Friday, September 26, 2008

British city objects to paying for land it stole

It wants to pay only the vastly reduced value that it created by denying permission for housing to be built on the land -- even though the land had been used for housing for many years. Below is their tale of woe. They think that THEY have been hard done-by because the land owners have the law on their side. There is nothing like a British bureaucracy. They think that people have rights only if they graciously allow it. The claim that it will cost the taxpayer a heap is rubbish. They just have to stop their obstruction of rebuilding on the site and it will cost them nothing.

Taxpayers will have to foot a $3.2 million bill to buy the 0.22 acre plot from a firm of property speculators, even though its true value is just $30,000. A judge who reluctantly ordered the council to pay the extortionate fee described the law as "utterly deplorable" and there are now fears of a rash of similar cases in London and other cities which were bombed by the Luftwaffe.

The wrangle centres on a scrap of land measuring roughly 20 yards by 50 which makes up part of a public park called Fred Wells Gardens in Battersea, south west London. A row of Victorian terraced houses, making up numbers 9 to 15 Orville Road once stood on the site, but they were destroyed by what is thought to have been a V1 flying bomb.

After the war the council cleared the site and added it to the neighbouring park, but it was privately owned, and was bought for $60,000 in 2001 by an investment firm called Greenweb Ltd, which wanted to build houses there. When the London Borough of Wandsworth refused planning permission to build on the site, Greenweb served a purchase notice compelling the council to buy the land because it would not allow it to be used for any commercial purpose. The current market value of the land, as a public open space, was independently set at $30,000, but Greenweb's legal team invoked an obscure clause in the Land Compensation Act 1961 which gives automatic planning permission for the rebuilding of houses destroyed by German bombs. That meant the value of the land suddenly shot up to $3.2m, even though the council would never allow it to be developed.

Councillor Maurice Heaster, Wandsworth's cabinet member for corporate resources, said: "This case really does prove the old saying that sometimes the law is an ass. "This could all have been avoided. Civil servants and ministers have been warned on numerous occasions that this piece of legislation was a ticking time bomb that should be ditched, but they have done nothing and local residents will now have to pay the price for their inaction."

The council, whose lawyers argued that the law was "absurd", appealed against the valuation by the Lands Tribunal, but three Appeal Court judges have upheld the decision, whilst making clear their disgust that the law still existed. Lord Justice Buxton said there was "no escape" from the law, but described the situation as "utterly deplorable" and called on councils to lobby the government for a repeal of the law to avoid "the unmeritorious deprivation of very scarce funds that occurred in this case". Lord Justice Thomas said it was "highly regrettable" that taxpayers in Wandsworth had to fund the purchase of the land for more than 100 times its true value, while Lord Justice Stanley Burnton said he upheld the law "most reluctantly".

The council is now considering a fresh appeal to the House of Lords, arguing that the law was only ever intended to ensure fair compensation for people whose properties were destroyed in the war. The London Development Agency, which is responsible for buying the land for London 2012 Olympics venues in the east end of London, said the ruling did not affect any of the sites being purchased.


Children in risk-averse Britain 'trust no-one'

Britain's suspicious and risk-averse culture is leading to children growing up trusting no one, according to an adviser to Gordon Brown. Baroness Neuberger, the Liberal Democrat peer and one of Britain's foremost female rabbis, believes that many people are put off working with the young because of the fear of being branded paedophiles. Others are so petrified of being sued that they avoid helping people in their communities. As a result, once commonplace and small acts of kindness, such as embracing a hospital patient, are being shunned and the population is becoming increasingly selfish.

In an address due to be given to the Royal Society of Arts today, the peer, a champion of volunteering, says: "It is hard for ordinary people to give a leg up to someone less fortunate, to help the kid in care or the granny whose life is getting tough. We have become seriously risk-averse - fearful as a nation, scared of terrorists, child molesters and violence on the street. As a result, we make it harder and harder to help those who need our aid."


Setback in battle against Britain's compulsory retirement age

How the Brits love compulsion!

Hundreds of workers who want to work beyond the age of 65 were dealt a blow yesterday after campaigners lost an important round in their legal battle to banish Britain's compulsory retirement age. A preliminary legal opinion at the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg rejected a claim by Age Concern that to compel people to stop work at or after 65 without compensation breaches EU equality requirements.

Although the opinion could yet be overturned by the full European Court, it will dismay hundreds of people who have been forced to retire and who are claiming compensation through employment tribunals. If the opinion is upheld by the European Court, employees who want to work beyond 65 will continue to need the agreement of their bosses. About 260 tribunal claims are on hold, awaiting the outcome of the test case, and thousands more claims could follow if pensioners are forced to retire.

Jan Marzak, the Advocate-General of the court, most of whose opinions are followed by the court, argued yesterday that a fixed retirement age was not necessarily contrary to EU rules. He agreed with Age Concern that British rules on mandatory retirement were covered by the EU directive. But he said that discrimination on the ground of age could be justified in certain circumstances in the context of a country's labour market and employment policy. He said that to allow employers to force workers to retire at 65 or over "can in principle be justified if that rule is objectively and reasonably justified in the context of national law by a legitimate aim relating to employment policy and the labour market, and it is not apparent that the means put in place to achieve that aim of public interest are inappropriate and unnecessary for the purpose".

Employers welcomed the opinion, saying that it would enable them to plan their workforce and ensure a "dignified exit" for employees whose performance was starting to decline.

Help the Aged said that the opinion was very disappointing and condemned it as flying in the face of fairness and common sense, as well as the trend towards greater life expectancy. Kate Jopling, the charity's head of public affairs, said: "Allowing companies to show loyal workers the door just because they are 65 or over makes a mockery of age discrimination laws which are there to make clear that age is just a number, not an indicator of your competency. "There is simply no justification for allowing a 65th birthday card to come hand in hand with a P45, regardless of competency or previous track record." Lawyers for Age Concern told a hearing this year that the Employment Equality (Age) Regulations breach the EU's Equal Treatment Directive, which bans employment discrimination on various grounds, including age.

The regulations, introduced in 2006, ban discrimination on the ground of age but exclude pensioners, who can be dismissed at 65 without redundancy payments, or at the employer's mandatory retirement age if it is above 65. Government lawyers insisted that the exception was a national matter and that rules on retirement-age workers should not be governed by the EU directive.

One of Age Concern's member organisations, Heyday, took the case to the High Court, which sent it to the EU court for a ruling. The "opinion" is not legally binding, but is followed by the EU judges in about 80 per cent of cases. The final verdict is due in about six months.

The Advocate-General also rejected Age Concern's claim that national governments should have to provide a specific list of which differences of treatment in retirement age are justified. A victory for Age Concern - not ruled out but now unlikely - could lead to a far-reaching change in domestic employment law, and a flood of compensation actions in addition to the 260 now pending. About 25,000 workers are estimated to face "default retirement" at 65 in Britain every year, when they would be happy and able to carry on.


Amazing! Brutal Muslim child abuse penalized in Britain

But no jail time. Just a slap on the wrist. And apologies for bringing the prosecution

A man who encouraged two teenage boys to flog themselves until their backs were covered in bloody cuts was given a suspended jail sentence yesterday. Syed Mustafa Zaidi, 44, a Shia Muslim, was taking part at a mosque in Levenshulme, Manchester, in the traditional Ashura festival, a ritual of lamentation commemorating the slaughter of the Prophet Muhammad's grandson, Hussein, and his followers in the 7th century AD. Participants encourage each other to flail themselves with a whip with a wooden handle and five chains that end in sharp blades, to recreate the suffering of the martyrs.

Zaidi, a warehouse supervisor from Eccles, Greater Manchester, was found guilty last month of child cruelty for his role in encouraging the two boys, aged 13 and 15, to use the adult bladed whip rather than one specifically designed for youngsters. Both boys required hospital treatment.

He was given a 26-week prison sentence at Manchester Crown Court, suspended by Judge Robert Atherton for 12 months. Zaidi was ordered not to allow or encourage anyone under 16 to beat themselves during the next year. The prosecution had emphasised that bringing the legal action was not an attack on the practices of Shia Muslims. However, protesters declaring that the courts should not have become involved in what is a religious ceremony paraded placards outside the court building.

Judge Atherton said: "It should be clearly understood by everyone that the jury's verdict was not a comment upon that ceremony and no one should misinterpret it as being such. "The law recognises that children and young persons may wish to take part in some activities which it considers they should not. It is sometimes expressed as protecting themselves from themselves."

Zaidi had denied two counts of child cruelty amounting to "wilful ill-treatment".The boys, who cannot be named for legal reasons, said that they had wanted to beat themselves, but not under duress and not using blades.

Carol Jackson, for the Crown Prosecution Service, said: "Given the age of the children concerned, the refusal of Mr Zaidi to admit any wrongdoing and the likelihood of such an incident occurring again, we are satisfied that it was in the public interest to bring this case."



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.


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