09
Jul
09

Mansfield Council, Pleasley Hill People’s Network and Red Tape Everywhere!

As some of you already know we have been trying to organize a string of workshops in the area. For this the council have requested that we have Public Liability insurance, and that I, as the facilitator of the workshops, must have a police background check done.

We have already applied and paid for the insurance under the name Pleasley Hill People’s Network. We had to choose a name for the purpose of the application, so for now that is the name. We can always change it as the group becomes more established.

The police check on the other hand has proven to be nothing but a string of red tape. and worst of all, I have nothing to hide! The police won’t find a damn thing! So even though I am willing to have the check done, no one will do it form me! Thanks Mansfield Council.

So today, after some encouragement from some other local people, I have written to Tony Egginton to see if we can get some action out of the council. Here is the letter that has been sent.

Dear Mr Egginton,

I am writing to you today out of frustration with the service I have received over the last two weeks while trying to find some element of the political system that can help me.

I am a resident of Pleasley Hill, and as I am sure you are aware, the area is not known for it’s community. It is generally regarded as an impoverished, deprived area where crime is high, and “people don’t care”.  Regardless of whether this reputation is deserved, some local people and I would like to change it.

Over the past month or so we have been working very hard to begin forming some sort of community group in the area. We are actively seeking the participation of all members of the community, particularly those we feel some people see as “the problem”.  We have many ideas, and a lot of enthusiasm, but we do lack political experience and finances.

I recently contacted Paul Wilkinson regarding the use of Hillmoor Street Community Centre, and was extremely pleased to hear that we would be able to use the Centre as a venue for workshops we would like to hold for local people. Paul informed me that in order for us to use the venue, we would need Public Liability insurance, and as the workshop facilitator, I would have to have a police background check as children may attend the workshops.

Currently, we have not officially formed a group, as we do not yet feel representative enough of the community. We feel that we need to do a little “community building” first in order to raise our profile. We hoped to put on the workshops to this end.

As we have no official group yet, with no funding (nor a wish to deal with money to be honest), I found myself having to put my name forward as the “leader” of this group in order to move things forward. I have applied for the insurance myself, and paid for it out of my own pocket, so that we may have an opportunity to benefit the community.  In effect, I am having to pay to do volunteer work!

With regards to the Police Background Check,  I first phoned Nottinghamshire Police, who informed me that only registered organizations are able to request background checks, and suggested that Mansfield Council may be able to do this for me. However, once I finally managed to speak to the correct person, I was told this could not be done as I am not an employee of the council. The lady I spoke to suggested that I contact the County Council.

After much ringing around, I was finally given the same story by Notts County Council, and given yet another number to ring. I tried to ring this other number for 4 days. I called once every couple of hours, and not once did anyone pick up the phone.  My confidence in local government is tumbling fast. I tried to re-contact Paul Wilkinson by email, only to receive an out of office reply. I can’t help but wonder if email sent to Paul is automatically forwarded to someone else to deal with while he is away. And if not, why not? The fact is no one responded to the email I sent, so I can only assume the problems he deals with simply stop while he is away.

By this time I was beginning to get extremely frustrated. My position is that I am trying to do something that benefits the local people and community. This is a selfless act. I am not a member of an organization able to do background checks. And rather than support a local person who would like to become more active in his community through activities that can benefit all, I have come across nothing but red tape. While I can’t fault any individual I have dealt with, the system as a whole is not supportive of my needs, and thus any potential community group’s needs, and by extension the community of Pleasley Hill.

I would like to know if it is even possible for an individual such as myself to have this background check done? It would seem not. Nor does it seem that Mansfield Council are willing to help us with this matter. It would seem I have been placed into a catch 22 situation. Unable to be checked, and unable to run workshops without being checked.

To add insult to injury, this week the local school invited parents to hold workshops!!!! Without being checked!!

If I am unable to be checked, are there alternatives? Perhaps the freedom of information act or data protection act could be used to find out what data (if any at all) the police have on me? Or perhaps we could exclude children from the workshops, or require them to be accompanied by an adult to negate this requirement? Or perhaps, and I won’t hold my breath, the Council would be willing to do this background check for me after all?

So I would like to know if Mansfield Council are willing to support my efforts to build a stronger community in the area, or if my experience in the first few weeks is an omen of things to come. I truly hope that you will be able to help with this matter, but honestly, my hopes are not high.

Regardless of the outcome of this issue, we will find away to run these workshops. We will build a strong community in Pleasley Hill, with or without the help of the authorities. It is our firm belief that the community should be self sufficient anyway, without the need for a council to tell us what we can and cannot do to improve our own lives, and the area we live in (we feel this is just as important before and after any potential redevelopment/gentrification of the area). This is a chance for Mansfield Council to show the people of Pleasley Hill that they can take small actions to help the people out.  And after all the years people in the area have been waiting for the “redevelopment” we feel it is a small request, and the least you can do.

I look forward to your prompt reply

Mark Jones

(The soon to be)  Pleasley Hill People’s Network.

As soon as we get a response, it will be posted here.

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