Oxford – the Nursery of the Political Elite -“A force confining” for the Intelligentsia, Lawyers and Mandarins? Clever? Yes. Street-wise? Never in the world, the real one

 

Come with me into Oxbridg’s Echo Chamber as I validate that. In my next I will suggest how to deal with it. I hope that the Left will not find it an anathema to their egalitarian instincts.

While I await with some curiosity to see how BLM will respond on behalf of Bindmans LLP to my Pre-action Protocol Letter initiating my claim for £2,500 and damages I want to bring into even sharper focus my early Oxford experience. They have until January to respond to it, so I have plenty of time to write about the world they are doing their level best to defend from my barbs.

I haven’t done badly with my life.  As an alumnus of Merton and Oxford, I must give credit where credit is at least partially due.  It may even be the case that the brain exercises of Latin and Roman Law help me now to write this.

If my time at Merton didn’t set me up as well as it might have done for a career at the Bar, that was as much my fault as theirs. Probably more so. But I can still flag up its short-comings in the context of a varied and successful working life

In my last post I flagged up the fact that Roman Law that threatened no-one was preferred to Comparative Law that would call into question many aspects of the legal system in the UK. And should.

“The libraries of the mind” or the real world?

Here I want to go further. In the Prologue to my book Death of a Nightingale I wrote “Inclusion is a concept that is absolutely wonderful in the libraries of the mind. It is not always quite so wonderful in the classrooms of the real world, especially if vulnerable children are excluded when they are supposed to be included, made to feel unwanted, and at its worst, shoehorned into a hostile environment. Today’s classrooms are populated by far too many bully boys and girls …”

Size 7 shoes do not fit all. Never have. Never will.

What else do academics, lawyers and politicians work out in libraries of their minds and not in the real world? As Oxford is a nursery to the political elite Government Ministers, Judges, and Mandarins, this is surely an important question. Clever? certainly. Street-wise? Read on.

Here is a recently reported event in the real world.

“Wedgwood ceramics, once one of the UK’s most famous industrial brands, has been sold by its US private equity owners to a Finnish company better known for making scissors and garden equipment.

Fiskars Corporation is paying $437m for Waterford Wedgwood Royal Doulton, the formerly Irish-listed crystal and ceramics company that was bought out of administration by KPS Capital Partners, the US private equity company, in 2009.

Waterford Wedgwood was burning cash at a rate of $110m a year when it was taken over by KPS. Under private equity ownership, it broke even in the first year and has grown earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation by $150m over the past six years.

Mr Psaros said KPS had saved 3,800 jobs including 500 in Stoke in the UK.”

You can’t just blame competition from China and the Far East for the loss of these great companies to the UK when the rescuers come from the USA and ultimately a company best known for making scissors and garden equipment in Finland. If we go it alone after Brexit high time we understood why.

Back to Merton

My first tutor was John Jones. He was to become was the Professor of Poetry at Oxford from 1978 to 1983. He had had a first-class degree in Law, but his first love was Wordsworth. Following him, and not for long, Norman St John Stevas, later Tory MP for Chelmsford, author, and barrister, Minister for the Arts and Leader of the House of Commons under Margaret Thatcher from 1979 to 1981, made a life peer in 1987. At the time I don’t think I recognised how brilliant both these men were.

Norman St.John Stevas “walked as well as talked”.  While his party was in power he is credited with introducing Select Committees making the Executive more accountable to Parliament. The Left is very good at “talking”, but not very good at “walking” when it is in power.  The Public Service Unions may have something to do with that. In the public sector jobs are more important than competence.

Sadly, today I can remember my tutor only for his yellow snuff stained handkerchiefs.

Now I come to the ironic part of my tale.

From 2002, Sir Ralph Wedgwood was a Lecturer and Fellow in Philosophy at Merton College, Oxford, and was promoted to full professorship in 2007. If you had been a Law student at Merton, you would have had him as your tutor.

He had been named after his great-grandfather, Sir Ralph Wedgwood, great into railways, and is a great-great-great-great-great-grandson of the master potter Josiah Wedgwood and the founder of Wedgwood.

Wedgwood, born in Vancouver, was educated at Westminster School, before taking a BA in Classics and Modern Languages at Magdalen College.

He has just published a book entitled The Value of Rationality”. This is the descriptor: Ralph Wedgwood gives a general account of the concept of rationality. The Normativity of Rationality is designed as the first instalment of a trilogy – to be followed by accounts of the requirements of rationality that apply specifically to beliefs and choices. The central claim of the book is that rationality is a normative concept.

If anything was worked out in the library of his mind it is this, and at very considerable length.

Lesson One in Street Wisdom

When I left Oxford, my career at the Bar, my political involvement and entered the real world I soon discovered that the very last thing you should ever believe was that the world was a rational place. And when I married my partner Ros, and she introduced me to Psychology that had been included in her first degree course at Newcastle University, I began to understand why. It was another big gap in my own studies at Oxford. Not just mine!

I give you here a three-paragraph answer to Ralph Wedgwood’s Trilogy.

Kahlil Gibran writes in The Prophet:

On reason and passion – Your reason and your passion are the rudder and the sails of your seafaring soul. If either your sails or your rudder be broken, you can but toss and drift, or else be held at a standstill in mid-seas.

For reason, ruling alone, is a force confining; and passion, unattended, is a flame that burns to its own destruction. Therefore, let your soul exalt your reason to the height of passion, that it may sing;

And let it direct your passion with reason, that your passion may live through its own daily resurrection, and like the phoenix rise above its own ashes.

Please note the words “reason alone is a force confining.”

Should you really be teaching generations of students that what is reasoned is “normatively” right? Some might be a bit more critical of illogicality if it was otherwise.

Where was the rationality just before the 2008 Credit Crunch? It was the greed of the bankers aided and, equally significantly if not widely understood, aided and abetted by the lust for power of the politicians who wanted, for electoral advantage, to create a feel-good factor well disposed towards them. Gordon Brown, Chancellor of the Exchequer and PM opted to drive blind, ultimately claiming credit for the escape from the crash. Liam Byrnes was more honest with the note he left for his successor “We’ve run out of money.”

Where was the rationality in Kim Burns’ whitewash of  Newcastle Labour controlled Council’s maladministered plans for cycle lanes on Gosforth High Street for non-existent cyclists in the name of the Local Government Ombudsman, without her actual endorsement?

Where was the rationality in the wording of Bindmans’ Advice that my case for judicial review was “bound to fail in the context of a hundred-page dossier detailing maladministration? Where was the rationality ignoring altogether the malign role of Sustrans, the cycling charity and lobby in all of that? Did the fact that the Advice was endorsed by three other lawyers from Bindmans make it any more rational?

Where was the rationality in the decision Samantha Argyle of the one of the 17 Legal Ombudsmen, working overtime last Christmas, deciding that Bindmans didn’t need to answer my criticisms after another of their Ombudsmen, Stuart Knight, said that they should? All this again without the endorsement of the Chief Legal Ombudsman.

All these were grossly irrational in content, though rational in intent. Those who wrote them knew exactly what they were doing and why they were doing it. Sir Ralph, reasoning can be either good or bad, valid or perverse.

What a pity that Sir Ralph Wedgwood did not use his time at Oxford to use his family name and network to see how the UK and Ireland came to lose not one, but three of its most famous companies and this despite its many new business schools in the Universities.

What a pity that there were not more undergraduates and dons from the heartland of industrial UK in Oxford to assist him?

Now, let me relate this back to my personal experience as an Alumnus of Merton, Oxford.

I met with Ralph Wedgwood. He came to a performance of my play Death of a Nightingale at the New End Theatre in London and we had a meal together beforehand at Gouchos, but not then, before or since has there been any meaningful dialogue even though there should have been.

It is not for the want of my trying. Gaudies at Oxford are reunions of alumni. I went to one such Gaudy just after I had published my book Death of a Nightingale. The first thing that happened when we arrived was that we were all corralled by the Warden, Dame Jessica Rawson. with an appeal for money for a new T S Eliot lecture theatre. By the way she has a formidable name in Chinese Art. Draw a conclusion from that.

After the appeal for money I said to the Warden that I would welcome an opportunity to discuss my book. She congratulated me on it, but she said she was very busy. I am sure that she was.  I said, not with her, but with a don involved in Jurisprudence. From that day to this there has been no dialogue.

The main value of alumni to the college would appear to be that of a milk cow. At Gaudies there appears to be absolutely no attempt to get feedback from alumni.  It is not even the right way to try to get money if you think about it.

My conclusion

I do now need to make the general point that there is not all that much value in freedom of speech if the political elite of the Left as well as the Right suppress complaints and generally make it impossible for dissenting voices to be heard and discussed. Freedom to be heard is what freedom of expression should be about.

History repeats itself. When I was helping parents in their successful campaign to save their special school from closure the political elite on the Left resorted to smears, dirty tricks, blocking my emails – more than once, and outright censorship to silence me.

The nastiest was when it was put about at a Labour Party meeting that I had cancer of the brain while I was being treated for prostate cancer. The most vicious when Stage Magazine hired a Trot, Jonathan Lovett,  from the Public Service Union to do a hatchet job on my play. And the most outrageous when the Local Authority constructed a sting to discredit the governors and destabilise the school making it look as though there had been a £200k+ overspend that required a bail-out and. over three years, a contribution of £60,000 from parents, £20,000 of which was paid. I have a PowerPoint presentation detailing that.

Yes, we need social mobility all right, but not for the disadvantaged, more for the benefit of those at the top of the pile enjoying the fruits of our labours.

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Equality before the Law? Your Right to Justice in the UK, but only if you can afford the money. The Legal Profession badly needs to look in the Mirror

Guardian Headline “Top judge says justice system is now unaffordable to most”

I am going to explain here how it comes about in the UK that we have allowed the cost of going to Law deny the basic human right to Justice with Human Rights lawyers as bad as the rest.  Maybe worse. They should care.

Why I can write this

First a degree in Jurisprudence at Oxford, then 3 years at the Bar in Manchester. When I moved from my Chambers in 25 Bow Lane Manchester to work alongside Douglas Robinson, the newly appointed Secretary of the Liberal Party at 58 Victoria Street in London (my naïve days), I took away with me two strong thoughts. First, keep everything in writing. Hence the dossier of over 100 pages in length I gave to Bindmans LLP as the basis for an action for judicial review against the Local Government Ombudsman. The other, stay as far away as possible from lawyers! They don’t come cheap.

Over the years, in my active working life, I have never been able to succeed with the second piece of advice to myself. Sometimes I have had value for money. Other times, not so; just gas meters ticking away presenting me with periodic bills. The legal profession is like any other. A mixed bag with 17 Legal Ombudsmen and their investigators manning the barricades, some working overtime at Christmas.

The root of the problem

There are two different legal systems – the “Adversarial” and the “Inquisitorial”. The adversarial is a contest with a judge presiding. The inquisitorial is investigative, with the judge in the lead role. The UK adopts the former. Europe the latter.

In the adversarial system money will always count. The scales will always be loaded against the small guy. The big guy can afford the best lawyers. The little guy may not afford a lawyer at all. The big guy can play for time with a three-way dialogue between client, solicitor, and barrister. They can keep the meter ticking for months with a negotiation continuing until 11.59pm.  Don’t tell me that this isn’t what they do. They tried to do this once to me before I called it a day and paid them enough money to cover reading my instructions!

The argument in favour of this is that the judges don’t enter the sand in the arena, and you make your own case or defend it. But Sir James Mathew, an Irish judge at the turn of the 20th century, summed this up. He is said to have quipped that justice in England is open to all, “like the Ritz Hotel”.

As Legal Aid in criminal and civil cases is slashed and court fees are steeply increased in the pursuit of Austerity, the injustice gets worse. Increasingly people represent themselves and courts must cope.

I don’t know very much about the Inquisitorial System. At Oxford I was not encouraged to look! Roman Law was mandatory. Comparative Law was not even an option. You must understand:  Roman Law posed no threat to a profession set in aspic.

Barristers & Solicitors

I’ll give you another example. Barristers and Solicitors. No-one at Oxford dreamed of asking whether you needed a divided profession. Yet, it puts up the cost to the litigant and makes justice less affordable.  As dialogues between the parties generate it the meter ticks away, hundreds of pounds an hour, London prices.

Some years later while visiting the USA, one of the country’s most able trust-busting lawyers invited me to see his office in Manhattan. His firm was headed by Judge Rosenman, speech writer to Presidents Roosevelt and Truman and a leading American jurist, photos of them around the walls. It suddenly came home to me that you could manage very well without barristers and solicitors. You could safely avoid all the extra costs and delays that this imposed upon clients, not to mention that in the UK there is no guarantee who will ultimately represent you in court on the day. If your counsel is tied up with another case in another court, at the last minute the brief will be handed to someone you have never even met.

The other thing I noticed in the States. The UK could even save money on the cost of the horse hair wigs. Respect for lawyers did not need to depend on their attire.

Disability Tribunals

The same shuteye also applies to disability tribunals. It is put about that these are informal and claimants don’t need legal advice. Ho! Ho! Their rulings are governed by regulations and legal precedent and often medical reports that cost money are critical. My partner, Ros, a much better lawyer than me – she secured a much more practical law degree in Newcastle to facilitate her voluntary work in the Tribunal Unit of Sunderland CAB until Sunderland Local Authority closed it down – will vouch for what I write here. Her legal knowhow helped many of her clients get thousands of pounds, many claims backdated, without which not so.

Equal rights in relation to colour, gender, race, religion,YES, but what about to Justice itself?

Yes, Human Rights lawyers fight individual cases, they oppose cuts to legal aid and the profession applauds their efforts; but  they decline to confront the system of which they are a part when it is subject to serious criticism.

That is why Bindmans LLP, when given a choice between helping me to expose the LGO whitewash of Newcastle City Council’s plans for cycle lanes for non-existent cyclists and blocking it, chose to block it. A case would be “bound to fail”. They devalued their own reputation as they prejudged the response of the court to it. My 100 page dossier? 100 pages of nothingness! Clear evidence of bias totally ignored.

 Back to my case against Bindmans LLP

And when I threaten to sue them in the small claims court to recover £2,500, they try to make it very expensive for me if I press on!  When I advised Bindmans of my intention to do this, the reply did not come back from Bindmans. To my surprise it came back from another firm of solicitors altogether. KC, a solicitor with BLM, who described herself as a “file handler” said that Bindmans had hired them to contest my claim. They said that they would apply to transfer the case from the small claims court to the High Court.

I sent to BLM a Pre-action Protocol Letter detailing my claim. When I asked for an acknowledgement KC told me that she had three weeks to acknowledge the Letter and a further three months to reply to it. Solicitors are clearly a protected species.

You will find the ensuing email dialogue revealing.

KC wrote:

“We acknowledge your Letter of Claim pursuant the Pre-Action Protocol for Professional Negligence dated 18 September 2017.

In accordance with the provisions of the Protocol we calculate that we have until 6 January 2018 to investigate the claim and provide you with a substantive response.

We note the contents of your covering email to the Letter of Claim. It is maintained that this matter is not suitable for the small claims track. However, ultimately it is a decision for the Court which track they allocate your claim to and is a standard question listed on the Directions Questionnaire which the Court sends out following receipt of the Defence. It is neither an abuse of the judicial process nor unusual for parties in the claim to request different tracks.”

This was my reply:

Thank you for your formal acknowledgement.

Your timetable is not a problem at all. Currently I am not well enough to proceed. I can actually use the period of my recovering to write, using my narrative in relation to Bindmans and Ombudsmen as an illustration. The subjects that come to mind are “Can the cost of Justice deny Justice?”, “The variability of standards in the legal profession” and “Are Solicitors a protected species?” Linkedin gives me a vehicle to carry my articles to opinion leaders even if the Media finds the subject overall too hot to handle.

As far as the second paragraph is concerned, in my view it damns Bindmans LPP and yourselves. The fact that a question is posed as to whether a case should be referred to a higher court does not mean that an affirmative answer is mandatory. It is a matter of choice. In this case I have simplified the issue – relying on just 2 paragraphs in Bindmans’ Advice not my 33 criticisms of it. And I have done my level best to try to head it off altogether by inviting Sir Geoffrey Bindman to mediate, but without any success. In my view Bindmans involving you instead of using their own team (and compromising you into the bargain) would be compounded by a referral to a higher court in an attempt to raise the stakes in a poker game they choose to play here. For the record – and for you relay to Bindmans – I give you formal notice that if you should apply to transfer this to a higher court when a lower court should be well able to resolve the matter I will apply for exemplary damages.

I await KC’s response with interest. Pity I may have to wait until January for it.

A Human Rights Paradox

Meanwhile, we have here a gigantic paradox. On the one hand Human Rights lawyers almost totally ignore the gross inequality of the right to justice in the UK but avail themselves of it when challenged. On the other hand, they assert the equality of human rights generally when sometimes human rights are not equal and absolute but different and in conflict with each other. When they are Parliamentarians they make a further mistake. They believe that all they need to do to correct social ills is to pass a law, create a new human right, throw money at it, and you have cracked it. Often, this make matters worse when they totally ignore human fallibility.

My suggestion for Oxford

All my writing on Special Educational Needs in Death of a Nightingale evidences that. In that instance it was made very much worse because a few ideologues* got their hands on the levers of power to create the right and then used the self-defence mechanism of the system itself to entrench it. Likewise  in my recent posts with egocentric cyclists and their auto-phobic cycling lobby Sustrans.

Here’s my suggestion for Oxford. No more mock trials. How about pro bono work as part of a degree course. No better way for college dons and their students see the real world outside their ivory towers and make themselves useful. Seeing how the system works, or doesn’t, must be as good an introduction as any to a degree course entitled “Jurisprudence”. They might even get round to seeing that in the 21st Century judges must be more proactive. I read in the Times this week that only relatively recently have they started to read the papers relating to a case before the start of a case, not entirely to their liking. It may also dawn on the profession that having bewigged barristers and solicitors is a relic of a bygone age. Madame Tussauds stuff.

PS There is much I now criticise in the curriculum Oxford offered me. One thing I treasure – the lectures by the late, highly revered, Professor Herbert Hart. He explained that the word “Right” had many meanings, not one, depending on how it was used. Human Rights lawyers must have been nodding off at that point.

_____________________________________________________—–

*Robin Jackson’s review of SPECIAL EDUCATIONAL NEEDS: A NEW LOOK IMPACT: No. 11 in a series of policy discussions Mary Warnock

“What is disturbing from a constitutional standpoint is the fact that a handful of privileged and non-elected members of the Upper House were able to introduce an important legislative change on the basis of an ill-informed debate which, according to Hansard, lasted less than 41 minutes. The change proposed was of a fundamental nature and one that ran counter not only to the expressed wishes of the government but to the views of most professional and voluntary organisations.

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“Side with your colleagues, right or wrong” – The Leitmotif of this Cycling Scandal? Solidarity pre-empts Integrity – Bias has a Price – £1.2bn Waste here!

    When savage Austerity cuts elsewhere

 

The staff of the Local Government Ombudsman and the Legal Ombudsman blocked my complaint in this Cycling saga. Was that their job? Read the saga. Bindmans LLP had a choice. Did they make the right one? You and the Courts decide.

___________________________________________________________________

PRE-ACTION PROTOCOL LETTER

Alan Share v Bindmans LLP

The claim alleges breach of contract and negligence, a breach of their fiduciary duty of care to me; and it seeks a refund of £2,500 and damages.

Bindmans LLP, without good and proper reason, said that an action for judicial review against the Local Government Ombudsman that I wished to initiate would be “bound to fail”. Although contracted to write a Pre-Action Protocol Letter, they said that professional protocol prevented them, as solicitors, and me, a non-practising barrister, from doing so, and thereby effectively frustrated any further move on my part in that direction.

That Letter would have required a written response to my complaint from Local Government Ombudsman, as this Letter now requires a written response from them.

1 Preface

This Letter explains the basis of my Claim against Bindmans LLP.

It also sets out the consequences of their conduct. My complaint, if pursued, would have flagged up the danger of allowing an auto-phobic cycling lobby, Sustrans, over- influence UK’s transport policy in London, Newcastle and other UK towns and cities almost totally neglecting the arrival of electric, autonomous vehicles there in the next five years, providing charging points for them and ignoring the waste of over £1.2bn when savage austerity cuts elsewhere.

 

2 Background

 

  • Gosforth High Street, Newcastle

One of the more interesting things about the High Street is the paucity of cyclists! They are not even expected. Half way along it there is a small square in front of Trinity Church, opposite Gosforth Shopping Precinct with its Sainsbury, WH Smith, Boots, Virgin Money, Naked Deli, &c and alongside a spanking new Gym, where you will see lots of cycles, but of the stationary kind. Trinity Church is a community hub for 78 organisations in Newcastle, not just Gosforth.

In the square, just a handful of cycle stands and a few lonely bicycles.

It’s not very surprising. Gosforth is the solidly respectable part of Newcastle – Jesmond to the East, the professional part serving two Universities and two great NHS hospitals, is where some cycles are around.

The streets adjoining the High Street, Victorian and Edwardian, are without garages and are always lined with parked cars on both sides. I can’t see the older residents taking to Lycra.

Meanwhile the High Street is not a friendly place for cyclists. It is the main North/South arterial road through Newcastle. Many of the city’s buses from Eldon Square to the outlying areas North and East of the city pass along it, stopping there along the way.

It could not be narrower. And toxic, carcinogenic fumes from diesel buses, cars and lorries are especially noticeable in rush hour.

So, cycling there is not just hazardous but unhealthy as well. With the NE weather, five degrees colder than London, wetter and windier there is another factor.

London, Copenhagen, Amsterdam, Berlin are all on an entirely different bit of planet Earth. Not just in relation to Brexit. If you want more dramatic evidence come to Newcastle and visit John Dobson Street. See the brand new segregated cycle lane with traffic gridlocked alongside it. The odd cyclist you will see gives way to the skateboarders enjoying their new park. £18m down the Swannee!

One final word about the High Street. Congestion is unavoidable, especially in rush hour. At the northern end, there is a very busy intersection with Salters Road going West and Church Road going East. Just before the intersection is a bus stop for all the bus services. Truly the neck of the bottle.

Half way along the High Street well over a hundred cars parked in the open car park above Gosforth Shopping Precinct enter and exit the carpark at a set of traffic lights. Other pedestrian controlled traffic lights on the High Street slow traffic down. Loading and unloading make their contribution.

  • Cycle lanes and Red Lines

Some people have a terrible habit of believing that what they want for themselves, everyone else either wants or should want, when they have totally different needs. Many do not want it at all.

Their tunnel vision and egocentricity is a toxic mix, especially when just a small number of them get their hands on the levers of power, and legitimate complaint is suppressed.

Their mistaken policy self-perpetuates, and those responsible keep trying to make it work regardless of expense.

I saw this first with Special Educational needs and the closure of over 100 special schools, some very good ones. My book and my website Death of a Nightingale detail the unfortunate consequences.

Here they say that they are saving the planet, combating obesity, reducing pollution with fewer cars on the road and keeping fit. In London, they make a virtue out of necessity. For increasing numbers, it is a low-cost way of getting to work.

Pitching what they want for themselves for everyone else with their different needs, they constantly inhabit the world of “Wouldn’t it be nice if?”, when it never will be, and they never factor into their plans human fallibility and the unguarded moment.

Sadly, in the UK urban cycling will always be hazardous to life and limb – I, for one, know six serious injuries and one fatality. And for the next few years, before the arrival of electric autonomous vehicles, compounded by the VW emissions scandal, there is the long-term health hazard inhaling toxic carcinogenic fumes.

And, add into the mix Human Rights and, as I have to keep saying, the mischief word Equality. Cyclists believe they have an equal right to be of the road. Certainly, they have a right to be there, but it is different not equal to the rights of other road users and sometimes is in conflict with them. You see this all the time in London, there at times almost unresolvable.

Enter Sustrans, the cycling charity and lobby based in Bristol, Britain’s first Cycling City. Enter too Nick Clegg, deputy Prime Minister in the Coalition Government and Boris Johnson, London’ Mayor. Enter the Times newspaper.

Double the number of cyclists in UK by 2020.” Sustrans vision: ‘By 2020, four out of five local journeys will be made by bike, foot ‘or public transport.’; and,

“We think a street should be designed for residents rather than those driving through, with slower speeds and slower moving traffic, so people are more inclined to walk and cycle for their journeys, some or all of the way.” SUSTRANS Annual Review 2013-2014.

Slower speeds mean more congestion and greater pollution, for those for whom time is money, more cost and more road rage, and for more cyclists more long- term damage to health.

Follow the money Sustrans received: In 1995, £43.5 million from the Millennium Lottery Fund. In the 2004/05 their income was £23.6 million: £2.1 million from supporters’ donations, £8.5 million from the Department for Transport and a further £2.5 million from the National Opportunities Fund. In 2007 £50m fromthe Big Lottery’s Living Landmarks to fund Connect2. In 2014/5 of the £114m that Nick Clegg as Deputy Prime Minister announced to double the number of cyclists on the road by 2020, some I expect directly into their offices and some indirectly as local authorities buy in their services.

See their reach: On the back of this, their offices: Bristol (head office), London, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Belfast, Peterborough, Nottingham, Birmingham, Newcastle on Tyne, Manchester and Leeds.

See the short and long-term pain and suffering and cost to NHS:
The Times recently reported a 43% increase in serious injuries to cyclists in UK in last ten years. The BBC recently reported 22,988 accidents including 80 deaths for cyclists in London in last 5 years with a £m of being spent on known accident blackspots that accounted for only 391 of them.

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents ROSPA said that statistics show:

  • Around 75% of fatal or serious cyclist accidents occur in urban areas.
  • Almost one quarter of the cyclists killed or injured are children.
  • Around three quarters of cyclists killed have major head injuries

 

A report published by the Royal College of Physicians and the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health: Air pollution is contributing to about 40,000 early deaths a year in the UK. And Sustrans want twice as many people to cycle in it.

See how Sustrans has worked this out in Bristol. Over £23m spent. More cycles yes, but sharing road space with them more not fewer cars – a 15% jump in the number of cars on the road from 165,334 in 2001 to 190,530 in 2011. Not surprisingly with this, an increase in accidents to cyclists both in number and rate, up 39% from 2000 to 2014 and up 63% from 1994 to 2014, stats here from the Department of Transport. The NHS could have done without that.

£2.3million pounds spent on signs reducing 30mph to 20 mph. Journey times increased by 50% and emissions likewise. Vehicles are more efficient at higher speeds. Nearly 200 people die from these emissions every year in Bristol. And children are positively encouraged to cycle in them.Understand what this all means: Sustrans, a cycling lobby, is not just the bull in china shop, it has been put in charge of it! And they have no interest whatsoever in the coming revolutionary change to electric autonomous vehicles that should now pre-empt all other transport concerns.

These are its patrons: Glenys Kinnock MEP, Rt. Hon Neil Kinnock, Jan Morris CBE, Dr Alex Moulton CBE RDI FREng, Dervla Murphy, Steven Norris, Jonathon Porritt CBE, Richard Rogers, Bettina Selby, Rt. Hon the Lord Waldegrave of North Hill, Rt. Hon Sir George Young MP, and, Vox Populi , Jeremy Paxman and Jon Snow.

In short, the entire political establishment, the mandarins in Whitehall, the high priests in the media all backed it and City Councils like Newcastle did what they were paid to do. Stand in the way of it, and you stand in the way of a steam roller.

And it gets worse! It gets very much worse! No doubt on the advice of Sustrans pursuing their absolutely idiotic vision, despite savage austerity cuts elsewhere, in an aging population, a spend of £1.2bn. They actually boast a plan for 2040!

Five Year Plans were bad enough for those who can remember Stalin’s 5 Year Plans in Russia and George Brown’s here in the UK.

The government, despite major austerity cuts elsewhere, has published its £1.2 billion long-term plan to make cycling and walking the natural choice for shorter journeys.
The government wants cycling and walking to become the norm by 2040 and will target funding innovative ways to encourage people onto a bike or to use their own two feet for shorter journeys.

Plans include specific objectives to double cycling, reduce cycling accidents and increase the proportion of 5 to 10-year-olds walking to school to 55% by 2025.

The £1.2 billion is allocated as follows:

£50 million to provide cycling proficiency training for further 1.3 million children £101 million to improve cycling infrastructure and expand cycle routes between the city centres, local communities, and key employment and retail sites

£85 million to make improvements to 200 sections of roads for cyclists

£80 million for safety and awareness training for cyclists, extra secure cycle storage, bike repair, maintenance courses and road safety measures £389.5 million for councils to invest in walking and cycling schemes

£476.4 million from local growth funding to support walking and cycling

In addition, the government is investing an extra:

£5 million on improving cycle facilities at railway stations
£1 million on Living Streets’ outreach programmes to encourage children to walk to school

£1 million on Cycling UK’s ‘Big Bike Revival’ scheme which provides free bike maintenance and cycling classes.

And for an illustration of built-in chronic inertia it would be difficult to beat this:

Under the Infrastructure Act 2015 , the government is required to set a ‘Cycling and walking investment strategy’ for England. This is the first of a series of shorter term, 5 year strategies to support the long-term ambition to make walking and cycling the natural choice for shorter journeys by 2040.

The insanity is entrenched. It will need another Act of Parliament to undo the damage. The Department of Transport in London has allowed itself to be dominated by an egocentric, auto-phobic cycling lobby and its supportive media, and it would appear to be totally unaware of the urban environment North of Watford.

What it should be doing, as a top priority pre-empting all other concerns, is to anticipate the imminent arrival of electric autonomous cars, vans, buses and lorries and planning for it, notably providing easily available charging points and parking spaces. There is no sign that the present staff is up for this.

In Gosforth, I know the location of about 6 charging points. If the City Council doesn’t wake up to it, all those owners of diesel engine cars without a garage will be unable to switch to an electric car with nowhere to charge one. The Newcastle City Council also needs to get its priorities right.

Newcastle Council’s plans for cycle lanes and red lines on Gosforth High Street This is what it was all about.

The Council’s Ambitions Grant bid included “to achieve 12% of all journeys under five miles by bike in the next ten years.”

“Delivering cycling and improvement strategy in Newcastle – a 10-year strategy 2011- 2022“ included the following: “The overarching aim is to develop a cycling culture where 20% of all trips under five miles are undertaken by cycle by 2021.” They quantified this:”1,232,177 additional trips are forecast”. And went on to say: “This will be achieved by drawing up a list of ‘join up’ routes that are at present partially or completely isolated. Research by Sustrans (a National Cycling Charity) has shown that the most successfully spent money has been that on urban cycle paths.”

If you look at the bid and the consultation paperwork you will see that the City Council hired Sustrans to do all the work. Their fingerprints are all over them. Without money and encouragement from London nothing would have happened.

 Why did I join many people objecting to the cycle lanes?

I am a senior citizen resident in Gosforth. I enjoy easy access to all the amenities available on the High Street, shopping, restaurants and coffee bars, my bank &c. I have been chair of the Tyneside Decorative & Fine Arts Society, now known as The Arts Society Newcastle. This is one of the 78 organisations in and around Newcastle using Trinity Church for its meetings. For many years I was chairman of Philip Cussins House a Residential Care Home, 200 metres away from the High Street. I know something good when I see it. I can recognise an act of civic vandalism in the making when I see that. I have seen it before with the threatened closure of Barbara Priestman School in Sunderland fifteen years ago.

So, I joined many others in Gosforth, objecting to the plan of the City Council for. cycle lanes and red lines on Gosforth High Street. All saw it as a disaster in the making.

When I sent in my letter of protest this is what Jonathan Higgins, the Project Manager said to me by way of reply: The current cycling figures are lower than we would like and these changes will help increase the numbers of cyclists using the junction and the high street. Currently there are less than 1000 cyclists a day using the High street but we want to see that grow so that 20% of all trips in Newcastle use this mode. Given that 30,000 vehicles use the Great North Road per day for return trips then it is not unreasonable to see that figure grow to 3 or 4 thousand return trips by bicycle.

A survey showed that about 70 cyclists a day currently use the High Street and battle was joined.

Why do I pursue this?

  • I hate hypocrisy.

Ombudsmen purporting to represent the citizen against the State, but here represent the State against the citizen.

Bindmans LLP, Human Rights lawyers, defending my human rights, but here denying me my right to complain.

Helena Kennedy QC is a Human Rights lawyer and Labour Peer. She chaired the Power Inquiry in 2004 to investigate the decline in popular participation and involvement in formal politics; probably well paid to do so. In her report in 2006 she argued correctly that there is a need for a re-balancing of power between the Executive and Parliament, between Central and Local Government and between the Citizen and the State and made 30 recommendations. Since then neither she nor her Party, serving the narrow interests of the public service unions, have done anything to implement them. Her good intentions pave the road to Hell.

  • I flag up a real threat to democracy

See the danger when solidarity with your mates or just doing your job,maybe because you can’t afford to lose it, pre-empts personal integrity.

The train driver transporting Jews and others to Auschwitz says that he is just a train driver; mind you, in his case if he refused to do his job he and his family would have ended up in Auschwitz. No such excuse for the apparatchiks in the offices of the Local Government and Legal Ombudsman who sit at their computer terminals and do the job they are hired to do right or wrong.

  • I don’t like it when people try to shut me up

When some people want to stop me making a legitimate complaint or censor it, as they have done, it makes me all the more determined that they should not succeed. Complaints are an early warning that something is wrong. If you suppress them, mistakes remain uncorrected with warning lights always flashing green, never amber or red. This helps to explain chronic political inertia.

  • Be on the safe side

Although it would appear that the Council has now dropped its plans for cycle lanes and red lines on the High Street, validating everything that I write here, at all materials there was the risk that they could be implemented.

 

3. My case against Bindmans LLP

The case is in contract where, without good and proper reason, they refused to draft the Pre-action Protocol letter initiating judicial review proceedings against the Local Government Ombudsman. Bindmans acknowledged that my claim ‘does not challenge the policy of [the Council] in relation to its plans for traffic on Gosforth High Street’.

The 100+ page dossier I provided contained ample evidence of maladministration by the Newcastle City Council as they attempted to pursue that policy.

 

The case is also in Tort for damages arising from negligent misstatement.  There was a fiduciary relationship between us. I direct your attention to case law in relation to negligent misstatement.*

 

  1. They totally ignored the nine Errors & Omissions in Kim Burns’ whitewash of the City Council, in particular “As I have seen no evidence to suggest Cabinet or the Overview and Scrutiny Committee received inaccurate information about cycling figures when making its decision to approve the scheme and there is no evidence cycling figures were the motivation for the traffic scheme I have no grounds to criticise the Council.” <Ho Ho>
  2. They did not see this as evidence of bias on the part of the Local Government Ombudsman whom she represented.
  3. Their advice was flawed as I set out below and as I set out in my Response to their Advice in December 2015.
  4. Their Advice effectively denied me my human right to take the case to judicial review.

 

AND I CLAIM £2,500 AND DAMAGES

(Extract from Bindmans LLP Advice – with my comment)

6.Public law recognises three categories of bias: actual, presumed and apparent. An allegation of bias is serious and should only be made on the basis of clear evidence. In short, we see no evidence in the papers beyond assertion and disagreement with the conclusion reached by the LGO that suggests that the LGO was biased (whether actually, presumedly or apparently) in rejecting your complaint against the Council.

Bias is the absence of neutrality. If you read the dossier it is much easier to sense the deliberate withholding of neutrality, and its absence, than its presence, giving the benefit of every single doubt to Newcastle City Council. There is also the adage Suppressio veri, suggestion falsi. Allegations as to detailed breaches of protocol by both Newcastle City Council and the Local Government Ombudsman are totally ignored. Suppressio veri is enough.

7. The most frequently raised category of bias is apparent bias, the test for which is whether the fair-minded and informed observer, having considered the facts, would conclude that there was a real possibility that the decision-maker was biased. In our view, that test is not met here. In particular the mere fact that, at various stages throughout your lengthy correspondence with the LGO, staff within the LGO office upheld prior decisions of their colleagues would not, in our opinion, lead a ‘fair- minded and informed’ observer (or, therefore, a Judge) to conclude that there was a real possibility that those individuals were biased. To establish bias some factor outside the decision-making process itself is required to give rise to a real possibility of bias. If this were not the case, then every decision of a decision-making body would demonstrate bias against the person to whom the decision was adverse.

This is a nonsensical argument made on the hoof not on the basis of any legal authority. It should never be argued, just because you don’t like it, that an adverse decision is a biased one. It is the way in which a decision is reached that can evidence that. The authors of the Advice create their own Aunt Sally here. In any event, they totally ignore the coconut. The failure of Newcastle City Council to identify their “overarching aim” in their consultative procedures and the role of Sustrans in relation to it. The malign role of the multimillion £ national cycling charity and cycling lobby, Sustrans, is the “outside factor” if you need one; it provided and sustained the Council’s hidden agenda.

24 As a non-practising barrister, you will be aware that barristers are prevented by their professional obligations from advancing any contention that they do not consider to be properly arguable. It is not necessary for me to speculate about the motivation but, in the context of the Advice as a whole, this paragraph is intimidation and it perverts the course of justice in that it effectively prevented me pursuing judicial review proceedings against the LGO. As solicitors, we are similarly prevented by the SRA Code of Conduct 2011 from drafting any documents, relating to any proceedings, containing a contention that we do not consider to be properly arguable. We are therefore unable to draft a pre-action protocol on your behalf since, for the reasons given above, we do not consider there to be any properly arguable grounds for judicial review. In the context of my alleging that you have declined to respond to repeated requests that you answer my criticisms of this Advice, this further evidences your lack of duty of care – your negligence. Your complaints policy that I successfully challenged, also points in the same direction.>

*Donogue v. Stevenson, [1932] AC 562 House of Lords , Hedley Byrne & Co Ltd v Heller & Partners Ltd (1964) AC 465 (HL), Caparo Industries Plc v Dickman and others; HL 8 Feb 1990, Henderson v Merrett Syndicates Ltd [1994] UKHL 5 where Lord Goff said “I am of the opinion that this House should now, if necessary, develop the principle of assumption of responsibility as stated in Hedley Byrne to its logical conclusion so as to make it clear that a tortious duty of care may arise not only in cases where the relevant services are rendered gratuitously, but also where they are rendered under a contract. This indeed is the view expressed by my noble and learned friend Lord Keith of Kinkel in Murphy v Brentwood District Council [1991] 1 AC 398, 466, in a speech with which all the other members or the Appellate Committee agreed.”. and Smith v Eric S Bush, a firm etc; HL 20 Apr 198 approving Ross -v- Caunters (a firm) ChD ([1980] Ch 297 )where the court upheld a finding of negligence against a firm of solicitors for failing to ensure the correct attestation of a will, and also the award of damages in favour of a disappointed beneficiary.

Also, for the record, I take the view that Bindmans claimed money held in escrow prematurely.

Alan Share MA Oxon
Barrister at Law Non-practising

19 September,2017

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