Ian Bynoe, a former Independent Police Complaints Commissioner has published his report into complaints handling at HS2 Ltd. The report was commissioned by HS2 Ltd to produce an independent report following an investigation last year by the Parliamentary and Health Services Ombudsman that found the organisation guilty of maladministration. It is the second follow-on report from the PHSO investigation, after the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Select Committee concluded last month that there was a ‘culture of mis-information’ within HS2 Ltd.
Mr Bynoe has very much followed form, in that he has produced yet another independent report which is highly critical of the much maligned public body. In his report, Mr Bynoe indicated that communities affected by HS2 were little more than an afterthought for the company, stating there are insufficient staff working on community engagement, recommendations from the Residents’ Commissioner are being acted on very slowly, and that six years after HS2 was first announced, HS2 Ltd still have no fully approved corporate strategy for community engagement.
His report states:
“I am not satisfied that the Company now records centrally both informal and formal complaints.”
“Residents experienced administrative delay, prevarication, and a lack of candour about what the Company was willing or able to do and when. They encountered an unreasonable and unjustified defensiveness when they complained that the standard of response they were getting and its timeliness were unacceptable.”
“I can see that behaviours like this are influenced by the working culture and they can reflect the cues which staff receive from the top leadership, the organisation’s core values (stated or unstated) and its raison d’être, the working policies of the body and the extent to which resources have been matched to corporate objectives. HS2 Ltd is charged by Ministers with delivering a designed railway by a fixed deadline to a largely pre-determined budget.”
“It is about to acquire for the SoS legal powers to alter forever the ordinary lives of people “in the way of” the railway. It is not hard to envisage that, amongst the pressures and priorities of an organisation given this task, high quality community engagement may, from time to time, take second place and that performance of a consistently high standard will prove elusive.”
Stop HS2 Campaign Manager Joe Rukin said:
“This is yet another report which has torn HS2 Ltd to shreds. HS2 Ltd have always had the attitude that the human beings affected by HS2 are simply ‘in the way’ of their white elephant, and therefore an irrelevant afterthought, and this report proves just that. Despite repeated promises from HS2 Ltd over the last six years that they will get better, this report concludes what we have always expected, that when construction is due to start the way they treat people might well get worse.”
Stop HS2 Chair Penny Gaines added:
“This report again shows up the low priority that the Secretary of State and HS2 Ltd have put on community engagement. Seven years after its formation, HS2 Ltd still do not have a strategy for community engagement, and they are not required to have a community engagement strategy by the Department for Transport. All along, politicians seem to have spun the line that people will be upset by HS2 being built, so when the actions of HS2 Ltd cause extra upset, they let HS2 get away with it.
“It’s a real concern that the formal complaints recording will be less complete than originally told to the Ombudsman. By saying that complaints resolved within 24 hours won’t be recorded there will be pressure to get quick fixes that do not solve problems long term and might cause other problems. And with locally resolved complaints not recorded, long term patterns of problems will not be spotted and solved.”
“What’s really interesting is that even HS2 staff and board members are pointing out where HS2 is failing, such as the glacial progress of appointing staff to make community engagement plans and the poor website.”
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