Monday 30 May 2016

Blessed U-Turn Imminent on Houseboat Tolls?

Our Yeorgt House spies have learned that the Blessed Authority may have to make a U-turn on tolls for houseboats in adjacent waters, after an appeal court confirmed that floating houses were 'homes on water' rather than vessels capable of navigation.

Confirming the 2015 judgement of the Crown Court, the appeal Judges said that a vessel must be navigable, and that if it wasn't navigable then it wasn't a vessel.

The judgement contradicts repeated assertions from the Blessed Authority that floating homes are vessels, after they attempted to re-categorise houseboats at Balls Basin in the Southern Broads as 'vessels liable to pay a toll'.

One brave owner, who challenged the re-classification, has received 4 different justifications from Blessed Officers. This is part of the normal BA complaints procedure, in which Officers have up to 3 chances to change their reasoning before a complaint can finally be taken to the Ombudsman. This is known internally as the 'grinding down' process, which is designed to ensure that - by the time a grievance reaches stage 3 - the complainant will be so exhausted or confused that they will simply give in.

In this case, Blessed Officers twice used the Authority's time-honoured tradition of adding words to Acts of Parliament (using Blink) in the hope that nobody would notice. On one occasion, the owner was told that his property "qualified under the 2009 Act as a houseboat" - despite there being no reference to houseboats in the Act - and in another reply, the Act was misquoted to include a non-existent provision for 'anything which could be moved on water'. More recently, it was declared by Dr Pikeman himself that Officers could add any category of floating object to Parliament's definition of a 'vessel', by virtue of the Act including a reference to sailboards. If sailboards, then why not houseboats, goes the flawless argument, which presumably has been approved by the Authority's solicitor.

The new ruling appears to torpedo the Blessed position, by declaring beyond doubt that floating homes are not vessels. The decision follows similar judgements in America, as well as basic rules of common sense and the English language as we know it. However, officers remain stubborn to the last, claiming that they are the final arbiter when it comes to interpretation of terminology, rather than Parliament or the Courts. "In the case of the 2009 Act", said a Blessed Spokesperson, "we can safely ignore the intentions of Parliament, because we drafted the Bill and we know what we intended. And what we intended was to be able to interpret the provisions in any way we like."

Since the Blessed Authority's resources for legal action are effectively unlimited - and those of its customers are not - it's easy to bully most people into paying tolls, even when there is no legal basis to charge one. Officers may also choose to invoke the 'Pikeman' principle which says that Court judgements do not apply to organisations which call themselves National Parks, as they are thought to be above the law.

Amazingly, Blessed Members - and even Members of the Navigation Committee (who advise on tolls) - remain in blissful ignorance of the actions taken on their behalf by officers, as it's all done under Blessed Delegated Authority! And woe betide any Member who does start asking questions - the ejector seat awaits your pleasure, dear Member.

Thursday 26 May 2016

Punch and Jury

From the Spidery Recording Files #343 in May 2016…

“Damn it, I’m really in trouble now”, Granny sniffed into her mid-morning gin.

“What’s up now?”, asked Dr. Pikeman. “Don’t worry, I’ll cover your tracks for you whatever you get up to, I promise!”

“That pesky Monitoring Officer is allowing a code of conduct case against me to be investigated! I can’t be found guilty, that would ruin my career! I’ll never become Dame Granny if that happens…”

“Never fear, the Doctor is here. I know how to fix that one for you. At the next meeting in May, Members will be asked to rubber stamp an appointment process for the Independent Person who will preside over your code of conduct case. I’ll just tell them that you have to do the interviews with a bit of help from a couple of others, they’re all mostly fast asleep and won’t notice that they’ve put you in charge of appointing your own jury. It’ll be fine.”

“Really John? Can that be done? I get to choose the person who decides if I’m guilty of breaching the code of conduct? That’s brilliant, are you sure the Members won’t notice?”

“I promise you, they won’t notice.”

… recording ends here, probably due to a flat battery …

Well, I hope you all know I'm not kidding you. If you think the Pike blog is full of made up nonsense, think again. Check out the Blessed Authority’s agenda for Friday, 13th May 2016. The Authority resolved to appoint Prof Jacquie Burgess, Sir Peter Dixon and Guy McGregor to conduct interviews for the Independent Person in code of conduct cases. Did the compromised lady in question ever bat an eyelid? No. Did she perhaps put her hand up and say, “Sorry, I might not be the best person to sit in on these interviews as I’m personally compromised”? No. The Authority is as broken as it’s ever been and worse.

Till the next time, when Granny appoints her best chums from the body of Members to help the “independent” person decide her fate…

Keep swimming!


Sunday 15 May 2016

Maintaining rivers not our job, says body charged with maintaining rivers

Members of the Blessed Authority were this week prevented from debating a report from their own officers on the deteriorating bank of the river Chet beside Hardley flood, because issues raised by the navigation committee were too frightening for them to contemplate. The work needed could be both ‘high risk’ and ‘high cost’, Dr Pikeman told members, so it was better for them not to know about it yet. 

A specific request from one of the more enlightened Blessed Members for the paper to be included on Friday's Agenda was turned down, as Officers were not yet ready to tell Members what to think. The news follows an announcement by Norfolk County Council that they intend to close a popular section of the Wherryman’s Way riverside footpath, and divert it on to a main road - on safety grounds. 

Three weeks ago, the navigation committee strongly advised that the rapid deterioration of the stretch of river bank could not be ignored, and that the Authority needed to take an urgent and proactive stance.

Blessed Officers claimed that the issue did not touch any of the Authority’s three statutory duties - which are public access, conservation and navigation - until a Member pointed out that it involved a public footpath running between a nature reserve and a navigable river. Officers argued that any structures replaced by the BA now would have to be maintained in the future, so it would be much cheaper to let them collapse further and then find out what happens later, when it might be somebody else’s job. In the mean time, money could be spent on consultants, so as not to make it look as though the issue is being ignored entirely.

Unfortunately, the navigation committee advice could not be reported to Blessed Members yesterday as the minutes were not yet available. “It’s important for there to be an appropriate delay in producing minutes” said a Blessed Spokesperson, “in order that Members have an adequate chance to forget what was actually said. This is the natural way of things here at Yeurgh House."

Finger-in-the-air estimates to carry out the work needed range from £500,000 to £3 million, which Dr Pikeman says is beyond the means of the tiny Authority; such figures are understood to eclipse even its huge planning enforcement and legal budgets.

A Blesssed Spokesperson confirmed that projects which would benefit the public and the navigation do not qualify for grant funding, in contrast to restoring private broads with no public access, and teaching the public about the cultural significance of landscapes and windmills.