Sunk: Bath Knight the company that aids the disabled

The happy image of Bath Knight: Now it is bust

The happy image of Bath Knight: Now it is bust

Disabled people who have purchased equipment that enables people with mobility problems to have a daily bath have been left in the lurch by the collapse of the company that makes the aids

Without virtually any coverage Care Knight, owners of Bath Knight, the Stoke on Trent manufacturing company of expensive  bath aids, has gone bust over the summer. The company made an aid which gently lowered people into the bath on a band and gently raises them out of the bath.

The problem facing people is that the company both installs and maintains the machinery to do this – and now it is in administration, Its staff have been sacked and there appears to be nobody available to service aids that cost over £2000 to buy.

We purchased one – as my wife is recovering from a stroke and needs help to have a bath- and thankfully had some repairs done just before the company went bust. I wrote about my experiences when they installed the Bath Knight here. But others have not been lucky – I have been contacted by someone whose Bath Knight no longer works and they are in great difficulties getting something done.

The saga of the collapse of Bath Knight is revealed in a series of documents filed at Companies House. From these documents it looks as though the owners of the family firm. the Greenwoods,. tried to save the company by entering a voluntary arrangement with a  national firm of business recovery and insolvency specialists, Begbies Traynor .

The main owner, Mrs Annette Elvina Greenwood, took out a £30,000 floating charge on May 5 – an unusual arrangement which allows a company to borrow money on any assets the company may have to cover debts. The loan was charged to Care Knight Group a company that has not been affected by the collapse of Care Knight. Mrs Greenwood, her husband and her daughter are directors of both companies.

But on July 3 Care Knight Ltd called in the receivers. According to the report filed by Begbies Traynor the company went bust owing £428,247.to creditors. this included £310,973 to trade creditors, £100,000 to redundant employees, and £76,047 to the Inland Revenue.

The company also owed £255,625 was owed to its parent company Care Knight Group.

The trigger was a demand for a substantial sum in back rent from the landlords of its premises in Stoke on Trent which were closed and locked up until the administrators were able to get access.

What is not clear is what will happen to the disabled people relying on Bath Knight for repairs and servicing. Those who have paid for equipment through a credit card but not received it could claim on their credit card but the rest seem to have been abandoned.

It is no good contacting the company’s old headquarters Paladin House as it is now closed. The parent company has ,moved to Unit 73, Bedford Street, Stoke on Trent ST1 4PZ but I am told is uncontactable. However if you follow this link  at the new Companies House free access website and look up officers you will find the home address of the directors who are still directors of the parent company. I suggest anybody worried should write to Mrs Greenwood there and ask what she is going to do about their plight.

Since I put up this blog i have been contacted by The British Healthcare Trades Association (BHTA) who point out that the firm concerned was not a member of the BHTA.  People buying goods and services from BHTA member companies are protected by a Code of Practice approved and overseen by the Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI).  This Code is rigorously enforced and it gives consumers considerable protection and access to a complaints and dispute resolution process.  Anyone buying goods and services for disabled people (generally known as “assistive technology”) should be advised to buy from companies who are members of the BHTA and are therefore governed by the Code of Practice.

I find this latest disclosure all the more concerning since Care Knight left the organisation when a new code of practice designed to protect disabled people from bad service was introduced. That is not good news.

Why Labour’s patronising grandees have driven people to vote for Stormin’ Corbyn

Labolur's three grandees- Mandelson, Blair and Campbell  Pic Credit: wherebuttheuk.com

Labolur’s three grandees- Mandelson, Blair and Campbell
Pic Credit: wherebuttheuk.com

CROSS POSTED FROM BYLINE.COM WHERE MY SCOOPS ON WESTMINSTER AND WHITEHALL WILL REGULARLY APPEAR 

Alastair Campbell, Peter Mandelson,Gordon Brown, David Miliband, Tony Blair and now David Blunkett have all joined in bashing Jeremy Corbyn because he is the front runner in Labour’s leadership election and they are desperate to stop him.

Anyone but Corbyn is Campbell’s cry. Peter Mandelson has been up to his old tricks using back channels to try and get the election cancelled. The only person who has been wise enough to keep quiet is Ed Miliband who is leaving it to the members.

Yet what are these grandee’s credentials today for saying that Corbyn is unfit to lead Labour while the others would be fine.

Alastair Campbell’s reputation for plain dealing took a hit over the Iraq ” dodgy dossier” and is now a freelance journalist, a lobbyist and earns some of his money from dodgy Central European dictatorships like Kazakhstan.

Peter Mandelson has enjoyed a reputation for the ” dark arts” of politics and now is a strategic lobbyist with strong connections to Russian oligarchs who sympathise with Putin. We don’t even know the rest of his client list.

Gordon Brown is nowadays concentrating on education in Africa and stood down at the last election.

David Miliband is living in the United States doing good work in trying to provide humanitarian relief  to Syria.

Tony Blair is concentrating his entire life in making money from any country that will pay him large sums of cash – it is described in detail in  Blair Inc, my new book with Francis Beckett and Nick Kochan.

David Blunkett  along with Gordon Brown appears to have been the least avaricious but spends a lot of his time as an after dinner speaker.

None of them can say they are really in touch with the present mood of  Labour Party members, and some of them, notably Blair and Mandelson, have more in common with the wealthy global elite than a traditional Labour Party supporter.

And Labour Party activists long treated as foot soldiers and not given their head over policy formation by these grandees are revolting.  Ever since Blair reduced their power at party conferences they have had a diminishing say along with the unions.

The main charges from the grandees is that Corbyn will be hated by the  press and that he could never win an election.

Jeremy Corbyn Mp, not a grandee

Jeremy Corbyn Mp, not a grandee

But whoever leads the Labour Party will be monstered by the right wing press. Expect a simple nasty sexist campaign against Yvette Cooper saying ” vote Cooper get Balls” implying that the Ed Balls – just because he is married to her – will be inside Downing Street directing matters.

If it is Andy Burnham it will be that he is in the hands of the unions. If it Liz Kendall it will all be about inexperience etc

So people have remained unimpressed that by NOT voting for Corbyn they will escape the media’s wrath.

The election itself is five years away and Labour has a long time to redefine policy. Also with Corbyn’s promise of elections to the Shadow Cabinet –  Labour will be more diverse than just one faction.

What is quite clear that people want someone who will stand up for the party and launch a distinctive programme. They will not want a pale shadow of the present Conservative government- they can get a proper version already.

Yvette Cooper’s campaign has been disappointing. Instead of promoting women it has attacked men. Andy Burnham’s started well but seems to have gone all over the place. And Liz Kendall has not made the impact one might have expected.

This left Corbyn who no one expected to take off – striding into the lead. There seems to be a hunger out of there for a radical shift of direction. On September 12 we will know whether it has happened.

Revealed: The Treasury mandarin who said losing £1bn for the taxpayer was value for money

john kingman, second Permanent secretary at The Treasury Pic Credit: worldellows.yale.edu

john kingman, second Permanent secretary at The Treasury Pic Credit: worldellows.yale.edu

CROSS POSTED FROM  BYLINE.COM WHERE SOME OF MY WHITEHALL AND WESTMINSTER SCOOPS WILL NOW APPEAR FIRST AS PART OF A NEW CROWDFUNDING DEAL TO WIDEN THE SCOPE OF THIS BLOG

There has been enormous outrage about the £1bn loss to the taxpayer caused by the sale of the first tranche of Royal Bank of Scotland shares. An article in The Guardian on August 4 reported not only expected criticism from Labour but concern from a banking analyst that the share price of RBS was too low to justify the sale.

What was only briefly mentioned was that the second most powerful mandarin in the Treasury had also given the go ahead. You might expect him to bow and scrape to the Chancellor but actually he has more powers than you might think and he needn’t have followed his instructions.

If an accounting officer believes that a government minister is about to make a decision that will lead to a big loss to the taxpayer he can refuse to approve the action.

These actions are not taken lightly – one of the most recent examples being the refusal by Richard Heaton (soon to become Permanent Secretary at MoJ) who requested one, on value for money grounds, on 26 June over extra funding for the Kids company charity. He was overruled by ministers who have now seen to have made a big mistake as recent coverage reveals.

John Kingman could have done the same thing. He would face being overruled by George Osborne but it would have caused a furore and triggered an eventual Whitehall investigation.

John Kingman Letter Instead as this letter above shows he has positively embraced the sale.

“ I am satisfied that a sale at this time would offer good value for money for the taxpayer and meets all other requirements in accordance with the principles of Managing Public Money,” he wrote to George Osborne.

Really?  Now John Kingman is one of the cleverest mandarins in Whitehall. He hates holidays, lives in Leicester Square and one former colleague describes him in these words: “His arrogance is only marginally ahead of his considerable intelligence, whereas with most ambitious men of his ilk the gap is rather larger.” A profile in 2009 by political editor George Parker in the Financial Times says it all.

He writes “If he can achieve the goal of unwinding the taxpayer’s stake ( in RBS) at a profit, his route to the top of the civil service is clear, even if some question whether he has the patience to manage such a huge, traditional organisation. “

Well at the moment he hasn’t – he has acquiesced in a £1 billion tax loss. And I am not the only one who has noticed this.

The National Audit Office, Parliament’s financial watchdog, which reports on state asset sales, confirmed to me “We are watching the situation”.

They will have to make a report on this. This will lead him to have to appear before the House of Commons public accounts committee to justify why he approved what was done.

No doubt the government would like Parliament to take its time – perhaps not report until the entire sale is over – but that won’t be until 2020.

I say the huge loss to the taxpayer should not go unchallenged for years. Bring it on now!

Labour leadership: Stormin’ Corbyn winning the new battle of Berkhamsted

BERKHAMSTED CASTLE pPc Credit:geograph-org-uk

BERKHAMSTED CASTLE
Pic Credit:geograph-org-uk

Berkhamsted in Hertfordshire is not known as a centre of left wing radicalism. It has had only two revolutionary moments in its 1000 year history . They were the capitulation of the English to William the Conqueror in 1066 at Berkhamsted Castle and the Battle of Berkhamsted Common in 1866.

The latter was a remarkable story, A wealthy MP, Augustus Smith, was furious that a local landowner had enclosed common land above the town. So rather than just protest he took direct action. As a book, The Short History of Berkhamsted reveals he hired ” a miniature army of Cockney” toughs” and Irish labourers and charted a special train to convey them from Euston to Tring at the dead of night.”

These 120 men armed with crowbars tore down the iron railings overnight and the next day a newspaper reported ” “In carriages, gigs, dogcarts and on foot, gentry, shopkeepers, husbandmen, women and children at once tested the reality of what they saw by strolling over and squatting on the Common and taking away morsels of gorse to prove, as they said) the place was their own again.”

An Act of Parliament later guaranteed the freedom of the Common and Lord Brownlow who had tried to enclose it gave up.

Fast forward to 2015 and another extraordinary revolution seems to be taking place in the town if not the country..At a barbecue organised by the Berkhamsted and Tring branch of South West Herts Labour Party, members are talking about voting for Jeremy Corbyn.

Jeremy Corbyn Mp, popular with Berkhamsted Labour members

Jeremy Corbyn Mp, popular with   Berkhamsted Labour members

Now Jeremy has not had to bring in Cockney ” toughies” or Irish labourers to prove his point ( though they are many still in his Islington North constituency) but merely appear at local hustings with either other candidates or their representatives.

Both new members of the party and long-standing members are saying they are fed up with Labour apologising for what it stands for and don’t know what the other candidates for the leadership want to do. One lumped Andy Burnham,Yvette Cooper and Liz Kendall into the same mould. She described them as vanilla – bland and tasteless with no ideological view of society.

They contrasted this with Corbyn who at least knows what he believes, doesn’t apologise for being a member of the Labour Party and would take the fight to the Tories and revamp the organisation. I saw no sign of entryism ( which the Sunday Times suggests) here among the new members – after all Chorleywood was never a bastion of the Militant Tendency even in its heyday. And John Mann MP is ridiculed for wanting to halt the election.

Angela Eagle Benefiting  from Yvette Cooper's pro women campaign.. Pic credit: The Guardian

Angela Eagle Benefiting from Yvette Cooper’s pro women campaign.. Pic credit: The Guardian

This doesn’t mean that the people  who are going to vote for Corbyn agree with every single policy he stands for – but they seem to want something different from the present, in their words, uninspired rivals. The only pause for thought is whether this will split the party – but the history of the SDP suggests otherwise. And Yvette Cooper’s point about Labour being a club for the boys has made some impact  but not in the way she wants..It has caused people to think of voting for Angela Eagle as deputy to  gender balance their vote for Corbyn. I shall still plump for Tom Watson.

I sense rather like in the run up to the general election in Scotland that something big is happening and is becoming unstoppable. Already neighbouring Hemel Hempstead constituency party has decided to endorse Corbyn and it looked like that grassroots Labour members have suddenly decided they are fed up with the status quo and wants something different..

The impact if Corbyn wins will be game changing. Defeated Labour candidates in some areas are taking the opposite view as this article in The Guardian shows. They see that Labour didn’t take into account the views of working class voters hating scroungers and more immigration. I hear this too from the working class carers who assist my disabled wife. But don’t they realise what these voters want is NO immigration ( Britain is full that’s why public services are bad, they tell me) .They want a ban on foreigners holding British jobs and the ABOLITION of benefits for scroungers. Are Will Straw and Jessica Asato going to stand on a Labour platform banning anybody from abroad working in Britain and the abolition of large swathes of welfare to get their vote? I would be surprised – it would make an interesting article in Left Foot Forward.

Would Will Straw really campaign to stop foreigners getting British jobs to get working class votes?

Would Will Straw really campaign to stop foreigners getting British jobs to get working class votes?

No, Labour has to decide where it stands on all this and then campaign and educate people that it is cuts in public services not more immigrants that is causing a lot of the problem. That is why I am still deciding whether I should take the plunge and back Corbyn or stick with either Cooper or Burnham.

Revealed: The Marie Celeste of the North Atlantic

View of the abandoned boat  passed by Queen Mary 2  on July 6 and left floundering in the North atlantic

View of the abandoned boat passed by Queen Mary 2 on July 6 and left floundering in the North Atlantic

My wife Margaret and I returned yesterday from a cruise across the Atlantic to New York on the Queen Mary 2 to celebrate the 175th anniversary of the Cunard line. One of the most  haunting sights was not in the staged programme of celebrations  but this abandoned  boat 500m off the coast of Ireland.

The sight of the boat – almost in the path  of the transatlantic liner – brought the Queen Mary 2 to a halt. There was no response from it when the ship blew its foghorn. The captain employed infra-red cameras on the vessel for signs of life. But there was no one alive on board. No attempt was made to board the boat and after an unscheduled 20 minute halt the QM 2 went on its way leaving the boat to continue drifting in the Atlantic.

The captain reported he had informed HM Coastguard in Falmouth about the sighting of the boat and evidently it is being left to the coastguard in Cornwall – which must be over 800 miles away – to decide whether to do anything about it.

What was extraordinary about this incident is that this appears to be the second time this boat has been sighted in the Atlantic and no one is doing anything to investigate it.

One could not but wonder if this is new maritime policy to leave small boats to drift aimlessly  across the atlantic like a message in a bottle. And one could not help speculate about the story behind this particular Marie Celeste.

Was it as someone speculate a boat cut adrift from its moorings in Ireland or the United states that had just drifted out to sea? Was it abandoned in a storm and its crew drowned? Were there still dead bodies on the boat that showed no sign of life? Or was it  a bad fishing trip, a failed transatlantic crossing that ended in tragedy, a failed and,misguided attempt to seek asylum in Ireland?

Or as some wary passengers worried a plot by Al Qaeda or Islamic State to put an abandoned boat loaded with something nasty in the Atlantic shipping lanes?

We shall probably never know. The mystery like an old sailor’s tale remains to be solved.

Another view of the abandoned boat.

Another view of the abandoned boat.

The European Court of Human Rights: A judgement that wrecks free speech

The European Court of Human Rights has done itself no favours with bloggers by upholding an absurd  and  outrageous judgement making websites liable for any comment published on their sites.

As  I reported over a year ago the court had already ruled  that judges have made the extraordinary decision to hold news sites and blogs legally responsible for all the comments put up on their site even if they take them down after a complaint.
Effectively it meant that any offended party can pursue a news organisation or blog for any defamatory comment made about them EVEN after it has been removed from the website.
The ruling follows a dispute after a said to be respected Estonian news organisation,Delfi,ran a piece about a ferry company making controversial changes to its routes. The changes to remote Estonian islands attracted widespread criticism including an attack on their owners from anonymous bloggers who put comments on the site. A major shareholder in the company took offence at the comments and decided to sue. The website took them down but the owner decided to pursue the site – not the commentators – saying it should be legally responsible for checking every single comment before it is published..

Now the grand chamber of the court has upheld this absurd decision – saying that it is up to professional bloggers to legally check any comment before it is public – effectively saying they should act like Mystic Meg in predicting whether any comment is offensive. Not surprisingly this has attracted a vehement response in the United States and Europe who see the ruling as dangerous and damaging to free speech. Both the respected Inforrm blog and a US website Techdirt have issued particularly harsh criticism.

Techdirt describes the decision as a disaster for free speech and the decision as ” absolutely crazy”.

The only exceptions to this ruling appear to  be internet forums and people who run their websites as non commercial ventures or as the judgement says ” as a hobby”. The only reason for this is evidently the judges thought people with hobbies shouldn’t be expected to have to employ lawyers to check their every move. But ” freedom of expression” should not be confined to those who have hobbies.

The main effect according to one of two dissenting judges would amount to :” an invitation to self-censorship at its worst.”

Luckily the UK has a Defamation Act that does the opposite – putting the onus on the people who post comments not the website and has procedures to sort out a dispute.

But it would only take one wealthy, vindictive person angered by a comment to go to the ECHR citing this judgement. And then we would in for a battle between British law and the European Court ruling.

Frankly if Michael Gove, the justice secretary, got hold of this judgement – he would have a good case to damn the court. And in this case he would be right.

Putting Lawyers First: Will the Child Sex Abuse Inquiry really benefit survivors?

New Zealand dame Justice Lowell Goddard : Putting lawyers first pic credit: http://www.teara.govt.nz/

New Zealand dame Justice Lowell Goddard : Putting lawyers first pic credit: http://www.teara.govt.nz/

The extraordinary disclosure reported on the Exaro website and in The Sunday Times today that the Goddard Judicial inquiry into child sexual abuse will recruit a record number of in-house QCs and lawyers raises  more than just a few eyebrows.

It appears that Ben Emmerson, the QC who survived the cull that abolished the independent panel, will be interviewing for 20 more barristers – ten of them QC’s – this month This far outstrips the number employed for the Leveson inquiry into the press or the very long running Saville Inquiry into the  Northern Ireland ” Bloody Sunday ” atrocity.

It is not surprising that survivors – already excluded from the panel and any meaningful input into the proceedings – have reacted with fury. If you also take into account that every organisation from the police to local government, the security services to Whitehall and ministers, would want to bring along their own QC at public expense, you can see where the phrase ” lawyer fest” comes from.

And you have to add that most of the remaining shrunk panel are also lawyers or connected to the law. The remaining people are  Alexis Jay, author of the report last year on CSA in Rotherham; Drusilla Sharpling, barrister and former senior prosecutor; Malcolm Evans, professor of public international law; and Ivor Frank, barrister and advisor to the Home Office..Only Alexis Jay is not connected to the law.

If you compare the Goddard panel with the former Hillsborough Panel and the Gosport Independent Panel (I declare an interest I am a member) and you can see how the members come from diverse backgrounds with different interests. They are not predominately lawyers.

True it is clear that  Emmerson has asked for a wide range of legal expertise including specialists in child care, local authorities, public law and criminal law.But that is not the same as having a mix of people with different experience away from the law courts.

Indeed the whole process could end up as  being an intimidatory experience for any survivor wishing to give evidence.

Ben Emmerson: A Thomas Cromwell figure? Pic Credit: UN

Ben Emmerson: A Thomas Cromwell figure?
Pic Credit: UN

There is also a question about Emmerson himself. He is a very well-regarded human rights lawyer but he is also ( according to past members of the panel ) an arrogant and bombastic figure who might well create division rather than the healing process needed in such a sensitive area.

His powers of patronage are large and he appears to be creating his own Empire  Indeed in another century  a parallel could be drawn with Thomas Cromwell  – a brilliant lawyer and advocate for Henry VIII  (read Hilary Mantel’s excellent novels) who wielded enormous patronage. He ended up being beheaded for heresy and treason on Tower Hill. I am not suggesting such an ISIS style modern fate for Emmerson but the way this has been done suggests he is acting as a Cromwell type figure to Lady Goddard and Theresa May. His solutions may not be the right ones and one would not want  the inquiry to be not trusted as a result.

The other inquiries have  one public aim – putting the families involved first. The parallel aim for the Goddard Inquiry should be to put the survivors at the centre of its work. At the moment it is looking like that it is putting lawyers first – and  if lawyers are not careful, they will seen  by survivors ( if they have not already said so) as exploiting survivors for their own personal careers.,