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Interview with Alan Shawcroft about his experience at SECURITAS – Addendum – second interview on 15th Jan 2021

Background

Working with Alan Shawcroft, we carried out a second interview this week because we were concerned that SECURITAS were being unfairly highlighted as responsible for a number of incidents of bullying directed towards him. In truth Alan worked in Security for a number of companies at AB Inbev commencing with VINCI in 2011 and then Mitie, in 2014. (Mitie were one of Britains Top Employers in 2020). He says the TUPE Process was used to switch the contracts of everyone involved to one inferior to the one they enjoyed with VINCI. He was transferred again under the TUPE process to SECURITAS in March 2019. Throughout he worked primarily as a supervisor on client sites belonging to AB Inbev. The incidents he relates to his eventual dismissal he attributes to the aggressive behaviour of the AB Inbev Contract manager toward him and others. Alan says that she delivered the final act towards his dismissal while he was employed by SECURITAS. Alan believes that opportunities to prevent his dismissal were missed by managers at SECURITAS.

Summary

In summary, at the end of this second interview we had further identified some of the toxic behaviours towards him that led to his injury. The aggressive management style of the manager in question was well known in the company and people avoided working for her if they could. As the contract manager she actively pursued Alan’s dismissal by bullying him throughout his employment. She followed through to the final act as the contract changed in 2019 while he was in hospital.

(For the purpose of these notes the following the sub heading names the toxic workplace behaviour and puts it into the context of incidents Alan describes. Where necessary the behaviour is further validated by the experience of others).

Exploitation and Victimisation

In April 2014 colleagues began to notice discrepancies in their pay. “Holiday pay incorrect, overtime incorrect etc. In fact during the time they had the contract from April 2014 to March 2019, Mitie would still on a regular basis, pay overtime incorrectly, eventually the guys stopped doing overtime, which caused more problems”. Alan says he continuously challenged this, not just for himself but colleagues. On this point he agrees it could have led in some part to his victimisation as he thinks the workforce was being exploited.

NB. One of the key characteristics of military leadership is that of standing up for people in your team and challenging bad behaviour. Dixon said in his experieince, this would almost certainly put Alan at odds with toxic management and make him a target for victimisation.

Information Withholding\Goal Blocking

While Alan was responsible for managing a guard shift rota, (one of his goals) AB Inbev management made it difficult for him by interfering with the conduct of his duties to the point he could no longer perform the task. For example Alan would rota staff only to find they had been granted leave. He would only find out about the leave at the time the guards didn’t show up for their shift. The information he needed to do his job had been withheld.

(Moreover, more recently he says that his subject access requests are currently being delayed as he seeks information about his dismissal.)

Withholding Resources

He says he worked with less than the established numbers of guards for long periods of time because management refused to allow him to make up the numbers.

Also he was criticised for “allowing” lorries to park on a public highway outside of his workplace, something that was way above his control and pay grade to resolve.

Demeaning, Mocking and Public Humiliation

Alan said that his suppervisor regularly demeaned and mocked him in front of colleagues. This caused him to be openly mocked by subordinates and colleagues. Abusive incidents he experienced with his supervisor happened in his primary worplace where he was surrounded by colleagues he was responsible for, and also using the company email system.

Dixon explained that cyber bullying using company email systems is quite common and now acknowledged as a technique used by workplace bullies. In his experieince, Demeaning, mocking or humiliating emails are sent to the victim and carbon copied to his or her colleagues. The victim is often obliged by policy to respond, adding to the pressure in his work role. Personnel today carried this article by David Webb during anti-bullying week in 2017.

Demeaning a colleague in the workplace is little understood, but is designed to subjugate victims. It encourages colleagues to further criticise the victim. “Man up” and “Put up\Shut Up” are common taunts used to justify the behaviour.

Alan’s military mindset would instantly be impacted by demeaning because the most basic military leadership courses contain the simple rule never to “bollock” (Chastise or Punish) an NCO in front of his or her men.

Taking away Work

Eventually the work of doing the rota was removed from his portfolio. Rather than give him full responsibility and support him in the role, it was more important to his supervisor that Alan was seen to be incompetent and humiliated.

Withholding Support

During his time with MITIE Alan reported several cases of gross misconduct only to find his management refusing to apply company policy and disciplinary procedures. He mentions a number of incidents of gross misconduct including:

A security guard caught stealing from the company warehouse. Allowed back to work after three months suspension on full pay.

Another guard, regularly asleep on duty and another drunk on duty. All retained their jobs.

Backstabbing\Sabotage\Undermining

We discussed the precarious position this left Alan in, with workers who he had reported and who should have been dismissed. Dixon explained that such workers would hold a grudge against him and would do anything to get rid of him. Effectively he became a marked man. The workforce certainly would not support him and some would have gone behind his back to senior management. Anything Alan did that they didn’t like they could twist into a misdemeanour on his part and also he would be set up to fail – a euphemism for sabotage or undermining.

Alan agreed. He had heard some of this but could not escape it, other than to give up his job which is not in his mindset. He would have been more inclined to attempt to correct the situation. On this point Alan’s unscrupulous managers would have been acutely aware that he could expose them, which would lead to further targetting.

in April 2019 Alan was TUPE’d to SECURITAS. Contract terms were honoured and after a period of seven years without a pay rise at MITIE a 7% pay rise was forthcoming. Alas but from that point on he says he percieved that his cards were being marked with SECURITAS by the toxic contract manager(s) at IN Bev et al.

The TUPE process began before he went to hospital. he says the manager responsible for security at AB Inbev was keen to point out to his new bosses that she would’t have him on site. There began a relocation process where Alan was eventually dismissed after he discussed reasonable adjustments which were simply refused.

When another manager came to work with Alan they both agreed that this workplace was not normal and showed the company in a bad light. As Alan wasn’t being listened to, he would attempt to rectify the situation and he was instantly dismissed.

Moral Injury

We conclude you would have to be dishonest to work in Alan’s Job with Mitie if you wanted to fit in. This reminds us that “Fit in or Fuck Off” is a well used mantra in toxic work cultures.

Exploitation

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.)

Jan 2021 – Sex for Rent

As many as thirty thousand women in the UK are being exploited for sex by rogue landlords who take sex for rent. This is not a new problem but came to prominence on 2nd Jan 2021 during the height of the second wave of the Covid -19 Pandemic. We heard an interview on radio four news this morning stating that the home office and police are turning a blind eye and that complaining can get you labelled as a prostitute.

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.

Toxic Work Culture

Editorial Comment

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. 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, by the back door route. 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. Known 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 and yet a prosecution for bullying is a difficult thing to arrange. 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 Management


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. 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 trying to get rid of me.  As I left the CCTV fell into disuse and £60K went missing.  I was’nt going to hang around for that. 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.  I was so unwell after that that I lost all confidence in any sort of job.  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.) 

Investigating Bullying

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.

Conclusion

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.

Stuart Dixon FRSA, MInstLM

Interview with Alan Shawcroft about his experience at SECURITAS

By Stuart Dixon

Summary

I interviewed Alan Shawcroft on 3rd December 2020 after seeing a post in a military Facebook forum bringing attention to the way he was treated by SECURITAS.  See his GOFUNDME page for more details.  Alan is campaigning about workplace bullying.

I asked to interview Alan because of an awareness of the late Dr Tim Field’s pioneering work on the topic – aptly named insulting behaviour by the arbitration and conciliation service, ACAS.  On Facebook I noted some destructive remarks which Alan thought was trolling, but which indicated to me a typical lack of empathy and understanding of the topic.

Our most recent experience is with change campaigns, studies into toxic culture and organisational behaviour.  We give charitable support, especially to ex-service personnel who find themselves in Alan’s position.

Alan is a veteran of the British Army with experience gained on military operations in Northern Ireland and other conflict zones like Iraq. After exemplary army service, serving as a Detective Constable, he foiled a terrorist plan to bomb Bluewater Shopping Center in Kent. His action gained him a commendation.

Alan Shawcroft receives a Chief Constables commendation for his role in operation CREVICE.

Alan now finds himself serialising the episodes of workplace bullying he experienced after working for SECURITAS Ltd, who had summarily dismissed him, following a long spell in hospital and recovering from a knee injury acquired in service.  He wasn’t allowed back to work.  Alan says a number of charges against him were trumped up, before he went into hospital.  He wasn’t allowed to defend himself and thought he would be going back to work only to be dismissed.

In describing his job he relates a number of incidents amounting to abusive supervision by his line manager.  He had grievances about her behaviour towards him, but none of it was heard by the company.  Moreover while Alan kept in touch with the GMB Union about the situation, there was a serious failure by them to recognise the toxic culture he was in and provide appropriate support to both him and his employer.  In fact they scuppered his attempt to get to a tribunal.

Alan says “SECURITAS is an employer that lists itself as working with the armed forces to employ veterans”. They say they are “shaping managers into leaders and culture-bearers”.

Military Post-Traumatic Stress (PTSD)

At some point in his Northern Ireland experience, Alan acquired PTSD which left him with enduring images and thoughts from deadly incidents. His illness leaves him with acute guilt and anxiety. The flash backs associated with PTSD incapacitate him from time to time, triggered by his current situation. He cites one recent incident where he was driving a long distance at night in traffic, when his mind switched from driving an automatic vehicle to a manual vehicle (like an army land rover). He was boxed in by traffic, and at that point his fight or flight mechanism triggered. He could not get the vehicle into gear. The response was broken when other drivers intervened and he was able to regain function.

(Alan like so many ex-service personnel, would struggle to manage his own psychological injury. He is grateful for the upsurge of attention to PTSD, because he was a soldier in a time when knowledge and treatment were not commonly available. These came decades after he was injured. Before the behaviours caused by PTSD were linked to trauma, it wasn’t treated as an illness.  Sufferers lived with it, whatever that meant for them; Self-medication (with alcohol), reckless lifestyle choices, self harming and eventual suicide were common coping strategies.  While there is a much clearer understanding today,  these are still commonplace.  Alarming suicide rates point to a prevalence amongst veterans.)

Alan very nearly took his own life which caused him to seek treatment.  Fortunately, and with help, Alan has managed to get through this.

Depression, is another part of the problem.

(If you are having suicidal thoughts please contact SAMARITANS – by Phone: 116 123 or www.samaritans.org).

PTSD and Bullying

The late Dr Tim Field linked PTSD to bullying and then Bullying to Suicide or as he named it, Bullycide.

Toxic Work Culture

At SECURITAS Alan encountered a number of incidents against him, which amounted to a course of ill treatment, led by a bullying manager. His dismissal eventually came after a number of attempts to smear his work performance, delivered by a toxic boss.  Also there were occasions when colleagues let it be known that his line managers had shared their plans for Alan with them.

Alan says this caused him stress.  The type of stress this causes is sleepless nights spent racking ones brains as to how to deliver an often unfair workload, while dealing simultaneously with bullying for yourself and colleaguesThe impact on people is mental and physical exhaustion, it gradually wears you down.  (SD)

Alan agreed his toxic boss took a demeaning attitude towards him, designed to de-humanise him and disassociate him with his exemplary service career. She had chosen to destroy his reputation by trumping up incidents and blaming him for them without evidence.

SECURITAS say they shape their managers according to their own management model.

Military Mindset\Employability

Despite his PTSD, and his treatment by SECURITAS Alan’s military mindset was obviously intact during his employment there.  Among the many attributes of him, gained and honed through military service are integrity and diligence. The Army says he has a highly desirable skillset which includes the ability to take in requirements for action and quickly produce working solutions, while keeping risk and contingency under review.  Team Skills are well developed etc.

Alan’s sense of integrity and work ethic would recognise a toxic workplace and attempt to resolve it, not just for himself but for the wellbeing of his colleagues.

(Unlike civilian organisations that often regard training as a luxury and can reserve it, army leadership courses are delivered systematically and verified at each step in the career, leaders are often tested before taking up a role.  In this respect the British Army leads compared to Industry and Public Services.)  Army Structures and systems allow for fairness and discipline.

Organisational Behaviour

In our experience, it’s one thing to have a policy and another to ensure people don’t “game it” for their own pleasure and abuse.

The charges made against Alan and upheld without any opportunity to defend himself, not only infringe his human rights but are unbelievable when compared to his service background.

Alan said he was offered a move in the process but his requests for reasonable adjustments around travel times and distances (linked to PTSD) were sidelined – further narrowing his work options.

It isn’t unusual to be singled out for special treatment in the work place, especially if you have a reputation. Organisational Culture is often shaped by managers with a distorted view of leadership, some of whom need to bully to make their way in life.

The general population comprises about 56 percent of normal people – people who like to get on with others.  Also in the population there are a number of different mindsets and attitudes. As many as 20 percent of the population have malicious or toxic characteristics, some linked with a dark triad of personality disorders. In work these people rule by fear and use job security and networking skills to destroy people for their own pleasure. Lying, stealing and ingnoring or granting requests to get what they want comes as second nature. Unless you can put up with this, you will naturally struggle.

Trophy Workers

People in Alan’s situation make good targets because companies see them as trophies initially.  Toxic bosses want you to do a good job, and themselves to get the praise.  They also thrive on taking scalps. That is, they will bring down a target after controlling and demeaning them has given them their “fix” and once they are no more use to them, or they become a threat.  To be fair toxic bosses are achievers, but not according to a management model Alan would be familiar with until it was too late.  Their achievement often comes at a (hidden) cost to the people they are in charge of.  Bragging about their achievements, and the people they use, helps them to gain more power, and absolute control.

Alan said that on top of PTSD he was living in fear for his job. Allegations being made were never discussed in a disciplinary setting where he was allowed a defence. All of this exacerbated his PTSD and eventually led him to attempt suicide more than once.

Dixon said he was personally grateful to Alan for his role in Operation CREVICE.  His family are frequent visitors to the terrorist’s choice of target.

REspect

November 2020 Update – Life in a Gravesham Fly-Tipping Hotspot Goes on

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.

 

Enforcement

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.

 
 

Physical Check

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.

 
 

Merry Christmas and Stay Safe.

 
 

 
 



 

Fly-Tipping and Litter in Westcourt – A Snapshot Report about Doria Drive.

To whom it may concern.

Background

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.

Aim

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.

Focus

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.)

Executive Summary

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”.

SNAPSHOT REPORT

Area

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.

Doria Drive

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.

Conclusion

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.

https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=826641024813333&extid=BsHT78WG7JmlinR4

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.

Service Levels

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 2
Photo 3 – Rubble Photo 4 – Rubble
Photo 5- Mis-approriated Salt Container filled to overflowing by 6th Oct Photo 6 – Several Months old
 
Photo 7 – Tyre and Litter  
Photo 8 – Rubble Deposit Photo 9 Tyres hidden in bush
 
Photo 10 Photo 11

 

The Armando Martins Campaign – Current Situation and Update as at October 2019 – (Revised 20th Oct 19).

By Stuart Dixon – Acting CEO Radio Heritage UK

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.

Change

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.

New Evidence

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.

Now

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.

Ongoing Support

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.

Field notes:

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. Showing the scaffolding and antenna in its resting position from 50m which is well blended with the background and under the skyline.

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.

Stuart Dixon FRSA