GIFTS FROM GOD – Faith, Hope & Charity stronger that Nothingness!

Why for me the Good in Mankind outweighs the Bad, the Venal and the Corrupt

“Retiring after 20 years as Chairman of Philip Cussins House, the Residential Care Home in Newcastle, can I close in this way? For me it’s something quite profound. It is amazing how one event can colour a whole life. In 1976 Arnold Brewer – his firm made fine custom-made furniture in Sunderland – introduced me to the Rotary Club of Sunderland, with its mantra “Service above Self.” There I met the late Fredwyn Haynes, the inspiring head teacher of Barbara Priestman School, a school for children with learning difficulties. He invited me to be its Governor, then Chair of Governors. My main contribution to that school was to help the parents in their successful campaign to keep it open when 100 other special schools were being closed.

I would have missed so much without that happening.

Without that I would have not have had the bad experiences, bordering on the obscene, that have so disturbed me and provoked me to write for the last ten years. I also would not have had the wonderfully good experiences that have so sustained me during that time.

Since I retired from SCS in the 1990’s, I witnessed at close quarters the work going on in that school and the work for our aged in Philip Cussins House here in Newcastle. My personal philosophy has always been to see as much as possible, do as little as possible and leave it to the professionals.

What I have witnessed over the years has given me faith in humankind and God-given hope. I have seen compassion, innumerable small acts of kindness and everyday loving as gifts from God; and it’s been just beautiful to see. And in closing, I say to you: Seek, and you will find too.



Censored? Commissioned by “conservativewoman”, liked and admired, now black-balled YOU JUDGE


“All I can say is that you rose to my very poorly articulated, typo ridden challenge! This works – as you know! It is witty. That is why.”   Kathy Gyngell, Editor



 Why the Warning Signs always show Green!

 This story began years ago when I visited the Danish Ombudsman in Copenhagen. It influenced how I organised my own office ever since! He explained to me that he was on the side of the citizen against the State. He didn’t sit opposite his client across a table or across a desk. He sat sideways on. Ever since I have always tried to avoid putting a desk or a table between me and the person I was dealing with.

 The Ombudsman came to the UK in 1967 with great expectations. Now you can find one handling your complaints in Finance, Furniture, Property and more besides.

Recently I have had two long drawn out painful experiences, first with the Local Government Ombudsman and then with the Legal Ombudsman. In both cases I never reached the actual Ombudsman. Assistant Local Government Ombudsmen were empowered to act in her name, backing each other up when queried. Legal Ombudsmen – 17 of them – are empowered to act in the name of the Chief Legal Ombudsman. Sadly I came to the conclusion they were acting on behalf of the State and Local Government against me, not the other way round. They did the dirty work. The Ombudsmen were not required to sign off their reports. Hands clean. Pockets lined.

 What was this all about? A plan to put cycle lanes on a very narrow, very busy, very congested main arterial road through Gosforth, Newcastle, threatening to make the congestion worse, slowing the traffic down, increasing the toxic diesel fumes for any cyclists around and threatening the amenities of the area and the livelihoods of those providing them…. And, in Gosforth, for non-existent cyclists that they wrongly asserted existed in some numbers.

Incidentally this same one-sided, lopsided thinking is taking place now in London at Lambeth Bridge and the Imax roundabout at Waterloo at great public expense. More traffic gridlock south of the Thames from the very day the work starts.

 I took a dossier of over 100 pages in length to Bindmans LLP paying them to write a pre-action Protocol letter to initiate judicial review against the Local Government Ombudsman. The LGO had totally ignored the grounds for my complaint, faulty consultation, and breaches of their own protocol by the Labour Council in Newcastle.

Going for judicial review is an expensive and high-risk enterprise. Without going all the way I wanted to flag up in the public domain the gross abuse of power or, as I have had to say over the years, “the lousy, stinking hypocritical charade” that we have a complaints process that works. Worth a bob or two to do that.

But what happens next? Two solicitors in Bindmans LLP say I do not have an arguable case and it would be “bound to fail.” Their professional protocol prevents them from writing the letter, mine <as a Barrister, non-practising> from pursuing judicial review. And they returned part of my payment.

When I questioned this, they said that this was their professional Advice and that was the end of the matter. When I took their Complaints policy to the Legal Ombudsman initially I was vindicated. They should answer the thirty-three criticisms of their Advice. When I took that back to Bindmans they said that two other lawyers said that their Advice was sound, so it must be so. When I took this back to the Legal Ombudsman between 20 December last and New Year – after months of prevarication – an Investigator rejected my complaint and a Legal Ombudsman – one of seventeen, you will recall – confirmed this. The Chief Legal Ombudsman was not to be found.

 Complaints should be an early warning system that something is wrong. Did they flag up warnings about missing fire doors and out of date building regs in Camden?

 When you disable a warning system, the warning lights are always on green. Never on red or amber. And those responsible for bad policy remain unaccountable, and they continue to pursue it.

Why did Bindmans LLP, well known Human Rights Lawyers try to prevent me asserting my human right to pursue judicial review, actually conspiring to pervert the course of justice? Why? You tell me. Maybe on the Left the Public Sector can do no wrong. Don’t suggest it did. Maybe you just shouldn’t stand in front of a steamroller owned by the State!

So, I threatened to take them to the Small Claims Court to get my money back. They paid another firm of solicitors, BLM, to tell me it could be very expensive. It would be referred to a higher court.

 This week I am reporting them both to the Solicitors Regulatory Authority.

 Sometime, somewhere, someone will ask why gigantic cock-ups happen. My case study on the Cycling Scandal in, may help them to understand.



Naughty dogs? Why I am rubbing their noses in it! Serious warnings are often ignored. Is Grenfell Tower another example?

Grenfell Tower Inferno – were warnings around UK about serious fire hazard ignored? – cladding that could take fire, and a lesson from the Woolworth Fire and Killer Foam in 1979*, missing fire doors and gas pipes not lagged in Camden. Is the Public Sector a Blame-free Zone? Complaints going nowhere slowly and mistakes repeated.

Has the warning system been disabled so that the warning light always shows green, never amber or red?

In recent years I have been dealing with a number of “Naughty Dogs” – Newcastle City Council, the Local Government Ombudsman, the Legal Ombudsman and Bindmans LPP, London solicitors I turned to in order to flag up a serious warning about promoting cycling in narrow, already congested urban streets breathing in toxic carcinogenic diesel fumes, a massive contingent liability for the NHS in coming years.

My warnings have been got nowhere.

That has led to this.

This week I am reporting the conduct of Bindmans LLP, aided and abetted by BLM, to the Solicitors Regulatory Authority for:

1.    Breach of SRA Code of Conduct by advancing arguments not properly arguable and “bound to fail“, namely that they had a defense to my charge of negligence and breach of contract in the Small Claims Court,SCC.

2.    In the case of Bindmans LLP, conspiracy to pervert the course of justice in doing their utmost to discourage me taking a legitimate complaint against the Local Government Ombudsman to judicial review when refusing to draft the pre-action protocol letter that was their contractual remit.

3.    In the case of Bindmans LLP compounding this by repeatedly failing to answer my thirty-three criticisms of their Advice although asked to do so by the Legal Ombudsman, the lawyers involved preferring to be a judge in sui causa. <Relying on just two criticisms of their Advice in the SCC to keep it simple.>

4.    Retaining the services of another firm of solicitors, BLM, and thereby making them a party to it, to deliver a letter to me emphasising the cost of litigation by way of intimidation.

5.    And, generally, falling well short of the professional standards of the legal profession.

 I shall report its decision to the appropriate Parliamentary Select Committees and to the Minister of Justice

 I was alleging that the Local Government Ombudsman was biased in favour of Newcastle City Council and against the public whose interests they are supposed to safeguard by their very name, letting errors go unchallenged.

 As evidence I had given Bindmans in the Executive Summary of a 100+ page dossier a list of 9 errors and omissions in the Decision of Ms Kim Burns, an Assistant Local Government Ombudsman, and I had paid them to write a pre-action protocol letter initiating judicial review proceedings. They refused to write the letter.  They said that the case was “unarguable” and “bound to fail”.  Because of that, the SRA Code of Conduct did not allow it. And, as “experienced” lawyers, they recorded that as a barrister I too was bound my same professional protocol.

I am saying here that they are hoist with their own petard.

At all material times of my complaint Newcastle City Council, spending funds from the Exchequer ring fenced for the purposes, planned to introduce cycle lanes and red lines on Gosforth High Street the North South arterial road cutting through the residential area of Gosforth.

·      This plan would have endangered the health and safety of cyclists in rush hour traffic inhaling toxic diesel fumes from many buses, cars, vans and lorries.

·      Narrowed an already narrow, very busy road.

·      Added to the congestion.

·      And threatened the livelihood and well being of local people.

 Its implementation was blemished by serious breaches of Newcastle’s own protocol not least in relation to consultation and adopting totally without checking Sustrans’ vision that one motorist in five should give up the car for all local journeys under five miles and their figures supporting that. Newcastle had commissioned Sustrans, the national cycling charity and cycling lobby based in Bristol to design those plans.

 I was not alone in protesting, and our stance has since been vindicated. The City Council would now appear to have dropped the misguided plan silently in Gosforth High Street while still pursuing it elsewhere. And, as I have said elsewhere, they leave behind the folly of the cycle lane for non-existent cyclists they have created at a cost of £18m in John Dobson Street in the heart of Newcastle. And incidentally, nationally, the same misguided policy continues with a detailed £1bn+ waste, much of it to promote urban cycling and walking through to 2040 when UK’s roads are too twisty and narrow, and popular sentiment hostile. Immediately dangerous and unhealthy too.

 This surely means that Bindmans were wrong to say that an action would be bound to fail and had no good reason to say so, the substance of my allegation; generally solicitors show no such scruple in rejecting work. It was, in fact, winnable and certainly arguable. And their arguments were bogus.

Why did Bindmans LLP, well known Human Rights Lawyers try to prevent me asserting my human right to pursue judicial review, actually conspiring to pervert the course of justice? Why? You tell me. Maybe on the Left the Public Sector can do no wrong. Don’t suggest it did. Maybe you just shouldn’t stand in front of a steamroller owned by the State!

 I see this as a deliberate attempt to keep this matter from the public domain – out of sight and out of mind.

For the record, this is the second time I have witnessed conduct of this kind.

 Currently it is a cock-up over cycling where the cycling lobby Sustrans has hijacked UK’s transport system. Then it was a small group of political vandals who high-jacked UK’s education with an ill thought through disastrous egalitarian policy of one-size-fits all Inclusion for children with special educational needs, closing over 100 special schools in the UK in the process, some of them very good ones.

 Ironically both sets of highjackers have the same DNA. They believe that what’s right for them and meets their needs, must be right for everyone else, but everyone else has different needs and conflicting rights. A bit arrogant? A trifle ego-orientated? Or, just tunnel vision with moonlight at the end of it? They never saw it that way. They never factored into their plans human fallibility, including their own, notably the VW Emission scandal, reckless cycling and endemic bullying in mainstream schools with an un-costed need for over 200,000 NTAs there to help teachers cope. Naiveté. Naiveté. Naiveté. They believed in their own infallibility.

So, thus it was that a number of years ago, as chair of governors of Barbara Priestman School, a special school in Sunderland, I helped the parents in their campaign to keep their school open when the policy of the Council at the behest of central government was to close it. Again my stance was vindicated as BPS is there to this day. At least one very good school was saved from the vandals.

In a petulant response to the parents’ campaign in order to destabilise the school, the Local Authority concocted an elaborate sting against the Governors alleging that they had run up a debt of £225,000, and they demanded with menaces illegally £60,000 from parents, £20,000 of which was paid. I took this to the Audit Commission, right through to an aural hearing. Toujour la politesse, and nothing more. And the Commissioners left others to dismiss my complaint; their hands pristine clean, their pockets lined.

My letter to the Governors at the time, copied to the Local Authority, evidences all this. It is also recorded in a Power-point display in my archives. There is no merit however in rattling these skeletons in my cupboard now.

But please note that the Audit Commission adopted precisely the same methodology as that of the Local Government and Legal Ombudsman that I have described – a long, slow road to nowhere for a legitimate complaint.

 Just keep it out of sight and out of mind …and, the media didn’t mind. They also saw lunar light at the end of the tunnel.

 This cover-up of an obscenity was the provocation to my writing the play Death of a Nightingale, my book and my blog.

Having studied Jurisprudence at Oxford, and once a barrister always a barrister, I know how critical checks and balances are to the health of our democracy. I also know that public accountability within the public sector is a key part of that.

 I have very good reason to be grateful to this country and to wish to give something back – here, for the intellectually curious, a detailed, twenty-five-part case study of the Cycling Scandal. It evidences their absence. I flag up for the rising generation the behaviour of my generation that I describe more than once as “a lousy stinking hypocritical charade.” The warning lights flash continually green, when they should flash amber and red, And irresponsibility flourishes.

 There is a toxin here that is anti-democratic, anti-human right. Ends justify means. The “Big lie often” that Ombudsmen are “Ombudsmen”. Dr. Goebbels would be proud of it. Lenin likewise. As the old saying goes, if you don’t use it, you lose it. Democracy.


 At the age of 84 it is now time for me to enjoy the fruits of my labours without further distraction.

Before I finally close, I should say where this journey started – as a member of the Rotary Club of Sunderland. I met there the late Fredwyn Haynes, the inspiring head teacher of Barbara Priestman School, a school where excellence had nothing to do with money. It was in the mind and it came from the hearts of everyone.

I met there Ros Mearns, an outstanding music teacher, Pod a great English teacher, carers, parents and some great kids, notably Ashleigh Ritchie who fronted the parents’ campaign, lobbying David Blunkett at the time.  My play Death of a Nightingale encapsulated all this; and the sweet and sour flavour of the times we live through.

 This has enormously enriched my retirement. It gave me the opportunity to heed Rotary members’ commitment to “Service before Self”. My life would have been immeasurably poorer without it.

* Cladding a fire hazard? In 1979 following the deaths of 10 people in the Woolworths fire, Sally Oppenheim introduced the Consumer Safety Act banning “Killer Foam”. But the new foam did NOT solve the problem. The foam manufacturer put a blow torch to the new foam and it did not burn, but turning a blow torch on a mound of wax would not cause it to burn either. The wax in a candle needs the wick to get the flame. The problem was solved when the upholstered material was fire retardant as well.

The cladding and the insulation have to be tested together.

Remember also that a fire needs Oxygen. The more the Oxygen the greater the heat and, in very great heat, everything burns.

Shouldn’t the experts have learnt the lesson?


28 June , 2017