Friday, 9 February 2018

Institutionalised Incompetence

By Les May

YOU may have noticed a bundle of documents dated 29 January 2018 fastened to a lamp post close to a patch of green space somewhere near you. You should have done, there were 207 of them.  They relate to a hearing to take place at the Royal Courts of Justice in London and are intended to serve notice of that hearing.

Now you might think that someone would have taken great care to make sure that everything was, as they say, ‘kosher’:  no mistakes, no slip ups! But you forget, this is Rochdale, incompetence is the order of the day. So it should not really come as much of a surprise to find that the covering letter, signed by no less a person than David Wilcock, Legal Director,  Governance and Workforce, manages to inform the reader that the hearing will be on Tuesday, 19th February. Now, God willing, there will be a 19th of February 2018, but sure as hell it won’t be a Tuesday.

But of course, being only the covering letter rather than the legal bit you are no doubt allowed to make a mistake, even if you do it 207 times.   But probe just a bit deeper into the legal stuff and you find a paragraph about another hearing for an interim injunction on 6th February to allow three clear days between the service of the notice and the date of the hearing.

I can say with complete certainty that the notice I read was put up on Monday 5th February, which by my reckoning does not even allow for one clear day before the hearing. In other words someone at Rochdale MBC did not do their job properly.

This is not the first time that I have come across a casual approach to meeting the legal niceties of giving notice to the public.   A planning application relating to land below Castleton did not appear until the final date upon which objections could be made.   A notice relating to an area near Castleton station was affixed to a lamp post on the wrong street and related to a completely different street than that named in the notice.   A temporary road closure order in the Marland area related to a different road altogether.  A lady who has far more knowledge than I of the treatment of parents who have offspring subject to child protection orders, recently described the approach in Rochdale as ‘slap dash’.  I discussed the problem of getting anyone at RMBC to take seriously the possibility of election fraud in a NV piece on 2nd May 2017.

I don’t expect councillors to check on every legal notice emanating from RMBC but I do expect that they will ensure that those charged with managing the legal affairs of the council meet both the letter and the spirit of the law.

It is long past the time when the Leader of the Council should be having a stiff word with the Chief Executive. Or perhaps neither of them really care.

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