News2021-03-31T15:47:29+01:00
8Jun 2021

PILC/UVW bringing Royal Parks discrimination case

2021-06-08T11:14:09+01:008th June 2021|

PILC, with the support of United Voices of the World, has today launched a crowdfunding appeal in support of a judicial review claim we are bringing over the Royal Parks’ discrimination against outsourced cleaners.

A press release is below.

The Royal Parks charity, charged with maintaining some of London’s most famous parks, is set to face judicial review over its “discrimination against black African cleaners”, says trade union

  • The Royal Parks, a charity set up by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), to administer and maintain the Queen’s most famous London parks, including Hyde Park and Greenwich Park, is set to find itself in the High Court, says trade union United Voices of the World (UVW).
  • The claim, which UVW officials have described as “groundbreaking”, will see a Black African cleaner argue that Royal Parks’ decision to contract with her employer (a private cleaning contractor) on the basis that she will receive inferior terms and conditions of employment to in-house staff was unlawful, in that it failed to have due regard to the need to eliminate discrimination and advance equality of opportunity
  • It is understood that just over 87% of in-house staff at the charity are White, but that 90% of outsourced cleaning staff are BAME and do not receive full pay sick pay, receive lower levels of pay and three times less maternity pay

The Royal Parks, a charity set up by the government to administer some of London’s most iconic parks owned by the Queen, is set to find itself in the High Court, says trade union United Voices of the World (UVW). The legal claim comes after an outsourced member of cleaning staff at Regent’s Park, one of the 8 parks under the care of the charity, filed a claim in the High Court alleging the decision to contract with her employer on the basis that she would receive inferior terms and conditions to in-house staff was unlawful.

The Royal Parks are a public body who are subject to the Public Sector Equality Duty, so must have “due regard” to the need to eliminate discrimination and to advance equality of opportunity. Royal Parks admit that they had no regard to any equality implications arising from the disparity of terms between outsourced predominantly BAME staff, and overwhelmingly White in-house staff. The claimants’ case is that in these circumstances “due regard” cannot be “no regard”.

According to UVW officials, the claim, which they have described as “groundbreaking and potentially precedent setting”, will contend that The Royal Parks have failed to give “due regard to the discriminatory effect of operating a double standard on terms and conditions between directly employed and outsourced staff”. The latest publicly available figures filed by the charity in November 2019 reveal the charity’s in-house staff was 87.7% White while over 90% of outsourced cleaning staff were said to be BAME. It is understood the claim will look at disparities between the two, with some of the notable disparities being the enhanced annual leave received by in-house workers as well as sick pay, maternity pay and employer pension contributions.

Officials claim that, when approached by the union and asked how the disadvantage faced by the predominantly Black, African and migrant outsourced workforce had been taken into account when the charity recently put its cleaning contract back out for tender, the charity responded by saying “The Royal Parks assessed the associated Equality and Diversity impacts and concluded there were none”.

The outsourced worker bringing the claim is being represented by the Public Interest Law Centre (PILC). PILC, in partnership with UVW, has today launched a CrowdJustice appeal to protect the claimant from legal costs and to allow this ground-breaking litigation to continue.

Richard O’Keeffe, Head of Legal Services at UVW, said the following: “It is not uncommon for public sector bodies to be challenged by way of judicial review when they make unlawful decisions in respect of workers’ terms and conditions. The situation should be no different when they make unlawful decisions affecting the livelihoods of their outsourced workforces, cleaners, security guards and so on. No regard to equalities implications of public body decision making cannot be ‘due regard’.”

Saskia O’Hara, paralegal at PILC, states: “The Royal Parks charity cannot go unchallenged when they shirk their responsibilities to eliminate discrimination whilst exercising their public function. PILC are proud to stand behind this brave migrant worker in her legitimate battle for equality and justice.”

Editors notes

For further comment please contact:

Kane Shaw at UVW, kane@uvwunion.org.uk; tel. 07749 765264, or;

Benjamin Morgan at PILC, benjamin.morgan@pilc.org.uk, tel: 07727 637 208.

You can support the legal claim by donating to the worker’s legal fund here.



1Jun 2021

Elephant JR fails, but campaigners hail concessions as victory

2021-06-01T13:17:43+01:001st June 2021|

The Court of Appeal has upheld a High Court decision allowing developers Delancey to proceed with the demolition and redevelopment of the Elephant and Castle Shopping Centre.

The Court found that there were no grounds for reversing the High Court’s decision.

The legal challenge was mounted as part of a hard-fought four-year campaign which brought together housing campaigners, students, tenants’ groups, local councillors and trade unionists in the fight for more socially rented housing and a better deal for traders displaced by the proposed development.

The decision will allow the mixed-use development of new shops and homes to proceed. with Out of 979 new homes 116 will be social rent units.

In the course of the legal battle Southwark Council conceded that a change was needed in its legal agreement with Delancey in order to secure socially rented housing.

Improvements won by the campaign

Despite this legal defeat, the Up the Elephant Campaign secured many improvements to the original redevelopment proposals:

  • Increase in socially rented housing from 33 units of social-rent equivalent owned and managed by developer to 116 proper social rent units owned and managed by the council or housing association
  • Provision of affordable retail space
  • An established traders’ panel
  • Temporary traders’ premises on Castle Square
  • Trader relocation and assistance fund of £634,700 and £200,000
  • 15-year affordable retail lease (rents to be held at 75% market Yr 6-15)

These are all improvements against the baseline of the original application made in October 2016

Jerry Flynn of Up the Elephant said:

 ‘We are naturally disappointed that the court has not found in our favour, but we can be pleased with the victories we have had in our fight with Delancey and Southwark.  There was zero proper social rented housing to begin with and it is only by the efforts of local people that we have the 116 homes now promised.

But this socially rented housing still has to be delivered and Delancey’s track record shows that it is practised in passing these costs back to the public purse.  We will continue to campaign to make sure that we get the promised 116 social rent units and that Southwark does not have to pay for them.’

There have also been gains for the traders – many now have somewhere to move to. [But there is] not enough space for everyone who needs it and traders are still in negotiation with Southwark for a new market space.  We will continue the fight to get them a better deal, alongside the Latin American community who have made the Elephant their home.

We also got together a great legal team and are very grateful for the part that they have played in this battle, which has shone a light on the advantages our planning system affords big developers like Delancey, even when they fail to meet their affordable housing obligations.  We will continue the fight to change this.

Tanya Murat of Southwark Defend Council Housing, which supported the campaign, said

‘We lost the legal fight, which was always the most likely outcome as planning law protects developer profits.

But Southwark Council could have stopped the Elephant and Castle scheme by refusing to take up CPO powers. Instead they sided with developer Delancey, a firm who partner with the Qatari government, have taken millions in taxpayer funded loans and are implicated in the ongoing cladding scandal. We won’t forget that.

This has been an inspiring campaign which has proved that if you fight for more you can get it.  There was no affordable retail space, trader’s panel or trader’s relocation fund before we began our campaign. We won all these concessions from Delancey, although sadly many traders will still be left out in the cold.

It is a tragedy that we have lost the opportunity to rehouse more people who rely on council housing for a decent home.  Southwark has a policy that should have got us at least another 55 socially rented homes and even that would have meant less than 200 out of nearly a thousand new homes.  Southwark must stop caving in to developers like Delancey if we are ever going to solve the housing crisis.’

Paul Heron of PILC, solicitors for the claimant Jerry Flynn, said:

‘Southwark Council should now be on notice that local people expect the maximum amount of affordable and social rented housing from major developments and will challenge any that do not provide it.  While we have lost this case, we have demonstrated we have the capacity to hold Southwark and big developers to account and we will not hesitate to mount more challenges where we think it is justified.’

Sally Causer of Southwark Law Centre, which also supported the campaign, said:

We applaud all the people who have fought so hard to save the Elephant and Castle community. Although the result is disappointing, we can’t imagine how much worse the situation for traders and the community would have been without the campaign. The work goes on. The campaign has secured a commitment to an over-300% increase in social rent units. Southwark Law Centre will continue to support traders to make sure they get the best deal and work with campaigners to ensure that the commitment to social rented housing is honoured. We hope that Southwark Council will also apply proper scrutiny to the development’.

The legal challenge

The appeal was heard by Sir Keith Lindblom, Lord Justice Baker and Lord Justice Lewis at a remote hearing on 16 and 17 March 2021.  The judgement (Case No: C1/2020/0447) can be found here.  The appellant was Jerry Flynn, a member of the 35% Campaign and the Up the Elephant campaign. The defendants were Southwark Council and Elephant and Castle Properties Ltd.

Jerry Flynn was represented by barristers Sarah Sackman of the Francis Taylor Building and David Wolfe QC, of Matrix Chambers, instructed by the Public Interest Law CentreSouthwark Law Centre also assisted with the challenge.

The appeal was against a High Court decision upholding Southwark Council’s approval of plans to redevelop the shopping centre. The original case was heard at the Royal Courts of Justice on 22-23 October 2019.

The challenge focused on socially rented housing in the mixed-use scheme.  Developer and shopping-centre owner Delancey have permission to build nearly a thousand new homes, but only 116 will be socially rented and these will not be provided for nearly ten years.  The challenge argued that there could be, and should be, more social housing and that there was doubt that even the 116 social rent units promised will be provided.

The demolition of the centre will displace independent traders, half of whom have been allocated no space in Delancey and Southwark’s relocation plans.  Many of the traders are from Black and Minority Ethnic backgrounds. The Elephant’s Latin American community fear that the development will destroy a vital social hub:  http://35percent.org/2019-03-30-no-room-for-traders-in-the-new-elephant/

The hearing was a ‘rolled-up’ hearing, meaning that both the decision on permission to apply for a judicial review and the case itself were dealt with together.

The order for the hearing noted that the application was “…one of those exceptional cases where the public interest in the issue which the claimant raises is such that if permission is refused this should occur after a hearing.”

The barristers for the challenge were Sarah Sackman of Francis Taylor Building and David Wolfe QC of Matrix Chambers.

Background

The Up the Elephant Campaign is a coalition of local people and groups fighting for a fairer regeneration at the Elephant and Castle have made a legal application to overturn the planning approval for the redevelopment of the Elephant and Castle shopping centre.  Over £11,000 was raised through crowdfunding to support the case:

https://www.crowdjustice.com/case/stop-the-elephant-shopping-centre-destruction/

https://www.crowdjustice.com/case/save-the-elephants-diverse-com-appeal/

Planning approval for the demolition and redevelopment of the shopping centre was granted to its owners Delancey on 10 July 2018, two years after a planning application was submitted in Oct 2016 (ref 16/AP/4458).  The application generated over a thousand objections and was deferred on three occasions.

The mixed-use development is being undertaken in partnership with the University of the Arts London. It will occupy two sites, including the sites of the current London College of Communication aand the Elephant shopping centre, both of which are to be demolished.  The LCC will get a new campus and there will be a new Northern Line tube entrance.

There will be 979 new Build-to-Rent homes of which 330 will be “affordable”, but only 116 will be social rent units.  There will be about the same amount of retail floorspace as at present.

27May 2021

Public law solicitor wanted

2021-05-27T16:45:59+01:0027th May 2021|

PILC is recruiting for a dynamic and committed solicitor with solid public law experience in a range of practice areas. This role is initially for a fixed-term 12-month contract but has the potential to develop into a permanent role.

The full job ad can be found here.

The recruitment pack for the role can be downloaded here.

Applications for the position should be made using this form. Applicants may also complete an equality and diversity monitoring form.

Please note that this is a re-advertisement of an existing vacancy and past applicants for the role are not invited to apply.

Please share news of this vacancy far and wide!

26Apr 2021

UCPI: Undercover officer led Troops Out Movement

2021-04-26T16:32:43+01:0026th April 2021|

On Friday 21 April we delivered our opening statement to the Undercover Policing Inquiry (UCPI). The public inquiry has been reconvened to look at the years 1973 to 1982. This section of the Inquiry is Tranche 1 Part 2.

PILC represents the following participants in the UCPI: Richard Chessum, ‘Mary’, Lois Austin, Hannah Sell, Dave Nellist, John Rees, Lindsey German, Chris Nineham, Youth against Racism in Europe and the Stop the War Coalition.

Our opening statement was behalf of Richard Chessum and ‘Mary’, who were both spied upon by undercover officers from the Metropolitan Police. Both were involved in the Troops Out Movement, and to a lesser extent the International Marxist Group, in the early 1970s.

Our statement also begins to explore the systematic infiltration of the Socialist Workers Party (SWP), in which Lindsey German was a leading figure at that time. Over the years the party was subject to major infiltration—we estimate that 30+ officers may have targeted and infiltrated the SWP.

Commenting on our opening statement, the Campaign Opposing Police Surveillance (COPS), an alliance of activists subjected to systematic surveillance, said:

“[James] Scobie [QC] did a great job piecing together the career of undercover officer Richard Clark (‘Rick Gibson’ HN297, 1974-76) rising through Troops Out Movement (TOM) seemingly in order to get access to Big Flame – and how he was eventually found out.”

Our opening statement, carefully assembled by Piers Marquis of Doughty Street Chambers and Paul Heron, solicitor at PILC, provides a clear analysis of how undercover officer Richard Clark was able to climb to a leading position in the Troops Out Movement. Clark went from a local to a regional and then to a national position of authority in the movement. He subsequently directed the movement for a period of time, and, we say, contributed to de-railing it.

We then explain how other officers infiltrated a host of organisations, taking positions of responsibility that gave them a say directing the activities of those groups. This was political policing worthy of an authoritarian state.

In our statement we point out that many officers considered the Socialist Workers Party ‘extremely dull’ or generally not worthy of surveillance. However some, such as ‘Paul Gray’ (1977-82), claimed the party was involved in violence. As we show, his claims were undermined by his own words in his own reports—which show nothing of the kind. We say he was lying.

Worryingly, Paul Gray reported on children, recording details of their lives which were sent on to his senior officers and then to MI5. These children were either the children of Socialist Workers Party members or young people engaged enough with their society to be part of School Kids Against the Nazis.

As we point out, during Gray’s deployment Column 88—a fascist group—were threatening to burn down the homes of members of the Socialist Workers Party. The National Front was attacking Bengalis in Brick Lane, east London. Fascists also smashed up West Indian record shops and vandalised mosques around this time. Instead of investigating the racist firebombing that killed 13 young black people in New Cross, the Special Demonstration Squad (SDS) and undercover officers were reporting on schoolchildren and providing MI5 with copies of Socialist Workers Party babysitting rotas.

At the end of our statement we laid down a challenge to the public inquiry:

“This Inquiry has been set a challenge – to get to the truth. This means asking difficult questions, again and again, to uncover the truth.

Ordinary people have been involved in campaigns for a better society, for social equality, anti racism, anti-fascism, against apartheid and for trade union rights. The best of reasons, and the best of traditions.

We hope the Inquiry is ready, willing and equipped to meet that challenge. The Inquiry must be fearless and unflinching in the pursuit of the truth. The people of this country expect nothing less.”

19Apr 2021

‘Shrewsbury Pickets, Political Policing and the State’ – event video now online

2021-04-19T18:52:36+01:0019th April 2021|

On 31 March 2021 PILC brought together a panel of speakers for an online discussion following the historic court victory of the Shrewsbury 24.

A recording of this online discussion, featuring footage of the controversial documentary The Red Under The Bed, is now available to watch:

The event featured the following speakers:

Saskia O’Hara (Public Interest Law Centre, host)

Annabel Timan + Piers Marquis (barristers from Doughty Street Chambers)

John McDonnell (Labour MP)

Dave Smith (Blacklist Support Group)

Ricky Tomlinson (Shrewsbury picket and jailed trade unionist)

More than 300 people watched the meeting live online.

6Apr 2021

Public law solicitor & paralegal wanted

2021-04-06T16:06:00+01:006th April 2021|

PILC is recruiting for two roles.

We are looking for a dynamic and committed solicitor with solid public-law experience in a range of practice areas. This role is initially on a fixed-term 12-month contract but has the potential to develop into a full-time and permanent role.

We are also recruiting for a paralegal with two years’ experience and, ideally, knowledge and experience of the legal-aid and legal-help funding system.

For further information about the two vacancies please refer to the full job ad.

The recruitment pack for the solicitor role can be downloaded here.

The recruitment pack for the paralegal role can be downloaded here.

Applications for either position should be made using this form. Applicants may also complete an equality and diversity monitoring form.

Please share far & wide!