Council’s Legal Team Manager (Mrs Eve Richardson-Smith) – Criminal misconduct

The request was partially successful.

Dear North East Lincolnshire Council,

In relation to the following correspondence (24.2.17 and 10.3.17) between Presumably a North East Lincolnshire Council Taxpayer and the Leader of North East Lincolnshire Council I would like to know if the Council's response was produced on behalf of Mr Oxby?

If the Council's response was produced on behalf of Mr Oxby I would also like disclosing whom that person was if it is permitted under the relevant freedom of information legislation.

North East Lincolnshire Council
Municipal Offices
Grimsby
DN31 1HU

24 February 2017

Dear Mr Oxby

RE: COUNCIL'S LEGAL TEAM MANAGER – CRIMINAL MISCONDUCT

I write further to my letter of 10 August 2016 that concerned allegations of misconduct in public office. I do so because despite having a legal and moral duty the Council has failed to act on new information that has come to light.

It is no longer exclusively a matter of perjured evidence being improperly addressed by the Monitoring and Chief Executive officers. The matter has now taken a new twist, with the discovery of 10 items of post relating to the high court application allegedly sent to me by the Justices’ Clerk for the Humber and South Yorkshire. None of the letters were delivered, though copies dating back to August 2013 have since been obtained. The anomaly of the undelivered post is a separate matter to be investigated, but what is relevant to the council presently is that the new information, regardless of whether the letters were sent or produced afterwards, backs up conclusively that the appeal was never withdrawn.

As the overriding reason for the alleged default was down to the Council’s claim that the appeal had been withdrawn, the Council has a duty to apply to the Magistrates’ court to have the order quashed. To recap, the Council suspended recovery of the sum being appealed in the high court until the case had been determined. However, it wrongly allocated monies to the disputed sum, leaving the balance of the year’s account that should have been reduced in default. The Council allocated monies to the wrong account attributing that decision to believing that the sum was no longer disputed because the appeal had been withdrawn.

Even disregarding (a) the false statement; (b) monies being allocated to the wrong account and (c); summons costs being misrepresented, the Council’s opinion that the liability order was correctly obtained overlooks legislation providing that the council exercise discretion in deciding whether to seek the court’s permission to enforce.

With discretion comes a responsibility to make the decision deemed most appropriate in the circumstances. This course of action, therefore, should not be determined arbitrarily. An obvious factor to consider would be whether pursuing court proceedings would disproportionately increase the financial burden on the taxpayer because of expenditure incurred by the council significantly outweighing alleged sums owed. Complaints for example, especially those which escalate to the Ombudsman (and elsewhere) would in terms of resource expenditure, burden the taxpayer to a far greater extent in cases where sums owed are insignificant and in any event known already to be disputed.

Obviously the council has a duty to the taxpayer to collect arrears, but that cannot mean at any cost. Resorting to legal action in these circumstances would be seen more as a lesson teaching exercise than a proper use of the Magistrates’ court. An officer instituting court proceedings as a retaliatory measure against someone whom the council holds a grudge is not only an abuse of the court system but also a misuse of taxpayer’s money and clearly why the law does not provide the enforcement of debt to be used as a penalty. An officer identified for imposing court costs, bailiff fees and causing the protracted aggravation of having to address the injustice, for the purposes of gaining personal satisfaction, would in a properly run public authority, expect to be criminally investigated.

The gross injustice I’ve been caused is one matter, but what someone must be held accountable for has been the obscene overall cost to the taxpayer. On a personal level, if it can be quantified in monetary terms, the cost (including potential loss of earnings) if aggregated over the years for the gross inconvenience of having to deal with the negligence, maladministration, and criminal actions of the Council would amount to hundreds of thousands of pounds. However, if all the public authorities which it has been necessary to involve were factored in it would increase the burden on the taxpayer tenfold. The following list of public authorities have all been involved as a direct consequence of the Council’s blind pursuit of monies it is not entitled to:

Continued......... https://www.scribd.com/document/34148132

NORTH EAST LINCOLNSHIRE COUNCIL'S RESPONSE

https://www.scribd.com/document/34148158

Via email:

North East Lincolnshire Council
Municipal Offices
Grimsby
DN31 1HU

10 March 2017

Dear [nel taxpayer]

Thank you for your letter dated 24th February 2017, which I hereby acknowledge.

I am aware that you have made a number of complaints to the Council over the past few years which have been investigated and responded to, as well as numerous freedom of information requests. In addition, the Audit Team undertook a review of your allegations last year under the auspices of the Council's whistleblowing policy and concluded that no evidence of fraudulent activity had taken place.

Furthermore, following receipt of your subsequent complaint letter to me dated 10th August 2016, alleging criminal behaviour by officials at the Council, I referred the matter to the Humberside Constabulary for external investigation. On 19th November 2016, the Police confirmed that they had investigated the allegations and had found no evidence pertaining to dishonesty on behalf of the council or allegations of perjury.

I am also aware that you have also made various complaints to a number of other agencies, including the Local Government Ombudsman, courts and police and they have also found no evidence of wrong-doing.

On that basis, I am satisfied that officers have acted properly with regard to processing your council tax payments based on the information available to them at that time.

North East Lincolnshire Council considers feedback important and where appropriate will seek to identify improvements to the services we provide. I am, however, concerned at the amount of officer time and ultimately cost to the public purse that has been incurred by investigating and responding to your complaints. This officer time could have been put to much better use and I hope you will consider the value of intransigently pursuing a campaign when it has been addressed so many times by many different agencies, all with the same result.

Finally, I also find that the content of your letter is derogatory in the assertions made against officers of the Council and your unreasonably persistent allegations to a range of agencies could be construed as harassment The Council will be considering its position as to whether it takes legal recourse against you if you chose to perpetuate the issue.

Yours sincerely

Councillor Ray Oxby
Leader- North East Lincolnshire Council

Yours faithfully,

Nick Jacholson

PPD - FOI, North East Lincolnshire Council

Dear Sir / Madam

Thank you for your information request, which has been allocated reference number NELC/6264/1718.

This request is a resubmission of a request for information which was refused on the basis of not complying with the requirements of section 8 of the Freedom of Information Act. We therefore consider that a pseudonym is being used for the purposes of circumventing the appropriate management of Freedom of Information requests by North East Lincolnshire Council. We deem that these repeat requests form part of a concerted campaign against North East Lincolnshire Council intended to frustrate and challenge our ability to effectively administer and collect Council Tax and determine that this request is vexatious for that reason.

Section 14 (1) of the Freedom of Information Act states that a public authority is not obliged to comply with a request for information if that request is vexatious.

On this basis, North East Lincolnshire Council will therefore not be responding to this request.

If you disagree with the Council determining your request is vexatious you have the right to request an internal review by the Council. If following this you remain dissatisfied you may contact the Office of the Information Commissioner. If you wish to request an internal review, please contact me and I will make the necessary arrangements.

Yours sincerely on behalf of North East Lincolnshire Council

Feedback Officer

Dear North East Lincolnshire Council,

Please pass this on to the person who conducts Freedom of Information reviews.

I am writing to request an internal review of North East Lincolnshire Council's handling of my FOI request 'Council’s Legal Team Manager (Mrs Eve Richardson-Smith) – Criminal misconduct'.

The council has provided no evidence in support of its reasons stated that the requests form part of a concerted campaign intended to frustrate and challenge its ability to effectively administer and collect Council Tax. I can't see any connection and suspect that the council is using a generic response. If I took the trouble to investigate further I'm almost certain I would find the habitual use of such a response.

I am confident that the Information Commissioner would agree that a public body must be able to provide evidence to back up its claim to rely upon the vexatious exemption under the Freedom of Information Act.

A full history of my FOI request and all correspondence is available on the Internet at this address: https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/c...

Yours faithfully,

Nick Jacholson)

PPD - FOI, North East Lincolnshire Council

Dear Sir / Madam 

 

I am pleased to acknowledge your correspondence and wish to confirm that
an Internal Review of the handling of your Information Request
NELC/6264/1718 is to take place.

 

The Internal Review has been passed to the relevant department for
processing and you can expect your response within the 20 working day
limit. If it will take us longer than 20 working days to respond to you,
we will inform you of this and provide you with the expected date for
receiving a response.

 

Further information about how we will deal with your Freedom of
Information requests is available on our website at:
[1]https://www.nelincs.gov.uk/council-infor....

 

Please feel free to contact me if you require any further information or
assistance quoting the reference number above.

 

Yours sincerely

 

North East Lincolnshire Council

 

 

PPD - FOI, North East Lincolnshire Council

Dear Sir / Madam

Further to your request an Internal Review has taken place into North East
Lincolnshire Council's handling of your information
request NELC/6264/1718, concerning the Council’s Legal Team Manager.

I have reviewed the response provided to you and the handling of your
request in accordance with the Freedom of Information Act and I am
satisfied that the Council has acted in accordance with the Freedom of
Information Act in the handling of your request.

You state in your request that the Council has provided no evidence to
support the exemption. The evidence is in the request itself and the
identical requests which can also be seen on the What Do They Know
website.

The title of the request contains an unfounded allegation itself and is
not appropriate if the purpose of the request is to obtain information
held by North East Lincolnshire Council. The content of the request is a
duplicate of other requests received by North East Lincolnshire Council
which therefore leads us to the view that it is part of the same campaign.
This campaign seeks to use the Freedom of Information Act to address
issues which should be addressed elsewhere.

I trust that this Internal Review answers your queries in relation to your
request, and clarifies that your request has been handled in accordance
with the Freedom of Information Act. 

If you remain dissatisfied with the Council’s handling of your request, or
the decision of the internal review you can request an independent review
by contacting the Information Commissioner's Office at Wycliffe House,
Water Lane, Wilmslow, Cheshire SK9 5AF.

Yours sincerely on behalf of North East Lincolnshire Council

Ian Hollingsworth

Information Governance and Complaints

 

 

show quoted sections

Dear PPD - FOI,

You will need to do better than that to justify your application of the section 14(1) exemption. Try reading the following guidance from the Information Commissioner for assistance.

https://ico.org.uk/media/for-organisatio...

For example:

"Application of section 14(1)

12. It is important to remember that section 14(1) can only be applied to the request itself, and not the individual who submits it. An authority cannot, therefore, refuse a request on the grounds that the requester himself is vexatious. Similarly, an authority cannot simply refuse a new request solely on the basis that it has classified previous requests from the same individual as vexatious.

13. Section 14(1) is concerned with the nature of the request rather than the consequences of releasing the requested information. If an authority is concerned about any possible prejudice which might arise from disclosure, then it will need to consider whether any of the exemptions listed in Part II of the Act apply......"

OR

The analysis of what may constitute a vexatious request under section 14 is found at paragraphs 24-39 of the Upper Tribunal decision, 'Information Commissioner v Dransfield [2012] UKUT 440 (AAC)'

http://www.bailii.org/uk/cases/UKUT/AAC/...

Yours sincerely,

Nick Jacholson

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