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20 December 2017 - QH article 004: waiting - move along, nothing to see here... yet 

In August 2017, Arts Professional published a story about my restriction from Royal Museums Greenwich. The excellent article suggested that the 2016 Draft Public Service Ombudsman Bill would address current PHSO procedural shortcomings. That’s the only good news, for the likelihood of the widely accepted conservative legislation finding its way onto the statute books in the near future is far less assured. Due to the snap-shot general election earlier this year, the bill was dropped from the Queen’s speech and the most recent communique I have from the Cabinet Office simply informs While there is no confirmed legislative slot for this Bill at this stage, the Government remains committed to bringing forward the Bill as and when a suitable legislative opportunity arises and Parliamentary time allows.”  Not entirely encouraging, when my hope is dependent on the successful introduction of this bill which enjoys cross-party support. I am of course, most grateful to Christy Romer for outlining the general issues of my situation. However, it is sad to reflect that afforded no opportunity to challenge, my exclusion has reached 19 months, while a cumulative ban from Royal Museums Greenwich public membership scheme (with financial impact) now spans 4 years 5 months.

In his ‘Foreword’ to the web version 2016 Draft PSOB, Chris Skidmore Minister for the Constitution writes… “The measures in this draft Bill will ensure that anyone who makes a justified complaint can expect a rapid, effective remedy and that their voice will be heard… At the heart of our proposals is the creation of a new Public Service Ombudsman. Access to the new Ombudsman will be simpler, removing unnecessary barriers to making a complaint… The core role of the Ombudsman will continue to be the investigation of complaints where a public body has not acted properly or fairly or has provided a poor service… I believe this is the right approach to ensure every citizen knows their voice matters and bring the Ombudsman framework into the 21st century.”

The Policy Development section of that document states:

In 2014, the House of Commons’ Public Administration Select Committee reported on its inquiry into the present arrangements for public service ombudsmen in “Time for a People’s Ombudsman Service”. In that report, the Committee recommended the Government bring forward legislation “to enable citizens to have a simpler and more straightforward Ombudsman service that is responsive to citizens and their expectations”. They further recommended that the legislation should:

  • include provision to end the ‘MP filter’ by allowing all types of complaints to be made directly to the Ombudsman
  • allow complaints to be made other than in writing, such as in person, by telephone or online

Wonderful… I simply have to wait a few more years for that 21st century justice to prevail. Incredible, because this is EXACTLY what I’ve been requesting throughout the entire five years of a protracted dispute with RMG. Nonetheless, the Museum, the Department of Digital Culture Media and Sport together with my local MP, have at no juncture been able to identify an autonomous body which would be willing to invite a non-partisan, balanced perspective. It is a matter of some regret that DCMS presently entertains no mechanism to address potential disputes. Though perhaps more upsetting and bewildering, is the nature of parrying and blocking I’ve persistently encountered while clearly a proposed move towards common sense, flexibility and public accessibility was being championed in higher corridors of power back in 2014.

So what have I actually done to incur such wrath from an isolated national museum, yet remaining welcomed by all other institutions across the country. Well, my exclusion is based on these two allegations: 

  • In 2013 it was reported that my “approach and demeanour were unacceptable to the point of being aggressive and threatening”, resulting in a ban from the RMG membership scheme
  • In 2016 the Museum wrote “I have evidence that you were abusive in your approach towards at least one member of staff” ...subsequently barring me from RMG grounds and premises 

I strenuously deny the accusations and I continue to petition for an independent body to adjudicate on these matters. My challenge is founded on a raft of communications gathered over a lengthy period and supported by a catalogue of additional material, obtained from Freedom of Information Act requests. In an impartial forum, I believe I can show factual evidence of inconsistency, bias and mistruths perpetrated by RMG. Furthermore, documentation appears to incriminate DCMS in proceedings. The complicit nature of that collusion seems to have guaranteed a degree of impunity for RMG and provided a green light to act as prosecutor, judge and executioner while denying me any genuine rights whatsoever. I thought I lived in a country where you have the liberty to defend yourself.

My situation is probably unprecedented and I am patently aware that negative sector exposés are an unpleasant irritation, but I am loathe to accept that my future cultural education should be stunted by administrative intransigence. If my conduct is seriously being brought into question, I am more than happy to present character references to an independent body who are I wager, better equipped to arbitrate than the public serving officer at RMG who brings these charges. That particular officer has never met me and has persistently refused to do so.

Christy Romer rightly asserts this is not a matter of “he said, she said”. It is about the fundamental right of an individual to be heard. I trust those listening will eventually hear me praying for their wisdom and integrity.