Tag Archives: County Times

Hour of the dodgy headline: ‘Kitten-gate’ purrs on

abuse

Juxtaposition is a terrible thing if you’re a newspaper sub-editor – as the front page of this week’s Powys County Times demonstrates.

In the week when David Cameron was pilloried for saying the Queen “purred down the line” at him when he told her Scotland had rejected independence, the County Times ran a photograph of him (relating to another story) over the headline: “‘Sickening and vile abuse’ over phone”.

Oops!

What’s even worse is the lead paragraph of the story itself: “A woman was subjected to a vile campaign of sickening and anonymous abuse from a man she had considered a friend.”

Juxtaposition – putting one story next to another in a way that means it is possible to associate an image from one with a headline from another – is a terrible, and often unintentionally hilarious thing. Reporters (and editors) are warned to beware of it because of the possibility of libel litigation and it behooves Vox Political to point out that no disrespect is intended to the real victim of the abuse detailed in the actual story.

purred

Open mouth, insert foot: How Vox Political reported Cameron’s faux pas (or perhaps that should be faux paw).

Cameron himself is being made to apologise for his gaff, to Her Majesty.

While he’s at it, he should use the opportunity to apologise for the last four and a half years of his misrule.

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

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Housing association speaks out over Bedroom Tax

131222perkins

It seems the chief executive of a local housing association has taken issue with yr obdt srvt over the Bedroom Tax.

Shane Perkins, of Mid Wales Housing, wrote to the Powys-based County Times after I used that paper to expose an illegal action by the county council’s ruling group, aimed at preventing discussing of a motion for the council to adopt a ‘no-eviction’ policy.

The motion asked the council not to evict tenants who fail to pay their rent because of the Bedroom Tax. Councillors who are also private landlords were forbidden from speaking or voting on the motion as they stand to benefit if social housing tenants are forced to seek accommodation with them as a result of the vindictive policy, and this meant 30 councillors had to leave the chamber.

Members of the ruling group, realising there was a real possibility of the motion being carried, then claimed that any councillors who are social housing tenants should also be barred from taking part – a move that is against the law (to the best of my knowledge). My understanding is that a ‘general dispensation’ allows councillors who are council tenants to take part in debates on, and vote on, matters relating to council housing.

Mr Perkins, writing in the paper’s December 20 edition, suggests that it is almost impossible to establish whether or not a tenant has fallen into rent arrears solely as a consequence of the “pernicious” (his word) Bedroom Tax, and claims that the motion was “a meaningless ‘political’ statement”.

He makes the point that it may be possible to apply the policy where the tenant has never previously been in rent arrears, but this would be unfair on other tenants who are similarly affected now but had fallen into arrears for other reasons in the past. He asks why tenants who struggle to meet their rent payments should not receive a financial subsidy or reward for being a good and conscientious tenant; and also points out that the cumulative effect of other regressive changes to benefits is also likely to affect the rent payments of vulnerable people and, to be consistent, Labour’s motion should encompass them also.

He says all social landlords, including the council, will seek to advise and support tenants who are in financial difficulty, but “in the final analysis, if a tenant fails to pay their rent, the ultimate sanction has got to be eviction.

“To do otherwise would be irresponsible, as ultimately the cost of one tenant not paying their rent is borne by all those tenants that do pay, and spiralling arrears will ultimately affect the viability of the council’s housing, which will serve none of its tenants.”

It would be easy to pick holes in his arguments. The whole point of government policy is to make sure that nobody gets a penny more than the Conservative-led Coalition decides they should have – and this government wants to drive people into poverty – so there will be no rewards for hard work. The Labour Party, and non-political groups, has campaigned ceaselessly to force the government into assessing the cumulative impact of its changes to the benefit system, but the government has refused all such calls, knowing as it does that such research would reveal the monstrous truth about its attack on the poorest in society.

If Mr Perkins is really interested, then he should encourage his own MP to support the call for such an assessment in the debate on the ‘WoW’ Petition, due to take place in the House of Commons in the New Year. I helped write that document, which calls for (among other things) “a cumulative impact assessment of welfare reform”. Labour is supporting the motion. I would suggest, therefore, that any criticism of Labour for making a “meaningless ‘political’ statement” is unfounded.

As for the difference between tenants affected by the Bedroom Tax who have never been in arrears before, and those affected by it who have – this should be something a social landlord can track, especially if they are actively seeking to “advise and support” tenants. This support should include examination of a tenants income and outgoings, before and after the Tax was imposed.

The simple fact is that Mr Perkins would move offending tenants into smaller houses if he had any, but he doesn’t. He would not be talking about eviction if he did. He never built them and we must conclude that he never saw the need. Perhaps he believed that the welfare state would continue to support his tenants.

William Beveridge, the architect of that system, in the report that bears his name, said the British government should fight what he called the “giant evils” of society, including Want.

How could Beveridge know that, 70 years later, the British government would be actively increasing Want, wherever it could. That is what the Bedroom Tax, and the benefit cap, and all the other cuts brought in by this spiteful Conservative-led Coalition are about.

These measures are crimes against the citizens of this country – citizens who have paid into the State, generation after generation since the 1940s, believing that it would look after them if the spectre of Want cast its shadow at their door.

Mr Perkins describes the changes as “pernicious”, but if he allows a single tenant to be evicted then he will be a willing accomplice.

That is what he is saying when he tells us he is prepared to use this “final sanction”.

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One law for us, another law for them – my experiences with police corruption

I can’t say I was surprised when I read ‘Dyfed-Powys tops corruption allegation list’ in the County Times at the end of May. Why should I be surprised? I’m one of the people who made the allegations!

“Dyfed-Powys Police has topped the list of police forces with most corruption allegations for its size in England and Wales,” wrote CT reporter Emma Mackintosh.

“In the Dyfed-Powys force area, there were 146 allegations against officers. With 2,100 police officers, that gave the force a ratio of 69 complaints per 1,000 officers, the highest in Wales and England and more than twice the average.”

Only 69 complaints per 1,000? You might think those are good odds. But then, you might never have got on the wrong side of one of the officers to which these complaints relate!

A buddy of mine did, a few years ago. As a result, he was arrested and prosecuted for a particularly nasty crime – but I’m not referring to that. My complaint was about a crime related to the allegations against him, but committed by someone else, in an attempt to swing public opinion against him.*

That’s when I made my complaint. I know a thing or three about the law and I knew that an offence had been committed (contempt of court, as it happens – someone had publicised information that they shouldn’t have). I gave full details of what had happened and how, and not only did I refer to the relevant section and paragraph of the legislation – I quoted it verbatim.

The response was a flat refusal to investigate and a claim that the law had not been broken, with a reference to an irrelevant section of the same law.

You see, prosecuting this individual would have been inconvenient as it would have weakened the case against my friend. Easier to let them flout the law and get away with it, apparently. One law for us… another law for them.

“In the Dyfed-Powys force, of the 146 complaints made, only 16 found their way to the IPCC,” writes Emma. Mine would have been one of them. I made a full, detailed complaint, quoting the relevant legislation, pointing out where the officer involved had gone wrong, and explaining why I believed the error was intentional.

All I got for my efforts was another flat refusal to acknowledge the facts. The investigator spoke with the officer and decided that his interpretation of the law was correct – despite having it quoted to them, in black and white, by me!

For me, the only way forward from that point would have been to hire a lawyer and get a judicial review, but that costs money and I simply don’t have enough. Again, it’s one law for us… another law for them.

So the crime went unpunished, the perpetrator went scott free and my friend was imprisoned. He was later released by the Court of Appeal, after a hearing in which the presiding judge actually demanded to know whether the prosecutor had any concrete evidence at all! That wasn’t enough to save him at the retrial and once again he was sent down. You see, the alleged crime was one of which people tend to be found guilty merely because they have been accused.

“The IPCC has said it wants clearer information on what constitutes police corruption, with 631 complaints made in Wales between 2008 and 2011,” Emma continues. I don’t know why. My experience indicates this Independent organisation (that’s what the ‘I’ stands for) will just toe the police service‘s line, no matter what.

“Responding to the findings, a Dyfed-Powys Police spokesperson said: ‘Dyfed-Powys Police notes and welcomes the report’s findings which will inform future practice locally. “’The force acts proactively to prevent corruption and where it is alleged investigates such cases thoroughly and professionally. “’We are reviewing our policies and procedures in line with national recommendations following various reviews into this subject area.’”

On past experience, I very much doubt that.

*I apologise for the necessary vaguenesses in this story. It is about criminal acts which were committed by people who have not been brought to account, and if I made my story any clearer, I might be the next person in front of a judge!