Tuesday, May 05, 2009

The time for investigation has arrived.

As someone who pays his council tax in Redcar and Cleveland , I would like to begin by thanking Mr Robert Goodwill MP for Scarborough and Whitby , for having the courage to make the decision to intervene in the affairs of a local authority in another MP’s constituency.

We have come here to let the facts about the Coatham development and the behaviour of our local authority, be known in the seat of democracy in our country, because our own political establishment have tried to keep the truth away from the public. We have come here to be heard because those in authority where we live have ignored us and told us lies. We have come here today because we believe the Coatham Development and the local authority in Redcar and Cleveland to be corrupted and as a result of this we have come here to join with Mr Goodwill in calling for an independent investigation into all aspects of the Coatham scheme and the Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council, at the very highest level that we can.

There are some who may have winced at me using the word corrupted, but it has been used so many times already and not just by us, regarding the mess known as Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council and the Coatham Enclosure Development. It was used by MP for East Cleveland and Middlesbrough South Ashok Kumar, in 2005. After a meeting with him in his constituency office in Guisborough, the last question he asked me was “did we believe there to be corruption within the council?” Based upon the facts we had at that time, I said yes.

The Serious Fraud Office, based on the facts that we provided them with about this scheme have stated in a letter that the things that we have brought to their attention “Pertain to corruption” and “should be investigated by the police”.

When we met with the Corporate Assesor from the Audit Commission Mr Mike Newbury last May, the final question that he asked, after we had shown him the documents that we had, was “did we believe there to be a corrupt relationship existing between the council and Persimmon Homes?” We said that we did.

These people have all used the word corruption and asked the same question, as senior Government officers and parts of public service bodies. As intelligent people experienced in Government both local and National, would they ask this question if they were not thinking it themselves?

The film that you are about to see demonstrates clearly the facts about the Coatham Scheme and Redcar and Cleveland Borough council and the way that they, and Vera Baird QC MP, have betrayed the public of Redcar and Cleveland. But because of the massive step that Mr Goodwill has taken in intervening in Redcar and Cleveland , out of respect for him and his undertaking, I would like to outline our decision to approach him.

Firstly, he is my partners MP. She has had a business in Redcar for over twenty years that she pays business rates to Redcar and Cleveland Borough for. She owns properties in Redcar that she pays council tax for. It is her right to go down any avenue that she feels is necessary, in order to ensure that the local authority that she pays rates and council tax to, is behaving properly.

There are going to be those who will say “why haven’t you gone to the council with your complaints” Our response to that is what is the point?

What is the point of going to the council when they have openly and wrongly smeared us and lied about us? The have called us anarchists, a rabble, they have said that we are lying. The now ex-CEO Colin Moore said in a letter to Vera Baird that I had acted violently towards a female councilor when I had not. Still unsubstantiated claims, that we have spat at Councilors in the street and sent them threatening letters and emails have been made by councilors. We have had requests for the now ex-CEO Colin Moore and the now ex-Finance officer Ray Richardson to be investigated, swept under the carpet by the council telling us that we had to complain to the now ex-CEO and Finance officer themselves? We have gone to the Standards Board on many occasions with our complaints but they, no matter how damning the case against the councilor in question is, always come down on the side of the council. Even when councilors, Chris Abbott and Dave Fitzpatrick started an untrue smear campaign against me that I was a member of the BNP, the standards board did nothing, preferring to accept the councils monitoring Officers explanation that it was all just political banter in the run up to the General Election that I stood in in 2005 as an independent.

When councilors George Dunning and Mark Hannon deliberately failed to tell the truth in the press regarding the village green issue, something that was picked up on by our own solicitor Andrew Lockley from Irwin Mitchell, the councils’ legal officer Richard Frankland, covered for them by twisting and turning and prevaricating on their behalf under the FOI act.

When ex-CEO Colin Moore and ex-finance officer Ray Richardson were found in tribunal after tribunal as having been deliberately disingenuous, changed their evidence overnight, concealed the truth, acted illegally, been guilty of sharp practice the council praised them as officers of high quality and awarded them pay rises. When senior Officer Simon Dale had been described in the Whittaker Employment Tribunal as lying and basically bringing the council down into disrepute, he was defended in the press by the head of the police committee, councilor Dave McCluckie? Within Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council there is a culture of cronyism and a culture of officers and members watching and protecting, each others backs.

This is why we have not gone to our own council.

There are those who will then ask, “well why haven’t you gone to The Cleveland Police?” Our response to that is also what is the point?

What is the point when I have had death threats that Cleveland police have done absolutely nothing about. When I have had hateful text messages sent to me via my partners mobile phone that the police said would be impossible to investigate. When I have had hate mail sent to my home through the post telling me basically to back off if I knew what was good for me. Saying sick things about the health of an independent Councilor, Mike Findley, who is suffering with MND and who supported our campaign. Hate mail that matched hate mail already sent to Mike and another Independent councilor Mary Lanigan, that had been left in their pigeon holes within the councils offices. Hate mail that Seargent Mandy Savery told me in front of five other people in April 2006, the police knew had come from within the council. But despite this, Cleveland police did nothing. Infact, when my friends who had touched the letter had their prints eliminated from the investigation because they did not match those found on the letter and the only course open to Cleveland Police, after I had complained to the IPCC, was to investigate the council, I was informed on December 22nd 2006, in Guisborough Police Station, that the police and the CPS did not then regard the issue of the hate mail that I had received ,as being a crime anymore and that they did not think the letter had come from the council?

But to offset this complete lack of action by Cleveland Police Force regarding things that I have had to suffer, we have had a situation in Redcar and Cleveland where two young men were investigated by Cleveland Police at the insistence of Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council, for thirteen weeks, they were then arrested and detained for twelve hours, had their computers and mobile phones confiscated and DNA and fingerprints taken and all for the terrible crime of fly posting.

Strangely posters that accused certain members of the council and the now ex-CEO Colin Moore of being corrupt.

What happened to the two young men? They were released after twelve hours. No charges were ever brought against them despite the massive investigation and the only thing that the police ever suggested to them was to attend a meeting with the now ex-CEO to basically get a dressing down.

As if this isn’t bad enough, after I had posted the truth on my blogsite about councilor Dave Fitzpatrick being caught on CCTV camera swinging a chain around outside his public house in a threatening manner, after a young man had been assaulted in councilor Fitzpatricks pub just prior to that, Cleveland Police then spent, at the request of councilor Fitzpatrick, six months trying to fit a crime to me posting on my blogsite when no crime either criminally or civilly had been committed. The Cleveland police force spent six months from January to June 2007, representing a councilor from Redcar and Cleveland over a civil issue and spent six months trying to conjure up a crime in order to silence me. They then called me in to the police station in order to try and intimidate me into silence further, in front of my solicitor and on tape I told them that they were going to have to take me to court where I would tell all that I knew in a British Court . No action was ever taken. So intimidated have I felt by the threats that have been made against me and by the lack of action taken by the police, as opposed to the actions that they have taken on behalf of the council, as a way of protecting myself, I have sent letters to four different people in this country stating that if anything ever happens to me, then they should start by looking at a list of people that I have provided them with.

This is why we have not gone to our own Cleveland Police Force. I have gone to South Yorkshire Police force and I have spoken to a detective there in the economic crime squad called Gordon Simmonite, who I provided all of the facts that we had at that time and he told me that he knew that there was definitely something wrong within the council, but they couldn’t get involved because of manpower, tasking figures and a lack of resources I was told. I have gone to Sir John Stevens office and given the facts to a man there called Gavin Proudly who also told me that he knew that there was need of an investigation in Redcar and Cleveland because we had and I quote “A bad situation up here” but they couldn’t get involved because of the massive costs that would be incurred. I have spoken to my friend Keith Mulvey, a private Investigator who used to work with Sir John Stevens in the met way back when and who used to be a detective in the flying squad and he has told me, as someone who has policed at a high level, that there is something drastically wrong within our council. But because of the bias that has been shown, and because the recently re-elected Chairman of Cleveland Police Authority, Councilor Dave McCluckie, an elected councilor of this borough who was investigated and criticized following an external inquiry into what is known locally as the Hollybush affair, we have not gone to Cleveland Police.

There are those who will say, “well why haven’t you gone to your own MP Vera Baird?”

Our response to that, once again, is what is the point?

What is the point of going toVera Baird, when she courted us and supported us when the Labour group were in opposition in the council, but as soon as the Labour group were returned to control the council in May 2007, then went back on the things that she had said previously when the Labour group were in opposition. How can she call the Coatham Scheme a disaster on Radio but then still support it and push it when the scheme as it stands now, is offering even less and is even more of a disaster than when she said it on Radio in late 2006. How many MP’s would want to see a disaster inflicted upon their constituencies?

What is the point of going to Vera Baird when after the council were found in the High Court in December 2007 of being biased and pre-determined regarding the Coatham Planning process, both she and the Labour group leader publicly stated that they had both known all along that the Coatham Planning Process was wrong and that they had warned the old coalition at the time that what they were doing was wrong. The Labour group leader George Dunning even referred to the planning process at the time, as being tainted. Yet despite this, even though they both knew all along how wrong it all was, both of them supported the council spending thousands of pounds of public money defending the Judicial Review that we started against the planning process. How could they defend something that they both believed to have been unlawful? More than this, so wrong was it the council did not appeal the decision it was Persimmon that did. But when the high court decision was somehow overturned at appeal, knowing how wrong it was and after publicly saying so, Vera Baird said absolutely nothing and just let the appeal decision go unchallenged?

She has already attempted to ban this film and whitewash the things that have taken place within Redcar and Cleveland . We approached her office in the first instance in 2007 wanting help to show this film in the House, but got none. When Mr Goodwill agreed 18 months ago to show the film and agreed to call for the independent investigation into our council, Ms Baird stopped him by wrongly threatening him with the speaker. She also told him that the things that we had told him about Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council were not based in reality. How she must have been smarting when we won in the High Court and the Audit Commission downgraded the council to a two star authority based on the information that we provided. Information that we have provided her with but she has done nothing about.

Infact, when she had stopped Mr Goodwill from showing the film and calling for the independent investigation, she then called for the council to have an internal investigation into the things that we were saying and for this internal investigation to be headed by the now ex-finance officer and acting Chief Executive Ray Richardson, a man who had been featured three times in Private Eye Magazine for his less than honest behaviour already.

But as if all of these things were not enough to make us wary of Ms Baird, as if her persuading us to stand as independent councilors against Labour candidates in the local elections wasn’t enough to make us wary, in 2006 in a café in Redcar called Mrs Bridges, Myself, a teacher called Andrew Hayden and Councilor Mike Findley had a meeting with her. At this meeting I told her that the officers of the council were lying to the public over the issue of Coatham. To this she said that everyone told lies and just dismissed it as the norm. But what rocked us most was that I then said that we thought that someone had taken a bung over the issue of Coatham because the decisions that had been and were being made didn’t make any sense. She turned to me and said “Everyone takes bungs, theres nothing new in that”. Immediately Andy Hayden said in disbelief “ If you work in a tannery long enough you get used to the smell, so if I was you I’d step outside and clear your nostrils because whilst it may go on, it doesn’t make it right”.

And this is the reason why we approached Mr Robert Goodwill. Where do we go when our own MP, the Solicitor General of this country, says these things? Where do we go when the police represent the council and when the council cover each others wrong doing? Where do we go when Persimmons’ own planning application shows the existence of contaminants and land mines in the ground at Coatham, things that they have known for years but said nothing about, yet when we make it public we are smeared and ridiculed publicly for. Where do we go when despite those contaminants being two and a half times over the safe limit we are told by the HSE that there is no threat. When we bring it to their attention that the Council, Mcalpines and Persimmon have lied to them they tell us that we, and I quote, “are missing the bigger picture?”

Where do we go when the Environment agencies planning condition regarding the construction of a multi million pound sea defence in Coatham is changed by an unauthorized officer of the council and the EA tell the council in an email that they would not have agreed to this, but when we ask questions the EA tell us that the council don’t need permission to change their planning conditions? If this is the case, then why have planning conditions or an EA in the first place? If what the council has done hasn’t broken any rules and they can change planning conditions at will, then why did the EA state in an email that it is unlikely that they would have agreed to it? In another EA email it clearly states that they had to do all that they could to help the council as “a lot of money and the councils credibility were at stake here”. Since when were a lot of money or even worse, the councils credibility, ever things to be considered by the EA when addressing the issues of a zone 3 High Flood Risk area.

Where do we go to when an employee from the information commissioners office tells me that emails that the council sent me under the FOI act contain and I quote “inconsistencies” yet still accept the councils version of events as being true and correct?

Where do we go when the Local Government Ombudsman acknowledges that there is a massive conflict of interests between the council and Persimmon that pre-dates the scheme being advertised as a leisure development in 2002, but they can’t do anything about it because it wasn’t reported to them within a year of it happening.

Where do we go when the local press, keep off the front pages the real and true facts and big stories like the one about Mr Goodwill intervening in the local authority in the Solicitor Generals constituency when they fail to print the truth spoken in court about the lack of leisure facilities being provided in this scheme even though their reporter has been sat in attendance throughout, but who then seize every opportunity to promote the scheme whenever they can?

All of these things are a disgrace. None of them make any sense in a truthful, decent, society and despite these things leaving more questions unanswered than answered, these things are going un-challenged. It is time that this was stopped. It is time that all of Redcar and Cleveland Borough Councils affairs regarding the Coatham scheme and beyond were brought out into the open and investigated thoroughly and independently, not internally and behind closed doors and it is time for anyone who is found to have behaved in a manner that is not befitting the position that they have either held or are holding, to be brought to justice and barred from public office. We, the people of Redcar and Cleveland ask you to hear our voice and give us the independent investigation that every, decent person can see, is so desperately needed.


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