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Posted By Discussion Topic: Damning report about BNA

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Paladine
Oct-10-2021 @ 10:38 PM                           Permalink
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I apologise in advance for the length of this post, but if the subject bores you, please read no further, otherwise these are some of my thoughts about the BNA's latest "Statement in relation to recent news stories regarding complaint":

"The Authority is disappointed that this complaint about the handling of two minor planning applications …”

This is instantly dismissive. Minor - having little importance, influence, or effect [Cambridge dictionary]. Clearly they are of little importance to Dr Packman, but, as they have the potential to affect the financial situation of the landowner, I suggest others would not agree.

...was not raised with it directly using the standard local government process. This would have allowed the Authority the opportunity to respond to it.”

I understand that Councillor Fuller did raise this with the CEO, who is the final arbiter of complaints within the BNA. The CEO declined to intervene and (to quote from the posted email) “instead expressing full confidence in “the strength of our processes and quality of our staff”.”

So the opportunity was given and a response made. What purpose would be served by then invoking the complaints procedure, which would have ended up on the CEO’s desk anyway? He’d already given his decision.

”Instead Cllr Fuller chose to report his accusations to Norfolk Police alleging ‘misconduct in public office’.”

Which is exactly where such a complaint should be directed. The Broads No-Authority is not empowered to investigate criminal matters, outwith their own bye law offences.

"The Police review found no evidence to support the allegations...”

That isn’t what the police report said. The investigating officer is quoted as saying: ”It is my opinion having reviewed all available material that this matter does not meet the seriousness test in order to pass the criminal threshold.

Whilst the motivations behind the decisions made by the official planning officers of the Broads Authority are undetermined, it is apparent that their behaviour appears to be obstructive, unreasonable and at times bizarre however it is not so serious as to be criminal."

I interpret that as the evidence was insufficient to warrant a criminal prosecution, not that there was no evidence at all to support the allegations.

”...and concluded no further action should be taken by them. The Police did not approach the Authority during the course of the investigation and subsequently the evidential review report only contained material supplied by those associated with the complaint.”

I find this aspect quite baffling. How can an investigation be concluded without interviewing all the possible witnesses and suspects? The planning consultant engaged by the Broads No-Authority, in his report, says: “I have interviewed the Planning Officers directly involved with the applications.”

So there were two parallel investigations, one which involved interviewing BNA staff and the other which didn’t.  This is like something out of Alice in Wonderland.

”This included some outrageous and inflammatory comments which the Police have since concluded were not within their authority to make and they have since apologised to the Broads Authority.”

Outrageous: shocking and morally unacceptable
Inflammatory: intended or likely to cause anger or hate [Cambridge dictionary]

Really? The comments included the words “obstructive, unreasonable and at times bizarre”. Far from being shocking, morally unacceptable and intended or likely to cause anger and hate, many of those who, unlike the police officer, have had regular dealing with the BNA would say that those comments sum them up pretty well. Methinks the gentleman doth protest too much.

”They also contacted the complainants, informing them that the report should not have been disclosed to them and instructed that copies should be destroyed or deleted. Despite this the report has since been forwarded to the media.”

I have seen no confirmation that the report was forwarded to the media AFTER the instruction to destroy or delete copies had been issued. Given the number of leaks of high-level information from HMG to the Press, I wonder just how much authority the police have to issue such an instruction anyway. I suspect it would be more of a request.

"Given the nature of the allegation, the Authority commissioned an independent planning consultant, recommended by the Local Government Association’s Planning Advisory Service, to review the handling of the planning applications.”

Independent - not influenced or controlled in any way by other people, events, or things [Cambridge dictionary]

Having read that consultant’s report, any concept of independence was shattered in paragraph 1.2, in which he says: “I was briefed verbally by the Chief Executive prior to starting work.”

That consultant is independent only in the sense that he is self-employed, not that he was not influenced in any way by other people (or another person).

”We are pleased and unsurprised that the independent report concluded that the Authority’s staff handled these two minor applications professionally and appropriately. There was no basis for a complaint by Cllr Fuller and even if he had concerns they should have been raised through the normal complaints procedure.”

The consultant repeatedly says he is unclear about various aspects of what he was supposed to be reviewing. That he did not reach clarity suggests to me the review was very shallow.

"We are seeking personal letters of apology from the Chief Constable to our members of staff involved and an assurance that action has been taken to ensure that junior police officers dealing with complaints from influential local politicians are supported adequately so that in future, they do not make such serious mistakes again.

This demonstrates the vindictive culture within the BNA. No-one has been ‘named and shamed’ as far as I am aware. An apology has been issued by a very senior police officer, so that should be accepted. Trying to pin all the blame on a ‘junior’ officer (oh, how patronising) is at best misguided, as her report was signed off by a detective inspector and a superintendent, and at worst spiteful.

"The Authority is also taking legal advice on how it can protect its staff from harassment and bullying of this nature."

Harassment is a criminal offence. Unless there is evidence that will be put before the police, I recommend that remark be withdrawn.

As far as the Background Facts are concerned, for now, I will restrict my comments to two sections.

1. ”There has been some discussion about a redacted email. An unredacted version of the email in question was sent to one of the complainants on 18 May 2020. It needed to be redacted before it could be uploaded onto the planning portal (as requested by the complainant) to comply with data protection. The part that had been redacted contained personal and financial information.”

Once again, the Broads No-Authority has demonstrated its incompetence. It uploaded a copy of the ‘redacted’ email to its Planning Portal, thus putting it into the public domain. With only four clicks of a mouse, I was able to read the redacted sections. The prime reason for the redaction, in my opinion, was that it shows the BNA, once again, in a very poor light. I am not restricted by the GDPR and nor was the BNA, as the name of the person mentioned in it is on the planning application anyway, so here it is in full. For the sake of clarity, I have emboldened thus the previously-redacted parts:

From: Trudi Wakelin
Sent: 27 August 2010 10:00
To: Cally Smith
Cc: Andrea Long ; Adrian Vernon
Subject: RE: Haddiscoe Cut

Hi Cally,

I have asked Adrian Vernon and the appropriate Rangers to provide you with the history of the site, as previously reported to Planning. I had also provided John Coles with a copy of our file regarding the historic use of the site as short term/ demasting moorings, and the Broads Authority’s involvement in negotiating a lease with the Bromley’s in advance of the BESL works, as well as complaints from the Broads Society asking the Authority to take action.

So, in a nutshell, the site has long established informal use as 24hr and demasting mooring. Prior to BESL’s works it was in poor condition, with no safe towpath or adequate mooring posts. The Authority agreed terms for a lease with the Bromley’s, and contracted the Environment Agency to undertake works to improve the safety of the site including installation of mooring posts, at a cost of approx £1,000. The Bromley’s then decided to postpone the completion of the lease pending BESL works – who had confirmed that the piling would be redone as part of the flood defence works. However, after the piling had been completed, BESL then used the area for a considerable time as a works compound and no mooring was permitted during this time. After they finally vacated, and we had had the usual rows about reinstating the mooring posts etc, we were in touch with the Bromleys again who were now demanding a massively increased rent due to the improved condition of the site (paid for by public money) so we declined and left them to it.

Since that time there has been a gradual encroachment of permanent moorings, which have reported over the last few years by our Rangers. The site has been subject to complaints from the Broads Society since 2009 due to the fact that the whole site was now full of permanent vessels.

With regard to Waterways powers, Navigation dimension byelaws restrict the maximum beam of craft in the Haddiscoe Cut to 5.5m (18ft) but that’s not an issue here as most of the vessels in question are narrow beam canal boats. There are also byelaws which restrict the mooring of vessels double alongside, but again not particularly relevant in this case. Adrian will be able to advise further.

Hope this is helpful. Cheers Trudi”


2. ”The Authority welcomes legitimate criticism or complaint and has robust governance measures in place to ensure we it acts within its powers and the law to protect the Broads.”

Really? When the practice of restricting the 24hr moorings in front of the Beccles New Bridge for use only by vessels that couldn’t get under the bridge was challenged, it was found to be ultra vires and the mooring designation was changed.

When the BNA imposed a surcharge on the ‘new’ reusable plastic £1 electricity cards, to recover the cost of the cards, that was found to be ultra vires and the surcharge was quietly removed.

When the Head of Ranger Services instructed the rangers to enforce the unenforceable guidance on the display of registration marks, resulting in the issue of spurious Notices of Contravention (i.e. written allegations of having committed a criminal offence), was that was acting with the BNA’s powers?

Robust governance measures in place? I don’t think so.



Been hit by another boat? Report the incident to the Marine Accident Investigation Branch’s dedicated accident reporting line on 023 8023 2527 which is monitored 24 hours a day.  Help to make the Broads safer.

This message was edited by Paladine on Oct-11-21 @ 6:04 AM

JollyRodger
Oct-11-2021 @ 9:42 AM                           Permalink
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Thank you, Paladine, for sharing your exhaustive research with us. Revealing and relevant.

Read in conjunction with Gary's letter it becomes a damning indictment of the present management ethos at Yare House. It certainly reinforces my view that the Authority would be best served by the good Doctor gracefully accepting retirement as his way forward.

  

Jolly Roger

Dreamer
Oct-11-2021 @ 11:00 AM                           Permalink
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Sincere thanks to Paladine for his tremendous work in clarifying the information that he has managed to obtain. No easy task!

annville
Oct-11-2021 @ 12:46 PM                           Permalink
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Hi Paladine Thanks for that So The Bromleys got greedy and wouldn't let BA have a 24Hr mooring so they decided no one would have it. Similar with the Beccles bridge when new bridge was built the bridge builders constructed moorings for large vessels that peevishly moored in the yacht station they were charged by the yacht station to moor there as if they where in the yacht station, any restriction at the cut is at the site of the old lifting bridge, pity they didn't widen it when bridge was built, we  use to moor there to use the Bell or the Crown(not sure of name)that was there that is until the environment agency made it unusable.  John

JollyRodger
Oct-11-2021 @ 1:57 PM                           Permalink
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Alternatively, the BA couldn't have the river bank for a mooring so the BA then decided that no one else could either. I knew the Bromleys from their early days, they were in the business of making money. I didn't always like everything that they did but no one gets rich by giving things away, however creditable that might be.

Some might also argue that the Bromleys crossed swords with the BA on a number of occasions thus the response might possibly have been vindictive. The same has also been suggested in regard to the Horrocks family at Beauchamp as well as on other occasions, sometimes concerning Authority or committee members who have not always toed the party line.

Jolly Roger

JP
Oct-15-2021 @ 11:26 AM                           Permalink
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Dear Paladine.

You have made many points based on your opinion within your post that I strongly disagree with.

Rather than embark on an ongoing, online argument about your interpretation or opinions I have focussed on correcting inaccuracies and misunderstandings contained within your post and the ‘leaked’ email to Members of the Authority in order to provide readers of this forum with the facts.

Regards

John

1. Investigations
No there weren’t parallel investigations. The Evidential Review is dated June 2021. My understanding is that the Police report was printed 14 months after the complaint was made I have been told that dealing with COVID issues took a priority for the officer involved so that the amount of time devoted to the complaint is not reflected in that timescale.

The Independent Report was commissioned in September 2021 by the Broads Authority. The expert planning consultant was recommended by the Local Government Association’s Planning Advisory Service and unknown to the Broads Authority.  It concluded that “the Authority's officers and advisors acted professionally and took the appropriate action throughout.”

2. Release of the Evidential Review
My understanding is that the Police sent Cllr Fuller a copy of the Evidential Review. The Police subsequently asked the complainant to destroy or delete all copies. Shortly after this the Authority learnt that a copy had been distributed to the EDP.

3. Redacted Email
There has been some discussion about a redacted email which formed some of the ‘evidence’ provided to the police by the complainant. This refers to an email which was sent to one of the complainants on 18 May 2020. It needed to be redacted before it could be uploaded onto the planning portal (as requested by the complainant) to comply with data protection. The part that had been redacted contained personal and financial information.

4. Robust governance
There are two main routes to resolve disputes regarding planning decisions. If an application is refused by the Local Planning Authority the applicant can appeal against the decision to the Planning Inspectorate. If there are concerns about the process the complaint should be made to the Local Planning Authority and if not resolved that way the complaint can be lodged with the Local Government Ombudsman. The Police are not equipped to judge the handling of planning applications.


JollyRodger
Oct-15-2021 @ 1:18 PM                           Permalink
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John, please forgive me for butting into your conversation with Paladine. I feel that I must take issue with the points that you have made regarding robust governance and channels of complaint. Can't think why (!) but I do have some experience of the process in regard to the Authority. For example, I might address my complaint to my local MP. He appears to me to be a lazy individual and his staff, rather than actually referring the matter to said MP, will simply pass the complaint over to you for comment and, predictably, you will smooth talk your way around the problem. I fully understand the frustration that Mr Fuller, and others, feel about 'robust governance' in regard to the Broads Authority. In my honest opinion, you are sometimes open to criticism yet you are the one who will deal with my criticism. Effectively the Chairman should deal with any criticisms of yourself but, hey ho, that simply doesn't happen! Robust governance, sorry, I really don't think so. What we have, in practical terms, is effectively an unacceptable level of weak governance. It is for the Chairman and Authority itself to set and lead policy, not the Executive.

Jolly Roger

Philosophic
Oct-16-2021 @ 1:47 PM                           Permalink
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“Stay away from negative people.
They have a problem for every solution.”

? Albert Einstein


This message was edited by Philosophic on Oct-17-21 @ 11:07 AM

Paladine
Oct-17-2021 @ 8:42 PM                           Permalink
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JollyRodger wrote, "For example, I might address my complaint to my local MP. He appears to me to be a lazy individual and his staff, rather than actually referring the matter to said MP, will simply pass the complaint over to you for comment and, predictably, you will smooth talk your way around the problem."

I've had similar experiences when emailing Authority members. The emails are simply passed on to the CEO for a response.

Been hit by another boat? Report the incident to the Marine Accident Investigation Branch’s dedicated accident reporting line on 023 8023 2527 which is monitored 24 hours a day.  Help to make the Broads safer.

Paladine
Oct-17-2021 @ 8:48 PM                           Permalink
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Thank you for your response, JP. While I make it clear that I am voicing opinions, you are expressing your opinions as facts.

1. Investigations
No there weren’t parallel investigations. The Evidential Review is dated June 2021. My understanding is that the Police report was printed 14 months after the complaint was made I have been told that dealing with COVID issues took a priority for the officer involved so that the amount of time devoted to the complaint is not reflected in that timescale.


I think you are confusing ‘parallel’ with ‘contemporaneous’. Both the investigations were into the same set of circumstances, i.e. having the same direction, but they came up with totally different conclusions.

The Independent Report was commissioned in September 2021 by the Broads Authority. The expert planning consultant was recommended by the Local Government Association’s Planning Advisory Service and unknown to the Broads Authority.  It concluded that “the Authority's officers and advisors acted professionally and took the appropriate action throughout.”

How on earth can it be an ‘independent report’ when you briefed the consultant yourself? The consultant, in the introduction to his report, said, ”...Since leaving the Council in 2015 I have operated as a Planning Consultant providing advice and support to over 40 Local Planning Authorities both independently and in association with the Planning Advisory Service.

In this case I am acting independently, and I was briefed verbally by the Chief Executive prior to starting work.”


I take that to mean only that he was acting independently of the Planning Advisory Service.

2. Release of the Evidential Review
My understanding is that the Police sent Cllr Fuller a copy of the Evidential Review. The Police subsequently asked the complainant to destroy or delete all copies. Shortly after this the Authority learnt that a copy had been distributed to the EDP.


You still haven’t confirmed that the disclosure to the EDP has been confirmed as being AFTER the instruction from the police to destroy the copy of the report.

3. Redacted Email
There has been some discussion about a redacted email which formed some of the ‘evidence’ provided to the police by the complainant. This refers to an email which was sent to one of the complainants on 18 May 2020. It needed to be redacted before it could be uploaded onto the planning portal (as requested by the complainant) to comply with data protection. The part that had been redacted contained personal and financial information.


IF (and it’s a big IF) redaction was needed, the only parts that warranted redaction would have been the name Bromley (which appeared on the application anyway) and the figure £1,000, which, as the contract wasn’t as a result of a tender process, should be shown in the Authority’s accounts anyway. Why was all the other, damaging-to-the-Authority’s-case, information redacted?

4. Robust governance
There are two main routes to resolve disputes regarding planning decisions. If an application is refused by the Local Planning Authority the applicant can appeal against the decision to the Planning Inspectorate. If there are concerns about the process the complaint should be made to the Local Planning Authority and if not resolved that way the complaint can be lodged with the Local Government Ombudsman. The Police are not equipped to judge the handling of planning applications.


But the police (together with the CPS) are equipped to consider the commission or otherwise of criminal offences, which is what they were asked to do. You have limited your reply to planning matters. The original statement was wider than that, claiming there were "robust governance measures in place to ensure we it acts within its powers and the law to protect the Broads".

I gave three examples of which I have personal knowledge which rebut that claim, which you have ignored. If you want to keep it to planning, what about the on-going How Hill fiasco, where one of your senior management authorised an agreement which breached planning legislation. The planning department only found out 6 months later, when I challenged it.


Been hit by another boat? Report the incident to the Marine Accident Investigation Branch’s dedicated accident reporting line on 023 8023 2527 which is monitored 24 hours a day.  Help to make the Broads safer.

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