Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Announcement regarding the claim for the refund

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As the claim for the refund is pretty much up and running now, I'm going to leave off claim updates till after it's settled. This is in order to avoid any risk of being held in contempt of court - however unlikely this may seem given the nature and size of the claim. When it's over I promise I'll fill you in on all the gory details.

Meanwhile, I will of course continue to keep you all posted on the thrilling developments which arise with regard to the repair of the leak, the existence of Mr Evans, etc. 

(BTW, in case any of you are wondering where I get my funny cat pictures and illustrations from, they are mostly ganked from communities on LiveJournal, as was today's image. No idea who made it or why, but somehow it seemed...apt). 

Monday, 30 March 2009

Roy Evans, Wandsworth's Director of Housing, still hasn't replied to my letter

* * * * *

Follow up to my post last Wednesday, it's now two weeks since the Chief Executive, Gerald Jones, forwarded my letter to the Director of Housing, Roy Evans, and Mr Evans still hasn't responded. 

It is worth noting that Wandsworth's citizens charter says it will respond to complaints "in an efficient and understanding way." They promise to: "send an acknowledgement letter to you within 5 working days if we cannot deal with your complaint immediately" and "send you a final written answer within 10 working days of receiving your complaint".

I'll give it a couple more days then if he still hasn't I may write again to Mr Jones  telling him his BFF Mr Evans hasn't replied yet again. 

Thursday, 26 March 2009

My hero

Daniel Hannan's recent speech in the European Parliament, directed at the Prime Minister. Really cathartic to see incompetence being attacked so eloquently. Note Gordon Brown's pathetic smirk. 

Mr Hannan, you are full of win and awesome.

Blog Summary: II

* * * * *

It's a while since the last summary, so here's another catch-up for n00bs.

THE REFUND FOR THE REPOINTING: Ashfords Solicitors have submitted their defence, comprising a broad denial of everything. The existence of Ms Parris has been confirmed by a rare sighting of her signature on the defence's "statement of truth". Mr Crawley has referred my request for statements from Ms Parris and the council technician to Ashfords, carefully avoiding any mention of the words "Ms Parris" or "statements".

THE LEAK IN THE COMMUNAL HALL: I've written to Mr Crawley telling him it's not necessary to "excavate" the hall because we know where the leak is, and pointing out that it's a buildings insurance claim so I'm not liable for the cost of repair/redecoration. I've asked him to send a loss assessor (as I previously asked Ms Parris to do in 2006). I await Mr Crawley's response. Not hopeful and assume all my points will be ignored.

LANDLORD'S CONSENT: Mind games time. I wrote to the Chief Executive, Gerald Jones, and he replied saying it wasn't a "Step 3" complaint because the Director of Housing, Roy Evans, (Mr Step 2), hadn't replied to my "Step 2" complaint to him dated July 2008, Mr Crawley had (but he's not Mr Step 2), so he was forwarding my letter to the Mr Evans (yes, I know it doesn't make sense). I'd naively assumed that Mr Crawley had been replying on Mr Evans' behalf over the past seven months since Mr Evans himself hadn't replied to my July 2008 letter. Anyway this all means that Mr Crawley was just "Step 1" so the two years of Ms Parris not replying to my letters don't count and my complaint only began in July 2008, as there is no "Step 0" in council complaints procedure-land. Mr Evans has yet to acknowledge receipt of the letter forwarded to him by Mr Jones nine days ago and I am unimpressed, but resigned.

This is because, following Mr Jones' letter, it finally sank in that they are all zombies and I am not dealing with reasonable people with any desire to resolve the issues. It's increasingly clear that the council's primary concern is to avoid admitting any maladministration and moreover they have the supreme confidence that, as council employees, normal consequences like getting the sack for being crap at your job don't apply. Look at how much Sharon Shoesmith bleated about it.

In other news, I've started a satirical twitter called Crawley's Tweets [EDIT: tweets now deleted]. Ashfords Solicitors have discovered my blog which means there may be a time lag in some of what I post for strategic reasons. I'm reviewing my options in terms of machete-ing a way through this maze of incompetence and bureaucracy, TBA at a later date.

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

No word from Roy Evans

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You'll remember that the last I heard from Gerald Jones, Chief Executive of Wandsworth Council, he'd completely ignored my complaints and passed the buck back to Roy Evans, Director of Housing?  The very same Roy Evans who I already wrote to back in July 2008. Mr Jones' letter was dated 16th March; today is 25th March and I have yet to receive any response from Mr Evans. You'd think that if you were Mr Evans, and you got a letter forwarded to you from your Chief Exec, you might just bother to send a two line acknowledgment. (That is, unless it arrived on your desk with a Post-It note stuck on it saying "This is low priority").

I have, however, had an acknowledgment from the Mr Crawley dated 17th March which I assume has to be for my letter about the leak dated 12th March. Can't say for certain as Wandsworth's acknowledgments don't give the date of your letter, just the date it was received into the bowels of the inferno. 

Monday, 23 March 2009

Sian Gibbon's middle name

I noticed that the covering letter which came with Wandsworth's defence from Sian Gibbon at Ashfords Solicitors has the reference "SLG/SLG 123456" so I think it's not unreasonable to assume that her middle name begins with an L.

I've created a *fun poll* in the sidebar where you can vote on what Ms Gibbon's middle name is. Choices include Louise, Ludmilla (suggested by fellow blogger Robert Bonnett), Lucinda, Lola, LaToya, Linda, Lorraine, Laura, Lesley, Lindsay, Lisa,  and Lynette. 

If you want to put a face to the name before deciding, Google Ashfords Solicitors and click on the "Our Partners" button. There's a photo of her there.

Edit: No, we'll never know the answer to what Sian Gibbon's middle name is, but that doesn't mean we can't have fun guessing. 

Saturday, 21 March 2009

Blue custard thinking

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I've decided not to reply to Gerald Jones' letter;  I realized it would be a complete waste of time when he's made it obvious he doesn't give a fuck. Instead I'm going to go to Martin Linton MP's next surgery and hopefully get him on side. Meanwhile, I will continue to go through the motions of corresponding with Wandsworth regarding the leak and the landlord's consent, but with extremely lowered expectations of getting anywhere. I haven't ruled out contacting the local press, chaining myself to the wheelchair ramp handrail outside the town hall, or blue custard. 

I've also decided to have more behind-the-scenes fun, to alleviate the debilitating effects of dealing with the council. To this end, inspired by the banality of twitter and of local government, I've started a twitter called CrawleysTweets (with an anonymous co-author), which you can follow here, or in the sidebar (bear in mind it's early days and we're just getting the hang of it). 

And tomorrow I will be posting *a new fun poll*.

On the subject of polls, we have an outcome for the last one:  "Do you think Mr Crawley's reply to my letter dated 24th February will...etc." Mr Crawley finally replied this week saying, 
"As you rightly point out the issue of the roof pointing is now the subject of a court claim. This matter has been referred to our solicitors, Ashfords, and they will contact you regarding this claim in due course."
Yup, no acknowledgment of Ms Parris' existence; not even an acknowledgment of the existence of my request for written statements. Maybe Ms Parris should be added to the list of banned words compiled by the Local Government Association.

Friday, 20 March 2009

Wandsworth "number one for service and value"

* * * * *

Every letter that is spewed forth from the fifth bolgia of the eighth circle of Hell a.k.a. Wandsworth Borough Council has this tagline at the bottom: "number one for service and value" in oh-so-accessible lower case. Over time, I've come to view this with extreme cynicism. I don't care what the Audit Commission says, or how many stars it has awarded to Wandsworth, a more accurate slogan would be "we don't care so don't fucking bother". They could use the universally despised Comic Sans font.

I've been too bored and dispirited with the whole thing to write back to the Chief Executive yet. I know that's the whole point of the complaints procedure, to grind you down, so I think I need to step back and examine strategy before proceeding. The matter of the refund is at least under control, as it's up to the judge to decide, not the council. But aside from the trio of unresolved issues, one must also consider the context of maladministration as well as the implications of Ms Parris' signature on the statement of truth. This isn't something that anyone employed by the council is likely ever to address, judging by the total absence of interest shown by Gerald Jones, the Chief Executive.

I've discovered that the MP for Battersea, Martin Linton, with a majority of 163, is Labour, not Conservative as I'd assumed (given the overwhelmingly Conservative council). He may well take an interest in maladministration in Wandsworth Council. It depends what sort of man he is, I suppose, but his being Labour is surely an advantage. 

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Dreams of blue custard

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As you probably gathered, I was in a rage this morning. Part of it was sheer disappointment; I'd been hoping - foolishly, it turns out - that I'd finally get somewhere with Gerald Jones looking into my complaints, after months of going round in circles with Mr Crawley. Instead, his letter was entirely focussed on buck-passing on the spurious premise that my letter of July 2008 to the Director of Housing, Roy Evans, was not a Step 2 complaint because Mr Crawley replied to it and not Mr Evans himself. I can't entirely get my head around this; if Mr Crawley wasn't replying to my letter on behalf of Mr Evans, then the only alternative explanations are:
1) Mr Crawley has been secretly opening and responding to the Director of Housing's post behind his back.

2) It's part of the council's unwritten complaints procedure whereby complainants are fooled into thinking they've made a Step 2 complaint, because sending them back to square one will usually result in the complainant losing the will to live, thus 'solving' the complaint and removing the inconvenience of having to deal with it.
I'll be writing to Mr Jones tomorrow. 

Le sigh.

Reply from Gerald Jones, Chief Executive of Wandsworth Council

Would you agree I've been really patient up to now? Like, really, really patient and reasonable in the circumstances and you can't believe how reasonable and patient I've been considering this has all been going on for three years? Yes? Okay. Read on. 

This is Gerald Jones' reply to my letter of 13th March. 
"You have requested that your complaint be considered as a Step 3 complaint. However, from your letter you say that you made a Step 2 complaint in July 2008 and that you received a response from Mr Crawley and not the Director. Accordingly a copy of your correspondence has been forwarded to the Director of Housing asking him to arrange for the matter you raise to be investigated and a reply sent to you direct."
Yes, I wrote to the fucking Director of Housing in July 2008 and Mr fucking Crawley replied. The Director of Housing did not fucking reply. I therefore fucking assumed that Mr fucking Crawley was fucking replying on behalf of the fucking Director of Housing. If he wasn't, then how come the fucking Director of Housing didn't fucking reply?

Gerald Jones can go fuck himself. 

That is all.

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

"The definition of a complaint is as follows: A clear expression of dissatisfaction in connection with either a council provided service or policy"

* * * * *

Following a Freedom of Information request submitted via the awesome What Do They Know website, I am in possession of a copy of the Complaints Recording guidelines reissued to Wandsworth Housing Department staff following the alarming discovery "early in 2007/2008" that "a number of items were being recorded as complaints in error". [Quoted from the Annual Complaints Report, Paper 08-513, available to download here]. 

Here's an extract from the guidelines specifically relating to my experiences with Ms Ann Parris and Mr Tom Crawley. It's part of a breakdown of what constitutes - in Councilspeak  - a "Service Delivery Failure." Kudos for bravely employing the word failure instead of a euphemism, however I can't help noticing that lying and dishonesty are omitted from the list of failures. 

I've underlined/bolded all the bits that apply to Ms Parris and Mr Crawley:
Staff Error - Where the complaint is the result of an error or omission by a member of staff. Examples include:
  • Complaint not dealt with in set time scale (speed of response)
  • Telephone calls/letters not responded to (keeping client informed)
  • Adopting incorrect procedures
  • Failing to pass on information requested
  • Failing to undertake general tasks
  • Failing to keep appointments
  • Any action/non-action creating gaps in service delivery
  • Incorrect assessment of housing register and other similar application forms
Staff Attitude - Where the complaint is the result of the way in which a member of staff has dealt with an issue. Examples include:
  • Rudeness
  • Unhelpful
  • Obstructive
  • Arrogant
  • Making racist or sexist comments
  • Fairness [presumably they mean unfairness]
  • Not listening to problems
  • General staff conduct
It's rather a lot of fails, isn't it? Even excluding lying. In the private sector, this many fails would result, at the very least, in a warning, not a promotion. 

Monday, 16 March 2009

Insured perils

I found an old copy of the buildings insurance schedule at the weekend. It dates from when I bought my flat in 2006 but that's when the leak started. In case Ms Parris tries to deny knowing anything about this as well, I have several witnesses to the first appearance of the leak including my neighbour (who spoke on the phone to Ms Parris about it, and told me she "fobbed him off") and the plumber who first discovered the leak (before it had caused any serious damage), a lovely chap called Richard. 

Anyway, I knew the "INSURED PERILS" in the insurance would include flooding but they also include "Escape of Water from any tank apparatus or pipe." In short, I don't think there can be any doubt that the leak is covered by the buildings insurance.

Saturday, 14 March 2009

Sian Gibbon sends me Wandsworth's defence

* * * * *

Sian Gibbon of Ashfords Solicitors has sent me a copy of the defence, dated 13 March 2009. She's gone for a generalized deny-everything approach. No surprises there. No specifics and no mention of Ms Parris. This is the main body of the defence:
  • The Defendant [Wandsworth] denies that it is in debt to the Claimant [me] as claimed or at all and the Claimant is put to strict proof of all allegations.
  • The Defendant denies that the Claimant [sic], or any of its servants or agents has, at anytime [sic], entered into an agreement with the Claimant whereby the Defendant was contracted to refund to the Claimant any sum of money expended by her in relation to repairs at [address of my flat] in 2006 or subsequently. Furthermore, there is no contractual, statutory, tortious or other obligation upon the Defendant to make payment of the sum claimed by the Claimant or at all.
  • The Defendant denies that it has any contractual, statutory, tortious or other liability to make payment of the sum of £100 claimed by the Claimant in respect of her time. The Defendant maintains that it has complied with its duties pursuant to the Lease and is not indebted to the Claimant as alleged or at all.
The first sentence of the second para contains errors - "The Defendant denies that the Claimant...entered into an agreement with the Claimant"? - but I think I know what Ms Gibbon is trying to say. This isn't weighty litigation, after all, and no doubt Ms Gibbon has more important cases to attend to.

The bit about "strict proof" basically means they demand proof. Ashfords know I don't have, say, a letter from Ms Parris confirming our conversation about the repointing. However, this is a small claim, so it will be judged on the balance of probabilities based on the evidence presented, both actual and circumstantial.

I have other observations which unfortunately I have to keep to myself now that Ashfords Solicitors are lurking (they've been back since the first flurry of visits on Monday).

It is most interesting that Ms Ann Parris appears to have signed the Statement of Truth at the bottom of the defence (see photo). Obviously, I don't have an example of her signature to compare it against, but it does look like 'A Parris' and she is an estate manager. I will leave blog readers to draw their own conclusions as to the trufaxity of Ms Parris' statement: "I believe that the facts stated in this Defence are true."

This seems to be the standard phrasing for Statements of Truth. Some would argue that facts are, by definition, true; the word fact is derived from the Latin factum, meaning 'thing done'. However, the definition of fact in the Collins Dictionary includes "a piece of information", and it's possible to say "the newspaper got its facts wrong in that report", so false facts do exist.

Friday, 13 March 2009

I've written to Gerald Jones, Chief Executive of Wandsworth Council

* * * * *

I finally posted my ‘Step 3’ complaint to Wandsworth’s Chief Executive, Gerald Jones, today. I rewrote it and edited it down to two pages instead of the original three, to ensure I got the key points across.

I won’t reproduce the letter here as you already know the story, but writing it brought into focus precisely wherein the problem lies with Mr Crawley. Ms Parris’ failures are straightforward ones; she just ignores letters and doesn’t do her job. And while Mr Crawley has similarly failed on the basic level of not resolving any of the issues, it goes beyond that.

Looking back over Mr Crawley’s letters, I realized that he consistently disbelieves 
anything I say. He has shown no concern whatsoever about the disappearance of all my letters to Ms Parris – why? – because he doesn’t believe I sent the letters. He says I misunderstood what Ms Parris told me about landlord’s consent (i.e. I'm just confused about that, obvi). He won’t accept I can’t provide the documentation he’s demanding – why else would he persist in demanding it four times? He refuses to believe that Ms Parris authorized the roof repair. He didn’t believe I was going to issue a court claim for the refund (wrong again). He ignored it  when I said I was taking the consent complaint to the Chief Executive, and just wrote back as though I hadn’t said it.

This is the key to the madness. How can Mr Crawley address any complaint if he disbelieves everything the complainant tells him? It's a classic example of local government mentality. You are wrong/woefully misguided/lying/a nuisance who needs to STFU and/or DIAF. The council is always right. It is incapable of maladministration, (I mean, just look at the findings of the LGOs). They apologize if you were not aware of this universal truth. 

Thursday, 12 March 2009

Letter to Mr Crawley objecting to the proposed works

* * * * *

Here's my response to the Notice of Intention to Carry Out Works, posted today, 12th March 2009.
"Dear Mr Crawley

This is a formal objection to the proposed works/quotation. I have several reasons for my objection, firstly:

1) This is a buildings insurance matter. I therefore do not accept liability for the cost of repair. When the leak was first reported to Ms Parris and to the duty manager in 2006, the water had reached carpet level, i.e. flooding. In the subsequent months and years, the water has inevitably drained into the surrounding timbers, masonry and foundations, (causing further damage).

In my letter to Ms Parris dated 9th June 2006, I asked her to arrange for someone from the buildings insurance company to come and inspect. I am, obviously, aware that Ms Parris ‘lost’ this letter (along with all the others).

In addition:

2) Excavation of the hall to ‘discover’ the location of the leak is unnecessary. The extensive damp in the wall is entirely consistent with a single long-term unrepaired leak, and the leak is coming from the valve on the water pipe on the right hand side, something which an inspection of the exposed portion of the pipes would have revealed. There has never been any mystery surrounding the location of the leak.

I enclose a quote from a qualified plumber confirming the location of the leak.

3) The remedial works now necessary to the walls and timbers are entirely due to the negligence of the council, who failed to take appropriate action at the time the leak was reported. It has taken several years for the damp to spread and it is laughable even to suggest that leaseholders are responsible for the cost of repairing this.

If you choose to ignore the above observations and proceed with the works as proposed, I will obviously not accept any liability for costs you incur.

Please note that the hallway is again flooding and I would be grateful if you would send a loss assessor from the buildings insurance company to inspect the damage.

Yours sincerely, etc"

Leak worse

* * * * *

This is the hallway this morning. The water is spreading (you can see it better if you click on the photo). Compare with how it looked six days ago

Should be a bumper crop of fungus this season. 

Monday, 9 March 2009

Incompetence Today welcomes Ashfords Solicitors

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There were several visits from an IP address identifying itself as Ashfords Solicitors, in Exeter, Devon, to the blog this morning. (Ashfords are the solicitors acting for Wandsworth in the court claim). My site meter tracked the following visits from this IP address:
  • Visit time 11.23am; page views 7; visit length 21 minutes 
  • Visit time 11.27am; page views 22; visit length 31 minutes
  • Visit time 11.28am; page views 1; visit length unknown
  • Visit time 11.28am; page views 2, visit length 1.3 minutes
FYI, 22 page views is an exceptionally high number compared to the average, which is 2.4 per visit. 

They all arrived at the blog at the post about Sian Gibbon, not the home page, which suggests someone is circulating a link to that post. The overlapping visit times indicate as many as four individual visitors.

Edit: 7.30pm 9th March 2009. Ashfords made a further five visits to my blog this afternoon.

Sunday, 8 March 2009

Blog Summary: I

* * * * *

For the benefit of newcomers to the blog, this is a brief summary of what’s happened since my first post in January. Mr Crawley and I have continued to correspond and here's where we've got to:

THE REFUND FOR THE REPOINTING: Mr Crawley has refused to pay this on the basis that I have not “provide[d] any evidence to indicate that [Wandsworth] agreed to contribute towards the roof works”. Mr Crawley appears, perversely, to have failed to ask Ms Parris what she said to me during the site visit of May 2006. No explanation has been given by Mr Crawley with regard to the loss of my letters by Ms Parris or her failure to reply to them. I’ve issued a court claim for the money and Wandsworth are contesting it. Ashfords Solicitors are acting for Wandsworth, and I'm waiting for them to submit a written defence (deadline 18th March). I also await Mr Crawley’s response to my request for a written statement from Ms Parris

THE LEAK IN THE COMMUNAL HALL: (Not mentioned in my first post, but explained in a subsequent post). The leak, first reported in May 2006 when it flooded the hall carpet, remains unrepaired. Wandsworth contractors, sent by Mr Crawley to inspect, failed to identify the location of the leak, and propose to “excavate” the area to discover its source. I’m about to write to Mr Crawley about this. The location of the leak is not, nor ever was, a mystery; it's on the internal mains stopcock, something which would have been obvious had the contractors carried out a proper inspection.

LANDLORD’S CONSENT: Mr Crawley has sent me his bulleted list four times and refuses to budge on this issue, or acknowledge Ms Parris’ role in failing to inform me these documents were required at the appropriate time. I’ve informed Mr Crawley that I’m taking this complaint to the Chief Executive, Gerald Jones.

In conclusion, Mr Crawley has spectacularly failed to resolve any of my complaints, and there is the subtle but unmistakeable implication throughout his letters that he regards my claim of having written repeatedly to Ms Parris, and having had a conversation regarding the roof repointing and landlord’s consent with her, as being the product of a delusional or, at best, confused, mind.

Oh, and Mr Crawley's been promoted.

Sian Gibbon: Wandsworth's solicitor

(Edit: 9th March 2009. As ashfordbots have been crawling around my blog this morning, I have removed the photo of Ms Gibbon which used to be here and replaced it with a charming cat photo in order to preclude any attempt by Ashfords to claim illegal use of a copyrighted image)

* * * * *

Out of idle curiosity, I checked Ashfords' website (Ashfords being the solicitors who are acting for Wandsworth in my court claim) to see if the person who filled in the response form was mentioned anywhere. I'd vaguely assumed that a junior lawyer would have been assigned to my case but it turns out Sian Gibbon is a partner of the firm, in the Property Litigation Department. She joined Ashfords in 1988, and became a partner in 2000. She is the only partner mentioned on the Property Litigation page. It's a big firm with about 60 partners, but nevertheless this all suggests a reasonable degree of seniority. 

In addition, the Chambers Guide to the Legal Profession, 2009 Edition, says:
"The heart of the practice lies with Sian Gibbon, who has excelled in winning public sector and housing association work. Her practice focuses on commercial landlord and tenant disputes, easement and restrictive covenant enforcement, trusts of land and redevelopment-related litigation. In recent highlight work, she represented the London Borough of Wandsworth in a Court of Appeal determination on the meaning of succession in the context of the Housing Act 1985."
And, from the 2008 Edition:
"Sian Gibbon has been involved in the weighty litigation that has kept the department busy of late and she can expect much more attention as a result of her 'fantastic work' in service charge and rights of light cases."
Weighty litigation? Hahaha! It's both flattering and risible that Wandsworth regard my claim for £274.06 as so fiendishly complex it requires a property litigation specialist and senior company partner to contest it.  

I wonder how much Ms Gibbon's time is costing Wandsworth council tax payers? £150 per hour? It can't be less than £100. 


Friday, 6 March 2009

In a few weeks it'll be the leak's third anniversary

* * * * *

The leak, perhaps in anticipation of the forthcoming occasion, is reviving its 2006 glory days, when it was first reported to Ms Parris and to Wandsworth Housing's duty manager. That heady time when leaks were young and carefree, and you thought repair was just around the corner. 

I noticed the tell-tale patch on the communal hall carpet when I went out today. It's not dirt, it's waterlogged from the leak. The second photo shows the rather grim scene inside the cupboard on the left in the first photo. As you can see, water has filled the cavity (in fact, it's always like that), but is still below carpet level, so I'm not sure how the water is making the carpet soggy. I presume the floorboards and underlay are acting as a sponge and drawing the water up?

Click on the photos if you want to see the full-size image. (I only just discovered you can do this).

The Joy of SEO

* * * * *

Yes, a few hours later and Incompetence Today has jumped 43 places to number one. 


Thursday, 5 March 2009


* * * * *

I've registered this blog's URL with Google Webmaster and technorati.com as it's meant to be good for Search Engine Optimization (SEO), i.e. coming higher up the page in Google. They send virtual robots to check out your blog regularly. It seems to be doing the trick as I'm beginning to get hits from Google searches (revealed by my site meter), and I'm on the first page for:
  • incompetence+wandsworth (yay!)
  • incompetence[or wandsworth]+crawley
  • incompetence[or wandsworth]+parris
...and in 49th position for housing+complaints+wandsworth and 44th position for housing+complaint+wandsworth, which isn't that great, but not disastrous for a puny blog like mine. It's lucky there's only one Wandsworth on the planet. 

I've also changed the blog's tagline. Apparently, what and how you write has an effect on SEO and there should be a degree of 'focus' and 'Keyword Rich Content'. I think I'm okay since this blog is already obsessively focussed on a single topic and littered with keywords without even trying. Well, I admit I am trying with those last two example Google searches. And I'm going to use more post titles from now on.  

What this increased visibility will achieve, except for an increase in (hopefully interested) traffic, remains to be seen, but exposure of local government incompetence has to be a good thing. 

I wonder if Mr Crawley or Ms Parris are self-Googlers. Most people do it occasionally. I enjoy the idea of them coming across this blog accidentally. It did occur to me this might not be helpful in terms of the court claim etc, but then I realized there's nothing here which could harm my case as it's all true. Any minor tactical disadvantage is far outweighed by the naming and shaming factor. 

Court Claim Update

I received today from the court a Notice that Acknowledgment of Service has been filed, (Form N10) dated 3rd March 2009.

Enclosed was a copy of the defendant's Acknowledgment of Service, which shows that Wandsworth "intend to defend all of this claim". They are using a firm of solicitors called Ashfords in Exeter, Devon, to represent them.

The deadline for Wandsworth to file a defence is 18th March. I'll be very interested to see what it says. It could just be a broad denial of everything, i.e. say I have no evidence that they authorized the repair and agreed to refund. However, given that I named Ms Parris in my claim, and given that Ashfords will surely read my correspondence with Mr Crawley, they will surely have to ask Ms Parris about what she said on the site visit in May 2006. It's the logical thing to do. So it's possible she may be mentioned in the defence, which would be a far more interesting outcome.  

BTW, I checked today and Ms Parris hasn't been promoted.

Monday, 2 March 2009

* * * * *

I noticed today that Mr Crawley's job title has changed. Up until his letter of 18th November 2008 he signed himself as Senior Estate Manager, Eastern Team; in his February 2009 letters he's Deputy Area Housing Manager, Eastern Area Team. This means he's been promoted. (Note to self: find out whether Ms Parris has also been promoted).

I've drafted my letter to Mr Jones. I may wait till next Monday to send it, though, as the deadline for Wandsworth to respond to my court claim is in two days, 4th March. Then it takes a couple of days for the court to send me a copy of the response. Probably best to know what it is so I can incorporate it into my letter. 

Meanwhile, in the course of googling for other victims of council incompetence this week, I have discovered a network of dedicated campaigners who are trying to get an overhaul of the Local Government Ombudsman system. I'd never heard of LGOs before now, but my understanding is that they sit atop the incompetence pyramid, and arbitrate in cases where a local authority fails to resolve a complaint to the complainant's satisfaction, or the complainant believes the council is guilty of dishonesty, or maladministration, etc. However, the problem is, LGOs almost never find in favour of the complainant, and believe anything the council tells them. (If I've got any of this wrong, let me know).

One of these heroic campaigners is Trevor Nunn, (whose blog I've added to the blog list in the sidebar). He recently submitted a freedom of information request to every single council in England, via the What Do They Know? website, which provides a simple online method of making a FOI request, and publishes both the request and the result. 

Anyway, this is Trevor Nunn's question, (more details on his blog):
"During the last five years how many times has the Local Government Ombudsman (as a result of investigating a complaint against X District Council) brought to the attention of the council the fact that a member of X District Council staff had misled them, lied to them or done anything else to hinder their investigation. If they have what disciplinary action was taken against the individual(s) concerned by the council."
Mr Nunn updated his blog today, saying: "only one council out of hundreds...has admitted that a member of their staff has been criticized by the LGO". And in that case it was for removing some handwritten notes on a letter, and the member of staff was not disciplined.

Mr Nunn's post concludes:
"Over the last five years the LGO will have received over 80,000 complaints. The majority of which are complaints against one of the 400 or so Councils in England. Yet not one of these complaints led to the LGO criticizing a council member of staff for lying or misleading them during an investigation. I call that a statistical impossibility."