazette but strangely George Dunning tells the newspaper that and I quote, "It's a peculiar situation where this organisation is proposing these schemes but not talking to us about them? We are always happy to talk to anyone about proposals for this borough. We could possibly work together". HE'D ALREADY BEEN CONTACTED THE DAY BEFORE HE SAID THAT HE'D HAD NO CONTACT???

30 May 08Public Presentation of Scheme at the Coatham Bowl (No-one from the council turns up)

4 June 08 CEO Amanda Skelton, replies to Project management for the very first time in two weeks, referring matter to Ian Wardle as Head of Regeneration and Penny Furniss, Head of Planning.

5 June 08 George Dunning replies to Project management, referring to Skelton's letter and confirming that Wardle will contact us upon return from holiday. He copies his email to councillors and officers of RCBC.?

Ian Wardle writes offering an alternative site to Coatham.

20 August 08 Project management write to the council suggesting meeting in September.

22 August 08 Ian Wardle replies stating and I quote that he was "looking forward to the meeting in September"He copies his letter to Dunning and others.

No meeting takes place.

7 October 08 Project management write suggesting meeting by the end of October

15 October 08 Ian Wardle agrees to a meeting at 5pm on 30 October.

21 October 08 Ian Wardle cancels meeting in writing stating that he is "too busy for at least next 2 weeks".

Perhaps Pinocchio Dunning could tell people exactly how many times do Redcarpet have to contact the council before he admits it in public and perhaps he could also tell people just exactly what Redcarpet have to do in order to get a council, who are desperate for people to provide leisure facilities in Redcar specifically Coatham, without having to borrow millions of pounds, to have a meeting with them?

It is clear to see from the chronology above, that despite the untrue statements that Dunning makes in the press, they don't want to talk to Redcarpet about their leisure scheme at all. More than this, they are clearly misleading the public in the press and under the FOI act.

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