How Social Services officials hoodwink the honours system.

By Jack Frost

The Essex County Council mystery surrounding the CBE awarded to Liz Railton?
By Jack Frost…….29 December 2007

Just as social workers routinely mislead and corrupt the Family Court proceedings, resulting in innocent and vulnerable members of the public losing their children to care and adoption; there is yet another aspect of local government corruption that has not received any public attention, but which deserves the spotlight focussed on it. I refer to what has become known as public awards. These awards are announced in the Queens Birthday Honours List, at the end of June and the New Year Honours list.

Most persons are familiar with the cash for peerages scandal, in which it was revealed that senior Labour Party officials with access to Tony Blair, the Prime Minister, had been involved with encouraging rich business men to donate millions of pounds to the Labour Party, in a clandestine way; classifying their donations as a loan and thus not subject to disclosure and therefore unlikely to be considered an attempt to buy honours. Whilst this has been extensively reported and the Metropolitan Police began a criminal investigation, there is another equally disturbing irregularity involving local government officials, which has not been receiving any attention. This scandal involves the nomination for public awards, of local government officials by other local government officials; whilst shrouding the nominator in complete secrecy. Not only might there be irregularities in the nominations, but the recipient of the award might also be so hopelessly undeserving of the award, as to bring the whole process into disrepute.

If the CBEs awarded to Liz Railton and her cronies are anything to go by, local government’s success in corrupting the public awards system is just as successfully managed, as the false allegations of child abuse levelled at ordinary members of the public. And just as the cronyism and opacity of the Family Courts obscures and conceals their villainy; so too in one area of public awards, is cronyism, opacity and chicanery, obvious; some would say, rife!

The awarding of public honours, such as the OBE, MBE, CBE, knighthoods, etc, to those who do not deserve them, makes a mockery of the whole Honours System. So how you might wonder is this accomplished and how has it managed to remain in the shadows ?

If you hadn’t already guessed; it has been possible, because of the lack of transparency, the labyrinthine connections between those involved in nominating a person for an award and the recipient, and the ability of local government officials to threaten the public and the press, who may wish to reveal information of public concern.

To understand how the system has been corrupted, let’s look at a case in point.

In the Queens Birthday Honours List, in June 2006, it was announced that Elizabeth Railton ( Director of Children’s Services for Essex County Council ), also known as Liz Railton, had been awarded the CBE ( Commander of the British Empire). This is a very high and prestigious award. The announcement was greeted with disbelief in Essex. Many senior officials in Essex County Council were stunned. Lord Hanningfield, the Leader of Essex County Council informed me in writing, “ No employee of Essex County Council nominated Liz Railton for an award”. This was later repeated to me in a letter from the Head of Law & Administration. So just who nominated Liz Railton for the CBE and what was so outstanding about her performance? Despite much effort on my part, no one to date, has admitted nominating Liz Railton for an award.

The performance of Liz Railton.

A number of Essex residents had written in to complain to the General Scrutiny Committee ( GSC) of Essex County Council ( ECC ), in December 2004, after Liz Railton had submitted a false and incorrect report to the GSC on 14 December 2004, exonerating social workers, when there was evidence of their involvement in serious irregularities and gross misconduct. The GSC is the senior most overview & scrutiny committee of the council. Liz Railton’s report to the GSC was a response to a series of articles in the Telegraph, by Cassandra Jardine, which were critical of ECC’s Children’s Social Services. Other local papers and elected councillors had also publicly criticised Liz Railton’s department and voiced concern. The criticism’s continued thorough 2005 in the national and local papers, when Eric Pickles MP ( Brentwood & Ongar) delivered a withering attack on Liz Railton’s department, in the House of Commons on 2 May 2005( Adoption Bill Debate. See Hansard).. And the ECC’s Children’s Services Department are, as you read this, currently being criticised in local papers and by parents. Some of the complaints have been upheld, some have reached the courts, been confirmed and found to be proven, whilst others are piling up to be heard.

In one well documented incident, it was reported to the GSC, that Liz Railton was the chair of a prestigious committee; the Essex Child Protection Committee( ECPC) , now renamed the Essex Safeguarding Children Board (ESCB) and had not taken action against a fellow committee member, Dr. Geetha Kugan, who had engaged in serious misconduct and law breaking, which had been reported. Dr. Geetha Kugan was also a member of the ECPC, the premier child protection committee of the council. She had been witnessed falsely accusing a mother of child abuse, in order to have the child taken into local authority care and receive unnecessary medical treatment. This merely to support her colleagues, Dr. Aloke Agrawal and Dr. RN Mahesh Babu, who needed a ‘professional’ to get them out of trouble. Despite Liz Railton being informed in detail, she took no action to investigate, suspend or remove Dr. Geetha Kugan from membership of the committee. Dr. Geetha is still a member of the ESCB!

There were other incidents; including a very serious conflict of interests in which Liz Railton was simultaneously a director and trustee of the charity, BAAF( the British Association of Adoption & Fostering) whilst being engaged in policy decisions and procedures in relation to fostering and adoption. Another notable incident was the attempt by Liz Railton’s department to obstruct and silence County Councillor Barry Aspinell from carrying out his legitimate political duty, when he responded to a plea for help from his constituents, the Brentwood Low IQ couple. Essex County Council sought an injunction on entirely dubious grounds and the council’s barrister was heard in court, seeking a custodial sentence for County Councillor Barry Aspinell, when the councillor was actually carrying out his lawful political duty. When the judge dismissed the case against County Councillor Barry Aspinell, Liz Railton’s department reported Aspinell to the Standards Board for England. This could have had serious consequences for the Councillor Aspinell. This too was dismissed by the Standards Board.

Liz Railton’s department did not give up. It then reported a number of the newspapers who published articles about the conduct of the council, to the Press Complaints Commission. All the complaints were dismissed. There have also been grave suspicions supported by documentation, that Liz Railton’s department ignored, obstructed and kept from elected councillors, the Corporate Parenting legislation enacted in October 2003, so that elected councillors would be ignorant of the law and be excluded from assisting their constituents pleas for help, after their constituent’s children had been taken into council care. No prizes for guessing that Liz Railton and her cronies do not rate transparency, fairness in public life and compliance with the law. …….And there is more, including evidence that the Equality & Disability legislation have also been breached by Essex County Council, repeatedly, over a number of years.

So how then did Liz Railton receive the CBE in the Queens Birthday Honours List, in June 2006? Puzzled, I contacted the Ceremonial Secretariat, part of the Cabinet Office and the office responsible for vetting those who receive awards and also responsible for withdrawing awards. I asked who had nominated Liz Railton for the award and what efforts had been made to vet her as a suitable candidate for an award. Despite putting forward a cogent case for the CBE to be withdrawn, no action followed . The reply from the Ceremonial Secretariat is very clear. It will not release information concerning the identity of the person/s who nominated her for an award. They suggested I might contact the Local Government Secretariat. But surely the public is entitled to know who is nominating persons; especially when the recipients have caused the mayhem left by Liz Railton and when her employers announced emphatically, that they hadn’t nominated her! The suspicion is that there is a group of fellow travellers ( local government officials) who are recommending each other on the basis of the buggins- turn principle, regardless of the suitability or otherwise of the person.

Currently all the checks and scrutiny in relation to public awards focus on the private and commercial sector. Those who nominate persons for awards are themselves checked, as are those who are nominated for an award. The deliberate gap in the process relates to the public sector only! There are compelling reasons for believing that ad hoc groups, serving only their own interests, have taken control of the process and the usual lack of transparency associated with local government and its connections have done the rest. Not only is local government allowed to nominate persons who by any reckoning are ill deserving of an award, they are also able to conceal and disguise that they have been involved in such activity. Hence, one is not able to find out who exactly nominated Liz Railton. Had Liz Railton been an employee of a private company, the information would not have been concealed or disguised.

Gordon Brown, the new Prime Minister, is under pressure to fundamentally reform the Honours System. Though you can bet that the Labour Party’s cronies in local government, have not been included in the anticipated reforms. Corruption is not only that which relates to the handing over of money in return for awards. It is also the systematic subterfuge that dispenses public awards, which then result in the recipient receiving further promotion and enhanced status. And by any reckoning, the information concerning Liz Railton, is indeed confirmation of this point.

‘When the powerful can live beyond the law, corruption is never far away’; so wrote Max Hastings, in the Guardian, recently. He was referring to the lack of transparency associated with the activities of the Russian oligarchs and other powerful and well placed leaders of developing countries. Though one doesn’t have to look that far, to see it in operation in Essex.

It was only recently, after I heard John Coughlan, the President of the Association of Directors of Social Services ( ADSS ) being interviewed on radio, that the penny dropped. This was when I realised how this game works. ADSS is a membership union, of directors of social services from around England. Liz Railton was also a member of the group. ADSS acts as the spokesperson for social workers and departments that are being publicly criticised. ADSS encourages the policies of opacity and unaccountability, which is the lifeblood of social workers. It is very likely that against all the odds, one or other connection involving ADSS, nominated Liz Railton, then withdrew to conceal its hand.

The award of the CBE to Liz Railton, is a disgrace. Those who nominated her and have then resorted to concealing their involvement, should be thoroughly ashamed. The Ceremonial Secretariat too, should hang its head in shame. What is the difference between business men giving huge donations to the Labour Party, disguised as loans, but which have been traced to be directly linked to the receipt of honours, and local government officials who disguise and conceal their involvement, in order to nominate one of their cronies for an award she ill deserved?

The answer is that there is no difference. Indeed, there is now information which confirms that local government officials have actually got a stranglehold over these public awards and have outmanoeuvred the Ceremonial Secretariat to such an extent, that it is the Ceremonial Secretariat which now rubber stamps the local government nominations from certain quarters. It is also noticeable that Liz Railton and her fellow members of the Association of Directors of Social Services are enjoying the certainty of buggins- turn awards.

This is all so different from the hurdles and obstacles put in the way of genuine public spirited members of the public, who volunteer and carry out valuable service to their communities over many years, through all weathers, for no payment and in the finest traditions of selfless altruism, but who receive no public acknowledgement or thanks. Take for example, Trevor Williamson ( 56), a parent who lives not far from my home, also in Essex. Trevor served in the Royal Artillary, for 6 years and for the last 15 years has been head coach and bottle washer for Sporting 77, a local football club. He began his involvement with Sporting 77, by assisting his son Andrew, who played for the club, then became a parent representative, then manager/coach. Besides organising and planning the clubs weekly fixture itinerary for 12 teams between the ages of 13 –60, he and one helper, Peter Bastindorf, completely gutted and restored the 100 x 24 x 15 , club house. Work on the club house took 2 years, working evenings and weekends. In addition Trevor was involved in club training, practise and Sunday games. Not forgetting the risks faced by all adults who work with children and adolescents. He has been the chairman and is now the President of Sporting 77. His commitment to his community has been relentless and sustained over the last 15 years. He has also been the Neighbourhood Watch Coordinator for his area.

There is a great shortage of Trevor Williamsons, all over the country, who are needed to assist young persons and communities. The difficulties in getting volunteers to take on these responsibilities, today, are well recorded. It is noticeable that Trevor Williamson is not considered worthy of a public award. Not for him the mighty CBE. Not even an OBE. No! Not even thanks from the Ceremonial Secretariat. That would be too much. Though the Ceremonial Secretariat allows local government officials to pick the awards they wish, then hide their involvement, despite the disreputable records of those such as Liz Railton. Because local government officials have found a way to get for themselves, buggins- turn awards. And the Ceremonial Secretariat must surely be complicit in such a charade and disreputable practise.

And as if to prove the point, it has just been announced today, in the New Year Honours List, that Anthony Gordon Douglas ( Chief Executive, Children & Family Court Advisory & Support Service. CAFCASS) has been awarded the CBE. Now isn’t this a coincidence! Not an OBE, not an MBE……But the more prestigious CBE!
And is it just another coincidence that Anthony Gordon Douglas was also a member of the Association of Directors of Social Services ( ADSS). Douglas, like Liz Railton is also a director and trustee of the charity, the British Association for Adoption and Fostering ( BAAF); identifying a similar conflict of interests. In his position as Chief Executive of CAFCASS, he is required to be completely impartial and inform and support the court in its duty towards the children who feature in the cases coming before the Family Courts. Which is why there are grave concerns that his involvement with a charity ( BAAF) that has been advocating more adoptions and which charity has often come out in support of Liz Railton’s failing department; places him and CAFCASS at odds with the impartiality expected of him. It is noticeable that Douglas is not involved with a charity that espouses the benefits of children staying with their birth families or their extended families. His involvement with BAAF makes a point of espousing foster care and adoption.

It has also been learned that Anthony Gordon Douglas, is quite an author. Though for reasons one can only guess at, almost all his books are sold to local authorities! It is also noticeable that BAAF plays quite a part in acting as his bookseller. Is it not strange how all these senior local government officials coagulate around a particular honey pot; exclusively funded by the state, then mask their activities with dollops of threatening secrecy.

So just who nominated Anthony Gordon Douglas, for the CBE? Or is this a question that is going the way of the mystery surrounding the nomination of the ill deserving Liz Railton? Will John Coughlan, the President of the Association of Directors of Social Services ( ADSS ) respond?. Or will the Trappist vow of silence suddenly descend on the loquacious Coughlan. He is never though reluctant to appear on TV or the radio and convey the impression of dispassionate reason, whilst always defending social workers, regardless of their conduct.

So Trevor Williamson and all the many selfless members of the public who give generously of their time and efforts, and not forgetting elected councillors, are ignored and preference for awards given to the chummy world inhabited by Liz Railton, Anthony Gordon Douglas, and the other local government officials; for whom the OBE is the poor relation. And like days of old when the Military Cross was only ever awarded to commissioned officers, a discernable pattern has developed, of a small group of insiders, choosing one of their own for a prestigious award, purely on the basis of buggins- turn. And the authorities wonder why the public mood is one of suspicion, fear and keeping some distance from local government social services.

Fassit UK Correspondent
Jack Frost author of 'The Gulag of the Family Courts...Book1' ISBN 9 781430 316350