Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Comment on Eric Brittain's letter regarding Sunderland's Chief Executive

The Letters Editor
Newcastle Journal

Dear Sir / Madam

Re: Statement of Chief Executive Quesioned (Eric Brittain Letters 8th March 2007)

In his series of letters, and misleading response from Sunderland City Council Chief Executive, Ged Fitzgerald, Eric Brittain exposes what appears to be a whitewash by the Local Government Ombudsman regarding the allegation of maladministration.

No maladministration?

Sunderland City Council issued 75,000 Penalty Charge Notices (PCN) which did not comply with the legal requirements ie. they did not contain a date of issue as well as the date of contravention. In the High Court case on the same point involving Barnet Council in August 2006 the Judge stated that: 'no financial liability arises from a non-compliant PCN.'
However, Sunderland were aware that their PCNs were non-compliant in May 2005 after receiving 'advice' from the National Parking Adjudication Service. The Assistant City Solicitor's advice in June 2005, quite obviously aware of the consequences of issuing unlawful tickets, was to 'change the wording without delay.'

This wasn't done until some 6 months later!

Over 12,000 PCNs were issed AFTER that legal instruction.

Why hasn't everyone been refunded?

If the Ombudsman had investigated correctly, and she was aware of the Judicial Review and Judge's comments, then that should have been the conclusion ... maladministration. Everyone would then be able to claim a refund.

So why the whitewash?

Surely justice, fairness and transparency is more important than the financial consequences of Sunderland having to repay all the non-compliant PCNs?

We would assume that the Ombudsman would be beyond reproach.

However, Anne Seex, the Local Government Ombudsman who brough Eric's case to an abrupt conclusion finding 'no maladministration' is the same Anne Seex who was Chief Executive of Norwich City Council in 2002 when they began Decriminalised Parking Enforcement?
This is the same Anne Seex who was in post as Chief Executive of Norwich City Council when they issued over 140,000 non-compliant PCNs between 2002 and 2005 (they only corrected theirs in August 2006 issuing £3,416,452.98 worth of non-compliant PCNs 2002 - 2006).

In March 2006, the Audit Commission published a highly critical audit letter for Norwich City Council during Mrs Seex' last year as Chief Executive leading to questions about her credibility as an independent and final arbiter on matters of maladministration in local government.

Now you have the facts ... do you think it was a whitewash?

Yours faithfully,

Neil Herron
12 Frederick Street
Sunderland
SR1 1NA

Tel. 0191 565 7143

NOTES:

Local Government Ombudsman
Anne Seex (Chief Executive of Norwich City Council 2000-2005) handles complaints from Birmingham City, Solihull, Cheshire, Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Lincolnshire, Warwickshire and the North of England.
In March 2006, the Audit Commission published a highly critical audit letter for Norwich City Council during Mrs Seex' last year as Chief Executive [25], leading to questions about her credibility as an independent and final arbiter on matters of maladministration in local government. Amongst other things it criticises "poor financial controls" and "lack of progress in putting in place improvements identified in previous audits". As an LGO Anne Seex has recently advocated "creative compensation", including awarding a holiday for the living and a tombstone for the dead[26].
Attached:
FoI Response from Norwich City Council (15.09.06) ... PCN amendment date.
FoI Response from Norwich City Council (30.10.06) ... DPE Revenue up to amendment date.

1 comment:

Trevor R Nunn said...

Mary Seneviratne 'Public Services and Administrative Justice' (2002 Butterworth) : Whilst accepting that ombudsmen have some flexibility in deciding what may or may not be maladministration she also states that 'where actions are clearly contrary to the law this is maladministration'.

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