And so the culmination of what has been a ridiculously long and drawn out process involving making a complaint against Sandwell Council’s clandestine Canada goose cull has drawn to a close.
Having gone through the council’s complaints procedure including their so called “independent investigator” , I submitted the complaint to The Local Government Ombudsman way back in September of 2015. It has taken this long for a decision to be made on arguments presented by myself and the council and the Ombudsman’s decision notice shortly to be published on their website can be read BELOW.
I WOULD LIKE TO POINT OUT RIGHT FROM THE START, THAT THOUGH THE OMBUDSMAN RECOMMENDED THAT I SHOULD BE PAID £150 BY THE COUNCIL, (WHICH THEY AGREED TO) FOR THE LIES TOLD BY THEIR OFFICERS AND THE TIME AND TROUBLE THAT I HAVE BEEN PUT TO IN MAKING THIS COMPLAINT-
I HAVE REFUSED TO ACCEPT THIS OR ANY PAYMENT.
I will go into greater discussion about this at the end of this blog post. This is a long post and I make no apology for this as it is the culmination, though not the end of three years of campaigning.
Before looking at the decision notice in detail, at this point it is important to explain what powers this body has and what it could and could not investigate in regard to my complaint.
Typically The Local Government Ombudsman deals with “injustice” towards individuals by way of finding “fault” with the organisation which caused it. They have limited powers to look at individual council employees, but instead can offer guidance towards the direction that the authority took if they made a wrong decision or did not follow their own rules. Many of the judgements of the LGO deal with social welfare, and one such example of an upheld complaint against Sandwell council can be read HERE. The key words of “Injustice” and “fault” have specific meanings for the Ombudsman- in effect their rules. SEE BELOW.
It is therefore impossible for the Canada geese themselves to be considered in this complaint, as it can only relate to people who have suffered an “injustice”.
Page 1 of the decision notice deals with the powers of the Ombudsman.
In this decision notice, I am “Mr B” and John Satchwell, former Sandwell parks manager is “Officer Y”. Not named in this report, as they should have been, are other officers of Sandwell council who I will mention below. This has widely been published previously and so there is no need to pretend anonymity, and nor should there be any either. Points 5-20 offer a summary of my complaint, (on behalf of the geese). These have been covered extensively in detail on this website and are highlighted below for clarity.
LIES TOLD BY SANDWELL COUNCIL OFFICERS. – John Satchwell (officer Y) former parks and countryside manager SMBC
Chris Moore– former Sandwell Park Farm Manager SMBC
Paul Smith– former Conservation officer SMBC
Matt Darby– Still current Senior countryside ranger SMBC who sent me staged pictures using his Sandwell.GOV email account suggesting geese had illegally been released and not culled.
The Ombudsman sets out the events of the case in paragraphs 6-20. I have marked the Ombudsman’s quotes in red italics and attached relevant links to some of these points to illustrate these.
What I found Law and policy
6. The Canada Goose is protected by law and it is an offence to capture, kill or injure the geese, or to damage or take their nests or eggs. (The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, as amended). It is also an offence to relocate Canada geese. However Natural England can licence councils to kill the geese in order to preserve public health or safety, or prevent the spread of disease, but only when non-lethal means are ineffective.
Agreed. Sandwell council specifically claim that they were relying on licence GL05, which was supplied in an FOI request, but this was for 2014. They have NEVER produced any licence for the 2013 cull.
7. Natural England has produced a best practice note for councils about how to manage problems caused by Canada Geese. It sets out means to control the population including treating the eggs so they do not hatch and culling. Natural England’s technical guidance suggests how councils should go about a cull.
8. Mr B uses a public park and has an interest in wildlife. In 1997, the Council considered how to manage Canada Geese at its parks. It had been pricking eggs so they do not hatch, but only in a limited area. The Council decided to extend this to all the sites and to continue over a number of years. The Council also decided to consider culling geese if treating the eggs did not control the population.
The egg pricking is of course the theory which the council claim to have undertaken which they cannot in fact prove with any evidence over a number of years. Sandwell council have not provided any direct evidence that “non-lethal methods were ineffective”.
9. In 2013, it reviewed the situation. Officer Y was responsible for managing the wildlife population and he discussed the possibility of another cull with officers before preparing a briefing note for the Council’s Cabinet Member with political responsibility for countryside management. Other cabinet members were also consulted.
10. The Council approved the culling as an ongoing measure until it could control the population by other means. Officer Y’s briefing paper says:
• The Canada Geese population across the Council’s parks is large with up to 700 birds at any one time and large flocks graze on public spaces.
• The geese droppings may be harmful if swallowed, and make grassed areas unattractive and paths slippery. They may also impact on fish stocks if passed into water.
• The Council has tried to reduce the population by pricking and oiling eggs and installing fencing around pools, but this has not worked.
• He recommended that the Council cull in two locations and monitor whether this has been effective and gauge public reaction. It should also continue to prick and oil eggs so they do not hatch and when possible seek to redesign the parks so as to make the habitat unsuitable for large numbers of geese to thrive.
We would of course and have disputed many of Satchwell’s statements as false or not evidenced. There is no formal record of the decision, which I believe suggests that the statement of events made by the council is false. The following legislation under The Local Government Act 2000 is relevant here, and this doesn’t appear to have been considered in the Ombudsman’s decision.
“22 Access to information
(3)A written record must be kept of prescribed decisions made at meetings of local authorities executives, or committees of such executives, which are held in private.
(4)A written record must be kept of prescribed decisions made by individual members of local authority executives.
(5)Written records under subsection (3) or (4) must include reasons for the decisions to which they relate.
(6)Written records under subsections (3) and (4), together with such reports, background papers or other documents as may be prescribed, must be made available to members of the public in accordance with regulations made by the Secretary of State.”
The Ombudsman states that she believes that John Satchwell gave a verbal report to the cabinet member, though for such an important and divisive issue, was this really a way for a council officer and council to proceed?
11. Mr B was at that park in 2013 and saw a council contractor rounding up the geese. Officer Y and the contractors told Mr B that the Council had relocated the geese. Mr B knew that relocation is illegal and so he questioned the Council about this. Another officer sent him some photographs of geese telling him these were the geese being released.
12. In 2014, Mr B noticed a large number of the geese had gone. Officer Y again told him that it had relocated the geese. Mr B challenged the Council about this and it later admitted that Officer Y had misled Mr B and the Council had in fact culled the geese in 2013 and 2014, using a licensed contractor.
13. The relationship between Mr B and the officer had become fraught. Officer Y threatened Mr B and Mr B complained to the Council.
14. The Council found that: • Officer Y had misled Mr B, twice telling him the Council had relocated the geese when it had in fact culled them. • The Council had acted within the law when it culled the geese. • The Council could have asked the Cabinet Member to review the situation and confirm the decision to cull in 2014, but it was not wrong for the Council to act in accordance with the approval given in 2013. • It could not conclude whether Officer Y had breached the Council’s officer code of conduct because there was no independent witness to their conversations. • Although Officer Y lives in a house in the park he did not take the decision to cull the geese for personal gain. • Officer Y had threatened Mr B.
It should be stated that it was the so called “independent investigator” employed for £25 per hour by Sandwell council who made these conclusions. We will look at how Satchwell and others DID breach the officer code of conduct further on in this post.
15. At this time Mr B also submitted a petition to the Council against the culling of the geese and calling for the Council to continue with non lethal means. Under the Council’s petition scheme, if it receives 1500 signatures the organiser may call a senior officer to give evidence at a public meeting of the relevant scrutiny board. Mr B attended the board meeting and made his case. The Council asked the board to consider a ‘statement of purpose’; essentially a summary of its geese-management policy for further consultation, in light of the controversy the cull had created.
16. The board decided not to take any action on the petition itself but did endorse the statement of purpose and asked officers to report to the committee on how it proposed to consult on this.
17. The Council’s policy allows a petitioner to ask for a review of the board’s decision if he believes the Council has not followed the correct procedure. It will not hear the petition itself. Mr B asked for a review. He said the Council had not followed the process and he did not get a response to his formal complaint until after the hearing and would like to have shared the findings with the board. The Council decided that Mr B had not identified which parts of the process the Council had not followed and so the matter did not progress further. The Council did however respond to Mr B’s later complaint about how the board conducted the meeting. It did not uphold his complaint.
18. The Council has apologised to Mr B for misleading him about culling the geese. It has reminded officers about the code of conduct to which they must work.
In paragraph 20- the ombudsman sets out my complaint points. I have again used relevant links for further evidence to illustrate these complaint points.
” 20The Council has not given its decision to cull Canada geese due consideration. Mainly because it has not produced evidence that the geese population is too large, or has increased and crucially it has not proved that the geese are a risk to public health or safety, as required by the Natural England’s licence. Also the Council did not properly record its decision when the Cabinet Member approved the cull in 2013.
• The Council did not check that its contractor acted properly. Mr B says the contractor asked him to help round up the geese because it did not have enough people, and the holding pen appeared to have been erected that day contrary to the technical guidance issued by Natural England. Mr B also says the Council was not present when the birds were killed and so cannot be sure its contractors used the correct methods.
• The Council did not send him its investigation report before the committee heard his petition. The Council knew this had findings Mr B could have used, such as that officers misled him.
• The Council has consulted the public and interested organisations on the new draft policy, but its questionnaire was biased and it gave two different versions of the draft policy.
In paragraphs 21-31 The Ombudsman considers my complaints on behalf of the geese. Note the explanations I have already given on the use of the words “injustice” and “fault” which cannot be applied to them under the Ombudsman’s rules.
“Was there fault by the Council causing injustice?
The Council’s decision to cull the geese
21. I appreciate that Mr B has very strong concerns about animal and wildlife welfare. The geese do not have a voice of their own and rely on Mr B to speak in their interest. However, the Council did give the matter due consideration before culling geese in 2013, and there is no fault in how it reached its decision.
I consider the “due consideration” comment to be absolutely scandalous. I believe that even an unbiased observer would note that “consideration” was tasked to one officer who had a clear prejudiced interest in undertaking the report- HE LIVES IN ONE OF THE UNAMED PARKS WHERE CULLING TOOK PLACE.
I remain in fundamental disagreement with this statement, as I have stated previously and will always believe, the conduct of John Satchwell was such that he created the report to facilitate something he wanted rid of, outside his property and in the other park in which his son was managing a restoration project. I have been told as much by current SMBC staff who served under him.
It is also necessary to point out that he facilitated getting his brother in law a gardening job within Dartmouth Park, the same park enjoying a lottery funded restoration project that saw his son get a lucrative job as the “project manager”. It is not known at this time what experience John Satchwell Junior had to manage such a project. It would later be stated when their figures of complaints against geese were unravelled as a lie, that it was these “verbal” complaints to “gardeners” and rangers which the council took into consideration.
no evidence of disease,
no evidence of accidents from slippages,
no evidence of numerous complaints by members of the public.
These are entirely relevant to the conditions of the licence for lawful use which the council claim to be relying on. Without this evidence there is “fault” on their part.
I have produced evidence however from council funded publicly released newsletters which show that the council’s own egg pricking at Dartmouth Park and other sites was not taking place in the years immediately prior to the cull of 2013/14 and so they were not following their own procedures.
Satchwell’s own son would have, should have been responsible for management in this park, and his failure to do so facilitated his father in taking an action to cover up his son’s failure. There are clear conflicts of nepotism throughout Satchwell’s decision making process, not least the choice of the two unidentified parks in his report. Who took the decision to cull IN THESE TWO PARKS, ON WHAT EVIDENCE? WHERE IS THE RECORD OF JUSTIFICATION, AND ALSO THE FORMAL DECISION?
The count of geese was not recorded and neither did the council have a starting point of how many geese had increased from one time period to another time period. Crucially from the start of their 1997 policy and up to April 2013 when Satchwell’s report was allegedly written.
22. The briefing paper sets out the reasons why the Council thinks a cull necessary. The Council has given some information about how it treated eggs to stop them from hatching in an attempt to control the population before deciding to cull. The Council says it conducted a count in 2013. I agree that the evidence of this is not clear and I have taken into account that Mr B disputes the Council’s figures. However it is clear that there remained around 20 geese on that site as well as goslings. It is for the Council to decide what population is manageable in the interests of public health and safety, and if there is any doubt about the size of the population before the cull, the outcome would have been the same: the Council would have culled the geese to the same or a similar number, deciding that any more than this is too many.
I don’t agree with this statement. I have not been provided with any evidence or information about how the council via its own staff were pricking eggs prior to 2013. Why did they only conduct a count in 2013, and what evidence do they have that the numbers were to quote the approved 1997 policy “that if flocks at individual locations increase alarmingly…”
As policy I believe the wording of this document to be judicial and exact and not ad hoc to be amended at a later date.
The key word here is “increase”. What evidence do the council have that there was any increase at all? If they have none then how are they following their own policy? A single one off count in 2013 cannot justify a cull and their policy when they cannot show any “alarming increase” since the 1997 policy was introduced.
The council also conveniently cannot produce the report from 1997 which informed this policy and presumably would have contained goose counts from that year in order to justify the policy. Without this key relevant evidence of “increase”, a reasoned council and officer would not have produced a report and could not have produced a report which led to a decision being taken that would have been the same the Ombudsman suggests.
The words “the size of the population” are not in the council 1997 policy, and this cannot be ignored because it clearly states “alarming increase” which the council cannot show occurred. Their decision is therefore not based on careful consideration of their existing policy but of an ad hoc one which Satchwell created and was wrongly endorsed. I would again state that there is no mention of the 1997 policy in Satchwell’s report, and this I believe was absent because they had forgotten about the policy and the precise wording of it.
In contrast to the unrecorded change of direction following Satchwell’s report, the 1997 policy was recorded and formally endorsed. Surely then this key point cannot be overlooked. The council cannot justify evidence that goose numbers had “alarmingly increased”, and if they had “alarmingly increased” this would be as a result of policy failure of their rangers failing to carry out egg pricking- which the council cannot produce any evidence was taking place.
I have produced independent evidence from West Midland Bird Club reports that suggest no alarming increase but an actual decrease in goose numbers leading up to the decision to cull.
This appears to me to be as suggested, in 2013 John Satchwell decided to rid two parks in which he had a personal and prejudicial interest of Canada geese, and I also believe this was a personal slight against myself when I had in the months prior to this made representations to The Lake District National Park authority about a cull of geese at Lake Windermere via what do they know.com.
This was publicly available and Satchwell’s report was a vindictive response to this. Based on the outcome of this highly publicised event where that authority decided against culling, both Satchwell and Sandwell council were aware that alternatives to culling could be undertaken; they just chose to bypass this by not making a cull in Sandwell public knowledge and deceiving members of the public to cover their deceitful tracks.
In light of the opposition to that cull, there would have been a similar outcry in Sandwell. The cull would not have gone ahead if the public had had prior knowledge of it. The Ombudsman cannot state that the cull would have gone ahead as fact.
23. The Council must consider the risk to public health and safety, or it cannot use lethal methods to control the geese population. It is sufficient for it to do this by considering published information against its observations on site. I would not expect the Council to carry out laboratory investigations. The Council and its contractor are liable for prosecution if it cannot show that it had to cull the geese to protect public health and safety. Prosecution is outside the Ombudsman’s remit.
The “published information” was found after the event of culling in order to try to justify the cull and NOT before it. Most of this is biased American hunting/persecution literature to facilitate mass slaughter to aid their crooked aviation and gun lobby industries. If the Ombudsman does not expect the council to carry out laboratory investigations to prove what they are claiming, then this is culling without evidence, and culling with extreme prejudice. Unfortunately this policy is one we have seen with Government organisations in badger culls. BUT AS ALREADY STATED- THE GEESE HAVE NO VOICE FOR THE OMBUDSMAN.
I would remind people about evidence John Satchwell gave under scrutiny to my question about laboratory evidence below.
24. Overall, this is a decision taken by the Council’s Members and Director with authority to do so, after due consideration. It is open to the Council to make this decision having considered the merits of the issue. The Ombudsman would expect the Council to record the reasons for a decision and it should note this in future, even if it is only to verify the reasons set out by the officer’s report.
As stated via existing approved policy- no evidence of alarming increase = no justification for cull. Due consideration is based only on evidence, if council cannot justify any evidence then no cull. Any deviation from this is not following council policy but making a new ad hoc policy. The council did not consider “the merits of the issue” as they had only the opinion of one biased officer, who did not give them accurate information. It is also worth pointing out that Maria Crompton originally stated absolute rubbish concerning non-native muscovy ducks and wanting to reintroduce them into parks in place of the “non -native” geese. This appears to now have been dropped, yet nobody including the ombudsman appears to have noted this “reason“.
It is also worth pointing out what then Monitoring officer Neeraj Sharma wrote to Director Adrian Scarrott on these points. If there was no “fault” by the council structure, then why would she have thought it necessary to write to him to “consider” doing things differently?
Though the Ombudsman may not consider these points to be an admission of “fault” by Neeraj Sharma, it is as pretty bloody close as you can get to it as far as I am concerned.
The contractor’s actions and Natural England Guidance
25. There is no evidence of fault by the contractor in how it carried out the cull itself. The contractor acts on behalf of the Council and so Council officers do not need to be present when the contractor rounds up the geese or when it kills them. I have looked at the technical guidance. This suggests good practice. The contractor is not bound by it, but should take it into account. Although the contractor should clearly not have asked the public for help, there is no evidence of fault by it in how it rounded up the geese. The Council has not produced records of how the geese were killed or if this met the technical guidance. Although there is no evidence that the contractor did not use the accepted methods and the Council does not need to be present, it must monitor its contractors and in this case its monitoring was not sufficient. The Council should consider further how it does this so that it can be satisfied the contractor acts properly on the Council’s behalf.
I would note again that the contractors lied to both myself and three other witnesses stating the geese would be released at Sandwell Valley and not culled. Has this ever been denied by the council on whose behalf they were acting? Surely this is “fault” on their part if “fault” was found with Satchwell telling the same lie? There is compelling evidence of “fault” with the contractor because they also lied.
Regarding the Ombudsman’s test for fault
“The service provider is directly responsible for the action that has caused the alleged fault.”
If the contractor is included within the remit of the council itself under the Ombudsman’s jurisdiction, then there is “fault” on their part for their direct role in the lie and being complicit as a part of it.
“The type and scale of the fault amounts to a particularly serious failure to meet normally expected standards of public service.”
Council contractors should not lie to the public, and this is underlined in paragraph 27.
It is accepted by the Ombudsman that Sandwell council appeared to give their contractor free reign of culling, laying on facilities to do so without scrutiny or record of how they killed the birds. This is undoubtedly fairly serious criticism of the council’s cull and so when she also states that there was no “fault” in how the council carried out the cull, this is perhaps a contradictory caveat.
The Ombudsman cannot rule on Animal welfare matters and how the contractors rounded up the geese. She was not there and did not see what happened. I was. The RSPCA were approached at the time about this aspect but their call centre handlers were clearly risk averse in taking details about a corporate body and “pest controller”.
What the Ombudsman also did not investigate and most likely cannot are the standards of animal husbandry and biosecurity with which the council allowed its contractor free access to a farm where it rears animals for human consumption. It exports these condemned animals once they have served their purpose for petting and tourism to another farm in Warwickshire for slaughter. I.E NO BIRDS OR ANIMALS ARE SUPPOSEDLY KILLED ON THIS FARM.
How then or who then more to the point decided that wild birds should be imported, contained and killed within the farm environment? There is no record of this decision and who took it either. It is a shocking misuse of public money and food standard security and yet no one has ever investigated this part of the cull story. In this regard outside the powers of the Ombudsman, she also cannot rule that the council carried out a cull within an area that was suitable.
That officers misled Mr B
26. The Council has upheld this complaint. It has apologised to Mr B and has considered its officers actions against its Code of Conduct. The Ombudsman cannot investigate personnel issues and so I have not made a finding as to whether officers breached the code or whether the Council took appropriate disciplinary action.
I have still to have any explanation as to what happened on the day that the geese in Victoria park in 2013 were rounded up and Matt Darby misused his .GOV email account to send me what I am now supposed to believe were staged pictures. I asked for the Ombudsman to explain the dichotomy of the fact that the council via the independent investigator had already stated that birds had been “released”- which would be illegal, yet it has been stated that they did not contravene any laws. HOW CAN THIS BE THE CASE? West Midlands Police similarly will not answer this point, and I will look at their actions in this matter in a separate future blog post.
Though the Ombudsman states that she cannot look at the officer code of conduct, I WILL HERE, to demonstrate just how seriously John Satchwell and the other liars breached this code, yet appear to have gone largely unpunished by their senior director, monitoring officer and chief executive officer Jan Britton. The code to which ALL Sandwell council officers from the chief executive down are subject to is shown below.
Lying to members of the public and making threats is NOT a high standard of conduct! “Honesty”, “objectivity” and “integrity” are also not nouns that could be associated with the parks and countryside management service under the guidance of John Satchwell.
I would also seriously question the decision to cull geese in the two parks to be unselfish actions. Links with sports clubs to those involved in this cull have been documented.
“4.2 Employees shall within their public employed capacity conduct themselves in a manner which will tend to maintain and strengthen the public’s trust and confidence in the integrity of the Council and never undertake any action which would bring the Council, or its members or officers into disrepute.”
I think that this constitutes the main purpose of the officer code, and just how serious the breach was by John Satchwell, Chris Moore, Matt Darby and Paul Smith. But it should not just be limited to them because officers also lied in a freedom of information request stating that “no one was lied to”- which of course we now fundamentally know to be an absolute lie based on the Ombudsman’s ruling.
Lying to the public is again relevant here. Not only did these four officers breach the code, but their entire department and council are now under scrutiny because of the failure to uphold it. But this also shows just how much Directors like Adrian Scarrott and others above him were failing to spot this behaviour. It also shows how the councillors and cabinet members and leader of the council were also failing to address this issue.
No senior councillor from Sandwell has addressed the serious breaches of this code with the parks and countryside department, and it is NOT satisfactory to state that employees have been reminded of the code that they should work to. No senior councillor has yet condemned or apologised for the lies of John Satchwell and others.
I myself do not trust the word of ANY Sandwell council officer based upon this experience, and I would urge others to think along similar lines when reading this. Any future dealings that I have with Sandwell council officers are tarnished beyond repair by the actions of those who have been previously mentioned. How is it possible to believe anything that Matt Darby says to be true when he continues to work for Sandwell council and has sent me staged pictures from his Sandwell email account?
How can anyone have any confidence in what council officers at Sandwell are saying is the truth or lies?
27. The Council is responsible for the contractor as this acts on the Council’s behalf. The Council’s contractor also misled Mr B when it told him it was not going to cull the geese.
This is an important point and should be noted by the council in that its contractors lied to members of the public as well as its officers.
How the Council handled the petition
28. Mr B’s video recording of the Scrutiny Board meeting makes clear that the Council followed its published process. Mr B was given an opportunity to put his case and that the Board considered this and the petition. The Board did not endorse the petition but it is clear it understood the issues presented and reached a decision having considered these.
I do not believe that the councillors on this committee had a clue what happened in regard to this cull. They took just 10 minutes to reach a decision of “no action” when at the very least there are many points within the petition that required investigation- but of course I was denied access to the fact that the council had found that Satchwell had lied by Adrian Scarrott, who also gave evidence at that meeting. How is it “clear” that it understood the issues presented?
29. Mr B is understandably frustrated that the Council did not send him the response to his formal complaint until after the Board considered his petition. The Council’s findings may have added some context to the Board’s consideration, but it is unlikely to have altered the outcome, particularly as the cull had already happened. The Board asked the Council to consult on its ‘statement of purpose’ and present its findings and this is a reasonable means to address the concerns raised by the petition.
I believe that it would have undermined John Satchwell as a credible witness. I would have course cross examined him about his lies at this meeting and explored aspects of nepotism further. I would have expected the councillors at this point to have considered the officer code of conduct and questioned him about it, but it is worth pointing out that the committee contained councillors to whom Satchwell is close to such as now Sandwell Council Deputy Leader Syeda Khatun, and Bob Lloyd.
30. Mr B had the opportunity to ask the Council to review the Board’s decision if he thought it had not followed the process. He did do this when he got the Council’s response to his formal complaint. But the Council did not accept that new information that officer’s had misled him was relevant to the process the Board followed when dealing with his petition and so it did not consider this as a formal review. This is not unreasonable and the Council did respond to process issues Mr B raised when he later complained again. In addition, none of these issues (such as a member of an organisation aligned with the Council sitting with officers) would have fatally flawed the hearing of his petition.
This is the Ombudman’s decision with which I do not agree. The councillors failed to investigate the lies told by several officers within one department, or investigate if these lies were being spread under duress by the actions of one senior manager downward. That this failure resulted in taking “no action” makes them ineffectual as councillors to hold the executive to account.
The Council’s consultation
31. I have read the Council’s questionnaire and Mr B’s comments on this. The purpose is to gauge the public opinion about if or how the Council should manage the geese. The Council has also sought views on its draft ‘statement of purpose’ which is essentially sets out its policy. Mr B may not agree with the wording of the questions but taken together, these are sufficient to gauge public opinion. Officers have referred to the draft statement as a new policy and a draft policy when it is neither of these. The Council should be clearer about this but it does not impact on the consultation significantly.
The only comment I would make on this is that the questions were designed to seek answers from those who considered geese to be “a problem” where as it did not apply the same opportunity for those who did not. Many people also saw this flaw in the questionnaire and not just myself. In any case the questionnaire results showed that the majority of the public did not agree with culling geese, which once again undermines the Ombudsman’s statement that culling would have gone ahead anyway had the council made public their proposed actions.
32. The Council and its contractor misled Mr B about the geese and although it has investigated the matter and apologised, this does not remedy the additional time and trouble the Council put him to as he tried to find out the truth. The Council has agreed to pay Mr B £150 in recognition of this. Mr B has refused to accept this payment because he did not expect or wish to receive any personal advantage from making the complaint.
33. The Council will review how it records its decisions so its reasons are clear.
34. The Council was at fault when it misled Mr B about culling Canada geese. It has investigated this and apologised to him, but it should also pay him £150 in recognition of the extra time and trouble this put him to. There was no fault in how the Council reached its decision to cull the geese or how the contractors operated. The Council should however record the reasons for its decisions.
Investigator’s decision on behalf of the Ombudsman
I would like to make clear as stated at the start of this post that I refused the £150 that the ombudsman recommended and which Sandwell Council via Adrian Scarrott agreed to pay. I pointed out to the LGO that this figure was probably 20 times less than I had personally spent on this campaign and the time runs into hundreds of hours. BUT IT WAS NEVER ABOUT THE MONEY, IT WAS ABOUT THE CAUSE. IT WAS ABOUT THE INJUSTICE. IT WAS ABOUT THE CANADA GEESE WHO COULD NOT DEFEND THEMSELVES.
It would be perverse as far as I am concerned and morally bankrupt to accept blood money apologies from a corrupt from the top down local authority.
Contrast this if you will, with the likely large but undisclosed severance payments of the top officers who lied about this issue, who breached the officer code of conduct corrupting their whole department and their council. Satchwell’s pay as parks manager was in the region of £60-70,000 per annum.
For 40+ years service (and the same for Chris Moore), they will have received an ample pension, and for what? How far have SMBC delved into what they and others were doing and helping themselves through their jobs? Is their payment bought to silence them from spilling the beans on what local authority members were also doing? Lying it seems, deceiving the public and serving yourself favours whilst getting good jobs for your family members to cement your own position is absolutely rife within Sandwell council- particularly the parks department and within Sandwell Valley- where practically the whole staff are related to one another or have very close relationships.
But as we know, the LGO cannot look into “personnel issues”. This would be the job of Steve Handley, former street scene director at SMBC who also went the way of the exit door and also lied in a freedom of information request. Adrian Scarrott, current Neighbourhoods director is also on his way out- and good riddance because his directorship has seen nothing but corruption run rife below him which he failed to deal with.
IT IS CLEAR FOR ANYONE TO SEE THAT THIS SHIP, THIS DEPARTMENT IS SINKING UNDER A MASSIVE WEIGHT OF CORRUPTION, YET THE CABINET MEMBERS WHO PRESIDED OVER THIS CORRUPTION APPEAR TO HAVE GONE UNSCRUTINISED BY THE COUNCIL THEMSELVES.
Maria Crompton lied on the radio about egg pricking, and was probably misled by the same individual who had given the verbal briefing.
NO records of meetings, or decisions taken is the main fault found by the LGO for SMBC to consider, and this goes beyond My complaint about the geese, because it appears to be a central trait which has been operating within Sandwell’s Labour leadership for years.
The table below shows that Sandwell had 11 complaints upheld against it over the period. Many of the council’s departments are failing or inadequate, and given that most of the directors have left the council in recent times, it is perhaps no surprise that the new leadership now recognises this where the other previous idiot could not.
I consider the decision of the ombudsman in terms of not criticising the actions of the council in how it reached the decision to cull to be both disappointing and perverse. They cannot justify their actions with any irrefutable evidence concerning increase of goose numbers and cannot show any record for making the decision because they never had any to start with. Satchwell’s report was a heavily plagiarised rewording of bullet points cherry picked from a Natural England guidance PDF. The council did not consult the public about changing their policy but lied to them and treated me with total contempt.
The wording of this decision however should not be taken as a green light by Sandwell or any other local authority to conduct similar culls in the same vein in the future. I would remind others thinking of doing so about how many so called “professionals” have fallen on their swords and are no more in their jobs within this council, and we would give exactly the same level of scrutiny into their affairs to any other local authority employees from any other council should they decide on a similar course of action.
The actions of the contractor whilst not able to be considered by the Ombudsman have been criticised in this decision in that they lied and provided false information. There is clear “fault” in how they operated because they lied about their very job! This has been poorly worded in the ombudsman’s summing up given that she already found fault in this instance in paragraph 27.
“27. The Council is responsible for the contractor as this acts on the Council’s behalf. The Council’s contractor also misled Mr B when it told him it was not going to cull the geese.”
The council should take awareness of this and no longer use this contractor.
Anything less than this is condoning their actions of dishonesty. They cannot discipline a contractor as they supposedly did with John Satchwell and others under the officer code of conduct because they are not council employees. Presumably Sandwell do not have a code of conduct for contractors? I would like to see some statement on this from the leadership of the council, and if they continue to use the services of Pestex, why they chose this company in the first place. They are not a professional outfit when they lie to members of the public about their own job, and even try to rope them into rounding up the birds for slaughter!
Much of the problem surrounding the way in which the complaint could be dealt with centres around the continuing corrupting influence of Natural England and DEFRA to set policy, based largely on the work of one or two individuals who for all we know operate in exactly the same corrupt manner that Sandwell council officers operated in this case. Their reports and recommendations have led to massive slaughter but productivity for economic interests whom I believe influenced their policy decisions. Add to this the corrupting influence of politicians and together they can do virtually anything they like without of course any voice for the voiceless.
Unfortunately investigations into wrongdoing and “fault” and “injustice” are investigated by the Ombudsman rules, made by civil servants and politicians- and liars know how to play the game to suit them.