Lawyers Kidwells and Ludlow Skip Hire threaten me but I won’t meet their demands (updated)

It’s all getting grumpy out there about Ludlow Skip Hire. At my request, the Environment Agency provided a statement yesterday about rats. In summary, the EA says rats are not coming from the waste site.

Last Friday night, just as I popped into the Church Inn for a pint, I found a message on my voicemail. It was someone called Michael from Kidwells press group who do marketing, campaigning, blogging, tweeting “blah, blah, blah” . I’ve never heard of Kidwells press group. I didn’t call back. I don’t take sales calls. I simply don’t need any help blogging, tweeting or getting in the press. And anyone promoting communication who uses the word ‘blah’ doesn’t understand writing.

There were four more calls but my mobile is usually set to silent as I spend much of my day and evening in committees or other events. I had one more voicemail but no information on what the caller’s concern was, just a first name and a mobile number.

Today I received an email from the managing director of Kidwells Law Solicitors Ltd (not “press group” as on the first phone message). This said:

I have telephoned you many times over the last week or so and have not heard back from you; please would you respond to me? I would like to speak to you about comments you are making about our client, as above [Ludlow Skip Hire], and discuss with you what actions we might like to take and invite your assistance. This is a matter of some considerable urgency and I look forward to hearing from you at your earliest.

So as soon as I got to a base where I could ring, I did so.

The managing director of Kidwells, Michael Horne, demanded – it was not in my view a request – that I provide a statement that Ludlow Skip Hire is not the source of the reported outbreak of rats around lower Old Street, Jockey Field and Temeside. I was told that if I did not cooperate with this demand, Kidwells would issue a press release saying that I had refused to cooperate. I said that I thought his call was bullying. He disagreed and pressed for me to provide a statement to the satisfaction of his clients or, he repeated, the press release would say I had refused to cooperate.

Kidwells are saying I must give a quote for a press release that they will edit and send to the media. I can’t do that. If the media ring, I respond. I send out my own press comment. But I will never contribute to a media release by a lawyer – or press agent – acting on behalf of their client whether I agree with the release or not.

As it happens, I don’t disagree with his client. Let me clear about two things.

Firstly, I said that the agreement reached between the Environment Agency and Ludlow Skip Hire “is a good one.” I have praised Ludlow Skip Hire: “I am grateful that Ludlow Skip Hire has worked hard to get this problem resolved.”

Secondly, I have never said the waste is the source of the rats. I have asked for this to be investigated after residents’ raised concerns. That’s my job as a councillor. I sought a statement from the Environment Agency yesterday and published it. The EA says this site is not the source of the rats.

I have been threatened by Kidwells today. My job is to listen to residents and when they raise concerns, try to find solutions. That involves me speaking out.

It’s not rocket science being a councillor but it’s certainly easier without a lawyer or press agent, or whatever Kidwells is, trying to get me to speak on behalf of his clients, not my constituents.

Correction

The Environment Agency have commented:

“I would point out that your blog states that we have informed you that the rats seen in the area are not from Ludlow Skip Hire. I have not stated this, but have said that we have not observed any sign of a rat infestation issue at the site i.e. no burrows, runs or live or dead rats, we have asked them to ensure that their vermin control is increased due to the fact they have had waste for longer than normal at the site and that we would welcome any reports from the community if rats are observed at the facility so that we can address this.”

Update October 2014

The Environment Agency have confirmed that the site was operating in accordance with its permit on their last visit on 25 September.