Shocked at council staff taking bribes for car parking space allocation? What can I do?(9 Posts)
Sorry more of a tediously long WWYD.
I own an ex-council property, so am basically a lessee of an inner London borough council (quite a posh one but with less salubrious pockets, one of which I dwell in).
When I first moved in just over 5 years ago I was told I had to go on the waiting list for a car parking space in our forecourt. Duly went on list. I also went on the list for a shed. Over the 5 years asked at various points in the estate office about the car parking space, although my place in the list seemed to go up and down depending on who I asked. Could never give me a written record of this or confirm request in writing despite me giving email address details etc. Eventually a year or so ago when I was 8 months pregnant, I went in to ask at the estate office and was told I could have a parking space in a nearby block. I took it because although I pay £120 per year for resident on-street parking there are often no spaces on the street nearby and it is a bit of a trek with a small baby and all their luggage so at least I could be guaranteed a space even if further away (about 2 mins walk) when there was nowhere nearer to park.
Today they told me that despite me filling in 4 direct debit forms (my bank confirmed each time there was no problem with the form details I had given and couldn't offer any explanation) they had voided my account for non-payment (my fault for thinking last DD form had worked and I had been paying and not checked) and I no longer had a parking space (was wheel clamped).
So because of all the chat I had with other neighbours in the car park (while getting clamp removed) about what had happened with the estate office and how incompetent they are (terrible reputation and have just appointed a new manager), one of my neighbours (who have only said hello to before) knocked on my door tonight because he too had been clamped. And basically he told me that he had only got his car parking space because he had offered them a bribe of £100 and they asked for £150 which he gave them. I don't know who he gave it to in the estate office but the more I think about this the more it explains their reluctance to ever tell you where you were on the waiting list. They also advertised sheds as being available and several of us contacted them to say, we're on a waiting list for these, and a few of us (not me) were able to get one. Probably because I didn't realise they went to the highest bribers.
I'm stumped as to what to do though. I was going to send in a Data Subject Access Request form and try and get some paper trail on what has been going on (hardly NoTW level of corruption but still...and would only be possible on data relating to me) and I doubt the neighbour who told me is going to want to be mentioned (don't even know his surname) but this has pissed me right off. They're a nasty bunch at the estate office (woman was in there today explaining she and her son had been locked out of their flat for an entire weekend due to electrics on main gate going and no one had come out when she had rung the emergency number and their attitude was a shrug and well what do you expect us to do about it) - they truly seem to delight in being unhelpful and often downright obstructive. Who can I write to that will investigate? (Hardly a police matter). Anyone else experienced this?
Have namechanged - just in case I need to give out info on where I am/which council.
I'd suggest you approach the BBC local TV station for your area, plus a letterr to council chief exec telling them the situation. Maybe the evening Standard too?
Complain to the council's chief exec, don't go to the press yet, hold that as a trump card and mention it in your letter that if you don't get a response in x days (say 21 or so) you will take the matter to the press and/or some legal body/ombudsman or other.
I need proof though don't I? I can't just be casting out allegations on the basis of what my neighbour said!
But am listening that I need to go higher than the manager of this particular estate office - will look up chief exec details.
Can I suggest that you read about the BRIBERY ACT. I attended an employment law forum today and it was very interesting.
Get your subject access request and all possible evidence plus put a FOI request in for info on how the system works, how many people in your street have been allocated spaces and when.
Then put in an official complaint via the website of the Local Government Ombudsman, cc-ing to your local MP. I have little doubt that this won't work but if you do fail to gain a resolution then it's time to contact the editor of your local paper.
Good point Bumble - will depend on when bribe was given I suppose and when act came in as to whether it is covered. Will read up.
You can buy devices that make a recording and are unnoticeable for less than the bribe you are being asked for. Try Maplins. And they are not illegal.
Initially you should write to your local councillor and the chair of the relevant committee which oversees this area of the council's work. Everything a local authority does has to be above board and if there is a corrupt element of the workforce, they need to be exposed and systems changed. Explain your experiences clearly and concisely and stick to what happened with trying to set up the DDs for the parking space you were allocated. Ask how the waiting lists work and how it's possible to go up and down on the list (there may be good reasons). Don't clog up your letter with hearsay and speculation. Stick to the facts.
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