West Norfolk Council rejects ‘gagging’ accusation in taxi row

New Taxi Rank within Sainsbury's Town Centre Car Park King's Lynn'LtoR, Clare Ward (Silena Automotive), John Stevens (Taxi Driver), Simon Nash (Silena Automotive), Jason Smith (Taxi Driver) ANL-150731-151846009
New Taxi Rank within Sainsbury's Town Centre Car Park King's Lynn'LtoR, Clare Ward (Silena Automotive), John Stevens (Taxi Driver), Simon Nash (Silena Automotive), Jason Smith (Taxi Driver) ANL-150731-151846009
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The owner of a West Norfolk taxi testing station has accused a council of placing a “gagging order” on him after banning him from sending any emails to the authority.

But West Norfolk Council says it has blocked all email correspondence from Simon Nash as repeatedly dealing with them has “wasted public money” and placed an “unreasonable burden” on officers.

Lawyers for the authority have written to the owner of Setch-based Selina Automotive – one of only five council approved taxi testing stations – after it received more than 50 emails from him since October last year.

They relate to the issuing of taxi penalty points to a local taxi driver who allowed his licensed vehicle to be driven by a mechanic.

Mr Nash believes the issuing of the points was wrong, claiming the council misinterpreted the relevant transport legislation. He also questioned the evidence used in the case and accused the council of failing to comply with its own taxi testing codes of practice.

A letter from the council’s solicitor Emma Duncan said the authority was now imposing a Persistent Complainant Policy against Mr Nash due to his “groundless complaints about staff and publicising these allegations”.

It also said he had adopted a “scattergun” approach to his complaints, and raised them with various officers and councillors, and also refused to accept the council’s decision on the complaint.

As a result of the policy, council email addresses have now blocked all correspondence from Mr Nash’s address.

Any correspondence with the council will need to be in writing and go through Ms Duncan, and anything regarding issues already raised will not be responded to.

But Mr Nash claimed banning all email contact with council officers and elected councillors was a “massive disrespect to the whole democratic system”.

“I’ve effectively been gagged,” he said. “They haven’t answered any of the questions I have asked them, and just led me down a garden path.”

Mr Nash said he was now writing to all members of the council’s licensing and appeals board to raise his objections.

“If I don’t get a satisfactory response, I will take the matter further and report it to the Local Government Ombudsman to investigate,” he said.

Mr Nash has already raised the issue with North West Norfolk MP Henry Bellingham, who agreed that the council had misinterpreted transport law.

In a letter, Mr Bellingham said: “I do believe that they (the council) have interpreted it wrongly but I do also believe that the law does need clarification so that it is no longer possible to interpret it incorrectly.

“I feel strongly that we need to get the guidelines changed.”

The council’s chief executive Ray Harding said the authority has blocked Mr Nash’s emails as it was “time to draw a line” under the matter.

“The council has been bombarded with repeated emails from Mr Nash, which has not only wasted public money but officers have spent time having to deal with them, which could be better spent elsewhere in the community. He has asked the same question that has been responded to on numerous occasions.”