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Adam Sampson is the first to acknowledge that his new job as legal ombudsman is potentially a poisoned chalice. One of the main catalysts of the Legal Services Act (LSA), which brought his organisation into being, was (as he puts it) ‘the woeful record on complaints-handling [of] the Legal Complaints Service and predecessor bodies’. The former chief executive of homeless charity Shelter goes still further, using the word ‘scandal’ to describe the profession’s past inability to get its house in order. It is often overlooked that the 2007 reforms were driven as much by the profession’s much-criticised track record on complaints, as they were by any pro-competition agenda on the part of the last government. Over a decade ago, way before the phrase ‘Tesco Law’ entered the legal lexicon, the then lord chancellor, Lord Irvine, gave the Law Society until the end of 2000 to sort out complaints-handling or it would lose part of its regulatory powers. Four years later, the consumer group Which? identified the profession’s continued failure to deal with unhappy clients as ‘the greatest threat to self-regulation’, and ministers threatened the Law Society with a £1m fine if it failed to address the problem. Since that nadir, Sampson acknowledges that the LCS ‘hugely improved’ the situation, while noting that ‘the damage had been done’. He adds: ‘That problem is increasingly now going to be my problem rather than that of the profession,’ he reflects. ‘I am quite clear about that.’ The LSA takes responsibility for complaints-handling out of the hands of the profession, placing it squarely at Sampson’s door. LeO, as the service is now known, is expected to open for business on 6 October. Parliament has yet to sign off on the commencement order required for the new office but that, Sampson says, is only a matter of timetabling. The new organisation has the endorsement of the new government and will not therefore be tossed on the Tories’ ‘bonfire of the quangos’. Staff had only just moved in to LeO’s Birmingham HQ when the Gazette interviewed its head last week. ‘We doubled in staff this Monday,’ he says, adding that the total payroll now stands at 120. A new IT system has yet to be road-tested and recruits are presently undergoing thorough and compulsory training. At full strength the office could be 350 strong – but, controversially, only 50 have been drawn from predecessor body the LCS so far. Sampson spent a few days in the High Court earlier this year successfully fighting off a judicial review over whether the new organisation should take on LCS staff under the TUPE laws. Mr Justice Akenhead ruled that TUPE did not apply because LeO was an independent government body. So why have so few staff come from the LCS? For a number of reasons, replies Sampson. Some did not want to make the move from Leamington Spa to Birmingham. LeO pays less than the LCS, reflecting the local job market (investigator salaries start in the low £20,000s). ‘The Law Society did agree a 12 months’ pay supplement but it looks as though pay has been an issue,’ he adds. There was also unwillingness on the part of some to ‘join an organisation that is going to do something in a very different way and with a very different culture’. Sampson readily acknowledges that there is also a ‘perception issue’ on the part of LeO as well. It was important for the organisation not to be ‘encumbered with the cultural baggage of the old organisation’, he says, and that it made a conscious effort to ‘make a distinction between the culture and people’. Individually, people can be fantastic,’ he says, but adds: ‘If you get too many people with an existing set of assumptions then you automatically bring the culture.’ He is also conscious that the consumer groups have been ‘hugely critical of the existing arrangements, the LCS and all the predecessor bodies. How could I possibly explain to them that they need to have trust in these new arrangements, that we were something that they could trust, only that we were staffed by the same people?’ What can the profession expect from LeO? The new body is a single ombudsman scheme covering consumer complaints about all lawyers (not just solicitors but barristers, licensed conveyancers, and legal executives) and promises to be independent and impartial. Practitioners might be forgiven for glazing over at the prospect of another complaints-handling scheme for the profession. And they have already had one ‘ombudsman’, the formidable Zahida Manzoor (both Legal Services Ombudsman and Legal Services Complaints Commissioner), who was often sharply critical of the process. How will LeO be different? On one level, the ‘shape’ of the new process is the same, Sampson replies. There will be a volume call-handling ‘front end’, fielding an anticipated 100,000 ‘contacts’ a year (letters, emails and phone calls). This will be whittled down to about 15,000 to 20,000 cases that fall within scheme rules to investigate. The other 85,000 people need to be signposted to other sources of help. Then there is a complaints-handling process which ‘investigates and then resolves by agreement if possible’ those cases that are within the scheme. Intractable disputes go to the ombudsman for a full decision. ‘Where things will differ will be the style of the operation,’ Sampson promises. Ombudsman schemes are different to the kind of experience that lawyers have had previously. ‘They are necessarily and overtly independent, informal and inquisitorial. They aren’t part of the profession.’ He points out that the LCS is ‘owned and still feels part of the professional family’. For example, a complaint made to the LCS or the Bar Standards Board ‘mirrors the court process’ insofar as it is ‘formal and legalistic’, he explains. Statements are taken; copies passed to the other side; comments are then copied; both sides make submissions; and if verbal statements are taken they are transcribed. That whole process is paper-based. ‘Those are not features of the inquisitorial process,’ he says. ‘All we are interested in is finding out what happened. Of course we will give both parties the opportunity to comment on what we believe we have found. We will prefer to deal with things by phone and email rather than formal, written letter.’ Where phone calls are made, they will not be transcribed. Instead they will be recorded as voice files and attached to the notes in case of a challenge. ‘Everything will be paperless,’ he says. His main observation about his recent trip to the High Court relates to the huge amount of unnecessary paper work. Some of LeO’s approaches will – as Sampson puts it – ‘challenge the cultural assumptions of the profession’. His purpose will not be to come up with ‘a binary answer’ (‘yes/no’ or ‘guilty/innocent’) because professional services complaints are often not clear cut. ‘The amount of grey often hugely overwhelms the amount of black-and-white,’ he says. ‘The other thing some solicitors might struggle with is we’re not a rules-driven organisation,’ he continues. The ombudsman will not be interested in whether lawyers have followed every detail of guidance from the Solicitors Regulation Authority. ‘You can follow the rules and provide a poor service. You can drive a horse and cart through the rules but provide fantastic customer service. It is the service provided that matters.’ Behind this approach, the watchdog has real teeth. The LeO can order an award of up to £30,000 for poor service. Although Sampson is keen to get the language right, he prefers ‘redress’. As he explains it, ‘award’ suggests a sentence ‘for wrong which has been done’ whereas ‘redress’ is ‘a mechanism for putting the consumer back in the position they should be in’. What will his personal approach be? Will he be a crusading consumer champion? ‘An ombudsman is entirely neutral between consumer and profession,’ he says. ‘An ombudsman who is a consumer champion is failing in their primary duty to be independent. You cannot take one side or the other.’ So he will not be as outspoken as Manzoor? ‘I have spent many years as a campaigner,’ he says. ‘I know the difference between campaigning and information-giving. This is not a campaigning job; it is not my job to wag my finger at the profession. My job is to say to the profession very firmly here is what I am finding, here are the things that you might need to think about in terms of structural failures.’ Sampson began his career as a probation officer in London before becoming deputy director of the Prison Reform Trust in 1989. He was later assistant prisons ombudsman at the Home Office and chief executive of drugs charity RAPt. He became chief executive of Shelter in 2002. From heading high-profile campaigning charities that seek to improve the lot of society’s marginalised to a startup watchdog in professional services seems something of a departure. Why make the move? Sampson insists it is ‘vocational’ and that there is ‘a mission-driven element’. He points out that he has been involved in a couple of major turnaround jobs and the move represented ‘an opportunity to set up a high-performing organisation’ from scratch. Sampson has strong views about lawyers but, he makes clear, no antipathy toward the profession. Indeed, he is married to a lawyer and has worked with lawyers for many years on the frontline in prisoners’ rights and human rights, as well as in housing. ‘Shelter had 35 solicitors and 600 people who, in a law firm would be described as “paralegals”. Each and every one worked out of a sense of mission and a desire to help.’ He recalls coming into Shelter at 2am on a weekend and ‘seeing my solicitors still there with a stream of refugees who had emergency housing needs. Their clients had nowhere else to go. These were not lawyers taking advantage. These are people using their legal qualification to help. That is a picture of the profession that remains significantly true.’ Equally, Sampson has seen his share of dodgy lawyers, in particular working as a probation officer. ‘My God, I saw some dismissive and shoddy work with some pretty vulnerable people that nobody ever really saw or cared about.’ His background in frontline services will no doubt mean that his dealings with recalcitrant professionals will be direct and to the point. Does he think the issue of complaints will continue to be a thorn in the profession’s side in the post-LSA world? The challenge for the profession will be different. Lawyers can expect greater scrutiny of their own complaints-handling. ‘The Legal Services Board is very clear that there needs to be a significant improvement… and let me be plain, I will be as interested in how individual firms dealt with the complaints as to how the complaint arose in the first place.’ Beware; he will have little patience with correspondence that is ‘full of legal jargon and gobbledygook and written to someone who plainly has no ability to understand it’. But, of course, it is an advantage for the profession that new arrangements mean ‘the responsibility for the discharge of the administrative function moves outside the hands of the profession’. He adds: ‘The profession can no longer be blamed for a structural failure to handle complaints. That is my problem and I can be a scapegoat for that.’ Jon Robins is a freelance journalist
Construction’s chronic skills shortage is likely to be exacerbated by the prospect of Brexit and the expected clampdown on workers entering the UK from the EU. Mark Farmer’s Modernise or Die report last year warned of a 25% fall in the workforce over the next decade due to the numbers expected to retire, and that was without factoring in the Brexit effect. Already a lack of skilled workers is having a detrimental impact on businesses who struggle to recruit the people they need. Building’s own recent survey of salaries among contractors showed that 61% of employers say skills shortages are adversely affecting productivity.So what can be done to attract the right people in the right numbers to construction, and just as importantly, once recruited what can be done to ensure they want to remain in the industry? We think the 50 companies in this year’s Building Good Employer Guide have some of the answers by insisting on high standards when it comes to working conditions, training and development, benefits and work-life balance.An encouraging finding this year is that nearly all the companies in the guide spend time and resources on outreach initiatives, working to improve the image of construction through visits to schools and colleges, with some doing pro bono work on community projects. This approach appears to have the dual benefit of attracting a more diverse intake to construction while providing existing staff with rewarding work that they feel makes a real difference. It has had some tangible results: in the guide women make up 27% of the overall staff numbers, well above the 13% in the rest of the industry – while non-white staff represent 13%, which is just below the proportion of ethnic minorities in the general population.An encouraging finding is that nearly all the companies in the guide spend time and resources on outreach initiatives, working to improve construction’s image through visits to schools and collegesThis year’s guide is proof that some employers are overturning old cultures, with the vast majority embracing flexible working for all staff and many making the effort to curb long hours. There is also a continued recognition of the pressures on parents, through generous maternity and paternity leave packages and encouraging fathers to take up their recent entitlement to parental leave. Admittedly the uptake of parental leave by fathers is low, as it has been in almost every sector since it was introduced in 2015, but the hope for those wanting a level playing field in the workplace is that this rises in coming years.It’s also welcome to see career development is still a clear priority for employers, and it seems engineering firms this year come out on top for sheer number of training hours offered. Meanwhile, the working environment in the office and staff’s mental wellbeing continue to be a concern. Stand-out offers include Architype’s yoga and meditation groups and the counselling service at Alinea.Beyond the rewards these individual companies reap from their efforts, we should recognise that they are also doing a service to the wider industry by helping to change the public’s overwhelmingly negative perceptions of construction. When teachers and careers advisers are telling pupils that careers in construction are unattractive, there is a clear need to show the industry at its best and to shout loudly about the opportunities it offers young people. These top employers have set the bar high and their achievements are truly commendable.
EUROPE: Irish-registered RIVE Rail Leasing Ltd has acquired 32 Vossloh diesel shunting locomotives from Mitsui Rail Capital Europe, in a transaction co-arranged by Paribus Capital and Paris-based RIVE Private Investment. Senior debt was structured and provided by KfW IPEX-Bank.RIVE Rail Leasing is a joint venture between investors advised by Rive Private Investment, Paribus Group’s Northrail business and French wagon leasing company Millet Waggons. Millet has taken over asset management responsibilities for six of the locomotives, and Northrail the other 26.
CANADA: National passenger operator VIA Rail formally launched the process to procure a new fleet of trainsets for the Québec City – Windsor corridor when it issued a request for qualifications on April 16.Following the government’s allocation of funding in the 2018 federal budget announced in March, VIA Rail is looking to procure 32 push-pull trainsets. These would offer a total of 9 100 seats, with improved accessibility compared to the current fleet, Tier 4 compliant and more fuel-efficient diesel engines and the option to operate on electrified lines in the future.The deadline for responses to the RFQ is June 6. VIA Rail expects to issue a request for proposals to shortlisted bidders in June, with bids to be submitted by September or October. Award of the contract is planned for December. VIA Rail said bids would be assessed on the basis of ‘financial capacity, supplier experience, proposed solution and deliverability’. ‘With a new fleet, VIA Rail will be able to offer a modern travel experience to its customers, at a greatly reduced environmental impact’, said VIA Rail President & CEO Yves Desjardins-Siciliano when the RFQ was issued. He said the new fleet would enable passengers to travel more quickly and more safely in vehicles which would be ‘better-adapted’ to modern life, with improved wi-fi, ‘quiet and pet-friendly’ coaches and compartments for large luggage including skis and bicycles. The fleet ‘will also allow VIA Rail to remain the most accessible mode of transport in Canada for people with disabilities, by meeting or in certain areas, exceeding universal accessibility standards’, he said. ‘This important milestone of our transformation plan will convince more Canadians that VIA Rail is truly the smarter way to travel in the Québec City – Windsor corridor.’
Share Tweet Minister for Employment, Trade, Industry and Diaspora Affairs, Dr John Collin McIntyreDr John Collin McIntyre, Minister for Employment, Trade, Industry and Diaspora Affairs, will represent Dominica at the first meeting of the Economic Affairs Council (EAC) of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS).The meeting will take place at the Bay Gardens Beach Resort in St. Lucia, under the chairmanship of the Dr. McIntyre during the period of June 12 to 13, 2014, a press release from the Regional Integration & Diaspora Unit.The Economic Affairs Council is responsible for the implementation of the OECS Economic Union, acting on the direction of the OECS Authority. The OECS Economic Union was established under the Revised Treaty of Basseterre which was signed by Heads of Government of Member States in June of 2010. This Economic Union has formed the OECS Member States into one economic and financial space.The meeting in St. Lucia will brief the Council on the status of the commitments made by Heads of Government, as well as the implementation of activities in support of these commitments. The report while outlining the achievements thus far, will also address the outstanding matters, which have been hindering the progress of the Economic Union.Matters listed on the agenda of the two-day meeting include:1. The OECS Growth and Development Strategy2. The Education Strategy and Policy3. Report on the Implementation of the OECS Economic Union Protocol includinga. Free movement of OECS citizensb. Free circulation of Goodsc. Establishment of the Single Financial Spaced. Update on Economic Integration and Trade Projecte. Update on Climate Change programme4. Support for the Work of the Economic Affairs Council and5. Private Sector InvestmentsThis meeting is being held at a time when the economies of OECS Member States are undergoing difficulties, and the meeting will discuss the facilitation of Private Sector development, and the status of the Eight-Point Stabilization and Growth Programme initiated by the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank. Sharing is caring! LocalNews Dominica to chair OECS Council meeting in St Lucia by: – June 12, 2014 Share 33 Views no discussions Share
RELATED UPDATE: BIG CAT SPOTTED, FARMINGTON HILLS COUPLE OFFERS REWARDLess than a week after appearing on a nationally syndicated talk show, a Farmington Hills couple is grieving the loss of their famous, world record-holding cats.Will and Lauren Powers believe that Cygnus, Arcturus, and Sirius, perished in a Sunday morning fire that also destroyed the couple’s home.Cygnus qualified for the 2018 Guinness Book of World Records for his tail length, 17.58 inches, and Arcturus, at 19.05 inches, is the world’s tallest domestic cat. They appeared November 8 on ABC-TV’s “Pickler & Ben”.The couple lost everything in the fire, which broke out between 9:30 a.m. and 10 a.m. on November 12. Both were hospitalized for smoke inhalation. In public Facebook messages, Will Powers said he tried to rescue their beloved pets, but was overcome by smoke, so he opened doors hoping the cats would escape.Farmington Hills Fire Department sent a nixle.com message asking residents to be on the lookout for the cats, but Will wrote Monday that all three perished.“We have had an outpouring of support. But we can’t have our cats back. Those cats had a future of TV appearances and fundraisers to support the Ferndale Cat Shelter,” he wrote. “If the death of Cygnus, Arcturus, and Sirius isn’t meaningless and can help another family love their cats like we loved ours then this tragedy can have something good come from it.”A link to donate is posted on Will Powers’ Facebook page: Reported by admin Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pinterest (Opens in new window)
Farmington Voice Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pinterest (Opens in new window) Applications for the 2018 Miss Farmington pageant are due April 24.The pageant is open to young women ages 14-17 who attend school in Farmington or Farmington Hills, or are homeschooled. Applications are available at all local high schools and on the Farmington Public Schools website.Miss Farmington Summer Bedrak will crown her successor on July 18. Reported by
HUBER+SUHNER will display a wide variety of RF, fibre optic, high voltage, and power and data transmission solutions at Electronica 2016. Among these products will be innovations such as the SUCOFLEX 526V Cable Assemblies, the Quick-Fit Plus – Field terminated RF connectors and the NEX10, a new RF connector system for small cell applications.The SUCOFLEX 526V assembly is highly stable versus temperature, is extremely flexible and easy to use thanks to its unique design, it also delivers excellent phase and amplitude stability with flexure, movement, temperature and tensile stress.The Quick-Fit Plus is a Field terminated RF connector system for DAS applications. The connectors have excellent PIM stability and are mountable in the field. In combination with an all-in-one stripping tool for ½” cables, the Quick-Fit Plus can be deployed very quickly.The NEX10, a new RF connector system for small cell applications developed in partnership with Radiall and Rosenberger. Key features of the NEX10 connector system, which was created to meet existing and future demands of small calls for 4G and upcoming 5G networks – are its robustness, small size, PIM stability and flexibility of different coupling mechanisms, such as torque/screw and push-pull. The weather protection boot, which is part of the interface, makes it optimum for outdoor use under extreme weather conditions.HUBER+SUHNER ex-proof devices can be used in any radio equipment and wireless infrastructure. ATEX entry and surge protective devices are compliant to the ATEX Directive 2014/34/EU for use in potentially explosive atmospheres or hazardous locations and are in accordance with IEC/EN 60079 series of explosive atmosphere standards.HUBER+SUHNER will also be showcasing high voltage solutions for hybrid cars, trucks and buses as well as other automotive products, such as the cooled charging cable which recently won the Bavarian State Award for Electric Mobility.
Assistant Coach Jessie Ivey awards the Tip-off Classic MVP trophy to Jessica Young (Photo by Ron Besser) PENSACOLA, Fla. – The University of West Florida women’s basketball team opened the second half on a 16-5 run and survived a defensive struggle in the game’s final stages to top the University of Montevallo, 55-41, Saturday night in the final game of the UWF Tip-off Classic. Jessica Young led the Argonauts (3-0) with 16 points and 14 rebounds to grab Classic MVP honors.Kirstin McIntyre was solid as well, with 13 points, while Octavia Bearden scored five points while notching ten rebounds and four blocks to earn UWF’s second All-Tournament team selection.UWF shot just 30.9% on the night but pulled away in large part to a big advantage in the free throw department. The Argonauts were 21-for-32 from the charity stripe, while Montevallo was just 7-for-12.With the win, West Florida moves to 3-0 for the first time since 2005-06, when they finished 23-7 and advanced to the second round of the NCAA South Regional.Montevallo (1-3) shot just 25.9% and lost the rebounding battle, 48-43. Kris Seigenthaler and Carrie Parrott each scored eight points to pace the Falcons.West Florida jumped out to an early 13-5 lead, with McIntyre scoring a jumper at the 10:56 mark to stretch the advantage to eight points. Later, with 9:00 left in the half, Emily Erland’s put-back made the score 18-9, the widest gap of the opening stanza.But Montevallo rallied late in the half to nearly draw even before the intermission. The Falcons launched a 6-0 run in the final 1:59 of the first period, capped by a three-pointer from Taylor Welch to make the score 26-25 at the half.A free throw by Parrott drew Montevallo even at 31-31 with 15:32 left in the 2nd half, but UWF responded with a methodical 13-0 spurt to take control. Sher’Ryan Scott scored five points during the rally, and McIntyre put the Argonauts up, 44-31, with 11:28 left.Though baskets were hard to find for both teams, UWF never led by fewer than 11 points from that point forward. West Florida’s largest lead came with 5:36 left, when Young sank a pair of free throws to make the score 52-34.While both teams committed their fair share of turnovers, with Montevallo giving away possession 24 times and West Florida coughing it up on 20 occasions, it was UWF who took advantage of their opponent’s miscues. The Argonauts scored 19 points off of turnovers, while the Falcons mustered just five.With the win, UWF is 16-5 against Montevallo during Shannan Bergen’s head coaching career.West Florida did not hit a three-point field goal in the game, going 0-for-5 from long range. UWF’s last game without a three-point basket came on December 2, 2008, a 59-52 win over the University of Mobile. The Argos had dialed long distance at least once in each of their last 50 games.UWF continues their homestand on Friday, November 26, when they host Henderson State University as part of the UWF Thanksgiving Classic. Goldey-Beacom College and the University of South Carolina-Aiken will begin the day’s action, with tip time scheduled for 2 pm.UWF TIP-OFF CLASSIC ALL-TOURNAMENT TEAMG – Ashley McCoy, AllenG – Tera McDaniel, RollinsF – Kris Seigenthaler, MontevalloF – Amber Heisten, RollinsF – Octavia Bearden, West FloridaF – Jessica Young, West Florida (MVP)Print Friendly Version Second Half Surge Sends UWF to 55-41 Win Share