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To ask why my parish council can bully me for 2 years and get away with it?

(82 Posts)
Pariahoftheparish Wed 11-Sep-19 19:21:07

Very, very long back story. We live in a small parish where everyone knows everyone's business. We are renovating an old rectory, which is grade 2 listed and there is a public footpath across our property from the main street to the church.
For the last 2 years we have been bullied by the parish council (pc). They have discussed our property in open meetings and have published defamatory comments in minutes online, giving our name or the property name. For example, they have claimed that we have vermin, have blocked the public footpath and have a collapsed drain. All of these allegations have been reported to the district and county councils, who have investigated and said it is all untrue. This is never reported back. There are many other examples. We have been mentioned in the minutes every 6 weeks for 18 months.
Our DD has been bullied on social media by village kids who have spoken about council complaints. She would not leave the house for several weeks and has struggled at school.
The councillors are encouraging their friends to attend meetings to complain about us.

We had a brief respite for 6 months when we were persuaded to withdraw a complaint to the ICO in return for them leaving us alone. However, they are now continuing their campaign by trying to restrict access to our property across parish land and they are encouraging other parish organisations to make their own complaints about us.
The ICO complaint has been submitted and the pc have been contacted by the ICO. The pc are now editing their minutes (not sure that's legal!) but the original documents are still online. The changes they have made still enable us to be identified.
We have made a formal complaint to the pc which was ignored. The Monitoring Officer at the district council has indicated that they only intervene if there is a problem with pecuniary interests, our MP didn't want to get involved and the police will only deal with harassment issues if it is a person, not an organisation.

Has anybody else had similar problems? Any advice?
So, AIBU to think that the parish council should not be able to get away with this behaviour?

SurferRona Wed 11-Sep-19 19:35:03

This doesn't sound pleasant for you, or your family. But if there is a public footpath running through your land, then council will have an interest in that- including if it has ever been blocked- and I'd guess the name of your property will be part of that too (as a walker locally, I call paths by their number but will refer to houses that demarcate points too). So I'm not sure what you can do about that.

It sounds as if the relationship has deteriorated, and almost escalated too far, maybe on both sides? Have you thought about asking for a closed session with councillors to clear the air and work through the issues? I'm sure they wouldn't want the impact on your daughter to continue, that sounds distressing. Sounds like you have done the right things referring to ICO, and reporting to the borough/upper tier council too.

Pariahoftheparish Wed 11-Sep-19 19:48:50

The path has never been blocked but our neighbour said that we had plans to block it and told the pc and whipped up a public outcry. It was all made up!
The pc know about the impact on DD - actually it's much more serious than the information I've given here - they know the truth and they don't care.
We've had two meetings with the pc but they just accused us of criminal offences and made promises that they've not honoured.

Breathlessness Wed 11-Sep-19 19:51:43

Have you talked to your MP?

Oldraver Wed 11-Sep-19 19:53:37

Do you go to nay of the Parish Meetings ? Do you think yhey would dare to criticise you if you were there ?

AloeVeraLynn Wed 11-Sep-19 19:53:59

I think I would be looking to move.
I don't see how the relationship can be made right after all of that and you'll just be feeling awkward forever. I couldn't live like that. I know it's basically letting the bullies win but honestly I think a fresh start would be best.

Mouikey Wed 11-Sep-19 19:57:13

These things don’t generally start out of nowhere - who did you piss off and why? Could be that you purchased the house and someone associated with the pc wanted it? Is there a level of jealousy? Have you made any suggestion you wanted to divert the footpath? Are you on good terms with your neighbour?

Something triggered this originally and they are trying to make your life hell. Keep a record and possibly ask for a meeting with the monitoring officer at the council. They aren’t only interested in pecuniary issues. One of our local pc was hauled up for bullying -the sanctions are limited by its worth investigating.

If you are a small parish you usually find that councillors are unopposed at election time or they can’t coopt enough people. I’d almost be tempted to run against them at the next election!

nobodyimportant Wed 11-Sep-19 19:58:33

I would absolutely go to the meetings and calmly but assertively refute untrue allegations. You'd have to be very sure not to lose your temper though or you'd only make things worse.

What do you think motivated people to make false complaints against you? Had you fallen out with someone before it all started? It just seems such an incredibly random and vindictive thing to do if there's nothing behind it.

Coffeeisnecessary Wed 11-Sep-19 19:58:38

I agree with going along to meetings, scary but they sound like bullies who would be too gutless to say anything while you are there. We've had problems with a parish council spreading untrue information about our business, we went to a meeting and spoke up to correct the lies, we also spoke to the council representative and invited them to see the business for themselves which helped a lot. Its calmed down since but its very unpleasant. Parish councils seem to love wielding power and it attracts strange people sometimes.

Hereward1332 Wed 11-Sep-19 20:08:00

The police may not be able to act against the pc, but the individual councillors may be guilty. They are using the pc as a tool to harass you. The minutes will be evidence of this.

Singletomingle Wed 11-Sep-19 20:17:05

Parish councils can be interesting to say the least, however in general it is unlikely to be the whole council. Usually they react to letters/emails reporting things so its may well be 1 or 2 neighbours instigating the whole thing or its 1 council member with a specific interest.

LifeImplosionImminent Wed 11-Sep-19 20:22:16

Could they be playing a long game, trying to get you to move so they can buy the land? Is there any way of finding out of they made an offer for your place before you bought it?

Pariahoftheparish Wed 11-Sep-19 20:28:13

I did join the pc for a while but left recently because there were things I couldn't say as a councillor that I can challenge as a member of the public.
We were friends with 2 of the councillors but fell out shortly before all this started. Nothing dramatic with the falling out, we just didn't like their behaviour. We did oppose their planning application but it went ahead anyway.
Our neighbour has made several complaints about us to the police, all ridiculous. Claims we are eavesdropping on her conversations with our CCTV, complains when we leave a sweeping brush near (not even touching) her wall and shoves it under our car cover and scratches the paint. Her adult son has also threatened us.
She has been to pc meetings with a gang of supporters and made wild allegations, which the pc should have closed down.
She's quite friendly with two of the councillors and is possibly being encouraged by them or winding up the situation herself.

BlankTimes Wed 11-Sep-19 20:30:38

Get copies of everything they have about you online, both the original minutes and the altered ones. Screenshots or whatever, just make sure you have all of it showing what they originally said, when they said it and what they have changed.

There has to be a reason for their collective behaviour, find that and a lot of things will fall into place. This COULD be a possibility or it could be completely wrong.

Someone on the PC or their close family wanted to buy the Rectory but couldn't afford it.

You bought it, you are changing it, they are jealous and maybe disagree with your plans for it in an emotional way, not something they could raise a Planning Objection to.

They still want it so their thoughts turn to how can they make you move on.

If you sell now, you'll have to declare the dispute, therefore it will put off potential buyers unless you massively reduce the price and lose a lot of money yourselves and hey-ho, guess who will come up with the cash? The person who wanted it in the first place and they can gloat that you have lost a lot of money in the process.

When it comes to property in this country, people's' pettiness and spite are almost unbelievable.

Page 7 of this document may be useful 'Parish and Town Councils and Redress'.
assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/417171/150323_LGO_Parish_Councils_ConDoc_Final.pdf
If it was approved, you MAY be able to contact the Local Government Ombudsman, so have all the facts you can and try to keep any emotion out of the case you present to him. I know it's hard, but that's how it works.

Otherwise, it's delving into the laws that the Parish Council have to abide by and seeing if they have broken any.
Likely the province of specialised solicitors and also likely to be very costly with no firm chance of a win if it goes to court and the possibility of paying massive costs.
Good Luck flowers

Borisdaspide Wed 11-Sep-19 20:35:30

The ICO would be very interested if you can prove they tampered with the information.

MarjoryDaw Wed 11-Sep-19 20:35:58

What on Earth is a parish council?

Pariahoftheparish Wed 11-Sep-19 20:39:13

@blanktimes we have a lever arch file stuffed full with all the things they've published. We've done a Subject Access Request (SAR) with the district and county councils, which gave us a lot of information. We also did a SAR with the pc but they have refused to comply.

Pariahoftheparish Wed 11-Sep-19 20:46:07

We have the evidence of tampering and have sent it to the ICO

BlankTimes Wed 11-Sep-19 20:48:58

We also did a SAR with the pc but they have refused to comply

There will be a way to make them comply, maybe try the Ombudsman?

BlankTimes Wed 11-Sep-19 20:49:46

Sorry, crossposted, the ICO should be supportive.

AuntieStella Wed 11-Sep-19 20:50:41

"What on Earth is a parish council?"

It's a tier of local government

en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parish_councils_in_England

Pariahoftheparish Wed 11-Sep-19 20:52:51

We can't sell up because we are still renovating and as someone said earlier, any ongoing disputes devalue the property. We've been here 20 years, 18 of those without any problems.

Feduppluckingmychinhairs Wed 11-Sep-19 20:58:09

I would attend the meetings accompanied by my solicitor who I would make sure documents every thing said about me and follows up with letters to the members. Every single time until they can't even whisper your name for fear of being heard.

Dontgiveamonkeys1350 Wed 11-Sep-19 21:03:48

I am a Parish Councillor and no this behaviour is disgusting and I would recommend that you go over their heads to get this stopped. I see my job as enacting the neighbourhood plan ( which is a legal document that people have to stand by )
And to help with problems that the other people in the village have and to make it the best place to live.
I have very limited powers. Please go above their heads and complain.

NotDavidTennant Wed 11-Sep-19 21:04:07

So is your neighbour the driving force behind this?

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