Thursday, March 31, 2005

Looks like no more wind from East Midlands Ass

East Lincolnshire Echo

Campaigners have won a major battle in the war to stop wind farms being built near their homes.

Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott has finally agreed to drop a highly controversial map which designates huge chunks of Lincolnshire as "highly suitable" for on-shore turbines.

He has also agreed to allow all planning applications involving wind turbines to be assessed on the basis of their "landscape and visual impact" and the effects on the natural, cultural and urban environments, including noise.

Responsibility for assessing such effects has also been handed to councils instead of a regional quango.

In November 2003, county planners were angry when a draft copy of the East Midlands Regional Planning Guidance designated vast areas of Lincolnshire as "highly suitable" for on-shore turbines.

A map showed that more land in Lincolnshire had been earmarked for turbines than any other neighbouring county over the next 16 years.

It was published by the East Midlands Regional Assembly, a Quasi-autonomous Non-Governmental Organisation (quango) made up of both elected and non-elected members

Lincolnshire County Council members objected, saying the map would leave authorities powerless to prevent a spread of turbines.

In response, the assembly has agreed to exclude the map and has issued new guidance giving planning authorities more power to reject applications.

The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister has finally published the finished document - which includes the changes the council fought for.

The county council's planning policy manager Peter Raspin said: "Obviously the map has gone but, in addition, there's new guidance that allows planning authorities to take things like environment impact into consideration."

George Martin, head of planning at West Lindsey District Council, said: "Allowing landscape and visual impacts to be taken into consideration like this will give local people a fighting chance to be involved."

Yet, at the same time, original targets specifying how much on-shore wind energy must be produced within Lincolnshire remain the same. The county is still expected to hold enough on-shore turbines to produce 42 mega-watts of electricity per year - more than any other county in the region.

Anti-wind farm campaigner Steve Taylor, from Scothern, near Lincoln, said: "I'm very pleased with the changes. It gives us a chance to have a proper debate over each application. It was very important that we had the chance to challenge the original document."

Regional responsibilities in the UK — and in the EU

The Times

From the Chief Executive of the South East England Regional Assembly

Sir, Regional assemblies in England are voluntary partnerships between local authorities and stakeholders representing constituencies of interest, such as business and the environment. Dr Matthew Portal (letter, March 22) has become alive to their role precisely because, with new responsibilities for advising ministers on regional planning, they are reaching out to engage the public. Our leaflet on the South East Plan has been sent to over three million households in the region.

Far from being a bureaucratic imposition, the eight English assemblies are small, light-touch bodies bringing bottom-up accountability to regional governance. In the South East every county and district council has an assembly member speaking for its community.

Regional planning, although vitally important, has been going on since the Sixties pretty much out of the public eye. Dr Portal should be welcoming the chance to shape the future of the South East, not buying the myth that a body that his elected councillors voluntarily created for that purpose is the product of an EU conspiracy.

Yours faithfully,
Chief Executive,South East England Regional Assembly,
Berkeley House,
Cross Lanes,
GU1 1UN.
March 23.

From Mr Peter O. Miles

Sir, The English regions (letters, March 15 and 22) were established in 1965 not by Brussels, but to co-ordinate the administration of UK government policies and funds for regional regeneration, industrial and employment development, and inward-investment programmes.

The following 30 years saw a steady proliferation of government regional development agencies, quangos and public-private sector partnerships, much of which was apparently uncoordinated and certainly confusing to business and politicians, let alone the electorate.

Acting on recommendations in 1995 of the House of Commons Trade and Industry Committee, the Government in 1997 attempted to bring order and accountability to the regions through the establishment of the regional development agencies, and the assemblies, so far unselected, except through the appointment of local councillors on to the assemblies. More rationalisation is planned through the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act of 2004.

The direct election of the regional assemblies would be a further welcome step forward.

Yours faithfully,
(Editorial director, Regional Development International magazine, 1980-89),
27 Roman Way,
GL7 3BS.
March 22.

From Mr Dennis Abbott

Sir, Critics of the EU constitutional treaty frequently fail to acknowledge the checks and balances incorporated into the text which will prevent Brussels ever becoming the superstate of Eurosceptic imagination.

For instance, the constitution will give national parliaments, as well as local and regional government, a much bigger role in EU decisions as guardians of subsidiarity, which recognises that law-making should be the prerogative of member states unless the EU can demonstrate real added value.

Rights will be given to local and regional politicians to challenge at the European Court of Justice laws that have been made in breach of subsidiarity. The EU Committee of the Regions, whose membership consists of 317 city mayors and councillors, including 24 representatives from the UK, will be empowered under the constitution to launch annulment proceedings at the ECJ to enforce this principle.

The committee believes that voters should be able to make an informed choice in the coming referendums. Its members, including those from Britain, are overwhelmingly in favour of a “yes”.

Yours faithfully,
Committee of the Regions,
Rue Belliard 101,
B-1040 Brussels.
March 28.

Where's Michael Howard's Balls?

12:30 - 25 January 2005

Many readers will remember the recent 'no' vote in the North East Regional Assembly Referendum. John Prescott's attempt to foist elected regional assemblies on them was rejected when they realised what the extra costs would be and how remote the institution would be.

What your readers may not be aware of is that these regional assemblies are already in place as unelected regional assemblies. The leaders and representatives of the local authorities, business, unions and charities in the associated region currently run them. They were set up as precursors to elected assemblies and cost taxpayers approximately £30-million a year. Their official role is to oversee the work of the regional development agencies, which were set up in 1999 to encourage inward investment. They have however also taken over some strategic planning roles from local authorities.

Michael Howard has openly demanded Labour should abolish this unwanted tier of government and has vowed the Conservatives, if elected, will do so. Tony Blair has quite reasonably responded that, in that case, Mr Howard should insist Conservative councillors at once resign from the assemblies.

I must agree with Mr Blair. If the Conservatives believe the assemblies are an abuse of council tax, an addition to the self-serving, self-perpetuating political class to no perceived public benefit, a gross and brazen violation of the principle that there should be no taxation without representation and an initiative with no purpose save to increase the powers of Brussels and to diminish those of democratic national and local government alike, how can they contribute to the perpetuation of such a system?

Mr Howard countered Mr Blair by saying: "As long as they are there, Conservative councillors have to minimise the damage they do."

However, if three-quarters of the appointed members vote for its abolition, an assembly must at once be dissolved.

The assemblies have no claim to democratic validity, but, if all Conservatives now walked out, even the most specious of Labour and Liberal Democrat fantasists could no longer maintain that they had any representative status.

Therefore, what is preventing Mr Howard from dissociating himself and his party from a system, to which they claim they are vehemently opposed? The answer is that the last Conservative Government agreed to the Maastricht Treaty and its support for a Committee of the Regions. It also introduced Government offices for the Regions so they would benefit from EU Development Funds. It is the Conservatives who started the ball rolling in the first place!

This is just another instance of Conservatives paying lip service to the notion of conserving British institutions and freedoms, while enthusiastically collaborating in their destruction.

I hope our current representative to the Yorkshire and Humber Regional Assembly, Conservative councillor Alan Holgate, leader of North Lincolnshire Council, will take this opportunity to address the issue.

David George Baxendale
Elm Way,

Bemused by brochure from 'rejected' assembly

Northumberland Today

I WAS more than a little bemused the other day when, with the morning post, a heavy envelope landed on the doormat containing two beautifully produced ring-bound booklets entitled View: Shaping the North East.
No expense on these booklets had been spared. Heavy, translucent covers, thick glossy paper and full colour printing, and the postage alone was £3.10.

I have no idea how many of these booklets have been distributed, but I am certain that the cost was not small.

Why all the fuss? The source of this expense is written on the front cover. North East Assembly, the voice of the region.

The voice of the region? Did I miss something?

I seem to remember that a few months ago, four out of five people in the North East voted against such an assembly. Odd isn't it, that before we were asked whether or not we wanted a regional assembly, one was already in place, and after an assembly was firmly rejected by the electorate, it is still there.

I phoned the number advertised on the booklet to ask what the North East Assembly is, who are its members and how are they appointed.

After being passed to four different departments I was promised a reply within two hours – I am still waiting.

In the meantime, I can only wonder how many of us it took to pay, via our council tax, for this one document, and marvel at the bare-faced arrogance of Mr Prescott and his minions as they totally and unashamedly ignore the wishes of the electorate by imposing on us an unwanted North East Assembly.

So much for democracy.
Clive Hallam-Baker,
Cornhill on Tweed.
10 March 2005

Regional assembly powers defended

Mar 25 2005
By Zoe Hughes Political Editor, The Journal

The Government has defended its plans to introduce an elected regional assembly to the North-East, saying it had plenty of powers and would have attracted high-quality people to work for it.

After coming under heavy fire from campaigners on all sides, ministers yesterday issued a staunch defence of their proposals, dismissing fears the powers on offer were "inadequate" and that only the retired and unemployed would get involved.

It followed a report from MPs earlier this year which warned John Prescott's dream of regional devolution had been thwarted by the Deputy Prime Minister's failure to convince Whitehall departments to surrender their powers to the initiative.

However, a response issued last night insisted the powers offered were credible and possessed "a significant degree of flexibility".

Even though 78pc of the public dismissed the idea of an assembly out of hand, the Government yesterday said a new breed of politicians could have been attracted to regional politics.

They did concede though: "This could ultimately only be tested when the assemblies were established."

The plan for directly elected regional assemblies was quickly dropped by Mr Prescott following the overwhelming result of the referendum last year, which saw almost half of all eligible voters in the region turn out to vote.

Hitting back, the Government yesterday said: "We believed that the package of responsibilities offered a feasible and credible package, but did not rule out developing these further in the future.

"If the Government does bring forward further proposals for elected regional assemblies, it will look closely at the committee's recommendations."

Legally, elected regional assemblies cannot return as an issue for another seven years, although supporters and critics both concede it is unlikely to ever return.

Metric martyr and `No' campaigner Neil Herron said the failure of assemblies was "ultimately down the public realising this was a political project about fulfilling the dreams of a minority of people."

He added: "This was a political con trick from the outset and no amount of backtracking can get away from the fact that the Government was given an absolute pasting."

Gateshead MP Joyce Quin, a keen supporter of elected assemblies, accepted the apparent lack of powers were a "factor" in people's decisions but said: "It was not the overriding reason.

"I would certainly have liked there to have been stronger powers, but I think they represented an important start for devolution.

"However the `No' campaign tended to concentrate on other issues, like not wanting an extra layer of politicians. Their arguments were wrong in my eyes because it would have democratized an existing layer of regional politics."

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Freedom of Information Act

Watchdog backs FOI with a pat and a prod

Rob Evans and David Hencke
Friday March 25, 2005
The Guardian

Government departments have received at least 7,000 freedom of information requests since the act came into force three months ago, and are already disclosing a large number of documents, the watchdog responsible for policing the legislation said yesterday.

Richard Thomas, the information commissioner, gave an optimistic assessment of the act so far, despite complaints that the government has been abusing the legislation and not disclosing much of substance.

He rejected the argument that the act, which came into force on January 1, should be written off.

"I have been encouraged by how much new material is being released every day," he said.

"The act is already making a real difference in getting public access to previously secret official information. A lot of information is being disclosed. We are kick-starting a change in the culture of secrecy."

He was aware that many departments were agonising over what to disclose, but were eventually releasing documents which could be embarrassing or awkward. "In general, most public bodies are taking [the act] seriously."

He had been impressed by the wide range of information made public, citing documents obtained by parents in North Wales protesting against the planned closure of a school.

Other examples included details of the amount received from parking fines by local councils, books missing from the British Library and NHS use of private hospitals.

This week's publication of the amount of EU agriculture subsidies received by every farmer in Britain was a "significant" disclosure.

Once the information was in the open, it was clear that there had been no valid reason for keeping it secret.

"The act will not be a damp squib, nor will it be the end of civilisation," he said.

People can complain to him if they believe a government body has not released information it should have disclosed.

His officials are scrutinising 285 complaints, the most prominent of which concerns the government's refusal to release the contents of the attorney general's legal advice on the invasion of Iraq.

Mr Thomas has the authority to order public bodies to release information, and he has used it for the first time to require Westminster council in central London to make good its failure to release information in a personal case.

More than 7,000 information requests have been submitted to Whitehall departments, the largest number to the Ministry of Defence and the Cabinet Office, and thousands more have been made to local authorities and NHS trusts, although there is not yet a figure for those areas.

Police forces received more than 2,000 requests in the first six weeks, covering everything from the addresses of released paedophiles - requests that were refused - to neighbourhood policing.

They included the most amusing request: one to the Hampshire constabulary asking how many eligible bachelors in uniform it had and their email addresses, salaries and pension packages.

Health authorities have received many requests, ranging from ward closures to the mortality rates in operations performed by heart surgeons.

Mr Thomas urged public bodies to respond out of "enlightened self-interest".

"In a mature 21st century democracy people are more tolerant of mistakes.

"They are not tolerant of public bodies that are not straight with them. They forgive mistakes. What they want is government departments to be open with them."

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Can't pay, won't pay

The Independent, 29 March 2005
Robert Verkaik reports on a novel challenge to the whole system of fixed penalties

There has been much principled discussion recently about the threat to civil liberties from anti-terror legislation. Now Britain's motorists believe they have identified an even more insidious attack on our unwritten constitution - one allowed to go unchecked for more than 14 years.

Since the fixed-penalty notices system was "decriminalised" in 1991, the partly privatised fines-enforcement industry has grown into a multi-million-pound revenue-gathering business. Now motorists are set to challenge the premise on which this industry is built.

Neil Herron, 42, a former fishmonger and market trader, plans to contest the right of a local authority to impose fines against an unlawfully parked motorist without first giving him a fair hearing.

Mr Herron has collected a number of parking tickets in his home city of Sunderland which he is refusing to pay. He argues that the system for fine collection in this country is in breach of the 1689 Bill of Rights, which protects citizens from "fine or forfeiture before conviction".

Dozens of other motorists have joined his campaign for a right to a fair trial. One is Robin de Crittenden, a pensioner from Sandwell, Birmingham. He too is refusing to pay a parking tickets. Both men have tried to provoke their local councils into taking them to court but they have not taken the bait.

These cases have far-reaching implications for collection of fines. The legal authority on which councils rely when imposing fixed penalties is the Road Traffic Act 1991. This legislation meant that parking in a restricted place was no longer a criminal offence. It enabled a revolution in revenue collection, sparing councils the burden of prosecuting defaulters.

But Herron and de Crittenden believe the legislation breached the British constitution. And only now, they argue, has anyone been prepared to go to prison to challenge the law. If this hard-line campaigning has a familiar ring, this is because it is born out of the same kind of martyrdom that characterised the legal challenge to the abolition of metric weights and measures in the UK.

Herron is a founder-member of the metric martyrs and intends to use the same judgment that defeated this cause to support his present campaign. The men have already anticipated what they believe will be the councils' defence: that the parking appeal tribunal provides an opportunity to fairly contest the imposition of a parking ticket.

"These tribunals are not independent; they are funded by the local authority collecting the fine," argues Herron.

In the metric martyrs case Lord Justice Laws relied on the doctrine of constitutional hierarchy, which gives legal documents such as the Bill of Rights primacy over subsequent legislation, unless there is an expressed intention to overrule the established law.

In the 2002 judgment he said: "We should recognise a hierarchy of Acts of Parliament: as it were "ordinary" statutes and "constitutional" statutes. The special status of constitutional statutes follows the special status of constitutional rights. Examples are the Magna Carta, the Bill of Rights 1689... Ordinary statutes may be impliedly repealed. Constitutional statutes may not." This was an argument that helped to defeat the metric martyrs' challenge.

Says Herron: "If the Divisional Court's ruling is true, every local authority, government agency and police force that fines people through the post, or on the spot, is now acting unlawfully, since the Bill of Rights Act 1689 was specifically classified as a constitutional Act. The Road Traffic Act 1991 and others like it are, by contrast, "ordinary" Acts."

Thursday, March 24, 2005


Northern Echo Letters, Hear all Sides
Thursday 24th March 2005

In response to Chris Foote-Wood, Northern Echo, 22nd March 2005

IT APPEARS that Chris Foote-Wood's ability to bend the truth is on a par with what Beckham does with balls.

Mr Foote-Wood is opposed to all quangos except the biggest one of all: the unelected North-East Assembly.

The referendum last November was for an elected assembly. The one to which Mr Foote-Wood refers is unelected. It has no elected members. They are appointees, appointed by their local authority. These individuals were elected to serve as local authority councillors and not to speak for, or represent the region. It is therefore deceitful to say the assembly has "democratic accountability".

Perhaps Mr Foote-Wood will expand on how the assembly's generous allowance system works. I am sure that he would not wish to give the impression that assembly members fund things out of their own pocket.

In the Government's information leaflet sent to every household before the referendum, the question was asked: "What happens if there is a No vote?" The answer was clear. There will be no assembly and decisions will continue to be made by Government and quangos in the region.

I look forward to your new campaign, Mr Foote-Wood, to rid us of the biggest quango of all: the unelected, unwanted and unaccountable assembly.
Neil Herron, Sunderland.

AS the last man this side of Mars to support the unelected North-East Assembly, it might have been apt to print Chris Foote-Wood's letter (HAS, Mar 21) on April Fool's Day.

He uses political double-talk by way of attempting to justify something, which he proudly sits upon, and that nearly 80 per cent of folk voted against.

Members are appointed by each local council - hardly democratically elected by the public of the North-East, and hardly accountable. And allowances are afforded to members, so "volunteer" and "unpaid" are not strictly true.
Jim Tague, Bishop Auckland Conservatives.

I WOULD dearly love to know how Chris Foote-Wood worked out his statements (HAS, Mar 21). The assembly is not elected by the populous, therefore it is not accountable to them. Many requests for information on the workings of the assembly under the Freedom of Information Act have been met with a refusal. Why will its members not disclose what "expenses" they are paid?
Archi Hipkins, Blyth.

De-selection leaves Labour in turmoil

The Northern Echo, by Stuart Arnold, Thursday 24th March 2005

THE ruling Labour party on the region's biggest council was in turmoil last night after its leader was de-selected from his seat.

Councillor Ken Manton, who represents Sedgefield on Durham County Council, will have to step down after elections in May after he was de-selected by his local Labour branch.

The Northern Echo first revealed in December last year how Coun Manton's position was under threat amid claims that he had lost the confidence of members of the Sedgefield constituency Lab-our party.

It is understood that one of the issues that brought matters to a head was over a lane in the town regularly used as a stopping point for travellers.

Residents repeatedly called for a lockable gate to be installed to close it, but Coun Manton consistently refused to support the request.

He was heavily criticised at a series of fiery public meetings over the issue, culminating in a vote of no confidence in him last year.

His de-selection has shocked many people in Labour circles, and also brought condemnation from political opponents.

It was thought that he could be replaced by a woman under party plans to increase the number of elected female representatives.

But party officials confirmed that his replacement will be John Robinson, a Sedgefield town and borough councillor.

Last night, Coun Manton, who has been a member of the county council for 16 years and spent the past four as leader, said he fully accepted the outcome.

He said: "It has been an honour and privilege to be a member and leader of Durham County Council.

"I fully intend to go on working within the Labour Party to achieve our objectives, and would hope that I can continue to play an active and major role in Labour politics for the foreseeable future."

Meanwhile, one of Coun Manton's former Labour colleagues, Bill Blenkinsopp, has criticised the party.

Coun Blenkinsopp, who was recently de-selected as a Labour candidate, said: "The Labour Party are just a disgrace. People are using their authority to witch hunt people out of their positions."

Independent county councillor John Shuttleworth said: "Ken Manton has done a very good job as leader of this council.

"I have had many a run-in with him, but all for the right reasons, and it is a scandal that someone of his calibre should be deselected."

Coun Manton's deputy, Don Ross, said many at County Hall were disgusted by his treatment.

He said: "A lot of people are devastated and upset.

"The man has been damned for no good reason to the detriment of the county council."

Wednesday, March 23, 2005


South Devon Herald Express
Tuesday 22nd March 2005

A Torquay shopkeeper is locked in a battle with the council's trading standards department over alleged damage to his shop scales.

Dennis Webb, of Valley Fruit in Sherwell Valley Road, has been fighting the authority for compensation after a trading standards officer decommissioned the scales.

The British Weights and Measures Association has taken up his case and is seeking compensation of £1,050.

The council has offered £100 and has insisted the scales were not damaged.

John Gardner, director of the BWMA, says the association is submitting a complaint to the Local Government Ombudsman.

He said the authority took eight months to respond to letters and explain under which powers it had acted.

It has also claimed the council also failed to respond to the compensation request by a set deadline.

Under new laws, Mr Webb's scales were illegal as they measured weight in pounds and ounces rather than metric kilograms.

But Mr Webb said: "I was complying with the new law. I was waiting for a new scale which weighs out in both measures to come.

"Ninety per cent of my customers are elderly and I never get them asking for kilograms. They don't understand it.

"If that's all I used they wouldn't buy anything."

Torbay Council has offered to pay Mr Webb £100 but Mr Gardner is demanding more.

He said: "Mr Webb is entitled to compensation to the value of the machine and also because the council tried to avoid its responsibility for eight months.

"We gave them a deadline of the end of last month to our call for compensation, and when we heard nothing we extended this until the middle March 14. We have not heard from them."

The case is also being backed by the Devon Federation of Small Businesses.

Spokesman Ian Handford said they had taken up Mr Webb's case, even though he is not a member, because of its implications.

He added: "The latest offer from the council is to reimburse him £100, but the weights and measures board consider that inadequate and so do I."

A council spokeswoman said they believed their offer was "fair".

She said: "We apologise that it took so long to respond to this letter, and we acknowledge that we fell seriously below our normal standards, which is to acknowledge letters within 10 working days.

"We do not feel the scales were damaged and our goodwill offer of compensation reflects the delay in responding to the letter.

"We feel Mr Webb understood what he had to do to comply with the law and was given numerous opportunities to do so.

"Decommissioning the scales was a last resort.

"We believe our offer was fair and we would like to resolve this amicably with Mr Webb, at no further cost to the council tax payer, but are happy to work with the local government ombudsman, if that is his wish."

but will they withdraw and stop paying?

West Sussex C.C.

A Notice of Motion went before West Sussex County Council last week as follows:

"West Sussex County Council calls on Her Majesty's government to abolish SEERA and to distribute its powers to the appropriate authority of directly elected councils"

The motion was carried.

European Commission buck passing begins

----- Original Message -----
Sent: Tuesday, March 22, 2005 3:43 PM
Subject: RE: Formal Complaint

Dear Mr Herron,

Thank you for your message. I have to inform you that SG/B/4 is not competent to deal with this complaint, as the provisions of the Code of Good Administrative Behaviour are not applicable in this case. When he sent the e-mail, Mr Jones was acting in a personal capacity and not in his capacity as an official of the European Commission.

Your message was, therefore, sent to the office in the Commission's Directorate-General for Personnel and Administration responsible for staff discipline.

Yours sincerely,

Agnes Andrews

-----Original Message-----
From: NEARA []
Sent: Thursday, March 10, 2005 11:09 AM
Subject: Formal Complaint

Secretariat General of the European Commission ,
Unit SG/B/4rue de la Loi 200,
B- 1049
10th March 2005

Dear Sir / Madam,

I wish to make a formal complaint against a Commission employee. Before I initiate the complaint on your standard forms I would be grateful for confirmation of the correct address and department concerned.
From information received I believe that John Jones works for the Translation Service in Brussels and his superior is Gillian Colledge.
The reason for the complaint is the unsolicited offensive e-mail I received on Monday (copied below in red) which comes from John Jones.

----- Original Message -----
From: "John M. Jones" <>
To: <>
Sent: Monday, March 07, 2005 5:55 PM

youre a bunch of fucking luddites. Metric has to win cos thats what we
learnt at school. Long live England. long live metric, with 5 metric units
names after Uk scientists and 2 Uk directors of the metre bureau. The
imperialists are dead in the water.
ps: what in hell are you actually defending? look at great countrieslike
australia and new zealand if you cant stand europe. you luddites in england
make me sick.

I trust you will treat this breach of the provisions of your employees Code of Conduct very seriously.

Yours faithfully,

Neil Herron
Campaign Director
Metric Martyrs Defence Fund
12 Frederick Street
Tel. 00 44 191 565 7143

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Chris Foote Wood bends it like Beckham


THE Government has created yet another quango, the Finance for Investment Advisory Board. It will have a chairman on £60,000-a-year for "four to six days a month", and four non-executive board members, each earning £25,000-a-year for two days a month.

There are well over 1,000 such quangos, over 100 in the North-East alone. All spend vast amounts of public money. All are appointed by government. None are accountable to the public. Each quango has its own expensive bureaucracy.

Yet these unelected, unaccountable bodies are ignored (HAS, Mar 19) by those who want to abolish the only regional body that has any democratic accountability, the North-East Assembly, whose members are elected, accountable and unpaid.

The assembly gives powers of scrutiny and regional planning not only to local councils, but also to business and community organisations who make up 30 per cent of its membership.

For the first time ever, there is a genuinely open and democratic public debate about the Regional Spatial Strategy (the fancy name for regional planning). Without the Assembly, this debate would not be taking place and decisions would once more be made in secret.

Coun Chris Foote-Wood, North-East Assembly LibDem Leader

European Commission employees given a little 'reminder.'

Following the little offensive outburst by European Commission employee, John Jones of the English Translation Service, it appears that the Commission has been forced to issue a little 'reminder' to all of its staff. The following e-mail circular has been leaked to us.

"Dear colleagues,

We have recently had a major revision of the Staff Regulations which has made more explicit the rights and duties of individual officials, particularly in contacts with the public outside the Commission.

This review of the Staff Regulations was in fact preceded by a particular insistence on professional ethics by the Prodi Commission, which resulted in two codes of conduct, one for Commissioners and their cabinets and one for officials in general (see last link below). It is worth noting the distinction now made between circumspection (being generally careful and keeping a sense of proportion in dealings with the world outside the Commission) and discretion (keeping quiet about facts and other information to which you have had privileged access as a Commission servant).
The former would include not actively seeking contacts with e.g. journalists.

The relevant articles of the Staff Regulations are Articles 12 and 17:
"Articles 12 and 17 call for circumspection
First of all and as a general rule Articles 12 and 17 of the Staff Regulations imply that officials and other servants must observe circumspection in their behaviour. Circumspection calls in particular for a degree of moderation and for officials to conduct themselves at all times with a due sense of proportion and propriety. It is more incumbent on the most senior officials to show self-control in what they say and write, as well as in their attitudes.

Assessment is also based on the amount of publicity given to an expression of opinion or a particular action. A distinction must also be drawn in terms of specific actions, depending on whether they occur in or outside the line of duty or in connection with trade-union activity, in respect of which freedom of expression is guaranteed. The obligation as regards circumspection is different from discretion with regard to facts and information to which officials or other servants have become privy while performing their duties."

Particular attention should be drawn to the limits on freedom of expression, especially in view of the current period of ratification of the draft Treaty on a Constitution and the run-up to the referendums in France and some other countries and - eventually - the UK, when political tempers may be running high. Special caution needs to be exercised in using e-mail and in particular one's Commission mailbox for the dissemination of personal opinions.

Although there is more explicit protection of whistleblowers in the new Staff Regulations and their implementing rules, everyone ought at least to have learned from the van Buitenen case that officials who believe they have uncovered untoward goings-on have a duty to inform their line manager and senior management first. If they think those persons may be implicated, there is an alternative pathway now set out in the implementing rules. Only after these avenues have been exhausted is it acceptable for officials to turn to the European Parliament or the public.

"Freedom of expression
The Staff Regulations' hitherto stringent confidentiality requirement must be brought into line with the Commission's declared political intention to work as transparently as possible. Freedom of speech remains a fundamental right of every official. In order to function, however, the Commission has to be able to rely on a certain degree of confidentiality. In this respect the Commission must, as an employer, steer a careful course between divergent demands.

As part of the reform, the areas in which officials must maintain confidentiality are therefore to be defined more precisely.

Officials are, as in the past, to be required to refrain from any public comment, which could adversely reflect on their position as officials.

As in the past, officials are also to be required to preserve the confidentiality of all facts and matters of which they become aware in the course of their work. A new rule, however, is that the confidentiality principle is no longer to apply to information and documents which are publicly accessible. A fair procedure is established for officials wishing to publish information relating to the activities of the Institutions in a manner that is compatible with basic rights without compromising the legitimate interests of the Communities. Officials will be bound to inform the Appointing Authority of their intention to publish such material. If the Appointing Authority is able to demonstrate that the matter is liable to seriously prejudice the legitimate interests of the Communities, it must inform the official in writing within 30 working days or it will be deemed to have no objections."

Here are some other useful references:

The webpage of DG ADMIN giving the Golden Rules on conduct in the service:

A note on circumspection:

Guidance on freedom of expression:

Integrity in general:

Copy of letter of letter from Miss H Buchan 13.01.05, Newcastle City Council to Neil Herron

Newcastle City Council

S.P Savage, Head of Public Health & Environmental Protection
Regeneration Directorate
Civic Centre, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 8PB
Tel: (0191) 232 8520, ext. 26008 Fax: (0191) 2616163


Your Reference:

This matter is being dealt with by Miss H. Buchan, extension 26008

13 January 2005

c.c Ian Stratford
Peter Arnold

Dear Sir,

Excess Charge Notice Number 96256134
Vehicle Registration Number R24PJR

Thank you for your correspondence regarding the above. You have raised a number of points and in order to provide clarity, I shall respond in the same order as set out in your letter.

It is a criminal offence under s108 of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 for non compliance with notice (Excess Charge). I have enclosed a copy of the relevant section for your information which I hope you will find helpful.

In paragraph 3 you suggest that we are requesting that you pay £60 for an alleged offence. I can inform you that this is not the case. It would appear that you may be confusing the offence under s108 and Excess Charge Notice payment that we are requesting. S32 of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 19847 (RTRA) allows a Local Authority to provide off street parking places. S35 of the same act allows the Local Authority to make provision as to the use of the parking place including provision for charges for its use. This is precisely what the Local Authority has done in the City of Newcastle upon Tyne (off Street parking places) Order 2001.

This order applies to the area in which your vehicle was parked. Article 8 of the Order deals with excess charge payments and under article 8 (7) the 2nd excess charge shall be £60 reduced to £30 if paid within 7 calendar days of the notice. You are of course more than welcome to view the orders; you need only make an appointment to do so.

Given the above, I believe that all of your remaining points including the Magna Carta, Bill of Rights 1689, the Act of Union and Reform Act etc are irrelevant as we are not requesting payment for an offence but rather requesting payment for a charge which we are legally entitled to do.

You are of course entitled to a fair trial and we have never suggested otherwise. Should you wish to dispute the charge you may raise your defence in a court of law who will then adjudicate the matter.

Given the above, I am unable to waive the charge and £60 is due. Payment should be made within 14 days of the date of this letter. Should the ticket not be paid, I will have no other option than to refer this matter to the magistrates Court for their consideration.

Yours faithfully

Parking Management Co-ordinator

Copy of Local Government Ombudsman’s report concerning Scarborough Council (02/C/13683)

Scarborough Borough Council (02/C/13683)


‘Mr Ray’ (not his real name) complained on behalf of his daughter (to whom a parking ticket was issued in October 2002) that the Council was wrongly:
  • issuing parking tickets in a controlled parking zone;
  • which did not conform to relevant regulations; and
  • pursuing enforcement action for non-payment of such tickets without prosecutions.

The relevant scheme was introduced in June 2000 and covered about 400 streets in the central area of Scarborough, with on-street pay and display parking and residents’ priority parking.

The scheme was a ‘criminalised’ scheme. The Council was proposing to change it to a ‘decriminalised’ scheme in the near future. When that took place, appeals against parking fines would be dealt with by the National Parking Adjudication Service.

Since the inception of the scheme about 18,000 tickets a year had been issued for alleged on‑street parking offences.

The Council’s practice was to pass unpaid tickets to a debt collection agency and up to end 2002 10 unpaid tickets were pursued to county (civil) court proceedings.

The Council accepted that there were flaws in its scheme but argued that these were minor and had been rectified. The Ombudsman concluded that they were more than minor. She sympathised with the difficulties the Council faced interpreting complex regulations but said this was no excuse for the initial non-conformity of the scheme, which was maladministration. She was pleased to learn that the Council had carried out significant extra works but noted that Mr Ray alleged there were still flaws. She recommended that the Council should review its current scheme in the light of those alleged flaws.

The Ombudsman received legal advice that the Council’s practice of pursuing unpaid tickets with civil action was incorrect. The Council agreed that it would proceed in future through the magistrates’ court, until a decriminalised scheme was introduced.

The Council also agreed to waive the outstanding charge against Mr Ray’s daughter. The Ombudsman saw that, together with its action to remedy defects in its scheme and agreeing to stop civil debt recovery action, as a satisfactory remedy for any injustice to Mr Ray’s daughter arising from the Council’s maladministration.

26 August 2004

Letter from Neil Herron to Newcastle City Council 07.12.04

Address Withheld
7th December 2004

Your ref: PHEP/PBM/NC/96256134
Our ref:96256134

Ms K Valentine
For Parking and Business Service Manager
Newcastle City Council
Public Health and Environmental Protection Division
Enterprise and Environment Cultural Directorate
Civic Centre
Newcastle Upon Tyne

Dear Ms. Valentine,

Excess Ticket No. 96256134 Veh. Reg. No R24PJR
11/10/2004 – STADIUM CAR PARK (OFF)

I have been forwarded the enclosed form by Mr. Colin Moran the registered keeper of the vehicle above in relation to the alleged offence. We were attending a function in St. James’ Park and had been advised to use the space by the organisers but I understand that Mr. Moran has, or is in the process of challenging this alleged offence.

You make reference to the fact that I am required ‘pursuant to the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984’ to return the statement of facts within seven days. I would be grateful, as you allude to the fact that this is an offence and could result in legal action, if you could send me a copy of the relevant section of the act and the nature and scale of offence.

Secondly, you are asking me to pay ‘a cheque/postal order for £60,’ for an alleged offence.

I do believe that Newcastle City Council are attempting to extort money from me in an unlawful manner. I have enclosed a copy of the Bill of Rights 1689, enacted and formally entered into Statute following the Declaration of Rights 1689. I draw your attention to the section highlighted :

“That all grants and promises of fines and forfeitures of particular persons before conviction are illegal and void.”

This clearly states that a conviction is necessary before a fine can be imposed. Therefore, Newcastle City Council have no authority to demand money for an alleged offence unless it is dealt with by a Court of Law and your actions are unlawful.

I would be grateful if you could also clarify the nature of the alleged offence committed by myself and provide a copy of the section of the relevant statute because neither the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 or the Road Traffic Act 1991 makes any reference whatsoever to expressly repealing the Bill of Rights 1689.
For the avoidance of doubt, I have enclosed a copy of the relevant section of the Road Traffic Act 1991.

As stated in the ‘Metric Martyrs’ Judgment in the Supreme Court of Judicature, Queen’s Bench Division (18th February 2002) by Lord Justice Laws and Justice Crane (I will paraphrase, but have included a full copy of the Judgment with the relevant sections 62 and 63 highlighted):

62 “We should recognise a hierarchy of Acts of Parliament: as it were ‘ordinary’ statutes and ‘constitutional’ statutes. The special status of constitutional statutes follows the special status of constitutional rights. Examples are Magna Carta, Bill of Rights 1689, The Act of Union, the Reform Acts etc.”

63. “Ordinary statutes may be impliedly repealed. Constitutional statutes may not…”

As you are no doubt aware, Sunderland City Council went to quite considerable lengths to achieve the Metric Martyrs Judgment and the precedent set by Lord Justice Laws is clear and unambiguous. In highlighting this and enclosing the relevant documentation members of Newcastle City Council can now have no excuse for ignorance in this matter.

I would be grateful if you could confirm that the ultimate legal responsibility not only lies with the Chief Executive, but also with all the elected members of Newcastle City Council and I would be grateful if you could confirm that you will advise the relevant officers of Newcastle City Council that they are breaking the law by attempting to claim powers forbidden to them.

Therefore, please accept this letter as formal notice that I require any allegations against me to be specified and referred for trial in a proper and orderly manner, should you wish to proceed against me for the alleged offence.

Yours sincerely,

Neil Herron

Cc .Ian Stratford, Chief Executive, Newcastle City Council
cc. Peter Arnold, leader, Newcastle City Council


1. Copy of Your communication PHEP/PBM/NC/96256134
2. Copy of Road Traffic Act 1991
3. Copy of the Bill of Rights4 .Copy of the Metric Martyrs Judgment

Letter from Ms. Valentine, Newcastle City Council 30.11.04 to Colin Moran containing the Section 108 Declaration.

Newcastle City Council

Head of Public Health & Environmental Protection
Enterprise Environment and Culture Directorate
Civic Centre, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 8PB
Tel: (0191) 232 8520, ext. 26008 Fax: (0191) 2616163

Our Reference: PHEP/PBM/NC/96256134
Your Reference: 96256134


Dear C Moran

This matter is being dealt with by MS K VALENTINE

Ecxess Ticket No. 96256134 Veh Reg. No. R24PJR
11/10/2004 – STADIUM CAR PARK (OFF)

Thank you for your recent correspondence regarding the above.

I have examined the circumstances surrounding this matter and unfortunately I am unable on this occasion to waive the charge.

The notice was issued because your vehicle was parked without a valid ticket. As you can see from the enclosed photograph there is a nearby sign which states “Have you paid and displayed.” It is the users responsibility to ensure that their vehicle is parked in accordance with prevailing regulations.

Pursuant to Section 108 of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984, you are required to complete the statement of facts overleaf and return it to this office in the enclosed addresses envelope within 7 days of the date of this letter.

It is important to note that failure to comply with this notice is an offence, which could result in legal action being taken.

A cheque/postal order for £60.00 made payable to Newcastle City Council – Parking Account should be sent to Newcastle Parking Control, PO Box 2BL, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE99 2BL within 7 days of the date of this letter. Your ticket number/vehicle registration number should be written on the rear of your cheque/postal order. Alternatively, you may pay by credit/debit card by telephoning out direct line on 0191 2116111

Should you require any assistance please do not hesitate to contact me on the above telephone number.

Yours faithfully,

K Valentine
For Parking and Business Services Manager

Letter from Nasreen Ahktar, 15.02.05, Newcastle City Council

Newcastle City Council

Valerie A Dodds, Solicitor, Head of Legal Services
Chief Executive’s office
Civic Centre, Newcastle Upon Tyne, NE99 2BN
Tel: 0191 232 8520 ext.25175. Fax. 0191 277 7127
Direct Line 0191 211 5175 DX No. 62552 – Jesmond.
Our Ref: NA/PGK00239
Your Ref:
This matter is being dealt with by Nasreen Akhtar

15 February 2005

Address Withheld
Dear Mr Herron

RE: Car Parking Ticket 96256134 – Stadium Car park (OFF)

Thank you for your letter dates 24th January 2005 I apologise for the delay in replying, however I simply re-iterate the content of Miss Buchan’s letter to you dated 13th January 2005.

Putting matters quite simply to you, you parked in a parking space that required payment for use of the space, you failed to purchase a ticket and pay the charge and therefore you were issued a ticket for not having a valid ticket on display.

You have previously been advised as to the legal position surrounding the issue of the ticket and I do not wish to repeat the content of that information. I would point out to you that under s35A of the Road Traffic Regulation act 1984 a person shall be guilty of an offence in the event of any contravention off, or non compliance with a provision of an order made under s35 (1) by the Local Authority.

In relation to your comments concerning the issue of a fair trial, be rest assured that we would not have been in apposition to prosecute you for this offence without issuing a summons against you at the Magistrates Court and subsequently serving this upon you so that you are given an adequate opportunity to defend yourself should you so wish. We have not convicted you of any offence and neither have we suggested this at any point. We do believe that you are guilty of an offence, as highlighted above, and we will in due course be placing this matter before a Magistrates Court.

Finally, it has come to my attention that you have never been sent a notice under s108 Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 following the information provided by the registered keeper of vehicle R24PJR. The registered keeper has advised that you were the driver of the vehicle at the time the ticket was issued to the vehicle, in those circumstances I now require you to complete the s108 notice attached and return it to this office within 7 days of receipt of the same.

I must advise you that a failure with this notice is an offence, which could result in legal action being taken.

I Look forward to your response.

Yours sincerely

Nasreen Akhtar

Letter from Neil Herron to Newcastle City Council 24.01.05

Address Withheld

Your ref: PHEP/PBM/NC/96256134
Our ref:96256134

Miss H. Buchan,
For Parking and Business Service Manager
Newcastle City Council
Public Health and Environmental Protection Division
Enterprise and Environment Cultural Directorate
Civic Centre
Newcastle Upon Tyne

Dear Miss H Buchan,

Excess Ticket No. 96256134 Veh. Reg. No R24PJR

11/10/2004 – STADIUM CAR PARK (OFF)

Thank you for your communication of 13th January 2005.

It appears as though there is some confusion. You mention that it is a criminal offence for non-compliance with notice (Excess Charge). There has been no ‘non-compliance’ as the necessary form was returned.

Therefore, I wish you to address the facts referred to in my initial communication, namely, that Newcastle City Council are attempting to extort money from me in an unlawful manner. The Bill of Rights 1689 (you have a copy provided in my initial communication with Ms. Valentine), enacted and formally entered into Statute following the Declaration of Rights 1689 clearly states:

“That all grants and promises of fines and forfeitures of particular persons before conviction are illegal and void.”

This clearly states that a conviction is necessary before a fine (or ‘charge’ as it appears you wish to call it) can be imposed. Therefore, Newcastle City Council have no authority to demand money from me for an offence which is not yet proven before a court of law, therefore your actions are unlawful.

None of the statutes to which you refer, Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 or the City of Newcastle upon Tyne (off street parking places) Order 2001 make any reference whatsoever to expressly repealing the Bill of Rights 1689.

As stated in the ‘Metric Martyrs’ Judgement in the Supreme Court of Judicature, Queen’s Bench Division (18th February 2002) by Lord Justice John Laws and Justice Peter Crane (again, I have provided full copies with earlier correspondence)

62 “ We should recognise a hierarchy of Acts of Parliament: as it were ‘ordinary’ statutes and ‘constitutional’ statutes. The special status of constitutional statutes follows the special status of constitutional right. Examples are Magna Carta, Bill of Rights 1689, the Act of Union. The Reform Acts etc.”

63. Ordinary Statutes may be impliedly repealed. Constitutional statutes may not…”

As you are no doubt aware, Sunderland City Council went to quite considerable lengths to achieve the Metric Martyrs Judgment and the precedent set by Lord Justice Laws is clear and unambiguous.

Therefore, I wish you to answer a number of questions before I pursue this matter:

1. Are you alleging that I have committed an offence? Mr. Moran, the registered keeper of the vehicle has already attempted to explain the circumstances involved in the parking of the vehicle in earlier correspondence.

2. Can you clarify exactly what that offence is and why did you attempt to impose a fine or ‘charge’ without offering me an opportunity to have the matter dealt with by a court of law? At no point in communication with myself or with Mr. Moran was I offered the opportunity to have the dispute resolved in a court of law. Can you explain why this was omitted from your communications?

3. As I previously stated, it appears as though Newcastle City Council are attempting to claim powers to which they are not entitled and attempting to extort money from me in an unlawful manner. In the penultimate paragraph of your communication you state, “You are of course entitled to as fair trial and we have never suggested otherwise.” I would therefore like copies of all communications from your department detailing where I was offered the opportunity of a ‘fair trial’ or for the disputed matter to be dealt with by a court of law?

I look forward to this matter being dealt with by a court of law and would be grateful if you could also confirm that because of the precedent set out in my defence that the matter will not be able to be dealt with by a magistrates court but will have to be dealt with by the higher, Divisional Court?

Yours sincerely,

Neil Herron

Newcastle City Council Parking Tickets 'Illegal?'

Address Withheld

Your ref.NA/PGK00239
Your previous ref. PHEP/PBM/HXB/
And PHEP/PBM/NC/96256134

7th March 2005

Dear Nasreen Akhtar,
Please accept my apologies for not formally addressing you but it is not clear from the correspondence as to whether you are Mr., Mrs, Ms or Miss.
Previous correspondence had been dealt with by Miss Buchan and Ms K Valentine. As a courtesy I have included copies of previous correspondence to assist you.
In order to assist you, and from your letter of 15th February 2005, you like to ‘put matters quite simply’ I wish you to ‘quite simply’specifically respond to each of the points raised in bold type.
On Tuesday 15th February 2005 I contacted the Public Health and Environmental Protection Regeneration Directorate by telephone (perhaps reducing your Department’s title may, over time, reduce the amount of paper used by the Council) as I had received no response to my communication posted 24th January 2005 (1).
I was advised by Mr. Don Bartlett that I should have received acknowledgement within three working days unless it was a complaint. If the complaint could not be dealt within 15 working days then an acknowledgement has to be sent out.
I received neither.
But I did then receive a response from yourself, the following day, dated 15th February which was received 16th February 2005 (2). Assuming Royal Mail works effectively (and you make the same assumption by sending all communications by ordinary post) this appears to be outside the 15 working day period.
However, the telephone call to Mr. Bartlett was to enquire as to why a response had not been forthcoming and also to request a copy of the Council’s Code of Conduct.
I have yet to receive a copy of the Code of Conduct.
Can you please advise as to why this request was not carried out and could you please supply a copy of the Council’s Code of Conduct?
Can you please confirm that you fell short of the requirements within the Code of Conduct (as described by Mr. Bartlett) by not responding within 15 working days?
I will now attempt to deal with matters in as simple a way as possible, and this will assist matters when the case is referred to the Local Government Ombudsman and the Magistrates Court.
Mr. Moran, the registered keeper of the vehicle R24 PJR, received an Excess Ticket ( No. 96256134) (3) when we attended a speaking engagement at St. James’ Park. We were advised by the event organisers to park in the club’s numbered bays. I parked the vehicle for Mr. Moran. Upon return to the vehicle Mr. Moran found that he had been issued with the above ticket.
I do believe he then made representations to Ms.Valentine with regard to the ‘pay and display’ request and the fact that bays we had parked in did not appear to be part of the ‘pay and display’ area. I do not have copies of his correspondence but Mr. Moran is quite prepared to disclose these to the courts and attend as a witness.
I was then asked by Mr. Moran to complete the ‘Statement of Facts’ pursuant to Section 108 of the Road Traffic Act following the letter he received from Ms. Valentine (4) who stated that, “…unfortunately I am unable to waive this charge.”
I duly completed and posted this on the 7th December 2004 along with representations that Newcastle City Council were attempting to extort money from me in an unlawful manner (5). Nowhere in the communication from yourselves does it state the fact that you are operating a ‘criminalised’ parking regime and I could have the opportunity to have the matter relating to the ‘alleged offence’ dealt with by a Magistrates Court.
You simply re-iterate the request to pay the £60 Excess Charge.
Can you please advise as to how you are communicating with me at my home address if my details had not been supplied on the ‘Statement of Facts’ in the communication (Enclosure 4 page 2) of 7th December 2004? I have highlighted the copy of the ‘Statement of Facts’ in yellow to assist you.
Can you please tell me why the Excess Charge Notice (3) and the communication of 30/11/04 (4) does not advise me of my rights and ability to challenge the alleged offence through the relevant court process?
It appears as though Newcastle City Council are attempting to bypass the court process and simply go straight to collection without advising of the correct statutory procedure. This non-conformity with the correct procedure appears to be a case of ‘maladministration’ and will form part of the case, along with your later communications, to the Local Government Ombudsman.
I have enclosed a copy of a similar case involving Scarborough Council (Ref 02/C/13683) for your information (6). I had brought to the attention of Newcastle City Council the relevant sections of the Bill of Rights 1689 and the Metric Martyrs Judgment (Enclosure 4 pages 3 and 4) and that by attempting to bypass the court procedure that you were acting unlawfully.
Can you confirm that the relevant section of the Bill of Rights 1689 has been breached. It clearly states:
“ that all grants and promises of fines and forfeitures of particular persons before conviction are illegal and void.”
This, as mentioned in previous correspondence, is referred to by Lord Justice Laws in the Metric Martyrs Judgment as a ‘constitutional’ statute and can only be expressly repealed.
For clarification, therefore, is the ‘Excess Charge’ for an ‘alleged offence’ or is it for failure to meet a contractual obligation?
Therefore, if it is the latter, is it not a civil matter and not a criminal one and you are attempting to bypass the fundamental provisions contained in the Bill of Rights 1689?
Or, is the ‘Excess Charge’ a penalty for the offence you cite under the Road Traffic Act 1984. If so, can you clarify where the Road Traffic Act 1984 expressly repealed the Bill of Rights 1689?
I received a response from Miss H Buchan dated 13th January 2005 (7). In it she detailed the fact that it was a criminal offence under Section 108 of the Road Traffic Act but unfortunately did not enclose a copy, nor did she detail which sub-section I was being charged with. I had already completed the Section 108 Statutory Declaration. (I have taken the liberty of enclosing a copy of Section 108 of the Road Traffic Act 1984 (8))
If I had not, as I previously mentioned, filled in the Statutory Declaration, then it would have been rather difficult to then begin communications with me at my home address.
I had made it clear in my communication that I wished to dispute the ‘Excess Charge.’ Miss Buchan surely should then have advised that I could have a Magistrates Court adjudicate. However, the final paragraph of the communication again demands £60, although the matter would be referred to the Magistrates Court…”should the ticket not be paid.”
Therefore, I will keep things simple.
You are alleging that I have committed an offence. I am disputing this and disputing the powers which you are attempting to claim. Please refer the matter to a Magistrates Court in a proper and orderly manner and can you please provide:
  • Copies of all communications, from the raising of the Excess Charge Notice to your most recent communication, where you advised me that this option (a court hearing) was available and made it abundantly clear that this was an alleged offence and that the penalty or ‘excess charge’ was only able to be pursued once there had been a conviction for the offence by the Magistrates Court?
  • Reasons why you mistakenly believe I have not completed the Notice under Section 108 when it is obvious that communications with me from Newcastle City Council could not have commenced until I had done so?
  • Copies of all internal communications between departments about this matter, including telephone conversations (Data Protection Act 1998)?
  • You make reference to serving a summons where I would have, ‘an adequate opportunity to defend myself.’ Can you clarify whether this was to a Magistrates Court over the ‘alleged criminal offence’ or to the County Court for civil proceedings for the recovery of the ‘ Excess Charge’ of £60? If it is the latter, can you please detail the authority on which you rely, as it appears you are bypassing the criminal court procedure

I look forward to your response and look forward to taking this matter further and having it placed before a Court of Law.

I would be grateful if you could also provide me with the necessary forms to initiate the complaint about maladministration to the Local Government Ombudsman.

However, this will not be necessary should Newcastle City Council accept the fact that their Parking Regime practices are flawed and the current scheme be reviewed in order to allow any alleged offences to be challenged in the correct and proper manner, including details of the legal rights of the ‘alleged offender’on every excess charge ticket issued and every communication be conducted in an open and correct manner instead of the current threatening and intimidatory tone.

Yours sincerely,

Neil Herron
3. Excess Charge Notice
8. Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984

Monday, March 21, 2005

Local Authorities becoming worried over their 'illegal' parking regimes.

As more and more peeople are beginning to challenge their parking tickets in decriminalised enforcement areas using the Metric Martyrs Judgment and Bill of Rights defence that we have used here in Sunderland, more and more local authorities are becoming increasingly worried.
How do we know?
We have received information from employees in various local authorities that their authority is concerned over the recent developments. Calls and information so far have come from a number of authorities including Brighton and Hove, Bradford, Nottingham, Newham, Wandsworth, Newcastle, Sunderland, Scarborough to name a few.
Should anyone else wish to get in touch, their anonimity will be protected. You can e-mail us at or call us on 0191 565 7143.
Any material can be sent to us at PO Box 526, Sunderland, SR1 3YS.

Open Letter to MacShane


Dear Mr MacShane,

Re your Speech European Law and Integration.
Joining the then European Community believing it to be about trade and a free trade area is, according to you a “myth”. You quote various snippets from some of the debates in our Parliament from before we joined the European Community. Whilst I agree with you that the legislators in both Houses knew, and that it was perfectly clear that they were about to take (using your own words) “a step that had serious implications in terms of “sharing” sovereignty in some areas covered by the then constitutional treaties defining the European Community” and that there was “no doubt that European law and the European Court would have been superior to British Courts”, this certain knowledge was, without doubt, most certainly kept from the then gullible public.
In the Government Research Paper 96/82 page 40 reinforces my one point, “For many years the UK courts managed to avoid having to pronounce directly and unequivocally on the supremacy or otherwise of Community Law in relation to traditional Diceyan sovereignty. Some early case law even suggested that the doctrine of ‘implied repeal’ still applied so that later UK statutory provisions would prevail over inconsistent Community law after 1972. Generally though, potential conflicts between UK and Community law were reconciled and resolved through techniques of statutory interpretation and construction, although this approach had its limits if the conflict was apparently irreconcilable. This point came to widespread public and Parliamentary attention in the Factortame cases concerning Spanish owned fishing vessels, (see esp. Lord Bridge [1991] AC 603, 658-9) where the House of Lords appeared unequivocally to accept the supremacy of European law in appropriate cases”.
There is more of course but it kind of shoots down your argument that we knew or were told that the European Community was to become a full political and social Union, in fact should the “Treaty ESTABLISHING a Constitution for Europe” be ratified, it will, as you well know, eventually become one State of Union for it is most definitely not, “just another Treaty”. It is the other “treaties” that will be repealed should the “Treaty ESTABLISHING a Constitution for Europe” come into being leaving only the EU constitution and the mechanism with which to install it.
Up until the present time, we, the people have been told that all we would have to do to come out of this Union would be to repeal the European Communities Act. (See Lord Denning’s ruling on this-repudiation of the treaties also) You give the impression that this method would also apply if we accepted the EU Constitution. Why then, is there an ‘exit clause’ that, having ratified the EU Constitution with that clause in, and accepted that method of withdrawal, how on earth could you go on pretending that the EU constitution “is just another treaty”? It would take about two years to come out and even then it would need all the other countries to agree.
Your constant childish ‘name calling’ of people that are true to their allegiance to their own Country as “Anti-European”, is not worthy of a man of your years or position in government, and eventually may bring about the retort from those that prefer to be governed by a British Government, as Anti-British.
Looking back at old records of the debates on the subject of the European Community, and remembering that there was no “Internet” then, the same arguments were going on in Parliament all those years ago that are going on in this present day. Let me see, if I can, how much the people were told about the Community in those days?
I will commence with 3rd August 1961 and by Mr Shinwell, “In the course of the Lord Privy Seal’s speech, I ventured to ask him a simple question, quite relevant to his speech. It was whether he would state precisely the conditions upon which negotiations were to proceed. His reply was astonishing. He said that it was not in the public’s interest to disclose the Government’s intentions. What does that mean? It means either that Government have no clear idea of what they intend to propose in the course of consultations or negotiations with the representatives of the Common Market, or that they are asking the House for a blank cheque.”
The electors are not to be allowed to express an opinion about whether the Government’s policy is right and desirable in their interests. There is no question, even when the negotiations are concluded, whether satisfactorily or not, of asking the electors to state whether they accept the Government’s decision”.
16th November 1966. Sir D Walker-Smith. “Two truths are surely apparent-first, that over a wide range of our national life there would be an immediate abandonment of sovereignty and our constitutional principle of the sovereignty of Parliament. The second truth is that, so far, the British people have very little idea of what is involved.”
Further on a Mr F Bellenger said, ”We must make it clear to the British public just what they will have to face if we join the Common Market, and while I am sure that an immense task lies ahead in relation to the legal references made by the right hon., and learned Gentleman, particularly in terms of changes in our statute law, the British people at large must understand precisely what is happening. I agree, nevertheless, that we must consider the legal implications, including the question of Britain’s sovereignty”.
Mr Orm in the same debate, “It has been said that the British people do not fully understand what is involved in our entry to the Common Market. This is true, and I am hoping that the continuing debates on this matter will get the facts across to our people. It is not just a matter of an increase in food prices, serious as they may be; it is not simply the effect on our economy, the distribution of our industry and our future development, or our social services. It is also to do with how the Community is operated and controlled. The Community is undemocratic”. (So the legislative knew that fact even then)
Mr Jennings, “The question of sovereignty or loss of sovereignty and political union in a political union in a federal United States of Europe has been swept nicely, beautifully and quietly under the carpet. It is almost a sin to talk about it.” (And there it stayed, “under the carpet”). And a little later on he goes on to say, “But the ordinary man in the street has no conception of what he will lose in rights and privileges that he now enjoys, even in a denigrated Britain, which is the attitude that many people tend to adopt”. …….”It is easy to talk glibly about going into Europe. That is the way that it is put over to the electorate. “Let us go into Europe” is the theme. We never attempt to say what we mean by going into Europe, but just what do we mean? Do we mean trade? Is that all?”
Mr Thomson quotes “from my right hon. friend the Prime Minister. He said, “The whole history of political progress is a history of gradual abandonment of national sovereignty…One cannot talk about world government on one breath and then start drooling about the need to preserve national sovereignty in the next….The question is not whether sovereignty remains absolute or not, but in what way one is prepared to sacrifice sovereignty, to whom and for what purpose. That is the real issue before us. The question is whether any proposed surrender of sovereignty will advance or retard our progress to the kind of world we all want to see” (Official Report, 3rd August 1961: Vol 645, c 1667) And you sir, speak of Pooling Sovereignty? World Government eh?
There are many, many more quotes, and yes, I have many pages of them, and as at Maastricht when Parliamentarians were reputed not have read the actual treaty they were about to ratify, in these old debates too it becomes obvious that many MP’s of those days had not read the Treaty of Rome that applied to the “Common Market” they were trying so hard to join, in fact there is quite an argument about it.
You say reading of the debates (you quoted) gives lie to those who claim that Parliament was unaware in 1972 what it was agreeing to. I agree the LEGISLATURE knew very well indeed what it was getting into, but the people were not told the truth then and they are not being told the truth now. Remember this bit Mr MacShane? “ The Common Law will remain the basis of our legal system, and our Courts will continue to operate as they do at present. In certain cases however they would need to refer points of Community Law to the European Court of Justice. All the essential features of our law will remain, including the safeguards for individual freedom such as trial by Jury and habeas corpus and the principle that a man is innocent until proved guilty, as well as the law of contract and tort (and its Scottish equivalent), the law of landlord and tenant, family law, nationality law and land law.”
The Prevention of Terrorism Act, the Civil Contingences Act and now the Serious Organised Crime Agency that is going through Parliament will remove much of the above and the latter, as they will not swear allegiance to the Crown, will eventually come under Europol.
We have heard the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights likened to “the Beano” comic. That even Golf Clubs have “Constitutions”, and that the EU constitution is “just another Treaty”, and that most of what is IN it, has already been in previous Treaties. No Mr MacShane, the people have not been told the truth at all, nor the effect incorporating the EU Constitution into our system will have on our Country.
To really find out what effect saying “Yes” to the EU constitution would do, I suggest that you and the people of this Country take heed of what Hans Martin Bury, the Foreign Minister for Germany has to say on the subject. He said,” This Constitution (not “treaty”) is, in spite of all justified calls for further regulations, a milestone. Yes, it is more than that. The EU constitution is the birth certificate of the United States of Europe”.
I will make one observation, and that is the extraordinary welcome by this Government to Sinn Féin a few years ago, and how it is viewed now. Yet this Government knew all along that “Sinn Féin sought an end to partition which is, in their eyes, the cause of conflict, injustice and division in Ireland and that Sinn Féin is an Irish Republican Party. Their objective is to end British Rule in Ireland. (that is from their Website) Just as all those that wish to integrate fully in every way into the European Union and happily destroy this Country’s Constitution in order to do it. To all those that belittle those that would protect their own County’s Constitution and be true to their oaths of allegiance to their Queen and Country, I say that the tide will turn and soon the situation will be as it is with the Irish Republican Party at present.
The EU will disintegrate, whether before the EU constitution is ratified or not remains to be seen, but it will end in terrible bitter conflict. The fault will fall on all those that did not dare to spell out the true meaning of the requirement for a European Constitution.
While we are busy reducing our forces, the army, navy etc, and while we are eagerly following all EU Regulation re competition, etc, other Countries are not. While we are disarming and reducing our forces, others have conscription and rearming quite strongly. To me it is déjà vu, the 1930’s all over again.
All of our Members of Parliament, will have to decide soon, do they want to govern this Country, to actually earn the money the people pay them, or do they want to go down in history as the government that has given this Country away and continue to have laws and an alien constitution foisted upon us, which nothing we can say or do can alter or block them. Or, do we obey our own Constitutional laws we have had in this Country for hundreds of years, even though we have had to fight to keep them rather than be ruled by others in the past, and which we are duty bound to fight to protect and keep.
The myths you speak of Sir, are your own, especially ”The Constitutional Treaty is not only a simplification of the existing forest of interlocking Treaties, but encapsulates many of these British themes”. As Minister for Europe, you appear to have forgotten the meaning of a “True Brit”, that is your loss sir, not mine. My solemn oath of allegiance remains to the Crown and this country for all time coming.
Yours faithfully,

Anne Palmer.
As this is about our Constitution, this is an open letter.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Straight answers required from North East Assembly Director

Stephen Barber
North East Assembly / Association of North East Councils
Newcastle Upon Tyne

16th March 2005

Perhaps it may be simpler to avoid a 'ping-pong' dialogue if the questions were answered as simply as possible. No doubt you will now be aware of the seriousness of where we are coming from and the fact that Superintendent Campell of Northumbria Police has been contacted by Bob Rayner, City of Sunderland's solicitor, to make him aware of the potential situation. The District Auditor and the Local Government Ombudsman will also need to be brought in.
We have always attempted to seek a straightforward resolution following clarification, but are acutely aware of the potential legal and financial consequences for your members and this is something we have tried to avoid at all costs. However, if we are forced to make the complaint official it will be out of our hands and the consequences could be catastrophic for many individuals who were unaware that they have been compromised, either through incompetence or neglect because of an ill-thought out political construct.
I would therefore appreciate a simple and direct response to the questions (A-I) in bold red type.
For ease of reference I have interspersed your original answers (in blue) to my original questions (in black).
Let's hope we don't end up with a rainbow!
Yours sincerely,
Neil Herron


My comments on your questions are as follows;

1. Can you confirm whether ANEC is registered as an employer under Section 122 of the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992? If you are not, can you please explain why not?
S.B. (1) As I understand it, section 122 relates to employers associations, whose principal purpose relates to the, "regulation of relations between employers and workers or trade unions". Can you clarify - are you maintaining that the Association falls into this category?
Some assemblies have registered or attempted to include themselves within a 'local government' employers framework
A. The question was 'have you ( ANEC or NEA or both ) registered?' Yes or No?
Section 127 of the same act would have provided possible protection for an 'unincorporated association,' and perhaps does so for in the case of Local Authority appointees to bodies which are 'public bodies.'
It states,

127.—(1) An employers' association may be either a body corporate or an unincorporated association.
(2) Where an employers' association is unincorporated—

(a) it is capable of making contracts;

(b) it is capable of suing and being sued in its own name, whether in proceedings relating to property or founded on contract or tort or any other cause of action; and

(c) proceedings for an offence alleged to have been committed by it or on its behalf may be brought against it in its own name.

(3) Nothing in section 716 of the [1985 c. 6.] Companies Act 1985 (associations of over 20 members to be incorporated or otherwise formed in special ways) shall be taken to prevent the formation of an employers' association which is neither registered as a company under that Act nor otherwise incorporated.

Therefore, as the ANEC / NEA has not gone down this route they have not afforded their members potential protection under this Act.
Back to the position that the members are 'jointly and severally' liable.

B. You have already stated that the Assembly is not covered by the Freedom of Information Act 2000. Therefore, can you confirm that it is not a 'public body' or 'public authority?'
You are going to confirm or clarify the same for ANEC?

(2) Again, can you clarify what you mean by your question. What do you mean by "underwriting the contracts of employment"?
C. Quite simple. If the funding to ANEC / NEA ceases, then who will fulfil the contracts of employment, pensions, redundancies of the permanent members of staff? Has this been discussed in budget meetings?
In YHA, Wakefield has provided a guarantee that they will be responsible.
In NW a similar guarantee has been provided by St. Helen's, I do believe

D. The question quite simply is, 'Is any one NE local authority doing the same?'

(3) As you know, both the Association and the Assembly were considering going down the route of incorporation. During discussions around this issue I commented upon the implications of being an unincorporated association.
You stated that individual members had been informed. From correspondence received from a number of sources, some seem aware, others are not.
E. Did you formally advise, in writing, all ANEC and NEA members of the legal status of the ANEC and NEA and their potential personal liabilities? Yes or No?
F. If you did not advise after our request to do so, do you think that this was negligent in the light of the potential compromising of the members?

(4) I work closely with the two trade unions representing staff in the Association and have responded positively to all requests for information put to me.
Again Stephen, you did not answer the question.
G. Did you approach the unions, or the union representatives, to advise them of the potential compromise of their members' employment and rights should the assembly funding question and liability of the members be raised?

Further Questions:

1. Can you confirm that NEA and ANEC are 'public bodies exercising public functions' and therefore covered by the Freedom of Information Act 2000?
(1) My understanding is that the Assembly is not covered by the Freedom of Information Act. If you have a legal view that points to this not being the position, I'd be happy to check things out further. I'm currently checking the position of the Association of North East Councils.
H. Why is NEA not covered by the Freedom of Information Act 2000. Is it not a 'public body'?
Is ANEC covered by the Freedom of Information Act 2000? Is it not a 'public body'?

2. Can you please supply all the information you have on me and any communications with other bodies concerning me, including telephone conversations, e-mails and letters, under the Data Protection Act 1998.(2) I'm checking this out. At first glance the information we hold looks to comprise mainly the exchenge of correspondence and e-mails between yourself and myself, copies of which you will already hold.I. Can you confirm for the record that there are no communications (written, telephone or e-mail) regarding me, between yourself and Bob Rayner or any other officers at Sunderland Council / the same and the ODPM / the same and GONE / the same and the District Auditor / the same and any ANEC / NEA member?


My apologies for being somewhat persistent, but as this whole affair involves a very seriously large sum of public money then I think all the questions raised and the insistence on clear, unambiguous answers is fundamental.

Neil Herron

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