A PRIVATE maths tutor has accused the council of getting its sums wrong after officers spent two years and possibly thousands of pounds trying to prevent her giving one-to-one tuition from home.
The bizarre battle, which has made legal history, began with a neighbour’s complaint about parking and ended with an appeal to the Government’s Planning Inspectorate.
Even though the matter never reached a democratic committee, it involved several planning officials, an enforcement officer, the council’s legal department, an MP and even council chief executive David Hill.
Finally the tutor, 58-year-old Veronica Hayes, took the five inch-thick dossier of correspondence to an inspector appointed by the Secretary of State for Local Government.
Its verdict was that helping a child learn is neither intrusive nor harmful to anybody living nearby.
Mrs Hayes has already complained to the Ombudsman and is this month considering urging auditors to investigate alleged squandering of council cash.
“We cannot understand why such a trivial thing should cause such a colossal waste of public time and money,” she said.
She had been giving extra tuition in maths and also English for 20 years before she moved from Newport Pagnell to Shorham Rise in Two Mile Ash, where she works from a single desk in a small room.
Almost immediately the flow of young pupils to the detached house – an average of four on weekdays and seven at weekends – annoyed one neighbour, Sean O’Connor.
A facilities manager for Newport Pagnell Town Council, Mr O’Connor wrote to Milton Keynes Council saying parents were parking outside his house, slamming car doors and, on one occasion, squashing his plants.
Within weeks the minor gripe had escalated into a full-blown investigation, said Mrs Hayes, who claims she was bullied, intimidated and even threatened with fraud scrutiny experts by the council.
“First I was told I needed planning permission. When I objected, they said I must apply for a Certificate of Lawfulness instead, claiming what I was doing was illegal. But how can teaching sums be against the law?”
Mrs Hayes went to her MP at the time, Phyllis Starkey, who asked the council to defend its ‘disproportionate’ actions.
Chief executive Mr Hill replied in person: ‘I don’t believe that the officers’ approach in this case has been disproportionate... I am satisfied that the Planning Enforcement Team have (sic) dealt professionally and properly with Mrs Hayes’ case,’ he wrote.
The council promptly refused to grant Mrs Hayes a Certificate of Lawfulness. Outraged, the tutor launched an appeal to the government.
Appeal inspector Stephen Brown overturned the council’s decision and granted the certificate, saying: “The addition of a parked vehicle (in Shorham Rise) would make little difference . . . The teaching activities are not intrusive or particularly out of place in this residential environment.”
Mrs Hayes said: “The whole case has been a nightmare. It’s cost us £5,000 and badly affected our health. We would like it properly investigated by the auditor.”
Meanwhile Mr O’Connor said: “I only complained about the parking. I never dreamt it would lead to all this.”
A council spokesman denied money was wasted because the planning inspector did not order costs to the council.
He said: “Our initial view was that the property in question for home tuition required planning permission... Milton Keynes Council accepts the decision of the Inspector on the merits of the case.”