Community Update: 10th October 2005:
Legal Action Initiated
On 15th August 2005, an application was filed at the Royal Courts of Justice, Administrative Court, in London, requesting a Judicial Review of the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham (LBHF) decision to terminate funding to the Charity.
Reason given by LBHF for the termination:
On 28th of April 2005, the Defendant Legal Services confirmed termination of the Vince Hines Foundation (VHF) Connexions service contract, on the grounds that “the information provided is incomplete and although we have asked for further clarification, this has not been forthcoming.”
Remedy sought by the Charity:
A. That the Court quash the decision of the LBHF.
B. On the grounds that:
1. The LBHF action was unfair and unreasonable inconsistent with the terms of the agreement made between the parties, at their joint meeting at Cambridge House on 13th April 2005;
2. The VHF, a voluntary organisation and a National Education Charity, fulfilled all its obligations, where it was reasonably possible, in respect of the Agreement, which resulted in:
(a) VHF producing a List of staff and volunteers who were checked by the Criminal Record Bureaux (CRB), at an enhanced level;
(b) VHF presented the List for inspection by the LBHF representative in the presence of others on 22nd April 2005; and
(c) VHF co-operated fully with all reasonable requests as was reasonably possible in respect of the mentioned Connexions London West CCIS and APIR Computer operating Systems.
3. The LBHF, before taking the decision to terminate the service contract and associated funding, had not provided a copy of the inspection report and so putting the VHF at an unfair disadvantage, in that the VHF was not able to comment immediately on the accuracy of the report before a decision was made. As a consequent, the LBHF had not taken fully and reasonably into consideration all the available facts and evidence as detailed, crucial to the confirmation as to the fulfilment of the terms of the Agreement in this matter.
4. If all the facts were taken into consideration, then and now, namely that there was no omission from the List and that the CXLW CCIS and APIR computer systems were inoperative before and at the time of inspection, (notification of this fact was given in advance to LBHF/CXLW), it is unlikely that any reasonable person would have made a decision to terminate funding to the Charity, which had been active, operating locally, well used and supported by local residents, continually during the past thirty years.
5. As a consequence of the LBHF erroneous and injurious decision, resulted from a flawed inspection report, the Charity and its beneficiaries are experiencing serious hardships, including creditors’ threats of bankruptcy in light of the Charity’s budgetary and financial commitments on the basis of expecting funding that is being held back or being blocked unreasonably by the LBHF;
6. It was reasonable for the Charity to expect funding, as the Charity is an established member of the Connexions Partnership. It is satisfying important needs among residents and disadvantaged members of the community. The Charity funding had always been rolled over consistently and seamlessly for over four years, as the contracts exhibited shown. Funding was available and there was no notification that funding would be terminated. In additional, mindful of the Partnership Co-ordinating Body, Supporting Children and Young People Group (SCYPG), advice to LBHF/Connexions, namely “not to enter into competitive tendering exercises, but to roll forward existing contracts/leases for a maximum of one year”
Community Briefing & Update. 10th October 2005:
The Application for Judicial Review in respect of a decision by the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham Council in April 2005, to terminate funding to the Vince Hines Foundation, a thirty year old registered Charity, serving residents in the same borough, was opened for oral hearing in Court 10, on 7th October 2005, at 11am. On the Bench was
The Honourable Mr. Justice Silber.
The Local Authority (LA) was represented by a Woman barrister, from the Middle Temple. Other members of the LA Support Team were Mr. Jonathan Wragg, Principal Litigation Lawyer (Employed Counsel), the LA Legal Services Division and Mr. Ian Heggs, School Adviser to the LA and Chair of the Connexions London West Local Management Committee.
Appearing in person was Dr. Vince Hines, Founder and Chief Executive of the Vince Hines Foundation, and accompanied by Dr. K. W. Spence-Lewis, Senior Consultant to the Vince Hines Foundation.
About ten minutes before the start of the hearing, the LA Counsel handed a bundle of papers to Dr. Hines, as a response to the Court’s request dated 21st September 2005. The LA told the Court, in effect, that they did not have enough time to prepare. The bundle contained minutes of a joint meeting between the Charity and the LA Education Department at Cambridge House on 13th April 2005, which is believed to be crucial to the LA Defence, along with copies of correspondence exchanged between the parties during 2005 and extracts from the Police Act 1997.
The LA failed to respond within reasonable time to the Court’s request, dated 21st September 2005, namely, given that evidence was provided by the Criminal Record Bureau (CRB) that Dr. Hines was CRB checked at enhanced level in November 2005 for a purpose, ‘the Local Authority will have to demonstrate the obligation upon Dr. Hines to satisfy the request for a CRB Certificate, and to make it clear to the Court whether CRB certificates were supplied by the Charity in relation to all others from whom they were legitimately sought’.
Dr. Hines protested strongly before a packed High Court about the lateness of delivery of the papers. He said that the LA had vast resources, which the Charity did not have, yet the LA talked about insufficient time. That the Charity had filed in the Court and served on the LA a large body of documented evidence within time, continuously since 16th August 2005, in order that the LA and the Court could make considered responses. The point was consistently emphasised that the Charity and its beneficiaries were experiencing significant hardships in light of the continued delays to arriving at resolution of the matter.
Mr. Justice Selber did not seem impress with the LA response, and decided to order a “role over”, whereby both hearings, Application and the Actual Review, will be heard together, at the next hearing.
Both parties were ordered to leave the Court temporarily and sort out the dates for the next hearing, including a draft order to be considered by the Court, relating to adequate time needed by both parties to prepare for the case.
The parties agreed that the LA needed another twenty one days, to prepare and serve additional papers, after about an hour consultation within the Courts’ corridors. With some serious reluctance, the Charity went along with this situation. The LA Lead Representative said the LA needed extra time ‘because one of its employees, who was needed to give a Witness Statement to the Court, would be going to Trinidad to get married. She would be leaving along with thirty others, the same today, and would be back within fourteen days’. The Charity’s representatives asked why the welfare of an Organisation and its beneficiaries should wait for someone getting married overseas.
The Charity will have 14 days to respond to the LA during the third week in October 2005. By the first week in November, the Court will be able to set another date for the hearing at the first open date.
Dr. Hines in his final comment to members of the LA Team said that it was ironic that the LA seemed prepared to spend potentially thousands of pounds on legal fees, and not prepare to spend that money in grant to the Charity or on other public services in the interest of local resident. Going to court could and should have been avoided if the LA was prepared to be fair and reasonable.
The Judge called back both parties in Court. The parties’ compromise was accepted, and an Order was issued to that effect. One day was set aside for hearing the matter and costs were reserved.
General Comments: ‘The signs are not good for the LA’
A “Roll over” Order is potentially a set back for the Local Authority. The Court has set aside a day to hear the case. An oral Application for permission was expected to take only thirty minutes. On the face of it, the Court clearly thinks that there are merits to the Application. If this was not the case, time for hearing was unlikely to have been set aside for an entire day.
In addition, the Court consistently requested pointed information from the LA. First, on 23rd August 2005, The Honourable Mr. Justice Collins, asked the LA to say what information the Charity did not provide, as alleged; and secondly, on 21st September 2005, The Honourable Mr. Justice Leveson asked the LA to demonstrate that Dr. Hines and the Charity failed to produce. Finally, on 7th October the Honourable Mr. Justice Silber ordered a “Roll over”, partly because the LA was slow to produce.
Based on the documentations provided by the LA so far, it could not reasonably argued that the LA was forth coming with hard and persuasive evidence of material failures by Dr. Vince Hines or the Charity in general.
The question is – “What is the LA Labour Administration and Connexions London West hope to gain by allowing this matter to escalate to this level, where diversity and the sensitive issues of race and community relations are lurking in the background ?”
October is “Black History Month”. This case has the potential of defining race and community relations in the Borough for a very long time.
There is tremendous public interest in this case. In June 2005, over 1500 local residents petitioned their elected representatives on behalf of the Vince Hines Foundation. They are still waiting for positive results.
Information Unit – firstname.lastname@example.org 10th October 2005.
As there is a great deal of public interest in this matter, particularly the Charity’s beneficiaries’ and Community Partnerships of which the Vince Hines Foundation is a member, these updates are prepared to keep all concerned fully and factually informed.
Unbalanced Scales of Justice