Come – and bring your friends!
The council officer responsible states: “I am not aware of any specific events such as flooding or fire that would have caused these documents to be unavailable. I suspect the passage of time and several Local Government reorganisations has led to documents being mislaid”.
A statutory declaration or statement of truth describing when, where, and how the deeds were lost or destroyed?
The Land Registry‘s website says that when transferring land a statutory declaration or statement of truth describing when, where, and how the deeds were lost or destroyed must be supplied and confirmation given that no one else has any interest whatsoever in the property and, in particular, that the missing deeds are not deposited as a security for a loan. The writer therefore asked about this document describing how the deeds were lost or destroyed, but received a rather vacuous statement:
“The Council has an arrangement with HM Land Registry whereby it can give a Certificate of Title in order to deduce its title. It is most likely that this route was used to register this land”.
Carte blanche . . . and the Information Commissioner’s Office is interested only in data loss or misuse by ‘public bodies’ such as the council, which affects the individual – see the following cases recorded on its website:
11 September 2012
A monetary penalty of £250,000 was issued to Scottish Borders Council after former employees’ pension records were found in an over-filled paper recycle bank in a supermarket car park.
12 December 2012
A monetary penalty has been served to London Borough of Lewisham after a social worker left sensitive documents in a plastic shopping bag on a train, after taking them home to work on.
So the rights of the individual are upheld – but the rights of the people of Shirley ?
Next: the donors of the parkland.
Alerted by a brief sentence on Radio 4 news early today, many will have been stunned by the news that she had committed suicide on May 4th, and even more by her reasons for doing so – and the fact that, as the Mirror comments,“Stephanie’s death didn’t make headlines locally. But her friends know exactly what happened to her”.
Did the family contact local media before getting in touch with the Sunday papers?
It took eight days for the Birmingham Post and Solihull News to report it, and they only quoted the national coverage.
Stephanie Bottrill of Kingshurst in Solihull who committed suicide in earlier this month left a note saying “Don’t blame yourself for me ending my life. The only people to blame are the Government.”
In the days before her death she told family and neighbours: “I can’t afford to live any more.” She had been told to pay £80 a month extra rent for two under-occupied bedrooms at her home in Solihull, following the reduction of housing benefit to people of a working age in social housing who have a spare bedroom.
Having been was diagnosed with Myasthenia gravis as a child she had to take constant medication and though doctors had told her she was too ill to hold down a job, she had never been registered as disabled or received disability benefit.
The council offered Mrs Bottrill £2,000 to move but she had to use the money to carry out mandatory repairs on the home. She had packed some belongings in boxes, ready to go. However the one property offered to her was miles from her family and friends and had poor transport links, with a 30-minute walk to the bus stop.
Her son Steven told the Sunday People: “She was fine before this bedroom tax. It was dreamt up in London, by people living in offices and big houses. They have no idea the effect it has on people like my mum.”
There may well have been other ‘contributory causes’ as the Samaritans commented, but the case underlines the need for a new (cross-party?) politics designed to offer equality of opportunity and security to all its citizens – not just the affluent few.
Can we look to politicians in the region, such as John Clancy in Birmingham, Simon Slater and Chris Williams in Solihull, for the energy, altruism and imagination needed to do this?
A reader wrote to the chairman of Marks and Spencer a week ago, asking that the proposed relocation of the ‘Simply Food’ store on the Stratford Road, Shirley, at one side of Red Lion Square be reconsidered:
“It is well-used and appreciated locally and – rather than closure – we ask that you consider retaining a proven asset, even though you have plans to open in a retail park a mile or so away. I believe that this shop will retain its customers and a different set will be drawn to the new store.”
“Having said that, however, given the new store that has opened in the Retail Park close by, the Shirley Simply Food store will be monitored and its performance assessed in the future”.
Another instance of hacking into a holiday rentals website confirms the writer in rejoicing that it is still possible to book – and more importantly, pay – via a travel agency on the high street.
BT Travel has been established for 30 years, moving from its base in the Maypole area to Solihull Lodge two years ago. Manager/owner Pip Waterhouse died in April last year and John Waterhouse, her husband and business partner, retired in October. Leigh Simmonds and Lisa Whiston who had worked with Mrs Waterhouse for many years were then offered the opportunity to run the business and could not turn it down.
They moved to new premises, retaining a customer base built up over the years through a focus on personal service and expertise. Leigh said “We have a number of regular clients and great rapport with them and we do well on personal recommendations to attract new customers. People still appreciate a friendly service and personal touch when it comes to arranging their holidays”.
Another important step taken was joining a new consortium independent travel agents formed by the Midcounties Co-op Travel, following Midcounties’ decision not to take part in the merger between Thomas Cook, the Co-operative Travel Group and Midlands Co-operative. Leigh explained:
“We decided to join the Midcounties Consortium because we liked their approach and they were the right choice for us. It is good to have the backing of such a group and while some of the systems are new to us the support we have had as a new member has been brilliant.”
As the final Parkgate development agreement document between Solihull Council and its commercial partner Shirley Advance is not readily accessible online – apart from the redacted 2004 document - there have been two further Freedom of Information requests.
The Solihull News reported an earlier Shirley resident’s Freedom of Information request revealing the council was considering accepting £10.5 million. This, it was later revealed was not for the land but the ‘privilege’ of being allowed to build Parkgate on it.
Two other FOI requests have since been made, because residents who saw the plaque at the entrance to Shirley Park, celebrating a local doctor’s donation of land to the people of Shirley for recreational purposes, wondered whether there were conditions attached to this gift.
First FOI request
A disappointing development following the first FOI request for copies of documents authenticating the council’s ownership of Shirley Park was recorded on this site. The Land Registry’s website showed that some of the land in the area to be sold to Shirley Advance was unregistered. The LR advised an FOI request for title deeds.
Second FOI request
A second FOI request was made to the Information Governance (Social Care & Performance) on 11th March: Request for a copy of the title deeds to Shirley Park. No response was made, so on 3rd April it was sent again with a covering sentence. The reply showed that the second request had been confused with the first one.
To resolve this matter the Council approached the Land Registry Offices and paid the fees of £34 to gain the requested information. A list of documents was given with photocopies of the deeds attached and maps of the relevant parcels of land and it was pointed out that title WM845869 was subject to a pending application.
An archivist looking at the documents asks how deeds on three of the documents came to be ‘lost or destroyed’ – see snapshot:
Has there been a fire or flood in the council’s storage facilities? The Information Governance Manager did not give the answer:
“I am afraid I am not able to answer your query. I am the Council’s Information Governance Manager. Amongst other things my team and I deal with request for information made under the Data Protection Act 1998, Freedom of Information Act 2000 and the Environmental Information Regulations 2004.”
On May 7th these questions will be placed before another council officer, who dealt with the query until he left on 15th April.
Emboldened by Cllr Peter Doyle’s emessage:
“I spoke at council planning committee on Wednesday after over 500 people signed a petition, a meeting with head teacher and local police Sgt I thought it was right I stand up for residents and represent them at the meeting. Since I spoke (and it was rightly rejected) I have been overwhelmed with the e-mails and phone calls of thanks! Honestly so many people have called / e-mailed to thank me for speaking up and for helping to spearhead this campaign against a drive thru KFC on the door step of a local school, I am overwhelmed by the reaction!”
. . . I asked if he would rethink his position on our greatly valued Shirley Library if 500 people signed a petition, to which he diplomatically replied:
“If the public consultation convinces council officers and members to go ahead I will support the outcome of the public consultation. Or:
”If the public consultation convinces council officers and members to not go ahead I will support the outcome of the public consultation
”Public opinion must be heard – but only if the public has all the facts!”