BEING LED DOWN THE GARDEN PATH

BEING LED DOWN THE GARDEN PATH
So yesterday we had meeting 17 with the council since the beginning of December last year. And what a car crash it was. As I have mentioned several times before the council has called these “negotiations” but we’ve negotiated nothing, just discussed process hopefully leading to negotiations. Even that now looks increasingly unlikely
1. BROKEN PROMISE AFTER BROKEN PROMISE
Before we took the summer break at the end of June the council had promised to carry out certain tasks but had failed to meet their agreed deadlines. The most important of these was a pleaded defence to our NSWP claim. We didn’t get that on time and what was provided on the last day before their solicitor went on holiday was inadequate. This has still not been provided and the council has refused to provide anything more. They agreed to provide a revised timetable and milestones by 20th July. Not done. And now they tell us they are not going to do what they promised at all.
2. THROWN THE PROCESS IN THE BIN
When we started this exercise with them all the talk was of “collaborative working”. Even as recently as June it was agreed that we would set up a legal working group to seek to discuss the legal disputes/arguments and try and reach a common position or narrow down those issues that needed to go to tribunal. Now its true that backroom activities, like data cleansing and the JES group, have continued but the main negotiation group has ground to a halt and the legal sub group has been abandoned. The council now tell us that they will agree to NOTHING. They want to hear our views for them to absorb but they will give us nothing in return. So, for example, we have presented lists of compromise comparators but they have simply not responded. There have been no counter proposals nor any attempt to seek middle ground. The whole process has been thrown in the bin. Instead the council are going to “concentrate resources” on data cleansing (which doesn’t involve any of the officers in the main negotiating group) and they are simply going to present us with a number in November. Then they will “negotiate”. This is a joke.
3 GET READY FOR A CRAP OFFER BEFORE XMAS
Everything the council told us yesterday was geared to meeting the promise of an offer, any offer, before Xmas. It’s a charade. There is no realistic prospect of us being able to agree anything in that timescale or at all. In the meantime the council is undertaking an exercise to try an pick holes in every single application form to try and reduce their liability. At the same time they have re engaged John Bowers QC to give them advice. All of our experience is that he wants to fight and will not recommend a reasonable settlement. This is legal cover for the officers not to settle for a reasonable amount. The council have abandoned any attempt to agree what your true entitlement is but are now looking to see what is the bare minimum they can get away with. Another broken promise.
4 NOW ITS DOWN TO THE LEADER TO SORT THIS OUT
We have no faith that the officers can or will deliver. We have therefore formally triggered the dispute mechanism and sought a meeting with the council leader, hopefully on 21st.
5 BACK TO TRIBUNAL
As we said before, it was agreed in June that we would have the backstop or insurance policy of going back to tribunal on those matters that could not be agreed. Now that the council has abandoned any attempt at agreement EVERYTHING is going back to tribunal. This will be essentially split into two groups – those that that have a protection claim, and everything else. The council has agreed to swap lists of issues by 11th September and then there is a full day hearing before the tribunal on 25th September. We would hope the council will be ordered to set out all remaining defences and hearings will be listed for remedies for those former manual workers with protection claims. Former non manual workers may have to go through an incredibly long formal equal value process if, as we suspect, the council is fighting everything again.
We have achieved much in the last year – but none of it through negotiations or meetings with the officers. The team that lost the previous tribunal proceedings is the same team now fighting us all over again. Its going to be a long hard road ahead but we are united and strong. Far more united than them and far stronger.
We remain committed to negotiations. It’s sad the council isn’t.

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