Monday, 11 November 2013

It's been a while since I last blogged, as we've been waiting for Richmond Council to come up with an offer of a property for us.

Well, we had one, and went to see it this evening. Frankly it was an insult, and we've rejected it.

Yes it was one bed-roomed, on the ground floor, and close to my work as requested, but it had damp, an ancient water boiler, no outside space for the dog, and was in need of serious redecoration.

Some might say we're being a little 'picky', but Richmond Council have put us in this position, and if this is all they have to offer to redress the situation then they can forget it.

I have informed Richmond's Head of Housing of our decision, and we wait to see what he comes up with next.

The worst part of it though was the lady from the Housing Trust had received no knowledge of our specific situation, nor even a copy of our 'Housing Application' prior to offering us the property. She even said that we shouldn't have been offered the flat in the first place because we have a dog !

It beggars belief that we're still being treated so poorly over this, and we intend to continue the fight.

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Well, the day dawned when we expected to hear LBRuT's latest excuse why they couldn't rehouse us, and it didn't start that well I have to say.

I received an email from the Director of Education that didn't fill me with confidence ahead of our meeting with the Director of Housing this afternoon.

The way it was worded suggested that nothing would continue to happen in our favour.
There was one particular line that read "I have been updated by HR and Housing on the points you have raised......and after full consideration of the issues I am satisfied that the appropriate action has been taken"

Now, I take 'appropriate action' to mean the action already taken by Richmond on the matter - so there would be no change to the situation.

I responded, in a polite yet firm manner, stressing again that my contract states (if they'd care to read it correctly) that they are obliged to rehome me, and that I would take the matter further if this didn't happen.

As a result, Denise and I were not looking forward to the Housing meeting.

This meeting started in a similar fashion. The Director began by explaining the policies for rehousing Site Managers or not, depending on the circumstances and their contracts. I pointed out that these policies do not apply to my situation, as my homelessness is as a result of an LBRuT decision, and not through any choice of mine.
I have to admit to becoming a little irritated at this point, as I felt sure he'd give us the same old nonsense about their non-obligation to rehouse us.

So, imagine our surprise when he told us that he had approved our Council Housing Application, and that we would be rehoused as soon as possible.

It was a massive relief for both of us, and my boss (who was present) was equally pleased for us.

The outcome is that he will now go away and look at our application in more detail, take into account all of our circumstances (pets, health issues etc), and find suitable accommodation for us. It was stressed by myself, and supported by my boss, that this should be in the Hampton area as my job depends on that to a certain extent.

Denise and I are satisfied with the outcome and like to think that the LBRuT have at last recognised their moral (legal ?) responsibility to us and done the decent thing.

We would like to thank everyone that has supported us throughout this period, you have all kept us going with your words of encouragement and advice.

Denise and I have gone through the mill this year, in more ways than one in Denise's case, but we seem to have survived it and maybe now we can look ahead to a rosier future.

In summary :

"Is Loyalty a Thing of the Past ?"

Yes, I do believe it is unfortunately.
My loyalty to LBRuT had nothing to do with their decision to back down and do the right thing by us. What did it was my shouting loudly enough to make them sit up and listen. They realised that I would not simply roll over and play their game, and that I would take this as far as I could. That meant publicity, and that was a game they don't like to play.

Monday, 30 September 2013

My response to the Director :

Dear Mr *********
I trust you read the attachment I sent with my email.
This outlines the unfortunate situation I am in with regards my living arrangements. I believe that anyone would see that I am being treated unfairly, and immorally (and some would say illegally), by the LBRuT in this matter - despite what they say to the contrary.
I am not responsible for the situation I am in. LBRuT wish to sell the land that they held back from St Mary's Church when they handed over the Oldfield site under the terms of the Free School agreement. My house sits on that land, therefore in their eyes I must vacate, and find alternate accommodation at my own expense, and with little or not help from those that should be providing it. What better argument do have to fight this injustice ?
I would be more than happy to meet with you, and to discuss this further, in the hope that you could assist me in some way.
I will NOT be bullied out of my home by what seems to have become a faceless, bureaucratic organisation, with scant regard for the 'small man', just for the sake of making a penny or two.
I have been a faithful servant of Richmond for 18 years, and deserve some respect at the very least.
Simon Purdue
It would be nice if he at least paid me some respect by responding. I'll let you all know in due course.
So, following my email last night I received a reply from the Joint Director of Education and Children's Services for Kingston and Richmond.

The email was addressed to me, but copied into the lady from Richmond's Human Resources who has been "The Mouthpiece" for Richmond throughout all this, my boss and my boss' boss. I won't mention names I'm afraid. My boss has been very good to me throughout all this, and has been very supportive, and her boss is someone I've worked for in the past. Both of whom I have respect for, and neither are involved with the shenanigans that Richmond are playing in this. And "The Mouthpiece" is exactly that. It's not her fault that she has to say what she does, it's just her job, and I do know that she sympathises with my situation.

The Director's email simply said : "Can anyone brief me ?"

Now, I was obviously very tempted to brief him with chapter and bloody verse, but decided not to. He is after all my boss' boss' boss, and I didn't want to piss him off and jeopardise my chances of success.

But the question I ask now is, why does he need to be briefed ?
Did he not read the attachment that was my original 3 page statement ? Can he not come to a conclusion from that using his own reason ?

He was contacted some time ago (when I first raised a fuss over this), by Vincent Cable, and was asked about what was going on. He basically passed the query to HR who told him their side of the story of course (as The Mouthpiece would), which he duly passed back to Vincent. I'm still not sure that he really knows what is going on, or what the impact of it is to my family and I.
I find that slightly worrying. I understand he's a busy man, working on the merger of Children's Services between Kingston and Richmond, but those who work for him must surely still be important to him, and be taken into account.

Or am I just being na├»ve, thinking that people at the top care about people at the bottom ?

I may be being unkind to him, after all I've never met him, but I think this is a rather unusual situation to be in and it must at least pique his interest. Why then has he not spoken to me direct about it ? Surely my opinion counts for something to him.

I intend emailing him back, suggesting that we meet.

Sunday, 29 September 2013

-----Sunday evening update-----

Email sent this evening to senior Richmond Council officers, Councillors, Members of Parliament, and the press :

I thought I'd send a quick reminder to you all, of the plight my wife and I find ourselves in as a result of a LBRuT decision, and to give you an update on the current situation.
We have a meeting with Ken Emerson, Head of Housing for Richmond, on Wednesday afternoon where we expect to hear that our situation has been resolved in our favour. Anything else we are told would simply be a continuation of the shameful, and immoral treatment we have endured at Richmond's hands over the past year.
If it turns out that Wednesday's meeting is not good news for my wife and I, then I fear you've simply wasted everyone's time, and we will continue our fight. We know we are in the right, and know that we will win through eventually.
Everyone knows the reasons why we're being told to vacate the Oldfield Bungalow - we've personally seen the evidence of it with the clearing, and fencing off, of the land adjacent in preparation for sale. We don't dispute Richmond's right to sell excess land, but we do dispute their so called 'right' to make us homeless to achieve this.
I urge all those within the LBRuT to make the right and moral decision in this situation, and everyone else of you to stand up and speak for us.
And please, do not expect us to simply 'roll over and play ball'. This will not happen !
Thought I'd just make sure that they haven't forgotten us.

Saturday, 28 September 2013

No news to relate regarding the house situation, and the weekend is now upon us, so a chance to put it out of our minds for a while.

Both pretty knackered this morning as up late working on individual projects. Denise finishing the cake for Lisa and Tony's wedding today, and me the last of the figures for the latest commission - just couldn't keep my eyes open long enough to finish that final one.

It's going to be a long, tiring, but enjoyable day.

Best wishes to Lisa and Tony ahead of their big event.

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Okay, so it's possible that we may be getting somewhere with this at last.

A meeting has been arranged between myself, Denise, my boss (as a relatively independent witness - in light of the fact that Unison have disgracefully washed their hands of me), and the Head of Housing Operations to discuss my 'housing application and the issues I raised in my letter'.

Of course I'm hoping that the Head of HO is going to tell me some good news, and not just palm me off as his staff have done up to now with their standard letters - "you do not have enough points, and we don't have any available, suitable housing even if you did" - that sort of thing !

Meeting scheduled for next Wednesday (2nd Oct) at 3pm, at The Newhouse Centre where I work - rather there than at home, for the sake of the dog's nerves :D

What's more, I contacted Unison today in an attempt to lodge a formal complaint against them for their lack of support in the situation. No response from them yet though - now there's a surprise ;)

I haven't cancelled my membership with them just yet, as the Branch Secretary has been very supportive throughout despite Unison's legal department siding with Richmond (!!!), and telling him to back off. Once this is all done and dusted, in mine and Denise's favour, I'll submit my cancellation.

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Well, well, well. Some potentially good news at last.

Earlier today I emailed Vince Cable's office again, copying in Richmond's Head of Housing Operations and the Director of Education. Since then the Head of Housing has emailed me to say he'd like to meet me to discuss my Housing Application.

Now this may be just to say that I don't have enough points, and besides there's nothing available even if I did. But, I remain positive and that he's open to negotiation, as I've already been told this when I've applied through the formal channels.

One oddity I did pick up when going through the formal channels is that I got 200 points for local connection, and 80 'working' points, but nothing for my impending homelessness - can anyone explain that ?

An additional piece of news is that Radio Jackie are offering me an interview about the situation. I have been told I have a face for radio.

So, some light at the end of the tunnel ? Or just false hope ? Let's wait and see.
Well, two of my friends have now written to Vincent Cable, and received the exact same reply from his office :

"Thank you for your email. Dr Cable has been aware of Mr Purdue’s situation since earlier in the year and Mr Purdue will be able to tell you that he (and one of the ward councillors) have both tried to help, unfortunately to no avail since the Conservative-run Council will not change its position. It is a very sad situation and Dr Cable is very sympathetic but his influence is unfortunately very limited."

I don't wish to sound ungrateful, or rude, to Dr Cable, but he's a member of the government - how much more influence does he need ?

The point about "The Conservative-run Council will not change its position", suggests very much that the welfare of my wife and I mean nothing to them.

Still no word from anyone I sent it to originally, which tells that that they simply don't care.

The fight goes on.

Monday, 23 September 2013

Since my initial email, I have now sent the same message to the Richmond and Twickenham Times, The Daily Mail, Private Eye and Radio Jackie. If anyone knows of where else I could send it, then please let me know.
The following was submitted by me on Friday 20th September 2013, to Senior Officers of The London Borough of Richmond Upon Thames, local Councillors, and Dr Vincent Cable, my local MP.

I believe I'm being very poorly treated by Richmond Council, and feel that loyalty is something that no longer exists in this country.

I intend to fight this situation in anyway I can, and I'm happy for anyone who reads this to write to Richmond Council, and/or Vincent Cable, and voice your opinion. Whether it's in direct support of me, or simply because you feel they're acting immorally.
Is Loyalty a Thing of the Past ?

In September 1998, I was employed by the London Borough of Richmond Upon Thames as a Residential Site Manager at what was then known as, Oldfield House School. This was a specialist provision for approximately 20 primary children with Emotional and Behavioural Difficulties.

Prior to this I was Premises Manager for 3 years at Waldegrave Girls School in Twickenham. Therefore I’ve worked for Richmond Council for 18 continuous years, a fact I deem to be important in this case.

Since my appointment at Oldfield the site has changed its’ specific identity and staffing a number of times, but has always provided an education service for children or young people with behavioural difficulties. Some of these changes were considerably stressful for everyone involved at the time, including myself, but I remained as Site Manager throughout.

Eventually, the site’s use was gradually wound down by Richmond, and it remained empty for some while, with the exception of it being used as a base for the MTV Youth Club on a Friday night (run jointly by St Mary’s Church in Hampton, and the local police Safer Neighbourhood Team). Again, I remained as Site Manager throughout this time, in addition to being Site Manager for two other Richmond Council sites (one of which I am still Site Manager for – The Newhouse Centre in Hampton).

Throughout all this I have remained actively involved with not only the day to day running of the site as my duty required, but every group of people working here. This latter has all been conducted in a voluntary manner, beyond my paid duties. This includes classroom support, organising a Year 6 School Journey, supporting individual students on a one to one basis, and assisting (in a small way), the establishment of the very successful MTV Youth Club. Furthermore, in addition to all this I worked additionally for the Adolescent Resource and Youth Offending Team’s based at the Strathmore Centre.

More recently, the Oldfield site has been granted to the above named St Mary’s Church, to open a Free School under the new government scheme for these. At first I welcomed this, as I was on good terms with St Mary’s due to the Youth Club, and my marriage there in 2012. It was initially agreed that a Service Level Agreement would be established between St Mary’s and Richmond Council, enabling me to continue working part time at Oldfield for St Mary’s, as well as continuing my duties at The Newhouse Centre.

Part of the site, including the land that my house is on, was retained by Richmond and not included in the lease agreement with St Mary’s. I was informed at the time that this was because I would remain in residence at Oldfield due to my duties there under the terms of the SLA.

However, in February 2013 a rather large bombshell fell into my lap. I was asked to attend a meeting with Human Resources at the Civic Centre in Twickenham, where I was informed that no SLA would in fact be established. Furthermore, as an employee of Richmond Council I would no longer be required to work at Oldfield, and was therefore no longer eligible to remain living in The Bungalow, and have to vacate the premises.

I immediately responded by quoting from my Job Contract, that clearly states “the Council will not rehouse you when you retire or leave this post”.

My argument to HR was that I’m obviously not retiring, and nor am I “leaving the post”. What was in fact happening was that the post was being taken away from me by a decision made by Richmond Council, and that they are therefore honour bound to rehouse me. I was told by HR that “leave the post” means under ANY circumstance, including ones such as this.

It’s important to note here that this contract was written in 2010 at the time that the Pupil Referal Service was closing down at Oldfield, and it was written in agreement between myself and Human Resources to safeguard my living arrangements, as the future of the site as a Richmond Education facility was even then in doubt. So I know for a fact what “leave the post” means, it means leave as a result of a decision of mine. This is something I have always accepted, and never once did I imagine that Richmond Council would read it completely differently (and incorrectly) to suit their own means.

This contract is still valid, as although a new one has been written for me I have yet to agree and sign it. So I maintain that Richmond are honour bound to rehouse me.

I was further told that a Notice to Quit would be served as soon as possible, and that it would give me four weeks to seek alternate accommodation. As a ‘concession’ I was told that I would in fact be given more than four weeks due to the circumstances. When I asked how I was to go about doing this, I was given two options. The first was to register with Richmond Housing, a very long process as anyone knows, or private renting. Now private renting is expensive in Hampton, and as I wished to remain living here, (and why shouldn’t I after all), that idea was a non-starter. So I asked what help would be given if I registered with Richmond Council, and was told by HR that they ‘would see what they could do to get me moved up the list’.

I’ve since put in more than one application (due to my personal circumstances changing – partly as a result of the stress this whole business has caused my wife and I), but not once have I come close to achieving the number of points required for housing. I can only assume therefore that little or no help was actually given in my cause by HR, or that it had no impact on those that make decisions within the Housing Department. Surely my exceptional circumstances would count for something ?

Following the meeting with HR, I contacted Unison (my official union), and was told that it appeared that I had good grounds to take this further. I also contacted the Citizen’s Advice Bureau, who said the same.

Unfortunately, for a reason I have not yet had explained to me, Unison’s legal department agreed that Richmond are acting legally in asking me to vacate my home, and that as such they can no longer support me. I have since decided to terminate my membership with them, as this is exactly the sort of case they should be supporting in my opinion, and they’ve washed their hands of me.

Throughout all this, I have had regular discourse with local Councillors. All have maintained that I am being treated unfairly, and that I should ‘stick it out’, but as yet I have seen no effect of any action they may have taken on my behalf.

It has recently come to light that Richmond Council intend selling the land that my house sits on. So, at last, I have the real reason why they want me to vacate. They intend making some money on what is in fact a fairly small piece of land. Greed is therefore the reason why I am soon to be homeless, through no fault of my own.

As an aside, my question here is, what would a developer build on the land ? Surely not housing. On a triangular piece of land bordered on two sides by a new primary school, and on the third by a reasonably busy ‘commercial’ road ? Questions will surely be asked if that’s the case.

I’m not asking for much. All I want is to be treated fairly and with some dignity. Not just as a loyal employee of 18 years standing, but as a human being with rights.

The bottom line of all this is that I am being made homeless as a result of a decision made by someone in Richmond Council, and not through any fault of mine. Why then should I be penalised for it ? Why should I be treated with such apparent contempt ? Did Richmond think I would just accept what they say, roll over and let them walk all over me, flouting my rights along the way ? If so, then Richmond are very wrong indeed. I will fight this immoral decision, and stand up for my basic human right of having a home to live in, and to not be bullied by the faceless organisation that Richmond Council seems to have become.

I am still prepared to negotiate with Richmond Council over this situation, are Richmond Council prepared to do the decent thing and negotiate with me ? Or will I simply become yet another statistic that this country seems to be racking up ?