Wednesday, March 26

Suing the FSB

By Peter Troy
I have always been very frank about my view of the UK's largest business organisation, the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) of which I am a member. For many years I was both a recruitment manager and activist for the organisation. I was and remain firmly committed to the founding principles of the now 220,000 member strong organisation.

Two weeks ago I felt that had no alternative other than to issue a claim in my local County Court for £4714.50 against the FSB, an action I took after careful consideration not least because I believe that my suing could be seriously and perhaps deliberately misunderstood.

The FSB has now confirmed that it intends to defend my action. The long and sorry tale that has led to this state of affairs started back in May 2006 when the FSB North East Regional Committee passed a motion proposed by the Regional Secretary Pamela Wright and seconded by her husband (now the National Chairman) John Wright to send me to Coventry, to use a trade union term. (John Wright was for many years a NALGO branch secretary and also an NEC member) . My 'offence' was to ask too many questions concerning the policy stance of the FSB in the North East over a period of some 14 months.

My questions were centered of the issue of how dangerously close I felt the FSB had become to close to the regional government agencies in the North East of England and that I was firmly of the belief that that the North Eastern organisation of the FSB needed to be far more rigorous in its lobbying activities in key issues with elected politicians. The Policy Unit of the FSB in the NE of England despite promises failed, in my considered opinion in 2006 to undertake any meaningful lobbying of NE local and national politicians on key issues. This dispute was a long time coming since for some time I had argued that the North East of England's policy team of the FSB was dominated by Labour Party supporters to the detriment of the Federation's A-political stance.

At a committee meeting The North East Regional Committee voted to ignore any further questions or queries from me and even when told later by the National Secretary of the FSB that they could not take that action they refused to apologize. My subsequent complaint against certain (most) members of the regional committee was the subject of an internal hearing before the FSB's Disputes and Disciplinary Committee (D&DC) on 26 June last year. My complaint was upheld in a detailed judgment dated 14 August 2007 which required the respondents to my complaint to apologize to me or face suspension from office for a period of time. Curiously the D&DC also imposed a sanction which was to expel me from the FSB; despite the fact that no complaint or indeed counter complaint was ever made against me. All the respondents to my complaint, bar one, apologized to me in writing as instructed.

I wrote to the Hon. National Secretary of the FSB, David Dexter on 30 August and again later in September to protest at the absurdity of the situation. Clearly it is very wrong that when a member complains about the wrongful actions of others and when that complaint is upheld he is thrown out of the organisation without the due process of a proper complaint and in blatant disregard for the principles of natural justice. The response of the FSB to my protests was to instruct solicitors who demanded that I summit an appeal based upon a point or points of law. Well I had no problem doing that and neither did my legal team but what should have been seen by the Directors of the Federation as an obvious breach of natural justice and their own rules became an expensive legal tangle requiring me to obtain detailed legal advice and action from specialist Lawyers.

Following a learned legal submission from my Barrister the Appeal Committee of the FSB confirmed, unanimously, that the D&DC of the FSB had acted in error and was in clear breach of its own rules in attempting to impose the sanction to expel me from an organisation that for many years I had been a very active and supportive member of.

As I state in my claim to the court: '' Had I not sought appropriate professional legal advice I would have been unfairly expelled from the organisation by order of the D&DC {of the FSB} who had fundamentally ignored the rules and procedures of the organisation and also of natural justice.

Given that the Federation had clearly breached its own rules and the terms of the arrangements of the organization's complaints procedures my Solicitor was firmly of the view that it was quite unreasonable of the Federation of Small Businesses to reject my claim for costs because as the Federation's Solicitors wrote: '' it is not in the rules to pay costs in the event of a successful claim''. Well my point is that it is not right for the Federation to rely upon the very same rules that it sought to ride rough shod over. This sorry tale is not a situation where I sought to appeal the decision to expel me simply because I disagreed with the decision itself. Neither is it a situation where I felt the decision had been reached by adhering to the principles of the FSB and natural justice. It was only when confronted with the work undertaken by my legal team that Appeals Committee accepted that I had been wronged, but reused to pay my legal costs to wright that wrong.

So there we have it I was first sent to Coventry by the FSB in the North East for asking too many questions that they did not like, then threatened with expulsion after complaining about the actions of certain activists and finally left out of pocked to the tune of over £4,700 defending my right to be a member in which I was at one time a high profile activist (enter Peter Troy FSB into Google Search). The important point of principle is that as the Federation of Small Businesses is so seriously out of order in their attempt to expel me (now by their own admission) they should of course, pay my legal costs.

After all of the above am I still a supporter of the FSB? Indeed I am, provided the well resourced organisation fights (I mean truly fights and not placates) the most anti small businesses government that has ever ruled this country. By that I do not mean our government in Westminster (though its track record in helping small businesses is mostly hype) I am of course referring to our true supreme government based quite firmly in all its huge glory (and vast cost) in Brussels. Further more the package of FSB member benefits represents excellent value to the small business operator particularly in the current claimant of huge over regulation that acts without doubt as a significant barrier (erected mostly by the EU) to business growth.

However further evidence, if it is needed, that the FSB do not like to be told that they are placating our political masters in Brussels against the wishes of the majority of their members is best provided in the sorry tale of injustice above. The case continues.


Darlington Branch Member said...

From the Northern Echo, 16th Nov 2004:
Peter Troy, Darlington branch chairman of the FSB, said: "There is a compensation culture, of course there is.We have been talking to the Lord Chancellor and the insurance industry about this issue because it is hugely damaging for small businesses"

Damaging, of course, unless it is Peter Troy doing the suing then the principles he stated go out of the proverbial window.

Nice one Peter

Diane Ellis said...

Read the article properly, so called Darlington Branch Member, you will see that Peter is not asking for compensation.
I find it quite appaling that people post messagages on Blogs but are too cowardly to put their names to their comments.
Diane Ellis
FSB Member

Darlington Branch Member said...

Oh Silly me. Of course he is not asking for compensation.
He incurred the solicitor's bill at his own volition and now wants the FSB to pay it. Now let me see if I can find another word for ...... compensation! I'll have to work on that one.

So called? Is Diane Ellis your real name? That's the fun of blogs, we've no way of knowing. Diane Eliis could be another name for Peter Troy for all we know.

I sometimes agree with PT and other times disagree. That's the benefit of living in a democracy - even one run by Brussels.
I'm not afraid to put my name to this, it's just far more fun this way - and I intend to continue having my fun when the postings call for it - especially when Peter is wrong.
Good innit?

Darlington Branch Member said...

To the person leaving insulting and vulgar messages.

Please stop doing it, they are totally unnecessary and not in the spirit of this or any other blog.
Disagree with Peter and argue your point of view by all means - but resorting to the level displayed by this person is childish in the extreme.

The postings have been removed and, much as I disagree with censorship, it was the correct action to take.




Peter Troy said...

The issue at the center of my suing the FSB is that the organisation is seriously in error for all the reasons I explain in the piece. Compensation is not the issue but lack of duty of care and serious breaches of natural justice by the FSB very much is.

Real Darlington Branch Member said...

Peter is quite clear in his action against the FSB. The FSB broak their own rules, were first to instruct Solicitors and were not willing to concider Peter's apeal until he had sent the Federation a document containing a detailed legal argument. When the FSB backed down in the face of that argument Peter won his case. Now the FSB will not pay his legal costs which they insisted he had to incure.

What part of fair play do you Darlington Branch Member not understand?

Peter Troy said...

Latest update.

I have recently received a communication from both the FSB and the Darlington County Court confirming that the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) will be defending my claim of £4,700. In fact the FSB intend to seek to have my claim struck out on the grounds that there is no provision in the FSB constitution to pay legal expenses to successful appellants to the National Council (the ruling body of the FSB) of the decisions of the FSB's Disputes and Disciplinary Committee (D&DC) - even though members can only appeal against a D&DC committee ruling on points of law.

The FSB clearly believe they are immune from the process of natural justice!

Quite amazing.

Anonymous said...

Doesn't it just get to you Peter?

The FSB believing they are immune from the process of natural justice is really very annoying to Peter Troy who KNOWS he's immune from the process of natural justice!

Also quite amazing!

Peter Troy said...

Also quite a stupid comment. The sub committee of the ruling body of the FSB confirmed that the D and D C of the Federation had ignored both natural justice as well as the Federation's own rules. Therefor it is reasonable that the FSB should pay the costs incured in putting wright their wrong!