SBC: Where The Truth Stops
- an “In My View” article by NIGEL WARD, getting to the roots of what is wrong at Scarborough Borough Council (SBC).
I recently concluded an article with an indication that I intended to address the subjects of PRIVILEGE, BULLYING and MISOGYNY. In this article, I will focus on a special form of PRIVILEGE.
These ‘special rights’ and ‘advantages’ may cover a wide spectrum. They may be trivial – e.g. a backstage pass when Elton John appears at Scarborough’s Open Air Theatre (OAT), a weekend at Flamingo Land, an invitation to the one of the Her Majesty the Queen’s garden parties – or they may be of considerable consequence – e.g. valuable pre-information on future industrial developments, free legal services, etc.
But it is with ‘immunity’ that I concern myself here – immunity from prosecution, or sanctions imposed by employers and/or professional regulatory bodies.
A week ago, on Thursday 23rd September, I wrote to SBC’s Director of Legal & Democratic Services asking her to disclose the date and time upon which she responded to Councillor Michelle DONOHUE-MONCRIEFF’s ‘cry for help’ email of 8th September 2016 at 17:21:11 BST.
As predicted, Mrs DIXON has not responded to my email.
(And neither, incidentally, has Councillor Andrew JENKINSON [Con.] responded to my Open Letter).
The reason for Mrs DIXON’s non-responsiveness is not difficult to discern; if Mrs DIXON failed to respond to Councillor DONOHUE-MONCRIEFF’s ‘cry for help’, she stands in serious breach of her Duty of Care to the Councillor. Obviously, she will not be eager to admit as much. However, the Council’s IT-logs – unless falsified – will confirm whether she did or did not.
Councillor DONOHUE-MONCRIEFF’s solicitors may, in due course, seek disclosure of those IT-logs under Part 31 of the Court Procedure Rules. In my lay opinion, this would not bode well for Mrs DIXON – unless she has some ‘special rights’ and/or ‘advantages’ such as would endow her with ‘immunity’ – in a word, PRIVILEGE.
Moving backwards in time, on Friday 16th September 2016, I attended Scarborough Magistrates’ Court to witness the Bankruptcy Hearing of a Bridlington man who had thus far failed to fulfil a Costs Order in the sum of £14,351 payable to SBC.
The Council was represented by SBC Solicitor Kimberley PROUD, acting under the authority of our old ‘friend’, Mrs Lisa DIXON. It is neither more nor less than fair comment to state that Kimberley PROUD was (quite rightly) taken to task by Deputy District Judge Nicholas HILL on account of what can best be described by the German word Schlamperei – which Wiktionary translates as “laziness, inefficiency, muddleheadedness” – over the impossibility of the dates that the Council had attributed to crucial documents.
What Judge HILL (pictured above) did not yet know was that an issue far more serious than Schlamperei lay further down in the trial bundle.
On examining the paperwork which the Defendant, Mr Wayne MORRISS, took with him to the Bankruptcy Hearing, I discovered a copy of Form 6.13A – being a Statement of Truth of Statement in Bankruptcy Petition. Within this Court document, signed off with a Statement of Truth by Mrs Lisa DIXON, and dated 12th July 2016, I encountered the following paragraph:
- “It was expected that the debtor [Mr MORRISS] would complaint[sic] to the Local Government Ombudsman upon completion of the Council’s complaints procedure however this has not been the case and it would appear that the complaint matter is now concluded.”
To my certain knowledge, this Statement of Truth is (and I put it charitably) inaccurate.
Mr MORRISS’ Formal Complaint to the Local Government Ombudsman regarding dishonesty on the part of SBC Legal Services was acknowledged on 4th March 2016 – over four months prior to Mrs Lisa DIXON signing her Statement of Truth (12th July 2016, remember) – by Mr Keith NEVOLS of the Local Government Ombudsman ‘s office, who stated:
- “I will therefore send a copy of your complaint to the Council today.”
The reality is that Mr MORRIS’s current and on-going Formal Complaint about the Council’s conduct has been in train with the LGO since Friday 4th March 2016 and in the possession of the Council since Monday 7th March 2016, or very shortly thereafter. Nevertheless, Mrs Lisa DIXON, over a Statement of Truth, has testified to the contrary, as cited above.
Clearly, Mrs DIXON’s Statement of Truth, has misled the Court in a Bankruptcy Hearing against Mr MORRISS by stating that it “has not been the case” that Mr MORRISS [the debtor] has pursued a Complaint to the LGO. He most certainly has – and as his Authorised Complaint Advocate, I should know – and will testify accordingly.
Part 32.14 Court Procedure Rules states as follows:
The Local Government Ombudsman has been made aware of Mrs Lisa DIXON’s false Statement of Truth – a false statement, by the way, of which (as the correspondence record will show) she could not have held “an honest belief” in its veracity.
Does any reader believe that Mrs DIXON will be jailed for contempt of court? By dint of what manner of PRIVILEGE will she be spared?
Moving a little further back in time, we come to a serious breaches of Council protocol in the matter of the Car-User Allowance Working Group (within the Resources Scrutiny Committee, chaired by double-dipper yes-man, Councillor Joe PLANT [Con.]). The Working Group examined the system in search of savings.
The Council had, for the past twenty years, been paying around 103 of its Officers £963 p.a. in Car-User Allowances to those who qualified – by clocking up 3,000 miles p.a. using their own vehicles on Council business. Absurdly, this 3,000 miles p.a. qualification threshold had never been monitored. The £963 p.a. was paid automatically to the 103 Officers who applied. (£963 x 103 Officers x 20 years = £1,983,780 – a two million pound PRIVILEGE).
NYE editor Tim THORNE reported on this profligacy in an article published in July 2014.
Former Councillor Mike WARD was met by stubborn resistance when he proposed a strict adherence to the existing 3,000 miles p.a. qualification threshold, especially from the highest ranking Officers – including Chief Executive Officer ‘Silent’ Jim DILLON who told him that the regulations would be enforced, “Over my dead body!”. Even with his £120K per annum salary, CEO Jim DILLON clearly feels that he and his colleagues are entitled to an extra grand a year – of the taxpayers’ money.
Elaine BLADES – the Human Resources Officer who was slammed in Judge Humphrey FORREST’s Judgment in the Ben MARRIOTT case – broke confidentiality by ‘leaking’ the Car-User Allowance Working Party’s draft Confidential Report to Director of Legal & Democratic Services Lisa DIXON (at DIXON’s insistence) – and subsequently deleted her sent-folder copy!
Elaine BLADES (pictured below, leaving Court) was swift to apologise – all that is ever necessary to avoid any sanction in the SBC world of PRIVILEGE.
To explain what really happened, I quote directly from Mike WARD’s case statement:
- “This was shown to be the case when information which was confidential, was circulated by our Monitoring Officer [Lisa DIXON]. Work in progress by the Car User Allowance Working Group was stored in a confidential file. Lisa [DIXON] asked the Personnel Officer, Elaine Blades to send it to her. Because of reporting lines Elaine [BLADES] complied but knowing her actions could have been questioned because it came from a confidential file she deleted the email. The ‘confidential’ work in progress was then circulated by Lisa [DIXON] (who herself could have had the right to see it) to the Directors Team (who did not) though one of those, Hilary Jones, reported to the Working Group she had not opened it, knowing it to be confidential.”
The working hypothesis is that when Lisa DIXON pressed her subordinate Elaine BLADES for sight of the confidential report – not only for her own benefit, but to share with the other Directors – she did so at the behest of a superior. Since the record shows that one of her two superiors – i.e. Strategic Director Hilary JONES (no longer with SBC) – declined sight of the report due to its confidential nature, then, by a process of elimination, the implication is that it can only have been at the behest of her other superior, Chief Executive Officer and Head of Paid Service Jim DILLON.
By dint of what manner of PRIVILEGE will she be spared sanction for this breach of confidentiality?
Mrs Lisa DIXON has featured before in the North Yorks Enquirer – and the Private Eye.
She also made a memorable appearance in the BBC ‘Inside Out’ documentary that scrutinised several of our investigations. Presenter Chris JACKSON wryly demonstrated the art of catching a lawyer in a lie.
In fairness to Mrs DIXON, economy with the truth has been a standard feature of the SBC Legal Services department throughout CEO Jim DILLON’s tenure. Mrs Lisa DIXON’s predecessor in the Legal & Democratic Services, Ian ANDERSON (whose sudden departure was itself surrounded by secrecy), was also well-known for his whoppers.
The CodHead’s cartoon refers to yet another SBC false representation, this time regarding the structural damage caused to properties fronting onto Whitby Harbour on the east side, to the north of the Swing Bridge, by unlicensed dredging to close to the Harbour wall. Once again, no sanctions. Only that special PRIVILEGE of immunity.
The very same Ian George ANDERSON, solicitor and barrister, is presently the Head of Legal Services and Town Clerk at Hull City Council, where once again he is being confronted by allegations of dishonesty.
On the 21st of September 2016, in Westminster Magistrates’ Court, before District Judge Quentin PURDY, George GRETTON, Private Prosecutor, made three Representations directly to Judge PURDY, in Court, (following previously submitted evidence and Statements that had instigated the listing of the Hearings by a District Judge), that the subjects of his investigations, including Ian George ANDERSON, be summonsed to Criminal Trial under the terms of the Perjury Act 1911.
And speaking of evidence, several Scarborough Borough Councillors have complained to me that they have been refused sight of crucial documents by Mrs Lisa DIXON. I take this opportunity to draw their attention to a fascinating article on the Local Government Lawyer website – “Councillors’ rights of access to information”. The article points to s.100F of the Local Government Act 1972, which provides that any document which is in the possession or under the control of a principal council (being a non-metropolitan county, a district or a London borough council – and which, by virtue of s.100J of the Act, has a very wide meaning beyond that) and contains material relating to any business to be transacted at a meeting of the Council (or a Committee or Sub-Committee of the Council) shall be open to inspection by any member of the Council.
One might reasonably expect all right-thinking Councillors, as elected representatives of the public, to use these powers to scrutinise the conduct of their Officers – our paid public servants. And if the Conservative Councillors are too harshly ‘whipped’ to rock the boat – i.e. subject to BULLYING – then surely the Opposition Councillors might rise to the occasion and grasp the opportunity to oppose the abuse of PRIVILEGE.
To close, I hear that next week’s issue of the Scarborough News promises to be very entertaining indeed.
We shall see.
Coming soon: I will be taking a closer look at BULLYING and MISOGYNY at SBC. Plenty to go at.