Turning negative situations around. An occasional online account of every day struggles for people in toxic situations, Toxic Lives focuses on those things that affect mental and physical well-being – pulling together the information needed to tackle poisonous situations in the most likely places and campaigning for change, so that people can get on with their lives, free from interference or stress.
Personal Safety is an issue for all of us – even when every Police officer has sworn an oath to the monarchy that includes the lines “to the best of my power I will cause the peace to be kept” and “prevent all offences against people and property” “while I am in office”.
“I solemnly and sincerely declare and affirm that I will well and truly serve the Queen in the office of constable, with fairness, integrity, diligence and impartiality, upholding fundamental human rights and according equal respect to all people; and that I will, to the best of my power, cause the peace to be kept and preserved and prevent all offences against people and property; and that while I continue to hold the said office I will to the best of my skill and knowledge discharge all the duties thereof faithfully according to law.
Who is Responsible for Your Personal Safety?
In Britain today, many people fall victim to violent crime and Coercive behaviour. Whether you are a victim of grooming children for sex, victims of Jimmy Saville and other famous predators, or victims of what the police call “low level crime” aka anti social behaviour, at some time you are likely to come into contact with a perpetrator with a predatory mindset. You’ll need help with that.
Some of the behavior you might come across are shown in graphic detail on Channel 4’s 24 Hours in Police Custody: Series 10, Episode 2. It shows the police dealing with a case of rape with frank interviews with the victim and perpetrator who is a sexual predator, preying on young girls. His mindset and methods are remarkable and commonplace.
This show provides a really valuable lesson because it highlights the methods of predatory men, used to obtain sex very quickly from vulnerable people through the use of mobile phones.
It is enough to convince me, that the mobile phone is not safe in the hands of young people, and is a platform for criminals to use, as well as honest people. Our schools focus on teaching our children online safety through the national curriculum but I doubt they will be able to safeguard all children at each key stage when they become the target of predatory behaviour and while the police are responsible, they cannot deal with it all and might turn out to be the problem.
Dealing With It?
The wrong time to learn this lesson is when you become a victim. Given the oath above, and the information on almost every police website in the country implying that they are good at dealing with crime, when it comes to personal safety, they might just argue the toss and fob you off or worse blame you for the perpetrators behaviour. Relying on the police alone for your personal safety is fraught with risks. The police have shown that they simply do not know who they are recruiting, and what their mindset is, and therefore niether you, or they can predict whether an officer will come to your aid, or further victimise you. The police, despite what they say in their oath and on their websites are not responsible for your personal safety.
We’ve always expressed concern about stalking behaviour and follow the press looking for new examples of toxic behaviour and succesful resolution. Several of our readers have experienced first hand how the Police have treated them when their neighbours and colleagues have turned out to be toxic and controlling. We are regularly contacted by people who have read our accounts of toxic behaviour and agree that it is a topic that the police are reluctant to manage or deal with. None of the police we have heard of, involved in any “intervention” have demonstrated any idea how to deal with the characterisitics displayed by stalkers. “It’s not our problem guv’nor”.
Studying police responses we wrote about DARVO here which is how stalkers and bullies behave when confronted. One of our case studies talks about successfully prosecuting a stalker, only after two assaults and 60 plus reports to Kent Police. Then the case was only taken to court by the CPS after his lying was exposed and the victim assaulted. During that experience we were lucky to have documented each episode of a toxic mindset, repeatedly hiding behind a trumped up dispute and using it to divert police attention away from his criminal behaviour (harrassment under the Freedom from Harrassment Act of 2012 et al) and into a civil matter. We were surprised, (nay, gobsmacked) that none of the sixty visits by Kent Police this victim recorded, to incidents this stalking neighbour perpetrated, resulted in a proper investigation. All incidents were recorded on a seperate incident reporting system to the main police log, before being dropped. Eventually on our advice the case was concluded by the victim. We have shared that experience with people who have contacted us in the hope that they can also resolve the matter for the sake of their own health and enabling them to move on. We documented their experience also and noted similar results concluding that the police have too much choice when it comes to supporting people in communities.
In our experience, the report by Megan Agnew printed in the Times on 5th December 2022 is typical of how stalking victims are treated by the police. Her story documents how London Gynaecologist Dr Marie Gerval had to take her own stalker to court. We think this is policing on the cheap, unacceptable after the government election manifesto claimed that it was the party of law and order. What we’ve experienced is wilful lawlessness and exploitation by a cheap government for the purpose of gaining votes and impressing its backers.
On 25th November 2022 at https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-63745857 the BBC announced a stalking super – complaint aimed at focusing the Police’s attention to the behaviour. We can only add our collective experience to the need for the Police to get a grip. (They will tell you they don’t have resources).
Of course, not all stalking behaviour ends in murder, but victims none the less are damaged by prolonged exposure to toxic behaviour. Perpetrators are emboldened by lack of closure and in our experience will escalate to assault if challenged. We therefore will be following this super complaint and advise readers experiencing any stalking behaviour which is fixated on them, and who subsequently have their reports to the police trivialised and shut down, to get in touch with the organisers of the super complaint. The Suzy Lamplugh Trust
According to one dictionary, Snowflake is a word used as a political insult, and from our experience it is synonymous to, or used in conjunction with the phrase ‘Man up’ to describe a person (or a whole generation in the case of snowflakes) as weak or soft.
People labelled with the name snowflake in our experience, are usually those who have the courage to stand up and object to ill treatment of themselves or others. Woke people are people with a well developed knowledge.
What prompted me to write on the topic was some recent experiences on social media and in the news:
One where a military veteran who was suffering from PTSD, had posted sensitive information about his treatment at his civilian job, on a social media site used by military people. The other in the news, where we have been listening to the debate around aggression in the British Royal family and the so called “spats” being generated there.
Both threads highlight the stances taken by the different mindsets involved, be they participants, social media users, the Tabloid Press, or TV and Radio presenters.
The view from here
The view from here is that the recipient(s) of unwanted behaviour know the intended use of intimidating and insulting language and has the say over whether any comments directed toward them are aggressive or not.
According to Ian Blackford MP, the leader of the Scottish National Party, talking on Radio 4 News this week “where sexual harassment, or bullying is concerned, putting the interest of complainers comes first and foremost.”
It’s a matter of Mindsets
The mindsets active in both of the threads mentioned above generated a number of common responses but only one would be appropriate under the circumstances
The hard line Approach
In both cases, responding to the need for support appropriately would have required empathy and compassion and while some would rally round, there is a noticeable deficit in these traits in certain mindsets. Where the characteristics typical of the “hardest” establishment (or military) mindset are present, there forms an immediate risk of an attack designed to expose the relative weakness of the aggrieved.
This hard line approach, itself unwanted, is not appropriate when all they did was point out they had an issue and stood up for themselves. The issue was in both cases, a serious drain on mental health, generated by a toxic work or family experience leading both recipients to have suicidal thoughts, while one had attempted suicide. (If you have suicidal thoughts then please call the Samaritans on 116123.)
The appropriate response to this or any other medical or mental health problem is not to label the aggrieved as a liar or soft, but to remove the source of the problem in a humane way. This is so that we all move on, preferably in such a way as nobody has to suffer the problem again.
The fact is, some people benefit from the hard line approach, some out of vested interests that maintain status quo. In this hard line approach nobody loses face or power over others. The mindset that uses this thrives on the power they feel in using the language and its impact on others.
What followed my veteran friends post led to his cause being deleted from the group inappropriately after snowflake behaviour became the dominant theme, when it was promoted by the hard line military mindsets and trolling behaviour.
Name calling, aka insulting someone is part of the bullies toolkit. “Snowflake” is a particularly succinct and powerful insult. Like all forms of aggression, it generates a need to respond to a challenge. If you live in a world of micro-aggression it will make you ill (Piers).
Appropriate response – Dealing with it.
In times gone by, being insulted used to attract a desire for satisfaction, usually manifest in the form of revenge and\or some kind of counter attack. Often, in the extreme, insulting behaviour has been the catalyst to war, duelling, gunfighting and ‘fisticuffs’ of all types.
Nowadays, responses are limited by stricter laws and rules of proportionality. The survivors are those with the quickest most appropriate responses.
The emotional impact of insulting behaviour often remains ‘unaddressed’ and if you aren’t prepared, when the insult happens it could simply confound you, causing you to back down and\or kettle it up. (This is nothing new. It is a well-known life fact, demonstrated by the needs of parents to prepare their children for the world ahead. Depending on your mindset is how you use that information). (But that is beyond the scope of this article).
Usage and Impact
Intended or not, the snowflake insult when dropped into a conversation acts as a suppressant, overshadowing the voice of people who object, often to coercive, bullying and insulting behaviour. It is a classic “put down” aimed at shutting the recipient up by projecting an unwanted label onto his or her personal characteristics. Some people will find this behaviour not only intimidating, but will have no outlet to deal with it.
Invalidating the Argument – Impact on the Recipient
At the point of insult, the recipient may feel his or her fight or flight mechanism being triggered, causing an adrenalin release. In the heat of the moment this suppresses or “invalidates” any argument, especially if the target of the insult is not prepared for conflict. He or she may have had different expectations of the outcomes of the conversation. Continuous exposure to insulting behaviour will have an accumulative impact on the recipient’s mental health.
For the perpetrator there is instant gratification. The wider the audience the better. This allows him or her to dominate all those in earshot and to identify people who will be intimidated by the behaviour and those who won’t. Bystanders who don’t want the same treatment will be dissuaded from supporting the target, furthering their psychosocial interests.
Intimidating and Insulting behaviour are not always appropriate or dignified in the family, community or workplace. What follows name calling, labelling and micro-aggression is unjust loss of status, being demeaned and poorer life chances. Recipients may find themselves belittled, rejected, sabotaged or snubbed.
Insulting someone can provoke an instant or delayed reaction, invoke feelings of resentment. It causes; mental and physical pain, low self-esteem, self-hatred and a desire to harm self or others. When disguised as jokes, with or without intended malice, insulting behaviour promotes itself as normal. Your mindset dictates how you will use the behaviour.
To avoid compromising people in a mentally diverse community, teachers, managers, leaders, class and team mates require skills, respect and dignity. Without these, toxins can develop requiring specialist intervention.
A few examples of the type of exploitation you can expect to come across in the UK and which have been swept under the carpet. (That is, important matters to the community but which had to wait to be exposed by the press before any action was taken.)
2012 – Child Prostitution in Rochdale An extensive network of like minded men, trafficking underage girls in the care of social services into drugs and prostitution, uncovered in 2012. Police failed to investigate reports between 2008 and 2010.
In November 2020 Boris Johnson gave a judgement when a complaint was raised about bullying in the Home Office implicating home secretary Priti Patel. We think it was wrong to exonerate her on the grounds that the leadership of any team\department are responsible for the mental and physical health and safety of all the colleagues in the workplace. The press at the time were describing a toxic workplace. As a leader Patel should have had the skills and experience to detect and manage fairly the behaviours which cause this, and not to become one of the actors. Boris Johnson as her boss should also have been able to make a judgement that was fair. He has access to expertise at the top level of academia who would have been able to dissect the behaviour and culture in an organisation and point out the roles of all of the actors. The fact this happened in the highest office in the land leaves the festering sore of toxic workplace culture to grow and flourish by providing a template policy for organisations to mimic. We think because the system that supports workers who are bullied is open to abuse, the guidelines that are applicable when making such a judgement should take into account proper investigative practice by qualified people.
In Britain the law allows for judgement at several levels: The employer, the enforcement agencies and the courts are all parts of the system.
What can possibly go wrong? Start with management and leadership training. Human Factors are an important part of leadership training and personnel selection. In any population people with various characteristics come together in communities and workplaces to form teams. We know from studies that the mindset of the population is diverse, for example 25% of people at some time in UK will suffer a mental illness. (Office of National Statistics). One study promoted by Crimewatch UK said that 54 percent of people like to get on with their neighbours. Not much is said about the other 46 percent but as many as 20% have a variety of personality disorders and 3% or so have some of the worst anti-social personality types.
A respected teacher in the field of information security described the world as a place where you meet many people and make very few friends. He said “The world population numbers in billions so the percentage of friends you make is infinitely small compared to the rest of the population. Friends are people you welcome and ask into the house when they come to your front door and who you can trust with your property and business. Everyone else you leave at the front door”.
Toxic Skills as a Risk
There is a high degree of probability, that when you meet someone they will attempt to exploit you. Normally if it’s for friendship, or business then consent will be part of the deal.
What harm does it do?
Toxic people exploit others in such a way as to cause them harm. To achieve this they take advantage of the target’s human characteristics. The most toxic people will be able to masquerade as friendly, while developing the ability to deliver a toxic blow at a time of their choosing. Sometimes it’s for money, other times it’s for sex and yes, once they’ve achieved contact and the honeymoon is over, they will be in control and will remain so until they have got what they want. Not withstanding Harvey Wienstien and Jimmy Saville, some recent examples of exploitation are listed here.
At the extreme end of the scale, Toxic people will kill you once they have had their satisfaction. In the workplace, more likely they will get rid of you, often using the back door route to cover their activity.
Exposing perpetrators is a risk. Mostly they strike for their own satisfaction and leave physical, psychological or financial damage behind. They will brag about you or humiliate you as part of the process. The type of harm inflicted by people with these behaviours, delivered in one or more aggressive incidents has been identified by Michael Linden in 2003 as Post Traumatic Embitterment Disorder (PTED) it appears as a branch of PTSD according to the National Bullying Helpline
Safe to say anyone deliberately indulging in bullying behaviour is intent on harming a victim for advantage.
A prosecution for bullying is a difficult thing to arrange because the legal profession are so hard to access, and the law is in the hands of people in power who probably don’t want to lose advantage.
Nobody wants bullying in their life, but when it happens it creates fear – a natural response in the human body to fight, stand still or flee accompanied by a release of adrenalin, too much of which is physically harmful.
The Antithisis of managing by Fear
Some people think a little stress is necessary for good leadership which is a myth. Good leadership practices reward performance, teach motivational skills and team building. These are the antithesis of toxic management. Motivational skills are based on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Team building is based on Belbin’s team skills for example. Here we think bullying is a throwback to slavery.
Toxic Skills include the ability to control, deceive and manipulate others. The ability to persuade and network with like-minded people are well developed in toxic minds. What your toxic co-workers and your toxic bosses are discussing between themselves about you will be hidden from view. If you ask what was said or to be included in conversations, you will be lied to. Any copies of conversations requested will be legally redacted. (Only the justice system can expose that). Tactically toxic people will deny any allegation and make out the victim is the guilty party to cover themselves.
One senior NHS manager told us what it was like to keep up with the demands of what his toxic boss euphemistically called objectives. It exhausted him.
When he could no longer fulfil his role in a professional manner due to continuous interference, aka micromanagement, he left. The problem was he could no longer focus on really important work while being pressurised into trivial tasks. Nor could he delegate without his decisions coming into question above and below him in the management chain. He said ‘After saving the NHS a significant six figure sum and lowering its carbon footprint I had been further engaged by the finance department of Kent and Medway NHS Trust to run up a project worth millions to the NHS and which would revolutionise patient care in Kent. (This didn’t go ahead).
At the same time my team was rolling out hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of IT. I realised when I was pressurised into making a business case to justify a three thousand pound security system for this job that my boss was keeping me busy, trying to get rid of me. As I left the job the CCTV fell into disuse and £60K went missing. At this point his attitude compromised my professional standards and it was time to move on.
I had already complained about his management style after years of abusive supervision. Prior to this incident a bodged job by one of his sycophants left a help desk and my team without a computer network for several weeks. As I fixed that I spoke out.
I was under threat for two years or more before during and after that and had little or no support from my union, Unite. I had to deal with it on my own. in the end my replacement(s) were already briefed and I was about to be side-lined and demoted. Occupational Health and HR weren’t interested, the union claimed they couldn’t support me.
It ended my career early and cost me 2 years in lost wages. It wasn’t just the continuous micro aggression. The objectives he set were usually blocked and managed to maximise my workload.
This meant I had a high degree of challenge and no support. He knew this. before I left I gave the trust the opportunity to change its toxic culture in 2016 shortly after the Frances Report came out. It chose not to.’ (Given that this organisation is responsible for treating the victims of toxic people, it opens yet another Pandora box.)
To successfully investigate workplace bullying, an investigator would need to be; independent, knowledgeable about the characteristics of toxic bosses and co-workers, have training in leadership, be able to expose lies, and to ask meaningful questions of the victim and assailant, also to find witnesses or evidence to corroborate with the victim’s complaint and the power to protect witnesses from intimidation.
The language that can record and accurately describe incidents of bullying which are aimed at the emotions is not well known. Complaints present as a weakness.
Toxic Workplaces cost more. They are hard work and Time is money. Workers in toxic situations are faced with maintaining work performance, while simultaneously struggling to decode and describe the behaviour which affects them. This manifests itself in various ways; low performance after loss of sleep over a long period of time are a gift to the toxic boss who can use it to fire the victim.
Non-toxic managers will have an obligation to protect employees but will be conflicted by culture and policy rigged in favour of the toxic culture. This presents a further challenge when it comes to following up or raising a grievance.
Given the presence of threat and fear, victims are usually reluctant to name witnesses and witnesses don’t speak, presenting a wall of silence.
In the toxic workplace, investigations usually have only three official actors: The perpetrator, the victim and the investigator. Audit is absent. In these circumstances the likelihood that an investigation will produce a positive result for the complainer when an aggressive boss by asserts his “right to manage” and the investigator doesn’t know the difference between aggression and assertiveness. When this changes, workplace bullying will be on the road to becoming a thing of the past.
For this reason we are supporting Alan Shawcroft to raise awareness of toxic work culture as a means of management. We also support the national bullying helpline who are advocating change in the light of PTED to the Legal and HR community.
As of 23rd February 2021 Alan’s Go Fund Me campaign has been unexpectedly suspended.
Throughout October and November the campaign has kept up correspondence. A physical check of the situation locally shows little improvement however some change has been noted and rubbish still comes and some of it goes. The fact is there remains on the ground in our community a significant amount of rubbish – enough to affect people’s well-being and mindset. Nobody wants to live in a Fly Tipping Hotspot.
Last week Adam Holloway MP reported that a meeting with the enforcement manager for Gravesham gave details of the issues facing the enforcement team. This came after Kent Police reported two successful investigations via Facebook. Public concern was echoed in the size of fines and the limited powers of the enforcement team. We think the criminal justice system aren’t supporting the community as fines and punishments are not enough to deter further dumping on public and private land or pay for the damage and clearance. The meeting suggested that the performance of enforcement can be improved to the point of catching people at it.
In November, as the autumn leaves clear, rubbish that has been in situ under the bushes for four years or more comes back into sight. This particular hotspot has been visited several times to be “cleared” (even this year). The content comprises a number of long term deposits in place for more than two years.
100m further on, a Fly-Tipped deposit of approx. half a tonne was made, and cleared within three weeks. It was deposited right next to another dump comprising several years’ worth of uncollected mixed waste – about a tonne. Only the most recent deposit was cleared. The collecting vehicle drove by several other deposits in the lane without collecting them, much the same as we reported in September.
To us, enforcement is about getting the workforce to do its job, and get it right first time, not just trying to catch people at it.
Delivering a Borough to be Proud of
We wrote to Gravesham Council who claim in their 2020 Edition Annual Report 2019/2020 that our streets are now cleaner after investing in street cleaning teams. Like it promised during the local election. To us the clearance of all the rubbish from the streets of Gravesham seems like a good aim requiring more than £10000 investment and a program consisting of a planned set of work packages.
Because of the state of our particular hotspots we see “same old”. Not convinced by the situation on the ground whether we are being bamboozled, We have asked for sight of the plan.
Due to the amount of rubbish still being deposited, and the hap hazard nature and timing of its removal we do not see how the borough will actually come clean or when.
So far there is no response to this simple request and our plan is to present our petition to the council in early 2021. What we want to see is service data, together with the plan, with resource plans, work packages and timescales, communications plan, and issue and risk mitigation etc. Also physical evidence that financial waste is being eliminated while the tip is open and any barriers to its use – such as the KCC rubble tax are minimised.
One more thing. We do see change. The recent appointment of a caretaker in a local estate has made an impact on the overall condition of the area. This is the type of change we would welcome – somebody with an interest and the means to deal with it there and then.
Thank you for supporting us. Our petition stands at 130 people and has been running for four years. Please share locally and encourage friends to sign it. We are grateful for the support of Facebook groups Gravesham Then and Now and Gravesend Riverside Town. We also post in Gravesham Borough Councils Facebook Page but rarely get a response.
This report is made on behalf of the Come Clean! Gravesham Campaign, whose petition stands at 113 to date. The campaign began 4 years ago in Westcourt, in the Borough of Gravesham, started by neighbours who found themselves living in an uncontrolled Fly-Tipping Hotspot. The petition can be viewed at the following link.
The current aim is to support the delivery of a clean environment by central and local government, in line with their objectives for safer and healthy communities, We work by highlighting the reality of the situation and identifying the issues until they lead to change.
This report, compiled between 28th September and 6th October 2020, is one of a series highlighting the persistent fly-tipping and littering in the Westcourt area.
The focus this time is on Doria Drive which is typically as fouled, as the rest of Westcourt.
(Previous reports circulated during 2019 and 2020, have focused on uncleared Fly-Tipping Hotspots between Medhurst Crescent, Barr Rd, Freeman and Cruden Road.)
In Doria Drive, the area which our school children travel on foot between home and school, (which is often their play space), is heavily fouled. This hasn’t always been so.
There is the air of a wilful decision to withhold cleaning services in this area brought about by frequent visits by council owned vehicles and the ever present number of rubbish dumps.
A good deal of the material being deposited is household waste, however notably there is a good deal of rubble, and some tyres in the mix. These are items which the community specifically asked KCC not to tax people to dispose of. We said imposing a rubble and tyre tax would create a residue in our environment, but this fact was washed over in the decision making, has since been denied to us by KCC.
We were recently asked “what sort of mindset dumps rubbish on the street and walks away?” This is not for us to answer. What we do know is that in Westcourt, from reception class through to senior school, our children traverse heaps of rubbish dumped on our green space and filthy walkways on a daily basis. This risks the situation becoming normalised and “OK”.
Because living in other people’s rubbish creates an impact on self-esteem, well-being and a visible inequality, it is not OK.
It is not OK to leave long standing rubbish in our environment. For one thing, it sends the wrong message, contradicting the environmental teaching of schools, and honest families.
Here we report the condition of Doria Drive in a snapshot taken over the period of a week – starting on 28th Sept 2020.
Stuart Dixon FRSA, who wrote the report said “The quantity of rubbish in the area sometime fluctuates, but it is everywhere. You see council workers turn up and remove some, occasionally, but they often leave behind more than they take. The area never looks completely clear. People need a more permanent and lasting solution that delivers a clean environment, even under the bushes.
The promise made about our green spaces and fly-tipping during the Labour Party Election campaign of 2019 should be upheld – but there is no sign yet”.
The area studied is highlighted in the google map below. It extends from the Public Walkway between St Margaret’s Crescent and Tymberwood Academy onto Doria Drive and towards Medhurst Crescent. The fouled paths are used by adults and school children at all times of day. Primarily they form a “cut through” between Thamesview school and Valley Drive for older children. The walkways around the school connect several dead end car parks to both entrances of the Tymberwood Academy on the northern boundary of the school. These are primarily used by the younger school children. The inbound and outbound footfall is a mixture of all age groups in places.
The walkway from Doria Drive to The gate at Tymberwood Academy deserves a special mention because it always contains various deposits of fly tipped waste and litter, which was partially cleared on 28th and 29th September.
We commence reporting at 9:40AM on 28th September, at the point where the walkway converges onto Doria Drive at the north western corner of the school grounds, where a half empty Council Waste Carrier, registration KM17 FOU was parked.
Tracking back along the only possible access route for this vehicle, photographs of fly – tipped waste were taken. See Appendix 1.
These pictures show many different sites in Doria Drive, mostly long-term dumps of household rubbish, but some containing a large percentage of rubble, a couple of tyres. We noticed this also in our last report. Rubbish was spread from the car park all the way from Medhurst Crescent. It is reasonable to assume the crew saw all of this as it drove past.
The sites were revisited by us between 3 and 3:45 PM that day, at which time none of the rubbish photographed had been cleared. Photographs were retaken at the end of the day. The vehicle returned to the same place at 0845 the following day. Nothing changed.
On both occasions the vehicle above parked with the passenger door open over a pile of litter. The crew engaged in litter clearance in the Walkway running south from this point. It is reasonable to assume the passenger crewman stepped onto this rubbish as he entered and exited the vehicle. Yet this litter was not included in the clearance.
Walkway between St Margaret’s Crescent and Tymberwood Academy
The surface rubbish from the parking point for approx. 100m back south west along the walkway had been picked by the end of the 28th. The vehicle returned on 29th.
Following this work Photo’s 8 to 10 were taken. They show views of the walkway on 5th October and highlight some of the remaining rubbish.
At the time of writing the current condition of this walkway is littered with ingrained dirt and litter, piled along the edges. It should be noted the path is wide enough to accommodate a motorised road sweeper.
Fly-Tipping Incidents between 28th Sept and 5th October
The route between Medhurst Crescent and the Car park was re-visited on 5th October. There was more rubbish, the bulk of which had been delivered during two fresh fly-tipping incidents over the weekend. See photo 10 and 11:
Photo 10 below shows the Walkway blocked behind St Margarets’s Crescent – reported by a passer-by on Friday 2nd. October.
Photo 11 shows a bulk dump of household rubbish in Cervia Way in the car park adjacent the rear gate to Tymberwood Academy occurring over the weekend.
The photographs presented here represent opportunities for the council to do, and be seen to do its job.
When the reality is viewed in the light of recent publicity broadcast via the councils FACEBOOK feed, the inequality of the situation comes to light.
This is a presentation showing the council doing its job and doing it well, especially in the area of waste disposal and street cleaning. While this may be the case in some areas, a short walk between the two areas South and North of Thamesview School and Tymberwood Academy show a different story.
Hands Off Policy
Photo 1 below shows approximately Half a tonne of Fly – Tipped Rubble dumped several months ago. We have seen and reported this at other sites. This implies that Gravesham Borough Council has a a selective or hands off policy relating to some fly-tipping sites and types of waste.
Please see photo’s 1 to 4 and note the distance between these sites is approximately 50m.
In the week commencing 7th September a fly-tipped mattress that had lain for several days with the contents of a scattered bin bag was located, mid-way between these locations. It was removed sometime in the week commencing 14th Sept. The fact is, it was there at the same time as the rubble in photo 1.
The service level agreement between the council and its customer, the voter is at fault. In breifly studying the system for reporting fly-tipping on Gravesham Borough website, the service level is quoted as “We will send someone out to look at it within 5 days”. No service level for disposing and cleaning up is mentioned, nor is the contract open to public scrutiny. This begs the question how does the council – the service provider, deliver value for money and compensate victims for poor service.
Mothers and children have been stepping through the mess left by the fly-tipper responsible for the dump at photo 10 for six days at the time this report was published.
Report compiled by S Dixon FRSA
Photo 1 (above) approx a half tonne Rubble
Photo 3 – Rubble
Photo 4 – Rubble
Photo 5- Mis-approriated Salt Container filled to overflowing by 6th Oct
August 2019 – Meeting with Rosie Duffield MP. (Canterbury)
Armando Martins and me were granted time with Rosie Duffield MP in August to talk about the way that East Kent Housing and Canterbury City Council had cracked down in a draconian way on Armando’s lifestyle. This followed his horrendous experience at the hands of an abusive mob while living in social housing.
Martins was well received by the MP and encouraged by the level of support, understanding and empathy shown. Being treated as a voter boosted his confidence in being able to eventually obtain closure with East Kent Housing – something he is determined to achieve. He was sad to report this had so far been avoided by the senior management. Rosie Duffield MP was genuinely interested in our account of the abuse and the coercion exhibited by both his assailants and council services when he was living at Thornhurst in Herne Bay. We said we have certainly met many closed minds on the topic as Martins went about rebuilding his life.
We made the MP aware of the lack of will shown by the national complaint system to do anything about his situation and a complete record of his experience was left on file at the constituency office. (We know since the meeting that she has reviewed his situation with Deborah Upton, the CEO of East Kent Housing. (As at today we are still waiting for Ms Upton to respond in the way the MP suggested).
From this meeting it was also realised that Martins is not alone in his East Kent Housing Experience. He was just confirming his observations of being lied to, cheated and betrayed, and having his goals repeatedly blocked, adding them to over five hundred other complaints on record at the constituency office. These mostly showed a lack of compassion to members of the public meted out by hard pressed, under qualified, and under supervised workers.
We were made aware of some change of personalities in the planning committee. More recently we discovered that a new chairman has recently been appointed to EKH. We wish Jamie Weir good luck in his new appointment. We have also seen an improvement plan for EKH. We hope the above change will be able to detoxify the organisation and help Martins to move on.
Fate of Legal Challenge
We reported that after trying to settle matters through mediation, more than once, Martins was repeatedly refused this by East Kent Housing. Then in August his planned legal challenge as a litigant in person was finally torpedoed by the defendants myriad of solicitors who simply asked the judge to strike out his case.
This came after a year of trying to express what had happened to him in legal terms without any legal experience, being continuously undermined by the defendants solicitors. EKH had simply trumped Martins by making it difficult for him, using their massively available legal budget to avoid exposure.
While EKH can avoid accountability to the public by evading responsibility and cover it up like this, we think they are accountable to parliament. However we discussed new evidence (see below) and how completing the Local Government Ombudsman’s complaints process proved fruitless just as we expected.
Just as his legal case was collapsing Martins found new documentary evidence showing that in 2011 he, East Kent Housing and his MP – Julian Brazier MP worked to confirm his right to use his 30 foot radio mast in a Canterbury City Council property from 2010 to 2012.
These letters show his MP was the driver of that – a power no less than the House of Commons therefore.
Martins has already shown written evidence showing he had asked EKH and the LPA to respect this and this had been dismissed.
Recap of what happened when he was asked to move house
At the point when the nightmare neighbours at Thornhurst went on the attack, EKH staff refused to back him, and betrayed him. Both acted in a way that would destroy his lifestyle. In their bid to stop him from practicing a hobby, he was forced to apply for planning permission twice, when it would have been his legitimate choice not to. There was little or no chance his applications would be approved after the attacks, because his assailants went to extraordinary lengths to bias people against him – says Martins. He was forced to move again.
In his struggle we witnessed him being coerced through malleable planning processes in the direction of refusal and dismissal of his second planning application. He went through this process twice. While he was engaged in this EKH and the Local Planning Authority both exhibited a perfect example of corporate memory loss – denying all knowledge of his previous situation. The second application was a mirror image of the first application.
Sum Total of Bureaucracy
Two planning applications, two planning appeals, a complaint to the ombudsman, two attempts at mediation and a (so far) dismissed court case. We think a new approach is needed as we also ponder the cost to the taxpayer.
Applying for planning permission and meeting the demands of a planning appeal are expensive stressful processes when all you want to do is put up an aerial in your garden to support your hobby.
It seems the power of toxic nightmare neighbours to influence council workers is much greater than that of the House of Commons.
In his current abode, Martins appreciates that he is subject to the dismissal of his most recent planning application. This does not rule out experimenting with antenna in his garden. Martins has said his piece and will be getting on with his life in accordance with all necessary guidelines.
In this time the following events were also relevant to his case:
In separate court cases, two people were jailed for 28 days for nightmare neighbour attacks. (By way of contrast, Martins abusive neighbours were supported by East Kent Housing workers who betrayed their promises to support him just to appease them).
Martins contributed to the House of Commons Enquiry into reality TV highlighting Channel Five’s reluctance to talk to him when he requested them to stop screening the episode which humiliated him (and his community of interest).
Martins’ experience led us to start an organisation called Radio Heritage UK and to offer support to others in the same situation.
We intervened when another person, John, had his planning application similarly refused. Later John’s planning appeal was upheld by the Planning Inspectorate. He lives in social housing within a mile of Martins and applied for a similar structure on a bungalow like Martins, and of a similar size. We noted the same discrepancies in the process and poor report writing applied to John as did to Martins.
More recently an example of good practice has come to light to compare Martins experience with. It concerns an elderly person living in a care home near Herne Bay being able to practice his hobby because the care staff helped him to erect an antenna to meet his housing needs while staying at the home. We applaud their compassion. Any decent service provider would do the same, knowing how such support affects his well being.
We took part in the public consultation about the National Planning Policy Framework and noted the changes being made in 2018. We also took part in the consultation on planning enforcement run by the LPA (Canterbury City Council).
Martins, who is incredibly dynamic for a 79 year old disabled man has been able to re-instate his social standing and keep up his hobby.
Shortly after his second move, During 2017 we worked to settle him in and establish his property needs with East Kent Housing obtaining landlords permission to erect various antenna. We used the criteria in planning guidance, and also that set by his community of interest. Especially we educated housing staff on how to approach the subject after they demonstrated unnecessary and unwanted belligerence, and excessive controlling behaviour to his experiments.
We continue to support Martins, and want to learn from his experience, feeding that back to his community of interest and the Planning System via his LPA – who we noted also needs support to understand our community.
What is Martins Strategy Now?
His current experiments with radio antennae are designed with a number of purposes in mind. Firstly for him and people like him to have fun and be supported. Also documenting the impact of his experience on his well being.
He will achieve this by documenting interactions with citizens and officials so that people engaged in his activities learn from his experience, hopefully creating an improvement. He aims:
To test the documents and assumptions that were used by the LPA and Planning Inspectorate in refusing him planning permission.
To gauge the actual social impact of the refused antenna on the housing community against the assumed impact.
To continue to understand, test, and feedback to housing and the LPA about Martins’ housing needs in the light of Local Plans, Planning Guidelines, Gaps in process, Enforcement Policy and Recent changes.
Particularly we wish to gain an understanding about the intended use of templates for planning applications described in the 2018 version of the National Planning Policy Framework and how this applies to Martins, and in the light of John’s experience (above) plus all of the other examples of people with similar installations throughout UK.
Martins will work on a more acceptable design if necessary.
Provide evidence of the impact of his hobby and support for it on his personal well being and feed back to national heritage and well being programmes.
8th October. I visited Martins who was in the process of clearing up after renewing the permitted development in his garden, comprising a ten meter mast erected with his landlords permission in July of 2017. (This was free standing and had been moved to a firmer base a couple of feet nearer the center line of the garden. He positioned a lightweight beam antenna at the top and noted that while a similar configuration was refused planning permission, when we read current guidelines there is nothing to suggest this now requires formal planning permission. He has a scaffolding tower to work from and shows determination despite his disability.
Community cohesion. During this visit Martins demonstrated excellent community cohesion by addressing a West African friend in person in impeccable French. Also a cheerful exchange with a local friend who he shares time and interests with, in the local community. There is no doubt he is developing a good deal of respect in the local community he joined in March 2017. Martin’s was supported by a young man who lives nearby to get the antenna in place – the son of a friend who lives local.
Incidents. Negative experiences. It was depressing to see that within ten minutes of completing the construction and standing back to take in the actual visual impact – a council worker turned up to take photographs – “to be reported back to the council for their action” he says. Martins was visibly depressed by this. I certainly found the speed at which this happened a touch intimidating and wondered if Armando was on a “watch list”. A friend said he wondered if he was under CCTV Surveillance. We are just waiting to see what happens next, if anything.
9th October. Call from Martins – tests show antenna not working. Arranged fault finding trip – scaffolding back up. No adverse impact noted.
12th October. With
Martins. Tested Antenna – identified
problems and resolved them. Both very
satisfied. Me with fault finding skills
and Martins with the result. Later
received phone call. Antenna tested in
contact with Portugal (Martins home country) – Good signals. A very satisfying result for him and me.