Posted by: John Brace | 15 December 2019

What is the 1st lesson on trust?

What is the 1st lesson on trust?

                                           

Liverpool Civil & Family Court, Vernon Street, Liverpool, L2 2BX

Liverpool Civil & Family Court, Vernon Street, Liverpool, L2 2BX which was the venue for the First-tier Tribunal hearing

This is a series of ten articles I will publish on the interesting subject of trust which I will openly make the admission at the start is not a concept I think I am even capable of understanding – so please feel free to leave comment or comments pointing out where I am wrong.

This first one is about the public and trust.

Each year for over thirty years, there has been a IPSOS MORI poll asking people the following question, “Now I will read you a list of different types of people. For each would you tell me if you generally trust them to tell the truth, or not?”

I’m just going to focus briefly from this year on the results relating to politics, the judiciary, the media and polls.

The judiciary scores 86%, television news readers score 62%, pollsters 52%, local councillors score 40%, journalists 26%, government ministers 22% and politicians generally 19%.

Trust is indeed a social construct – it is a shared assumption about reality. However, all of those seven groups have at times told the public untruths (whether knowingly or unknowingly).

However this will start with the first and most trusted group – the judiciary. I received an email earlier this week from the President (no, not President Trump) but from the PA to to the Chamber President (General Regulatory Chamber) Judge Alison McKenna – informing me of a request from unnamed “citizens” for a copy of the 2016 costs order that was recently overturned by the Upper Tribunal asking the question to parties “Do you object to the decision being released?”

In summary my reply was no, as it had been published on MFRA’s website since December 2016.

Indeed regular readers of this blog could have probably guessed that response already.

But it does tie into an interesting issue about trust, openness and transparency – when a judicial decision is appealed successfully the original decision is generally not published. Therefore those involved as parties (or representatives) know why the original decision was made and why it was overturned but apart from the references in any appeal decision there isn’t the transparency there is with for example political decision-making.

Should the original decision made in error be in the public domain as a point of learning? Or if published without context could it just lead to problems as it is flawed? There are arguments for and against.

It is first important to make a few points about the history of David Farrer QC (the First-tier Tribunal Judge) that weren’t known to me at the time of his decision in 2016 – indeed during the hearing he sat under a crest bearing the phrase “Honi soit qui mal y pense”. He had stood twice in previous general elections as a candidate to become a Member of Parliament – first for the Liberal Party, then at the next election as the SDP Alliance candidate and held elected party office in the Liberal Democrat Party in the years before he became a First-tier Tribunal Judge in 2004 (the judiciary in this country are required to disengage from party politics when elevated to the judiciary presumably to prevent conflicts of interest). At the time of this decision (and as former First-tier Tribunal Judge Farrer QC knew at the hearing) I had a court order made in my favour made by Deputy District Judge Ireland with one party being the entire Liberal Democrat Party. The Liberal Democrat Party (one of the two parties) refused to comply with that court order. I write this to show how it is very easy to construct a particular narrative by selectively picking facts – but also because history appears to be in a never ending loop.

In fairness however to David Farrer QC (since retired as a First-Tier Tribunal Judge because to use a word he liked to use regarding my own views – a “technicality” – from memory I think there’s an upper age limit in law of 75) who to be clear I am not accusing of bias in his decision-making, MFRA councillors have stated in public that they disagree (somewhat ironically as it was their party that agreed both FOI and EIR legislation) with the whole concept of “freedom of information”. Indeed there is a famous quote from former Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair in his autobiography that states, “Freedom of Information. Three harmless words. I look at those words as I write them, and feel like shaking my head till it drops off my shoulders. You idiot. You naive, foolish, irresponsible nincompoop. There is really no description of stupidity, no matter how vivid, that is adequate. I quake at the imbecility of it”.

Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority have also have made it clear in public how proud they are at many cases in bypassing judicial decision-making and the need for long hearings in the criminal justice system as they deem this as saving the public money – make of that what you will and whether that is a good or bad thing – and whether the wider interests of society are served by this approach.

So hopefully that sets the scene – but somewhat ironically this case (at least if we are going by the position agreed by all parties as stated in the ICO decision notice) has nothing whatsoever to do with freedom of information though or the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

Yesterday evening I brushed my teeth, my wife Leonora wasn’t there when I did so and she communicated that I hadn’t. I went to get the toothbrush and handed it to her to show her it was still wet. She felt the toothbrush – but because of the power of belief, just doggedly stuck to her beliefs.

I then pressed the toothbrush against the back of my hand, which was now wet and touched my wet hand to hers. We both trust each other – but it is very easy for anyone (including the judiciary) to go down the path of wishful thinking.

But it brings me back to the story about the judiciary, trust and belief and indeed why if the judiciary go down the route of wishful thinking and dogma – it damages trust. Maybe not much to start with – but people tend to carry on repeating the same patterns of behaviour so it can have a corrosive and wider impact eventually. As an example – around a week later the same First-tier Tribunal Judge issued another costs order – but this time for £7,500.

I linked earlier about to the costs order decision originally dated Halloween 2016 (although this is the later revised version to correct the 2nd Respondent’s name and incorrect case reference number). As pointed out on appeal (which was Upper Tribunal Judge Wikeley agreeing with a legal opinion given to the regulator):

“13. As Mr Peter Lockley of counsel observes in his written submission on behalf of the Information Commissioner, the Tribunal is a creature of statute and has no inherent jurisdiction to make an order inconsistent with its statutory powers. Moreover, the SPT is under a statutory duty to provide for the composition of tribunals and has done so in mandatory terms. That being so, the costs decision by a three-person panel was ultra vires and void, i.e. of no effect (see also to similar effect, TC v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (PIP) [2017] UKUT 335 (AAC)).”
 

So with that rather long explanation here is a link again to a copy of the costs order but I will nearly finish this rather long piece with a video about Labour politics and a speech of Neil Kinnock to the Labour Party conference in 1985 (when I was but a mere child).

In around a week (23rd December 2019) Labour’s Cabinet on Wirral Council meet to decide whether to agree to recommend cuts of £32 million but also to raise council tax next year (2020) by 4%.

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Neil Kinnock ‘That Speech’ 1985 Labour Party Conference

I can’t really go further on this topic without veering into areas that it wouldn’t be right to report on yet – other than to write this. When I was at sixth-form college, I was in dispute with how the sixth-form ran and requested change (my request was denied). I was told to my face and indeed this makes a wider point about trust and I quote verbatim, “Individual people don’t matter.” – which indeed makes an interesting philosophical point – in this society those who have power and authority quite often for whatever reason (but not always) completely stone deaf when it comes to actually trying to understand another person’s point of view especially when it might conflict with their cherished beliefs. If the person telling me that truly believed what they were saying that day (rather than in frustration at being held to account) – then it is truly a sad reflection that power (especially unaccountable power) goes to peoples’ heads.

And as this a Sunday and we are heading for a time of year when religion overtakes politics, as the above is mainly about Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunal’s Service (Her Majesty also being the Head of the Church of England) and as I have worked in the past within both the Catholic and the Church of England churches as an organist I will end with Proverbs 28:25-26 (in the spirit of ecumenalism I will print versions used by both churches although frankly Proverbs 28:3 looks interesting too),

“25 The greedy stir up conflict, but those who trust in the Lord will prosper.

26 Those who trust in themselves are fools, but those who walk in wisdom are kept safe.”

 

and the other version

“25 The covetous provokes disputes, whoever trusts in Yahweh will prosper.

26 Whoever trusts his own wit is a fool, anyone whose ways are wise will be safe.”

 

And so endeth the first lesson on trust.

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Responses

  1. Thanks for that John,
    So Wirral Council will met on the 23rd to decide on £32 million in cuts and to raise the council tax once again by 4% When you have reported they have over spent by £12 Million and now they need to cut again!,
    I can’t believe the sheep of wirral voted then by in, how deep do they think our pockets are?

    • Thanks for your comment

      Hi it’s just the Cabinet that meets on the 23rd.

      The budget is decided by all 66 councillors so won’t get formally decided until March 2nd 2020. If there’s no agreement on March 2nd, then they’ll come back on March 5th.

      As Labour no longer have a majority it’s not a certainty that their budget will be agreed unamended.

      Yes council tax is expected to go up (from April 2020) although as the police and fire budgets have yet to be agreed – the total increase could be a bit different to that 4% figure (which is just for the Wirral Council element of council tax).

      The projected £12 million overspend is what was projected by the end of 2019-20 – it’s possible that could be lower (especially with a recruitment freeze, non-essential spending freeze) or if something unforeseen and expensive happens in theory could be higher – the true figure won’t be known till the figures for the outturn are published.

      Hope that helps!

  2. I was looking at some old photos of the wirral last week from around 1970, different places and the roads, and one think that took my notice first off, How the streets were spotless!
    Ok things have changed over those years, the old cobbled roads have all but gone/ The Council did it all, cleaned the streets, ran the buses, fixed the street lamps, laid new pavements, kept the parks cleaned and the grass cut!
    If any work was needed like a new gas pipe, workmen would come out and did a hole fit the new pipe and fill the hole in and that was in a day, these days someone comes out and digs a hole and we wait for another crew to come out to fit the pipe, ok there was always a strike going on somewhere, the dockers or coal miners.
    Your council tax included your water use and an extra fiver you could have a hose pipe,
    There was always a policeman on the beat and no body rode push bikes on the pavement. Money was still tight for most people but they got by, bus fare were around five pence same went for the ferry boats, oh the days when we used to have a ferry service,
    These days. All the work has to go out to tender, street cleaning, our bins emptied, street lighting, school meals, the bus service because it was deregulated etc etc it was suppose to be an improvement and give value for money, all it has done has seen our council tax raise year by year and get less and less back in return, and then you look around today, roads flooded after a bit of rain, leaves all over the place, litter also all over the place, pot holes all over, library closures, it goes on and on, I JUST WANT TO KNOW WHAT I AM PAYING FOR?

    • Thanks for that comment.

      Well Wirral Council didn’t exist until 1974 (although in shadow form before this) – so it would have been when it was one of the predecessor councils – of which there were a number on the Wirral.

      However 1970 was I guess when there were 240 pence in the pound – rather than 100 pence these days.

      A lot of the stops on the Wirral side the Mersey Ferry used to stop at (such as New Brighton) don’t happen now.

      History aside though, the simple answer to your council tax is spent is explained in very simple terms in the Wirral Council publication Council Tax – explained 2019-20.


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