Posted by: westlancashirerecord | January 7, 2018

Are You Vexed Or Vexatious?

The question is, are you vexed because your houses have been flooded by foul water containing raw sewage caused by a sub-standard sewage system, or are you claiming, as a council employee, that complaints made are vexatious to you, and you are more offended by the complaints and not the sewage ?

What are the priorities of borough council employees, the emergence of raw sewage into peoples’ homes or the employees’ hurt feelings because protestors object with some anger? Should the appalling state of some Burscough and Halsall drains, for example, that spew faeces back into homes vex residents, causing them to become manifestly unreasonable or even vexatious with the authority responsible?

In 2011 WLBC had published its comprehensive Infrastructure Development Plan and statement of Community Involvement. “One of the main principles behind the planning system is community involvement. We encourage the public, local organisations, businesses, and others with an interest in the area to take part and have a say in different aspects of planning. The Statement of Community Involvement (SCI) sets out who we will consult on various aspects of planning, and what methods we will use”. The Plan established the baseline provision of infrastructure for the borough. It included utilities and waste water supply, water treatment, waste and recycling, flood management, and it was important to understand what is the required standard for each particular piece of infrastructure. The physical infrastructure types are regarded as essential, as mentioned above with foul water sewerage treatment and flood management with drainage” .

So why then, five years later, were we reading that the 2016 West Lancashire floods were included in the description by LCC as “In its role as Lead Local Flood Authority, the Council has identified this as a flood event requiring investigation under the requirements of Section 19 of the Flood and Water Management Act 2010, for the purpose of identifying which flood risk management authorities had or still have relevant functions to be exercised in regard to these flood events”.

WLBC had stated “Access to potable water supply and the fate of surface and foul water are considered an absolute constraint to development, particularly where aquifers are at capacity and supply cannot be guaranteed or where sewer systems are at or nearing physical capacity. A key consideration to the growth of an area is the ability of development to be served by mains and the creation of further capacity in the sewer network”. It was reported that “United Utilities are responsible for water supply and managing waste water and in the five year period 2005 to 2010, they reported investment of £56million to improve overall services in the Borough” or, a pitiful £11million a year for this vast borough. And, where has there been any “absolute constraint to development” where “sewer systems are at or near physical capacity”?

For waste water, “United Utilities have confirmed that it is difficult to provide detailed records and predictions on capacity issues, especially in predicting the local effects of proposed new housing over a large number of potential developments, although they can provide general guidance on this issue. In terms of data regarding waste water, this is also limited and work is currently underway in order to investigate sewer capacity issues in the Burscough/Scarsbrick area, however, this will only provide a snapshot and will be monitored if driven by specific needs. The Burscough area suffers from capacity issues within the actual sewer network. As foul water is transported away from the source to the treatment facility it must pass through a narrow passage beneath the railway line. During periods of heavy downpours, the sewer network is inundated and unable to move the foul and surface water runoff through the network quickly enough resulting in a backlog of water and localised flooding of both surface and foul water which can be extremely unpleasant for residents”. You bet it is!

A major problem for residents who suffer from recycled crap in their homes is their lack of power, something council employees take for granted, as it is we who pay our council taxes paying for them to receive professional services. The professionals we pay for receive legal advice we also pay for. A vexed resident might be experiencing annoyance, irritation, dissatisfaction, or disappointment. The context of vexatiousness depends on the circumstances, recycled crap in homes creating belligerence and anger being such a circumstance. Asking the council for information by use of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 would, you might think, expose at least some small amount of power to the public? You’d probably be wrong. Being persistent in pursuit of the reasons for crap in your homes could be vexatious to our council.

In legal terms it’s been stated under FoIA2000 “That vexatiousness primarily involves making a request which has no reasonable foundation, that is, no reasonable foundation for thinking that the information sought would be of value to the requester, or to the public or any section of the public”. A year or so ago the Court of Appeal considered the scope of the power of a public authority to reject a request under FOIA (and the Environmental Information Regulations) on the grounds that the request was “vexatious” (s14(1) FOIA) and in another claimant’s case, “manifestly unreasonable” (s12(4)(b) EIR).

The Court of Appeal clearly observed the importance of the constitutional right for ordinary citizens to obtain the information held by an authority and know what the authority knows. They also noted the importance of environmental information, which may be very important to the requester since it may affect the region where the requester lives, or even the requester’s property. The implications of this court statement are that requests that are thought to be vexatious under both FOIA and EIR should be treated with considerable care, and close attention should be paid to Arden LJ’s guidance. An authority should not be too quick to assume that a request is vexatious.

Meanwhile, remember this, from the LCC “A key question raised by communities after a major emergency as significant as the December 2015 flooding is likely to be if the same weather events happened again, what would be different in the impact next time around? A hard message to give is that if all normal drainage systems were to be overwhelmed again then it is likely that flooding would again occur”. Many new Flood Action Groups are forming to help residents and other community member to help each other, and to activate local Flood Plans”. After all, complaining as often as necessary about crap in your homes and gardens that should be kept within the drains system is relevant to your wellbeing, and to hell with a council that thinks otherwise.

In February 2012 I received an email in which a matter relating to council discrimination against the disabled residents of West Lancashire and their rights under the Equality Act 2010 was referred by Cllr D Westley that “…confirms my previous unsupported belief that Mr Lenton deliberately tries to rile councillors and council officers by bombarding them with e-mails. In fact I welcome your e-mail as it will count as evidence should I seek to declare Mr Lenton’s campaign as vexatious”. Being vexed about such discrimination ranks on a par with crap in your homes?

Nil carborundum illegitimi!

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