Consultations, bills and mysterious advisors

A bit of a miscellany, with Government skullduggery and posturing galore.

First up, Grayling’s MoJ has announced a consultation into revising the rules on Judicial Review. Broadly, he is against it. Responses are due by 24 January 2013, so a busy holiday for the rest of us. Given the dubious inferences drawn from inadequate statistics, people really should respond. Our view from when the first announcement was made is here.

Next, the Home Office draft Anti-Social Behaviour bill is out (officially tomorrow 14/12/2012). The end of ASBOs and ASBIs, closure orders etc. but also the new mandatory ground of possession for breach of an ASB injunction, noise abatement order or other ASB conviction. And, lest we forget, a discretionary ground for possession of a secure or assured tenancy where a tenant, member of household or visitor commits a riot related offence. We’ll be coming back to this one in detail, but our initial view of the possession proposals was here and here.

And then there is the curious case of the advisor who wasn’t (or was he?). Andy Gale ‘CLG Policy Advisor’ was the author of a briefing paper to Council officers that appeared to advocate unlawful gatekeeping, reducing the homeless preference in part 6 to effectively nil, and acknowledged out of borough offers were going to happen (not the official CLG line or guidance). We revealed the briefing document here. The Guardian picked up on the detail of the briefing paper here, and then all hell broke loose.

The CLG aggressively denied to the Guardian that Andy Gale had anything to do with them (though I noted at the time the strange precision of the wording used “Andy Gale is not employed by the department and [...] it has no contractual arrangements with him”). Andy Gale vanished from a January 2013 conference where he was billed as CLG policy advisor. An erratum slip was issued at a November conference to say Andy Gale was not a CLG policy advisor.

Meanwhile, I was hearing odd tales, including one from several different directions that Andy Gale had been ‘frogmarched’ out of CLG HQ one afternoon about a week after the Guardian article. There were also whispers about him working at LB Newham as ‘a CLG advisor’. Bits and pieces were coming together to make it clear that the CLG’s denial was not necessarily as clear cut as it seemed.

Now the Guardian has gone public with the whole story, straight out of the Thick of It. Do read the full article. It might even make you feel rather sorry for Mr Gale. But some highlights are the CLG suggesting that Andy Gale had been effectively making up his ‘policy advisor’ title since 2008:

He [Gale] has advised the Government in the past, but he is not employed or seconded by DCLG, and it’s not true that this advice reflects our views. This alleged advice was not paid for, or commissioned by, or given to DCLG.

and

He has been told he should not present himself as a government advisor, and he accepted that.

Meanwhile Andy Gale was using a CLG email address…

Then there is the Newham arrangement, CLG insisted that Gale was “an advisor to Newham BC [borough council].” But the diligent digging by the Guardian’s Patrick Butler resulted in an exchange of emails between CLG and Newham in which CLG offered to pay Newham to ‘host’ Andy Gale:

I believe Andy has spoken to you about Newham hosting Andy Gale to continue to provide support to local authorities to tackle homelessness. I would be most grateful if Newham are able to help in this respect.
The objective is for Andy to continue to provide support for two day a week to local authorities. DCLG would provide additional grant funding to Newham this financial year of £72,000.

So, it is quite true that CLG did not have a direct contractual relationship with Andy Gale, or employ him. Instead, CLG asked a local authority to ‘host’ Gale to provide ‘support to local authorities’ for two days a week. For this Newham would get £72,000, “ £52k to pay Gale, £10,000 for his travel and hotels cost, and £10,000 for Newham’s administrative costs.”. This is hardly ‘nothing to do with us’. (My sympathy for Mr Gale for being left to twist in the wind and being portrayed as a fantasist by CLG was somewhat ameliorated by £52K per year plus expenses for a two day a week job. Though he did throw in 10 days free advice to Newham.)

Then there is the matter of the Housing Minister’s answer to a parliamentary question. Karen Buck MP, who had engaged with both my post and the Guardian’s on twitter, laid a written question after seeing the general surprise at the CLG’s denial of having anything to do with Andy Gale, but with some further information from somewhere.

Ms Karen Buck:
To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, which local authorities have received grants from his Department to employ Andy Gale Consultants in each of the last three financial years.
To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, on how many occasions his Department has recommended Andy Gale Consultants to local authorities in each of the last three financial years.

Mark Prisk’s response from today (13/12/2012) follows a similar line to the CLG’s replies to the Guardian.

Mr Mark Prisk:
Andy Gale is not employed by the Department, is not contracted to the Department and, for the avoidance of doubt, does not speak for the Department. He was formerly employed by the Department in 2007. From 2008 onwards, I understand he has acted as a homelessness consultant to a number of local authorities. Under this and the last Administration, the Department has provided grant funding to a number of local authorities to support the provision of advice on preventing homelessness to complement the funding we provide to the voluntary sector. I understand that Mr Gale was commissioned by the London Borough of Croydon from 2008 to 2011 and currently by the London Borough of Newham as one of those providers of preventing homelessness advice. Whilst officials have had contact on how such departmental funding has been spent, Ministers in this Administration have had no involvement with local authorities on commissioning such services.

This is, shall we say, a little disingenuous in view of the documents around the set up of the Newham position. Whether Mr Prisk’s reply is actually misleading is something on which people can draw their own conclusions. Got to love that “Ministers [...] have had no involvement with local authorities on commissioning such services”. I do doubt it was Mr Prisk himself emailing Newham with a £72K proposal if they’d ‘host’ Gale. Mr Prisk’s response is also, of course, not an answer to Karen Buck’s question…

What is clear, as the Guardian concludes, is that every effort is being made to make sure the blame for the housing, homelessness and benefits catastrophe that is now accelerating remains laden on local councils rather being pointed at ministers and the ministries. Out of borough homeless accommodation – it is all the council’s fault. The minister has, after all, told them not to do it.

Posted in ASB, FLW article, Homeless, Housing law - All, Possession and tagged . RSS feed for this post and comments.

About

Giles Peaker is a solicitor and partner in the Housing and Public Law team at Anthony Gold Solicitors in South London. You can find him on Linkedin and on Twitter. Known as NL round these parts, and still is Nearly Legal on Google +

6 Comments

  1. sue
    Posted 17/12/2012 at 2:37 am | link to comment

    Catastrophe is putting it mildly. Frontline local authority staff are woefully uninformed about all the changes and will be the first in line when the backlash happens. Especially the morass that is the decision-making process for discretionary housing payments. Are they ringfenced? No, it’s not legal. Who is entitled to claim? We can’t say, but our guidance lists just about every circumstance possible. No right of appeal only..ahem..judicial review. Now, where is that Government response to the consultation on discretionary housing payments? It was due in November…

  2. Cait
    Posted 17/12/2012 at 1:30 pm | link to comment

    Croydon and Newham ….. If asked to talk about my experiences of some of the worse councils for gatekeeping in London – those would crop up. It didn’t *seem* like the Harrow approach to Gatekeeping (isnt that where Andy Gale came from)- not as brutally efficient as that – but its interesting that those are two councils he has consulted to.

    • Posted 17/12/2012 at 2:11 pm | link to comment

      Cait – he advised a lot of Councils. Was being ‘hosted’ by Croydon, then Newham (paid for by CLG) to advise LAs generally, not just/specifically those two.

    • dave
      Posted 20/12/2012 at 8:26 pm | link to comment

      Cait, I think that Andy G was responsible for the Harrow model and that was how he came to CLG’s attention. I could be wrong about that but am 95% sure.

  3. TSHO
    Posted 18/12/2012 at 10:44 am | link to comment

    I have been in several of Andy Gale’s training sessions, and in every one I can recall conversations about his methods being described as gatekeeping by homeless officers in attendance.
    That CLG are now denying his involvement is laughable, as for several years he was introduced as DCLG advisor.
    Many Councils have adopted his methods, and I know of one Council that uses his letter templates for all decision letters.
    It seems to me that DCLG were happy with his methods for a long time, and are now cutting him adrift after some bad publicity.

  4. Colin Lunt
    Posted 20/12/2012 at 11:10 pm | link to comment

    My former manager thought that AG was such an assest to HPUs and creative in his use of definitions so that locally homelessness was recorded as having been prevented when it had not; so the figures went up and acceptances went down. Rooflessness and homelessness has in effect been conflated so as long as a person has a roof they are not homeless. Permanent temporary accommodation.

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