OK, you asked for it!
Going back - way back - to 2007/08, I joined our Pullens TRA committee as its secretary and immediately encountered a controlling clique of women who were highly suspicious of my motives and inimically opposed to every suggestion I made. It took me a while to realise just how manipulative and obstructive they were prepared to be, but I clearly got the message when a new Council Residents' Involvement Officer - Steve Jones - arrived and was swiftly co-opted into their campaign. He wrote to tell me I was a useless secretary and should resign to avoid a vote of no confidence. I replied that I was the best and most efficient secretary they'd had, who had revived and renewed the Constitution, re-instituted regular public meetings and made sure they were properly minuted. If he wanted to take me down, he would have to do it publicly. Jones backed down and I complained about him to his boss, Brian O'Neil (Stage 1).
O'Neill apologised on behalf of his underling and I accepted the apology. But then O'Neil was himself co-opted into the ongoing hate campaign and, long story short, he eventually facilitated my dismissal from the TRA. I am the only person in its history to have been excluded from Pullens TRA! I renewed my complaint (Stage 2). The investigating officer - an Antipodean woman (Aussie/Kiwis are often recruited into Southwark Council
because their qualifications are compatible and South Wark assumes they won't hang around long enough to draw a pension) - avoided my phone calls, totally failed to consult, prevaricated for as long as possible and then dismissed my complaint on the grounds that I had accepted O'Neil's earlier apology.
I was not happy and went to Stage 3: investigating officer, Graham Southwood. Again, he prevaricated for as long as possible - 3 months - but he did interview members of the TRA committee, all of whom were hostile to me. One, in particular, repeatedly and maliciously lied. I assume the others did, too, but Mr Hiscock's nasty e-mail so outraged a fair-minded neighbour that she replied publicly and phoned Southwood to put my case to him. The day after Southwood's judgement was due, I phoned him to find out where it was and, a couple of days later received a ruling that, basically, endorsed his colleagues' findings and dismissed my complaint, saying that if I didn't like it, I could go to the Local Government Ombudsman. So I did.
By that time, it was six months since my dismissal and the LGO took another six months to investigate, but her investigation was thorough and her conclusions were:
1. My exclusion from the TRA was spurious, because it was predicated upon a protocol they applied retrospectively.
2. The grounds for my exclusion were largely fictitious and contrived for the purpose of excluding me.
3. The exclusion was accomplished via an illegal meeting that was not minuted, called by Brian O'Neil, at which I was not represented. The only person to speak up for me was shouted down and driven from the room in tears. Three South Wark officers witnessed this and saw nothing wrong!
(Need I point out that this is the classic process of Fascism: impose acceptable standards of behaviour; identify non-conformists; progressively marginalise them and, ultimately, exclude them. All that is required is a self-righteous but pusillanimous public official, like Brian O'Neil, to implement this agenda. Had I not been white and heterosexual, the bigotry involved in this hate campaign would have been blatant.)
The LGO's recommendations were:
1. I must be given the opportunity - a year later - to publicly answer the accusations against me.
2. Brian O'Neil must apologise and South Wark should review its complaints procedures.
3. I should be compensated.
Only #3 happened. I received a cheque with no covering letter, indeed no narrative whatsoever that described its purpose. The TRA refused to reconsider my (by then, historical) exclusion; the Complaints Dept. is as bad as ever, or worse; O'Neil was promoted, or moved sideways, and continues to be respected within South Wark. As you may detect, I remain pissed off.
It is my view that South Wark's Complaints Department is not fit for purpose. It's officers invariably presume in favour of their colleagues and cover up for them, if an investigation is conducted. More usually, there will be no investigation, or a selective one in which evidence is only taken from one side. Investigating officers will prevaricate for as long as the rules permit in the hope that the complainant will calm down, or get bored, and back off. Then they find in favour of their colleagues. No one ever gets sacked from South Wark for incompetence, even if their actions directly contradict their job description, as in the case of the Neighbourhood Nazis' friend and willing tool, Mr Brian O'Neil.
I have long advocated the abolition of South Wark's in-house Complaints Dept., to be replaced by a properly impartial, external authority. Further, there must be clear disciplinary procedures for Council officers that are rigorously applied, so that they may be removed from their jobs when shown to be malfeasant. Like that will ever happen!
Thanks for reading. Good luck with your complaint.