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 ?