Email Recieved

Posted on March 26, 2009. Filed under: Housing News |

We have  re-produced (unedited) an email received by JNC today. A copy of which has been forwarded to WCCC :

For Martin Pratley of Warwickshire County Cricket Club (WCCC) and to whom ever it may concern,

I am going to say sorry right at the start and apologies that this is likely to be a long one as I am on my soapbox and ranting again.

I was at court yesterday when WCCC obtained legal approval for possession for a property on the Pershore Road squatted by a group called “Justice Not Crisis” (justicenotcrsis.wordpress.com). The court has now given WCCC forthwith possession. The club also achieved costs of around £4,500 against a homeless man, John Willetts, who from his testimony spent 6 weeks sleeping rough in a city centre car park before becoming a squatter. The cricket club also continue to manage as a landlord other nearby properties along with pursuing their master plan for a major redevelopment scheme.

At court I was struck by two things. First, how the cricket club appear to be sleep walking into a dispute presumably due to the legal advice they must be receiving. Their legal representative repeated, probably some five times, during the hearing that as the owner of the property there was no legal argument to stop the club retrieving possession. The second point picked up now by judges on all the occasions that I have now attended court in the presence of Justice Not Crisis is that of the non intimidatory, extreme politeness even helpfulness of the packed court room. Any housing officer with experience of squatters quickly learn that they are normally considerably different from the eviction of tenants and how it is a fatal mistake to even attend court in say a white shirt that will miraculously attract fountain pen ink splats – usually across your back so you only realise that yet another shirt is ruined sometime after the normally fairly threatening court event. On all occasions you are made to feel cast as a sort of pantomime villain.

Given the current legislation, unless something comes up like preventing nuclear war or some major public health issue, it is unlikely that a court will give anything other than possession back to the legal owner. – no one mentioned and best to ignore the rat infestation of these properties that occupying may limit?

Surely the original request for dialogue from JNC with the cricket club to be paid for the “use and occupation” rather than “rent” of these premises until they are due to be demolished would have sounded more attractive to the club than the present situation?

Regarding public order issues, I have viewed a video (now posted on “U tube” for public examination) of a situation where it seems that possession of a property, presumably by cricket ground employees, was attempted without a valid warrant. It ends with the police arriving and I understand this effected the withdraw of the cricket ground personnel from continuing in their endeavour. Having looked at this video I suspect some credit should be given to the police who attended despite their inexplicable insistence that the apparent victims should stop filming! Gandhi said “make the injustice visible.”

There have been comments made to me that suggest the local housing benefit fraud investigation team should look into some of the cricket grounds properties regarding “giro drops”. But possibly more serious is what is best diplomatically described as the accompanying of some tenants by the landlords designated yet unofficial sub agents when benefit entitlement cheques are cashed. I hope the Private Tenants Rights Department take an interest if any tenant intimidation is brought to their attention. It was good for housing workers to be able to identify Mr Steve Udal who attended court and interesting that the other acquaintance of the cricket club, Mr Anthony Smith, seemed to be unable to attend as he was already detained by her majesty for other matters.

I understand the cricket grounds master plan is to access some £20 million local authority administered loan. This will allow them to manage there intended redevelopment and expansion, presumably ensuring that Birmingham continues with a venue which can accommodate the commercially lucrative test matches. The proposal as I understand it will also include a substantial hotel and other commercial opportunities. Local opposition to the plan includes all the expected concerns over crowds, lighting etc. but also notably some element of compulsory purchase to those who resist selling. I would expect some community planning gain will be obtainable somewhere along the line as well as public “consultation?” Interestingly Sports England have objected to the clubs proposals.

It maybe becoming urgent for constructive communication between these two parties (JNC and the cricket club) though mediation if necessary if the cricket club will not enter into any form of direct dialogue. Ironically I think this could substantially help improve the cricket club image as a responsible landlord as well as help both redevelopment consultation and local harmony as well as preventing this becoming an argument between the cricket loving Pimms drinkers (myself not applicable) and the army of the great unwashed (Also not applicable). If things continue to spiral into impending lack of control and conflict.

I suspect the cricket ground’s actions are consistent with a pattern or flavour of management – even their proposed High court action (rather than county court) with the huge expenses and lack of seeming concern for social justice or locals will I suspect cost them dearly in the long run and sadly set the pattern of things to come. Crazy for a business or sport to wish to side step direct dialogue and hide behind their impressive legal shields. Not only the local community but all of Birmingham and indeed cricket itself looks likely to end up cheated if the tactic of “war, war is preferred to jaw, jaw”. Certainly an opportunity to build bridges and possibly help some of Birmingham vulnerable homeless people will all just be lost. I doubt that loyalty, integrity or basic fair play will be likely with this type of bad management as the can of worms gets opened. Surely that simply is just not playing cricket! Though again what is likely to become remembered is the bad behaviour resisting sheriffs, bailiffs and police naturally portray…… so different to the stead fast dignified silence that meets the judges decisions that I have witnessed now repeatedly in JNC’s regards.

As this is such a long rant , perhaps I should pass back advanced thanks from JNC to all the other professional housing staff and others colleagues in the Thames Valley helping give email benefit advice and expertise for social justice issues outside your normal working activities. Special thanks to any staff from Oxford Housing Associations who have made donations of bedding etc. I understand these are being delivered soon – and thanks for the assistance of the soon coming ex Simon House worker with such a level of experience of helping rough sleepers get back into the system. For obvious reasons given John Lines policies local housing workers look forward to this years Halloween party when disguises can be worn once again.

I hope this helps also the cricket club staff who attended court looking puzzled as they try to build cases to identify “persons unknown” and target them for the self inflicted growing bills for all this – well done the legal advisers again………. clear to see how they make their bucks. While you “hide behind” your lawyers and take down names others must by necessity “hide behind persons unknown” as your legal representative put it at court. No wonder the rest of us do not stand a chance involved in these social issues. Whether we give addiction advice or take action against anti social behaviour etc. – however if helpful and if it is acceptable to JNC I could be used as an intermediary between the cricket club and JNC if Mr Pratley has not got the balls to communicate with you direct rather than wanting to identify me directly after the court hearing and inquiring if my interest was as a “person unknown”. My address is known to senior staff at your local housing community association who I am sure will let me know about any legitimate inquiry and also to JNC. But I give you fair warning contact me via your current legal advisers you can expect a bill – as we try to put back together the reality of the sharp end from the victims perspective…… My sympathy, if there is any here, is with Mr Willetts!

For once coming slightly out of the shadows, mindful that as in previous cases involving JNC advocates have been then selected as named defendants! – see Firebird history.

Mark Davies – Housing consultant.

(Thanks to all the Boy George fans who purchased the book, Soapboxtraders.com).

.

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2 Responses to “Email Recieved”

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Thanks Mark for your email, we have forwarded it to WCCC as requested. We don’t expect anything from WCC other that a visit from baillifs or Sherrifs Officers albeit we would welcome the oppourtunity to facilitate the proper use of the houses by “paying guests” until as such time they are scheduled to be redeveloped.
Regards John Willetts, I have seen a broken man since court penniless (not even in receipt of benefits yet) and now with a £4,000 + legal bill I remeber seeing him arrive at the Firebird after being discovered in Dale End Car park his gratitude for a hot meal and a cup of tea and even the use of a toilet . His first sentance was “at least I have my dignity back” Lawyers and WCC have sought to take that away again but with help and support he will get through this ordeal.
Our only demands remain build more houses rent empty ones and take people off the streets, not a lot really however you would thing we were asking for blood!

So no news from Mr Pratley, to whom I hope I have caused no personal offence. But lets have another try.

Often justicenotcrisis.wordpress.com is a very angry web site and naturally housing issues have a habit of being contoversial. Need less to say squatting can be an extremely emotive subject, for example while working for Reading Housing Department one of their properties was squatted. The tenant happened to be an old lady who was in hospital at the time it occurred. I do not think any human being would not feel something when having to tell her (at her hospital bed), that not only was her home squatted but also as city officers we could not legally act for her, despite her age and condition in recovering from major surgery. The only consolation was that I did personally manage to repossess and secure the property on finding it abandoned without the lady having to engage her own solicitors. Generally squatting is quite rare and again I do appreciate the high emotions this type of action can make one feel. I suspect all (….well perhaps there are exceptions in any group of people) the JNC squatters or activists would be immensely sickened and would want to disassociate themselves from such actions as described here above. Let’s leave the lawyers to one side and tell it as it felt to me – that trashed home was a crime scene and I consider whoever did it as scum. I recall the young housing officer whose patch it was having to do the hospital visits – luckily she was a sensative single mum and some years into the job so already “blooded” by life and coped with her duties in her stride (I am now saddened I do not recall her name and if she was a decent cook or not).

There is however another side to this – especially if there are properties left unoccupied for long periods of time. In fact, my instinct tells me this should be viewd as a potential crime and an active crime where there is still real and genuine need for basic shelter. This situation is further exasperated when the local authority have now brought in a system that seems painstakingly constructed to make it unlikely that you will obtain your entitlement. (Please note the right to shelter is recognised as one of the basic human rights that all nations sign up to as members of the United Nations. There is a statutory duty on the local authority to help provide for the homeless,) I will not bore you silly with the hurdles but rather cut straight to the conclusion, which in the case of Birmingham City Council means that they are failing in their most basic duty (it is not fit for purpose).

Mr Pratley and others from WCCC may feel this is not their concern and I noted at court that none of the cricket club representatives appeared in anyway moved by Mr Willetts plight of having to sleep in a city car park, out of sheer necessity. I guarentee he is by no means an extreme case coming to JNC. It maybe worth mentioning that over the period he was homeless the night time temperature was regularly bellow freezing. You may feel he is not anyone’s concern or responsibility but I suggest that actually he is. Even the judge whom he stood before giving the cricket club their legal entitlements went on to say that anyone who wants a home should have a right to one. I hope WCCC’s cricket loving customers can understand this, if only for the time that the property 318 Pershore road lies empty and pending redevelopment they do have a responsibility especially for their own callous and unnecessary direct actions against Mr Willetts.

Whilst letting him and others occupy this property ironically could also be valuable to WCCC’s own enterprises. It would also be a good news story for a change instead of the recent video now made available through the local press.

The video showed WCCC’s staff were clearly not man handled in any way, not spat at or even sworn at by the squatters who soon out numbered them. WCCC’s own tenants on the other hand can be seen highly animated as they challenged the cricket club employees doing their employers bidding. The video was recording too late to show the initial element of surprise that the cricket club had but does show that crucial time before the forces of the Police arrived.

I have gone out on a limb to mediate if Mr Pratley would prefer this rather than sending the bailiffs, complete with jack-boots and impressive lawyers hiding somewhere safe away from the front line…. by the way for clarity given the previous email WCCC’s legal advocate seemed top notch in every sense and I wonder if she can cook as good as she looked?

Mr Pratley, please note my answer to you on this web site was only after your approach to me and that was in a court of law…. your choice Mr Pratley, for what it is worth I believe it was the right choice to speak to me, as I genuinely am trying to help, though perhaps the wrong question or the wrong place?

Mr Pratley, if not for your employer or the cricketing world, why not for those non-hostile individuals at court who even gave up their seats so you personally as I recall could sit down in your pristeenly ironed shirt. None of your group even had to cope with the indignity of the usual off public jibes and ridicules that customarily seem part of the task in evicting squatters. And if that still does not impact I wonder if Mr Willetts’ daughter would be happy to give a further supporting letter? Go on, be a gentleman – unlike some of my comments perhaps! Give me your esteemed views on why Mr Willetts needs to be evicted with nearly £4,500 costs against him personally as well as the other expenses inflicted on your club and its members? If this is not the right place please accept my apology and perhaps we could meet, but this time without the legal accompaniment and somewhere more fitting. I hope it is not too late for Mr Willetts (forgive the pun – as I am trying to encourage supper at proper times)?

I think many responsible cricket lovers would want to see Mr Willetts given a sporting chance before you bowl him the next over. Come on chaps, play fair, not another googly. I can understand Councillor Lines not talking to JNC because he knows only the slightly drunk or hang em and flog them brigade of Tories would support his side of the argument.
Would it help if JNC started running a most improved landlord award? – this could surely only be given to well run respectable managers with complete integrity, statemanship and vision (Mr Povey your Chief Executive Officer?)?

Yours sincerely Mark.


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