Tag Archives: county

Boris Johnson failed to pay £535 County Court-defined damages. Is he broke or not?

Wishful thinking: Boris Johnson won’t end up behind bars for failing to pay a County Court-ordered sum. But why does he think he can cancel it?

Confused? You should be.

Boris Johnson’s finances would befuddle even the most experienced double-entry jockey.

First we heard that being prime minister had made him so poor he couldn’t afford to feed himself and his many (known) children, and had appealed to Tory donors for help.

Then we discovered that this was against the rules, and suddenly Johnson announced that he had paid for everything after all.

But how can this be true, if he couldn’t even stump up £535 in accordance with a court order, back in October last year?

(By a curious coincidence, This Writer had to find exactly the same amount today – for repairs to my car. I managed it – and I earn a lot less than Boris Johnson, even though some – thanks, Mrs Mike – might say I’m worth a lot more.)

According to the BBC, the money is supposed to pay off libel damages – but I find that highly suspicious. Libel isn’t tried in the county court – cases only appear before High Court judges (I should know!) and they cost a lot more than £535!

Downing Street has said the court ruling is “without merit” (whatever that’s supposed to mean – if Johnson didn’t pay a court-ordered fine, then the facts seem fairly clear).

A spokesperson said,

“An application will be made for an order to set aside the default judgement, to strike out the claim and for a declaration that the claim is totally without merit.”

There was a time for that, and it was October last year. Now is too late.

It will be interesting to see what excuse is put forward for failing to challenge the judgement at the time.

I doubt any court will accept “The prime minister is above the law,” even if that is what Johnson genuinely believes.

Source: No 10 seeks to cancel county court debt judgement against Boris Johnson – BBC News

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Disabled benefit claimant sends in the bailiffs after suing Atos for negligence

More people need to do this.

A benefit claimant whose partner recorded her Personal Independence Payment assessment interview successfully sued Atos for negligence and failure of its duty of care after her payments were stopped.

She then sent in the bailiffs to enforce the country court’s ruling after the outsourcing giant refused to pay up.

The claimant, known as Rebecca, had to spend two years fighting to get her PIP reinstated after it was wrongly stopped on the basis of false information provided by the assessor.

Rebecca has epilepsy and a resulting heart condition, anxiety, depression and memory problems but her entitlement to the enhanced daily living component of PIP, along with her claim to the benefit itself, was removed by the Department for Work and Pensions on the basis of the assessment.

Eventually she was able to put her case before an appeal panel who listened to the recording of the assessment, compared it with the assessor’s account of the interview, and promptly restored her entitlement to PIP – and to the enhanced rate of the daily living component – until 2023.

Rebecca was so angry at the way she had been treated by Atos and the DWP that she decided to take the assessment firm to court, suing for “mental distress, anxiety and hardship”.

Atos did not bother to defend the claim, which resulted in an award of £2,500 for Rebecca, in compensation and damages.

Perhaps the firm simply thought it could shrug away her attempts to claim the money?

Not so. When Atos failed to pay, she sent the bailiffs in to its London offices, creating a further cost of £2,000.

This is a huge victory – not just financially but morally – for benefit claimants whose claims have been cancelled under false pretences, based on inaccurate assessment reports.

It happened because the assessment was recorded – something that the DWP has resisted for years. Now we know why: it stops that government department from wrongly knocking people off its books. This is a strong indication that every benefit claimant should record their interview.

Atos may wish to consider that the award against it was enlarged because of the length of time it took Rebecca to win her case.

I don’t have the full details but I’m willing to bet this was due to the “mandatory reassessment” malarkey imposed by the DWP, which means claimants have to wait – with no cash to live on – while officers of the department consider whether the decision to cut their benefit was right.

Usually they decide it was, and it is only then that claimants can appeal to a tribunal. Most appeals are won by the claimant.

This Writer would therefore urge anybody who has recorded their assessment, lost benefits, and had to appeal to get them back, to follow Rebecca’s example: don’t just take the money – take legal action!

Once Atos and the DWP have lost a few more cases, they might actually give up and agree that their system is unfair and has to change.

Source: Claimant Successfully Sues Atos And Sends In The Bailiffs When They Don’t Pay Up | Same Difference

Have YOU donated to my crowdfunding appeal, raising funds to fight false libel claims by TV celebrities who should know better? These court cases cost a lot of money so every penny will help ensure that wealth doesn’t beat justice.

https://www.crowdjustice.com/case/mike-sivier-libel-fight/


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Labour plans ‘biggest devolution of economic power and funding for generations’

Ed Balls: He wants to put £30 billion worth of infrastructure funding into the hands of local government.

Ed Balls: He wants to put £30 billion worth of infrastructure funding into the hands of local government.

Today’s most interesting election announcement comes from Labour, which is promising to deliver “the biggest devolution of economic power and funding to England’s city and county regions for generations”.

Plans to devolve £30 billion of funding over five years – including funding for housing, transport, business support, employment and adult skills – will be at the heart of the next Labour government’s Spending Review, if elected in May.

A Labour Treasury will allow city and county regions which come together in combined authorities to keep 100 per cent of extra business rates revenue generated by additional growth. They will then be able to invest this to support further business growth in their regions.

All areas will be able to access these freedoms and areas which choose not to have an elected Mayor will not get a second-class deal.

It’s a clear attack on George Osborne’s plan for a “northern powerhouse” – Labour is asking, why just concentrate on ‘The North’ when so many other areas outside London need help due to Tory economic mismanagement?

It is to be hoped that Labour has not forgotten its support base in this business-friendly frenzy. Will this funding be used to promote the Living Wage, for example? Will it be used to create the new work demanded by its jobs guarantee – and will they be permanent, well-paying careers?

“Local areas will be in the driving seat on key decisions affecting their local economies – with new powers over back-to-work schemes, to drive house building, and to integrate, invest in and plan transport infrastructure,” said shadow chancellor Ed Balls, ahead of today’s announcement. It seems Labour has picked up a trick from the Tories – if this scheme fails anywhere, they will be able to blame it on local government. Hmm.

“And we will also let city and county regions keep all the additional business rates revenue generated by growth… We will not only back our great cities, but our towns and county regions too. Not just urban areas, but also rural areas.”

So there is much to recommend this plan – if a Labour government in Westminster can co-ordinate successfully with local authorities, of all colours, in the regions.

Or is this building castles in the air?

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

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How national cuts are crippling local services

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How many more underhanded ways can our underhanded Coalition government find to sneak crippling damage to public services in by the back door?

A particularly vile method has just been uncovered here in my own county of Powys, involving the collusion of councillors who are supposed to be independent (but you will see that their political colours are more blue than anything else).

The Coalition government has cut back its Aggregate External Grant to local authorities for next year – its subsidy to councils – by many millions of pounds. This means that councils need to cut huge sums of money from their budgets if they are to balance their books. In Powys, the total that must go is £20 million – around one-eleventh of the total budget.

The council launched a public consultation, asking residents for their views on which services should be cut and giving (in the broadest possible terms) examples of areas that could be changed. The total amount to be saved if constituents agreed to all the cuts was £16 million, with the rest to be taken from reserves – so there was no way to balance the books without making all the cuts listed in the document.

Hardly anybody was made aware of the survey in advance, and many have complained that they only found out about it after it had ended.

One of the “possible” cuts listed was to the Citizens Advice Bureau in Powys. The consultation document said all funding to advice services (£93,500 to the CAB, £36,500 to independent centres) would be cut, with alternative funding found from other budgets. This proved untrue.

As a trustee of the Powys CAB, I was told this week that the county council has no other budget that could be used, and that the intention is to cut the money no matter what the public consultation shows.

This means citizens advice services in Powys would be wiped out from the beginning of April.

You might think that’s not the end of the world. After all, who takes advantage of the services provided by this charity anyway – a few people with benefit problems and a few more who are in debt?

Wrong! Thousands of people go to Citizens Advice every year – and the numbers are increasing exponentially because of Tory and Liberal Democrat “savings” that were inflicted without consideration of the true cost on real people in our communities.

Not only will those seeking help with benefit entitlement and debt have nowhere to go, but those seeking advice because they are unemployed, have been unfairly dismissed, have housing concerns and the full range of advice that CAB provides through its proven quality advice will also have to struggle on their own.

There is a proven benefit to individuals’ health through the provision of advice; that’s why advice in Powys is provided through a number of GP surgeries. But that too will end, putting a greater burden on the National Health Service here in Wales (which is already under attack from the Tories in Westminster).

CAB brings millions of pounds into the county through ensuring benefit entitlement; there is also a considerable sum gained through renegotiated debts – the total comes to more than £11 million per year. This money benefits everyone in the Powys economy as it has been shown that it is generally spent locally – so there is a fiscal multiplier that can be added to it, meaning the total boost to the Powys economy could be as much as £20 million.

That’s the same amount as the county council wants to take out of the economy by cutting its budget. The total loss may therefore be said to be almost £40 million, just because a cut of less than £100,000 has been included in the council’s plans – 1/200 of the total amount of cuts.

If there is a similar knock-on effect attached to all the other cuts, the effect will be devastating.

You may think that it would be easy to seek advice elsewhere, but the nearest alternative bureaux are around 100 miles from the centre of Powys, in any direction – and they are already overburdened with their own clients.

You might think that councillors should be able to provide the necessary advice (especially considering they want to cut off the current source). Could you provide the kind of specialist expertise necessary to deal with difficult legal issues? No? Then you should not expect your councillors to manage it – they are lay people like yourself; they don’t have any training in these matters.

A petition has been launched to stop the county council from withdrawing its funding. If you are a Powys resident, I strongly urge you to sign it and ask your friends to sign as well. If you can’t be bothered, just ask yourself who will help you when the Coalition turns the screw again and you are the victim of its attack.

If you are not a Powys resident, consider this to be a warning. Is your own council planning to cut services? Will it launch a public consultation on what will go? And will that be as much a sham as the survey in Powys seems to have been?

Here’s the link: http://www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/powys-county-council-do-not-withdraw-any-grant-funding-to-powys-citizens-advice-bureau?share_id=annKPtMTpV&utm_campaign=signature_receipt&utm_medium=email&utm_source=share_petition

Above all, remember: This would not be happening if not for the Coalition government’s crippling programme of austerity-driven cuts which have had almost no effect in reducing the national deficit, even though we are told that is what it is for.

With its AEG, the government controls councils’ spending. Your local authorities are being used as puppets by the Westminster government, who can then wash their hands of the whole affair by saying the decisions were made elsewhere. And for what?

The deficit has dropped by a total of seven billion pounds – from £118 billion to £111 billion – in the time George Osborne has been Chancellor of the Exchequer.

You are suffering all the pain for absolutely no gain at all.

Why are you putting up with it?

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Are landlord councillors resorting to illegal antics to enforce Bedroom Tax evictions?

Taking no notice: Councillors appear to be breaking the law in order to enforce Bedroom Tax evictions. [Picture: The Guardian}

Taking no notice: Councillors appear to be breaking the law in order to enforce Bedroom Tax evictions. [Picture: The Guardian}

It seems the ruling group of Powys County Council, here in Mid Wales, has challenged the law in its attempts to block a ‘no-eviction’ motion on the Bedroom Tax.

The Labour motion was put forward at a meeting of the full council on October 24. It called on councillors to note the comments of Raquel Rolnik, the UN’s Special Rapporteur on Housing, who said that the Bedroom Tax policy could constitute a violation of the human right to adequate housing, and asked them to pledge that Powys will not evict tenants who fail to pay their rent because of it.

Councillors who are also private landlords were forbidden from speaking or voting on the motion. They have a financial (or pecuniary) interest in the matter as they stand to benefit if social housing tenants are forced to seek accommodation with them as a result of the policy. This meant around 30 councillors had to leave the chamber.

It seems that members of the ruling Shires Independent Group, realising that there was a real possibility that the motion would be carried, then called for any members who are themselves social housing tenants – or have friends or family who are social housing tenants – should also be barred from taking part.

This made it impossible to continue the debate. The matter has been passed to the council’s Standards Committee, whose members have been asked to judge whether landlord councillors should receive special dispensation in order to debate the motion.

It seems that this decision is wrong in law.

According to Essential Local Government, a journalistic textbook from the Vox Political vaults, “In some cases, the Secretary of State for the Environment or Secretary of State for Wales can issue either a general or particular dispensation entitling members with declared interests to take part in debates and to vote. An example of this is that councillors who are council tenants may take part in debates on, and vote on, matters relating to council housing.”

That book was published in 1993 but there is no reason to expect such a general dispensation to have been removed and therefore it seems that any call for councillors who are tenants – or who know tenants – not to be able to take part in a debate can have no basis in law.

The motion should have been debated by councillor-tenants and members with no interest, and a decision made on the day, nearly a month ago. The delay means social housing tenants in Powys (and VP knows of 686 affected households in the Brecon and Radnorshire constituency alone) may have been subjected to an unnecessary month of evictions or threats of eviction.

It has been suggested that the decision to block the motion may have been prompted by figures from the House of Commons library which suggest that as a result of the Bedroom Tax the amount of Housing Benefit paid to private landlords (remember, HB is a landlord subsidy and does not enrich tenants at all) will rise from £7.9 billion to £9.4 billion.

If the Standards Committee decides to allow them to debate the motion, it is likely that the decision will therefore be corrupt.

The matter went unreported by the local press because none of the newspapers had sent any reporters to cover the meeting.

How many other councils, across the UK, have voted on ‘no evictions’ motions under a false understanding of who can take part? VP knows that Bristol City Council has debated the matter with a controversial result.

Meanwhile, for tenants up and down the country, the agony goes on.

Cameron, Brooks, and an embarrassment of emails

The correspondents: Can anything transmitted between Rebekah Brooks and David Cameron be as bad for them as a naked photograph was for a Conservative councillor?

How embarrassing are these emails that David Cameron withheld from the Leveson Inquiry?

I’m sure you know the story by now – Mr Cameron held back dozens of emails, including (it’s believed) messages to Andy Coulson while he was still an employee of Rupert Murdoch, after taking legal advice. It seems they’re not “relevant”.

The trouble is, things that aren’t “relevant” have a nasty habit of grabbing the public interest. I want to know the contents of every single one of those emails, and I don’t think I’m the only one.

… Most especially since the contents of these private emails have been described as “embarrassing“.

Here in Mid Wales – only last week – we have had experience of “embarrassing” material, sent between individuals electronically, resurfacing to the detriment of a political reputation.

It concerns a very young county councillor, who took a naked photograph of himself on a mobile phone and transmitted it to a girl he claims was his enamorata at the time. That photo subsequently went public, and recently a campaign was launched against the councillor, casting doubt on his character due to the fact that he had taken the photograph in the first place, and the age of the girl to whom he sent it (my understanding is that she was aged under 16).

Putting his side of the story to a local newspaper, the councillor reportedly said: “A private communication between myself and my girlfriend at the time was shown to others. It was a foolish thing to do and it caused much embarrassment. I apologised at the time to all concerned.”

That’s not actually good enough, as we have no information from the young lady who received the photograph. Was she really his girlfriend? This might actually be a case of a 17-year-old sending a naked picture of himself to a random girl several years younger – in which case it’s a completely different affair.

But let’s go back to Mr Cameron. It occurs to me that, whatever those emails to Rebekah Brooks may contain, they can’t be anything like as damaging as what this young councillor (who also happens to be a Conservative) did.

So, unless Mr Cameron emailed naked pictures of himself to Mrs Brooks and Mr Coulson, there is less harm in producing the emails and letting the public make up its own mind than in not producing them – and watching the public decide anyway!